Independent Kiama MP Gareth Ward is returning to the NSW parliament after winning his seat despite facing historical sex assault charges in court.
The Herald called the marginal seat for the Liberal-turned-independent on Wednesday afternoon, after a fresh group of votes pushed the MP ahead of Labor’s Katelin McInerney by 1000 votes.
“When it comes to elections, the people always get it right and it is with humility and honour that I look forward to continuing to work hard and get results for the people of our community,” Ward said on Wednesday.
“This election victory may have seemed impossible to some. I received no preferences from any party and I was deeply disappointed with the smear campaign by Unions NSW.”
“I dare say many decent union members would be disgusted if they knew how their union fees were being spent.”
Ward was suspended last year from parliament after being charged with historical sexual and indecent assault, forcing him out of the Liberal Party and making him an independent. He denies the charges and pleaded not guilty to them in Nowra District Court on Tuesday.
But questions remain about whether he will be suspended from parliament for a second time while the charges are before the courts.
During the campaign, Premier Chris Minns promised he would not do a deal with the now-re-elected MP in the case of a hung parliament. Minns also said he would push for a new suspension to ensure Ward could not sit in the chamber if re-elected.
“We won’t be entering into deals with Garth Ward if he’s elected the member for Kiama,” the then-opposition leader said in early March. “I don’t think it’s appropriate given both sides of politics moved … to suspend him from parliament just a few months ago.”
On Tuesday afternoon, Minns again ruled out negotiating with Ward if Labor is in minority government, but refused to be drawn on how he planned to deal with Ward.
“We’re not going to negotiate with him at all,” he told reporters. “I want to wait and see what the outcome of the ballot is.”
Labor conceded the seat on Wednesday afternoon, with McInerney posting on Facebook that she accepted the result and was “looking forward to spending some time with my family and continuing to advocate for my community”.
The Herald also called the seat of Miranda, in Sydney’s south, for Liberal Eleni Petinos after votes for her surged ahead on Wednesday morning. The safe Liberal seat, held by the former fair trading minister since 2015, recorded a 12 per cent swing toward Labor.
Three seats remained too close to call on Wednesday afternoon. Labor’s candidates were trailing behind their Liberal counterparts in Terrigal, Goulburn and Holsworthy, with more than 70 per cent of the votes in each electorate counted.
If current vote counting trends in those three seats were to continue, Labor would be unable to secure a majority in parliament.
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