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Australia West Australian Liberal Leader tells state conference party must become 'credible alternative' as rebuild continues

10:51  31 july  2022
10:51  31 july  2022 Source:   abc.net.au

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State Liberal Leader David Honey has sought to inspire party members after bruising state and federal elections. (ABC News: Keane Bourke) © Provided by ABC NEWS State Liberal Leader David Honey has sought to inspire party members after bruising state and federal elections. (ABC News: Keane Bourke)

West Australian Liberal Leader David Honey has told the party faithful he's "optimistic" about the future, after members agreed to significant pre-selection reforms yesterday.

At the first Liberal state conference since the federal election, members yesterday voted to overhaul the way the party chooses its candidates and take control off powerbrokers.

It was seen by many in the party as a landmark moment, which illustrated it had listened and learned from two devastating election results at the state and federal level.

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By comparison, the second day of the conference was described as "flat" by one member, with far more seats left empty for Dr Honey's opening address than the day before.

In his speech, Dr Honey set out a clear agenda for the next three years: to demonstrate that the state and federal Labor governments should be "sacked" and prove the Liberals are a "credible alternative".

"I'm not pessimistic about our political future. I am realistic. We face an enormous challenge to return as a major political force in Western Australia," he said.

"What makes me optimistic for the future of the Liberal Party in Western Australia is the good work that is being done at this conference to get our internal affairs in order, a strong foundation for the future.

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"We have clearly demonstrated that we are willing to embrace progressive change as part of our continued evolution as a dynamic political force in Western Australian politics."

Party falls short of supporting quotas

After this year's federal election result, some former female Liberal MPs urged the party to adopt quotas for women in parliament.

Federal deputy leader Sussan Ley has previously expressed her support for a target, rather than a quota.

Deputy state leader Libby Mettam said she was of the same view.

"We just want, in each seat, to see the best people come forward," she said.

"If that is a quota and not a target, that will be something that the Liberal Party as a whole considers, and there will be much debate around that.

"Up until now, I've been very supportive of targets. I'm yet to be convinced that we necessarily need quotas at this stage."

Her colleague, Dr Honey, said he was "not averse" to a quota, but would wait to see what the party decided.

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"Knowing the nature of the party, it's probably unlikely we're going to have quotas, but there will be a really high expectation [that] we have significantly more excellent women candidates, but also candidates that represent the diversity of our society," he said.

Long reform journey ahead, party elder says

The Liberal Party has dozens of other recommendations to work through from its election review.

One of those recommendations — to require candidate pre-selections to be accompanied by a statutory declaration — also passed this weekend.

However, there are many others still being worked through, prompting former party president Norman Moore to describe the changes as "a small step, not a giant leap".

"The president (Richard Wilson) has said that he's interested in ongoing reform of the party, and we're going to have another conference, I think, in the next 12 months," Mr Moore said.

"I think that's a great opportunity to look at some of the other issues that the Road to Reform report talked about, which haven't been addressed yet.

"I'm very comfortable about the president's position and I hope that we'll be able to make further progress in the future."

Motions put forward by the Curtin branch — to implement other recommendations — were voted down, while changes to who can pay for party memberships passed.

Dr Honey said he remained confident the party was moving quickly enough.

"If we did nothing else but [reform pre-selections], this whole process would be a success," he said.

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