NSW Labor’s worst by-election fears have been realised, with massive swings against the state government in three Sydney seats including a rout by the Liberal Party in the seat of Ryde.
Labor is set to suffer swings of at least 20 per cent against it in Ryde and Cabramatta and a double-digit swing in Lakemba.
Liberal candidate Victor Dominello has claimed victory in Ryde, previously held by former deputy premier John Watkins by a 10 per cent margin.
It was the first time the north-western Sydney seat has been won on the primary vote.
While in Cabramatta the count will go to preferences, the predicted 22 per cent swing to Liberal candidate Dai Le will not be enough for her to wrest the seat from Labor’s Nick Lalich.
Former minister Reba Meagher held the seat for the ALP with a 29 per cent margin.
Labor’s Rob Furolo has retained former premier Morris Iemma’s vacated seat of Lakemba.
But Liberal Michael Hawatt has eroded the 34 per cent margin previously held by Labor and ended its time as the ALP’s safest seat in the state.
The Greens also enjoyed success in Lakemba, more than tripling their primary vote from the 2007 state election.
Premier Nathan Rees had expected his government would receive a “kick in the pants” for its poor performance in the 18 months since the 2007 election.
A spokesman for the premier tonight said that was exactly what the government had received.
“The voters in these three electorates have sent a very strong message and we have heard their message loud and clear,” said.
“The people of NSW expect big changes and we now begin the task of rebuilding the credibility in this government brick by brick and delivering the services that they expect.”
Opposition Leader Barry O’Farrell said the strong showing from the Liberal Party in all three by-elections showed that people want change in NSW.
“It’s a verdict on the future and it demonstrated that people have voted to start the change – change to open, honest and accountable government,” O’Farrell said.
“One that finally focuses on people’s needs, not on the needs of politicians.”
The Liberal’s coalition partners, the Nationals, appear to have failed in their bid to reclaim their once-safe seat of Port Macquarie on the mid-north coast.
The seat was vacated by former National-turned-independent MP Rob Oakeshott when he made a successful transition to federal parliament.
Oakeshott’s former staffer Peter Besseling looks set to keep the seat in the hands of the independents, fending off the Nationals’ Leslie Williams.
With seven independents on the card, the seat will be decided on preferences.