I am on the record as a sceptic of community preselections. I’ve previously outlined many concerns and have not been convinced they are necessarily a solution to Labor’s problems.
While I am a sceptic, the turnout for the Balmain community preselection this weekend was nothing short of impressive with over 5600 voters or a turnout of over 11%. It met the target I previously suggested it needed to meet and considering Labor only managed a primary vote of 30% at the 2011 NSW election, it can be deemed a genuine success if turnout is the main measure of success.
Darcy Byrne beat Verity Firth in the party vote 183-174 (51%-49%), however, Verity romped home in the community vote with 3104 votes (60.7%) compared to 2006 votes (39%) for Darcy. With the affirmative action loading on the party and community vote, Verity ended up winning both sections with 53% of the party vote and 65% of the community vote.
While I’m still not completely sold on community preselections, particularly as a significant cost is born by the party and its impact will still need to be measured at the ballot box in March, there are definitely lessons to be learnt from the Balmain community preselection. How to get community participation in party processes and the importance of high-profile, quality candidates are the two that spring to mind.
Whether this success is a one-off because of particular local factors or the ideal model of how conduct community preselections has been found is still to be determined. The only thing we can be sure about is that NSW Labor will continue with the community preselection experiment as it would feel vindicated after these results.