By Colin MacGillivray
MEMBER for McEwen Rob Mitchell is excited to represent the electorate as part of a Labor government, restating his commitment to delivering a Hume Freeway diamond interchange at Watson Street in Wallan after retaining his seat in Saturday’s federal election.
Mr Mitchell has represented McEwen since 2010 and was re-elected despite a small swing of 1.66 per cent towards Liberal candidate Richard Welch on a two-candidate preferred basis compared with the 2019 election.
As of Monday afternoon, Mr Mitchell had 53.62 per cent of the two-candidate preferred vote, with Mr Welch receiving 46.38 according to the Australian Electoral Commission website.
Primary votes for both the Labor and Liberal parties were down in McEwen, with Mr Mitchell receiving 37.46 per cent of the primary vote and Mr Welch 33 per cent.
The Greens were the region’s biggest winners, with a 4.58 per cent swing towards the party, with candidate Neil Barker grabbing more than 14 per cent of the primary vote.
There were other more modest swings towards the United Australia Party, Australian Federation Party, Liberal Democrats and One Nation.
Mr Mitchell said voting trends, both in McEwen and across Australia, showed there was a desire for more progressive policies.
“You’ve got 75 Labor members, two Greens and 11 other independents who are all independent. It shows people want action on climate change, they want the Uluru Statement from the Heart, they want the [National Disability Insurance Scheme] done right and they want a federal [independent commission against corruption],” he said.
Mr Mitchell said his first priorities were to deliver on his election promises, including the Watson Street interchange and funding for a Camerons Lane Hume Freeway interchange at Beveridge.
While the entire Labor government is yet to be officially sworn in, Mr Mitchell said he spent Monday morning drafting letters to government ministers.
“I’m writing to the new ministers to say, ‘these are the commitments we made, how soon can we start delivering on them’?’ he said.
“We’re going to get the things we promised. We are prioritising the Wallan ramps. [Prime Minister Anthony Albanese] has already committed to prioritising that, so it’s a matter of liaising with the State Government.
“Over the next month or two we should be able to get things underway, not in terms of building but, but getting the stuff done that needs to be done to prepare for it.”
Mr Mitchell said Liberal party election pledges in the region, including $8 million for Wallan’s Greenhill Recreation Precinct, were not on his immediate radar.
“My job is to deliver the promises I made. People supported me and backed us to deliver those promises, so that is my first priority,” he said.
“I think people know that they were hollow promises by the Liberals. People recognised they still haven’t followed through on promises they made at the last election.
“Given it was the Morrison government, there was a 99 per cent chance they were never going to get done.
“My priorities are to do the things I promised, because that’s about my integrity, which is important to me.”
Mr Mitchell said easing cost-of-living pressures on families through things like affordable childcare and housing would also be important.
“At a time when you’ve got unstoppable [consumer price index] increases, we’ve got to get in there quickly and start using the levers of government to tighten that back down,” he said.
Mr Welch said he was disappointed at the outcome of the election both locally and nationally but he was proud of the campaign he had run.
He said he hoped the legacy of his campaign was to make McEwen a more marginal seat.
“It was disappointing for us nationally, but we’ve got to respect the result and we genuinely wish the new government well, because their success is the nation’s success,” he said.
“Locally I think there is still a lot to be done in McEwen. Both parties will have to pay far closer attention to the communities of McEwen and never take this area for granted again.”
Mr Welch said he would take time to reflect on his future before deciding what to do next.
“This electorate is important to me, and I wanted to say thank you to those who showed me support.
“Even for those who didn’t vote for me, I’d like to thank all the community groups and individuals I got to know for their engagement.
“I think I came away from this learning an awful lot and enriched from the engagement I had with people.”
Mr Mitchell thanked the voters of McEwen for returning him to Parliament, as well as his campaign team and family.
“We had in excess of 230 volunteers on election day – people who got up before and got the booths ready, production lines of everything getting sorted and done by people who volunteer their time,” he said.
“It’s a big effort. It’s not a win for me, it’s a win for them and a win for the people of McEwen.”