New MP for Page Kevin Hogan says he will cross the floor if necessary to uphold his stand to keep the northern rivers coal-seam gas (CSG) free.
Mr Hogan wrested the marginal seat, which takes in Grafton and Lismore, from Labor’s Janelle Saffin on Saturday night, with a swing of around four per cent for the Nationals.
He told a local TV station after his win that he would make good on his promise to keep the region CSG free by advocating against in it public forums.
Ms Saffin, who had held the seat since 2007, congratulated Mr Hogan after her defeat, but said she feared for the people of the electorate with budget cuts expected in areas such as education.
The seat however remains marginal and Ms Saffin has not ruled out running again in the 2016 election.
The Nationals pledged millions of dollars to the seat during the election campaign for things such as highway upgrades, affordable housing and extra help for small business.
Echonetdaily political commentator Mungo MacCallum said Ms Saffin was one of the country’s best local members and the electorate would sorely miss her.
At the last count, Mr Hogan had drawn 52.66 per cent of the votes against Ms Saffin’s 47.34 per cent on two-party preferred basis
The Greens candidate for Page, Desley Banks, came third in the field with 6.26 per cent of the primary vote, with a slight swing of around two per cent against her party.
In the neighbouring seat of Richmond, Labor’s sitting MP Justine Elliot has held on to win, but with a reduced margin of around four per cent.
Mrs Elliot blamed Labor’s loss of government on voters frustrated with the party’s infighting but said she would work hard for the electorate despite being in opposition.
She said she feared new prime minister Tony Abbott’s policies would impact negatively on the electorate.
Ms Elliot also told Echonetdaily that retaining her seat for Labor against the national tide was a clear reflection of the community’s concerns over coal seam gas (CSG).
‘It was very clear many voters were worried about the future of our area with the threat of CSG mining and exploration,’ she said.
‘This certainly sends a clear message about our campaign to stop CSG and we’ll continue that especially with the Nationals threatening to pave the way for it here.’
The sitting MP, who has held her seat since 2004, had campaigned strongly in the past year against CSG, while the Nationals’ candidate Matthew Fraser dismissed it as a major issue, and bore the brunt of community anger as a result.
Mr Fraser’s comments that there were no viable CSG deposits in Richmond, despite the interest from major mining companies, also drew ridicule from anti-CSG campaigners.
The Greens’ Dawn Walker agreed the CSG issue had played a major role in the region, saying it was the ‘biggest concern’ for voters in Richmond.
‘They were worried about the Nationals threatening to “let it rip” before Christmas and people were becoming really concerned about it,’ she said.
Mrs Walker said she was ‘thrilled to bits’ with the Greens’ solid showing, taking around 18 per cent of the primary vote.