Electoral Form Guide: Page
Margin: Labor 2.4%
Location: North Coast, New South Wales
In a nutshell: Once a safe area for the Nationals, Labor had their first entry here in 1990 and the seat has been an arm wrestle since. Former state upper house MP Janelle Saffin gained the seat with a swing of nearly 8 per cent in 2007.
Two-party vote map
Swing % map
Electorate analysis: One of seven Labor gains in New South Wales at the 2007 election, Page covers the north-eastern corner of New South Wales outside of 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 redistribution has effected a very minor change to the electorate by tidying its south-eastern boundary with Cowper, adding 230 voters south of Grafton. Page 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. 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 generally leaning slightly to the Nationals.
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, when he was unseated following a 5.2 per cent swing to Labor’s Harry Woods. Woods held on by 193 votes in 1993 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 benefited from redistributions which added 1.0 per cent to the margin in 2001 and 1.3 per cent in 2007. This did not avail them in the face of Causley’s retirement at the 2007 election, when Labor’s Janelle Saffin picked up a 7.8 per cent swing to defeat Nationals candidate Chris Gulaptis.
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. She then resumed work as a human rights lawyer, taking up a position in East Timor in 2006 as adviser to Jose Ramos Horta. She won preselection for Page ahead of three rivals, despite reports the state executive wished to override the rank-and-file ballot process and install Clarence mayor Ian Tiley. Saffin is associated with the Socialist Left faction, and is rated a “militant feminist” by conservative pundit Piers Akerman. The Nationals have nominated Clunes businessman and farmer Kevin Hogan, who won preselection without opposition. It was earlier reported the party was struggling to attract candidates, and hoped to recruit Stuart George, Richmond Valley councillor and son of state Lismore MP Thomas George.
The JWS Research-Telereach poll conducted during the final weekend of the campaign, covering 400 respondents in the electorate with a margin of error of about 5 per cent, had Labor leading 53-47.
Analysis written by William Bowe. Read Bowe’s blog, The Poll Bludger.