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Byron Shire
December 1, 2021

Opinion: Right-wing Nationals under attack in the Northern Rivers

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Ron Priestley 

The regional balance of power was tipped in favour of the Greens in 2015: Tamara Smith took the seat of Ballina in the NSW state elections following the wave of anti-fracking and anti-CSG sentiment. The question is, can the same be done in March this year for the seats of Lismore and Tweed?

Your final day to enrol to vote for the next state election is Monday, March 4 with polling day set for Saturday March 23 – and your vote could make all the difference.

After the 2015 election the Nationals led in the Lismore electorate by 53 per cent to 47 per cent, a 2,345 vote advantage, and in Tweed the Nationals also led 53 per cent to 47 per cent but with a 2,577 vote advantage. The Nationals have held the Tweed seat since 2007 while the Lismore seat has been held, with rare exceptions, by the right-wing National (LNP) Party since 1927.

The most recent poll has predicted a general statewide swing of four per cent; yet if only a two per cent swing occurred in the more conservative seat of Tweed then the Nationals would lose 1,616 of their 2,577-vote advantage. This means it would only take an additional 962 votes against them and they would lose the seat. The seat of Lismore is held in an equally close balance.

A solid swing predicted

While a solid swing is predicted against the Liberal-National parties across the state it may not be enough to unseat the current Nationals Tweed member Geoff Provest or incoming Nationals candidate for Lismore Austin Curtin. Yet if enough people get themselves enrolled to vote and get to the polling both on the day there is a chance that local issues could tip the balance enough to install a Greens or Labor candidate in either or both these seats.

These local issues include discontent with the Nationals’ policies on water mining, fracking, oppressive policing, unjust Random Drug Testing (RDT), Tweed Hospital siting, unemployment and Centrelink issues, pill testing, illegal forestry, poor holiday park management, bad state planning overriding local councils, and environmental concerns such as fish kills. The 1.1 per cent swing needed away from the Nationals could easily occur over local-interest-group votes and they are an important feature of the campaign.

Strong protest for local issue

The unjust use of RDT and the oppressive police force is just one example of the voting power of a local interest group. The group ‘Nth Coast RDT locations’ has attracted 19,865 members (increasing at 250 monthly). 

These members have to put their names on the line by signing up to the group. They are not just casual Facebook watchers. The commitment required to sign up to the group indicates its importance.

Members suspect they are deliberately targeted by the police force just because they are members. The 19,865 members represent some 16 per cent of the total 123,256 actual votes in Tweed, Ballina, and Lismore. A significant percentage of the electorate for a local interest group.

If only 482 members changed their vote and voted against the Nationals in Tweed the Nationals would lose and it is about the same in Lismore.

There is also the potential loss of votes from other interest groups promoting different issues.

Get heard: get enrolled

Around five per cent of eligible voters are not enrolled and they are made up of mostly young people who are unlikely to vote for the National Party. While the conservative parties are hoping that they won’t be inspired to enrol to vote in time for the elections they are the future hope of the Greens and Labor campaigners.

Optional preference voting

The NSW system involves optional preference voting. Either Country Labor or the Greens have the best chance of displacing the Nationals – so use your preferences to include both of these parties in whatever order you like and you can leave out the Nationals altogether. In other words, you don’t need to put the bad guys last – just don’t put them in at all.

Impact on state result

Were Lismore and Tweed to fall to either Country Labor or the Greens there would be a major impact on the NSW state seat tally. The election is predicted to be very tight and if the Greens can hold their current three seats they may even have the balance of power.

As was once famously said, ‘If you don’t vote you can’t complain about your politician’s excess and ineptitude.’

♦ Ron Preistly FRICS is a longtime vote counter.

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  1. You’ve just proved yourselves to be just a propaganda mouthpiece of Labor and the Greens political party. If you were part of the Press Council, this sort of rubbish would need to be balanced. But you’re not, and isn’t that telling!

    • This is an opinion piece clearly marked ‘Comment’. Of course The Echo does not agree with every opinion writer, any more than we endorse the views of every letter writer who is published, or every comment made on our site. However we are committed to publishing as many different opinions as possible. We have published your opinion that we are not a member of the Press Council, although of course we are.

  2. Informing people on the best method of annihilating the corrupt, inept and downright criminal (going on the belief that those who actively enable the mechanisms of climate change are committing crimes against future and current generations) National Party and by extension, the entire Coalition, is a laudable public service. Nunya Biznees, while remaining anonymous and thus unaccountable, demonstrates the technique of propaganda broadcast in a far more convincing manner.

  3. Opinion or not this piece gives voters who want to tip out the Nats the right information, it is vital to preference both labor and the Greens when you vote because no-one can really predict which will finish second behind the Nats, and the greens would have won Lismore last election if more labor voters had recorded a second pref. The missing info is that it is the rise in Green votes over more than a decade that has pushed these seats marginal, not a rise in labor votes. in lismore the rise in green votes has been steady since 1999 and theres isnt a lot of statistical evidence that the 2015 was a CSG phenomenon as much as it reflected a longer term swing to the Greens.

  4. you vote for the devil you know verses the devil you know , then that’s what you get !!
    why would anyone vote for a politician who are ALL corrupt and IQ of a rock , a dead rock .
    don’t vote , it only encourages them , or maybe you are all babies and need a mummy to run your life .
    grow up , be an adult . Humans , only creature that needs mummy their whole life , and , drink milk !! haha .

  5. Thank you for the comments. Of course the article is favouring dismissal of the Nationals.It is an opinion piece and in my opinion the Nationals are not fit to govern.
    Perhaps the complainants could write to the Echo about how the Nationals will address the local interest groups’ complaints which I mentioned.
    Ie water mining, fracking, oppressive policing, unjust Random Drug Testing (RDT), Tweed Hospital siting, unemployment and Centrelink issues, pill testing, illegal forestry, poor holiday park management, bad state planning overriding local councils, and environmental concerns such as fish kills.
    I for one would be very interested to hear of the Nationals policy on all these issues.

  6. The health of our environment, especially our river system is another major concern in all three electorates and the National’s record to date leaves a lot to be desired. The Greens have released a comprehensive plan to clean up the Richmond.
    Major candidates for Lismore and Ballina will be attending a forum at the Lismore Workers Club this coming Thursday (Feb 21) so voters can put questions to them. The forum gets underway from 6.30pm.

  7. The Nationals and Labor are gathering votes from previous and potential Green voters in our region because of the unequivocal support for cycling and cycle infrastructure . Nationals funding for improvements ot the Tweed cycleway, paths to Lennox Head and Suffolk Park and funding and support for the rail trail are worth far more than vague promises to support cycling and active hostility to the rail trail. Keep in mind Doug Anthony was the long the only parliamentarian to cycle to Parliament House in Canberra and is still the patron of the rail trail. Labor’s candidates in Lismore and Ballina are similarity unequivocal in their support for the rail trail and cycling.

    The Greens have shot themselves in the foot by taking on Bill Fenelon and the pointless wasteful and environmentally unsound transport policies he and the Sydney left propose Tamara Smith struggles to convince us otherwise but the Greens are ideologically driven to bring back dirty diesel electric trains – the only train that can off the grid along the Northern Rivers line.

    Voters who do not want road repairs, school bus services and new bus services slashed to fund a dirty diesel train, who want to see the roll our of 100% renewable powered electric buses around our region, and the continued expansion of cycle commuting, recreation and tourism should ignore this article, and this time round preference the Greens last.


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