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Liberals' Waite almost over as Labor eyes historic win

Politics

Labor is set to hold 27 lower house seats in the new parliament – only one short of the party’s total after its historic 2006 ‘Rannslide’ – with the nominally-Liberal seat of Waite poised to fall to the ALP for the first time in its history.

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Catherine Hutchesson is now almost certain to prevail in the seat formerly held by Sam Duluk, who quit the Liberals to run as an independent after the party refused to welcome him back to the fold following his acquittal of a basic assault charge stemming from his actions at a boozy 2019 parliament house Christmas party.

The contest was among the election’s most intriguing, with five of the six candidates contesting the seat garnering more than 10 per cent of the primary vote – and three of them above 20 per cent.

But preference flows from the Greens and Mitcham mayor-turned-independent Heather Holmes-Ross have bolstered Hutchesson to a 1441-vote two-party lead with no more than 3000 ballots left to count.

However given the complicated nature of the seat, insiders are wary of calling it until the final throw of preferences on Monday.

It would be the first time since the seat of Mitcham (as it was then) was created in 1938 that Labor has represented it – although it was occasionally moved outside the Liberal fold, with Liberal Movement breakaway Robin Millhouse holding it first for the New LM and then as a Australian Democrat, briefly succeeded by Heather Southcott before returned to the Liberals.

Subsequent Liberal incumbents Martin Hamilton-Smith and Sam Duluk have left the party while in office.

Outgoing Labor state secretary Reggie Martin told InDaily: “Catherine’s achievement in Waite has been outstanding.”

“As the count currently stands she looks almost certain to be elected, but due to the unusual nature of this four-way contest we want to see the final distribution of preferences,” he said.

“If, as expected, she claims victory, it will be an historic win for Labor and a credit to Catherine and her hard working team of volunteers – they have done an amazing job.”

Duluk, who garnered a respectable 20.1 per cent of the primary vote, said it had been “an honour to serve the community since 2015” when he was first elected to neighbouring Davenport in a by-election, before contesting Waite in 2018.

“With the final result still undecided – but clear I won’t be returned as the member – I wish the new Member for Waite all the best in serving this beautiful community,” he said.

“It’s been wonderful to work on community campaigns including saving the Waite Gatehouse, investments in Belair National Park and passing a record number of private members legislation in the last term of parliament.”

With former Premier Steven Marshall avoiding defeat in Dunstan, the Liberals are hoping to scrape into parliament with 16 seats, as one-term frontbencher David Basham’s position in his former stronghold seat of Finniss improved last night.

Basham initially fell well behind independent challenger Lou Nicholson, but a stronger-than-expected vote for Labor in the seat has currently seen the ALP push her into third place in the count, with Basham leading on a two-candidate basis.

Nicholson’s scrutineers are hoping, with plenty of counting still to come, the independent can nudge back ahead of Labor and surf home on ALP preferences – although postal voting has bolstered Basham’s primary and he could still win the seat either way.

Four other independents have been returned: ex-Liberals Troy Bell, Fraser Ellis and Dan Cregan – who is expected to resume his role as Speaker – and Geoff Brock, who was yesterday sworn in to the Malinauskas cabinet.

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