Bye Bye Liberal Stronghold: Wagga Wagga Lost After 61 Years
Premier promises NSW government will work hard ‘to win back the trust that we have clearly lost’.
Shockwaves of the "electoral earthquake" in Wagga Wagga are being felt in Macquarie Street, with the NSW premier acknowledging her government must work harder as the state election draws closer.
Results show the Liberal Party's first-preference vote in Wagga Wagga has halved since the last election in 2015. Its an almost 30 per cent swing against the party -- resulting in the loss of a seat the Liberals held for more than six decades.
The crushing swing is a bad sign for federal and state Coalition politicians who are on the verge of their own electoral tests.
Independent Joe McGirr emerged as the favourite to wrestle the seat from the Liberals for the first time in more than 60 years.
Ms Berejiklian took responsibility for the poor result, but then described the federal leadership coup, combined with the local corruption scandal that sparked the early poll, as "the perfect storm".
"The timing of the by-election, which coincided with other major events, other major political events, could not have been foreseen," Ms Berejiklian told reporters in Sydney on Sunday.
Labor leader Luke Foley criticised Ms Berejiklian for attempting to shift some of the blame to her federal colleagues.
"It's a bit rich to say 'I accept responsibility but it was my federal colleagues fault' in the same breath," Mr Foley told reporters in Wagga.
"For the final count to be between Labor and independent after six decades of entrenched Liberal representation, that's an electoral earthquake here in Wagga and Ms Berejiklian needs to hear the message."
Ms Berejiklian did apologise to voters for the by-election, forced by the resignation of disgraced MP Daryl Maguire amid a corruption inquiry.
"I want the people of Wagga to know that my government will work hard across NSW but especially in that region, to win back the trust that we have clearly lost."
She expects Dr McGirr to take out the seat.
"It's likely that we'll get the highest primary vote, but, of course, not enough to hold the seat. It's the most likely outcome is that Independent Joe McGirr will win the seat," she said.
Dr McGirr said he was still coming to terms with the vote. He also ruled out joining any major party whether he was elected or not.
"I am an independent and I intend to continue as an independent ... even if I didn't get in," he told reporters.
Deputy Liberal leader Josh Frydenberg blamed local factors for the loss, but conceded "what happened in Canberra doesn't help the overall situation."
"But if you're looking for cause and effect, it was local factors," he told ABC TV on Sunday.
The Liberal loss leaves the door ajar for the NSW Nationals to run a candidate in the seat in the state election, with party leader John Barilaro having already confirmed his intention to run if the Liberals lost.
- with AAP
Featured Image: AAP