Former MP and Geraldton resident Laurie Graham looks back on State and local government career

Phoebe PinMidwest Times
Former Member for the Agricultural Region Laurie Graham has retired from politics.
Camera IconFormer Member for the Agricultural Region Laurie Graham has retired from politics. Credit: Phoebe Pin/Geraldton Guardian

After decades in local government and four years in State Parliament, Geraldton stalwart Laurie Graham might almost be ready to slow down.

Following more than 35 years at the Midwest Port Authority, Mr Graham ran for the seat of Geraldton in the 1996 State election.

Mr Graham said he ran as a favour to a mate when a candidate could not be found due to the election being called earlier than expected.

He vowed to stay away from politics altogether after he lost, but he was soon elected to the Shire of Greenough council in 1997.

He said the Greenough local government was “fantastic”.

“In Greenough, it was a much more intimate, smaller local government where you are very much more hands on and you were dealing with more day-to-day decisions than you were in Geraldton,” he said.

Mr Graham was later elected as a City of Greater Geraldton councillor, where he served three years of a four-year term before putting his name on Labor’s Agricultural Region ticket for the 2017 State election.

The long-time Labor supporter said he was motivated more by his desire to help then-candidate for Geraldton Lara Dalton get elected than any dream of getting into Parliament.

“I had no expectations that I would win ... I hoped that by being on the ticket I would improve Lara Dalton’s chances,” he said.

Laurie Graham MLC, WA Ports minister Alannah MacTiernan and Labor candiidate for Geraldton Lara Dalton at Geraldton Port.
Camera IconLaurie Graham MLC, WA Ports minister Alannah MacTiernan and Labor candiidate for Geraldton Lara Dalton at Geraldton Port. Credit: Geoff Vivian/The Geraldton Guardian

But it was Mr Graham who won a seat in the Upper House come election night, with the then-new member for the Agricultural Region sharing in Ms Dalton’s disappointment.

“I thought she would easily get elected before I could get elected,” he said.

He set up an office in Northam, but Mr Graham said most of his days were spent travelling the expansive region.

“The reality is, when you are in the Agricultural Region it is all about travel ... about two-thirds of the nights of the year you don’t sleep in your own bed,” he said.

It’s a very long drag just sitting there listening to people filibustering.

While he enjoyed getting to know the people in his electorate, Mr Graham said he was less impressed with the operation of the Upper House.

“I was a bit disappointed in the parliamentary process I suppose because in the Upper House particularly, there are a lot of hours spent that are unproductive,” he said.

“It’s a very long drag just sitting there listening to people filibustering.”

Even so, Mr Graham said there were few occasions where MPs were required to pull overtime to pass legislation.

“That was with the COVID Bills and also the voluntary assisted dying, which caused a bit of controversy,” he said.

Mr Graham’s support of the latter Bill surprised some due to his religious convictions, but the retired MP said he voted to represent the interests of his electorate.

“You are elected by people to do a job,” he said.

Mr Graham could see there would be competition for Labor ticket space for this year’s State election, so he said he decided to make it easier for newcomers by opting for retirement.

Swearing-in of Members of the Legislative Council, Western Australia, for the fortieth parliament. Parliament House. Hon Laurie Graham
Camera IconSwearing-in of Members of the Legislative Council, Western Australia, for the fortieth parliament. Parliament House. Hon Laurie Graham Credit: Simon Santi The West Australian

“It wasn’t anything to do with the City of Geraldton or the Agricultural Region, it just makes it easier elsewhere if there was one less person like myself running,” he said.

“And I am 75, so I had to think about my age, too.”

Mr Graham will retain the position of Joblink Midwest chairman he has held for about 20 years, and said he would not rule out getting involved with politics on a local level in the future.

“If an opportunity comes up I am not going to be silly,” he said.

“I would be interested in doing something if I was tapped on the shoulder, but I am not going looking for it.”

In the meantime, Mr Graham will keep himself busy in the garden.

“I had a bit of fun growing some vegies in the backyard after I left the Port Authority and up until the time I went into Parliament,” he said.

“I put the crop in each year when I was in Parliament but it didn’t get the attention it should have got, so hopefully it will get that attention now.”

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