What just happened in Eden-Monaro?

Genevieve Jacobs 7 July 2020 19
Anthony Albanese posing with Kristy McBain.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese with Kristy McBain, who has claimed the seat of Eden-Monaro following the by-election on 4 July. Photo: Anthony Albanese Twitter.

It was a curious election count watch on Saturday night (4 July) as the ABC’s Antony Green tried to make sense of the results in Eden-Monaro. The Labor vote was down, the Greens vote was down, too, but the ALP’s Kristy McBain was clearly winning by a slight, but steady, margin (and has claimed the seat).

What was happening? And why?

Political pundits have been a bit flummoxed by the results. There were not enough Green votes to be making a difference on that scale so where was the lift coming from? Certainly from the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party, which had been open about its intentions to preference Labor.

But while we’ll wait another fortnight to see the final numbers, it looks likely that quite a number of those preferences have also come from cranky National Party voters, and the many independents and minor party candidates.

Some of that might be attributable to the desire for revenge after John Barilaro’s quest to be the first National Party member to represent the seat flamed out spectacularly.

Barilaro has always enjoyed a high personal vote in Queanbeyan. He’s been keen to differentiate himself from what’s often seen as the disappearance of traditional Country Party values as the Nationals apparently prioritise mining interests and large-scale water extraction – issues that don’t sit well with many old-school rural voters.

While the Liberals did their best to veil the matter during the campaign, Fiona Kotvojs’s doubts about the reality of anthropogenic climate change won’t have necessarily played well with moderate voters in the electorate who have been through the summer from hell.

It’s been revealed she urged her local Eurobodalla Shire Council to enact a new rural land plan despite the NSW Rural Fire Service repeatedly voicing serious concerns the plan does not “protect life, property and the environment”.

Nearly 80 per cent of Eurobodalla’s land area was hit by bushfires that almost obliterated communities such as Mogo and Rosedale, threatened Moruya for 70 days and burnt into Batemans Bay. Two-party preferred tallies by polling place show that Kotvojs performed strongest in the Monaro, but was outpaced in Batlow and Tumbarumba – communities also hit by bushfires – and did not collect the volume of predicted Queanbeyan and Yass votes.

The Shooters, Fishers and Farmer’s tally has even been attributed to the donkey vote. Matt Stadtmiller had the good fortune to be placed first on the ballot paper, but also campaigned on sending the government a clear message about its fire and drought management.

However, it’s probable that something far more powerful than the donkey vote was at work. Rural and regional people were making up their minds based on who they trusted across party lines, rather than following how-to-vote directives issued from party HQs.

It’s clear Kristy McBain had the trust of her community before the bushfires, although Mike Kelly’s resignation had an obvious impact on ALP primary votes. But it’s just as likely that many people who voted for the Nationals or Shooters, Fishers and Farmers first are bitterly disillusioned with Scott Morrison; liked the look of a capable, politically moderate country town mayor; and were not too fussed about political allegiances.

The Nationals ran a low-key campaign with Trevor Hicks, whose job seems to have been to wave at people and collect preferences. He was defeated fairly heavily in his home booth at Captains Flat. Speculation is rife that Barilaro is warming up for another shot at the seat, come the next federal election.

Ms McBain has a lot of work ahead of her in the next two years if she is to follow in Mike Kelly’s footsteps. She told ABC news breakfast she will work across the political aisle with all constituents.

“It’s not just COVID-19, it’s the impact of bushfires and drought,” she said. “We’ve been hit particularly hard and people are looking for someone who won’t play politics and will put their needs first.”

If she does that, the lesson may well be a blindingly obvious one for power players on all sides. Country people like decent, politically moderate local MPs who understand their concerns. They generally don’t care that much about national politics and they don’t like taking orders about who they vote for.

And if they decide to trust their local member, you won’t get that representative out with dynamite.

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19 Responses to What just happened in Eden-Monaro?
Rob Smith Rob Smith 12:32 am 08 Jul 20

The sooner we get rid of preferenving mi the better it should only br primary votes and first past the post

    Julie Macklin Julie Macklin 1:09 am 08 Jul 20

    Absolutely not only primary votes. That reduces democracy. Take an example. Parties A, B & C have similar leanings, while say party D had quite different leanings. Party D gets 30% of the vote, Party A 25%, Party B 25% and Party C 20%. Obviously the 70% of the electorate wanted a party with the leanings of A, B or C, which were similar parties, but the vote was split. However with only primary votes counted, Party D with only 30% of the vote gets elected, even though 70% of the electorate didn't want them. In a preferential system Parties A, B and C would have got the preferences of each other and one of them would have won, better representing the wishes of 70% of the community.

HiddenDragon HiddenDragon 7:15 pm 07 Jul 20

If the vox pops are anything to go by, plenty of votes were influenced by issues which are handled by local and state government, not the federal government.

That’s common enough in federal electorates (particularly in the absence of polarising national issues), but a reminder that a fair part of the job is about being “passionate”, and “standing up for”, and “fighting for”, and “caring about”, and “leaving no one behind (on)” issues that a backbench MP has no control, and little real influence over – even in government, let alone in opposition. A proportion of people will keep voting for rhetoric without results, but others will eventually want raised expectations to be fulfilled.

Peter Marshall Peter Marshall 11:04 am 07 Jul 20

What's confusing? 14 candidates means the vote is spread out a lot more. It's not rocket science.

Nell Feneck Nell Feneck 10:12 am 07 Jul 20

She didn’t win by votes - she won bc the marijuana party where too stoned to know what they were doing when they gave her the preferences

    Peter Marshall Peter Marshall 11:06 am 07 Jul 20

    The party doesn't give the preferences. If you've ever voted, you would know that.

    Greens voters' preferences and Shooters voters' preferences probably sealed it.

O L O L 9:38 am 07 Jul 20

If labour get in you can forget about federal funding for eden Monaro

Spiral Spiral 9:17 am 07 Jul 20

What just happened is that the Greens sold their souls as they knew Labor was going to stab them in the back but supported them anyway.

The Greens supported Labor who used support from the “Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party” to hold on to power.

Yes, the Greens threw their lot in with a group that according to Wikipedia: “primarily advocates for increased funding and services for rural and regional Australia, protecting the right to farm, enhancing commercial and recreational fishing and relaxing gun control.”

Relaxing Gun Control! I suppose that will make it easier for them to access firearms next time they want to shoot themselves in the foot.

Stephen Matthews Stephen Matthews 9:11 am 07 Jul 20

I think no matter who won both would work hard for their electorate, one of the bad things about politics is that even though most people have a preferred party, a local candidate can be a great member for their electorate and not belong to the party you usually would vote for

Zakzook Chico Zakzook Chico 9:03 am 07 Jul 20

Libs primary votes up while labor is down. What is so confusing?

    Robyn Holder Robyn Holder 12:41 pm 07 Jul 20

    Zakzook Chico while lnp govts consistently rort public funds, decrease wages, take away pensions, lie about everyyhing, nake the rich richer, continue to pollute the country and the world, to name just a few, how can people vote for them? Do they think they will get rich? Country people are the most gullible and believe every lie just like the Trumpers.

    Zakzook Chico Zakzook Chico 12:53 pm 07 Jul 20

    Robyn Holder oh and greens votes are down too 🤣

Elias Hallaj Elias Hallaj 8:46 am 07 Jul 20

Sound conclusion: “Country people like decent, politically moderate local MPs who understand their concerns. They generally don’t care that much about national politics and they don’t like taking orders about who they vote for. And if they decide to trust their local member, you won’t get that representative out with dynamite.” The Liberal lines about a lower ALP primary vote (in a field of FOURTEEN candidates), as well as SFF preferences (when minor party preferences ALWAYS decide outcomes in marginal seats and they forget to mention their own recent preferences from racist parties like PHON) are laughable. The biggest worry for the Libs coming out of this by-election will be that they threw millions of their own dollars at it, and billions of taxpayer dollars at it, and still lost. They also campaigned heavily on their supposedly popular leader (who often kept their candidate in the background) and still lost. Also, the fighting between the Nats and Libs is now on open display again, and we know Aussies don’t like governments that are split and focussed on internal politics.

Ian Wheeler Ian Wheeler 8:08 am 07 Jul 20

Batemans Bay, Mogo and Moruya aren't in Eden Monaro, (this time).

    Kerry Crampton Kerry Crampton 9:15 am 07 Jul 20

    But Bodalla, which is part of the same shire as those towns, is part of Eden Monaro.

    Peter Marshall Peter Marshall 11:08 am 07 Jul 20

    They weren't lat year either, I don't think.

    Dalene George Dalene George 5:03 pm 07 Jul 20

    I think it was a decisive decision to split Batemans Bay Moruya and Mogo out similar to Queensland's lines many years ago . ...

    Tell me how Jerrabomberra is included yet we.. get to be part of Gillmore ? Kiama and Nowra? ...trying to break up the Labor seat

Andrew Higginson Andrew Higginson 7:41 am 07 Jul 20

I think we had two very good (female) candidates and the close end result is a tribute to both of them. I’m not sure about the alleged deciding “issues” identified in the article, rather I think it represents the diverse population and spread of the electorate and the difficulty in representing voters interests. The ALP must still be worried about its continuing inability to attract primary votes and I’m sure they are not overly happy relying on the Shooters preferences. I’m guessing the Greens would also be very worried about the big reduction in their vote given the recent bush fires and their view it’s all about climate change

    Peter Marshall Peter Marshall 11:10 am 07 Jul 20

    This Green isn't worried at all. With 14 candidates, the only reliable measure is the final two-party vote.

    Many of those 14 were left-leaning and environmentalist.

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