Libby Mettam's State Conference Speech 2023

October 29, 2023 9:30 AM
Libby Mettam
WA Liberal Leader

Good morning delegates, guests, and members.

Firstly, I’d like to acknowledge my State Parliamentary colleagues:

Steve Thomas
Tjorn Sibma
Peter Collier
Donna Faragher
Nick Goiran
Steve Martin
Neil Thomson
David Honey

and Federal colleagues and thank them for their ongoing support.

I’d also like to acknowledge former Premier the Hon Richard Court.

It’s a privilege to address you today at my first State Conference as Leader of the Western Australian Liberal Party.

Before I begin, I’d like to thank and congratulate WA Liberal headquarters for running this weekend’s conference.

Shepherding 300 attendees and configuring a weekend of speeches, policy motions and ballots is a difficult task that requires months of planning. To Caroline Di Russo, Simon Morgan, Jesse Wotton, the team at HQ and all our volunteers – thank you.

Western Australia is the greatest state in the nation and the best place in the world to call home.

Our state has benefited from a proud history of accomplishment by the Liberal Party and generations of Liberal leaders.

From the first Liberal Government in 1947 that laid the foundations of Western Australia’s industrial development; to the vision of Sir Charles Court in establishing the Northwest Shelf; Richard Court who opened the LNG market to China and restored the state’s finances and reputation after the corruption of the WA Inc era and Colin Barnett who drove one of the biggest capital works programs we have ever seen, delivering essential infrastructure in every region and throughout our city.

The visionary leadership of Liberal governments established Western Australia as the nation’s economic powerhouse, a prosperous state with a sophisticated city, thriving regional communities and world-class facilities and services.

Libby Mettam MLA Leader of the WA Liberal Party

Sadly, after seven years of a Labor Government, those world class facilities and services are being run into the ground.

Under Premier Roger Cook, we are seeing failure after failure of the most important task of any government - making decisions and governing in the best interests of the people of our state.

How is it in a state as prosperous as Western Australia we have:

A broken health system with a government refusing to listen to its own expert medical teams about critical issues like the relocation of the Women and Babies Hospital. A health system where Western Australians no longer feel confident, they or their loved ones will receive the best care.

A cost-of-living crisis that is forcing families between choosing to pay the rent or put food on the table.

Housing shortages at crisis point.

One of the highest rates of family and domestic violence in the nation.

Police crime statistics showing threatening behaviour in the community is up 31 per cent and the largest exodus of police in the force’s 189-year history.

A government that gives no priority to regional WA or our country communities.

Regional areas that are battling nursing shortages, rising crime rates and a power system so unreliable small businesses in Geraldton are telling staff to stay home because they can’t keep the lights on.

This government has banked $17 billion in surpluses over the past three years. But this has had little to do with good economic management.

Labor was gifted booming surpluses thanks to a GST distribution fought for by our Liberal State Government and delivered by the Federal Liberal team and record iron ore prices that have nothing to do with the state’s administration.

Yet remarkably, Labor has found a way, despite the wealth it has been gifted, to run our state down.

What’s the reason?

The Cook Labor Government does not know how to govern, how to administer those surpluses in the best interests of the people of this state.

We are all familiar with the Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act debacle.

We warned Labor about the consequences of that gross overreach of power, the attack on our private property rights and how Western Australians would suffer as a direct result of the botched legislation.

Due to our efforts, we have thankfully now seen that legislation repealed.

Tackle shop owners, charter operators and fishing experts warned the government their demersal scalefish ban would lead to widespread difficulties across the sector.

That shops would close; regional communities would be hurt due to a lack of tourists and that people would lose their jobs.

Those concerns were, unfortunately, well-founded with the industry essentially decimated and some small business and charter operators losing 80 per cent of their revenue and closing shop indefinitely.

But did Roger Cook or his Fisheries Minister listen? Of course not. Nor did they care.

But all these failures of government pale in comparison with the snap decision to move the new Women and Babies Hospital to Murdoch, instead of the original site at QEII in Nedlands.

The Nedlands site would have seen this facility tri-located with our tertiary adult and children’s hospitals - as world’s best practice demands.

The decision to move it was made by Cabinet behind closed doors without any consultation or input with medical clinicians, health experts or advocates. Decades of planning and consultation were thrown out the window.

A move that blindsided our State’s most senior medical specialists.

There have now been three leaked reports from the Labor Government’s own medical experts featuring more than 200 signatories unequivocally stating the move will lead to increased deaths and disability of our state’s most vulnerable – newborn babies and their mothers.

Roger Cook has called those concerns ‘alarmist rot’.

The audacity and arrogance of this government honestly knows no bounds.

WA is the only state in the country that does not have tri-location of these services.

It is our once-in-a-generation opportunity to ensure we have these world-class facilities.

One clinician called it the worst decision in the history of WA Health.

Yet the Cook Labor Government ignored all that, said it would be too hard and would take too long. This is rubbish. The business case released by the government highlighted a build time of ten years with construction finishing in 2033.

It takes a lot of courage to speak out against a government that pays your salary.

The fact that these government employees have gone to such lengths to ensure the opposition and the media are aware of this disastrous decision demonstrates their fear about the move and their determination to stop it.

The government won’t listen to the experts, but I will. Our Liberal team will.

A Liberal-led Government will ensure this hospital is built at the QEII Medical site and we will start construction in our first term.

We know it won’t be an easy build. But we know it can be managed. The government’s own business case states that.

I am committed to putting the safety of Western Australian Women and Babies above easier infrastructure outcomes and delivering the world-class facility that our community deserves.

We will make no exceptions when it comes to delivering health facilities that are in line with gold-standard practices internationally.

This will also ensure that the QEII site remains a nationally and internationally recognised campus of excellence in the integrated provision of health and medical care, research, and education.

As we head into 2024, the focus of the Liberal team will also be on developing policies to address the spiralling cost-of-living crisis.

The latest Foodbank report found that almost 400,000 Western Australian households are going hungry due to cost-of-living pressures. A rise of 26 per cent, or 80,000 households within the last year alone.

At the same time, the Cook Labor Government has hit Western Australians with an extra $154 in fees and charges this year, with an additional $513 in fees forecast over the next three years.

We have massive surpluses being banked by this government, but it has no plan to help struggling Western Australians. It’s not a focus or a priority.

Usually the adage goes: when Labor runs out of money, they come after yours. Even when we do have a surplus, they still want to take more of your money!

Charities are often the first port of call for the most vulnerable in our society and are currently under incredible pressure to meet the shortfall in government services.

That’s why we have called on the government to provide our state’s best charities with $300 million in immediate relief, and continue calling on the government to do so, to ensure these charities are better resourced.

No child in our state should go hungry and no family should have to decide between paying for schoolbooks or keeping the lights on.

On crime, we will be unwavering in our approach.

We will listen to our frontline officers and set in place policies to restore the morale of our police and ensure we have enough boots on the ground to keep our communities safe.

If we want our streets to be safe, we need a police force that feels supported and receives the services and tools necessary to do their job.

The Labor Government this week adopted the WA Liberal policy to expand the number of GPS tracking bracelets for serious offenders who breach a violence restraining order.

It’s about time.

With a number of women tragically losing their lives allegedly at the hands of ex-partners this year, this measure will ensure those offenders who breach a violence restraining order will either be tracked or go to jail.

It’s a small victory for common sense.

With family and domestic violence crime up 35 per cent on the five-year average, it is time for us to take a stand and send a message that this behaviour will not be tolerated.

The justice system is falling apart at the seams.

The Government is failing to keep the community safe.

Violent repeat offenders are let out of prison early only to commit further crimes while on bail.

We will hold these thugs to account. Under a Government I lead offenders who are caught committing further crimes while on bail will not be granted bail again.

We will review the state's parole laws. Parole has been granted readily to violent criminals who have gone on only to inflict pain, suffering and death on innocent people.

How many more innocent lives have to be taken?

Enough is enough.

If you do the crime, you can expect to do the time under a Liberal Government.

It is what the community wants and what a Liberal Government will deliver.

Housing will be another key focus for the WA Liberal Party in the lead up to the next election.

You know a government’s given up on housing when its policy to fix a crisis is to announce a team of bureaucrats to advise them what to do.

They’ve been in power for almost seven years, and this is their answer to a housing crisis?

No tangible solutions, just a team of bureaucrats.

It is typical of this government that when things get too hard, it outsources its decision-making responsibilities. A government that does not know how to govern.

First there were the GST Freedom Fighters, then the WA Embassy in Canberra, now a so-called crack team of bureaucrats to try and fix a problem this Labor Government has failed to address.

I guarantee you; a Liberal Government I lead will be accountable. We will make decisions. We won’t sit on our hands when action is needed.

We will deliver policies to help alleviate our housing pressures, to ensure the dream of owning a home is once again within reach.

So that we have rental properties available.

So that vulnerable members of our community don’t go through hell trying to get a roof over their head.

Another area where this government is failing is state development.

Western Australia has some of the best critical mineral resources in the world, with global demand soaring for commodities like lithium, nickel, cobalt and other rare earth minerals that are essential for the energy transition.

This means we are in a prime position to support economic growth and prosperity, but we can’t do this without getting rid of Labor’s unnecessary red tape.

We can streamline approvals and support optimal environmental outcomes. We must improve land access for industrial development and downstream processing.

We understand that fostering economic prosperity requires a delicate balance between prudent regulation and allowing businesses to flourish.

We want to continue to foster innovation, attract investment and embrace new economic opportunities for our state.

What about regional WA?

The last seven years have proven that this metro-centric Labor government doesn’t care about the regions.

Our agriculture sector upholds some of the highest standards in the world.

Yet, our dairy farmers, beef farmers, sheep farmers, pastoralists and growers are all being punished by this government.

Labor has never supported our agricultural industry or the regions.

In a government I lead, our regions, our agricultural sector and the needs of country Western Australians will be given the priority that they deserve.

We will fight to maintain a live export industry, so our sheep farmers are not decimated.

The Liberal Party has always been the party for Western Australians who work hard and want to get ahead, for families, businesses, and the people they employ.

We have always championed the role of government in supporting those in our community who need help.

We believe that all people should have the opportunity to advance to their full potential.

We are the only political party in this state that can govern for ALL Western Australians, whether you’re a farmer in the wheatbelt, a small business owner in the regions or a family in suburban Perth.

History books are full of examples of what happens when a government fails to govern in the best interests of its people.

Anyone hoping the resignation of the former Premier would herald a change to the arrogant, out-of-touch government we have seen for the past seven years is undoubtedly disappointed.

We have seen more of the same with the Cook Government.

The Premier of Concerts and Special Events who refers to himself as Batman is more interested in announcing gigs than outlining what he plans to do to fix the health system, support and grow the police force or address crime in our community.

And as we fast approach March 2025, my team and I will be taking advantage of every opportunity to offer Western Australians a strong alternative government.

I will lead a government that celebrates the frontier spirit of Western Australians and supports their aspirations– but that ultimately stays out of people’s lives.

We will foster innovation, attract investment, and create new economic opportunities.

We will ensure we have a health system where sick people are confident, they will get the best treatment. Where mothers and babies will receive world-class care. Where the best and brightest doctors, nurses and health care professionals and researchers want to work.

We will support our police force to make our communities safe.

A Liberal Government I lead will make decisions and not hide behind bureaucrats and good-news announcements.

Western Australia cannot afford another term of this Labor Government.

Make no mistake, my team and I are in this to win.

We can win.

We must win.

In the best interests of the people of Western Australia.

It is what we must do to achieve the ultimate goal of ensuring our communities, our children and grandchildren have the best possible future.

This is what drives us.

We cannot afford another four years of a broken health system.

Of rising crime

Or out of control cost-of-living.

Of Labor lies, misinformation, arrogance, and failures.

Your WA Liberal team has a vision for this state that starts with getting the basics right and fixing Labor’s mess.

We cannot afford another four years of an incompetent Premier and a government that does not know how to govern.

My mandate is clear.

In 496 days, I will lead our party to victory at the 2025 state election.

We will fight to give Western Australians the good government they deserve.

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