Seat du jour: Page

Page covers the north-eastern corner of New South Wales beyond the Tweed and Byron-oriented seat of Richmond. The main population centres are Ballina on the coast, Lismore and Casino further inland, and Grafton to the south. The electorate was created with the enlargement of parliament in 1984, from an area which had historically been divided between Richmond and Cowper. At the 1993 redistribution it exchanged Ballina for Nimbin and its counter-cultural surrounds, but these changes were respectively reversed at the 2001 and 2007 redistributions. The electorate has newly absorbed Wollongbar and Alstonville, inland of Ballina, from Richmond.

Demographically, Page ranks near the bottom in the nation for median family income and near the top for unemployment. It is also marked by large numbers of older voters and a correspondingly small number of mortgage payers. Labor’s strongest area is Lismore, the remainder providing fairly consistent support for the Nationals. Lismore and the coastal north-east went against the grain in swinging to Labor at the 2004 election, a spillover of the local trend that saw Labor’s Justine Elliot unseat Larry Anthony in Richmond. My maps of booth vote and swing results can be viewed at Crikey.

Page was won on its creation by Ian Robinson, who had held Cowper for the National/Country Party since 1963. Like his party leader Charles Blunt in Richmond, Robinson was a surprise casualty of the 1990 election, at which he was unseated by Labor’s Harry Woods following a 5.2 per cent swing. Woods held on in 1993 by 193 votes before inevitably suffering defeat in 1996. The new Nationals member was Ian Causley, previously member for the state seat of Clarence – which Harry Woods then proceeded to win at the by-election to fill Causley’s vacancy. Page did not swing greatly on Causley’s watch, but the Nationals have benefited from redistributions which added 1.0 per cent to the margin in 2001 and 1.3 per cent this time (from 4.2 per cent to 5.5 per cent).

With Causley now retiring, the Nationals have nominated Chris Gulaptis (right), a surveyor and Clarence Valley councillor of Macedonian extraction. Gulaptis won over half the first preference vote at preselection ahead of Kyogle mayor Ernie Bennett, Ballina councillor Sharon Cadwallader, radio presenter Neil Marks and Lennox Head GP Sue Page (not part of the Earle and Don Page clan), who has had to settle for the less promising prospect of Richmond. The field originally included former cabinet minister Larry Anthony, who was defeated in Richmond in 2004, but he withdrew in March saying “the ambition’s there but the impact it would have had on the family would have been just too much for them”.

Labor’s candidate is Janelle Saffin (left), who 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. She then resumed work as a human rights lawyer, taking up a position in East Timor in 2006 as adviser to Jose Ramos Horta. Saffin won the Page preselection ahead of Peter Lanyon, Labor’s state candidate for Lismore in 2003 and 2007, Southern Cross University lecturer Isaac Smith and law student Adam Atkins. There were reports the state executive wished to override the rank-and-file ballot process and install Clarence mayor Ian Tiley as candidate, but this evidently failed to win support from the federal executive.

Labor’s optimism about its prospects on the north coast was indicated when it dumped its candidate for Cowper, having come to the view that the seat could be won with a sufficiently appealing candidate. Kevin Rudd has twice visited Page in the past fortnight, making a health policy announcement in Grafton last week and appearing in Ballina on Tuesday to promise $1.5 billion in upgrades to the Pacific Highway. The Prime Minister appeared in Grafton three days before the election was called, announcing $1 billion in Pacific Highway funding and $18 million to upgrade the town’s base hospital if a local board was established to run it. Yesterday saw a visit from Mark Vaile, who promised to fully fund a bypass at Alstonville (matching an earlier commitment from Labor) and upgrade the Bruxner Highway intersection as part of the government’s plans for the Pacific Highway.

Author: William Bowe

William Bowe is a Perth-based election analyst and occasional teacher of political science. His blog, The Poll Bludger, has existed in one form or another since 2004, and is one of the most heavily trafficked websites on Australian politics.

28 comments on “Seat du jour: Page”

  1. *First comment dance*

    Well, if both of the leaders are visiting the seat to make announcements and pork-barrel, then there must be something going on within the seat. Neither of them has time to waste playing mind-games or shadow-boxing anymore

  2. And while Kevin was at Ballina RSL on Melbourne Cup Day afternoon, he picked out Efficient as the winner.

    If that isn’t a good omen, I don’t know what is! 🙂

  3. Why are the Nationals in such trouble in this part of the state? Richmond is gone, New England is gone, Page is most likely going and Cowper might go too. At state level I see Northern Tablelands, Port Macquarie and Tamworth are all in state hands as well. What is it about north-east NSW that sees the Nationals on the nose?

  4. Rudd’s visit created a lot of excitement in Ballina, of the kind usually afforded celebs. Was at the barber’s the next day and found the bunch of retired gents awaiting their turn favourably inclined towards him. Seems to be a mood for change here, like in the rest of the country.

    The ongoing influx of seachangers has meant demographic change. Workchoices is likely having an effect on the “grandparent” vote. There’s also a change in world-view that comes with people arriving from elsewhere (urban, overseas) and the rub-on effect on some of the locals. Farming/rural areas are changing into “rural residential” or “lifestyle” areas. Many farmers sold up and retired to the coast and face different issues like health and services (Centrelink!) and the new residents are more mixed and flexible in their political allegiances.

    The choice of Janelle Saffin was a good one. Good recognition factor as one who speaks up on the things that matter.

  5. Are the Liberals running a candidate? You’d expect given the changing demographics that they- as much as Labor- are a chance of pinching the seat from the Nationals

  6. Too true Bronwyn (6); WorkChoices is the poison chalice from which the coalition will sup throughouot the country. Forget The Narrowing, forget interest rates; on the day it will be WorkChoices and that is what is different about this election and why the Coalition will be crushed. We just don’t want it.

  7. I have visited the seat of Page several times lately and it is clear that they are not receiving the benefits from the “boom” economy.
    It is true battler territory.
    Also the demographics are changing and there’s a spillover from the Byron area with people who cannot afford living in the Byron area snapping up more affordable properties near Lismore.
    Also sea and tree changers are boosting the population.
    There’s a large population associated with the university and one cannot imagine them voting National Party.
    Kevin Rudd’s recent visit did indeed stir up things and he was given celebrity status in the Northern Star.
    The fact that Kevin Rudd is relatively conservative will help his chances here.
    Many are what one might term blue collar conservatives who would happily vote Labor conservative and if Labor is too left or radical vote for the Coalition.
    I give it to Janelle Saffin 51-49.

  8. William,
    Thanks for making Page your “seat du jour”. This is where I grew up.

    The candidates for ALP preselection where:
    Janelle Saffin
    Peter Lanyon – ALP candidate for Lismore in 2003 & 2007 state elections. If I recall correctly, he is school teacher from Lillian Rock.
    Isaac Smith – A lecturer at Southern Cross University.
    Adam Atkins – A law student at Southern Cross University.

    Ian Tiley didn’t seek preselection.

  9. I think Page is another difficult seat to pick. I certainly wouldn’t be predicting with any confidence the Labor will win this seat.

    It’s worth remembering that the state seat of Clarence was won by the Nationals at the 2003 state election at a time the ALP 2PP vote was around 57%.

    I don’t think it’s outside the realm of possibility that this seat could be held by the Nats, even while other seats are falling all around the country in a Labor landslide.

    I would be more confident about Labor winning Flynn than Page.

  10. Yes, it is odd that the Nats seem to be doing better in this area at state level (Tweed won in 2007; Ballina, Clarence, Lismore held with comfortable margins) than at the Federal (losing Richmond and dicey in Page).

    Since NSW has a 12 year old Labor government, I guess part of it is due to the natural protest vote for the opposition that accumulates over time?? Anyone have an idea as to other reasons?

  11. All of the towns in the region are gaining new voters from Sydney and elsewhere,,who come for the climate and the fact that housing is cheaper than in Glitter City.
    They are not likely to be National Party voters…it’s all part of the slow death of a “once great party”…Nothing can save the Nationals from extinction
    .Look how Hanson spooked then in Q’Land .!
    As in New England, a good independent with local roots can topple them any time .
    Perhaps one day the only Nationals will be visible in some sort of political Theme Park.

  12. Marcus 12; part of this could be personal votes for sitting Nats at the state level, Labor winning Clarence after Causely went federal is evidence for this. If Lismore fell vacant in a good year for Labor it would be interesting.

  13. Marcus @ #7 & #12

    Liberals announced earlier in the year that they would be running candidates in Richmond and Page. They haven’t nominated candidates in either seat; so, I assume they couldn’t find anyone willing to run.

    [it is odd that the Nats seem to be doing better in this area at state level]
    This is an area where optional preferencial voting favours the coalition. The Greens poll well in Byron shire, the inland part of Tweed shire, and parts of Lismore city council. A significant proportion of the Greens preferences exhaust rather than going to the ALP.
    It is worth noting the ALP have held the state seat of Casino/Clarence for 20 of the past 36 years; winning in 1971, 1973, 1976, 1978, 1981, 1996 & 1999. The Nats won in 1984, 1988, 1991, 1995, 2003 & 2007.

  14. Richard Jones 9 – While the folks of Byron Bay are moving to Lismore, the folks of Lismore are finding it tough and are moving out to Casino and Kyogle. From the time I lived there until relatively recently, many folks already on the lower end of the food chain were sliding even further down.

    Depressing stuff.

  15. I know that in 93 the Libs ran a 3 cornered contest in Page where I lived at the time. The Lib vote was at its strongest around the Alstonville area where there is a totally different demographic to the other conservative areas west of Lismore.

  16. Although what could go against the ALP in page is the infusion of state issues into the campaign. I.E. the locals are still highly annoyed at the state government closing the Casino-Murwillumbah rail line. Watch for the Nats to use this one if their polling shows that they are in trouble. Although the National party machine have never struck me as being the well oiled professional outfit that either the Liberal or the ALP machine. I was shocked in 93 how the quickly nats resorted negative tactics in Page and Richmond as opposed to the Libs who were also running in those seats in that election.

  17. There’s little love lost for the Sydney-centric Iemma mob to whom anything outside NSW (Newcastle-Sydney-Wollongong) is non-existent except for opportunities for some land-grabbing for mates. Likewise, the Howard mob in Sydney-Canberra don’t seem to have a clue about what life is like for people living in the “real Australia” to whom incomes like the ones bandied about in the $100K plus area are beyond fantasy. Here things like rail lines being shut down, by-passes promised and not delivered at election after election, hospitals under stress, rotting teeth, high unemployment and having to deal with Howard’s Centrelink – have caused the build-up of a seething, silent rage. Thus anyone in office at the moment – state or federal – is likely to cop it sweet. Neville Newell, at state level, was swept out for that in the last state election. Now it would have been Ian Causely’s turn if he weren’t retiring.

    At both levels the “It’s Time!” factor has gone past code red due to dead-duck oppositions. Rudd looks like a messiah in these conditions!

  18. Pritnam @#20 says

    There’s little love lost for the Sydney-centric Iemma mob to whom anything outside NSW (Newcastle-Sydney-Wollongong) is non-existent except for opportunities for some land-grabbing for mates

    I encourage you to visit the North-East corner of New South Wales. I’m sure you would be pleased to discover the following:
    1. It is not in Sydney, Newcastle, or Wollongong
    2. The current State Government, that you refer to as the Iemma mob, has spent a lot of money upgrading the Pacific Highway. The Highway is now dual carriageway from the Qld border to Ewingsdale (near Byron Bay). There is also a dual carriageway bypass of Bangalow. All of this work has taken place since the state Labor was elected in 1995. The most recent section (Yelgun to Brunswick Heads) opened about 3 months ago. Preliminary construction work has commenced on a bypass of Ballina.
    3. Lismore Base Hospital is currently undergoing a major upgrade. This is being funded by the State Government.

  19. What people in Page have to ask themselves is what the Nationals actually do for Page, which encompasses regional towns, villages and farms.

    The answer has to be ‘nothing’!

    Broadband outside of towns is appalling, they didn’t stand up for the pig farmers, cattle farmers or grain farmers. The Nationals may as well give the game away if the last 10 years is the best they can do for regional areas such as Page.

    All Causley did was stand beside Howard to invade other countries and tow the Liberal line… he may as well have been a Liberal.

    Nice bloke doesn’t cut it, we need someone with a bit of thought about the things that matter to the people of Page.

    Saying Jobs are at an all time high isn’t help the large numbers of people in Page who can’t get a job! Telling them to move to the city with the huge rents isn’t an option, we want and need more than rhetoric.

    Personally it’s a pity the Greens can’t seem to get a decent candidate in Page that looks and acts like they’re interested in more than legalising marijuana, which is great for the Hemp party but doesn’t assist the Green vote one bit with the mainstream voters now living in Page.

    If they had more Bob Browns the country may have hope, as it stands all we have is Liblab.

  20. Barry 21.

    True, what you say about the state government’s road improvements and the Lismore Base Hospital upgrade.

    The Pacific Highway, while a great asset, is a mixed blessing with the horrendous truck traffic it has brought through the area. It intensifies focus on the closure of the rail link with Murwillumbah. Instead of upgrading the rail line and linking it into the SE Queensland system to take some of the pressure off the road they went and closed it.

    It’s an area under huge development pressure and infrastructure and services need to keep pace. The incoming population appears to be better educated and brings a wider world-view with demands for services that they were used to where they come from. (NSW has the most apallingly under-funded library system in the whole country, for instance.)

    Anyway, good luck to Janelle Saffin. Hope she gets in. It’ll be nice to have a rep who’s on the side of the underdog, someone to be proud of.

  21. Pritam @ 23

    I agree with you about the railway line.
    IMHO it is safer, and better for the environment, to use rail instead of road freight.

    I also hope Ms Saffin wins. It should be an improvement over the current member.

  22. An opinion poll for Page is reported in today’s Northern Star newspaper.

    “The poll, conducted between Tuesday, October 30, and Tuesday, November 6, shows Labor candidate Janelle Saffin leading Nationals candidate Chris Gulaptis 44 per cent to 41 per cent, with 15 per cent of voters polled still uncommitted.”

    Follow the link for the full story.

  23. I lived there for awhile, highly mixed demographics, dunno how the numbers will pan out on 24th, but I suspect will be close and will always be a marginal swinging seat on low margins. I have young married daughter/son-in-law with new baby living in Ballina. Workchoices, and lack of opportunity is their grief, no future for them or their kids, able to find employment sure – but crap conditions, lousy pay etc – has pushed their vote to Labor this time around. The Baby Bonus went to pay off credit card debts (plus 15% interest) used to pay for groceries when my daughter lost her job on instant dismissal under hew casual AWA when her pregnancy was noticed.

    They have bitten the bullet and grudgingly, reluctantly are moving over to WA in the new year with a promise of better paying work in the mining sector, cheaper housing and lifestyle, *hope* anyway.

    But what economic wealth? I’ve been very lucky to manage to stay in relatively secure employment with good conditions, in a city setting, but I’m worse off after 11 years of Coalition policies. 11 years of educating 3 kids through high-school and Uni, I’m worse off and my kids are worse off too. I don’t know who got their piece of the economic boom-boom party times, but its not in my neighbourhood. What’s the use of a strong economy if it isn’t doing anybody any good?

    My other daughter is a Uni graduate in medical science, but only health service industry jobs are poorly paid, and on punitive unfair AWAs, so she’s working as a sales rep for a national hardware chain. (Quite well-paid too, but appalling AWA conditions – like 1-day notice of dismissal clause?) She’s thinking of joining the increasingly large number of young graduates leaving this country Mr Howard – a “brain drain”, getting bigger every year as the starting salaries and career opportunities for graduates are much better overseas. Thats your “skills shortage” Mr Howard, you can own that one too.

    And I am old enough to remember 1987 Mr Howard, when you said that Medicare was just a rort, there were too many doctors over-servicing. You said it again in your 1996 Budget speech, and cut medical training places.

    Education is cheaper in the USA, Mr Howard. Do you know Uni education is so expensive here, that its now a viable option to send Aussie kids to the USA for University education at UCLA?

    Then my third child, who is disabled but able to live independently with minimal services and help. Don’t get me started on years of battling Centrelink on his behalf, only to see their pension and services whittled away to nothing.

    Mr Howard: Stick your “strong economic management skills” where the sun don’t shine. You’ve had 11 years to put your money where your mouth is. I *know* I wont get a piece of the action from your mob, you’ve proved it to me after 11 years, you’ve had your chance, lots of them. I don’t care anymore how good the economy is. If I lived in a key marginal, I might see something every 3 years, but I don’t.

    If I was 10-15 years older in the baby-boomer retiree demographic maybe I’d have seen something by now, but I’m not – and when I last checked my super, its gone down significantly in “real terms” value over the last 11 years too.

    And then other indirect taxes like mandatory private hospital cover, that I can’t afford to use – my only “choice” Mr Howard, is whether I pay my private health “tax” to the private sector or to the public. I still have to use the public system, I can’t afford the excess for private hospital treatment, and I would have liked to have ancillary private cover – but I can’t afford that either since I have to pay for private hospital cover I can’t use – so while I should be in an income bracket that allows me to cover my own teeth, optical etc – I can’t even do that!

    I’ve been paying off a very small, modest home for 16 years, and with some reasonable equity, so – yes – I am not as badly off as those just starting in the mortage belts of Australia, but rising interest rates keep setting me backwards too.
    I have to continue to borrow against that equity to put my kids through school education, or just to pay off other rising debts.

    Perhaps I’m just one of the unlucky losers in a demographic minority Mr Howard. Just my bad luck being the wrong age-group, wrong postcode, wrong industry, wrong income-bracket, with the wrong age kids etc.

    Maybe I wont get a share under federal Labor either, but I’m willing to take a chance on the “possibility” Mr Howard, against a definite, 100% “sure bet” that I wont under your government. Maybe Labor will stuff it up – but at least the pain of any national economic stuff-up, might be shared more equally across all Australians, since the wealth sure isn’t. Misery loves company they say.

    Thats just on the personal self-interest side of the hip-pocket, if thats all Aussies vote for.

    On the broader moral side, you can stick your “nationalism” where the sun don’t shine too, since it leads to events like the 2005 Cronulla beach race riots, with skin-head neo-nazi thugs wrapped “proudly” in the Australian flag. Thats your version of Australian national pride? I guess they are our next generation of young ANZACs, huh? And sending the army into Indigenous communities? I thought I had cringed in national shame enough with the Tampa fiasco, but the depths of my “national shame” was still to come! But then, I thought, democracy is majority rules, and hence a majority of Australians must be thugs, too.

    As for Australian history, Mr Howard – if you read your textbooks, you will find Unionism played a large part in our history from the late 19th century onwards, as big a part as any ANZAC battle, if not more so. Like much of history its a mixed bag of good, bad and indifferent. I guess those parts can be wiped from your version for our kids schools? Or painted as historical boogeymen and thugs, while the real-life thugs “inspired” by your vision, can be admired on the beaches of Cronulla, and the suburbs of Melbourne as they beat the crap out of anybody they don’t like.

    And then there’s the long list, broadband, telecommunications, transport and other forms of modern civilised infrastructure which have all deteriorated – and stop blaming the states! All states have received around 40-50% of their Budgets via C’wlth revenues since before WW2, but you have cut that too – I think its a credit to the states, that they have done as much as they have, with so little from the feds.

    Then internationally, the Iraq and Afghani tragedies, and refusing to sign Kyoto – plenty of countries cannot meet the agreement, maybe it was over-ambitious, or even meaningless symbolic rhetoric, but still they signed in “good faith” and some commitment to the concept of being a member of a global village with a global problem, and I’m sure they have as many concerns about their own economies as Australia does.

    Ok, I’ll get off my sopa-box now….

  24. #24 – That was some soap box…like a stream of consciousness.

    Anyway, I’m seeing heaps of Labor stuff around Grafton. Haven’t been into Lismore recently but also saw more Labor stuff on the way to Casino. Also, 3 anti-Nat leaflets to 1 pro-Nat leaflet in the letterbox so far. Its not like I am off the beaten track, Summerland Way is HUGE and the major way into Grafton. Its not hard to get herr Galuptis!!!!! Come and knock on my door!

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