The Victorian Greens have claimed victory in the inner-Melbourne seat of Brunswick after last weekend’s state election, stealing the electorate from Labor for the first time in history.
In a 2pm update on the Victorian Electoral Commission (VEC) website, Greens candidate Tim Read had gained a 514-vote lead over his Labor opponent Cindy O’Connor.
On Saturday, Dr Read took to Facebook to declare victory, writing “for the first time, Brunswick has gone Green”.
“Since 1904 this seat was held by Labor, so this is historic. A few more postal votes were counted this morning, but too few to alter the result, and now it’s on Wikipedia,” Dr Read said.
Dr Read thanked his campaign supporters and congratulated Labor on its “decisive election victory”, before finishing with a declaration that he will argue for “social justice rather than profit”.
For the first time Brunswick has gone Green. Since 1904 this seat was held by Labor, so this is historic. A few more…
Before running in the November state election, Dr Read worked as a doctor and medical researcher in the public health system, specialising in sexual health and HIV medicine.
At a press conference on Saturday, Mr Read said he believed the election was won on a combination of local issues, such as public transport congestion, and broader policies on tackling climate change.
“It’s a very well-informed electorate, and I think people here do vote outside of their own hip pocket and think about the broader issues,” he said.
“They want a party, they want MPs, who can deal with overcrowding and congestion and are willing to regulate the development that goes on.”
The Greens – who lost the seat of Northcote, which was won by Lidia Thorpe in a by-election – are still in a tight three-candidate race with Labor and the Liberals to hold onto Prahran.
A number of seats remained on a knife’s edge on Friday night according to the ABC’s election computer, including the formerly safe blue-ribbon seats of Liberal frontbenchers John Pesutto in Hawthorn and David Southwick in Caulfield.
At 2pm on Saturday, Mr Pesutto was trailing his Labor opponent John Kennedy by 164 votes, according to the VEC.
If Mr Pesutto retains his seat, he is likely to contest the Victorian Liberal Party’s leadership, which Opposition Leader Matthew Guy quit this week.
His colleague David Southwick was trailing Labor’s Sorina Grasso by 118 votes in the VEC’s 2pm update for the seat of Caulfield.
Liberal MP Heidi Victoria, who was also part of the Coalition’s shadow ministry, was facing defeat in her marginal electorate of Bayswater, where a 2pm update had her 258 votes behind Labor’s Jackson Taylor.
The VEC is expected to publish hourly vote-count updates on its website on Saturday, with the final update due around 6pm.
While the results will present a clearer picture of the frontrunners for those seats still in doubt, results will only be finalised early next week.
In regional Victoria, Mildura independent candidate Ali Cupper continued to hold a 303-vote lead over Nationals incumbent Peter Crisp as of 2pm.
In the north-east electorate of Benambra, independent candidate Jacqui Hawkins is believed to pose a serious risk to Liberal MP Bill Tilley, in a contest where preferences could be crucial.
A breakdown of votes split between Ms Hawkins and Mr Tilley was not yet available on the VEC’s website.
In western Victoria, Liberal MP Louise Staley was still clinging to an 83-vote lead over Labor’s Sarah De Santis in the marginal electorate of Ripon.
Russell Northe – who was elected as a Nationals MP to Morwell in 2014 but ran this time around as an independent – held a strong lead of 1434 votes and was expected to hold the seat.
A spokesperson for Mr Northe told the ABC he would not declare victory in the eastern Victorian seat until the vote counting has been finalised next week.
Liberals urged to unite after election ‘disaster’
As the Victorian Liberal Party waits to learn of its fate in several tight contests, the search is on for a new president for the state branch of the party after Michael Kroger quit the position on Friday night.
Liberal MP Tim Wilson – whose federal electorate of Goldstein overlaps with state divisions where Labor either threatened or defeated the Liberals last week – urged the party to come together and form a “forward-looking, modern Liberal Party”.
“Some of us are very strong, ardent and prepared to stand up and defend the good Liberal tradition … that connects with people on the issues relevant to them,” Mr Wilson said.
“Which means we believe in economic leadership and stewardship, social cohesion … bringing everybody together and environmental stewardship and making sure we give the next generation as good or better environment than we inherited.”
When asked whether he would ever consider defecting to the crossbench like his fellow Victorian MP Julia Banks, Mr Wilson said he believed such a move would break faith with his electorate.
“I was elected as a Liberal … that was the trust I gave to the people of Goldstein when I was elected,” he said.
“I think the only honourable way that I could do that is to resign and contest as an independent at a by-election and that has never crossed my mind.”