Wickepin’s Steve Martin up for the challenge
Third time has been a charm for Wickepin farmer Steve Martin, who secured the sole Liberal seat in the Legislative Council’s Agricultural Region — despite his party experiencing its biggest election loss in history.
The former Shire of Wickepin councillor said he was honoured and excited to become one of a handful of farmers in State Parliament, including Labor MLC Darren West and WA Nationals MLA Peter Rundle.
Celebrating the win this week after the Upper House regional results were called by the WA Electoral Commission last Thursday, Mr Martin said he was “incredibly grateful” to be voted in.
It was his third time trying for a seat after ranking second and third on the Liberals Agricultural Region tickets in 2017 and 2013 State Elections respectively.
Mr Martin said the task ahead would be “enormous” with the Liberals only holding seven of the 36 Upper House seats compared to Labor’s 23, but he was up for the challenge of holding the WA Government to account.
“Our job will be to let the people of WA, especially the people of regional WA, what is in legislation and what the flaws are,” he said.
“My task will be to to give a voice to regional issues and concerns in a parliament dominated by Labor MPs and ministers from Perth.”
A seesawing Agricultural Region count created a nervous few weeks for Mr Martin, who said he had been busy spraying the entire farm to “take his mind off” the numbers he said he had checked “about 6000 times”.
A third-generation farmer, Mr Martin runs a 6000ha property and 3000 head of breeding ewes with his brother Ken Martin and sister-in-law Lee Parker.
Mr Martin said he would effectively step away from the farm to be a “full-time member of Parliament”, joking that his brother would be an “even busier farmer”.
“We are working out the finer details ... I will stay involved with the farm, but I absolutely appreciate that being a member of Parliament is a full-time job,” he said.
The Liberals hoped to pick up two Agricultural Region seats after only securing one in 2017, with Geraldton town planner Kathryn Jackson second on the ticket.
That plan failed and the party dropped from nine Legislative Council seats to seven, with Ms Jackson missing out and Labor gaining a third Agricultural Region seat for the first time.
Mr Martin is set to be joined by Labor’s Mr West and newcomers Shelley Payne and Sandra Carr, and incumbent WA Nationals MLCs Colin de Grussa and Martin Aldridge.
While he has not been privy to discussions about forming an alliance or coalition with the Nationals, Mr Martin said he believed it was inevitable.
His hometown of Wickepin was moved into WA Nationals leader Mia Davies’ Central Wheatbelt Legislative Assembly area in 2019, along with Cuballing and Kulin.
“Given the size of our parties, we will need to work together,” Mr Martin said.
“I don’t care what it is formally called, but to form some kind of credible opposition we will need to work sensibly together.
‘I know Peter Rundle very well, we went to school together, and I have got to know Mia a little bit over the years.”
My task will be to to give a voice to regional issues and concerns in a parliament dominated by Labor MPs and ministers from Perth.
Mr Martin bumped former WA Liberal Party agriculture spokesman Jim Chown from top spot on the Liberals’ pre-selection pecking order in February last year.
At the time, a furious Mr Chown — relegated to the unwinnable third position after 13 years in Parliament — said he had all but given up hope and would not actively campaign.
Four months later Mr Chown was stripped of his shadow agriculture and regional development portfolio in favour of South West MLC Steve Thomas.
Mr Martin told Countryman this week there were no hard feelings between the pair and they had caught up in Perth last week so the Wickepin farmer could ask for advice.
“I thanked him (Jim) for his service to the Liberal Party and people in the Agricultural Region,” he said.
“I caught up with him to seek his advice and find out more about what I can expect in the role.”
A third-generation farmer, Mr Martin was also a councillor on the Shire of Wickepin but has retired from the position.
Mr Martin spent Election Day close to home, visiting polling booths at Wickepin, Narrogin and Cuballing after spending a lot of time at the Narrogin pre-polling booth.
He said he wanted “everyone in the Agricultural Region” — whether they voted for him or not — to know that he would represent them.
“I hope to get out and meet everyone as soon as I can. It is a big task, but I hope to be an active, interested an hard working member of parliament,” he said.
“The voters have given Mark McGowan and Labor a resounding victory but his government now has to live up to enormous expectations and deliver for WA.”
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