Richmond – Australia 2019

ALP 4.0%

Incumbent MP
Justine Elliot, since 2004.

Far north coast of NSW. Richmond covers Tweed Heads, Byron Bay, Ballina, Murwillumbah, Mullumbimby and surrounding areas. It covers the entirety of Tweed and Byron council areas, as well as the majority of Ballina council area.

Richmond is an original federation seat, and has always covered the northeastern corner of New South Wales, although it has contracted further into that corner over the last century as other seats have been created in northeastern NSW. The seat was consistently held by conservative parties from its creation until 1990, and was gained by the Country Party early in its existence in 1922, and they held it continously for almost seventy years.

Recently it has become a much more marginal seat, although the 2007 election result pushed the seat out of the marginal category.

The seat was first won in 1901 by Protectionist Thomas Ewing, who served as a minister in the Deakin government from 1905 to 1908 before retiring in 1910. His seat was retained by Liberal candidate Walter Massy-Greene. Massy-Greene went on to serve as a minister in Billy Hughes’ Nationalist governments, but lost Richmond to Country Party candidate Roland Green in 1922. He was appointed to the Senate in 1923, and served there until his retirement in 1938. He was relegated to the backbench during the Stanley Bruce government, but returned to the ministry as part of the Lyons government in the 1930s.

Green was regularly challenged by other Country Party candidates at subsequent federal elections. While the ALP stood in Richmond in 1925, Green was reelected unopposed in 1928 and faced opposition only from another Country Party candidate in 1929. At the 1931 election Green was challenged by three other Country candidates and one independent. He was regularly challenged by Robert Gibson at every election from 1928 to 1937. Green barely held on against internal party opponents at the 1931 and 1934 elections.

In 1937, two Country Party candidates and an ALP candidate all stood against the sitting Country MP. While Green came first on primary votes, Gibson’s preferences pushed Country candidate Larry Anthony ahead of the ALP candidate, and then ALP preferences gave the seat to Anthony.

Anthony served as a minister under Robert Menzies and Arthur Fadden in 1940 and 1941 and was a senior member of the Opposition during the Curtin/Chifley Labor government. In 1949 he joined Robert Menzies’ cabinet, and served in it until his death in 1957.

The subsequent by-election saw four Country Party candidates stand, although one clearly stood out, with Anthony’s son Doug polling 49.8% of the primary vote.

The younger Anthony joined the ministry in 1964 and was groomed to be the next leader of the Country Party, and upon Jack McEwen’s retirement in 1971 he became Deputy Prime Minister. The Coalition lost power in 1972, and Anthony returned to the role of Deputy Prime Minister upon the dismissal of the Whitlam government in 1975. He served in this role throughout the Fraser government, during which time his party’s name changed first to the National Country Party and then to the National Party. Following the election of the Hawke government in 1983, Anthony retired in 1984.

The seat was retained in 1984 by Nationals state director Charles Blunt, outpolling a Liberal Party challenger and overtaking the ALP on Liberal preferences, despite Blunt having no local links with the far north of NSW. Blunt immediately moved to the shadow ministry and in 1989 managed to win a leadership challenge against Ian Sinclair. His leadership saw attempts to modernise the party and bring it closer to the Liberal Party, but Blunt’s leadership was cut short in 1990 when he lost Richmond to ALP candidate Neville Newell, who won a slim margin after a 7.1% swing. While the Nationals margin had fallen below 60% in the 1980s, this still saw a big jump in the ALP vote.

Newell held on in 1993 against a challenge from Nationals candidate Larry Anthony (son of Doug and grandson of Larry Sr) and a Liberal candidate. In 1996, Newell was defeated by the third-generation of the Anthony family. Newell went on to hold the state seat of Tweed from 1999 until his defeat in 2007.

Anthony was reelected in 1998 and 2001, although won by slim margins very different to the huge margins won by his father and grandfather. The 2004 election saw Anthony, then a junior minister in the Howard government, defeated by ALP candidate Justine Elliot, against a national swing to the Coalition in a backlash against Mark Latham’s leadership of the ALP.

Elliot has been re-elected in 2007, 2010, 2013 and 2016.


  • Ronald McDonald (Sustainable Australia)
  • Hamish Jenkin Mitchell (United Australia)
  • Morgan Cox (Christian Democratic Party)
  • Justine Elliot (Labor)
  • Ray Karam (Independent)
  • Tom Barnett (Involuntary Medication Objectors)
  • Matthew Fraser (Nationals)
  • Michael Lyon (Greens)
  • Assessment
    Richmond is still a marginal seat, even though Labor has held on here for well over a decade. The Greens also have ambitions of winning this seat. They are still some way off overtaking Labor or the Nationals but are worth watching.

    2016 result

    Matthew Fraser Nationals 37,00637.6-1.8
    Justine Elliot Labor 30,55131.0-3.3
    Dawn Walker Greens 20,10820.4+5.1
    Neil Gordon SmithOne Nation6,1606.3+6.1
    Angela PollardAnimal Justice3,0893.1+3.1
    Russell KilarneyChristian Democratic Party1,4841.5+0.1

    2016 two-party-preferred result

    Justine Elliot Labor 53,09254.0+2.4
    Matthew Fraser Nationals 45,30646.0-2.4

    Booth breakdown

    Booths have been divided into four parts. Polling places in Byron and Ballina council areas have been grouped together. Booths in Tweed, which cover a majority of the population, have been split between those in Tweed Heads and in the remainder of the council.

    The ALP won a majority of the two-party-preferred vote in all four areas, ranging from 50.4% in Tweed Heads to almost 70% in Byron.

    The Greens primary vote ranged from 11.4% in Tweed Heads to 45% in Byron.

    Voter groupGRN prim %ALP 2PP %Total votes% of votes
    Tweed Heads11.450.417,66718.0
    Tweed Shire19.755.315,83516.1
    Other votes18.850.78,5848.7

    Election results in Richmond at the 2016 federal election
    Toggle between two-party-preferred votes and Greens primary votes.

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    1. Another seat that might well go the way of Melbourne Ports. Elliot is starting to get into Danby territory with these primaries.

      Although, really, the Liberals rather than the Nationals should be contesting here.

    2. A lot of contradictions here. We would have to assume Elliot has a significant personal vote after 14 years. However her vote went counter trend to national. She was elected on a massive Green preference vote, which increased significantly.
      Elliot would have to be seen as a failed minister, as she was demoted in 2010. IS she presently a shadow, or indeed will she end up with ministry ?.
      Clearly her position is strong, otherwise she might have ended up with a preselection challenge.
      It will be fascinating to see whether the Green vote continues to grow strongly, or whether the Retiree vote in the north continues to strengthen. Or both!. Either way it seems the Labor vote is being progressively decimated from both sides.
      The issue for Elliot is whether she is part of the problem, or the solution. Personally i doubt she has the depth to be the latter.

    3. Mark Mulcair
      Do you have any reason for suggesting the Libs are the natural opposition here.? Being an ALP seat, i’d expect that both parties will contest, even though it would be a complete waste of time, money etc for the Libs. Maybe not…

    4. By the numbers the best federal chance for the Greens in NSW, if Greens NSW were to concentrate resources there. Although I expected it might take until there is a Labor government (that is on the nose) before it would fall.

      Anyone with local knowledge of the popularity of the Ballina state member, Byron Shire Mayor, Tweed Shire Mayor, and 3 councillors the Greens have in the area?

    5. That Greens vote in the Byron area is very impressive actually, but that alone won’t win them the seat. Tweed Shire and even Bellina to a large extent is still very poor for the Greens.

      They still need around 5000 votes to change hands from Labor to the Greens just for the latter to get into second. I can’t see that happening in a single electoral cycle.

    6. There’s been a strongish potential green (small g) vote in this seat for a long time. When Neville Newell first won the seat in 1990, Helen Caldicott received 23.3% of the vote as an independent, nearly beating Newell into the final count, before her preferences pushed Newell to the win. I suspect the swing last election was due to the Greens being more organised than in 2013, reflected in their results in the area at the last State election also.

    7. Matt
      If you add Animal Justice to the Greens last election isn’t that 8% ?.. This would indicate considerable volatility.

    8. The Greens candidate is 1st-term Byron councillor Michael Lyon.

      The relevant number here is the ‘3-party-prefered’ margin between Labor and the Greens – ie the gap between them after all the lower-placed candidates’ preferences are distributed. That margin is 9.83% – ie a 4.92% shift from Labor to Greens will put Greens into 2nd.

      This margin has been gradually reducing at each election. Greens campaigns have got increasingly better organised at each election, and then there’s the state and local government successes, even in spite of some issues that could’ve been problematic for them (eg the fiasco over the Byron councillor elected as a Green who turned out to be a conservative who didn’t support their policies and positions – that sort of thing could’ve hurt confidence in Greens in Byron, yet their vote has kept going up!). I think the trend can continue here. I think there is still room for the Greens to boost local campaigning, so even if they don’t do well more broadly (or aren’t helped by the state party) they could still be expected to squeeze more votes out on the ground. I think the gap could theoretically be closed in one election, but unless there’s a surge of momentum for the Greens nationally it might be just a bit too much this time.

    9. Greens seem to have preselected a relatively weak candidate, given that Dawn Walker (2016 candidate and NSW MLC) is in an unwinnable position in the NSW ballot and would likely be available. Alternatively the Greens could have run with the incumbent Mayor of Tweed shire to dramatically boost their numbers in their weakest booths – Byron seems tapped out.

      However I predict this to be third seat the Greens win after retaining Melbourne and picking up Melbourne Ports/Macnamara (unless they get lucky in WA in July). Justine Elliot isn’t very high profile but she’s a Labor Right MP, which should help the Greens if they want to draw attention to it.

    10. I would probably put Ryan, Brisbane, Macnamara, Wills, and Cooper above Richmond in a list of likely green gains. It’s probably helpful for the Greens that this seat gets less attention than their other target seats, allows them to focus on local issues and campaigning. Definitely a seat to watch, but not one I am expecting a surprise in.

    11. The Greens high profile support for the full legalisation of cannabis will be a huge vote winner for them in this seat. The Richmond electorate is a very progressive and tolerant community, a very large portion of which regularly use cannabis. Considering it is a substance that is far less harmful than alcohol, that is not a negative assessment by any means. The Labor member Elliot is from the right of the ALP and is a former police officer, which will likely hurt her severely in relation to this issue. The electorate is strongly in favour of personal freedoms and is very left leaning. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that even the Nationals voters here are more progressive than you would normally expect from that party. I expect the Greens vote to continue to grow strongly and for the seat to fall to them in the near future, if not at the next election, then almost certainly at the one after. It is only a question of time.

    12. Cannabis legalisation is not a major issue………… also the drug is bad for people with mental illness… not to mention smoking is bad for yr general health…… Green support has grown in this area .… think Balina state seat is largely in this seat

    13. Alcohol is very bad for certain people as well (alcoholics) and worse for general health of the average person than cannabis, but it isn’t illegal… In fact it is widely agreed that prohibition of alcohol would only make its problems worse.


      Byron/Mullumbimby have a lot of counter-culture AKA “hippie” types, and also is a “sea/tree-change” location for people looking to slow down. When the Greens first running in every seat in NSW in the early 2000s this was their 2nd strongest area behind Marrickville/Balmain.

      Noteworthy is that the Greens have been electing mayors in this area for over a decade, they’ve likely been building profile from that. It has “trickled up” into winning the state seat of Ballina and almost Lismore, maybe the same will happen federally.

    14. Thinking about The Greens status in this seat at this election

      * Tamara Smith was handily reelected and the Greens brand may be stronger in the area overlapping with Ballina than in 2016
      * Sue Higginson only missed out in Lismore (Murwillumbah) by 361 votes, which puts the Greens at least a little bit on the radar.
      * Katie Milne has now been mayor of Tweed Shire for 5 years – the Greens do a have a foot in the door in Tweed.
      * Justine Elliot is very much from the right of the ALP and is on record voting against progressive motions at the most recent ALP conference.
      * It’s by far the Greens most winnable seat in NSW this election, so they could divert resources there.

      * Huge incumbency advantage for Justine Elliot, even just name recognition alone
      * “Incoming ALP government” elections make it quite hard for Greens to sell their own message
      * If it’s a bad year for Nats, many will be simple Nat -> ALP swing voters
      * The Greens seem to have left it quite late to ramp up the local campaign – while Lyon has been preselected for a while, there doesn’t seem to have been any national attention on his campaign
      * The Greens candidate is male while the ALP candidate is female (this may matter for a few progressive voters)
      * The local Green volunteer base may be depleted from NSW Greens infighting. They also won’t have interstate solidarity volunteers like they did in the state election (I saw a few QLD Greens post photos at Ballina polling booths, for example).
      * The NSW Greens will need to fight hard statewide to retain Mehreen Faruqi’s senate seat, and can’t afford to overconcentrate resources in one seat this election.

      I think Greens will be a good chance to pick this up in 2022 by preselecting Katie Milne, Sue Higginson or another high profile candidate, but 2019 is a bridge too far.

      Prediction: ALP Retain

    15. Matthew Fraser got the majority vote in 2016.
      He should be the member.
      Redistribution is wrong.
      First past the post is real democracy.

    16. Matthew Fraser got a minority of the votes in this seat. First Past the Post is not real democracy as it ensures seats are won by a minority, rather than the majority. More people preferred Elliot over Fraser so she was the justified winner. It beggars belief that people still advocate for FPTP.

    17. “The post” is a majority though, which is 50% +1.

      So the highest primary vote, if under 50%, is not actually passing the post. It’s just “closest to the post” which is not a real democracy.

      The preferencial system is the real “first past the post” because it is literally the first person to get past 50%, after preferences are distributed (if required).

    18. Using this seat as an example, 51.4% of the electorate gave their first preference to the two major left-leaning candidates (plus another 3% to Animal Justice). That’s a solid 54% vote on the left of the spectrum.

      Only 37.6% gave their primary vote to the Nationals candidate. In the system you propose, “closest to the post” (but not actually having to pass it), the winner is only determined by which side of the political spectrum has the least candidates splitting the vote. That’s extremely undemocratic.

    19. In 2016 the Greens vote rose significantly on the back of a personal vote for Dawn Walker, a well-known campaigner against aircraft noise and president of the Fingal Head Community Association. A Greens candidate from Byron with almost no name recognition would struggle to get even close to the same results at the Tweed end of the electorate, where Justine Elliot is both well-known and well-respected.

    20. The Greens’ candidate, Michael Lyon, is the acting Mayor of the Byron Shire Council. He may not be well known nationality but he’s very well known locally in the electorate.

    21. I think there are a number of factors that should be in the Greens favour to be a serious threat here, but I’m not under the impression that they are mounting a strong enough campaign. Many of the key organisers of their last two campaigns for Richmond have now left the party, including Dawn Walker (and including me FWIW, though I did so in 2013, long before it was fashionable), and the state campaign may have sapped the remaining organising capacity. I don’t think a personal vote for Dawn was a big factor, as there was little evidence of it when she first ran in 2013 and the vote in the Tweed followed the national swing, but rose significantly in Byron. The Greens campaigning was much better organised in 2016 than in 2013 – it was their first ‘professional’ campaign in the seat, and it was also better in 2013 than 2010 and previous years, which I think helped a lot, as well as starting to get a boost from having a Greens Mayor in Tweed.

    22. I moved to Tweed last year and have been working in the area for 18 months. The oldies really dominate up this end of the electorate, things are changing and younger folks are moving in all the time but I still feel like this end being the heaviest populated is going to work against the green vote. I do expect them to take it in the next ten years though as these retirees thin out and us younger folks get down here.

    23. Considering Page is holding up next door and the elderly demographic, could this be an against the grain swing to the Nats?

      Darkhorse, admittedly unlikely, to watch on Saturday.

    24. Where do you think democracy started from? The British empire!!
      It’s first passed the post to the individual who gets the most votes in the UK.
      This factional voting preferences to the left or to the right is undemocratic.
      Your playing politics with the most popular representative for the electorate Australia!


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