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July 20, 2024

Election 2023 – Lismore: Janelle Saffin MP for Labor

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Janelle Saffin – ‘A lot of what we see on the television is Question Time. If you watch the rest of the time – you’ll see cooperation, you’ll see respectful debates, you’ll see all of that. Question time to me, is ridiculous. Photo Tree Faerie.

The sitting member for Lismore, Janelle Saffin has a lot of experience in politics. A member of the Labor Party, she has been the Member for Lismore in since March 2019. She was the Member for Page in the Australian House of Representatives from 2007 to 2013, and a Member of the New South Wales Legislative Council from 1995 to 2003.

What’s your big number one issue that you’re pushing in the lead-up to this election? 

‘Housing is the biggie in our area. Of course, there’s health and there’s roads. We just have to keep working on those. Health is big, but housing – if we can’t house people what’s the good of government? Any government and I’ve said this in Parliament – we have to have a deliberate housing policy. We’ve got a lot of ad hoc hurry and tack on and all of that, but we need 18,600 homes across the Northern Rivers and I’ve got part of the tableland and Tenterfield – that’s what’s needed. That’s quantified by Social Futures – that’s what we need to be looking to build.

‘It’s housing in general. We all talk about affordable housing and social housing, which I call public housing, which I grew up in. I advocated to the New South Wales government and the opposition about having a Supply Council like they do in Queensland, because we need to actually think about supply. The New South Wales Government hasn’t embraced, what I call, an electoral moral obligation duty to say “We’re going to house people”. If you don’t do that, nothing else flows.’

Are you tired? 

‘Oh, of course, yes – I think everyone’s tired. If they say they’re not, they’re lying. It’s been a tiring year, it has been tiring. But, I feel quite energized.

‘I’m working flat out you know being the Member, flat out with the floods and then the campaign – but I’m working with the will to win, and I have a will, probably stronger, to be there to get a lot of this done – to rebuild and what I call reimagine.

’It’s reimagining and it’s transformational adaptation. We talked about adaptation – in Australia, we’ve done it incrementally. Usually, we have a disaster, we do some things, we do a bit of adaptation, but it’s not really addressing it in a big way or transformational way. This event of 28th of February, that’s been our trigger. event. So we have to do it quite differently.’

People who aren’t members of Parliament would certainly get the impression from watching the television that it’s a bunfight – how do you prepare for that sort of life in Parliament? What skills do you need to survive being in Parliament?

‘A lot of what we see on the television is Question Time. If you watch the rest of the time – you’ll see cooperation, you’ll see respectful debates, you’ll see all of that. Question time to me, is ridiculous.

‘I have a healthy respect for my colleagues. I have a healthy respect for the Parliament because I value democracy. It’s easy to you know, poo-poo it, but it’s really important to our freedoms, our liberties, and our way of life. So when I go in there, that’s my attitude. That’s my thinking. I think if you’re in there as a minister, you probably get yourself as they say, Battle Ready, but when I’m in there I often speak off the cuff on a lot of things, and I’m quite comfortable to do that. I’m an experienced public speaker so that helps.

‘And I think when I watch people come there for the first time, doesn’t matter how good they are outside, it can be a little bit nerve wracking. It can take a while to learn the parliamentary procedures and that but people go there with the willingness to do that.’

Why is it important to you that you’re in Parliament?

‘I know that I can do an effective job at representation of the entire Lismore electorate, that I can bring to bear the skills I’ve got of advocacy and achievement and taking that forward because that’s where we always need to go. 

‘We need to preserve what’s good in our communities and society and looking for what can be better and I can bring all of that together. 

‘I say to be an effective member of parliament you need to keep the passion of an activist because that can drive you, the skill of an advocate because but then sometimes you’ve got to have that disposition of a diplomat. 

‘I’m just fully committed to supporting and driving our community out of what happened on 28th of February and 30th of March.

What do you do for fun?

‘I do have a good sense of humour and I have good laughs at things and make fun of myself and ourselves and the people I hang out with but for fun I’ll put on a stupid movie like Police Academy or something and just have a good laugh.

Looking at New South Wales Parliament at the moment, what is the thing that frustrates you the most?

‘Not enough open debate on critical issues like housing. I’ve recommended that the Parliament open itself to a day just debating housing. 

‘Yes, we have structured debates, and we have rules and all of that, I get it, but just say “housing is a critical issue in New South Wales, so let’s have a free debate”. Where no one’s attacking each other, but we’re saying “these are the things we need to do, these are the needs of my community. What can come out of it?” We should do that with housing, health, roads, climate change, environmental, sustainability, all of those things. 

‘Australia has agreed to abide by, implement, the Sustainable Development Goals – 17 of them. We often think, “oh, that’s for developing countries or majority countries”. No, it’s for us. And our wonderful Nimbin Neighborhood Center actually works to them and reports on them. We should all be reporting on them. We’re obliged to. Australian Governments, of all persuasions, have signed on. So these are some of the things that we should have more conversations about in the parliament.’

Why Labor?

‘It’s a party of government and we need protest, and I still protest even with my own, but we’re a party of government. We’re a Progressive Party of government and that’s important. Like federally, I have to say, I’ve watched over a decade of what I call, not just i action, but some harmful things. Whereas now I’m watching the Federal Government now – I think they’re progressing things, but at the same time, managing an economy for the whole country, and are responsible managers. 

‘I grew up in a Labor town – Ipswich. My dad worked in wool mills, my mum worked in the laundry, my uncle’s were in timber, the mines you know, railway workshops… 

‘I left school 13 – I’ve worked in every job. I got into the habit of work early. So I know what hard yakka is. And so for me, Labor was the natural party when I joined a party, and it has democracy. The beauty of democracies are they have the ability for correction. They don’t just stay the same – Labor does that well. It progresses, strives forward has the ability for correction. So that sits with my values, and I can utilize being a member of the Labor Party and bring it to bear here. That’s what I’ve been able to do. Even from opposition.



The Echo has asked all Lismore Seat candidatesMatthew Bertalli, Adam Guise, James McKenzie, Vannessa Rosayro, Alex Rubin and Janelle Saffin MP – to answer the same set of questions.

View candidate interviews here.


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8 COMMENTS

  1. Janelle Saffin is a good egg for sure. It’s a real pity the NSW Labour party has left the door open for a thermal waste incinerator in Casino though. I’m not sure of her position on it but if her party has a policy to support she’d have to go along with it. An incinerator in Casino would draw waste from the entire Northern Rivers for decades and cause serious air pollution and create thousands of tonnes of toxic ash that need to be disposed in a hazardous waste landfill. It’s a dud technology and an unsustainable waste management approach. What pitiful amounts of energy they create is the dirtiest form of energy around.

    • Jo Immig : As a registered inventor with IP Australia I with help from my Drafter Daryl Lanyon in Brisbane designed a device that could be attached to all industrial furnaces to cease air pollution, to comply with my Patent application it had to be checked out from a desk top point of view by 2 different companies who could use it in their operation and both these companies I chose agreed that it would work , but they said it would be expensive to operate .
      I then contacted the government and got no where, I contacted the then opposition leader Tony Abbott and his chief of staff said he looked at it and that was all he did , it was Dr Carl from the ABC who informed me that because I don’t have tertiary qualifications the government will not listen to anything I have to say , so a few years ago I went to Parliament House in Canberra to give to the then Chief of Staff of the then Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull my envelope containing the drawing and the description and she refused to see me in the foyer to accept my envelope for as she said she was not qualified to do so .
      She got the flick from her job a few months later after I pointed the bone at her .
      Jo we have the technology to burn any substance without polluting the air we breathe but for some reason those who make the most noise about clean air are those less interested in technology to achieve it , instead all they care about is making money from their carbon credit schemes .

  2. I find it quite rude seeing this woman on the TV ads wasting her allowance on telling us she is going to fix the potholes when that is a Shire Council responsibility , Labor always talk about public housing but they never “look as though they deliver” .
    If only the State government housing commission mob realized that what ever they built ,the cost would be reimbursed over time for that construction of accommodation in rent assistance from those receiving Federal government money that can be paid directly into their coffers .

  3. Mr Neville C. Thomson, I find it quite rude and offensive that trolls like you are allowed to slag off at great people like Janelle Saffin, who over many years has delivered constantly for the people of the Northern rivers and in particular the people of Lismore after the devastating floods twelve months ago.; your name should not even be mentioned in the same breath as Janell’s.

    • Keith Duncan do you live here in the Northern Rivers NSW or Pimlico Queensland ?
      You carry on like a noisy little yap dog with your personal insults ,slagging & bullying , you don’t allow objective analysis .
      You say I don’t know any thing , well 99.9 % of the population of Australia are just like me and we don’t like no hoppers like you .

    • I broadly agree Keith, she is a good and active local MP, irrespective of her politics.
      (A large chunk of our Region’s road/infrastructure funding actually comes from State/Federal sources.)

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