James Griffin claimed victory for the Liberals in the blue-ribbon seat of Manly against the teals, saying the political movement had become a “parody of themselves”.
Despite a swing of about 10 per cent swing away from the Liberals, Griffin celebrated holding his seat by opening a bottle of VB – his first beer in months – and thanking his predecessor, former premier Mike Baird, who imparted some key advice in 2017.
“The first thing he [Baird] said was that ‘It’s all about community. Don’t ever forget that,’” Griffin said.
Griffin told his crowd of volunteers gathered at Seaforth Bowling Club – selected specifically because it doesn’t have pokie machines –he’d won over voters with a door-to-door strategy alongside his strategy to double koala numbers by 2050 and the unveiling of NSW’s third-largest national park.
He said he welcomed the challenge from Climate 200-backed Joeline Hackman, but he criticised Climate 200 for releasing campaign material that attacked his record on native logging, koala conservation and land clearing.
“Distributing a black flyer with red writing on it and a dodgy photo of a candidate is politics of years gone by,” Griffin said.
“The teals at a federal level at least came in saying we’re going to do it differently. And they did. But what we saw at a state level in all of the northern beaches [and] north shore seats was dirty politics, and I think that really has damaged the teal brand.
“They’ve almost become a parody of themselves.”
Hackman declined to comment on the criticism or the results as the Griffin camp celebrated, saying she was still watching the results and celebrating with volunteers.
Griffin said the Coalition’s loss in the state was a “sad thing” and reflected an upheaval in the NSW Liberal Party in recent years.
“It is a strange thing to have started my political career with a photo in my office of me standing there with Brad Hazzard, Jonathan O’Dea, Rob Stokes and Gladys Berejiklian,” he said, naming northern beaches or north shore MPs who have resigned.
Griffin would not confirm if he’d step into the role of shadow environment minister in opposition.
“That will ultimately be for whoever our shadow opposition leader is. But I’ll obviously be talking to them about what the opportunities are.”
Griffin came into the campaign with a 14.6 per cent margin, a lead that was shored up slightly by boundary redistributions in which Dee Why joined the seat of Manly.
Griffin thanked his family on Saturday night, and shouted “Good on ya, Mum” to cheers from the crowd. Griffin’s mother is a former Greens councillor, and he joked earlier today that his goal was to earn her vote by the end of his political career.
The campaign in the beachside seat, contested for the first time by a teal independent at the state level, swung from issues including climate action, integrity and poker machine gambling reform to the local affairs of bus cancellations, ferries plagued by breakdowns and residents concerned about the environmental impact of shark nets.
Earlier in the week, Baird said the presence of a strong teal challenger in the seat meant Griffin had to go “from one end of the electorate to the other” to earn every vote.
“That’s one of the great things about the teals. They’ve reminded both political parties that communities matter, and every vote counts, and every vote matters.”
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