THE challenge for Labor’s Pat Conroy in Shortland was not so much overcoming his Liberal opponent as trying to capture and convert the loyal following of his predecessor Jill Hall.
Ms Hall retired at this election after holding the seat comfortably for 18 years, although a national anti-Labor swing and a high profile campaign by former newsreader John Church for the Liberals in 2013 saw her margin eroded to about seven per cent.
In the end, Mr Conroy not only safely secured the seat, but clawed back some of the territory lost at the last poll, edging Labor’s margin back over 10 per cent.
Mr Conroy’s seat of Charlton was abolished in name after the redistribution, with most of his constituency transferred into the adjacent seat of Hunter. While happy to have won in Shortland, he felt “in limbo’’ with the national result still up in the air.
“I’m tremendously humbled and honoured to have won Shortland but I don’t know whether I am going to be part of a governing party, or in opposition, or the nature of that opposition, so it’s a strange feeling,” he said.
“We genuinely don’t know what is going to happen. As Julia Gillard said in 2010, the Australian people have spoken – we just don’t know what they have told us yet.’’
With the Liberal Party, Greens and Christian Democrats running modest campaigns in the seat, the result never seemed in doubt, and Mr Conroy had claimed victory by 8.30pm on Saturday. However, he insisted the outcome had not been a foregone conclusion.
“I never took it for granted; the national result showed there is no such thing as a safe seat any more,” he said.
”My team and I had to work very hard, on the back of some strong Labor policies, to get this result and I’m really pleased about it.
“It’s a three per cent swing, but when you factor in Jill Hall’s strong personal support, it’s more like a five per cent swing.”
Mr Conroy acknowledged Liberal candidate Jenny Barrie for running a clean campaign.
“It is the way politics should be, which is arguing about policy and not personality,” he said.
Ms Barrie, whose 35.5 per cent of the two-party preferred vote was only slightly down on the Liberals’ 2013 result, thanked the electorate for its support.
“This election was always about the Shortland community, and I look forward to working with local people and communities in the future to make Shortland a better place to live and work.”
Greens candidate Ivan Macfadyen was “ecstatic” about lifting his party’s percentage of the vote by three per cent to about 9 per cent.
“That is about 8000 people who were really receptive to our policies,” he said.
“It is important to give them a voice and hopefully, if they stick with us in the long term, we might be able to deliver them a few more seats.”
Christian Democrat Morgan Cox polled about four per cent of the vote.
In his victory speech, Mr Conroy thanked volunteers for helping him run a comprehensive grassroots campaign.
“We together made 8300 phone calls, we doorknocked 3200 homes, we voter-ID’ed (asked people who they would vote for) 2500 people,” he said.
Ms Hall said she was delighted with the result.
“I would have been very disappointed if he hadn’t increased [the margin],” she said.
“He’s a great candidate … he’s run a fantastic campaign and made people aware of the issues that are important in this area.”
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