LABOR MP Catherine King has been returned as member for Ballarat, despite a swing against her at the federal election on Saturday.
In a bittersweet night for Labor, the Coalition was swept to power nationally, leaving Ballarat with an MP in opposition for the first time since 2007.
Votes are still being counted, however it appears as if there will be a swing against Ms King of at least 10 per cent on primary votes.
That translates to a two party preferred swing of at least seven per cent, leaving the margin under five per cent for the first time since the 2004 electioan.
It is the fourth time Ms King has been re-elected after first winning the seat in 2001.
Liberal candidate John Fitzgibbon managed to poll more than 38.3 per cent of the primary vote, compared with Ms King’s 41.6 per cent.
Those numbers could still change, with postal and absentee votes yet to be counted, however they are not likely to get much better for Labor.
Ms King said she was delighted to be re-elected as member for Ballarat and planned to be strong advocate for the region in opposition.
The former cabinet minister said she wanted to thank the people of Ballarat for putting their faith in her.
“There’s still lots of very important things that I want to see delivered for my region,” she said.
“I will be working very hard every day to see that those things happen.”
She said the national result was not a reflection on Labor’s policies but more of a rebuke at the internal divisions which have plagued the party.
“There’s no doubt that the disquiet amongst the Labor Party has certainly added to what happened to the national results and that’s reflected locally,” she said.
Mr Fitzgibbon said he was proud of the Liberal Party’s campaign, which saw him win a swing of 4.3 per cent on primary votes.
However, he conceded the safe nature of the seat had made it a difficult one to win.
“I think we did everything that we could. It was always going to be a hugely difficult task to make up the 11.7 per cent margin in one hit,” he said.
“I’m really buoyed by the result we got. I think that indicates that there was a lot of support out there in the community.”
On a national level, Mr Fitzgibbon said he was pleased the Coalition was able to form government.
“I think it’s clear that the people of Australia were seeking a strong, stable government,” he said.
Of the other parties, the Greens saw a dip in their vote in Ballarat by nearly two per cent to 9.5 per cent.
Greens candidate Stephanie Hodgins-May said the party’s drop could be attributed to the increase of candidates on the ticket from four at the last election to 10 this year.
Nevertheless she was pleased with how the party had performed.
“I’m happy with how we’ve polled. We’ve held strong even in light of the 10 candidates. We’re proud of our new 10 per cent vote,” she said.
“I think in Victoria we’ve demonstrated that the Greens are here to stay, with the re-election of Adam Bandt and a new Greens senator in Janet Rice.”
The minor parties won an increase in their vote locally, with the lion’s share going to Palmer United Party and Australia Sex Party.
Palmer United Party candidate Gerard Murphy won 3.7 per cent of the vote, however he expected that number to be higher.
“I thought I would poll greater than the Greens,” he said.
“I don’t think I had one negative comment made to me, and I’m grateful to the people of Ballarat. I can’t cry over spilt milk.”
Katter Australia Party candidate Shane Dunne polled just 660 first-preference votes, leaving him second last in front of the fringe Rise Up Australia Party.
He said people were voting as if they were barracking for a football team.
Ballarat had a bigger swing against Labor than both the national and state swings and one of the largest in the region.
It was greater than the much-hyped swings away from Labor in Geelong seats Corangamite and Corio.