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, while working hard to carefully manage the State’s finances, the Government has also concentrated on the bigger picture: driving economic development to sustain growth and prosperity into the future.
Western Australia is now entering a new period of growth, driven by government and private sector projects, including:
- Gorgon Gas Project, Australia’s biggest resource project;
- Second stage of the Ord River Project, with work on irrigation and roads beginning in March/April this year;
- Oakajee port and rail project in the Mid West, which will create the State’s second major iron ore province and, with the development of a world class industrial estate, provide the opportunity for us to finally make more of our natural resources;
- Browse LNG precinct in the Kimberley, which will capitalise on the massive Browse Basin gas reserves and give the Indigenous population of the Kimberley real opportunities for future prosperity and self determination.
The Liberal National Government has also committed to infrastructure projects in Perth that will revitalise the city. Work on sinking the rail line that has divided the Central Business District and Northbridge for more than 100 years is about to get underway. The bus station will also be sunk and a significant city square will be incorporated into a mix of residential and commercial development.
Planning is underway for the long-awaited development of the Perth waterfront, which will see the Perth CBD embrace the city’s greatest asset – the Swan River. The Liberal National Government’s plans for the area between William and Barrack Streets will result in a people-friendly, attractive destination for families, city workers, national and international tourists.
These twin projects will transform Perth. They will re-orientate the city in a North-South direction, linking Northbridge with the CBD and the CBD with the river.
The Liberal National Government, with the support of the City of Perth, is determined to make Perth a lively, sophisticated capital city befitting a State as important as Western Australia.
Of course, if people living in and visiting Perth were also able to shop at night, Perth may be able to shake the tag that it is a dull city, whether you believe that tag is fair or not. I hope Members opposite will support the Retail Trading Hours Amendment Bill introduced in this House last year.
This is about giving people in Perth the choice of shopping after 6pm on weeknights – the freedom of choice available to people living in other towns and cities in Western Australia and throughout Australia and the world. This will be an important advancement as we head toward hosting several thousand people from more than 50 nations at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in 2011.
The projects in regional Western Australia and in Perth that I have just outlined are either underway or will start shortly. This has not happened by accident. It has happened because this Government has worked tirelessly to make sure these projects have and will go ahead.
The Liberal National Government has opened the door to the private sector to encourage investment, minimise risk and declare that Western Australia is once again one of the most viable and attractive places to do business. Make no mistake we will not lose another Inpex.
The Government has:
- Streamlined approvals processes and will this year progress legislation to further overhaul the approvals system in the areas of planning, mining, environment and land development;
- Reduced the backlog of mining tenement applications by more than a third;
- Finalised more than twice the number of environmental appeals on proposals in 2009 than were finalised in the last full year of the Labor Government;
- Doubled the rate of planning approvals compared with the former Government;
- Begun the process of dramatically reducing the number of boards and committees, which I will advise the House of in coming weeks;
- Completed an investigation into how government can further minimise bureaucratic red tape on business and the community, the findings of which will be tabled in this place shortly;
- Provided $16 Million for an exploration incentive scheme to encourage further mineral exploration;
- Established a regulatory framework to allow for uranium mining in Western Australia, overturning the nonsensical decision by the former Government to ban uranium mining in the world’s leading mining economy.
Mr Speaker, Western Australia is fortunate to have one of the world’s great gas and mineral resource endowments. The State’s mineral resources are owned by the people of Western Australia. And the State Government, on behalf of the people, receives royalties from the companies that mine those resources. I would remind all Members that these royalties are not a tax.
Any suggestion that a tax review by the Commonwealth Government will result in a replacement of State royalties with a new Federal resources tax demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of the royalty system.
The Liberal National Government will not hand over sovereignty of our natural resources by forfeiting West Australians’ right to charge a price for the sale of mineral resources that they own.
Because of our dominant position as a mining state, a Federal Government resources rent tax on mining would effectively be a tax on Western Australia.
I trust that Members opposite would put aside political allegiances and support the Liberal National Government on this critically important issue, should the Rudd Labor Government pursue the changes proposed. If ever there was an issue about State rights worth fighting for, this is it.
In the same vein, I would also hope that Members opposite would set aside their close ties to union power brokers to ensure industrial relations does not become a battle ground in our resources sector, as a result of changes to the Industrial Relations system that is now under the jurisdiction of the Federal Government.
Quite simply, this State and this country cannot afford to signal to the world that investment in Australia’s resource industry is now less secure because of the threat of unjustified strikes and work stoppages. 1970s style industrial disputation will jeopardise jobs and livelihoods.
Mr Speaker, as Members are well aware, the majority of our mineral resources and, consequently, our wealth come from the Pilbara region. The Liberal National Government recognises that it has a responsibility to improve living conditions in the Pilbara to support the thousands of people living and working in the towns that support our economic development.
This Government has committed $300 Million to create liveable cities and communities in the State’s North, including Karratha, Port Hedland, Newman, Tom Price and Onslow. This funding is providing for a major land release push, replanning towns, apartment-style residential developments, undergrounding powerlines and upgrading power capacity.
The Liberal National Government recognises that agriculture continues to be a key to the State’s economic success and will promote growth in the productivity and profitability of the agricultural sector. It has proceeded cautiously on the issue of GM crops.
After successful trials, the growing of GM canola is now allowed in Western Australia, as it is in New South Wales and Victoria. We also look forward to the opening of the new Muchea Saleyards, progressed by the Liberal National Government after delays under the former Government.
This is a government that is not Perth-centric, but one that focuses on the needs of all West Australians and the communities in which they live. The successful Royalties for Regions program is testament to that.
Local government also plays an important role in delivery of services – waste management, libraries and park management are just a few. Members will be aware that this Government firmly believes West Australians will be better serviced by fewer local governments, and has committed to reducing the number of councils from 139 to less than 100 over the next five years. This has been controversial. But the Government believes communities throughout Perth and regional Western Australia will get a better level of service from local governments with greater economies of scale and shared resources. To date, 11 councils have indicated a willingness to amalgamate and are working with the Government to make this a reality.
Events, festivals, cultural and arts activities add much to the fabric of our communities. Over the coming months, the Government will examine ways to support a variety of events throughout the State. Our effort, support and assistance needs to be well targeted. This is as much about attracting visitors to Western Australia as it is about making communities more vibrant for local West Australians, not just in Perth but in towns and cities throughout the State.
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.