AGRICULTURE Minister Dean Nalder's "ban" from a State Government regional cabinet meeting at Moora on Monday, shows the government's leadership is in chaos, Shadow Agriculture Minister Mick Murray said this week.
"It's clear that Colin Barnett has lost all confidence in Dean Nalder," Mr Murray said.
"The Liberal-National Government has sacked hundreds of Department of Agriculture and Food (DAFWA) workers and created a biosecurity risk through its massive budget cuts.
"But Colin Barnett doesn't care about that.
"He's more interested in trying to avoid further embarrassment and backstabbing by Mr Nalder, who is locked up in Perth instead of engaging with farmers out in the Wheatbelt, who are crying out for some engagement and leadership at this critical time for the industry.
"Agriculture is coming a clear second to the Liberal Party's in-fighting and Mr Barnett has officially lost control of his government."
Mr Murray said Mr Barnett's apparently unprecedented decision to ban Mr Nalder from Monday's regional cabinet meeting showed a lack of respect to regional Western Australians confronting serious issues in the transport and agriculture portfolios.
"Transport and agriculture are key issues in regional WA and the community would be disappointed they have been forbidden from talking to Mr Nalder about issues such as the government's closure of Tier 3 rail lines and huge cuts to biosecurity," Mr Murray said.
"There is still no sign of the long-delayed review into DAFWA, even after the deadline was extended by six months.
"The Premier said he wanted to double the value of our agriculture sector but he has ordered a halving of DAFWA staff from 2007 levels."
Farm Weekly understands agricultural issues were due to be discussed in the round table talks at Moora, but were postponed.
Mr Nalder declined to comment, but Premier Colin Barnett said he thought it was a good idea he did not attend the Cabinet meeting.
The decision was made after reports Mr Nalder was told about private polling by prominent WA businessmen that showed the coalition would loss the election if Mr Barnett remained leader.
"I think after the turmoil of last week, (involving businessman John Poynton and suggestions Mr Nalder was favoured to succeed Mr Barnett), I remain extremely concerned that a group of business people would seek to interfere with our political process and our system of government," Mr Barnett said.
"That's completely unacceptable to me and there was a lot of discussion about that.
"So the smartest and easiest thing to do was for Dean to take a few days off - it was my decision and I stand by it."
Mr Barnett said to avoid a media circus he decided it was better that Mr Nalder not take part in the Moora meetings.
"I didn't want to distract from the Moora regional Cabinet," Mr Barnett said.
"It's important to the Moora community."
Mr Barnett said Mr Nalder will have to regain the trust of his colleagues and the government.
"I think he will have to get on with the job," Mr Barnett said.
"Dean is ambitious and at some stage when my career ends there will be competition (for the premier's job).
"I intend to go to the election."
Mr Barnett said he was still concerned about recent events, but remained adamant that Mr Nalder would continue in his portfolios.
"I don't see evidence that Dean has breached the ministerial code," Mr Barnett said
"But I did think it was a good idea he stay away from this meeting."
Shadow Transport Minister Rita Saffioti said people in regional WA, particularly the Wheatbelt, were paying for the government's internal turmoil.
"If the premier doesn't trust Mr Nalder, how can people in regional WA have any confidence in the minister?" she asked.
"They are putting their own internal matters ahead of the community. It is just completely dysfunctional and not the way to run the State.
"The Liberal-National Government's leadership chaos has become a complete joke and is preventing them from governing effectively."