Independent’s day

Robin Coveny, Geoff Allen and Dr Joe McGirr at Tumut High School Saturday morning.

Independent Joe McGirr has retained the seat of Wagga and increased his majority following Saturday’s NSW state election.

With some counting still to go on pre-polls, Dr McGirr has 65.43 per cent of the vote, which represents a swing towards him of about six per cent from his by-election win last September.

More impressively for the Independent, he dramatically increased his primary vote by more than 20 percentage points, collecting just over 45 per cent of first preferences.

The Nationals Mackenna Powell could only slightly improve the Coalition primary vote from the by-election, with her 26.23 per cent a slight increase on what Julia Ham achieved for the Liberals back in September (25.48 per cent).

It was not a good election for the Labor Party, with Dan Hayes’ primary vote dropping by about 8 per cent.

Dr McGirr did particularly well in this region, winning all the local polling places relatively comfortably.

Compared to the by-election, he more than doubled his primary vote at the booths at Adelong, Batlow, Talbingo and Tumut High, while also topping the poll at Tumut Public.

Speaking on election night, Dr McGirr thanked the electorate for returning him to office for the next four years.

A state-wide move away from the major parties was a factor in the result, he said.

“The disaffection with the major parties has continued to be an issue here,” Dr McGirr said.

“Politicians continue talking about themselves. That really irritates people.

“At the end of the day the electorate voted for an independent voice. They want the seat to count, want to be taken seriously. They feel let down by major parties.”

Dr McGirr said there was a perception that the major parties don’t listen.

The groundswell of community volunteers which turned out in a sea of orange on Saturday was proof that people wanted to be part of the political process, he said.

“We had 150 volunteers and that sort of community support shows that people want to be involved in politics and in how our society works,” Dr McGirr said. “The opportunity through the party structure is just not there.

“Parties have very efficient bureaucratic structures, but to me it doesn’t seem people in the branches have much of a say. And that means the parties are out of touch with the electorate.”

Dr McGirr believes his victory will ensure the major parties, particularly the conservative side of politics, will no longer take the seat of Wagga for granted.

“Having an independent as a member means this seat is in play,” he said. “The conservatives will want to win the seat back, and will work hard for that. It means that now this seat counts.”

He pointed to an upgrade of the Brindabella Road and work on Tumut High School as among the infrastructure projects he’d like to see progressed, alongside a renewable energy project at Lockhart and the continued industrial hub development at Bomen.

Growth, access to services and community safety were issues that cropped up through the campaign throughout a diverse electorate, with different issues.

Dr McGirr said he would work hard to ensure the government kept its promise on projects such as the Tumut Hospital, to which the government has budgeted $51 million.

As to questions surrounding his effectiveness as an independent in the parliament, Dr McGirr said there were some advantages to being outside the major parties.

“An independent can keep both sides of politics accountable and can speak out on issues that affect the electorate, and not get kyboshed on that by whatever the party policy is.

“The ability to listen to people’s concerns as an independent and not have to sell party lines is very important.”