In the space of two months, Wagga has gone from a safe seat to being on the verge of voting out the Liberals for the first time since 1956.
University of Sydney social historian Christopher Sheil said the government had been dealt a “stunning” blow at Saturday’s byelection.
“It’s a stunning result, it’s extraordinary; 30 per cent swings don’t happen everyday,” Dr Sheil said.
“I thought there would be a swing but just one above the five per cent threshold that you usually expect.
“Anything above five per cent is seen as a good sign for the opposition. To get 30 per cent is a bit gobsmacking.”
The Daily Advertiser columnist and former editor Graham Gorrel said there had been a lot of talk before Saturday that Liberal candidate Julia Ham would struggle.
“People I respect were saying she’d get a thrashing, and it appears she has,” he said.
“They can’t come back from (their current results) in any shape or form, I would think.”
Mr Gorrel said “dozens and dozens” of conservative voters had been turned off by the state government’s performance and forced council amalgamations.
University of Sydney politics lecturer Stewart Jackson said the swing was “significant” but was unlikely to be replicated across the rest of NSW.
“I think what we are seeing is quite serious rural anger,” Professor Jackson said.
“Certainly in Wagga’s case, there was the case of (former MP Daryl) Maguire being corrupt – that’s an allegation – but people if people believe there to be a problem with corruption then they will react negatively.
“The Leadership turmoil is Canberra has been hugely damaging to the Liberal brand in particular; it was a mess they got into of their own making when they didn’t need it.
“I’m sure there are state issues as well, when (Premier Gladys) Berejiklian can promise $130 million in new projects and it having no impact.”
Internal Liberal polling showed new Prime Minister Scott Morrison to be reasonably popular in Wagga.
“I think it’s more to do with the instability. Morrison may well be popular but the brand itself may be damage at this point,” Professor Jackson said.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if they preferred Morrison over Turnbull, but that instability around leadership and policy issues starts to take hold.”
Dr Sheil and Professor Jackson both thought that independent canddiate Joe McGirr was more likely to win.
“Julia ham has lost, The Liberal Party has lost the byelection,” Professor Jackson said.
“There is no real path through to victory for them.
“The Labor party could still pull it off.”
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