‘Relieved, humbled and honoured’: Birrell to head to Canberra after claiming Nicholls

Running to Canberra: Archie Reid with new Member for Nicholls Sam Birrell, who was elected despite a scare from independent Rob Priestly. Photo by Steve Huntley

The Nationals’ Sam Birrell will be heading to Canberra as the Member for Nicholls, but representing a marginal electorate and joining a party room in opposition.

Independent candidate Rob Priestly called Mr Birrell on Sunday morning to concede, with Mr Birrell ahead by more than 7000 votes with 85,000 votes counted.

The 4.7 per cent margin is a fraction of that enjoyed by retiring Nationals MP Damian Drum, who held a margin of 20 per cent.

“I feel tired, relieved and very humble and honoured,” Mr Birrell said on Sunday.

“It was a tough campaign against some really high-quality candidates.

“Rob has been a friend for a long time and will remain so. I only met Steve Brooks at the start of this election campaign and I have a real respect for him.”

Mr Birrell congratulated every candidate in Nicholls.

Ready to go: Signs adorn the fence at Echuca’s polling booth. Photo by Steve Huntley

“As only we know, it is a very hard thing to put yourself out there,” he said.

Mr Birrell said the issues confronting Nicholls, especially water, would be his priorities from day one.

“I need to pull the community together, those who supported me and those who didn’t. This electorate needs to come together to work to get the outcomes from the Federal Parliament that we need.”

Mr Priestly said he contacted Mr Birrell early on Sunday to congratulate him on the win and for becoming the next Member for Nicholls.

“Thank you to my volunteers, supporters and donors, it’s been an extraordinary effort,” Mr Priestly said.

He said come next election the electorate wouldn’t be taken for granted and he hoped his run had paved the way for an independent to take the seat of Nicholls.

He said at this stage that independent wouldn’t be him, “but there’s plenty of time to reflect and think about it”.

He encouraged people to come together and support Mr Birrell now he had won the count.

“I think what’s important now is Sam is our elected representative and as a community we need to work together to get the best for the region over the next three years,” he said.

“People may rightly be upset about how they’ve gone about the campaign, but I’ll be putting all that behind me.“

Casting his vote: Sam Birrell on the polls. Photo by Caitlyn Grant