Broken Hill no longer ‘Labor citadel,’ as party outgunned by Shooters in NSW election

Posted March 30, 2019 07:30:00

The Labor Party’s hold on the city that helped give birth to the modern union movement and the eight-hour working day has loosened, with one Labor elder conceding Broken Hill is no longer the “citadel” for the party it traditionally was.

Key points:

  • In the NSW election, the National Party lost its former safe seat of Barwon, which includes Broken Hill
  • The Nationals received only 9.4 per cent of first preference votes, with Labor receiving about 36 per cent, and the Shooters 38.5 per cent
  • One suggestion for the huge swing is the management of the Darling River, Menindee Lakes and the Wentworth to Broken Hill pipeline

Broken Hill was incorporated into the seat of Barwon ahead of the 2007 election, diluting the Labor vote in what was then a safe National Party seat.

At the NSW election last week, the Nationals lost Barwon to the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party for the first time since it was first won by its predecessor the Country Party in 1950.

While the Nationals and the Shooters dominated the fight across most of the electorate, in Broken Hill it was Labor candidate Darriea Turley who was the biggest challenge to the Shooters’ Roy Butler.

Still, the Shooters won five out of seven booths in the city from Labor, including pre-poll.

“Broken Hill’s changed. We have to accept that,” said former Broken Hill mayor and Labor MP Peter Black.

The outspoken politician represented the seat of Murray-Darling from 1999 to 2007 and had been involved with Labor for decades before that.

“When we look at history, yes, it was a Labor citadel. There’s no question about that. It’s not a Labor citadel now,” Mr Black said.

“The Shooters, Fishers and Farmers have ridden home on a campaign that essentially was ‘anyone but Nats’.

“I’m not saying that the people of Broken Hill have swung to the right — I think that would be a complete misread.

“They have swung against anybody that was responsible for the debacles we’ve seen and the management of the Darling River system, the management of the Menindee Lakes and of course the [Murray River to Broken Hill] pipeline.”

Labor picked up votes in Broken Hill at the 2016 federal election, and with another one looming in May, it has pinned its hopes on its candidate for the Parkes electorate, Jack Ayoub.

Nationals, Greens vote drops

Within Broken Hill, the Nationals received 9.4 per cent of first preference votes, Labor about 36 per cent, and the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers 38.5 per cent.

At the Morgan Street Public School voting centre, traditionally a strong booth for the National Party, there were only 18 votes case for Nationals candidate Andrew Schier, compared with 300 for Labor and 422 for the Shooters.

Mr Schier, who was hoping to replace retiring incumbent Kevin Humphries, said water policy and the impact of the drought were major factors in the swing away from his party across Barwon.

“I think people right across the electorate are certainly hurting, they’re seeing their communities going through a lot of pain and they’re going through a lot of pain themselves,” he said.

Meanwhile, a tentative alliance between some Labor and Greens politicians to garner support in Broken Hill did not improve the Greens vote, which crashed to 3.5 per cent in Broken Hill from 12.6 per cent in 2015.

Labor should ’embrace popular choice’ for candidates

Mr Black said one issue that might have had a bearing on Labor’s vote in Broken Hill was that its candidate, Darriea Turley, was also the mayor.

He said voters could find it difficult to differentiate between local and state issues, and that ordinary people needed more input into who Labor chose as its candidate.

“I think locally, Labor has to embrace some form of popular choice of candidate at all levels, including local government,” he said.

“I can see there’s room for that sort of change in Broken Hill to occur.”

For her part, Ms Turley said her party’s broader campaign message did not directly appeal to voters in the bush.

“I just thought that their campaign wasn’t really representing all the issues,” Ms Turley said.

“I’ve had some incredible support from head office … but I think that sometimes we get caught up on stadiums.

“[The Shooters, Fishers and Farmers] had better access to media than we did and the way they presented it — it’s something Labor has to learn, and certainly the way Labor runs a campaign — is very city-centric.”

Topics: state-elections, government-and-politics, regional, state-parliament, alp, nationals, federal-elections, local-government, unions, broken-hill-2880, sydney-2000

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