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Mike Nahan the new Liberal leader as Colin Barnett steps down

Colin Barnett has confirmed his intention to resign from the Liberal leadership and head “quietly” to the backbench as the party meets for the first time today to elect an opposition leader.

Former treasurer Mike Nahan has been elected unopposed and urged Mr Barnett at the weekend to leave Parliament “sooner rather than later”.

Mr Barnett would not comment on that advice when he arrived at Parliament this morning and made only short remarks primarily thanking well-wishers for their correspondence to him since the crushing March 11 election loss.

“Since the election I’ve had a large number of telephone calls, letters, cards, messages from people around WA basically wishing me well and I basically want to say I very much appreciate those messages,” he said.

“I enjoyed the respect they have shown to me.

“Obviously from my point of view now I will stand down now as Liberal leader and I will simply, as I have said, return quietly to the backbench as the member for Cottesloe.”

Former child protection minister Robyn McSweeney, who was part of Mr Barnett’s original cabinet in 2008 but demoted after the 2013 election, this morning echoed the call for Mr Barnett to retire from Parliament soon.

“I think he should go and let people get on with it,” she said.

“They have a hard road ahead of them and I think out with the old and in with the new.”

Mrs McSweeney, a 16-year parliamentary veteran representing the South West, said it was “no secret” she was among 15 Liberal MPs who supported a spill motion against Mr Barnett in September.

“I didn’t start that movement but I certainly voted to get him out and get somebody fresh in because I knew we were bleeding badly.”

“I had a feeling we were going to have a huge wipe-out and that’s what happened. It’s going to be a pretty hard road of work for the next Liberals.”

Mrs McSweeney said factional interests were having too much sway over preselections, with consequences including the Liberal Party lagging well behind Labor’s female representation of 29 women across both houses.

“Powerbrokers need to stand back, we only have four (Liberal) women in Parliament which is disgraceful when you look on the Labor side so there really needs to be some improvement there,” she said.

“I don’t necessarily agree with quotas but there needs to be something in between so that women can be mentored to be good parliamentarians so perhaps I’ll do that in the future.”

Dr Nahan said he expected Mr Barnett to make a statement to the party room.

“We’re not here to seek recrimination about the loss, we’re here to elect a new leader and rebuild the team,” he said.

Liza Harvey, who is the new deputy leader, said she had spoken with Dr Nahan and they had already begun forming a strategy for opposition.

“We’re having discussions with my colleagues at present , but none of the shadow portfolios have been allocated at this time,” she said.

“We just have to get on with it and do the job our electors have elected us to do.

“We’re a good solid bunch of individuals and we are very keen to get back to Parliament and hold Mark McGowan and the team to account.”

Churchlands MP Sean L’Estrange said it was up to Mr Barnett as to whether he stayed on in Parliament, but every Liberal MP had an obligation to “step up”.

“He’s got a lot to offer if he chooses to stay on longer, but he may to choose to do other things,” he said.

“What’s important here is to commence the process of rebuilding the party, I mean this is day one, and we’ve got a long road back.”

Former minister Peter Collier said Mr Barnett’s legacy would be a proud one and he was proud to have served in his government

“I’m not going lay blame to any one individual or one particular party – there was a conjuncture of circumstances which lead to the change of government,” he said.

Bateman MP Dean Nalder said as former premier, Mr Barnett deserved respect. Mr Nalder said he would not put his name forward for the leadership.

“I was happy to take a step back – I don’t think it’s the right time to push it at this point. Mike looks like he’s going to put his hand up, he’s desired it and I imagine the party room will endorse that,” he said.

South metropolitan Liberal heavyweight Nick Goiran told 6PR Mr Barnett had earned the right to exit at a time of his choosing.

Former mental health minister Helen Morton, who has urged powerbroker Mr Collier not to re-contest the leadership of the Liberals in the Upper House, said the party was resilient.

“It’s been around for a very long time, it’s very strong. It will rebuild,” she said.

“I think (Dr Nahan) will be a really good person, at least for these next four years.

“Who knows what happens after that.

“There’s lot of water (to flow) under the bridge.”

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