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Riley Stuart and Paige Cockburn

Chris Minns vows to take action to prevent more fish kills, vote counting continues — as it happened

Labor's chances of getting to a majority in NSW's lower house are slipping away, but four seats remain too close to call after Saturday's election.

Today, Premier Chris Minns visited Menindee in the state's far west where a mass fish event occurred just over a week ago.

Look back on the day's events.

Key events

To leave a comment on the blog, please log in or sign up for an ABC account.

Live updates

Let's leave it there today

By Paige Cockburn

Thanks for your company (and fantastic questions) throughout the day.

Today we saw the very tight contest of Kiama firmed up for Gareth Ward which effectively ended Labor's chance of getting a majority government.

This is because although there are still four more seats in doubt, Ryde is the only real possible Labor win.

If they can win there, they will have 46 seats. One shy of majority.

It's been a slow day on the counting front but tomorrow the absent vote counting will get underway and more meaningful figures will be reported.

Bye!

More questions answered

By Riley Stuart

Here we go.

Matthew has asked: 

If labor end up with 45 seats, theoritically could liberal gain government by entering agreement with all the crossbench and the Greens?

Theoretically! But I reckon the Greens voters would have a heart attack. 😵‍💫

jimmy92 has asked: 

Why do postal votes usually flow to the liberal party at every election?

The Liberals run a postal vote campaign, and people who fill out postal votes tend to be older.

Alison has asked:

Maybe two silly questions: In the live results with the swing icon, how come sometimes its a "swing to" and sometimes a "swing from"? and how come usually a swing to ALP shows to the left except to Kiama where the ALP swing is to the right?

This is really one Antony needs to answer and it's his day off! So I asked my colleague Casey Briggs and he knows a bit more about it than me. He says: It’s partly determined by which parties are the final two and if they’re the same as last time. The ‘froms’ are in cases where one of the final two parties is different to 2019. You can’t have a swing to a party that wasn’t in the two-candidate preferred last time.

Colin has said:

The clash between one nation and former treasurer Matt keane was great tv.

I loved it too. 😍

Jim has asked:

On the results summary page, what's the difference between a "Gain" (Wakehurst and Wollondilly show "Independent Gain") and a "Win" (Kiama shows Independent Win)?

Gain means someone has won the seat off a party or MP. Win means a party or MP has held it. In the case of Kiama, even though Gareth Ward did used to be in the Liberal Party, he was sitting as an independent well before the election.

Mr Ross-Gowan has said:

The first preference update by Riley Stuart is not quite true. It focuses on Labor's improvement since it was at rock bottom in 2011. In doing so it misses that combined first preferences vote for the ALP and Coalition has fallen by an average of nearly 2% every election since the 1981 election. In this, it has fallen in 7 out of the last 11 elections. At this point in time, the 2.3% fall for 2023 is greater than the average fall in since 1981. Prior to 2007 even when the ALP was in opposition, its vote was higher than its vote this year. It is no better for the coalition. This year saw the lowest percentage vote for the Nats and 4th lowest for Libs (both since 1981).

My face right now:

In my defence, I did say Labor's vote bottomed out in 2011.

Curious George has asked:

How useful is a non-Labor MP in their constituency? If I want to raise an issue, who should I call?

Call your MP George! They work for YOU.

Tony has said:

Thanks Riley, excellent answers and excellent coverage!

Your cheque is in the mail Tony.

Labor claims victory in Monaro, Nationals yet to concede

By Paige Cockburn

Labor's candidate for the seat of Monaro Steve Whan has claimed victory after a 15 per cent swing in his favour was recorded.

But incumbent Nationals MP Nichole Overall is keeping quiet.

She will be the only member of her party to lose a lower house seat.

The seats we're still waiting on

By Paige Cockburn

Please post the ones in doubt.

- Linda

Thanks for the question, Linda.

There are still four seats in doubt. Labor's only real chance rests with Ryde.

Gareth Ward thanks community for their 'faith and trust'

By Paige Cockburn

Now that Kiama has firmed up for Gareth Ward, he's issued a statement.

He says people "always get it right" during elections and thanked his mum for her support.

"This election victory may have seemed impossible to some. I received no preferences from any party and I was deeply disappointed with the smear campaign by Unions NSW."

Mr Ward is currently in the middle of court proceedings over charges of sexual assault and common assault.

He has pleaded not guilty.

Premier Chris Minns is yet to comment on whether he will suspend Mr Ward from parliament as a result of the charges.

Review of fish kill to look at irrigation practices

By Paige Cockburn

Just going back to Menindee for a moment...

Environment minister Penny Sharpe says the state's chief scientist will likely lead an independent inquiry into the fish kills.

This was one of Labor's election campaign promises.

"We need to look at water management in regional New South Wales across the board," Mr Minns said.

He said the inquiry should look at whether irrigation practices along the river could be altering the ecological system.

"We need to get a deeper understanding of those things before we can cast blame."

Penny Sharpe, Chris Minns, Rose Jackson and Independent MP Roy Butler at the site of the fish kill (ABC)

Antony Green explains why we're not seeing new results

By Riley Stuart

I'm trying not to bother our chief elections analyst Antony Green today, but I did just get this email which is very interesting.

Antony has been replying to my vague emails titled "any ideas", even on a day off.

It was in response to one of your questions.

Benny asked:

When can we expect counts on absentee votes (particularly Terrigal, Ryde and Holsworthy). Any chance they could swing the balance back to the ALP?

Antony Green says:

  • The count has slowed today with only unreported Early Vote Centre and a few Declared Facility votes added to the totals. 
  • At the moment, the NSWEC is undertaking two main tasks, both of which are slow and tedious and won't add to today's count.
  • The first is to check the details on the declaration envelopes for Absent, returned Postal and other forms of declaration vote.
  • All Absent vote envelopes cleared today will be extracted from envelopes and counted tomorrow as part of the first count of declaration votes. Postal votes dealt with today will be counted on Saturday.
  • The other tedious task is the data entry of lower house ballot papers, undertaken as the check count of already reported results. In most states the check count is done by hand, but optional preferential voting makes it possible to undertake data entry. This greatly simplifies the final step in the election, carrying out the distribution of preferences.
  • The Commission first separates out all 1-only votes. These are entered as a single total. All other ballot papers are batched up for data entry.
  • Meaningful new figures will start being reported on Thursday once the Absent vote count gets underway.

Chris Minns speaks in Menindee

By Paige Cockburn

The new Premier has spoken to the media on the banks of the Baaka (Darling ) River.

He's in the state's far west in response to the latest fish kill in Menindee, where millions of dead fish have clogged up the waterways and turned the river into a putrid mess.

He says he wants to see the town of Menindee thriving in the areas of tourism and agriculture.

He has vowed to make policy changes and take action to make sure fish kill events are not a regular occurrence but did not specify what that would involve.

Mass fish kill occurred in the small town in 2018 and 2019 but the event last week was the worst, according to authorities.

Chris Minns said he wants to work out how to stop fish kills from repeatedly occurring (ABC)

"Our job today is to listen and learn and understand the impacts on the community," Mr Minns said.

"We know in many ways it’s [the river system] a marvel of the world but we need to make sure we protect its waterways, particularly when there's an abundance of water."

Ryde update

By Riley Stuart

Labor's candidate in Ryde posted this on social media last night. It's super close there.

Good to see you using the ABC's results page, Lyndal!

More comments about postal/absentee votes

By Riley Stuart

Some for the real die hards.

In an earlier post, I pointed out the NSW Electoral Commission will continue to count postal votes it receives until 6pm Sydney time next Thursday (April 6).

Garry rightly points out: 

Not all postal votes are coming from the local area. Some are posted interstate or overseas, hence the long timeframe.

Good point Garry.

Anne has asked:

The NSW Electoral Commission website says that Distribution of Preferences commences on 10 April, I assume after all postal votes are submitted. Does this mean that tight held electorates (like the Libs currently have in Goulburn) could potentially swing back to Labor?

Not quite. While it's true the final distribution of preferences won't be done until April 10, the NSW EC does what's called a "two-candidate preferred count" well before then. Ahead of the election, they pick the two candidates in each seat most likely to end up with the most votes (in a lot of seats its Labor v Liberal, but in some it's Liberal/National v independent, or Labor v Greens in a couple, etc) after the distribution of preferences. The reason they do this is to give everyone an indication of the final results well before that final count as could you imagine waiting for weeks after polling day and not knowing who was going to be the government? So no, those seats won't swing back. The preferences are already counted before April 10. It's all a bit complicated sorry.

Eddie has asked:

In Lismore we have had thousands of voters leave following the floods. Our voter numbers are significantly down as we wait for the absentee votes to be counted. Although it won’t make much difference to the overall result, we are keen to understand the impact. When will absentee votes be counted given absentee voters would’ve voted on prepoll or on Election Day? Thanks

Absentee votes will start getting counted tomorrow. Fun fact: They don't form part of the NSW EC's "initial count" of first preferences or two-candidate preferred results. They are part of the second "check count".

Why is the count sooo slow?

By Paige Cockburn

So as many of you have lamented in the blog comments over the past few days, it's taking a long time for votes to come through for some seats.

A large reason for this is the record number of postal votes and pre-polls received.

And a large reason for that is the decommissioning of iVote.

The iVote voting system provided eligible voters the opportunity to cast their vote online or over the telephone in state elections since 2011.

But the version of the software used by the commission was phased out ahead of the election and they could not test a new version in time, so decided to scrap it this year.

This meant many more people, in fact over 1 million, turned to postal voting or pre-polling.

Postal votes

By Riley Stuart

In an earlier post I pointed out postal votes the NSW Electoral Commission receives before 6pm Sydney time on Thursday, April 6 will be counted. That's almost two weeks after election day.

Jim has asked:

Why cannot postal votes have a deadline receipt date a couple of days out from the main election day and what is to stop these particular voting papers now being completed AFTER the election as the deadline for receipt is not until 6 April. Checking envelope date stamps is likely a worthless exercise as, in my experience, most of them can never be read anyway and with the postal system still finding its way back to some normality deliveries can be delayed. This all sounds too loose to me.

When you return a postal vote, you have to include a declaration signed by you AND someone else confirming you're the person who filled it out, and, that you did it on or before election day. Anyone who lies would be committing fraud, Jim, so obviously no-one is going to do that!

A possible Minns lookalike?

By Paige Cockburn

Sorry to go back here, but am I the only one who thinks Chris Minns resembles Ace Ventura?

- Natty

Yesterday I asked about Perrottet and Minns lookalikes and the entries are still coming in.

This from Natty:

Sorry to go back here, but am I the only one who thinks Chris Minns resembles Ace Ventura?

Ace Ventura had a pretty unique style but the man who depicted him, Jim Carey, shares some similarities...

(Supplied)

How is One Nation doing?

By Riley Stuart

Good question here:

AH has asked:

How is the One Nation 1st preference in L.A. and its share in the LC? Latham talked up big before the election. Has this proved correct?

In the lower house (LA), there's been almost 70pc of the vote counted, and One Nation has 1.8pc of it. Couple of things to remember:

  • One Nation had candidates in only 17 seats
  • This means its vote is likely going to be lower than a party like The Greens, which had candidates in all 93 seats

Now before anyone jumps down my throat, I'm not saying that if One Nation had candidates in all 93 seats, they would have had a similar primary vote to The Greens. Who knows what their vote would have been? I'm just pointing out part of the reason its vote is 1.8pc is mathematical. Things like policies also come into it too, obviously.

With about 55pc of the vote counted in the upper house (LC), One Nation has roughly 5.5pc. At this stage, that's enough for one seat.

This is also an excellent opportunity for me to run this video of Labor defector Tania Mihaliuk, who is now on One Nation's upper house ticket, and former treasurer Matt Kean arguing as part of the ABC's NSW Votes coverage on Saturday night.

'You should be thinking about resigning': Tania Mihailuk and Matt Kean spat

Legalise Cannabis in spotlight over their volunteers

By Paige Cockburn

The ABC has revealed Legalise Cannabis NSW, which is on track to win a seat in the upper house, used Centrelink recipients as volunteers.

The job seekers received 'mutual obligation' points for volunteering with the party. Someone receiving support from Centrelink must accrue these points by completing activities such as short courses or volunteering.

Services Australia says the political party has now been removed from the list, and an urgent investigation is underway.

The ABC's specialist reporting team lifted the lid on this - read its story below.

So you want Upper House results? I got you

By Paige Cockburn

Hi, how is the Legislative Council election looking? Out of the 21 seats, who has won what and how many seats are still on the line?

- Alex

So we only have limited data for the Legislative Council right now.

There's currently a 'check count' in progress for first preferences but votes under the line still need to be counted.

We probably won't get final results until next week but for now:

  • Labor has 8 spots
  • The Coalition has 6
  • The Greens have 2
  • And One Nation has 1 spot (it's Mark Latham)

Until below the line votes are counted, we won't know whether candidates like Fred Nile's wife Sylvana Nile or Sydney's most recognisable activist Danny Lim will get a spot.

For the full breakdown so far head here.

First preferences update

By Riley Stuart

Going to get my nerd on here. 🤓🗳️

Alex51 has said: 

Not much comfort for the major parties as the drift from loyal first preference votes for them continues.

That's not quite true. Here's the primary vote for Liberal/Labor/Nationals/Greens for the past four elections. Labor's has actually gone up (although it really did bottom out in 2011, so that's not entirely unexpected)!

2011 election

Liberal 38.6pc
Labor 25.6pc
Nationals 12.56pc
Greens 10.28pc

2015 election

Liberal 35.1pc
Labor 34.1pc
Nationals 10.55pc
Greens 10.29pc

2019 election

Liberal 32pc
Labor 33.3pc
Nationals 9.6pc
Greens 9.57pc

2023 election

Liberal 27pc
Labor 37pc
Nationals 8.6pc
Greens 9.5pc

Quick line on the Greens / Nationals. You can see the Greens primary vote has gone down by about 0.8 per cent over the past four elections. But between 2011 and 2023 they picked up three lower house seats (they had zero before). The Nationals vote has gone backwards a bit. That's translated into them losing six seats since 2015.

Menindee trip a 'listening tour' for Minns

By Paige Cockburn

Before his flight to Menindee this morning, Premier Chris Minns had a quick chat to ABC News Breakfast.

Last week, residents woke to millions of dead fish floating down the Darling River system. Authorities say the event has eclipsed other mass fish kills in 2018 and 2019.

Mr Minns said he wanted to make sure the emergency clean up  was working.

"I want to talk to the local community, understand the impact on commerce ... make sure the farming community can get back on its feet."

"It's a listening tour but we need to make sure those communities aren't forgotten."

Chris Minns before flying out of Bankstown Airport (ABC)

Mr Minns knows Menindee well, he visited several times when he was shadow minister for water between 2016 and 2019.

Your questions answered

By Riley Stuart

Going to try and get through as many of these as possible today!

Jacob has asked:

It seems like Ryde has been very stable for the Labor Party. It has been at 0.3% for the past couple of days. Is the the most likely seat to be Labor’s 46th? Do you have any idea when it will be called?

It's definitely Labor's best chance to pick up another seat. Will come down to postal votes (which are likely to favour the Liberal candidate). It's going down to the wire, no idea when it will be called but sometimes it can take several days.

Tony has asked:

Greens talked about holding "the balance of power" with Labor in a minority government. Following the deal with independents, do The Greens still hold this balance?

The balance of power is a metaphor. It's not something one party / independent can solely lay claim to owning. Labor won't need the support of the Greens MPs to get its legislation through the lower house. At this stage, it will just need to convince one (or maybe two) members of the crossbench to vote with them. There's nine independents in this parliament, and three Greens. Having said that, it's inevitable the Greens will have more bargaining power with a Labor government in minority. Remember: any new legislation also has to pass through the upper house and we're not exactly sure what the make-up of that is going to look like yet, so when we talk about the "balance of power" we need to factor the other chamber in too. Does that make sense?

Jack has asked:

When do we expect all the votes to be counted?

Usually takes a couple of weeks? The NSW Electoral Commission will count postal votes it receives before 6pm Sydney time on Thursday, April 6.

Natty has said:

Because, you know, sports stadiums are way more important than schools and hospitals... 🙄

Depends who you talk to!

📢 Kiama called for Gareth Ward 📢

By Paige Cockburn

Key Event

ABC chief elections analyst Antony Green has called the seat of Kiama for independent MP Gareth Ward.

This one was a tight race, with Labor's candidate, former journalist Katelin McInerney, behind by only 615 votes.

"At the moment Ward leads with 50.8 per cent of the vote after preferences. He also polled 48.6 per cent of the first preference vote in the 2,200 postal votes already counted," Green says.

"We don’t have a preference count for the postals, but once available it will boost Ward to around 51.2 per cent and with 79.1 per cent of the vote counted, and another 1,000 postal votes yet to be counted, Ward can’t be caught by his Labor opponent at this stage."

Mr Ward has held the seat since 2011, mostly as a Liberal.

After being charged with indecent and sexual assault offences last year, he was suspended from the parliament.

This election, he ran as an independent.

Gareth Ward appeared in court yesterday over the charges. (ABC)

Police allege Mr Ward assaulted a 17-year-old boy at Meroo Meadow near Nowra in 2013 and a 27-year-old man in Sydney in 2015.

Yesterday he appeared in court and pleaded not guilty to all charges. He told journalists after the hearing he was confident of proving his innocence.

Premier Chris Minns yesterday said he would make a decision on whether to try and suspend Mr Ward from the new parliament once the seat was called.

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