Skip to main content

Saul Eslake & Colin Barnett

Independent Economist & Former Premier of Western Australia
The GST Debacle

Wednesday, 8 May 2024

The National Press Club of Australia

Saul Eslake, Independent Economist & Colin Barnett, Former Premier of Western Australia, will Address the National Press Club of Australia on "The GST Debacle". 

It’s been called ‘the worst public policy decision of the 21st Century so far’: the Morrison Government’s decision to give a special deal to Western Australia which now gives it an extra $50 billion in GST revenue by the end of this decade.

Independent economist Saul Eslake is one of the deals most consistent critics. Western Australians don’t agree with him.

Former WA Premier Colin Barnett will go head-to-head with Eslake to debate the merits or otherwise of the deal, one week before the federal budget.

Saul Eslake

Saul Eslake worked as an economist in the Australian financial markets for more than 25 years, including as Chief Economist at McIntosh Securities (a stockbroking firm) in the late 1980s, Chief Economist (International) at National Mutual Funds Management in the early 1990s, as Chief Economist at the Australia & New Zealand Banking Group (ANZ) from 1995 to 2009, and as Chief Economist (Australia & New Zealand) for Bank of America Merrill Lynch from 2011 until June 2015. In between these last two positions he was Director of the Productivity Growth program at the then newly-established Grattan Institute, a ‘think tank’.

In July 2015 Saul started up his own economics consultancy business, operating out of Hobart, and in April 2016 took up a part-time position as a Vice-Chancellor’s Fellow at the University of Tasmania.

Saul is a member of the Australian Parliamentary Budget Office’s Advisory Panel; the Australian Taxation Office’s ‘Tax Gap’ Advisory Panel; and is on the Advisory Board of Jamieson Coote Bonds, a Melbourne-based specialist bond investment manager.

Saul has a first class honours degree in Economics from the University of Tasmania, and a Graduate Diploma in Applied Finance and Investment from the Securities Institute of Australia. In December 2012 he was awarded an Honorary LLD degree by the University of Tasmania. He has also completed the Senior Executive Program at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Business in New York.

Colin Barnett

Colin Barnett was Premier of Western Australia from 2008 to 2017. He has been the States longest serving Premier over the past 50 years.

Colin attended Nedlands Primary School and Hollywood High School. He then received a Commonwealth Scholarship to the University of Western Australia where he gained an Honours Degree in Economics and later a Masters Degree in Economics.

As a student Colin was awarded a cadetship with the Australian Bureau of Statistics in Canberra. On graduation he worked on national surveys including the Labour Force, Household Expenditure, Henderson Poverty Inquiry and even the National Anthem Poll. He returned to Perth as a Lecturer in Economics at Curtin University. During this time he was also a Visiting Fellow at Warwick University in the United Kingdom.

He worked as an industry economist and later as Executive Director of the Western Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry. He visited the United States under their International Visitors Program.


In 1990 Colin was elected to the Western Australian Parliament as the Member for Cottesloe. Two years later he was elected as Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party. He served as Leader or Deputy Leader in every State election from 1993 to 2017.

The major portfolios held during his career were Premier, State Development, Treasury, Energy, Education and Tourism. The many major projects included the Goldfields Gas Pipeline, Ord River Irrigation, Gorgan Gas, Wheatstone Gas, Roy Hill Mine and Onslow Salt. He deregulated and privatised the downstream gas industry.

In the City there was Perth Stadium, Elizabeth Quay and the Perth Childrens' Hospital. There was also the settlement of native title over Perth and the south west and the earlier introduction of universal pre-primary and kindergarten years for all school children.

Colin had a high profile internationally in promoting Western Australia. During his time as Premier the production of iron ore doubled and the production of liquified natural gas (LNG) trebled. He delivered the Menzies Lecture at the King's College in London with other major speeches in Houston, Cape Town, Shanghai, Seoul, Berlin and Singapore.

Colin is currently an Adjunct Professor at the University of Western Australia and a Board Member of Bethesda Health Care. In 2023 he was awarded the highest civil honour as a Companion of the Order of Australia (AC).

Have a speaker in mind?

Propose A Speaker

Renew your membership

With your support The National Press Club of Australia continues to be the prestigious, influential institution it is today. 

Renew now