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Byron Shire
June 20, 2021

Roundup of lower house seats in the Northern Rivers

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Ron Priestly

Considering the way the northern NSW electorates of Lismore and Ballina voted, many local voters were disappointed to see the Liberal/National coalition re-elected for four more years in the recent NSW election.

The opinion polls were telling us there would be aswing to Labor and a hung parliament. What actually did happen? Labor went backwards with a statewide -0.8 per cent swing against it and the Greens a -0.7 per cent swing against.

Finally on Wednesday 3 April preferences were allocated in the lower house seats and exact results became available. Contrary to the statewide swing, in Ballina the Greens increased their vote by 14.48 per cent or 3,117 votes better than last time in 2015. Similarly, in spite of the -0.8 per cent statewide swing against, in Lismore Labor managed to get ahead of Greens and after collecting Greens preferences the left vote increased by 11.79 per cent or 2,275 votes.

Labor took Lismore for only the second time since 1917. This remarkable difference in two northern seats is completely against the trend and one wonders why.

Exhausted votes

In 2015 there was a major problem with exhausted votes. The Echo and other campaigners publicised the exhausted vote issue extensively but only seemed to reduce it by 3.28 per cent in Ballina and 1.48 per cent in Lismore. This failure to reduce the exhausted vote significantly was probably because of both the Greens and Labor advertising ‘Just Vote 1’ in the print media and in mail out publicity.

The Animal Justice Party, Sustainable Australia, and Keep Sydney Open drew votes away from Greens and Labor leading to 1,494 votes in Ballina and 984 votes in Lismore becoming exhausted when these independents dropped out.

Independents can make an impact in the upper house and do get elected but one wonders why they bother to stand in the lower house when all they do is draw votes away from Greens/Labor and enhance the chances of the Nationals.

So the large increase in the Green/Labor vote in the Northern Rivers, which ran completely against the state trend, may have been due to the appeal of local candidates.

More realistically it may be owing to a highly educated and informed electorate who are able to recognise the dreadful governance of the right-wing LNP. Discontent with the environmental vandalism, eg illegal forestry and major fish kills as well as the electorate’s frustration with interference with planning and general loss of support of the disconnected Nationals are among many factors that probably drove the electorate.

Next stop Feds

We move on to the Federal election in May where it looks like the neo-lib right wing’s policies will be terminated. We are also expecting the NSW upper house final result on 12 April, which hopefully not give the LNP an absolute balance of power.

Meantime settle back to four more years of right-wing government. Locally we did our bit but the state is not with us. I’m off to France to check out the yellow vests who, at least have the sense to know they are being screwed.

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  1. The Greens in this article are twice associated with Labor, with a mere slash between them. That’s why Labor won Lismore. We all know it. They garner votes from two directions. Claims of independance are ridiculous.

  2. I believe the results were because of a general concern about the community and environment in Ballina and Lismore and not the uncaring and greedy self interests elsewhere in the State.
    I saw the pre polling and election day voters supporting the National party in the Tweed, these people just do not care about anyone or anything but themselves and have been completely fooled into actually voting for the National party against their own best interests. Especially the elderly.
    We have a massively uninformed politically ignorant self absorbed uncaring demographic that could not even be bothered to take an interest in the election. Just going in and voting because they, “Had to” and they were really pissed off about it, with that large informal vote and refusal to pass preferences from those minor parties, which lost the Tweed electorate to the Nationals again, for another wasted 4 years!

  3. A good analysis Ron but I would note on your comment “dreadful governance of the right-wing LNP” that “governace” and “government” are not the same thing. Governance refers to how the governmental mechanisms that work to ensure government is not corrupted by perosnal and sectional interest. Examples are good auditing of contracting and of performance, and FOI laws. You can argue around the detail but Australian and NSW government has in general high standards of governance which in turn means people genrally get the sort of government they voted for even if you do not like the government they deliver. We are well aware of exceptions like Obeid because our good governance led to his prosecution. Good government on the other hand relies on good policy and you rightly question the LNP’s environmental policies and how they play out in the environment.

    You are correct that some of the swing to Labor and the Greens related to good candidates, although Austin Curtis and Ben Franklin performed well and the latter also worked hard for this area as an MLC. I agree the level of political awareness is higher in this area, particualry on environmental issues. but I would question the extent voting here is because this area is “highly educated”. The 2016 census shows levels of tertiary education are higher here than other parts of regional NSW but not higher than many urban areas, and most electorates that have high levels of Liberal voters also have higher levels of education. I would suggest education is not the causitive factor, but that education levels here reflect the number of newcomers, and those newcomers are less likely to vote LNP than long term residents of regional areas.


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