John Mundt (front), of Sydney, joins other Labor supporters in celebrating Janelle Saffins stunning victory in the seat of Pag
John Mundt (front), of Sydney, joins other Labor supporters in celebrating Janelle Saffins stunning victory in the seat of Pag

Saffin win turns a new Page

By ALEX EASTON alex.easton@northernstar.com.au

LABOR'S Janelle Saffin still wasn't the first woman elected as the Member for Page when she arrived at the Lismore Workers Club just before 8pm on Saturday. Not yet! But the roar of approval that greeted her said she might as well have been.

While a gathering of Page Nationals down the road watched in stunned horror as polling booth after polling booth turned away from them, more than 100 jubilant Labor supporters filled the Function Room to savour victory after 11 years of political darkness.

By the time Ms Saffin arrived, Labor's eight-point swing in Page was already firmly entrenched and victory seemed assured. However, Ms Saffin had expected to wait days for a result in a razor's-edge contest, and wasn't ready to claim victory.

But the booths kept coming, with areas that previously recorded strong Nationals votes rushing to vote Labor.

Campaign director Felix Eldridge announced to the excited crowd that the Nationals' stronghold booths of Grafton had delivered Ms Saffin swings of between 12 and 18 per cent; Ballina fell to her on primary votes; Casino gave her a 15 per cent swing; the Labor vote in Coraki was up an extraordinary 27 per cent.

By 9pm, when Ms Saffin finally did switch off the television to address an ecstatic crowd, the results were incontrovertible. By that stage, even the Page Greens had arrived and were waving their placards as she spoke.

And before long she was fielding congratulatory phone calls from her former boss, East Timorese president Jose Ramos Horta, and radio presenter Alan Jones, who was on-air with NSW Roads Minister Eric Roozendaal.

"I want to say thank you to the people of Page," Ms Saffin told the crowd.

"I'm humbled, because tonight I've been given the opportunity to serve my community. It's a real privilege.

It's a duty I take seriously and I'll serve everyone." Ms Saffin later said she would make doorknocking one of the hallmarks of her service as Page MP, vowing to visit the electorate's residents one house at a time, one day a week, whenever Parliament was not sitting.

Ms Saffin also gave a special tribute to the unions. "Trade unions have served the Australian people well," Ms Saffin said. "Without trade unions we wouldn't have the basic conditions we have in the workplace. We all want to do a fair day's work for a fair day's pay and we want our basic conditions."



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