Rick Wilson flags changes to make regional electorates like O'Connor smaller

Photo supplied.
Photo supplied.

Federal Member for O’Connor Rick Wilson believes there needs to be changes to the way electorates are distributed to stop regional electorates such as O’Connor and Durack from getting bigger.

Mr Wilson said the trend of falling population in regional areas meant that regional seats were having to increase their geographical size to accommodate the principle of one vote, one value.

As a result at the last redistribution in 2016, the Shire of Collie was added to the electorate of O’Connor, which already included Albany, Esperance and Kalgoorlie-Boulder, to maintain the population level in the electorate.

Despite numerous objections, the Australian Electoral Commission stated in 2016 that it wasn’t possible to keep Collie grouped with other South West towns in the electorate of Forrest.

Mr Wilson said having such large geographical electorates with a diverse range of interests and needs made the job difficult.

“There’s no question that if you live in a metropolitan electorate where everyone had a house on a quarter-acre block ... it would probably be much easier to service,” he said.

“My communities range from farming communities to fishing communities [and] from mining communities to remote indigenous communities.

“It’s an incredibly diverse range of industries and incredibly diverse range of constituents that all have different requirements and different issues.”

Despite the difficulties, Mr Wilson said Collie’s status as a mining town fit well with other sections of the electorate.

“There is a common interest along with the Goldfields part of the electorate, in terms that I do represent a big part of the mining sector – certainly in terms of nickel, gold, and increasingly graphite and lithium,” he said.

“I do have a lot of mining interests in my electorate and I am the chair of the parliamentary friends of mining so in that regard, [Collie] complements what I already do.”

Mr Wilson said Collie wasn’t missing out under his representation.

“I’m very proud to represent Collie,” he said.

“In the last round of the Building Better Regions Fund, we got $450,000 for the cycle track and $770,000 for the Motorplex. So I think Collie’s doing alright under the Division of O’Connor.”

He said his main focus would be to ensure the future of the town’s coal industry.

“With Collie my main issue is making sure the coal-fired power generation remains viable under government policies, so that we continue to have affordable electricity for our state and to make sure the good hard working people of Collie have good jobs to continue into the future,” he said.

Mr Wilson said he felt high population growth areas should be divided among the electorates, in an effort to balance their respective geographical sizes.

He said he felt the Augusta-Margaret River region should be included within in O’Connor, while giving up some smaller towns to surrounding electorates.

“My submission will give the regional seats access to some high population growth areas so that we’re not constantly getting bigger in size,” he said.

WA’s electorates aren’t due for redistribution until 2023.