Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has kickstarted two election campaigns in one, using the official launch of the Liberals’ bid to retain power in WA to make his own pitch in the west.
In a speech of high praise for Premier Colin Barnett, Mr Abbott also heaped gratitude on the state’s economy for giving “inspiration and hope” to the rest of the country by turning rocks into riches.
And he used the dysfunction between WA’s State Labor party and their Federal counterparts to taunt Prime Minister Julia Gillard about her reluctance to come to Perth before the March 9 poll.
The audience of the party faithful was treated to a warm-up act by local member and deputy opposition leader Julie Bishop act, who used the Chinese New Year to laud the Liberal leaders, while poking fun at state Labor leader Mark McGowan about his birthdate in the Chinese year of the goat.
Mr Abbott was given a rousing welcome, and immediately returned the favour, saying he hoped to model himself and his potential prime ministership on Mr Barnett.
“How much I respect the premier of this state, how much I have learnt from him, how much I wish to model myself on him, should I get the opportunity to lead our country,” Mr Abbott said.
“The Barnett government has become a model for all the governments that we run or hope to run. That’s the kind of government that I wish to run in Canberra.”
Making a clear appeal to the parochial WA electorate ahead of the federal poll in September, Mr Abbott said the rest of Australia owed the state for driving the nation’s economy.
“All of us owe a debt to you. Every Australian owes a debt to Western Australia and in an important sense, West Australians are the best Australians,” Mr Abbott said.
And with the mining tax and carbon tax both impacting WA’s massive resources industry more than anywhere, Mr Abbott challenged the prime minister to come west.
“Don’t be shy of coming to Western Australia. Justify the carbon tax. Justify the mining tax,” Mr Abbott said.
Mr Barnett used his speech to recount the WA government’s economic achievements, while announcing a $57 million election pledge to provide 155 new school nurses, guaranteeing every WA child a health assessment upon starting school.
The premier also continued his tough on crime stance, saying WA’s worst hoons would lose their cars after one offence under tough new laws to be introduced if they are re-elected.
Labor earlier unveiled a plan to introduce the WA Sentencing Commission, an independent body reporting to parliament to scrutinise sentencing and give the public a chance to comment.