SJ councillor to take on ALP at next election

SJ councillor to take on ALP at next election

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Recently selected Nationals candidate Morgan Byas will contest the seat of Darling Range in next March’s state election.

Oakford’s Morgan Byas has officially thrown his hat in the ring for the seat of Darling Range.

The Shire of Serpentine Jarrahdale councillor was confirmed by The Nationals WA on Saturday as their candidate for the currently Labor-held seat at next year’s state election.

This will be the first time in their more-than-100-year history that The Nats have decided to contest seats in the metropolitan region, also confirming candidates for Bateman, Kalamunda and South Perth.

Darling Range’s inaugural member was Country Party MP Ray Owen, but back in the 50s, one could hardly have labelled the electorate ‘metro’.

“The peri-urban regions of Perth have been ignored and had their potential undervalued by the major parties. Morgan and [Kalamunda candidate] Lisa [Logan] are excellent local champions with strong roots in the Perth Hills,” The Nationals WA state president Julie Freeman said.

Jonathan Shack for South Perth, Lisa Logan for Kalamunda,
Morgan Byas for Darling Range, Donna Gordin for Bateman, Kieran Dart for Pilbara

Morgan Byas has lived in the Darling Range his entire life; his family having made the move to the equestrian hub in the 70s. The 37-year-old psychologist has now served for seven years as councillor for the SJ Shire, ironically making him the “old man” on council. And he’s concerned about how the area’s unprecedented growth is being handled.

“I still remember when Abernethy Road only had cows along it. There’s been such a rapid change which is what pushed me to put my hand up to run, to ensure that our community can get good planning outcomes during this momentous period of growth,” he said.

“I’ve really enjoyed my time in local government. But after seven years you get a good understanding of what you can and can’t achieve.

“And we currently have a Labor state government that’s been centralising the decision-making process in development for years, eroding planning controls to the detriment of local government and local communities.”

A day after announcing their intention to step into the city, The Nationals WA made their third pre-election policy announcement which aims to reform the contentious state Development Assessment Panels (DAP).

They will seek to add an additional local government role to each DAP, delivering equal representation between the specialist members and local representatives, and increase the threshold for which projects could be referred for assessment from $2 million to $5 million.

As a recent convert to The Nats after leaving the Liberal Party, this latest policy announcement has cemented Morgan’s resolve that he made the right decision.

“I feel the modern Liberal Party is too quick to focus on fringe ideologies over what people on the ground actually need,” he said, pointing to leader Libby Mettam’s recent attack on puberty blockers.

“No one in the Darling Range has mentioned to me that this is their top issue. People are more concerned with the cost of living, infrastructure and healthcare.

“I struggle with the reality that we live in the richest state in the greatest country in the world but we still have families struggling to pay power bills or put food on the table – which is a real indictment on the state government.

“Byford is within the top five mortgage-stressed suburbs nationally – it’s ground zero for cost of living.

“And what I have noticed is there’s a real sense of people feeling forgotten.

“People won’t vote for Labor because they feel they’re out of touch, they can’t vote for the Liberals because they’re not focussed on things they care about.

“They’re looking for a positive vision with a practical plan behind it. They want a real alternative to fight for the issues that matter to them. And I believe that’s The Nationals.”

Despite harbouring no ill will towards current member for Darling Range, Hugh Jones, Morgan said the community needs more.

“The challenge that our current local member has is he’s part of a bloated Labor backbench,” he said.

“Labor will try to hang their hat on Metronet and that investment, but the truth is it’s over time, over budget and is achieving a poor outcome for the Byford community.

“There has been nothing but crickets in response to the community’s end-of-the-line crime concerns.”

“I plan to hold more consultation with the community. Consultation is more than just listening, it’s action too. I will pick up the banner and continue beating on the minister’s door to get a good outcome for this community.”

In response, Hugh Jones said: “I am grateful to be endorsed as WA Labor’s candidate for Darling Range in 2025, and with the community’s support I hope to continue delivering on the state Labor government’s record infrastructure investment in transport, education and health.

“I am proud of our ongoing commitment to the future of Darling Range, as we see long-awaited investment transforming our community’s road and rail infrastructure after years of neglect under the former coalition government, and bringing the trainline to Byford decades ahead of their plan.”