Nats announce Fed candidates

30 May, 2013 02:00 AM
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Katanning born William
Katanning born William "Chub" Witham will be the Nationals WA's candidate for the seat of O'Connor. He is pictured here flanked by Nationals senator Fiona Nash and Nationals WA deputy leader Terry Redman.

THE Nationals WA has its sights on carrying the success of the State election through to the September federal election with the announcement of two new candidates.

Katanning born William "Chub" Witham will be hoping to maintain The Nationals WA's held Seat of O'Connor, with current member Tony Crook announcing his retirement from Federal politics.

The Nationals has also set its sights on the seat of Durack with Geraldton's Shane Van Styn selected as the party's candidate.

The contest for the O'Connor seat will be one of the most watched in the country on September 14.

With Mr Crook stepping down it would also mean the Liberal Party would see it as a potential gain after the upset at the 2010 Federal election when Mr Crook beat long-time stalwart Wilson Tuckey after his 30 years in the seat.

Mr Witham will go up against Liberal candidate and Katanning farmer Rick Wilson.

Mr Witham is a 48-year-old mining executive and geologist who was raised in Broomehill before working in South Africa and Chile and in the Esperance region.

Mr Witham said he looked forward to spending the next four months on the campaign trail.

"I certainly don't take my selection lightly or for granted," Mr Witham said.

"I will be working hard alongside The Nationals to continue the good work they have already undertaken in O'Connor."

Acting president of The Nationals WA, David Eagles, said Mr Witham's diverse background in resources, agriculture and regional development would serve him well as the candidate for O'Connor.

"Chub's background is representative of the O'Connor electorate," Mr Eagles said.

"It is diverse and vast and his experience in key fields will allow him to capably represent the people of O'Connor in Federal Parliament."

Mr Van Styn will also be relying largely on this year's State election result for the Nationals and Brendon Grylls' success in the Pilbara as he targets Durack.

The seat is currently held by Liberal member Barry Haase who is widely tipped to retain it.

Mr Van Styn, a City of Geraldton councillor and local business owner, contested Geraldton at the State election but lost to Liberal Ian Blayney.

Mr Eagles said both candidates would be part of the Liberal-National coalition to achieve better outcomes for regional WA.

"At a State level, The Nationals WA has had great success working with the Liberal Party and we would hope to build on this relationship at a Federal level and ensure that regional WA is a priority within the coalition party room," he said.

Over the last term, Mr Crook chose not to sit as a member of the coalition and instead sat on the crossbenches, but still maintained a strong relationship with the Federal Nationals.

This week he gave his endorsement of both candidates.

"Issues such as the GST rip-off and the abolishment of the Wheat Exports Authority have highlighted the importance of having a pro-WA voice in Canberra," Mr Crook said.

"The people of O'Connor and regional WA will continue to have that strong, regional voice with Chub Witham."

Mr Crook said he hoped to spend time with Mr Witham in the lead-up to the Federal campaign to discuss priorities for O'Connor such as PortLink, the regional doctor shortage, the Albany heavy-haulage route and improve the tertiary access allowance for regional students.

"The people who call O'Connor and Durack home deserve to have a representative in Canberra who will make decisions based on the best interests of regional WA, not somebody who will simply toe the Party line.

"For more than 50 years both major parties have failed to deliver for regional Australia, which is why we need a strong, regional voice in Canberra to stand up for the people of O'Connor and regional WA."

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