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ABC Saturday December 1, 02:49 PM

McKew declares victory in Bennelong

One week after election day high-profile Labor recruit Maxine McKew has claimed victory in the northern Sydney seat of Bennelong, held by John Howard for the past 33 years.

It is the first time Labor has held the seat since its creation in 1949.

There was a swing to Labor at every polling booth in the electorate except one.

During her victory speech, Ms McKew said how pleased she was about the record number of women on the Government's new frontbench.

The former ABC journalist says a week's counting has removed any doubt about the result.

"In Bennelong, we are 2,100 votes ahead, we have 51.25 per cent of the two-party vote, so we are comfortably ahead," she said.

"I can formally say that Bennelong is now Labor's seat for the first time."

Ms McKew says the ballot count was tight, but voters in the electorate showed their support for Labor in record numbers.

"To give you an idea of the scale of what the Labor party has achieved in Bennelong, the primary vote in the 2004 election was around 28 per cent, [and] our primary vote this time around in the 2007 election I think is 44, 45 per cent," she said.

Ms McKew says people in her electorate should respect the hard work that Mr Howard put in as the former member for Bennelong.

"He gave over 30 years to public life and that should be acknowleged," she said.

She refused to comment on whether she believed the former treasurer Peter Costello would have made a difference to the Coalition's campaign.

"The fact is that didn't happen and the Liberal Party clearly has a lot of soul-searching to do, but I'll leave them to do that," she said.

Ms McKew has also declined to comment on why Mr Howard lost the seat, but says she will be a highly visible local member for Bennelong, in contrast to her predecessor.

"There was certainly a little bit of cynicism, I'd have to say, at the very high level of visibility of Mr Howard in the electorate in recent months, and people saw that as something of a contrast," she said.

Ms McKew says she is delighted by her new position as parliamentary secretary to the Prime Minister, early childhood education and childcare.

She will be sworn in to the position on Monday.

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