Margin: Labor 4.2%
Location: North Coast, New South Wales
In a nutshell: Page combines the tendency of low-income earners to vote Labor with that of regional voters to vote conservative to produce a finely poised marginal seat, which Janelle Saffin gained for Labor in 2007 and consolidated in 2010.
The candidates (ballot paper order)
STEPHEN BRUCE JANES
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 who primarily speak a language 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 against a 0.6% swing by just 193 votes at the 1993 election 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 held 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 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%), all of which were notably located outside of Sydney.
Saffin was a Lismore-based member of the state upper house from 1995 until 2003, when she withdrew from preselection for that year’s election 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 before taking up a position in East Timor as adviser to Jose Ramos Horta in 2006. Saffin publicly supported Kevin Rudd during his leadership challenge in February 2012, and resigned her position as whip after the failed attempt to draft him in March 2013. 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.
Page was one of five marginal Labor electorates, including four outside Sydney and one within, which Newspoll targeted with a survey of 1106 respondents over August 12-14 and August 23-28. It collectively showed a swing to the Liberals of 7%.
Analysis written by William Bowe. Read William’s blog, The Poll Bludger.