On Saturday night as Coalition leader Tony Abbott declared a victory of sorts, the Canberra Liberals were going bananas (not for Bob Katter) at the Services Club in Manuka, stamping feet, popping blue balloons, raising beery pints and screaming, “TONY! TONY! TONY!”.
“We were told ‘Canberra is turning Green’. Not tonight it’s not!” Liberal incumbant Senator Gary Humphries said in his speech.
“We are very close to achieving a quota without preferences and the Greens have failed, and failed miserably, to secure that seat at the 2010 Election.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, we have more hard work to do in terms of counting those votes, in terms of mopping up after this campaign but we can all go away with a great sense of satisfaction that with much less money, with much less resources, with the media not helping us with their presentation of the issues and with a very concerted campaign built around the fact that the Liberal Party was honest enough to say to the people of Canberra we are going to have to reduce the cost of government spending.”
Sorry we didn’t present the issues the way you wanted, Gary. You should have said something.
Meanwhile at the Press Club, our capital’s Labor Party party was somewhat more subdued: the enormous floor of the function room sparsly populated by young men and women in yellow Mike Kelly and red Julia Gillard tshirts, quietly gathered at tall drink tables.
“How did we f*ck this up so badly?” one of them asked.
Labor’s politicians, Senator Kate Lundy and newly elected MPs Andrew Leigh and Gai Brodtmann, had all gone home before midnight.
I guess if you’ve won your seat, it’s easier to sleep.
Over at the Canberra Club the confusion of Indecision 2010 was more palpable with the ACT Greens unsure if they should be celebrating their party’s amazing victories nationwide – gaining balance of power in the Senate and the election of their first Lower House MP Adam Bandt – or grieving ACT Greens Senate candidate Lin Hatfield Dodds’ loss to Humphries.
Having left the baffling chaos of the tally room, I’d been hoping to get a sense of clarity from the parties. What had just happened? What will happen? Who is leading our country?
But at 2am all I had was a hug from Liberal candidate Giulia Jones (who still lost but got eight per cent more votes than expected), a shiny Labor balloon, a gin and tonic from a Greens staffer and a potentially hung Parliament.
Hardly the stuff of certaintly.
“I’m still hopeful that Julia Gillard will be able to form government,” Andrew Leigh told me Monday morning.
“She’s a woman who is a formidable negotiator and I hope her skills will come into their own.”
Gai Brodtmann, new MP for Canberra says it’s hard to say what will happen next.
“It’s still unclear,” she said, “But we always knew it was going to be close.”
With the ANU’s finest predicting up to a three-month wait for Government to be formed, Hatfield Dodds has not yet conceded defeat, arguing that as Humphries is still below quota there is a chance the Greens could scrape through on preferences.
“We haven’t conceded defeat because only 70 per cent of the votes have been counted,” Hatfield Dodds said.
“The AEC started counting again about 15 minutes ago and as of right now Gary Humphries and the Liberal Party are actually below quota for the ACT.
“What we do know is that the majority of the 70 per cent votes already counted are above the line, and of the 30 per cent to go, the majority are below the line and historically in the ACT below the line votes are much more progressive.
“So if the Liberals end up below quota at the end of the count it will go to preferences and that’s where it becomes very, very interesting.
“As we’ve been saying from the beginning of the year, the second Senate seat in the ACT is marginal. It will go down to the wire.
“It’s any body’s game at this stage, we’ll have to wait and see.”
Humphries, however, is happy to claim victory now.
“Lin’s entitled to hold out till the final whistle, but I think the result is very clear at this point in time,” Senator Humphries told the “CityNews” today.
“Clearly a swing of two percent in her favour was just not enough to win, but even if she wants to defer conceding it will still happen in due course.”
So along with Hatfield Dodds and staff, who desperately cling to the uncounted ballot slips at the AEC, the nation is playing the waiting game.
Who will form government? Will the ACT Greens claim the Liberal Senate seat in their “Green-slide”?
Stay tuned @city_news