As political uncertainty hangs over the nation, Eden-Monaro voters have delivered a decisive victory to Labor’s Mike Kelly.
A swing of 6.44 per cent across the electorate gave Dr Kelly 53.53 per cent of the vote and handed him victory over incumbent MP, Liberal Peter Hendy.
But the biggest swings across the electorate came in Tumut, Tumbarumba and Rosewood, in a similar vein to the last time they were in the marginal electorate, back in 2007.
At Tumbarumba, the swing was more than 28 per cent to Labor. At the Tumut pre-poll voting centre, it was almost 25 per cent.
Dr Kelly hopes Eden-Monaro can retain its famous bellwether status and Labor somehow emerges from the current voting haze to form government.
But regardless, he is confident he can make a difference for his electorate.
“I do hope we land in government because the people of Eden-Monaro want the proper roll out of the NBN, they want Gonski funding for our schools and I obviously would like those policies to come to fruition,” he said.
“But you can do a hell-of-a lot as the MP regardless of whether you’re in government if you roll up your sleeves and work with communities.”
Dr Kelly said a range of different factors in various areas of his large electorate played into the end result, including the Liberal state government’s forced amalgamations of local councils.
It was no surprise he recorded one of his strongest results at the Tumbarumba booth, given that community’s anger at its council being merged with Tumut.
The sitting Liberal MP, Peter Hendy, recorded a primary vote of less than 30 per cent at Tumbarumba, while Dr Kelly cornered more than 63 per cent of the 1149 votes on a two-party preferred basis in the mountain town as anti-amalgamation campaigners urged voters to send a message to State premier Mike Baird through the federal election.
“Forced mergers was very important in the final result,” Dr Kelly said. “Not just at Tumbarumba but at places like Bombala as well.
“While I’m not opposed to the idea of amalgamations, it was the process undertaken by the state government that was outrageous.”
Dr Kelly made no apologies for getting involved in what was a state issue, saying that was what his communities demanded.
“People questioned why I was getting involved in a state issue, but the simple reason is because I was asked,” he said.
“I think people were disappointed Peter Hendy did not do more to oppose it. Other Coalition MPs, such as Barnaby Joyce, did so effectively.”
Dr Kelly said the residents of Tumbarumba wanted to send a message to the Coalition.
Labor has promised to fund a plebiscite to give communities the opportunity to vote on the amalgamation proposals, and Dr Kelly promised to lobby on the community’s behalf in Sydney, as one of his first orders of business.
“I’m still hopeful that Mike Baird will see sense and reverse these unwanted mergers,” he said.
Sitting MP Peter Hendy had broken a long-standing contract between MPs and the seat of Eden-Monaro by failing to adequately engage and represent communities in the electorate, according to Dr Kelly.
Speaking to the ABC on election night, Dr Kelly noted Mr Hendy had been labeled “the unicorn”, because “people had heard of him, but he’s never been seen.”
Dr Kelly said he wished Dr Hendy all the best, but the election result was in large part a judgement on the outgoing MP’s performance.
“In a rural and regional seat like Eden-Monaro community-based representation is critical,” Dr Kelly said.
“It’s been a tradition across both parties for many years in Eden-Monaro but Dr Hendy broke that contract with the people.
“This result is a reflection of that.”
He noted Mr Hendy had not turned up to any of the many candidate forums held throughout Eden-Monaro in the lead up to the election.
“It showed contempt for the community but also to the other candidates,” Dr Kelly said.
“He was the one person being paid to attend. Others were trying to do their day jobs and were driving through snow, battering down in storms at Bermagui to get there.”
Mr Hendy has not spoken publicly since election night but did release a statement congratulating Dr Kelly.
“It would appear that we have fallen short of the votes required to retain Eden-Monaro,” Dr Hendy.
“For the past three years I’ve been very honoured to represent the people of Eden-Monaro, in our Parliament.
“I’m very proud to have delivered better infrastructure and services across the electorate, including improved mobile phone coverage, record spending on local roads, and rolling out the National Broadband Network.
“I congratulate Mike Kelly on his apparent success, and hope he can provide the representation in Parliament that Eden-Monaro deserves.
“I am very proud of the campaign my team and I waged: we focused on policy and presented a positive plan, but above all, we retained our honesty and integrity.
Towns that have long been pegged as conservative voters swung to Labor, just as they did in 2007.
Dr Kelly won the booths at Tumut High, Tumut Public School and Tumbarumba, though the Coalition survived a swing to record a victory at Adelong. Talbingo, traditionally a tiny stronghold for Labor, went the way of Dr Kelly, but only just.
At the Tumut High School booth, Dr Kelly won 58.25 per cent of the vote, a swing of more than 17 per cent to Labor. It was a closer affair at Tumut Public School, where Dr Kelly pipped his opponent by just one vote. That nonetheless represented a swing of more than 15 per cent.
Batlow voters also backed Labor, with Dr Kelly recording 56.25 per cent of votes counted.
Adelong voters stuck with the Coalition, where Dr Hendy picked up 55.42 per cent of the 542 votes, thought that was still a swing against the Coalition of 14.76 per cent.
The Tumut pre-poll voting centre also recorded a decisive swing to Labor, no doubt helped by residents of Tumbarumba. That town wasn’t allocated a pre-poll voting centre, meaning many came to Tumut to cast their votes.
Just over 1800 votes were cast at the pre-poll centre and Dr Kelly claimed more than 58 per cent of those.
Tumbarumba was among the strongest booths across the electorate. Labor received 63.27 per cent of the vote, a swing of more than 28 per cent.
Yass, another traditionally conservative town, also swung significantly to Labor.
“Voters don’t like being taken for granted,” Dr Kelly said. “They’re open-minded, they pay attention to the political process and they make their judgement on the candidates.
“I also think they can see I’m not some latte-sipping leftie from Balmain; my family has a farming background and we share many of the same beliefs and ideals.”
The Greens Tamara Ryan performed the strongest outside of the major parties, picking up 7.19 per cent of primary votes.