Post-match report: Tasmania

With electorate results progressively being declared, I will start appending my election guide entries with overviews of results for each seat. All five seats in Tasmania have been declared, so that seems a good place to start.

Bass provided Labor supporters with cause for nagging doubt during the early part of the count, with the smaller booths outside Launceston delivering a seemingly insufficient swing. In Scottsdale the swing to Labor was below the required 2.6 per cent, and Liberal member Michael Ferguson in fact picked up a small swing in Bridport. The turning point came when the big Launceston booths began to report, with Labor swings as high as 7.6 per cent at Summerhill and 8.1 per cent in Newnham. The other notable feature of the result was a big surge to the Greens who were able to monopolise the anti-pulp mill vote, pushing their support up from 8.1 per cent to 15.3 per cent at the expense of both major parties. This was reasonably consistent throughout the electorate with the interesting exception of Scottsdale, where the increase was only 0.8 per cent. Nothing particularly remarkable happened in George Town, the centre closest to the actual site of the mill.

The pattern of voting across Braddon was remarkably similar to the 2001 election, with voters reverting to type after the convulsion of Labor’s forestry policy in 2004. A large number of booths have produced double-digit swings first one way and then the other, including Acton in Burnie and East Devonport, along with the smaller town booths of Montague, Latrobe, Smithton. Coastal centres outside of the big towns, such as Wynyard, Somerset, Penguin and Ulverstone, followed relatively small swings to Liberal in 2004 with relatively small swings to Labor this time. However, Sid Sidebottom’s overall margin of 1.4 per cent (from a two-party swing of 2.6 per cent) is substantially lower than his 6.0 per cent from 2001. Predictions that the Mersey Hospital would boost the Liberals in Davenport at the expense of a backlash in Burnie received fairly modest support, Burnie collectively swinging 4.4 per cent compared with 1.2 per cent in Davenport. Despite a quite healthy lift on the Greens’ primary vote from 5.6 per cent to 8.1 per cent, Braddon remains their weakest Tasmanian seat.

Lyons produced a superficially status quo result, except that Liberal renegade Ben Quin gouged 9.6 per cent of the primary vote directly at the Liberals’ expense. However, this obscures big swings to Labor concentrated in the southern part of the electorate, particularly just outside Hobart at Brighton and New Norfolk. The 1.3 per cent lift in the Greens’ vote was the smallest in the state, presumably because much of the pulp mill protest vote was absorbed by Quin. Both major parties were slightly down slightly on the primary vote in Denison, the slack being taken up by a 4.0 per cent lift for the Greens. This converted into a 2.3 per cent two-party swing to Labor. Franklin was one of only four seats in the country to swing to the Coalition, due to the loss of retiring Harry Quick’s personal vote and perhaps also lingering static surrounding Kevin Harkins’ disendorsement. The Labor primary vote was down from 46.4 per cent to 41.4 per cent while the Liberals were up from 37.7 per cent to 41.0 per cent, with the Greens up from 11.1 per cent to 14.4 per cent. The Liberal two-party swing was 3.1 per cent.

A couple of other updates are in order:

• As most of you are aware, a recount began today in McEwen following Labor candidate Rob Mitchell’s six vote win over Liberal member Fran Bailey. Progressive results will not be posted, so I guess we all just have to wait a week until the AEC tells us what has happened.

• In other close result news, rechecking has reduced Liberal member Andrew Laming’s lead in Bowman to just 64 votes, although there does not seem to be any dispute that he has won the seat.

• A definitive result in O’Connor will have to await a full distribution of preferences, which to my limited knowledge is yet to be published in any electorate. There still remains a mathematical possibility that Nationals candidate Philip Gardiner can overhaul Labor’s Dominic Rose with Greens and other preferences and then defeat Liberal member Wilson Tuckey on Labor preferences. However, the possibility has been diminished by a weak Nationals performance on declaration votes, which has reduced their election night total of 18.4 per cent to 17.7 per cent, leaving a 2.7 per cent deficit against Labor that will need to be closed through Greens and other minor party preferences.

• Two other strong performances by independents should be noted. In Calare, Gavin Priestley might overtake Labor on preferences and leave John Cobb of the Nationals with a fairly narrow win on two-candidate preferred. However, Cobb’s 48.5 per cent primary vote is high enough that he does not face a serious prospect of defeat. In neighbouring Parkes, independent Tim Horan has polled 20.7 per cent. This is unlikely to be enough for him to overhaul Labor’s 25.4 per cent on preferences, which is just as well for Nationals candidate Mark Coulton who has pulled up short of a primary vote majority on 46.8 per cent.

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.

379 comments on “Post-match report: Tasmania”

  1. So when will we hear more detail about McEwen is there a day next week that we’ll know the result or we just have to hang on edge?

  2. William, I think your outstanding success this year has created a politics forum even if it was never intended.

    Perhaps a way around the problem would be to set up threads for policy discussion – perhaps one per portfolio. That way, anything policy-related that encroaches onto a psephology thread could be deleted with no questions asked.

  3. I can’t see why you would want to reduce the numbers in the Senate. By a quirk of the system, it is a more representative chamber than the Reps and is usually the only thing that stands between the liberties and rights of the people and the will of the Executive. For mine, the Senate should be constructed so that neither major party can achieve unilateral control. The public interest would be much safer. So a numerous chamber, with low barriers to entry and strong commitees, would be a good thing.

  4. Blindoptimist, 10 Senators elected every three years would be infinitely preferable to 14 Senators elected every six years.

    Reducing the numbers in the Senate is by no means desirable in and of itself, but breaking the nexus – or at least increasing the number of MHRs allowed per Senator – certainly is.

  5. It all depends on what you’re used to. The Indian Lok Sabha has 543 seats, with an average of 712,000 votes cast in each electorate (I don’t know the enrolment but since they don’t have compulsory voting it’s probably well over a million). Lok Sabha members don’t even try to provide “constituent services” as we understand them.

  6. I’m inclined to agree about the virtues of the Senate, though I may change my mind again if it obstructs Rudd the way it obstructed Whitlam! The experience of Qld suggests that unicameralism is not the way to good government.

    The overlapping terms, which were modelled on the US system, were intended to provide a check on a first-term government carrying “over-enthusiastic” legislation. I don’t think a referendum to end the overlapping terms would ever be passed. A package deal involving breaking the nexus, four-year terms for the House and eight for the Senate, reducing the size of the Senate and increasing the size of the House might get up, although Tas and WA would probably oppose it.

  7. Clive Hamilton in today’s Crikey tells of the real shocker that Howard’s bequeathed us:

    It will take the Rudd Government many years to pay off John Howard’s massive greenhouse debt. In truth, the Australian public will pay for it. The economic modellers have been pointing out for a long time that delaying action drives up the cost of cutting our emissions.
    Although it is now Rudd’s problem, it is Howard himself who must take all of the blame, for it was his personal decision, against all of the advice, to remain stubbornly opposed to accepting the reality of global warming.

    …and the Libs are still sounding like they haven’t grasped the importance of what a miserable legacy they’ve left us with on this issue.

  8. Jen @ 343. The calculators assume all votes follow the tickets. The major party votes have the lowest proportion of BTL votes, so you see the leakage out of the major party tickets. So Labor’s vote isn’t going to fall through the count.

    For the Greens to get close at the end, they need all the tickets to flow to them. The calculators assume 100% flow, but as most minor parties have 5-10% BTL vote, there is more likely to be leakage away from the ticket.

    With these two factors, the Labor vote is likely to hold up or rise slightly with BTL leakage, while the Green vote is more likely to be slightly lower because of BTl leakage. If the Greens need 100% of BTL votes to get close, and they won’t get 100%.

  9. Adam 362
    Interesting that Andrew Robb the Google Guru is now saying that the downfall of the Libs was when they gained control of the Senate and went ‘too far’ with worksocalledchoices.

  10. 368

    It’s a fascinating insight into the political pysche: we cannot be trusted with too much unfettered power because we just can’t stop oursleves from going ‘too far’.

    Hmm, sounds like they need a Polly equivalent of AA, a 12 step programme to help them handle power without ending up dishevelled and incontinent in the gutter.

    Of course they could have listened to the advice of others, talked things over with various bodies other than Cabinet, and let the various stakeholders review their ideological leanings. Nah, too much like seeking a consensus, when what they really wanted was to be all hairy chested and smooch up to the big end of town.

    Well, they paid for it, and will go on paying for a very long time.

  11. Not on topic, but the broad issue has been wafting throught the ether quite a bit, here and around the world, and on this blog too: here’s the latest NASA data on global temperatures so far this year.

    Just check the the slope of the mean temp. for the last 20 years:

    Now, tell me again, Horatio Hornet, why we should bother listening to anything your mob have to say about anything?

  12. Rain (previous page),
    I think that there’s a strong case for some significant changes at the upper end of the public service bequeathed to the new Government, although I think that avoiding the temptation of a night of the long knives was both proper and good politics. I defer to your better knowledge of the specifics, but from what has emerged, Ms. Halton seems like a prime candidate for the chop.
    The ambassador to Indonesia is another I would see as deserving an opportunity to spend more time with his family, as his elevation to Djakarta seems to owe more to his (non-) efforts in DIMIA, than any particular merit. A friend of mine, who is much wittier than me, had a letter published in the Age, in which he likened that appointment to Caligula’s nomination of his horse (Incitatus) to the Roman Senate. However, my mate pointed out a distinguishing characteristic – that Incitatus was probably a success as a horse!

  13. Why not reduce the size of parliament overall so the Senate goes back to 10 a state? Is it wrong to assume that a 2:2:1 (Labor: Coalition:Green) outcome is more likely than a 3:2:1 (Labor: Coalition: Green) outcome? If you wanted to increase the likelihood of a Labor+Green Senate majority is this more likley with 10 senators a state?

  14. Let’s not forget that the Tasmanian majors once conspired to cut out the Greens by reducing the number of members per region – the eventual result being that now the Greens hold proportionally more seats than before… Greens and or Democrats have also won seats in 5-member regions in WA and Vic. So no, it’s not out of the ballpark at all, Geoff…

  15. Waaaay back in the mid 200s, Adam said:

    “Anyways the Greens vote has reached its natural ceiling so they aren’t likely to win a Qld Senate seat unless we have a DD.”

    Perhaps, but if the Qld Coalition vote had been 2.5% lower and Family First’s 2.5% higher, then the Greens would have been elected even if their vote was a percent or two lower than it was. Senate Quotas are funny things.


  16. Ed@Bennelong asked:

    “Why does half the Senate have to be elected each three years?”

    Upper Houses are, more-or-less, intended to frustrate (or at least moderate) the ambitions of an elected government and the half-Senate election is intended to be a protection against outbursts of popular passion. If, at election time, ‘the people’ get all worked with some ‘crazy ideas’ and elect a government composed of ‘populist ratbags’, the half-Senate elected at the previous election will be there to protect the Commonwealth until ‘common sense’ can be restored to the National Government.


  17. I think the notion that the Green vote has reached a natural ceiling is wishful thinking from a serial detractor. I would take the Bennelong vote as a very good example of why. The first thing to note is that the swing away from the Greens was huge (probably the largest) and I would give this two reasons: 1) Andrew Wilkie drew a large personal vote, and 2) The Maxine machine was unstoppable. It is in the second reason that I take comfort in knowing that despite our best efforts most people still don’t understand or trust the preferential voting system in the lower house (let alone the upper house) and feel tentative about voting 1 Green 2 ALP. When handing out HTVs I’ve had otherwise intelligent people tell me “well, I’d vote Green but this election is too important, gotta vote Labor…”. And the number of nice old ladies who smile on the way out and tell us “I put you number 2, dear…” flies against the theory that everyone who doesn’t vote Greens 1 therefore hates them.

    That’s all.

  18. Re #374, the Greens in Tas have now won 4/25 (16%) at the last two polls although they only just held one of those in 2006. Had the old 7-seat system been used, in 2002 they would have won 6/35 (17.1%) and in 2006 5/35 (14.3%) so really at current support levels whether you have a 35 seat or 25 seat system makes little difference to the Greens’ proportional representation in the Tasmanian parliament (unless the change to the system alone is seen as having increased their vote, which was certainly not evident in the 1998 poll). It is when their support levels are down in the low teens that they can win a swag of seats in a 35 seat house, but get more or less wiped out in a 25 seat one.

    I’m suspecting a Labor/Green controlled Senate would indeed become much more likely in the long term under a 10-seat Senate system than a 12-seat one. The issue isn’t the relative chances of the Greens winning in a 10-seat system, but that if Labor and Green swap preferences firmly, then after all the minor party debris is distributed, the Coalition needs to get to 50% of the vote in a given 5-seat state to prevent 3-2 outcomes against it, but only needs to get 42.86% in a given 6-seat state to hold the line at 3-3.

  19. It’s an interesting question of the nexus between the reduction in the numbers in the Tasmanian Parliament and whether this was a causal factor in the increase in the Green vote post-1998. Being involved in Tasmanian Greens election campaigns at the time, I think that the increase in the quota was a factor behind the party organisation taking its campaigning up a gear to achieve the higher hurdle. The Greens are basically just going for one seat in each electorate, with a stab at a second in Denison, and so whatever the quota is will determine the allocation and intensity of electoral resources.

    The lag of one election between the reform and the effect could just be the result of the need for party re-organisation. Although, in this particular case, it may be that some (and it just needs to be 2-3% of the electorate) thought Parliament was less effective with only one Green and/or having only one member highlighted the impact that the Greens can have and so then switched their vote at the following poll. Of course, this second paragraph is more influenced by my partisan biases.

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