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Labor claims win in Dunkley by-election after death of Peta Murphy

Ellen RansleyNCA NewsWire
Liberal candidate Nathan Conroy was supported by Jane Hume on the day of the by-election. David Crosling
Camera IconLiberal candidate Nathan Conroy was supported by Jane Hume on the day of the by-election. David Crosling Credit: News Corp Australia

Labor’s Jodie Belyea has won the Dunkley by-election, retaining the outer Melbourne seat for the party in a crucial victory for Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.

Sky News called Ms Belyea the winner at 8.30pm over the Liberals’ Nathan Conroy on Saturday night, despite suffering a swing of about four per cent against Labor.

Mr Conroy called Ms Belyea to concede shortly before 9pm.

The by-election, triggered by the death of beloved Labor MP Peta Murphy, had been widely viewed as a temperature check for the government.

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Labor’s Jodie Belyea addressed the party faithful, supported by Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles.. ABC
Camera IconLabor’s Jodie Belyea addressed the party faithful, supported by Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles.. ABC Credit: Supplied

By the time counting stopped on Saturday night, Ms Belyea had a projected 52.27 per cent of the two-party preferred, to Mr Conroy’s 47.73 per cent.

Labor praises Dunkley win

Mr Albanese, celebrating his birthday in Sydney, took to X to congratulate Ms Belyea.

“Jodie ran a strong and positive campaign, and she’ll work hard every day as a champion for Dunkley in Canberra,” he said.

Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles introduced Ms Belyea to Labor Party faithful in Dunkley, paying tribute to her late friend Ms Murphy and praising her on her win.

“Everybody in this room tonight has a right to feel incredibly proud of all that you have achieved,” Mr Marles said.

“Every time there is an election, the Australian people speak, and there are many messages in the result tonight, and I want to assure every Australian that we will examine this closely and understand every message that is there.

“Tonight is a big night for our Prime Minister, who took every opportunity to be here at every moment that he could during this campaign.”

Ms Belyea said she was “humbled” to follow in Ms Murphy’s footsteps, and build on her “remarkable legacy”.

“I’m so thankful for the support of the Prime Minister, who put so much faith in me, a rookie.

“I spoke to him a short time ago, and I am now officially the second most important Jodie in Albo’s life.”

The primary vote for the Greens was down in the by-election, receiving 6.5 per cent of the votes as of Saturday night - down 3.96 percentage points.

The United Australia Party, Pauline Hanson’s One Nation, the Liberal Democratic Party, and the Australian Federation Party did not put forward candidates for the by-election, with analysts predicting the 10 per cent of the vote shared between those four parties last election would have gone to the Liberal Party instead.

Liberal candidate Nathan Conroy thanked his suppoters. ABC
Camera IconLiberal candidate Nathan Conroy thanked his suppoters. ABC Credit: Supplied

Dunkley sent Albo ‘a strong message’

Deputy Opposition Leader Sussan Ley said Dunkley had sent Mr Albanese a “strong message, and it’s not happy birthday, it’s: do something about the cost of living crisis”.

“That’s the message the people of Dunkley have sent to this prime minister,” she said.

She also paid tribute to Mr Conroy for a hard-run campaign.

“You have climbed every mountain, you are a class act. You have done Dunkley proud.

“You have done extraordinarily well.”

Deputy Liberal leader Sussan Ley said voters in Dunkley had sent Labor a ‘strong message’. ABC
Camera IconDeputy Liberal leader Sussan Ley said voters in Dunkley had sent Labor a ‘strong message’. ABC Credit: Supplied

Addressing the party faithful in Frankston, Mr Conroy invoked former US First Lady Michelle Obama, saying “when they go low, we go high”.

“Although the result didn’t go our way tonight, it is a great opportunity to highlight the big swing that we had … next election, we are coming for Albanese and his government,” he said.

Mr Conroy said he and the Liberal Party had “left it all on the field”.

It wasn’t all bad news for Mr Conroy, sharing with the crowd he and his wife were expecting a second child.

“I don’t know when I had the time to do it, but I did it,” he said.

Dunkley a sign of ‘what’s to come’

Opposition immigration spokesman Dan Tehan said the signs of a strong swing to the Liberal Party was a sign of what could come in the next election.

“(This shows that) other seats with similar demographics … we’ll be able to target,” he told Sky News.

“I think what this by-election shows is it’s game on at the next election.

“For a first term Opposition to be putting itself back in a position to be competitive at the next election shows what we’ve been able to do, by unifying and doing policy development.

“We’ll have a strong opposition to put to the Australian people next election.”

LABOR VOTING FRANKSTON
Camera IconLabor does not believe the Dunkley by-election is a ‘referendum’ on stage 3 tax cuts. NCA NewsWire / Ian Currie Credit: News Corp Australia

Dunkley ‘not a referendum on tax cuts’

Mr Marles denied the Dunkley by-election was a “referendum” on the Albanese government’s changes to stage 3 tax cuts that passed the parliament last week.

While the promise of every taxpayer winning in the revamped package has gone down quite well in recent opinion polls, the Coalition has prosecuted the argument that the Prime Minister is a liar, who broke a major election promise.

Mr Marles said describing Dunkley as a by-election on the tax cuts was too “absolute”.

“The tax policy we’ve put in place has a bigger life than this by-election,” he said.

“This by-election isn’t the be all or end all when it comes to tax cuts.”

Coalition finance spokeswoman Jane Hume said the prospect of the Liberals getting across the line was a “big ask”, but any move of the dial on Saturday would be a “big scare” for Labor.

“We’re going to make a dent today. I got the sense on the booths that people want to send Labor a message,” she said.

“There’s a lot of anger and frustration (around).”

Dutton a no-show in by-election fight

Mr Dutton failed to materialise on the hustings as voters in Dunkley cast their ballots.

With the Opposition Leader opting to spend the day in Queensland, Mr Conroy was supported by Victorian senator Jane Hume as he cast his vote.

As a pro-Palestine protester tried to interject during a press conference at a primary school polling booth, Mr Conroy was seemingly unfazed, saying he wouldn’t “shout people down”.

“What we do have is a strong positive campaign,” he said.

Mr Conroy – a well-known figure in the outer-Melbourne electorate – said the rising cost of living was the number one issue for voters, as was promoting local infrastructure.

“We need to have more jobs, more business, more choice, more homes for people,” he said.

“Then you look at crime, crime is on the rise and that’s because of the housing crisis and the cost-of-living crisis.”

Dunkley by Election
Camera IconLiberal candidate Nathan Conroy was supported by Jane Hume on the day of the by-election. David Crosling Credit: News Corp Australia
Dunkley by Election
Camera IconMr Conroy and wife Steffie voted on Saturday afternoon. David Crosling Credit: News Corp Australia

Mr Dutton’s no-show sends a strong signal that the Liberals aren’t expecting to oust Labor from the seat, which the late Peta Murphy won with a 6.3 per cent swing in 2022.

Instead, the opposition is hoping to carve between three and five points off that margin, and will consider that a win.

The Opposition Leader, who has made five trips to the seat during the campaign including yesterday, has returned to Queensland and has no plans to make a public appearance even if Mr Conroy gets the swing he needs to take the seat.

PM’s last pitch in crucial fight

Mr Albanese began his birthday by spruiking Labor candidate Jodie Belyea one last time on the last day of hustings.

The PM appeared briefly at a polling booth in South Frankston this morning with Ms Belyea and doing live crosses to breakfast TV shows.

LABOR VOTING FRANKSTON
Camera IconPrime Minister Anthony Albanese leaves Derinya Primary School in Frankston South, on polling day for the Federal seat of Dunkley. NCA NewsWire / Ian Currie Credit: News Corp Australia

The PM spoke briefly to the media this morning imploring voters to continue the work of Ms Murphy, who died in December following a battle with cancer.

“Honour Peta Murphy’s legacy, make sure that there is a candidate here and a local representative who won’t just be another bloke, with all the other blokes who sit behind Peter Dutton saying no to everything, but will be someone who will actually be a strong advocate for the future of this community,” he said.

LABOR VOTING FRANKSTON
Camera IconAdvance have been running attack ads on the Labor government. NCA NewsWire / Ian Currie Credit: News Corp Australia

Mr Albanese also took a swipe at the conservative activist group Advance which has spent more than $200,000 in Dunkley, money the PM said is “of course” having an impact.

“We have been massively outspent in this campaign, not just by the Liberal Party, but by their partners in the negative, far-right wing campaign, which has sought to promote fear and negativity, added to the fear and negativity of the modern Liberal Party,” he said.

“They have thrown hundreds of thousands of dollars, funded by billionaires, in this campaign. We’ve seen people in this electorate get swamped on Facebook and on all of the advertising that’s taken place, with misinformation, with fear.”

LABOR VOTING FRANKSTON
Camera IconPrime Minister Anthony Albanese greets Labor candidate Jodie Belyea at Derinya Primary School in Frankston South, on polling day for the Federal seat of Dunkley. NCA NewsWire / Ian Currie Credit: News Corp Australia

Mr Albanese arrived at the polls at about 9.30am, just as voters began to cast their ballot in the by-election.

Speaking to Today on Saturday morning, Albanese said this was the election “no one wanted”, after it was triggered by the death of popular Labor MP Peta Murphy who died last year after a battle with breast cancer.

“We’ve put forward, I think, very clearly the best candidate in Jodie Belyea who will carry on the work of the magnificent Peta Murphy,” he said.

LABOR VOTING FRANKSTON
Camera IconHis fiancee Jodie Haydon is also there in support. NCA NewsWire / Ian Currie Credit: News Corp Australia

“No one in this local community wanted this by-election because Peta Murphy was taken from us too soon at age 50 sadly.

“One of the things Peta did was recruit Jodie Belyea to the Labor Party to carry on her legacy of strong advocacy and working for this local community, and I’m very confident that Jodie Belyea will do just that.

“She’s a local mum. She’s not a career politician. She’s got a mortgage, she understands this local community.” Mr Albanese said it was “in the hands” of voters to decide who would take the seat.”

PM Anthony Albanese before Dunkley by election. Picture Today.JPG
Camera IconPM Anthony Albanese gives his final pitch before Dunkley by election. Today Credit: NCA NewsWire

He said it had been a tough time for Victorians with the loss of Ms Murphy but also with the death of senator Linda White on Friday.

Albo downplays expectations

Mr Albanese acknowledged by-elections were tough for sitting governments, considering the potential of a swing against his party, but played down suggestions a loss would be a blow for his government.

THE PRIME MINISTER
Camera IconPrime Minister Anthony Albanese is on the ground in Dunkley with the Labor candidate for the Dunkley by election, Jodie Belyea. NCA NewsWire / David Crosling Credit: News Corp Australia

“The alternative, Peter Dutton, is running a candidate who is saying ‘no’ to everything … it’s all just negative,” he said.

“You can’t change the country for the better by just saying ‘no’ to everything.”

Earlier this week, Mr Albanese said there is normally a swing of “around seven per cent” against government’s at by-election, while Liberal Leader Peter Dutton said it would be difficult for the opposition to pick up the seat.

The by-election won’t change government – Labor has 77 seats in the 151 seat parliament while the coalition has 55 – but the results will be keenly watched when counting starts at the close of polls at 6pm.

Already, about 22,150 people have voted early while 21,900 have applied for a postal vote, the Australian Electoral commission said.

For those who haven’t voted, they have from 8am to 6pm to cast their ballot at one of 32 voting booths in the electorate.

THE PRIME MINISTER
Camera IconPrime Minister Anthony Albanese is hoping Jodie Belyea retains the seat for Labor. NCA NewsWire / David Crosling Credit: News Corp Australia
PETER DUTTON
Camera IconOpposition Leader Peter Dutton campaigned in Dunkley on Friday. NCA NewsWire / David Crosling Credit: News Corp Australia

Although the 113,000 voters in Dunkley are the ones casting a vote on Saturday, the seat is representative of more than a dozen other seats across the country that will decide the 2025 general election.

As such, it will be a test of the government’s policies to address the cost of living crisis and its credibility after Mr Albanese broke an election promise to keep the Morrison-government era stage 3 tax cuts as they were legislated.

The government has taken every opportunity to promote how its revamped stage 3 tax cuts – which passed the parliament on Tuesday and come into effect on July 1 – would help more people than the Coalition’s legislated plan which he had promised numerous times not to change.

The opposition has focused on the government’s credibility and how it’s not doing enough to address the issues hurting Middle Australia.

The Candidates

The by-election has been triggered by the death of popular MP Peta Murphy from breast cancer last year.

Eight candidates are on the ballot, but it will be a contest between the ALP and the Liberals.

Labor’s candidate is local community worker Jodie Belyea, who was recruited by Ms Murphy herself.

The Liberals have long-term Frankston mayor Nathan Conroy standing.

DUNKLEY PRE POLLING
Camera IconLabor candidate for the Dunkley by election, Jodie Belyea (right) greets a voter at the early voting centre at Carrum Downs Community centre. NCA NewsWire / David Crosling Credit: News Corp Australia
DUNKLEY PRE POLLING
Camera IconFrankston Mayor Nathan Conroy is the Liberal candidate for the seat. NCA NewsWire / David Crosling Credit: News Corp Australia

Mr Albanese said the fight to retain Labor’s 6.3 per cent margin over the electorate would be “tough” but remained firm that Ms Belyea would emerge popular with suburban voters.

“One of the differences between Jodie Belyea and the other candidates in this by-election is that she’ll be a voice in government. Someone who can get things done as a voice in my government,” he told reporters.

“Not just be another bloke, sitting behind all the other blokes … opposing everything, being negative about everything and running fear campaigns.”

Mr Dutton tempered expectations for a Liberal victory after early polls showed his party had a narrow lead in the days leading up to the vote.

“It’s a big margin. But look, if there was a swing against the government of around three (per cent), then I think that’s a terrible outcome for Anthony Albanese,” Mr Dutton told reporters.

“The boundaries have changed since a few years ago when we held the seat. So it’s obviously gone into some more Labor territory.

“But the fact is that Nathan has done a great job in his local community and I think people will be voting for him in big numbers.”

Originally published as Labor claims win in Dunkley by-election after death of Peta Murphy

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