Gary Gray has announced he will retire from Parliament at this year’s election.
This outer metropolitan electorate is one of three seats held by the ALP in WA. It contains major heavy industry in the Kwinana industrial area, medical services, construction, retail and the navy base HMAS Stirling. In 2014 the unemployment rate in Brand was 9.4%, one of the highest in Australia.
The electorate of Brand is currently one of only three electorates held by the ALP in Western Australia making it an important focus in this year’s election.
The seat has been held by the ALP since 1996. Labor’s Gary Gray has held the seat since 2007, but he announced his retirement earlier this year and will not be running in this election.
Due to recent redistributions, the seat for Brand has become marginally safer for the ALP as the parts of the Mandurah local government area have become part of Canning. This means Brand is now an entirely metropolitan seat. The main suburbs making up the electorate of Brand include: Anketell, Baldivis, Bertram, Calista, Casuarina, Cooloongup, East Rockingham, Golden Bay, Hillman, Hope Valley, Karnup, Keralup (part), Kwinana Beach, Kwinana Town Centre, Leda, Mandogalup, Medina, Naval Base, Orelia, Parmelia, Peron, Port Kennedy, Postans, Rockingham, Safety Bay, Secret Harbour, Singleton, Shoalwater, The Spectacles, Waikiki, Wandi, Warnbro and Wellard.
There are some recurring issues that will be addressed in this year’s election, such as the high rate of unemployment. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, at the end of 2014, Brand had one of the highest unemployment rates in Australia. Rockingham had an unemployment rate of 9.4%, Kwinana 8.5%, with some smaller suburbs, such as Calista, reaching rates above 15%.
Darren Clarke, a construction worker at the Rockingham shopping centre, highlighted the need to increase infrastructure in the area.
“You need infrastructure to create jobs,” said Clarke.
Speaking to employees at the Rockingham Visitors’ Centre revealed some interesting issues relating to rates of unemployment as well as local tourism.
Local resident and Visitors’ Centre employee Nicki Joyce spoke about the need for caravan parks, after two local parks were recently closed.
Joyce says visitors have been coming to the centre and complaining about having nowhere to stay. The residential Palm Beach Caravan Park has recently been closed to be replaced by defence housing, leaving residents homeless and visitors with nowhere to stay.
Rockingham has a steady tourism industry and a lack of accommodation is likely to negatively affect this industry. The closure of the Palm Beach Caravan Park may also lead to a rise in the numbers of homeless in the area.
Homelessness is considered a major concern in Brand with the numbers of people living on the street rising in areas such as Kwinana and Rockingham. Resident Cathy McNee says there are a lot of homeless people living around the foreshore and in local parks. McNee expressed her concern for the proper care and treatment of the homeless existing in the area.
“There are people who come into the area and abuse the homeless, and that’s an issue,” said McNee.
Another major issue dividing residents in Brand is the development of a residential canal estate at Point Peron.
Point Peron is a popular nature-based tourist attraction. Some residents believe the development of the canal estate would do more harm than good in the area. A proposed compromise to the estate’s development would see a tourist park created in the area instead. Supporters argue this option would solve the issue for both residential and tourist accommodation in the Rockingham area, create jobs and support the local tourism industry.
These local issues will likely play a major part in the next election.
The citizens of Brand are passionate about their communities and have a number of issues they’d like to see addressed.
The candidates for the upcoming election are certain to target these issues during their campaigns in order to gain voters’ attention. Acknowledgement of these issues as well as proposed solutions could help to determine whether the ALP will hold the seat for another term or if a rival party will take over Labor’s long held position in Brand.