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Ministers back Barnett to stay WA premier

AAP logoAAP 18/09/2016 Rebecca Le May

Colin Barnett will be challenged for the first time in his eight years as premier on Tuesday with Liberal MP Murray Cowper announcing he will call a leadership spill.

Mr Cowper wants a leadership change and said in a statement that it was clear to him Mr Barnett would not honour his previous commitment to step aside if it was in the best interests of the party.

The divide within the West Australian Liberal Party's 46 MPs is deepening, with some backbenchers saying they'll vote against Premier Colin Barnett in a spill, but all of his cabinet colleagues have vowed to support him.

Transport minister Dean Nalder and local government minister Tony Simpson announced shock resignations from cabinet on Saturday.

Mr Barnett's deputy Liza Harvey led the party's remaining ministers as they fronted the media en masse in a show of unity on Monday.

"We are mortified at the conduct of Mr Nalder and Mr Simpson, and we all 100 per cent unequivocally support the premier," Ms Harvey said.

"Should there be a call for a leadership spill in the party room tomorrow, we will not be supporting that.

"Colin Barnett will emerge as the leader of the Liberal Party, the premier and absolutely the right person to take us through to the election in March 2017."

Mr Nalder says he'll put his hand up for the leadership.

Ms Harvey says Mr Nalder - who was elevated to cabinet just one year into his three-and-a-half year political career - has no support.

Meanwhile, a strong theme of a lack of consultation is emerging from the premier's detractors.

Mr Nalder is angered by Mr Barnett's habit of making announcements relating to his portfolio without any prior advice, and claims he and other ministers could ask for a meeting for six months and not get one.

"I have found it very difficult to have interactions with him, not just him but with his immediate office," Mr Nalder told 6PR.

Mr Simpson said he too was not kept informed by the premier's office about policy positions - forcing him to work off Mr Barnett's talkback comments.

Dumped minister Helen Morton labelled the office an out-of-control machine and fellow Liberal backbencher Mr Cowper dubbed it "toxic", adding the premier didn't return a string of phone calls as a deadly bushfire descended on Yarloop in his electorate in January.

Neither committed to supporting Mr Nalder but said the leadership had to change.

Only 5.5 per cent of respondents to a poll published on the weekend backed Mr Nalder.

Mr Barnett, however, was preferred leader for 45 per cent of respondents.

The 66-year-old told ABC Radio he was confident he'd keep his job if there was a spill and labelled Mr Nalder's tilt self-indulgent, saying he felt let down.

"I supported him ... and gave him a lot of leeway to get on with it."

Labor leader Mark McGowan - who survived a leadership challenge by former federal minister Stephen Smith earlier this year - said bad things happened when a government got old, tired and arrogant.

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