8.30pm – In one last final nail in the coffin of the Kennett era, the Labor Party’s Bob Stensholt has won the former Premier’s seat of Burwood in today’s by-election.
With counting proceeding, the ALP appears to have secured around 55% of the two-party-preferred vote, and has won 10 of the 13 booths in the electorate.
Jeff Kennett held the seat for the Liberals continuously since its formation in 1976. Following his defeat in the September 18 State election, Kennett resigned from the seat on the day the new Parliament was opened.
The result is an important boost to the ALP, giving it 43 seats to 42 for the Opposition. Whilst the government still needs to rely on the support of at least 2 of the 3 independents, the extra seat will make management of the Legislative Assembly slightly easier, as well as giving the government the absolute majority of 45 votes that it needs to pass constitutional change.
The result partly illustrates the “honeymoon” period being experienced by the Premier, Steve Bracks, but is also a disaster for new Liberal leader, Denis Napthine.
The Liberal candidate, Lana McLean, was dogged by controversy throughout the campaign. After winning preselection against the party machine’s preferred candidate, Helen Kroger, Mrs. McLean was accused in Parliament of making a false statutory declaration in a dispute with a neighbour over a driveway. It was revealed she had also lobbied the then Planning Minister, Rob Maclellan. Later, there were revelations about a dispute with the Commonwealth Bank and reports that she had been ejected from an underage sporting event for using the “f word”, presumably “fuck”, to an umpire.
The Labor candidate, Bob Stensholt, a Monash University academic, was also under attack for spelling mistakes in his election literature: “tought” for “taught”, “elecion” for “election”, etc. He was also accused of hiding his time spent training for the priesthood in the 1970s.
Watch Bob Stensholt’s campaign video distributed throughout the electorate (5m)