Address at WA Liberal State Conference

 

On the 30th of August the Parliament will return and we will be on the Government benches.

We will be on the Government benches once again because we won the election and we it won because of you, because of your hard work and I thank you and I salute you for your loyalty, your dedication and your passion that ensured Australia will have three more years of strong Liberal economic leadership. That’s what our country needs and that’s what we will deliver.

And we have so much to do. And your West Australian delegation will have so much to do. Michaelia Cash will have her hands full bringing back the Australian Building and Construction Commission Bill, restoring the rule of law to the construction sector and we have strong prospects of securing its passage as we do the Registered Organisations Bill. I know it was a long campaign, Julie and I and all of us counted every day and I know it was in winter - Eight weeks.

But you know, had we not taken on that double dissolution election campaign, we would have been seen as a Party, as a government that was not committed to its principles, committed to its values. Because those two pieces of legislation, which the Senate had twice rejected, because of the opposition of Labor, the Greens and the crossbench, or much of the crossbench. Because of their opposition, the only way we would secure their passage was to go to a double dissolution election. What would we do – what would we look like, what would our supporters say to us, what would our small business men and women of Australia say if we had said ‘oh it’s all too hard’. All of that union corruption all of that thuggery, all of those extra billions of dollars that are paid for public infrastructure, for hospitals and schools, because of the lawlessness in the construction sector, we put all of that in to the too hard basket.

My friends, you have a parliamentary team, you have a Prime Minister, you have a Cabinet, you have a parliamentary party room, you have a Party that stands up for its values, that is convicted of the decision to take on the unions, we have a clear conviction to take them on, to stand up for the rule of law, to stand up for a fair go for Australians from all businesses in that construction sector, and we are doing that. That is our conviction and that is what we will be taking on when we return on the 30th of August.

My friends I want to thank you - State Director Andrew Cox, President Norman Moore, Premier Colin Barnett and all of the Liberal Party in Western Australia for the great work you’ve done in the Federal election.

You secured an average primary vote of 48.7 per cent, two party preferred vote of 55 per cent and you held eleven out of the sixteen House of Representatives seats.

So I have every confidence the party is in very good hands as it prepares for the State poll next year.

I want to especially acknowledge your West Australian delegation in the Federal Parliament. Each of them is a powerful advocate for their State and none more so than Julie Bishop. She is a champion for her state, her nation and her Party.

Every time she speaks for Australia she makes us proud - without doubt, Australia has never had a finer, more respected, more persuasive Foreign Minister than Julie Bishop.

Julie and I have been friends for many years – indeed we met a few hundred metres from here in an office building in St Georges Terrace when we were both working very hard to sort out a mess created by a Labor Government – it seems to be the perennial mission of Liberals at all times.

And her commitment to our party is without equal - nobody travelled more miles or supported more campaigns in the last election than Julie Bishop.

Julie thank you for your service, your passion and your unequal commitment to our cause.

The Western Australia powerhouse in the Cabinet and the Ministry continues with the Finance Minister Mathias Cormann, he’ll be bringing back, with Scott Morrison, the savings measures, many of which Labor during the campaign agreed to – having opposed them for several years. So we will be bringing those back, we are determined to bring our budget back in to balance.

We have the Employment Minister Michaelia Cash, hard at work, Registered Organisations, ABCC and of course, protecting the volunteers of the Country Fire Authority right across Australia with legislation in that regard.

Christian Porter is taking on as Social Services, the most important and challenging and intricate elements of economic reform we face, dealing with that massive welfare system, ensuring that it is well targeted, that it’s compassion, that it’s effective and that it promotes employment, engagement and that it seeks to enrich Australians’ experience of life, experience of employment – that ensures that welfare safety net is something from which Australians can be secure but also spring from, back in to the best form of social welfare, which is after all, a job.

And of course we have the Justice Minister, Michael Keenan who is the Minister assisting me on Counter Terrorism. We are a safer nation because of Michael Keenan’s determination and commitment.

And the Assistant Health Minister Ken Wyatt, with whom I was yesterday with the Health Minister, Sussan Ley, whose doing an outstanding job bringing all of his lifetime of experience in public health to enable our government to do a better job every day in terms of supporting our health services.

And of course that’s just the start of your impressive line-up.

The Western Australian team certainly bats deep and includes Linda Reynolds, like all of her colleagues, a strong advocate for Western Australia’s shipbuilding and defence industries, Dean Smith, Chris Back, Andrew Hastie, Steve Irons, Ian Goodenough, Melissa Price, Rick Wilson and of course Nola Marino, the first female Government Whip on our side who keeps us all in line, all the time.

We are also served tremendously here by dedicated volunteers, by men and women like yourselves. You turned out in force for us in WA in the Federal campaign and you will be a critical component of the State campaign in March.

And I want to thank also all of our candidates who campaigned so well in this election, thank you all for your hard work.

In the seat of Perth, we beat Labor in the primary vote for the first time since 1980. That is a very significant achievement. Our Senate vote improved by more than four per cent – Western Australia is the only state where the Liberal Party achieved five quotas on primaries. And our primary vote improved in Curtin, O’Connor, Durack and Moore.

We fought a strong campaign in Cowan, the victim of a tough redistribution just before the poll, which of course lost our Member, Luke Simpkins the benefits of incumbency in those new areas that came in to his seat. We fell just short. I want to pay tribute to and thank Luke Simpkins who worked incredibly hard for his electorate, and I saw on many occasions the effort he made in that electorate and the affection that that very diverse electorate and its many communities had for him.

Like Julie, I also pay tribute and thank David Johnston, a stalwart of our Party, who was not returned to the Senate.

And of course we welcome Ben Morton to Tangney - an accomplished political professional who will, I predict, hit the ground running when he comes to Canberra.

Now this strong Western Australian team helped return us to Government, the first Federal Government, as Julie observed, to be re-elected with majority in its own right since 2004.

We have secured a working majority, we are back at work - this term will be a term of delivery as we provide the good government, the sound legislation, the economic and national security leadership Australians need and deserve.

Our economic plan for jobs and growth is the key to ensuring our prosperity in the years ahead. And the budget repair which is a key element of it, is founded on fairness - how can we possibly say that we have a fair society if through our inability to live within our means, we leave a mountain of debt to our children and grandchildren to pay off?

Now Labor responded with negativity and lies. Their attempt to campaign on policy was derailed early because their economic policies were seen very quickly to amount to more tax, more debt, bigger deficits, leading inevitably to less investment and fewer jobs.

So they abandoned the economic field and they went negative, shamelessly trading on fear.

The lie about the Coalition’s plans for Medicare was exposed in the media as a complete sham. Bill Shorten could not defend it when confronted with his deceit he was humiliated when he was interviewed about it.

Towards the end of the campaign, the dirty tricks unit of the Labor Party went for broke. They sent out millions of text messages – you may have received some of them - supposedly from Medicare and urging a vote for Labor to save it. That was a new low in Australian politics.

The Mediscare, as it’s been described, was a scandalous lie. And it was carefully and cynically targeted at vulnerable, older Australians.

We will ensure in this Parliament that impersonating a commonwealth agency is made unequivocally unlawful. As unlawful as impersonating a commonwealth official already is. That is a very serious offence impersonating a commonwealth official and impersonating a commonwealth agency should be treated in exactly the same way.

And we will also ensure that we reaffirm the faith of the Australian people in our commitment to universal health care.

We have taken important early steps to deliver stronger, more effective primary health care - with a focus on person-centred care, delivering services that start with early intervention and prevention, are locally focussed and integrated with 21st century digital technology.

Yesterday, with the Member for Canning Andrew Hastie, Health Minister Sussan Ley and Assistant Minister for Health, Ken Wyatt, we visited the Peel Youth Medical Service, PYMS in Mandurah, to learn more about how it is helping young people cope with mental illness. And I want to complement Andrew for the leadership he has shown in recognising the very severe youth mental health issues in his electorate, the scourge of ice and the way that he’s engaged the whole community and professionals, medical professionals, mental health specialists, young people, local government and of course secured the additional support that we’ve provided for that centre and indeed to establish in the Perth South Primary Health Network, one of our twelve suicide prevention trial sites. So that’s great work in behalf of Andrew for his community.

Sussan Ley and I also visited the School of indigenous studies at the University of Western Australia. We met with Professor Pat Dudgeon, one of our national mental health commissioners to discuss the alarming rate of indigenous suicide.

Pat and her team's work has led us to establish another Suicide Prevention Trial Site here in Western Australia, this one in the Kimberley - again working with the Primary Health Network.

The Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander Indigenous Suicide Prevention Evaluation Project (ATSISPEP) estimates that the suicide rate for Indigenous peoples has, on average, been twice as high as that recorded for other Australians over the last decade.

In some indigenous communities, like the Kimberley, the age-adjusted rate of suicide is more than six times the national average. We are recognising that challenge and we are providing the resources to ensure that we put in place the measures that can deal with it, monitor them, trial them and as we will do with the 12 sites around the country, we will find out what works best and do more of it and what is less successful, of course we will move on from and focus on the measures that work.

This is a scourge, this mental illness challenge that we face, it’s a scourge frankly because we have been blind to it for a long time, it’s been a stigma associated, something of a taboo in talking about it and so we have to catch up. We’ve got to recognise it and deal with it and we are doing that.

Now earlier this week I met with the RSL and other ex-service organisations in Canberra to discuss how we can better support the veteran’s community as they transition back to civilian life.

In November we will hold the first Prime Minister’s Veterans’ Employment Initiative, which will promote the remarkable skills and experience and leadership of our veterans to employers. We will also ensure that serving and former ADF personnel and their families can access the mental health support and services they need.

This week we announced a third suicide prevention site in North Queensland, which is focused on Townville and will have of course, pay special attention to the very large ADF community there, because of the large base at Lavarack Barracks and of course the very large veteran community there as well.

Throughout this term of Parliament we will continue to demonstrate our commitment to public health.

And there is an important point in this context to remember, in the words of the great John Carrick - you can’t fatten the pig on market day. Vulnerabilities need to be addressed well in advance of the campaign.

If you have a political vulnerability going in to a campaign, then perhaps you can mitigate it and deal with it to some extent in the course of the campaign, but what you have to do as political leaders of political parties is anticipate those vulnerabilities, those risks, those areas of weakness, real or perceived, address them early and well in advance so that we anticipate and can ward off the inevitable dishonest campaign we’ll get from Labor.

I urge you all to be vigorously assertive in promoting your achievements and policies in Western Australia. Be ready to anticipate and counter the lies and smears that will come in the State Election with facts.

Led by Colin, the Western Australian Liberal Government has the experience that is critical to successfully continue to navigate these challenging times. Colin is the longest serving Premier, he is a constructive partner in the Federation while standing firm always for Western Australia’s interests.

Since the Barnett Liberal Government assumed office in 2008, Gross State Product has grown by an average of five percent per year, increasing WA’s share of GDP to 17 per cent. Exports from Western Australia have increased by over $40 billion. And importantly, around 160,000 more jobs have been created.

The Barnett Liberal Government steered Western Australia through the Global Financial Crisis and it is managing the transition to an economy driven by new industries, new jobs and new infrastructure.

The Barnett Liberal Government is delivering public infrastructure investment that is transforming Western Australia and is creating the jobs to mitigate the downturn in mining construction investment.

These major projects - new hospitals, the Perth Stadium, Elizabeth Quay - have provided thousands of jobs for Western Australians.

This prudent public spending, not just in Perth but throughout the State, improves lives as it fortifies the economy and creates jobs.

The Barnett Liberal Government has secured substantial commitments on infrastructure from our Federal Coalition Government - $5.3 billion of infrastructure spending from 2014 to 2020 under the Infrastructure Investment Programme.

And along with many other roads, this includes $1.2 billion for the Perth Freight Link and we are committed to the delivery of the full project, which now provides for a tunnel for the second section.

Now, we recognise that the current GST sharing formula has resulted in Western Australia receiving an unprecedentedly low share of the GST it contributes. And we recognise that the decline in commodity prices and the backward looking nature of the GST formula has hit the Western Australian State Budget very hard.

That is why of course we made the additional $490 million investment into the Forrestfield Airport Link which comes on top of a $499 million investment in Western Australian road infrastructure in 2015.

Those payments effectively stopped the further drop in Western Australia’s share of the GST by maintaining collectively the share of payments at 2014-15 levels.

Now the purpose of The GST formula is to ensure that the standards of services, such as hospitals and schools provided by state governments, are comparable for all Australians regardless of the State or Territory in which they live. This is the principle of horizontal fiscal equalisation.

In the past, Western Australia has been a beneficiary of this. However, the huge gap between what Western Australians pay in GST and what they receive back is unprecedented and Western Australians have every right to feel aggrieved.

Colin Barnett has been a persuasive, calm and cogent advocate for Western Australia on this point and we discussed the issue carefully yesterday as we have done on many previous occasions.

All of your Western Australian federal Members and Senators, led by my Deputy Julie Bishop and the Finance Minister Mathias Cormann, have been equally persuasive and tenacious advocates that further action needs to be taken.

Over the next few years, the formula will see Western Australia’s share more than double - considerably more than double from where it is at the moment to a much higher level.

We believe that we should take that opportunity - as the Western Australian share of the GST increases under the current system - to change the arrangements so that we set a percentage floor below which no state's receipts of GST can fall below.

Setting a floor below which a state’s share of the GST cannot fall, immediately after it has been exceeded in this cycle, means that no other state will be disadvantaged based on their projected GST shares.

Achieving that reform will not be without political difficulty. And that is just another reason why the return of the Barnett Government is so important. Nobody is better able effectively to work with us to achieve that reform than Colin Barnett and we look forward to reforming the GST formula so that it is seen as fair by all Australians.

WA can expect great things from our historic investment in Australia’s defence industries, so crucial to our longer-term economic and national security.

We are creating a hi-tech, advanced manufacturing defence industry hub that will put Western Australian industry and those jobs at the cutting edge of defence capability.

We will establish Henderson in Western Australian as a base of continuous naval shipbuilding, starting with our $280 million contract with Austal to build up to 21 replacement steel-hulled Pacific Patrol Boats for our Pacific Island neighbours. This has secured over 120 direct shipbuilding jobs in Western Australia immediately, and many more through the supply chain.

And we will build the Offshore Patrol Vessels in Henderson, after the first is built in Adelaide. At its peak, this means over 400 direct shipbuilding jobs in Western Australia and probably at least as many through the supply chain.

We are also working with the Barnett Liberal Government to develop and expand the Ord River Irrigation area to unlock the potential and opportunities of Northern Australia.

Discussions are underway with Colin’s Government for the $2.5 million component of the Ord Stage 3 which will investigate raising the Lake Argyle spillway.

And the vast parts of Western Australia that help make up Northern Australia will also benefit from our Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility. This will offer $5 billion in concessional loans to encourage and complement private sector investment, helping this underutilised part of our nation fulfil its promise.

Can I say to you that I have a particular passion for these projects. From the time that I was John Howard’s Parliamentary Secretary with responsibility for water policy, back in 2006, I have recognised that we have so much of our water resources in Northern Australia, particularly in the Kimberley’s, and particularly associated with the Ord and yet we have so little of our agricultural development there and our water development there.

So developing Northern Australia’s water resources, whether it is in Western Australia or in Queensland or in the Northern Territory is an absolutely critical element of nation building securing our economic prosperity in the years ahead. Water is life – it is the source of life and we must recognise that as the demand for high quality food in Asia grows as an increasing prosperity – half of the world’s middle class living to our north before very long, we need to ensure we are putting the infrastructure in place to enable us to seize those markets as they grow and develop and of course as Julie said earlier are being enabled by our big export trade deals. So Colin, you have a very very enthusiastic partner in Northern Australia.

Julie mentioned the big free trade agreements. Can I say to you, I know there is scepticism in many parts of the world about free trade and indeed there is scepticism in some parts of Australia. These big trade deals that we secured during our last term with China, Korea and Japan are absolutely critical for our future. They are absolutely critical for the future of regional of Australia in particular. They are giving our farmers a competitive edge and opening doors for our service industries into the expanding markets of Asia.

You know, almost 80 per cent of people of this state are represented by Liberal Party members and the markets opened up by our free trade agreements are paying great dividends for your constituents.

The free trade agreements and businesses and the people that take advantage of them are helping Western Australia plot new additional courses. New strings to the already powerful Western Australian bow.

This is a State of resilience, of enterprise and entrepreneurship.

This is a State which has always energised me for as long as I have been coming here, which is a very long time as Julie knows – has always energised me by its innovation, its enterprise, its spirit of having a go.

Indeed I participated in it myself as I probably reminded you once before - about 20 years ago, a company I started won the Western Australian Software Exporter of the Year Award – so I have got some track record here in entrepreneurship in Western Australia.

But this spirit of this state is what is its greatest resource. You know, you have enormous natural resources – we talked about mineral resources, we talked a moment ago about water – but you are Western Australia’s greatest resource. Your courage, your optimism, your sense of entrepreneurship, your preparedness to take a risk and have a go, make an investment, hire some people, get a business going – that is Western Australia’s greatest source. That’s why you have been able to navigate, led by your Premier, this very challenging transition from an extraordinary, once in a century mining construction boom that in its expansion created great pressures and then as it was completed and is completing created great pressures as well.

And we know that these changes in commodity prices and mining construction investment have caused considerable hardship for many Western Australians.

And our political opponents will attempt to exploit that. But you know - we recognise too that those hardships in households where the bills are harder to pay and hardships for small businesses that have less money in the till. We will find the answer to their challenges in more investment, stronger growth and more jobs. That’s our commitment. That’s what our Governments are delivering now.

The risk of Labor, state or federal, is that they have become a deeply anti-business party. This is not the Labor Party of Bob Hawke and Paul Keating, believe me – it is not. This is a front for militant left-wing unions. Every element in the Labor Party’s economic policy that they took to the last election, would reduce investment and discourage employment.

If you want to have less of something – put a tax on it. That’s what we do with tobacco. You want people to smoke less, put a tax on tobacco. Labor wants to increase taxes on business and investment – get rid of negative gearing, increase capital gains tax, oppose cuts to business taxes – every step of the way their instinct is to hit business and the consequence of that is less investment and fewer jobs.

Their anti-business rhetoric may have a political appeal for the moment but the long term consequences, particularly for the people they claim to be defending, will be catastrophic. The security of our country depends on strong business. It depends on investment. It depends on men and women like yourselves and thousands of others like you being prepared to take a risk, to have the confidence that your business will prosper. To have the confidence that you will get a return on your investment.

Governments need to support that investment because without that we simply will not get the jobs.

Now, our party, the Liberal Party is the only political movement in Australia today that has both the leaders, the track record in government, the values and the policies to secure our future. I thank you for your support. I thank you above all for your support and your extraordinary achievements in the federal election. I look forward to supporting you, Colin, in your election and I look forward to working with your Western Australian delegation in the Federal Parliament and all of our colleagues to secure a stronger, more secure, more prosperous future for us, our children and grandchildren in the years ahead. We have the values, we have the team, we have track record, we have the Party to succeed and we will do so – thank you very much.