Hans Lovejoy, editor
Congratulations Rupert Murdoch, Alan Jones, Gina Rinehart and their army of developers, bureaucrats and sycophants who were re-elected to rule over NSW last Saturday.
The seat of Ballina (Byron and Ballina Shires) was an exception however – Greens MP Tamara Smith was re-elected, with a slight majority.
Booth by booth, many towns and country halls in the Ballina electorate bucked the trend of most of NSW.
After preferences, the Nationals claimed around 40 per cent while the combined Greens and Labor vote (along with minor parties) claimed 60 per cent.
And unlike many other regions, the Ballina electorate did not have the choice to vote for a One Nation or hard right wing candidate.
The Greens candidate had the advantage of being an incumbent MP – familiarity is everything.
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.
Ms Smith and councillors have been at odds over the way development is being carried out in Byron Bay.
During 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. Affected residents are now calling for an inquiry into the process that led to it, which is understandable given how questionable it has been. And moving two markets at the Butler Street to a yet-to-be found location until the road works are completed is poor planning and policy on the run.
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 to be opposite the Arts and Industry Estate on Ewingsdale Road. While Nationals candidate Ben Franklin made noises of concern, it was clear that his party is supportive of ruining a sensitive wetland and estuary – essentially the lungs of Byron – to appease a handful of wealthy speculating developers.
Holiday letting probably played a part in the win, as did spiralling energy costs and lack of renewables projects under this government. In the end, Franklin failed to cut through with the message that he’s a good guy in a terrible government.
Remarkably, the huge amount of cash he lobbed at the electorate at the last minute failed to materialise into winning votes. In most places, it would. But this is a highly active politically aware region and its inhabitants aren’t fooled by political spin, platitudes and a trunkful of cash. In other words, policy matters, and the electorate (60/40) would prefer a government that looked after its citizens and planet rather than its donors.
In that regard, this electorate is becoming more ideologically distant from much of regional NSW, Sydney and Australia.