The rise and fall of a po­lit­i­cal king-maker

Pilbara News - - News - Phoebe Wearne

Five days of bal­ance-of-power ne­go­ti­a­tions in 2008 changed the for­tunes of WA’s re­gions.

They also etched the name of Bren­don Grylls — king-maker — on to the po­lit­i­cal land­scape.

Those talks al­lowed Mr Grylls to im­ple­ment the $8 bil­lion Roy­al­ties for Re­gions pro­gram, which redi­rects mil­lions of dol­lars in roy­al­ties into a fund for pro­jects in coun­try WA.

For­mer WA Na­tion­als leader Hendy Cowan, whose re­tire­ment in 2003 made way for Mr Grylls in the seat of Merredin, was an­gered by the news of his suc­ces­sor’s demise in the re­cent State elec­tion He said two of Mr Grylls’ ac­com­plish­ments stood out — pass­ing the leg­isla­tive base for Roy­al­ties for Re­gions spend­ing and ex­tend­ing the Na­tional Party’s in­flu­ence beyond its tra­di­tional base and into the min­ing and pas­toral re­gion.

“The money was al­ready there,” Mr Cowan said. “He didn’t have to ar­gue for it. “He was able to achieve that. “With­out money, ac­tion does not fol­low.”

Mr Grylls moved his fam­ily to Kar­ratha in the lead-up to the 2013 poll, in leav­ing his Cen­tral Wheat­belt seat-for-life.

Just four years after he en­tered Par­lia­ment in 2001, he re­placed Max Trenor­den as State leader.

He held the over­all bal­ance of power in 2008 and chose to sup­port Colin Bar­nett as Pre­mier, al­low­ing the Lib­er­als to form a mi­nor­ity gov­ern­ment.

Cit­ing a de­sire to fo­cus on his per­sonal life, Mr Grylls re­signed from the min­istry and as leader of the Na­tional Party in 2013, only to re­turn three years later, re­plac­ing Terry Red­man.

Mr Grylls’ for­mer chief of staff, Doug Cun­ning­ham, re­counted Mr Grylls de­liv­er­ing his “mantra” at a func­tion in the lead-up to the 2008 elec­tion.

“We are not en­ticed by the trap­pings of high of­fice. Ours is a call­ing to serve coun­try peo­ple linked by the com­mon thread of po­lit­i­cal ne­glect,” Mr Cun­ning­ham re­called Mr Grylls say­ing.

Mr Red­man said Mr Grylls left a great legacy.

Pic­ture: Mo­gens Johansen

Na­tion­als leader Bren­don Grylls was de­feated in his Pil­bara elec­torate.

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