Hassell defies poll pact

Rueben HaleCountryman
Nationals O’Connor candidate John Hassell.
Camera IconNationals O’Connor candidate John Hassell. Credit: Countryman

WA Nationals candidate for O’Connor John Hassell says he is disappointed by a Labor preference deal with the Liberals, but is determined to fight on.

The Liberal Party will get Labor preferences in three rural seats to help fend off threats from Nationals candidates as part of a deal in which the Liberals will preference Labor ahead of the Greens in inner-city seats where those preferences would have given the Greens a chance of defeating Labor MPs.

The deal struck between the major parties means Labor will preference the Liberals over the Nationals in not only O’Connor but also Durack and the Victorian seat of Murray.

The Liberals hold O’Connor, in the rural south of Western Australia, by 15.3 per cent.

It was considered to be a relatively close contest, but incumbent Rick Wilson’s position appears more secure with Labor prioritising him over Mr Hassell on its how-to-vote cards.

The news, which is believed to have come as a total surprise to all candidates, is a major blow to the likeable Pingelly grain farmer, who had been reasonably confident of securing Labor preferences.

Mr Hassell, who was a former CBH director before gaining pre-selection for the WA Nationals last month, had enjoyed success campaigning on a six-point plan targeted at fair Goods and Services Tax returns, the backpacker tax, regional infrastructure and services, incentives for local workforces over Fly In, Fly Out employees, regional telecommunications, the agricultural sector and funds for State health, education and tourism. `

“The preference deal just means that I am now more determined to campaign even harder for the seat of O’Connor,” Mr Hassell said. “This seat is the highest performing growth area next to Durack and people need to understand that I did not contest this election as a career move, but as a way to stick up for my constituents in this electorate that have grown tired of getting treated like dirt by the Eastern States.”

Meanwhile, long-shot WA Nationals Durack candidate Lisa Cole has had her already unlikely odds of toppling incumbent Liberal Melissa Price, who holds the seat by a comfortable margin, stretched even further by the deal.

Ms Cole, who is the party’s State treasurer, was parachuted in as the candidate for the four weeks into the marathon election campaign.

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