Survey points to Labor

By ALEX EASTON

LABOR would have won the Federal seat of Richmond if the election were held last week, an exclusive poll by The Northern Star and Tweed Daily News has found.

The poll of 300 voters across the Richmond electorate found half directing their votes to sitting Labor MP Justine Elliot after preferences were counted.

Nationals candidate Dr Sue Page polled only 34 per cent after preferences, with 16 per cent of survey respondents undecided.

While the 50 per cent recorded for Labor in the poll does not give Ms Elliot a clear majority, in an election she would need only a single undecided voter to direct their vote to her, either as their first preference or via minor parties and independents, to hold the seat.

Ms Elliot described the result of the poll as 'encouraging' but she took nothing for granted.

"The only poll that matters is on November 24 and I'll keep talking to people about the issues that concern them," Ms Elliot said.

The poll points to a stunning reversal of the 2004 election, when Ms Elliot seized the seat from then Youth Minister Larry Anthony with only 35 per cent of the primary vote.

Mr Anthony had secured 45 per cent of the primary vote in that election, but controversially lost on preferences by only 301 votes after the mysterious Liberals for Forests Party directed its preferences to Labor. The party was de-registered by the Australian Electoral Commission last year and is not standing candidates in this election.

Dr Page denied that standing for the Nationals was hurting her vote.

Since the election campaign began, Dr Page has said several times that anti-Coalition voters had told her they would back her if she were standing for the Greens or as an independent. The Northern Star witnessed several people tell Dr Page that same thing at last week's candidates' forum at Byron Bay.

Dr Page urged voters to focus on the individual candidate they were voting for in the election rather than the leaders of the parties they represented.

"If people vote for a dud, they get a dud. They don't vote for Kevin Rudd or John Howard, they vote for Justine or for me," Dr Page said.

As with the Page poll, which was reported in last Saturday's Northern Star, the Greens vote has softened as Labor's star has risen, with the party's vote falling to 10 per cent compared with its 2004 result of 12 per cent.

Greens candidate Giovanni Ebono has campaigned hard on a call for voters wanting a Labor Government to direct their preferences through him, but after hearing the results of the poll conceded the message may not be getting through.

Mr Ebono said the Greens efforts in communicating their policies and their message about preferencing was being drowned out by the focus on the major parties and, in particular, on the party leaders.



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