THE FEDERAL ELECTORATE of Menzies bucked the trend and was retained by the outgoing Liberal government after an otherwise landslide election of the Albanese Labor Government.
A massive 6.1 per cent swing to Labor in Menzies was not enough to take the seat from Liberal hands, so Keith Wolahan has claimed victory in the seat that Kevin Andrews has held since 1991.
Liberal Party retains Menzies Mr Wolahan released a statement following Naomi Oakley conceding the seat almost a week after the polls closed.
“I want to begin by thanking each of the other candidates (Naomi Oakley, Bill Pheasant, Greg Cheesman, Nathan Scaglione, John Hayes, and Sanjeev Sabhlok), their families, and their volunteers.
Thank you to the people of Menzies who have put your trust in me.
My commitment remains the same: I will fight for our community, put the national interest first, and give my all to represent you in our federal parliament.
Thank you to my dedicated party members, volunteers, and supporters for your efforts, your belief in our cause, and your faith in me.
For over 12 months, we have been out in our community, listening to their hopes, aspirations, and concerns.
I never have, and will never, take the people of Menzies for granted. To my party, there is no sugar-coating what happened on May 21.
The loss of Josh Frydenberg, Tim Wilson, Katie Allen, and Gladys Liu is a devastating blow.
As a party, a movement, and a family, we must listen, learn, and regroup.
If we do that work and draw upon our core beliefs, we will come back stronger for it.
Finally, can I thank my family, especially Sarah, Leo, Eva, Mum and Dad.
I wouldn’t be here without you, and I love you.”
Mr Wolahan gave a special mention to the community of Warrandyte, telling the Diary:
“There is nowhere else quite like Warrandyte.
“I could think of no greater honour than to be your voice in our nation’s parliament”.
Labor comes close
While Menzies remains a Liberal seat, it may not be as safe as it once was.
At the Warrandyte booth, with support from Greens preferences, Ms Oakley was the front runner, 878 — 669.
Likewise, in North Warrandyte, Labor won 504 — 272. The newer booths in Menzies, in the Whitehorse Council area that were included after redistribution, also favoured the Labor candidate.
While there was solid support for Mr Wolahan in Wonga Park, Doncaster, Templestowe and Bulleen to tip the Liberals over the line, at one stage, Ms Oakley was within 45 votes of Mr Wolahan in early counting before the margin became unassailable.
She conceded defeat a week after polls were closed, as the gap nudged 2,000 votes.
Ms Oakley sat down with the Diary to discuss the result.
“I really wanted to get it over the line; it was a six per cent swing, which is pretty much unheard of, but it would have been great to get it over the line.
“My dad said to me; it’s going to be a very difficult seat to win.
“I think there was the consensus from some of the oldest parts of the party that we’re never going to win it — it was sort of unwinnable, and of course, when the results started to come through, they were pretty shocked as well,” she said.
She said the redistribution to include Box Hill and Blackburn into the seat added to the unknowns.
“It’s a marginal seat now.”
Being a safe Liberal seat going into the election, her party did not focus its efforts on the seat.
“My energy went into phoning people — because I only had a limited budget, but I also had a limited crew.
“And obviously, they were volunteers — I just did the best I could with what I had.
“And, you know, I think the phoning was a huge part of getting through to people.
“But also, once they started to understand my backstory, it resonated with a lot of the Menzies community.
“The people of Menzies want someone who is grassroots who can relate to the many issues the community faces.”
She said it was rewarding calling people over those six weeks, “I was able to help several family violence survivors by doing that and families struggling with mental health issues as well”.
She said there were several unexpected events during the campaign.
“I had Kevin Andrews turn up to one of the booths, congratulate me, and wish me luck.
“A couple of his supporters voted for me as a protest [at Mr Andrews losing preselection].
Ms Oakley said that despite the loss, she enjoyed the campaign and said this is not the last we will see of her.
“It was great to be a part of it — and it is great that it is not unwinnable anymore.
“My political career is probably not over; I’m going to try and see if I can run for the State election; I think I’m going to give it a crack because I think there is an opportunity there for me [to be a local voice] — and I think people would like that.
“I think there’s definitely room for more women — that’s coming through loud and clear.
“I put everything on hold to run — to do my best.
“I’m happy with how I went here, it would have been great to get the prize, but that didn’t happen.
“Dad ran for Deakin under Gough Whitlam, and he missed out by 400 votes.
“Dad’s been amazing support just as a mentor — as well as Sonja Terpstra.
“To have that support of people who have been there or are doing that.
“And hopefully, Keith can actually deliver on his promises, like Five Ways.”
Greens make headway
Garnering a 3.5 per cent swing, Warrandyte resident and Green’s Candidate Bill Pheasant made a creditable showing in the polls, earning 13.7 per cent of the primary vote.
With most Green preferences flowing to Labor, it was a significant factor in almost delivering the seat to Labor. Bill Pheasant told the Dairy:
“I am pleased to have run for the first time as a Greens candidate, helping make Menzies a marginal seat — one that will now benefit from increased attention.
As a Warrandyte resident, I wanted to push for more decisive action to protect this incredible ecosystem that sustains us and reimagine politics as a profoundly important activity: where facts are important, where everyone in the community matters where incompetence is not rewarded.
I congratulate Keith Wolahan as the new representative for Menzies.
It was great to spend time with all the candidates — well done all for giving many voices a chance to be heard.”
Other candidates on the Menzies ballot could not breach the 4 per cent threshold, with the Liberal Democrats Greg Cheesman and United Australia Party’s Nathan Scaglione each taking 3.5 per cent of primary votes. One Nation’s mystery candidate, John Hayes, took 2.2 per cent of the vote, while Federation Party’s Sanjeev Sabhlok received 0.9 per cent.