By MAL GILL
OFTEN outspoken South West MLC Nigel Hallett has been dumped from the Liberal Party ticket for the 2017 State election.
Mr Hallett, who has represented the region since 2005, and even longer-serving South West Liberal MLC Robyn McSweeney were challenged by 14 contenders for party endorsement at the weekend's selection committee.
Ms McSweeney slipped from first to third position on the Liberal ticket but still has a good chance of retaining her seat in parliament.
Qualified veterinarian and former Capel MLA Steve Thomas has been recommended by the selection committee for top spot, followed by Manjimup Shire president Wade DeCampo in second position.
All selection committee recommendations for endorsement are due to be considered at the party's State council meeting on Saturday.
As reported last week, Mr Hallet was one of two Liberal MLCs who convinced Premier Colin Barnett to keep WA's Jakarta trade office open after the Department of State Development announced its impending closure in 2014.
The other MLC, Brian Ellis in the Agricultural Region, was recommended for demotion from second to an unlikely, but not impossible, third position on the party ticket for that region last week.
A farmer at Boyup Brook and Corrigin before he entered parliament, Mr Hallett has championed the Department of Agriculture and Food WA and Bureau of Meteorology adopting Doppler radar technology.
Three Doppler bases are due to be commissioned next year to monitor weather conditions over the Central Wheatbelt to help farmers' decision-making in relation to spraying, sowing and harvesting.
Mr Hallett single-handedly persisted in advocating the potential benefits to farmers despite some resistance to adopting the technology, already used in Eastern States, to significantly improve forecasting accuracy.
He has also been acknowledged by South West avocado growers for helping establish an export trade into Japan.
Some of his most recent support has been for regional bushfire brigade volunteers seeking more autonomy and for calls from former professional fire fighters and forestry officers for a greater focus on measures to prevent large bush fires.
A fortnight ago Mr Hallett introduced a private member's bill into the Legislative Council calling for a "country fire service" to be established to manage regional bushfire emergencies.
He proposed that the service be directed by a board made up of Department of Parks and Wildlife, Association of Volunteer Fire Fighters and the Western Australian Local Government Association.
The bill called on the Legislative Council to "recognise a new arrangement for bushfire management is urgently required" in WA.
There was a "need to promote a new culture in our bushfire authorities moving from emergency response and an 'all-out suppression approach' to one of fire prevention and damage mitigation", Mr Hallett said in his bill.
Recognition was also needed "that large bushfires result from failed land management", he said.
A member of Mr Hallett's Mandurah office staff said he was disappointed with the committee's recommendation but he would abide by party rules and not comment.
Mr Thomas was elected in 2005 in the new seat of Capel, but lost to current Collie-Preston Labor MP Mick Murray in 2008 when Capel was abolished in a boundaries redistribution and he contested Collie-Preston.
He served as acting speaker in the Legislative Assembly and was Opposition spokesman for a variety of portfolios, including treasury, environment, fisheries and science and innovation.
Mr Thomas has also worked with Federal MP for Forrest Nola Marino.
Mr DeCampo contested the Legislative Assembly electorate of Blackwood Stirling in 2009 for the Liberals against current WA Nationals leader Terry Redman.
He is well known in the South West, having been a Manjimup councillor since 2001 and shire president since 2005.
He is also on the Warren Blackwood Strategic Alliance of Councils, Conservation Commission of WA and South West Development Commission boards.
He runs family transport and potato farming businesses.
Apart from Ms McSweeney, the other selection committee-recommended Liberal candidates for the South West are Tony Norment, Albany, Heather Reid, Bunbury, and Douglas McLarty, Pinjarra.
The Liberal Party currently holds three of the six parliamentary positions representing the region.