WA by Richard EganNews Weekly
Liberals' new policy positions
, August 10, 2002
Speaking at the recent State Conference, Opposition Leader, Colin Barnett launched five position statements as part of the Western Australian Liberals policy development program.
The statements deal with union rights of entry in Labor's industrial relations legislation, agricultural property rights, family values, cannabis law reform and choice in education.
The statements are for discussion and comment, and along with further statements to be issued at the rate of at least one per month, are aimed at preparing the Liberal Party's policy platform for the next State election, due in early 2005.
Each of the statements is subtitled "Defining the Difference", referring to the role of the statements in clearly distinguishing Liberal policy from that of the Government.Family values
The statements on family values, headed "Family First", cannabis law reform and choice in schooling each indicate that the Liberal Party is intent on staking out a socially responsible position in clear contrast to the radical social policies being pursued by the Gallop Labor Government.
The "Family First" statement describes Labor's Family Court Amendment Bill
and the Acts Amendment (Lesbian and Gay Law Reform) Act 2002
as "highly socially divisive pieces of legislation". It states that "every child should have the reasonable expectation of securing the affection of both a mother and a father".
On this basis the Liberal Party is opposed to adoption by homosexual couples and to access to IVF for single women or lesbian couples.
In relation to the age of consent for male homosexual acts, dropped from 21 to 16 by Labor's legislation, the statement sats that "no consideration has been given to the fact that teenage girls are generally more mature than boys or that community concern has more to do with predatory and exploitative behaviour by older males than it has to do with sexual relations between young adults of similar ages".
It concludes, "On balance, most people would accept the age of consent for homosexual males to be 18 years, in line with the age of majority".
In relation to the Family Court Amendment Bill 2001
, which is yet to be debated by the Legislative Council despite having been rushed through the Legislative Assembly prior to Parliament rising for Christmas last year, the statement opposes access to the Family Court of Western Australia by homosexual couples and by de facto couples, except where the latter either have children or have been in a continuous relationship for not less than five years.
It comments, "Under Labor's new laws, two people living together for just two years - regardless of whether or not both parties had a genuine intention to commit to each other - may have access to the Family Court to resolve a property dispute. That is to say, two teenagers coming out of a high school relationship are put on an equal footing with a long-term, married couple with children."
The position statement on "Cannabis Law Reform" is firmly critical of the Government's proposal to decriminalise the possession of 30g or less and the cultivation of two cannabis plants, commenting that "the policy is likely to cause policing problems, and plants will ... be able to produce commercial quantities of high potency, paving the way for a 'cottage industry' of cannabis dealing.
"Surely, a government should be supporting parents in the fight against drugs. Yet here we have a Labor government which is sending out a message to young people that a 'little bit of cannabis is okay'."
Provided the Liberals stick to these policies as the 2005 election gets nearer, each of these position statements commit them to a 'rollback' of some of the worst features of the Gallop Government's social legislation.
This commitment can be attributed, at least in part, to the vigorous targeting of pro-abortion Liberal MPs by the Coalition for the Defence of Human Life in the February 2001 State election, and to the high profile campaign run by the Australian Family Association against the Government's homosexual law reform and drug policies.
The statement on "Choice in Schooling" expresses strong support for the right of parents to choose the appropriate form of schooling for their children and the necessity for equitable funding of the non-government school sector.
This is a welcome response to Labor's Minister for Education, Alan Carpenter's attacks on the sector, bemoaning an increase in enrolments in non-government schools and a drop in the 2002/03 budget of per capita spending by the State Government on non-government school students from 20.9% in 2001/02 to 20.2% of the per capita expenditure for each student in a government school.
However, the Liberal position statement is lacking in concrete policy proposals to give effect to their expressed support for choice in education.