Drawn-out preference count for fifth upper house seat in Western Victoria

A COMPLEX preference count in the upper house has Vote1 Local Jobs and the Shooters and Fishers Party in a slow race to the finish line.

Vote1 Local Jobs leader James Purcell is vying for the fifth upper house seat against Shooters and Fishers Party lead candidate Nicole Bourman, with the Liberal and Labor parties picking up two seats each.

Results from the Victorian Electoral Commission (VEC) yesterday showed incumbent National Party MP David O’Brien was almost certain to lose the upper house seat he has held for the past four years.

Mr O’Brien yesterday described his term in Parliament as rewarding.

“I am disappointed we lost government, but I’m proud of what we’ve done, even though there were a lot more things we wanted to achieve,” he said.

Mr O’Brien said he was looking forward to continuing his farming operations, spending time with his four young children, playing music and supporting the National Party with a couple of initiatives.

Mr Purcell said the contest was shaping up to be a long affair, with Liberal Democrat preferences needed for his party to get across the line.

“I said all along that I’ll either scrape in with a few votes or get pipped at the post and it’s proven to be true,” the Port Fairy accountant said.  “(Election night) we were 158 votes behind Shooters and Fishers, then the next morning we’re 38 votes in front. As more pre-poll votes come in, we’ll get a clearer picture.”

On first preferences, the Coalition won more than 37 per cent of election-day votes in Western Victoria, with Labor picking up 34 per cent and The Greens pushing past nine per cent. Palmer United was the strongest of the newcomer parties, with less than three per cent of first preferences.

Coalition preferences will play a key role in Mrs Bourman’s election if she is successful. Her husband Jeff Bourman is also set to be elected to an upper house seat for Eastern Victoria, despite the couple being based in Melbourne.

Mr Purcell said the development highlighted the need for a rule that candidates standing for an electorate must have lived in the area.

“There’s a range of things that should be looked at but there needs to be a simple benchmark that you have to live in the electorate,” the former Moyne Shire mayor said. 

“It’s not great for democracy if you have people standing in Melbourne to represent an area they may have never been to.”

South West Coast Labor candidate Roy Reekie said he hoped Mr Purcell was successful in final counting. “I think he will be a good representative for the region and while he is representing local jobs, his interest is in the south-west,” he said.

The preference count for the fifth Western Victoria seat could take more than a fortnight.

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