LABOR’S Peter Khalil has been re-elected to a third term as the federal Member for Wills, convincingly withstanding the green wave that has cost several of his colleagues their seats.
At the end of counting on Saturday night, Mr Khalil had a two-candidate preferred vote of 56.3% to the Greens’ Sarah Jefford’s 43.7%. The Greens recorded a swing of 2.1% which was not enough to make serious inroads into the 8.2% margin that Mr Khalil held prior to the election.
With pre-poll and postal votes yet to be counted, Labor insiders expect their share of the overall vote might increase further to almost 60%, which would mean a swing towards the incumbent, bucking the trend in other Labor-Green contests across the nation.
However, while Mr Khalil held the seat without major dramas, Labor lost 10 of the 11 booths in Brunswick, where the Greens’ two-party preferred vote was more than 54%. This was counter-balanced by the strong Labor vote in the north of the electorate.
Speaking on Sunday after victory celebrations that lasted until 3am that morning, Mr Khalil said he was excited at the prospect of serving as a member of the government headed by new Prime Minister Anthony Albanese for the first time since he entered parliament in 2016.
He said it was still possible that Labor could secure the 76 seats needed for a parliamentary majority.
“The feeling of being in government is fantastic after six years of opposition since I’ve been in Parliament but also nine years for the country under a Coalition Government,” Mr Khalil said.
“There’s a real opportunity now to do a number of really important things for the country, to change the country for the better … and make a real difference to the way people live their lives in this country.”
With 66,897 votes counted so far, Mr Khalil has secured 39.5% of the primary vote, a swing of 4.8% against him. Ms Jefford was a distant second on 28.2% and a swing of 1.9% her way, while Liberal Thomas Wright had 16.4%, a drop of 1.6%.
Moreland Councillor Sue Bolton finished fourth on 3.8% of the primary vote.
Counting is yet to include 12,705 postal votes and 25,721 pre-poll votes, but Labor expects these to go strongly their way, potentially increasing Mr Khalil’s final winning margin.
Wills preference count
100% of available ballots counted at 1.50pm, Wednesday, May 25
Wills primary count
Mr Khalil said the green wave that has potentially cost Labor up to three seats in Queensland and eaten into the margins of Cooper and Macnamara in Victoria did not materialise in Wills, in part because the seat continues to have a larger traditional Labor-voting population.
“Partly why I think we did quite well here is… we did a lot of community grassroots politics, a lot of community work day in, day out, and I think that matters, that engagement at a local level,” he said.
“That’s one of our key objectives to serve the community, so it kind of paid off a little bit. But I also think the Labor-Greens contest in Wills is different to other seats. It’s a different demographic.”
Ms Jefford said she had entered the election with no expectations and had been pleased at the swing in Wills.
“This is my first time running a big campaign and it’s been a lot of fun, but I didn’t have any big expectations about what it would come to in the end,” she said.
“Any swing would have been amazing … and I think that sends a message to Labor that you can’t take seats like this for granted. And also that people do want change, they want action on climate change in particular and where they’re voting Greens against a Labor sitting member it’s recognising that actually Labor needs to do better.”
Ms Jefford added that the size of the national vote for the Greens – currently sitting at 11.9% following a 1.5% swing in their favour – had solidified them as the third major party in Australian politics.
“People see us as legitimate, we’re not just a minor party with one single seat in the Lower House any more,” she said.
“We are the next big party and we’re ready to be at the table and talking to the Labor Party if we hold the balance.”
Mr Khalil has a policy interest in foreign affairs and is looking forward to playing a role in the new government, but has not sought out a front bench portfolio.
“I will do whatever I’m asked to do,” he said.
“I will serve in whatever capacity our Prime Minister deems fit and needs me, I’ll be ready. It would just be an honour to serve in any way and I’m not making any assumptions about that.”
The two-candidate preferred vote on Sunday night was 59.2% for Labor and 40.8% for the Greens, following the counting of pre-poll votes. This represented a swing to Labor of +0.7%.