Election this Saturday

David Braithwaite

THE Nationals are expected to hold their two local lower house seats when the state election is decided on Saturday.

Both Gippsland South and Gippsland East are considered safe seats for the Nationals, holding margins of 15.7 and 17.9 per cent respectively in two-party preferred voting.

While betting companies have the Nationals incumbents at an unbackable $1.01 to retain their seats, polls point to Labor remaining in government.

Tim Bull has been Gippsland East MLA since defeating independent incumbent Craig Ingram at the 2010 election.

Mr Bull is re-contesting his seat against six candidates, headed by East Gippsland Shire councillor Mark Reeves.

Gippsland South MLA since winning the 2015 by-election, Danny O’Brien, has only two challengers — Denise Ryan for Labor and Ian Onley the Greens.

While betting companies have the Nationals incumbents at an unbackable $1.01 to retain their seats, polls point to Labor remaining in government.

The absence of prominent Labor politicians during the campaign provides an indication of what the party thinks about its chances locally.

Labor is resting on the state’s economic performance during its past four years in government, but has made minimal promises directly related to the area during the election campaign.

Among Labor’s promises are an end to commercial net fishing in the Gippsland Lakes, enshrining the ban on onshore gas fracking in the state constitution, ensuring half of Victoria’s electricity comes from renewable sources by 2030 and expanding the half-price solar panel roll-out.

The Liberal National coalition has promised to begin a tender process for a new power station to provide 500 megawatts of electricity.

Closer to home, the Liberals and Nationals plan to improve the reliability of the Gippsland rail line through the roll-out of faster long-haul trains, $9 million towards completing the Princes Highway duplication between Sale and Traralgon, as well as funding for upgrades in the Macalister Irrigation District, Boisdale Recreation Reserve, Stratford RSL and Heyfield Tennis Club.

Most political attention is focussed on the neighbouring seat of Morwell, where independent Russell Northe (a former National) will look to hold his spot in parliament against challenges from Labor, The Nationals and Liberals.

Eleven candidates are vying for the seat, the most this election.

Voters will also elect five members of the Eastern Victoria upper house region, which extends from the Mornington Peninsula to the New South Wales border.

Currently Labor has two of those five seats, with one each for the Liberals, Nationals and Shooters, Fishers and Farmers parties.

Former state minister Jane Garrett is on top of the Labor ticket, replacing current MP Daniel Mulino who will run for the party in the next federal election, while another incumbent, Harriet Shing, is second.

The Liberals and Nationals are running a joint ticket for the upper house, with Liberal Edward O’Donohue on top, and National Melina Bath second.

Jeffrey Bourman may face a fight to retain his seat for the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party, particularly from the Greens.

Preferences will likely determine who wins two of the five seats.

The number of people voting early in Gippsland South has already surpassed the mark of 2014, and is on track in Gippsland East to do the same.

As of 6pm Wednesday, already 11,770 and 11,579 votes had been cast at early voting centres in Gippsland South and Gippsland East respectively.

The number of postal votes received by Wednesday night was 973 in Gippsland East and 816 in Gippsland South.

Early voting continues today until 6pm at the former Aussie Disposals shop, 337 Raymond St, Sale.