MP talks turkey

Melissa Price hopes to be a voice from the bush at the Cabi­net ta­ble

Broome Advertiser - - Front Page - Peter de Krui­jff

Kal­go­or­lie-born politi­cian and newly minted Fed­eral En­vi­ron­ment Min­is­ter Melissa Price says the pro­file of re­gional WA will be big­ger in Can­berra now there is a voice from “the bush” at the Cabi­net ta­ble.

Ms Price rep­re­sents the Divi­sion of Du­rack, the sec­ond-big­gest elec­torate in the world by land mass af­ter a dis­trict in Canada. Du­rack cov­ers 64 per cent of the State from Wyn­d­ham to the Wheat­belt.

The for­mer lawyer’s pro­mo­tion to a min­is­te­rial port­fo­lio, fol­low­ing the re­cent lead­er­ship spill, is the first time there has been a min­is­ter from Du­rack, or the for­mer divi­sion of Kal­go­or­lie, since 1949 and the first time a re­gional WA fe­male mem­ber has got a seat in the Cabi­net.

A “fourth gen­er­a­tion Gold­fielder” and the youngest of four chil­dren to Ray and Lyn Del­lar, pol­i­tics was a reg­u­lar fix­ture of Ms Price’s child­hood, with her grand­fa­ther David Del­lar and un­cle Stan Del­lar serv­ing as La­bor mem­bers for the WA Leg­isla­tive Coun­cil.

At age 15, Ms Price left school but later re­sumed her ed­u­ca­tion and be­came a lawyer when she was 31.

Ms Price has worked in sev­eral in­dus­tries in­clud­ing hospi­tal­ity, in­sur­ance, fast food, grains and min­ing. This in­cludes roles at Cross­lands Re­sources, owned by the Mit­subishi Cor­po­ra­tion, and the CBH Group for six years.

She also held the po­si­tion of nonex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor for the Can­cer Coun­cil WA and BrightS­park Foun­da­tion un­til 2016.

Ms Price was the only Lib­eral Party pre-se­lec­tion can­di­date for the seat of Kal­go­or­lie in the 2013 State elec­tion.

The sit­ting in­de­pen­dent mem­ber, John Bowler, was re­tir­ing and he backed Na­tion­als WA Up­per House mem­ber Wendy Dun­can to take the seat.

In a tight con­test, Ms Price won the most first pref­er­ence votes with 3748 com­pared to 3717 for the Na­tion­als, but af­ter a few days of count­ing she lost af­ter pref­er­ences dis­tri­bu­tion to Ms Dun­can.

The close elec­tion re­sult and count­ing was firmly in the back seat of Ms Price’s pri­or­i­ties, how­ever, when her daugh­ter Rhi­an­non sud­denly be­came ill on polling day.

That night she gave her mum words of sup­port and told her if she didn’t win Kal­go­or­lie, she would win an­other one. Trag­i­cally, Rhi­an­non died two days later.

Four months on and Ms Price, still car­ry­ing the loss, found her­self nom­i­nated as the Lib­eral can­di­date for a Fed­eral elec­tion to re­place the in­cum­bent Barry Haase.

It was a whirl­wind six weeks of cam­paign­ing from that point, with the Lib­er­als fac­ing a se­ri­ous chal­lenge from the Na­tion­als WA.

La­bor threw their pref­er­ences be­hind the Lib­er­als who won by a mar­gin of about 8 per cent.

At her maiden speech in Par­lia­ment, Ms Price said she was an or­di­nary per­son who now had an ex­traor­di­nary job.

“I have the job of rep­re­sent­ing the peo­ple of Du­rack,” she said. “To achieve this in a re­gion that en­com­passes 46 shire coun­cils and stretches from the Mid­west and the Wheat­belt through to the Gas­coyne, Pil­bara and Kim­ber­ley will be no easy feat.”

Ms Price has con­tin­ued to base her­self in Perth for travel rea­sons.

Af­ter her re-elec­tion in 2016, the Mem­ber for Du­rack be­came chair­woman of the indige­nous af­fairs com­mit­tee, which con­ducted an in­quiry, Ed­u­ca­tional Op­por­tu­ni­ties for Abo­rig­i­nal and Tor­res Strait Is­lan­der Stu­dents, which had its fi­nal re­port de­liv­ered last De­cem­ber.

The same month the re­port came out she stepped down as chair­woman and she be­came As­sis­tant Min­is­ter for the En­vi­ron­ment to Josh Fry­den­berg.

In her first six months as a ju­nior min­is­ter she vis­ited towns in her elec­torate in­clud­ing Port Hed­land, Ger­ald­ton, Kar­ratha, Broome, Parabur­doo, New­man and Ku­nunurra, as well as go­ing to Can­berra, Townsville, Kan­ga­roo Is­land, Cairns, Syd­ney, Bris­bane and Coolan­gatta.

Things took a turn for the sec­ond-term mem­ber when Mal­colm Turn­bull’s prime min­is­ter­ship came un­der at­tack.

Through­out the lead­er­ship spill saga, Ms Price backed Mr Turn­bull as she had backed for­mer prime min­is­ter Tony Ab­bott when he was chal­lenged.

“The prin­ci­ple is you stand by the leader. If you have dif­fer­ences you work them out,” she said.

“I be­lieve Scott Mor­ri­son will be a good PM, and Josh Fry­den­berg will be a good trea­surer, but it’s the change we didn’t need to have.”

Ms Price had an in­kling she may be in for a pro­mo­tion, po­ten­tially in En­vi­ron­ment.

“It’s ex­cit­ing, a lit­tle ter­ri­fy­ing, of course it is,” she said. “I’m the only re­gional woman from WA to ever be in Cabi­net. All those things are run­ning through your head as you’re talk­ing to the Prime Min­is­ter.

“A few places I’ve been, peo­ple are call­ing me the min­is­ter for the bush which is re­ally lovely.”

Lib­eral can­di­date Melissa Price vot­ing.

Pic­ture: Natasha Gil­martin

Mem­ber for Du­rack Melissa Price (yel­low jacket) with step­daugh­ter Han­nah Bell, niece Jes­sica Bun­ney and sup­porter Sheena Bell.

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