Country could lose a seat

Jo FulwoodThe West Australian

Sweeping changes to regional electoral boundaries could see the loss of one parliamentary seat for country voters at the 2017 WA State election.

The draft changes proposed by the WA Electoral Commission include the abolition of the seat of Eyre, held by Liberal MP Graham Jacobs.

Under the proposal, Eyre will be divided between the seats of Wagin and Kalgoorlie, both of which are held by the WA Nationals.

The new electorate of Wagin, to be renamed Roe, would encompass the shires of Frankland and Kojonup in the west, running across to Condingup and Salmon Gums in the east, splitting the Shire of Esperance into two different State electorates.

Dr Jacobs said he was disappointed in the changes.

"I don't understand the logic, it doesn't make a lot of sense," he said.

Dr Jacobs said there were limited synergies between the western edge of the proposed new Wagin electorate with the Esperance region.

"My concern is that we've been this way before," he said.

"When I was elected to Parliament, I was elected as the Member of Roe, representing the Lakes district, west of that into Kulin and Kondinin and in my experience there were no synergies between Kulin and Esperance, and now we've even gone further west into Wagin and Kojonup and the synergies are even less."

Dr Jacobs said if the changes were implemented for the next State election he would be undecided on whether he would contest the new seat of Wagin.

"If I do stand it will almost certainly have to be the seat of Wagin," he said.

But Dr Jacobs conceded he would find it difficult to win the new seat.

"It would be a serious challenge but if I jump over into Kalgoorlie, I don't take the people of Esperance with me. When it comes to it, you have to represent the people you have a heart for, and this is where I was brought up, Esperance is my home town," he said.

"I believe the WA Electoral Commission has messed up a formula that essentially works, and it does work for the (current) constituency and that's the sad part."

Beaumont grain farmer and Esperance Liberal Party branch president Tom Brown said the changes would be terrible for country voters.

"Under the one vote, one value requirements, if Perth continues to grow and regional WA doesn't, then we will continue to lose more seats," he said.

But despite Wagin being the safest seat in the State, Mr Brown said he believed Dr Jacobs had strong support right across the proposed electorate, even into the western areas, and would stand a good chance of winning if he chose to contest the seat in the 2017 election.

"Graham represented that area for a fair while before the seat of Eyre was created so he's known over there, where as the new National party candidate, (taking over from retired MP Terry Waldron), is not necessarily known in Esperance," he said.

"And Esperance will now be one of the higher density towns in the new electorate."

Other changes will see an increase in the size of the seat of Central Wheatbelt by 57 per cent to become 97,669sqkm, stretching from Southern Cross in the east to Darkan in the west.

It will gain the shires of Westonia, Yilgarn, Wandering, Boddington, Pingelly, Cuballing, Williams and West Arthur, and lose the shires of Koorda, Wongan-Ballidu, Dowerin and Goomalling.

Member for the Central Wheatbelt Mia Davies said she was extraordinarily disappointed with the proposed boundary changes, not just from an electorate perspective but on a Statewide basis.

"As a consequence of the changes from the introduction of one vote, one value in 2008, the electorates of Avon and Merredin became one and the land mass doubled, and just two election cycles later we are doubling that land mass again," she said.

"It looks like they are trying to meet a math equation, as opposed to creating communities of interest, allowing good access to your local member," she said.

"(Any changes) should be about equability of representation and I'm not sure that that's the outcome of these proposed changes."

Ms Davies said the WA Nationals would prepare a response to the draft boundary changes.

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