ALP?s southern inroads

LABOR candidate Justine Elliot will have the people of Byron Bay and the coastal villages to thank if she finally wins the seat of Richmond.

A breakdown of the voting figures shows that Ms Elliot's strongest showings against Larry Anthony have come from the southern end of the electorate.

While Mr Anthony dominated the two-party preferred figures around Tweed Heads and Banora Point, it was a different story further south.

At Bangalow Ms Elliot had 60 per cent of the vote, while in Byron it was up to 70 per cent. Coastal villages such as Bogangar, Hastings Point, Ocean Shores and Brunswick Heads all favoured Ms Elliot.

Political analyst Mungo MacCallum believes Ms Elliot's success has come about because of the region's changing demographics. While he thinks she may just lose out in a nailbiter, he beleives it will be easier for the ALP in the future.

"Her hopes of taking the seat in future elections will be made much easier as more and more people move from the cities to the coastal strip," he said.

"As a result of this change in demographics I think the National's vote here will just fade away."

Political lecturer at Southern Cross University's social science shool, Ros Irwin, said the rapidly changing demographic was making it harder every year for the Nationals to hold onto the seat. She said Labor was able to dramatically narrow the gap because of several factors, including the gradual erosion of the National's traditional rural support base, especially among cane farmers who are angry at being excluded from the proposed trade agreement with the USA.

"There are a large number of retirees who moved here after selling their homes in the cities and are not burdened by huge mortgages," Ms Irwin said.

"So all the talk about a possible increase in interest rates under Labor does not phase them as much as people in other electorates.

"To many of them in the electorate, access to Medicare is more important than an increase in interest rates so ALP leader Mark Latham may have scored a goal when he promised free hospital treatment for all people over 75 years of age.

"The broader issues which I think also counted against Mr Athony was the unpopular Iraq war and the government's failure to implement the Kyoto agreement to minimise greenhouse gas emissions.

"But despite the fact that postal votes should favour Mr Anthony I still think it's too close to call at this stage."

Ms Elliot's best result came at Main Arm Upper where she scored 80 per cent of the two party preferred, while Mr Anthony was strongest at Rous where he picked up 72 per cent.

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