Margin: Nationals 11.5%
Region: Mining and Pastoral
Federal: Durack


Candidates in ballot paper order

Liberal (bottom)

Shooters Fishers and Farmers

Labor (centre)

Nationals (top)


One Nation

Flux the System

Micro Business Party

A Labor seat for most of its history, Pilbara was won by the Nationals for the first time when party leader Brendon Grylls moved to the seat from Central Wheatbelt in 2013, as part of a high-risk but successful strategy to expand the party's reach into the state's mining and pastoral regions. The electorate's main population centres are Karratha and Port Hedland on the coast, and the interior mining town of Newman. It is over 400,000 square kilometres in area, making it a beneficiary of the “large district allowance” that allows for electorates of more than 100,000 square kilometres to have fewer voters – in this case around 21,000 compared with a state average of around 25,000. At the time of the 2011 census, when it was engorged with people and money due to the mining boom (albeit that a great many of the former were fly-in, fly-out workers), Pilbara had the state's third highest median income, the third lowest median age and a remarkable gender imbalance, with 61.9% of residents being male. It also has the state's third highest indigenous population, behind Kimberley and North West Central.

Pilbara has existed as an electorate in one form or another since 1894, and was only held by the Liberals during the period of the Charles Court-Ray O'Connor government from 1974 to 1983. Pam Buchanan then held it for Labor from 1983 until her move to the new seat of Ashburton in 1989, and was succeeded by Larry Graham from 1989 to 2005, first as a Labor member and then as an independent after 2000. Labor recovered the seat on Graham's retirement in 2005, at which point it was renamed Central Kimberley-Pilbara for a term. It was then held for two terms by Tom Stephens, who had served the region in the upper house from 1982 until 2004, when he stepped aside for an unsuccessful run at the federal seat of Kalgoorlie. The Nationals rarely contested the seat before the 2008 election, at which their candidate outpolled the Liberals with 22.9% of the primary vote and came within 3.6% of unseating Stephens after preferences. Labor's buffer was then increased to 7.2% with the redistribution, which added Dampier, Karratha and Roebourne, but their position was weakened by Stephens' retirement at the 2013 election.

Brendon Grylls first came to parliament at a by-election held in November 2001 for the seat of Merredin, later renamed Central Wheatbelt, where he succeeded the party's veteran former leader, Hendy Cowan. He successfully challenged Max Trenorden for the party leadership in June 2005, and led the party to electoral successes in 2008 that compensated for losses incurred by the one-vote one-value redistribution. This was largely down to the appeal of his promised Royalties for Regions program, under which 25% of mining royalties are reserved for regional projects. Grylls secured support for this in government by playing hardball in the negotiations that followed the inconclusive 2008 election result, to the extent of pursuing a power-sharing agreement with Labor.

After further successes for the party at the 2013 election, including his own win in Pilbara, Grylls reliniquished the leadership and moved to the back bench in November 2013, citing fatigue and a wish to spend more time with his family. Warren-Blackwood MP Terry Redman then assumed the party leadership, but Grylls announced he wished to return to the job in August 2016, which he succeeded in doing after an initially reluctant Redman stood aside rather than bring the matter to a vote. Grylls' showpiece policy since has been a proposed increase in a lease rental paid by BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto on iron ore production from 25 cents a tonne to $2, potentially adding over $2 billion a year to government revenue. This has prompted an intensive advertising campaign by the Chamber of Minerals and Energy, which has coincided with a drop in support for the policy from 45.4% to 34.8%, according to polls conducted in September and January by ReachTEL.

Grylls faces opposition at the election from Liberal candidate Mark Alchin, a 33-year-old manager with BHP Billiton; Labor's Kevin Michel, who owns a local air conditional business; and One Nation's David Archibald, a geologist whose contributions to Quadrant have attracted controversy, particularly as they related to the “lazy and ugly” offspring of single mothers. The Chamber of Minerals and Energy circulated a poll in November suggesting Alchin would defeat Grylls with a two-party margin of 5%, with One Nation polling 16%. However, a MediaReach poll circulated by the Nationals in late January told a different story, showing Grylls on 33% and Labor on 23%, with Alchin a distant third on 13%.

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