A FORMER ENTRANT into the Rose of Tralee competition has helped Australian prime minister Julia Gillard in her quest to retain power by bucking the national trend to retain a swing seat for her Labour party.
Deborah O’Neill, who was the Sydney entrant in the Rose of Tralee in 1979, managed to secure a 1.76% swing towards Labour away from the Liberal/ National Party coalition, who gained seats across the country to end up with just two seats fewer than the incuments.
The government had seen a swing of 4% against it elsewhere, and now seeks to form a minority government – while the coalition does the same.
While postal votes have yet to be counted, the transfers from the Green candidate in O’Neill’s district of Robertson were enough to see her overhaul the lead of Liberal rival Darren Jameson and look set to send her to the House of Representatives, with a lead of 2560 votes.
Despite her promising lead, however, O’Neill – who has parents from Kilkenny and Cork – has told supporters not to “put the cart before the horse and start counting chickens”.
Her campaign was boosted by a late visit from Gillard as the incumbent prime minister, Australia’s first female head of government, to support her campaign as the notoriously swingy Robertson seat looked set to be a particularly tightly-fought ballot.
O’Neill, a university lecturer, has previously accredited her experiences in the Rose of Tralee contest with igniting her political ambitions.