Joel Fitzgibbon set to hold on to seat of Hunter as One Nation makes its mark

BACK AGAIN: Joel Fitzgibbon (third from right) is predicted to return for another term in the seat of Hunter.
BACK AGAIN: Joel Fitzgibbon (third from right) is predicted to return for another term in the seat of Hunter.

JOEL Fitzgibbon looks set to retain the seat of Hunter, despite a sizeable swing against him in favour of Pauline Hanson's One Nation (ON).

The MP, who has been in his role since 1996, should hold on in spite of an early scare which saw Nationals' Josh Angus make significant ground on two-party preference.

The big winner of the night was ON's Stuart Bonds, with the Singleton businessman polling ahead of The Nationals with 47.2 per cent of the vote counted.

He said it was a clear sign that residents in the region were discontent with the major parties and want a change heading into the future.

"Obviously I'm super excited and I'm happy that we're at this point, but it's just a testament to the dissatisfaction of the people in the Hunter," he explained.

"This is a great platform to launch off of for future elections, but I've launched off of the party's policies and that's really hit home in this electorate.

"Obviously the community is really happy with the policies we've put forward as a party and I'm going to continue to run on those policies."

The preference flow to Mr Angus from Mr Bonds and the United Australia Party's Paul Davies resulted in a swing against Mr Fitzgibbon of about 10 per cent, slashing his 12.5 per cent margin into marginal territory.

At the time of writing, the Coalition is set to pull off an against-the-odds federal victory, however Mr Fitzgibbon is adamant the final result was too early to call.

He was willing, nevertheless, to give comment on the tactics he believes his opposition used to gain ground at both a local and federal level.

"It's obviously not the result we were looking for either nationally or locally, it's going to be very difficult for Labor to form a government," he said.

"Climate change is real and we took a very progressive approach to it, and out political opponents ran a scare campaign on that suggesting that a progressive climate change policy meant an almost immediate end to the coal mining industry and coal fired powered generation.

"But they did that successfully and the electorate responded and we need to reflect on that but I don't regret anything the Labor party did in policy terms on that front."

He admitted to being confused about the large swing towards ON but said he would take it seriously.

"What they think One Nation is going to do for them I just don't know," the former Minister for Defence said.

"They have no power and no influence, they are just a micro party and a protest party but people have used them to send a message."

HELPING OUT: Roy Johnson, Virginia Thomas, former state member George Souris and Christian Democratic Party's Richard Stretton at Singleton High School on Saturday.

HELPING OUT: Roy Johnson, Virginia Thomas, former state member George Souris and Christian Democratic Party's Richard Stretton at Singleton High School on Saturday.

Despite not being thrilled with Saturday night's outcome, Mr Fitzgibbon was able to state he believes he will remain in the seat.

"I think I'll remain the member for Hunter, I don't think there's any doubt about that but I listen to my electorate and my electorate has expressed concern about Labor's progressive policies," he said.

"And, it's my job now not to change my mind but to try to demonstrate to people that the transition is a long one."

With a packed field including eight candidates, all representing a registered party, only three of them were able to secure over 10 per cent with Greens coming in fourth place.

On a night full of surprises, the local electorate threw up a couple of shocks but ultimately kept the same representative, and avoided becoming part of the nation-wide Labor horror show that was Saturday night.

This story Fitzgibbon holds on in shocking night first appeared on Muswellbrook Chronicle.

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