LISA Chesters is set to become Bendigo’s representative in Canberra.
Although the full count from Saturday’s election is yet to be completed, Ms Chesters has claimed victory in a close contest.
She declared the victory about 1pm yesterday.
Her Liberal opponent, Greg Bickley, would not concede defeat but admitted his chances of winning were slim.
Ms Chesters, 33, was met with rapturous applause and cheers from about 250 Labor supporters on Saturday night as the local results were tallied.
She thanked her “comrades” in various unions and volunteers for their support, but retired former member for Bendigo Steve Gibbons was a notable absence from the Trades Hall gathering.
“All the signs are that I will be the first female ever elected to represent Bendigo in the federal parliament,” she told the Bendigo Advertiser.
“I’m honoured, proud and excited to be the next member for Bendigo.
“I look forward to working really hard to represent this great part of the world.
“I love central Victoria.”
But she admitted the “chaos” of federal Labor had cost the party and lead to a disastrous result.
“The voters have said, the Australian public has said, we don’t like Labor when it fights.”
“We’re confused and we don’t know what you stand for.
“I get that and I heard that when I was out there talking to people
“You can’t deny that the three years of leadership chaos has damaged Labor.
“Labor will get back to what it does best, which is standing up for issues which make a difference to people.”
La Trobe politcal expert Ian Tulloch said it was unlikely Ms Chesters would fail to win the seat.
But Mr Bickley said he still had hope of a victory ahead of a final vote count of the remaining 20,000 ballots.
“We obviously have an uphill battle ahead of us,” he said.
“But we are not conceding anything at this stage as there are many more votes to count.
“Counting of postal votes I believe commences (today).”
Mr Bickley thanked his supporters for a “magnificent team effort”.
The Liberal candidate has received a swing of about 8 per cent in the electorate.
According to the Australian Electoral Commission, Mr Bickley trails Ms Chesters by about 3 percentage points in the two candidate preferred results with about 80 per cent of ballots counted.
If Ms Chesters wins the seat as predicted, she will be Bendigo’s 16th representative and it will be her party’s sixth win in a row.