Lib­er­als hold in Nar­ra­can

Warragul & Drouin Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - by Yvette Brand

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.

Pho­to­graph: EMMA BALLINGALL

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).

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