Labor’s Kristy McBain has officially claimed victory in the Eden-Monaro by-election, saying her party has clinched the marginal seat after preference flows secured her lead.
- A Labor spokesman characterised Eden-Monaro as an “ugly win” for the party
- Ms McBain said her opponent was yet to contact her to concede defeat
- Several polling booths saw major swings for-and-against the major parties
Late last night, ABC’s chief election Antony Green called the by-election result for Labor, but up until now, the Opposition was yet to officially claim victory.
About 80 per cent of the votes in the by-election have been counted, slowed by more than 44,000 pre-poll and postal votes.
A Liberal Party spokesperson told the ABC that Ms Kotvojs was not ready to call the election and noted there were many postal votes still arriving to be counted.
This afternoon, Ms McBain said her lead of more than 1,000 votes over opponent Fiona Kotvojs meant the Liberal Party would need a 63 per cent vote on a two-party preferred basis to win.
The count at the time showed Ms Kotvojs still ahead on first preferences, but falling just short on a two-party preferred basis at 49.1 per cent.
She said Ms Kotvojs had not contacted her to concede defeat.
“On all metrics, it looks like the Labor Party will secure the seat again,” Ms McBain said.
The former Bega mayor thanked her opponent for running and pledged to avoid hyper-partisanship and work with leaders across the community.
The election, Ms McBain said, was fought on local issues including bushfire relief, the economic impacts of COVID-19 and drought.
“I know there is a lot of work to do right across this electorate,” she said.
“It’s a great privilege, one that I’m very chuffed that voters got behind me on.”
Last night, neither candidate were willing to claim a win or concede defeat.
An ‘ugly’ win for Labor
This morning, Labor’s Agriculture spokesman Joel Fitzgibbon said a win in Eden-Monaro would be an imperfect victory.
The party’s primary vote fell by more than 2 per cent on current counts, compared to the 2019 Federal Election.
“It is a bit of an ugly win for us, I concede, but it is a win just the same,” Mr Fitzgibbon said.
“We do need to lift our primary vote.
“We’ll have [Ms McBain] again next time and she’ll have the opportunity now to consolidate herself in that electorate, and I have no doubt she’ll lift that primary vote next time around.”
The by-election also put Anthony Albanese’s impact as federal Labor leader into the spotlight.
It was his first electoral test since taking over as Opposition Leader after last year’s federal election, where Labor’s primary vote dropped to about 36 per cent.
Mr Albanese congratulated the Labor candidate on her claim to victory and said she would be a fine successor to Labor MP Mike Kelly, who retired from the seat citing health concerns.
“In Kristy McBain, we had an extraordinary advocate for the people of Eden-Monaro,” he said.
“For all those people who voted for Kristy McBain, she will make them proud. For those who didn’t, when they see her in operation, they will think about and consider giving her a vote at the general election.”
He dismissed concerns his party’s primary vote had gone backwards in the electorate since the 2019 Federal Election.
“There were 14 candidates in this election, when you have more candidates you have a drop,” he said.
“I presume the people who vote for [the HEMP Party] didn’t think it would win the election but wanted to send a message on those issues and indicated a preference after that.”
By-election saw large swings
Ms McBain enjoyed a swing towards her in booths on the South Coast, an area that was badly affected by bushfires last summer.
One exception, however, was the polling booth in the fire-ravaged town of Cobargo which was narrowly won by Labor, but with a 6.75 per cent swing towards the Liberal overall.
The New Year’s Eve bushfire ravaged the small town and resulted in the death of a local father and son who died protecting their farm.
It was also where Prime Minister Scott Morrison was heckled by locals and refused to shake his hand.
Resident Stevie Smith, whose parents lost everything in nearby Wondella, said Ms McBain’s win was “fantastic” and that she had done “an amazing job” with recovery efforts in Bega.
The by-election had also put the national spotlight onto the plight of the NSW South Coast communities still rebuilding after the Black Summer.
“When COVID hit that was one of the first things I said to Mum and Dad is … ‘I think it could easily take away from the fact that up and down the east people are suffering’,” Ms Smith said.
“It’s nice that this has brought the focus back, six months down the track there’s still a long way to go.”
Another local, Mahesha Philpot, was also pleased Ms McBain had won but said time would tell how much the community would benefit from a Labor victory.
“She’s been really good at the mayoral thing in Bega [so] she’ll be good for the rest of us,” he said.