Call of the board: Tasmania

Some overdue insights into what went wrong for Labor in Tasmania, whose five seats accounted for two of the party’s five losses at the federal election.

Welcome to the penultimate instalment of the Call of the Board series (there will be one more dealing with the territories), wherein the result of last May’s federal election are reviewed in detail seat by seat. Previous episodes dealt with Sydney (here and here), regional New South Wales, Melbourne, regional Victoria, south-east Queensland, regional Queensland, Western Australia and South Australia.

Today we look at Tasmania, which has long been noted as a law unto itself as far as federal electoral politics are concerned. The Liberals managed clean sweeps of the state amid poor national results in 1983 and 1984, and the state likewise went all-in for Labor at their losing elections in 1998 and 2001. The state’s form more recently, and especially last May, suggest a normalising trend – in this case, Labor’s defeats in the northern seats of Bass and Braddon were emblematic of their poor show in white, low-income regional Australia (and they can probably count themselves likely that Lyons wasn’t added to the list).

Conversely, another easy win for independent Andrew Wilkie in the central Hobart seat of Clark (formerly Denison) confirmed the uniquely green-left nature of that seat, while a predictable win for Labor in Franklin typified the party’s ongoing hold on low-income suburbia. It may be worth noting in all this that the state’s economic fortunes appear to be on an upswing, and that this coincides with one of its rare periods of Liberal control at state level. It’s tempting at this moment to speculate that the state has a big future ahead of it as a haven from climate change, with electoral implications as yet unforeseeable.

In turn:

Bass (LIBERAL GAIN 0.4%; 5.8% swing to Liberal): Bass maintained its extraordinary record with Labor’s defeat, changing hands for the eighth time out of ten elections going back to 1993. The latest victim of the curse of Bass was Ross Hart, who joins Labor colleagues Silvia Smith, Jodie Campbell and Geoff Lyons and Liberals Warwick Smith (two non-consecutive terms), Michael Ferguson and Andrew Nikolic on the roll call of one-term members. The only exception to the rule has been Michelle O’Byrne, who won the seat in 1998 and was re-elected in 2001, before losing out in 2004 and entering state politics in 2006. Labor also retained the seat in 2010, but their member at the time, Jodie Campbell, resigned after a single term.

Braddon (LIBERAL GAIN 3.1%; 4.8% swing to Liberal): Northern Tasmania’s other seat has been a slightly tougher nut for the Liberals since Sid Sidebottom ended 23 years of Liberal control in 1998, having been won for party since on three occasions: with Mark Baker’s win in 2004, as part of the famed forestry policy backlash against Labor under Mark Latham (who may have taken the episode to heart); with the heavy defeat of the Labor government in 2013, when it was won by former state MP Brett Whiteley; and now with Gavin Pearce’s win for the Liberals. Also in this mix was the Super Saturday by-election of July 28, 2018, at which the now-defeated Labor member, Justine Keay, was narrowly returned. Such was the attention focused on the Coalition’s weak result in the Queensland seat of Longman on the same day that few recognised what was a highly inauspicious result for Labor, whose 0.1% swing was notably feeble for an opposition party at a by-election. Much was made at that time of the performance of independent Craig Garland, who polled 10.6% at the by-election before failing to make an impression as a candidate for the Senate. Less was said about the fact that another independent, Craig Brakey, slightly exceeded Garland’s by-election result at the election after being overlooked for Liberal preselection. Both major parties were duly well down on the primary vote as compared with 2016, Liberal by 4.1% and Labor by 7.5%, but a much more conservative mix of minor party contenders translated into a stronger flow of preferences to the Liberals.

Clark (Independent 22.1% versus Labor; 4.4% swing to Independent): Since squeaking over the line at Labor’s expense after Duncan Kerr retired in 2010, independent Andrew Wilkie has been piling on the primary vote with each his three subsequent re-elections, and this time made it just over the line to a majority with 50.0%, up from 44.0% in 2016. This translated into a 4.4% increase in Wilkie’s margin over Labor after preferences. For what it’s worth, Labor picked up a 0.8% swing in two-party terms against the Liberals.

Franklin (Labor 12.2%; 1.5% swing to Labor): The tide has been flowing in Labor’s favour in this seat since Harry Quick seized it from the Liberals in 1993, which was manifested on this occasion by a 1.5% swing to Julie Collins, who succeeded Quick in 2007. This went against a national trend of weak results for Labor in outer suburbia, which was evidently only in that their primary vote fell by 2.9%. This was almost exactly matched by a rise in support for the Greens, whose 16.3% was the party’s second best ever result in the seat after 2010. The Liberals were down 4.0% in the face of competition from the United Australia Party, which managed a relatively strong 6.7%.

Lyons (Labor 5.2%; 1.4% swing to Labor): Demographically speaking, Lyons was primed to join the Liberal wave in low-income regional Australia. That it failed to do so may very well be down to the fact that the Liberals disassociated themselves mid-campaign with their candidate, Jessica Whelan, over anti-Muslim comments she had made on social media, and directed their supporters to vote for the Nationals. The Nationals duly polled 15.7%, for which there has been no precedent in the state since some early successes for the party in the 1920s. However, that still left them astern of Whelan on 24.2%. Labor member Brian Mitchell, who unseated Liberal one-termer Eric Hutchinson in 2016, was down 3.9% on the primary vote to 36.5%, but he gained 1.3% on two-party preferred after picking up around a quarter of the Nationals’ preferences. With a further boost from redistribution, he now holds a 5.2% margin after gaining the seat by 2.3% in 2016, but given the circumstances he will have a hard time matching that performance next time.

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.

1,795 comments on “Call of the board: Tasmania”

  1. I actually find it “passing strange” the ongoing focus on Morrison’s holiday overseas. So may words expended on it when what matters is what he does now and how it will be received by the public.

  2. Steve777 @ #1495 Sunday, January 12th, 2020 – 1:56 pm

    Labor went to the recent election with worthwhile emission reduction policies and was rejected. Those policies are now up for discussion. Labor will bring revised policies to the next election. Those policies will be misrepresented by the Government and their media allies. Labor will need to have a plan to counter this.

    Be all that as it may, the choice on emissions is still clear. If you want Australia to do nothing or don’t care, vote Coalition. If you want action, vote Labor or at least preference them ahead of the Coalition.

    Labor went to the election with an ambiguous emissions reduction policy and was rejected.

    Labor remains ambiguous on emissions reduction policy.

    So far, Labor have learned nothing from the defeat.

  3. Pegasus

    His holiday encapsulates his leadership “FAIL”. Keeping it in mind will color the ‘impression’ of what he does and says now.

  4. guytaur

    I can’t explain any better. He has a lot of good lines, he speaks sense. Perhaps he’s too generous to the journos. I don’t know.

  5. lizzie @ #1045 Sunday, January 12th, 2020 – 12:56 pm

    2. I just want Albo to sound completely different to Morrison.

    I’d be happy if he completely forgot about Labor policy and just attacked everything that’s wrong with the Coalition’s policies and Morrison’s leadership (or lack thereof).

    People are angry. Whoever directs that anger better wins. It doesn’t always have to be the Abbotts and the Trumps and the Johnsons doing it.

  6. C@tmomma @ #1424 Sunday, January 12th, 2020 – 9:38 am

    Victoria @ #1403 Sunday, January 12th, 2020 – 12:18 pm


    Yes Wilson is, and knows how to win elections.
    He even worked for Guiliani.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if Rick Wilson came up with the line, ‘America’s Mayor’ for Giuliani.

    Which was proven to be an abject failure since, as I pointed out above, Giuliani has never won any elections since he stepped down as Mayor of New York City.

  7. Lizzie

    The problem is Labor have not learnt from Abbott.

    Abbott was called reckless extremist and all the rest. Including in print and on panel shows. He won from opposition.

    He was controversial and divisive. He won.

    Labor has to do the same. Just different policies less lying.

  8. Poor old Greens.
    No-one is interested in their views.
    No-one is interested in their policies.
    Without any power at all for a full decade.
    Their only recourse is to give Labor stupid policy and political advice.
    It sort of gives them a meaning of life.
    Poor old Greens.

  9. a r

    People are angry. Whoever directs that anger better wins.

    Sounds good. Morrison doesn’t even admit the anger against him is justified.

  10. Don’t get the moaning about Albo not announcing a policy that he cannot even implement until the first setting after the next election in two years time. If the truth be known the ALP should still be developing it to avoid the mistakes of recent years when they have produced policies that on close inspection looked half done with glaring holes.

  11. a r

    People are angry. Whoever directs that anger better wins.

    Bullseye sir. Shame the “baddies” have the Rupertarium and Shoutback Radioland scum to skew the aim. 🙁

  12. Guytaur
    Abbott’s approach backfired because after being elected it was clear his government couldn’t reconcile its pre-election campaign with its desired IPA backed wish list leading to a massive backlash after the 2014 budget. The ALP needs to avoid that mistake.

  13. Urban Wronski @UrbanWronski
    Now “pants-on-fire” Morrison blames NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian, for refusing federal help to fight fires. Gladys is furious. NSW Rural Fire Service Commissioner, Shane Fitzsimmons simply says “it just didn’t happen”.

  14. Pegasus says:
    Sunday, January 12, 2020 at 1:59 pm
    I actually find it “passing strange” the ongoing focus on Morrison’s holiday overseas. So may words expended on it when what matters is what he does now and how it will be received by the public.

    The Hawaiian holiday is the gift that keeps on giving in a political sense. The secrecy of it, the fact that Morrison delayed returning blaming a lack of plane seats, why he went overseas in a time of crisis after apparently cancelling plans for a NSW South Coast holiday. On the latter point, did Morrison receive any intelligence forewarning of the risk of bushfires in the area?

    Also, what the Morrison government did, or more importantly, didn’t do in the months leading up to the fires must be the subject of intense scrutiny in any inquiry.

  15. It must be a miserable sort of life for Rexie from Greens Marketing and his Sleazy Mate when all you have left is to criticize something that does not exist because it does not exist.

    A variant of nihilism, I suppose.

  16. lizzie @ #1494 Sunday, January 12th, 2020 – 1:56 pm


    1. Albo also did an interview so it wasn’t unexpected that someone might comment on it.
    2. I just want Albo to sound completely different to Morrison.

    He does; a little bit nervous, a bit uncertain, slightly unsettled, a bit agitated, under confident, fidgety, worried……not like Mark Butler.

  17. I’m pretty sure there would be more than a few Labor supporters and members who would like Albanese and Labor to to desist with its ambiguity.

    I’m pretty sure there would be more than a few Labor supporters and members who would like Albanese and Labor be far more up front about its future direction re policy, as well as when such a policy will be forthcoming.

    At the moment his rhetoric and tactics come across as evasive and everything to do with politics which is what makes ordinary people distrust politicians.

  18. Morrison made much of the fact that “Disaster” was only declared recently and was (I think) the first ever. As if it made any difference to what his actions should have been.

  19. There is pattern to these demands for Labor to release its climate policy years out from when it might have to power to implement it.

    Those shrieking the loudest are those who want to attack it to distract and cover up for their own complete lack of emissions reduction achievements (on the right and the left of Labor).

  20. Antony Green – 2019 Senate Election – Above and Below the Line Vote Breakdown

    In this post I’m going to look at how voters reacted to the new electoral system and whether they voted above or below the line. For each option, I look at how many preferences voters completed.

    This will be the first of several posts over the next fortnight going into detail of how the Senate count unfolded in each state, how preferences flowed, and what impact parties and their how-to-votes had on preference flows.

  21. Cud Chewer says:
    Sunday, January 12, 2020 at 2:09 pm
    Wilsons message to the Democrats:

    Treat voters like the shallow selfish idiots they are.



    But at the same time tell them how wise, intelligent, generous, indeed selfless, and thoughtful they are. Lay it on with a trowel.

  22. What worries me is a Morrison power grab to advance his and vested interests’ agenda, clothed as a response to climate change. Twiggy’s 50 mil resilence research centre (r-wing think tank?) is looking at “land management and water security” as a major focus.

    This morning Morrison said he would look at more land clearing and dams as a response at least or more important than emissions policies. He flagged possible legislative changes necessary for this-maybe overriding States these issues. Gina and Latham have recently promoted commercial use of crown land, Nat Parks and many more dams.

    I’m not against better land management if it is based on solid science, but at best it is part of treating the symptoms. not curing the disease.

    If the LNP frame this as a necessary response to CC instead of emissions reduction, then they could try to wedge Labor on it.
    I hope i’m wrong, but I wouldn’t put anything past this lot.

  23. Pegasus says:
    Sunday, January 12, 2020 at 1:51 pm
    It appears Labor doesn’t have the ticker or stamina to prosecute a positive economically-oriented and coherent vision for re-framing global heating.

    Leadership requires leading not seeing which way the wind blows.

    If Labor does not focus every day until the next election on an alternative plan for the nation and work to bring on board voters, the cynicism and distrust about politicians will continue.


    Do you have advice for the Liberals and the Nationals and One Nation too. I’m sure they are all ears to hear what the Greens have to tell them.

  24. Guytaur
    Sure the Liberals are in government but its hardly been an effective government after burning through two PM’s with the third looking in some difficulty. Both the Bracks and Andrews governments took their time in opposition to develop their policy framework.

  25. “Herding” is perhaps because the wombats are the slow movers???

    · 18h
    Apparently wombats in fire effected (sic) areas are not only allowing other animals to take shelter in their deep, fire-resistant burrows but are actively herding fleeing animals into them.

    We’re seeing more leadership and empathy from these guys than the entire Federal government.

  26. P1

    Or are you saying it’s ok to mine it as long as we only export it and don’t burn it ourselves?

    What “people are saying” is that domestic burning and burning of exports are different, and need to be stopped using different methods.

    This difference should be self evident, and its implications should be obvious, but it would seem that this is somehow not the case.

    Domestic burning of coal occurs wholly within Australia’s political economy (as far as I know Australia does not import significant amounts of coal). Cessation of this coal burning will therefore be achieved as a result of political actions and economic reforms within Australia. I think everyone agrees this is happening, albeit far too slowly for Australia to benefit from the economic opportunity.

    Burning of coal that is currently exported by Australia occurs outside the Australian political economy, and hence cannot be addressed by actions within the Australian political economy. The United States is routinely criticised for imposing its domestic politics on the world. It is quite striking that people who routinely argue against US imposing its domestic politics onto the world (which is at least possible, due the USA having “nucular fuckin weapons” and more importantly, being the exclusive source of T-Bills) also argue that Australia should impose its domestic politics onto the world. This is completely infeasible and there is no prospect it could ever work. To adapt Talleyrand’s notorious observation: it is worse than hypocrisy, it is idiocy.

  27. lizzie @ #1538 Sunday, January 12th, 2020 – 3:13 pm

    “Herding” is perhaps because the wombats are the slow movers???

    · 18h
    Apparently wombats in fire effected (sic) areas are not only allowing other animals to take shelter in their deep, fire-resistant burrows but are actively herding fleeing animals into them.

    We’re seeing more leadership and empathy from these guys than the entire Federal government.

    Don’t tell Boerwar! He’ll think that the Wombats might have to make their burrows bigger! 😆

  28. I’ve just watched some UK Sky News . Whatever the loons on the local Rupertarium Sky channel say the ones “over there” are kicking the shit out of Scrott and his wallies.

  29. poroti @ #1542 Sunday, January 12th, 2020 – 3:33 pm


    Wombats ? Echidnas are bad enough. Check out this video. Warning may contain kiwi uksents. 😆

    Edward the Echidna rescued by Animal Evac

    I have personal experience of trying to save a pug (Baby Echidna), from wandering towards the road! Yes, we needed to wear leather gloves. Yes, we needed to try and outrun it as it tried to evade, helpful, capture. And yes, it just wanted to head back in the same direction when we put it down and pointed it in a different direction! So we had to pick it up again, and boy can they burrow fast, so there was that problem, and then take it a long way away from the road before we let it go again. 🙂

  30. Up thread, Peg passed on something useful (I know, I was shocked as well)..

    John Quiggin is giving an interview where he says the total cost of the bushfires to Australia is up to $100 billion. $100 BILLION of lost assets, productivity, taxes, environment, forests, houses, lives etc.

    I had been thinking $20 billion was a reasonable number, but $100 BILLION as the cost, first instalment, of Climate Science denial.

    Now let’s put this over the forward estimates – $400 Billion + interest, up to $1 TRILLION DOLLARS over the next decade. Something to think about in terms of rebuttal to ‘what is the cost of action on Climate Change?’ A BIG number, repeated early and often.

    The cost of denial and inaction – – the LNP policy – is up to $1 TRILLION DOLLARS over the next decade.*

    * according to leading economists

  31. Simon says:
    Sunday, January 12, 2020 at 1:12 pm

    …”To pick up a point from earlier, I suspect Morrison’s sudden need to do ‘serious’ media (7:30 report/insiders) is because his advisors are detecting that people no longer respect him – he’s #ScottyfromMarketing. Given hes obviously not up to the job I suspect he’ll struggle to regain authority before the knives come out in a year or so.”…


    Where’s Mundo?
    Please read the words above and take note.

  32. C@t and her picture of Mr Morrison wearing a cap that says “PM”

    It’s probably fake – the letters are too small for a real “PM” cap!

    More importantly, it took me while to understand the point made, because what I was drawn to immediately was the greyness of Mr Morrison’s hair. Nothing says “dipshit” like an old man for whom the thing is “caps”. If that’s actually the back of Mr Morrison’s head then he’s in serious trouble.

    I may have to revise my opinion downwards – as a PM he’s as useless as an armless Morris Dancer…

  33. Maroon Blowhard has posted some good stuff re the use of Twiggy’s $’s and the Coalition continuing to try to wedge Labor (and tbh therefore minor parties like the Greens as well).

    Labor need to be whiteboarding the bs that comes from the coalition, how to highlight and offer alternatives.

    The output of Green posters currently are 5 to 1 on what Labor should do, here’s an idea swing that around and focus on what the Greens should do and how to bring down the Coalition. Expect this comes from their own realisation that they can not actually affect change themselves

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