The Poll Bludger
Margin: Labor 1.7%
Region: North Coast, New South Wales
In a nutshell: Nestled in the north-eastern corner of New South Wales, Richmond has been transformed over recent decades by coastal development, which has changed it from safe Nationals to marginal Labor.
Candidates in ballot paper order
NEIL GORDON SMITH
Richmond has covered the north-eastern corner of New South Wales since federation, and presently encompasses the shires of Tweed in the north and Byron in the centre, and the northern part of Ballina in the south. The latest redistribution has redrawn its boundary with Page to add the town of Ballina at the southern coastal end of the electorate, for a gain of over 14,000 voters, while removing the northern parts of the Shire of Lismore in the interior, including 7000 voters around the counter-cultural haven of Nimbin. This reverses a trend over recent decades in which coastal development caused the electorate to shrink in size, which reached a watershed when the town of Lismore was transferred to Page in 1993. This process caused a seat that was once a stronghold for the National/Country Party to be won by Labor at six of the last nine elections. The electorate encompasses most of the state seat of Ballina, which the Greens won from the Nationals at the March 2015 state election due to a backlash over coal seam gas mining. Byron Bay is an area of particular strength for the Greens, who won the booths from Bangalow and Suffolk Park north to Mullumbimby and Brunswick Heads in 2013, and of corresponding weakness for the Coalition.
Richmond was first won for the Country Party by Roland Green shortly after the party’s creation in 1922, and spent much of its subsequent history as an Anthony family fiefdom. It was held from 1937 to 1957 by Larry Anthony Sr; from 1957 to 1984 by Larry’s son Doug, who was the party’s leader from 1971 to 1984; and from 1996 to 2004 by Doug’s son, Larry Anthony. Doug Anthony’s immediate successor was another party leader in Charles Blunt, who emerged a shock loser at the 1990 election when the independent candidacy of anti-nuclear activist Helen Caldicott drew a rash of new enrolments from the Nimbin area. When Caldicott fell just short of overhauling the Labor candidate, her preferences fuelled a 7.1% swing to Labor and a victory for its candidate, Neville Newell. Larry Anthony failed to recover the seat for the Nationals on his first attempt in 1993, before romping home on the back of an 8.5% swing in 1996. A 6.0% swing to Labor in 1998 brought the result back down to the wire, and Anthony again survived only narrowly in 2001.
Justine Elliot has held Richmond for Labor since 2004, when she picked up a 1.9% swing to unseat Anthony by a margin of 301 votes. Elliot consolidated with a 7.4% swing when Labor came to power in 2007, giving her enough fat to survive successive swings of 1.9% and 4.0% in 2010 and 2013 with a margin of 3.0%. Elliot went on to serve in the junior ministerial porfolio of ageing in the Rudd government’s first term, but was bumped down to parliamentary secretary for trade after the 2010 election, which both she and Prime Minister Julia Gillard insisted was at her own request. She retained the position despite publicly supporting Kevin Rudd’s leadership bid in February 2012, but moved to the back bench in February 2013. This was again said to have been at her own behest, as believed her local campaigining against coal seam gas mining conflicted with her responsibilities in the trade portfolio.
The Nationals candidate is Matthew Fraser, an owner of local Hungry Jacks franchises, who will contest the seat for the second election in a row after winning preselection ahead of Tweed councillor Carolyn Byrne. The Greens have likewise preselected their candidate from 2013, Dawn Walker, owner of a family manufacturing business in Tweed Heads.
Analysis by William Bowe. Read William’s blog, The Poll Bludger.