I will repay the faith: Dalton

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Kate CampbellGeraldton Guardian
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New Member for Geraldton Lara Dalton
Camera IconNew Member for Geraldton Lara Dalton Credit: Phoebe Pin/The Geraldton Guardian

Lara Dalton has started her first week as Geraldton’s newly elected member of Parliament and has vowed nothing will get in the way of the city receiving what it has been promised.

The 51-year-old, who became the first woman elected as Geraldton’s MP in the electorate’s 131-year history, is still on a high after her thumping election victory on Saturday night, which TV stations were calling within half an hour of the count starting.

Geraldton was one of about a dozen seats to turn red, giving Labor its most emphatic election victory in living memory.

They have won or are leading in 53 Lower House seats out of a possible 59, as well as gaining control of the Upper House.

The crushing result has reduced the Liberals to two confirmed MPs in the Lower House — fewer than the four seats the Nationals retained or are ahead in.

With 40 per cent of the vote counted, Ms Dalton is on 63.5 to 36.5 per cent on the two-party preferred basis against Nationals’ Ian Blayney, winning the seat back for Labor for the first time in almost 13 years.

Ms Dalton achieved a 21.5 per cent swing to Labor in 2017, when she won the popular vote but lost on preferences, and at this stage she has added a further 15 per cent swing to the red camp.

Ms Dalton said she was “overwhelmed with gratefulness and happiness” at such a convincing result. She arrived at her count party at 6.20pm on Saturday and within 10 minutes, the TV networks were calling her win.

She waited nervously until about 7.30pm when the official call came through, and then “all hell broke loose”.

She celebrated with her family — including mother Annette Dalton, sister Jane Dalton, partner Mike Friday, and children Riley Shaw, 23, and Keeley Disher, 15 — friends, and her campaign team, with emotions spilling over in jubilant scenes as almost eight years of hard work over two campaigns paid off.

The next day, she was fully ready to jump into the challenge to represent and fight for the city where she grew up, raised a family and ran a small business.

She said Geraldton would get its fair share despite the Labor landslide creating what would be a very crowded caucus room, with many other MPs having the ear of the Premier and ministers as well.

“Geraldton will definitely get what it’s been promised ... Labor really wanted to win Geraldton and want to keep it. I might be elbowing the others out of the way a little a bit, but there is definitely the groundwork there with the Premier, and we will deliver on our commitments,” she said.

Ms Dalton expected some of Labor’s promises to Geraldton, especially some of the smaller commitments to community groups and organisations, to start flowing through soon.

The former cafe owner and hospitality lecturer said Premier Mark McGowan’s popularity because of his COVID-19 leadership was a key influence and voters wanted to reward that, but people also realised the golden opportunity of having a local Labor MP in a sitting government.

“There was no doubt in anyone’s mind that Mark McGowan was going to be Premier ... people had been telling me for weeks they were going to vote for me even though they traditionally voted for Liberal. Businesspeople all over told me it makes good business sense,” she said.

“Obviously Mark’s done a great job but it’s also about picking up that opportunity and running with it.”

Ms Dalton thanked her opponents, Mr Blayney and the Liberals’ Rob Dines, for their “solid campaigns”, with the contest conducted in the spirit of fairness and respect. She said her campaign was all about grassroots “personal connections” and genuinely listening to people.

She said she received many hugs and kisses from people at the pre-poll centre. “I only knew them because I knocked on their door. I know them now, and they know me,” she said.

Ms Dalton said she was in “disbelief” at the extent of Labor’s win, but agreed with Mr McGowan there was “nothing to fear” from Labor having total control of Parliament. She thanked the true believers as well as people who had voted Labor for the first time, and vowed to repay the faith they had shown in her.

In her victory speech to loud cheers, she said: “There’s a lot more work to do, but I think we all know that having a Labor government and a Labor member is when we get s... done.”

“I’ve listened to members of this community and you’ve all taught me so much. It has been an invaluable experience.

“I’m proud to be part of a Mark McGowan team which is disciplined, responsible and experienced. I will work tirelessly for you and for the whole Geraldton community, a city I love very much. I won’t let you down.”

Ms Dalton, who received congratulatory messages from former Geraldton MP of 17 years and family friend Jeff Carr, and Geraldton-born and raised ex-premier Geoff Gallop, said she had never hesitated about running a second time, after admitting it took her about 10 months to “lick her wounds” over the close 2017 defeat.

“It was always in the back of my mind it was a two-campaign strategy,” she said.

Ms Dalton felt especially proud about making history and shattering the glass ceiling that had not seen a woman represent Geraldton in Parliament before.

“That, to me, is the best part ... it’s such a great thing to be the first woman to do it and pave the way for more women in the future,” she said.

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