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Byron Shire
October 18, 2021

Greens MP returned with increased majority

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Ballina Greens MP Tamara Smith. Photo Tree Faerie.

Hans Lovejoy

Greens MP Tamara Smith (Ballina electorate) will return to NSW parliament after a convincing win last Saturday night. She beat strong contender Ben Franklin (Nationals) 60.83 per cent to 39.17 per cent after preferences were distributed.

The NSW Ballina electorate covers both Byron and Ballina Shires. 

The total percentage of first preference votes for other candidates included James Wright with 1.58 per cent (Keep Sydney Open), Cathy Blasonato with 2.38 per cent (Animal Justice Party), Asren Pugh with 25.17 per cent (Country Labor), Lisa Mcdermott with 2.04 per cent (Sustainable Australia). Ben Franklin’s first preference vote was 37.48 per cent (Nationals) of the electorate. 

Despite Nationals candidate Ben Franklin earning a higher first preference vote, preferences flowing from Labor and the minor parties led the Greens to victory. 

All results are sourced from https://vtr.elections.nsw.gov.au/home. 

Asren Pugh. Photo supplied

Significantly, Country Labor candidate and newcomer Asren Pugh took 25.17 per cent of the first preference vote with 11,439 formal votes. 

With the Liberal National coalition returned to power in NSW, the Ballina electorate is establishing itself as an alternative enclave to ‘business as usual’ in Sydney. 

Ms Smith’s re-election also sends a signal to Byron councillors, who are led by the ‘progressive’ Greens block under acting mayor Michael Lyon. 

The MP and councillors have been at odds over the way development is being carried out in Byron Bay; in the election campaign, Ms Smith was the only major candidate calling for a halt to major developments, especially the bypass and bus interchange. The bus interchange is slated for the rail corridor and comes without any community consultation. And the two markets at the Butler Street will be forced to move to an unknown location until the road works are completed.  

Other issues that may have helped her over the line for Byron Shire voters include a total opposition to the contentious West Byron urban development, which is slated opposite the Arts and Industry Estate on Ewingsdale Road. The Greens’ stand on climate change, environmental protection, constrained and sustainable development and renewable energy may have also played a part. In that regard, this electorate is becoming more ideologically distant from much of regional NSW and Sydney. 

It’s also an advantage to be an incumbent MP in an election. 

Ben Franklin. Photo Tree Faerie.

On the other hand, National candidate Ben Franklin ran a strong campaign around his ‘delivery’ of projects and funding to the region. For the past four years, Franklin was very active in engaging with the community and claimed to have influenced fellow Sydney ministers into making concessions over issues such as holiday letting and road infrastructure. The Mullum and Byron hospitals were also returned to the community (Council) during this time. Franklin campaigned on his connections within government while Smith campaigned on being an outsider on the crossbench.

With a re-elected Greens MP, the pressure will be on the re-elected NSW Coalition to fulfil pre-election commitments to the Ballina electorate. The Greens claim it could be as high as $100m.  

Booth by booth analysis 

Surprisingly, the Greens’ Tamara Smith claimed a few booths in Ballina Shire, which had been a National’s stronghold in the past.

After preferences were tallied, the two candidate preferred vote shows that Smith claimed the booths of Ballina High, Meerschaum Vale Hall and Lennox Head Public. Franklin won most of Ballina, claiming (sometimes close) booths in Alstonville High, the Ballina Community Centre, Ballina Hospital, Emmanuel Anglican College, Empire Vale Public, Fernleigh Public, Newrybar Public, Rous Public, Southern Cross School and Tintenbar Public, Wardell Hall and Wollongbar Public.

Yet Smith dominated the Byron Shire booths on the two candidate preferred vote, claiming (many convincingly): Bangalow Public, Billi Lids Long Day Care Centre (Billinudgel), Brunswick Heads Memorial Hall, Byron Bay High, Byron Bay Public, Coorabell Hall, Durrumbul Public, Federal Hall, Ocean Shores Community Centre, Mullum’s St Johns MPC, Suffolk Park Hall and Wilsons Creek Hall.

The early voting count also had Smith ahead of Franklin 3,384 to 1,647, while iVote again put Smith ahead at 950 to 311. So far, postal votes make up 134 to 319, in Franklin’s favour.

Electors enrolled on March 4, 2019 were 59,329, according to the Electoral Commission.

Comparison to last election  

At the 2015 NSW election, Greens candidate Tamara Smith claimed an historic victory over Nationals candidate Kris Beavis after the retirement of long serving MP Don Page (Nationals). The seat had been held by conservatives for 88 years. 

After preferences in 2015, Smith attained 21,528 votes, or 53.12 per cent of the total vote. 

The Nationals candidate Beavis attained 46.88 per cent. 

Electors enrolled in 2015, according to the Electoral Commission were 54,958.

Janelle Saffin at Goonellabah School on Saturday. Photo Tree Faerie.

Neighbouring electorates 

While Lismore still remains undecided, it appears Labor’s Janelle Saffin may return to politics with a close race against strong Greens candidate Sue Higginson. After Nationals party MP Thomas George retired after holding the seat since 1999, his successor Nationals candidate Austin Curtin was unable to claim victory given the preference deal between Labor and the Greens. 

The current results at https://vtr.elections.nsw.gov.au/la/lismore/tcp shows Curtin at 46.94 per cent for two candidate preferred, against Saffin at 53.06 per cent.

The Lismore electorate includes all of Lismore City Council, Kyogle Shire, as well as Murwillumbah and the western parts of Tweed Shire. 

Up in Tweed, incumbent Nationals MP Geoff Provest retained his seat against newcomer Craig Elliot 47.28 to 52.72 per cent on the two candidate preferred vote. Provest has been in office since 2007. One of the major election issues was the site proposal for the new Tweed Hospital.  

The Tweed electorate includes eastern Tweed Shire, including Tweed HeadsKingscliffFingal HeadChinderahCudgenBogangarPottsville, and Burringbar.

Down south, below Lismore, is the electorate of Clarence. Nationals MP Chris Gulaptis was returned to office in the seat which he has held since 2011. He easily won against Country Labor candidate Trent Gilbert 64.66 per cent to 35.34 per cent on the two candidate preferred vote.

Clarence includes all of the Clarence Valley Council including GraftonMacleanYambaIllukaJunction HillUlmarraCoutts Crossing and Glenreagh, as well as all of the Richmond Valley Council including CasinoCorakiWoodburnEvans Head and Tatham.

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  1. why does everyone believe the election is fair and not manipulated? there have been several incidents in recent history – I’m thinking Howard years – which overwhelmingly suggest the opposite of fair electoral practice and vote counting. I experienced two, personally.

    I mention this as I believe there is no way the majority of the state wished for and thus voted for the Coalition
    Anyway, congratulations Tamara we’re relying on you more than ever. Thanks for your service.

    • Rachel

      With such a large number of voters thee are mistakes but they are not as you suggest widespread. Australian electoral commissions are highly regarded internationally and have helped many developing countries like East Timor and PNG establish democratic governments in far more difficult logistic and social environments than Australia. We can be very proud of their hard work overseas and here.

      The majority of people in NSW do not share the views and priorities of many Byron Shire residents and vote for the Labor, Liberal or National candidates. But the booths show Tamara has worked hard to reach out to more conservative voters and I am happy to congratulate her on her well earned victory over two worthy opponents

  2. Well done Tamara and all supporters! Such a deserved win. She has worked incredibly hard these past 4 years, and has handled the vileness of NSW state politics with courage, grace and integrity.

  3. Fantastic win Tamara. Pity the Coalition is still in power. Keep the government and Ben Franklin to their pork barrel promises, particularly the 90 day limit with holiday letting.

    • Harold, you should also be keeping Tamara to her promises. Despite knowing she would never sit on the Treasury benches, she was able to uncritically promise 24/7 public transport for villages in our area. I can’t wait to ride a train from Meerschaum Vale to South Ballina!
      Why does the Greens political party get a free pass on policy, when everyone knows there is no way they will ever form government?
      Just as Jenny Leong failed to stop WestConnex, how does Tamara think she will get to implement even one of her polices?
      It’s not just about keeping the government to their promises, which Tamara will gleefully expropriate or whinge if she’s not at a ribbon cutting.
      And I am sure The Echo had nothing to do with her election at all.

      • I didn’t hear Tamara Smith complain about the appalling treatment of her as the sitting MP by the Berijiklian government and she did not publicly complain about the Mayor of Byron appearing in Nationals campaign flyers (even though he”s from her own party!) Or the Mayor of Ballina appearing in TV ads for the National candidate, and she didn’t complain about her campaign posters being ripped down night after night in Ballina – at least 20 posters disappeared until one of her volunteers filmed who was doing it. She just got on with the job of winning.
        You need to get on with your life.

  4. Well done Tamara you have shown an commitment to the people’s concerns and worked tirelessly to achieve significant changes. It’s great having you there for us. Now we have to make Gladys honor her pledges. I

    • I want Tamara to honour her pledges too. Why does she get a free ride?

      I’d also like a list of the things she achieved.

  5. Well done Tamara , you totally deserve to be there , you are such a tireless worker and an all round great woman

  6. The RDT discussion group with 22000 members worked tirelessly to ensure that its members preferenced GREENS 1 AND LABOR 2 on both ballot papers… with the aim of swinging the preference flow in Lismore and Ballina towards the left wing.Happily Lismore went to Labor and Ballina went to the Greens …although in both electorates the losing candidate was exceptional.The lesson learned is that people generally need to be encouraged to vote effectively, and as they arrive at the booth need to be reminded of the …1 AND 2 formula …. In fact many are confused and write Greens 1 OR Labor 1 and waste their vote. if their first pick doesnt win and the vote exhausts .One last important comment ….Having a trained proactive pamphlet hander outer makes a huge difference to the final count

  7. Has anything Green happened in the Ballina Shire in the past four years? Not really.
    You see, they voted the greens in four years ago and they find they are just as right wing as the National Party.

    • It’s not that they are as right wing as the National party, it’s that they are actually ineffective. People newly arrived into the area from Sydney, Melbourne, etc (and there are about 20 per cent of new voters each election here, which is quite high) think “oh gees, the place is so green and pristine, it must be the Greens who did this, they say so, so it must be true.” But in actual fact, it’s the Nationals who are the reason there’s no Gold Coast style development here, why communities are able to decide for themselves what development they want and how they want their communities to evolve. The Greens political party has done nothing to protect the environment. I had to laugh at one of their volunteers on polling day who was encouraging people to “stop Adani” – not sure what the NSW Premier (or indeed Tamara Smith) can do to stop something that is a Commonwealth and Queensland issue!

      • Hey Amy is this you again under another assumed name? Sounds like you backed the wrong horse and you’re the one whinging. Get over it. And anyone who believes the Nationals want to stop Gold Coast style development here is deluded. The Nationals candidate was so desperate for votes he agreed with all of the Greens’ policies and pretended they were his own. Byron voters are not the stupid country bumpkins the political commentators and the Nationals / Liberals assume them to be – there are probably more vegans than farmers in the electorate – if they did some basic demographic research they would probably have realised we don’t regard ourselves as “the bush” and haven’t for a long time. The only bush around here is on the vegans!

  8. Both Ms Smith and Saffin will keep the Coalition government to their promises.
    I can’t wait to get my $250 bonus for being almost senile to get a taxi to the club to play the pokies!
    What a great policy!

  9. For Ballina’s koalas and residents affected by the Pacific Highway upgrade, Ben Franklin quietly cared, but could get through to Gladys the need for commitments in this area. Tamara and Asren were both supportive of local issues and genuinely cared about people. Gladys can say she cares about every person in NSW regardless of their postcode but she doesn’t – only when it suits her agenda. She lost the seat of Ballina not Ben. If the Coalition cared about people then when for 4 years Tamara raised issues of community and individual concerns the government should have acted, not played politics with our lives. Even in Ballina Tamara has raised with NSW Housing the ongoing community concern (aesthetically and safety and housing needs) of the public house burnt in Kalinga St in August last year. No response. Tamara stands up for her community it is time the government started caring and dealing with those concerns.


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