The National Party should heed the message being delivered by country voters to end unconventional gas mining in the Northern Rivers area and across the state.
Goolmangar farmer Bruce Sherman has joined other members of Lock the Gate from across the state in calling for a shift in policy from the National Party after opposition to coal seam gas mining and coal mining became a major vote changer.
The call comes as the seat of Lismore remains undecided, with ABC election analyst Antony Green saying that the preference count between the Nationals and Greens will determine the winning candidate.
Mr Shearman said that voting patterns at his local rural booth, Goolmangar Hall in the Lismore electorate, had changed dramatically at this election, with a decline from a 68 per cent primary vote for the National Party in 2011 to a 35 per cent primary vote in 2015.
‘Goolmangar is just a mainstream farming area in rural NSW,’ Mr Shearman said.
‘We’re traditional National Party voters through and through, but the party hasn’t stood up for us on CSG and we’ve been forced to shift our vote to send them a message” he said.
“I’ve never seen an issue that has caused lifelong National Party voters to shift their votes like this ever before, since I first started voting.
“I was very surprised to learn that Federal National Minister Barnaby Joyce seems to be ascribing vote changes in the Lismore electorate as being about ‘lifestyle choice’ for Nimbin residents.
‘I’d suggest that he better have a look at the booth by booth results up here, and then he’ll discover that it is all about the farming community and their disenchantment with the National Party for pushing CSG down our throats and against our wishes.
‘We asking the National Party to heed the message that is being sent from communities, and regardless of who eventually wins the seat of Lismore, to put an end to unconventional gas mining in the northern rivers” he said.
Coonamble farmer Anne Kennedy says that a similar decline in the National Party vote is apparent at the local, mostly rural, booth at Coonamble, in the north-west electorate of Barwon. The National Party vote there declined from a 65 per cent primary vote in 2011 to a 37 per cent primary vote in 2015.
‘As farmers and long-term conservative voters, we don’t shift our vote easily, but the CSG issue has shifted it for us, and we desperately want the National Party to hear our message,’ she said.
‘It’s time to change their policy on CSG and mining, and to actually protect our farmlands and water resources before it is too late.
‘We’ve seen some strange commentary from the NSW Farmers lobby group on this issue over the last week, and our message to them is the same as it is to the National Party – stop placating the big miners and start listening to your grassroots constituents.’
Ian Moore in the Upper Hunter electorate has been a National Party member for more than 40 years, but feels they have gone too far in their support for coal mining over farming.
‘There was a huge swing against the National Party in our electorate on Saturday, with the Upper Hunter becoming a marginal seat for the first time ever in its long electoral history.
‘At the last election in 2011 I spent seven hours on the booth for the Nationals. They made all sorts of promises to safeguard land from mining in early 2011, but they haven’t protected one inch of it,’ Mr Moore said.