The Premier of Western Australia is the head of the executive government in the Australian State of Western Australia. The Premier has similar functions in Western Australia to those performed by the Prime Minister of Australia at the national level, subject to the different Constitutions. The current Premier is Colin Barnett who was sworn into office by Governor Ken Michael on 23 September 2008.
The premier must be a member of one of the two Houses of the Parliament of Western Australia; by convention the premier is a member of the lower house, the Western Australian Legislative Assembly. He or she is appointed by the governor on the advice of the lower house, and must resign if he or she loses the support of the majority of that house. Consequently, the premier is almost always the leader of the political party or coalition of parties with the majority of seats in the lower house.
The office of premier of Western Australia was first formed in 1890, after Western Australia was officially granted responsible government by Britain in 1889. The Constitution of Western Australia does not explicitly provide for a premier, and the office was not formally listed as one of the executive offices until the appointment of Ross McLarty in 1947. Nonetheless, John Forrest immediately adopted the title on taking office as first premier of Western Australia in 1890, and it has been used ever since.
John Forrest was the only premier of Western Australia as a self-governing colony. Following the Federation of Australia in 1901, Western Australia became an Australian state and the responsibilities of the office of premier were diminished.
Party politics began in Western Australia with the rise of the Labor party in 1901. By 1904, the party system was entrenched in Western Australian politics. Since then the premiers have been associated with political parties.
Western Australia's constitution contains nothing to preclude the premier being a member of the upper house, the Western Australian Legislative Council. Historically and by convention, however, the premier is a member of the Assembly. The only exception has been Hal Colebatch, a member of the Legislative Council who accepted the premiership in April 1919 on the understanding that an Assembly seat would be found for him, only to resign a month later when no seat could be found.
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