Tasmanian upper house elections: Huon and Rosevears

A look at the two contests to be decided on Saturday for seats in Tasmania’s Legislative Council.

Live commentary

Final for night. Labor’s Bastian Seidel appears headed for a comfortable win over independent incumbent Robert Armstrong in Huon, who he has outpolled 31.4% to 19.0%, with the Greens on 17.2% and conservative independent Dean Harriss on 16.3%. According to Kevin Bonham in comments, preferences from the Greens are flowing to Labor with such force that preferences overall are likely to increase rather than reduce Seidel’s existing margin. Conversely, Rosevears, which is being vacated by a retiring independent, might be won either by Liberal candidate Jo Palmer, on 41.4%, or independent Janie Finlay, on 30.8%. Labor’s candidate made no impression, polling 9.1%, with the Greens on 7.3% and the remainder divided between two independents.

9.25pm. The postals are in from Huon, and independent incumbent Robert Armstrong has moved to second place with 19.0%, with the Greens on 17.2% and Dean Harriss on 16.3%, but Labor’s Bastian Seidel still well in the lead on 31.4%. Presumably that will mean a final count between Seidel and Armstrong, with the former’s lead still looking insurmountable.

9.19pm. That pretty much is all the pre-polls actually, except out-of-division ones, which will be negligible.

9.13pm. The promised batch of around 5000 postals has been added in Rosevears, and both seats have had pre-polls added, though I’m presuming not all of them. These have only slightly improved Liberal candidate Jo Palmer’s lead over independent Janie Finlay in Rosevears, which is now at 41.4% to 30.8%. Voters in these elections can number as few as three boxes, so around 10% of preferences exhaust. That leaves Finlay needing a bit more than 70% of allocated preferences, which seems doable, although Palmer may be more popular with minor party voters than the average Liberal. The pre-polls in Huon haven’t changed the situation much.

8.00pm. All booths now in from Rosevears, Palmer’s lead at 30.0% to 16.4%.

7.52pm. Kevin Bonham, who follows all this a lot more closely than I do, says around 5000 postals will be added in each seat later tonight, which should add around a third to the vote totals when they happen. Postals tend to favour major parties, so Jo Palmer (Rosevears) and especially Bastian Seidel (Huon) should still be rated the front-runners. Still one more booth to report from Rosevears.

7.43pm. All but one booth now in from Rosevears — my contention that the Launceston booths might favour Janie Finlay isn’t being borne out, with Jo Palmer now leading 40.3% to 30.7%.

7.38pm. All booths are now in from Huon, and the situation is much as per my last update, except that Labor are back above 30% now. A point I’ve been failing to emphasise throughout this is that there has been a big increase in postal and pre-poll voting. I can’t see that changing the dynamic in Huon, but Rosevears remains up in the air.

7.33pm. Only Blackmans Bay remain to be added in Huon. Labor’s vote is now inside 30% at 29.4%, and the Greens are inside 20% at 19.7%, while little separates incumbent Robert Armstrong and conservative independent Dean Harriss, both a bit below 17%. I would guess that one of the latter two will make it to second place on the other’s preferences, but Greens preferences would then have to behave very strangely to deny Labor a win.

7.30pm. Eleven booths in now from Rosevears, with another two to come (both in Launceston and probably quite big), and Palmer’s lead has actually widened to 41.8% to 30.7%.

7.28pm. Sixteen out of 19 booths in from Huon, situation there much as before.

7.21pm. Now eight booths in from Rosevears, and there has been a significant break in favour of Liberal candidate Jo Palmer, who leads independent Janie Finlay 40.2% to 32.3%. However, the outstanding booths are mostly in Launceston, which is Finlay’s council turf. Too close to call.

7.11pm. A fifth booth in from Rosevears brings a slight narrowing in Jo Palmer’s lead, now at 37.3% to Janie Finlay’s 36.1%, meaning the latter still looks a likely winner to me.

7.04pm. Fourteen booths out of 19 now in from Huon, Greens now down to 19.7% but otherwise only small changes.

7.00pm. With 10 booths in out of 19, the order in Huon is now Labor (30.7%), Greens (21.2%), Armstrong (16.2%), Harriss (14.8%). It may be that Armstrong is appreciating as the urban end of the electorate comes in, but it’s still hard to see how he overcomes the combination of Labor and any normal-looking preference flow from the Greens.

6.56pm. Four booths in from Rosevears, which is very much a two-horse race between Liberal candidate Jo Palmer on 39.6% and independent Janie Finlay on 37.1%. Palmer would need the gap to be wider than that to hold out what will presumably be a strong flow of preferences to Finlay.

6.52pm. Seven booths in now from Huon, and Labor has softened to 30.1%. Greens candidate Pat Caruana doing well with 23.7%, though presumably not well enough. My guess is that there will be reasonably tight preferences between Robert Armstrong and Dean Harriss, both of whom are a bit below 15%, such that one or the other will finish second, but that Greens preferences will ultimately decide the contest for Labor. However, there will be a lot of variables in play requiring local knowledge that I’m not on top of.

6.46pm. First results from Huon are no less surprising, and in this case far happier for Labor. With five booths in, independent incumbent Robert Armstrong is running fourth on 14.9%, and the Labor candidate is well in the lead with 35.4%. Pat Caruana of the Greens is second on 16.5%, Liberal-friendly independent Dean Harriss third on 15.4%.

6.43pm. Two booths in from Rosevears (Kelso and Prospect), showing remarkably weak results for Labor, who are on all of 9.0%. This looks like a contest between the Liberal candidate, Jo Palmer, and independent Janie Finlay, who are on 40.5% and 36.0% respectively.

6.08pm. Make that 45 minutes, because the TEC advises that COVID-19 measures should delay results by around 15 minutes.

6pm. Polls have closed. I guess we’ll get results from some of the smaller booths in Rosevears in about half an hour — this is the more interesting of the two contests for mine, as in the absence of any reason to think differently, I would expect Robert Armstrong to win comfortably in Huon. I’ve got a spreadsheet set up to calculate projections in Rosevears by comparing booth results with equivalents from the federal election, inclusive of a two-party projection, assuming the Labor and Liberal candidates are indeed the ones that make it to the final count.

Overview

The periodical elections for Tasmania’s Legislative Council, normally scheduled for early May but held off on this occasion due to COVID-19, will finally be held on Saturday. The members of the 15-seat chamber are elected annually two or three seats at a time over a six-year cycle. A related feature of the chamber is that it is dominated by independents, with elections often having more of the character of local government elections than highly charged partisan affairs. The Liberals have generally been more relaxed about this state of affairs — as Kevin Bonham puts it, the party “doesn’t run against incumbents who don’t annoy it”. Labor currently holds four seats in the chamber, all of them in and around Hobart, and the Liberals hold two regional seats.

The two seats up for election tomorrow are both held by independents, one of whom is seeking re-election and the other is retiring. Both major parties are contesting the vacant seat, but the Liberals are leaving the field free to the incumbent in the other.

Huon

Candidates in ballot paper order: Debbie Louise Armstrong (Independent); Robert Armstrong (Independent); Garrick Cameron (Shooters Fishers Farmers); Pat Caruana (Greens); Dean Harriss (Independent); Bastian Seidel (Labor).

Huon covers the southernmost parts of Tasmania including Blackmans Bay and Margate on Hobart’s southern outskirts, small towns to the south including Huonville and Cygnet, and the unpopulated southern part of the World Heritage area in the state‚Äôs south-west. Seeking re-election is independent Robert Armstrong, who came to the seat at the previous election in May 2014 after being mayor of Huon Valley since 2001.

The seat was vacated in 2014 after Peter Harriss, who had held the seat since 1996 as an independent, was elected as a Liberal for the lower house division of Franklin at the state election the previous March. The highest profile candidate in 2014 was the endorsed Liberal, Peter Hodgman, the 67-year-old uncle of Will Hodgman and the younger brother of his father, the late Michael Hodgman. Hodgman led the primary vote from a field of seven candidates with 26.1%, but preferences flowed to Armstrong with sufficient strength to give him a 6.9% winning margin at the final count, off a primary vote base of 20.4%.

Kevin Bonham’s monitoring of parliamentary votes leads him to conclude that Armstrong is a “conservative independent who usually votes with the Liberal Party”, which no doubt explains the party’s decision not to field a candidate. This leaves Armstrong facing Bastian Seidel of Labor, a general practitioner; Pat Caruana of the Greens, a former journalist and current staffer to Senator Nick McKim; Garrick Cameron of Shooters Fishers Farmers, a rough-as-guts social media celebrity; and two rival independents. The latter are Dean Harriss, a Huonville builder and the son of Paul Harriss, and Debbie Armstrong, a Huonville hairdresser and distant relative of the incumbent.

Rosevears

Candidates in ballot paper order: Jack Davenport (Greens); Janie Finlay (Independent); David Fry (Independent); Vivienne Gale (Independent); Jess Greene (Labor); Jo Palmer (Liberal).

Rosevears includes the western suburbs of Launceston, which provide about 60% of its voters, and extends north-westwards to the coast through rural territory on the western bank of the Tamar River, encompassing the mining town of Beaconsfield and nearby Beauty Point. It will be vacated at the election with the retirement of Kerry Finch, who came to the seat in 2002 after building a high profile in 24 years as a local ABC Radio presenter. The 2014 election was a two-horse race between Finch and Liberal candidate Don Morris, but the latter’s attempt to portray Finch as being “just like the Greens” failed to prevent Finch winning re-election with 60.3% of the vote.

In Finch’s absence, each of the three main players in Tasmanian party politics are in the field: Jo Palmer, former Seven Network newsreader, for the Liberals; Jess Greene, West Tamar councillor and Community and Public Sector organiser, for Labor; and Jack Davenport, a social worker, for the Greens. There are three independents: Janie Finlay, who has been on Launceston City Council since 2000, and was mayor from 2002 to 2005; David Fry, a Cricket Tasmania administrator who held a lower house seat in Bass as a Liberal from 2000 to 2002; and Vivienne Gale, a self-storage business owner with conservative political views.

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.

8 comments on “Tasmanian upper house elections: Huon and Rosevears”

  1. Regarding Rosevears. Of the booths remaining, Riverside and Riverside West should be friendly for Palmer. West Launceston potentially a bit more friendly for Finlay and Summerhill up for grabs. Postal campaign would presumably favour a party candidate rather than an independent. Pre-poll who knows? Finlay certainly had a good campaign profile. Plenty of corflutes which in Tassie are a reasonable proxy for on-ground support. So in other words still very much up for grabs.

  2. Votes counted to date are only 39% in Huon and 32% in Rosevears. Rosevears appears more likely to go to Liberal Jo Palmer, and Huon seems more likely to go to Labor. This assumes later votes are be similar to those counted or slightly more favourable to Liberal, or in Huon, Labor has seemingly done well enough. Odd how the alignments of the prospective MLC’s are the opposite to their predecessors. After this independents will be 7 or less than half the Council.

  3. Good result for Labor, probably to do with the strong, genuine candidate. Either way, left-wing domination of the legislative council continues.

    It doesn’t look like sky high approval of new premier translating to votes for Liberal brand. This might reduce chances of an early poll.

  4. I’ve called Huon now as a very nicely methodical and decent-sized scrutineering sample sent through to me (not from ALP) has Seidel’s lead over Robert Armstrong increasing on preferences, mainly off a very strong flow from Caruana, with the remaining preferences favouring the incumbent overall but with a lot of splatter.

  5. Gorks @ #5 Saturday, August 1st, 2020 – 9:24 pm

    Good result for Labor, probably to do with the strong, genuine candidate. Either way, left-wing domination of the legislative council continues.

    It doesn’t look like sky high approval of new premier translating to votes for Liberal brand. This might reduce chances of an early poll.

    Would like to think so but up north in Rosevears Labor didn’t rate.

  6. @mundo
    Traditional Labor and Green voters decided to back independent Jane Finley as this became a competition in many people’s minds between a high profile independent who has expressed Labor/Greenish type opinions, and a high profile news reader and former model who appeared in people’s living rooms every night. Palmer reads the autocue very well and that must mean she knows everything and how to solve every problem. She is also funny, she cracked 5 second jokes with ‘Murph’ the weather man every night for something like 20 years. Many people suggest she is simply a puppet of the party and went out of her way to avoid expressing views on controversial legislation as not to upset the Liberal establishment and create unfavorable ripples in the community. Jo Palmer also made excuses not to turn up to one or two debates involving all the candidates.

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