Why stop at one

Regular readers will be aware that the Poll Bludger was hoping Tasmanian Premier Paul Lennon would hold off on an early election, in contrast to widely held expectations, so the campaign would not clash with that for South Australia (which will formally begin when Premier Mike Rann instructs the Governor to issue the writs, which he must do no later than Tuesday). As we now know, Lennon has gone one better than that and the Tasmanian election will be held on March 18, the same day as South Australia’s.

Comments on the previous post suggest there are only two historical precedents for this – on June 2, 1970, when elections were held simultaneously in South Australia (when the Dunstan Labor government defeated the one-term Liberal government of Steele Hall, which had signed its own death warrant by abolishing the state’s indefensible rural vote weighting) and Victoria (Sir Henry Bolte’s last win before retiring); and on February 8, 1986, when voters in Western Australia and Tasmania respectively re-elected Brian Burke’s Labor and Robin Gray’s Liberal governments. UPDATE (22/2/06): I thought this couldn’t be right, and so it has proved – yesterday’s Australian reports that this will be "the 12th time two states have held concurrent elections".

Unfortunately the Poll Bludger has not been keeping a spare Tasmanian election guide handy to deploy at the appropriate moment. I plan to devote thorough posts to each of the state’s five multi-member electorates over the coming weeks and then to assemble them on to a single page, which will hopefully be in business a good fortnight out from polling day. One small consolation is that there will no concurrent upper house election in Tasmania – an upper house guide for South Australia is on the increasingly daunting "to do" list.

In the absence of my own efforts, you could obviously do a lot worse than to peruse Antony Green’s guides for Tasmania and the South Australian Legislative Council. Also worth noting on the latter count is a newcomer to the online psephological community, Upperhouse.info, which will in due course feature an election calculator by Graham Allen similar to those he kindly developed last year for the Poll Bludger’s Western Australian Legislative Council guide.

With both campaigns under way early predictions of the likely outcome are rolling in thick and fast, not least in the comments thread accompanying the previous post. The early consensus is that the Liberals have no chance of winning government in Tasmania but that the Labor government is more than likely to lose its majority. In South Australia, polling over the last few months has contributed to a growing expectation that the Liberal opposition faces a complete rout. However, most locals who have expressed an opinion have sounded a note of caution, not least due to the recent tone of reporting in The Advertiser. The paper has recently excoriated the Rann government for allowing parliament to remain idle over summer, and has rated Rob Kerin’s early Liberal campaign launch as "an unusually refreshing display of backbone, courage and innovation". Be that as it may, a poll taken by The Advertiser on Wednesday and published yesterday (above) gave the Liberals no cause for comfort – Labor maintained its 11 per cent lead from the previous poll and widened its two-party lead from 55-45 to 57-43.

An EMRS poll published in today’s Mercury suggests the Tasmanian election is likely to be more interesting. The total sample of 1002 voters is extremely impressive – the aforementioned Advertiser poll covered only 722 voters, and was itself the most comprehensive poll the paper had ever conducted. It has Labor’s statewide vote falling to 32 per cent, compared with 25 per cent for the Liberals and 17 per cent for the Greens (it can be presumed that the undecided have not been redistributed, so these figures cannot be directly compared with the previous election – Labor 51.9 per cent, Liberal 27.4 per cent, Greens 18.1 per cent). Most remarkably of all, electorate-level results had the Greens leading Labor in the inner Hobart electorate of Denison by 36 per cent to 35 per cent, although a small sample size of 200 means this should be treated with caution. The Mercury rates the likely outcome based on these figures as 11 seats for Labor, seven for Liberal and five for the Greens.

Author: William Bowe

William Bowe is a Perth-based election analyst and occasional teacher of political science. His blog, The Poll Bludger, has existed in one form or another since 2004, and is one of the most heavily trafficked websites on Australian politics.

4 comments on “Why stop at one”

  1. At some stage the implications of this poll result (a Green balance of power) will become the object of media fascination (although the media is currently preoccupied by Paul Lennon’s clumsiness); given Labor’s determination to never rely on the Greens how long would they last in minority government? I expect the press would unite in a Green-bashing exercise with Liberal media owners and Labor-voting journalists as one and encourage a panic about political instability that would encourage a late rally to Labor.

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