In the space of two months, Wagga has gone from a safe seat to being on the verge of voting out the Liberals for the first time since 1957.
University of Sydney social historian Christopher Sheil said the government had been dealt a “stunning” blow in Wagga.
“It’s a stunning result, it’s extraordinary; 30 per cent swings don’t happen everyday,” Dr Sheil said.
“I thought there would be a swing but just one above the 5 per cent threshold that you usually expect.
“Anything above 5 per cent is seen as a good sign for the opposition. To get 30 per cent is a bit gobsmacking.”
University of Sydney politics lecturer Stewart Jackson said the swing was “significant” but was unlikely to be replicated across the rest of NSW.
Anything above 5 per cent is seen as a good sign for the opposition. To get 30 per cent is a bit gobsmackingChristopher Sheil, University of Sydney
“I think what we are seeing is quite serious rural anger,” professor Jackson said.
“Certainly in Wagga’s case, there was the case of (former MP Daryl) Maguire being corrupt – that’s an allegation – but if people believe there to be a problem with corruption then they will react negatively.
“The leadership turmoil is Canberra has been hugely damaging to the Liberal brand in particular; it was a mess they got into of their own making when they didn’t need it.
“I’m sure there are state issues as well, when (Premier Gladys) Berejiklian can promise $130 million in new projects and it having no impact.”
Internal Liberal polling showed new Prime Minister Scott Morrison to be reasonably popular in Wagga.
“I think it’s more to do with the instability. Morrison may well be popular but the brand itself may be damage at this point,” professor Jackson said.
“That instability around leadership and policy issues starts to take hold.”
Dr Sheil and professor Jackson both thought independent candidate Joe McGirr was more likely to win.
“It is more likely to be McGirr but the Labor party could still pull it off,” professor Jackson said.