Tasmanian upper house elections: May 2

Friday, April 24

Legislative Council maps available for enjoyment courtesy of Adam Carr and Ben Raue. You can also access ABC Local Radio forums with the candidates for each of the three divisions from ABC Elections.

Tuesday, April 21

On Saturday week, one fifth of Tasmanian voters go to the polls – or at least, ought to go to the polls – to perform some reupholstering on the state’s 15-member Legislative Council. Members of said chamber are elected for six-year terms on a rotating basis, which sees either two or three of the single-member divisions face the voters each May. Of the 15 members, four are Labor and the remaining 11 are independent, including former Labor member Terry Martin. The Liberals have traditionally not fielded candidates, and were badly rebuffed when they did so in the early 2000s. This year is the turn of Derwent, held for Labor by Treasurer Michael Aird; Windermere, where independent Ivan Dean faces re-election; and Mersey, which is vacated by retiring independent Norma Jamieson. Further reading from Antony Green and Tasmanian Politics.

Windermere occupies interesting electoral real estate on the eastern bank of the Tamar River, from the mouth through Bell Bay of Gunns pulp mill fame on to the northern and eastern suburbs of Launceston. Ivan Dean, the member since 2003, has attracted a surprisingly large field of four challengers, who perhaps detected vulnerability when he failed to win re-election as Launceston mayor in 2007. Best known of these is Kathyrn Hay, a former Miss Australia who served a term in the lower house after being recruited by Labor. After surprisingly choosing to bow out in 2006, Hay is now running as an independent, and Peter Tucker of Tasmanian Politics reckons she “clearly has a chance”. Peter John Kaye is a former broadcaster and adviser to various federal ministers including Warwick Smith, and is presumably of Liberal sympathies. Ted Sands is a Launceston councillor who ran third in the mayoral election. Antony Green tells us he is “a former member of the Labor Party and nominated for Labor Party pre-selection in Bass ahead of the 2007 Federal election”. Also in the field is Greens candidate Peter Whish-Wilson, who not surprisingly is a “prominent anti-pulp mill campaigner”.

Mersey covers Devonport and its immediate surrounds. An open contest following the retirement of independent member Norma Jamieson, this has curiously failed to attract any more newcomers than Windermere. Lynn Laycock is well credentialled as mayor of Devonport, but she faces strong competition. Mike Gaffney is an interesting departure from the upper house norm. Since turning down an offer from David Bartlett of Labor preselection in Braddon, he has quit the party and decided to make his mark as an independent. However, Sue Neales of The Mercury reports he has “refused to rule out accepting a future ministerial position in a Labor government”, while Bartlett continues to describe him as a “good candidate”. How this will appear to voters who traditionally vote to defend the independence of the upper house remains to be seen. Carolynn Jamieson is the owner of local transport and metal fabrication businesses, a fluent Mandarin speaker and, significantly, the daughter of outgoing member Norma. A recent precedent for keeping it in the family was Tania Rattray-Wagner’s win in 2004 in Apsley, on the retirement of father Colin Rattray. Steve Martin is a Devonport restaurant owner and chairman of the Mersey Community Hospital group, who happily fesses up to work as “a part-time Electorate Officer for local Labor MPs”.

The great disappointment of this round of elections was former federal Labor MP Harry Quick’s abandonment of his plan to run against Treasurer Michael Aird in Derwent. The division extends from Hobart outskirts for about 100 kilometres through the Derwent Valley. Aird is opposed by independent Jenny Branch, a Glenorchy councillor and Liberal Party member said by Antony Green to be seeking preselection for Denison in 2010, and Susan Gunter for the Greens.

I am maintaining my yearly ritual of tallying independents’ voting in divisions, but as there have been only four this year there isn’t much to write home about. The table shows the proportion of divisions in which each member has voted with Labor. I have been dividing it into substantive and procedural votes since 2007. Note that Sue Smith has recently taken over the position of President from Don Wing, who had not recorded a vote since 2003.

. 2007-09
2002-07 expiry
Jim Wilkinson (Nelson) 3/11 1/9 25/59 (42%) 2014
Sue Smith (Montgomery) 8/11 6/8 19/58 (33%) 2013
Greg Hall (Rowallan) 8/12 7/10 27/64 (42%) 2012
Don Wing (Paterson) 0/4 0/4 2/14 (14%) 2011
Ruth Forrest (Murchison) 7/14 7/11 8/16 (50%) 2011
Tanya Rattray-Wagner (Apsley) 8/14 7/11 11/27 (41%) 2010
Terry Martin (Elwick) 3/13 3/11 0/1 (0%) 2010
Norma Jamieson (Mersey) 3/12 3/10 8/36 (22%) 2009
Ivan Dean (Windemere) 11/14 9/12 13/39 (33%) 2009
Kerry Finch (Rosevears) 6/14 6/12 22/45 (49%) 2008
Paul Harriss (Huon) 7/15 5/12 10/64 (16%) 2008
Tony Fletcher (Murchison) 6/48 (13%) 2005
Colin Rattray (Apsley) 19/36 (53%) 2004

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.

13 comments on “Tasmanian upper house elections: May 2”

  1. Not knowing much about the history about Tasmanian Parliament, I do find it bizarre that 4 of 15 members are Labor, 0 Liberal, the rest being independent…

  2. I think some/most of the independents are conservative-leaning. Given Tassie is a natural Labor state, perhaps the Liberals think it’s better to give support to like-minded Inds than run under their own banner.

  3. It’s like local govt, where the pattern used to pit Labor against conservative independents, usually local business people, who got the natural Liberal vote and also a portion of Labor voters who were sympathetic to the no party politics in local govt argument.

  4. The fact that elections happen every year, not as a single lot, means that there is very little advantage in being in a party. Plus tradition means it’s difficult for a candidate to get anywhere if they run with a party, so party members tend to run as independents.

    Also, I tend to think single-member electorates make voters more likely to vote for a popular local independent than a party. That is usually masked by the fact that single-member electorates on the mainland decide who forms the government, so voters vote with those issues in mind.

  5. Interesting to note that Deveson has moved from being fairly anti-Labor in his votes to the most pro-Labor of the independents in the last two years. I wonder if this is a result of his staunch support for the Pulp Mill.

  6. There’s a tradition of Upper House “independents” being closet Liberals but it seems to have waned in recent years and quite a few of them are genuinely hard to pick. Wilkinson, Harriss and Dean are probably the most frequent recipients of the closet Liberal tag but as the stats show Dean has actually voted for quite a lot of government legislation recently.

    It will be an interesting night. I’m expecting Aird to win easily but the other two are tricky to call.

  7. Very pretty. Elwick is probably red with blue spots or something – “independent Labor” as Terry Martin has been thrown out of the PLP, but I believe (someone correct me if I’m wrong) he remains a rank-and-file party member. If he stands again in 2010 it will be interesting to see if anyone wastes their time opposing him.

  8. Adam, re. your maps: is your colour scheme gonna change if the Greens start winning lower house seats? There’ll have to be a way of differentiating between Fremantle and Alfred Cove, or Sydney and Balmain, and the Greens probably have dibs on green. 😉 Same thing would happen if an independent won a LH seat in Tassie (that’s happened before, hasn’t it?).

  9. Unless I’ve missed one somewhere, the last independent to win a federal lower house seat in Tassie was William McWilliams (Franklin) who won as an independent in 1928 and 1929 and then died in office, having earlier held the seat as a member of various parties from 1903-22. Only other one I can find was King O’Malley who was one of those elected in 1901 when Tasmania was a single multi-member electorate.

    Independent successes in state lower house seats are naturally much commoner. The most recent candidate elected as an independent was former Liberal MHR Bruce Goodluck in 1996.

  10. Generally I’ve colour-coded independents as yellow.

    Although in the UK and Canada (where the LibDems are yellow and the NDP’s orange is too close) I use purple or gray.

  11. Part II of preview now up at http://www.tasmanianpolitics.blogspot.com/ . Should be up at Tasmanian Times tomorrow.

    Although we have nominated Dean in Windermere and Laycock in Mersey as favourites, in either case others cannot be ruled out – it is not like the last few years of LC elections where we have been able to say that a certain candidate will definitely win.

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