WA treasurer reverses plans, set to retire

Michael Ramsey
·3-min read

West Australian Treasurer Ben Wyatt has abandoned plans to stay on in politics, announcing he will retire at the next election.

Mr Wyatt, 46, announced in February that he would not continue beyond the state election next March, citing family health reasons.

Weeks later, he reversed the decision and said he wanted to stay to help the state through the coronavirus crisis and beyond.

In a statement on Monday, Mr Wyatt - a father of two daughters whose wife has battled breast cancer - announced he had again changed his mind.

"In March, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic's impact on the Western Australian community, I had been reluctant to leave in the midst of this great fight," he said in a statement.

"But having completed the delivery of the state budget, which supports the continued economic recovery from the pandemic, I am now confident that Western Australia is well on its way to overcoming the challenges presented to it by COVID-19.

"I regret any inconvenience caused by my changed position."

A lawyer who attended the London School of Economics before becoming Australia's first Indigenous treasurer, Mr Wyatt has long been viewed as a future premier and one of the government's strongest performers.

His retirement reopens the door for Hannah Beazley, the daughter of WA Governor and former federal Labor leader Kim Beazley, to contest the safe Labor seat of Victoria Park.

Ms Beazley was selected to run for the seat after Mr Wyatt initially announced his retirement. She has since been named on Labor's upper house ticket for the South West region.

Premier Mark McGowan on Monday threw his support behind Ms Beazley running in Victoria Park.

"She grew up in the area and her name is well respected across the state, so I'd think she'd be an outstanding replacement in the electorate of Victoria Park for Ben Wyatt," Mr McGowan said.

"I hope the people of Victoria Park would agree with that."

Mr McGowan earlier this year said he had fully expected his longtime friend, the cousin of federal cabinet minister Ken Wyatt, to one day serve in the top job.

Mr Wyatt said WA had gone more than seven months without any COVID-19 community transmission and the state economy was bouncing back.

He last month delivered his fourth budget, defying the COVID-19 gloom to forecast a $1.2 billion surplus this financial year.

"I think he's the standout of all the treasurers of Australia by a long way, and I note that all the other governments are now bringing down their budgets all in deficit - with the exception of Western Australia," Mr McGowan said.

The premier would not be drawn on who might replace Mr Wyatt as treasurer. Transport Minister Rita Saffioti and deputy premier Roger Cook could be among the contenders with Labor widely expected to win a second term in government.

Mr Wyatt also holds the Aboriginal affairs, lands and finance portfolios.