Labor’s Mike Kelly has retaken Eden-Monaro, unseating Liberal MP Peter Hendy with a swing of 6.43 per cent; a swing of 2.91 per cent was all that was required to make the change.
On Tuesday afternoon it was unclear which party would form government and whether the spell of Eden-Monaro, as the famous bellwether seat, had finally been broken.
On a two candidate preferred basis, and with all but the Pambula booth counted, Dr Kelly had 42,567 votes to Dr Hendy’s 36,966 votes.
The former Eden-Monaro Labor MP said after the redistribution of the electorate he was told he had no chance to win it back.
“But instead of crying into our beers we just owned it,” Dr Kelly said.
“We’ve done all we could to learn and understand the needs of the communities.”
The contest for Eden-Monaro has provoked hand wringing, disappointment and anger from the Liberal Party faithful with many locals privately concerned about Dr Hendy’s performance even before voting started.
President of the Merimbula-Eden branch of the Liberal Party, Jon Gaul said he was very disappointed with the result but congratulated Dr Kelly on his result.
Previous Liberal MP for Eden-Monaro, Gary Nairn was more outspoken.
“Mike Kelly didn’t win this election, Peter Hendy lost it. He worked hard within government on programs such as mobile black spots but he didn’t connect with the people. You’ve got to have that; you’ve got to be constantly out there particularly as a first time member.”
Mr Nairn said that a strong connection with the people of the electorate had been missing over the last couple of years.
Asked why he thought Dr Hendy had been chosen in the first place, Mr Nairn commented: “It’s a good question. In a broader sense the whole political process is being overtaken by people who haven’t done a lot except been in politics.”
Mr Nairn said that it was important for politicians to have experience of other careers.
“This contributes a lot to the way people view politics and the party members need to review this,” he said.
Dr Kelly was previously a colonel in the army and also has a strong local connection.
“With 169 years of family history in the Bega Valley, the area is very dear to my heart. To be honest, I got a bit choked up when I saw the results there, as it meant a great deal to me,” Dr Kelly said.
With votes still to be counted leaving the final result of the federal election unknown, Dr Kelly said a hung parliament was a distinct possibility but if the Coalition formed it would not make his job in Eden-Monaro difficult.
“I had really good relationships with many members of the Coalition when I was in Parliament,” he said.
“Once the election is over, one of my fundamental values is to work together in the interest of the community.”
On Saturday night, Dr Hendy released a statement saying it appeared he did not have enough votes to retain Eden-Monaro.
“For the past three years I’ve been very honoured to represent the people of Eden-Monaro in our Parliament,” he said.
“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 am proud of the campaign my team and I waged; we focused on policy and presented a positive plan, but above all, we retained our integrity.”
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