MP talks turkey
Melissa Price hopes to be a voice from the bush at the Cabinet table
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.
Member for Durack Melissa Price (yellow jacket) with stepdaughter Hannah Bell, niece Jessica Bunney and supporter Sheena Bell.