Riverine Herald

FARRER AND NICHOLLS DECIDE - Federal Election 2019

By Charmayne Allison

Keep up to date with all the news from the Farrer and Nicholls electorates right here.


SUSSAN Ley and the Coalition have stunned Australia and been returned to government.

Ms Ley’s seat of Farrer was considered highly vulnerable on the back of the water debate, which cost the NSW Coalition the rock solid conservative state seat of Murray at the recent state election.

Her big buffer has been cut by a 6.7 per cent swing but independent challenger Kevin Mack looked beaten less than an hour after polls closed.

While it may not be as comfortable as the 2016 election’s luxurious 20.5 per cent margin, it’s a spectacular win when every poll and commentator said Labor would win the election and the only doubt was by how much.

With 60 per cent of votes counted in Farrer, Ms Ley currently sits at 60.7 per cent on a two-party preferred basis, with Mr Mack well adrift on 39.3 per cent.


DAMIAN Drum has joined the rest of the nation in shock over the Coalition’s return to government – even though his own win in the new seat of Nicholls was no surprise.

Returning for a second term, Mr Drum said he expected a “strong effort” in the safe conservative seat – and that’s exactly what he received, with the fate of Nicholls decided in less than an hour.

With more than 80 per cent of votes counted in Nicholls, Mr Drum currently sits at 70 per cent on a two-party preferred basis, with Labor hopeful Bill Lodwick disappearing over the horizon at 30 per cent.

But as comprehensive as it was there was still a 12.6 per cent swing against the Nationals in primary votes, cutting into Mr Drum's spacious 22.5 per cent margin from the 2016 election.

UPDATE: 7.55

Another prediction in.

Early numbers show Liberal stalwart Sussan Ley is almost certain to retain Farrer, with political experts already predicting a win.

With more than 30 per cent of votes counted, Ley is at 49.9 per cent of first preference votes, with Mack trailing at 20.9 per cent.

There's currently an 8.3 per cent swing against the Liberals, but it looks like it won't be enough to tear Farrer from a 70-year Coalition stranglehold.

UPDATE: 7.25pm

Early polling shows the Nationals are almost certain to retain Nicholls, with political experts predicting Damian Drum will be re-elected for a second term.

He currently sits at 69.3 per cent of two-party preferred votes.

With more than 16 per cent of votes counted, the Labor Party's Bill Lodwick is following up at 30.7 per cent.

UPDATE: 7.20pm

With 7 per cent of votes counted in Farrer, Liberal incumbent Sussan Ley is currently in the lead with 60.5 per cent of two-party preferred votes.

Independent Kevin Mack is following at 39.5 per cent.


VOTING has closed, the count begins.

And the Farrer electorate is in focus, tipped to be a tense two-horse race between Liberal stalwart Sussan Ley and Independent Kevin Mack.

The seat has been a conservative stronghold since its inception in 1949.

But a recent wave of discontent over the Liberal Party’s handling of the water crisis has seen Mack, who is backed widely by irrigation farmers, emerge as a serious threat.

And while Ley may currently hold the seat by a comfortable 20.5 per cent margin, her future is now on shaky ground.

Particularly after the March NSW election saw the “safe” Nationals state seat of Murray – which forms part of the Farrer electorate – snapped up by Shooters, Fishers and Farmers’ Helen Dalton.

Across the river in Nicholls, the mood is less nail-biting.

Without a Liberal opponent, it’s likely Nationals incumbent Damian Drum will hold on to the seat, despite its recent redistribution and name-change.

Formerly Murray, the new seat of Nicholls now encompasses Seymour and Broadford.

More to come.


ONLY one hour until voting closes.

If you haven't voted yet, race down to one of the following polling places:

  • Echuca 208 Primary School
  • Echuca East Primary School
  • Echuca College Stadium
  • Moama Public School
  • Bunnaloo Public School
  • Barmah Public Hall
  • Mathoura Shire Hall


Source: Australian Electoral Commission

  • Very safe Liberal - 20.5 per cent
  • 126,590 sq km
  • 115,659 electors
  • Farrer consists of the Shires of Albury, Balranald, Berrigan, Carrathool, Conargo, Corowa, Deniliquin, Greater Hume, Griffith, Hay, Jerilderie, Leeton, Murray, Murrumbidgee, Narrandera, Urana, Wakool and Wentworth.
  • The electorate is the second largest in New South Wales, covering 15.8 per cent of the state.

Created at the 1949 election as part of the expansion of the House of Representatives, Farrer has always been a conservative stronghold.

Although held primarily by the Liberal Party, the Nationals had a stint at the helm from 1984 until 2001.

In the 70 years since its inception, it has only had four members.

First won by Liberal candidate David Fairbairn in 1949 who served until 1975, subsequent MPs were Wal Fife (1975-84) and former National Party Leader and Deputy Prime Minister Tim Fischer (1984-2001). 

Fischer retired from Parliament at the 2001 election, with young Liberal Party candidate Sussan Ley scraping in to win the seat with a majority of just 0.1 per cent over the National Party.

But she had a comfortable 16.4 per cent buffer over her Labor rival and the absence of a National Party challenger since has seen Ley has easily re-elected five times.

While normally considered a safe Liberal seat, independent candidate Kevin Mack has surged in to make a serious bid for the seat at this election.


Candidate Party Primary % 2CP %
Sussan Ley Liberal 57.9 70.5
Christian Kunde Labor 18.1 29.5


Ley, 57, was born in Nigeria to British parents and spent her childhood in the United Arab Emirates before they migrated to Australia.

When she was 19 she enrolled in flight school, securing her commercial pilot's licence at 20.

Throughout the years she worked as an air traffic controller with Melbourne and Sydney airports and aerial stock-mustered in outback NSW and QLD before working as a shed hand and shearers' cook throughout rural Australia.

Later tertiary study led to a Bachelor of Economics, Master of Taxation Law and a Master of Accounting and Ley worked at the Australian Taxation Office in Albury before seeking Liberal preselection for Farrer in 2001.

After a lengthy campaign using a shearing van to travel the electorate, Ley had to wait a nail-biting 10 days to discover whether she had secured the seat, eventually installed by just 206 votes.

Ley has been responsible for a spread of portfolios throughout her 18 years in the seat.

From 2010 to 2013, she was Shadow Minister for Childcare and Early Childhood and Shadow Minister for Employment Participation and was named Assistant Minister for Education when the Abbott government came to office.

In December 2014 she secured the coveted Health portfolio, was named Minister for Sport and, when Malcolm Turnbull became Prime Minister, had Aged Care added as well.

But in early 2017, Ley was forced to resign from the Ministry over an expenses scandal.

This was partially due to her travelling to the Gold Coast to buy a property while on a Brisbane trip she had claimed as ministerial expenses.

She was later re-appointed to the outer Minister by Scott Morrison as Assistant Minister for Regional Development and Territories.


LEY Sussan Liberal
HAMILTON Ross Sustainable Australia
DRABSCH Kieran Labor
MACK Kevin Francis Independent
LANGFIELD Philip Christian Democratic Party
ELLIS Mark Liberal Democrats
MILLS Brian Independent
ROSE Michael Hunter United Australia Party
MOSS Dean The Greens


Source: Australian Electoral Commission

  • Very safe National - 22.5 per cent
  • 14,768 sq km
  • 111,170
  • Nicholls consists of Campaspe Shire Council, Greater Shepparton City Council, Moira Shire Council, part of the Mitchell Shire Council, and part of the Strathbogie Shire Council.

Nicholls is the new name for the Murray electorate.

This year's redistribution has also seen the electorate lose Euroa and Violet Town to Indi, Loddon Shire to Mallee, with the boundary creeping south to gain Seymour and Broadford from McEwen.

This has shrunk the electorate from 19,500 to 14,768 square kilometres, with the National Party's two-party preferred margin slipping from 24.9 per cent to an estimated 22.5 per cent.

The new name honours Sir Douglas Ralph Nicholls (1906-1988), a footballer, activist, pastor, Governor of South Australia and significant Aboriginal rights and welfare activist.

As Murray, the electorate was created at the 1949 election as part of the expansion of the House of Representatives.

It has been held by a series of conservative leaders, beginning with former Country Party Leader Sir John McEwen (1949-71) and former Deputy-Leader Bruce Lloyd (1971-96).

During his tenure, McEwen served as Prime Minister for three weeks at the end of 1967 following the disappearance of Harold Holt.

After Lloyd retired at the 1996 election, pre-selection drama within the National Party saw the party lose to Liberal candidate Sharman Stone.

She held the seat comfortably until retiring in 2016, when the seat became a Coalition battleground, with Nationals candidate Damian Drum and Liberal hopeful Duncan McGauchie going head-to-head.

Election day saw Drum steal the seat from the Liberals with a slim two-candidate preferred buffer of 11 per cent.

But the next best after the Coalition candidates was Labor’s Allan Williams who polled almost 15 per cent.

And with no Liberal rival this year, Drum will be essentially untouchable.


Candidate Party Primary % 2CP %
Damian Drum Nationals 32.7 72.5
Duncan McGauchie Liberal 32.0  


Drum, 58, was born in Shepparton and educated there and in Kilmore.

He is a qualified builder and ran his own shed construction business for several years until 1993.

During this time he launched his AFL career, playing 65 games for Geelong from 1981 to 1990 and working as an assistant coach for the Sydney Swans from 1994 to 1998.

From 1999 to 2001 he became senior coach for the Fremantle Dockers before becoming senior coach of the Bendigo Diggers in 2002.

The same year, he was elected to the Victorian Legislative Council for North Western Province, re-elected for the Northern Victoria Region in 2006, 2010 and 2014.

He resigned in 2016 to contest and win Murray (now Nicholls).


DRUM Damian The Nationals
PARKER Jeremy Independent
BOCK Andrew Independent
HINE Stewart John United Australia Party
LODWICK Bill Australian Labor Party
FREEMAN Nickee The Greens (VIC)
TYRRELL Rikkie-Lee Pauline Hanson's One Nation
HICKS Nigel Independent


WE'RE almost halfway there, with voters continuing to trickle in to local booths.

But it has been a relatively quiet election day so far in Echuca-Moama thanks to a surge in pre-polling numbers this year.

Unsure where to cast your vote?

Check out the list of local booths below.


THE polls are now open, with voters set to decide who will lead Farrer and Nicholls for the next three years.

But you may not need to wait long to cast your vote and grab a democracy sausage.

Australian Electoral Commission stats show pre-polling numbers have boomed since the 2016 election.

The number of Farrer voters who pre-polled in Echuca-Moama has almost doubled from 1238 in 2016 to 2037 this year.

While Nicholls voters who cast their vote at a twin towns pre-poll booth increased from 6692 in the previous election to almost 10,000 this time around.

But if you've decided to wait until election day to have your say, you can vote at the following local booths:

  • Echuca 208 Primary School
  • Echuca East Primary School
  • Echuca College Stadium
  • Moama Public School
  • Bunnaloo Public School
  • Barmah Public Hall
  • Mathoura Shire Hall

The venues will be open from 8am to 6pm.