Welcome to our live coverage of the Eden-Monaro byelection.
As with all byelection campaigns, it has been a slightly weird one – more so this time around because it has been carried out in the midst of a pandemic. So it’s been a little strange even for a byelection.
Mike Kelly, whose retirement for health reasons sparked the contest, won the seat for Labor in the 2019 election with a reduced margin of 0.9%.
So just a handful of the 114,000 or so voters changing their mind would flip the seat to the Coalition.
In terms of actual impact, the result of this byelection is fairly low stakes.
If Labor’s Kristy McBain wins, it’s the status quo. If the Liberals’ Fiona Kotvojs wins, the government gets another backbencher.
There is, of course, the normal pundit talk of “what will this mean for the opposition leader’s leadership” but the answer there too is fairly shrug-worthy. Labor has been “managing expectations” from the beginning, pointing out that the byelection has been carried out in a once in 100-year pandemic. Also, the Victorian branch of the Labor party has been suspended, and is under the administration of the federal executive. Given the changes to the Labor leadership rules, changing a leader these days is not as easy as creating rumblings in the party room.
And of course there are other candidates. The Nationals candidate, Trevor Hicks, has been pulled in all sorts of directions by the never-ending drama between the NSW Liberals and the NSW Nationals. The Greens and Shooters, Fishers and Farmers parties are also fielding candidates, and their preferences will be crucial. Labor received criticism for striking a preference deal with the SFF but has returned fire over the internal drama between the Coalition partners.
Throw in the size of the electorate (it’s about the size of Switzerland) and the vastly different experiences of voters – while Queanbeyan is focused on business and recovery from the pandemic, much of the south coast communities are still struggling to get housing and running water after the summer bushfires destroyed their towns – and you have an electorate with a lot of different priorities.
The shared experience though is the suffering. Eden-Monaro is doing it tough. Very tough. And if you have seen people living in shipping containers, making one-hour round trips to have a hot shower, you know exactly how tough I mean.
Whichever candidate wins has a massive job ahead of them.
So stay with us, as we run through the night’s events. We may not get a result tonight – pre-polling numbers are very high and postals could prove crucial.
But, like every election, no one really knows what is going to happen until it happens.
You have Mike Bowers on the ground and I’ll show you some of what he has captured over the last day of campaigning.
You have Katharine Murphy watching the result, so keep an eye out for her analysis – and you have me, Amy Remeikis, keeping you updated through the night.
Polls close at 6pm – so grab yourself something nice to drink, pull up a comfy chair and get ready for wherever the night takes us.
Thanks for joining us – you can always join the conversation by hitting me up on Twitter, if you so feel the need.
Ready? Let’s get into it.