Monday, April 16, 2012

Run Brendon, run (not for Forrest)

Yesterday in the second part of the curse of imminent influence, I forecasted the end of the Federal Coalition and said WA Nationals Leader Brendon Grylls would be happy to lose in his run for the state seat of Pilbara next year's poll.

Predictably, I received a few “poo poo” emails overnight that argued with various levels of passion that the federal coalition will never be threatened and Mr Grylls was “totally committed to improving the lives of regional Western Australians.”

In response to the first point: the Federal Coalition has already been threatened - in 2010.

Admittedly, the Member for O’Connor’s one-man attempt to re-engineer the Nationals brand in 2010 failed, but he certainly made his intentions known. If Mr Crook had only a few others supporting him at the time, the remaining elected Nationals would have been faced with the difficult choice of joining the “Crook Nationals” in Government (as a partner to Labor) or holding on to the coalition in Opposition. I reckon we all know what would have happened in those circumstances.

With regard to the second comment, I agree - Mr Grylls is a passionate supporter of regional Western Australia. I just think he reckons he’s done all he can in State Parliament and wants to put his advocacy for the regions on a bigger stage. Don’t get me wrong, I think he would be very happy to win Pilbara and do another term in State Parliament. After all, if he did manage to pull that off, he’d be immortalised in the Nationals hall of fame and get to lead a bigger Parliamentary team with an even greater amount of power over their government partners (whoever that may be).

I laid out some arguments for that yesterday but I didn’t include Mr Grylls’ curious and early declaration that he doesn’t plan to live in the Pilbara electorate – even if he wins. Now, I’ve already credited him with being a fairly shrewd politician and even an average political mouth could have delivered a line like “I have a young family. If I win the seat of Pilbara, my wife and I will re-evaluate our living circumstances then.”

But he didn’t provide that easy answer.

Instead, he chose to give his competitors the opportunity to claim home-town knowledge and start their campaign with the corresponding home-town advantage. He is going to give his run a red-hot go, but his plan is to lose and then head off to Canberra as the new Member for Durack or my best guess, Pearce.

It won’t be O’Connor because Mr Grylls wants to increase the number of Nationals in Parliament and knows that an incumbent Member has the best chance of retaining a seat. The Nationals will put a candidate up in Forrest, but given Mr Grylls’ strongest connections are in the Wheatbelt and another high-profile person should be easy to find with the help of local State Ministers Redman and Waldron, Forrest is out too.

So other than city-based electorates, that leaves Durack and the much closer to Perth, very family friendly, Pearce.

Mr Grylls’ family currently lives in Merredin which is in the very southern part of the electorate of Durack - currently held by Liberal Barry Haase. Mr Haase is a colourful character who will, by then have been in Parliament for 14 years. Some voters think a change is as good as a holiday and given Mr Grylls will come with the promise of cash for infrastructure in Durack’s vast mining and pastoral areas, he should have a pretty good chance if he chooses to run in that electorate.

But Mr Grylls is a loving dad to two young children. A big electorate like Durack combined with the travel time to and from Canberra would be hard for him and his close-knit family. Interestingly, Mr Grylls recently bought a house in Northam, which is not only in the much smaller Liberal-held seat of Pearce, but also only 45 minutes drive from the commuter plane to and from Canberra. Northam itself is one of several areas Mr Grylls has declared a future "super-town" - and that means bucket-loads of Royalties for Regions money is set to pour in over the next few years (perfectly timed to make him a very popular man in the late 2013 federal election). Better still, the current MP for the electorate, Judi Moylan has already declared that she is not going to run again, so that adds the appeal of not having to campaign against a sitting member of the coalition.

Brendon Grylls was born in 1973. His stellar political career to date has already earned him the respect of many who came before him and a great number more of those waiting in the wings. He believes in his cause – and that is transparently more about advocacy for those in regional Australia than any particular tradition or ideology. He will turn 40 next year, a perfect point in a man's life to make a change in his career path, presumably in an upward direction.

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