UPDATE: Essential Research has primary votes unchanged on last week, at 32% for Labor, 49% for the Coalition and 10% for the Greens, although rounding has resulted in an increase in the Coalition’s two-party lead from 56-44 to 57-43. Also featured are questions on power prices, with 37% thinking power companies most responsible against 28% for the federal government and 23% for state governments; price increases under the carbon tax, which 52% (including 68% of Coalition voters) say they have noticed and 36% say they haven’t; and the various aspects of the Houston report recommendations, which find very strong support for limiting the ways boat arrivals can bring their families to Australia, opinion divided on increasing the humanitarian program and strong opposition to the Malaysia solution, but strong approval for implementing them all as per the new government policy.
Page covers the north-eastern corner of New South Wales, outside of the northernmost coastal stretch from Byron Bay to the Queensland border which constitutes Richmond. Its main population centres are Ballina on the coast, Lismore and Casino further inland, and Grafton in the south. Labor’s strongest area is Lismore, with the remainder generally leaning slightly to the Nationals. With a median age of 44, the electorate is second only to Lyne as the oldest in Australia, and it ranks in the bottom ten on all measures of income. There are correspondingly low numbers of mortgage payers and high numbers of unemployed, along with the fifth lowest proportion of residents whose main language is other than English.
Page was created with the enlargement of parliament in 1984, from an area which had historically been divided between Richmond and Cowper. It was won in 1984 by Ian Robinson, who had held Cowper for the National/Country Party since 1963. Like his party leader Charles Blunt in neighbouring Richmond, Robinson was a surprise casualty of the 1990 election, when he was unseated by a 5.2% swing to Labor’s Harry Woods. Woods held on by 193 votes in 1993 before inevitably going out with the tide in 1996. The seat was then held for the Nationals throughout the Howard years by Ian Causley, who had previously been the state member for Clarence – which Harry Woods then proceeded to win at the by-election to fill his vacancy.
Page did not swing greatly on Causley’s watch, but the Nationals benefited from redistributions which added 1.0% to the margin in 2001 and 1.3% in 2007. This did not avail them when Causley retired at the 2007 election, with Labor’s Janelle Saffin picking up a 7.8% swing to defeat Nationals candidate Chris Gulaptis (now the member for Clarence after retaining the seat for the Nationals at a November 2011 by-election). In swing terms, Saffin achieved the best result of any Labor member in New South Wales at the 2010 election by picking up a swing of 2.5%, the only other seats in the state to record pro-Labor swings being Robertson (0.9%), Dobell (1.2%) and Eden-Monaro (1.9%).
Saffin was a Lismore-based member of the state upper house from 1995 until the 2003 state election, when she withdrew from preselection after it became apparent she would not retain a winnable position on the ticket. In the period between her two spells in politics, she resumed work as a human rights lawyer and then took up a position in East Timor in 2006 as adviser to Jose Ramos Horta. Saffin publicly supported Kevin Rudd during his leadership challenge in February 2012. The Nationals have again nominated their candidate from 2010, Clunes businessman and farmer Kevin Hogan, who won preselection ahead of Clarence Valley mayor Richie Williamson.