Former Gold Coast City councillor Cameron Caldwell is heading to Canberra after winning the federal seat of Fadden for the Liberal National Party.
Caldwell will replace former Turnbull and Morrison government minister Stuart Robert who resigned from federal parliament earlier this year.
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The new MP fought off a tough campaign by the Labor party which had highlighted Robert’s involvement in the robodebt scandal that engulfed the previous coalition federal government.
Robodebt is the name given to an unlawful debt recovery program that saddled almost half a million welfare recipients with hundreds of millions of dollars in false Centrelink debts between 2015 and 2019.
A royal commission investigation into the scheme released earlier this month laid the blame at the feet of senior public servants and coalition ministers including Mr Robert, Scott Morrison, Alan Tudge and Christian Porter.
But Caldwell said the main issue for voters in the by-election was the rising cost of living.
“We are a party that must return to government in order to restore the faith that Australians have in government keeping their promises,” he said in his victory speech alongside his wife, Lauren.
Federal coalition leader Peter Dutton said Caldwell would be an exceptional member of the federal parliament.
“He’s worked tirelessly for this community for over a dozen years, he’s accomplished in law in small business, he’s worked hard for his local community, and he will continue that work as the federal member for Fadden,” he said.
Labor’s candidate Letitia Del Fabbro said on Saturday any swing to Labor would be a blow to the coalition in one of its safest seats.
Del Fabbro, who was contesting the seat for the second time, was credited with whittling down Robert’s margin from 11.2 per cent to 10.6 per cent at the 2019 federal election.
But late-night polling from the Australian Electoral Commission on Saturday appeared to show there had been little change in voting patterns, with a likely swing to the LNP.
In her concession speech, Del Fabbro said it was still a “bloody good result” for Labor.
“A little while ago I called Cameron Caldwell to congratulate him on being elected as a new member,” she said on Saturday night.
“As you know, we knew this would be an uphill battle, so I guess it has always been an important message to the LNP to not take the Gold Coast for granted.”
Labor has won Fadden once – in 1983 upon the election of the Hawke government.
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