MIKE Kelly says his loss in Eden-Monaro is “gut-wrenching”.
Dr Kelly announced he was conceding the federal seat in a press conference in Queanbeyan on Friday morning.
Liberal rival Peter Hendy’s tight lead on two-party preferred basis had eased out to 900 votes, but despite a victory still mathematically possible, Dr Kelly could see the writing was on the wall
His withdrawal from the race means Mr Hendy will take on the role, continuing the long-running bellwether status of the electorate.
“I’ve worked so incredibly hard for this region and we have achieved so much together,” Dr Kelly said.
“That’s because I have a deep love and commitment for the region and I feel a bit like a jilted lover in some ways.
“But from feedback I’m hearing I know it’s not personal that people had to vote the way they did.”
Those votes were still a close thing as of Friday when Dr Kelly made his announcement.
However, he said he felt it was more important to end any uncertainty for people in Eden-Monaro.
“The absentee and pre-polls we knew would favour us with the public service sector worried about their jobs,” Dr Kelly said.
“The key was to see how the postal votes went.
“In 2007 and 2010 they were favourable, but once we started seeing the trend, it wasn’t working out that way again.”
Dr Kelly said the arrival of several new players vying for the primary vote had a detrimental effect on his chances of re-election, “but that’s democracy”.
“What I’m more upset about is the large number of informal votes - a lot of people just marking ‘number one Mike Kelly’ and nothing else.
“There may be some confusion between the federal system of voting and the state, but it’s your responsibility to go in that booth and cast a formal vote.”
Despite conceding defeat, the closeness of the result and positive feedback from supporters has Dr Kelly leaving his future options open.
“I’m busy packing now, but next week I’ll have a think about where to from here,” he said.
“I’ve really given no thought at all to the future.
“I was committing everything I had to the region and the campaign.
“Given the closeness of the vote I’ll keep my options open.”
However, in a light-hearted moment Dr Kelly joked it could be as little as 12 months before a potential double dissolution and a return to the political arena.
Much was made during the election campaign of Dr Kelly’s and Labor’s commitment to Eden-Monaro and the Bega Valley in particular.
“It is unprecedented really,” Dr Kelly said.
“There’s around $800million in total going towards projects in the region.
“The new hospital I’m so extremely proud of – not only for what it will do for the region in terms of health outcomes, but it will provide 1500 jobs as well.
“The Bega Bypass finally getting off the ground is tremendously satisfying.
“I first heard about it sitting on my father’s knee and – invitation or not – I will definitely be there to see it open.
“I’m really concerned about a few things Peter Hendy needs to focus efforts on.
“Firstly there are 17 projects I had ready to go and funded, but they [the Liberal Party] are not allowing that funding to flow.
“For example $300,000 for the Marine Discovery Centre in Eden and the $1.4million for Moruya Airport.
“Also, I’d like him to argue for the Liberal Party to revisit its NBN policy and the Clean Energy Future package.
“Their NBN policy is a dog’s breakfast and will hurt our region.
“And with the Clean Energy Future package, things I was working on in Eden are now under a big black cloud.”
He used examples including work done on wave energy options and the second phase of the Boco Rock wind farm, which is planned to source its components through the Eden Port.
The Liberals’ $10million commitment to the port itself was welcomed by Dr Kelly, even though Mr Hendy was “piggybacking on work I’d already done, but credit to them for going through with it”.
“The other big thing hanging over this region is a massive slash to the public service.
“These are the things I’m worried about.”