Pembroke by-election: August 1

Friday, July 31

Tune in tomorrow for the usual live coverage of the count. Michael Stedman of The Mercury has a thorough round-up of the campaign and candidates; Kevin Bonham and Peter Tucker have added a sequel to their earlier overview; and Tucker offers a few more cents’ worth at his own Tasmanian Politics site. Antony Green will also be covering the count at ABC Elections, and explains what will be on offer on his blog. The under-attended candidates’ debate can be viewed on YouTube.

Saturday, July 18

Labor has indeed chickened out, prompting a pertinent question from MDMConnell in comments: “When was the last time the party currently holding a seat refused to contest it at a by-election?” A field of eight candidates has come forward, who are dealt with in ballot paper order below. Further reading from Antony Green, Peter Tucker and Kevin Bonham at the Tasmanian Times, Center for Media and Democracy’s SourceWatch wiki and Malcolm Mackerras at Mumble (not sure exactly when he wrote his email to Peter Brent, but suffice to say the assertion that I had not noticed the by-election is erroneous).

Honey Bacon. The most colourful development of the campaign has been the entry of the widow of former Premier Jim Bacon. As a reporter on the ABC AM’s program noted, the vote-pulling power of the Bacon name appeared to be demonstrated in 1998 when the low-profile and unrelated Labor candidate Ken Bacon won a lower house seat in Lyons, and again when he was returned in 2002 with 14.3 per cent of the vote.

Peter Cooper. Cooper is listed as a Clarence councillor and taxi driver who lives in the electorate at Bellerive. Antony Green tells us he “previously contested Pembroke in 1983 when he polled 10.1 per cent, and 1989 when he polled 14.0 per cent”.

James Crotty. Crotty is a Hobart lawyer, described by Peter Tucker and Kevin Bonham as “left-leaning” and “green-tinged”. He polled 3.8 per cent as a Labor candidate for Denison at the 2006 election, and came close to beating David Bartlett on the countback in 2004 which followed the departure of Jim Bacon. More recently he has been touted as a lower house Labor candidate for Franklin at next year’s state election. It was reported that Crotty was set to be endorsed June 22, but the announcement was withdrawn due to “last-minute commitments”. The Mercury reported that Labor subsequently failed in bids to recruit Julian Amos, a lower house member for Denison from 1976 to 1986 and again from 1992 to 1996, and Wendy Kennedy, a “racing figure and local identity”. Labor then announced it would not field a candidate, at which point Crotty curiously anounced he would run as “independent Labor” and refused to rule out taking a position with the government if one was offered. Crotty has won the endorsement of Harry Quick, the former federal Labor member for Franklin who endorsed Vanessa Goodwin at the 2007 election out of distaste for his Labor successor Kevin Harkins (who was soon forced to stand aside), and more recently considered running against state Treasurer Michael Aird as Greens candidate for Derwent. Aird himself has denied reports he was at odds with David Bartlett’s decision not to formally endorse Crotty as a Labor candidate.

Vanessa Goodwin (Liberal). Antony Green describes Goodwin as “a 39 year-old criminologist and lawyer who has worked for the Department of Police and Public Safety for a decade with responsibility for implementing and managing several crime prevention projects such as Project U-Turn (turning around the lives of young offenders) and Project Samaritan (burglary prevention)”. Goodwin narrowly failed to win a state seat in Franklin at the 2006 state election, and performed more than creditably to pick up a 3.1 per cent swing as federal candidate for Franklin in 2007 – the best result for any Liberal candidate in the country, albeit under difficult circumstances for Labor. Like Crotty, Goodwin was expected to run as a candidate for Franklin at the state election, before the circumstance of the Pembroke by-election presented both candidate and party with an opportunity in which neither had much to lose.

Wendy Heatley (Greens). Antony Green describes Heatley as “a 46 year-old lawyer who works as a Director for the Australian Taxation Office in Hobart”, whose “involvement with the Greens stretches back to the days of the Franklin Dam blockade”. The Greens candidate for Pembroke in 2007, Neil Smith, polled 13.4 per cent, while Antony Green calculates the local booths produced Greens votes of 17.2 per cent and 15.8 per cent at the 2002 and 2006 state elections, and 8.0 per cent and 10.9 per cent at the 2004 and 2007 federal elections.

Richard James. James is an accountant and Clarence City alderman making his third bid for Pembroke. He performed extremely impressively to poll 32.6 per cent in 1995, and more modestly at the 1999 by-election and the 2007 periodical election at which Allison Ritchie was re-elected, respectively scoring 13.3 per cent and 18.4 per cent. He nonetheless made the final two-candidate cut on the latter occasion with 31.2 per cent against Ritchie’s 68.8 per cent. At the 2006 state election he ran in Franklin, polling a very modest 489 votes (0.7 per cent).

John Peers. A Clarence alderman since 1994, Peers polled 9.3 per cent running against Ritchie in Pembroke in 2007.

Kit (Sharon) Soo. Soo is listed as a PR consultant residing in Sandy Bay; beyond that, nothing is known.

Wednesday, July 1

A minor, but potentially very interesting, electoral event will take place in Tasmania on August 1, when voters in the Legislative Council district of Pembroke choose a replacement for outgoing Labor member Allison Ritchie. The Liberal Party’s normal practice of not contesting seats in the Legislative Council makes elections for the chamber, which normally take place for two or three of the 15 divisions each May, of little interest to those attuned to the adversarial cut-and-thrust of partisan politics. However, this time the Liberals have resolved to take the field with a quality candidate in a seat which is one of only four currently held by Labor. It thus looms as a fascinating test of strength for Premier David Bartlett, the apparently popular head of an ageing government who has yet to face the voters, and Opposition Leader Will Hodgman, who seems the Liberals’ most promising leadership prospect in recent memory despite his patchy record in the polls.

Pembroke covers most of the urban area on the Derwent River’s eastern shore, from Otago south through Lindisfarne and Bellerive to Tranmere. The by-election will be held under the newly redistributed boundaries which have added marginal areas at Otago at the northern coastal end and Mornington in the east, neither of which should have a measurable impact. The primary votes from this area at the 2007 federal election were Labor 44 per cent, Liberal 42 per cent and the Greens 11 per cent, with a two-party Labor margin of 5.6 per cent.

Ritchie announced she would quit parliament on June 20 after enduring a storm of controversy over her appointment of several family members to her staff. She was first elected to the seat in 2001 when she defeated independent incumbent Cathy Edwards, in large part due to her successful attacks upon Edwards’ dual role as Mayor of Clarence, and easily won re-election in 2007. Ritchie claims to have been the victim of a plot from within her own party, which presumably explains why she has decided to go now rather than wait for the more convenient juncture of early next year, when a by-election could be held with the state election in March (though Antony Green is unsure whether this is feasible) or the annual periodical upper house elections in May.

Things got really interesting last week when the Liberals, after initially signalling that they would follow their normal practice of sitting the election out, announced as their candidate Vanessa Goodwin, a Hobart criminologist who narrowly failed to win a state seat in Franklin at the 2006 state election, and performed more than creditably to pick up a 3.1 per cent swing as federal candidate for Franklin in 2007 – the best result for any Liberal candidate in the country, albeit under difficult circumstances for Labor, with popular incumbent Harry Quick retiring and his nemesis Kevin Harkins, the state secretary of the Electrical Trades Union, being forced to stand aside as candidate after his union became the focus of Coalition attacks. Given the disastrous performance of Liberal candidates in the upper house when the party last tested the waters in 2002, which voters evidently saw as an intrusion on the chamber’s cherished independence, this appears a bold move. However, there are reasons to believe circumstances will be different this time, partly due to the standing of the candidate, but also because this election is taking place in an urban rather than rural seat. It is in Hobart that Labor has succeeded in getting candidates elected, and it presumably follows that city conservatives are also less attached to the Legislative Council as an extension of local politics.

Remarkably, it is now Labor that is considering not fielding a candidate. It was reported that Hobart lawyer James Crotty was set to be endorsed June 22, but he withdrew due to “last-minute commitments”. Matthew Denholm of The Australian named as possible candidates Julian Amos, a lower house member for Denison from 1976 to 1986 (including a spell as minister in the Lowe/Holgate government from 1979 to 1982) and again from 1992 to 1996; Pharmacy Guild director Louise Sullivan; and Roger Joseph, former staff member for Harry Quick. Another interesting name to emerge was Kevin Harkins, whose recent re-emergence as a potential Senate candidate has been vigorously opposed by the Prime Minister. Evidently it is feared that none of these candidates will be the goods to take on Goodwin. A decision from the party was expected this afternoon, and has presumably been made but not yet reported.

The Greens have announced they will field a candidate, but are yet to say who. Michael Stedman of The Mercury also reported that Jenny Branch, a Glenorchy councillor and Liberal Party member who polled strongly against Treasurer Michael Aird in the May periodical election for Mersey, was considering standing, but she has presumably thought again now the Liberals are fielding an official candidate.

More from Peter Tucker at Tasmanian Politics.

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.

49 comments on “Pembroke by-election: August 1”

  1. Is Vannessa Goodwin the only one to have declared that they will run so far?

    And if the ALP dont run, that probably gives the Greens a good chance, seeing as ALP voters probably wont vote Lib.

  2. [And if the ALP dont run, that probably gives the Greens a good chance, seeing as ALP voters probably wont vote Lib.]

    This is Tasmania. The ALP and Libs pretty much just duke it out for the anti-Green vote.

  3. I reckon the bitter taste left in the mouths of Tasmanian voters by Ritchie’s employing her mother and two sisters, for at least some time when she was “over staffed”, means Labor will stay quiet.

    As for the Greens, they’ve been losing votes for a few years now. But with the increase in anti-pulp mill activity over the last few days who knows? Mind you, the Greens tend to be a bit “un-photogenic”…

  4. Well the likely Green candidate is very “photogenic”. Not that that should matter.

    So Oz, you think that the ALP vote will go to the Liberals? Remember we are talking about Hobart, not up near Davenport. Hobart is a strong Green area, like most capitals.

  5. 4
    Well if the Greens do run a candidate they’re a lttle hypocritical given this is what they say about the Pembroke by

    [cost of] “Pembroke by-election required by the resignation of government member Allison Ritchie is approximately $180,000. Greens Leader Nick McKim MP said that the long-suffering Tasmanian taxpayer is once again the loser” and “cost the Tasmanian taxpayer $180,000 of pain” (

    So for the Greens to benefit from that shows a tact not often seen.

  6. 5# Please explain how it is hypercritical to run in an election? McKim was clearly saying that MPs should run full-term, a sentiment I’m sure most voters would agree with. Just because one doesn’t think that a MP should quit and force an expensive by-election doesn’t make it hypercritical to run in the by-election – especially if the winner plans to go full term – it will still cost the same amount whether the Greens contest or not.

    Totally stupid argument and I suspect you know that.

  7. So Joel, you dont think anyone who ever talks about the cost of a by-election is allowed to run a candidate in any by-election?

    The Greens are just pointing out that by resigning now, instead of at the time of the next UH elections next year, would save money.

    Running a candidate does not make the election more or less expensive, so where is the problem?

  8. @6 well yes you’re correct re stupid argument. Although…

    But, Ritchie was a walking time bomb for Labor, she still is. Amazingly she just couldn’t understand that it’s really not on to employ your sisters and mother at the tax-payers expense. Both the Greens and Libs have clearly stated that they do not and will not do that.

  9. Ok, Phil you can have the award of faster typer. Sound good?

    @9. Not sure what you are saying. Are you saying that Ritchie never should have run? That she should have retired earlier? something else?

  10. No one seems to have mentioned this yet but I am pretty sure Vanessa Goodwin does not live in Pembroke. The liberal party website said she lived in Seven mile beach which while is in Franklin on a federal level and the lower house is not in Pembroke. Labor must have a slack dirt unit these days.

    Should be an interesting race. i think demographic change in places like Derwent Shores would favor the liberals and even without a swing would make their numbers look better.

  11. Very good summary. I think it was 2000 not 2002 when the Libs last tested the waters – they ran Peter Thiessen (Wellington) and Dianne Porteous (Paterson); both were up against incumbents and were heavily defeated. Thiessen ran third behind the Greens, but that was not so unusual given that the Greens outpolled the Liberals in Denison in the 2002 state election.

    In my view Labor’s least risky strategy is to have a bob each way as they often do and promote an “independent Labor” candidate – if the candidate fails they can be disowned and if the candidate succeeds it can be pointed out that Goodwin lost to a candidate who wasn’t even actively endorsed by the party (with the implication that an endorsed candidate would have done better when in fact they may have done worse.)

    I also think that a candidate with great experience is the natural antidote both to Goodwin (as a relatively young candidate who has yet to be proven in parliament) and to perceptions that Bartlett is too rash and his government too shambolic. As such it interests me that Julian Amos has not been quasi-endorsed already but perhaps he is not interested or else Labor has some reservation about supporting him.

    It is notable that this seat has had a Liberal member in the past – Peter McKay who was elected as an independent but joined the party and was re-elected while Leader for the then-Liberal Government in the Upper House.

    I think that Goodwin would defeat Sullivan. I know nothing about Joseph but to run an ex-Quick staffer when Quick himself supported Goodwin at one stage of his feud with Harkins would be amusing. Harkins would be even more amusing and would be a big up-yours to everything to do with governance concerns but could also be filed under “asking for trouble.” We will see …

    Labor’s response to the Goodwin announcement has ranged from laughing at her two-time loser status to expressing joy that such a dangerous candidate might get elected and be unavailable for Franklin in 2010. The truth is somewhere in between.

  12. James Crotty *is* running now, as an independent:

    “I am disappointed I could not convince my party to endorse me as a candidate. That is why I am standing as an independent.”

    Not yet any sign of this news online outside Tasmanian Times.

    ALP still deciding whether to run official candidate, meeting tomorrow to decide whether to conduct a preselection process (but I would assume they will only go down that road if they have someone in mind.)

    Goodwin signs reportedly widespread already.

  13. William

    Just for the record, Risdon Vale remained in Pembroke following the redistribution. Otago was, as you say, added, as was the balance of Mornington. (There were some other, relatively minor changes.)

  14. A bi-election for one upper house seat in Tasmania – this is the most important electoral battle since Obama/McCain! I hope my Tassie comrades are wise in their voting.

  15. Not aware of any other confirmations. Rumours various Clarence aldermen will run as independents – Legislative Council elections are frequently (ab)used by local government figures to run for the purpose not of winning but of boosting their profile for other elections.

  16. I’m not sure if 40 is an army, though it would be all the Young Liberals in Victoria, so it’s not a bad effort. Is there anything more scary than Young Liberals? Overaggressive self-involved ultra capitalists all.

  17. Its not the number of 40 so much that is not that palatable but the fact they are shipping them in from other states. then LC electorates are very small compared to the mainland. We Tasmanians are very parochial also 🙂

    The context of LC elections is rather important because of the small size and the rotation of elections means the independence of the LC is given a degree of importance. Parties are tolerated but as long as they don’t go overboard.

    Agree with your assessment of the young liberals!!!!

  18. Candidates announced. Big field, but the real surprise (at least to me) is that Honey Bacon, Jim Bacon’s widow, is running.

    I gather she is very popular, but have no idea on her chances. At first sight this looks like the perfect candidate for Labor. If she wins they can claim her, if not she was on a frolic of her own. However, given her recent denunciation of Gunns’ hold on the ALP she might not be entirely what Bartlett wants.

    Anyone closer to the action know more?

  19. Will be interesting to see just what sort of a campaign we see from Honey Bacon. Recently she attacked the Bartlett Government in remarkably strident and emotional terms (see over its redistribution of the former department of Environment, Parks, Heritage and Arts. (The Environment and Parks bit rejoined Primary Industries and Water).

    The Clarence Council aldermanic profile-raisers are not serious threats (though James has done OK in weaker fields) and Soo is an unknown; the electorate is not very Green so this is really between Goodwin, Bacon and Crotty. The nature of the Bacon and Crotty campaigns will have to be seen before we can say more about what their respective chances really are.

    An exciting year in the normally uncompetitive world of Tassie upper house elections.

  20. Kevin I wouldn’t dismiss the Greens straight off. They are likely to be the major benefactors of the ALP not running and disaffected ALP.

    If the Greens dont do well like you say, they will probably get Bacon over the line. Similar stance and all that.

  21. The Greens may gain some benefit from there being no endorsed Labor candidate but I do not think it will be large. It is just not a Green enough seat. At the 2007 Pembroke election the endorsed Green polled only 13.4%, although it was not a very serious attempt by their candidate Neil Smith. The party polled about 15.8% in the electorate in the 2006 state election. The 2007 Pembroke contest had an endorsed Labor candidate but no endorsed Liberal. Liberal voters didn’t vote Green, they instead voted for “independents”. Labor voters will do the same and the independents are more closely and prominently connected with Labor than the 2007 lot were with the Liberals. The only LC seats I recall the Greens doing especially well off the votes of Labor supporters in were the most recent two-candidate contests in Nelson and Huon, and in both Wilkinson and Harriss ran slack campaigns; furthermore both are sometimes perceived as closet Liberals.

    The Green candidate is well credentialled but I don’t think she will get 20% and won’t be too surprised if she doesn’t even get 15% in this field. As for preferences, the cut of Green prefs in this election (should it be required) will be an interesting one but it should be noted that Crotty’s stance on green issues drew him a large share of green prefs in his narrowly failed bid for Denison in 2002. That said, with a name as formidable as Bacon competing for the Labor vote I am unsure whether Crotty will even get over the Greens and be in the running for those votes.

  22. I can’t see the Greens winning, or even getting close. As KB says it’s just not the right sort of seat. Still, so close to an election it’s a good chance to promote themselves.

    The interesting thing is that both the Labor aligned candidates are against the government’s forestry policies. Even in one of the more conservative seats in the south Labor couldn’t find anyone to fly the flag who supports their slash and burn approach.

  23. You keep missing the whole thing about no ALP running for an ALP seat. If the ALP dont want it, that bad image will rub off on both ALP independents.

  24. Re #35 I’m not convinced it will rub off on them. Indeed if the party brand is severely on the nose after what happened to the incumbent, then being somewhat distant from the party is more likely to work in their favour. This especially applies to Honey Bacon who apparently has not even been a party member for some time, but who will still appeal to Labor voters because of her connection to a phenomenally popular former Labor premier.

  25. I think most likely Bacon wins if she campaigns both energetically and well, and Goodwin probably wins otherwise. I don’t rule Crotty out entirely but a lot has to go his way (and the last guy I used that kind of language about didn’t even break double figures!)

  26. Given the deep sense of disillusion being felt in Tasmania at present, I predict stormy times ahead, with nobody wanting to see either major party with a majority Personally, I’m going to vote as much as possible for a hung Parliament, and I’ve heard several people say we need a political revolution.

  27. Mercury reported there was a debate yesterday night, where pretty much everyone except Honey Bacon and Vanessa Goodwin showed up to be grilled on their positions. I can’t seem to find it online. Said pretty much all the candidates except Mr James supported re enlargement of the parliament. On the right to die Mr cooper and MS soo were the most strongly in favor. Crotty Supported as long as it was not tied to health founding. James said he was leaning towards it and peers said he personally would like it but implied he would not support the bill.

  28. yea true Roxanna
    I personally think it should have been recorded and shown on stateline or something like that. I had no idea anyone had even agreed to a debate till i read about it this morning.

  29. [Given the deep sense of disillusion being felt in Tasmania at present, I predict stormy times ahead, with nobody wanting to see either major party with a majority Personally, I’m going to vote as much as possible for a hung Parliament, and I’ve heard several people say we need a political revolution.]

    You’re not an NSW basket case. Stop being precious.


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