Tasmanian election minus four weeks

New independent contenders continue to emerge ahead of the closure of nominations on Thursday.

The electoral roll closed last Wednesday with 80,126 on the roll in Bass, 83,875 in Braddon, 74,236 in Clark, 82,238 in Franklin and 87,722 in Lyons, an overall increase of 3.5% at the 2021 election. Looming milestones include the close of nominations on Thursday, the announcement of candidates on Friday and the opening of early voting next Monday.

Other news:

• Jeremy Rockliff has rejected the Australian Medical Association’s calls for the disendorsement of Bass candidate Julie Sladden, whom the ABC reports “repeatedly questioned the safety of COVID vaccines and described Tasmania as an ‘autocracy’ during the COVID period”. Sladden is a general practitioner and emergency medicine doctor who closed her practice in 2021 after refusing to be vaccinated.

• Two Hobart councillors, Louise Elliot and Ben Lohberger, will join a crowded field of independents in Clark, along with incumbent Kristie Johnston and former Liberal member Sue Hickey. Elliot ruled out running in the first week of the campaign, but now plans to run on landlords’ rights after the Liberals committed to policies including strengthening the right of tenants to own pets. Lohberger is a founding member of Save UTAS and says he will introduce legislation to stop it selling its Sandy Bay campus.

• Elsewhere, Latrobe mayor Peter Freshney will run as an independent in Braddon. Clarence mayor Brendan Blomeley, a Liberal factional conservative who ran unsuccessfully for Senate preselection and the party’s state presidency, floated the possibility of running as an independent in Franklin last week, but now says he will remain a member of the Liberal Party.

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.

25 comments on “Tasmanian election minus four weeks”

  1. “Elliot … now plans to run on landlords’ rights after the Liberals committed to policies including strengthening the right of tenants to own pets.”

    A niche policy platform, surely?

  2. ‘Jeremy Rockliff has rejected the Australian Medical Association’s calls for the disendorsement of Bass candidate Julie Sladden, whom the ABC reports “repeatedly questioned the safety of COVID vaccines and described Tasmania as an ‘autocracy’ during the COVID period”.’

    Kevin Bonham on Julie Sladden:


    ‘… the Premier continues to defend a candidate who:

    * believes that our COVID response, vaccines clearly included, was “not healthcare”, was “not saving lives” and “never was”.

    * believes … that COVID vaccines are too dangerous and do not work, but also that Ivermectin does. (“They can’t all be wrong”)

    * has said Tasmania’s pandemic response was an “autocracy” and that when Premier Gutwein won the last election with a huge personal vote, he wasn’t actually “in charge”.

    * has been working, this year, for Russell Broadbent, who believes much of the same and has defected from the Liberals to the crossbench.

    * on Twitter follows Cory Bernardi, David Limbrick, Louise Elliot and the dunce of the Senate Ralph Babet but no individual Liberal MPs. I will cut her some slack here for such follows perhaps being for professional reasons, but even so …

    * has in recent months, apparently approvingly, liked tweets (not all on COVID issues) not by mainstream Liberals but by Malcolm Roberts (PHON), Julian Fidge (Libertarian), Topher Field (Libertarian), Elliot (ex-Lib), Broadbent (Lib defector), Antic (Lib), Rennick (LNP disendorsed), Hanson (PHON), Deeming (Ind Lib) and Craig Kelly (UAP) and has even liked a tweet by The Real Rukshan cheering Tucker Carlson’s suck-up interview of Putin.

    * in no way other than Liberal endorsement appears to me to resemble a remotely mainstream Liberal and who in general (including views on other social issues) seems a much better fit for UAP, Libertarians, One Nation, Aus Christians or “freedom parties”, none of those being registered in Tassie. (This said, her local Council Facebook page seems positive and harmless, and I’ve seen no reason to doubt that she’s a good Councillor).

    * is so much a part of the right-wing alternative media culture-war sphere as a writer and show guest that she has been twice interviewed on the same episode of a radio show as Simeon Boikov (whose other views I am not saying she shares, but this shows the sort of audience that she is reaching)

    * is involved (at least as a writer for its website) with the Canberra Declaration movement which proposes ripping up all anti-discrimination and similar laws that limit “religious freedom and freedom of speech”, which casts vague but obvious aspersions against same-sex marriage and which flatly opposes abortion from conception. (She is also a former member of Australian Christians).’

    [end quote]

    The Tasmanian Liberals are indeed a ‘broad church’, it seems. Very forgiving of trespasses.


  3. Dear William.

    You have confused Lara Alexander and Kristie Johnston.

    The latter is the current independent member for Clark. The former is in Bass.

  4. The “don’t move UTAS” crowd are a funny bunch. They mainly seem to be motivated by a sense of “please don’t change things from the way they were when I was a kid.” Perhaps along with a fear that the existing , pretty ugly campus might be replaced with affordable housing, and we wouldn’t want that sort of thing in Sandy Bay, would we?

    Lohberger bangs on about how the city is so congested and the uni will only make things worse. He needs to get our (of Tassie) more. The city is hardly busy or congested even by the standards of some Australian regional towns.

    On the surface, campus move seems all good to me: chelping to revitalise the city and freeing up lots of space at Sandy Bay for other things. But I met lots of people who are very strongly against it. Being a Burkeian conservative at heart, I’m always ready to be persuaded by them,,but they struggle to provide cogent arguments. Even the material that the movement puts out features a lot about “how you can help to stop it” and very little about why it’s urgently necessary to do so. But they seem to have public opinion on their side, at least for now.

    Funny bunch, Tassie folk. Loveable, but funny.

  5. MB, I submitted a response to the Tas Parliamentary inquiry into the Utas campus move. This is a great case study in how university executives in Australia have almost no oversight on their decisions.

    It’s been shown that the previous VC and now the current VC along with the COO deliberately didnt invest in new buildings on the green field campus, allowed the old buildings to get run down, and then said the solution was to burn down the campus and sell it off as apartments and then buy up a bunch of buildings or build new ones in the city.

    They then triggered a price bubble in the CBD, a price spike in new building construction, blew out their ‘business plan, saw a crash in enrollments, a mass migration of their skilled workforce. Oh and instituted a political crisis that no one knows how to unravel.

    So this “don’t move UTAS” crowd member is simply outraged at the squandering of nearly a billion dollars that could have made the green field campus one of the best in the country.

  6. MI: “They then triggered a price bubble in the CBD, a price spike in new building construction, blew out their ‘business plan, saw a crash in enrollments, a mass migration of their skilled workforce. Oh and instituted a political crisis that no one knows how to unravel.
    So this “don’t move UTAS” crowd member is simply outraged at the squandering of nearly a billion dollars that could have made the green field campus one of the best in the country.”

    Well, your arguments against the move are certainly new ones to me : eg, most of the “don’t move UTAS” folks accuse the university of being motivated by mercenary motives, particularly the massive profits they expect to make from selling off the Sandy Bay campus for residential development. I’ve heard nothing about the squandering of nearly a billion dollars on the move, other than concern from the university that, if they are somehow prevented from completing their plans, they will end up with offices in town that they don’t need as well as a large campus at Sandy Bay which they will need to maintain and refurbish against their will.

    And I’m not aware of any sort of brain drain out of UTAS. If anything, the place is known for the long-term stability of its staffing relative to mainland universities: some would say that the turnover is not frequent enough. And surely any “crash in enrolments” in recent years was almost entirely to do with COVID preventing overseas students from coming to Hobart?

    I understand that many Hobartians have very fond memories of attending the Sandy Bay campus which, despite the general ugliness of its buildings, was full of open spaces and had something of a village atmosphere. But IMO universities are changing in the 21st century: the focus on remote learning is growing all of the time, as is an emphasis on research partnerships with government and private organisations. Being a Burkeian conservative, I’m not necessarily all that happy with these changes, but they are definitely occurring and I think the university has shown some foresight in trying to adapt to them.

    But, as I’ve found in the past, it’s an issue which arouses a lot of intense passions. Being a blow-in from the mainland, I never studied at UTAS (although I have worked there from time to time: both at Sandy Bay and in a city location). I understand why people like the Sandy Bay campus, but I also believe that Senates and Vice-Chancellors are appointed to universities to manage them as autonomous institutions and, if they decide to relocate, they should generally be left alone to do so unless they are creating a massive urban planning problem: and the extent to which that is likely in Hobart IMO has been greatly overstated. In comparison, for instance, to the terrible planning and traffic mess (on match days) that the football stadium is likely to create.

  7. The political football of the AFL stadium is getting weird now.

    The Greens have tied themselves in knots and decided that they will back an AFL stadium but only if it’s in Launceston. That comes off the back of Jeff Kennett’s probably self aggrandising and self interested piece in the Herald Sun the other day, I heard him on ABC Hobart but they didnt post that interview. Remember Hawthorn has played there for over a decade and has a very health membership headcount in the north of the state.

    Jeff – https://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/opinion/jeff-kennett-here-is-how-the-afl-can-salvage-its-irresponsible-tasmania-deal/news-story/1a650492a1cb049f2588b12deb485697

    The Greens – https://archive.md/Wph22

    The Libs are stating Mac Point or bust, ex-Libs running as independents are saying lets look at what is being called Mac 2 Point 0 (oddly put up by ex-Labor Premier Lennon), and the Labor team are saying yes, no and maybe to all ideas in a bid to not be wedged and therefor lose votes.

    The Greens is the oddest turn around but I think they must have some internal polling that shows a hard no on the stadium is going to lose votes regardless of other issues or political preferences by Tasmanians.

    I’m going to put this out there, I think one of the big stories on Election night is how poorly the Greens are going to poll. They should keep their current 2 seats but I suspect they might struggle to get any additional seats as voters have a huge range of places to park their vote if they don’t like the two major parties.

  8. This is what I wrote in 2022 as a summary of the UTAS move issue.
    The University of Tasmania has been buying up buildings in the CBD and moving from its present Sandy Bay campus to the city. Supporters argue that the move will make the university more accessible and modern, revitalise the CBD and free up current campus land for housing developments. They also argue that it will improve research collaboration. Opponents argue that the new university will lack campus culture, that the university has lost focus on education while so absorbed in real estate speculation, that the CBD will not be revitalised because students don’t spend much, that businesses will be actually adversely impacted, and that the university’s proposed housing developments would have environmental impacts. From time to time completely silly arguments are seen such as a claim that people from Chigwell don’t go to the current university because they’d have to catch two buses.

  9. MI: Re the stadium.

    It has long seemed to me that the obvious place to build it would be somewhere north of Brighton: eg, Baghdad or Mangalore on a greenfield site with masses of parking. This would enable fans from northern Tasmania to make a tolerable day trip to watch matches, whereas getting to a stadium on the waterfront is always going to be a hassle, involving a long drive to a parking area and then potentially some sort of public transport journey to and from the stadium. Also, building it outside Hobart will give the northerners some sense that the team doesn’t “belong” to Hobart, which will be psychologically important for them (an aspect of Tasmanian culture that seemed totally crazy to me when I first came here, but which I’m now completely used to).

    However, I understand that the problem is the AFL, which is convinced that a stadium right in the heart of the tourist area of Hobart will be far more marketable to sponsors and interstate fans. Political insiders I know say that the AFL seems to be completely unwilling to budge on this.

    I assume that the Greens are thinking that a stadium in Launceston will appeal to voters in Bass and, to a lesser extent Braddon and also to Hobart residents who don’t like the idea of the stadium. So it might not be a bad tactic.

    But a Launceston stadium is never going to happen. Like it or lump it, the balance of the Tasmanian population has been shifting southwards and is continuing to do so. So the team has to be based in southern Tasmania.

  10. Kevin: I think that’s an extremely fair summary of the debate, although I would perhaps have included the concerns about the environmental impact of housing development on the Sandy Bay site under the category of “completely silly arguments.”

  11. Look, on paper moving into the city shouldn’t have been the worst idea in the world. PS, I don’t work for UTas.

    The previous VC’s business case was that a CBD move would attract more interstate and international students because they want to have a city experience. And you’re right, the plan to pay for it was to sell off land in the most expensive suburb of the state. The business case also relied on a reduction of overheads as services normally provided by a university would now be provided by private interests within the CBD. It was a hard headed proposal and could have possibly worked.

    But it didnt take into account so many other non-measurables.

    As an example, student housing. The suburbs surrounding the Sandy Bay campus have a whole ecology of run down low rent houses for uni students. UTas itself had 50 houses which they sold off as ‘accommodation was not core business’. The CBD’s surrounding suburbs dont have this ecology so several accommodation providers built multi story buildings which cost students significantly more to stay at.

    So on several fronts the outcome of this move has made the cost of living for uni students higher through reduced subsidized services and higher accommodation costs. So no the crash in enrolments is not due solely to Covid, it’s because on balance it has become more expensive to study at UTas, so students are simply selecting to have the same city experience in the mainland capital cities.

    I have looked into the staffing matter (with some insider leaked reporting and insights). But there’s a whole lot of reporting on staff satisfaction rates and international standings. During the transition UTas went backwards on the international ranking tables in comparison to like for like universities in Australia. Some of that is attributed to staff satisfaction levels. The people piece was sorely mismanaged and that became a political issue and therefore outside of the uni’s exec to manage.

    The ‘stickiness’ of campus, campus culture and experience is whole piece in and of itself, many unis are struggling with it. I was the project manager at our uni on linking lecture recordings to the timetable for automatic uploads to the learning management system. Who would have guessed the moment we did that students stopped coming to lectures. Covid accelerated it, post the lockdowns we offered on campus and online tutorials for some units. Students overwhelming want to be in the online tutorials. It would be a brave VC who asks for a 300 seat lecture theatre to be built these days, they are a dinosaur relict of the 20th century.

    I could go on and on about the UTas move, possibly it was a good idea but it was poorly implemented and now they are stuck in limbo with half the student population at the old campus, and half the population in the CBD, so no one is satisficed and the uni has not been able to pull off a major strategic piece. Their plan to sell of the campus is stuck in council, maybe the state government might intervene, but they’re hemorrhaging money through interest payments as they didn’t get the sell off revenue the business case required.

  12. MI: Thanks for your measured response to my posts. I’m sure few other PBers want to hear a long discussion about this issue, so I promise that this will be my last contribution.

    First of all, there’s lots I could say about the previous VC and how he handled the matter but would prefer not to talk about him at all. He’s in his own purgatory now, and let’s leave him there. His replacement is doing a much better job IMO, and has largely handled the growing opposition to the campus move with coolness and tact.

    I don’t think the fact that there is a lot of cheap housing around the Sandy Bay campus should be seen as a significant impediment to a move to town: at the end of the day, it is only a half hour walk/15 minute bicycle trip/10 minute bus trip from the existing campus to downtown Hobart. Journeys of such a distance to and from campuses are not at all unusual in mainland cities. The Uni’s suggestion that a move to the city will make it easier for many Hobart-based students to get there is largely nonsense (eg, it’s certainly not going to help those who wish to drive to the campus). However, I also don’t think the move is going to inconvenience all that many people either. The trend towards remote learning will reduce the frequency of student visits to the campus (hopefully by not too much, for the sake of preserving some sort of campus life, but we’ll see what happens over the longer term). In terms of any increased congestion in the city, I think that will be ameliorated by the fact that uni staff and students tend not to travel during peak hour, but more at other times of the day and night.

    Look, it certainly could have been handled a lot better, although the implacability of the “keep UTAS at Sandy Bay” crowd does not suggest to me that a lot of additional discussion would have helped the situation too much, particularly as a lot of the opponents do not have any sort of personal vested interest in the matter, which always makes negotiations more difficult to bring to a compromise solution.

    Anyway, that’s enough from me on the topic. Best wishes. MB

  13. You’d think the Libs would stop adding people like Julie Sladden who seem the type to inevitably quit the party the moment doing so would give them more personal power.

  14. Bob 12.37

    We sometimes don’t agree on much, so let me say I fully agree with your post – was exactly my thought when I read it – how long would she stick around the Lib camp if elected?

  15. Huh, did not see this one coming. The Liberals have pledged to introduce legislation to reinstate the need for UTas to get permission via both houses of parliament to sell off their campus land.

    This iteration of the Liberals is quite interventionist.


  16. That Louise Elliott was a prominent figure in the (pointless) Hobart City Council voter poll on the UTas matter has made me extremely suspicious of the whole “Save UTas” thing.

    She does not strike me as someone’s who does things by accident, so I suspect a link between “landlords’ rights” and “Save UTas”.

    Although perhaps that link is simply “a way in which Elliott can promote herself and make money”.

    The only consolation is that it is extremely unlikely she will get many votes.

  17. MI: but does not appear to be the Liberal Party as a whole making the pledge, but the “Liberal candidates for Clark”, seemingly guided by uncle Eric’s trusty acolyte Simon Behrakis.

    It might just be an extremely bold piece of freewheeling, aimed at solidifying the support of the lower Sandy Bay crowd, most of whom went to UTAS and who would rather not have a huge apartment development up the road.

    But it could also be part of a latger plan to undermine Rocky on the part of the man who would be Premier.

    If such a plan exists. Time will tell.

  18. Fremantle has been through the imposition of a University in its midst. My personal opinion was that initially it was not good for the area -really killed off the nightlife down the High Street end. However, it has taken decades but now is part and parcel of the fabric and the nightlife and businesses have bounced back.

    They are now building new Uni buildings in the the Perth CBD. Not my idea of what I think a desirable Uni campus would be – but I’m sure it’ll be fine.

  19. Not great for Labor.

    When Labor kicked out ex-leader David O’Byrne it was always a gamble. They gave away a seat and now have seen the actual voter back lash.

    But Premier Rockcliff just announced he was going to wait to announce the name of the Tasmanian AFL team. The big ticket item he had hoped to give him a bounce has now been pushed back to after the election.


  20. So @Kevin too soon to call the election lost for Labor? 😉

    But trending to no change in government with some kind of agreement between the Liberals and someone. Possibly an independent speaker.

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