Slicing up the apple

Better late than never, here is the preliminary summary of the Tasmanian election that was first promised on Saturday evening. Not much remains to be said about Labor’s success in retaining its majority, except that the Poll Bludger bitterly regrets his failure to follow Mumble‘s example by taking a big punt on the absurdly favourable odds that Centrebet was offering on such an outcome earlier in the campaign. Of more interest at present is the universal perception that the result was a disaster for the Greens. There are two reasons why this view has taken root. Firstly, they did not emerge with the balance of power. This in fact has little to do with them, and is actually a mark of the Liberals’ failure rather than their own. Secondly, they once again indulged in their tactic of absurdly over-hyping their prospects to a gullible media, which presumably serves some purpose that I am too simple to understand. In light of this, any result short of two seats in Denison plus one in each other electorate was bound to cause unjustifiable disappointment.

In fact, the Greens have good reason to be content with their performance, if not actively pleased. In terms of votes, this was the party’s third best performance out of the seven in which it has fielded candidates in all seats, and it is not certain that they have lost any seats. It is true that they have failed to improve on the 2002 election, but since that saw an unrepeatably low vote for one of the two major parties, it is beyond me why this should come as a surprise. It needs to be remembered that the Greens won just one seat at the first election held under five-member electorates in 1998, which the major parties introduced with the expectation and intention that the Greens would be reduced to one or two seats if they were lucky.

No further results have been added to the Tasmanian Electoral Office website since the close of counting on Saturday night, nor will they be until 4pm today when "postals received and counted to date" will go up. Presumably there are people out there with some idea of how the count is going, and they are invited to say their piece in comments. For now, the state of play in the five seats is as follows.

Bass: The widespread perception is that Labor’s Steve Reissig will win a seat at the expense of sitting Greens member Kim Booth, improving Labor’s result to 3-2 from 2-2-1 in 2002. However, it should be recalled that the election night results from 2002 had most expecting a result of 3-1-1, as few could see how Labor could fail to win a third seat after preferences when their aggregate primary vote accounted for 2.95 quotas. Leakage of Labor preferences proved them wrong, and it is at least possible that they might do so again this time. The weakness of the Greens’ vote has been of particular surprise in Bass, where they have dropped from 16.5 per cent to 13.3 per cent despite the ongoing significance of the Tamar pulp mill controversy. It is clear where the vote has gone – Labor’s Michelle O’Byrne has obviously garnered significant personal support from left-wing voters, while an anti-pulp mill vote amounting to 1.9 per cent has wound up with independent campaigner Les Rochester. The former factor is no doubt the reason Bass was the only electorate where Labor’s primary vote was up (by 0.6 per cent) and where the Greens’ vote suffered the most (down 3.3 per cent). There seems every reason to believe that erstwhile Greens voters who pumped Michelle O’Byrne’s vote up to a remarkable 23.5 per cent sent their subsequent preferences back home to the Greens. Kevin Bonham at the Tasmanian Times, who is without question more on top of this than I am, reckons that "even in an optimistic simulation, assuming 70% of Rochester’s preferences flow to the Greens, factoring in leakage only results in about 0.92 quotas for the Greens to 2.98 for Labor and 2.02 for the Liberals". But it is not uncommon for unprecedented outcomes to make a nonsense of psephological modelling, and my gut feeling is that this might be one of those occasions.

Braddon: Braddon was the only electorate in which the Greens did not win a seat in 2002, and a 2.0 per cent drop in their vote meant they were well out of contention this time. Labor was well clear of three quotas with 51.2 per cent, the Liberals were well clear of two with 37.2 per cent, and all five sitting members were returned.

Denison: About 3 per cent of the vote shifted from Labor to Liberal and the Greens were down about 1 per cent, but as far as the party aggregates were concerned, this was a status quo result with another 3-1-1 outcome. The intra-party contests were another matter. Jim Bacon overwhelmingly dominated Labor’s share of the vote last time, polling 35.5 per cent out of 50.8 per cent; this time David Bartlett (elected on a recount in 2004 after Jim Bacon’s retirement) was the standout performer with 13.1 per cent, while fellow sitting member Graeme Sturges only performed slightly better than successful newcomer Lisa Singh, 9.8 per cent to 9.3 per cent. With no rival sitting Liberal, Michael Hodgman turned in his best performance since 1992 with 12.1 per cent, defying expectations that he might face a threat from Fabian Dixon (5.9 per cent). Peg Putt can at least console herself with the knowledge that her personal vote of 18.1 per cent was the best in the electorate.

Franklin: This looms as the other cliffhanger along with Bass, with Labor incumbent Paula Wriedt and Liberal newcomer Vanessa Goodwin fighting it out to see if the final outcome will be 3-1-1 or 2-2-1. The Greens’ vote of 19.2 per cent has comfortably re-elected Nick McKim. As expected, Labor’s Lara Giddings comfortably outperformed party colleague Wriedt (10.5 per cent to 7.9 per cent) to secure Labor’s safe second seat, and likely future leader Will Hodgman was the overwhelmingly dominant Liberal with 22.1 per cent from a total of 31.4 per cent. If successful, Goodwin will have won from 4.3 per cent of the vote. Kevin Bonham reads the situation thus:

The Liberals’ Vanessa Goodwin is notionally .055 of a quota ahead in the race with Paula Wriedt for the final seat. This lead is in all likelihood real, since by the time Paul Lennon’s surplus, Ross Butler’s and Daniel Hulme’s votes and the Greens’ preferences have been distributed, Lara Giddings should have reached a quota, preventing any trick results. The Greens’ preferences should benefit Labor to the tune of around .02 quotas, but Labor is also slightly more vulnerable to leakage (6787 votes exposed compared to 5795), potentially benefiting the Liberals by up to .01 quotas. So at present Labor is probably about .045 quotas (c.450 votes) behind. This is fairly unlikely to be bridged on postal votes and Goodwin is best placed at present but it will be several days before this seat is clearer. The fairly low Green vote has made things more difficult than expected for Labor here.

Lyons: The most likely outcome here is a status quo result of 3-1-1, although the Liberals might still get over the Greens for 3-2 if the postal votes favour them heavily. At the close of count on Saturday, the Greens were 0.1 short of their first quota and the Liberals were 0.2 short of their second. Party leader (for now) Rene Hidding is the only Liberal who is clearly home, with their newcomer Geoff Page fighting it out with Greens incumbent Tim Morris. Labor has comfortably returned sitting members David Llewellyn, Michael Polley and Heather Butler, with an aggregate of 52.4 per cent of the vote.

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.

52 comments on “Slicing up the apple”

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  1. “Also German Greens, founded sometime between 92 and 96, junior partners in government from 98-2005.”

    Ah Deewun, the German Greens were founded in the late 1970s. They first made it into parliament in the early 80s. They lost most of their national seats in 1990 and came back in 1994, but it was the same party, and their provincial MPs pretty much continued on as before.

    Of the examples people have quoted above the Canadian Alliance is really the only one that impresses me much. Most of the others are either from newly democratic countries (Turkey, Thailand etc) where politics is much more fluid. There are plenty of other examples like this, but when you are looking at a country that has been democratic for 30 years or more the examples are very rare. In the case of Forza Italia, they basically appeared as a result of the collapse of the mainstream Italian right. The Canadian Alliance is different, in that they preceded a similar collapse as a small party, and were then able to take advantage of it.

  2. At the risk of appearing to be a complete pedant the Alliance wasn’t really the same as the Reform Party of Canada. After that initial success in 1993 they stalled and never expanded east of Manitoba. The entire leadership of Reform formed a new party in 2000 – the Canadian Conservative Reform Alliance which became the CA and utimately merged with he PC to form the Conservative Party of Canada. I understand Reform is still at least techncially registered as a federal party through some Provincial branches.

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