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Byron Shire
February 29, 2024

NSW 2019 Ballina candidate profiles

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The Echo loves your letters and is proud to provide a community forum on the issues that matter most to our readers and the people of the NSW north coast. So don’t be a passive reader, send us your epistles.

In order of the ballot, the Ballina candidates are:

James Wright – Keep Sydney Open

Keep Sydney Open’s James Wright

Thirty-six-year old year old radio broadcaster, filmmaker, futurist and father of three, James Wright has been a resident of the Byron Shire for five years.

Working in the live entertainment and broadcast sector for over a decade, James says he has seen first hand the unmeasurably positive and cohesive effect the industry has to play in culturally enriching the local community as well as the vital role it plays economically in the region.

James previously stood as an independent candidate for the Senate in the 2016 Federal election, as well as the 2016 Byron Shire Council elections. His platform centers around the advocacy of technology as a disruptive tool for the modernisation of democracy and people lead political change. James joins the ranks of the Keep Sydney Open movement to rally the people of the Ballina electorate in opposing new policing and public order legislation that threatens the viability of large public events in NSW and the region.


Cathy Blasonato – Animal Justice Party (AJP)

Animal Justice Party’s Cathy Blasonato 

A tireless animal welfare and rights advocate, Cathy Blasonato has been announced as the Animal Justice Party (AJP) candidate for Ballina.

Ms Blasonato, who says that for too long governments have ignored public opinion when it comes to the protection of animals, feels the time is right for animals to get greater representation in the NSW parliament.

‘Governments have ignored the link between the well-being of animals with our environment and health,’ she says. ‘Public opinion has never been so strong in favour of animal welfare and the protection of our environment. I want the Northern Rivers to be a leader in compassion and care for all beings, and the environment.’

Ms Blasonato says the north coast of New South Wales, like the rest of Australia and the planet, has many challenges. ‘Habitat destruction is rampant, farm land is being degraded, and farmed animals are suffering from lack of fresh pastures and shade.’


Asren Pugh – Country Labor

Country Labor’s Asren Pugh 

“I live here on the beautiful North Coast with my wife Monika and our two young children, Acacia and Miles”.

“I’m running to be your local member of parliament because I want our children to continue to be able to afford to live on the North Coast. I want them to be able to get a decent education like the one I got from Byron Bay High School. I want them to get secure jobs so they don’t have to move to Sydney or Brisbane when they grow up.

“As a campaigner in the community sector, along with thousands of workers across NSW, I fought for, and won, equal pay for women working in domestic violence refuges and our biggest charities. As a campaigner at the Australian Conservation Foundation, I fought to save the Great Barrier Reef, combat climate change and increase renewable energy”.


MP Tamara Smith – The Greens

Greens’ Tamara Smith (sitting MP)

I acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we live, the Bundjalung people, and pay my respects to elders past and present. This land always was and always will be Aboriginal land.

As the Member for Ballina and NSW Greens spokesperson for Education, Renewable Energy and Regional development, I am passionate about the people and places in our region. My family have lived in the Northern Rivers region for a long time and I feel a keen responsibility to care for our precious environment and stand up for the benefit of people in our communities.

I was a secondary school teacher for many years both here and in the outback and I became a solicitor in 2012. I have worked across social justice, aboriginal affairs and public education advocacy and I have a keen research interest in energy law.


Lisa Mcdermott – Sustainable Australia

Sustainable Australia’s Lisa Mcdermott  

Lisa grew up in Sydney and spent holidays on the North Coast with her grandmother who had a farm with remnant rainforest and a creek where Lisa developed bush regeneration and drawing skills; a love for gardening and the natural environment.

Lisa has a varied background as an artist, musician, horticulturist and has worked for environmental organisations Greening Australia and the Nature Conservation Council, an umbrella organisation for over 100 scientific and environmental groups in NSW including Sustainable Population Australia.

It is this group that hit home the link between population pressures and environmental problems. Reading the book Overloading Australia motivated her to join the party.


Ben Franklin – The Nationals

The Nationals’ Ben Franklin 

Ben Franklin is a Nationals Member of the NSW Legislative Council. He has been based on the NSW far north coast since his election to Parliament in 2015. His hobbies include bushwalking in our local national parks, playing squash and spending time with family and friends on the beach in summer.

Immediately prior to entering the NSW Parliament, Ben was the State Director of the NSW Nationals where he served the Party for seven years. Before this, he was the National Director of Communication and Advocacy for UNICEF Australia.  

In February 2017, Ben was asked to serve as the Parliamentary Secretary for Northern NSW and Renewable Energy. Through his ongoing association with the north coast, Ben is passionate about working with residents and groups to achieve strong outcomes for the community. His energy and tireless advocacy for those who live in the regions ensures the residents of northern NSW are represented effectively by The Nationals in Parliament.


More on the NSW election:

For information on the Lismore or Tweed electorate then head to our candidate profiles and maps on these electorates. For Lismore click here and Tweed click here.

Will you be throwing your vote in the bin?

Who wins or loses local marginal seats during the NSW state elections is in your hands – or rather in the way you preference your vote.


NSW state election 2019

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...


NSW 2019 Ballina candidate policies

Echonetdaily has contacted all of the candidates for Ballina in the upcoming NSW election and have compiled their policies on a range of important issues.


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  1. I was shocked to learn that the Animal Justice Party, that I assisted to found years ago, has done a deal with Labor to oust Greens Tamara Smith.
    I was told vehemently that the AJP and the Greens would swap preferences.
    Today I discovered the AJP has placed Labor number 2 on their how to vote ticket.
    People voting for the AJP who follow the how to vote card will inadvertently help to remove our hardworking Tamara,
    .i had promised to hand out AJP how to votes but won’t now.

  2. What an absolute shame it is that the AJP has opted to preference Labor over Greens in this state election. Cathy’s response to the preference question in today’s Meet the Candidates forum proved just how confused they are in this matter. This election is promising to throw up a hung parliament at best, or Labor at worst, and a strong Greens candidate in this seat would be much better served to lobby for the environment and animals in our state. Labor’s track record in this regard is woeful: constant support of the greyhound racing industry and cruel live export trade shows just how low the AJP have sunk. Shame, AJP, shame.

  3. Voting in NSW is optional preferential, which means you put “1” next to the person you like best and then number the rest of them as you wish – you don’t need to number them all, and you don’t need to follow some piece of paper pressed into your hand outside the booths.

    Ignore the “how to vote” cards. I suggest that we abolish “how to vote” cards. If you don’t know how to vote, it is written on the ballot paper in very clear language. Or you could do some research before voting day. Or if you really don’t care enough, then stay home and think of an excuse when they ask why you didn’t vote. Do everyone a favour.


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