Libby Mettam: Committed to accountability

Almost 100 years ago, Edith Cowan became the first woman elected to an Australian parliament, in March 1921.

In Her Seat is asking as many currently serving female politicians as we can how they view gender equality, politics and their impact.

This is a non-partisan project that is soliciting contributions from women in all parties, or none at all, in every parliament.

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Libby Mettam is the Member for Vasse in the Western Australian Parliament, she is the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and Shadow Minister for Transport Ports and Fisheries.

Libby was first elected in 2014.

Originally studying broadcasting and pursuing a career in communications, including for iconic projects in the South West, she then undertook a Master of Public Administration and was a researcher to a Member of Parliament.

Having worked with local schools and businesses, Libby is well-known in the South West for her commitment to the region.

In opposition, Libby has focused on government accountability and taken on progressively senior roles.

Other interviews can be accessed here

What does gender equality mean to you?

For me, gender equality is not about that women and men have to become the same, but that their rights, responsibilities and opportunities are not dependent on whether they were born male or female.

It is about respect and fairness to all, and to be treated according to your merits.

Which female politicians have inspired or encouraged you?

There are so many examples of strong female politicians who have and continue to inspire and encourage young women to participate in politics.

Julie Bishop is obviously a great example of a female politician and leader who has been as comfortable on the world stage as she has been in supporting her community at home.

Theresa May and Margaret Thatcher I hold in high regard for their leadership and decisiveness, and Angela Merkel, who is one of the most powerful leaders in Europe.

What inspired you to serve your community?

While I am continually inspired by the community I represent, I would say the driving force in wanting to serve my community comes from my family, and in particular ensuring that my daughters and their friends are able to have greater opportunities and a brighter futures living and working in regional WA.

What are the most important contributions you are making in Parliament?

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Ensuring Government accountability is critically important in opposition and much of this work is undertaken through the parliamentary process, though in relation to parliamentary questions there is often a challenge in getting them answered, particularly in the transport portfolio where we have seen the most secretive government since WA Inc, with the number of unanswered questions under WA Labor exceeding two terms under the previous Liberal government.

Under Metronet we have seen the largest cost blowouts in transport history with a program of works at least a $2bill over budget, as well as the major issues around project delivery with major safety issues and significant delays.

There is a public interest in ensuring that when workers are operating on government-funded projects that safety measures are upheld, unfortunately under the McGowan Labor Government we have seen significant issues with this, particularly on the management of Forrestfield Airport Link where there were a series of safety breaches raised under their watch.

There is clear public interest in relation to how taxpayer funds are spent, projects are managed and whether election promises are maintained and unfortunately we have seen issues in all of these areas under the Metronet program.

Some of my most important contributions over the past four years has been holding the Government to account over many of their policy issues in relation to support for regional WA, in the face of cruel cuts and the Metrocentric approach to government under WA Labor.

This has not only included cuts to royalties for regions, but the proposal to introduce the gold tax twice, cuts to regional education, school of the air, and mental health accommodation cuts in my community.

In relation to the voluntary assisted dying debate it was about the outstanding issues around regional palliative care, where we had seen one of the lowest rates of palliative care specialists in the country at the time this bill was introduced.

Petitioning on important road projects such as dualling Bussell Highway has also been critically important.

What is next for gender equality in politics?

I am very optimistic over the future of gender equality in politics, and in particular that we will soon have a Parliament which reflects the diversity of gender, ethnicity and background, that makes our State great.

I am also confident that the best path to achieving this is not through electing politicians based on a quota system, but through a system based on merit and the qualities that come from hard work and perseverance.

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