THOMAS George has declared he will govern for all people, regardless of how they voted.
In what turned out to be the closest contest in the recent NSW election, Mr George has been returned as the Member for Lismore with a two-party preferred vote of 52.86%, ahead of The Greens' Adam Guise on 47.14%.
The two candidates and their supporters gathered nervously around a computer at the Electoral Commission's temporary Lismore base at 10am yesterday.
Returning officer Sandi Mahoney pushed the button which activated the preference count after days of manually entering votes into the system.
Mr George was clearly relieved to be declared the winner, although most people in the room were expecting the result.
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"This is the sweetest victory of all that I've had," he said, perhaps not intentionally quoting Paul Keating.
Mr George said he had two speeches prepared, just in case the result didn't go his way.
He was "humbled" and thanked all his supporters, volunteers and family. He said it had been a particularly "toxic" campaign, with personal attacks on his family.
"I can take attacks myself, but when my family gets attacked, it's very hard to swallow," he said.
Mr George said his biggest priority would be to see the completion of the $180 million Lismore Base Hospital upgrade.
Mr George acknowledged that the huge swing against him had been a protest vote against CSG.
He said the government would buy back PEL445, the largest petroleum exploration licence on the Northern Rivers, and that only 3% of the Lismore electorate would then be covered by a gas exploration licence.
"When Dart Energy announced they were going to sell it, I immediately contacted the minister and said, 'If they're going to sell it, we're going to buy it'...You've got to be in government to do that. What this result means is we will continue to have a voice in government and that's very important to the people of Lismore electorate."
Mr Guise declared the result "good for democracy" because Lismore could no longer be considered a safe seat.
"The member can no longer be complacent… He has to stand up and be accountable to people who are calling for change and a new way of doing politics... The Nationals need to stand up and represent regional communities rather than the vested interests of the mining companies," he said.
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