By Brad Lester
LEONGATHA South woman Bridget McKenzie has created history after becoming The Nationals’ first female federal politician from Victoria in Saturday’s polls.
She was confirmed as one of six Victorian senators after securing second place on the Coalition’s Senate ticket as the only Nationals’ nomination.
Her win was indicative of the strong conservative vote across the region, with the Liberals’ Russell Broadbent retaining McMillan and colleague Greg Hunt staying in Flinders, while The Nationals’ Darren Chester tightened his reign over Gippsland.
Australians still await news of whether Labor or the Coalition will govern the country, with Independent MPs and the Greens likely to determine the outcome.
Ms McKenzie said her victory was indicative of the Nationals’ dedication to representing the needs of rural Australia and has promised to not forget South Gippsland during the throes of Senate debate.
“I felt very humbled that out of the 60 people standing for the Senate and within only six spots available, I got one of them,” she said.
“There is a great sense of privilege but also a great sense of responsibility in acting in Victoria’s best interests.”
The mother of four will assume her Senate post on July 3, 2011 and will have an office in regional Victoria. She has ruled out Leongatha, opting for a larger centre.
Rural Australia, education, sustainability and population top her interests.
“Small businesses are the backbone of country communities and these people are just overwhelmed with administration and I will keep that at the forefront of my mind,” she said.
As a Senator, Ms McKenzie will be responsible for reviewing legislation approved by the House of Representatives, and for ensuring that legislation benefits regional Victoria.
She first joined the Nationals as an 18-year-old and represented the party in the 2004 election, contesting the seat of McMillan.
Previously junior vice-president of the Victorian branch of the Nationals, Ms McKenzie has remained a longstanding member of the party’s Leongatha branch and South Gippsland council.
She was pre-selected for the Nationals’ Senate ticket in March 2009 ahead of other candidates including current Victorian Farmers Federation president, Andrew Broad.
For the past three weeks, Ms McKenzie has travelled Victoria on the campaign trail, after resigning from her job as an education lecturer at Monash University at Churchill.
On Saturday, she manned the booth at Yarram from 8am to noon, before visiting booths along the Prom coast and then travelling to Leongatha, Mirboo North, the Latrobe Valley and to Sale to join with Mr Chester at the office of Gippsland South MLA, Peter Ryan.
She then returned to Leongatha for a celebration with supporters at her parents’ Leongatha home.
“I think regional Victoria will benefit from having a strong advocate in the Senate,” she said.
She is the daughter of Neil and Karen McKenzie, and mother to Rhett, 19, Jake, 17, Brydie, 15, and Rory, 11.
The family will decide their future residence at a later date.
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