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Tuesday, 14 February 2017
Page: 883

Senator PRATT (Western Australia) (20:33): This evening I rise to talk about what is on the minds of my fellow Western Australians as they contemplate their vote and the arrogant and out-of-touch Barnett Liberal government that they are currently confronted with and governed by. With an election just around the corner, it is obvious to more and more Western Australians, upon reflection, what a disappointment the last eight years of the Barnett government have been. They have had eight years of wasted opportunities. They have squandered the mining boom, and our economy is suffering.

When I say they have squandered the mining boom, what they did was stand idly by while competition for labour in the mining sector hollowed out the rest of the economy, which means now that the mining boom has gone, many of those other jobs that Western Australians traditionally worked in have declined. We are talking about services, higher education, manufacturing and more. Our WA economy is suffering. What should have been the good times has very much turned into very difficult times because of the mismanagement of the Barnett government. Instead of investing in jobs, education and health, the Barnett government invested in vanity projects like we have seen at Elizabeth Quay and the new sports stadium. It is a government with the wrong priorities. It has its priorities all wrong.

Tonight, I want to outline to the Senate some of the key concerns that I and my Labor colleagues in WA are hearing from WA voters who are sick of Colin Barnett's arrogance and of this tired old Liberal government. Firstly, Western Australians are, most importantly, worried about jobs, and for good reason. Our unemployment rate is above six per cent, one of the highest rates in the country. In some parts of WA, it is more than double the national average. It is even worse for young Western Australians—up near 15 per cent in some areas. All over the state, people are feeling this economic pressure. Again, I highlight that it is because the Barnett government squandered the mining boom because they had no alternative plan in place to generate jobs in our state.

But I can tell you that Mark McGowan and WA Labor do. Earlier this month we saw our own Labor leader Bill Shorten and state leader Mark McGowan announcing their job plan for WA. It highlights that we believe that every young person deserves an opportunity to go to university or TAFE and that they should be able to be confident that they will have a job at the end. The WA Liberal government has been focused on making sure WA jobs go offshore. Each year they send a list here to Canberra promoting overseas workers into Western Australia in traditional trades where we already have large numbers of unemployed people back home. While the Liberals are continuing to send jobs overseas, what we have from WA Labor is a plan to make local jobs, training and apprenticeships at the heart of everything that government does. A Mark McGowan Labor government will make it law that government departments are required to provide more apprenticeships for local people. They will put in place Western Australian participation plans that require WA content in bidding processes for construction work across government and a consideration for apprenticeships and traineeships for local Western Australians. We need this focus on local jobs and local manufacturing to ensure that we have an economy that survives the boom-bust cycle that we have had. Labor's Metronet plan has a key focus on jobs also, creating more than 10,000 jobs for Western Australians. It will involve the manufacturing of our rail cars in WA, increasing our local manufacturing to 50 per cent, up from the current two per cent. With that will come really important apprenticeships.

While Colin Barnett, Liza Harvey and their mates here in Canberra in the Turnbull government are sitting back and doing nothing about congestion in Western Australia, Mark McGowan and WA Labor have a real alternative plan. Metronet is about connecting the suburbs of Perth to fix our congestion problem. We want a circle line around the state, revolutionising Perth's rail system, providing our state's very first east-west rail link so that commuters are not having to travel into the CBD and back out again when there is a more direct route. This means the Forrestfield line to Ellenbrook; a line to Yanchep, the North and Byford to the east; as well as a new train station in Karnup in the south. We know that Metronet is smart, affordable and achievable and it will bring Perth in line with some of the best cities in the world when it comes to public transport, and I firmly believe that is what Western Australians deserve.

We have also a stark contrast between Mark McGowan and Colin Barnett in the privatisation of Western Power. Colin Barnett and Liza Harvey are making such a mess on this issue. They have made such a mess of the state budget. Their solution is to privatise Western Power to make a quick buck, despite One Nation's opposition to its privatisation. But we know that a vote for One Nation is in fact a vote to privatise Western Power. After recklessly squandering the revenue from the mining boom, the Liberal government has a plan to privatise Western Power to fix their budget problems. It is a short-term solution that is actually going to leave our state worse off, because we will forgo the $500 million worth of revenue that Western Power brings in every year. It will see rising power prices and it is a cost that people who are under the financial pressures that they are already under simply cannot afford.

We know that people in WA want Western Power to stay in public hands, which is why a Labor government would not sell Western Power. We outlined just this week a comprehensive plan to reduce state debt—a plan that would keep Western Power in state hands. It is a plan that invests in education. We know that education is a key priority for families across the state. It is certainly a key priority for my own. We want to see more than 1,300 local jobs created by investing in new school infrastructure across the state—10 new primary schools in the outer suburban growth areas, secondary schools with major upgrades and $30 million to be invested in regional schools, which is reversing eight years of neglect by the Liberal-Nationals government. We want to see investments in science and coding in primary schools to prepare our kids for the jobs of the future. We want to put education assistants back into public schools. They were ripped out, leaving many of our state's most vulnerable children neglected in the classroom. We want to allow school communities the option of hosting quality childcare providers on-site to make life easier for busy families like my own. These are just a small highlight of some of the plans WA Labor has to ensure that we have quality education for our children in our state.

We also know that health care is an issue that many voters are talking to us about. Our approach is to put patients first. It is about doctors and nurses working on the front line to provide world-class health care to patients. It is about investing in an upgrade at the Joondalup hospital, with $160 million worth of resources there. It is a campus for a very large and growing urban community that is currently travelling a long way to the city to get basic hospital services.

We want to build medi-hotels at major hospitals to free up hospital beds, reduce waiting times for surgery and allow patients a chance to recuperate. We know that many hospital beds are taken up because people do not have reliable care at home. They may not live with anyone who can look after them, but if there is a medi-hotel they are only a phone call away from the hospital, and we think that is a really important initiative. We also want to see urgent care clinics to ensure that people are able to get after-hours care, reducing pressure and waiting times at our overstressed hospitals.

These are just some of the issues we are taking into this election. I want to highlight that Mark McGowan and WA Labor are very much ready to govern in WA. They are bringing fresh ideas to the state, and I am really proud to support our excellent candidates there. I know that only Mark McGowan has a plan for WA—a plan that invests in schools, public transport, Metronet, public hospitals and patients and will keep our Western Power in public hands. With just 25 days to go, I am really looking forward to getting out and talking to voters about a much brighter future for our state.