Michael's the man

DESPITE welcoming a new face to represent them in federal parliament, the people of the Riverina voted emphatically against change at the polls on Saturday.The Nationals' Michael McCormack claimed a strong victory in one of the few three-cornered contests that took place across Australia in a vote that validated a new personality for the same old party.Although Mr McCormack will start his first term in office with a margin significantly less than his predecessor Kay Hull, in reality he is likely to enjoy an increased supporter base.Take Liberal candidate Andrew Negline out of the equation and a further 12,000 votes would logically have flowed to Mr McCormack, netting him more than 60 per cent of the total vote (up from 45 per cent).The dominance of the conservative vote was such that Mr McCormack secured a 3.3 per cent swing towards him on a two-party preferred basis although much of the Labor Party's lost ground can be attributed to Independent candidate Matthew Hogg, who secured 6 per cent of the vote.While Mr McCormack was keen to make sure everyone who campaigned for him got the credit, he was also pleased with the margin of his victory, particularly with competition from the Liberal Party."I think the fact that it was a robust campaign, with strong competition from the Liberal Party and all the other candidates validates me as the elected member and validates the National Party as the right party to represent the interests of the Riverina and regional Australia," he said."If the Libs hadn't run, the people could rightly say 'you've only won because there's no Liberal candidate' or 'you've only won because Kay Hull was so popular.As Mr McCormack came down from the high of victory yesterday he paid tribute to the value of a strong team, including special mentions for his mentor, the retiring Mrs Hull and his campaign manager, Joe Dennis.He said Mrs Hull's popularity and the National Party's incumbency were important factors in the win."I would like to think it had a lot to do with Kay Hull's representation over 12 years," he said."Riverina people are happy with the representation they've been given over the past from the likes of Noel Hicks and Kay Hull and they've voted for us overwhelmingly."

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