Vince Catania resignation: Labor not sure if it will contest NW Central by-election

Peter Law and Caitlyn RintoulGeraldton Guardian
North West Central MP Vince Catania, pictured with wife Dani Catania, in Perth.
Camera IconNorth West Central MP Vince Catania, pictured with wife Dani Catania, in Perth. Credit: Danella Bevis/The West Australian

WA Labor may not contest the North West Central by-election created by the shock retirement of Nationals MP Vince Catania, who said he had “no more fuel left in the tank” after 17 years in State Parliament.

Labor’s candidate in the vast regional electorate at the 2021 State election, Cherie Sibosado, said she was stunned by the announcement and said she would consider standing again.

Mr Catania held on to North West Central — which includes the coastal communities of Kalbarri, Canarvon and Exmouth — by just 259 votes last year, withstanding an 8.4 per cent swing to Labor.

Ms Sibosado, who lives in Carnarvon and owns a consultancy business, said: “If the opportunity presents itself, I will absolutely consider it. It was a great result at the last State election and if I am successful in preselection then I will give it my all once again.”

But despite the ALP’s success in WA at last month’s Federal election, Labor sources said the party was weighing-up whether to contest the by-election, which are always difficult for governments.

There’s also a belief the seat, which has just 8000 voters, will be abolished by the WA Electoral Commission’s ahead of the next poll.

This by-election would also put the spotlight on local issues, such as the McGowan Government’s response to cyclone Seroja, which smashed Kalbarri in April 2021, as well as Carnarvon’s ongoing maternity crisis and crime wave.

Nationals WA leader Mia Davies, who with Mr Catania now out of the picture has no real challenger to her leadership, would not be drawn on the implications of an already depleted Opposition being further weakened.

“It certainly wouldn’t make it easier to lose a seat. Politics is about arithmetic, we need to make sure we’ve got as many people (as possible) holding the Government to account,” she said.

“We’ll be putting in 1000 per cent effort to make sure that we’ve got a strong candidate and somebody sitting on our side of the Parliament to continue that advocacy.”

Mr Catania last week revealed with “mixed emotions” that after some “soul searching” he would formally resign from the WA Parliament in August to spend more time with his five children and wife Danielle.

“They’ve all been incredibly patient and supportive of me as a husband and a father who’s been absent for much of the time. But the kids will all be adults before we know it, so it’s well and truly time for me to put my family first,” he said.

“I’m leaving politics and I’m proud of what I’ve achieved and I’m hopeful that some of the Labor Party members can see what I’ve achieved and how you need to work as a member of Parliament to make those achievements happen.”

Mr Catania joined the WA Parliament in 2005, representing Labor in the Mining and Pastoral Region of the Legislative Council. In 2008 he switched from the Upper House to the Lower House, successfully standing for Labor.

But in a shock move a year later he joined the WA Nationals, saying he wanted to help the then Liberal-National Government roll out the $1 billion a year Royalties for Regions program across WA.

Education Minister Sue Ellery on Friday said she was “quite glad” to see the back of Mr Catania and said his exit from politics, 14 years after he defected from Labor to the Nationals, was no surprise.

“I’d say two things: don’t slam the door on your way out. And the second thing I’d say is he has form of leaving parties when it’s the worst time to leave those parties. It’s the second time he’s done this,” she said.

Premier Mark McGowan also said he was still upset by Mr Catania’s betrayal. “He was a Labor member and then he decided without any consultation to betray the party that put him into Parliament,” the Premier said.

“You do that in politics, you’re going to upset people.

“He upset me, he upset a lot of people. A lot of people worked hard to get him elected.”

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