Eden-Monaro by-election will be won by Labor, ABC elections analyst Antony Green says

| 05.07,20. 03:59 AM |


Eden-Monaro by-election will be won by Labor, ABC elections analyst Antony Green says


Kristy McBain makes an emotional speech to supporters


Labor's Kristy McBain has won the Eden-Monaro by-election, the ABC's chief elections analyst Antony Green says, in a tight contest that will likely see counting continue into next week.

While Labor's primary vote dropped compared to last year's federal election, Green said it would hold the seat after preference flows from a late dump of ballots.

Neither Ms McBain or Liberal opponent Fiona Kotvojs claimed victory on the night, but Green said the candidates did not know the full picture when they addressed supporters about 11:00pm.

"When the two contenders spoke, preference counts for the Queanbeyan pre-poll centres had not reported," he said.

"Once preference counts were reported, things were favourable for Labor."

He also said Labor had performed strongly in postal votes, which would be decisive in the tight contest.

"Labor's current lead of 1.2 per cent shouldn't be wiped out on the votes outstanding," he said.

The by-election was triggered by the resignation of Labor MP Mike Kelly, and the seat covers a large area in southern NSW.

The final result hinged on preference flows from more than 40,000 pre-poll and postal votes that were counted late into the night.

The swings to Labor at polling places on the South Coast, which was ravaged by bushfires last summer, were larger than in other areas.

However, the Liberal vote increased in Queanbeyan, which had been a stronghold for Mr Kelly.

There were more than 43,000 pre-poll votes cast in Eden-Monaro, an increase of 15.5 per cent on last year's federal election.

That meant less than half the residents in the seat would have physically gone to a polling place on Saturday.

Speaking at Labor's official function in Merimbula, federal Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese said the party was in a strong position.

"I would much rather be Kristy McBain than one of her opponents right now," he said, before all the votes had been reported.

Ms McBain became emotional when she spoke about the region's bushfire recovery.

"When the cameras go away and the spotlight fades, my resolve will not," she said.

"Regardless of the outcome of this election I will continue to stand up for these regions that I know and love."

Ms Kotvojs, a South Coast farmer, told supporters at the Royal Hotel in Queanbeyan that the results were encouraging for the Liberal Party.

"We have still got, in our community, a tough couple of years coming ahead," she said in her speech, delivered after 11:00pm.

"Recovering from the fires is going to be tough.

"It is hard and unless you have been through it, I don't think anybody knows how hard it is."

Nationals candidate Trevor Hicks, a Queanbeyan councillor, conceded defeat just before 9:00pm, and thanked Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack and NSW Nationals leader John Barilaro for their support during the campaign.

This week, Mr Barilaro revealed he had preferenced Labor ahead of the Liberals — his party's Coalition partners — in Eden-Monaro at the last election.

For 17 consecutive elections, Eden-Monaro voted with the party who won government.

But since Mr Kelly claimed the seat for Labor while the Coalition won the election in 2016, it has become very marginal.

The vote was the first electoral test for Mr Albanese's popularity, after he took over as federal Labor leader last year.

It was also the first time Prime Minister Scott Morrison's handling of the bushfire crisis and coronavirus pandemic was tested at the ballot box.

Campaigning took a concerning turn when the Australian Federal Police (AFP) began investigating a "disinformation" campaign against Ms McBain.

On Friday, a 32-year-old Sydney man was charged for allegedly sending the spam to voters, that appeared to be from the Catholic Church and linked the Labor candidate, among other things, to the coronavirus pandemic.

abc


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