DANNY O’Brien and Tim Bull bucked the statewide trend to retain their seats in parliament for the Nationals following Saturday’s state election.
Labor increased its vote statewide by 4.8 per cent, and is predicted to win 55 seats in the lower house, an increase from the 48 it had heading into the election.
The Liberals’ vote fell by 6.1 per cent, leading to a likely loss of eight seats, while coalition partners, the Nationals, had a small swing against it, losing two seats.
Combined, the Liberals and Nationals are predicted to have 28 seats.
With 81.58 per cent of the vote counted in Gippsland South, Danny O’Brien had 63.38 per cent, well ahead of Labor’s Denise Ryan and (27.54) and the Greens’ Ian Onley (9.08).
On the two candidate preferred vote, Mr O’Brien had 66.26 per cent and Ms Ryan 33.74, representing a swing of 0.6 of a per cent to the Nationals incumbent.
Mr O’Brien won each of the 46 booths, and Mr Bull won all 45 in Gippsland East.
Despite having six opponents, Mr Bull also retained Gippsland East on the primary vote.
With 77.25 per cent of the vote counted, the Nationals incumbent received 57.49 per cent, followed by Mark Reeves (Labor, 21.55), Deb Foskey (Greens, 5.78), Sonia Buckley (Liberal Democrats 6.1) and independents Matt Stephenson (4.07), George Neophytou (3.26) and Benjamin Garrett (1.74).
Mr Bull kept his majority on two candidate preferred, on 67.96 per cent to 32.04 for Mr Reeves.
Mr O’Brien thanked the people of Gippsland South after they re-elected him.
“I am honoured and humbled by the support I have received, and I thank the people of Gippsland South for again placing their faith in me,” he said.
“I have worked hard over the past four years to be a strong voice for my electorate, and I’m very happy that I have been given the privilege again of being your state representative.
“To see the primary vote for the Nationals increase six per cent and the vote over Labor also increase is very humbling given the result elsewhere.
“I’d also like to thank my Nationals team, my upper house colleague Melina Bath and the small army of supporters who turned out to man the early voting booths in Sale and Leongatha and the 46 booths across the electorate.
“There were some very pleasing local results — I won the Golden Beach booth for the Nationals for the first time ever and increased my primary vote in Mirboo North, despite a concerted campaign against me.”
Mr O’Brien congratulated the Andrews Labor government on its resounding victory and said he would continue to work cooperatively with Labor to deliver for Gippsland South.
“It is disappointing that the Liberals and Nationals have been so resoundingly defeated, and we will need to learn lessons from that.
“At the same time, the Nationals vote held up strongly across the state — this is a lesson for Premier Daniel Andrews that he needs to actually deliver on his pledge to ‘govern for all Victorians’, because rural people did not believe him.”
While also humbled by his resounding victory, Mr Bull said it was “a bittersweet situation”, considering the statewide result for the Liberal and National parties.
“I wish to congratulate all the candidates who stood in Gippsland East for the friendly way the campaign unfolded, which showed politics and elections can be conducted in good spirit by those participating, outside the keyboard warriors of social media,” he said.
“This is a great region, and I look forward to being its representative in the Legislative Assembly of the state parliament for a further four years.
“I also thank all those who supported not only myself over the campaign, but those who put in many hours supporting other candidates and lastly, but most importantly, my wife, children and extended family for their ongoing love and support.”
The result in the Morwell electorate may not be known until later this week.
Labor’s Mark Richards won the primary vote, with 34.22 per cent, with independent incumbent Russell Northe on 19.97.
Mr Northe’s re-election will depend on the flow of preferences, particularly from the Nationals and Liberals.
In the Eastern Victoria upper house region, Vern Hughes could claim one of five seats for the Aussie Battler Party.
With 45.77 per cent of the vote counted, Jane Garrett, Harriet Shing (Labor), Edward O’Donohue (Liberals) and Melina Bath (Nationals) appear to have received enough of a quota to win their seats.
A complicated flow of preferences could result in Mr Hughes gaining the final spot ahead of incumbent Jeffrey Bourman from the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party.
Only formed last month to contest this election, the Aussie Battler Party seeks to “represent all of those who are fed up with so much wasting of taxpayers’ money”, according to its website.
The party’s policies include decentralising urban development and creating a government-funded lending institution to tackle rising prices.
Elsewhere, former Ramahyuck Aboriginal Co-operative chief executive Ali Khan could win an upper house seat in the South-East Metropolitan region for the Transport Matters party, which opposes the deregulation of the taxi industry.