Jeff Drayton, the Labor candidate in the critical Upper Hunter by-election, concedes defeat as the Nationals secure victory.
Jeff Drayton, the Labor candidate for the Upper Hunter, has conceded defeat in yesterday's pivotal by-election, as Nationals candidate David Layzell extended his lead in this morning's count.
Mr Drayton of Labor called Mr Layzell to express his congratulations on his election victory.
"Clearly, David and I disagree on a lot of things, but we both have the Upper Hunter's best interests at heart," he wrote in a statement.
Mr Layzell is expected to secure 56.3 per cent of the vote after preferences, compared to Mr Drayton's 43.7 per cent, with 56.1 per cent of the vote counted.
Mr Drayton acknowledged that Labor has always faced a "uphill battle" to win the seat, which the National Party has held for 90 years, but also acknowledged his party's shortcomings.
"Today's result, particularly in Singleton, sends a message to Labor that we cannot take any community for granted," he said.
"Working-class communities are in distress, and they are abandoning this Government. However, they do not see Labor as the solution at the moment." Labor needs to do some serious soul-searching about how we are going to reclaim these communities. It will require introspection and a great deal of effort."
The NSW Nationals had previously expressed confidence in their Upper Hunter candidate, David Layzell, but refrained from declaring victory.
John Barilaro, the Nationals' leader, addressed his party late last night, saying that while early results appeared promising, he would not declare victory yet.
"We will not make a 100 percent claim tonight. As you are aware, the Muswellbrook pre-poll [and] a couple of others are still pending "'He stated.
"There is no doubt that we have a sizable lead. From here, we'd have to go horribly wrong." Thus, we are confident that we have won the election, that we have won this seat, and that the Nationals will continue to support the Upper Hunter community."
Despite the fact that the Nationals leader did not declare victory, former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull congratulated him via Twitter.
"And congratulations to the National Party on retaining the seat — a testament to the Gladys Berejiklian government's outstanding work during the pandemic," he tweeted.
"However, the problems created by coal mining's unplanned expansion have not been resolved."
Mr Drayton said last night that the election remained "too close to call," but Labor leader Jodi McKay already appeared to be looking ahead to the next one.
"We have to ensure that we improve," Ms McKay stated.
"We need to make it clear to this region that it will be a Labor region in the future. We have two years to demonstrate to Upper Hunter residents that we are a party worthy of their support."
At the polls, the heavyweights
Political heavyweights descended on the NSW Upper Hunter yesterday, hoping to provide their respective parties with a much-needed boost at the polls.
After sitting Nationals MP Michael Johnsen resigned amid a sexting scandal and a rape allegation, which he denies, candidates for the Nationals, Labor, One Nation, and Shooters, Fishers, and Farmers fought a close four-cornered contest.
Upper Hunter is a marginal electorate at the crossroads of agriculture, racing, and mining.
Mr Johnsen retained it by a mere 2.6 percent in 2019.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Deputy Premier John Barilaro endorsed Coalition candidate Dave Layzell.
He is accountable for restoring Gladys Berejiklian's majority in the Lower House to half.
However, she was not the only familiar face on the hustings.
Pauline Hanson and Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack were among the political heavyweights who descended on the Upper Hunter, where voters expressed a desire for youth employment.
"There are few jobs available for young people in the Hunter," one voter observed.
The Nationals made every effort to ensure that their 90-year hold on the seat does not come to an end with Mr Johnsen.
The Coalition attempted to leverage Ms Berejiklian's voter popularity in order to win the marginal seat.
Today, the premier told reporters that victory in the by-election would "rewrite history."
"I mean, the average swing against a government in a by-election over the last decade and a half has been 15%, and we hold this seat by only 2-point-something percent," Ms Berejiklian explained.
"I've always been someone who looks at the math and the evidence, and the math and the evidence indicate that an average swing against the government is possible in a by-election."
Labor candidate Jeff Drayton was accompanied to the polling station in Muswellbrook by party leader Jodi McKay.
"This electorate has so many issues, but we have listened to what they have all said, and that is that they want their fair share," Ms McKay told the media.
"They want a fair share of the mining royalties generated in this region. And they want to ensure that Labor, as a party, protects and creates jobs."