opinion

Richard Wilson: What the Liberals must do to win back West Australians

Richard WilsonThe West Australian
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The WA Liberals have been dealt a severe blow by voters.
Camera IconThe WA Liberals have been dealt a severe blow by voters. Credit: 8385/Pixabay

The Western Australian people have delivered a devastating result for the Liberal Party twice in the space of 14 months.

It’s a truth we can’t hide from, nor one we seek to.

We have been sent a clear message and must learn from it.

I firmly believe our values remain fit for our times. Liberalism has set Australia up for prosperity over generations, able to confront challenges and grasp opportunities as they come.

To be frank, it has been our willingness to deviate from our values — both in government and as an organisation — which has brought us to this point.

The outcome of the 2021 State election made it clear we have to change.

Last Saturday’s Federal election result has only made that mandate for change stronger.

Our job now is clear — we must get our house in order.

We have already taken important steps to reform, with much more work still to be done.

The review into the 2021 State election sparked a sober and mature debate within our party about the way forward, and presented a number of recommendations which we must consider and enact.

To date, we have progressed 49 of the 66 recommendations made by that review.

Of those 49 recommendations, 23 require changes to our constitution. The upcoming July State conference — which will debate those changes — is the most important meeting in the history of our party.

In 2025, the WA Liberal Party potentially faces both a State and Federal election within weeks of each other.

What we do now will determine if we are able to present the viable choice Western Australians deserve, or if we are still clutching to the futile hope the pendulum will naturally swing back in our favour.

The latter is not an option.

Change to the way we select our candidates is the single most important reform we can adopt this year.

Making that change is the reason I ran for president.

We must demonstrate to the public that our actions embody our values, and that we are serious about picking candidates on merit.

We must also demonstrate to those in our community whose values align with ours, that we welcome their contribution.

Reform isn’t optional, it’s necessary. But it won’t be achieved through gratuitous media commentary, name-calling, or stubborn refusals to work in good faith with other Liberals.

We must show them that if they choose to stand for preselection, the result isn’t determined before they’ve even filled out a nomination form.

We have taken clear steps to making pre-selection reform a reality, including trialing a system where all members of the party had a say in who their local candidate was at the Federal election.

These trials gave us valuable insights that will inform change. Some were successful, others showed how we can continue to improve the model.

Our movement is larger than any person or group within it. That is why, in pursuing reform, I am continuing to engage respectfully with party members right across WA.

This party belongs as much to our members as it does to those who support us at elections — whether they have done so just once, or all their lives.

It belongs as much to our volunteers who stand for hours on end at polling booths as it does to our most senior members of Parliament.

And its future belongs to those who roll up their sleeves, do the work and make a contribution at the time we need it most.

Reform isn’t optional, it’s necessary. But it won’t be achieved through gratuitous media commentary, name-calling, or stubborn refusals to work in good faith with other Liberals.

If we are to recover, we must enact change. We have listened, we know what we need to do and are getting on with the job.

We cannot expect the community to see the promise of our beliefs nor embrace our ideas, if we haven’t listened.

I am giving my all to reform. Our best days are in front of us, but only if we work hard, and together.

I am confident the Liberal Party will present the choice Western Australians deserve at the next election, but our ability to do so will be determined by what action we take now.

Richard Wilson is State president of the WA Liberal Party

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