One of the strangest facts about the state seat of Ballina is that it has only had two incumbents since 1894. Read on to find out how…
Despite outgoing Nationals member Don Page sitting on a margin of more than 20 per cent, the ABC’s election analyst Antony Green says his would-be replacement Kris Beavis has a battle on his hands to retain the seat for the Nats.
Mr Green says changing preferences could see the ALP win up to three north coast seats – Lismore, Tweed and Ballina – but there are particular issues facing Mr Beavis in Ballina.
Over the years Mr Page built up a remarkable personal following, seeing him elected with 57 per cent of the primary vote in 2011, followed by the Greens’ Simon Richardson on 21.7 per cent and Labor’s Toby Warnes on 11.9 per cent.
It is hard to see a replacement with no political experience and very little local exposure picking up all of these votes.
The media-shy Mr Beavis was locked in a preselection battle for the seat with popular Ballina councillor Sharon Cadwallader, leading many women voters to deride the Nationals’ preselection process as a ‘boys’ club’.
Another significant factor in this seat is local opposition to CSG, which has seen the Nationals defending their decision to renew Dart Energy’s PEL 445 in the region by issuing a leaflet saying they had removed the threat from the Ballina electorate. (Dart relinquished 25 per cent of its licence when it was renewed last year, most of it in Ballina and Byron shires.)
All of the remaining candidates oppose CSG across the entire northern rivers region, with the Greens and independent Jeff Johnson calling for a statewide moratorium on CSG development.
Of the other candidates facing off against Mr Beavis for the seat, the ALP’s Paul Spooner is a Byron councillor and longstanding GM of the Byron Bay Community Centre, and independent candidate Jeff Johnson is a Ballina councillor.
Johnson, a longtime Greens member and CSG campaigner, split with the party after losing preselection to Tamara Smith, a solicitor with a background in energy law, social justice and human rights issues.
History of the Ballina electorate
The Ballina electorate was first formed in 1894, when NSW was still a colony.
The previous colonial seat of Richmond, which had three incumbents, was subdivided into the (then) three seats of Lismore, Ballina and Richmond.
The first person elected to the seat of Ballina was John Perry, who held it as a member of the Protectionist Party, from 1894 up until Federation in 1901. (While it may seem like a strange name for a party in our neo-con present, Australia’s first two PMs, Edmund Barton and Alfred Deakin, were prominent Protectionists.)
In 1901 Perry was elected to the first state house as a member of the closely related Progressive Party.
In 1904, Ballina morphed into the seat of Byron, which was to remain its name right up until 1988.
Switching horses to the Liberal Reform Party in 1913 and again to the Nationalist Party in 1917, Perry managed to hang onto the seat of Byron right up until 1920.
The seat was again merged to create a three-member (proportional representation) electorate from 1920-27. It was during this short period that Labor had its sole incumbency in Byron, for a total of just four years.
From 1927 to 1988, when it was abolished, all the state representatives were of Country/National persuasion.
In 1988 the seat of Byron was split into Ballina and Murwillumbah (later Tweed), with the incumbent MP Don Beck representing the new Murwillumbah electorate.
Don Page was elected as the MP for Ballina when the seat was re-created and has remained in the position ever since.
At the 2004 redistribution, an anomaly was created whereby some rural parts of Byron Shire were represented by Lismore MP Thomas George, even though they’re not easily accessible from Lismore.
Following the latest redistribution in 2013, the electorate will include all of Byron and Ballina shires.