Tasmanian upper house elections: Prosser and Hobart

Live count commentary and an overview of today’s elections for two seats in Tasmania’s Legislative Council.

Live counting

Prosser results

#
%
Swing
Jane Howlett (Liberal)
4972
26.1%
-20.0%
Janet Lambert (Labor)
4184
22.0%
-15.8%
Steve Mav (Independent)
3765
19.8%
Tony Mulder (Independent)
1847
9.7%
Others
4288
22.5%
Formal
19056
Booths reporting (out of 27)
27

Sunday night. A few more pre-poll, postal and other votes have been added in Prosser, with no more than 421 votes still outstanding. None of this provides any illumination on what we need to know, which is whether Steve Mav can overtake Labor to finish second, and if he can gain enough preferences to overhaul Jane Howlett if so. We won’t know that until next Tuesday, as the TEC apparently has no plans to conduct an indicative preference throw. In Hobart, it has been determined that Rob Valentine has a 61-39 lead over Richard Griggs after preferences.

8.23pm. Prosser: Not quite as good a result for Mav from 1411 postals, but he’s definitely still in the hunt. Hobart: Only one booth outstanding, and the only point of interest is the size of Rob Valentine’s final winning margin over Richard Griggs.

7.59pm. Prosser: Sorell, one of the electorate’s three large booths, has now reported, and the numbers are exactly those provided to Kevin Bonham.

7.54pm. Kevin Bonham again: “I’ve seen a scrutineering sheet from prepoll with prefs of Mav and Mulder estimated to be 60-70% to Liberal and those of Playsted even.” So Howlett will clearly win if Mav doesn’t make it to second place.

7.51pm. Prosser: The Steve Mav surge continues. Dodges Ferry is added, and it joins Brighton as one of the two particularly large booths from the southern end of the electorate, where Mav has consistently done very well. He’s won Dodges Ferry outright with 31.8% of the vote. There have also been 2290 pre-polls added, and Mav has done respectably there as well. The only outstanding fixed booth is Sorell, where Kevin Bonham tells us Mav should close a further 45 votes on Labor’s Janet Lambert.

7.43pm. Kevin Bonham: “A kind person has sent me the Sorell votes and it’s a 430-430 tie between Mav an Howlett with Lambert on 385. Total formal 1704 and the Mav chariot will advance again.”

7.41pm. Prosser: The Brighton booth is, by a factor of well over two-to-one, the largest booth so far to report — and it’s been won by Steve Mav, who is now hot on Labor’s heels. Could he overhaul them and get ahead of the Liberal on preferences?

7.39pm. Prosser: Levendale added — 86 votes, so not sure what took them so long. Mitchell in comments disputes suggestions the Liberals flooded the field with independents, noting they are almost all serial candidates who would not have needed any prompting.

7.34pm. Hobart: There are now pre-polls and postals added, which have brought Valentine up to 44.4%. Kevin Bonham is calling it for him.

7.33pm. Prosser: Bagdad booth added. Steve Mav’s vote has crept up to the point where he might be considered a possibility if independent votes lock in behind him.

7.25pm. Prosser: Pontville, Campbell Town and Forcett. Steve Mav is doing well in places: he won the Forcett and Pontville booths.

7.14pm. Prosser: Triabunna added. The huge field of candidates would seem to be a pretty handy development from a Liberal perspective, with the anti-major party vote splintering and inhibiting their collective threat to the major parties. I can’t comment on a suggestion in comments that the Liberals are behind the host of independent nominees, but it wouldn’t have been a bad idea from their point of view if it was.

7.11pm. From Kevin Bonham’s blog: “I have a report from a scrutineer of a high rate of numbering only 1-3 and also of seeing a fair number of combo votes with Mav, Mulder and Howlett in some order.” Which reflects my presumption that the Liberals will do better on preferences, and that my Labor primary vote projection will need to lift on the booths to come if they are to be in with a chance.

7.10pm. Prosser: Dunalley and Oatlands added.

7.08pm. Prosser: Primrose Sands and Taranna added. Steve Mav wins the Primrose Sands booth, and the Liberals run fourth; Mulder does well in Taranna; both are in the old Rumney.

7.04pm. Also a broadly stable situation in Hobart, where Mount Stuart and North Hobart Central are now added. Valentine is on 44.2%, which should be more than enough under the circumstances.

7.01pm. Prosser: Bicheno and Nubeena added. The situation looks pretty stable from my perspective, with both Liberal and Labor candidates likely to score about a quarter of the vote, and none of the independents looking strong enough to feature in the final count, unless I’m misreading the likely behaviour of preferences. So the issue is likely to be decided by the flow of preferences to Liberal and Labor, which I’m assuming will favour Liberal (again, rightly or wrongly).

6.57pm. Hobart: Battery Point brings Valetine’s total down to 43.9%, but he’s still well clear of any potential rival, with Richard Griggs remaining in second place on 27.3%.

6.56pm. Copping is the only booth so far from Tony Mulder’s old turf, but his vote there was only 13.9%.

6.55pm. Campania and Swansea added from Prosser.

6.53pm. Three booths now in from Hobart have pared Richard Griggs back, with Rob Valentine still a shade under 50%. There appears no reason to think Valentine is in danger here.

6.52pm. Copping, Orford and the Agfest booth added from Prosser, which don’t change the underlying picture. Jane Howlett is well ahead on the raw primary vote, but these are all rural booths that tend to be more favourable for the Liberals than those in the orbit of Hobart.

6.50pm. First result from Hobart is Fern Tree, and shows strong support for independent Richard Griggs on 35.2%, but Rob Valentine is still well clear on 46.4%.

6.47pm. Colebrook, Ross and Tunnack added. None of the independents or minor party candidates seem to have a high enough primary vote to look competitive, and the two major party candidates are finely balanced. I would assume the Liberals would do better on preferences, so my best guess is that Jane Howlett is the favourite at this point.

6.44pm. I’m now including Steve Mav in my table.

6.40pm. Results now in from Kempton and Tea Tree. Steve Mav is still the strongest performing independent on 14.5%, but the two major party candidates are first and second. I’m projecting the Liberals to land a little in front, but my confidence in the projections here is not all that high.

6.36pm. The second result, 188 votes from Broadmarsh, is much better for the Liberals, and also quite good for Steve Mav. Tony Mulder is a fairly distant fourth, but he will presumably do better in booths that used to be in Rumney.

6.33pm. The first result in is 120 votes from Coles Bay. The Liberal vote is well down, which may reflect the fact that they are the party more likely to lose votes to independents. My table assumes Tony Mulder will be the strongest performing independent candidate, which isn’t borne out on these numbers, but it’s early days yet.

6.10pm. Polls closed ten minutes ago – Prosser has a number of small rural booths, so results from there should start coming in shortly, although perhaps a little more slowly than usual given the huge field of candidates. I will be making an effort to project swings in Prosser using booth matching from March state election results, but this is a pretty inexact science given the different complexion of the two elections. I won’t be extending the favour to Hobart, where I am presumeing Rob Valentine’s victory to be a foregone conclusion.

Overview

Tasmania will hold its annual periodical Legislative Council elections today, in which either two or three of the chamber’s fifteen members are chosen on a staggered six-year cycle. Two seats are on the schedule for this year: the self-explanatory seat of Hobart, where independent Rob Valentine seeks a second six-year term, and what can only be described as the new seat of Prosser. This follows a redistribution last year, which presents a peculiar complication in a chamber that never dissolves. Among the tasks of the redistribution commissioners are assigning existing members to redrawn seats, which they have done by allocating both the members for the neighbouring abolished seats of Western Tiers and Apsley to the new seat of McIntyre.

The unique system of a staggered electoral cycle separate from that of the lower house has given rise to the chamber’s equally unique partisan complexion, with independents being overwhelmingly dominant. Labor traditionally has a toehold in metropolitan strongholds, but Liberals have tended to be scarcer, in part because they have declined to field candidates more often than not. This was because they had less cause to fear an intransigent upper chamber than Labor, since they weren’t in government nearly as often, and because a prevalence of regional local government types tended to give the chamber a conservative complexion (the main reason the state was a laggard on reforming homosexuality laws). However, Kevin Bonham’s sophisticated analysis of voting patterns in the chamber suggests this has changed: eight of the fifteen members are identified as of the left, including the four Labor members and four independents, three of whom represent regional seats.

As the chart below illustrates, Labor were fairly strongly placed at the peak of their years in government from 1998 to 2014, but then markedly declined in tandem with their state electoral support from 2007 onwards, before staging a recovery over the past two years. The Liberals went from zero to two seats during the course of Labor’s downswing, but lost one of them when Hodgman government Attorney-General Vanessa Goodwin’s terminal illness caused her to resign last year, and the ensuing by-election for her eastern Hobart seat of Pembroke was won by Labor. Labor also gained two seats in and around Hobart from independents in 2016 (Elwick) and 2017 (Rumney). Labor has opted not to field a candidate against Rob Valentine in Hobart, so Prosser seems the only chance for this state of affairs to change today. The seat has attracted a huge field of candidates, including two former members running as independents.

Prosser

Prosser is a mostly rural electorate in Tasmania’s south-east, the largest population centres being Sorell, Bagdad and Brighton on Hobart’s northern fringe. Kevin Bonham’s calculations from the March state election result suggest the seat is about five points further to the left than the norm, and also notes that it combines rural areas of the type that typically return conservative independents, and urban fringes that tend to prefer major party candidates. The rural areas were previously in Apsley, which has been held by independent Tania Rattray since she succeeded her father, Colin Rattray, in 2004. The urban fringe areas were in Derwent, which has long been held by Labor, and Rumney, which has changed hands over recent years between Labor and Tony Mulder, and a conservative independent who is now running in Prosser. Mulder is but one of nine independents in the field, along with two major and two minor party candidates.

Labor’s candidate is Janet Lambert, a Northern Midlands councillor who has campaigned against commercial fishing by super-trawlers, and ran as one of Labor’s six candidates in Lyons at the March state election. Liberal candidate Jane Howlett is an adviser to Guy Barnett, who has performed creditably but unsuccessfully as a state candidate for Lyons on multiple occasions. Two of the nine independents are past upper house members: Tony Mulder, who held Rumney as an independent from 2011 until his defeat by Labor’s Sarah Lovell in 2017, and ran as a Liberal in Franklin in 2010; and Doug Parkinson, who held the Hobart electorate for Labor from 1994 to 2012. Mulder’s old seat coincided with Prosser at Sorell, but Parkinson is relatively unknown locally.

Other independents include Jim Playsted, who ran for the Liberals in Lyons in 2010 but now identifies as a social democrat, and perennial bridesmaid Steve Mav, who was on Glenorchy council from 2000 to 2008, but has succeeded in none of his many runs for state parliament. The minor party candidates are Lorraine Bennett of Shooters Fishers and Farmers, and Colin Harriss off Tasmanians 4 Tasmania.

Hobart

Hobart encompasses the central business district and the immediately adjoining suburbs, along with Mount Stewart and most of New Town and Lenah Valley to the north. With the retirement of Labor veteran Doug Parkinson in 2012, it was won by independent Rob Valentine, who had been lord mayor from 1999 to 2011. Kevin Bonham observes that his term has been “without any controversy”, so there does not seem any reason to doubt that he will be easily re-elected. His opponents are Liberal candidate Simon Behrakis, who appears to be aligned with the party’s conservative faction, and polled unspectacularly as one of the party’s candidates for Denison at the state election in March; Richard Griggs, an independent who has held staff positions with Greens MPs; Brendon Hext, the candidate of Shooters Fishers and Farmers; Christopher Simcox, the candidate of the Animal Justice Party; and Alan Barnett of Tasmanians 4 Tasmania, a party that made little impression at the state election.

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.

15 comments on “Tasmanian upper house elections: Prosser and Hobart”

  1. It seems there are many Liberal stooges standing in disguise to deflect the vate away from Labor and to maximise the liberal vote. Not much to choose from.
    I have heard J D of A make anti aboriginal statements. Not true or helpful!

  2. I don’t think the Liberals are behind the large field of independent/small party candidates. Using Bonham’s resources and my own judgement, I’ve provided a summary of reasons below. First and foremost, having no incumbent is very rare for the LegCo so there is a big turnout. Specifically, going through everyone: Tasmanians 4 Tasmania and Shooters etc. Party have a contest everywhere mentality. John the Duke, Mulder, and Parkinson are ex-MPs of various stripes while Spaulding is a deputy mayor. Mav and Peart are serial-type candidates. Bain is a former Green, Playsted an ex-Liberal (of the small-l variety) with a few major policy differences from the government, and Wiggins is a former councillor. Hence, no Liberal conspiracy just a bunch of hopefuls, the most notable of which are more conservative. As you say though, the large field may help the Liberals by splitting the anti-Government vote.

  3. Mitchell above is correct. There’s no conspiracy. Indeed running multiple similar candidates for LegCo elections is generally a dumb plan because preferencing is semi-optional (1-3 required) so you lose votes to exhaust. Vacant seats often get big fields and the large number of local government areas means a lot of local hopefuls looking to profile-build ahead of council elections in October.

    I got some more scrutineering samples which were better for Labor than the ones cited above (and more reliable in methods too) but I still think Lambert isn’t closing the gap to Howlett. Mav on the other hand – close enough if he’s good enough.

  4. Is it not a little bit risky for the Libs to put up Howlett in this seat, given her candidature at the last state election? Rene Hidding is practically certain to resign at some point apparently, which leaves his seat to John Tucker – they’d better hope Mark Shelton, who is almost 60, doesn’t get fed up with being relegated to the backbench. (This is, of course, assuming Howlett wins here.)

  5. There is a little-known and so far never-used provision if a party runs out of Tasmanian lower house recount candidates. They can choose to have a one-seat by-election for the vacancy instead.

    Another interesting thing with Tucker is he is also the sole remaining Liberal Senate candidate from the 2016 election. So if Tucker got into state parliament then any of Abetz, Duniam, Bushby or Colbeck were somehow found to have been ineligible at the 2016 Senate election, then the party would have a big problem.

    The advantages in re-running Howlett were (i) already has profile from the state campaign (ii) recycling corflutes from the state campaign (means they are basically free, which is a big advantage under the LegCo spending rules.)

  6. I had that by-election provision vaguely in my head somewhere, but I would think that would still be something a government would prefer to avoid. I suppose in this case since majority government would depend on the outcome the usual by-election “kick the government with no consequences” effect might not apply so much.

    I can’t remember – if Tucker did get into state parliament and one of the senators was found ineligible, would his membership of state parliament render him ineligible to take the Senate seat? Or would he be able to resign from state parliament to take the federal seat? I’m assuming from the Hollie Hughes case it would be the former.

  7. Pretty sure from the Lambie/Martin case background that being a member of a state parliament is not an office of profit under the crown. There is a separate disqualification for state MPs in S 164 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act that refers to the time of nomination but not to the process of being chosen. I would expect on that basis that he could resign his state seat to enter the Senate. Except I don’t think he would, because the state by-election could bring down the state government, while being short a Senator wouldn’t be such a big deal. Especially not when the Senate term reallocation gave the Liberals a free Tasmanian Senator for 2019-22 anyway.

  8. The liberals would not want a Lyon’s by-election…….in the state parliament….also this negates the principle of pr

  9. Yes that by-election option wouldn’t be much use to the Greens – on the other hand, the risk of them running out of candidates is a lot lower. I think it’s better to have the choice than to have nothing, given the risk that an MP of the opposite party might be elected otherwise. It could be argued that a Senate style casual vacancy system would be better in the case of a party running out of candidates.

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