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.