Tasmanian election: March 20

It’s not exactly news that the Tasmanian election will be held on March 20 – Premier David Bartlett has been making this clear for a year – but nonetheless, it has become an official fact this morning following Bartlett’s visit to the Governor. The most recent EMRS poll suggests his government is in serious trouble, with the most likely result being that the Greens will hold the balance of power. I will hopefully have a guide to the five five-member electorates up over the next week or so; Antony Green offers an overview of the Bass electorate, with the other four presumably to follow.

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.

51 comments on “Tasmanian election: March 20”

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  1. The Greens are very very likely to hold the balance of power… there’s a wide wide range of result possibilities that would see this occur. In their multimember system and with polling as it is, I don’t think Tasmanians will have a say on who forms government, rather, the Tasmanian Greens and who they support.

  2. Is it still Labor’s position that it well never again govern in a minority, dependent on the Greens? That was the position after the Field government, but it may have changed by now.

  3. I don’t understand how the Greens get boxed in on the minority govt issue. If no-one wants to form a coalition with Greens then they just say we will give provisional support for party with most votes, most seats or the one we like the most. That party can form govt but may lose plenty of votes in the parliament. The demand that there be a majority govt is not enforceable by Governor or anyone else. Minority govts are a fact of life in mamy systems.
    Being in coalition with a party who you don’t really like working with is a problem for everyone. Minority govt is easier. Of course that denies Greens influence through Cabinet positions, budget negotiations etc which is the carrot for being part of govt.

  4. Psephos,

    Peter Tucker’s done some posts about this at his blog. Bartlett has apparently been backing away from the “no minority” position for a while now, and late last year effectively admitted that Labor would seek a minority arrangement if the numbers fell that way.

    Hodgman openly acknowledged he would seek minority government if necessary quite a while ago.

    In the circumstances, neither party can do anything else.

  5. i still think labor will win out right. The atmosphere seems to have changed since the last poll and the water debacle.
    last time the liberals sacked teachers public servants and from memory closed wards.

    And is the liberals run here or by the mainland who knows.

  6. There is plenty of posturing going on by the major parties. It is tactically in their interests to try to appear as if they are the one who alone has a chance of forming a “stable” majority government. The theory is that this will get the undecided voters onboard – people who will do anything to prevent the greens (oh the horror, the horror!) from having any influence.

    Labor used the tactic effectively for the last two elections and was trying to use it again for this one, but their popularity dropped too much and no-one was taking them seriously – if anyone has a chance at winning a majority now it is the liberals. And I think recently Bartlett has conceded as much and that to get back in power he’d have to get the backing of the greens. He has ruled out a formal coalition with them however.

  7. Both “leaders” have said in the past they would never form a coalition with the Greens. Suddenly they’re backing away from this. I don’t think the minority government scare tactics will work this time. Public servants are very disenchanted with Labor, and the loss of Sue Napier has done a lot of harm to the Liberals, who lack experience and, largely, credibility and talent.

    This state was effectively scuppered when the Lower House was made smaller to try and keep the Greens out and it seems to me that many, many people have no faith in either major party.

    [last time the liberals sacked teachers public servants]

    Have you not been to a library lately? Forgotten about the park rangers? Vacancy control? Schools were quarantined, but the rest of Education took a hammering.

  8. I feel a bit worried for the greens if they end up with the balance of power, because they will face an awful choice. Either they back a tired, decayed, incompetent labor government for a final, uninspiring, unpopular term before they get wiped out by a big liberal majority in 2014, or they back the liberals who while fresh are still ideologically worse than labor. Less so in Tasmania on many issues, but still, the party of Eric Abetz can hardly be one the greens can feel comfortable backing.

    So no, it will be a terrible choice for them – politically they’d probably be better off avoiding it all together and hoping one party gets a majority. Using the balance of power for policy outcomes will be difficult because the two major parties will vote together on most of the big issues – Gunns effectively runs the state.

    So yes, back the liberals and you’ve backed your supporters’ (and your own) biggest ideological foes, and share some responsibilty in whatever right-wing horrors they wreak, or back labor and share the responsibility (and probably – by labor) the blame for a crap government that is going to get turfed out entirely in 2014.

    If I were the Greens I’d pick the Liberals over Labor. Especially if the Liberals win more votes and more seats. Labor is a seriously decayed government and Bartlett is out of his depth and insecure. The Greens don’t want to be associated with any of that.

  9. If I were the Greens, so would I. I don’t think Bartlett will ever recover, and the ALP won’t, until he goes. As far as policy goes, I can’t see that it really matters. In the areas I care about their policies are identical.

    Haven’t heard anything from the so-called Ethics and Sustainabilities. Very sensible of them.

  10. I just can’t see how Labor can keep am majority. They might be able to be the biggest party but i just cant see a majority. i still hear alot of people who still dont like Bartlett and i think the Polytechnics reforms (inaccurate word) will do damage not just in the eyes of teachers.

    I can of course only speak definitively for myself. I will put Labor almost last, except the Religious fruitcakes including Jackie Pertrusma. i do like Hodgman’s pledge to wind back the polytechnics but geez the idea of removal of Land Tax altogether is a big black mark.

    Nick Mckim is the only one who seems electable. Fortunately he is way more electable than Peg Putt (Shudder).

  11. Nick McKim is an outstanding Greens parliamentarian. He is the “non-threatening” sort who comes across as a normal sort of person, whereas many greens parliamentarians can come across as slightly odd, shrill and just in from the forest.

    Labor is extremely worried by Nick Mckim’s mainstream appeal. They are doing everything they can to discredit him. Bartlett has been very clumsy about it in the past. Just yesterday I saw a story Labor put out trying to say that McKim has done a deal with Bob Brown to leave state politics and replace him in the Senate after the federal election.

    McKim denied it, but I wouldn’t mind if it were true. Nick McKim would be a great asset for the greens in the senate.

  12. My tip is Libs to take 3 seats from Labor (in Franklin, Denison and Lyons) and the Greens to take one from them in Braddon. Although the recent retirement of current Liberal leader Will Hodgman’s pop–Michael mouth from the south–might shake up Denison’s result. One candidate to watch is Jackie Petrusma in Franklin. She eventually challenged Christine Milne as a senate candidate for Family First in the 2004 election. Petrusma is running for the Libs and in a seat that has seen former Premier Lennon and Paula Wreidt resign, the Libs will get a second candidate up. That this is likely to be Petrusma points to the Abetz faction’s affect on Tas politics.

    Probably–Lab 10, Libs 10 and Greens 5. A Green-Liberal government.

  13. Does anyone know why Bartlett and Labor have decided (again) to go to the polls on the exact same day as South Australia?? It seems bizarre to me, as the SA election date has fixed for some time and the Tasmanian one is not. Was there something wrong with March 13 or 27??

    Is there an agenda behind it? Do they actually want to avoid scrutiny – to avoid getting proper coverage by the ABC and proper attention to the results around the country? Maybe that is the way Gunns likes it – less attention drawn to the forestry issue and all of the controversy.

    I know it sounds conspiracy-theoryish, but can’t think of any other reason why they’d be so stupid.

  14. They probably avoided the 13th because of superstition and the 27th because the footy will have started.

    [reason why they’d be so stupid.] Consistency.

  15. FF@10

    [So no, it will be a terrible choice for them – politically they’d probably be better off avoiding it all together and hoping one party gets a majority.]

    On the contrary I think the Greens would be very relaxed about the election outcome. McKim is on record as saying they will not block the budget regardless of which party wins Government. Logically, that probably means they will support (or perhaps more correctly, allow to govern) the party which wins the most seats. They don’t need to make a political choice about which party to support – their decision will be determined by the voters. And apart from the budget, they will have total independence about the way they vote on any other legislation.

  16. Obviously the greens would prefer for there to be a hung parliament. All minor parties and independents want to be in this position rather than impotent. Nick McKim would much prefer to be a player rather than a spectator, which is what the Greens are now.

    But what I question is whether it will be good for the greens in a political sense or not to be in the balance of power. The last two times they were in this position I don’t think it was. Their vote didn’t increase at the next election, that’s for sure. And they developed a bit of a stigma about them. Whether their reputation was fairly earned or not isn’t the point. I’m talking about the politics of it here.

    The greens are going to have to be very careful with how they play it. There are dangers everywhere.

  17. [But if it is a 10-10-5 (or 11-11-3) then the Greens have to chose the Government.]

    Highly unlikely.

    But probably % of vote.

    Polls have Libs well ahead (and I don’t mean just the published ones).

  18. FF@13

    I doubt there is an agreement, although I think that Bob’s spot will go to Nick if he wants it. From what I know Milne got her spot as much because she was leader as because Bob wanted her. WHich points to Nick being the logical choice.

    I think the Greens will do better now after learning from the past and the ACT team.

  19. Thank ‘history’ for the PR system in Tassie. I only wish it applied on NSW. In Tasmania the voters can rid themselves of a hopeless Labor government, without the need to install, unfettered, a hopeless Liberal government.

    They have the immense electoral luxury of bringing about a minority government dependent on a third party’s (Greens) support for legislation based on its merits. If only … if only … we had that option in NSW. More power to PR – especially the Hare-Clark system and Robson rotation.

    Clearly the Bartlett government has learnt nothing post Lennan:
    [The Department of Infrastructure, Energy and Resources (DIER) says it is buying land to build a new road and the fact that there will also be room for Gunns’ water pipe is incidental.
    The proposed road will run through the Tamar Valley, near Launceston, where several locals have been refusing to sell their property to the controversial timber company.
    But DIER is now using its compulsory acquisition powers to get that land for a new road.]

  20. [A hung parliament would not be a good election outcome

    EVEN before the Tasmanian election campaign swings into full gear, the prospect of a hung parliament, with the Greens holding the balance of power, is looming large under the island state’s Hare-Clark electoral system. Such an outcome would not serve the state’s best interests at a time when firm, decisive leadership is needed to strengthen its economic base.]


    The Australian anti-Green much…?

  21. [McKim has taken his party closer to the middle ground since replacing Peg Putt as leader in 2008. However, the Greens will have to counter a scare campaign against the dangers of minority government if they are to hold their four seats or snare an unlikely fifth.

    McKim is a very different kind of Green. Yesterday, he flagged a campaign focused not on old-growth forests or pulp mills, but on “household budgets”.]


    This is both what I want, and what is needed, from the Greens.

  22. I have a sneeky suspicion that the Democrats may snag a seat. They have been working extremely hard at rebuilding the party. They have regained their registration in Tasmania and are now undergoing a huge policy renewal, which has seen them slide to the left on many policy issues! Interesting times! I think in Tasmania we’ll see that start of the resurgence of the Dems, they’ll use each election coming up as a spring board!!! Watch this space!

  23. I’m gonna bet Daniel1988 is one of the few active Democrats left. I wish them well, I used to vote for them when they existed (so they still exist in Tassie, eh?), but I can’t see it being likely. I’d be happy to be proven wrong though.

    Do they have a website, etc?

  24. 22

    The NSW Legislative Assembly did have Hare-Clark style PR for about a decade until it was abolished by Lang (who also described the conversion of the Senate to PR as gerrymandering). 5-member urban electorates and three member rural electorates. It was well before Robson Rotation.

  25. Ooo, interesting…

    Anger about party sign-up

    And from ABCElections twitter:

    [ Tasmanian Electoral Commission rejects Ethics and Sustainability Party registration. Refers matter to the Police. #tas2010 5:59 PM Feb 11th ]

    Looks like the green tories were dodgy, then.

  26. [Looks like the green tories were dodgy, then]

    Maybe electoral integrity was one of those “trendy” inner-city things they didn’t approve of. 😛

    [I think in Tasmania we’ll see that start of the resurgence of the Dems]

    Lol, I’m with Bob on this one. No chance. It’s funny – the Democrats have hired consultants to make over their image, but no-one noticed. The poor things, they’re in for a sad year if they’ve got their hopes up for a revival.

  27. [i]I think in Tasmania we’ll see that start of the resurgence of the Dems[/i]

    Even as a former Democrat, I can’t help but find this utterly hilarious. ca 2007, everyone in the party knew it was “over” but fought on because we thought it was worth saving, and that, whatever its faults, the party did a better job in the BoP than the Greens would – the party was necessary to fulfil a purpose in Australian politics. Australian voters didn’t agree, and that’s democracy. Seems like the pragmatists in the party all left and all that’s left are people who think if you post messages on boards and smile REALLY HARD someone will like you – the party has become the end, not the means, and that saddens me.

  28. The Dems? Who even knew they were still around in Tasmania?

    I think the scare tactics about a minority government won”t work this time – in fact a lot of people I know want one, because they don’t trust either major party, and think they are clones of each other on major policies, like the pulp mill.

  29. I’ve been trying and failing to find commentary on the effectiveness of the ACT government and the subsequent popularity of the ACT Greens. It is surprising to me that neither the Greens nor the anti hung parliment squad are not referencing it when making their case.

    Is it a case of the agreement between ACT Labor and Green and subsequent government is neither scary nor brilliant?

  30. 36.

    From the little I have heard, the Greens are slowly getting the things they asked for but realise it will take time. I think the approach is that it is not a success or failure yet, but is on the way to becoming more of a success then a failure.
    Have no idea what the ALP think. I doubt they like it if the opinion toward the Greens by pro-ALP bloggers here is anything to go by.

  31. Hahaha… I’m not the only one left! I actually joined them after being and ALP member since I was 15. It been almost 2 years now. We should be getting a new website anytime now, but here’s a link to a statement on Tassie:


    I don’t really think we’ll get a seat… but I do think with Dems standing again well get some attention which will add to the campaign that we’re building around the country. In NSW we now have more ticketed members than when we had 10% of the vote! Gotta build a base before you build for the roof!!!

  32. Here are some Press releases from the Tassie Dems:

    This one is regarding Peter Power joining the party and running in Lyons:

    This one is the Dems attacking another party over their Same-Sex Rights Stance:

    Calling for a Referendum on the Pulp Mill:

    Hope this helps inform the few of you that wanted some news!

  33. I wonder who is doing the Labor Party’s ad campaign. Is it the same organisation that did the Liberal Party’s at the last federal election. Looks like it-with all the same kind of imagery being used.

    It really goes to show how much more TweedleDeer and TweedleDumber the 2 big parties have become.

    Geez, don’t any of the 2 big parties have any new or different ideas.

    See the ALP’s dirt website:- http://www.liberalsrealchange.com/

  34. Winston @20:

    [Polls have Libs well ahead (and I don’t mean just the published ones).]

    I’d be interested to know which unpublished ones you mean. There have been releases concerning Labor “internal polling” but these are unverifiable and untrustworthy and the most recent one (despite being splashed all over the front page of the Mercury in a very uncritical fashion) did not even quote figures.

    [But what I question is whether it will be good for the greens in a political sense or not to be in the balance of power. The last two times they were in this position I don’t think it was.]

    Daniel @ 26:

    [I have a sneeky suspicion that the Democrats may snag a seat.]

    I will post a pic of myself attempting to eat my own hat on Tasmanian Times if they get within 1000 votes of doing so in any electorate.

    I do think Tassie needs credible fourth-party and independent alternatives but a party that is structurally flawed, ideologically confused and historically discredited is not one of them.

    And speaking of unsound fourth-party alternatives:

    [Tasmanian Electoral Commission rejects Ethics and Sustainability Party registration.]

    Good riddance; a “party” that combines the most illiberal aspects of Green and Liberal ideology and claims to be ethical but recruits party members in a shoddy and dubious fashion isn’t the answer either.

  35. Can I throw a bucket of water over the discussion of Democrat prospects by pointing out that they are NOT, repeat NOT a registered party under the Tasmanian Electoral Act and so their name will not appear on the ballot paper.

    Indeed, unless the Democrats can stump up with the names of 100 voters with their nominations, they cannot even have their own column on the ballot paper.

    You need 10 names to nominate a candidate but you need 100 nominators to have your own group column. By establishing the size of their membership, political parties have an automatic right to their own column.

  36. [the party (Dems) did a better job in the BoP than the Greens would]

    Whilst I tend to agree, we also haven’t had the Greens hold the sole BoP yet, so it’s too early to judge and label them.

  37. [I don’t really think we’ll get a seat… but I do think with Dems standing again well get some attention]

    Who are you kidding? The Dems kick and scream at every electoral opportunity and nobody even blinks. Nothing will change in Tas. The Dems will get a puny result and nobody will notice, and the world will keep spinning.

  38. “I don’t think Tasmanians will have a say on who forms government, rather, the Tasmanian Greens and who they support.”

    Quite an arrogant way to put it when you could have said for the first time, 60% of Tasmanian have the government they want.

    I wonder how high the greens vote would be before Labour and the Liberals would consider a coalition? 7, 8, 9? A grand coaltion is not unprecented in other countries. It would have the potential of representing 70 or 80% of the electorate.

  39. [Quite an arrogant way to put it when you could have said for the first time, 60% of Tasmanian have the government they want.]

    Which would be well up on the current 10% (if that).

  40. [I wonder how high the greens vote would be before Labour and the Liberals would consider a coalition? 7, 8, 9? A grand coaltion is not unprecented in other countries. It would have the potential of representing 70 or 80% of the electorate.]

    This is true, but a grand coalition could possibly lead to a surge in the Green vote at the following election and would make it very hard for the two majors to distinguish themselves at that election too.

  41. 47 – Not sure if you understood my point.

    40% Lab/Lib + 20% Green = Government with 60% total support at the ballot box. Sure a coalition is not voters first choice, but wouldn’t you rather your party forming government as opposed to being the opposition benches?

  42. It depends on whether you’re considering your long term viability or the short term. You might question what position the German SPD would be in now if they’d not entered the Grand Coalition in Germany in the last term.

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