Liberal candidate Andrew Hastie has won the Canning by-election, retaining the West Australian seat for the Liberal Party after Malcolm Turnbull’s prime ministerial coup helped defuse voter dissatisfaction with the Coalition Government.
But at the end of one of the most dramatic weeks in Australian political history, voters sent a warning to Mr Turnbull, with the ALP recording a swing of almost 7 per cent. Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said the government sacrificed a PM to hold onto the seat.
With 52 of 56 polling places returned, Mr Hastie held 54.95 per cent of the two-party preferred vote to Labor’s Matt Keogh on 45.05 per cent.
On Saturday, Mr Hastie denied the leadership spill had hurt his campaign, although Labor candidate Matt Keogh maintained it had “made people sit up and think ‘what on Earth is going on over there in Canberra?'”
Both Mr Hastie, 32, and Mr Keogh, 33, downplayed the significance of the dramatic spill, saying issues facing Canning residents such as employment, transport infrastructure and tackling the methamphetamine epidemic were the important matters.
Addressing the faithful
In his victory speech to supporters at the Pinjarra Bowling and Recreation Club, Mr Hastie said it was “an honour and a privilege to stand before you as the Member-elect for Canning”.
Federal frontbenchers including Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, Finance Minister Mathias Cormann and Justice Minister Michael Keenan were among those gathered at Pinjarra.
Mr Hastie thanked his family for their support and also paid tribute to Mr Abbott.
“I want to thank and honour the service of Tony Abbott,” he said.
“From day one, he wanted me to succeed.
“I was immensely proud to have him visit and support me and my family on this campaign and I’m grateful for his support and guidance.”
He also thanked Mr Turnbull.
“He’s shown great support for me and my campaign. I thank him for his support and I look forward to working with him to deliver for the people of Canning.”
Congratulations Andrew Hastie & yr Liberal team for well deserved Canning win. Courage, confidence & vision trumped fear. @JulieBishopMP
— Malcolm Turnbull (@TurnbullMalcolm) September 19, 2015
‘Voters unhappy’: Shorten
Mr Shorten said the Liberal Party made the by-election about their own jobs rather than jobs in the electorate and across WA. He said the result was a strong rejection of the federal Coalition’s “cuts and broken promises”.
“It is clear that thousands of Western Australians have voted Labor for the first time,” Mr Shorten said in congratulating the ALP candidate Matt Keogh. Mr Hastie, a former SAS soldier, won preselection after the death of sitting member Don Randall in July.
Mr Randall, 62, who suffered a suspected heart attack while visiting his constituents in Boddington, held the seat for 15 years with a 12 per cent margin in his final term.
The new federal MP, who was unable to cast his own vote because he’s lived in the Canning electorate for less than the required 28 days, vowed to be a thorn in the side of his Canberra colleagues when standing up for Western Australia.
The leadership issue provided a backdrop for candidates on the campaign’s final day.
Although new Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was not present, his deputy Julie Bishop was in attendance. She was targeted in placards which questioned her loyalty.
A Labor placard showing her embracing Mr Abbott, along with the word “loyalty” drew her ire.
The stunt mirrors a similar ploy used by the Coalition before the last election, featuring Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd.
Ms Bishop said Labor was trying to distract voters from local concerns.
“This is not about me,” Ms Bishop, the senior WA Liberal said.
“This by-election is about Andrew Hastie versus the other candidates that have been put forward. And I will back Andrew Hastie over any of them, any time.”
Local issues top of voters’ minds
Mr Keogh and Mr Hastie campaigned hard on local issues including jobs, road infrastructure, employment, telecommunications, crime and ice, and that reportedly resonated with voters.
“I’ll be thinking about more jobs coming in,” voter Helena said, arriving at the Kelmscott polling station.
“We need a police station which should be 24 hours,” another voter George said. “Not part-time police for the area we’ve got here.”
But the Liberal leadership turmoil was foremost on other voters’ minds.
“I’ve listened to them all, I’ve listened to their speeches,” said Carol, “but it’s what’s at the top that really matters.”
Neither Mr Hastie nor Mr Keogh were allowed to vote, having moved into the electorate too late to enrol.
Voting was held at 45 polling booths, in a contest that may give the first clear indication of the impact of Mr Turnbull’s elevation to the prime ministership.
-with ABC, AAP