Seat of the week: Lyons

The central Tasmanian electorate of Lyons covers some of the poorest and least ethnically diverse territory in the country, and it recorded the nation’s biggest anti-Labor swing at the 2013 election.

Known prior to 1983 as Wilmot, Lyons covers what’s left over of Tasmania after the north-west coast (Braddon), north-east coast (Bass), central Hobart (Denison) and Hobart’s outskirts (Franklin) are ordered into natural communities of interest. It thus includes small towns on either side of Tasmania’s pronounced north-south divide, including New Norfolk outside Hobart and the southern outskirts of Launceston, along with fishing towns and tourist centres on the east coast and rural territory in between, together with a short stretch of the northern coast between Braddon and Bass at Port Sorell. According to the 2011 census, Lyons has the lowest proportion of non-English speakers of any electorate in the country, along with the second lowest proportion of people who finished high school and the sixth lowest median family income. The Liberals gained the seat in 2013 on the back of the election’s biggest swing, which converted an existing Labor margin of 11.9% into a Liberal margin of 1.2%.

Blue and red numbers respectively indicate size of two-party majorities for Liberal and Labor. Click for larger image. Map boundaries courtesy of Ben Raue at The Tally Room.

Wilmot was in conservative hands from 1901 to 1929, when it was won for Labor by the man whose name it now bears. Joseph Lyons had been Tasmania’s Premier until the defeat of his minority government in 1928, and upon entering federal parliament he assumed the position of Postmaster-General in the newly elected government of Jim Scullin. However, Lyons and his followers split from Labor in 1931 after a dispute over economic policy in response to the Depression. Joining with the opposition to become the leader of the new conservative United Australia Party, Lyons became Prime Minister after a landslide win at the election held the following December, retaining the position through two further election victories until his death in 1939.

Labor briefly resumed its hold on Wilmot after the by-election that followed Lyons’ death, but Allan Guy recovered it for the United Australia Party at the general election of 1940. It next changed hands at the 1946 election when Labor’s Gil Duthie unseated Guy against the trend of a national swing to the newly formed Liberal Party. Duthie went on to hold the seat for nearly three decades, until all five Tasmanian seats went from Labor to Liberal in 1975. The 9.9% swing that delivered the seat to Max Burr in 1975 was cemented by an 8.0% swing at the next election in 1977, and the Franklin dam issue ensured the entire state remained on side with the Liberals in 1983 and 1984. The realignment when Burr retired at the 1993 election, when the loss of Burr’s personal vote combined with the statewide backlash against John Hewson’s proposed goods and services tax delivered a decisive 5.6% swing to Labor.

Labor’s member for the next two decades was Dick Adams, a former state government minister who had lost his seat in 1982. Adams survived a swing in 1996 before piling 9.3% on to his margin in 1998, enough of a buffer to survive a small swing in 2001 and a large one in 2004, as northern Tasmania reacted against Labor forestry policies which Adams had bitterly opposed. Strong successive performances in 2007 and 2010 left Adams with what appeared to be a secure buffer, but this proved illusory in the face of a swing in 2013 that reached double figures in all but a handful of the electorate’s booths, and in several cases topped 20%. The victorious Liberal candidate was Eric Hutchinson, a wool marketer with Tasmanian agribusiness company Roberts Limited, who had also run in 2010.

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.

1,035 comments on “Seat of the week: Lyons”

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  1. [“After his own book, countless reports and hundreds of interviews about him, John Winston Howard remains largely unexplained,” she says.

    “What is it about the make-up of Howard that made him the second-longest-serving prime minister in our history?

    “How did he achieve stunning success over a 33-year-long career when most elite opinion predicted he would fail?’’

    And if you were wondering at all why the ABC didn’t think the interviews were worth buying, that little exerpt tells you all you need to know.

    crikey whitey

    from personal experience, you must always put yourself first. While you’re there trying to make things right, you get lent on. Conversely, when you make it clear that the possibility you may not be there is very real, and whilst you’re supportive you’re not going to take responsibility for ‘fixing’ anything, it seems to act as a bit of a wake up call.

    Of course, what ‘worked’ for me may not for you.

  2. psyclaw:

    [Pointing out how you went 180 degrees on an issue in a couple of hours, is hardly “pitching a fit”.]

    Notwithstanding what you think you may have been pointing out, it was the personal characterisations of me, wholly untrue, and intended by you to be deliberately inflammatory which I was referring to. As I’m sure you well know.

  3. Emma Alberici makes us realize what we’ve lost***. In doing so, she shows her true colors on Carbon abatement.

    Emma doesn’t think anything works, and that anyone who proposes anything is crazy, although the science “seems” to indicate we should be doing something.

    Very densely written, a bit overwhelming for early mornings, full of long paragraphs and cryptic references to Jedi Knights.

    I’m sure it’s clever and insightful.

    (***Bring back Annabel Crabbe!)

  4. CW
    Given that Channel 7 is picking up the Howard Albrechtson bumpf that ABC could say that it is merely honouring the mandate all right-thinking people attest for public service not to do what business can profit from. The Alan Jones book was something of a precedent in this after all.

  5. Bw

    [First Sea Lord Admiral Georgio (sleeps with the fishes) Zabaglioni said the ship was “fit for a Queen”]


  6. After all the argey-bargey and all the shouting and hysteria, the single most effective measure against carbon emissions has been Tony Abbott’s scare campaign on the Carbon Tax, along with the “pole and wires” rort keeping prices high.

    It’s ironic that Abbott, in prosthelytizing, indeed running a panic campaign against using price signals as a way of reducing emissions has actually proved the point.

    Emma doesn’t mention that. In fact she hardly mentions anything to do with the Coalition’s policies at all, preferring to depict Labor, the Greens and Palmer as the weirdos.

  7. BB

    A prerequisite for the Crab fillers must be keep it light & silly so Annabel feels at home when she gets back

  8. Thanks for the links BK. From the one on Chiefs of Staff is this snippet:

    David Epstein explains Kevin Rudd’s early frustration with the public service when the head of PM&C was “unavailable” during Labor’s transition to government in 2007: “It was the most disappointing thing about sitting down with PM&C – how little preparation had been done on [the transition]. Peter Shergold had told me he was going to move on. He didn’t quite tell me that he had booked a holiday to the US with his daughter, which was really unhelpful.”

    Read more:

    Shergold has frequently been held up as the ultimate senior bureaucrat, someone who wholly embraces the APS values of non-partisan, serving of the govt of the day. If it’s true that his own dept was unprepared for a transition to a new govt, then that’s pretty slack on his part.

  9. I googled ‘The Economist’ article Alberici refers to. Interestingly, it concludes —

    [Instead of tinkering with the renewables targets, Europeans need to scrap them, and to get serious about the carbon market.]

    The main flaws that article identifies are ones which I believe are fixed under the Australian scheme.

    Interesting how snarky Alberici is about the ETS, but Direct Action is merely described —

    [$2.55 billion will be available through the carbon farming initiative that awards those on the land for efforts in revegetation and reforestation. Under the scheme, Australia’s 120 or so biggest polluters will also have their emissions capped and be required to buy carbon credits in order to remain under the limit. The Climate Change Authority has recommended the cheapest way to do that is to look at eligible projects overseas..]

    She doesn’t even mention that the government has always rejected the CCA recommendation…

    [The Business Council of Australia and the Australian Industry Group prefer projects that increase energy efficiency at local mines or in the domestic transport sector. Some still believe that technology that captures and stores emissions deep underground is a worthwhile investment. Carbon capture and storage was supposed to help keep the climate clean while also preserving profits for the world’s big miners.]

    Again, nowhere near the sceptism she displays towards the ETS. A lot of ‘some believes’ and ‘supposed’ but not the kind of definitive statements she made before.

    As BB says, it’s kind of hard to tell what Alberici wants, but it seems to be investment in renewables – which ‘The Economist’ article she cites as an authority sees as less efficient than a market based solution.

    Read more:

    All in all, Alberici has written a piece to try and sound authorative but doesn’t appear to have done the hard thinking necessary to pull it off.

  10. [BB

    A prerequisite for the Crab fillers must be keep it light & silly so Annabel feels at home when she gets back]

    Therein lies the problem with the article, Sceptic. IT is both silly and dense at the same time.

    Emma is trying to reach a sophisticated audience by using facts and figures, plus that dismissive style she adopts when she loses patience with obvious crackpots like the head of the UK Climate Authority.

    The “facts” pour out of her keyboard like a swarm of bees from a hive. She throws them down onthe table as if simple everybody knows the whole Climate industry is a scam run by do-gooders and muddle-headed wannabees.

    At the same time she tries to “sex it up” a little with a tortuously extended metaphor about Jedi Knights and intergalactic aliens who have (apparently) invaded Canberra.

    Then she mixes these two ingredients together into a blancmange of dense paragraphs and overwhelming certainty in the correctness of her own opinion, as if you’d just have to be a complete idiot not to agree with her.

    She clearly thinks she’s generated both comedy and political gold, in one brilliant piece. Keep ’em laughing and wallop ’em with the truth.

    Sadly, she achieves neither goal.

  11. zoomster

    [Interesting how snarky Alberici is about the ETS, but Direct Action is merely described ]
    Pretty much how Senator X came across last week/

  12. ‘fess

    [as the ultimate senior bureaucrat, someone who wholly embraces the APS values of non-partisan, serving of the govt of the day.]

    He was also ‘Commissioner of the APS’ at one point (A position separate from the Secretary of PM&C).

    It’s a proven failed ‘experiment’. The Poms are experiencing the same now. When Gus O’Donnell (aka ‘GOD’) chucked it in they split his role in three.

    One of those was ‘Head of the Home Civil Service’ and was given to someone else who was also running another department – it has not worked out.

    The Civil Service only take notice of Jeremy Heywood (Cabinet Secretary) despite the official arrangement. That’s how the tone (if I can use that word!) is set.

    Shergold always seen as partisan.

  13. CTar1

    I likedthe explanation as to why it was built.

    [ Lord Zabaglioni replied, “We only construct these ships to show the world we still wield a big stick – a stick so big, in fact, that it swings as we walk and knocks painfully against our knees.]

  14. There does seem to be an underlying assumption when discussing the woes of the EU scheme that noone else has noticed them.

    In fact, the problems with the EU scheme were recognised long ago, well before Australia sat down and began drafting theirs, and our scheme takes these into account.

    Yes, the Australian permits will be tradeable on the European market. But that doesn’t mean that the elements which undermine the European market at the moment – the abundance of free permits, lack of caps etc – apply to our scheme.

    Under Australia’s scheme, there are fewer free permits, for starters. Secondly, the number of permits a company has to buy is set domestically and according to the need to reduce emissions.

  15. Clive Palmer disturbs the Media. They are ultimately… SO conservative.

    They prefer a nice Labor/Liberal split with some ditsy Greens or Democrats on the side for the odd sparky moment where they can write their “color” pieces in the Sunday tabloids, to show their capacity for wit.

    Anything at all that defies their cosy understanding of how politics works is dismissed with plonking cynicism.

    Hence we got, on every day of last week, the smug assurances that today would be the day twhere they could show the footage of Abbott glad-handing himself as finally and at last the Carbon Tax was repealed.

    And on every single day, they were dead wrong.

    Who did they blame for the government’s inability to get its stated election, showpiece reform through? Who failed the “negotiation” test? Who stuffed up the Standing Orders and tried to put over a swifty? Who broke the traditions and failed utterly in doing so?

    Why… Clive Palmer of course!

    Clive is partly to blame for it, it must be said. He portrays himself as a rollicking type of breezy oddball, a bit naive in the arcane ways of the Senate. He doesn’t use the right words (he criticises Rupert Murdoch shamelessly, for one thing… Oh my God!) and he’s fat. Ripe material for lampooning.

    But so far Clive has hornswaggled them all. He’s had both the Coalition and the Media running around like headless chooks. HE’s made fools of them and – more importantly – he’s got his way out of all of it.

    Ergo: Clive Must Be Destroyed.

  16. CTar:

    There was a time we had a Dept of Administrative Affairs as well. Not sure what happened to that porftolio.

  17. BB


    A Canberra girl.

    It’s still a country town in many ways so you know people who know ‘stuff’.

    And they are ‘opinionated’.

  18. Dennis Atkins on Insiders blames Clive Palmer for continuallu changing his amendments, without referencing the fact that he wouldn’t be in so much of a rush if Abbott hadn’t decided to grandstand his repeal on Day #1 of the sitting.

  19. Well the Insiders are of the view that last week was all Palmer’s fault.

    Never mind that Abbott shot himself in the foot by practically bullying the Senate into passing their bills.

  20. An insight to Rupes mind, in a clip of an interview with Paul “Editor at Large” Kelly . In an answer about a question of how ‘Straya is going he said “We (Australia) were given our freedom . America had to fight for it. That is an important difference” . He edto think that made us a bit soft and a bit used to getting things without a struggle.
    Nothing like killing a lot of people to make something worthwhile eh Rupe ?

  21. Savva seems quite circumspect this morning on Insiders.

    Why is Abbott’s speaking voice like that of a 14 year old high school debater?

  22. Poroti

    [We only construct these ships to show the world we still wield a big stick]

    That may be so.

    But the RN, unlike others, was the most recent to prove themselves in the most difficult of circumstances – putting an assault force ashore (Falklands. Hand-clap for Commodore Michael Clapp RN).

    The USN and US Govt didn’t believe it could be done.

    Two ACC’s with poor prospects of having A/C now are getting a bit out there.

  23. Bushfire Bill

    The high pitch speaking voice at times during the last sitting really surprised me. Had not heard it before. Where has he been hiding it ? Perhaps he has been on estrogen to suppress his inner wall puncher 🙂

  24. Shorten on Abbott from this interview: arrogant, delusional, hysterical, can’t negotiate, chaotic.

    Love it.

  25. To those who want Bill Shorten to turn into a raving banshee in Parliament and elsewhere, take a llok at him on Insiders.

    He presents as the only sane one there.

  26. Andrew Robb cracks the joke of the week on PvO . He just claimed that “the guilty party” ( Labor) went to the election with the promise that meant $550 to families.His logic being that Labor went to the election promising to get rid of the “carbon tax”.

  27. ‘fess

    [Not sure what happened to that porftolio.]

    It was not running the show. It included things like managing the Govt’s real estate and Parliamentary Allowances.

    JWH developed a severe ‘hard on’ (am I permitted to say this on here?) for DAS after the ‘Travel Rort’s’ caper.

    It was ‘abolished’ and lots of useful bits sold off in the ‘usually’ no idea way (It had a component of people who where ‘foremen’ like Tradesmen/Women who could have sorted Pink Bats out … but the expertise gone).

  28. Shorten brilliant on Insiders this morning. He nailed every question. Provided lots of grabs for future recycling. Projected calm and confidence.

    He couldn’t possibly have performed any better IMO.

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