Pilbara – WA 2021

ALP 2.3%

Incumbent MP
Kevin Michel, since 2017.

Northern Western Australia. Pilbara covers Port Hedland and Roebourne council areas, and most of the population in the East Pilbara council area.

The major centres are Port Hedland, Dampier and Roebourne.

Pilbara lost its western edge in the Great Sandy Desert. This area contains minimal population and the change made no difference to the margin.

Pilbara existed as a seat continuously from 1894 until 2005. For one term the seat was renamed as Central Kimberley-Pilbara before reverting to its original name in 2008. The seat has been dominated by the ALP for most of the twentieth century.

The ALP held Pilbara continuously from 1939 to 1974. Brian Sodeman won the seat as a Liberal in 1974, and held it until 1983.

In 1983, Pam Buchanan won the seat back for Labor. She moved to a new seat of Ashburton in 1989, and was replaced in Pilbara by Larry Graham.

Graham was re-elected in 1993 and 1996 for the ALP, but was defeated for preselection in 1999 and resigned to serve as an independent. He was re-elected as an independent with over 50% of the primary vote in 2001.

Graham retired in 2005, and the ALP’s Tom Stephens won the seat back.

In 2008, Stephens was re-elected with a smaller margin. Traditionally the conservative option in Pilbara was the Liberal Party, but in 2008 the Nationals ran and outpolled the Liberal Party.

Stephens stepped down in 2013, and Nationals leader Brendon Grylls ran for the seat and was elected with a massive swing. Grylls had previously represented the seats of Merredin and Central Wheatbelt since 2001, before moving north to Pilbara. Grylls stepped down as leader later in 2013, but returned to the position in 2016.

Grylls was defeated in 2017, with the swing to Labor reversing most of his gains from 2013, and stepped down as Nationals leader. He was replaced in Pilbara by Labor’s Kevin Michel.


Pilbara has a long history of being won by Labor, but it’s not close to a safe seat. The Nationals did win this seat thanks to a large swing in 2013 when their party leader ran in the seat, but a lower-profile candidate will likely have more trouble. Current polling should help Labor hold this seat.

2017 result

Kevin Michel Labor 4,38631.0+1.2
Brendon Grylls Nationals 3,86027.3-11.3
Mark Alchin Liberal 2,15815.3-7.8
David ArchibaldOne Nation1,60611.4+11.4
Fiona White-HartigShooters, Fishers & Farmers1,3529.6+9.6
Brent McKenna Greens 5844.1-0.9
Mark DunnFlux1330.9+0.9
Davyd HooperMicro Business650.5+0.5
Informal 6774.6

2017 two-party-preferred result

Kevin Michel Labor 7,39352.3+13.8
Brendon Grylls Nationals 6,74847.7-13.8

Booth breakdown

Booths have been divided into three parts: Karratha, Port Hedland and East Pilbara. This reflects the three council areas in the seat.

Labor won a large 63% majority of the two-candidate-preferred vote in East Pilbara and won more narrowly with 53.7% in Port Hedland. The Nationals won 52.3% in Karratha.

The Liberal Party came third, with a vote ranging from 11.8% in Karratha to almost 30% in East Pilbara.

One Nation came fourth, with a vote ranging from 10.5% in Karratha to 13.2% in East Pilbara.

Voter groupLIB prim %ON prim %ALP 2CP %Total votes% of votes
Port Hedland15.211.053.72,69419.0
East Pilbara29.913.262.91,1278.0
Other votes18.310.656.32,25415.9

Election results in Pilbara at the 2017 WA state election
Toggle between two-candidate-preferred votes (Labor vs Nationals), Liberal primary votes and One Nation primary votes.


  1. Tend to agree with the assessment that Brendon Grylls was a force in WA National party politics. He also successfully distanced the Nationals from the Liberals, to avoid the Nationals being seen as the Liberals ‘lap dog’. I can’t see see the Nationals or Liberals winning without a candidate of his caliber running. Factors that it was traditionally a Labor seat, sophomore surge, and the statewide polling should help Labor retain it.

  2. I don’t doubt the figures as they would be from the WA Electoral Commission. But does this seat not seem to have enough voters based on population. Considering that Karratha has 21,000 and Port Hedland has 14,000 people only 14,000 voters seems very small, even considering the fly in fly out nature of the population. It just seems odd that a population is 1/3 permanent residents.

    Btw cannot see this being a non-Labor seat, Grills upset the mining industry and lost his seat.


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