Seat of the week: Denison

Andrew Wilkie provided the biggest surprise of election night 2010 in nabbing the Hobart seat of Denison with scarcely more than a fifth of the primary vote. The contest looks no less complicated this time around.

Covering the greater part of Hobart, Denison produced one of the most significant results of the 2010 election, sending one of five cross-bench members to the first hung parliament since World War II. Andrew Wilkie achieved his win with just 21.2% of the primary vote, giving him a crucial lead over the Greens who polled 19.0%. The distribution of Greens preferences put Wilkie well clear of the Liberal candidate, who polled 22.6% of the primary vote, and Liberal preferences in turn favoured Wilkie over Labor by a factor of nearly four to one. Wilkie emerged at the final count with a 1.2% lead over Labor, which had lost the personal vote of its long-term sitting member Duncan Kerr.

Like all of the state’s electorates, Denison has been little changed since Tasmania was divided into single-member electorates in 1903, with the state’s representation at all times set at the constitutional minimum of five electorates per state. It encompasses the western shore of Hobart’s Derwent River and hinterland beyond, with the eastern shore suburbs and the southern outskirts township of Kingston accommodated by the seat of Franklin. It is one of the strongest electorates in the country for the Greens, who managed to increase their vote slightly from 18.6% to 19.0% despite the formidable competition offered by Wilkie. Booth results show a clear north-south divide in the electorate, with Greens support concentrated around the town centre and its immediate surrounds in the south and Labor continuing to hold sway in the working class northern suburbs.

Labor’s first win in Denison came with their first parliamentary majority at the 1910 election, but the 1917 split cost them the seat with incumbent William Laird Smith joining Billy Hughes in the Nationalist Party. The seat was fiercely contested over subsequent decades, changing hands in 1922, 1925, 1928, 1931, 1934, 1940 and 1943. It thereafter went with the winning party until 1983, changing hands in 1949, 1972 and 1975. The 1983 election saw Tasmania buck the national trend, the Franklin dam issue helping the Liberals return their full complement of five sitting members with increased majorities. Hodgman’s margin wore away over the next two elections, and he was defeated by Labor’s Duncan Kerr in 1987, later to return for a long stretch in state parliament (he is the father of Will Hodgman, the state’s Liberal Opposition Leader). The drift to Labor evident in 1984 and 1987 was maintained during Kerr’s tenure in the job, giving him consistent double-digit margins after 1993 (substantially assisted by Greens preferences).

Kerr bowed out in 2010 after a career that included a four-week stint as Attorney-General after the 1993 election when it appeared uncertain that incumbent Michael Lavarch had retained his seat, and a rather longer spell as Keating government Justice Minister. The ensuing Labor preselection kept the seat in the Left faction fold with the endorsement of Jonathan Jackson, a chartered accountant and the son of former state attorney-general Judy Jackson. What was presumed to be a safe passage to parliament for Jackson was instead thwarted by Andrew Wilkie, a former Office of National Assessments officer who came to national attention in 2003 when he resigned in protest over the Iraq war. Wilkie ran against John Howard as the Greens candidate for Bennelong in 2004, and as the second candidate on the Greens’ Tasmanian Senate ticket in 2007. He then broke ranks with the party to run as an independent in Denison at the 2010 election, falling narrowly short of winning one of the five seats with 9.0% of the vote.

Placed in the centre of the maelstrom by his surprise win at the 2010 election, Wilkie declared himself open to negotiation with both parties as they sought to piece together a majority. The Liberals took this seriously enough to offer $1 billion for the rebuilding of Royal Hobart Hospital. In becoming the first of the independents to declare his hand for Labor, Wilkie criticised the promise as “almost reckless”, prompting suggestions his approach to the Liberals had been less than sincere. Wilkie’s deal with Labor included $340 million for the hospital and what proved to be a politically troublesome promise to legislate for mandatory pre-commitment for poker machines. This met fierce resistance from the powerful clubs industry, and the government retreated from it after Peter Slipper’s move to the Speaker’s chair appeared to free it from dependence on Wilkie’s vote. Wilkie withdraw his formal support for the government in response, but it has never appeared likely that he would use his vote to bring it down.

Labor’s candidate for the coming election is Jane Austin, a policy officer with Tasmania’s Mental Health Services, who emerged as the preferred candidate of the still dominant Left. The Greens candidate is Anne Reynolds, an adviser to Christine Milne. The Liberals are yet to choose a candidate, prompting Labor to claim the party proposes to play dead in order to boost Wilkie. A ReachTEL poll of 644 respondents in mid-2012 had Wilkie well placed with 40% of the primary vote to 28% for the Liberals, 17% for Labor and 14% for the Greens.

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.

816 comments on “Seat of the week: Denison”

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  1. Prime Minister Julia Gillard is leading the ALP government to victory on 14 September. 🙂

  2. From the other thread:

    Sean Tisme@2290

    [We already do… it’s called your mobile phone number.]

    Absolute stupidity. There’s nothing more insecure than tying everything to the most stolen item in the world (mobile phones).

    Plus it removes the “secret” part of the secret ballot.

    A government you didn’t vote for (of any persuasion) knows exactly how you voted.

    These Thirteenth Century minds haven’t got their heads around 20th Century technology yet, let alone 21st.

    #Fraudband is a perfect example of this lack of vision.

  3. Good morning Dawn Patrollers.
    Ross Gittins explodes the Liberal myth of being sound economic managers.
    Such philanthropy!
    Peter FizSimons is always worth reading.
    Looks like the Convoy of Incontinence is rolling again.
    There is a monster hole in the proposition that Samantha Maiden regurgitates here anfd that is there is no indication of by how much and by what process people will see reduced costs if the carbon “tax” is repealed by Abbott. To me the clear message is that “Having kids will always be more painful under a Coalition government”.

  4. Does anyone know what the Libs will do with preferences for this seat? More to the point, what will Wilkie do? I assume Greens, which means Labor?

  5. Puff, the Magic Dragon.
    Posted Sunday, May 26, 2013 at 2:56 am | PERMALINK
    Prime Minister Julia Gillard is leading the ALP government to victory on 14 September.


    100% agree

  6. I wonder whether the IPA and its ditto-heads will widely promote this great little quote from Adam Smith, which shows that he understood better than most the true purpose of government:

    “Civil government, so far as it is instituted for the security of property, is in reality instituted for the defense of the rich against the poor, or of those who have some property against those who have none at all.” – The Wealth of Nations, Bk5. Ch.1

    In all their bloviating and cherry-picking of Smith quotes that celebrate selfishness as the ultimate public virtue, they tend to leave that one out. Smith had some wealth, and he understood better than most what he needed out of government (i.e. a legalised protection racket), and was honest enough to record it.

    I can respect an honest thief. What I can’t respect is the modern-day neoliberals who cleave to Adam Smith’s central thesis but who then carry on with their crocodile tears about how the underprivileged are being ‘condemned’ to cyclical poverty by ‘leftist’ policies. If there is a readily exploitable underclass available to be pushed around, kept down, kept out, and kept incarcerated; then that is evidence that government policies are fulfilling their intended function, not a failure of them. Take it from Adam Smith — he knew what he was talking about.

  7. Good Morning

    “@InsidersABC: And a pretty awesome Talking Pics this week, if we do say so ourselves. @mpbowers joined by Speaker Anna Burke #eyeroll #ORDER #Insiders”

  8. There was an extended exchange on the last thread between resident reactionaries, Sean Tisme and CompactCrank on the one hand and pretty much everyone else on the other about the benefits of electronic voting using mobile phones/the internet.

    Let me say that without endorsing Sean’s mobile phone proposal, I see no fundamental practical problem with the integrity of e-voting. It’s technically feasible. It would probably be much more expensive to administer than what we do now, especially if the parallel option of purely paper voting were maintained.

    There would be some potential benefits of a standing e-voting system that aren’t available as things stand. For a start, there’s the possibility of tailoring voting to the needs of the sight or hearing impaired, or those who are NESB. One could also poll people on matters of public policy at low marginal cost between elections, and get them more involved in real-time feedback on policy options that could put a cost on political grandstanding. Imagine being able to nip down to your shopping centre or bank or post office and give your opinion on gay marriage or the Afghan occupation or asylum seeker policy. The government could explore the salient knowledge people bring to their policy so that the public as a whole could set “public opinion” and voting within a suitable cognitive competency context. One could find out why people were voting as they did. Gaps in knowledge could be identified and public education could be developed.

    None of this is possible at close to acceptable cost under our current system and IMO, that is a sufficient reason for doing something else, even if it does cost a lot more money. Our system essentially amounts to a plutocratic plebiscitary dictatorship rather than substantive demcoracy.

  9. Morning all. This article on indigenous students funding linked to Gonski is interesting.
    [Figures to be released on Sunday show a special ”indigenous loading” under the plan will mean an average of $30,000 in extra funding for each of an estimated 200,000 indigenous students over a six-year transition to a new funding model.]

    There has been very little detail given about where the Gonski money is going and I think this explains why. A lot is intended to improve the appallingly low standard of indigenous schooling, where the students make up a large chunk of the lowest performing cohort, with many not attending. I wish Labor had been clearer in this from the start. It is not really about improving all schools, but about improving the worst schools. That is a valid policy objective, but needs to be explained and sold to the electorate, not snuck through hoping nobody will notice.

    That being said, I do have a concern. Indigenous schooling is a disaster because of social problems in those communities, not lack of effort by the teachers. Other interventions are needed too. Are we sure this will fix the problem?

  10. The Victorian Liberals give away the worst kept secret in politics.
    [State Liberals have launched a push ahead of the election to sell the public broadcasters, arguing the funds raised should be used to pay off government debt.
    The Victorian Liberal Party’s state conference this weekend will vote on a motion urging the federal Coalition to make a full-scale ”operational review” of the ABC and SBS to ”look at the feasibility of partial or full privatisation of both”.]

    I am strongly opposed to the privatisation, but I fear many of the masses will not care. I expect Australia Post would also be in the coalition’s sights.

  11. What should be a compliment to the Gillard government is that they have kept wilkie out of the spotlight lately

    Wilkie was all huff and puff that he was watching the government closely, and if they have not shown they are governing he will support or bring a motion on himself

    I guess since Wilkie is quiet the Gillard government has shown him it is the only party which is capable of running this country

  12. ….. neat Fran. feedback for cons ? Er, Unicorn !
    ……watch’em start backing off.
    ( ‘course, they’ll lie anyways.)

  13. Al Dente

    I heard a great interview with J.K. Galbraith talking about his work in the aftermath of WWII. He explained how the post war adoption of welfare state policies was not done for the benefit of the poor but in an effort to protect the “elites”, especially those in Europe. The idea being that by not letting people fall into great poverty as happened in the Great Depression extreme parties, left or right, would not gain traction. Something that ended up causing tremendous destruction of their wealth, virtually total behind the iron curtain.


    please read all
    =======================================================See what this means? The Libs keep saying the problem is Labor’s unrestrained spending but, in fact, it’s almost all on the tax side. The tax weakness arises overwhelmingly from Costello’s eight delivered or promised tax cuts. Swan’s main failings were to actually deliver the last three of those cuts and to not restore the indexation of petrol excise

    Read more:

    my comment , this bit stood out for me but read all

  15. mequire

    take a look at Jane Austins web page,,, the labor lady standing in Denison.

    she has great credentials,
    and from what I hear is doing very well , she started working on the campaign In jan, and has knocked on many doors, had street stalls meeting people in the suburbs,
    as they walk by to shop.
    lots of great photos on her face book

    and I hoping the seat will be returned to labor,

  16. soc, I don’t think the abc sell would be a winner at all’
    may be a small percentage, who for bogan reasons on their own, think the abc is old fashioned over the hill and
    only for old people.
    I think that changed with triple JJJ, I think Mr Hill may have been MD then, I thought he was a great MD.
    from what I see in my own family triple JJJ led them to the next faze in their abc listening habits.

    with good ideas the abc can be bought back from the brink.
    of repeats and programs that don’t seem to fit.
    but I feel personally that abc 24 should go, its offers not much at all, if there is an emergency and we need to talk about news all day, then the abc one can just cut its scheduled programs.

    I still think the average aust, sees the abc as theirs.
    it also is there to give warning in times of emergency and
    do school of the air, and the overseas area that broadcasts to the Asian area.

    regional radio is very important to many people.
    and NO adds.

  17. one more question,

    the article that puff has highlighted
    re that awful picture of tony abbott, what is
    the media telling ,
    I am rather confused, .when I read it seemed to say good things and bad things,

    the table is confusing,

    in a nut shell , what it saying

  18. Pontificating Paul Kelly trying his hardest to nail Garrett and showing his true colours at the same time.
    If only Opposition shadows were to get the same inquisitorial treatment!

  19. Al Dente, poroti

    My compliments on your excellent points. There are more such examples. State pensions were first introduced by Prussian chancellor Otto von Bismarck as a means of countering the risng popularity of communism at the time. The age of 65 was set at a time when male life expectancy was still under 60, so in reality few ever collected their pension.

    Al Dente

    I have a more sympathetic view of Smith, but agree e is one of the most misquoted figures in history, with deliberate selectivity. Another two of my favourites are this one on the importance of equity
    [What improves the circumstances of the greater part can never be regarded as an inconveniency to the whole. No society can surely be flourishing and happy, of which the far greater part of the members are poor and miserable.]
    And this one on the importance of justice:
    [If [justice] is removed, the great, the immense fabric of human society, that fabric which to raise and support seems in this world if I may say so has the peculiar and darling care of Nature, must in a moment crumble into atoms.]
    Smith was a moral philosopher, and a goos one. I suspect very few economists have ever bothered reading his Theory of Moral Sentiments.

  20. My say

    I think the problem is that things like Triple j will continue under private hands, because they rate well. Our concern is not with those services, but with the loss of independence on news and political reporting. The trouble is, most young people in my recent experience are very disengaged from politics, and so will not care about that.

  21. Was just on Twitter saw their suggestions who I should follow, someone has a macabre sense of humour at twitter 😀

    Cory Bernardi ‏ Verified account @corybernardi
    Followed by Jason Hand and others

    Hon Bob Katter MP ‏ Verified account @RealBobKatter

    Exposing Labors Dirt ‏ @Fixingthejoint

  22. Abbott’s Losers
    Clever way to break up Abbott’s Losers into two categories – “Couples with Kids” and “Single Parents” – in other words if you have kids involved in your household, you lose.

    Notice also that the earnings categories are not the same. The various rows of the table have different salary values. There’s probably a story there, too.

    Anyway I have patented “Abbott’s Losers” as the new Labor slogan. Should be a winner.

  23. You may be surprised to find that the electorate would be happy to pay a dollar a day to be rid of Gillard.

  24. I don’t think so.

    They think they’ve worked out a way of gaming the system t=so that OTHERS lose, but not them.

    Labor’s job is to punch holes in that bubble.

  25. Morning all – I was wondering if there could be a similar ban on spruking the Libs odds of winning the election on current affairs programs.

  26. Morning all. What a gorgeous morning in paradise, and to top it off the gorgeous Andrew Probyn is occupying my living room. 😀

  27. [Mod Lib
    Posted Sunday, May 26, 2013 at 9:25 am | PERMALINK
    You may be surprised to find that the electorate would be happy to pay a dollar a day to be rid of Gillard.]

    Ha Ha enjoy yourself over in Europe Mod and after seeing what has happened over there I am sure you will happily pay extra money to Keep the PM here, a vote for ALP in September will suffice as a down payment though 😀

  28. So LNP MPs are attending a rally organised by a website called ‘Stop these things’? Seriously? What a joke.

    Oh and in the Sydney Morning Herald today, suggestions that there will be a development plan for the Botanical Gardens…. A development plan? For the gardens? That’s outrageous.

    I think we’re entering Monty Python territory here

  29. Hmmm…we are spending a billion dollars to try to figure out what submarines to buy. Yep.

    We are spending one and a half billion dollars a year to keep three or so boats operational.

    The only way to avoid a capability gap is to stretch the Collins beyond their use-by date…and we already spend one and a half billion dollars a year to keep them operational as it is.

    We are about to spend up to one billion on some shore-based submarine-related infrastructure which is not needed by our operational boats.

    We intend to build the submarines in Adelaide at around three-to-four times the cost of buying off-the-shelf built overseas.

    The result of this profligacy will be twofold – we will end up at any one time with fewer operational submarines than the White Paper says we need. Our defence readiness is compromised and will be compromised for half a century to come.

    Foreign-owned armaments companies are creaming us.

    Adelaide is a sheltered workshop heavily subsidised by the rest of Australia.

    Our defence is compromised.

    Gillard wants this. So does Abbott.

  30. The trouble with comparing “budgets” is that the Coalition hasn’t provided a budget.

    Abbott provided a lot more detail than LOTO usually provide, but there is plenty of wriggle room to provide additional benefits between now and Sep 14th given they have been “cutting to the bone” and still have a double digit lead.

  31. ST in his rants about electronic voting put on a display of his arrogance and lack of knowledge of anything outside his little world.

    ST – Go to a POLLING BOOTH is you are an undriving, internet-free, mobile phone devoid MORON.

    Your opinion is that anyone who;
    a) doesn’t have a drvers licence
    b) doesn’t have the internet
    c) does not have a mobile phone
    – is a moron

    Perhaps you should take a trip out to some of the remote aboriginal communities (and I can help you out there)or visit an old people’s home and tell the people that live in these places they are “morons”.

  32. [Probyn belling the cat on Abbott’s promise to reduce electricity and gas prices.]

    He is simply saying what is common sense. Does anyone really expect electricity prices to fall?

  33. All this palaver around carbon pricing on Insiders is pointless.

    The simple way to get your electricity prices down is to use LESS ELECTRICITY.

    Ours was down 30.1% on last year’s consumption for the same period (and 35% down on the actual invoice value).

    And last year’s was down 28% on the previous year’s.

    Total = 58% reduction on consumption in 24 months, and a 45% reduction in the money value of the bill over the same period.

    We notice no change in our lifestyle.

  34. MikeHilliard: “I was wondering if there could be a similar ban on spruking the Libs odds of winning the election on current affairs programs.”

    Never mind that…

    Voters shouldn’t be allowed to bet on election outcomes for the same reason that jockeys shouldn’t bet on their own races and footballers shouldn’t bet on their own matches.

    And anybody who writes or speaks on political topics in the MSM should declare if they have taken a plunge, which party they’ve plunged on, and the odds they got.

  35. Soc/poroti

    Exactly so.

    I once heard a high ranking policeman from the US interviewed on ABC radio. He said that, initially, he was shocked at the generousity of our welfare system – and then he looked at the crime stats.

    If you’re driven to desperate measures to feed your family – or to feed your drug habit – who are you going to target? Poor people or rich ones?

    Rich people paying taxes to stop poor people getting desperate buy themselves far more security than the same amount of money spent on gated communities, alarm systems, and other security measures. And they can move freely around the community without fear. (Whilst in the US whole novels are based on the consequences of taking the wrong ramp off the freeway….)

    Any sensible conservative would see welfare as a very cheap option.

  36. cannot for the life of me
    understand why liberals, just say senceless things,

    so are you saying I would be glad to lose 200 a fornight off my pension,

    the lady I spoke to yesterday some one who has voted liberal all her life she confessed.

    agreed with me that she would be rather foolish to vote

    away her pension

    I would suggest to you that 200 over fourteen days is a little more than one dollar a day

  37. LOTO detail – what a laugh.

    I/R – no detail on his plans, Wait until after we are elected and we will have the Productivity Commission do a review.

    Direct Action – we have a plan but dont know quite what it is so after the election we will consult and decide. But we have reduced the funding from $3.2billion to $2billion so any plan will need to fit that budget

    GST – we are hiding behind the states because if we say anything about our real plan it will not bode well in the election. So we will let the states run with the idea that GST needs to chnage and then we can just say – “it wasn’t us, it was the states”. To assist them we will set up a Commission of Audit with Costello at the helm

  38. Savva shows the absence of any value in having partisans on the Insiders panel. All they do is stick to their team’s talking points and won’t be swayed by any evidence to the contrary.

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