Commitment vow as election dust settles
Winning candidates from the opposite side of Victorian politics have vowed to strongly represent the Wimmera after Labor’s big win in Saturday’s state election.
Nationals Member for Lowan Emma Kealy and Labor Western Victoria upper-house seat winner Jaala Pulford both declared a strong desire to work with and for the region for the next four years.
Ms Kealy, who bucked a statewide vote against the Coalition, thanked the people of Lowan for putting their faith in her to ‘fight for a better deal for our local people’.
“We might live in communities furthest from Melbourne but we also have the greatest opportunities to grow and thrive,” she said.
“It is incredibly humbling to have increased my first-preference vote from 54 percent four years ago to 68 percent against a state-wide swing. But margins don’t matter and I will never take the trust and faith of the people of Lowan for granted.”
Ms Pulford, likely to find out whether she has retained regional development or agriculture ministry portfolios later this week, said she was looking forward to representing the Wimmera community as part of her region.
“Wimmera and Lowan generally have been within my area for 12 years. I have affection for the people of the Wimmera and have loved working on many projects with them,” she said.
“It is an area I’m proud to know closely and proud to represent.”
Victorian Electoral Commission was still finalising votes for the five Western Victoria upper-house seats yesterday, but it was clear early that Ms Pulford had retained her seat and the Nationals’ Jo Armstrong from Ararat district had missed out.
The swinging lower-house seat of Ripon, primarily contested by sitting Liberal Louise Staley and Labor candidate Sarah De Santis, was still up for grabs late yesterday and was likely to go to the wire.
Both Ms Kealy and Ms Pulford said winning their respective seats in parliament was humbling, with Ms Kealy defiantly declaring she would ‘continue to fight for a better deal for Lowan’.
“I will hold the Andrews Labor government to account for the funding priorities and projects that the people of Lowan emphatically voted for,” she said.
“This includes returning passenger rail to the region, ensuring our fair share of funding to fix country roads and save country lives, finishing the Warracknabeal Education Precinct and many other fantastic projects that would ensure our region is not just surviving, but thriving.
“Labor must not forget country Victoria exists. It has a responsibility to govern for the whole of the state and not just Melbourne.”
Ms Pulford said she and her Labor colleagues were exited about having a chance to ‘continue with a positive agenda for the state’.
When asked about her position on issues such as decentralisation and regional passenger-rail transport she said the government had and would continue to explore various options.
“Decentralisation means something different to everyone. It is an impossible thing to speak about in general terms. For example, while industry and governments might have a certain view, a community’s view, the view that must be considered, might be much different,” she said.
Ms Pulford said she could not make any specific promises about passenger rail services returning to Horsham.
“But we have upgrades on all existing passenger lines and we’re absolutely committed to building and expanding the network. At the same time we recognise the relationship between passenger rail and regional development,” she said.
Victorians emphatically returned Labor to government with an increased majority in the lower house.
Voting figures yesterday showed –
First preferences: Emma Kealy, The Nationals 23,415, 67.88 percent; Maurice Billi, Australian Labor Party, 6748, 19.56; Barry Shea, independent 2250, 6.52; Richard Lane, Australian Greens 1692, 4.91; Trevor Grenfell, Victorian Socialists, 389, 1.13. Two-candidate preferred vote: Emma Kealy 25,593, 74.20 percent; Maurice Billi, 8899, 25.80.
First preferences: Louise Staley, Liberal 12,221, 39.28; Sarah De Santis, Australian Labor Party 12,141, 39.02; Peter Fava, Shooters, Fishers and Farmers 2004, 6.44; Sandra Gibbs, Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party 1437, 4.62; Serge Simic, Australian Greens 1172, 3.77; Peter Mulcahy, Labour DLP 923, 2.97; Anna Hills, Animal Justice Party 559, 1.8; Jeff Truscott, independent 319, 1.03; Bronwyn Jennings, Victorian Socialists 168, 0.54; Maria Mayer, independent 167, 0.54.
AGAINST THE FLOW: Nationals leader Peter Walsh joined Emma Kealy on the election trail in Horsham. Picture: PAUL CARRACHER