WA’s youngest parliamentarian ready to serve after surprise State election victory
Aaron Stonehouse is in limbo at the moment.
The 26-year-old left his job as a call centre manager a fortnight ago, and is in his first period of unemployment since he left high school, and when he speaks about it, it’s clear it’s an odd phase for him.
“There’s never been a period when I’ve been unemployed — I’ve always worked and looked after myself,” Mr Stonehouse said.
“I was filling out a rental application the other day and I didn’t quite know what to put for current employment, I guess technically I’m unemployed, but not for long.”
The Liberal Democrat is waiting for May 22, when he will take his place in the Legislative Council as WA’s youngest MP.
In a surprise victory at the State Election in March, Mr Stonehouse won the fifth spot in the South Metropolitan Region, and he is blunt about what he thought his chances were.
“It was a bit of a long shot to begin with but we were always optimistic,” he said.
“(My first thought after I won was) ‘Oh crap, I’ve got to quit my job’. I was offered a promotion at my job just before the election. A promotion and a bit of a pay rise, with the option of working higher up in the company.
“So my first thought was ‘My boss is going to kill me’. But they were very supportive and understanding.”
Despite his party receiving about one per cent of the primary vote in every other region, Mr Stonehouse secured more than 4 per cent.
The disparity has led to accusations the party received support from voters who mistakenly thought they were voting for the Liberal Party.
Mr Stonehouse denied this was the case: “It’s hard to say — there’s no empirical evidence that that’s the case.”
“People who are looking for a party that represent liberal values aren’t going to be disappointed with the Liberal Democrats.”
The strong primary vote coupled with an elaborate preference swap arrangement saw him overtake sitting members Simon O’Brien and Lynn MacLaren in the count.
But despite the political manoeuvring which got Mr Stonehouse elected, he does not seem a typical politician.
After his election, Mr Stonehouse went to ground.
Media requests, fielded through the office of NSW Senator David Leyonhjelm went unfulfilled and answered with statements that he was busy wrapping up his job at the call centre and could not speak with media.
Instead, journalists were provided with a biography of the young MP which read more like a dating profile.
“A single man, he enjoys kayaking around Warnbro Sound and Shoalwater when time permits, and is a recreational shooter. Aaron enjoys heavy metal and attends gigs in Perth when he can,” the profile read. Google searches mysteriously brought up no evidence of Stonehouse outside of references to his election and a sparse social media page.
Then, a month before he was set to take his seat, Stonehouse appeared, outlining his policies, opinions and back story.
Raised by a single mother, Mr Stonehouse, one of seven boys, spent a lot of his early childhood in Queensland, moving back to Perth in 2000.
After graduating from high school, he worked in a range of retail jobs and joined the Liberal Democrats in 2014, inspired by the election of Leyonhjelm.
“From what I could see, they were the only party that upheld real liberal values, classical liberal values, whereas the Liberal Party no longer does. We’re the only party fighting for smaller government, more freedom,” he said.
“When the party was registered in WA the call went out for candidates and I was more than happy to put my hand up. I saw it as an opportunity to give something back to the Liberal Democrats and to the movement, and to possibly make a difference and further the libertarian cause of lower taxes and more freedom.”
Aaron says there aren’t many successful libertarian politicians he could look up to, but highlights US figures Ron Paul and Rand Paul as well as Leyonhjelm as idols.
Like Leyonhjelm, he isn’t afraid to tell it like it is, poking fun at rival party candidates from the recent campaign.
“I’ve always been mindful of social media and what’s in the public sphere. I’ve always kept a lid on the stuff I do online anyway,” he said.
“I’m not out there liking lady boy pages like some candidates were, I’m not out there posting s... about single mums. I’m clever enough not to do that sort of thing.”
He’s also vowed to stick to his libertarian philosophy, pledging to never support a bill which increases taxes or reduces liberty, and pushing policy positions which would frighten many standard politicians.
On mandatory sentencing: “I’m opposed to mandatory minimums — courts should have the discretion on the sentences they hand down.”
On a harm reduction policy for drugs: “We have always been in favour of decriminalising almost every substance. Our approach at the moment is any substance that can be shown to be less dangerous than alcohol, we want to decriminalise it. So if that’s weed, or MDMA or LSD, we want to decriminalise it.
“We can’t keep using the police as a blunt instrument in the war on drugs — it doesn’t work. Locking people up for a victimless crime is not doing anyone any favours.”
On selling public assets: “Generally I’m in favour of selling off public assets, I know it’s probably not a popular position, but when we’ve got a $40 billion debt, we have to have a serious look at the assets the government currently holds and if those can be sold off to pay off some of that debt.”
On secession: “It would make economic sense for WA to secede. One day perhaps it would be great. Given the GST row some serious debate about secession might get the Federal Government’s attention in how the GST is divvied up.”
On the size of government: “I would like to see the Federal Government wound back to most basic of services — national defence, that’s about it.”
But on top of that he also wants to see liquor licensing reform, retail trading hours reform, changes to stamp duty and land tax, and legalisation of marijuana and AirSoft, a sport like paint ball but with plastic pellets and more realistic guns.
“I’m looking forward to negotiating with the State Government. I will assess each issue on its merit. I have no plan to hold them to ransom,” he said. “But I was elected to do a job. And I will vote in line with my principles and my values.”
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