Photo finishes: Tasmania

Tuesday, March 30

9.20pm. Final score: Archer 9356, Wilkie 9041.

8.50pm. It’s Archer! 9231 votes to 8864. So barring a late surprise in Braddon, 10-10-5 it is, David Bartlett to go at the very least and, barring a party room coup, a change of government.

UPDATE: Helen Burnet is in fact “part excluded”: 466 of her votes remain, for reasons I don’t understand. But with 367 votes separating the two, there can’t be any room for doubt.

UPDATE 2: Kevin Bonham explains only Burnet’s full value votes have been distributed at this point.

Finally, not for the first time, a round of applause for the Tasmanian Electoral Commission. Nobody does it better.

8.20pm. Kevin Bonham:

If I’ve got this right, the formula for the proportion Wilkie needs to win is given roughly by
w = .5+.136/(1-x)
where x = exhaust rate from Burnet expressed as a fraction of 1
and w = proportion of votes going to either Wilkie or Archer, that need to go to Burnet.
No exhaust, Wilkie needs 64-36
Exhaust = 20%, Wilkie needs 67-33
Exhaust = 30%, Wilkie needs 69.5-30.5
Exhaust = 40%, Wilkie needs 73-27
Exhaust = 50%, Wilkie needs 77.5-22.5
Exhaust = 60%, Wilkie needs 84-16
Exhaust = 75%, Wilkie needs intervention by Chuck Norris.

7.50pm. Scott Bacon’s 1063 surplus has gone 200 to Archer (18.8 per cent), 191 to Wilkie (18.0 per cent), 180 to Burnet (16.9 per cent) and 492 exhaust (46.3 per cent). So Burnet goes out with 6032 to distribute, with the scores on 8063 for Archer to 6422 to Wilkie.

7.40pm. I’ve had my eye off the ball in Bass, but Kevin Bonham reports Brian Wightman is looking good to take the second Labor seat at the expense of Scott McLean: an example, perhaps, of Hare-Clark electing a community figure where Labor processes would normally have had the seat go to the union man.

7.20pm. Distribution of the Greens surplus puts Rebecca White 76 votes ahead of David Llewellyn in Lyons.

6.50pm. Lisa Singh’s 4691 votes have now been distributed: 3400 (72.5 per cent) have gone to Scott Bacon, 466 (9.9 per cent) to Helen Burnet, 349 (7.4 per cent) to Wilkie, 317 (6.8 per cent) to Elise Archer, and 159 (3.4 per cent) have exhausted. This seems to my unschooled eye a surprisingly high rate of leakage. Scott Bacon is now elected and his 1063 vote surplus will be distributed, a great deal of which will exhaust. So I’d say we can write off any chance of Helen Burnet (5852) overtaking Andrew Wilkie (6231). Kevin Bonham’s take is that the Singh votes have favoured Burnet better than might have been expected, which is good news for Archer as far as it goes because many will drop out of the count when Burnet is excluded.

6.20pm. In Lyons, the exclusion of the Labor also-rans leaves Rebecca White only 43 votes behind David Llewellyn in the race for the second Labor seat. 2484 votes’ worth of Greens surplus are now being distributed, and one would intuitively imagine that would heavily favour White.

5.20pm. The 4091 votes from the final definitely-unsuccessful Liberal, Richard Lowrie, have been distributed. 3394 (83.0 per cent) went to the last remaining Liberal, Elise Archer; 161 (3.9 per cent) leaked to Labor’s Scott Bacon, and 153 (3.7 per cent) leaked to Lisa Singh; 111 (2.7 per cent) leaked to the remaining Green, Helen Burnet; 220 (5.4 per cent) leaked to Andrew Wilkie; and 52 (1.3 per cent) exhausted. Kevin Bonham rates that a surprisingly high leakage rate, damaging the Liberals’ chances. That leaves the result at Bacon 8293 and Singh 4691, Archer 7546, Wilkie 5882, Burnet 5386. Now we will see Singh eliminated and most of her preferences going to Bacon, who will then be elected and his surplus distributed. Then, almost certainly, Burnet’s votes will be distributed between Archer and Wilkie, deciding the result.

5pm. The Mercury reports the Electoral Commission has resolved to complete the count for Denison tonight. With the Liberals looking increasingly unlikely to take a third seat in Braddon, the fate of the government will almost certainly rest on the outcome.

4pm. With all minor Labor candidates in Lyons excluded, Rebecca White is now only 35 votes short of incubent rival David Llewellyn. She will need to make that up on leakage from excluded Liberal and Greens candidates, and also the distribution of the Greens surplus when Tim Morris gets elected with the exclusion of their second best performing candidate.

2.50pm. Kevin Bonham notes Jane Howlett has had a huge gain on her party rival Mark Shelton in the race for the second Liberal seat in Lyons with the distribution of the 1867 votes from the party’s last placed candidate, Leigh Gray, narrowing the gap from 744 to 398. If that is any way replicated when the 4027 votes Jim Playsted are distributed, she will score an upset victory. It is beyond doubt that the electorate will go Labor 2, Liberal 2, Greens 1; it also remains to be seen whether Labor newcomer Rebecca White can close her 6612-6453 gap against incumbent David Llewellyn as the combined 6190 votes from the three unsuccessful Labor candidates are distributed.

2.30pm. Preference distributions are now under way, and by far the best way to follow their progress is to keep track of the comments section below. The most substantial progress so far has been in Denison, where there seems to have been a developing opinion of late that Andrew Wilkie is a better chance of winning at the expense of a second Liberal than was initially acknowledged. I gather nothing that has happened with the preference distribution so far has upset anyone’s calculations on that score. David Bartlett and Cassy O’Connor are elected, and enough other candidates excluded to leave Scott Bacon and Lisa Singh technically in the hunt for the second Labor seat, with the former certain to win; certain winner Matthew Groom competing with potential winners Elise Archer and Richard Lowrie for first and possibly second Liberal seats; and independent Andrew Wilkie and second Green Helen Burnet in the hunt to deprive the Liberals of that second seat. The story of the count so far seems to be that Elise Archer has overtaken Richard Lowrie in the race for a possible second Liberal seat after the preferences of the other two candidates were excluded.

Friday, March 26

Peter Tucker at Tasmanian Politics has carefully considered the ifs, and reckons Andrew Wilkie about 45 per cent likely to win the last seat in Denison at the expense of a second Liberal, and second Greens candidate Helen Burnet about 10 per cent likely. That means that unless Liberal member Brett Whiteley keeps his Braddon seat at the expense of the Greens, which he reckons 30 per cent likely, it is fractionally more likely than not that Labor will win more seats than the Liberals.

In developments from today’s count, we’ve had the Electoral Commission provide us with a new batch of impressively detailed PDFs detailing not only results for polling booths and different kinds of declaration votes, but also providing separate results for postals depending on when they were added to the count (South Australian Electoral Commission take note). Today has seen batches of postal votes added which, while small (445 in Braddon and 246 in Denison), have slightly strengthened the Greens.

We’ve got conflicting reports in comments on how scrutineers expect preferences to go in Lyons, where Bec White might yet unseat David Llewellyn as the second Labor member, depending on who’s right. One report says 70 per cent of the minor Labor candidates’ preferences are going to Llewellyn, who should thus finish over 1000 votes ahead. The other says two of the three minor candidates’ preferences are in fact favouring White over Llewellyn, and that the 27 per cent of Greens preferences which are going to Labor (about 750 votes) are favouring White by a factor of more than four to one.

Thursday, March 25

Rechecking appears to have been done with nothing further in Braddon and Bass, but new votes look to have been added elsewhere. In Denison, 631 votes continue to show the Greens doing better in late counting than you would normally expect, but not enough for their second candidate to overtake Andrew Wilkie. The new votes have been weak for the Liberals, providing a fractional boost to Wilkie’s chances. In a detailed piece for the Tasmanian Times Kevin Bonham, notes Wilkie’s vote was concentrated in Greens and Liberal strongholds, arguing it amount to an “Australian Democrat vote (pale Greens and left Liberals) on steroids” because unsullied by leakage. The addition of 936 votes in Lyons have boosted Mark Shelton by 24 votes over Jane Howlett in the race for the second Liberal seat, while another 547 votes in Franklin have had no bearing on the only remaining issue there, whether Tony Mulder can rein in Jacquie Petrusma’s lead to take the second Liberal seat.

Wednesday, March 24

We’ve got a combination of rechecking and some declaration votes, but we don’t have the PDFs that would tell us what kind of vote we’re getting on the latter. The count in Braddon is up 996 votes which has slightly weakened the Greens’ position as expected: the latest batch has gone 11.6 per cent their way compared with their existing total of 13.8 per cent. There has been no significant change in the Liberal candidates’ position. Only 429 votes added to the total in Denison, and it’s a great batch for both the Greens (44.3 per cent versus overall total of 24.7 per cent) and Wilkie (21.7 per cent against 8.4 per cent). A number of candidates’ votes have fallen here, particularly the Socialist Alliance, so I suspect something happened with rechecking here. An extra 337 votes in Bass continues the slight trend towards Brant Webb over Scott McLean and Brian Wightman in the race for the third Labor seat, although the order remains Wightman (up 50 to 3181), McLean (up 51 to 3088), Webb (up 79 to 2684). Nothing of interest to report from Franklin, and nothing at all to report from Lyons.

POST-SCRIPT: The invaluable Kevin Bonham writes in comments that because the Greens will have “a quota of their total soaked up electing O’Connor, the 44.3% is actually 27.6% for the purposes of the contest with Wilkie, and gaining on Wilkie at the rate of .057 votes per vote counted is not enough to get even close to wiping out the primary gap to Wilkie on the few remaining postals. Thus, the moderately ‘good’ news for them is actually bad news – they needed much more dramatic improvements in their status vs Wilkie than that to be competitive. As it is they will probably start the cutup effectively about 200 behind him. I think they need to be an absolute minimum of 100 ahead to have any realistic chance.”

Tuesday, March 23

Kevin Bonham tells us the next update will be tomorrow afternoon. Interesting article by Sue Neales of The Mercury on the prospect of a Labor party room rebellion if David Bartlett wishes the government to resign, raising the spectre of a reverse 1996 scenario where Labor goes into minority government with a new leader.

Sunday, March 21

In summary, the conventional wisdom remains a 10-10-5 result that would oblige David Bartlett to tender his resignation, after all he’s been saying (although the party could always get around that by dumping him as leader). However, Hare-Clark counts very often disregard the conventional wisdom on election night, and there seem to be two distinct live prospects for the applecart being upset. One involves Andrew Wilkie or the Greens taking one of the Liberals’ projected two seats in Denison, which would leave them with one seat fewer than Labor. The other is the Liberals squeezing out the Greens in Braddon, which would leave them with one seat more.


It is clear that David Bartlett and Scott Bacon will win seats for Labor, and that ministers Lisa Singh and Graeme Sturges have been defeated. There is equally no argument that Matthew Groom will enter parliament as Liberal member in place of the retiring Michael Hodgman. Cassy O’Connor of the Greens has also won a seat with nearly a full quota in her own right. However, things get murky with the final seat. After today’s rechecking and adding of absent votes, Labor has 2.19 quotas, the Liberals 1.79, the Greens 1.47 and Andrew Wilkie 0.50. The contestants for the final seat are thus, in current scoreboard order, a second Liberal (either Richard Lowrie or Elise Archer: Archer closed the gap on today’s counting), Andrew Wilkie or Helen Burnet of the Greens.

A Burnet win looked unlikely last night, but today’s counting reduced the gap between the the Greens’ surplus after electing O’Connor and Wilkie’s vote from 0.05 quotas to 0.03. However, the situation for both the Greens and the Liberals is complicated by the fact that some of their preferences will go to candidates from other parties as their lesser performers are excluded from the count (known in the trade as “leakage”), and others will drop out of the count altogether as many voters will have fulfilled the minimum requirement demanded of the ballot paper by numbering the five candidates on their preferred party ticket. Wilkie doesn’t have that problem because he’s running on his own, which Tasmanian psephologist Kevin Bonham estimates will give him a bit less than a 0.1 quota boost in a contest with the second Liberal, should he get that far. The Greens will also get a smaller boost relative to the Liberals from the fact that their three weakest candidates have polled less, and will thus be less prone to leakage.

There is also the question of Labor preferences, which are likely to see a surplus of 0.1 quota distributed, not to mention the 0.04 quota polled by Socialist Alliance. These could help Wilkie and Burnet cut their deficit against the Liberals by as much as 0.05. So in considering the gap between Wilkie or Burnet and the Liberals, Wilkie should be given a bonus of about 0.14 and Burnet about 0.08. The issue would then become the exclusion of Wilkie and Burnet, and whether the preferences of either would deliver victory for the other. If Burnet gets ahead of Wilkie, she will need to chase down maybe 0.25 quotas with the distribution of Wilkie’s 0.5. In other words, over half of them will have to have numbered Burnet (remembering that they have to have numbered somebody, as Wilkie is only one candidate and formal ballot papers must have five boxes numbered) over the Liberal, if they have indeed numbered the Liberal at all. If Wilkie gets ahead of Burnet, perhaps 0.35 quota worth of Greens vote will be up for grabs after exhaustion, and from that he would need to make up about 0.15.

The 4024 votes added today were good for the Greens, who polled 28.3 per cent compared with 24.3 per cent from the ordinary votes, but a lot less good for Wilkie, who polled 6.9 per cent compared with 8.4 per cent. The former result is presumably what Greens number-cruncher Stephen Luntz calls “the bushwalker vote”. Historically speaking, the prospect of the Greens making further gains on postals and pre-polls is apparently extremely dim.


Against the possibility of the Liberals dropping a seat is their chance of squeezing out the Greens in Braddon. The race hinges on an immensely subtle point: how the preferences from the minor Liberal candidates divide between their second and third best performers, newcomer Alan Brooks and incumbent Brett Whiteley. On the current primary vote, Brooks leads Whiteley 10.8 per cent to 8.6 per cent, with O’Halloran on 8.9 per cent and the minor Greens candidates on 5.0 per cent combined. Accounting for about 10 per cent leakage from the four minor Greens (roughly what Kevin Bonham estimates), that should leave O’Halloran with a bit under 13.5 per cent when they have all been excluded. For the Liberals, incumbent Jeremy Rockliff is almost bang on a quota, so Brooks and Whiteley will only get their party’s minor candidates’ preferences divided up between them. There are four of these in play, who collectively polled 9.0 per cent – which by Kevin Bonham’s judgement will come down to 8 per cent after accounting for exhaustion (lower than it might if been if they had not foolishly endorsed seven candidates rather than an optimal five). Then there is the matter of Labor’s surplus, which after exhaustion will amount to a bit over 3 per cent. Surprising though it may seem to outsiders, history suggests more of this will go to Liberals than Greens, so as a rough rule of thumb we might divide it equally between Rockliff, Whiteley and O’Halloran. Using the numbers provided so far, O’Halloran could fall behind both if, say, 5 per cent of the minor Liberal preferences went to Whiteley and 3 per cent to Brooks. That might seem a bit unlikely given the state of their primary votes, but the maths could improve for the Liberals on late counting, given the tendency for the Greens to fade as postals and pre-polls come in. What’s more, incumbency might help deliver Whiteley a higher share of Labor preferences than Brooks.


With Labor on 2.12 quotas, Liberal on 2.62 and the Greens on 1.62, a 2-2-1 split is not in doubt. However, there’s a three-way tussle between Brian Wightman (5.1 per cent), Scott McLean (5.0 per cent) and Brant Webb (4.3 per cent) to replace the retiring Jim Cox as Labor’s second member. Webb did well out of today’s count (I might speculate this is because many absent votes come from booths near electorate boundaries, and I believe Beaconsfield is such a place), recording 5.2 per cent of 3095 votes added compared with 3.6 per cent for Wightman and 4.9 per cent for McLean.


Little question here that the result is two Liberal (Will Hodgman and Jacquie Petrusma, although Tony Mulder remains a very distant possibility), two Labor (Lara Giddings and David O’Byrne, with sitting members Daniel Hulme and Ross Butler defeated) and one Greens (Nick McKim). Kevin Bonham notes that Labor were lucky the 16.5 per cent of the vote they lost divided evenly between the two parties, as otherwise they might have lost a second seat.


Also a clear 2-2-1. The Liberals have returned Rene Hidding, with Mark Shelton leading Jane Howlett for the second seat (although Howlett made up a small amount of ground today). Labor has returned Michael Polley, with rising star newcomer Rebecca White very narrowly trailing David Llewellyn for the second seat. Tim Morris has been returned for the Greens.

Saturday, March 20

This thread will be used to follow the progress of the late count in Tasmania. Given the vagaries of the Hare-Clark system, this is an absorbing process even when the fate of the government is not in the balance. As it stands, it appears the most likely result will be 10-10-5, but there seems to be a possibility the Liberals will finish a seat short of Labor. Clearly there are 2-2-1 results in Bass, Lyons and Franklin; Braddon will probably go that way as well, although I gather there is a vague chance of the Greens being squeezed out and it going 3-2 in favour of Liberal. The wild card is the final seat in Denison: clearly Labor has won two and Liberal and the Greens one each, but the last could go to either the Liberals or the Greens or, just maybe, Andrew Wilkie. A more thorough analysis will have to wait until tomorrow.

Tasmanian election live

7.04pm. Over 1000 votes in from Lyons, and still early days, but looks like it might swing between 2 Liberal, 1 Labor and 1 Greens, with Liberal and Labor fighting it out for the last.

6.57pm. Very early results in from four seats, but Labor’s vote in each is down 17 to 25 per cent.

6.36pm. More on that exit poll, with thanks to Bob Katter’s Hat. Bass: ALP 2 LIB 2 GRN 1. Braddon: ALP 2 LIB 2 (5th seat LIB or GRN – Leaning LIB). Denison: ALP 2 LIB 1 GRN 1 (5th seat LIB or GRN or IND – Leaning LIB). Franklin: ALP 1 LIB 2 GRN 1 (5th seat LIB or GRN or ALP – Leaning ALP). Lyons: ALP 2 LIB 2 GRN 1

6.20pm. Sky exit poll – bearing in mind these probably are a bit unreliable under Hare-Clark – apparently points to Labor 10, Liberal 9, Greens 4. Caught the end of the seat-by-seat breakdown. Denison: ALP 2, Lib 1, Grn 1 and 1 either Lib, Green or Wilkie. Franklin: ALP 1, Lib 2, Grn 1 and either Labor, Lib or Green.

6pm. Welcome to the Poll Bludger’s live coverage of the Tasmanian election, which will unfortunately be rather fitful as South Australian will be my primary focus. Nonetheless, there some fruitful commentary on what’s happening the comments thread. I’ll be on News Radio at about 7:15pm to discuss the results, such as they are at that early stage. Best place for results will be ABC Elections.

Newspoll: Labor 35, Liberal 36.5, Greens 25.5 in Tasmania

The Australian has published a Newspoll survey from a big sample of 1500 Tasmanian voters showing Labor on 35 per cent (down from 49.3 per cent in 2006), Liberal on 36.5 per cent (up from 31.8 per cent) and the Greens on 25.5 per cent (16.6 per cent) – yet more proof, if any more were needed, that there will be a hung parliament. David Bartlett has recorded poor personal ratings of 38 per cent approve and 56 per cent disapprove; Will Hodgman’s are 53 per cent and 37 per cent; Nick McKim’s are 58 per cent and 32 per cent with just 10 per cent undecided, representing remarkable name recognition for a Greens leader. Preferred premier figures are 36 per cent for Hodgman, 32 per cent for Bartlett and 21 per cent for McKim. The result on preferred outcome is very finely balanced, with 41 per cent favouring both parties overall to form government, which in each case is evenly split between a preference for majority and minority government.

At 2pm eastern time Crikey will be hosting a CoverIt Live chat room featuring me, Possum, Charles Richardson, Greg Barns, Hendrick Gout, Peter Tucker, Michael Jacobs “and more”. You will be either to access it on this site, or here.

UPDATE (20/3): I suppose I should make some predictions. Simply by applying the swings recorded in Newspoll to each of the five divisions, I’m tipping conventional 2-2-1 results everywhere but Denison, where all three parties emerge with something very close to two quotas. However, the Liberals score slightly lower than Labor and the Greens, so accordingly my prediction is that they will miss out on the second seat, and that Labor will thus emerge with its nose ahead for an overall result of 10-9-6. In Denison, I’m tipping David Bartlett and Lisa Singh to win for Labor (though Scott Bacon can’t be ruled out), Cassy O’Connor and Helen Burnet for the Greens, and Matthew Groom for the Liberals. In Bass, Michelle O’Byrne and Scott McLean (Labor), Peter Gutwein and Michael Ferguson (Liberal) and Kim Booth (Greens). In Braddon, Bryan Green and Brenton Best (Labor), Jeremy Rockliff and Brett Whiteley (Liberal) and Paul O’Halloran (Greens). In Franklin, Lara Giddings and David O’Byrne (Labor), Will Hodgman and Jacqui Petrusma (though Tony Mulder is a roughie) (Liberal) and Nick McKim (Greens). In Lyons, David Llewellyn and Michael Polley (Labor), Rene Hidding and Jane Howlett (though I also think Jim Playsted a chance) (Liberal) and Tim Morris (Greens).

Some concluding campaign news nuggets.

• Franklin MP Ross Butler was among the chorus of criticism against the “robocalls” alleging the Greens had a secret plan to legalise heroin. Notwithstanding that official Greens policy states they have no such plans, Electoral Commissioner Bruce Taylor asserted had had no power to act as there are no electoral laws regulating phone calls. The calls targeted 20,000 homes on Tuesday afternoon with a message from Glenys Lindner, “a mum with two teenage children”, who said: “I was shocked to learn that Nick McKim and the Greens would give Tasmania’s worst criminals the right to vote. That’s just wrong. And their support for legalising heroin is simply not acceptable for Tasmania. What else do the Greens have in store if given a say in running our state? This Saturday say no to the Greens and their dangerous ideas.” Another highlight of Labor’s final week campaigning has been a leaflet which, as described by Sue Neales of The Mercury, features “a large photo of a syringe and an image of a criminal’s fists clutching the bars with his fingers tattooed ‘Extreme Greens’” – the latter being in reference to their policy to loosen restrictions of prisoners’ voting rights.

• Despite the party’s dimming prospects, David Bartlett remains firm that he will resign if Labor wins fewer seats than the Liberals, allowing them to “endeavour to form the government on the floor of the House of Assembly”. Since Nick McKim’s position is that the Greens will “not be moving no-confidence motions and those things that have the potential to send the electorate back for another election”, it would presumably not move to depose a Liberal government once installed, barring the proverbial extraordinary and reprehensible circumstances.

EMRS: Liberal 39, Labor 30, Greens 29 in Tasmania

Details of yesterday’s EMRS poll published in the Launceston Examiner have been frustratingly hard to come by. The full release has not been published on the company’s website in the usual fashion, presumably due to some sort of exclusivity arrangement with The Examiner. The only figures published yesterday were of raw responses to the first question on voting intention, which remarkably had the Greens ahead of Labor. However, this excludes the follow-up pollsters invariably ask of the undecided as to who they are leaning towards. Today, courtesy of Felicity Ogilvie on the ABC’s AM program, we learn that the latter figure brings the results up to Liberal 30 per cent, Labor 23 per cent and the Greens 22 per cent, with “almost a quarter” still undecided – a remarkably high figure. The normal practice is to exclude the undecided from consideration: whether we take almost a quarter to mean 23 per cent or 24 per cent, rounding gives us results of Liberal 39 per cent, Labor 30 per cent and the Greens 29 per cent. However, there is little doubt that this figure flatters the Greens, who have a tradition of over-performing in EMRS polls in any case, and who tend to do less well out of disengaged undecided voters who tend to view politics in Labor-versus-Liberal terms. The poll also went so far as to query voters in each electorate as to the candidates they favoured, but the sample sizes are so small that I’m not inclined to read much into them. Nonetheless, it should be noted that Scott Bacon apparently rated at least as well as David Bartlett in Denison. We also learn that Greens supporters – a sample of about 220 – favoured a Liberal over a Labor minority government by a margin of 51 per cent to 43 per cent. Of all respondents, 29 per cent would prefer a majority government led by the Liberals compared with 26 per cent by Labor and 12 per cent by the Greens.

UPDATE: More from Kevin Bonham at the Tasmanian Times.

Other news from the campaign trail:

• Labor suffered ill-timed bad news on the economy on Thursday, with the release of figures showing unemployment in the state up from 5.3 per cent to 6.4 per cent. Matthew Denholm of The Australian notes that the state’s north-west – i.e. Braddon – has been hardest hit, with the loss of 190 jobs at McCain’s vegetable processing plant in Smithton, 250 “going or gone” from the PaperlinX mill at Wesley Vale, and a further 150 jobs threatened unless a buyer is found for its Burnie plant.

Sue Neales of The Mercury has run an excellent series of articles which have provided a goldmine of local intelligence on each electorate:

• In Bass, Labor “privately admits it has no idea” which of its candidates is most likely to win a second seat, the re-election of Michelle O’Byrne being a foregone conclusion. CFMEU forests division secretary Scott McLean was presumed to be the front-runner due to his basis of support among logging workers and the organisation clout of his union, but he “has not been campaigning hard and seems not to have established a high-profile presence in the minds of Bass voters”. Brian Wightman, “the preferred candidate of Premier David Bartlett”, is thought unlikely to rate outside his home base of Winnaleah. That leaves Beaconsfield mine disaster survivor Brant Webb with a serious chance of riding off his famous exploit on 2007 into parliament. The remaining candidate, Michelle Cripps, was apparently not thought worth a mention. The article also assess the state of play for the Liberals, arguing the health-related withdrawal of Sue Napier “threw the party’s high hopes of winning three seats”. Former federal MP Michael Ferguson is rated a near certainty to take the second seat.

Neales reports that Labor has understandably abandoned hope of retaining three seats in Franklin, with a 2-2-1 result reckoned a certaintly. Labor MPs Daniel Hulme and Ross Butler are mounting highly visible campaigns to retain the seats they acquired mid-term on the vacancies of Paul Lennon and Paula Wreidt, notwithstanding a general perception they will lose. O’Byrne has been running a “high-profile campaign heavy on expensive TV advertisements, much of it funded by interstate unions”, with Hulme in particular complaining he “has more than $100,000 to spend from union funds”. Hulme has been endeavouring to inherit the logging industry vote from Paul Lennon, with whom he is closely associated, partly be establishing his electorate office in Huonville. Liberal candidate Tony Mulder “is expected to poll well”, but Jacquie Petrusma – a former Family First Senate candidate and ally of Right faction warlord Senator Eric Abetz – “is more likely to help Ms Petrusma across the line than to win a third seat in his own right”. Mulder was told last week to withdraw advertisements focusing on his past career as a police commander, which featuring images of him in uniform. The police force has deemed it a possible breach of the Public Service Act, an offence carrying a $2400 fine and a maximum of two years in prison.

• In Denison, Neales reports Labor internal polling shows David Bartlett is “not popular in Glenorchy, Rosetta and Claremont”, owing to his “bike-riding, iPod values”. Furthermore, public servants and teachers who predominantly live in the south of the electorate are “fed up with endless education reforms, worried about cuts to public service jobs, concerned about the Government’s poor governance and decision-making record and distrustful of Labor’s promises that front-line services will be protected”. That being so, Labor is rated next to no chance of retaining its three seats, with Graeme Sturges an almost certain casualty. The Liberals’ plan has been to “run five candidates who each in their own right attract and command different segments of votes in Denison”: however, beyond that fact that Elise Archer is targeting the business community, details of this are vague. The Liberals made what seems a contentious political gambit in the electorate last week by promising a $25 million feasibility study into a cable car up Mount Wellington. Labor seemed on electorally safer ground when it made the showpiece of Monday’s campaign launch a plan to buy back and expand the Hobart Private Hospital, although it expects the federal government to pick up 60 per cent of the tab. Sue Neales noted that elsewhere that the policy was pitched “particularly in its battler heartland northern half, where cost-of-living pressures and concerns about health and education have sent voters flocking to the Liberals and Greens”. Labor was facing a particular problem among women voters, hence the promise for a dedicated new $180 million women’s and children’s hospital wing. For its part, the Liberal Party has promised to spend $250 million on a new central wing at the hospital.

• In Lyons, a gain for the Liberals is rated so certain that some in the party are talking of winning a third seat: the two scenarios in play being 2-2-1 and 3-2. Jim Playsted is reckoned the strongest newcomer, but the identity of a third winner would be anyone’s guess. Neales rates Tim Morris the most likely of the four sitting Greens to lose their seat, in part because of the redistribution which has transferred the West Coast region to Braddon and added the blue-collar northern Hobart suburbs of Gagebrook and Bridgewater.

UPDATE (18/3): The last remaining electorate profile, for Lyons, has now been added. Some of the earlier profiles could do with an update, though it remains to be seen if I’ll find time.

Five easy pieces: Braddon

Guide to the Tasmanian state electorate of Braddon here. Two down, three to go: with only a fortnight to go until polling day, I might have to lift my work rate. UPDATE: Denison now up as well. UPDATE 2: Franklin too.

Highlights of the past fortnight on the Tasmanian campaign trail:

Sue Neales of The Mercury reports Greens leader Nick McKim saying any negotiated agreement for Labor or Liberal to govern in minority “would not involve ultimatums, threats or even demands for ministries”. Specifically, McKim told Matthew Denholm of The Australian last week that he did not rule out backing a party that would continue to back old-growth logging, fuelling complaints from environmental groups that the Greens were giving conservation issues short shrift. McKim said the Greens would be ready to favour whichever party negotiated “honestly and in good faith”, and did not accept David Bartlett’s notion that whichever party won the most seats (or failing that, votes) should be allowed to govern. McKim also rejects the stated desire of both Labor and Liberal to govern in minority without a specific deal or agreement as “inherently unstable”. Peter Tucker at Tasmanian Politics weighs in on the possibility of a Green being given the Speaker’s job, as has happened in the Australian Capital Territory.

• The Greens’ decision might be made easier by David Bartlett’s apparent declaration he would not seek to stay in government if Labor won fewer seats than the Liberals. His particular formulation was that “the party that won the most seats or the most votes (would) be able to form a government first on the floor of the House of Assembly”, and that being so, he would “not be moving no-confidence motions and those things that have the potential to send the electorate back for another election”. However, there seems to be a few holes in this: the capacity of either Labor or Liberal to form a government in minority on the floor of the House would be entirely down to the actions of the other parties, and a no-confidence motion need not cause a new election if an alternative government could be formed. For his part, Will Hodgman claims he was misquoted when reported in The Australian as saying he would consider all options, insisting there would be no coalition with the Greens.

• The not-quite-dead canal estate development at Ralphs Bay was back in the news last week when the Tasmanian Planning Commission granted developers Walker Corporation a second extention on its response to the October draft report which declared the project “inherently unsustainable”. Both David Bartlett and the Greens have complained that a final decision before the election would have been preferable.

• The issue of water toxins in the east coast town of St Helens has continued to develop a life of its own since being the subject of an episode of the ABC’s Australian Story a fortnight ago. Local doctor Alison Bleaney claims, with support from independently conducted tests, that the George River is contaminated by toxins from upstream plantations, which Bleaney believes may be responsible for health problems in the town. Last week, Sue Neales of The Mercury wrote that the government believed the issue to be a “bomb deliberately timed to go off during the election campaign, lobbed with the full knowledge and agreement of the Tasmanian Greens”. Today, The Australian reports David Bartlett complaining Bleaney had also emerged in the lead-up to the 2006 election with “a whole range of concerns proven to be completely false”, describing her return as a “a happy coincidence for the Greens”.

• Labor, Liberal and the Greens will all hold their campaign launches next week: Labor at the Baha’i temple in inner Hobart on Monday, the Greens at the Mercure Hotel on Wednesday and the Liberals at Launceston’s Boathouse function centre next Sunday.

• A nifty new website called iElect seeks to pool collective wisdom by inviting participants to pick who they expect to win in each division, as well as offering useful details on the candidates.

Finally, there have been a number of incidents in which Labor candidates have attracted the wrong kind of headlines, two of which illustrate the friction that can develop in a party when declining electoral fortunes leave fewer pieces of pie to go round.

• Two Labor candidates for Denison, incumbent Graeme Sturges and newcomer Madeleine Ogilvie, were at each other’s throats last week with the latter accusing the former of telling voters she was “not really Labor”, reportedly promting a sharp telephone call from Ogilvie to Sturges. Sturges did not help matters when he explained he had “just been telling them to vote for a Labor bloke”. According to Sue Neales of The Mercury, “much more likely to be the intended target of his lovely message to voters that only the ‘blokes’ count is Sturgo’s fellow Labor minister in Denison, Lisa Singh”.

Michael Stedman of the Sunday Tasmanian reports an ad by Labor Lyons candidate Rebecca White, “poking fun at the elder statesmen of her own party”, went “viral” on YouTube. The ad prompted two long-serving Labor incumbents in Lyons, David Llewellyn and Michael Polley, to complain to David Bartlett – and it now appears to have been discreetly dropped from White’s You Tube page.

The Mercury this week carried reports of unpleasant behaviour by Labor Braddon MP Brenton Best after his daughter was dropped from an amateur theatre production for failing to attend dress rehearsals due to illness. Best reportedly threatened to sue the Hobart Music Theatre Summer School, and told the director of the program he would “sort him out”. David Bartlett said after discussion with Best he was satisfied he had not acted inappropriately, but The Mercury later reported the director’s account had been confirmed by a teacher who was present.

• Labor Denison MP was red-faced last week after reporters overheard her complaining of media reaction to the party’s asbestos policy announcement: “This is a f**king good policy, why do they always have to f**king pick negatives”. While this has prompted much tut-tutting, and was followed by an apology from Singh, I would expect voters to be more struck a politician being so so passionately convinced of the merits of their policy than by the fact that they chose to swear in private.

As before, this thread can be used for general discussion of the Tasmanian election campaign.

EMRS: 39-31 to Liberal in Tasmania

EMRS has kicked off the Tasmanian election campaign with a poll showing a remarkable surge in support for the Greens, who after distribution of the undecided are only four points behind Labor. Labor are down two points on their already weak showing in November to 31 per cent, but the Liberals are also down five to 39 per cent. The Greens are up six points to 27 per cent. If reflected on March 20, which I personally wouldn’t put money on, the result would probably be 19 seats evenly divided between the majors and six for the Greens. The number of respondents was 867, for a margin of error of about 3.3 per cent.

Five easy pieces: Bass

I will be unfolding my Tasmanian election guide electorate-by-electorate over the next month, starting today at the front of the alphabetical queue with Bass. Some highlights from the first week of official campaigning:

• The campaign began with the shock announcement by Sue Napier that she would be unable to contest the election due to a return of breast cancer, with which she was first diagnosed in 2008. Napier has been a Liberal member for Bass since 1992, and was Opposition Leader from 1999 to 2001. Her withdrawal further lengthens the already long odds on the Liberals gaining a third seat in the electorate. It’s likely to present an opportunity to former federal member Michael Ferguson, who is surely the front-runner to take the second Liberal seat. Following Napier’s withdrawal, the party promptly endorsed Michelle McGinity, said to have “worked in public relations in Canberra”. According to Sue Neales of The Mercury, McGinity hesitantly told a reporter she had been a member of the Liberal Party for “about a month”, prompting a party minder to step in to clarify she had in fact meant to say “for a day”.

• A surprise Labor promise to boost its existing $8 million commitment to a health facility in Glenorchy to $21 million prompted The Mercury to report the government was “seriously worried about its standing in the battler heartland of Denison’s south”. David Bartlett’s problems in the area are said to include the fact that he is an “iPod-loving, bicycle-riding, latte-sipping trendy whose interests, experiences and financial pressures are far removed from their own”. The report notes that Bartlett scored a hit with these voters when he “stood up to Aboriginal protest groups in January and announced he was barging through with construction of the Brighton bypass despite concerns that Aboriginal artefacts and middens might be destroyed”. Labor appears to be actively hoping that accident-prone Denison incumbent Graeme Sturges will lose his seat to Scott Bacon, son of the late former Premier Jim Bacon.

• According to Sue Neales of The Mercury, David Bartlett managed to “singlehandedly destroy the carefully crafted work of teams of public relations experts over the past two months” during Thursday’s appearance on ABC Statewide Mornings with Tim Cox. Bartlett’s “aggressive, arrogant, narky and cocky” performance, says Neales, was “definitely not a demonstration of good leadership, or the way to go about convincing a sceptical community that all the recent talk of listening, hearing, changing and fixing was anything more than a good PR line designed to win votes”.

• Labor opened the campaign by launching an attack site masquerading under the name of the Liberals’ own election slogan, The site startlingly makes use of an L-plate in “Liberal”, copying a device from the last two Liberal federal campaigns. Featured are four YouTube ads: two hard-hitting frontal attacks, and two compare-and-contrast exercises – one quite effective, the other rather too smarmy. The site predictably drew a negative media response, to which the Premier responded by starting a poll on his Facebook page asking whether the site should be removed. Among the respondents was troublesome former federal Labor MP Harry Quick, who wrote: “David, if you really want to know what your ‘friends’ think about your strategies and the negative way you are travelling, why don’t you do a bit of old-fashioned doorknocking by yourself. Have you the balls to do something like this? I think not!”.

• A couple of noteworthy issues about electoral broadcasting have emerged. Followers of recent events in South Australia might be interested to learn that under the state’s laws, the Hobart Mercury feels compelled to demand that blog commenters provide a real name and suburb. However, my brief perusal of the site showed up one commenter who had been let through with a Christian name only, another who is a blogosphere identity I know to be using a pseudonym, and others that looked suspect. The Mercury evidently didn’t get the memo from its News Limited stablemate in Adelaide, offering the following in an editorial last Saturday: “That’s a rule that has long applied to newspapers during election campaigns and it’s always been our rule for our many letter writers every day of the year. Tasmanians have happily put their names to their opinions – just as candidates do. If it’s good enough for candidates to stand up and be counted, it’s good enough for those who hold opposing views to do the same.” The Electoral Commissioner has also revealed that new legal advice refutes the long-held view that negative personal advertisements on television and radio are effectively prohibited during the campaign period. As the laws had always been interpreted in the past, any use of a political candidate or figure in advertising during the campaign required their permission.

• According to Peter Tucker of Tasmanian Politics, we can expect an EMRS poll later this week.

Finally, here’s an overview of the election I wrote for last Monday’s Crikey Daily Mail:

That a Tasmanian state election will be held on March 20 is not exactly news – Premier David Bartlett has been making clear for the past year that the state would again go to the polls on the same day as South Australia, to the chagrin of election watchers across the land. Nonetheless, it’s worth noting Bartlett’s visit to the Governor on Friday, marking the official start of what promises to be a tough five-week campaign for the government.

Like a number of its mainland counterparts, the Tasmanian Labor government has suddenly begun feeling its age. After successive landslide wins, it now faces an election for the first time without the electoral asset of a conservative government in Canberra. The Liberals have found in Will Hodgman their most convincing leader in many years, and are presenting a relatively united front despite occasional public eruptions of factional hostility. Labor will no longer benefit from the perception of being the stronger horse, which in the past has attracted large numbers of voters hostile to minority government – a fact Bartlett has acknowledged in distancing himself from Labor’s long-standing position that it would not govern with Greens support.

The most recent poll in the state, an EMRS survey of 1000 voters conducted in early November, had Labor’s vote plunging to 33%, with the Liberals on 44% and the Greens on 21% (compared with 49.3%, 31.8% and 16.6% at the 2006 election). Liberal leader Will Hodgman had also opened up a commanding 40-28 lead as preferred premier, a dramatic reversal on earlier polling which suggested Bartlett had righted the ship after taking the reins from Paul Lennon. If this is even remotely accurate, Tasmania is all but certain to emerge with a minority government for the first time since the number of members per electoral divisions was cut from seven to five in 1998.

Labor would need to limit its losses to one seat to maintain its majority, and it can practically chalk up one loss to the Liberals already in Franklin. Labor won its third seat in Franklin by the skin of its teeth in 2006, and two of the three elected members have since quit parliament, leaving the seats to be defended by little-known newcomers. The swings required for the Liberals to make gains from Labor in Lyons and Denison are somewhat greater, but still in the eminently achievable range of 5 to 6 per cent. If Labor experiences any appreciable decline in Braddon, they will only be able to hold their third seat if a substantial lift in the Liberal vote freezes out the Greens. Should that lift be too substantial – in the order of 12 per cent – Labor would then be at risk of losing the seat to the Liberals instead. Only in Bass, where Labor is defending two seats rather than three, can they be truly confident of holding the line.

A majority for the Liberals would involve the enormous achievement of six seats gained from five electorates, requiring an increase in the primary vote far beyond even the most optimistic readings of the polls. The Greens on the other hand need only hold their ground to assume a balance-of-power position that has eluded them since 1998, and their record when faced by unpopular Labor governments suggests this will not be a problem for them. They would be hopeful of winning an extra seat in the only division that currently denies them, Braddon, and are perhaps fantasising once again about winning a second seat in Denison.