Preferences have been finalised in two seats in the Northern Rivers, with the Nationals retaining the seat of Lismore, while Ballina picked up new Greens MP Tamara Smith.
In the closely contested seat of Lismore, incumbent Nationals MP Thomas George and Greens candidate and anti-CSG campaigner Adam Guise have been nervously waiting for the final result since last month’s election.
The Nationals have retained their hold and Mr George will keep his seat with 52.86% of the vote after preferences were distributed.
Mr George said he knew the count was on a knife-edge but he kept faith in his chances.
“Even on the Saturday night there was pressure on me, calling for me to concede,” Mr George said.
“Well, I’ve been around elections long enough to know that nothing’s safe and from the figures I was getting from my scrutineers I knew we were going close to retaining the seat.”
The close call for the MP will no doubt be examined in detail by the Nationals, but Mr George said Lismore was not always quite the safe seat everyone believes.
“Even with the swing we’ve retained it, but it didn’t become a safe seat until the last election. Prior to that I only had an 8 or 10 per cent margin,” he said.
Mr George said it was something he never took for granted.
“I knew it would be a tough fight. I did not just start campaigning the day before the election. We left no stone unturned; it certainly paid off for us,” Mr George said.
The Greens candidate for Lismore said it has been a rollercoaster of a ride, both personally and politically.
“It’s been an incredible journey for me, I’ve been overwhelmed and humbled by the extraordinary people who have supported me along the way,” Mr Guise said.
The Greens secured 47.14% after preferences and Mr Guise said, like Mr George, he knew the seat would be within reach.
“I knew we would come close, I knew we had a real chance of winning it, the mood for change was in the air and in one sense that mood is still there, that hasn’t changed,”
But the Greens believe their chance of success fell victim to the voting system.
“We always knew that optional preferential [voting] would be our biggest hurdle,” Mr Guise said.
“If this election had been held for example, in Victoria, where there’s compulsory preferential, there may well have been a different outcome.
“We put in a phenomenal effort to get over the line and we’ve just missed out.”
New MP Credits ‘Greens Philosophy’ for Ballina Win
Just over the hills in the neighbouring seat of Ballina, Greens MP Tamara Smith will be the new member, securing 53.12% of the vote after preferences.
Ms Smith said the Greens philosophy was the secret to her win and people were ready for a fresh approach.
“The old parties, the old way they do politics, I had a lot of people telling me they found that distasteful, to see the way the old parties were attacking each other rather than putting forward what they would do,” Ms Smith said.
The Greens’ grassroots campaign was founded on old-fashioned door knocking and local contacts.
Ms Smith’s family has lived on the north coast of NSW for generations, and she said the party knocked on around 6,000 doors.
Ms Smith said she is in the job for the long haul.
“I’ve got an incredibly vibrant and re-enthused Green party,” Ms Smith said.
“Now the sky is the limit … I have no intention of being a one-term politician.”
In response to criticism that she will be a lone voice in the Coalition-dominated Government, she said times were changing.
“I think we’re moving towards minority governments and I do think it’s really about how hard-working you are and willing to pursue the interests of your community,” Ms Smith said.
Ballina Seat Based on ‘CSG Referendum’
Nationals candidate Kris Beavis said Ms Smith set the tone for the election by telling voters it was a referendum on coal seam gas.
He said he believed that if CSG had been taken out of the equation, there may have been a different outcome.
“We started the last government with 45% of the state covered in CSG licences, we’re now down to 11% as a state,” he said.
“Feasibly, with the same government in place, CSG may not even be on the table next time round.
“I think the future is strong. Realistically, I am the only [Nationals] candidate in the north who didn’t win their seat, so the party is still very strong.”
Mr Beavis said it was hard to accept defeat but he had his eyes open to the possible outcome the whole time.
“I’m not going to let this election result define me,” he said.
“It’s certainly been a great experience for me and a lot of people don’t get that opportunity and I walk away with no regrets about the process.”
Source: ABC News