Election stalemate throws up surprise voice for WA mining communities

The hung Federal Parliament could yield surprising benefits for Western Australian mining communities.

The hung Federal Parliament could yield surprising benefits for Western Australian mining communities. 

Western Australian Nationals candidate Tony Crook won the regional seat of O’Connor on the weekend, ousting longstanding Liberal member Wilson Tuckey with more than 54% of the two-candidate preferred vote. 

While the Australian Electoral Commission has counted the seat as a win for the Coalition, Crook has publically stated he would sit as an independent crossbencher. 

The Western Australian Nationals, while still affiliated with their federal counterparts, are actually a distinct party with a different structure. 

"If I do get elected, I am going to Canberra as a member of the Western Australian Nationals,” he told AAP on the weekend. 

“We have been exceptionally successful by being an independent political party and it has worked.

"It has made a real difference and I firmly believe the federal Nationals should be the same."

Crook said he would support the party that promises to match the Western Australian Government’s Royalties for Regions scheme dollar for dollar. 

In addition to this, he told The Australian this morning he would even support a Labor minority government if the party dumped the Minerals Resource Rent Tax.

The Royalties for Regions scheme takes 25% of the revenue gained through resources royalties – around $619 million in the last State Budget – and invests it into regional infrastructure and community projects.

The program was one of the major results of the last Western Australian election, which also delivered a hung parliament.

Four Nationals, led by Brendon Grylls, and three independents held the balance of power. 

Grylls had become the Parliamentary leader of the Western Australian Nationals in 2005, promising to move the party away from the Coalition to the crossbenches. 

He believed regional areas had been neglected by the State and Federal Governments of both parties for too long. 

With the balance essentially in his hands, Grylls indicated he would form a minority government with either major party on the condition they endorsed the scheme. 

In the end, the Liberal Party agreed to the proposal and promised to implement the policy, with Grylls overseeing it as Minister for Regional Development. 

“The only reason this is happening is because a regional party won the balance of power in the last election and we said we would turn the under-investment in regional infrastructure around,” he told Australian Mining last month.

The balance of power this time is likely to rest with four independents and the first Green elected to the Lower House, so Crook may never be in a position to negotiate these plans.

However, should Tony Abbot become Prime Minister, he could become a thorn if he feels regional Western Australia is being exploited or neglected. 

Wilson Tuckey, who served in O’Connor since its creation in 1980, was a victim of a massive electoral redistribution, which saw the division take in around half of the now defunct Kalgoorlie electorate. 

Kalgoorlie was formerly the largest electorate by land area in the world.  

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