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Labor vows fightback

Tuesday, 29th March, 2011

UP TO THE CHALLENGE: Neville Gasmier UP TO THE CHALLENGE: Neville Gasmier

By John Casey

The Australian Labor Party in Broken Hill is ready, willing and able to fight back from the weekend's calamitous performance in the NSW state election.

Vanquished local candidate and BH ALP President, Neville Gasmier, said the magnitude of the Coalition's victory at the ballot box only made him more determined to resurrect the party's position.

"I don't know if I'll be the candidate in four years from now but I have no doubt that we will bounce back," Mr Gasmier said.

"We have paid the price for neglecting the people we have represented in the past and voters lost faith in us, but there is no reason why we can't re-build and be a force again the future.

"It will take a lot of hard work, but I have no doubt the Labor Party is far from a spent force," Mr Gasmier continued.

The ALP's proud record of never having lost a polling booth in Broken Hill was obliterated by a 16 per cent swing to sitting member John Williams which saw the National Party claim victory at all seven local booths.

But Mr Gasmier could still find some positives.

"There's no escaping the fact that we (the ALP) lost track the past few years but I believe this is a great opportunity for us to re-build from the ground up," he said.

"There is absolutely no doom and gloom as far as I'm concerned because I know our core values are shared by a large majority of the working class and families and when we get it right that support will return.

"We will come back stronger than ever - not only in Broken Hill but across the State," he added.

Mr Gasmier said a full and frank assessment would be undertaken and the re-building process would begin at the April monthly meeting of the local ALP branch.

"There will be a number of strategies put in place to remedy the situation and our focus is always about welcoming new people and fresh ideas, so if people feel they can contribute, we would love to hear from them," he said.

"Yes, the Labor Party is in decline in terms of membership but so too are many community-based organisations and people who give up their time and work hard for what they believe in just don't surrender.

"There are some people who would like to see the disintegration of the Labor Party in Broken Hill, but I'm here to tell them that isn't going to happen," he continued.

A spokesman for the Electoral Commission in Broken Hill said more than 80 per cent of votes had been counted in the seat of Murray-Darling and that the process would be completed by Thursday at the latest.

"There are still some absentee votes and postal votes to be counted," the spokesman said.

In the 2007 state election, when Labor candidate Peter Black lost the seat to John Williams, the ALP won 11 of the 55 booths. This time around John Williams made a clean sweep of the 42 polling venues.

"But let's keep this in perspective," Mr Gasmier said. 

"The swing against Labor was 16 per cent across the State and it was the same here in Broken Hill, so the backlash locally was the same as everywhere in NSW.

"If the swing away from Labor was higher here than elsewhere I would be more concerned, but there have been many unheard of results in this election, not just here.

"Some of the seats that Labor lost had never been out of our control before, so while the results are concerning from a local ALP perspective, what we saw here was consistent with what took place right across the state," he added.

While vowing to continue the Labor fight, Mr Gasmier said he was unable to guarantee he would be the local candidate at the next election, although it wasn't out of the question either.

"Who knows what life will throw up between now and then?" Mr Gasmier said.

"I've shown in the past (through City Council) that I like representing people and if the opportunity was there again in four years' time then I would certainly look at it," he said.

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