Seat of the week: Denison

With a state election looming on the horizon, Seat of the Week turns its gaze to Tasmania.

Held since the 2010 election by independent Andrew Wilkie, Denison encompasses Hobart along the western shore of the Derwent River and the hinterland beyond, with the eastern shore Hobart suburbs and southern outskirts township of Kingston accommodated by Franklin. Like all of Tasmania’s electorates, Denison has been little changed since Tasmania was divided into single-member electorates in 1903, with the state’s representation consistently set at the constitutional minimum of five electorates per state.

Grey and red numbers respectively indicate booths with two-party majorities for Andrew Wilkie and Labor. Click for larger image. Map boundaries courtesy of Ben Raue at The Tally Room.

Prior to 2010 the seat was presumed to be safe for Labor, notwithstanding the local strength of the Greens. Labor’s first win in Denison came with their first parliamentary majority at the 1910 election, but the seat was lost to the 1917 split when incumbent William Laird Smith joined Billy Hughes in the Nationalist Party. Over subsequent decades it was fiercely contested, 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.

Denison was held through the Fraser years by former state MP Michael Hodgman, who joined his four Tasmanian Liberal colleagues in picking up a swing against the trend of the 1983 election due to local anger over the Franklin dam issue. However, Hodgman’s margin wore away over the next two elections, and he was defeated in 1987 by Labor’s Duncan Kerr. Hodgman returned as a state member for Denison in 1992 before eventually bowing out due to poor health in 2010 (he died in June 2013). His son, Will Hodgman, is the state’s current Liberal Opposition Leader.

The drift to Labor evident in 1984 and 1987 was maintained during Kerr’s tenure, giving him consistent double-digit margins starting from 1993. In this he was substantially assisted by preferences from the emerging Greens. The preselection which followed Kerr’s retirement in 2010 kept the endorsement in the Left faction with the nomination 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, who had come to national attention in 2003 when he resigned as an intelligence officer with the Office of National Assessments officer 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 candidate for Denison at the state election in 2010, falling narrowly short of winning one of the five seats with 9.0% of the vote.

Wilkie acheived his win in 2010 with just 21.2% of the primary vote, crucially giving him a lead over the Greens candidate 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 1.2% ahead of Labor, which had lost the personal vote of its long-term sitting member Duncan Kerr. This left Wilkie among a cross bench of five members in the first hung parliament since World War II.

Wilkie declared himself open to negotiation with both parties as they sought to piece together a majority, which the Liberals took 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 from the Liberals that his approach was insincere.

The deal Wilkie reached 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. When the government’s numbers improved slightly after Peter Slipper took the Speaker’s chair, the government retreated from the commitment. Wilkie responded by withdrawing his formal support for the government, although it never appeared likely that he would use his vote to bring it down.

Wilkie was comfortably re-elected at the 2013 election with 38.1% of the primary vote, despite an aggressive Labor campaign that included putting him behind the Liberals on how-to-vote cards. Both Labor (down from 35.8% to 24.8%) and the Greens (down from 19.0% to 7.9%) recorded double-digit drops, and most of the northern suburbs booths which had stayed with Labor in 2010 were won by Wilkie. His final margin over Labor after preferences was up from 1.2% to 15.5%, while the Labor-versus-Liberal two-party preferred count recorded a 6.9% swing to the Liberals and a Labor margin of 8.9%.

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.

775 comments on “Seat of the week: Denison”

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  1. Tism

    Mungo was unhinged in 1970, that’s why people have been reading his stuff ever since. Where is the Nation Review, :sigh: .

  2. Considering the weather talk this morning, it was foggy when I went to work this morning, which I can’t say I can remember seeing much of in summer and now it’s this dry heat in the late morning/afternoon. Weird.

  3. Bemused,

    Yes, there was a tremor apparently. But it was apparently quite brief. More importantly I didn’t feel it at work a few suburbs over and there’s nothing on facebook 😛

    I was talking to mum about some accident over the Maroondah Highway level crossing in Lilydale and she thought what shook the house might have been related to that (a mighty powerful collision if it was, but anyway). I relate your report and she was surprised, as tremors are usually longer and more powerful. Where’d you find the report?

  4. Only Abbott could plummet the LNP vote so quickly. Can’t see it improving greatly while he leads them. Keep up the good work Tone.

  5. I have to say I don’t have very high opinions of the other capitals compared to my own. I love Melbourne and enjoy going to the city when I can. Sydney, I, inexplicably, just don’t like the feel of it. It’s the kind of gut dislike I took to Paris. It was touristy and in-your-face and unhomely.

    Adelaide was homely, but empty. The suburbs were empty and the city was empty. The only lively spot was Glenelg. Geelong is busier. Perth I haven’t been to but a friend of mine who came from there told me the largest shopping centre they had was the size of Broadmeadows shopping centre (not necessarily a bad thing though. Hobart I can’t remember too much of but seemed okay. Highly biased and probably insulting, but anyway. “Marvelous Melbourne” is probably something that is indoctrinated into children at school 😛

  6. Bugler@704


    Yes, there was a tremor apparently. But it was apparently quite brief. More importantly I didn’t feel it at work a few suburbs over and there’s nothing on facebook

    I was talking to mum about some accident over the Maroondah Highway level crossing in Lilydale and she thought what shook the house might have been related to that (a mighty powerful collision if it was, but anyway). I relate your report and she was surprised, as tremors are usually longer and more powerful. Where’d you find the report?

    It was reported on ABC radio and the Age had it in their “Just In” section.

    I felt it and so did the wife, but she did not identify it as an earth tremor. What I felt was quite prolonged without any real peak like I have felt with previous ones.

    I live close to the Glen Waverley railway line and occasionally feel a bit of vibration from that but this was a bit stronger.

  7. CTar1,

    Lilydale’s not that bad (if you’re not familiar with the eastern suburbs, Lilydale’s pretty much the last real suburb in the east, as Warburton and Healesville are a bit isolated) train services are terribly frequent (bane of my life). The bad ones in Mitcham and Springvale are being removed as we speak, to be completed in I think March. There’s one in Laburnum they’re considering… in the inner-city they are pretty aweful though. The one on Bell St looks painful in peak times.

    The accident may have been a suicide though 🙁

  8. CTar1@706


    The railway level crossings are a disgrace in city areas.

    Don’t get me started…

    But since you mention it I strongly agree. Sydney has almost completely got rid of its, the last major one I can remember was in Woodville Rd, Villawood and that was replaced in the 1970s.

    Melbourne has been getting rid of a few lately, but I think the priorities are sub-optimal, the pace way too slow, and the future planning limited.

    Opportunities such as when the Monash Freeway was built have been missed. There are several level crossings right beside that freeway which should have been dropped down below the roads just like the freeway was. 😡

  9. I’ll stop being coy as to my whereabouts as it’s not particularly dangerous people know the towns I’m from 😛 .

    We moved from Wandin to Croydon so were apparently right on top of it, though I was at work

  10. This visitor loved the food, too.

    [Since returning to Canada, I have been dying for a flat white, which is an Australian invention and my coffee drink of choice Down Under. If you ask a barista here for a flat white, they look at you blankly until you order a triple short no-foam latte, which is as close a substitute as I can find, but which doesn’t come close to the real deal. First-world problems, right?]

  11. Or maybe not:

    [The magnitude 2.7 earth tremor hit Melbourne’s east with the epicentre believed to have been near Ferntree Gully.
    A Kallista resident said she felt her house shake violently just before 4pm and that the tremor had left a crack in the ceiling of one room.

    The woman, a native of Christchurch and no stranger to earthquakes, said: It sounded like a steam train coming through. It didn’t go for long but at the end there was a loud bang, which made me jump.”
    Geoscience Australia seismologist David Jepsen said the quake lasted a few seconds just before 4pm and was a magnitude 2.7-2.8 tremor.

    He said the quake’s epicentre occurred 25km east of Melbourne, and residents within 20km of the tremor could have felt or heard the quake.]

  12. I was highly disappointed to hear Newcastle Knights coach Wayne Bennett defend player a player who punched an innocent victim almost to death. The “duty of care” defence is nonsense, as Bennett, a former policeman, should know. There would be ample “character” grounds to cancel the contract. Change.Org has started a petition:
    [NRL player Russell Packer punched a 22 year-old repeatedly in the side of the head until he was motionless on the ground, then he stomped on his head leaving his victim with a fractured skull, fighting for his life.
    This week he was sentenced to two years jail for his disgusting alcohol-fuelled violence against an innocent victim — yet the Newcastle Knights are refusing to sack him, instead saying they owe him a “duty of care”. ]

  13. CTar1,

    I’ve seen one almost happen a few times in Mitcham. The traffic going onto Mitcham Rd banks right back onto the Maroondah Hwy if people aren’t careful. When going to inner-city areas I usually take the train, so can’t comment on some of the worst ones. I know it happens though.

  14. On train crossings: there was a program to remove them in Brisbane in the 1980s. Melbourne and Adelaide are archaic in this respect.

    On a free trade deal with the US – oh no! Does anyone remember how many jobs were lost in the Howard era one? Indeed, if the Howard era one was so good, why do we need another one? What was wrong with it?

    Well, actually…. Farm produce was excluded from the earlier one, which did Australia no good at all. Meanwhile they sell overpriced software and music here, charging us more than almost any other country in the OECD, thanks to regional marketing monopolies. We still have a large trade imbalance with the USA, in their favour.

  15. [Rummel would know… which reminds me. Where is rummel? I think he mentioned that they are also increasingly beset by the Great Walls of Bureaucracy… presumably put up by people who reckon that their careers are in danger if the risks are not assessed properly, things get out of hand and properties are destroyed and/or people are killed.]


  16. lizzie

    [Since returning to Canada, I have been dying for a flat white, which is an Australian invention]

    The Flat White is a true ANZAC effort 🙂

    [Australian food historian, Michael Symons, claims that the name “flat white”, meaning an espresso with milk, originated in Sydney, Australia, in the mid-1980s, in contrast to the terms “short black” and “long black”. The style was developed and standardised in Auckland and Wellington, New Zealand, in the late 1980s. The style was exported to the United Kingdom by expatriates from both New Zealand and Australia in 2005 and by 2010 was being sold in Starbucks franchises in the United Kingdom ]

  17. The Jakarta Post article posted by Victoria shows that there is considerable confusion if not discord between senior Indonesian politicians and officials at this time. This is not unexpected given the jockeying for influence leading up to their elections.

    What is disconcerting from reading the article is that the Howard and Abbott governments appear to listen only to those Indonesian voices that seem to agree with (or not dispute) what they are doing to boat people. If this is actually the case, it indicates that Abbott and Morrison are ignoring the totality of advice that DFAT would be giving the government about Indonesia. Doing so will eventually lead to a serious deterioration in Indon-Oz relations but Abbott probably doesn’t care as his time horizon is extremely limited.

  18. [Did you consider just asking for a super-sized espresso?

    Eventually I asked the waitress who was almost always African American what should I call a coffee with no milk that filled up a normal cup – she looked at my like I was an idiot and with a heavy southern accent suggested that she would call it a black coffee. I don’t think my hotel was fancy enough for expresso. The barman made rose wine by mixing a house red with a house white and made ginger ale by watering down coke with soda water.

  19. WeWantPaul

    Ordering a long black in the US can be a bit tricky]
    Nowhere near as bad as a ciggie smoking team mate of mine in the late 70’s asking one of our US hosts “Have you got a fag I can borrow ? ” . There was a sudden deathly silence amongst our hosts 😆

  20. [Thanks! The system works (sort of, and rather slowly)]

    He would never have played for Newcastle, the NRL had deregistered him. They were just waiting for the sentence to stop lawyer at 20 paces.

  21. Sean Tisme

    Posted Monday, January 13, 2014 at 6:57 pm | Permalink

    Is there a carpenter in the house? The amount of unhingement is seriously becoming a problem

    Just keep taking the medication, I’m sure you will recover

  22. Ruawake

    Thanks again, and glad to hear that. The NRL got it right. I was still appalled by Bennett’s comments. Perhaps he was misquoted.

  23. Sean
    [Is there a carpenter in the house? The amount of unhingement is seriously becoming a problem]
    I applaud your honesty and agree, but it sounds like you need a psychiatrist, not a carpenter.

  24. My body has developed a defensive nervous tic. Every time I sight a post by ST my finger reflexively scrolls past it.
    Do I have a problem?

  25. [My body has developed a defensive nervous tic. Every time I sight a post by ST my finger reflexively scrolls past it.
    Do I have a problem?]

    There is some comedy gold you miss.

  26. So Ken Smith, who reported Geoff Shaw for corruption… is being replaced because Labor decided to get into bed with Geoff Shaw to attack him as speaker?

    Does Vic Labor have NO Shame?! They truly are grubs.

  27. [lizzie

    Since returning to Canada, I have been dying for a flat white, which is an Australian invention

    The Flat White is a true ANZAC effort]

    In China and HK many McDonald’s places have a McCafe (which is also an Australian invention according to Wikipedia).

    The McCafes sell Flat White etc. and also something called Americano which is a short black weakened by a lot of hot water. They also sell lamingtons!

  28. A 3.7 Earthquake on the Richter scale is about. 30 times more powerful than a 2.7. It’s a logarithmic scale that increases 1,000-fold for each two levels. Most people would not feel a 2.7 unless they were in a quiet location and even then they might think it’s a passing truck. A 3.7 would be quite noticeable but would cause little if any damage.

  29. Evening all. Looking forward to the next poll numbers for that “mighty leader”, Tony Abbott. If nothing else, he has proven that criticising is easy, but doing something useful is hard.

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