Year of wasted opportunity

December 1, 2023 10:10 AM
Libby Mettam
WA Liberal Leader

With the end of parliamentary year, the Premier’s spin doctors were predictably in overdrive this week. 

A flurry of headlines was wheeled out for media consumption with a side of long overdue reports - but as has become the hallmark of this government, there was very little detail.

Yesterday’s announcement of $1 million for a business plan for a high security and “therapeutic” facility to replace Unit 18 is a case in point. 

This was a desperate attempt by the Premier and Minister to make it look like they are doing something in the wake of the shameful, avoidable death of a child in that facility. 

The government has had 18 months to address the dreadful conditions in Unit 18 and deliver a suitable replacement. The best it can come up with is a plan for a plan. 

No details on the exact location, the cost, or any timeframe for this critical project. 

In the meantime, the detainees will continue to be locked up for up to 22 hours a day in a high security, adult prison.  

It’s hard to accept after the death of Cleveland Dodd in this unit and the attempted suicide of another youth not long after, that this is the government’s response. 

Unit 18 was only ever supposed to be a temporary facility when the government first decided to use it in mid-2022, yet it looks like it will continue to be used for another two years at least.  

That didn’t stop the Premier from declaring he was “turning around our youth justice system” and this will “allow for the closure of Unit 18, in a sensible and safe manner”. 

Just don’t ask when. 

No date or projected cost either for the new Westport bulk container terminal in Kwinana with the Transport Minister backing away from earlier costings around the $4 billion mark. 

Despite beckoning all the media down for the announcement of a “major milestone” this week, all the Premier delivered was a design.

Apparently “the preferred design will inform a business case which…will outline detailed delivery timelines and costings”.  

And no firm date for the business case either…we can only expect that it will be finalised in mid-2024. A plan for a plan for a plan. 

You honestly couldn’t make this up. 

The Health Minister was also front and centre earlier in the week with her plan for a plan to fix elective surgery. 

The $40 million “blitz” did not detail how the government would address the chronic shortage of specialist theatre staff, which has been a major pressure point. It offered no detail on what category the 6000 targeted surgeries would cover or when they would be performed.  

Desperate to spin a good news angle, the Minister used new figures to validate the target, including non-reportable elective surgeries in the overall tally for the first time.  

These figures are very different to the publicly available Health Department data published each month.  

Those figures show that since this government came to power in 2017, the waitlist has gone from 19,000 in March 2017 to more than 28,000 last month. 

Almost one in five of those on the waitlist last month were over boundary – waiting longer than clinically recommended. 

The waitlist was also on the up long before COVID, with 26,000 patients waiting in March 2020.

No mention on the Health Minister’s release about the number of cancelled surgeries since Labor came to office either. These have gone up 108 per cent since March 2017 from 12,000 cancelled procedures in 2017-18 to more than 25,000 in 2022-23. 

The Attorney-General also did a search of the back shelf this week for his long-promised family and domestic violence reforms, announcing he would “introduce a range of systemic and legislative reforms”. 

This will apparently be done in a phased approach but, again, no timeframe was given and no apparent urgency applied to address this scourge in our community.

The number of family and domestic violence offences has increased by 45 per cent since Labor was elected and 15 women have lost their lives this year alone. 

It’s been 18 months since the trial of GPS trackers for violent family and domestic violence offenders finished, yet there’s been no final report so we have no idea whether they can be used more effectively.

On the most recent data, only 44 FDV offenders were being tracked and 160 of the available GPS devices were not being used. 

It’s also been 18 months since consultation finished on important coercive control reforms and all we have to date is a report, rolled out this week. 

I appreciate it’s complex but at the same time, other States have already introduced these laws. The lack of any urgency to progress these important reforms is staggering. 

With a stronger mandate than any other government in history, it’s fair to reflect on what this government has delivered this year. 

An embassy in WA, a team of GST freedom fighters and a crack team of bureaucrats to outsource the housing problem.

With escalating cost-of-living pressures, a broken health system and a string of serious issues and tragedies in police and corrective services, it is clear the Cook Labor Government under the helm of our unelected Premier has lost its way.

We deserve better. 

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