Editor’s Desk: The Federal election in Durack made winners feel like losers and losers feel like winners

Headshot of Kate Campbell
Kate CampbellGeraldton Guardian
Durack MP Melissa Price at the booths in Geraldton.
Camera IconDurack MP Melissa Price at the booths in Geraldton. Credit: Geraldton Guardian/Phoebe Pin/Phoebe Pin

Elections are a funny thing, which can sometimes make winners feel like losers and losers feel like winners.

That topsy-turvy feeling is a good way to describe how the main candidates in Durack would have been feeling on Saturday night — Liberal incumbent Melissa Price won, but the swing against her is sitting at 10 per cent, and she is now facing life in opposition for the first time in her nine-year political career. And a lot of her friends lost their jobs. Talk about a downer.

Meanwhile, Labor and its candidate Jeremiah Riley were always considered massive underdogs in a seat that has been regarded as Liberal heartland. But surely they would have been pleasantly surprised by their better-than-expected showing. The Nationals, Greens and One Nation got decent slices of the voting pie, too.

This is one occasion where the atmosphere would have been better at the loser’s party. And being at Ms Price’s election party on Saturday night at the Ocean Centre Hotel, I can tell you the anxiety and nerves were palpable as people with long faces watched the coverage unfold on TV and quietly talked among themselves. Meanwhile, Ms Price, rather than mingle with her team, spent the bulk of the night huddled in a corner on the phone and crunching numbers on a white board as they came in for Durack.

So the anti-Liberal sentiment has slashed Ms Price’s margin, does that mean Durack will end up as a marginal seat? At the time of going to print, that’s looking likely.

If that remains, what can the voters of Durack expect in their new world of living in a marginal electorate with an opposition MP? Well perhaps given the result it will stop both major parties from taking voters in certain “safe” seats for granted. Hopefully, it will mean some more attention might come our way as Liberals vie to keep Durack at the 2025 poll and Labor see it as a realistic chance of winning.

Ms Price remarked on Saturday night that this election campaign was her hardest fought yet. She will have to maintain and build on that resilience and work ethic as an opposition MP, who perhaps should have a senior role in a shadow cabinet.

Overall, I wouldn’t liken Saturday night’s Labor win to Mark McGowan’s “red wave” demolition at last year’s State election. Rather Labor won on preferences, not on an overwhelming mandate in which they were backed by the majority of voters.

In a nutshell, voters were fed up with the major parties — who both ran pretty uninspiring campaigns — and are screaming out for a viable third option.

That’s why arguably the biggest winners were the Independents and Greens. But that will make Federal Parliament potentially a chaotic and fascinating place as a Labor Albanese Government grapple with a big crossbench with differing agendas.

As Ms Price noted on Saturday night: “I don’t think it’s going to be good for the country but anyway we’ll watch with interest.”

If you thought Federal politics would settle down after a drawn-out six-week campaign, I’m afraid you’re sorely mistaken. It is, and always will be, a brutal game of attrition. We will continue to watch with interest.

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