26 March 2023

South East seats swing to Labor as Minns claims victory in NSW

| Genevieve Jacobs
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election signs

Election corflutes outside the Goulburn High School polling booth. Photo: John Thistleton.

NSW Labor has won a convincing State election victory, aided by significant swings in regional centres along the South Coast and southern inland areas of the State.

In Monaro, centring on Queanbeyan and including Braidwood and Bungendore, former MP and minister Steve Whan looks to have claimed a decisive victory early in the night, upsetting sitting National MP Nichole Overall.

Mr Whan entered the race only weeks before the election after Labor candidate Terry Campese withdrew, citing unbearable media pressure following revelations regarding his friendships and personal life.

Ms Overall held the seat with an 11.6 per cent margin after winning a 2021 by-election against Labor stalwart Bryce Wilson. But Mr Whan, who brings with him not only a reputation for steadiness and commitment to regional issues but also valuable ministerial experience, turned the tide with a predicted swing of almost 15 per cent at close of counting.

After 11 years in the electoral wilderness, Mr Whan’s time in both the lower and upper houses in Macquarie St will be a significant asset for new Labor premier Chris Minns, whose front bench lacks any extensive governing experience.

READ ALSO Steve Whan storms back in Monaro, overturning Nichole Overall in state-wide Labor swing

In neighbouring Goulburn, Liberal Wendy Tuckerman is under intense pressure and could lose her seat to Labor candidate Michael Pilbrow.

If Mr Pilbrow wins, it would be the first time Labor has held the seat since 1965. Both Labor leader Chris Minns and Premier Dominic Perottet visited Goulburn in the final week before polling day.

Ms Tuckerman inherited the seat in 2019 from longterm Liberal member Prue Goward, who had suffered a 20 per cent swing against her in 2015 when former Labor Senator Ursula Stephens contested the seat.

The former Boorowa Shire mayor and first term MP’s slim margin was further eroded when Boorowa and Rye Park were redistributed into the Cootamundra electorate.

She’s been taken to the wire by Mr Pilbrow, a well-known Yass businessman with extensive experience in international development. He has been president of the Yass Business Chamber and previously contested the Federal seat of Hume for Labor.

At close of counting on Saturday night, Mr Pilbrow had garnered a swing of more than five per cent, edging him ahead of Ms Tuckerman. Much will depend on preference flows from Shooters Fishers and Farmers candidate Andrew Wood and Greens candidate Gregory Olsen and on the outcome of postal votes and pre-polling, which took place for the first time in Crookwell.

election signs

Election signs at Moruya. Photo: Karyn Starmer.

Labor incumbent and Moruya obstetrician Dr Michael Holland, who won the seat of Bega in a by-election, will comfortably retain his position with a swing currently sitting at 13.7 per cent. He was elected when Liberal Andrew Constance stepped down following the 2019/20 Black Summer fires.

Much of Bega, encompassing the Bega and Eurobodalla Shires, overlaps with the Federal seat of Gilmore which Mr Constance contested and narrowly lost to Labor in the 2022 Federal election.

In the neighbouring South Coast seat running from Bawley Point to Nowra, Labor’s Liza Butler has demolished the 10 per cent margin held by Liberals. Luke Sikora hoped to inherit Shelley Hancock’s seat but had experienced a 28.1 per cent swing against him by close of counting.

Results were more comfortable on the South West Slopes for incumbent Nationals MP Steph Cooke, one of the few Coalition MPs to experience a swing towards her. Previously held with a margin of 26.6 per cent, Ms Cooke will win the seat of Cootamundra in a canter after harvesting almost 70 per cent of first preference votes.

The former NSW Emergency Services Minister is well regarded for her work ethic and commitment to managing a string of natural disasters across the State over the past three years.

election signs

Voters in Cootamundra have comfortably re-elected Steph Cooke. Photo: Edwina Mason.

Liberal Premier Dominic Perrottet and Labor leader Chris Minns both noted in their speeches that the election had been waged on issues rather than personal attacks, expressing the hope that this could set a new, higher bar for future campaigns.

As counting ended on Saturday night, Labor had wrested at least nine seats from the Liberals with a likely tally of at least 47, enough to govern in majority even before a dozen seats still in the balance are decided. Counting resumes on Monday.

Mr Minns will become the first Labor leader to win government from opposition in NSW for close to 30 years. Labor now controls all State Parliaments on the mainland in addition to the Federal Parliament.

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