While the nation stopped to take in having a fifth prime minister in five years this week, the candidates in this Saturday’s Canning by-election got on with the job of selling themselves as the best person for the job.
The seat became vacant when much revered sitting member Don Randall – who ironically was one of two behind a failed spill motion to oust former prime minister Tony Abbott in February – died suddenly on July 21.
The competition between the two favourites of the 12 field was tight with former SAS captain Andrew Hastie in the Liberal corner and former lawyer and Kelmscott man Matt Keogh in the Labor corner.
Both had quit their jobs and moved to Canning to stand at the by-election and travelled the length and breadth of the 6100-square kilometre electorate during the campaign.
They happily posed for photographs together at a Business Armadale Q&A on Tuesday night, carrying on tradition in the Armadale area that politicians from opposite sides can get along.
With vastly dissimiliar backgrounds they obviously presented quite differently but both were professional, intelligent and well received by those who have met them.
Mr Keogh, 33, who has spent his life living and breathing politics and working in the courtroom has mastered Labor speak and presented with confidence and knowledge on all issues.
Mr Hastie, 32, who has been engaged on the battlefield having served Australia multiple times in Afghanistan and the Middle East, spoke less as a politician and more as someone who would take an issue on board and push it forward regardless of the party line.
At the Q&A they differed most on the China free trade agreement, NBN, public transport and the GST.
Free trade agreement with China
Mr Hastie believed the China free trade agreement was critical to Canning and would create jobs in the area.
He said a winery in Waroona expected to see a 20 per cent reduction in tariffs as a result of the agreement and the electorate’s cattle farms and orchards could also expect to benefit significantly.
Mr Keogh said while any free trade agreement was an opportunity for growth, which Labor supported, there needed to be greater protections for Australian jobs.
He said the China free trade agreement would jeopardise local jobs if foreign companies were allowed to bring in their own workers.
National Broadband Network
Both candidates plugged their respective party’s national broadband network plan.
Mr Hastie said at the end of the Labor government only 2000 premises were connected in Canning but 20,000 were connected under the Abbott government.
“By the end of 2016 a further 60,000 will be under construction,” he said.
“I’ve recently moved into Dudley Park with my family, we don’t even have dial up.
“I’ve got a personal stake in sorting this issue out because right now both my wife and I have maxed out our data on our mobile phones and it’s going to cost us this month.”
Mr Keogh said the Labor party’s fibre to the premises (FTTP) plan was the real NBN.
“The shambles that is the second rate NBN that Malcolm Turnbull has proposed, the budget for it has doubled and it hasn’t come any faster,” he said.
“And it’s using old technology of copper.”
Mr Keogh said under Labor’s FTTP plan 72,900 in Canning would have either had or soon had the NBN at their premises.
Both candidates agreed public transport in the electorate was insufficient but differed on whether it was a state or federal issue.
Mr Hastie said as a federal member he would advocate for increased state expenditure.
“I will lobby state Transport Minister Dean Nalder and that’s the best I can do, like Don Randall I will advocate for federal, state and local issues,” he said.
Mr Keogh said Labor firmly believed in funding rail at a federal level and backed state Labor’s revamped metronet.
“We had a $500 million commitment to rail as part of the gateway project and that got wiped out but Labor is committed to bringing that back,” he said.
When asked if they were in favour of increasing the GST rate Mr Hastie said he was open to tax reform.
He said he would support an increase if changes were made to personal and company tax to make it easier for individuals and businesses to get ahead.
Mr Keogh said he would not support it and described it as an unfair tax and that not enough had been redistributed back into the state.
– By Robyn Molloy, Amy Blom and Hamish Hastie