THERE will be an all-out war between the two major political parties for ascendancy in the populous coastal strip from Mindarie to Margaret River after last week’s change of the WA Liberal Party leadership, WA National Party leader Brendon Grylls has said.
Mr Grylls said people living outside the metropolitan and coastal “hot spots” could expect little attention from the Liberal and Labor parties in the coming months.
“I congratulate Troy Buswell on his rise to leadership but there is no doubt he’ll abandon the bush and focus the Liberals on the narrow strip that will contain 48 of the 59 Legislative Assembly seats at the next election,” Mr Grylls said.
“Neither the Liberals nor Labor will lose too much sleep over the needs of people in the 11 Legislative Assembly seats outside the populous coastal strip.”
Mr Grylls said the WA Nationals were unaffected by the recent change to the Liberal’s leadership.
He said the Nationals remained fully committed to winning the balance of power in Parliament to protect the interests of regional, rural, and remote communities.
“Labor’s electoral legislation has radically transformed the political landscape in WA and that’s why the Nationals will not enter into coalition with either major political party before or after the next State election,” he said.
“We are going to the next State election as an independent conservative party to stand up for country people and have their claims listened to in the State Parliament.”
Mr Grylls said the Nationals could change the dynamics of Government expenditure in country WA if they held the balance of power.
“Our Royalties for Regions policy, for example, is a non-negotiable plan to deliver to appropriate rural and regional projects the equivalent of 25pc of the State’s annual mining and petroleum royalty receipts,” he said.
“On 2008-09 projections, the Government will receive an estimated $2.7 billion in royalties and under our plan the equivalent of $675 million would be earmarked for regional and rural community projects.”
The Liberals have promised a fresh start under its new leader who took over from Paul Omodei in a cloud of controversy last week.
An urgent party room meeting a week ago was called to decide the leadership after persistent speculation that ironically resulted in complaints, including several from fellow Liberal MP’s, after Mr Buswell’s drunken behaviour in Parliament in October.
Mr Buswell defeated the only other leadership contender, Justice spokesman Rob Johnson, after Mr Omodei chose not to put his hand up again for the party’s top job.
Mr Buswell is from a rural background and holds the seat of Vasse in the South West.
However, some experts have warned he may struggle to maintain the same level of focus on agriculture and rural issues as Manjimup-born Mr Omodei, a practicing farmer who had little trouble highlighting climate change, falling rural populations and farm profits.
Mr Omodei farmed for more than 20 years before entering Parliament and in those two decades he was in local government as a councillor and participated in rural affairs as a member of farming organisations including WAFarmers.