Election editorial: It’s time to embrace change to push Geraldton ahead

EDITORIALGeraldton Guardian
Will Geraldton voters embrace the winds of change?
Camera IconWill Geraldton voters embrace the winds of change? Credit: Peter Broelman

The people of Geraldton have long been accused of not liking change and snuggling comfortably into the status quo, like a baby clings onto a tatty old security blanket.

Whether that’s still true as it once was is debatable. But when considering this piece of trivia, it’s hard to argue with that claim in a political sense. Since 1950, Geraldton has only had five MPs.

There’s been Bill Sewell (Labor, 1950-74), Jeff Carr (Labor, 1974-91), Bob Bloffwitch (Liberal, 1991-2001), Shane Hill (Labor, 2001-08) and incumbent Ian Blayney (Liberal/National 2008-).

So today, on election day, The Geraldton Guardian thinks — to borrow the famous line from Gough Whitlam’s 1972 campaign — perhaps “it’s time” to embrace that much-feared word for many: change. Unlike the Statewide result, the battle for Geraldton is not a foregone conclusion. It’s shaping up as a two-horse race between Labor’s second-time candidate Lara Dalton and National incumbent Ian Blayney, aiming for a fourth term.

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Liberal Rob Dines has tried hard with energy and ideas in a long campaign (after Mr Blayney’s defection left him reeling and vying for public office quicker than anticipated) but like a lot of his party mates, he’s been scuppered by a sinking Liberal ship. While he once was a dark horse, Zak Kirkup’s concession arguably left Mr Dines flogging the proverbial dead horse.

Liberal hopeful Rob Dines, Nationals incumbent Ian Blayney and Labor candidate Lara Dalton at a candidates’ forum this week.
Camera IconLiberal hopeful Rob Dines, Nationals incumbent Ian Blayney and Labor candidate Lara Dalton at a candidates’ forum this week. Credit: Geoff Vivian/The Geraldton Guardian

Ms Dalton told a candidates’ forum this week history could very well repeat itself this election, referring to her winning the popular vote in the 2017 poll with a 21.5 per cent swing, but failing to scrape over the line after preferences were counted.

She may well be in downplay mode: the former cafe owner and hospitality lecturer is the favourite to be Geraldton’s newest — and first female — MP.

While she may not want to reach for the champagne just yet, all indications, including an exit poll conducted by The Guardian over the past week, point to Labor reclaiming Geraldton, thanks in part to Mr Popularity, Premier Mark McGowan. Time will tell if Ms Dalton can be the strong local MP Geraldton deserves and push for all the promises made and more to come to fruition, but The Guardian thinks she will be given that chance after tomorrow. Mr Blayney knows this town and its issues well, but the argument of it’s time is hard to ignore. If he wins again, that will extend his run to 16 years. Yes, Ms Dalton is an unknown political quantity. But known quantities have expiry dates, which mandates we must take gambles on our representation at some point.

Statewide, there’s little doubt Mark McGowan and his Government have shown strong and decisive leadership in weathering the COVID storm and keeping WA’s economy and lifestyle strong, to the envy of the rest of Australia and the world.

Like everything else, COVID has dominated the election campaign, so it’s the overriding reason why West Australian Newspapers believes Mr McGowan and Labor deserve to be voted in for a second term tomorrow. Whether it’s a landslide or not, the ALP is eyeing off an increased majority and possible control over both Houses.

The best-case scenario for democracy in WA is for there not be to a landslide tomorrow and for a decent Opposition to remain post-election to ensure a second-term government is subject to checks and balances.

If that doesn’t happen, let’s hope the McGowan Government doesn’t get drunk on power.

Geraldton has been noticed this election campaign. Mr McGowan has visited four times. Promises big and small have been made. Oakajee could well be resurrected. Renewable hydrogen is looming as a game-changer. We as a community, led by our voice in Parliament, need to seize this attention, this moment in the sun, this opportunity and turn it into something that will lead to long-term benefits for the next generation and beyond.

Happy Democracy Sausage Day! Make it count.

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