Western Australia Premier Colin Barnett
Victor P Taffa
Western Australia Premier Colin Barnett has addressed State Parliament and has outlined the achievements of the first 17 months in office. In a series of extracts from the complete speech to the House Premier Barnett highlighted key policy commitments that have been delivered or on the way to delivery.
I rise today to provide the House with an outline of the Liberal National Government’s policy and legislative priorities for the forthcoming year. In doing so, I will take the opportunity to highlight some of what this Government has achieved in its first 17 months in office.
As Members are well aware, the first year of government coincided with the global financial crisis. As a result, the Government’s priority has been to protect the State’s finances against the impact of the economic downturn, and make decisions that build confidence, attract investment, create jobs and set up the Western Australian economy for the long term.
While the Government will continue to hold a disciplined fiscal line and drive economic growth this year, it will increasingly focus on social and environmental policy. This has already begun with significant initiatives to improve community safety, transform mental health services, give greater independence to some of our public schools, improve water quality in the Swan and Canning Rivers, and start work on a new children’s hospital.
Mr Speaker, as Members are well aware, 2009 ended on a devastating note for Toodyay, after fire destroyed 38 homes on December 29. Before I begin outlining the Government’s agenda, I would like to take the opportunity to thank the volunteers and the many people from State Government agencies who performed so admirably in responding to the fire, both immediately and in the aftermath. It was a remarkable effort and we are all thankful that, despite the loss of homes and treasured possessions, no lives were lost.
Mr Speaker, I want to briefly reflect on the State’s economy. Last year began with many of the world’s major economies in recession and the Australian economy contracting. While the IMF has revised up its growth forecasts for both Australia and the world for 2010, it warns there are significant downside risks to global growth.
Western Australia was not, and still is not, immune from the effects of the global financial crisis – some people have lost jobs and houses, and businesses have folded. We have experienced weaker than expected growth in Gross State Product. Revenue from mining royalties, North West Shelf petroleum grants and property taxes have declined significantly.
This is a government that believes prudent financial management and strong economic growth provide the foundation from which we can best support the whole community. The Government has ensured the State has retained its triple A credit rating. The State Budget returned a surplus last year – one of only three States to do so.
The State’s economy is slowly recovering. Treasury forecasts modest growth of 2.25% this year. While the economic outlook is improving, this does not immediately flow through to the State’s finances and maintaining a budget surplus will be a challenge. Nonetheless, we aim to achieve a surplus this year.
The Liberal National Government will continue to keep a tight rein on the State’s finances and focus on delivering services more efficiently, effectively and fairly.
Through the independent Economic Audit Committee, the Government has delivered on its election commitment to conduct a wide-ranging review of the operational and financial performance of the Western Australian public sector. This year, we will start implementing recommendations contained in the Committee’s final report, including those that will drive reform in the social and community sector to ensure more effective delivery of support services.
Mr Speaker, I believe the record of the Liberal National Government to date shows it is not afraid to make hard decisions in the interests of all West Australians.
We have a responsibility to all members of our community. While the Government is committed to helping people help themselves, we recognise that not everyone has the same capacity to lead better or more prosperous lives on their own. That is why the Liberal National Government will focus on empowering those who have been neglected, hurt or marginalised to live with dignity, confidence and security. Social justice will be a hallmark of the Liberal National Government.
The Government’s commitment to considered reform will build stronger communities throughout the State. This will be achieved through both policy and legislation.
I look forward to a year of robust and informed debate in the Parliament this year. It is incumbent upon all Members to take seriously the responsibility of framing laws that shape the way we live in Western Australia.
Mr Speaker, I wish all Members well for the 2010 Parliamentary year.