With the polls now open, and only hours until the result of this hotly contested by-election campaign is known – both Prime Minister, the Hon Scott Morrison MP and Opposition Leader, the Hon Anthony Albanese MP will be looking to come out on top with a new member of caucus from tonight’s result in Eden-Monaro.
In a serious attempt to pick up the seat from Labor, the Morrison Government has made a plethora of announcements to win over the electorate. Last week, the Prime Minister, joined by the Federal Deputy Leader of the Nationals, the Hon David Littleproud MP and both the Liberal Candidate, Dr Fiona Kotvojs, Nationals Candidate, Mr Trevor Hicks and NSW Member for Bega, the Hon Andrew Constance MP, announced a $86 million grants program for primary industry producers affected by the bushfire crisis. On top of that, the Coalition has committed $150 million to upgrade the Barton Highway – an issue which has been viewed by pundits as what could be a decisive ballot question for voters in Eden-Monaro.
In response, Labor have accused the Coalition of pork-barrelling and have attacked the Morrison Government’s handling of the summer bushfire crisis – which significantly impacted the electorate. The Opposition have also accused the Prime Minister of having a ‘secret plan’ to reform the $70bn JobKeeper wage subsidy program, with a scheduled economic update expected to bring changes to the program on the 23rd of July. Additionally, Labor has made its own spending commitments to win over voters in the electorate, and like the Coalition, have promised to spending hundreds of millions on Barton Highway upgrades. Labor have also promised to restore the $83.7m “cut” from the ABC – a commitment that has also been made by Nationals Candidate Trevor Hicks and Deputy Premier of NSW, the Hon John Barilaro MP.
MS KRISTY MCBAIN – AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY
Ms McBain was first elected to Bega Valley Council in 2012 as a 29-year-old. She was the sixth of nine councillors elected in 2012 and third elected in 2015, all candidates contesting election as independents. McBain had been a member of Young Labor in her youth but only recently re-joined the Labor Party. Ms McBain was elected Mayor after the 2016 election in a 6-3 vote by her fellow councillors.
Ms McBain came to greater prominence through her role in co-ordinating local response to the south-east bushfires in early 2020. She has resigned as Mayor after being selected as the Labor candidate for Eden-Monaro.
DR FIONA KOTVOJS – LIBERAL PARTY
Dr Fiona Kotvojs started her working career as a high school teacher before she moved on to operate two businesses, one of which specialised in designing, managing, and evaluating Australian foreign aid programs in Asia-Pacific nations.
Dr Kotvojs has also been a Director of Oxfam Australia, served in the local bush fire brigade and as a member of the Australian Army Reserve. Kotvojs was the Liberal candidate for this seat at the 2019 Federal election.
MS CATHY GRIFF – AUSTRALIAN GREENS
Ms Griff has lived in Tanja for over 30 years and has served as a Bega Valley councillor since 2016. She has had a career that has featured research, policy, and advocacy, mainly for the Australia film industry.
Ms Griff has a Diploma of Education, Masters of Arts and has recently been wrestling with a doctorate. She has worked for the Australian Council of Social Services, as a teacher, a journalist and with Australian Volunteers International in Bougainville.
MR TREVOR HICKS – THE NATIONALS
Trevor Hicks has lived in the Eden-Monaro community for a majority of his life, is a Captains Flat local and a small business owner, farmer, and has played Rugby for the Braidwood Redbacks.
Mr Hicks served as a councillor on Palerang Council from 2012 until the amalgamation with Queanbeyan – and was elected Deputy Mayor of the Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council in 2017.
MR MATTHEW STADMILLER – SHOOTERS, FISHERS AND FARMERS
Mr Stadtmiller is no stranger to politics at a local and state level, previously serving as Deputy Mayor of Harden in 2017 when his council was merged with Young and Booroowa to form Hilltops Council. He was elected to the new council at the local government elections in September 2017.
Mr Stadtmiller has stood for NSW Parliament previously, polling 23.3% as the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers candidate at the October 2017 Cootamundra by-election, and 15.7% also in the NSW Seat of Cootamundra at the 2019 NSW State Election.
LIKELY OUTCOME: LABOR VICTORY
Throughout the campaign, Labor candidate Kristy McBain has held a slim but important lead in most of the opinion polls conducted in the electorate – with a poll released yesterday showing Labor with a 1% lead in the primary vote over the Liberal Candidate, and a 2% lead in the Two-Party Preferred vote. If Labor retain the seat, it will likely be portrayed as a vote of confidence in Albanese’s leadership – with rumours already circling regarding a potential leadership challenge in the next 6-12 months.
In the event of a victory, Labor may also portray retaining Eden-Monaro as a vote against the Government’s handling of the 2019-20 Summer Bushfire Season, and cast doubt on Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s ability to retain Government in the next Federal Election. This would be further compounded by the Government’s scheduled release of an updated economic statement on July 23rd, where the Morrison Government is expected to announce changes to JobKeeper and JobSeeker.
The team at Nexus have divided views on the outcome but majority are predicting a slim victory for the ALP this weekend.
IMPACT: COALITION UPSET?
While Labor are widely expected to win tonight, an upset victory is a distinct possibility due to the razor thin margin of the seat, current polling, and Eden-Monaro’s historical status as a bellwether electorate. A victory for the Coalition would also defy 100 years of Australian political history – with no sitting Australian Government having picked up a seat from the opposition in a Federal By-Election in modern political history.
A Coalition victory would have significant consequences for the Labor party, and Albanese in particular – with Labor’s defeat likely to be portrayed as a vote of non-confidence Albanese’s leadership of the party. Such a defeat may also result in a leadership challenge, where up and coming Labor hopefuls, such as Shadow Treasurer Dr Jim Chalmers MP, may attempt to use an upset defeat to expedite leadership ambitions. A Liberal victory would also enable Prime Minister Scott Morrison to further consolidate power – possibly using the victory to embark bring forward the Cabinet reshuffle to reward close allies or pursue ambitious policy reforms with newly found political capital.
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