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Birrell expected to head to Canberra after preferences flow Nationals' way

Check back during the day for updates from McPherson Media Group from polling stations in Nicholls and across the region and the country as Australia votes.
May 21, 2022
Jovial: Sonia and Rob Priestly in front of their crowd of volunteers at The Woolshed on Saturday night.

Check back during the day for updates from McPherson Media Group from polling stations in Nicholls and across the region and the country as Australia votes.

You can check out everything you need to know about the 2022 Federal election in Nicholls using the link below.

UPDATE, 11.35pm: Antony Green calls Nicholls

Just as I tried to put it (and myself) to bed, the vote drags me back in. ABC election analyst Antony Green has called the seat of Nicholls for the Nationals.

The decision would send Sam Birrell to parliament to represent the region in the next parliament.

As of 11.35pm Mr Birrell had more than 27 per cent of the vote, and preferences appear to be flowing his way.

We’ll have more tomorrow.

UPDATE, 11.15pm: Birrell speaks, Morrison concedes defeat

It’s becoming more likely Sam Birrell will be the next member for Nicholls but if he does head to Canberra it will be under a Labor government - either minority or majority.

Mr Birrell spoke on Shepparton radio a short time ago in a touching interview in which he praised his opponents Rob Priestly and Steve Brooks.

Read the story on that here.

We’re also wrapping the blog up for the evening, check back tomorrow for the full rundown as a winner is (hopefully) declared!

Thanks for joining us.

UPDATE, 10.30pm: Creeping towards a result

Sam Birrell has moved into the ‘likely’ phase of the count, but is not ready to call the seat of Nicholls just yet.

“Things are looking really positive for us, I don’t really want to claim anything yet,” Mr Birrell said on 98.5 ONE FM’s ‘Nicholls Votes’ coverage.

“I ran on Drummy’s record and my record on the Committee for Greater Shepparton and before that as a community person.”

More on that chat shortly, but one point we haven’t touched on yet today is the rate of informal votes in the electorate.

The informal rate among the 50% of votes currently counted sits at 7.32%, only slightly down on last election.

Anecdotally, voter engagement seemed at much higher levels this time around but that is yet to show up in the numbers.

UPDATE, 10.05pm: Nicholls ‘won’t be taken for granted’ again: Priestly

Independent candidate Rob Priestly has said the politically landscape in Nicholls will never be same after tonight.

Mr Priestly said he was still unsure how the night would unfold in Nicholls with votes still to come in but said the political landscape would never be the same following his run.

Read the full story below.

UPDATE, 9:50pm: Indi stays Independent

Our MMG colleague Simon Ruppert over in Benalla tells us there’s a bit happening over there too.

Independent Helen Haines has retained the seat of Indi.

With 40 per cent of the vote counted Dr Haines has been declared winner with an eight per cent swing towards her the two candidate preferred race.

UPDATE, 9:30pm: There’s a bit happening

Having five screens and a radio station going at the same time isn’t as helpful as I thought it would be.

Projections across the board are calling it a Labor victory at the top, with Anthony Albanese to form government.

At the Nicholls level, Nationals candidate Sam Birrell holds a now-steady 8% lead in the two party preferred race over Independent Rob Priestly.

The gap has been slowly tightening all evening, but pundits on those big TV channels with the fancy graphics are starting to unofficially call it a Nationals hold rather than a ‘too close to call’ result.

Either way, it has been a long while since this region’s federal seat was still unofficial at this time of the evening on election night.

60 of 75 polling places have been returned, meaning we’re almost at the point of having to wait for pre-poll and postal votes to be counted tomorrow to be certain of a result.

UPDATE, 9.10pm: A few words from the Coalition candidates

Max had a quick chat to Liberal candidate Steve Brooks and Nationals candidate Sam Birrell at their respective party headquarters’.

“It's kind of like you’re just waiting to land,” is how Mr Brooks described the current feeling in the room.

“You put everything out there and it's really up to the numbers to come back now.

“I'm proud of the group effort we did and I couldn't have really changed anything with the campaign. I wouldn't have changed anything, so I'm happy.”

Both thanked their volunteers for all of their hard work, and said the race remained currently too close to call.

“Just a big thank you for all your work and all your help and putting their faith in me,” Mr Birrell said.

“It's a big deal and I really appreciate all the work that they've done. You just hope you just hope that they can feel that their faith was well placed in a candidate that did their best.”

Max is currently on the way out to chat to Independent Rob Priestly and we’ll have more for you when he does.

With 39% of the vote counted in Nicholls, Mr Birrell lead 54% to 46% over Mr Priestly in the two candidate preferred race.

On an overall perspective, Labor is currently predicted to snare 63 seats to the Coalition’s 46, with seven heading elsewhere.

That leaves 35 seats as too close to call with 35% of the nation’s votes counted.

UPDATE, 8.40pm: Candidates and volunteers wait with bated breath

The news is flowing through thick and fast now.

Max Stainkamph has headed out to chat to the candidates at their respective party parties.

Sam Birrell - who has nudged back ahead of first preferences but slid back to 56% in the two candidate preferred race - and his Nationals are at the Aussie Hotel.

In the lead: Nationals candidate for Nicholls Sam Birrell.

Max has assessed the mood as not-quite upbeat.

Over at Deakin Reserve - the Shepparton United end to be exact - Steve Brooks and his Liberal supporters are relaxing after a long campaign.

The writing looks to be on the wall for his chances of taking out the electorate, but with the weight of pre-poll and postal votes in the region he isn’t giving up hope just yet.

A chance to relax: Steve Brooks and his Liberal Party party.

UPDATE, 8.15 pm: Nicholls race heating up

Almost 23% of the vote has been counted in Nicholls and the two candidate preferred vote has Nationals candidate Sam Birrell holding around 58% of the vote over Independent candidate Rob Priestly.

When you dial down into the first preferences at this stage of the count, Mr Priestly has garnered 7,540 to Mr Birrell’s 7,536 - with Liberal candidate Steve Brooks third on 4,346.

As predicted throughout this campaign, the seat of Nicholls - the third safest in the country before this election - looks like it will be decided on the flow preferences.

UPDATE, 7.45 pm: Farrer a Liberal Party hold

Tyler Maher back on deck, I’ve sent Max out on the road to catch up with the Nicholls candidates once again.

In news up north, incumbent Sussan Ley will hold the seat of Farrer with around 68% of the two candidate preferred vote over Labor’s Darren Cameron.

It took around 90 minutes for the seat to be called in Ms Ley’s favour once polling closed.

UPDATE, 7.00pm: Votes keep trickling in for Birrell

Sam Birrell has taken an early lead in the race for Nicholls with more than 2500 votes in.

The Nationals candidate has taken 33 per cent of the vote as of 7pm on the dot, with independent Rob Priestly sitting behind on 21 per cent, just ahead of Steve Brooks on 18 per cent.

Bill Lodwick of Labor leads the rest of the pack on 7.3 per cent, with rural communities of Avenel, Bamawm, Barmah, Dookie, Invergordon, Nanneella, Pickapunyal, Strathmerton, Tooborac, and Undera joining Torrumbarry with their results in.

UPDATE, 6.40pm: First votes roll in for Nicholls, Farrer

Sam Birrell is officially in the lead in the race for Nicholls.

The small booth of Torrumbarry has been returned, with 55 of the 133 votes for Mr Birrell. Twenty nine of the votes have come in for independent Rob Priestly, with another 22 in for Liberal Steve Brooks.

A smattering of other votes have gone to smaller parties.

Over the border in Farrer, Rankin Springs has come in solidly for current MP Susan Ley, with 100 votes tallied, and of the 80 formal votes a whopping 54 of them have come in for Ms Ley, with Richard Francis of One Nation in second on nine votes.

UPDATE, 6.30pm: First votes for the night in Indi

We have our first votes for the evening! Ring the bell! Max Stainkamph jumping back on the blog for Tyler Maher, who’s out grabbing a well-earned bit to eat.

The tiny booth of Gough’s Bay in Indi — on the shores of Lake Eildon — has returned out first votes for the night, all 94 votes of them.

Twenty-nine of those are for current independent MP Helen Haines, 38 are for Liberal candidate Ross Lyman and a smattering of other votes have been spread across the other eight candidates.

Democracy sausages all round: Nagambie Senior Citizens Centre President Peter Branagan. Photo by Evan Wallace

UPDATE, 6 pm: Siren sounds

The siren has sounded on the federal election. But that doesn’t mean we’re going anywhere - because now it is time to count the votes and bring you the results.

Speaking of sirens, half of the sports team and photography department have just trickled into the office.

I hear Avenel won in a thriller over Lancaster in senior Kyabram District League football action, and Rochester reigned supreme at Deakin Reserve over Shepparton in the Goulburn Valley League.

Megan Fisher also reports that the monster truck show in town was just as impressive as it sounded.

Stay tuned for a sneak peek at those pics.

UPDATE, 5.40 pm: Strong voter turnout in Nagambie

Seymour Telegraph journalist Evan Wallace is about ready to put his feet up after a long day on the road.

He found voters in droves Nagambie, with the absence of a prepoll station meaning it had been “non-stop” throughout the day as residents cast their ballot.

“It was frantic early,” Nagambie Senior Citizens Club President Peter Branagan said.

I can attest to that, having driven past the polling booth myself this morning.

Evan also spoke to a couple who vote on the opposite sides of the political spectrum.

Contrasting couple: Jacqueline is voting for the Greens and Anthony for the Liberal Party. Photo by Evan Wallace

For the full story, click the link below.

UPDATE, 4.45 pm: Focus begins to shift

Hello everyone, Tyler Maher here to help steer the blog into the early evening and beyond.

With polling places set to close in just over an hour, attention will quickly turn from voting to counting.

While we hit a short lull before results start trickling in, here’s the links to the chats our journos had with Sam Birrell, Rob Priestly and Steve Brooks this morning.

Hopefully these links work better than the ones I just spent an hour wrestling an unnamed social media giant (definitely Myspace) to post.

UPDATE, 3.15 pm: Benalla election action

Tuning into Benalla and consequently the Indi electorate, Simon Ruppert said it has been a busy day at the polls.

Collating the general feelings of seven voters, Simon reports a general trend steering toward wanting a change in government in his corner of the electorate.

“I wanted to vote for someone who cares about Australia. Someone who wants to make it better. Not just for the politicians,” one of the quoted voters said.

Colourful: Voters in Benalla were met volunteers with how to vote cards. Photo by Simon Ruppert

UPDATE, 2.35 pm: Where are the sausages?

It seems as though there’s a common theme across Nicholls today, something is missing.

Obviously it’s not the faces of candidates splashed across every flat surface, nor the lack of voters, it is in fact the humble democratic delicacy.

Have you been missing the integral voting accompaniment? Seeing any barbecues fired up in the area? Would give one to me for free? Let us know, we’d love to share some pictures!

Luckily, some have been spotted in Stanhope by our roaming Geoff Adams!

Damon Wall and Ethan Barrette were in charge of the democracy sausages on Saturday at Mooroopna Primary School.

The roving Geoff Adams has found a #democracysausage or two at Stanhope pic.twitter.com/IzgpAMXrsg

— max stainkamph (@maxstainkamph) May 21, 2022

UPDATE, 2.30 pm: Seymour celebrates election day

Seymour Telegraph reporter Evan Wallace has captured the bright atmosphere of Seymour today.

“In a campaign that has brought unprecedented attention to Seymour, a mood of tension has shifted to anticipation and relief on election day.”

Chatting with a mix of Nicholls candidates and voters, Evan brought to life differing sides of the election debate, of course backed up with a gallery community pictures.

Team Birrell: Mia Le Cerf (left) and Leonie Feery out in support for Sam Birrell, along with who may be one of Birrell’s youngest supporters. Photo by Evan Wallace

Murray Silby really hit the road today, dropping into Tocumwal to gauge the community’s insight.

Having moved from Victoria to New South Wales, Claire Wileman said this year’s vote was “one of the least involved” she’d ever casted.

“I’m just uninspired by everyone, I really had no idea where I was going today, who I was going to vote.”

Tom Edwards was also feeling quite disillusioned with the candidates running, he said the 2022 Federal Election was “very confusing”.

UPDATE, 1.20 pm: Voters out and about

We’ve had a few journos on the ground today, getting the scoop on what Nicholls voters are feeling. Caitlyn Grant here to take over the blog for the next couple of hours.

Murray Silby headed to Mooroopna this morning and had a chat with two people hitting the polls, and got some stellar pictures of the democratic delicacy ‒ the snag in bread.

Election: The welcoming faces at Mooroopna.

One being Mooroopna man Ifran, who cast his vote today for the first time after becoming a citizen last year.

Between Rob Priestly and Sam Birrell casting their votes, I ducked out to Kybram to see how the day was shaping up.

Voters steadily trickled into Kyabram P-12 College’s polling station on the morning of Saturday, May 21.

Anna Tinkler was one of the early morning voters, she said her vote would go to Independent candidate for Nicholls Rob Priestly because he had “some great ideas for our community”.

UPDATE, 11.45 am: Sam Birrell votes at St Brendan’s Primary School

Cast a vote: Sam Birrell voted on Saturday morning at St Brendan’s Primary School.

Casting his vote at St Brendan’s Primary School this morning, the Nationals candidate for Nicholls Sam Birrell said it was somewhat of a full circle moment, having attended the school himself.

“I remember sitting on the floor of this hall ‒ now I’m in here voting for myself, isn’t it weird how things turn out?” he said.

“The ethos that we got at this school was that you're not just out there to do something for yourself, you're there to do something for your community.”

Mr Birrell said it’s hard to know whether the Nationals campaign tactics ‒ such as robocalls, letters and attack ads ‒ would affect votes.

“I mean, reflecting that those are things done in tight electorates around Australia and people in cities are used to it, people perhaps aren’t used to it here because it’s probably been a bit safer,” he said.

“We could do it better in the future, I will say that and change takes time but good, positive people in major parties is the best way to make change in my opinion, and that’s why I’m running for this electorate.”

Mr Birrell said overall he was very happy and proud of the campaign.

UPDATE, 10.30am: Brooks casts his vote in Numurkah

Vote in: Steve Brooks popping his ballot into the box on Saturday in Numurkah.

Murray Silby has just spoken to Liberal candidate Steve Brooks in Numurkah after he cast his vote, who said he was “so excited to have this day finally arrive”.

Mr Brooks will spend most of the day on the polling booth in Numurkah before heading back to Shepparton this evening, saying he was looking forward to “have a beer with my family and friends and the hundreds of volunteers who supported me”.

He said he’d been proud of his campaign and volunteers and felt “privileged” to be able to put his hand up to represent the community.

"I think the message we put out was solid,“ Mr Brooks said.

“We tried to show that I have substance in a lot of the things I'm talking about, and that we would be in a position to actually deliver the things that we're talking about.

Voting open: David Frizzell, Lorraine Smith and Gerald Howard handing out how to vote cards at Guthrie street polling booth in Shepparton on Saturday morning. Photo: Geoff Adams

“I hope that that's enough to let you know that people see value in that as a candidate and I hope that they put number one next to Steve Brooks, the Liberal Party.”

While polls have shown Labor is looking more likely to form government following the vote, Mr Brooks said he hadn’t been looking outside the region.

“My head is so far into Nicholls — and I say this not to avoid the question but my head is so ingrained in what's happening here that I couldn't even tell you what the national headlines are for polling.”

UPDATE, 9.45am: How the day will unfold

It will be a long day on polling booths for AEC workers, volunteers and candidates, with polls closing at 6pm.

That’s also the time which counting will start, so we won’t have any results until after that point.

People who pre-polled won’t have the votes counted until after 6pm, also, while mail-in ballots will be opened and counted on Sunday.

So what does that mean? We’re unlikely to have a decision on Nicholls tonight, considering how close the vote is expected to be and the need for preferences to split candidates.

From a national point of view, we also might not have a result this evening, especially if independents hold the balance of power.

UPDATE, 9.00am: Nationals ads wall-to-wall on polling centres

Wraparound: Mooroopna Primary School has been wrapped in Nationals advertising today.

Looks like the Nationals’ advertising blitz — which extended to personal letters and robocalls from former Prime Ministers in the past few days — has extended to election day, with many voting sites in Shepparton at least plastered wall-to-wall with advertising for Sam Birrell.

Murray Silby has just arrived in Mooroopna to find a wraparound of advertising some 50 metres long, going around the corner.

It’s not the only site, either.

If you’ve seen more (or if you’ve seen a cute dog at a polling booth), get in touch — email me at max.stainkamph@mmg.com.au or get me on twitter @maxstainkamph if you’re on “the bird app”.

UPDATE, 8.30am: Rob Priestly casts his vote

Bright and early: Independent candidate for Nicholls Rob Priestly casts his vote in Shepparton on Saturday morning. Photo: Caitlyn Grant.

Independent Rob Priestly is the first of the major candidates to cast his vote today, popping it in bright and early at St Brendan’s Primary School.

He spoke to Caitlyn Grant just after he popped his vote in.

He said he was “feeling great”.

“The campaign has been a combination of community work and effort by hundreds of people and today's the coming together all of that effort and energy, and we'll know the result, you know, in a day or two,” he said.

He wanted to thank the “extraordinary” effort from volunteers.

When asked about how he thought robocalls and letters would affect voters’ decision, he said people had a chance today to send a message about the type of campaign they wanted to reward.

Tongue in cheek he said he expected to eat a fair few democracy sausages from barbecues at polling booths.

UPDATE, 8.00am: Kicking it all off

Gday and welcome to our Federal election coverage, my name’s Max Stainkamph and I’ll be kicking us off for #NichollsVotes — which is shaping to be one of the closest Federal elections in the region’s history.

If you’re still heading off to vote and unsure who’s running or what they’re standing for — or have family members who are keen to know who’s who — the links below will give you an idea of who’s who.

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