Australian Conservatives candidate Colin Taggart was delighted with the result from Saturday’s election.
The former president of the Wagga Liberal Party branch warmly congratulated Dr Joe McGirr on his win. He was also happy to see the Nationals fail.
Mr Taggart has been locked in a bitter war with the Nationals since last September’s by-election, when he accused the junior Coalition partner of treachery for secretly supporting Dr McGirr ahead of the Liberals candidate, Julia Ham.
In the wash-up, the Liberals abandoned the seat to allow the Nationals to contest it, and Mr Taggart resigned from the party to stand as part of Corey Bernardi’s Australian Conservatives team.
He was not surprised, he said, to see the Nationals fail to gain any significant ground in the election on Saturday.
Mackenna Powell could only increase Julia Ham’s primary vote by less than one per cent, and on a two-party preferred basis the Nats have actually gone backward on the by-election result.
“I’m delighted that the Nats failed,” Mr Taggart said. “They’ve run a very expensive, wasteful and gaffe-prone campaign.
“I always said the electorate would reject the Nationals. It’s never been a Nationals seat, and never will be.”
Mr Taggart was happy to see Dr McGirr secure a decisive victory.
“I think he’ll do a fantastic job. He’s really grown into that role and you could see the amount of community support he had on the pre-poll – the whole community was behind him and he had an army of volunteers.”
While there’s been some shift away from the major parties statewide, with the likes of the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party, independents and One Nation all increasing their share of the vote, Mr Taggart said Dr McGirr’s success was purely to do with his performance in his short time as an MP.
“He’s been such a good community representative; he’s got around his constituency and he’s active in the community,” Mr Taggart said.
“The electorate really has got behind him and it’s reflected in the swing towards him.”
Mr Taggart secured 1.64 per cent of the vote and said he had no intention of standing at any future election.
“I’ve really enjoyed it, created a bit of mischief and met a lot of good people, and mostly it’s all been good natured,” he said.
“But I won’t be standing again – I promised my wife we’d get our lives back!”
Shift away from parties
A state-wide trend that saw voters shift away from the major parties towards independents and minor parties played into the election result in Wagga, according to Greens stalwart Ray Goodlass.
There was a swing to Independent Dr Joe McGirr of more than 20 per cent on primary votes, handing him a comfortable victory over Nationals Mackenna Powell.
Mr Goodlass received 2.67 per cent of the vote, slightly less than the 2.92 per cent he got at the by-election six months ago.
However, Labor’s vote plummeted, with Dan Hayes’ falling by more than eight per cent.
“It’s very clear right across the board, people very much went to the independent,” Mr Goodlass said.
“All the parties suffered. The clearest indication of that was the migration of the Labor vote over to Joe.
“That’s the trend, but whether that’s due to dissatisfaction with the parties is difficult to work out.”
Mr Goodlass noted that unlike the parties, independents don’t tend to have any policies.
“Apart from ‘putting Wagga first’, it’s not clear what Joe’s policies are,” Mr Goodlass said. “People are really voting on trust, that somehow the independent will make magic things happen.”
Independent will run again
Independent Matt Quade is already looking ahead to the next election, just days after completing his first campaign.
Mr Quade stood as an independent for the seat of Wagga and finished with 1.33 per cent of the vote.
Mr Quade was happy enough with the result.
“I didn’t throw my hat into the ring until very late,” Mr Quade said.
“It was also difficult to get some of my ideas across to the electorate, given the media’s focus on the major candidates.
“But I thought it was a fantastic result for the electorate, and I congratulate Dr McGirr on his win.
“I was also very happy to see the Labor and Greens vote go down – I think they declined by about 40 per cent.”
Mr Quade said he’d already started thinking about how he will do things different next time.
The priority is to begin much earlier, to ensure voters know what he stands for.
Powell considers another tilt
Understandably, Wagga Wagga Nationals candidate Mackenna Powell has mixed emotions, with Dr Joe McGirr comfortably winning the seat but with the coalition government scoring a strong victory overall.
She is happy with her campaign, which included bringing NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro to Tumut.
“We ran a really great campaign and I was really happy with it,” she said.
“I am glad the Nationals are back in government.”
She believes she knows why Dr McGirr won.
“The people of Wagga were led to believe there would be a hung parliament and that’s why they voted for an independent,” she said.
“Now that he has a full term to deliver what he has said, with the coalition in government, the pressure is on him and I’ll be watching closely.”
She is definitely interested in running again in the future.
“Absolutely,” she said.
Result decided at by-election
Wagga Wagga Labor candidate Dan Hayes believes the battle for the seat had already been won and lost at last September’s by election.
“It was obvious that people had already decided back in September and that this election was just a reaffirmation of that decision,” he said.
“For NSW, it is always hard to generalise, as every seat is different and when you are focusing on your own seat its difficult to get a read on each seat.
“Elections are always a fascinating experience, but I am now back at work today with a council meeting tonight, so life always goes on. I was proud to stand up for better schools, TAFE, and hospitals, and am glad the Liberal/National Government adopted many of Labor’s policies in the final week or two. We now have to make sure our local member and the Government deliver on their promises.
“My focus as a Labor member is helping with the federal election, then I will focus on the 2020 local government elections. As for 2023, that is a long way away.”
SFF did well across NSW
Despite not winning himself, Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Wagga candidate Seb McDonagh is happy to see Dr Joe McGirr triumphant.
“I would have like to won myself but I am very happy Joe won,” he said.
“It will be great to have a representative sitting on the cross bench with significant negotiating power. If it does end up a minority government, Joe will be one of the most powerful men in the state.”
Mr McDonagh was happy with how the SFF performed in the election overall, considering certain circumstances.
“Considering what happened in New Zealand, that the Nationals brought out Tim Fischer and the Liberals brought out John Howard and a Twitter argument went too far on both sides,” he said.
Mr McDonagh said he enjoyed campaigning in the Snowy Valleys Shire.
“I was in the Snowy Valleys Council area every couple of days and they always made me feel welcome,” he said.