West Australian Liberal MP Rob Johnson, a former police minister, has quit the Liberal Party and delivered an almighty hit to Premier Colin Barnett on the way out saying he doesn’t respect or trust him.
Mr Johnson has been an outspoken maverick quick to criticise Mr Barnett since the pair fell out and he was sacked as a minister in June 2012, which he says broke a gentleman’s agreement for him to step down at the 2013 election.
The insults flew on Friday as he said he “could not stand Colin Barnett” who should be replaced after recklessly racking up state debt of $37 billion, which was rapidly growing and would be a difficult financial legacy for future generations.
Liberal colleagues were concerned that Mr Barnett’s unpopularity was a key reason why the government was trailing Labor in separate Newspoll and Reachtel polls this year, he said, giving the opposition a shot at returning to power for the first time since 2008.
“I have serious concerns in relation to this government’s commitment to honesty, integrity, openness and accountability,” he told AAP.
“He (Mr Barnett) wasted the boom and didn’t put money aside when we had oodles of cash coming in from the mining boom in royalties, spending like a drunken sailor and now it’s come home to roost like a credit card with no limit.”
Mr Barnett did not respond to the insults, only saying Mr Johnson had been a good representative for his constituents and that he thanked him and wished him well.
The premier rejected a suggestion he would stand down before the election at an LNG conference in Perth this week, but has said he would not see out a full term if we wins.
Mr Johnson described Mr Barnett as a one-man band who insists on approving decisions within cabinet, with the Labor opposition also dubbing him an emperor.
Mr Johnson has angered other government ministers, at times conducting himself more like a Labor opposition MP than a Liberal.
He accused the government of covering up car crashes involving former treasurer Troy Buswell, clashing with former Health Minister Kim Hames and calling for Transport Minister Dean Nalder’s office to be investigated over a contract award.
He will sit as an “independent Liberal” in his Perth coastal seat of Hillarys until the next election and might stand as an independent.
Standing as a Liberal was not an option anyway, with Mr Barnett last year ruling that out.
The UK-born 73-year-old has been in parliament for 24 years and was a minister in Richard Court’s government.