At the NSW election on 26 March 2011, in the Legislative Council the Liberal/National coalition won 11 seats. Labor won 5, the Greens 3, Christian Democrats 1 and Shooters & Fishers Party 1. Pauline Hanson was beaten by the Greens for the final seat.
The Christian Democrats vote was reduced by Family First, but not enough to prevent it winning a seat. Subject to Fred Nile’s future, the CDP can continue to win a seat each election. The total Christian vote, comprising CDP plus FF, rose by 8%.
With 148,000 votes (up 39% on 2007), the Shooters and Fishers Party is now also assured of a seat each election subject to performance and personnel.
The Outdoor Recreation Party, the vehicle through which the Liberal Democratic Party contested a state election for the first time, increased its vote by 42% but fell well short of the number needed to gain a seat.
Efforts by the ORP to win the votes of shooters were only marginally successful, unlike among other groups such as 4WD owners, fishers, etc where it did well. Support for the S&FP among these groups, by contrast, was only detected when they were also shooters.
The source of the additional S&FP’s votes is an interesting question. Some may have come from non-shooters due to the party’s change of name and involvement in the marine parks inquiry and river red gum issue in southern NSW. I doubt if it was many. In my view most came from shooters who valued Roy Smith’s private members bill. Unlike any of John Tingle’s or Robert Brown’s bills, it delivered clear benefits that were also communicated to every licensee in NSW at taxpayers expense by the Firearms Registry.
Prior to the election the S&FP was telling supporters it expected to have two members elected, giving it a total of three. Considering this would require at least 285,000 votes, two and a half times its previous vote, it was total fantasy. Nonetheless some people, including SSAA (NSW) and the NSW APA, naively repeated it.
Since the election the party has been telling supporters that the involvement of ORP, the Fishing Party and Pauline Hanson prevented it from occurring. This is also complete fantasy as it would have required at least 75% of the combined votes of these three. Almost three-quarters of voters did not allocate preferences but assuming those who did were representative (not necessarily valid), while 75% of Fishing Party preferences went to the S&FP, only 17% of ORP preferences went to it. Hanson’s preferences weren’t distributed in the count but it’s unlikely so many of them would have gone to the S&FP either.
In 2015, when Robert Borsak will be seeking to win in his own right (he occupies the seat won by Roy Smith and has never faced an election), the S&FP vote may struggle to match the performance of this election irrespective of which other parties or candidates participate. Robert Brown’s agenda, promoting the Game Council and gaining hunting rights in national parks, has limited appeal. Indeed, the Game Council is controversial in some shooting circles. And many doubt Robert Borsak has sufficient skills as a politician to achieve anything at all.
Of course, if they could convince the NSW government to depart from the 1996 APMC agreement and revisit issues such as longarm registration, semi-automatics and large calibre pistols, that would change things considerably. It would certainly guarantee one seat, and perhaps getting two people elected would not be impossible.