Fish Creek, east of Northcliffe, in the electorate of O'Connor. Photo by Mike Cully
Rick Wilson is a former farmer and Chairman of the Pastoralists and Graziers Association. First elected in 2013, he is O’Connor’s third MP, after Wilson Tuckey and Tony Crook.
O'Connor is one of the largest electorates in the world by area (making it potentially difficult to campaign in). The seat has always been held by a conservative party. Industries include agriculture, fishing, forestry, aquaculture, mining and tourism.
O’Connor is the second largest electorate by area in Australia's largest state, Western Australia.
It covers 36% of the state, stretching from the southern end of the state's Goldfields region, through the Wheatbelt and parts of the Southwest.
In the 2016 election, O’Connor will have an area of 808,954 sq km, about the same size as sovereign countries such as Namibia, Turkey and Mozambique. The sheer size of the electorate makes it difficult to campaign in.
The seat has been a safe conservative one from its creation in 1980; it was held by Wilson Tuckey for 30 years until 2010.
The 2010 election saw a 19.68% swing toward the Nationals and Tuckey, who got 38% of the primary vote, lost to National Tony Crook. Crook's primary vote was 23.5%, but he ended up with 53.5% in all because the ALP and other parties preferenced Crook ahead of Tuckey.
Crook performed a cross-bench role in the Gillard government but decided not to run in the 2013 election as his frequent trips to Canberra and the stress of federal politics was taking a strain on his family.
Tuckey also did not participate in the 2013 election, having retired from politics, resulting in a significantly different ballot from the 2010 election.
Rick Wilson, a fourth generation farmer from Katanning, who was involved in agricultural politics, became the Liberal candidate while Chub Witham, a mining executive and geologist from Esperance, ran for the Nationals.
A small swing of 4.5% to the Liberals saw Wilson outpoll Witham, restoring the Liberals' reign over the electorate.
In this regional electorate, both men gained more primary votes than Michael Salt, the ALP candidate.
One significant issue in the electorate is the health of the agriculture industry, with 14.3% of the O'Connor population employed in agriculture.
In such a large electorate, transport and telecommunications are also pressing issues.
Health policy is also a prominent issue, due to O'Connor's vastly dispersed population. Remote residents see doctors at half the rate of city residents and death rates in remote areas are a third higher than in cities. Key aspects of rural health include the Royal Flying Doctor Service and upgrading regional hospitals. Recent additional funding for the RFDS may aid Wilson's 2016 campaign.