The Western Australian Division of the Liberal Party formally began on 12th January 1945, soon after the famous Albury Conference had united a large number of fragmented anti-socialist political forces to form the Liberal Party of Australia.
In State Parliament the predecessor of the Liberals, the Nationalists, had been in Opposition since 1933 and held fewer seats than the Country Party (today’s Nationals), however the new Liberal Party attracted growing support and enthusiasm. In October 1945 a country storekeeper and WWII veteran David Brand captured the country seat of Greenough in a by-election. He was the first Liberal in Australia to win a seat from the ALP.
The new Liberal Party had a striking State election win in 1947, defeating Labor after 14 years and becoming the majority party in a Liberal-Country Coalition Government. Led by Pinjarra farmer Ross McLarty, this government over the next six years laid the foundations of the State’s industrial development, dismantled anti-business wartime restrictions, and established independent electoral redistributions.
Women played a major role in the Liberal organisation. The victorious Liberal Senate team at the 1949 Federal election was led by Agnes Robertson while Florence Cardell-Oliver became Australia’s first female Cabinet Minister in the McLarty Government. In Opposition after 1953, the Liberal Party in 1957 elected David Brand as Leader and Charles Court as his deputy. From 1959 to 1971 Sir David Brand led a dynamic Coalition government with Charles Court as Minister for Industrial Development. Western Australia became a world leader in resource development, the Ord River irrigation scheme took shape, and the infrastructure for a modern society in Perth and in remote regions was created. Aboriginal people gained the right to vote, the restricted property-based franchise for the Legislative Council ended, and 18-21 year olds were first able to vote.
After David Brand’s retirement in 1972 Sir Charles Court led the Liberal Party back into Coalition Government in 1974. WA State and Federal elections 1975-80 showed very strong Liberal support, as the Court Government established the North West Shelf natural gas industry, founded Murdoch University, and built our Art Gallery. After Sir Charles retired in 1982 his experienced successor Ray O’Connor was defeated in the strong Labor tide of 1983.
In Opposition, successive Liberal leaders Bill Hassell, Barry MacKinnon and Richard Court worked hard to expose the pattern of reckless ALP government/business deals known as WA Inc. In 1993 and 1996 Richard Court won landslide elections with Colin Barnett as his deputy. For 8 years he led a successful government that restored the State’s financial reputation, opened the LNG market to China, planned the Perth-Mandurah rail link, and built infrastructure including 4 new hospitals, 47 new schools, and the Graham Farmer Freeway.
After election defeat in 2001, Colin Barnett was a strong Opposition Leader who ensured that the Liberal Party held its ground at the 2005 election, after which he stood down. Following a period of instability, he was invited to resume the leadership and was immediately faced with an early election. Despite a radical redistribution of boundaries, the Liberal Party won a record 10 seats from the ALP and formed Government with the National Party and Independent members.
Years of indecision, delays and lack of forward planning by the former ALP Government meant the newly elected Liberal-led Government were left with the responsibility of building and investing in infrastructure for two governments. As a result, the Liberals undertook one of Western Australia most significant capital works programs, modernising and delivering new infrastructure. The Liberals also made significant expansions to public services to cater for a booming population.
From 2008, the Liberal-led Government rebuilt Western Australia’s public health system and regenerated our schools.
- Increased our Health budget by a record 71%
- Invested $7 billion to create a world-class public hospital and health system
- Increased funding for public schools by a record 69%
- Opened 28 new primary schools, 9 new secondary schools, 13 replacement schools with 16 more public primary schools and 5 secondary schools in the pipeline
Parliamentary Leaders of the WA Liberal Party
|Sir Ross McDonald||1945 – 46|
|Sir Ross McLarty||1946 – 57||Premier 1947 – 53|
|Sir David Brand||1957 – 72||Premier 1959 – 71|
|Sir Charles Court||1972 – 82||Premier 1974 – 82|
|Ray O’Connor||1982 – 84||Premier 1982 – 83|
|Bill Hassell||1984 – 86|
|Barry MacKinnon||1986 – 92|
|Richard Court||1992 – 01||Premier 1993 – 2001|
|Colin Barnett||2001 – 05|
|Matt Birney||2005 – 06|
|Paul Omodei||2006 – 08|
|Colin Barnett||2008 – 17||Premier 2008 – 2017|
|Mike Nahan||2017 – 19|
|Liza Harvey||2019 – 20|
|Zak Kirkup||2020 – 21|
|Dr David Honey||2021|
Presidents of the WA Liberal Party
|1945-47||Jim Paton||1986-89||Keith Simpson|
|1947-49||Frank Downing QC||1989-91||Hon Peter Jones|
|1949-50||Les Barrett-Lennard||1991-92||Hon Ian Viner|
|1950-54||Bill Gillespie||1992-94||Bill Hassell|
|1954-55||Fred Johnson||1994-97||Dr David Honey|
|1955-57||Roger Goode||1997-2001||David Johnston|
|1957-61||Fred Johnston||2001-03||Kim Keogh|
|1961-65||Reg Withers||2003-08||Danielle Blain|
|1965-68||Vic Halbert||2008-11||Barry Court|
|1968-71||Peter Durack||2011-14||Geoff Prosser|
|1971-75||Jim Samson||2014-18||Hon Norman Moore|
|1975-79||Noel Crichton-Browne||2018||Fay Duda|