THE Nationals have kept their firm grip on the seat of Gippsland South, with a resounding victory to their candidate Danny O’Brien in last Saturday’s by-election.
The by-election followed the resignation of long-time active local member and former Nationals leader Peter Ryan. Gippsland South has been a Nationals stronghold for 33 years and it appears that tradition will continue.
Mr O’Brien, who stepped down from his Upper House seat of Eastern Victoria Region to run for the Lower House seat of Gippsland South, garnered 45 per cent of first preference votes.
The closest competition came from Scott Rossetti. Running for the Liberals, Mr Rossetti picked up 26 per cent of first preference votes.
Evidently judging the deeply conservative electorate a lost cause, the ALP did not bother to run a candidate in last Saturday’s by-election.
Australian Greens candidate Andrea Millsom collected around 15 per cent of first preference votes, presumably including some who would have voted Labor given the chance.
The remainder of first preference votes were divided between the four candidates who stood as independents (about three per cent each to Warren Sanders, Viv Pepper and Deb Meester and less than one per cent to Gerard Donohue) and Liberal Democrat Jim McDonald (about one per cent).
The independents and Greens had hoped to make the seat a marginal one, but that was not to be. Only an hour or so after the close of voting on Saturday it was clear that the Nationals would triumph.
Postal votes were being counted on Monday and preferences set to be distributed and tallied on Wednesday. The full result should be known by the end of the week.
Mr O’Brien thanked the people of Gippsland South for their strong support and vowed to get straight down to work once his election victory is confirmed.
“I am humbled by the result at the weekend. Despite a strong challenge from a high-profile Liberal candidate and the loss of Peter Ryan’s personal vote, The Nationals have prevailed comfortably,” he said.
“I think this shows once again that country people, and the people of Gippsland South in particular, do want a country-focussed party to represent their interests.
“My local priorities now will be to pressure the Labor Government for more funding to fix our roads, to deliver the upgrade of the Long Jetty at Port Welshpool and better access to the Toora boat ramp.
“It may be a few weeks before I am sworn into Parliament but I will be in a location near you, listening to the concerns of locals and ensuring their voice is heard.
“I will not win every fight, but I will fight each issue with vigour and determination to ensure Gippsland South gets its fair share.”