Labor leader Mark McGowan has challenged the Premier to three televised debates in the run-up to the March election, accusing Colin Barnett of hiding behind a taxpayer-funded propaganda campaign.

But the proposition was immediately rejected by Mr Barnett, who is expected to appear in just one face-to-face showdown to be televised by the ABC on February 19.

“As has been the convention in previous State elections, there will only be one leaders’ debate – a television debate,” Mr Barnett said.

Mr McGowan said today that if Mr Barnett was happy to continue using taxpayers’ money to advertise his Government’s “Big Picture” infrastructure agenda then he should also be prepared to allow the public to see him “unvarnished” and “unedited” in three debates.

“The Premier said it (the advertising campaign) would stop back in December,” Mr McGowan said.

“They’re keeping it going. They broke their word, they broke their promise.”

WA has never had more than one leaders’ debate, but Mr McGowan claims the public is mature enough and would accept a similar election debating system to the one in the United States.

“This election campaign needs to have all the real information out there,” he said.

“We need to have three debates in which we cover the important issues – cost of living, congestion, jobs and the regions.”

He denied having multiple debates was more about lifting his profile given the most recent polling had the Opposition well behind the Government.

“This is now a question of the Premier’s courage,” Mr McGowan said.

“Does he have the courage to match me in three separate debates? That’s my challenge to him.”

The West Australian

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