NSW Prime Minister Dominic Perrottet wants to heal a fractured Liberal party haunted by political scandal and has pledged to set a grand vision for the state ahead of next year’s elections.
“It’s up to us, the all-important party, to unite around those liberal values,” Perrottet said in a speech to liberal delegates at the Sydney Council of State in western Sydney on Saturday, noting that those values were built around “freedom, family and faith”.
Perrottet said the selection of candidates would fall firmly within the party’s state operations rather than the federal executive.
“One of the most important rights of our party members is the power to select candidates to represent your ballots,” he said.
“This Council of State has made a decision for democratic reforms and as your parliamentary leader I am determined to carry out that decision.”
He also said he would like more women and culturally diverse representatives as candidates.
Cabinet in disarray
His speech comes after Stuart Ayres resigned as Commerce Secretary after weeks of pressure for his role in the controversial appointment of former Deputy Prime Minister John Barilaro as a New York-based trade envoy.
Eleni Petinos was also dumped as fair trade minister last week after former employees accused her of bullying.
“I’m not saying we don’t have our problems. Of course we do,” he told hundreds of revelers at Rosehill Gardens Racecourse.
It also comes after the coalition lost the Labor federal election in May.
Perrottet outlined a positive view of his party seeking to “rebuild, refresh and revitalize” new policies to attract voters ahead of the March 2023 state election.
But he also fired on Labor and unions advocating for better wages and working conditions for various professions, including nurses, teachers and railway workers.
“We are reforming our education system built around our children and not around the demands of union bosses,” he said.
“We need less ideology in schools and more reading, writing and math.”
During an inquiry on Thursday into the teacher shortage in the state, Angelo Gavrielatos, president of the NSW Teachers Federation, said Perrottet’s government was abandoning students across the state for not retaining teachers and not recruiting new ones.
Focus on healthcare
The prime minister, who described himself as a staunch conservative, proclaimed his state’s health care “the best in the country…except for,” helping him weather the COVID-19 pandemic.
He said he would provide a new “vision” for healthcare across the country.
Mr Perrottet concluded his speech with a plea to voters, calling for the stability of his government ahead of the opposition despite recent scandals.
“NSW faces a choice; our party of progress and the Labor protest party,” he said, describing the opposition as a party with “no plans, no priorities and no policies.”
He referred to the resilient spirit of flood victims who have endured four floods in the past 18 months, and vowed to represent them directly through his party’s conservative values.
“These are the people we represent here. Their fight must become our fight, while we fight for them,” said Perrottet.
“It has always been the Liberal Party’s role to represent Central Australia. They have no union. They don’t have a lobby group.
“Right now… they need us to unite (and) focus on what really matters because they know that… in NSW only one side of politics offers real hope for a better future and no one can deny that.”