National

Eden-Monaro down to pre-poll preferences

By AAP Newswire

Neither side has claimed victory in the Eden-Monaro by-election with the result to hinge on preference flows from the enormous number of early voters.

Counting stopped on Saturday night with 65.2 per cent of ballots tallied up, although not all of those had preference flows done.

Labor's Kristy McBain has a narrow lead of 50.55 per cent on projected preference flows while Liberal Fiona Kotvojs is expected to take 49.45 per cent.

But the votes cast early in Jindabyne, Narooma, Queanbeyan City and four booths in Canberra are yet to be counted, as are more than 16,800 postal votes.

"The people have spoken today. We may not be exactly sure yet what they have said," Liberal senator Jim Molan told party faithful after counting ended at 11pm.

Ms McBain told supporters it was OK that the results were still too close to call.

"We said we wanted to make sure that we shone a spotlight on people in Eden-Monaro that were doing it really tough, and I think this election campaign we have definitely done that," she said.

The by-election was triggered when respected Labor member Mike Kelly resigned for health reasons.

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese noted on Saturday night he had said at the time the seat would be hard to hold because of the strength of Dr Kelly's personal vote.

Labor's primary vote dropped 3.85 points from the 2019 result in the seat to 36.17 per cent - although this was still higher than its national or NSW vote in the federal election.

Dr Kotvojs noted the Liberal primary vote - up 1.44 points - had defied a century-long trend of swings against government in by-elections.

The electorate in southeast NSW has been battered by drought, summer's bushfires and the coronavirus recession.

Both candidates acknowledge the recovery would be tough and vowed to continue to fight for the region no matter the election outcome.

"For me, it's really important that we work together as a community and that we deal with these issues, that we have the leadership from the government and we have somebody who works for us to connect the two," Dr Kotvojs said.

"A government that gives leadership, a government that gives direction, a government that sets a base that supports people is what we need.

"But the other thing that is essential is a community that loves and cares and respect each other ... That is the Eden-Monaro and the Australia that I will continue to work for."

Ms McBain said her resolve would not fade when the spotlight on the region did.

"Regardless of the outcome of this election I will continue to stand up for these regions that I know and love," the former Bega mayor said.

"The lesson we have learnt from the Black Summer bushfires is that leadership matters. It matters when you show up and it matters that you listen to people."

While the Greens' primary vote fell on Saturday, Labor was picking up preferences from the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers party and the Help End Marijuana Prohibition party, neither of which ran in the seat in 2019.

NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro, who initially considered running in the by-election for the Nationals, said there hadn't been a sense of anger from voters heading to the booths on polling day.