Voters in the Ballina electorate (Byron and Ballina Council areas) have six candidates to choose from.
In order of the ballot and the above photo montage (left to right) they are: Keep Sydney Open’s James Wright, Animal Justice Party’s Cathy Blasonato, Labor’s Asren Pugh, Greens’ Tamara Smith, Sustainable Australia’s Lisa Mcdermott and Nationals’ Ben Franklin.
A NSW election primer
The current MP for the Ballina electorate is Tamara Smith (Greens), who has held the seat for the past four years and is the first non-conservative to represent the Ballina area in 88 years.
Both Tweed and Lismore electorates are currently held by The Nationals by a slim margin. Tweed’s sitting member Geoff Provest will be fighting to hold his seat while Thomas George of Lismore is retiring.
Two parties are likely be elected to form a NSW government at the March 22 election.
They are NSW Liberal-National coalition (right wing) and NSW Labor (left wing). At the time of going to press it appears NSW Labor may snatch victory after eight years of the NSW Liberal-National coalition. Yet elections are foolish to predict considering modern day voter volatility.
Fun fact – the terms left and right come from the French around their revolution in the late 1700s: the wealthy sat to the right of the King while the peasants sat on the left. The peasants eventually cut the King’s head off, along with many others. Oh, what times.
So can the two major party system be voted out?
That would require almost every vote to be cast below the line for an independent. Most people vote above the line in the lower house, yet if you vote just 1 for your party, your vote will be wasted (exhausted). You should keep numbering your least wanted candidate last.
Many voters – along with journalists and politicians – struggle to understand the complex system as it is, thus ensuring governments are dominated by either party.
The NSW Liberal-National coalition comprises an alliance between the Liberal and National parties.
Their agreement stipulates that in regional areas such as the Ballina electorate, the Nationals Party will run a candidate, not the Liberals. In turn, the Liberals run candidates in city areas instead of the Nationals.
Labor is a party in its own right, but has generally relied on the Greens and like-minded cross bench MPs to get laws passed unless it has a thumping majority.
Where elections between the Liberal-National coalition and Labor are close, a balance of power emerges from the cross bench (Independents and Greens).
If you are wondering what politicians do for their $200,000 odd salary, they are supposed to uphold and carry out the functions and responsibilities of the NSW government. They include managing (or mismanaging) your taxes, which are distributed to the state by the federal government.
Elected state politicians create the illusion they direct policy on health, education, infrastructure, police, courts and local councils, for example. Yet without sounding cynical, it’s actually bureaucrats who control all forms of government.
The most powerful role politicians undertake is creating and voting on laws that affect every aspect of our lives.
That’s why it’s important to consider whether your vote will go towards a party that reflects your values. Elections are an ideal time to reflect on what those values are.
Hans Lovejoy, editor
Northern NSW. Ballina covers all of Ballina Shire and Byron Shire. The main towns in the seat are Ballina, Lennox Head, Byron Bay and Mullumbimby.
The seat of Ballina in its current form has existed since 1988, and it was held by the Nationals continuously from 1988 until 2015. Another seat named Ballina existed from 1894 to 1904.
Ballina was created in 1988, when the pre-existing seat of Byron was broken up between Ballina and Murwillumbah. Ballina was won by Don Page, a grandson of former Country Party Prime Minister Earle Page. He served as deputy leader of the NSW National Party from 2003 to 2007, and held the seat until 2015. Page retired in 2015, and the seat was won by Greens candidate Tamara Smith, with a 20 per cent swing after preferences.
About and history (from aec.gov.au)
Ballina is a marginal seat, and the Greens shouldn’t take it for granted. A small swing back to the Nationals would see the seat revert to type. In 2015, the progressive vote was severely splintered between the Greens, Labor and an ex-Greens independent. Labor is still stronger in the southern parts of the electorate, and the Greens would be hoping to use their incumbency advantage to consolidate the progressive vote, to ensure they stay in the top two, and to help with reducing preference leakage.
Any analysis of Ballina undoubtedly becomes a tale of two councils. The Greens won a thumping majority in Byron Shire – winning about 73.5% of the two-candidate-preferred vote, and 44% of the primary vote. Ballina makes up a majority of the seat, and the Greens lost the two-candidate-preferred vote to the Nationals both in Ballina itself (41.3%) and in the surrounding areas (46%). The Greens were outpolled by Labor in both these areas, with a vote of only 15.7% in the town of Ballina. Labor’s primary vote ranged from 21.7% in Ballina Surrounds to 26% in Ballina. The low Greens vote in Ballina was likely worsened by the candidacy of Jeff Johnson, an independent candidate who had been twice elected as a Greens councillor in Ballina Shire. Johnson polled over 10% in both Ballina subareas, compared to less than 5% in Byron.
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