Pauline Hanson visits electoral battleground of Hunter

VISIT: Pauline Hanson with Stuart Bonds, his wife, Sini Ariell, and their daughter, Penny, at the Australian Electoral Commission counting centre in East Maitland.
VISIT: Pauline Hanson with Stuart Bonds, his wife, Sini Ariell, and their daughter, Penny, at the Australian Electoral Commission counting centre in East Maitland.

One Nation leader Pauline Hanson has visited East Maitland to oversee the count in the federal seat of Hunter, where party candidate Stuart Bonds clings to hope of a shock win over Labor frontbencher Joel Fitzgibbon.

Ms Hanson was at the Australian Electoral Commission office in East Maitland on Tuesday as AEC staff continued the slow process of counting pre-poll, postal and other votes.

Mr Bonds said on Thursday that Ms Hanson regarded One Nation as still a "real threat" to take Hunter.

In a video interview with the Herald on the day of the One Nation leader's visit, Mr Bonds said Ms Hanson was "absolutely ecstatic" about the polls in Hunter.

"There's more than a likely chance we're not going to get over the line, but on the flipside, she's very proud of the campaign we ran down here, and especially as a first-time candidate, she says it's an exceptional effort," Mr Bonds said.

The count for Hunter is set to drag into next week.

Mr Fitzgibbon edged further in front of Nationals candidate Josh Angus after votes came in for the Edgeworth pre-poll station, but the shadow agriculture minister will likely rely on preferences to keep the seat he has held for 23 years.

By Thursday evening, he led Mr Angus by 5000 votes on the two-party preference count after 80 per cent of votes had been counted.

But, if Mr Bonds makes up the 1907 difference in primary votes between himself and Mr Angus, the 32-year-old Singleton farmer and mine worker could receive more preferences and pull closer to an upset.

Mr Bonds has received 21.75 per cent of the primary vote, One Nation's best result in the country. In the neighbouring division of Paterson, where Neil Turner's primary vote was just under 14 per cent.

In his interview for a new weekly online Herald interview series, The Issue, Stuart Bonds said he was not shocked by the vote.

"I had a feeling that we were going to do well," Mr Bonds said. "I thought it would be brilliant if we could crack 20 per cent, to tell you the truth, and when I've seen it hovering around those 22, 23 numbers, I thought, 'Wow, that's incredible'."

Mr Bonds acknowledged some of his polling reflected "a protest vote, in a way, against the movement the Labor Party has taken to the left". But he believed the voting in Hunter would change the way parties viewed what had been a safe Labor seat.

"It will be a game-changing result, despite what the final result is at the end of the count," Mr Bonds said.

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This story Hanson visits Hunter as Bonds holds hope first appeared on Newcastle Herald.