June 9, 2022

Bombshell resignation of Nationals MP Vince Catania to spark WA by-election

WA’s already weakened opposition has been dealt another blow, with veteran Nationals MP Vince Catania announcing his resignation from state politics.

Mr Catania is one of just six opposition alliance MPs in WA’s Lower House in which there are 59 seats in total.

His departure will trigger a by-election in the months ahead, leaving open the possibility his seat of North West Central could be lost to Labor – further increasing the party’s huge majority.

Mr Catania narrowly held onto the state’s largest seat at the last election, with his margin slipping from 10.1 per cent to just 1.7.

A side-on head shot of Nationals WA MP Vince Catania speaking at a media conference outside parliament.
Mr Catania held a media conference outside parliament after announcing his political exit.(ABC News: James Carmody)

It meant he won the seat by just 259 votes.

Catania keen to focus on family

The North West Central MP said he was quitting politics because of the toll it was taking on his family — his wife Danielle and his five teenage children.

WA Nationals MP Vince Catania stands smiling and holding Liberal how-to-vote cards.
Mr Catania says it is time for him to put his family first.(ABC News: Eliza Laschon)

“Having spent 17 years of working in the largest electorate in Western Australia to the best of my ability, that means being away from home for half a year and it’s not fair to the family who’s suffered over that period of time,” he told the ABC.

“The kids will all be adults before we know it, so it’s well and truly time for me to put my family first.

“It’ll be a shock to a few people, but the people who know me know how hard it is to constantly be away.

“I think people in the electorate will understand that.”

Man standing in front of Carnarvon's One Mile Jetty
Mr Catania narrowly held onto the state’s largest seat at the last election,(ABC Pilbara: Laura Birch)

Mr Catania acknowledged a by-election would be challenging for the Nationals, but said it would also be a test of the McGowan government, which he said had neglected health care and failed to address crime in the regions.

“it’s going to be a difficult election no doubt, I’m sure the Labor Party will throw everything at the North West (Central) seat,” he said.

“It does cause a bit of pain for the National-Liberal alliance but that’s politics, and I’m sure that everyone’s well seasoned in the opposition, and they will dust off their campaign strategies to try and retain the seat.”

Feelings linger over Labor defection

Mr Catania has served in the WA Parliament for more than 17 years after initially starting his political career as a Labor MLC in the Mining and Pastoral Region.

He handed in his resignation in 2009, defecting to the National Party.

At the time he said he was quitting the Labor Party because he was tired of it ignoring the needs of regional WA.

A tight head and shoulders shot of a young Vince Catania.
Mr Catania, pictured in 2005, starting his political career as a Labor MP.(ABC News)

His decision sparked the ire of then-Labor leader Eric Ripper who did not mince his words when reacting to Mr Catania’s decision.

“He has behaved as an immature and petulant young man, with a short-term solution, an easy ride in politics and hasn’t had the ticker to defend a marginal seat,” Mr Ripper said at the time.

“What he has done is betray the people of the North West, those people voted for a Labor member.”

WA Education Minister Sue Ellery
Sue Ellery says she’s not sorry to hear of Mr Catania’s retirement from politics.(ABC News: James Carmody)

Education Minister Sue Ellery today indicated feelings in the Labor Party about Mr Catania’s desertion still ran deep.

“He has form of leaving parties when it’s the worst time to leave those parties, it’s the second time he’s done this,” she said.

“I’m quite glad that Vince Catania is not going to be a Member of Parliament anymore.”

Failed bid for deputy leadership

In 2019 Mr Catania was behind a failed bid to depose then-deputy Nationals leader Jacqui Boydell.

The challenge was spoiled when party leader Mia Davies individually called Nationals MPs, threatening to quit if the spill motion was moved.

New WA National Party leaders Mia Davies and Jacqui Boydell.
In 2019 Mr Catania tried to depose then deputy Nationals leader Jacqui Boydell (right), but was thwarted by leader Mia Davies (left).(ABC News: Andrew O’Connor)

Since the last state election, he has served as the opposition’s spokesman for tourism, commerce, Aboriginal affairs and government accountability.

His father, Nick Catania, served as the Labor MP for the seat of Balcatta between 1989 and 1996.

Mr Catania said it had been an “honour and a privilege” to serve his electorate, and he had been particularly affected by the many devastating natural disasters including floods, cyclones and bushfires that had occurred during that time.

“These times will stay with me forever,” he said.

He said he had “given my best and worked hard to significantly contribute to the growth and development of the regions”.

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