National MP Vince Catania tenders his resignation for the WA seat of North West Central

Labor has announced it will not contest an impending by-election caused by the resignation of North West Central MP Vince Catania.

The long-serving national MP has tendered his resignation to the Speaker of the Western Australian Legislative Assembly, officially triggering the by-election process.

After declaring the seat vacant, Speaker Michelle Roberts today told parliament she would issue a writ for the election to be held on Saturday, September 17.

The Liberal and National parties have announced their candidates, but Prime Minister Mark McGowan today confirmed that Labor will not put forward any.

“Longstanding governments often make this decision,” he said.

“It is just a political reality that these by-elections are difficult for governments, especially in an electorate in which we did not succeed last year.

Mark McGowan has said Labor will have no candidate in the next by-election(ABC News: James Carmody)

“It’s the fact, it’s the truth.”

Mr McGowan denied suggestions there was a split within the party over the decision.

“We have had various discussions about it, but it is an agreed decision and all ministers are in agreement,” he said.

Government ‘can’t even be bothered’ to challenge

Nationals assistant manager Shane Love said it was a surprise move.

“It makes for an interesting concept that you have a government that can’t even bother contesting a by-election in such a vital seat like that,” he said.

“But I think it’s pretty clear that the premier doesn’t want him to suffer a loss because of a bad result.”

Opposition Leader Mia Davies said it was a disappointing move, given concerns about crime, housing and labor shortages in the area.

“It shows how this government has completely ignored the electorate and is unwilling to show its face to deal with some of the real challenges these communities are facing,” she said.

But Mr McGowan dismissed that suggestion, listing a series of projects his government had carried out or funded.

The longtime national deputy announced his retirement almost two months ago, saying he “had nothing left in the tank”.

However, he did not officially resign at the time, as most politicians do, in a move described as “most unusual” by political commentator Peter Kennedy.

Asked about the delay, a WA Nationals spokesman said Mr Catania had always planned to retire in early August.

Man standing in front of Carnarvon One Mile Pier
Vince Catania has held the seat since 2008. (ABC Pilbara: Laura Birch)

“[He] continues to be committed to his role as MP for North West Central thus far,” the spokesperson said.

North West Central is WA’s largest constituency geographically, comprising towns such as Carnarvon, Coral Bay and Exmouth.

Mr Catania has held the seat since 2008, having originally been elected to the upper house in 2005.

The Nationals were the first to announce their candidate for the by-election, selecting local publican Merome Beard.

Merome smiles photographed in a waterside setting
Merome Beard is the Nationals candidate for the North West Central seat in WA. (Facebook: Merome Barbe)

A post on Ms Beard’s Facebook page shows she will officially launch her campaign on Friday, at an event which will also be used to bid farewell to Mr Catania.

Other messages show that Mr Catania will join Ms Beard, who previously worked in his office, at a number of “mobile office” meetings across the region.

A qualified town planner and planner, Will Baston will be the candidate for the Liberal Party.

A smiling man wearing a jacket with a shirt underneath stands in front of trees.
Will Baston threw his hat in the ring for the liberals.(ABC News: Kate Ferguson)

He has also worked as a consultant on “conservation and economic development outcomes for outback and regional Western Australia”, according to the Liberal Party.

It is understood the Greens will also present a candidate, who will be announced on Wednesday.

Awkward competition for the opposition alliance

The by-election creates an embarrassing situation for the Liberal-National Alliance, with the two parties having to compete for votes.

However, Deputy Liberal Leader Libby Mettam yesterday said her party’s interest was ‘not to compete and fight against the National Party’.

Libby Mettam, Liberal Deputy Leader
Libby Mettam says Liberals don’t try to compete with Nationals.(ABC News: Claire Moodie)

“We will lead and campaign in support of Will Baston, our Liberal Party nominee, and hopefully Will Baston or the Nationals nominee gets elected,” she said.

“Our position as the party representing all of Western Australia is to give people the opportunity to vote for the Liberal Party and to vote for a strong candidate, which is Will Baston.”

An even more troublesome outcome would be if the Liberal Party won the seat, leaving it and the Nationals with an equal number of members in the Legislative Assembly.

It is a situation seen as unprecedented, with no clear way to decide who will become the leader of the opposition, leaving the parties to negotiate an outcome.

If that happened, the Liberals would likely have the upper hand, given they have more members in both Houses of Parliament than the Nationals.

However, this is an unlikely outcome, given that the Liberal Party only won 7.9% of first preference votes in the last election, compared to 39.7% for the Nationals.

The Nationals currently hold the seat by a slim margin of 1.7%, or 259 votes.

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