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I congratulate the Nationals and Pat Conaghan on his victory.

Pat is a decent person and has much to do. My hope for him is that he will play a key role in modernising the National Party. Politics in Australia will be better if it does.

Pat has a huge job ahead and we will be on his back every week holding him to account.

The Nationals are on their last warning. The status quo can’t continue. We don’t want to be having the same conversation about unemployment, the environment and local disadvantage in three years time.

The election result in Cowper also sends a very clear message that real issues, substance and accountability are the things that matter. Populism and personality politics have been rejected. That is a good thing

It is the one positive thing to come from an otherwise hugely disappointing result for Labor.

To Labor, Cowper is an Everest-esque challenge. Not everyone gets there first go. But with hard work and dedication, this can change. This election, we made it to base camp and we’re sizing it up again.

I am obviously disappointed that Labor didn’t win Cowper. We had exciting plans that would have resulted in a positive, prosperous and sustainable future and new era for the area.

It was hard to compete against a blizzard of scare campaigns, negativity, populism and personality politics.

I thank those that supported Labor at the ballot box and during the campaign.

We will be back at local, federal and state elections as we truly believe Port, Coffs, Kempsey and the mid-north coast will be better off with elected Labor representatives.

When I entered this race, I was looking at this as a five-year project for the party. I said from day one, if we don’t get them this time, we will get them next time. And we will.