On his way to victory in last Saturday’s Gippsland South by-election is the Nationals Danny O’Brien, joining Nationals’ supporter Claire Buckley handing out ‘how to vote’ cards in Leongatha.
DANNY O’Brien won Saturday’s election fair and square for the National Party but his “two-candidate preferred vote” of almost 75 per cent totally misrepresents the result in the Gippsland South by-election.
That’s the view of veteran Liberal Party supporter, Trish McCraw of Poowong, who said the result published by the Victorian Electoral Commission over the weekend does the people of Gippsland South a great disservice.
In fact she said it makes the seat look like it’s a total write-off politically.
“The Nationals won the election, no worries about that, but it was a lot closer than it looks,” Mrs McCraw said this week.
“You could tell that from the way people voted at Poowong.”
What Mrs McCraw was referring to was the decision by the Victorian Electoral Commission to nominate that the election was between The Greens and the Nationals, instead if between the Liberals’ Scott Rossetti and the Nationals’ Danny O’Brien.
They distributed the votes to The Greens ahead of the Liberals meaning that the Liberal Party preferences flowed through to Mr O’Brien, inflating his winning margin.
“On the VEC’s two-candidate vote, the Nationals supposedly got 74.62% and The Greens 25.38% but Scott actually got 26.52% of the vote on his own and should have been in second place, in a position to pick up the other preferences,” Mrs McCraw said.
“If they’d have done it properly, it would have been a lot closer.
“It’s no good for the people of this electorate if everyone thinks there’s virtually no contest here,” she said, while praising Mr Rossetti for his campaign.
Danny O’Brien would still have had a comfortable victory, especially after securing The Greens’ preference ahead of The Liberals, but his two-candidate vote might have been closer to 60 per cent than 75 per cent, leaving the electorate looking a lot more competitive than it appears.
In the end it could even mean we miss out on government funding.
The MLA-elect, Mr O’Brien, who spent all of Saturday afternoon handing out ‘how to vote’ cards in Leongatha, nonetheless thanked locals for their support.
“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 and to deliver funding to finish the Korumburra and Leongatha Secondary College upgrades.”
His attention to the Leongatha booth on the day paid off, securing 775 of the 1564 votes cast at the booth on the day.
Mr O’Brien said it might be several weeks before he was sworn in as the new Member for Gippsland South but he planned to continue his visits and meetings around the area without delay.
“I will not win every fight, but I will fight each issue with determination to ensure Gippsland South gets its fair share,” Mr O’Brien concluded.
By successfully moving to the Legislative Assembly from the Upper House, Mr O’Brien has positioned himself as a future leader of the party, something that has already been acknowledged by party heavyweights.
It also paves the way for a new National Party MP to be appointed to the Upper House as a Member for Eastern Victoria.
The day wasn’t without its controversy, especially at the central booth in Leongatha where supporters of Gerard Donohue, a self-styled Australian Constitution defender, spent the day warning voters they risked taking part in an “illegal election”.
Electoral officials moved in at one stage, telling them to stop taking photos of the activities in the booth precinct.
Mr Donohue secured only 207 of the 23,195 votes cast on the day last Saturday, adding to the 115 early or postal votes he received.
He failed to attract any votes at all at 10 locations across the region including Arawata, Mardan and Sandy Point and received single digits votes at 41 booths.
Declaring the election a “fraud on the people of Gippsland South” he even opted not to vote for himself.
“I ran for election to expose this fraud. The election of November 2014 is still in dispute and until it’s decided, they shouldn’t have been running this election.
“By not voting I leave it open to challenge it in the courts,” he said.
The Liberals’ Scott Rossetti plans to run for election again despite not winning on Saturday.
“I think I’ve got something to offer the people of Gippsland and would be able to advocate strongly for what they need if given the opportunity.”
Victorian Greens leader Greg Barber said doubling of the Green vote in the Gippsland South by-election sent a strong message from the ballot box on gas drilling.
“This vote shows people trust the Greens when it comes to protecting their homes and farmlands from gas drilling. It’s an issue that came up constantly in this campaign,” he said.
“Coal seam gas is a massive issue in the NSW state election. Just like in this by-election, the old parties are floundering as they try to develop a position, while the Greens consistent stance against gas drilling will be rewarded on Saturday week.”
Warren Sanders thanked the voters, his family and fellow independent candidate Viv Pepper for helping to boost his vote by sharing the handing out of ‘how to vote’ cards.
“Many people including party members can’t understand why we can’t just pin up every candidates A6 size how to vote card in each booth in the order they are on the voting ticket? This would stop the massive amount of waste and make it fairer for all, especially the smaller independents that can’t man the 46 voting centres or the two weeks at the two early voting centres that took 30% of the votes before voting day.”