Elliot claims Richmond - Anthony trailing by 320 votes

THE political career of National Party MP for Richmond Larry Anthony was at the end of the road last night after latest counting in the knife-edge seat left him 320 votes short of victory.

His ALP rival and political newcomer Justine Elliot immediately claimed the seat for Labor after she secured 39510 votes compared with Mr Anthony's tally of 39190, with only a handful of overseas and interstate votes to be counted.

"I would like to thank the people of Richmond who have given me the honour of being their representative in Federal Parliament," a jubilant Ms Elliot said last night.

National Party scrutineers conceded privately that it was virtually impossible for Mr Anthony to peg back the difference and hold the seat for a third term.

The result was a major shock to Mr Anthony's supporters who were hoping that the former Children and Youth Affairs Minister would garner enough pre-poll, postal and absentee votes to overtake Ms Elliot's post-election night lead of 1150 votes.

But although Mr Anthony was able to narrow the margin to just 32 votes at one stage last week, the gap widened again following a count of nearly 700 provisional votes which strongly favoured Ms Elliot.

National Party scrutineers said the final nail in the coffin was a block of about 400 prepoll votes from Byron Bay booths which came to light yesterday and also strongly favoured Ms Elliot.

Mr Anthony's media adviser, Claire Kimball, said Byron Bay voters had virtually determined the outcome of the election.

"Byron voters basically dictated to the Tweed who their next MP will be," said Ms Kimball.

Returning officer Michael Averay said he was unlikely to declare the poll until next week following Friday's cut-off point for prepoll and postal votes.

Ms Elliot pledged not to let the electorate down.

"Starting from this moment I will be working hard to stand up for the Far North Coast in Canberra," she said.

"My first actions as an MP will be to make sure Tweed Heads gets an after hours GP clinic and other essential health services."

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