Seat in focus – Ballina

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Last Friday, I published a breakdown of the election result in the key seat of Lismore in the far north of New South Wales.

The seat of Ballina shares a lot of similarities with its neighbour. In both cases, the Greens outpolled Labor in 2011, but the Nationals held the seat by a large margin against either left party. In both cases, there was a large swing away from the Nationals and to both Greens and Labor, with the Greens staying in second place on primary votes.

While it looks like the Nationals have held on in Lismore, the Greens appear to be on track to win Ballina. Another factor in Ballina is the independent candidacy of Jeff Johnson, a Ballina councillor elected as a Green twice, who quit the Greens recently in order to run as an independent.

The seat of Ballina covers the entirety of the Ballina and Byron shires. Ballina Shire covers a majority of the seat’s population.

Polling places in Ballina at the 2015 NSW state election. Ballina in orange, Ballina Surrounds in green, Byron in blue. Click to enlarge.
Polling places in Ballina at the 2015 NSW state election. Ballina in orange, Ballina Surrounds in green, Byron in blue. Click to enlarge.

In the pre-election guide, I broke the seat’s population into three parts. I grouped together all those booths in Byron Shire, and split those in Ballina Shire between those in the town of Ballina and the remainder of Ballina Shire (“Ballina Surrounds”).

Prior to the recent election, there was already a massive difference in the vote between Byron Shire and Ballina Shire. The Greens polled 36.7% in Byron Shire, compared to a vote in the teens across Ballina Shire.

Voter groupNAT %GRN %ALP %JJ %NATswGRNswALPswTotal% of votes
Byron21.044.126.04.9-19.67.414.012,57426.6
Ballina Surrounds42.521.421.710.5-20.74.910.58,91918.9
Ballina44.015.726.110.9-20.32.812.37,25115.3
Other votes41.722.524.87.2-20.63.813.818,54039.2

Overall, the swing to the Greens was relatively small, but it was biggest in area where the Greens vote was already highest. The Greens gained a swing of 7.4%, to 44%, in Byron Shire, but only 2.8% to 15.7% in the town of Ballina.

There was a larger swing to Labor across the board, but their swing was also largest in Byron. Labor’s vote jumped into the 20s in all three areas.

Indeed, Labor overtook the Greens in Ballina Surrounds. In 2011, Labor outpolled the Greens by less than 1% in the town of Ballina – this year, they outpolled the Greens by over 10%.

It’s also worth bearing in mind the existence of independent Jeff Johnson, who polled just over 10% across Ballina Shire, and just under 5% in Byron Shire.

It shouldn’t be assumed that all of Johnson’s vote came from the Greens, but it seems likely that the swing to the Greens would have been larger in Johnson’s absence, particularly in his strongest area in Ballina Shire.

The overall swing to the Greens was relatively mild, and the party is on track to win thanks to preference flows from two other progressive candidates who polled strongly.

The Greens even suffered swings against them in four booths. One of these booths was in the town of Ballina, and another at the southern edge of the electorate. The other two are the only two booths transferred from Lismore into Ballina, where the Greens vote was already very high.

The polling place at Wilsons Creek is one of the strongest Greens booths in Australia, and in 2011 the Greens won over 72% of the primary vote at the booth. This year, this vote dropped slightly, with Labor gaining an 8% swing and not much room for the Nationals vote to drop below its 2011 level.

Overall, the swing away from the Nationals was about the same in each area, around 20%. If you combine the swing to Labor, the Greens and Johnson, the increase in the progressive vote was about 26% in all three areas.

The Greens were fortunate to win Ballina in 2015 with a low primary vote, narrowly polling second on primary votes and depending on preference flows to win. If they are to retain the seat in the future, they’ll need to hold on to their primary vote in Byron Shire and make significant inroads into Ballina Shire, taking in those Ballina voters who voted for ex-Green Johnson, and capturing the Labor vote in southern parts of the seat.

The following maps show the primary vote for the Nationals, the Greens, Labor and Jeff Johnson, and primary vote swings compared to 2011 for the three main parties.

Nationals primary votes in Ballina at the 2015 NSW state election.
Nationals primary votes in Ballina at the 2015 NSW state election.
Greens primary votes in Ballina at the 2015 NSW state election.
Greens primary votes in Ballina at the 2015 NSW state election.
Labor primary votes in Ballina at the 2015 NSW state election.
Labor primary votes in Ballina at the 2015 NSW state election.
Primary votes for independent candidate Jeff Johnson in Ballina at the 2015 NSW state election.
Primary votes for independent candidate Jeff Johnson in Ballina at the 2015 NSW state election.
Nationals primary vote swings in Ballina at the 2015 NSW state election.
Nationals primary vote swings in Ballina at the 2015 NSW state election.
Greens primary vote swings in Ballina at the 2015 NSW state election.
Greens primary vote swings in Ballina at the 2015 NSW state election.
Labor primary vote swings in Ballina at the 2015 NSW state election.
Labor primary vote swings in Ballina at the 2015 NSW state election.
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1 COMMENT

  1. Wardell, one of the booths with a swing against the Greens, is impacted by an alternative Pacific Highway upgrade route favoured by the Greens and Johnson (and supposedly also by koala-loving Luke Foley, though perhaps voters remembered it was a Labor government which actually decided on the currently proposed route since it doesn’t seem to have hurt the Labor vote). Conversely at Meerschaum Vale, which is in the path of the curretly proposed highway route opposed by conservationists for its impact on koala habitat, there was a strong swing towards the Greens and strong vote for Johnson.

    I’m not sure about the circumstances that might’ve caused a swing against the Greens at Skennars Head. It was a new booth in 2010/11 with not many votes iirc so it may just be a random variation. Interesting result at Lennox Head with the Greens still up 5% even with Johnson getting 17%. I wouldn’t have expected that.

    Presumably there’s a local factor in Bangalow that caused that booth to swing so much more to Labor rather than the Greens.

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