The Poll Bludger
Margin: Nationals 3.1%
Region: North Coast, New South Wales
In a nutshell: Labor’s Janelle Saffin is seeking to make a comeback in the northern New South Wales seat she lost to Kevin Hogan of the Nationals in 2013.
Candidates in ballot paper order
ANNA CLARE LUDVIK
BETHANY RACHAEL McALPINE
One of eight seats gained by the Coalition parties from Labor in New South Wales at the 2013 election, the electorate of Page covers the north-eastern corner of New South Wales, outside of the northernmost coastal stretch from Ballina to the Queensland border, which constitutes Richmond. Its biggest population centres are Lismore and Casino in the north, and Grafton in the south. Most of the electorate is Nationals-leaning outside of Lismore and its surrounds, which is increasingly becoming a stronghold for the Greens. This was reflected in the Greens’ near victory in the seat of Lismore at the March 2015 state election, amid a backlash against coal seam gas mining. In keeping with the rest of the state’s north coast, the electorate is demographically distinguished by low levels of income, educational attainment and ethnic diversity, and an older-than-average age profile. The redistribution has made substantial changes which are a mixed bag in their electoral impact, but collectively provide a 0.6% boost to the Nationals’ 2.5% margin from 2013. At the southern end, the coast from Woolgoolga to Maclean immediately north of Coffs Harbour is gained from Cowper, accounting for 23,000 voters. In the north, the boundary with Richmond has been changed to remove 14,000 voters in and around Ballina on the coast, and add 7000 voters around the counter-cultural haven of Nimbin.
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 for the Nationals in 1984 by Ian Robinson, who had been the member for Cowper 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 just 193 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 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, at which Labor’s Janelle Saffin gained the seat with a 7.8% swing. Saffin was one of four Labor members in New South Wales who increased their margins in 2010, each of whom represented seats outside Sydney.
The current member, Kevin Hogan, won the seat for the Nationals on his second attempt in 2013, when he unseated Saffin with a swing of 6.7%. Hogan had previously worked in banking and finance, and then as a high school teacher, business consultant and farmer after moving to Lismore in 1998. Hogan will again he opposed at the coming election by Janelle Saffin, who is seeking to begin her third non-consecutive spell in politics. The first began with her election to the state upper house in 1995, and ended when she was unable to line up a winnable position on the party ticket at the 2003 election. She then resumed work as a human rights lawyer before taking up a position in East Timor as adviser to Jose Ramos-Horta in 2006. As member for Page, she distinguished herself as a supporter of Kevin Rudd, having publicly backed his February 2012 leadership challenge and resigned her position as whip after the failed attempt to draft him in March 2013.
Analysis by William Bowe. Read William’s blog, The Poll Bludger.