Independent candidate Joe McGirr, favourite to win the by-election for the regional seat of Wagga Wagga. Picture: Dylan Robinson
Independent candidate Joe McGirr, favourite to win the by-election for the regional seat of Wagga Wagga. Picture: Dylan Robinson

Massive Liberal backlash causes by-election loss

A MASSIVE backlash against the NSW Government is expected to see it lose the seat of Wagga Wagga in Saturday's by-election, with a 29 per cent swing against the Liberal Party.

Independent Joe McGirr is predicted to take the Wagga Wagga seat held by the Liberals since 1957.

The crushing defeat delivered by voters comes after the by-election was triggered by sitting Liberal MP Daryl Maguire's resignation after a corruption scandal.

Swings against the government were up to 36 per cent in some booths, with early counting giving the Liberal candidate Julia Ham even standing with the Labor Party on about 25 per cent of the vote.

In the 2015 NSW state election, Wagga Wagga scored the Liberal Party 53.8pc of the primary vote.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian on Saturday night blamed the recent Liberal leadership upset in Canberra for voters abandoning the party in Wagga Wagga.

An anti-Liberal sign at pre-poll in Wagga Wagga ahead of the by-election. Picture: Dylan Robinson
An anti-Liberal sign at pre-poll in Wagga Wagga ahead of the by-election. Picture: Dylan Robinson

The former sitting Wagga Wagga member, Daryl Maguire was forced to resign his seat after he was secretly recorded trying to strike a deal with former Canterbury City councillor Michael Hawatt.

The independent frontrunner for Wagga Wagga in the NSW Riverina is local doctor, academic and independent candidate.

Dr Joe McGirr was feeling "quietly optimistic" when he addressed his supporters from his backyard on Saturday night, although he wasn't expecting a result until Sunday.

"A lot of people are really excited … there's a sense to make a change," he told AAP in Wagga.

Independent candidate Joe McGirr at Ashmont Public School. Voting day for the Wagga Wagga by-election. Picture: Dylan Robinson
Independent candidate Joe McGirr at Ashmont Public School. Voting day for the Wagga Wagga by-election. Picture: Dylan Robinson

The doctor will not join the coalition once in government.

Although Dr McGirr is favoured, Country Labor's Dan Hayes is still in with a chance.

"People have been lining up early and for me that's an indication they're ready to vote, they're ready to make a change - where that change will go is still tough," Mr Hayes told reporters yesterday.

Mr Hayes said regardless of the outcome, the community has "made Wagga marginal again". He also suggested local and national scandals that plagued the Liberal party of late have angered the community.

In a scathing statement, Gladys Berejiklian said in the wake of the likely Wagga Wagga defeat that, "the infighting in Canberra was a huge concern and, when combined with the actions of a former member, it created an atmosphere where people's cynicism with politics was off the charts.".

However Federal Senator Jim Molan dismissed these concerns saying getting rid of Malcolm Turnbull was necessary.

But he did admit voters hadn't appreciated the drama that was the leadership spill.

"People were very disappointed that we were spending time taking about ourselves and to ourselves but it's something that every now and again that you've got to go through," Senator Molan said.

"We don't go through leadership spill for fun, I can tell you that. "

Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack wouldn't speculate whether the federal coalition was to blame for the loss in Wagga, saying the government wasn't intending to losing the seat.

The Liberal Party won the Wagga Wagga seat by a margin of 12.9 per cent in 2015.

Liberal candidate Julia Ham at the Liberal election party at The Commercial Club for Wagga Wagga by-election. Picture: Dylan Robinson
Liberal candidate Julia Ham at the Liberal election party at The Commercial Club for Wagga Wagga by-election. Picture: Dylan Robinson

Acknowledging what appears to be an inevitable loss, Liberal candidate said she would consider running in March.

"It may be over but it's something that I would certainly stand for again," Ms Ham said.

-With Wires