Candidates talk on city’s bright future

Headshot of Geoff Vivian
Geoff VivianGeraldton Guardian
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Liberals candidate Rob Dines addresses the "Meet the Candidates" forum at The Geraldton Club on Tuesday, March 9.
Camera IconLiberals candidate Rob Dines addresses the "Meet the Candidates" forum at The Geraldton Club on Tuesday, March 9. Credit: Geoff Vivian/The Geraldton Guardian, Geoff Vivian

“A gentleman who has the opportunity, the ability and the means really has an obligation to represent their community,” Liberal candidate for Geraldton Rob Dines said.

He was recalling the words of pioneer and former Geraldton member Frank Wittenoom.

“Well this is my civic duty to my community, and if I don’t have a go at that, well shame on me,” Mr Dines said.

The occasion for these comments was the Mid West Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s “Meet The Candidates” forum at the Geraldton Club on Tuesday.

While fewer than 30 people turned up, they included many of Geraldton’s old business elite who heard Mr Dines, Member for Geraldton Ian Blayney and Labor candidate Lara Dalton speak four days before election day.

Former MP and Speaker Grant Woodhams chaired the meeting, making it known he would take no nonsense.

Ms Dalton remarked on the respectful tone of the campaign compared to the “hostilities” of 2017, when she also contested Geraldton.

“Whatever our political allegiances are, we’ve respected each other so whatever our differences politically, we love Geraldton, we choose to live here and that’s why we’re running — because we have that behind us,” she said.

She then reminded those present of the Labor Government’s achievements for Geraldton before hinting an announcement was about to be made about “the biggest game changer for Geraldton”.

“I often wonder if we might need to change the name Oakajee, because I can see peoples’ eyes roll as soon as you mention the word,” she said. “However, despite previous governments’ failings to deliver, we recognise that to develop Oakajee, you don’t necessarily need a deep-water iron ore port.

“We got 65 expressions of interest from Australia, Japan, Korea, Germany, Spain and UK and the US demonstrating strong international interest in renewable hydrogen.”

Mr Blayney, who was a member of the Barnett government before becoming a Nationals MP, also reminded everyone of its achievements for Geraldton.

He said he could see no single industry or enterprise that could future-proof Geraldton’s economy.

“We do seem to have become an economy that rises and falls on the strengths of the mining industry,” he said. “We can’t talk Hyundai into building a car plant here that employs 5000 people, but I think we can develop different sectors of the economy and grow probably more slowly.

“I’ve been looking for the magic thing to fix it and get another 10,000 people living here but I haven’t come up with it yet.”

Mr Dines concentrated on the failings of the Government.

“Geraldton lost 1000 full-time jobs in the first three years, pre-pandemic,” he said.

“Not only was the town ignored but the town was actively attacked by this Government.” He gave the example of the crayfishing industry, 17.5 per cent of which former fisheries minister Dave Kelly had planned to nationalise.

“It was only the checks and balances on Government in the Upper House that stopped that legislation going through,” Mr Dines said.

“If anyone thinks that can’t happen again, 17.5 per cent will seem like a small number if this Government gets control of both houses of Parliament.”

Each speaker addressed the audience for 10 minutes, before answering several questions from the floor.

WHY SHOULD VOTERS BACK YOU?

ROB DINES

“McGowan has done a fair and reasonable job of managing the pandemic. But if there are no more checks and balances on the McGowan Government’s power, this town will be the one that’s most at risk in WA.”

IAN BLAYNEY

“The Mid West has the most diversified economy of all the regions. My experience is that different sectors are often at different stages of the cycle. My job has been to try and help everybody where I can and keep them all running. I hope I’m around to continue doing it.”

LARA DALTON

“ If you support me, Geraldton will get a representative who has the ear of the Premier and who is in Government, not a backbencher in Opposition.”

OLD PLANS FOR IRON ORE PROCESSING AT OAKAJEE INCLUDED A 330KV POWER LINE FROM OAKAJEE TO PERTH? IS THIS NEEDED FOR A RENEWABLE ENERGY HUB?

ROB DINES

“I think a 330KV line is critical.”

IAN BLAYNEY

“It needs to be built at some time down the track because the existing cricket wicket lines are reaching the end of their life.Unless you’ve got a customer there you can’t make a case to build it.”

LARA DALTON

“I concur. But there are some more investments coming.”

GERALDTON NEEDS A GAME-CHANGER TO STIMULATE INVESTMENT. WHAT DO YOU THINK THAT IS?

ROB DINES

“We proposed to extend the 330KV from Three Springs to Oakajee and export energy back the other way: instead of bringing it up from Collie, to send it back down to Perth. We aim to use the excess capacity to generate green hydrogen at Oakajee and export through a new port terminal at Oakajee to customers in South Korea and Japan.”

IAN BLAYNEY

“I don’t think there’s one big thing. We need to develop different sectors of the economy and probably grow more slowly.”

LARA DALTON

“We need to have diversification in our economy. The hydrogen opportunities and renewable green energy up at Oakajee certainly would be a game changer. Tourism is a big diversification as well. I see lots of opportunities through Houtman Abrolhos Islands.”

HOW CAN WE ENCOURAGE MORE SKILLED WORKERS TO COME AND LIVE IN THE REGION?

ROB DINES

“I think it starts with the Federal Government. The immigration incentive should be that we encourage people to move to the regions rather than outer suburban metropolitan areas. And wouldn’t it be great if we could have a base at Oakajee that serviced the naval industry?”

IAN BLAYNEY

“We should look at incentives to encourage people to move into the regions. One of the biggest disincentives is that they have to pay stamp duty when they buy another house. Get rid of stamp duty and say to people that you’re prepared to move to the regions to work, we’ll pay for your move.”

LARA DALTON

“I think we’ve got a good product to sell.People are seeing because of COVID that coming out to areas where there’s more space and more opportunities and beautiful beaches and better prices for homes is actually an advantage.”

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