Senator REYNOLDS (Western Australia) (13:15): This afternoon I rise to express my pride in being a member of the WA Liberal Party. I send my most heartfelt congratulations to our candidate and now member for Darling Range, Alyssa Hayden, all of our opposition team and in particular the leader, Mike Nahan, and also all of the men and women of the WA Liberal Party. I just want to say how proud I am of the team. It is our team at its absolute best. I’m proud of the way that we campaigned and the way we won that seat.
No Western Australian should be under any misapprehension of what that result means. The Darling Range by-election was clearly a referendum on the performance of the McGowan government. The people of Western Australia should never, ever be taken for granted and treated as fools. On all measures, this is what the WA state government have done to the people of Western Australia. We said at the time, and we still say today, that the state Labor government had a plan to win the election, whatever it took, but they did not have a plan to govern for our state. At the election, they promised no new taxes, but instead we got an Uber tax and a gambling tax and they tried to inflict a gold tax, and utility charges are going up and up. They also promised no privatisation, after campaigning viciously against the Barnett government’s proposal to sell Western Power. Guess what they did? They’ve already sold off a portion of Synergy to a foreign investor. They promised mandatory minimum sentencing for meth dealers, yet introduced legislation without those provisions—surprise, surprise. They promised a wage increase for all Western Australian police of 1.5 per cent. Surprise, surprise: they failed to deliver that and, instead, offered $1,000 a year per police officer. Also, they’ve walked away from many of their signature policies, including medihotels and specialised drug treatment centres in the South West and the Kimberley, and they haven’t budgeted for the promised hospital upgrades. The list goes on and on. It’s a long list of broken promises in only 15 months.
So make no mistake about the Darling Range result. The Labor candidate’s missteps in the campaign had very little to do with the result, despite the fact that it was the way that the Premier was trying to spin it on election night. It was simply about their abysmal governance of our state. Despite all of their spin, a nine per cent swing cannot be dismissed by the Labor Party and it should not be dismissed. Rather than the spin that it wasn’t really their fault and that it had nothing to do with them, it was all about their dodgy candidates and their MP. So I thought I would share the facts with my colleagues here. These are the facts, not the spin. Since the Liberal Party was formed in 1945, there have been 69 by-elections in Western Australia. Of those, only 11 have resulted in a change of party representation in those seats—11 out of 69 by-elections since 1945. There were only three previous occasions when the opposition took a seat from the government of the day. I can say that Alyssa Hayden is now in very, very good company. Of those three, the first was when Sir David Brand took Greenough from a four-term Labor government in 1945. That was the first victory for the newly formed Liberal Party in the nation. The second occasion was when the Liberals took Bunbury in 1955 from an ALP government two years into its term, with a swing of 3.7 per cent. The third and last one, until this weekend, was when the Liberals won Geraldton in 1991, when the ALP’s primary vote collapsed to 30 per cent. So from the Liberal Party’s first victory in 1945 with Sir David Brand to 1955 and 1991 and now to Alyssa Hayden, you are, as I said, in very esteemed and very good company.
What does this show us? Aside from showing that only Liberals can win a seat from an incumbent Labor government, a swing of 9.1 against a first-term Labor government is extraordinary, and it is unprecedented. This election was the first opportunity for Western Australians to send a very clear message to the Labor government that they are clearly failing our state. They’re failing in so many ways. They’re failing when it comes to diversifying the economy. It’s something they talk about all the time, but, again, they have no vision and no action plan to deliver that vision for our state. When it comes to developing a strong state economy and enabling the delivery of services to Western Australians and funding those services that we expect and deserve, they have no plan. When it comes to making the cost of living sustainable, they have no plan. In fact, not only do they not have a plan to ease the burden of costs on working families in Western Australia but in the last 12 months alone—again, as a broken promise—they have increased household bills; they have increased water bills, power bills and car registration bills for the average WA family by $700 all in all, and they’ve already announced another $500 of increased household bills for Western Australian families. That is utterly shameful.
The McGowan government are making cuts to the Western Australia Police Force. They’re sending our state on the same sad trajectory that Victoria is now on. And when it comes to giving our kids a first class education, those on the opposite side of this chamber talk all the time about education. But, despite promising to increase education spending in Western Australia—guess what?—they’ve actually cut it by over $285 million, another broken promise. They’ve cut education expenditure. The former Liberal education minister, Peter Collier, stood up against these savage cuts that were proposed by the bureaucracy at the time. He said: ‘No. We will actually increase expenditure to schools, not decrease it.’ But the current state education minister, Sue Ellery, did not have the same courage of conviction or support of her premier, and they cut.
In this place a few weeks ago I spoke about the shocking treatment and closure of Moora College for the want of $500,000 expenditure to upgrade that college and to keep residential facility in our state, which is so important for those students, for their families and for their community. Guess what? I gave that speech, and instead of saying, ‘Yes, you’ve kind of got a point; we really should find the $500,000 to keep that college open,’ I got a four-page missive from Sue Ellery saying that it was a justified decision. I would love to be able to share all four pages of this missive with the chamber, because it was a complete and utter disgrace. But I will give just a couple of highlights. They’ve cut $285 million from the state education budget, but she had the hide in this letter to say that the Labor government had allocated $235 million extra to school programs across the state. I thought: well, that’s very interesting mathematics; where does the money actually come from? What she left out is that nearly 70 per cent of that expenditure had been committed by the Barnett government and was already in the forward estimates. These are some of the things she had the cheek to claim as Labor achievements: stage 2 of building works for Cape Naturaliste College, which was in fact funded by the Barnett Labor government; the final stage of Carnarvon Community College, which was commenced and funded by the Barnett government; and building works for Geraldton Senior College, John Willcock College, Wandina Primary School and Kalgoorlie-Boulder Community High School, which—guess what?—she was claiming as Labor expenditure, but it was funded by the Barnett government. It’s absolutely shameless, what we’ve seen over the last 12 months of this terrible government. Just turning up and cutting ribbons on Liberal projects does not make them Labor projects.
In the short bit of time I have left I’d like to again sincerely congratulate our wonderful candidate and now MP, Alyssa Hayden, and the entire WA Liberal team. Senator Dean Smith and I were both out on the booths on the day, and there was a wonderful sense of community and spirit among our candidates and all our supporters.
I want to finish on the words of the great Sir Robert Menzies and a campaign speech he gave in 1961 on the difference between Liberals and Labor—and it is still valid today. This is what he said about the Liberals:
We offer you good government. The essential quality of good government is that it should have sound and intelligible principles, that it should pursue great national and social objectives with resoluteness, that it should be able to meet the storms that arise from time to time with a proper sense of navigation, that it should have cohesion in its own ranks and a strong sense of mutual loyalty.
And it is not based on promises that can never be delivered. (Time expired)