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Labor wins Braddon, and more

Justine Keay

Federal Labor is celebrating four by-election wins in Braddon, Longman, Perth and Fremantle. Bill Shorten declared it a “Super Saturday night” for the Labor party, calling the by-election results a signpost to Labor winning government at the next federal poll. Sources: ABC News, Timberbiz

The four victories have strengthened Mr Shorten’s leadership and created doubt about the Coalition’s chance of being re-elected.

The Labor leader celebrated the wins with Susan Lamb in the Queensland seat of Longman, where voters re-elected her with a swing of more than 7%. He used his victory speech to thank voters and position himself as the next prime minister.

“I promise the Australian people, we will continue the work of putting together a policy agenda for the next national Labor government, a program which will re-win the confidence and the support of working class and middle-class Australians,” Mr Shorten said.

Before the string of by-elections, Braddon and Longman were expected to be close, and some had suggested Mr Shorten’s leadership would be questioned if either seat was lost.

Labor is ecstatic at the strength of Ms Lamb’s win in Longman, especially as the next federal election will be held in less than a year.

Some in the Coalition have tried to play it down by arguing that Oppositions often perform well at by-elections. But the result is a worry for the LNP, which saw a 13% swing against its candidate Trevor Ruthenberg. His primary vote of 26% in a seat sent a signal the LNP may struggle in Queensland at the next federal election.

Incoming Labor Party president Wayne Swan said the Longman result would generate panic for other Federal Liberals in seats like Dickson, which is held by Immigration Minister Peter Dutton, as well as Petrie and Forde.

“There was a swing against the LNP of 10%, so if you were to take that across Queensland then there would be a very substantial electoral earthquake in the seat of Queensland,” Mr Swan said.

Mr Ruthenberg took responsibility for the loss in Longman, and thanked the Prime Minister for supporting him when it was revealed he had mistakenly claimed the wrong military medal.

In the Tasmanian seat of Braddon, Labor candidate Justine Keay did not perform as well as Ms Lamb did. But Ms Keay defeated Liberal Brett Whiteley because of preferences from independent candidate Craig Garland, who won 11% of the vote.

Ms Keay had won the seat from Mr Whiteley at the 2016 election, after he had held it for the previous three years.

In a statement the week before the election the Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA) had said that the Braddon by-election delivered strong support across the political spectrum for growing North-West Tasmania’s vital forest industries, with candidate responses to the Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA) showing Labor’s Justine Keay offering the best plan to grow plantation forest industries, while the Liberal Party’s Brett Whiteley offered the greatest certainty for native forest industries, promising “no more lock-ups”.

AFPA Chief Executive Officer, Mr Ross Hampton, said the near-unanimous support from candidates for growing renewable forest industries showed how important the sector is to the region’s economy, which supports more than 2400 jobs in the electorate of Braddon.

In South Australia, Ms Sharkie attributed her win to “people power”.

“Tonight we have shown that you don’t need huge wads of money, you don’t need a huge political machine, what you need are people who are passionate, people who care and that is every single one of us in this room,” she told her supporters.

Ms Downer conceded defeat and told her supporters she respected the decision of the voters.

Labor also won the two by-elections in Western Australia where the Liberals did not stand candidates

Mr Wilson, Ms Keay, Ms Lamb and Centre Alliance’s Ms Sharkie will all now return to Federal Parliament after being forced to resign in May because the High Court found they had not renounced dual citizenship before the 2016 poll.

Perth was the only by-election not caused by a dual citizenship issue. The former Labor member Tim Hammond resigned for personal reasons and he has been replaced by Patrick Gorman.