SUSSAN Ley and the Coalition have stunned Australia and almost certainly 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.
Meaning Ms Ley, a former Cabinet Minister, could continue to wield considerable clout in Canberra for Farrer constituents.
But she’s not calling it yet.
“I’m nervous for the national results but very pleased for the local ones,” she said.
“I hope the Coalition wins government because the people who voted today for me want Scott Morrison to be their Prime Minister.
“So what this would mean for us if he is Prime Minister … is a much bigger profile for our region, a much stronger emphasis on water for farmers and water for growing food.”
With polling predicting a close two-horse race, Ms Ley said she wouldn’t have been able to call the winner, even this morning.
“We worked very hard and I don’t take a single vote for granted … I’m very pleased with how the results have fallen our way,” she said.
“I’m delighted with the national attention we’ve had and it’s really meant our water issues are being brought to the fore.”
It’s exactly this issue – water – which put Ms Ley’s future as Farrer MP on shaky ground, with frustrated local irrigators claiming she had done little to address the water crisis in her six-term reign of the seat.
And the same issue saw Albury mayor and “water candidate” Kevin Mack surge in popularity, posing a real threat.
“It’s a complex issue. But in the end, people appreciated that one person could not fix water with the stroke of a pen and it does need an effort between the Commonwealth and the state,” Ms Ley said.
“We have had successes together in the electorate and we will have more.”
At the time of writing there were still about 5 million votes to be counted but tonight’s results in Farrer and across the country have been starkly clear.
Labor and its policies of major tax change, spending and approach to a variety of major issues has been rejected.
Ms Ley said she’d just have to wait and see who won government but at this stage would say “I’m really looking forward to going back to work for the people of Farrer, starting tomorrow”.
“Hopefully we will win government and when I know whether it will be a Liberal or a Labor government, I’ll plan accordingly.
“But, whatever happens, I will be a strong local member and I will take the fight for water and for all the other issues that were raised.
“I just take it one step at a time. I don’t take the seat for granted, I don’t look at my margin, I just work hard every day and know that I’ve done my best.”
Kevin Mack was contacted for comment.