Tasmanian upper house by-election: Pembroke

Preview of today’s dry run for a Tasmanian state election due in March.

Live counting

# %
Doug Chipman (Independent) 4122 19.7%
Carlo Di Falco (SFF) 645 3.1%
Bill Harvey (Greens) 1964 9.4%
Richard James (Independent) 1538 7.3%
Jo Siejka (Labor) 6802 32.5%
James Walker (Liberal) 5388 25.7%
Hans Willink (Independent) 492 2.3%
Formal 20951
Booths counted on primary (out of 11): 11
Total as % of enrolment: 65.4%


9pm. Labor’s Jo Siejka has romped home in the provisional preference distribution with a winning margin of 11,709 to 8674, or 7.4%. The TEC has also published a Labor-versus-Chipman throw in which the winning margin is 2.4%. For that to take effect, Chipman will have to close a 200 vote deficit against Liberal candidate James Walker to make the final count, but the maximum possible number of outstanding postals is only 394.

4.50pm. There turns out to be not much in it between Chipman and the Liberal at the second last exclusion: 6174 to 5974, a margin of 200. I’m not sure about the situation with postals, but it wouldn’t seem likely that the gap is going to close. How Chipman might have done in a final count against Labor will never be known, but he would have needed something like three quarters of all preferences to have won.

4.30pm. Nothing further from the Electoral Commission, but the word on Twitter is that Labor has won comfortably, the surprise packet being Doug Chipman’s preferences, which broke about evenly.

3pm. A preliminary progressive preference count is being published exclusion by exclusion on the Electoral Commission site. So far the two independents and Shooters candidate have been excluded, and slightly more preferences have gone to Labor than Liberal. Still more have gone to Doug Chipman, who now trails the Liberal 5961 to 5311 and needs the distribution of 2387 Greens votes to close the gap – since most will presumably go straight to Labor, this probably isn’t going to happen. That will bring the final count down to Labor and Liberal, with Liberal needing as much as 80% of Chipman’s preferences – and the word from those at the coal face on Twitter is that he’ll barely manage 60% (not allowing for exhaustion, which will raise the bar still higher).


8.41pm. A big hit of 3293 pre-polls, along with 1226 postals, have chipped away further at the Labor primary vote, and slightly improved Chipman’s position. I’ve stopped running the projected totals now, which had pretty much fallen into line with the raw numbers.

8.25pm. Those more in tune with the campaign than I was note that the Liberals ran a negative local campaign against Chipman, apparently suggesting he was too old, and that my presumption that his preferences will flow strongly to them may accordingly not hold.

8.11pm. All booths are now in. I would now rate Liberal candidate James Walker best placed to win if preferences behave as I expect, although they may very well not do.

8.03pm. Tranmere in, leaving one booth outstanding. Labor’s situation continues to worsen, and James Walker of the Liberals now a very strong chance to win the seat if Chipman’s Liberal links indeed portend a good flow of preferences to him.

7.56pm. Lindisfarne Village now in: Labor primary vote looking very soft now, to the point where you might almost favour the Liberal to win. Still flying blind without knowledge of preferences though.

7.52pm. Clarence another good result for the Liberals, who are definitely in the race now. But everything depends on the flow of preferences we don’t yet know anything abou.

7.49pm. Geilston Bay and Lindisfarne in; both weak for Labor, and the former particularly good for Liberal. Looking tougher now for Chipman, and Liberal a threat to Labor if preference flows are good.

7.42pm. Five booths in now with Howrah and Montagu Bay added. Little difference now between raw votes and projections. A complex race: Chipman can overtake the Liberal with good preferences, and then be a show of overtaking Labor. If not, the Liberal will require a very tight flow of preferences from Chipman. Many variables, hard to call.

7.36pm. Bellerive behaves more like Mornington than Warrane. We’re back to the Liberals being slightly ahead of Doug Chipman for second, while the Labor primary remains not quite high enough to keep them out of danger.

7.29pm. Second booth in is Warrane, traditionally a very weak one for the Liberals. Their vote here however is relatively good, and Doug Chipman’s less so. So while Labor now looks to be in a commanding position on the raw vote, this will not be maintained. All told, it’s looking harder now for Chipman to make the final count, and the Liberal candidate has a better chance of winning on his preferences.

7.14pm. Kevin Bonham does not agree the Liberal is out of the race, presumably because he expects a very strong flow of preferences to him from Doug Chipman.

7.06pm. At last, a booth — Mornington, always the smallest. It’s a middling booth in the context of the electorate, so the result is encouraging for Labor. The situation as I read it as that the Liberals are out of the hunt, but Doug Chipman is a good show if he can overtake the Liberals, and preference exhaustion is not too high.

7.00pm. Dum-de-dum.

6.18pm. Apparently we will have to wait for tomorrow for a preference count. Table amended accordingly.

6pm. Polls have closed. As the results come in, the table above will project the results based on the “swing” compared with the booth results at last year’s federal election. I am assuming here that the Labor and Liberal candidates will make the final count (and indeed that there will be a notional preference count conducted under this assumption), but my feeling is that that Doug Chipman’s candidacy makes this far from a foregone conclusion.


Four months out from the likely date of the next state election, Tasmania is to be the scene of a by-election tomorrow for the upper house seat of Pembroke. This has resulted from the resignation of its Liberal member, Vanessa Goodwin, who stepped down as Attorney-General in April after announcing she had been diagnosed with inoperable brain tumours.

Tasmania inverts the normal practice in having a lower house elected by proportional representation and a single-member electorate upper house, with the latter having the further peculiarity of its elections being held over a staggered six-year cycle, with either two or three out of the 15 seats up for election each May. Normally these elections are sedate affairs dominated by independent candidates, particularly for the seats outside Hobart. However, Pembroke, which covers the suburbs of Hobart on the eastern bank of the Derwent River, has unique form as a competitive partisan contest, having been held by both Labor and Liberal members over the past decade.

Pembroke was the only seat in the upper house held by a Liberal from 1991 to 1999, and again from Vanessa Goodwin’s win in 2009 until party colleague Leonie Hiscutt won the north coast seat of Montgomery in 2013. Goodwin won the seat at a by-election held in 2009 after the resignation of Allison Ritchie, who held the seat for Labor from 2001. Such were the Labor government’s dismal stocks at the time that it surrendered the seat at the by-election by declining to field a candidate. Goodwin was comfortably re-elected at the last periodical election in 2013, at which her opponents included Allison Ritchie, this time running as an independent.

The major party candidates at the by-election are James Walker for the Liberals, a podiatrist and Clarence councillor, and Joanna Siejka for Labor, the chief executive of the Youth Network of Tasmania. They face a strong challenge from independent candidate Doug Chipman, the mayor of Clarence and a former state president of the Liberals, who if elected would be in a long tradition of Liberal-aligned independents in the upper house. Also in the field are Richard James, another Clarence concillor and five-times unsuccessful candidate in Pembroke; Bill Harvey of the Greens, who sits on Hobart council (which does not encompass the electorate); independent Hans Willink, a former soldier and policeman and serial unsuccessful election candidate; and Carlo di Falco of Shooters Fishers and Farmers;

As always in matters Tasmanian (and indeed many others), far more comprehensive coverage is available from Kevin Bonham. Live coverage of the count will, as always, unfold here from the closure of polling at 6pm.

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.

24 comments on “Tasmanian upper house by-election: Pembroke”

  1. Although I will happily vote Labor for Pembroke, I can’t help thinking what a tragedy it is that this by-election is necessary. Vanessa Goodwin was competent and well-qualified, and the news of her brain tumours was a terrific shock.

  2. Ultimately the result will come down to which order Chipman, Walker and Siejka are elected in.
    As noted by Dr Bonham, Mornington is a heavily Labor suburb, as is the Risdon Vale area.

  3. Harvey’s preferences will presumably go to Siejka, but Chipman’s preferences would be expected to go to Walker (Chipman was formerly a State Lib president and party member). Long way to go yet..

    Tranmere will go strongly to Lib, but Risdon Vale would go strongly to Siejka I would expect.

  4. If Green preferences split 70-30, the ALP will have a 40-29% lead. Surely that’s too much for the Libs to close down. They’d need over 75% of Chipman’s preferences. Even CDP preferences don’t flow as strongly to the Liberals.

  5. Assuming the one votes non chipman. Split 50/50….give all sff to libs and all grn to labor I get alp 45 lib 33…….with almost 20& chipman to be distributed….libs need 17% of that to win….likely labor win

  6. Exhaustion rates will be key. Labor will be hoping for low exhaustion from the Greens and high from Chipman. Libs want the reverse.

    Doesn’t anybody have any inside dirt from the scrutineers?

  7. Another small party out. Just greens and the big 3 left.

    Most preferences went to the independent this time, and libs still have less preferences than labor.

    Greens excluded next

  8. BUT
    As the EC appreciates -if Chipman is able to overcome Walker on the formal count/late votes then Walker’s preferences will be distributed and presumably Chipman wins
    Standby for Liberal scrutineers contesting their candidates votes

  9. Kevin Bonham‏ @kevinbonham 4m4 minutes ago

    Chipman provisionally out by 200 and the votes to come won’t change that. But even if 2nd Siejka had him by about 1000 anyway. #politas

  10. At the current stage of Tas EC counting (last 3 candidates), the count is this:

    Chipman (Ind): 5,974
    Walker (Lib): 6,174
    Siejka (ALP): 8,929

    It looks like Kevin Bonham has beaten me to the conclusion that Siejka’s got this one in the bag, making Hodgman’s life just that little bit more miserable. A couple of observations:

    1. Chipman’s preferences not going for Walker was quite foreseeable. You can’t run a dirty, nasty campaign against a third candidate – even one whose beliefs align with yours! – and expect their voters to give you their preferences. Punters who stuck with Chipman will, after all, be feeling personally insulted by the Libs’ smear campaign!

    2. The size of the swing is still enough to make any Liberal nervous. From 51% primary vote to 25% is no laughing matter. Three countervailing considerations will be: First, the field was more fractured than in 2013 (7 candidates to 3), second that Tas Labor fielded a candidate this time, and third that there was no Lib incumbent defending the seat. The ease of Siejka’s victory, however, will be raising eyebrows on every Lib strategist paying attention.

  11. I’ve seen scrutineering samples that had Walker to Chipman over Siejka 65:35 but Chipman about even between the two (actually trivially better for Siejka.) The latter was a 500-vote sample, the former smaller and from a Labor booth.

    I can’t seem to sign in today, am I missing something?

  12. Is there a change taking place in Australian politics? This is the second Upper house seat that has traditionally been dominated by independents that has been won by a Labor candidate in the last 6 or so months

  13. Tassie voters have the double whammy of Liberals being in power federally and at state level and none too popular at either. Both the seats picked up have been held by Labor in the not too distant past.

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