LABOR candidate Janelle Saffin celebrates with her son Edward Saffin and husband Dr Jim Gallagher at the Workers Club IN Lismor
LABOR candidate Janelle Saffin celebrates with her son Edward Saffin and husband Dr Jim Gallagher at the Workers Club IN Lismor

Labor landslide hits Richmond, Page

By Alex Easton alex.easton@northernstar.com.au RICHMOND is now a safe Labor seat, and the Member for Page will be a woman for the first time in the seat's 23-year history after the ALP's historic win on Saturday.

Nationally and locally, Labor surpassed even the most optimistic of its polling to win 23 seats seven more than it needed to form government and yesterday had a fair chance of picking up another two.

The win was equally historic in the local electorates, where women will now sit in Richmond and Page for the first time; and where Richmond, once Nationals heartland and the seat that fostered the Anthony dynasty, has become safe Labor territory with a margin of 9.25 per cent.

One of the seats still in contention is Cowper, immediately south of Page, where Nationals incumbent Luke Hartsuyker led his Labor challenger Paul Sefky by only one per cent yesterday.

If that seat falls, it will be only the second time since Federation it has been won by Labor, and would be the first time the party has held all seats on the Far North Coast.

In Page, the size of the swing meant what had been expected to be a tight contest, with a result not known for days, was largely over within a couple of hours of the booths closing. In a sense, though, the result was tight.

As of yesterday, Nationals candidate Chris Gulaptis was beating Ms Saffin on the primary vote by a tiny 151 votes, but preferences from The Greens and other minor parties were enough to fling the Labor candidate comfortably over the line.

The 8.1 per cent swing to Janelle Saffin was the third-highest among the seven NSW seats that changed hands, and delivered Page to Labor with what was yesterday close to a respectable, but still marginal, three per cent buffer.

In Richmond, sitting Labor MP Justine Elliot was well ahead of her Nationals rival, Dr Sue Page, on primary votes and had picked up a handsome swathe of preferences from Greens candidate Giovanni Ebono.

Despite fears of a national dip in the Greens vote as supporters returned to Labor, The Greens recorded a slight boost in votes to poll nationally at about 7.6 per cent.

However, Mr Ebono managed to boost the Greens vote from 12.37 per cent in 2004 to 15.84 per cent, recording one of the party's highest votes.

Local Greens party figures credited the increased vote to a combination of a redistribution, which handed the 'Greens belt' around Nimbin to Richmond, and strong campaigning by Mr Ebono.

In a dramatic night, Prime Minister John Howard all but lost the seat he has held since 1974 to former ABC Television journalist-turned Labor candidate Maxine McKew.

Mr Howard's loss would mark only the second time since Federation a serving Prime Minister has lost his seat at an election.



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