Luke's back, ready for new challenge

By BELINDA SCOTT

LUKE Hartsuyker will retain the seat of Cowper for the Nationals.

He has also put his hat in the ring for his party's deputy leadership, which will be discussed at a party room meeting on Monday.

Mr Hartsuyker, who now represents a marginal seat, called a press conference yesterday to announce his plans after Cowper ALP candidate Paul Sekfy conceded defeat.

The MP said while the last four days had been an anxious wait, a swing back towards him in pre-poll and postal voting had been evident as early as Sunday.

He said he believed he had good support within the party for the deputy's position.

Yesterday the two-party preferred voting figures from the Australian Electoral Commission placed Mr Hartsuyker 2212 votes ahead of ALP candidate Paul Sekfy, with only 1000 absentee and pre-poll votes still to be counted.

Mr Hartsuyker said he wanted to thank the electors of Cowper 'for showing their confidence in me'.

This election has seen far fewer voters placing their confidence in the Nationals, with a 5.3 per cent swing to the ALP in Cowper and the total number of federal National MPs reduced to 10, although Mr Hartsuyker said the seat of Flynn was still in doubt, which could give the Nationals 11 seats.

In spite of this Luke Hartsuyker said he thought Mark Vaile, who has stepped down as Nationals leader following the election, had done a 'tremendous job' and he thought his decision was 'unfortunate'.

He said the existing Nationals leadership was making way for generational change and he did not see individual decisions as a no-confidence vote.

The Nationals vote Australia wide in this election was 592,609 or 5.5 per cent of the vote, well below the Greens on 7.5 per cent.

Booths on Coffs Harbour's northern beaches showed a major swing to the ALP and Luke Hartsuyker said he would be looking at this in the weeks ahead.

He said it would be 'a very different mode of operation being in opposition' but he would be working '110 per cent' for the electorate.

He said the 'strong phenomena' of sea changers and tree changers moving into the region provided great opportunities and the challenge was to connect to them, but essentially such residents did not have a different agenda to existing residents.

Asked about the impact of Work Choices on voting, Luke Hartsuyker said people had made a very strong judgment and the incoming government had a mandate for its suite of policies.

Mr Hartsuyker said the Nationals should not split from the Liberals but must remain part of the Coalition and the party retained a very strong ability to articulate the needs of rural and regional Australia.

Mr Hartsuyker said his first task in Cowper was to continue to represent the electorate strongly and to go around consulting with the electorate.

He said he would be working very hard towards the election in 2010 and hoping to increase his 1.5 per cent margin.



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