EMRS: Liberal 39, Labor 30, Greens 29 in Tasmania

Details of yesterday’s EMRS poll published in the Launceston Examiner have been frustratingly hard to come by. The full release has not been published on the company’s website in the usual fashion, presumably due to some sort of exclusivity arrangement with The Examiner. The only figures published yesterday were of raw responses to the first question on voting intention, which remarkably had the Greens ahead of Labor. However, this excludes the follow-up pollsters invariably ask of the undecided as to who they are leaning towards. Today, courtesy of Felicity Ogilvie on the ABC’s AM program, we learn that the latter figure brings the results up to Liberal 30 per cent, Labor 23 per cent and the Greens 22 per cent, with “almost a quarter” still undecided – a remarkably high figure. The normal practice is to exclude the undecided from consideration: whether we take almost a quarter to mean 23 per cent or 24 per cent, rounding gives us results of Liberal 39 per cent, Labor 30 per cent and the Greens 29 per cent. However, there is little doubt that this figure flatters the Greens, who have a tradition of over-performing in EMRS polls in any case, and who tend to do less well out of disengaged undecided voters who tend to view politics in Labor-versus-Liberal terms. The poll also went so far as to query voters in each electorate as to the candidates they favoured, but the sample sizes are so small that I’m not inclined to read much into them. Nonetheless, it should be noted that Scott Bacon apparently rated at least as well as David Bartlett in Denison. We also learn that Greens supporters – a sample of about 220 – favoured a Liberal over a Labor minority government by a margin of 51 per cent to 43 per cent. Of all respondents, 29 per cent would prefer a majority government led by the Liberals compared with 26 per cent by Labor and 12 per cent by the Greens.

UPDATE: More from Kevin Bonham at the Tasmanian Times.

Other news from the campaign trail:

• Labor suffered ill-timed bad news on the economy on Thursday, with the release of figures showing unemployment in the state up from 5.3 per cent to 6.4 per cent. Matthew Denholm of The Australian notes that the state’s north-west – i.e. Braddon – has been hardest hit, with the loss of 190 jobs at McCain’s vegetable processing plant in Smithton, 250 “going or gone” from the PaperlinX mill at Wesley Vale, and a further 150 jobs threatened unless a buyer is found for its Burnie plant.

Sue Neales of The Mercury has run an excellent series of articles which have provided a goldmine of local intelligence on each electorate:

• In Bass, Labor “privately admits it has no idea” which of its candidates is most likely to win a second seat, the re-election of Michelle O’Byrne being a foregone conclusion. CFMEU forests division secretary Scott McLean was presumed to be the front-runner due to his basis of support among logging workers and the organisation clout of his union, but he “has not been campaigning hard and seems not to have established a high-profile presence in the minds of Bass voters”. Brian Wightman, “the preferred candidate of Premier David Bartlett”, is thought unlikely to rate outside his home base of Winnaleah. That leaves Beaconsfield mine disaster survivor Brant Webb with a serious chance of riding off his famous exploit on 2007 into parliament. The remaining candidate, Michelle Cripps, was apparently not thought worth a mention. The article also assess the state of play for the Liberals, arguing the health-related withdrawal of Sue Napier “threw the party’s high hopes of winning three seats”. Former federal MP Michael Ferguson is rated a near certainty to take the second seat.

Neales reports that Labor has understandably abandoned hope of retaining three seats in Franklin, with a 2-2-1 result reckoned a certaintly. Labor MPs Daniel Hulme and Ross Butler are mounting highly visible campaigns to retain the seats they acquired mid-term on the vacancies of Paul Lennon and Paula Wreidt, notwithstanding a general perception they will lose. O’Byrne has been running a “high-profile campaign heavy on expensive TV advertisements, much of it funded by interstate unions”, with Hulme in particular complaining he “has more than $100,000 to spend from union funds”. Hulme has been endeavouring to inherit the logging industry vote from Paul Lennon, with whom he is closely associated, partly be establishing his electorate office in Huonville. Liberal candidate Tony Mulder “is expected to poll well”, but Jacquie Petrusma – a former Family First Senate candidate and ally of Right faction warlord Senator Eric Abetz – “is more likely to help Ms Petrusma across the line than to win a third seat in his own right”. Mulder was told last week to withdraw advertisements focusing on his past career as a police commander, which featuring images of him in uniform. The police force has deemed it a possible breach of the Public Service Act, an offence carrying a $2400 fine and a maximum of two years in prison.

• In Denison, Neales reports Labor internal polling shows David Bartlett is “not popular in Glenorchy, Rosetta and Claremont”, owing to his “bike-riding, iPod values”. Furthermore, public servants and teachers who predominantly live in the south of the electorate are “fed up with endless education reforms, worried about cuts to public service jobs, concerned about the Government’s poor governance and decision-making record and distrustful of Labor’s promises that front-line services will be protected”. That being so, Labor is rated next to no chance of retaining its three seats, with Graeme Sturges an almost certain casualty. The Liberals’ plan has been to “run five candidates who each in their own right attract and command different segments of votes in Denison”: however, beyond that fact that Elise Archer is targeting the business community, details of this are vague. The Liberals made what seems a contentious political gambit in the electorate last week by promising a $25 million feasibility study into a cable car up Mount Wellington. Labor seemed on electorally safer ground when it made the showpiece of Monday’s campaign launch a plan to buy back and expand the Hobart Private Hospital, although it expects the federal government to pick up 60 per cent of the tab. Sue Neales noted that elsewhere that the policy was pitched “particularly in its battler heartland northern half, where cost-of-living pressures and concerns about health and education have sent voters flocking to the Liberals and Greens”. Labor was facing a particular problem among women voters, hence the promise for a dedicated new $180 million women’s and children’s hospital wing. For its part, the Liberal Party has promised to spend $250 million on a new central wing at the hospital.

• In Lyons, a gain for the Liberals is rated so certain that some in the party are talking of winning a third seat: the two scenarios in play being 2-2-1 and 3-2. Jim Playsted is reckoned the strongest newcomer, but the identity of a third winner would be anyone’s guess. Neales rates Tim Morris the most likely of the four sitting Greens to lose their seat, in part because of the redistribution which has transferred the West Coast region to Braddon and added the blue-collar northern Hobart suburbs of Gagebrook and Bridgewater.

UPDATE (18/3): The last remaining electorate profile, for Lyons, has now been added. Some of the earlier profiles could do with an update, though it remains to be seen if I’ll find time.

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.

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