Candidates for Geraldton move on after State election loss

Phoebe Pin & Elise Van AkenGeraldton Guardian
Rob Dines and his immediate family at the Geraldton Liberal count party at the Ocean Centre Hotel on election day.
Camera IconRob Dines and his immediate family at the Geraldton Liberal count party at the Ocean Centre Hotel on election day. Credit: The Geraldton Guardian/Elise Van Aken

Ian Blayney and Rob Dines were two of many National and Liberal candidates caught up in the Labor landslide on election night, but neither have been sitting around licking their wounds.

Just under 40 per cent of ballot papers were counted on Saturday evening, with Nationals incumbent Mr Blayney trailing newly appointed member for Geraldton Lara Dalton 36.5 to 63.5 per cent in the two-party preferred vote.

Liberal candidate Mr Dines has received just over 12 per cent of the primary vote.

Despite three weeks of pre-polling all but calling the result — what Mr Dines said he knew to be true from the first day of handing out how-to-vote cards — the gauntlet of party volunteers at the 13 Geraldton polling places at times outnumbered the slow but steady trickle of voters on Saturday.

Wandina Primary School year 6 students Rabea Watters, 11, Lachlan Pardoe, 11, Eve Essex, 11, Bailey Hams, 11, Halle Cragan, 10, Bodhi Smith, 10, fundraising for their school camp on election day.
Camera IconWandina Primary School year 6 students Rabea Watters, 11, Lachlan Pardoe, 11, Eve Essex, 11, Bailey Hams, 11, Halle Cragan, 10, Bodhi Smith, 10, fundraising for their school camp on election day. Credit: The Geraldton Guardian

The lack of queues didn’t stop primary schools from fundraising however, with local father James Moody telling The Geraldton Guardian he made sure to grab democracy sausages for him and his sons even though he had cast an early ballot.

The most dramatic action on the day came in the form of a bushfire, which almost caused the Wandina Primary School booth to be shut down, with students donning masks to protect themselves from the thick smoke billowing onto the grounds.

Later in the evening, Mr Blayney, not one to over-indulge, had just one beer as he and his supporters watched the one-way results roll in at the Geraldton Golf Club.

He started the night knowing he would not retain his seat, but Mr Blayney said he had not expected the new Lower House to look so red.

“I was a bit surprised,” he said, adding he was happy not to be part of such a depleted opposition outfit.

“It was not unlike the last State election in 2017 where there were about half-a-dozen seats where you thought, ‘we shouldn’t have lost those seats’.”

WA Nationals staffer Heather York, Barbara and Ian Blayney look at early election results coming in at Geraldton Golf Club on Friday March 13 2021.
Camera IconWA Nationals staffer Heather York, Barbara and Ian Blayney look at early election results coming in at Geraldton Golf Club on Friday March 13 2021. Credit: Geoff Vivian/The Geraldton Guardian

Mr Blayney said the Geraldton seat would “without a doubt” have been within his reach if the COVID-19 pandemic never happened.

“Take the COVID stuff out of it, (Labor) haven’t got a lot they can point to and say they have done this and done that,” he said.

“From when COVID started and there was a big swing toward Government, there was nothing that indicated it would go back to what it was before.”

Nationals WA leader Mia Davies, member for Moore Shane Love and member for Roe Peter Rundle were the only Nationals MPs to retain their seats on election night.

The North-West Central and Warren-Blackwood seats — previously held by the Nationals — were too close to call by the time vote counting stopped at the weekend.

Mr Blayney said the concerns of regional West Australians would not be heard in a Labor-dominated Lower House.

“The Labor MPs representing those areas are just going to get drowned out by the city,” he said.

Mr Blayney said he was looking forward to taking some time off to enjoy being out of the public eye and plan his next move.

“I am no longer a public figure and I am now a private citizen again…I am really happy about that,” he said.

“I am thinking of going off and doing a three or four or six month stint on a farm so I can work hard, occupy my time and put it all behind me,” he said.

Mr Dines put on a brave face at his Ocean Centre Hotel count party, but his disappointment was clear as the misty-eyed candidate reflected upon the “hundreds of man hours” he and volunteers put in.

Despite the result, the Dines’ party atmosphere remained upbeat, with supporters, friends and family, including his Mandurah-based grandmother who had surprised him, celebrating the campaign.

“I’m very much relieved it’s over and very excited to get back to real, normal life on Monday and spend a bit more time with the family,” he said. “I’ll remain as branch president. I’ll continue on in that role. I wouldn’t rule (running again) in or out, never say never in politics.”

Liberal candidate for Geraldton Rob Dines, his wife Sheree and their children at his count party on election day at the Ocean Centre Hotel.
Camera IconLiberal candidate for Geraldton Rob Dines, his wife Sheree and their children at his count party on election day at the Ocean Centre Hotel. Credit: Elise Van Aken

Guests cheered on Mr Dines and Federal Liberal member for Durack Melissa Price as they promised the party’s fight wasn’t over. “Geraldton has lost tonight,” Ms Price said, “and we will hold your new member to account.”

“She has made a long shopping list of promises and if she dare not hold those up she will not only be hearing from me but from Rob as well.”

Mr Dines said he knew early on he was up against a popular Labor side, but it didn’t stop him fighting until the very end, even when opposition leader Zak Kirkup conceded early.

He didn’t blame Mr Kirkup for the loss, saying the white flag strategy made him work harder to prove he wasn’t giving up.

“I think as soon as the pandemic began it became pretty clear we were swimming against a very strong tide, and it’s been such the entire way,” he said.

“Oh no, I don’t blame Zak...I probably worked harder when that happened, just to prove to Western Australians that we weren’t going to give up.

“I couldn’t say that there was one thing that went wrong for us but the campaign certainly felt like a four-quarter football match where the ball never bounced your way, the free kicks never went in your favour and the other team just had the run of the green the entire way.”

Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails