State Election 2021: Can the Nats hold North West Central or will Labor paint it red?

Alexander Scott, Caitlyn Watts, Jackson Worthington and Danielle RaffaelePilbara News
Labor’s Cherie Sibosado and Nationals North West Central incumbent Vince Catania.
Camera IconLabor’s Cherie Sibosado and Nationals North West Central incumbent Vince Catania. Credit: Tom Zaunmayr/West Regional News

Well, State election day was a total wipeout across WA and here in the Pilbara, with Kevin Michel on track to become the region’s most popular sitting member ever.

But down in North West Central the result is still unclear. Several local news outlets may have called it for Labor, but for those eagle-eyed enough to drill down into the booth-by-booth numbers the result is far from clear-cut.

Labor’s Cherie Sibosado is currently on track for a shock win in the State’s biggest seat, but will have to wait to see how votes from the Gascoyne coast, which so far appear to be favouring the incumbent, play out.


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SUNDAY 9.20am Why we HAVE NOT called North West Central

Nationals member for North West Central Vince Catania was not expected to be caught up in last night’s election carnage, but here we are.

He is currently narrowly behind in the polls to Labor’s Cherie Sibosado and both the ABC Pilbara and Ngaarda Media last night called it for Labor.

Ms Sibosado’s Facebook post last night appeared to show she was confident of a win too.

On the face of it the 12 per cent swing to Labor seems like it will do the job, but this is a diverse seat and 40 per cent of the vote count does not hold the same certainty it does in other jurisdictions.

Mr Catania’s personal vote is up 1.5 per cent (compared to Ms Sibosado’s 15.4 per cent primary boost) and he is a little more than 100 votes behind Labor.

The bulk of Labor’s support so far has come from towns in the Pilbara and, if we compared this year with 2017, most votes from those polling centres have been counted.

Many of the remaining votes appear set to come in from Carnarvon and Exmouth, and votes already counted from those two seats have heavily favoured Mr Catania.

There are also plenty of early votes still to count and they traditionally favour the incumbent member. Catania had twice the number of early votes as Labor in 2017, and is so far leading this year too.

Labor should like where the result is going at the moment, but this is one race that is far from called.

SATURDAY 9.40pm Labor leads North West Central, BUT...

Cherie Sibosado could be on the cusp of a big upset in WA’s largest seat, but a closer look shows the result may not be so clear cut.

The Labor candidate currently holds a 200-vote advantage over Nationals incumbent Vince Catania thanks largely to strong support in Tom Price.

There are still about 700 votes out there to be counted in Carnarvon and Exmouth though, and both towns have strongly favoured Mr Catania.

In fact, on current count, it appears Labor has lost votes to Nationals in both towns, which were among the hardest hit by the COVID-19 forced border closures last year.

Could Labor’s biggest weapon be it’s Achilles heal in North West Central? This one will go down to the wire.

8.55pm Catania loses lead in North West Central fight

Incumbent Nationals MP Vince Catania has lost his narrow lead with 39 per cent of the vote counted.

Labor’s Cherie Sibosado snatched the primary vote lead with 1755 votes to Catania’s 1542.

It marks a 13.6 per cent swing towards Labor this election.

8.28pm Catania in fight to hold North West Central

Incumbent Nationals MP Vince Catania will be sweating tonight despite an increase to his primary vote.

With 23.5 per cent of the vote counted Mr Catania holds a narrow 1.4 per cent lead.

Interestingly, Mr Catania’s personal vote has risen 7.7 per cent so far, one of few non-Labor members to do so. However, with preferences considered his comfortable margin has been slashed by 8.7 per cent.

Labor’s Cherie Sibosado has boosted her party’s primary vote by 9.8 per cent and this seat may not be able to be called tonight as a result

7.47pm Michel home and hosed in the Pilbara

With 25 per cent of the vote counted it is safe to call this one for Labor’s Kevin Michel.

There was a lot of talk in the lead up that the Pilbara could be close — it has ended up being anything but which will undoubtedly lead to some soul-searching within the WA National Party.

At the time of this post, Mr Michel held a commanding 67.5 per cent of the vote, a 15.3 per cent swing in his favour.

Pilbara MLA Kevin Michel and WA Premier Mark McGowan.
Camera IconPilbara MLA Kevin Michel and WA Premier Mark McGowan.

Every town in the electorate — even Karratha which backed the Nationals in 2017 — has turned red at this stage of the count.

And there could be more pain to come for the Nationals further south in North West Central, where long-serving MP Vince Catania’s sizeable margin has been slashed to little more than 1 per cent in early voting.

7.18pm Michel destined for second term

Remarkable. Despite a spirited campaign from the Nationals, Labor’s Kevin Michel appears set to hold the Pilbara and gain a huge swing in his favour. Votes from Roebourne, Karratha, Port Hedland and Wickham have all strongly favoured the incumbent.

Even Dampier, Nationals candidate Scott Bourne’s hometown, has so far backed in Mr Michel.

With 2880 votes counted the Labor incumbent has more than 66 per cent of the vote, with a swing of 14.4 per cent in his favour.

7.02pm First Hedland votes for Michel

The first 600-odd votes from Port Hedland have backed Kevin Michel, strongly indicating the incumbent could be returned to office for a second term.

Of the 635 votes, 338 backed Mr Michel. He now holds a 15 per cent margin with a swing of 13 per cent in his favour.

6.52pm Karratha votes back Michel

The first big batch of votes has come in and they have backed incumbent Kevin Michel. The Labor MP has 451 primary votes, ahead of National Scott Bourne’s 137.

The Nats must hold their votes in Karratha if they are to have any chance of winning.

6.45pm Two leaders back in

WA Nationals leader Mia Davies and WA Premier Mark McGowan have both been returned to office.

With just one per cent of the Rockingham vote counted, it is clear the Premier has the votes required to retain his seat, possibly with a primary vote above 90 per cent.

Ms Davies’ seat was the first called for the night. With 11 per cent counted the Nats leader has had a 7.4 per cent swing against her, but looks set to win comfortable.

6:35pm First votes back Michel

The first votes — a very small amount — have come in and they make happy reading for incumbent Labor MP Kevin Michel.

Some 152 votes from the small but heavily-Labor leaning Roebourne poll have coming in, with 116 backing Mr Michel.

Nearly 12,500 people are enrolled to vote in the Pilbara.

6pm In the nick of time

It has been a marathon day for Pilbara Labor incumbent Kevin Michel, who left it to the last minute to cast his vote in Karratha.

Mr Michel has been in Port Hedland for much of the day but returned to Karratha to vote and is now taking a quick breather before heading to his election night function.

“It's been fantastic actually to travel around the electorate, I went to every booth in Port Hedland and every booth in Karratha, Dampier, Wickham and Roebourne,” he said.

Pilbara MLA Kevin Michel casting his vote
Camera IconPilbara MLA Kevin Michel casting his vote

“Everyone's really out there voting and wanting to make a choice, and wanting to make a difference and make sure that we are safe and strong. I have heard that from a lot of people.

“I feel good because you're having real positive results coming up from people saying you've done a great job, you know, keep up the good work and get more for us, you know, so that's good.”

Mr Michel said he was confident of holding his seat in the face of a strong campaign from the Nationals.

Depending on how strong the McGowan effect is in the Pilbara, Mr Michel could be in for a repeat of 2017 where a clear winner did not emerge for two days.

5.50pm Voting wraps up, count set to begin

Polls are about to close and this is where the fun begins. In 2017 it became evident early on it would be a two-horse race between incumbent Brendon Grylls and current Pilbara MP Kevin Michel.

Will we see a repeat again? The Nationals have campaigned heavily in Port Hedland, a traditional Labor voter base, and Scott Bourne broke with the norm to cast his ballot there today.

Mr Michel was in Hedland this morning too and will be hoping the red heartland pays dividends for Labor again today. Karratha is the biggest voter base in the Pilbara seat and has in recent elections favoured the Nationals.

3:05pm McGinn to hit the McTins

You can take the boy out of the Pilbara, but Kyle McGinn is proof you can’t take the Pilbara out of the boy.

Speaking to the Kalgoorlie Miner just now, the ex-Karratha resident turned Labor Mining and Pastoral MP says he will be getting on the beers once polls close tonight.

“I’m going to have a sore head tomorrow, and I’m going to give you that straight,” he said.

1:55pm Baler IS Labor’s stronghold

We have run a quick analysis of previous election results and it would seem WA Nationals candidate Scott Bourne’s “Baler PS Labor stronghold” comment is true.

In 2017 38 per cent of the vote went to Labor, with 23 per cent going to the Nats.

In 2013, at the height of the Brendon Grylls-led Royalties for Region train, Labor still out-polled the Nats in Baler by three per cent. Baler was one of just two major booths to side with Labor that year.

Going back further, in 2008 when the seat was formed Tom Stephens garnered 53 per cent of the vote for Labor, ahead of the Libs with 12 per cent.

In 2005 Port Hedland was combined in with the Kimberley seat. Mr Stephens gained 46 per cent of the Baler vote that year, ahead of the Libs on 29 per cent.

1:30pm Bourne ‘confident’ of victory

After a morning spent campaigning in Port Hedland, WA Nationals candidate Scott Bourne has just cast his vote at the “Labor stronghold” of Baler Primary School.

Mr Bourne said the mood had been happy though noted the lack of democracy sausage in town.

“Everyone is having a good time, they are happy,” he said.

WA Nationals Pilbara candidate Scott Bourne voting at Baler Primary School.
Camera IconWA Nationals Pilbara candidate Scott Bourne voting at Baler Primary School. Credit: Jackson Worthington

“They are missing their democracy sausage though so if you are a local footy club or basketball club make sure you come down next time and cook a few sausages for us.

“This is the Baler, the Labor stronghold, and I think we will get a few Nationals through today.”

In 2017 Baler PS was the biggest voting centre in Port Hedland, and the Labor vote outstripped the Nationals but some 200 votes, from a total of 1,300.

11:35am Pilbara candidates trading places

Liberal candidate and Port Hedland resident Camilo Blanco has spent the morning campaigning in Karratha, while Karratha resident Kevin Michel (Labor), and Dampier boy Scott Bourne (Nationals) have both been up in Hedland.

10:40am Doggo mad at democracy snag snub

Our Port Hedland reporter Danielle Raffaele has a scoop on the most Pilbara dog ever — a dingo-staffy-chihauhau cross — who is unhappy about the lack of democracy sausage today. The tides will continue to rise for another hour so expect voters to start to flood in once they return from fishing about 2pm.

10:15am Where are the democracy sausages?

In what will clearly become the first issue for our new local member to tackle, democracy sausages appear to be in short supply in Port Hedland this morning. No such shortage in Karratha though — two-year-old Olive was photographed enjoying her first ever taste of Australian election cuisine.

9:30am Yeah, everyone is out fishing

It has been a quiet morning at polling booths in Karratha, possibly due to the perfect midday high tide. Fish in the morning, vote in the arvo?

8:40am Michel hits the campaign trail

As Labor MP Kevin Michel’s shirt shows, it is a humid morning in Port Hedland. He is out and about early spruiking team McGowan’s plan for capped regional airfares.


Margin: Labor 2.2 per cent

Incumbent: Kevin Michel

Challenger: Camilo Blanco (Liberal) and Scott Bourne (Nationals)

State of play: In 2017, Michel benefited from a $2 million mining industry campaign targeting then Nationals leader Brendan Grylls’ iron ore tax. This time round he’ll benefit from a hugely popular Premier.


Margin: Nationals 10.1 per cent

Incumbent: Vince Catania

Challenger: Cherie Sibosado (Labor) and Alys McKeough (Liberal)

State of play: Despite its double-digit margin, McGowan has made numerous trips to North West Central during the election campaign. The Premier would love to unseat Catania, who defected to the Nationals from Labor in 2009.

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