Electoral Form Guide: Richmond
Margin: Labor 8.9%
Location: North Coast, New South Wales
In a nutshell: Urban development has transformed Richmond over the last few decades, turning it from a Nationals stronghold to a fairly safe seat for Labor. Labor’s first breakthrough came between 1990 and 1996, and after being recovered for the Nationals through Labor’s lean years by Larry Anthony, it returned to the Labor fold in 2004 and swung heavily to them in 2007.
JOAN VAN LIESHOUT
Electorate analysis: Richmond has covered the north-eastern corner of New South Wales since federation, shrinking steadily over time due to ongoing coastal development (which among other things has cost it the river that gives it its name). Once a jewel in the National/Country Party crown, it provided party leader Doug Anthony with a seat from 1957 until his retirement in 1983. Anthony had assumed the seat on the death of his father Larry, member from 1937. He in turn was preceded by Roland Green, who had held the seat from the Country Party’s creation in 1922.
The Nationals’ grip on Richmond loosened as it became increasingly dominated by Byron Bay and Tweed Heads, the watershed event being party leader Charles Blunt’s defeat in 1990. On that occasion the seat was contested by independent anti-nuclear activist Helen Caldicott, producing a rash of new enrolments from Nimbin-area hippies. When Caldicott fell just short of overhauling the Labor candidate, her preferences produced a 7.1 per cent swing to Labor and a shock victory for their candidate Neville Newell.
Doug Anthony’s son Larry failed to recover the seat for the Nationals in 1993, but he romped home with an 8.5 per cent swing on his second try in 1996. A 6 per cent swing in 1998 brought Anthony back down to the wire, and he again survived only narrowly in 2001. The seat finally fell to Labor in 2004, when their candidate Justine Elliot scraped over the line by 301 vote, after a 1.9 per cent swing. Elliot her served in the junior ministry as Ageing Minister since the election of the Labor government.
The Liberals have never held Richmond and have not contested it since 1996, but its increasingly urban character is such that they would seem as likely to win it as the Nationals if it returned to the conservative fold. Their candidate is Joan van Lieshout, the mayor of Tweed. The Nationals initially endorsed Pottsville pharmacist Tania Murdock, but she announced her withdrawal in June, reportedly citing “personal attacks on her and issues with parts of the local party”. Where Murdock had originally been selected unopposed, four candidates stepped forward for the re-match, the Coalition’s polling fortunes having improved in the interim. The vote was won by local Nationals president Alan Hunter, who had earlier suggested the seat might be left to the Liberals if there were “no stand-out nominations”.
The Tweed Daily News/Northern Star conducted a poll of 400 respondents in the second last week of the campaign, which appeared to have been conducted in-house and should thus be treated with caution. Certainly it suffered a problem common to such polls: an undecided rate of 24 per cent, presumably resulting from a failure to twist respondents’ arms with a follow-up “leaning towards” question. Without exclusion of the undecided, the poll had Labor on 30 per cent, Liberal on 26 per cent, Nationals on 9 per cent and Greens on 10 per cent. If nothing else the poll suggested the Nationals are no longer competitive in the seat.
Analysis written by William Bowe. Read Bowe’s blog, The Poll Bludger.