Richmond has covered the north-eastern corner of New South Wales since federation, and presently encompasses the shires of Tweed in the north, Byron in the centre and the northern part of Ballina in the south. The latest redistribution has redrawn its boundary with Page to add the town of Ballina at the southern coastal end of the electorate, and remove the northern parts of the Shire of Lismore in the interior, including the counter-cultural haven of Nimbin. This reverses a trend over recent decades in which coastal development caused the electorate to shrink in size, which reached a watershed when the town of Lismore was transferred to Page in 1993. This process has caused a seat that was once a stronghold for the National/Country Party to be won by Labor at six of the last nine elections. The electorate encompasses most of the state seat of Ballina, which the Greens won from the Nationals at the March 2015 state election due to a backlash over coal Seam Gas Mining. The Byron Bay area in particular is an area of strength for the Greens, and of weakness for the Coalition.
Richmond was first won for the Country Party by Roland Green shortly after the party’s creation in 1922, and spent much of its subsequent history as an Anthony family fiefdom. It was held from 1937 to 1957 by Larry Anthony; from 1957 to 1984 by Larry’s son Doug, who was the party’s leader from 1971 to 1984; and from 1996 to 2004 by Doug’s son Larry. Doug Anthony’s immediate successor was another party leader in Charles Blunt, who emerged a shock loser at the 1990 election when the independent candidacy of anti-nuclear activist Helen Caldicott drew a rash of new enrolments from the Nimbin area. When Caldicott fell just short of overhauling the Labor candidate, her preferences fuelled a 7.1% Swing to the ALP and a victory for its candidate Neville Newell. Larry Anthony failed to recover the seat for the Nationals on his first attempt in 1993, before romping home on the back of an 8.5% swing in 1996. A 6.0% swing to Labor in 1998 brought the result back down to the wire, and Anthony again survived only narrowly in 2001.
Labor finally snared the seat in 2004, when a 1.9% swing enabled their candidate Justine Elliot to scrape over the line by 301 votes. Elliot consolidated with a 7.4% swing when Labor came to power in 2007, giving her enough fat to survive successive swings of 1.9% and 4.0% in 2010 and 2013 with a margin of 3.0%. Elliot went on to serve in the junior ministerial porfolio of ageing in the Rudd government’s first term, but was bumped down after the 2010 election to parliamentary secretary for trade, which both she and the Prime Minister insisted was at her own request. She retained the position despite publicly supporting Kevin Rudd’s leadership bid in February 2012, but moved to the back bench in February 2013, which she said was her own decision as she believed her local campaigining against Coal Seam Gas mining conflicted with her responsibilities in the trade portfolio.
For the second election in a row, the Nationals have endorsed Matthew Fraser, an owner of local Hungry Jacks franchises, who won preselection ahead of Tweed councillor Carolyn Byrne. The Greens have likewise preselected their candidate from 2013, Dawn Walker, owner of a family manufacturing business in Tweed Heads.