The Liberal candidate for the central Tasmanian seat of Lyons, Ben Quin, has quit the party in protest over the government’s green light for the Tamar Valley pulp mill, and will run as an independent. Matthew Denholm of The Australian reports concurrence among the major parties that he will attract only a handful of votes. Quin was once a member of the Greens, which he later explained as a principled reaction to the joint Labor and Liberal effort in 1998 to shaft the party through changes to the state electoral system. The Liberal Party has acted quickly to install a new candidate, transport company businessman Geoff Page, whose father Graeme was a state MP of 20 years.
Quin’s announcement comes off the back of Glenn Milne‘s assessment he had badly misjudged the mood of Tasmanians in opposing the mill. Milne quotes Liberal internal polling of 300 voters in Lyons, conducted on September 14 and 15, showing the Liberal primary vote slumping to 30 per cent from 42 per cent in 2004. By contrast, the polling showed the vote of Liberal candidates in all other seats in Tasmania improving. Milne observes that the August poll by EMRS also showed an improvement for the Coalition in all seats except Lyons (although this outfit’s 200-sample surveys need to be treated with caution).
Sue Neales of The Mercury (article apparently unavailable online) sees things very differently, saying there is little doubt the announcement has cooked the goose of Michael Ferguson, Liberal member for Bass. This assessment is largely based on a poll conducted by Melbourne company MarketMetrics on behalf of the Wilderness Society, which showed 27 per cent of Bass voters would be more likely to vote Liberal if Malcolm Turnbull rejected the mill, while only 6 per cent said they would be more likely to do so if he approved it. Neales also quotes University of Tasmania academic Richard Herr suggesting the Greens might receive enough of a surge to deliver a seat to their second Senate candidate, Andrew Wilkie.
Tamar Valley vigneron and anti-mill campaigner Peter Whish-Wilson is reportedly considering running as an independent in Bass, having been approached by mill opponents seeking a candidate who could garner protest votes from those unwilling to back the Greens. Whish-Wilson is described by Matthew Denholm of The Australian as an economist, entrepreneur and Surfrider activist from a well-known family.
Despite its likely negligible impact, there was much reporting on the Tasmanian Greens’ announcement preferences would not be directed to Labor. What is not clear, at least to me, is whether they also plan to lodge two tickets for the Senate, so that above-the-line voters’ preferences divide evenly between Labor and Liberal.
Former Sydney deputy lord mayor Dixie Coulton will run in Wentworth as the candidate of the Climate Change Coalition, which was founded by Patrice Newell, organic farmer and partner of Phillip Adams. Coulton was once a colleague of Lucy Turnbull, former lord mayor and wife of Malcolm, in the council’s Living Sydney party. She left the group in 2003, saying it had become tainted by association with Malcolm Turnbull and the Liberal Party, and announced she would run against Lucy Turnbull at the following year’s lord mayoral election. Turnbull ultimately declined to run and the election was won by Clover Moore, state independent member for Bligh (now Sydney).