NSW Liberals set to lose Wagga Wagga byelection on swing of 29% | Australia news
The NSW Liberal party is almost certain to lose the seat of Wagga Wagga for the first time in almost 60 years as the messy leadership spill in Canberra cost votes in a state byelection.
Early results on Saturday night suggested the Liberals were bracing for defeat in the regional seat with independent candidate Dr Joe McGirr leading as the favourite and Labor tracking second.
There was a projected swing of about 29% against the state’s Coalition government, spelling a historic loss.
Gladys Berejiklian, the state premier, who did not attend the Liberal election function on Saturday night, conceded victory would be difficult.
She will address the media in Sydney on Sunday morning.
Speaking to supporters in his Wagga backyard on Saturday night, McGirr said he was feeling “quietly optimistic” but didn’t expect a result until Sunday.
The doctor and academic ruled out joining the Coalition once in government.
NSW Liberal state director Chris Stone on Saturday told the party function “on current projections it will be very difficult for us to get there”. Liberal candidate Julia Ham told the subdued crowd she would consider running in the state-wide election March.
A troubled campaign bookended by a local corruption scandal and a messy federal leadership coup has eroded their once-safe margin.
Labor candidate Dan Hayes declared the community had “made Wagga marginal again” after arriving at the election night reception to rapturous applause.
Hayes said the local and national scandals had stoked community anger.
The premier and several of senior colleagues acknowledged Malcolm Turnbull’s knifing had deterred some voters in Wagga but federal Senator Jim Molan dismissed those concerns, saying it “wasn’t a factor”.
“People were very disappointed that we were spending time taking about ourselves and to ourselves but it’s something that every now and again that you’ve got to go through,” Senator Molan said. “We don’t go through leadership spill for fun, I can tell you that.
Deputy prime minister Michael McCormack wouldn’t be drawn on whether the federal coalition would be to blame for a Liberal loss saying the government wasn’t intending on losing the seat.