The arrest of Milton Orkopoulos, the ALP member for the New England seat of Swansea and NSW Minister for Aboriginal Affairs on sex charges and the subsequent moves to expell him from the ALP reminded me. I do not want to comment on the Orkopoulos case. I am more interested in the overall picture.
A list of New England electorates at the last State election follows later, together with the name of the member, the winnning party and the final two party preferred vote. The party initials are:
- ALP - Australian Labor Party
- CLP - Country Labor Party, an offshoot of the ALP registered as a separate political party to try to maximise the ALP vote in country areas
- Ind - Independent
- LP - Liberal Party
- NP National Party
Following the 2003 election, the New England party distribution was ALP 9, NP 8, independents 3. There would be more seats in a New England parliament, but the break up would probably be roughly the same proportions. With the independents holding the balance of power, there could be either an ALP or NP government with independent support.
If we look at the figures in a historical context:
- there has been a steady decline over time in the proportion of total NSW seats coming from New England with the decline concentrated in the inland seats reflecting relative population shifts within NSW. The Northern Tableands, for example, has shrunk from three members to one.
- The ALP vote remains concentrated in its Newcastle and Lower Hunter heartland, although its capacity to win seats especially in the coastal strip such as Tweed, seats that were previously blue ribbon Country Party/National Party (although sometimes taken by independents), has increased. In part this reflects demographic change along the coastal strip.
- The independent movement has cut a swaith through central New England capturing the adjoining seats of Port Macquarie, Northern Tablelands and Tamworth as well as the Federal seat of New England covering the Tamworth and Northern Tablelands state electorates.
- The Liberal Party remains very weak holding no current seats.
We can also see that the National Party is the big loser from the failure to gain statehood for New England. Had statehood been achieved in the 1960s, the Country Party would have formed government in its own right as the then natural majority party, with the ALP as the opposition. As discussed before, this explains ALP opposition to statehood.
The 2003 seats and results were:
Ballina, Page, National Party (two party prefered NP 59.02, CLP 40.98)
Barwon, Slack-Smith, NP (two party prefered NP 66.16, CLP 33.84)
Cessnock, Hickey, ALP (two part prefered ALP 65.54, NP 34.46)
Charlestown, Morris ALP (two part prefered ALP 64.68, LP 35.32)
Clarence, Cansdell, NP (two party prefered NP 51.61, CLP 48.39)
Coff Harbour, Fraser, NP (two party prefered NP 56.88, Ind 43.12)
Lake Macquarie, Hunter, ALP (two party prefered ALP 64.47, LP 35.53)
Lismore, George, NP (two party prefered NP 62.84, CLP 37.16)
Maitland, Price, ALP (two party prefered ALP 58.92, LP 41.08),
Myall Lakes, Turner, NP (two party prefered NP65.45, ALP 34.55)
Newcastle, Gaudry, ALP (two party prefered ALP 64.85, LP 35.15)
Northern Tablelands, Torbay, Ind (two party prefered Ind 82.37, NP 17.63)
Oxley, Stoner, NP (two party prefered NP 59.95, CLP 40.05)
Port Macquarie, Oakshot, Ind (two party prefered Ind 82.83, NP 17.17)
Port Stephens, Bartlett, ALP (two party prefered ALP 59.34, LP 40.66)
Swansea, Orkopoulos, ALP (two part prefered ALP 65.89, LP 34.11)
Tamworth,Draper, Ind (two party prefered Ind 52.48, NP47.52)
Tweed, Newell, ALP (two party prefered ALP 58.53, NP 46.17)
Upper Hunter, Souris, NP (two party prefered NP 62.71, CLP 37.29)
Wallsend, Mills, ALP (two party prefered ALP 70.71, LP 29.29)
There has been a redistribution since the 2003 elections. A list of seats for 2007 follows. Although the names of the seats are the same, there has been a further marginal decline in effective New England representation because of the extension of the boundaries of the seat of Barwon to cover a large slab of Western NSW.
The 2007 seats are:
Barwon (small part)
I will comment further as we get closer to the election.