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”

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  1. I see the green team are still hard at setting the groundwork for another Liberal victory in 2022. Got to give them full marks for forward planning.

  2. 4chan as a source! Wow…
    Epic win for 4chan, getting the press to quote their internet sewer fantasy role playing game
    Next they’ll quote 8chan on gun control

  3. Steve777 says:
    Sunday, January 12, 2020 at 8:27 pm
    If the Greens want to make themselves useful why don’t they become an attack dog – on the Coalition, which at the moment they seem to mostly ignore. Say what a party aspiring to Government can’t say. In particular, call the PM and their Ministers liars whenever they lie (so several times a day). Call our business ‘leaders’ a bunch of greedy and rapacious wankers. Attack the Government, their business supporters and Newscrap as climate vandals. At the same time, try to convince the punters of the virtues of their own policies.

    They don’t have to push or support Labor policies, just redirect their attacks. They won’t lose votes, they’ll probably gain some and increase the left-centre plurality.
    Coming from Steve and the Labor party who waved through tax cuts for high income earners! What a shocker!

  4. Reference Scomo ‘s future, I chatted with Mr & Mrs bookface fans today. They are convinced that arsonists and lack of hazard reduction burning are the problems. I am with the bushfire service and they respect my advice but couldn’t change their views of the root causes. Maybe Scomo will get through this with the support of the deluded quiet crowd
    Can’t wait for an opinion poll.

  5. “All hail Lucienaye. When all else fails Lenore and Karen fall back on their fantasy first true love.”

    If only someone would give Malcom a chance to be PM. imagine what he could do.

  6. For (the surprising number of) people who expect an imminent move against Morrison, it would pay to remember that Tony Abbott (who pretty much lurched from disaster to disaster as PM) was in the job for *two years*, and even got a warning via a spill against an empty chair, before the party room knifed him.

    It also should surprise no-one that Prime Ministers do not simply resign the job in embarrassment if they do badly.

    If Newspoll detects a swing against the Libs putting them on track to lose the election and Morrison’s approval and PPM hits Abbott levels and stays there after about a year, they will look at removing him. He may as well soak up the hits before they hope a new leader helps them fool the electorate for the third time running.

    I guess we will find out in a few days (via Essential) how many Australians now see him for what he is.

  7. There is no better time than now for the Greens to attack the Morrison government and Morrison himself while they are at their most vulnerable. They have sufficient parliamentary staff at their disposal to mount a sustained attack, along with sympathetic journalists, should they choose to do so.

  8. GA
    The more Liberal they are the more pig ignorant. Too many ignoramuses in this country.Completely brainwashed by Murdoch.

  9. Alice Workman: “newspoll wow”

    PVO: “Tomorrow’s Newspoll WOW!”

    Kevin Bonham: “#Newspoll even coming out will be a wow – it would be the earliest Newspoll out-of-field ever (by a day) and in recent years Newspoll has normally not been released in January in non-election years.”

  10. ” Coming from Steve and the Labor party who waved through tax cuts for high income earners! What a shocker!”

    Lars – you said something like that that the other day.
    I didn’t wave them through. I’d have sent them back until the issue of tax avoision had been sorted.

    Maybe you should make a movie “Waving through the tax cuts”. You won’t need anyone to play me.

  11. Goll says:
    Sunday, January 12, 2020 at 8:19 pm

    …”Not Sure
    You are well monikered!”…

    I’m quite sure I figured out at least some of your rambling.
    Maybe if I were more drunk it might make better sense.

  12. Watching CNN. Scrott not not getting good coverage from them. A couple of sample comments

    “his concessions and apologies seem on the light side.”

    “it almost sounds like he is still championing coal when people are dying and the country is burning . It’s hard to fathom .”

  13. Kevin Bonham opines..

    This does suggest decision to return to field early on account of fire issue, but also note comments last year about making schedule less predictable to deter deliberate poll-gaming attempts.


  14. sprocket_
    Sunday, January 12, 2020 at 8:51 pm
    Sky News saying a very surprising #newspoll to land at 9:30
    very surprising would either be a massive swing to Labor or Libs up to 53+?

  15. Steve777 says:
    Sunday, January 12, 2020 at 8:48 pm
    ” Coming from Steve and the Labor party who waved through tax cuts for high income earners! What a shocker!”

    Lars – you said something like that that the other day.
    I didn’t wave them through. I’d have sent them back until the issue of tax avoision had been sorted.

    Maybe you should make a movie “Waving through the tax cuts”. You won’t need anyone to play me.
    Come now Steve! A little candour on your part my friend would be welcome. Next thing you will be telling me you were opposed to Latham becoming leader of the ALP.

  16. “Leroy says:
    Sunday, January 12, 2020 at 8:47 pm
    Alice Workman: “newspoll wow” ”

    Far out, can’t she even come up with her own schtick.

    After the Emma Husar thing, I don’t have much time for Workman.

  17. I sometimes wonder if it was wrong for Gough to accept his demise so easily, not that he had options. That said, he could’ve demurred in other ways. To his credit, though, he was a thorough gentleman, unlike his foes. That dirty old man Murdoch was extremely dirty at the time, but I’m so glad he and he’s found love with dear Ms. Hall:

  18. sprocket_ says:
    Sunday, January 12, 2020 at 8:51 pm

    …”Sky News saying a very surprising #newspoll to land at 9:30″…

    Would anyone be surprised if a poll out now was bad for the government.

  19. Blobbit says:
    Sunday, January 12, 2020 at 9:00 pm
    “Leroy says:
    Sunday, January 12, 2020 at 8:47 pm
    Alice Workman: “newspoll wow” ”

    Far out, can’t she even come up with her own schtick.

    After the Emma Husar thing, I don’t have much time for Workman.
    Did you take any steps to indicate your displeasure at Hussar’s removal as the candidate to the ALP Head Office or did you stay shtum when the cock crowed?

  20. I’m sure the professionals/experts here know more than I about how the politics of the fires should play out for Scomo and his merry band. The fires have demonstrated a comprehensive failure of policy, leadership, awareness, communication, and credibility. Maybe they will tough it out, maybe Labor will let them. Though I think this moment is a political opportunity for the Liberals’ opponents, if they seize it. If they do not, we need a new opposition. For the record, I am a little dismayed that some in Labor do not see this for what it is.

    Whether the government does survive or not, the fires and our response are going to do huge damage to Australia’s international reputation and tourism. I have been looking at the news coverage of the Australian bushfires in international press. It is graphic, detailed and scathing. The CO2 emissions from our fires will have global climate impacts. The link between the fires, climate change, and Australia being the world’s largest coal exporter is being made very directly. One report used the term “payback”.

    Many are appalled at the destruction of Australian wilderness and wildlife. These are the main attractions we promote Australia to foreign tourists with. So tourism, 3% of GDP, has just taken a huge hit. For those who don’t care about humanity or even about our own long term future, and only about money, and in the short term, Australia as a brand has just been devalued.

    Read this link as a typical example. Australia is “the canary building the coal mine”. Incidentally it has a graphic showing the Australian 2019/20 fires are now much larger than all previous examples listed, including the 2018 Siberian fires.

  21. steve davis @ #1738 Sunday, January 12th, 2020 – 6:07 pm

    The voters in this country are that stupid,that Smoko has probably improved on every score.

    In any case this poll should give us some indication of how the govt and scotty from marketing are being perceived by voters. All we have so far are grabs from TV of him being snubbed by people directly impacted by fires.

  22. I had a feeling there would be a Newspoll taken after The Australian and the Murdoch gutter trash rags did their full court press on the ‘Greenies’ and the ‘Arsonists’. I guess we’ll see how successful it has been then.

  23. Historyintime @ #1656 Sunday, January 12th, 2020 – 7:11 pm

    Watching Morrison on TV I think he has gotten away with it this time. Maybe the ‘every dog gets one bite’ factor in play. But if he fucks another crisis up he’s in big trouble.

    How about if he wins just one more election he’ll be in big trouble.

    For crisakes Labor played softball for brownie points and Scrott has got away with it.
    Miracle Man.
    Let’s just give up.

  24. Workmans newspol wow,
    is there anyone she won’t copy!

    Also my prediction is 53 ALP and albo 5 points up on scomo, and a question block about important things for the country where climate change lands in at 80% the most important issue facing australia.

    I also think the greens maybe at 13-15% if only because the environment is in play at the moment.

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