Senate debates

Monday, 9 December 2013


Western Australia: Elections

9:50 pm

Photo of Dean SmithDean Smith (WA, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

2013 has been an exceptionally eventful year for Western Australia in political terms. In the space of six months, we have been through a state election and a federal election. It is pleasing to stand here this evening and be able to say that, for my own party in Western Australia, the hard work has definitely paid off. 2013 has produced two historically strong electoral results for the Liberal Party in Western Australia. There are a number of factors behind these results which I will come to shortly, but, firstly, it is worth looking briefly at what has been achieved.

On 9 March this year, Colin Barnett was re-elected as the Premier of Western Australia. In primary vote terms, the swing to the Liberal Party across the state was 8.7 per cent, resulting in a gain of five seats from Labor and a further two from Independents. The result represents the largest gain of seats by an incumbent government in Western Australia since 1917. The Liberal Party was able to gain seats it had previously not held, including Balcatta, won by Chris Hatton, and Belmont, won by Glenys Godfrey. Additionally, seats that the Liberal Party just managed to win in 2008 saw double-digit swings to the Liberal Party. This is a direct result of our incumbent MPs proving themselves as effective, hardworking advocates for their local communities.

I believe Labor's complacency over many years in merely assuming they could take some of these seats for granted was also a factor. In several seats, we saw ugly Labor preselection brawls, with unions carving up the spoils. Local communities react very badly to this type of behaviour and Labor were punished on 9 March for being for being more interested in themselves than—

Opposition Senators:

Opposition senators interjecting

Photo of Dean SmithDean Smith (WA, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Labor were more interested in themselves than in the needs of those they were supposed to represent. The northern suburbs of Perth were especially notable in this regard, with the exceptionally strong Liberal Party vote across the north metropolitan region seeing the Liberal Party take a fourth seat in the legislative council there with Peter Katsambanis victorious.

Photo of Helen KrogerHelen Kroger (Victoria, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Hear, hear!

Photo of Dean SmithDean Smith (WA, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

'Hear, hear,' indeed! The genesis of the Liberal Party success on 9 March lay in the strong performance in government by Colin Barnett and his team over the previous 4½ years. It is worth remembering that, until the election in March, Western Australia also had a hung parliament as a result of the 2008 state election. Colin Barnett was able to form a minority government with the support of the WA Nationals and Independents. However, unlike the disastrous and incompetent minority government that Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd presided over, Colin Barnett and his team were a stable, competent government that focused on things that actually mattered to Western Australians.

The Liberal Party's campaign centred on the theme of 'Making decisions, getting things done and securing Western Australia's future.' This theme was successful on polling day because the people of Western Australia understood, correctly, that it was only the Liberals who would be able to stand up for their state. It is worth reflecting on what the West Australian newspaper said on the Friday before election day:

Mr Barnett has demonstrated a capacity to make decisions and follow them through. Not all those decisions have been universally popular … Mr Barnett and his Government took positions they believed to be in the best interests of the State and stuck with them.

He has also been a formidable advocate for WA at a Federal level. This has led to frosty relations with the Federal Labor Government, especially in Julia Gillard's time as Prime Minister. But Mr Barnett has been vociferous in putting the interest of WA first and that is what West Australians expect of their premier.

The Liberal campaign launch was attended by our now Prime Minister Tony Abbott. In contrast, Labor leader Mark McGowan ordered Julia Gillard to stay away from Western Australia until after 9 March, which tells you something about the way the former Labor government's carbon tax—a tax Labor still supports—is viewed in my home state of Western Australia.

Indeed, 2013 has been something of an annus horribilis for the Labor Party in Western Australia. Not that there is any need to feel sorry for them; they have brought it on themselves with a stubborn adherence to policies that not only are not in Western Australia's best interests but actively inflict economic damage on my home state. On 7 September, Labor achieved a historic result in Western Australia. However, it was not the kind of history they generally like to make let alone talk about. Labor's primary vote across Western Australia on 7 September was a paltry 28.7 per cent. Not even three in every 10 Western Australians voted Labor at the last federal election. You might think there is a message in that. You might think that, after such a result and being reduced to a parliamentary rump, one which may yet get smaller depending on the eventual WA Senate outcome—if you believe there will be another Senate election, and I am not so sure there will be, but that is a discussion for another time—Labor might take stock. After such a thumping, any sentient human being would pause and ask themselves why the defeat was so bad. But not, it seems, the Australian Labor Party.

After suffering two such heavy defeats, largely based on their support of the carbon tax and the mining tax, what have we found as the 44th Parliament has resumed and the coalition has introduced legislation to abolish both these taxes? We have found that the Australian Labor Party are leading the charge to keep both these job-destroying taxes which impede economic growth and have increased prices for consumers. It is a very rare form of militant stupidity that seems to have infected the members of the Australian Labor Party in this place. Let us hope their stubborn attitude does not last too long, because, as hard as the change-of-government deniers opposite try to ignore the facts, they are too overwhelming to ignore.

I would just like to share with my Senate colleagues, particularly my Labor Senate colleagues on the other side, what the West Australian had to say the day before the federal election. On 6 September the West Australian newspaper said:

Mr Rudd has waged a relentless scare campaign about Tony Abbott's suitability to be prime minister … But the Tony Abbott we have seen in this campaign reflects little of the Labor caricature of an ill-disciplined moral crusader. He has run a controlled campaign and presented as a measured, mature politician heading a stable frontbench with proved experience in government.

Senator Carol Brown interjecting

Only history will tell us. The West Australian went on:

A clear mandate for an Abbott government is the best outcome as a circuit-breaker for the political cynicism of the past three years. Mr Abbott deserves a chance to govern and get the country back on track.

As we have just heard from the interjections, that cynicism is alive and well.

Photo of Scott LudlamScott Ludlam (WA, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

I ask you to ignore the interjections, Senator Smith.

Photo of Dean SmithDean Smith (WA, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

In Western Australia, the Liberal Party's primary vote of 47.31 per cent—hard to believe for Labor—was the highest in the nation. The Liberal Party now hold 12 of the 15 federal seats in Western Australia—our highest total ever. I would like to make special mention of what was achieved by the Liberal Party in regional Western Australia at this election. As many senators will be aware, there is no coalition arrangement in Western Australia. In regional seats, the Liberals and the WA Nationals are generally the main rivals for seats—and so it was this time in both Durack and O'Connor. In 2010, the WA Nationals won the seat of O'Connor from the Liberal Party. When I came to the Senate in May last year, I was given responsibility for the Great Southern region of Western Australia, which encompasses many of O'Connor's major population centres. Along with many of my fellow WA Liberals, I was determined to win back the seat of O'Connor, particularly after the previous member, Mr Tony Crook, betrayed the trust of so many local people by siding with Julia Gillard and Labor in some key votes during the last parliament. The swing to the Liberal Party in O'Connor, which was just over 4.5 per cent, is a tribute to Rick Wilson's hard work over the last 2½ years and a vindication of the WA Liberal Party's decision to endorse a candidate for the seat such a long time in advance of the election and against some popular opinion.

There were many elements that contributed to the success of the O'Connor campaign, but a key one was having a hardworking local candidate on the ground early. When Tony Crook bowed out of the election race in April this year he cited the Liberal Party's efforts in highlighting his voting record as a factor in his decision. This is something of which all WA Liberals should be proud. We held our opponents to account and rather than defend their record they ran from it. I was especially pleased when the now former leader of the WA Nationals, Brendon Grylls, said in the week following the election that the WA Liberals 'gave us a lesson in federal politics.' He also admitted in the West Australian that he was disappointed with the primary vote the WA Nationals achieved in O'Connor and Durack.

In regional Western Australia, it is the Liberal Party that is the party of the regions. This was clearly demonstrated at the federal election, when the WA Nationals primary vote in regional WA was just 17.9 per cent against a Liberal primary in regional areas of 42.6 per cent.

Senator Carol Brown interjecting

I do accept that the Nationals record would be something that the Labor Party would be pleased to have. This historic result for the Liberal Party in WA was a clear statement from the community that they are eager to move on from the years of chaos and dysfunction under Labor and to do away with the Rudd-Gillard legacy in the form of the carbon tax and the mining tax. I urge all senators opposite to respect the clear wishes of the people of Western Australia and the rest of our country and vote to scrap these two job-destroying taxes. It is time to get on with that job.

In conclusion, I congratulate four outstanding Western Australian young people active in the Western Australian Liberal Party: Rebecca Lawrence, Carla Schilling, Jarrod Lomas and Jesse Wotton. All of them made a fantastic contribution to our local federal election campaigns in Hasluck, Durack and Brand. I congratulate Jesse Wotton for being the inaugural winner of the Young Liberal Campaign Trophy that was awarded to him on Saturday at state council. It is a fantastic initiative of the federal patron of the Young Liberal movement of Western Australia, who happens to be Senator Smith!