Ballina – NSW 2019

GRN 3.1% vs NAT

Incumbent MP
Tamara Smith, since 2015.

Northern NSW. Ballina covers all of Ballina Shire and Byron Shire. The main towns in the seat are Ballina, Lennox Head, Byron Bay and Mullumbimby.

The seat of Ballina in its current form has existed since 1988, and it was held by the Nationals continuously from 1988 until 2015. Another seat named Ballina existed from 1894 to 1904.

Ballina was created in 1988, when the pre-existing seat of Byron was broken up between Ballina and Murwillumbah.

Ballina was won by Don Page, a grandson of former Country Party Prime Minister Earle Page. He served as deputy leader of the NSW National Party from 2003 to 2007, and held the seat until 2015.

Page retired in 2015, and the seat was won by Greens candidate Tamara Smith, with a 20% swing after preferences.


Ballina is a marginal seat, and the Greens shouldn’t take it for granted. A small swing back to the Nationals would see the seat revert to type. In 2015, the progressive vote was severely splintered between the Greens, Labor and an ex-Greens independent. Labor is still stronger in the southern parts of the electorate, and the Greens would be hoping to use their incumbency advantage to consolidate the progressive vote, to ensure they stay in the top two, and to help with reducing preference leakage.

2015 result

Kris Beavis Nationals 17,39236.6-19.6
Tamara Smith Greens 12,82427.0+4.5
Paul Spooner Labor 11,73824.7+12.8
Jeff JohnsonIndependent3,7087.8+7.8
Matthew HartleyIndependent8261.7+1.7
Vyvyan StottChristian Democrats6791.4-0.5
Greg ZylberNo Land Tax2910.6+0.6

2015 two-candidate-preferred result

Tamara Smith Greens 21,52853.1+20.1
Kris Beavis Nationals 18,99646.9-20.1

2015 two-party-preferred result

Paul Spooner Labor 21,48453.0+27.7
Kris Beavis Nationals 19,03147.0-27.7

Booth breakdown

Booths in Ballina have been split into three parts. Polling places in Byron shire have been grouped together, while those in Ballina shire were split between those in the town of Ballina and those in surrounding areas.

Any analysis of Ballina undoubtedly becomes a tale of two councils. The Greens won a thumping majority in Byron Shire – winning about 73.5% of the two-candidate-preferred vote, and 44% of the primary vote.

Ballina makes up a majority of the seat, and the Greens lost the two-candidate-preferred vote to the Nationals both in Ballina itself (41.3%) and in the surrounding areas (46%). The Greens were outpolled by Labor in both these areas, with a vote of only 15.7% in the town of Ballina.

Labor’s primary vote ranged from 21.7% in Ballina Surrounds to 26% in Ballina.

The low Greens vote in Ballina was likely worsened by the candidacy of Jeff Johnson, an independent candidate who had been twice elected as a Greens councillor in Ballina Shire. Johnson polled over 10% in both Ballina subareas, compared to less than 5% in Byron.

Voter groupJJ prim %ALP prim %GRN 2CP %Total votes% of votes
Ballina Surrounds10.521.746.18,93118.8
Other votes6.823.650.97,83316.5

Election results in Ballina at the 2015 NSW state election
Toggle between two-candidate-preferred votes (Greens vs Nationals) and Labor primary votes.

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  1. This seat was won by the Greens off the back of the Anti-CSG Movement throughout the North Coast of New South Wales. The next election will confirm whether that was a one-off result or whether the demographics have changed sufficiently that this seat becomes a marginal-Greens Seat.

  2. As a former resident of this electorate, I agree with moderate. If Ben Franklin or any other Sydney based Liberal Party member runs as the Nats candidate in this electoral, it will be a close result between Greens and Labor with the Nats finishing a very distant third.

  3. It will be interesting to see what resources Labor puts in here, as I would think it could be a 3-way contest, but I’m not sure whether Labor will target it or not.

    Smith was clearly swept over the line on the tide of the anti-CSG protest vote, but the underlying trend for the Greens in the area would still help her have a strong chance of re-election even though those extraordinary circumstances of 2015 aren’t here again. Polling had pointed to Labor finishing 2nd here in 2015 and then winning, so the Greens win was a bit of a surprise on election night. They could repeat it, but the context of this election will be very different and incumbency advantage won’t necessarily overcome that.

    One seat I expect not to be betting on.

  4. Despite appealing to the Green rainbow constituency, if Ben Franklin is the candidate the Nats will get smashed – Franklin just doesn’t have the charisma to be received well in a seat like this.

  5. Liberal Party MLC from North Sydney is running as a candidate in Ballina. He is so familiar with the area that he spent his first day of campaigning in Broadwater in the electorate of Clarence.

  6. Ok Watson Watch – I reckon I’ll be proven right on 24.3. Massive anti-CSG vote last time, and the Greens are in a state of complete flux. Franklin is everywhere in the electorate….

  7. The Greens may well be in a state of complete flux. I suspect that they have been that way since they expanded out of Tasmania.

    I am sceptical about the influence of an anti-CSG vote in this electorate. All of the proposed CSG mines on the Northern Rivers were located in the seats of Lismore and Clarence. The two sites where drilling had commenced were Bentley and Glenugie. Glenugie is a few kms south of Grafton (just west of Grafton Airport). Bentley is near Casino on the boundary of Lismore and Clarence electorates. If CSG was a massive issue in the non-CSG seats why did the Greens vote only increase by 4.5 percentage points in Ballina and decrease slightly in Tweed?

    The big issue in 2015 in the town of Ballina was the state government plan to replace the 3 local high schools with 1 mega-school. Doesn’t make great headlines in the city but it makes sense to people who grew up in the country and had to travel to High School each day.

    The recent Wagga Wagga by-election results were reported with headlines along the lines of Canberra Liberal Leadership Liability. The real reason for the by-election loss was a hospital carpark.

    The Ballina schools and the Wagga hospital carpark are examples of the same problem. The people making the decisions in the current state government think they know what is best instead of listening to the people who are affected. The common view reported during Cootamundra and Murray by-elections was “this is a Sydney-centric government that doesn’t listen”. Reading local online newspapers shows this view is widespread outside of Sydney-Newcastle-Wollongong.

    A couple of months ago, National Party Minister, Paul Toole, was on ABC Radio to announce that “we’re listening”. The critical issue that he wanted to discuss was over-regulation of mirror balls. Here is the press release.

    Sydney-centric government selects Sydney based candidate for Ballina. I’m sure that will go well on 23rd March.

  8. Sportsbet has the incumbent here at $4, behind both Labor and the Nats. Can anyone offer a local explanation? I’m not a New South Welshman, but had assumed the first termer would have dug herself, eaten up a bit of the Labor vote and been elected with an increased margin. Surely the Nats will go backwards on account of a state government in a worse position than 2015 and the generally appalling position of the federal LibNats?

    $4 seems pretty decent odds from a distance.

  9. The entire 2015 election was based around the issue of CSG, which was impossible for the major parties to beat the Greens on as they both had history with it. That said, the Greens only beat the ALP in the primary count by 1000 votes. Almost nothing at all.

    Since that time the Greens MP has delivered nothing, besides speeches, without the Government and Ben Franklin also taking full credit. From what I’ve seen she is completely outdone in terms of social skills by Ben Franklin as well. Franklin seems likeable and has been throwing money all over the electorate in the last few months, which he claims is just “business as usual”. Sure, Ben. Porkbarrelling isn’t new, but it is effective.

    The underdog here is the Labor candidate, which could be everyone’s fatal mistake. The Greens are appealing almost entirely, and reliant on, their branding which has been tarnished. Smith was caught out as being as cynical, untrustworthy politician as they come when she stood up for Jenny Leong’s criticism of ex-Green Buckingham’s sexual harrassment allegations and investigation yet was ousted immediately after for texting Jeremy to apologise for her speech, which she didn’t mean a word of, and dismissed Leong’s own speech as a bunch of “claptrap”. Whether rusted on Greens care is an entirely different story, but there is a lot of danger for Smith here.

    Similarly, while Franklin seems to have been buttering the electorate up with money, hoping people forget the nightmare of LNP Sydney politics; and Smith seems to think her parties brand alone can bring her success; Pugh, the Labor candidate, seems to speak primarily of policy and how he and Labor can improve this area if the LNP go. He’s also the son of a local environmetalist celebrity and, in many ways, is the best choice if you’re an environmentalist given his track record… once you actually look him up, which I presume most won’t.

    I’d say the contest is purely between Pugh and Franklin and it really boils down to how charming Franklin can be. Cynicism is high regarding any policy announcement or political commitment, which works against Pugh’s values and ideas-based campaign. I can’t see Smith’s party image helping either given they just lost a third of their entire Victorian membership in the last two years and NSW is in arguably worse shape.

    Anyway, that’s just from a Ballina local’s point of view and I’m not claiming to have paid complete attention, so meh, take it with a few grains of salt.

  10. I’m not sure that Franklin’s constant pork barelling will overcome the fact that he is a Kirribilli “blow in” Ballina residents are conservative country folk who are more likely to vote anti-Nat as a consequence. Where they park their vote is anybody’s guess. As for Tamara the recent turmoil in the Greens can not help however a shift away from here should be to the advantage of Country Labor. Sportsbet has Asren Pugh of Country Labor as favourite however the punters could be waiting for better odds against Franklin and then come in late.

  11. James –
    There were quite a few independents in this seat last time, especially Jeff Johnson who got 7.8%. For this reason I’d rather look at the 3CP – Labor on 27%, Greens on 32%, Nationals on 40%.
    So the margin where it counts was over 2200 votes.

  12. I would not trust Ben Franklin! He only cares about the electorate from the strategic point of view of winning back a seat for the Nationals. I know of at least a dozen people he has never responded to when approached about various community issues. If there’s no photo or media in it for him he just simply does not care. These same people all received responses, meetings and representations when contacting Tamara Smith, even the disorganised Asren at least responds.

  13. Smith has been a fantastic local MP. Finally Ballina hasn’t been taken for granted and ignored anymore like it always has previously. The Nats are on the nose big time in Northern NSW and there’s a big campaign to put them last. The area is also very progressive and increasingly so, which is why there is so much support for the Greens as they are the only party that consistently represents the progressive left.

  14. So the National candidate is odds on to win and yet at a glance as little support in terms of preferences from others..going to need a big swing back on primaries surely…

  15. Only one case of a Green victory in a 3 way contest at second time around: Prahran Victoria in 2018. Greens gained more than Labor by decline in Liberal votes. Surprised there is so much scepticism about Greens prospects here. Maybe betting odds are picking up unique local knowledge but I doubt it.

  16. Mick Quinlan
    You can win from 36%.
    All it requires is an additional 14% out of a possible 64%.
    Assuming that 64% is split roughly evenly all it needs is 7/32 (46%} of votes from excluded candidate.
    Effectively their are 4 Greens candidates or at least 4 candidates seeking Green votes. In this situation tight preferencing will be needed for Greens. Will Sustainable Australia voters go to Greens before going to ALP.
    Very difficult to call.

    I agree in this case it is unlikely
    I would expect 10% of Green votes to leak and an even smaller percentage of ALP voters. We will not know result tonight.


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