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, the health of our communities is also linked to the health of our natural environment.
The increased development activity I have talked about means a commensurate increase in our responsibility to ensure the environment is protected for future generations.
West Australians demand that government strike the right balance between development and environmental protection. The Liberal National Government is committed to doing exactly that.
The Government has strengthened the independence of the Environmental Protection Authority to enable it to better deal with the increasing complexity and size of development projects in this State. These projects require the highest level of environmental scrutiny, assessment and conditions to ensure that we not only derive long term economic benefits but that our unique environment is properly protected.
The Kimberley region is one of Western Australia’s most diverse and special natural environments. The Liberal National Government came to power with a commitment to protect the Kimberley and this will be a major focus in 2010. A Marine Park at Camden Sound will be established, which will protect a key nursery of the world’s largest humpback whale population, and the Kimberley Science and Conservation Strategy will be finalised. This will determine how we balance economic development and opportunities for Indigenous advancement, with conservation of the region’s unique environmental and cultural values.
The Government will this year also focus on raising community awareness of our national parks. Last year, Dirk Hartog Island became the State’s 98th national park. The Government will work toward improving access and making available better accommodation, including affordable family holidays, within and near our major national parks.
The Liberal National Government has joined with the Federal Government to nominate the Ningaloo Coast for World Heritage listing, in recognition of the area’s natural beauty, biological richness and international significance. If listed, the Ningaloo Coast will be recognised with the greatest of the world’s heritage sites.
On the renewable energy front, the Government has provided $12.5 Million towards the development of a demonstration wave power station near Garden Island. This technology has the capability of converting wave energy into zero emission electricity.
A continual challenge in our drying climate is the management of water and land use. The Liberal National Government is taking steps to protect the Gnangara groundwater system north of Perth, which has long been a major source of drinking water and supports significant wetlands and groundwater-dependent ecosystems.
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.