House of Representatives By-Elections


July 28, 2018
Margin: Labor 2.2%
Region: North-Western
State: Tasmania

Primary vote
Two-party preferred


One of the two conspicuously marginal seats that face by-elections to the Section 44 saga is the regional Tasmanian seat of Braddon, which has changed hands at five out of seven elections going back to 1998. Braddon encompasses the north-western corner of the state, the major population centres being Burnie and Devonport. It was won for Labor in 2016 by Justine Keay, who held dual citizenship through her British-born father until she applied for renunciation on May 9, 2016. This did not take effect until July 11, over a week after her election. As with all four of the members who resigned their seats on May 9 after the High Court ruled to disqualify Senator Katy Gallagher, Keay will be recontesting the seat.


Prior to her election in 2016, Justine Keay was a Devonport councillor and electorate officer to Bryan Green, a member for Braddon in the state parliament and the party's state leader from 2014 to 2017. The Liberals have again endorsed Brett Whiteley, who held the seat from 2013 until his defeat by Keay in 2016, and served in the state seat of Braddon from 2002 until his defeat in 2010. Whiteley won the state executive preselection vote unanimously, despite competition from former McDonald's licensee Craig Brakey and Wynyard RSL president Gavin Pearce. There were suggestions that a Braddon by-election might be of interest to Jacqui Lambie, who was likewise disqualified under Section 44, and has lived in the electorate all her life, but she has declared herself intent on a return to the Senate.


Braddon encompasses the northern coastal population centres of Devonport, Ulverstone, Burnie, Wynyard and Somerset, and the length of the thinly populated west coast. The electorate is demographically distinctive on a number of measures, ranking lowest in the country for percentage of high school graduates, sixth lowest for median income, and thirteenth lowest for non-English speakers. Devonport provides about a quarter of the voters, and a further 18% are in Burnie. The timber and mining industries that have traditionally provided a solid base for Labor are balanced by beef and dairy farming, which contribute to a more conservative lean around Smithton in the west. Burnie is Labor’s greatest source of strength, although Devonport also traditionally leans its way.

Like all of Tasmania’s five electorates, Braddon has had an uninterrupted existence going back to the original division of the state into single-member seats in 1903, although it had the somewhat confusing name of Darwin until 1955. Darwin was held by Labor legend King O'Malley from its creation until 1917, after which it was in conservative hands until 1998, outside of Ron Davies' spell as Labor member from 1958 to 1975. Future Premier Ray Groom won the seat for the Liberals in the first of the party's clean sweeps of the state in 1975, and was succeeded as Liberal member in 1984 by Chris Miles.

Miles' eventual defeat by Labor's Sid Sidebottom off a 10.0% swing in 1998 proved a watershed result, with Labor's only defeats thereafter being in 2004, when John Howard trumped Mark Latham over forestry jobs late in the campaign, and with the defeat of the Labor government in 2013. The winner on the latter occasion was Brett Whiteley, who had been a state member for Braddon from 2002 until his defeat in 2010. Whiteley was in turn unseated in 2016 by a 4.8% swing to Labor's Justine Keay.

Numbers represent two-party vote percentages at polling booths, coloured in red for a Labor majority and blue for a Liberal majority, and varying in size to reflect the number of votes cast. Numbers with black borders are from pre-poll voting centres.