Govt must cancel CSG licenses after poll result, new MP says
THE election result in Ballina demonstrates the importance of coal seam gas as an issue on the Northern Rivers, new Greens MP Tamara Smith says.
The historic result handed The Greens their first regional seat in the lower house of the NSW Parliament with a slim majority of just 3.12% after preferences.
It was the first time The Greens had taken a seat from the National Party.
Speaking from Sydney, Ms Smith said the election had been a referendum of coal-seam gas and called on the government to "act immediately" to cancel licences across the North Coast.
She promised The Greens were "here to stay" and the victory had ended the era of Ballina being a safe Nationals seat.
"The Greens ran a strong grass-roots campaign with our supporters knocking on over 6000 doors to listen to the concerns of local voters… I look forward to rolling up my sleeves as the new member for Ballina and starting to deliver for our community across a board range of health, education, planning and environmental issues," Ms Smith said.
Greens MLC John Kaye praised Ms Smith as a "superbly talented local member" who had the capacity to grow The Green vote on the North Coast at the next election.
The moment of the victory was, if anything, something of an anticlimax - only a handful of people turned up, and the new computerised voting system, designed to calculate every last voter preference at the touch of a button, at first didn't work and then took about 10 minutes to decide the winner.
Nationals candidate Kris Beavis, the only candidate to attend the final count in person, was understandably disappointed with the result but philosophical.
He said one factor in The Nationals losing the seat was the alliance of preferences against them from Labor, The Greens, and independent Jeff Johnson, combined with the CSG issue so devastating to The Nationals brand.
However, he said he had always expected the vote to be a close one given the retirement of popular longstanding MP Don Page.
"I always took the view it was 50-50… we had three candidates brand new to politics vying for the same win," he said.
He added that if CSG had been taken out of the equation, "quite likely it would have been a different outcome".
He said The Nationals needed to reinvent their membership, and get people to put their hand up and say "this kind of politics is important to me".
Ms Smith will officially be declared the member-elect for Ballina this morning after the expiry of a mandatory 24-hour window for losing candidates to demand a recount.