Labor’s Kristy McBain has officially claimed victory in the Eden-Monaro by-election, saying her party has clinched the marginal seat after preference votes secured her lead.
Late last night, ABC’s chief election Antony Green called the by-election result for Labor, but up until now, the Opposition was yet to officially claim victory.
About 80 per cent of the votes in the by-election have been counted, slowed by more than 44,000 pre-poll and postal votes.
This afternoon, Ms McBain said her lead of more than 1,000 votes over opponent Fiona Kotvojs meant the Liberal Party would need a 63 per cent vote on a two-party preferred basis to win.
The current count showed Ms Kotvojs still ahead on first preferences, but falling just short on a two-party preferred basis at 49.1 per cent.
She said Ms Kotvojs had not contacted her to concede defeat.
“On all metrics, it looks like the Labor Party will secure the seat again,” Ms McBain said.
The former Bega mayor thanked her opponent for running and pledged to avoid hyper-partisanship and work with leaders across the community.
The election, Ms McBain said, was fought on local issues including bushfire relief, the economic impacts of COVID-19 and drought.
“I know there is a lot of work to do right across this electorate,” she said.
“It’s a great privilege, one that I’m very chuffed that voters got behind me on.”
Last night, neither candidate were willing to claim a win or concede defeat.
“When the two contenders spoke, preference counts for the Queanbeyan pre-poll centres had not reported,” Antony Green said.
“Once preference counts were reported, things were favourable for Labor.”
An ‘ugly’ win for Labor
This morning, Labor’s Agriculture spokesman Joel Fitzgibbon said a win in Eden-Monaro would be an imperfect victory.
The party’s primary vote fell by more than 2 per cent on current counts, compared to the 2019 Federal Election.
“It is a bit of an ugly win for us, I concede, but it is a win just the same,” Mr Fitzgibbon said.
“We do need to lift our primary vote.
“We’ll have [Ms McBain] again next time and she’ll have the opportunity now to consolidate herself in that electorate, and I have no doubt she’ll lift that primary vote next time around.”
The by-election also put Mr Albanese’s impact as federal Labor leader into the spotlight.
It was his first electoral test since taking over as Opposition Leader after last year’s federal election, where Labor’s primary vote dropped to about 36 per cent.
Mr Albanese congratulated the Labor candidate on her claim to victory and said she would be a fine successor to Paul Kelly, who retired from the seat citing health concerns.
“In Kristy McBain, we had an extraordinary advocate for the people of Eden-Monaro,” he said.
“For all those people who voted for Kristy McBain, she will make them proud. For those who didn’t, when they see her in operation, they will think about and consider giving her a vote at the general election.”
Environment Minister Sussan Ley told the ABC’s election night broadcast there was “nothing to celebrate for Labor”.
“Unfortunately for Labor, the people putting a one next to the Labor candidate has gone down by nearly 4 per cent, whereas ours has gone up,” she said.
Ms McBain enjoyed a swing towards her in booths on the South Coast, an area that was badly affected by bushfires last summer.
But in Queanbeyan, which had been a stronghold for Mr Kelly, there was a swing to the Liberal Party.
Federal Labor MP Kristina Keneally said Mr Albanese had done a “good job” campaigning in difficult circumstances.
“I come back to the point, this is a regional seat, a seat which is notionally Liberal on the boundaries,” she said.
She said the 36 per cent primary vote in Eden-Monaro was higher than Labor’s national primary vote at the 2019 federal election.