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2018 State Conference Leader's Address

Welcome to you all – to our members, our supporters, my colleagues in the State Parliament, our Life Members, Distinguished Service Medal recipients and guests.

Welcome to our corporate observers – your attendance at our Conference is always appreciated and we thank you for the value you add to our organisation by engaging with our MPs and members over this weekend and throughout the year.

Welcome to our Federal colleagues.

It is a privilege to have Michael McCormack, our Federal Leader and Deputy Prime Minister with us for the weekend, along with his lovely wife Kathryn.

On behalf of our team, I thank you for the warm welcome our Western Australian delegation received at the recent Federal Conference in Canberra, and for the engagement we’ve had with you and your office since you’ve taken on the role.

To Bridget, our Federal Deputy Leader, and Matt – thank you for being so generous with your time when you visit Western Australia, meeting with our supporters and making time for our MPs.

Thank you all for the support you have provided our candidates – we very much hope to be sending some West Aussies over the border to your Party room after the next Federal election – Nick and John are working hard to make that happen.

And as we’ve handed you the brick bat on GST every time you’ve ventured across the border for the last 7 years … today we offer you a bouquet.

Thank you for being part of a Federal Government committed to addressing the GST. We know it isn’t easy, especially with elections in NSW and Victoria looming. But it is the right thing to do.

To our colleagues from NSW and Victoria. It is genuinely one of the great things about being part of the National Party family, helping each other out come election time, attending Conference, making new friends and learning from each other. Welcome.

And finally, a special welcome to the WA delegates and members. Our Conference is the most important event on our Party’s calendar. We come together to celebrate our wins, dissect the losses, deepen our understanding of issues that impact our vast State and debate policy that can have a real and lasting impact.

Most importantly we enjoy catching up with friends and colleagues – it’s important to have some fun along the way!

Last night was a great way to start the Conference. Thank you to Andrea and Judi for the fabulous food. And can we have a round of applause for our President’s Advance Program participants who did a wonderful job of hosting us all.

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Isn’t it great to be in the deep south of our beautiful State, here in Manjimup.

This is a community that has transformed itself again and again over the years – it’s been through some tough times but it’s still here – and it has an exciting future. Where once there was tobacco and old growth logging … there is now trail tourism, truffles, avocadoes, apples and top notch restaurants like Tall Timbers to showcase the best wines and produce of the season.

So what are the markers that underpin the success of communities like Manjimup? 

Resilience.

A willingness to contemplate change.

Respect for the past and those that forged the early path for future generations.

Hard work and determination.

People.

There are people like local identity Harvey Giblett, someone who has dedicated his life to working and living in the region, creating jobs for the next generation and driving change in the industry he loves.

If you haven’t picked an apple from one of his trees at Newton Orchards and eaten it on the spot you haven’t lived.

He is one of many that have continually improved their business to adapt to changing consumer demands, determined to put this region on the map for first class fresh produce. He's been instrumental in driving the next innovation for irrigated agriculture. 

As country people we all recognise the markers of success. We see them in our own communities.

Grit, determination, resilience, hard work …

These characteristics are embedded in the towns I represent in the Wheatbelt.

They are the bedrock of the communities coated in the red dust of the Kimberley, Pilbara and Goldfields. 

I see them in the South-West.

And they underpin the spirit of the Midwest.

What better example of grit, determination, resilience and hard work than the mighty Moora community?!

The little town was forced to pursue a campaign against a Government that would not engage, would not meet with them, would not consult.

They spent days, weeks, months fighting to protect what they have, instead of planning for the future and daring to dream that they could have more for their children and families.

They succeeded in drawing support from every corner of the State for their cause. People backed them because they were genuine, authentic, passionate and willing to fight.

Just like our Party. Just like The Nationals.

And let’s not forget that it was our own Federal Leader – Michael McCormack - who announced the funding to rebuild Moora Residential College when it became clear the State Government would continue to shirk its responsibilities.

Thank you Michael – that funding will make an enormous difference, not just for Moora, but for the whole Mid West region.

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Again and again, over these past 12 months, our regional communities have had to rally to protect and fight for what they hold dear.

Community Resource Centres; School of the Air; South West Rescue Emergency Helicopter; camp schools and cuts to the Agricultural College Trust Fund.

They’ve railed against the proliferation of FIFO camps – the cancer of the bush.

They saw off Labor’s gold tax.

And they came in their thousands to Katanning to support the live sheep trade.

Do you know what has made me incredibly proud?

What should make every one of our members and supporters proud?

Our team was standing shoulder-to-shoulder with these communities as they fought.

They say success has many fathers, but failure is an orphan.

In the conga line of political parties and politicians that have scrambled to claim these wins you can be assured that the people that count know we had their back.

That’s because we are part of these communities.

Our Party – you – preselect regional champions who live and work in these communities.

We understand what makes them tick.

Our party room is not laced with ‘professional politicians’. This is not a paint-by-numbers exercise for us.

We are people who have a dogged determination to see regional Western Australia thrive.

Our critics say we’re one-eyed. Uncompromising. And we should wear that as a badge of honour. 

But we all know that’s what it takes to get things done.

Vince Catania gave up sleep for almost a week – just days before Christmas – to organise and attend three rallies in as many days in the north of the State protesting the Government’s closure of School of the Air.

He has covered many many kilometres representing an electorate that is more than twice the size of Germany. He has worked hard on policy in his portfolio areas and is currently spearheading The Nationals regional airfares campaign. Make sure you take a sticker and put it on your car today!

Shane Love and Martin Aldridge have been fearless advocates for Moora Residential College. Working alongside the key stakeholders they have used every avenue in Parliament, the media and the community to support this town. They have shared the pain and the ultimate joy of the community every step of the way.

Marty was also the brains behind our short and sharp, but very innovative Darling Range campaign. Whilst we didn’t run a candidate, our ‘Put Labor Last’ messaging was very effective – and in the end the result was one less member of the Labor Party sitting in the Parliament.

He is forensic in the Parliament, and in the past year has set up the very first electorate office in Bindoon. Our Party’s presence is now anchored in a fast-growing region, exposing our team to new voters and communities.

Colin Holt set about saving the South West Rescue Helicopter after Labor tried to permanently ground it. Holty and his team re-wrote the book for how to run a clinical grassroots campaign and delivered an outcome in a remarkably short time.

Holty has also spent countless hours over the past year on the Joint Select Committee on End of Life choices – a contentious and confronting issue for our community that our MPs will debate during this Parliament. 

Terry Redman. His intellect is matched only by his tenacity. He has been forensic in his approach to holding the Government to account in Opposition - and Labor’s dodgy deal with Carnegie Clean Energy is looking more like a dud deal for taxpayers with its Albany wave energy project every day.

And rather than shying away from some of the challenges involved in delivering the Southern Forests Irrigation Scheme, he continues to make sure everyone has a seat at the table to get the project right.

Colin de Grussa and Peter Rundle have both made their mark as first-term MPs. We are a small team – there’s no room for training wheels – and in the Parliament, both have shown a willingness to forge ahead with questions and debates no matter what heat it draws from the Government.

Proving that we are a Party for everyone they have made it their business to stand up for the workers at the Southern Ports Authority exposing a toxic culture of bullying and intimidation. They gave these workers a voice when they felt ignored.

Last but certainly not least, is my fearless lieutenant Jacqui Boydell. In a year that has seen me out of the system for periods of time – Jacqui has provided me and the team with invaluable support.

This is in addition to managing the negotiations of the business of the Legislative Council in a House where the vote counts. With a mixture of Greens, One Nation, Liberal Democrats and the Shooters and Fishers – our vote can change the outcome of legislation.

She has invested significant time in Kalgoorlie and the Pilbara and we’re looking forward to opening her new office in Karratha in the next couple of weeks. 

This is just a snapshot of what we’ve done in the past 12 months.

We’ve backed the community, dug in for a fight, and the Government has been forced to back down again and again and again.

So be proud of your team.

Be proud of the team that has stepped up to the mark in Opposition and held this mean McGowan Government to account.

This Government has proven it will leave regional WA out in the cold. They have no long-term plan. No vision.

It’s just politics for them.

And that is why our role as the champion of the regions, an independent and truly regional voice in the Parliament, has never been more important.

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I can’t speak to you all today without mentioning Dexter.

This will be the first State Conference in many years where Dad has not been here to share the comradery and participate in debate.

He had an enormously strong sense of family, of being the protector, the mentor, and the coach.

He was a ‘fixer’ - everything had a solution if you were prepared to be patient, persistent, and apply yourself.

Every decision made, every problem to be solved, every piece of advice offered was anchored to a strong set of values and the filter applied was always ‘what is the right thing to do’, even if it was the hardest pathway to navigate.

Dexter believed rural and regional Australia deserved and required specialist representation and his commitment to that through The Nationals at a State and Federal level endured from his very first meeting with Eric Charlton in Dowerin right ‘til the end.

He was of the view the Party owed us nothing as individuals – that it is our privilege to serve in whatever capacity we can.

Words cannot describe how proud I was to work alongside my Dad doing what we love.

And while politics was banned at the kitchen table in our family – Mum and Emma were unfaltering in their support for us both, always. And I thank Mum for being here today, as she has always been.

Politics is a tough business and this year has presented challenges for us all.

So from the Davies family to The Nationals family – thank you. Thank you for your support, kind words and thoughtfulness.

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One of Dexter’s passions was keeping the relationship strong between WA and our Federal Party.

Before we gather for the 2019 State Conference we’ll have been through a Federal election.

Our two candidates – Nick Fardell and John Hassell – are local champions in every sense of the word.

Western Australia is a big State – and we have a big man shaping up to be our next Senator.

Nick, your genuine enthusiasm, passion for regional WA and willingness to fight for what’s right, is obvious to everyone that meets you.

Whether it’s championing change for the GST, our fair share of aged care and health funding, securing a stronger defence presence in the State’s north or changes to Fringe Benefits Tax to disincentivise Fly-In-Fly-Out … Nick’s ready for Canberra.

John has been an outspoken advocate for the continuation of a sustainable and safe live animal export sector, and has strong set of credentials to take to Canberra. We need people in Canberra that understand how important this industry is to WA.

Both men are a credit to The Nationals, and Western Australia will be better-off for having them in their corner.

We wish you and your teams both the best of luck on the campaign trail.

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This year we’ve hit a milestone.

2018 marks ten years since The Nationals claimed the Balance of Power and, in the process, laid the foundation for what would become the Royalties for Regions Act.

The 2008 election and the weeks that followed were a momentous period in our Party’s long and proud history.

Strong and independent, we negotiated on our terms to deliver our key election policy.

What was achieved in Government for regional WA and our State as a result was phenomenal.

We shone a torch on the farthest and most forgotten corners of our State and told communities they should expect more from their government.

Everywhere I go the impact of Royalties for Regions can be seen.

From the first class upgrades to the Manjimup Hospital, revitalisation of the Esperance foreshore or contributing to the creation of the Southern Forest Food Council … 3,600 projects that changed regional WA for the better.

And we did that!

But our gaze must be firmly fixed on the horizon, not the rear-view mirror.

The success of Royalties for Regions cannot blind us to the challenges that lay ahead.

Last year I addressed State Conference before there’d been a State Budget handed down.

I said “there is every indication that this Labor Government will return to ad-hoc funding of projects, just tinkering at the edges, funding a little bit here and a little bit there. Just enough to validate their promise to maintain Royalties for Regions”.

I said “it will become a shade of its former self”.

It’s with no joy that I say these predictions have come true.

Two budgets in and the Labor Government has corrupted Royalties for Regions – it is no longer the program we fought so hard for.

The Treasurer has made it clear this is just another Government fund.

The Development Commissions have turned into vehicles for delivering Labor election commitments.   

Where once we had forward thinking, expansive economic development programs like Water for Food, Pilbara Cities and Supertowns, this Government is using Royalties for Regions to subsidise the Water Corporation.

Regional WA’s blood is boiling, and rightly so.

You can feel it when you’re at Newdegate Field Days or Wagin Woolorama.

You sense it at the Moora Show or down the main street in Kalgoorlie.

And in the Pilbara… well in the Pilbara they wish they could turn back time.

They see what this Government is doing to them and they do not like it one bit.

For the good of our communities, for our State, we must forge a pathway to return to Government.

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So how do we do this?

First - we commit to Royalties for Regions.

Not the corrupted McGowan Government version.

Not the watered down version the Liberal Party has promised.

25 percent of royalties collected and quarantined for the communities that generate this wealth is fair. Full stop.

We commit to an authentic and strong Royalties for Regions to underpin an aggressive economic and regional development agenda.

We commit to a Royalties for Regions that supports vital community and social infrastructure.

Labor’s politically motived and flawed review into Royalties for Regions – which cost the taxpayer $1.1m – may have said we got it wrong, but I do not accept that.

No-one can tell me that my communities don’t deserve an care facility that means our grandparents and parents stay close to family and friends as they age.

No-one can tell me that my towns shouldn’t aspire to have great sporting and community facilities – places where we gather to socialise, to hold weddings and funerals, and host meetings and events.

And no-one will convince me that our spend on upgrading health centres and hospitals across this State so our families can access medical assistance in modern and safe facilities was a waste of money.

So we commit to Royalties for Regions. 

Next - we must preselect strong local champions in every regional electorate.

In the Legislative Assembly there are 59 Members of Parliament. 43 of them represent metropolitan electorates.

Quite simply, there are more of them than there are of us.

And when it comes to spending priorities of Government, unless you have the leverage of numbers, and a relentless and persistent attitude, regional WA gets left behind.

It is no small task to change Government in one term.

But make no mistake, it can be done.

I believe it can be done. Our team believes it can be done.

Darling Range was Labor’s 11th most marginal seat after the 2017 State election.

Of the 10 more marginal electorates, all but one (Albany) are first-term Members.

The swing against the Labor Party was 9.1 percent.

Apply that swing across all seats in two years’ time and you change Government.

It is our task, between now and March 2021, to convince every country electorate they can play a key role in changing the script.

We need to capture the anger and frustration of regional West Australians and convert it to action.

We need to convince them that they can change Government. They can take a stand.

Put simply, for regional WA to have a say, we all need to vote one way.

More MPs sitting at The Nationals table, means any future Government arrangement will be negotiated from a position of strength.

On our terms.

On regional Western Australia’s terms.

We are – hopefully – approaching the halfway point of the McGowan Government’s shelf life.

Every day that passes brings us one step closer to the next State election and March 2021.

Our team will keep fighting. We will keep working hard across this vast State.

The stakes are too high to leave Mr McGowan in charge, so we need to be united and committed to the task ahead.

Thank you for your support of our great Party and for playing a role in helping to forge a path back to Government.

Let’s all work together to make it 2021.

END

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