First a bit of background.
In WA, the Legislative Assembly, or "Lower House" has 59 members or seats. Thus to form government in its own right with a majority, a party would need 30 seats.
In 2008, the Labor party won 28 seats, and the Liberal party won only 24. This put the National party, and a few independents, in a unique position of bargaining power. The Nationals demanded 25% of mining proceeds be distributed to regional projects. Both parties said "OK" and the Nats decided to allow the Liberal party to form Government with a quasi-coalition agreement put in place allowing National members to cross the floor if they wanted.
So Royalties for Regions was born; A project with the explicit and unapologetic aim of reinvesting a chunk of the massive mining revenues back into the regional areas from which the mines are all located in. It's generally agreed that it has been a great asset to the community in Geraldton and other regional areas, with things like the age pensioner fuel card and many infrastructure projects in Geraldton and throughout the state becoming a reality through this funding.
National candidates had fought for their constituents, mostly regional citizens, and achieved a big outcome.
Now onto the 2013 election results.
With what has been counted so far, the Liberals have won 30 seats and are expected to end up with about 33 in the "Lower House".
The Nationals have won an estimated 6 seats, and are expected to finish on 7 seats.
Labor were completely decimated in this election only managing to hold on to 18 seats so far, expected to finish on 19.
So this time around, the Liberal party is not dependant on the Nationals to form government, thus the Nationals do not hold the balance of power in the Lower House like they did last election.
According to NineMSN: "Mr Barnett hinted strongly there would be a more Liberal imprint on where the Royalties for Regions money would flow."
The concern floated by the National party in their "why you should vote for us and not Liberal" campaign, is that without Nationals holding the balance of power, the Liberal party would spend the Royalties for Regions monies on essential infrastructure like roads and utilities, rather than eat into the budget for those, and forsake the extras like community infrastructure and increases to the senior's fuel card.
All is not lost for the Nationals. They increased the amount of seats they hold overall, and although they didn't win in Geraldton, they had a very large swing toward them. This means they are still a force that the Liberal party will need to have on side in the future as Labor makes its inevitable rally back into relevance at the next election.
In addition, there is a chance the National Party will hold the balance of power in the Upper House. So if there is legislation the Liberals hope to pass, they may need to keep the dollars flowing to the regions to keep the National Party appeased.
As for hopes of a Labor resurrection in the near future in Geraldton, they have their work cut out for them. Labor more or less wrote Geraldton off when they declared they would divert funds from Oakajee Port to a train track dubbed "Metronet" in Perth.
It appears future Geraldton elections are going to be a toss up between the Liberal and the National Parties.
Votes are still being counted, and as a Geraldton resident it will be very interesting to see how the Upper House ends up.
When this was written 75% of the "Lower House" vote was counted, and 53% of the "Upper House" counted.
by Jason Smith