Known until 1982 as Wilmot, the electorate of Lyons is made up of what’s left over after the north-west coast (Braddon), north-east coast (Bass), western Hobart (Denison) and eastern Hobart (Franklin, which also includes towns to the south to make up the numbers) are grouped together into communities of interest. It thus includes small towns on either side of Tasmania’s pronounced north-south divide, respectively including New Norfolk outside Hobart and Launceston’s southern outskirts, along with tough mining towns on the west coast, fishing towns and tourist centres on the east coast and a lot of farming land in between. Its profile has made it slightly conservative leaning by Tasmanian standards, though it has otherwise moved with the state’s distinct electoral rhythms over the decades.
The recent Liberal decline kicked in early in Lyons when former Premier Robin Gray took his personal vote into retirement at the 1996 election, which saw the Liberal vote drop by 16.3 per cent from its high point of 1992 (compared with a statewide average of 12.1 per cent). This cost them a seat and contributed to the Rundle government’s loss of a majority; another loss in 1998, when the number of seats was reduced from seven per electorate to five, helped cost the Liberals government. But the electorate had still not finished with them, and another dive in support in 2002 (which was actually fairly muted when compared with other electorates) saw the fall of yet another seat, this time to the Greens, who came back into the game after party leader and future Senator Christine Milne lost her seat in 1998. That left Deputy Leader Denise Swan fighting it out for the sole remaining Liberal seat with Rene Hidding, a bitter opponent of both Swan and leader Bob Cheek, who lost his seat in Denison. Hidding began with a slender lead of 3958 primary votes to 3905 but fell behind at one point during the distribution of preferences, recovering late in the count to prevail by just 82 votes.
David Llewellyn was first elected in 1986 and has served as a cabinet minister under Michael Field, Jim Bacon and Paul Lennon. His prestige grew as he handled the notoriously difficult health portfolio without serious incident, and he became Deputy Premier when lung cancer forced Jim Bacon to stand down as Premier in February 2004. This was despite resistance from the Left, which favoured Braddon MP Bryan Green. Weighing up the two contenders at the time, Ellen Whinnett of The Mercury listed Llewellyn’s strengths as being "hard-working, sincere (and) able to get across the detail of the portfolios", and his weaknesses as being "soporific", a "poor public speaker" and "lacking in aggression". Llewellyn has kept a low profile during the election campaign, which the Liberals say is due to his anger at a "shady factional deal" which they claim will cost him the deputy leadership after the election.
Michael Polley has had by far the longest uninterrupted run in the House of Assembly of any current sitting member, having first been elected in 1972 at the age of 22. He held fairly minor portfolio responsibilities until the Labor-Greens accord government of Michael Field came to power in 1989, when he began his first stint in the Speaker’s chair, a position he resumed when the current Labor government came to power in 1998. His sister, Helen Polley, was elected to the Senate at the 2004 federal election. The above table compares his performance on the primary vote with that of Llewellyn since the latter entered parliament in 1986.
Labor’s third successful candidate in 2002 was Ken Bacon (no relation to Jim), who won a seat in 1998 at the expense of sitting Labor member and now Franklin MP Lara Giddings (Christian Kerr of Crikey, then travelling under his Hillary Bray pseudonym, speculated that voters had him confused with Jim) and was returned with 14.3 per cent of the vote. Bacon retired in April 2005, ostensibly due to health problems associated with diabetes, although he had recently resigned as Tourism Minister after stumbling through parliamentary hearings into huge losses incurred by the TT-Line’s ferry service from Sydney. The Mercury later reported that Bacon felt he had been undermined by Michael Polley, suggesting this was the reason he endorsed former Liberal candidate Russell Anderson for his run against Polley’s wife Kim for the mayoralty of Northern Midlands.
With Llewellyn, Polley and Bacon dominating the Labor vote in 2002, not much was left for their remaining candidates, but one of them was needed to fill the void created by Bacon’s retirement. The recount was won by east coast tourism operator Heather Butler, who polled just 3.1 per cent in 2002 and is said by Sue Neales of The Mercury to have "not exactly been a parliamentary star performer". Concerns that a stronger candidate was required to retain three seats for Labor prompted Paul Lennon to poach Wendy Kennedy, a television and Hobart social identity, but she withdrew at the last minute citing family pressures. The newcomer Labor candidates are Sorell councillor and former mayor Kerry Degrassi (said to be backed by the Left faction) and teacher and football coach Malcolm Upston.
Dutch-born Rene Hidding (first name pronounced "reen", although his foes delight in doing otherwise) ascended to the Liberal leadership after the disastrous 2002 election result deprived the party of both leader Bob Cheek and deputy leader Denise Swan, who stood together at the other side of the schism that rent the parliamentary party throughout the previous term. Hidding does not come off well in Cheek’s recently published memoir, Cheeky: Confessions of a Ferret Salesman, in which Cheek complains of persistent acts of betrayal and delights in revealing that Hidding has avoided financial portfolios because he was declared bankrupt while working as a used car salesman in 1981. Hidding had better luck in business after setting up a building industry company with his four brothers, and served on Launceston City Council from 1985 to 1992. He was elected to Lyons from 7.6 per cent of the vote in 1996 and has been an unspectacular electoral performer since, polling 11.2 per cent in 1998 and 7.0 per cent in 2002.
The new Liberal candidates are Richmond businesswoman Jane Howlett, whom Sue Neales of The Mercury rates a strong chance if the Liberals pick up a second seat; Sorell businessman Andrew Wright, also reckoned to be running a "strong campaign"; Meander Valley transport operator Geoff Page, who as the federal candidate for Lyons in 2001 was the only Liberal candidate in the state to achieve a swing; and Richard Shoobridge, Timber Communities Australia branch president and former Tasman councillor.
Former tourism operator Tim Morris came to parliament via Derwent Valley Council, comfortably topping a ticket of untried Greens candidates in 2002 with 9.1 per cent of the vote. He is considered likely to retain his seat and is unlikely to be threatened by his party running mates: state party convenor Karen Cassidy, Buckland grazier Helen Gee, Dunally businesswoman Frederika Perey and former Kentish councillor Annie Willock.