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Paige Cockburn

As it happened: Labor to win Bega by-election, plunging NSW government further into minority

ABC News Channel live stream

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet's leadership was put to the test with four by-elections being held in the state.

Labor is set to win the seat of Bega off the government and retain Strathfield, while the Nationals will hold Monaro.

In former premier Gladys Berejiklian's electorate of Willoughby, Liberal candidate Tim James claimed victory.

This is how events unfolded.

Key events

Live updates

By Paige Cockburn


Key points

  • To get across all the results visit ABC election analyst Antony Green's vote tracker
  • The south coast seat of Bega, which has been held been by the Liberals for 33 years, has fallen to Labor
  • Between 15 to 25 per cent of people are using the postal voting system for these by-elections

By Paige Cockburn

Some final takeaways

We came into tonight thinking we might not get any final results, but how wrong we were.

For the first time ever, Labor has picked up the seat of Bega, which the government was rightly nervous about losing tonight. 

Although no other seats changed hands, each party suffered a swing against it. Perhaps this was the result of losing four heavy hitters in Berejiklian, Constance, Barilaro and McKay.

Tonight was a major test for the Perrottet government and voters sent a clear message to the Premier who spent the last few weeks downplaying what was to come.

And although there's been some surprise results, the swings can't necesssarily be used to predict what's to come in 13 months at the next NSW state election or the federal election later this year.

Thanks for joining me tonight, bye for now.

By Paige Cockburn

What does tonight  mean

The Coalition has not had to rely too much on the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers this term but they may need to keep them on side after tonight.

Losing the seat of Bega to Labor means the Perrottet government is deeper in minority government and will have to rely on the support of the crossbench to pass legislation. This means making deals with independents, the Greens or the Shooters.

In 2019 Mr Perrottet likened the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers to the American gun lobby the National Rifle Association (NRA).

He may now need to do some damage control on this relationship.

By Paige Cockburn

Government must listen to people of NSW: Minns

NSW Labor leader Chris Minns says Labor's strong performance tonight should serve as a wake up call for the Perrottet government.
"[Today] many people in New South Wales sent the Premier of New South Wales a message on at the ballot box today. The Premier of New South Wales needs to listen to that message," he said.

"The government needs to change direction. It must listen to expert advice, it must have common-sense solutions to difficult problems, it must heed the message from the people of New South Wales in these by-elections today."

By Paige Cockburn

Liberal candidate won't concede in Bega

Reporting by Keira Proust in Batemans Bay

Bega's Liberal candidate Fiona Kotvojs is refusing to concede defeat despite a major swing to Labor's Michael Holland.

She says she is waiting to see results from postal votes to flow in next week.

Mr Holland made a victory speech earlier in the night and the ABC's Antony Green is predicting a win for Labor.

There's currently a 13 per cent swing against the government in Bega with 21 per cent of the vote counted.

By Paige Cockburn

Some final observations from Antony Green

  • There is still a 13.2 per cent swing to Labor in the seat of Bega, where Labor's Michael Holland has claimed victory
  • A 6.4 per cent swing to Labor in the seat of Monaro won't prevent Liberal candidate Nichole Overall's election
  • It's still very narrow in Strathfield but preferences will still favour Labor
  • Liberal candidate Tim James has won in Willoughby but there has been a 18 per cent swing to his Independent opponent. This is the first time in 30 years that the Liberal vote has fallen below 50 per cent.

By Paige Cockburn

Nichole Overall holds back on claiming victory

The Nationals candidate for the seat of Monaro, Nichole Overall says it's looking positive for her, but she won't claim victory just yet.

"There's probably a bit of a way to go in that but I'm feeling quite buoyed and positive," she told the ABC.

The former journalist is tipped to keep John Barilaro's seat in Liberal hands but there has been a 6.4 per cent swing to Labor.

She said she never considered Monaro a safe seat and knew it would be a tough fight.

"We always know how difficult by-elections are and when you're facing four at the same time I think it is a big impact."

By Paige Cockburn

Premier calls tonight a "phenomenal" result for Liberals

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet says he's proud the Liberals have taken votes from Labor in Strathfield, where Labor candidate Jason Yat-sen Li has won on a narrow margin.
Mr Perrottet said he was confident the Liberal candidate in that seat, Bridget Sakr, will still win at the state election next year.

"Bridget Sakr ... she will win the election next year. Bridget Sakr will be the member for Strathfield."

Despite Labor taking the seat of Bega for the first time in history, Mr Perrottet has claimed tonight as a "phenomenal result" for Liberals.

By Paige Cockburn

Jason Yat-sen Li speaks in Strathfield

Labor candidate in Strathfield Jason Yat-sen Li has used his victory speech to call out racism in politics.
"Race is used as a partisan political weapon for short-term gain but with devastating long-term consequences."
"It is not OK that the patriotism of candidates or the Labor Party is questioned with no basis in fact"
The former United Nations Lawyer looks set to win against his Liberal opponent Bridget Sakr on a slim margin.

By Paige Cockburn

Tim James claims victory in Willoughby

Liberal candidate Tim James says he is well qualified to take over from former Premier Gladys Berejiklian in the blue ribbon Liberal seat of Willoughby.

"I love the Liberal party, and we are a great party my friends, and went we stay true to our values and work together and commit for local communities, we get great things done," he told supporters at the Liberal headquarters in Willoughby.

Labor didn't run a candidate in the electorate, however, Mr James is facing a challenge from independent Larissa Penn.

ABC chief elections analyst Antony Green said he was “pretty confident” Mr James would win.

Mr James is a member of the party's right faction and says he joined the Liberal Party at age 17 to help remove the Keating government.

By Paige Cockburn

Labor set to make history in Bega

Michael Holland, who is set to become the first Labor MP for Bega in history, says the by-election has been a "plebiscite".

"It's been a reflection of the community's response to the current government and our need to be heard with our concerns," he told the ABC.

"I think it's time to celebrate a bit of history."

By Paige Cockburn

ABC state political reporter Ashleigh Raper says Labor has performed well under new leader Chris Minns.

By Paige Cockburn

Key Event

Strathfield and Monaro called

ABC chief elections analyst Antony Green says Labor’s Jason Yat-Sen Li will win the seat of Strathfield in Sydney's inner west.

Jason Yat-sen Li is set to win on a slim margin against the Liberal's Bridget Sakr.

Meanwhile, Green says The Nationals will hold the seat of Monaro, despite a swing of more than 7 per cent to the ALP.

With 26 per cent of the vote counted, Nationals candidate Nichole Overall has a 3.9 per cent buffer over Labor’s Bryce Wilson.

The seat of Willoughby, which had been held by former premier Gladys Berejiklian, remains too close to call.

By Paige Cockburn

Hearing from lots of people who forgot to send their postal votes off so they fronted the booths today....

Went to the local polling place mid afternoon as we realised we’re terrible at remembering to actually post stuff…
Glad we did. Met a local candidate and had a great chat about our concerns.
The school bbq was all but over by then, but the residual onion scent wafting over the school yard was intoxicating. Nothing quite like the smell of a democracy sausage.

-Voted local

By Paige Cockburn

Olympics viewing party or Nationals at the pub? 

The mood among supporters of Nationals candidate for Monaro Nichole Overall is jubilant with plenty of beers flowing at Walsh's Hotel in Queanbeyan. 

The green and gold crowd cheered when ABC Election Analyst Antony Green announced the Nationals would likely hold the seat. 

It means the seat of Monaro looks set to have its first woman at the helm in its history.

By Paige Cockburn

Key Event

Seat profile: Strathfield

Labor is predicted to keep Strathfield tonight but only by a small margin, which the party will be disappointed by.

The by-election of the swing seat in Sydney's inner west was triggered by the resignation of former Labor Leader Jodi McKay last year.

The Liberal party last won the seat in 2011, and Labor has held onto it by a small margin ever since, winning by just 5 per cent of the vote at the 2019 election.

Labor has selected Jason Yat-sen Li – a former United Nations Lawyer and current Pro-Chancellor of the University of Sydney who previously ran for the independent Asian-Australian political party ‘Unity’.

The Liberals have put forward Bridget Sakr – a finance worker and business owner whose daughter and three cousins were killed by a drunk driver in Oatlands in 2020.

With 56.3 per cent of its population born overseas, Strathfield is one of NSW’s most ethnically diverse electorates, and candidates have often struggled to reach non-English speaking voters.

While Labor has campaigned heavily in the area, the party looks set to lose some of its votes to independent candidate Elizabeth Farrelly.

Ms Farrelly is an author, architecture critic, essayist, columnist and public speaker. She resigned from her position as a columnist for the Sydney Morning Herald in 2021 to join Labor but never ran for the party.

Along with the main candidates, Courtney Buckley is running for The Greens, Ellie Robertson is running for the Sustainable Australia Party, and Rohan Laxmanalal is running for the Animal Justice Party.

By Paige Cockburn

Key Event

Labor set to take Bega

ABC chief elections analyst Antony Green says Labor appears set to win the seat of Bega from the Coalition as long as postal votes mirror in-person votes.

With 17 per cent of the vote counted, there has been a 13.6 per cent swing to the ALP's Michael Holland.

But there was a high number of postal and pre-poll votes in the electorate, many of which will not be counted until next week.

Green said Labor would win that seat "assuming that the postals and pre-polls aren't totally different than every other previous election".

By Paige Cockburn

Constance says Bega has voted on health

The former Liberal MP for Bega has acknowledged the "very big swing" against the Liberals in Bega.

"There is no doubt that the voters in the electorate have voted on health and that's been shown this evening," he told the ABC. 

He said business owners were exhausted and seniors in the community were living behind closed doors due to fear of contracting the virus.

By Paige Cockburn

Quick update from Antony Green:

  • There is a big swing to Labor in the regional seat of Monaro but the Nationals should be able to hold it
  • The two major party votes are roughly the same for the seat of Strathfield in Sydney's west but Labor is tipped to keep the seat due to preferences
  • In the blue-ribbon Liberal seat of Willoughby, Gladys Berejiklian's replacement Tim James is likely to hold the seat but the party has taken a "whack" in first preference votes

By Paige Cockburn

Antony Green predicts Labor will pick up Bega

ABC Election analyst Antony Green says at this stage he is calling the seat of Bega for Labor.

He says Labor have a "substantial lead" that he doesn't see turning around.

"There is nothing to indicate anything other than a big enough swing for Labor to win Bega."

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