Pulp mill wash-up

• 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).

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.

450 comments on “Pulp mill wash-up”

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  1. A guess here – Quin is now the anti-mill candidate. By agreeing with the Government, the ALP have anulled this as a national issue, and suddenly, bang, Lyons’ local politics decides the contest.

    ….And Quin gets “a handful” of votes? What’s the worst case scenario? Who gets his preferences? A former Green, now Liberal standing indy in a state where the state ALP is ferociously unpopular, on a seat that could be decided by the pulp mill issue. That’s ugly. The way I see it, his preferences will decide who the next MP for Lyons is.

    Also, does it seem to you that the Liberals are spending a lot of time in and a lot of effort on Tasmania? Why is that? It doesn’t seem a very national campaign thus far.

  2. Mike f, Tassie turned the tide for Howard last time around. Perhaps he’s hoping for a Latham moment from Rudd or Garrett.

  3. I firmly believe this latest round of Tas-hype is all rubbish, sponsered by the GG and the Liberla Party.

    Approving the mill will have either no effect, or a net negative effect on Liberal candiates. Either way, they will lose all 5 seats.

    Which bigs the question: why is Howard porking so hard in Tassie, when relatively little is at stake, and he’s toast anyway in Bass and Braddon?

    Let me run this up the flagpole: its about impressions in WA on election night. Correct me if Im wrong here, but my memory is that Tas results come in first, and can signal trends before polls close in WA.

    Or is that too tin-foiled of me?

  4. I am hoping we can have a more enlightened discussion on this thread than this afternoon/evenings loonacy on the other thread.

    Thank goodness William intervened.

    For ease of typing I will now type JWH and KR in future.

    Interesting that JWH is in Tasmania. I would have thought with a maximum of 54 realistic days left every day would be mapped out. Could it be Northern Tasmania is not as certain as was thought or is it just mindgames with KR?

    Still the guy at the hospital with JWH it was almost as bad as PJK in the cakeshop in 1993, lucky it didnt happen during the campaign.

  5. Lefty E, yeah not sure about that. More likely is that Howard will do everything in the next few weeks to shore up Tasmania. I guess they think if they can pork barrel Tasmania and keep Bass and Braddon, its two more seats that Rudd has to make up on the North Island. Seats that will require a bigger swing than B & B.

    As to Howards chances in succeeding in this dastardly plot, better ask someone with one more head than I have.

  6. ALP is polling in the low 60s in Tas.

    He’s got Buckley’s. Its a complete waste of time.

    Yet another clue that Howard no longer has a sound grip on political realities; and has craven and compliant advisors who are afraid to speak straight.

  7. As a Taswegian, I wouldn’t have thought that porking on health would win more votes than approving the mill would lose, but you never know.

    However, I can’t really say I have my finger on the pulse re Bass & Braddon – I’m in Franklin. Quin won’t win Lyons though, Adams is fairly popular.

    Some rather spiteful comments re Quin from former Liberal Premier and current Gunns board member, Robin Gray:


  8. Ben Quin is irrelevant. Dick Adams will retain the seat, he is indeed a popular member. The Libs are campaigning very hard on health in Bass, trying to link state health minister Lara Giddings with federal labor. There new slogan is, “You can’t trust Labor on health”. It wont work.

  9. If I were Howard and looking at a complete electoral spanking, Tassie is a good choice to campaign in for a few seats before the election is called.

    Not being on the mainland, it doesnt fall into that NSW, QLD, Vic comparison where everytime you do something in one state, the headlines in the other two bitch and moan about being neglected.

    Tasmania is also small enough and neglected enough by Canberra to make the prospect of marginal seats being purchased by the government a realistic prospect with a specifically targetted campaign that doesnt interfere with any broader mainland campaign.That whole “oooh look, we’re the center of attention” thing plays out.But the real beauty is that if those seats can be purchased, it forces the ALP to go and get seats elsewhere further up the pendulum.If they pull it off, it will be before the campaign or at the beginning if the campaign that the polling results will start to flow through, which means that if it works, it can also be used to boost morale (which is seriously important in a campaign).

    Tassie’s a good choice.I reckon he’s got Buckleys and none of pulling it off, but it makes sense why he’s trying it on for size.Especially off the back of the pulp mill decision which he probably hopes will be another forestry policy moment ala 2004 and generate momentum.And with these seats apparently moving from the low 60s to high 50s for the ALP, it makes the margins involved just as big as just about any other marginal seat.It’s just in Tassie you can try and buy a whole State for the same price as a Sydney marginal.

  10. Sound theory Poss, but isnt that what WA is for? Lot more bang for your buck, closer run polls, and no intra-eastern jealousies either…. Cant help seeing it as a waste of time, but hey… lets see.

    On other matters – the new Dorkchoices ad is hysterical. Some bean counter on the fairness test patrol says “Its about protecting people’s livelihoods, so its a good job!”

    What, much like a union official then?

    And btw, how come we suddenly need you guys on the beat, when we didnt before?

    Oh right, of course – Dorkchoices !

  11. Quin said on the 7.30 Report that he would not direct preferences to anyone, so it will be up to the voters. You would think that anyone likely to vote for him in the first place would be doing so only on the mill issue, and so would preference the Greens first, and probably the Liberals below Labor.

  12. 4 Lefty E:

    Tasmania’s results came in early in 2004 because the election was held when Tasmania was on daylight savings time (DST) and the rest of the east coast wasn’t. Tasmania starts DST the first weekend in October, when the rest of the east coast start it on the last weekend in October. (Though this is to change next year).

    Given that this election will be held in November (or perhaps December or January!), Tassie’s polls will close at the same time as NSW, Vic and the ACT as they all be on daylight savings time from the last weekend in October.

    Hope that explains it.

  13. Are Govt ads still running?, I havent seen any today.

    What will happen to the polls when the opposition starts running its extensive ad campaing, will they increase their lead in the polls?

  14. Saw somewhere today that George Newhouse (ALP candidate Wentworth) and his partner (name I can’t recall but prominent anti pulp mill campaigner) have broken up – though not over the pulp mill!

  15. Tasmania is dead for the Coalition. Don’t be fooled into thinking otherwise.

    If Mr Howard is down in Tasmania it is because of a higher cause and that is the national agenda. It was the same in 2004 and picking up Braddon and Bass was just a bonus at the time (remember he didn’t need those seats to win, he just needed a Bipolar opponent).

    We all know that the battle ground is north of the Murray River. That being said it looks as though the Coalition could save itself if it actually holds it WA seats and picks up Swan.

    Dispite what the polls are showing is not over yet by a long way.

  16. Great deconstruction on the Melbourne media’s beat up on the Sudanese ‘crime wave’. Those journalists and associated producers should be made to work in a refugee camp for six months. Dicks.

  17. Lefty E, at the last election, WA had no daylight saving -so we were even further behind the rest of the country -three whole hours, in fact. And this WAS a factor in the final hours of the poll, where results were coming through on people’s radios while they were driving to the polling booths. No-one likes to back a sure-fire loser, so (I believe) a fair number of Western Australians went with the flow and made their mark in the Libs’ box. THIS TIME it could be different, given that WA is finally in chronological line with the rest of the country (except QLD).

  18. Great deconstruction on the Melbourne media’s beat up on the Sudanese ‘crime wave’. Those journalists and associated producers should be made to work in a refugee camp for six months. Dicks.

    Oh yeah, on Media Watch

  19. Something has to be done about it paul k, we cant let these shoddy news departments get away with it. The sheer incompetence of it all.

  20. Getting back ‘on topic’, any chance that the toxins from the pulp mill could actually produce genetic mutations. Imagine if Tasmanians started popping up with two heads for real!

  21. Its interesting that the Liberals seem so eager to talk up the last EMRS polling figures, which are still diabolical despite being an improvement on June’s figures.


    Milne says that “Quin’s primary vote had crashed from 42 per cent at the previous election to just 30 per cent, and his two-party preferred vote had collapsed from 46 per cent to 35 per cent, a swing against him of about 11 per cent.” Yet before all this controversy in August the Liberals had only 39% in Lyon, so the largest part of the swing would be attributable to other factors than just the candidate. And a portion, or all of this drop in support might be the result of the margin of error of such a small poll. I still think Milne’s piece is aimed at trying to scare independents from running. And despite the exorbitant amount of pork being directed to Braddon, which on published polls seems their only chance, I think Tasmania is going to revert to five Labor seats, at least until the 2010/1 election. Also I doubt the Greens have a prayer of getting a second quota for another senate seat (the Liberal vote would have to tank even more than it already has), this is just Bob Brown dreaming, although I’d love to be a fly on the wall in Eric Abetz’s office if this scenario did realise itself.

  22. DLP, forget that media hype about WA being the AWA state. The only seats where AWAs apply to more than 10% of employees are Kalgoorlie and O’Connor -both already held by the Libs. The Libs will not pick up any seats in WA for two reasons: Workchoices, and its implications for ‘Family Time”; and climate-change denial.

    Also, the Liberal Party machine is badly broken here. At the last state election I worked on a booth and watched in awe as the LHMU had 8 people at a time handing out how-to-vote cards, with a 9th running back and forth supplying coffees. The Libs, by contrast, had one lonely bloke handing out their guff until 11am, when he began packing up. When I asked him why he was leaving so early, he said the Liberal Party was only paying him for two hours, so he was off. I couldn’t believe it.

  23. Ozymandias, the 2004 election was in October, before mainland daylight saving, so WA was only 2 hours behind NSW, Victoria and Queensland, but it was 3 hours behind Tasmania. In 2001, the election was in November, when dailight saving was in place, and WA was 3 hours behind NSW, Victoria and Tasmania, but only 2 hours behinf Queensland.

  24. Howard is campaigning to try to hold seats in Tasmania. This is a sign of desparation. Whilst there may be some concerns about the State Tas Labor Govt at present they are ignoring the fact that Tasmanians are the best voters at making a distinction between Federal and State politics.

    I’m constantly amazed at the amount of times Howard has managed to wedge himself of late. True the Libs have been struggling to to stir up any mileage of “father questions” (ref West Wing) but why do they keep trying “mother questions” e.g. health and the environment? This is playing into the Labor camp.

    Last time around on health Howard and Abott made a couple of big announcements which effectively neutralised the Labor campaign (but which didn’t stop Labor spending a lot of wasted effort on the issue) now they have gone for a piecemeal pork barelling effort which only keeps drawing the voters back to the fact that Labor have a national plan for health. Voters still recognise that Labor brought us Medicare, this is akin to Howard’s capital on interest rates (although the latter is a manufactured porkie).

    And now we have Andrews trying “dog-whistle politics” with the help of TDT (or is that “poodle-whistle”?).

    What of the National Party at this upcoming Election? According to the AC Neilsen aggregation they are up for winning 6 seats in the House, with Calare no sure thing given the redistribution (only 1 rep each in Vic and Qld). I can’t see them winning a single Senate seat having been dumped to the unwinnable 3rd spot on a joint ticket in Qld and NSW and having been thrown off the ticket in Victoria.

    Have they ever recovered a seat in modern history once they have lost it? From memory the next time any seat turns Conservative it has been the Libs to regain.

    Could this be the beginning of the end? They have been pretty much in decline everywhere in State politics. “UpperHouse” might just have to start a new counter.

  25. Nath, when you work in television, you know all about the extra month of Daylight savings in Tasmania. There are network schedulers who visibly age at this time of the year as they have to do all their programs an hour early. At the moment the 7:30 report has to be done live at 6:30 so tasmania doesn’t get a blank half hour.

  26. Crikey Whitey 601 on the previous thread – Hey, I got a reaction. What about my questions/observations. Not a single bite. Is this an exclusive club? All narcissistic, up each other, wankers? By the way, it’s just an accident I came in just now to turn this thing off. Funnily enough, I know how to do a search (ctrl(F) for all of you computer illiterates). I see that you have all been engaged in a mutual masturbation session. Adam, I can probably understand it from you – you have obviously been damaged and want to take it out on another downtrodden group, but the rest of you, shame, shame. Muslims are people, just like you. JWH would be salivating at the prospect of stirring up racist hatred like you were exhibiting.

    I doubt I will be back.

  27. 22
    DLP Says:
    October 8th, 2007 at 9:27 pm
    Tasmania is dead for the Coalition. Don’t be fooled into thinking otherwise….
    And DLP, there is absolutely no chance that Howard will gain seats in WA. He is more likely to lose at least two (Hasluck & Stirling) and get a terrible fright in three more (Kalgoorlie, Forrest & Canning).

    His attempts to buy votes in Tasmania with his health policy stinks over here: it is nakedly partial spending when the Fed’s overall share of health spending is falling. WA sends huge revenues to Canberra and gets short-changed on health dollars at a time when demand for health services is soaring. He might think he’s making a hero of himself in Tasmania, but he looks like a fraud from Perth.

  28. Sad about the Australian soldier killed and some children as well. I think we’ve been very lucky so far when you consider how many men the Canadians and others have lost. Hopefully neither side will try to use it to score points.

  29. My sympathies and best wishes also go out to the soldier’s family.
    And, all the best too for Matt Price and his family.
    ABC NEWS tonight highlighted a doctor or male nurse in Tasmania telling Howard to his face that he didn’t agree with the decision to keep the Mersey Hospital open. The Rodent wouldn’t have enjoyed that encounter.

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