In today’s NSW by-elections, the regional south coast seat of Bega is shaping up to be the one to watch, with both major party candidates and Labor leader Chris Minns making last-ditch arguments to voters in quiet polling booths.
Following the departure of high-profile former Liberal MP Andrew Constance, the seat is one of four up for grabs today.
“It’s hard to rebuild and provide supply very quickly, so that’s been a challenge.”
Voters in Monaro and the two Sydney districts of Willoughby and Strathfield will also vote today to replace the vacancies created by the former deputy premier, premier, and opposition leader, respectively.
Premier Dominic Perrottet was absent today, allowing Mr Constance to campaign for Liberal candidate Fiona Kotvojs.
“The big thing is that people are exhausted, they’re tired, they’re sick of politics-as-usual and, you know, they’re looking for something different,” Mr Constance said.
The former member, who has been preselected to fight in this year’s federal election for the Gilmore seat, praised the Liberal and Labor candidates for waging a “very constructive campaign.”
Local problems, he added, were at the forefront of voters’ minds, especially the repercussions from the Black Summer bushfires.
“Those issues (plus) housing, naturally. Over 1,000 homes lost in bushfires. During the campaign, Mr Perrottet made two visits to the constituency, delegating announcements such as the conversion of the Eurobodalla hospital to an emergency operations center to other ministers.
“It has not been viewed as a key target for Labor but they are targeting it this time with Andrew Constance going. He’s taking a significant personal vote with him.”
Michael Holland, a Labor candidate and local doctor, had called for the hospital, but Labor has committed an extra $10 million for the emergency center.
“In a number of federal elections recently, if you look at the voting patterns in [the Bega] area, [people] vote Labor, but it’s never done it at the state level,” the ABC’s election analyst Antony Green said.
Analysts foresee a broad anti-government backlash, which is typical of a by-election regardless of whether party is in power.
“One thing I would say is that there does need to be a review into the postal votes, I do believe the electoral commissioner will have to go back and reviews postals,” he said.
“It’s opened up too much fraud, potentially. Too many people have made errors with the way that they’ve signed off on the forms and witnessing the forms.
“It will be an interesting thing at the end of this process. I suspect it will be an issue.” Bega is a secure Liberal seat with a 6.9% margin of victory, yet it is the most marginal of the three Coalition seats up for grabs, making it the most likely to change hands and fall to Labor.
Mr Constance admits that the results would be “close,” and claims that there have been “too many postal votes,” delaying the verdict beyond tonight.