The WA Liberals’ long list of election-losing mistakes probably includes not dumping unpopular premier Colin Barnett last year when it became clear he would cost them the election, frontbencher Joe Francis says.
Mr Francis says the Liberals were also dysfunctional and had broken promises, while Mr Barnett was surrounded by “yes men”.
Mr Francis, who was a likely leadership candidate but looks set to lose his Perth seat of Jandakot, says a different leader may not have delivered the Liberals a third term, but would have saved a lot of seats.
He made the comments while speaking frankly about the party’s failings following its massive defeat on Saturday.
It emerged on Tuesday that campaign strategists had considered an 11th hour replacement of Mr Barnett.
“The premier seemed to have been cocooned somewhat by people in his office from the reality of what was happening in the electorate,” he said.
“Colin was wrapped in cotton wool by people who just said yes to him.”
He said some MPs should have stood up to Mr Barnett, but there was a lot of dysfunction between their offices.
“You shouldn’t feel intimidated by having to ring one of your colleagues ever at all, you shouldn’t be intimidated by having to talk to the media team in the premier’s office,” he said.
“It got to the point where some people didn’t even bother picking up the phone.”
While Mr Barnett last week said he’d go quietly to the backbench if the Liberals lost the election, Mr Francis said he expected the 66-year-old would leave parliament and trigger a by-election.
Mr Francis criticised his former boss for “having a crack at the media” when attacks should have been aimed at the Labor party, referring to him recently telling reporters who pressed him on the One Nation deal to “lift their game.”
Mr Francis said he was a “big fan” of Mr Barnett but just wanted to be totally honest about the party’s failings.
The Liberals owed apologies for broken promises, which had made voters lose trust in the party, he said.
“We gave a lot of reasons for people to vote against us,” he said.
Joe Francis’ reasons for the Libs losing:
* Proposed privatisation of Western Power was unpopular
* So was the One Nation preference deal, especially in the final week of the campaign, when Pauline Hanson spoke out against vaccinating children
* Signs last year pointed to Premier Colin Barnett leading the party to a loss, but there was no change in leadership, which would have saved a lot of seats
* Mr Barnett’s long tenure worked against him as the party aimed for a rare third term
* The campaign was chaotic. While Labor talked jobs, the Liberals promised statues of sporting heroes. He labelled the Fast Ferry Frenzy stunt planned for the election’s eve “bizarre” and said he was a “persona non-grata” when he advised against it
* Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull seemingly abandoned changes to the GST carve- up despite admitting it was unfair to WA
* The federal Liberals cutting penalty rates during the campaign didn’t help
Mistakes Joe Francis says the Libs should apologise for:
* Broken promises, which made voters lose trust in the party, such as the MAX light rail project and a rail line to Ellenbrook. Some people bought property based on the proposals
* Lead in the drinking water at the Perth Children’s Hospital, which has not yet been resolved and delayed the opening
* Taxi drivers borrowed against their mortgages to buy taxi plates from the government, only to have no regulatory response when Uber enter the market
* When land was compulsorily acquired for the Forrestfield-Airport rail line, landowners were treated with no respect
* No one voted Liberal because of the new Perth stadium and Elizabeth Quay
* Factionalism, including the influence of northern suburbs church Globalheart, is too rampant in the party.