What just happened in Eden-Monaro?

Genevieve Jacobs7 July 2020
Anthony Albanese posing with Kristy McBain.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese with Kristy McBain, who has claimed the seat of Eden-Monaro following the by-election on 4 July. Photo: Anthony Albanese Twitter.

It was a curious election count watch on Saturday night (4 July) as the ABC’s Antony Green tried to make sense of the results in Eden-Monaro. The Labor vote was down, the Greens vote was down, too, but the ALP’s Kristy McBain was clearly winning by a slight, but steady, margin (and has claimed the seat).

What was happening? And why?

Political pundits have been a bit flummoxed by the results. There were not enough Green votes to be making a difference on that scale so where was the lift coming from? Certainly from the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party, which had been open about its intentions to preference Labor.

But while we’ll wait another fortnight to see the actual numbers – turnout was relatively low at around 85 per cent – it looks likely that quite a number of those preferences have come from cranky National Party voters, and the many independents and minor party candidates.

Some of that might be attributable to the desire for revenge after John Barilaro’s quest to be the first National Party member to represent the seat flamed out spectacularly.

Barilaro has always enjoyed a high personal vote in Queanbeyan. He’s been keen to differentiate himself from what’s often seen as the disappearance of traditional Country Party values as the National Party apparently prioritises mining interests and large-scale water extraction – issues that don’t sit well with many old-school rural voters.

While the Liberals did their best to veil the matter during the campaign, Fiona Kotvojs’s doubts about the reality of anthropogenic climate change won’t have necessarily played well with moderate voters in the electorate who have been through the summer from hell.

It’s been revealed she urged her local Eurobodalla Shire Council to enact a new rural land plan despite the NSW Rural Fire Service repeatedly voicing serious concerns the plan does not “protect life, property and the environment”.

Nearly 80 per cent of Eurobodalla’s land area was hit by bushfires that almost obliterated communities such as Mogo and Rosedale, threatened Moruya for 70 days and burnt into Batemans Bay. Two-party preferred tallies by polling place show that Kotvojs performed strongest in the Monaro, but was outpaced in Batlow and Tumbarumba – regions also hit by bushfires – and did not collect the predicted Queanbeyan and Yass votes.

The Shooters, Fishers and Farmer’s tally has even been attributed to the donkey vote. Matt Stadtmiller had the good fortune to be placed first on the ballot paper, but also campaigned on sending the government a clear message about its fire and drought management.

However, it’s probable that something far more powerful than the donkey vote was at work. Rural and regional people were making up their minds based on who they trusted across party lines, rather than following how-to-vote directives issued from party HQs.

It’s clear Kristy McBain had the trust of her community before the bushfires, although Mike Kelly’s resignation had an obvious impact on ALP primary votes. But it’s just as likely that people who voted for the Nationals or Shooters, Fishers and Farmers first are bitterly disillusioned with Scott Morrison; liked the look of a capable, politically moderate country town mayor; and were not too fussed about political allegiances.

The Nationals ran an intentionally very low-key campaign with Trevor Hicks, whose job seems to have been to wave at people and collect preferences. He was defeated fairly heavily in his home booth at Captains Flat. Speculation is rife that Barilaro is warming up for another shot at the seat come the next federal election.

Ms McBain has a lot of work ahead of her in the next two years if she is to follow in Mike Kelly’s footsteps. She told ABC news breakfast she will work across the political aisle with all constituents.

“It’s not just COVID-19, it’s the impact of bushfires and drought,” she said. “We’ve been hit particularly hard and people are looking for someone who won’t play politics and will put their needs first.”

If she does that, the lesson may well be a blindingly obvious one for power players on all sides. Country people like decent, politically moderate local MPs who understand their concerns. They generally don’t care that much about national politics and they don’t like taking orders about who they vote for.

And if they decide to trust their local member, you won’t get that representative out with dynamite.

What's Your Opinion?

34 Responses to What just happened in Eden-Monaro?

John Boyd John Boyd 6:39 pm 09 Jul 20

‘…They generally don’t care that much about national politics and they don’t like taking orders about who they vote for.’ I see that sort of comment quite often, but do not understand to what ‘taking orders’ refers. As for national politics, what happens in Canberra, or Sydney for that matter, makes a huge difference to local concerns. Think roads, Medicare, mental health services, funding for bush fire management capabilities, hospitals….Voting for the local member is your channel to the government that makes decisions that affect you!

Michael Samson Michael Samson 4:17 am 08 Jul 20

Can her Wagga Wagga constituents vote too?

Mitchell Creary Mitchell Creary 10:12 pm 07 Jul 20

Should voting be compulsory or not ?

Answer yes or no and which major party you usually vote for.

Kevin Archbold Kevin Archbold 8:55 pm 07 Jul 20

14 candidates will steal votes

Fran Brown Fran Brown 8:52 pm 07 Jul 20

Even though we weren’t voting for Mike Kelly, there was an effect on the election because he was trusted and known in mountain and coastal towns alike. Much of his advocacy was a-political. His interest in people was genuine and felt as a welcome reminder that a politician could be interested in how ordinary individuals were getting on. Lots of Liberal and National preferences went to Labor because of these factors. Loyalty to party only carried to first place.

Damian Picone Damian Picone 8:45 pm 07 Jul 20

If you don’t vote you can’t complain.

Paul Lewis Paul Lewis 7:45 pm 07 Jul 20

Scott Guyan don’t complain if things don’t go the way you like.

Susanne Page Susanne Page 6:50 pm 07 Jul 20

Kazz Porter ignorance of the consequences of not voting.Those that didnt vote have NO RIGHT at all to complain.

Kylie Kylie 6:50 pm 07 Jul 20

Kristy had her own voice and was at the forefront or beside Anthony in the media coverage whereas Fiona was kept in the background and had no voice. When she did finally speak there was an obvious minder.
Kristy had our trust, Fiona really did not and the results demonstrate that.

Kazz Porter Kazz Porter 6:45 pm 07 Jul 20

17k people didn't vote, why?

Luke Williamson Luke Williamson 6:38 pm 07 Jul 20

We need to move to first past the post.

Phen Jones Phen Jones 5:18 pm 07 Jul 20

People die for the right to vote all around the world, to not participate is idiocy of the highest order and shows zero understanding of the value of democracy and it's associated freedoms. Perhaps try China and see how that works for you if you don't want to participate in who rules the country?

Scott Guyan Scott Guyan 3:33 pm 07 Jul 20

Voting should not be mandatory I’m proud to be one of the 17000 who didn’t again no worthy candidates

    Sian Morton Sian Morton 3:58 pm 07 Jul 20

    Scott Guyan what qualities are you looking for in a worthy candidate?

    Carol Lankuts Carol Lankuts 6:05 pm 07 Jul 20

    Scott Guyan hope you have no other complaints.

    Meryl Dillon Meryl Dillon 6:05 pm 07 Jul 20

    Don't complain then. You could have nominated.

    Viv Campbell Viv Campbell 6:07 pm 07 Jul 20

    Scott Guyan as long as you attend to have your name marked off and put blank ballot in the box you have met your obligation so in effect you don't have to vote. I value my right to vote but respect others right to lodge blank ballot paper

    Karin I'Anson Karin I'Anson 6:13 pm 07 Jul 20

    Scott Guyan yeh nothing to be proud of

    Scott Guyan Scott Guyan 7:28 pm 07 Jul 20

    Meryl Dillon no worthy candidates

    Meryl Dillon Meryl Dillon 8:10 pm 07 Jul 20

    Scott Guyan that's a cop out.

    Peter Bond Peter Bond 9:07 pm 07 Jul 20

    Scott Guyan every vote matters, your not helping.

    Vote for least damage.

    Break the Lib/Lab coalition.

    Scott Guyan Scott Guyan 9:10 pm 07 Jul 20

    Peter Bond 17000 felt like I did

    I Lost all faith in the voting system when Kevin was ousted the way he was.

    I will never vote again I am prepared to go to prison for my beliefs

    Lily Codina Lily Codina 9:39 pm 07 Jul 20

    Scott Guyan not smart enough to realise voting is a privilege... 🤭

    Scott Guyan Scott Guyan 10:11 pm 07 Jul 20

    Lily Codina not when both candidates are not worthy

    Peter Bond Peter Bond 11:46 pm 07 Jul 20

    Scott Guyan

    I am prepared to stand up and fix it.

Phillip Kennedy Phillip Kennedy 1:43 pm 07 Jul 20

17000 locals didnt vote, what does that say about the current appetite for politics.

    Julie Benson Julie Benson 2:58 pm 07 Jul 20

    Phillip Kennedy It says they can't have an opinion or complain....

    Robyn Kirby Robyn Kirby 5:16 pm 07 Jul 20

    Phillip Kennedy I agree. People are fed up with the major parties, neither of which care about the electors, only themselves.

    Lily Codina Lily Codina 9:41 pm 07 Jul 20

    Phillip Kennedy it’s quite standard for a by election

Grant Webster Grant Webster 12:45 pm 07 Jul 20

Mike Kelly had a huge personal following, so a decline in the vote count was always on the cards. We got the right result.

    Olivier Kapetanakos Olivier Kapetanakos 6:45 pm 07 Jul 20

    Grant Webster ... interested to understand why it’s the right result. Nothing will change.

    Iain Saunders Iain Saunders 7:03 pm 07 Jul 20

    Grant Webster if you don't vote don't complain about the result later.hope you pay your fine on time.mike Kelly was useless and absent most of the time.

    Pamela Bond Pamela Bond 4:40 pm 08 Jul 20

    Grant Webster in his own mind he might ive never met anyone that liked him yet