Pilbarians head to the polls
Rourke Walsh, Glenn Cordingley and Ben Leahy look at the local seat contenders in the July 2 Federal poll.
Candidates for the seat of Durack have made their final pitch to voters in the North West ahead of Saturday’s Federal Election.
Six hopefuls are set to contest the ballot, with the four major parties all running candidates, along with the lesser-known Australian Christians and Rise Up Australia Party.
Greens candidate Ian James secured a small advantage earlier this month when he was drawn by Australian Electoral Commission officials to appear first on the ballot paper.
Mr James will be followed by Carol Martin (Labor), Grahame Gould (Australian Christians), Mitchell Sambell (Rise Up Australia Party), sitting MP Melissa Price (Liberals) and Lisa Cole (WA Nationals).
Ms Martin, the Member for Kimberley in State Parliament for more than a decade, is the most high-profile of the challengers to Ms Price.
She said she hoped to use that profile to erode the Liberal Party’s stranglehold over the seat and maybe even win it for the first time since it was created with redistributions ahead of the 2010 poll.
“In a democracy you need choices when you actually go to poll,” Ms Martin said.
“I put my hand up because I am Labor through and through and I have got a bit of a profile.”
Ms Martin identified education and jobs as the key issues for people in Durack and said she would fight for them if elected on July 2.
“It’s OK to live in a place like a capital city where you can access all these resources if you are on the poverty line, but in the regions it doesn’t work like that,” Ms Martin said.
Ms Price, the Liberal member for Durack since 2013 when she was drafted by the party to replace popular long-time North West politician Barry Haase, said she had a record of delivering for people in her electorate.
She listed the significant funding for the Karratha Arts and Community Precinct, securing funding for the new Royal Flying Doctor Service base in Broome, road improvements across the north and $500,000 for the Kimberley Cane Toad Clean Up program as evidence of this.
“I am working hard to improve mobile reception, improve support for mental health, and diversify the region’s local economy through our agricultural policies,” she said.
Ms Price’s closest rival in 2013, the WA Nationals, selected Bruce Rock mother and party State Treasurer Lisa Cole as its candidate last month.
Ms Cole said WA Nationals had a strong history of standing up for regional WA and were the only party fighting to end the GST rip-off and get rid of the backpacker tax for good.
“These are both fundamental economic issues for Durack and all of regional WA,” she said.
“Durack is the powerhouse of the Australian economy and as such should be the land of opportunity.”
“I am inspired by the incredible determination, spirit and pride of the constituents from right across the electorate (and) I want to see Durack diversify its economy and ensure all residents have the same access to employment and key services as people living in Perth.”
Mr James, a Wheatbelt farmer having a second crack at winning Durack for the Greens, said he had initially decided to run for the party because of concerns over genetically modified canola.
However, he said there were now several issues in the Kimberley, including mining, dams and intensive irrigated agriculture, for which he held the same sort of sentiment.
“A lot of that stuff we can’t turn back, so we should tread carefully,” he said.
“Another thing that bothers me a lot is fracking, the damage done to landscape is possibly very permanent and widespread.
“That should be looked at very closely and if we can we should halt fracking until we get correct regulatory processes in place to look after the safety of the country and the landscape.”
Rise Up Australia Party candidate Mr Sambell said he believed the main issue for Durack was the sale of Australian land and businesses to international powers.
Australian Christians candidate Mr Gould said democracy and individual rights were very close to his heart and were something he would be seeking to improve if elected.
Election Day is this Saturday. For more information visit www.aec.gov.au.