Animal Justice Party brings home the bacon

Animal Justice Party's Mark Pearson.

Animal Justice Party’s Mark Pearson.

Alex Mitchell, through Crikey

The final seat in the NSW Legislative Council has fallen to Mark Pearson of the Animal Justice Party. Because of his strong affinity with the pro-environment platform, his election will strengthen the Greens in the upper house.

The final went down to the wire between Animal Justice, No Land Tax and the Coalition claiming a 10th seat. However, Greens preferences for Animal Justice carried the day.

The final declaration in the 21 seats up for grabs was: nine Coalition seats, seven Labor, two Greens, Fred Nile for the Christian Democrats Party, one from the Shooters and Fishers Party and Animal Justice activist Pearson.

With Nile’s vote, the Coalition will be able to pass into law highly controversial legislation to lease 49% of the state’s electricity distribution network. Nile has already been criticised for proposing a toothless upper house inquiry to review the power legislation and report by the end of May.

The final result will brings sighs of relief in the Coalition’s party room as well as the Labor caucus, which was dreading a divisive debate over whether to support Baird’s mandate or not.

The final result in the Legislative Assembly also contained some interesting curiosities: while the Liberals lost 14 seats, the Nationals just one (Ballina). Labor won 14 seats, the Greens three and independents two. The swing to Labor was 9.89 per cent, and not in the double figures confidently predicted by media polls and ALP boosters.

In an attempt to break out of its metropolitan comfort zone, the ALP nominated 26 candidates as Country Labor.

This was a marked shift from 2011 when Sussex Street fielded only five Country Labor candidates and concentrated all its effort on rescuing the urban areas of Newcastle, Sydney and Wollongong, aka ‘NSW’.

Since the election, the ALP has been claiming a two-party preferred vote of 45.7 per cent. While strictly accurate, it does not disclose the Greens’ contribution to that total was 10 per cent.

The more interesting figure is Labor’s primary vote which was 34.08%, comprising Labor Party 25.91% and Country Labor 8.16 per cent. In other words, Country Labor votes boosted the ALP’s overall primary vote. Without the contrived support from rural and regional centres, the party’s primary vote would have remained at a disastrous level in the high 20.

And another thing, three of Labor’s victories — Strathfield, Gosford and The Entrance — came by courtesy of Green preferences. Labor was trailing behind the Liberals in all three seats until the arrival of the life-saving Greens preferences, which catapulted its candidate onto the winner’s platform.

The axing of John Robertson as party leader in late December last year, plus the ascension of Luke Foley, improved the ALP vote, although the latter had only three months to campaign. But clearly the increase was marginal and demonstrates the sum total of Labor’s woes in NSW are greater than the personality of its leader.

• Alex Mitchell is a veteran NSW political correspondent

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