After two disastrous elections, liberals debate key reforms at historic state party conference in Perth

Western Australia’s top Liberal has today declared “D-Day” for the beleaguered party and calls on members to support substantial reforms to the pre-selection process.

Senator Michaelia Cash was the first person to speak about what will be a historic state conference for the party, following two devastating election defeats at both the state and federal levels.

At the top of the event’s agenda is reforming the party’s pre-selection process to take control of power brokers and empower individual members.

The proposal was recommended in a scathing review of the party’s loss in last year’s state elections, but party chairman Richard Wilson has put forward a somewhat watered-down version.

Others within the party – calling themselves the Liberal Reform Coalition – have put forward a stronger version of the reforms for discussion, limiting the number of people from outside an electorate who can vote for candidates.

Liberal Senator Michaelia Cash told the conference she hopes to return to Canberra with her head held high. (ABC News: Keane Bourke)

Speaking to media outside the event, Senator Cash seemingly indicated that she supported the more robust version, but would vote for the watered-down version if necessary.

“I will also support the amendment and, if it doesn’t come up, I will still support reforms. Period. That’s it,” she said.

As today’s conference began, Senator Cash sought to inspire party believers, injured by two disastrous election results, by talking about members’ shared belief in the Liberal Party’s values ​​and a three-year plan to take back the government. to take.

Senator Cash spent much of her speech criticizing the Albanian government, including for rolling back the powers of the Australian Building and Construction Commission.

However, before introducing a video message from Federal Liberal leader Peter Dutton, who was unable to attend due to family commitments, Senator Cash made clear her feelings about reform.

“I hope that when I arrive in Canberra tomorrow I can hold my head high and know that the Liberal Party of Western Australia voted for reform,” she said, “voted to change our party, voted to oppose the people of Western Australia saying to Australia, “We’ve listened. We have learned. We will move forward and focus on winning the government in three years.”

Peter Dutton speaks on a big screen during the conference
In his video address, Federal Liberal leader Peter Dutton urged the party to come together and focus on winning the next election. (ABC News: Keane Bourke)

In his speech, Mr Dutton summed up the previous coalition government’s achievements during his nine years in power, before urging members to “come together to make sure we are strong as a party”.

“Not to look back, but to make sure we can embrace ourselves and our values ​​and not shy away from them,” he said.

Main photo of Michaelia Cash
Former Western Australian Prime Minister Colin Barnett was among those in attendance. (ABC News: Keane Bourke)

Mr Dutton said he was confident his party could bring Western Australia “home to the Liberal Party, and in large numbers” in the next election.

Women ‘instrumental’ to the success of liberals

In the place of Mr Dutton, Federal Deputy Leader Sussan Ley delivered the leader’s personal address, using Liberals’ history to give members hope.

Ms Ley told how the party was formed after the 1943 federal election, when Labor held about 80 percent of the seats in the House of Commons, including all seats in Western Australia.

Six years later, Robert Menzies led the party to a “thumping victory”, taking the majority of seats in Western Australia, she reminded those in attendance.

“It can be done, but it can only be done if we stay disciplined, if we stay true to our beliefs and if we remain steadfast in doing all we can, each of us in this room, to win again” said Mrs. Ley.

Susan Ley speaking on stage
Sussan Ley, deputy leader of the Federal Liberal Party, said women will be key to the party’s future success. (ABC News: Keane Bourke)

After last year’s evaluation found that women were “not adequately represented in the organization or the parliamentary wings of the party”, Ms Ley stressed the role of women in shaping the party.

“Don’t let anyone tell you that the Liberal Party can’t be the party for women,” she said.

“We were. We are. We will be in the future. There is work to be done, but women have played an important role in the founding of our party and they will play an important role in our future success.”

Ms Ley also spent time criticizing the current state government and elicited cheers when she announced it was a “disgrace” to let Western Australia’s Agriculture Minister Alannah MacTiernan into Cabinet, following her remarks about mouth – and mouth disease.

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