Liberals hold in Narracan
Sitting Liberal member Gary Blackwood has been returned in the state seat of Narracan and has vowed he will continue to make a new West Gippsland Hospital a top priority over the next four years.
While suffering the impact of a statewide swing to the Labor Party, Narracan could be the safest Liberal held seat following a major shake-up that saw Saturday’s election described as a blood bath.
Mr Blackwood said there was no doubt the electorate’s changing demographic and backlash against the federal Liberal Party brand contributed to a three per cent swing against him.
And, without the Liberal Party’s commitment to a new West Gippsland Hospital, he admitted the swing would have probably been greater.
“We may have suffered a bigger swing if we hadn’t committed to the new hospital but we clearly understood the needs of the electorate. I know a lot of people supported us on that basis.
“My challenge now is to take it up with Labor. We can’t expect our current hospital, management and staff to keep battling with a massive increase in demand for the next four years without a commitment to a new hospital on a greenfield site,” he said.
Mr Blackwood said he also was very concerned about the future of the CFA and its volunteer base. “I am hopeful that the make-up of the upper house will give us the chance to block any legislation that will impact our CFA volunteers.”
The ALP’s Christine Maxfield was pleased the ALP’s primary vote improved six per cent in Narracan, with the ALP achieving strong swings across the Narracan and Bass electorates.
She said she was humbled by the support she had received and said the swing acknowledged the government’s infrastructure works and future plans particularly with public transport.
“It also acknowledges the job creation projects especially the transition jobs that have contributed to a decrease in the unemployment rate in the Latrobe Valley for the first time in many years.
“Health projects already underway like the emergency beds and new operating theatre at the West Gippsland Hospital as well as the proposed royal commission into mental health have also contributed to why Victoria has chosen to vote Labor last Saturday,” she said.
Mr Blackwood headed into the election with an 11.3 per cent margin. Yesterday’s VEC figures indicate that is now 7.7 per cent.
He said figures showed a 3.6 swing against him, but he expected that could reduce to about three per cent once all votes were counted.
Mr Blackwood attracted 52.47 per cent of the primary vote while Ms Maxfield achieved 35.31 per cent.
The Greens dropped its primary vote by 3.4 per cent from the last election, with candidate William Hornstra attracting 5.58 per cent of the primary vote.
The two independents on the card – Carlo Ierfone of Yarragon and Guss Lambden of Moe – attracted 3.77 and 2.87 per cent respectively.
After preferences, the two party preferred figures showed Mr Blackwood at 57.7 per cent and Ms Maxfield at 42.3 per cent.
Mr Blackwood won 36 of the 40 booths across Narracan, losing three polling centres in Moe and one at Rawson.
However, there were swings against him from one per cent to around 10 per cent at almost all the booths.
Mr Blackwood said there were 10,000 new voters in Narracan and the voting patterns reflected a changing demographic.
“Naturally I am pleased that I’ve got the support of the majority of people in Narracan.
“But, I am shattered that we are now no closer to getting our new hospital. This gives me a really good opportunity to lobby, pester, badger and belt on the minister’s door for the next four years.
Mr Blackwood said he was surprised at the backlash across the state, particularly metropolitan seats. There is such a cloud over the integrity of the Andrew’s government and obviously people were prepared to ignore that.”
He said there was “no doubt” the federal scene had an impact on the state’s Liberal campaign and the “Liberal brand” was not supported.
Greens candidate William Hornstra said he was disappointed the party’s vote dropped in Narracan but felt some of the Greens’ vote was redirected to the ALP.
He said he also didn’t have as high a profile as the 2014 candidate Malcolm McKelvie.
Overall, Mr Horsntra said he learned a lot from the experience and was looking forward to working towards his campaign as Greens candidate for Monash at the federal election.
Mr Ierfone said he learned a lot from standing and met some wonderful people.
While not achieving his aim of 3000 votes, he said he was pleased he was able to provide an alternative for the 1462 people that voted for him.
The Gazette was unable to contact Mr Lambden before deadline yesterday.
Counting is continuing in the upper house Eastern Victoria Region.
It is likely the ALP’s top two candidates Jane Garrett and Harriet Shing will be elected along with the Liberals’ Edward O’Donohue and The Nationals’ Melina Bath.
The fifth candidate to be elected is still unclear at this stage.
Rain didn’t dampen the spirits of candidates in the Narracan electorate on Saturday. Sheltering from the weather as they mixed with voters at the Warragul Community Pre-school voting booth are (from left) William Hornstra (Greens), Christine Maxfield (ALP) and Gary Blackwood (Liberal).
Handing out how to vote cards to voters at the Warragul Community Pre-school polling booth on Saturday are (from left) Dom Bromilow (Greens), David Watts (Liberal), Rem Yusuf (ALP) and Peter Juratowitch (independent Carlo Ierfone).