A changing guard in seat of Tweed

The electoral district of Tweed.

The electoral district of Tweed.

The seat of Tweed has been a hard-fought battleground for Labor and the incumbent Nationals for the past 16 years.

Up till then (1999), when it was the electorate of Murwillumbah,  it was yet another  conservative north coast bastion, held by a string of Nationals or Country Party members.

Sitting MP Geoff Provest (Nationals) was voted into power in the 2007 election when it was deemed a marginal seat against Labor’s Neville Newell, a former local teacher, who faced a backlash from his government’s axing of the Casino-Murwillumbah rail service the previous year.

In the 2011 election, Mr Provest, a former Tweed Heads club manager, boosted his margin when he was re-elected on the back of corruption scandals involving Labor MPs, with a thumping 62.1 per cent of the primary vote.

Labor’s Reece Byrnes, who became the party’s candidate after the retirement of the two-term MP Mr Newell, received 21.4 per cent of the primary vote in the last election, while the Greens Andrea Vickers, who is running again this year, received 14 per cent.

This time around challenging Mr Provest is Labor’s Ron Goodman, a former manager of a Tweed newspaper, and the Greens’ Andrea Vickers, hoping to boost her share of the primary vote from last time.

Around 42,000 total votes were counted for the seat last election and this year, around 53,379 voters were enrolled as at February, from a total population reaching 90,000.

The Tweed district seat was first created in 1894 when NSW was still a colony. It was abolished in 1904, three years after Federation, and reincarnated as part of the surrounding seat of Byron till 1988 when that seat was split into the seats of Murwillumbah and Ballina after a population boost in the two areas.

The sea changers/retirees continued to boost the number of voters in the area, and in 1999 the seat was reincarnated as Tweed, with Newell winning and keeping it for two terms till 2007.

In its first incarnation, its parliamentary member was John Willard (Labor), but only for a year (1894-1894).

The then Protectionist party’s Joseph Kelly was elected to serve from 1894-1898, before Richard Denis Meagher, an Independent, was elected in 1898 and served until 1904.

The Protectionist party had strong support in rural NSW and the sheep farming districts of Victoria. Australia’s first two PMs, Edmund Barton and Alfred Deakin, were members of the Protectionists.

The seat, still known as Byron, was then held firmly in the grip of the Country Party, and Tweed Valley grazier/businessman Don Beck held it for the Nationals from 1984 till it was abolished in 1988. He replaced previous member, Jack Boyd, a respected longtime MP for the Country Party.

When Byron was split, Beck, who had served two terms as a Tweed shire councillor before entering state politics, nominated and won the new seat of Murwillumbah which he held for 11 further years from 1988 till it was abolished in 1999.

Beck then contested Tweed, basically a reconfigured version of his old seat, till his defeat at hands of Neville Newell.

In 2013 an electoral-boundary redistribution changed the seat’s configuration and it now contains parts of the former Lismore district.

The rural seat of Tweed stretches from the NSW-Queensland border in the north to Crabbes Creek in the south, and from the Tweed Valley Way in the west to the coast in the east.

It also includes the townships of Tweed Heads and Kingscliff as well as coastal villages Fingal Head, Chinderah, Cudgen, Bogangar, Pottsville and Burringbar.

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