IT was never in doubt but true blue Wannon’s powerful endorsement of Liberal Dan Tehan on Saturday sends a clear message — we’re conservative and proud of it.
Tehan was returned with a swing on the plus side of more than four per cent, boosting his margin to just under 10 per cent and putting him in an unassailable position.
Wannon has always been a safe seat, but the notion of it ever becoming a marginal battleground anytime soon has quickly evaporated.
There can be no doubt that Tehan deserves his increased margin, but an even safer seat can mean even slower progress on the ground. Tehan will be itching to prove this popular political theory wrong by making things — real things — happen in Wannon while he is in government and he is no novice when it comes to turning things on their head, having silenced many a vocal critic before.
Pre-selected by the party for Wannon in the 2010 election Tehan copped a lot of heat, much of it from disgruntled elements in his own party, for not being a local.
Seeing off a slew of hopeful independents and a lacklustre Labor candidate, he wasted no time in establishing himself as a diligent local member with the interests of his adopted community at heart. Fast-forward three years and there would be few who doubt his integrity or commitment.
As he said yesterday: “There’s nothing like proving your critics wrong. It’s a pride thing.’’
It is too early to say what Tony Abbott has in mind for his team. He may opt for generational change or he may want to keep things the way they are and send a message of stability to the country after three years of the opposite with Labor.
Undoubtedly a career politician, Tehan is a good mate of Abbott’s but not a pushy or ruthlessly ambitious type. He will be content to wait his turn, knowing there are numerous high-performing MPs in front of him. An outer ministry might not be on the cards this time around, but a parliamentary secretary’s role is not out of the question for the 48-year-old as he cuts his teeth in government.
Tehan is back in Wannon, in power for the first time and possibly even on the road to political greatness because voters in his seat don’t like change.
But he has also shown us that he is a decent bloke with a strong work ethic who gives a damn about the people who have elected him.
In the past three years, he has done the miles, earned our respect and unfailingly played fair in a tough and sometimes nasty game. He has also been smart — politically savvy enough to see Peter’s Project as a ticket to popularity in his community.
His early campaign pledge that the Coalition would give $10 million to Peter’s Project if elected torpedoed Labor candidate Mick Barling’s campaign because Labor refused to make a similar commitment. Nevertheless, Barling ran an impressive campaign and it is a mark of Tehan’s humility that he never under-estimated Labor’s best candidate in years, working feverishly hard to win every vote.
Barling, another honourable man, phoned the victor on Saturday night to congratulate him and Tehan made a point yesterday of paying tribute to his opponent, describing him yesterday as a ‘’high-calibre individual’’.
Acutely aware that the real work begins now, Tehan must deliver on his promises to secure more federal funding for our appalling roads, improve health services and create jobs, especially in some of the struggling towns in the northern end of his sprawling electorate.
Wannon’s ultra-safe seat status suggests that this won’t be a picnic and the cynics will declare that Canberra will do as it has always done with safe seats and that is ignore them. Then again, our local member does love to prove people wrong.