Mark Fraser – Karratha in Political Void

Despite being at the centre of what is arguably the country’s largest resources hub – a situation it has been in for over three decades – the Western Australian Pilbara town of Karratha still does not have a political presence. (read more)

This strange fact of life was recently highlighted by Future Directions International’s Gavin Briggs, who raised the fact that the town did not a permanent electoral office.

This, he noted, was in a period characterised by the political speak of a “new political paradigm”, and language that emphasised “regional Australia”.

Meanwhile, the other economically significant town in the local government municipality which oversees Karratha – the Shire of Roebourne – is Dampier.

Situated on the Burrup Peninsula, it is home to the Dampier Port Authority (DPA).

By tonnage, the DPA is responsible for one of Australia’s largest ports, shipping from its two terminals at Point Parker and East Island Intercourse, and Withnell Bay, commodities such as iron ore, liquefied natural gas and salt.

In the WA parliament, Karratha is located within the electoral district of North West

Its current Member of the Legislative Assembly is Vince Catania, who was originally elected to the Legislative Council in February 2005 before running for the newly created seat of North West at the September 2008 state election (as a representative of the Australian Labor Party).

Having won that seat, he quit the ALP within a year and changed his political allegiance to the Nationals WA in July 2009. His electorate office is located in the Gascoyne town of Carnarvon.

Further north, at Port Hedland, the MLA is Tom Stephens. A long-serving member of the WA parliament and former state minister, his parliamentary electorate office is in South Hedland.

In the case of Federal parliamentary representation, Karratha is within the seat of Durack held by the Liberal Party’s Barry Haase.

Durack covers an area which sits between Kununurra in the north to Geraldton-Greenough in the south.

The world’s largest electorate, its population centres include the City of Geraldton-Greenough as well as the towns of Broome, Carnarvon, Dampier, Derby, Exmouth, Kalbarri, Karratha, Newman, Port Hedland, Wiluna and Wyndham.

To cover this enormous area, Briggs noted, Haase had two electorate offices located in Geraldton and Broome.

“For those with larger seats, such as Durack, MPs are entitled to two parliamentary electorate offices which ultimately better serves the interests and needs of its sparsely spread electors who would otherwise have even less contact with an MP or their office,” he explained.
“Many State and Federal MPs are tireless in their advocacy for the people they represent,” Brigg said.

“This report does not seek to question their ability, commitment or dedication.

“It is more about questioning their choice of location when it comes to providing a direct political presence for their constituents.

“Furthermore, any one of WA’s 12 senators could locate their electorate office anywhere in the state.

“All, however, can be found within the Perth metropolitan area. Only two are located further than a 10 minute drive from Perth’s CBD – the ALP’s Senator Glenn Sterle (Canning Vale) and Greens Senator Scott Ludlum (Fremantle).

“Politics dictates that these senators also have a party-political role that includes ‘duty-Senator’, which has them involved in representing, holding or winning marginal lower-house seats.

“While the public remains loathe spending more funds on electorate expenses, its remains to be seen why there is no permanent electorate presence in Karratha within current resources.

“The question remains – are adequate resources being provided to the state’s regional MPs?

“Also, is enough really being done for an on-the-ground electorate presence for the North West?”

Although it is one of Australia’s most strategic regional hubs, the people of Karratha have no direct political voice.