Delivered Wednesday, 17 February 2016
The year 2016 marks the final year before the state election. It is a crucial year for Western Australia. Western Australia is at the crossroads. Our state needs change; it needs to change of direction and Western Australians know it. Western Australia is crying out for a change from the management that this government has provided this state.
Our state needs a new government. It needs new ideas and it needs a new direction.
We need to get rid of our tired, old government-a government that has created an enormous mess in Western Australia. We need a competent, responsible and honest government in Western Australia. We need a government with a vision for the future-the long-term future of Western Australia-and a team that is prepared to hang in there for the long haul. WA Labor has a team that is ready to govern.
I love this state. It has provided me with opportunities beyond my wildest imaginings. I may have come from somewhere else, but I have lived the majority of my life in Western Australia. This is a state of resilient, decent and hardworking people with good values of honesty, compassion and decency. They do not expect miracles from their state government, but what they do expect is competence, honesty and responsibility. They expect some vision and they expect focus on the future.
They want government to put people first; they want government that puts them first. They want a government with a plan for the long-term future, and a government that keeps its promises and understands the pressures on ordinary people and ordinary families. They want to focus on essential services and infrastructure. They want government with a plan to diversify Western Australia's economy.
They want the government to plan for congestion and to have long-term urban town planning. Western Australia Labor offers that plan; Western Australian Labor offers that government. Our values are equality of opportunity, a fair go for all and lifting hopes and aspirations. They are eternal Western Australian values and they are Western Australian Labor's values.
What a contrast. Yesterday we heard the Premier's Statement-a cut-and-paste job of past announcements. No vision, no plan-a bunch of excuses for the problems that have occurred on this government's watch that this government is responsible for. What was most illuminating is what the Premier did not say in his speech. I listened carefully and there was so much that was left unsaid, so I feel like is my responsibility on behalf of the Parliament to mention some of the things that were not said in the Premier's Statement.
There was no mention of the recent credit rating downgrade. There was no mention of debt and deficit. There was no mention of the worst unemployment numbers since records have been kept in Western Australia-6.4 per cent, but 92 000 of our citizens out of work and it is trending in the wrong direction. There was no mention of the Metro Area Express light rail.
There was no mention of Perth Freight Link stage 2. There was no mention of the increases in rents on the most desperate people in our community, Homeswest tenants. There was no mention of all the cuts to seniors' cost-of-living assistance. There was no mention of transparency and accountability in government. There was no mention of all the secrecy and commercial-in-confidence that has gone on in this state in recent years. There was no mention of the review of the ministerial code of conduct.
There was no mention of the land tax increases, stamp duty increases or the payroll tax increases-no mention of any of those. There was no mention of the unprecedented increases in crime that we have seen Western Australia over the course of last year. There was no mention of government waste, and I might add no mention of the future fund. If the Premier does not want to talk about those things, I will.
Let us start with finances.
This government has been the most disastrous economic and financial manager in the history of Western Australia.
You do not have to believe me, Mr Speaker, I am sure the Premier does not, but here we have Moody's, which just a bit more than a week ago announced a further downgrade in Western Australia's credit rating. Moody's made following statement -
Western Australia's reliance on volatile royalty income to fund a sharp rise in current expenditures in recent years has exacerbated the impact of falling iron ore and oil prices on its budget outcomes.
Who has been telling the government that for the last eight years? The shadow Treasure has. Moody's may well have quoted the shadow Treasurer-it probably did-in its report on the Western Australian's government's management of the finances. Where does that Moody's downgrade take us to? We are now at the bottom of the ladder in Australia. The report card shows that when it comes to the class of states, this Premier and his management are the dunces of the class. Guess who is ahead of us? Tasmania. I suspect the offer to run Tasmania would be rejected were it proposed again, but I doubt that the Premier would be silly enough to do that. South Australia's financial management is ahead of Western Australia's. Queensland, Victoria, New South Wales and the national government are all ahead of Western Australia on the Moody's report card.
I will tell members who Western Australia is equal with in our financial management as judged by Moody's, our worldwide respected credit agency: Bermuda. Western Australia is on the same level as Bermuda in our financial management. It is at the same level as France, and we all know that the French have their financial management issues. Perhaps the Premier will go and offer to become the President of France.
We are up there in our financial management with Kuwait, which, as members might recall, went through a shocking war 20 years ago. That is where Western Australia now sits on this government's management. Mr Speaker, you do not just have to believe me. Nigel Satterley, a respected Western Australian businessman, who in many ways is the spokesperson for the Western Australian business community, had this to say on the weekend. I quote -
"Big increases in land tax, for example, have caused a lot of grief for families and backbenchers.
No doubt there.
"There was no consultation on land tax. I think the ramping up of the land tax will cause the government indigestion at the next poll."
"The South East Asian business and investment community are as informed and as researched as anyone in the world," ...
"The big discussion is the decline in our mining sector and the falling iron ore price, and they are aware our debt is approaching $40 billion.
"And that means they are cautious about investing in WA."
Because of this government's financial management, the overseas business community is now, according to a senior Western Australian businessperson-as I said, one of the spokespeople for Western Australian business- "cautious about investing in Western Australia" because of this government's financial management.
What I find hard to take is the deceitfulness in the commentary that has gone on over the past years. I quote the Premier once again from 2009, in his second year in government -
"I'm not going to lead a government that goes into deficit, I can tell you that right now."
He has delivered the biggest deficits in the history of the state by multiples. The Premier has never reached the out years; he is always in years three and four-he never gets there. He said again that "Governments I lead will have surpluses." The Premier continued -
As I have said, for as long as I am Premier and for as long as I am able, the Liberal-National government will deliver budget surpluses.
He said that in the Parliament-misled the Parliament. The Premier is still sitting there and we have the biggest deficits in history. On a cash basis, the deficits that the Premier has delivered are absolutely out of this world. Let us go through the excuses and the potential solutions. I quote from page 2 of the Premier's Statement yesterday -
Projects like Elizabeth Quay and Perth Stadium make up 2.4 per cent of total debt.
The excuse is, "Oh, they're only a small component of total debt. Elizabeth Quay, Perth Stadium-just 2.4 per cent of total debt." The question can therefore be asked: where has the money gone if they are just 2.4 per cent of $40 billion worth of debt? Where has the money gone? What is there to show for it? Every government in the history of Western Australia, for 108 years till this government, has managed to fund health, education, roads, railways, ports, electricity infrastructure and services, and the total debt grew to $3.6 billion.
Ever since then, the debt has increased by 1 000 per cent and we have very little to show for it if the Premier proposes that his argument stands up. If that is only 2.4 per cent of the total debt, where has the other 97.6 per cent gone? Where has it gone? This is the theme of deceitfulness on the part of this government.
We then find that the government is now proposing a fire sale of state assets to try to ameliorate the problem that it has created. Its argument goes: "There's this huge debt and deficit problem-admittedly, on our watch-so now we've got to flog off all the state assets to try to pay for part of it." That is the argument that government members are going to run. Bear in mind that these public assets produce recurrent income for the state that would be lost and also, generally, they are state-owned monopolies.
The government has created the worst set of finances in history and it is now having a fire sale to pay off a small part of the debt it has created, and we will lose the recurrent income.
I want members to know this and hear these quotes because, on the theme of deceitfulness, it takes the cake. Last week, on 9 February 2016, in WA Business News, the Premier is quoted as saying -
Western Power also is critical to the development of Western Australia ...
If you look at South Australia, a weak economy, it has basically sold all of its assets, they have nothing left to sell, they have nothing to build their future on.
I'm not going to let Western Australia get in that position.
The day before those statements were published, the Premier went public on his proposal to sell Western Power-the day before! What is going on? How can the Premier say one thing one day and something totally contradictory the next day? I will take members to the second quote from 24 December last year. I quote the Premier again -
"NSW is part of the east coast grid," he said.
"We are isolated here-we have no other connection to any other power supplier in Australia.
"And Western Power-the poles and wires-is the natural monopoly.
"If the government was to retain any single asset in the energy industry it would be that," Mr Barnett said.
There are so many quotes, but I will read probably the best one, from 2013, which states -
"The reason that you would retain the energy utilities in government hands is the energy utilities are major engines of economic growth in this State and only through ownership of utilities can you guarantee supply and reliability of supply, particularly in a State like WA which has a small, isolated grid that cannot be connected to the other States," he said.
That was the Premier of Western Australia in 2013, the same man who, in yesterday's speech and last week, was extolling the sale of these government instrumentalities that he said were crucial for the state's development in the future. It is a mess; there is no coherence in what the Premier says. There is no coherence in his policy. There is page after page of these statements going back 20 years. I am telling members of the Liberal Party that they do not know what they are doing!
The Premier says one thing one day and another thing another day. There is no coherence to government policy. We can see coming down the track at us a fire sale by this government of government assets that have been built up over more than a century by the people of Western Australia. The government is planning to throw them out the door because of its own financial mismanagement. If government members do not think that will come back to bite them, I think they have another thing coming.
We then hear the other excuse-the GST deal. As the member for Victoria Park said yesterday, the GST arrangements are understood to be a rotten deal; making it plain, it is a rotten deal. We say it all the time; it is a rotten, useless, hopeless deal that this state was signed up to. It signed up to a shocking deal and we do not support it. We will fight it, but we will have a consistent position the whole way along. I think that the nation needs Western Australia to have a consistent position. I think it is confused by the government's position on these issues. I will take members through it, but first I will say this: the Premier has always known what the GST arrangements were. The reason that he has known is that he signed us up to it; the Liberal Party, with this Premier, participated in signing us up to it. When WA Labor objected, the Liberal Party pushed ahead. The Hansard does not lie and some of my colleagues and I were sitting here during those debates.
I want to take members through the history of this issue because the GST deal is a rotten egg but it is an excuse on the part of the government-once again about an issue of its own making. I will take members through the Premier's positions on this issue. First of all, do members remember the one back in the year 2000, admittedly 16 years ago, when he said "God bless the GST"? I will quote further: "It is brilliant." 28 June 2000. It does provide a growth tax for the state. He also said -
There is some way to go there, I suspect, and I would be quite confident in predicting, that the revenues from the GST will be way in excess of the forecasts from the federal Treasury. The GST will be a far larger revenue streams than the people will anticipate.
When he signed us up to it that was the Nostradamus prediction of today's Premier of Western Australia. He now complains about the deal he supported. I am big enough to admit that he was wrong. I am a big enough man to say that the Premier was wrong on this issue, and I am a big enough man to apologise on his behalf! He should say sorry and if not, I will say sorry on his behalf! It was a rotten deal. The original position was to support the deal.
There have been many positions; I have counted seven. First of all, remember the one years ago when the four big states were going to share their contributions equally? That was the deal, and the smaller states were to divide the remainder on an as-needs basis. That was the plan that I read in the newspapers. The Premier was talking to the other Premiers and they were all on board. Remember that? That was that plan. Where has that plan gone? It has gone nowhere. Then the next argument, which was also a few years ago, was about a 75c floor in the dollar. That was a reasonable argument. Then we went to the private meeting with Tony Abbott. The Premiers said, "Okay, we will have a 38c floor with a bail-out." The Western Australian government accepted the 38c floor and went to the commonwealth government, as Britain did in 1976 to the International Monetary Fund, and asked for a bail-out from the commonwealth government-the IMF bail-out plan.
That was position number four. Position number five last year was the 50c floor in the dollar in exchange for an increased GST. Every dollar we put in, we were to get back 50c minimum in exchange for an increase in the GST. That one has not floated either. Then in October last year there was the idea to scrap stamp duty in exchange for more GST and the latest arrangement is that we give up some North West Shelf royalties in exchange for more GST. That is seven positions-the seven ugly sisters of the government GST position or the seven ugly Treasurers on that side of the house, on the GST positions. It is seven positions.
Is there any wonder there is confusion on the other side and then it comes with a hollow threat? Remember this one: In 2012 Western Australia was going to stay out of the national partnerships and not proceed with resource projects. That was not a hollow threat. The government did not proceed with some resource projects-Browse and Oakajee.They delivered on that one.
Some resource projects did not happen, so that was one promise the Premier did deliver on. Then there was the January 2013 threat that the Liberal Party would not provide any election support to the federal government. Then, the Treasurer with fighting words-I am not sure whether he was Treasurer then-said in May 2014, "We're going to cause trouble if there is no extra GST before the next election." I can see Scott Morrison really trembling over there because the WA Treasurer will cause trouble. Maybe he did; maybe that is why Joe Hockey took off.
Then in April 2015, there was the threat to, "disengage from the Federation" and the trucks coming across Eyre Highway would be in trouble. Potentially, those truckies would have been subject to boom gates. That was the threat if we did not get a greater share of the GST.
There have been seven positions, a bunch of hollow threats, and the outcome is zero on GST reform. This state needs consistent positioning. It needs a consistent policy in dealing with the other states. We have said from the very beginning that there should be an 80c floor in the dollar. Our share will go up. The forward estimates already point to that fact. If we have a consistent position with the commonwealth and the other states, as our share goes up, the other states will see the sense to a floor as their share goes down. A consistent position is what Western Australia needs, not this fanatical thrashing around to get a headline on any given day-and they do get a headline.
For some reasons journalists do not seem to remember all these different positions and they come at it every day as though it is a new idea, "Oh, he's got a different position today; this is exciting. We'll go for this one." We need a consistent position that both sides of Parliament put to the commonwealth and it should remain unified no matter what because currently the Premier's approach over the last eight years has not worked and not gained any traction nationally at all.
We have seen the record-debt, deficits, failed rhetoric, failure on GST and now a planned fire sale of state government assets, contrary to everything the Premier has always said.
What is WA Labor's vision for the future?
It is to be a strong state with a diversified economy and a state government that focuses on essential services and infrastructure, with a competent, responsible, honest team. That is our vision. It is a straightforward vision for Western Australia that accords with the interests and, I think, the expectations of people in this state.
We need a more diversified economy. Mining, oil and gas will always be important to Western Australia. Western Australia now has one of the nation's highest unemployment rates. We have seen jobs lost hand over fist. In the month of December last year we were seeing, on average, 300 jobs a day being lost in this state. We support mining and oil and gas.
Our record is clear but our state has so much more potential and can be so much more than that. We are still a year from the election. I will take members through some of the policies initiatives that we have already announced and there will be a lot more between now and March next year.
We will have a state infrastructure strategy: the rational use of capital spending with Infrastructure WA guiding it. Metronet is a long-term plan for integrated, coordinated transport planning in Western Australia with a focus on rail.
We have seen the reports from Infrastructure Australia. Western Australia is approaching a crisis in transport. The government has no plan, apart from MAX light rail-the fully funded, fully costed MAX. I was in Dianella yesterday, looking for it. Construction of MAX was supposed to have started by now.
We have Metronet. That is a sensible plan built around rail linkages.
We also have the EduCare policy, which I announced recently. Under that plan, we will make better use of existing infrastructure, and help young families in particular with the demands of kids going to school. EduCare is directed particularly at women, to enable them to get back into work. Families need to have a second job in this day and age. Under EduCare, there will be better use of existing infrastructure at schools, with before and after school care, and also childcare facilities. It is an education initiative, but it is also a jobs initiative. It is a sensible policy that any reasonable, competent government would put in place.
We also have the Asian engagement strategy. That is a comprehensive and overarching strategy. Its purpose is to ensure that we engage with all the countries in our region. China is important, but the other countries in our region-Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam-are just as important. Those countries are growing massively in population, with expanding middle classes. Under the Asian engagement strategy, we want to engage with all the countries in our region.
We also have the Brands WA policy, in the same way as they have in New South Wales and Victoria.
We want to bring in further liquor reforms to build on the reforms of the former Labor government.
We have a defence strategy, with $30 billion of capital to be spent by the commonwealth. The Premier does not even know how many submarines are based in Western Australia. That defence work will be done using our existing facilities at Henderson.
We also have the Priorty Start program, to better use government spending to create more apprenticeships.
We also have an information and communications technology policy, and we will create an office of ICT, as was recommended by the Economic Regulation Authority, and a red tape reduction unit, as was also recommended by the ERA.
We want to close the loopholes in the Buy Local policy.
We will be keeping royalties for regions, but we want to make sure that it is focused on investment and attraction, delivering skilled jobs, and delivering regional roads. Royalties for regions is part of our policy. It is the law.
We will have a stand-alone Minister for Education. Under EduCare, as I mentioned earlier, there will be a greater roll out of explicit instruction. We see report after report about how, despite the best efforts of teachers, children at school are not achieving what they should be achieving in literacy. There is a report on the front page of The West Australian today about that. That should concern everyone. We obviously need a greater roll-out of explicit instruction, because it works. We need to establish at one of our universities a centre of excellence in explicit instruction that can be a model for full service schools.
We also need to have greater local control of school maintenance.
We will have a stand-alone Minister for Health. Clearly, if I were to go through the problems in health, it would be a very long speech.
We need to put an end to the crazy privatisation agenda in which the government has engaged in the health system, which has caused many of the issues at Fiona Stanley Hospital.
There has been an unprecedented 20 per cent increase in crime across Perth. The government's model for the prevention of crime has failed, and the government has now had to roll that back. The rate of methamphetamine use in our state is double the national rate. The government has no answer to deal with that problem. Clearly what the government is doing is not working, and it has not been working over the last eight years. Legal justice, and focusing just on law enforcement, does not work. I have heard the Minister for Police denigrate the idea of a holistic across-government approach.
A holistic across-government approach is obviously what is needed, because there is a demand for meth, and although enormous amounts of money are being put into law and order, that will not solve the problem. Criminal penalties will not solve the problem. We need to take a broader and smarter approach than the government is currently taking. Under this government's watch, the use of meth in this state is double the national average rate. We should return to traditional policing.
We would take a holistic approach to meth.
We will toughen the laws for dangerous sex offenders.
We will introduce a no body, no parole law. The government does not like that law.
Government members should meet with a family member whose daughter has been murdered and then say they do not like it. We look forward to seeing whether the government votes for that.
When it comes to the environment, we will stop Roe 8. Make it an election issue. Roe 8 is a road to nowhere, and it will not fix the problems. If we were to roll out Roe 8 to its full extent so that it will actually do something, it will cost up to $2.5 billion to get to Fremantle port.
We will reinstate the Swan River Trust.
We will have an independent Environmental Protection Authority rather than the disaster around the EPA that the government has presided over. There have been massive problems with the EPA on the government's watch.
In the area of social reform, we fought off the closure of remote Indigenous communities. The Premier was going to close remote Indigenous communities across Western Australia, and people like the member for Kimberley's constituents were terrified about what the government was planning to do. We remember the Premier's language in this place, when he accused vast numbers of the men in those communities of paedophilia. He came into this place and used intemperate and extreme language, and threatened their communities. We fought that off.
We brought in the Constitution Amendment (Recognition of Aboriginal People) Bill, which the member for Kimberley brought forward and passed through this Parliament.
In the area of social reform, we have already made an announcement about medicinal cannabis. When I announced that, I was accused by the Liberal Party of being soft on drugs, because I wanted to ensure that those people who were terminally ill or suffering from chronic health conditions that cause them pain would have the opportunity to be prescribed medicinal cannabis. The Liberal Party came out with the soft-on-drugs line straightaway. It might have moderated its position somewhat on that one. We will make sure that medicinal cannabis happens in Western Australia.
As I announced two years ago, we will make sure that the victims of child sex abuse have the opportunity to sue outside the six-year limitation period. Sometimes they cannot come to terms with the pain for 20 or 30 years. We will make sure that they have the opportunity to pursue their cases outside the limitation period. We will make sure that people are not kept in jail beyond the limit of the term that they would have otherwise received if they had never been convicted.
We will make sure that there is a clear card for the protection of people with disabilities. The people who work in that area will be subject to the same test as the working with children check. We will oppose and, if they are passed by this government and we are elected, we will repeal the government's anti-protester laws.
They are all the things we will do if we are elected.
That is just a snapshot of what we have announced thus far, with still a year to go until the next state election.
It is a big agenda to focus on essential services, diversifying the economy, making sure that we wisely spend the capital we have at our fingertips and reforming our laws to ensure that Western Australia becomes a fairer place with opportunity for all and that those people who might suffer from some of those things I referred to earlier get some assistance and relief from the state.
The state needs to change. This is a tired, old government, with a Premier who is planning on running and then cutting and leaving. How can Western Australians support that option at the next state election? I think they want competence, honesty and responsibility, and a team and a Premier that are there for the long haul. I think that is what people want in this state. I want to take us back to one of the issues I talked about earlier-the shocking financial management of this government. This government has been the worst economic and financial manager in the history of Western Australia. The books do not lie. It is the worst economic and financial manager in the history of Western Australia.