Liberal candidate Andrew Hastie has comfortably won the Canning by-election in Western Australia.
With more than 61 per cent of ballot papers counted late on Saturday night, the former SAS captain had achieved more than 55 per cent of votes on a two-candidate preferred basis.
That represents about a six per cent swing towards Labor.
Liberal MP Don Randall, whose sudden death triggered the by-election, had a near 12 per cent margin. Usually when a sitting MP dies, there’s a swing of about 2.5 per cent away from the incumbent.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said it was a most impressive outcome and emphasised Mr Hastie’s military background, saying he not only fought for his beliefs, he had been prepared to die for them.
“I predict that Andrew Hastie will have a long and successful career,” Ms Bishop said.
In his victory speech, Mr Hastie described himself as “an apprentice to politics” who had taken to heart the big shoes he had to fill in replacing Mr Randall.
In saying he’d stand up for his constituent’s interests in the federal parliament, he drew laughter when he pointed out London was closer to Moscow than Perth was to Canberra.
He dismissed the significance of Monday’s dramatic federal leadership spill to the by-election.
“This campaign was always about the people of Canning and their concerns,” he said.
“It is quite clear the people of Canning don’t care about Canberra politics or tricky games.”
The by-election was initially considered a referendum on Tony Abbott’s leadership but then touted as a measure of Malcolm Turnbull’s appeal as prime minister.
“The truth is, we will never know what the result would have been if there hadn’t been a change,” Finance Minister Mathias Cormann told Sky news.
“The change, by all accounts, has been well received in the community.”
Mr Hastie, a Wangaratta-born father of one who spent much of his youth travelling around his dad’s parish, made several references in his speech to his religious beliefs, accidentally referring to Liberal MP David Johnston as a “patron saint” rather than a senator.
Mr Hastie thanked a long list of people including Mr Abbott and his successor Mr Turnbull, who he said walked around in public speaking to people so energetically that he’d make hard work for his security detail.
In his concession speech, Labor candidate Matt Keogh said it was a great achievement that some voters in the by-election had voted ALP for the first time and there had been some “massive swings” across the electorate.
“I’ve been out there fighting for my local patch in this election campaign,” he said.
“We have fought a noble fight.
“We may have lost the battle of Canning but we did win the first war – we did get rid of Tony Abbott.”
Mr Keogh received strong applause for that comment and also when he said he would continue his political fight into the future.