Tasmanian upper house elections

Hold on to your hats election buffs, for today’s the day Tasmania elects one fifth of its Legislative Council.

Live commentary

8.18pm. Final results for the night have Jim Wilkinson re-elected with 48.8% in Nelson, and Vanessa Goowdin comfortably home with 51.2% of the vote in Pembroke to 35.9% for Allison Ritchie. Postals are still outstanding in Montgomery where Liberal candidate Leonie Hiscutt is on 45.6% with second-placed Cheryl Fuller on 30.0%.

7.53pm. Kevin Bonham observes a “very horrible result” for the Greens in Pembroke (12.8% with one booth to spare) but a “fairly good one” in Nelson (24.9%). Though presumably the lack of an alternative for Labor supporters in Nelson had a lot to do with this.

very horrible result in #Pembroke but a fairly good one

7.35pm. With all but three booths in, Liberal candidate Leonie Hiscutt is down a little to 48.1% in Montgomery. Still a very clear winner though.

7.33pm. Better looking numbers now for Vanessa Goodwin in Pembroke: 52.7% to Ritchie’s 34.4%. Very good night for the Liberals.

7.21pm. More good results for Montgomery Liberal candidate Leonie Hiscutt in two big booths. A clear win for her, and a big result for the Liberals. Expect federal Labor’s prospects in Bass and Braddon to feature heavily in the after-match commentary.

7.12pm. Five booths in out 13 in Pembroke and the result is settling in at around 50% for Goodwin, 37% for Ritchie and 12% for the Greens. Without having given the matter too much thought, this is a softer result for Goodwin (and a stronger one for Ritchie) than I would have expected.

7.06pm. Wilkinson’s vote down 13.2% according to Antony Green, although he may have faced a less competitive field last time.

7.03pm. Jim Wilkinson has faded to 49.0% in Nelson with four booths reporting out of 13, but he’s still home and hosed.

7.01pm. Lots of booths now from Montgomery, and while the biggest ones are still outstanding, the Liberal candidate is polled strongly in the South Burnie booth and is now looking a clear winner on 50.8% of the vote to 27.1% for Cheryl Fuller in second place.

7.00pm. And now the large (1890 votes) booth from Lindisfarne Village is in, and Goodwin’s vote edges up to 51.5%. Ritchie is down to 35.3%, but Lindisfarne was a strong booth for the Greens who are up to 13.3%.

6.59pm. In Pembroke, the Agfest booth is better for Goodwin than the Mornington booth, as I guess you’d expect it to be, and she now leads Ritchie 50.9% to 41.9%.

6.56pm. I failed to notice that there were 1079 postal votes in that result as well. So Wilkinson definitely in the clear.

6.55pm. One small booth in from Nelson provides no indication that independent member Jim Wilkinson will be troubled (59.1% of the vote from 155 votes counted).

6.53pm. Antony Green’s projection for Pembroke, going off the previous upper house election, is even more favourable for the Liberals: 49.4%.

6.49pm. First booth in Pembroke (Mornington) has what looks to my eyes a surprisingly strong result for Allison Ritchie, who is on 46.8% to 44.7% for Liberal member Vanessa Goodwin. Perhaps this booth is a Labor stronghold?

6.47pm. On the basis of the result just noted, Kevin Bonham’s model, which works off 2010 state election results, projects Hiscutt’s primary vote at 44%. If so, that should be enough for her. That would mean a second seat for the Liberals in the Legislative Council. Can any local scholars tell me when there were more official Liberal than Labor members in the chamber?

6.44pm. Nine booths in from Montgomery (one of those is the mobile booth, if you think that doesn’t count as a booth), and Hiscutt’s vote has faded only slightly to 50.4%. However, all are small rural booths (324 votes at most) and the ball remains in Burnie’s court. Cheryl Fuller is a clear second place on 29.9%.

6.34pm. Three admittedly small booths in from Montgomery, and Liberal candidate Leonie Hiscutt is polling very well indeed on 55.8% of the vote. You would want to see some booths in from Burnie though before drawing any conclusions.

6pm. Polls have closed, so welcome to the live coverage. I imagine the very first booths will report in half an hour or so.


As happens on the first Saturday of every May, there will be a partial election today for Tasmania’s Legislative Council. This chamber is composed of 15 representatives of single-member districts which face election over a six-year cycle, with either two or three seats up for election each year. This year is the turn of three electorates, two in and around Hobart and the other in the state’s north. The Legislative Council is overwhelmingly dominated by independents, with elections being subdued and locally oriented affairs that have more of the flavour of local than state government elections. However, the major parties sometimes win seats in Hobart especially. Labor held five seats at its electoral high-water mark from 2001 to 2007. Four of those have since fallen by the wayside, and the Liberals gained their one and only seat at a by-election in 2009. That was in the electorate of Nelson, which is one of the three up for election today. The other two are held by independents, of whom one is retiring and one seeking re-election.

Nelson. Hobart’s outer southern suburb of Sandy Bay and the satellite town of Kingston. Jim Wilkinson is seeking re-election after 18 years as independent member. He has attracted one Greens and two independent opponents. The independents are Helen Richardson, an Australian Education Union organiser who Labor presumably wouldn’t mind seeing get up, and Hans Willink, a former Liberal branch president and state election candidate who is running because of Wilkinson’s opposition to same-sex marriage legislation. The Greens candidate is Tom Baxter, an accountancy lecturer at the University of Tasmania. Kevin Bonham relates the results of the only opinion polling I’ve ever known to be conducted of a Tasmanian upper house election. Voting intention was not broached directly, and the results probably wouldn’t have been all that accurate if it had been, given the low intensity of Legislative Council contests.

Pembroke. The Hobart suburbs on the eastern shore of the Derwent River. This is the most intriguing contest from a partisan perspective, as it pits the chamber’s only Liberal member, Vanessa Goodwin, against former Labor member Allison Ritchie, who is running as an independent. Ritchie quit parliament in mid-2009 after enduring a storm of controversy over her appointment of several family members to her staff. Such were Labor’s diminishing stocks that they did not bother to field a candidate in the ensuing by-election, in which Goodwin won an easy victory from a crowd of eight candidates with 38.6% of the vote. Also in the field is Greens candidate Wendy Heatley, a legal aid lawyer.

Montgomery. Most of Burnie and the coast immediately to its east, including Penguin and Ulverstone. Sue Smith is retiring after 16 years as the seat’s independent member. The election has attracted an endorsed Liberal candidate and three independents. The Liberal is Leonie Hiscutt, a marriage celebrant and president of the Central Coast Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Hiscutt polled 4.2% as a candidate in Braddon at the 2010 state election. The independents are Cheryl Fuller, the deputy mayor of Central Coast; Kevin Morgan, a former Department of Premier and Cabinet adviser and former ALP member; and Ed Vincent, chief executive of the Tasmanian Forest Contractors Association.

Hobart and Western Tiers live

Sunday. The Tasmanian Electoral Commission has provisionally reviewed the preferences and been unable to determine definitively that the Greens will finish ahead of Labor in Hobart, although it seems fairly clear that they will. Beyond that, only the margin of Valentine’s win over whoever finishes second is at issue. In Western Tiers, Greg Hall has 73.4% of the vote.

7.41pm. Four more booths in and three more to go, and we’re still looking at a result of about 36% for Valentine, 22% for the Greens and 20% for Labor.

7.15pm. Par for the course result from West Hobart booth.

7.14pm. 1235 pre-polls are very strong for Valentine (40.6%), very weak for Labor (15.5%) and status quo for Greens (23.6%).

7.09pm. Lenah Valley booth is Valentine’s strongest and the Greens weakest yet; but South Hobart the Greens’ strongest yet and Labor’s weakest. Greens looking very likely to finish second, unless James Sugden’s preferences flow heavily to Labor for some reason. The gap between Valentine and the Greens is now 37.0% to 23.1%, so if you weren’t calling it for Valentine before you would be now.

7.01pm. North Hobart relatively strong for Labor and weak for Valentine, though the Greens have still beaten Labor in every booth so far.

6.59pm. I defer to the superior judgement of Stephen Luntz in comments, who reckons Labor preferences will favour Valentine over the Greens, meaning he should win easily.

6.57pm. Mount Stuart is a relatively weak result for the Greens, with 19.5% only fractionally ahead of Labor on 19.4%, and Valentine on 35.8%. More results like that would put the issue beyond doubt.

6.54pm. The two Hobart city booths are now in, and the Greens candidate has a solid lead over Labor (26.3% to 20.4%), and remains close enough to Valentine (34.3%) to make life interesting – depending on the behaviour of preferences from Labor and strongly performing independent James Sugden (12.9%).

6.46pm. First result in from Hobart is West Hobart, and Rob Valentine’s has 31.8%, Labor’s looking bad with 22.9%, with the Greens in second place on 24.5%. At this early stage, you wouldn’t rule out a Greens win over Valentine on Labor preferences, even if your money would be on Valentine.

6.45pm. Half of Western Tiers’s booths are in before Hobart has got out of bed, and Hall is now on 74.6%.

6.31pm. Three more booths from Western Tiers, and Hall now up to 76.2%.

6.25pm. Four booths in from Western Tiers, and clearly no prospect of a boilover: Greg Hall 72.9%, John Hawkins 27.1%.

6pm. Polls have closed for the Tasmanian upper house elections for Hobart and Western Tiers. I presume we’ll be getting small rural booths in very shortly from Western Tiers, but will have to wait half to three-quarters of an hour for results from Hobart.

Tasmanian upper house elections: May 5

Voters in two of Tasmania’s 15 Legislative Council divisions (or at least, those of them who can be bothered) will go to the polls on Saturday, a result of the quaint arrangement for that chamber in which elections are held annually for members who serve terms staggered over a six-year cycle. These elections have more of the feel of local government than state parliamentary elections, and outside Hobart (and to a considerable extent inside Hobart as well) are dominated by independents to the extent that the major parties rarely bother to field candidates.

Labor managed to secure five of the chamber’s 15 seats at the peak of its electoral cycle from 2001 to 2007, but it has been shedding them steadily ever since and is at risk of being reduced to one if things do not go their way in the division of Hobart – and the consensus view is that they won’t, given the retirement after 18 years of Doug Parkinson and the entry into the race of Rob Valentine, the long-serving former lord mayor. The other contest is in the northern and central Tasmania seat of Western Plains, where independent incumbent Greg Hall faces another independent challenger in John Hawkins.

The division of Hobart was known prior to the 2008 redistribution as Wellington, and is bounded to the south by the Sandy Bay Rivulet, a small waterway running south of the city centre. From there it extends north through South Hobart, West Hobart, North Hobart and Hobart proper, and on to New Town and Lenah Valley. This is ground zero for the Greens in Tasmania: their Senate vote in this area’s polling booths was 39.3% at the 2010 federal election, compared with 31.6% for Labor and 24.8% for the Liberals. At the last election for Wellington in 2006, Doug Parkinson received 43.1% against 26.3% for the Greens (then as now, the Liberals did not field a candidate).

The Greens’ position has evidently strengthened since then, and they have further benefited from a redistribution which exchanged the Labor-voting northern end of the electorate at Moonah and Lutana for Greens heartland in South Hobart. It would thus appear to offer the Greens an excellent chance of winning their first ever seat in the chamber, to supplement the five they hold in the 25-member lower house. However, the consensus is that the entry of Valentine will thwart them.

The candidates in ballot paper order:

Penelope Ann (Greens). A teacher and Eastern Shore bed and breakfast operator.

John Michael Forster (Independent). A “business analyst” who polled weakly in earlier runs for Rumney in last year’s Legislative Council election and for Franklin at the 2010 federal election. He tells the Mercury he has “spent the past 20 years working in accounting and IT for businesses small and large, Australian and multinational”, and is concerned with fiscal responsibility.

Paul Hiscutt (Independent). A Hobart nurse and former death penalty advocate who polled 8.2% when he ran in 2006. He is also described by the Mercury as a “former pop star”, though I suspect this may be laying it on a bit thick.

James Sugden (Independent). An industrial engineering consultant, who if nothing else has won the favour of Greg Barns.

Rob Valentine (Independent). Valentine first became an alderman in 1992 and began his epic stint as lord mayor in 1999, which continued until he declined to seek a fourth term at the elections held last year. Tasmanian gentleman psephologist Kevin Bonham relates at the Tasmanian Times that Valentine has “occupied a moderate position on the Council, more or less in between the endorsed Greens and the informal ‘blues’ cluster of pro-development/business lobby aldermen who sometimes have links to the Liberal Party”.

Dean Winter (Labor). A media adviser to the federal member for Franklin, Julie Collins. No doubt with the 61-year-old Valentine in mind, 26-year-old Winter has criticised the Legislative Council as a “retirement village for former town mayors or conservatives”, and received support from Bill Shorten, who went to so far as to describe the chamber as “nothing but a nursing home”. Winter’s entry into the “wildcard division” of Cleo’s Bachelor of the Award informs us that he looks for a woman with “intelligence, passion and nice eyes” (Kristina Keneally reportedly fits the bill), and that his best body part as his chest. Labor had originally planned to use the election to trial a preselection primary, but this fell through due to lack of interest at both ends: few locals registered interest in participating, and Winter was the only eligible candidate to nominate. Another hopeful, Denison state election candidate Madeleine Ogilvie, was ruled out on the grounds she was a non-financial member of the party.

A quieter contest is unfolding in Western Tiers, known before the redistribution as Rowallan, which mostly consists of territory inland of the northern population centres of Launceston and Devonport (plus a small stretch of coast east of Devonport), from where it extends deep into central Tasmania. Greg Hall is seeking a third term, having won 31.9% in a six-way contest in 2001 and 82.0% in 2006 when he was opposed only by the Greens. Kevin Bonham relates that Hall is “strongly supportive of the Tasmanian forest industry, so it’s no surprise that his opponent is a critic on forestry issues”. That opponent is John Hawkins, a Chudleigh businessman and farmer of apparently considerable means. Hawkins’ chief claim to fame to election watchers at large is that he launched but shortly withdrew a legal action against Eric Abetz’s Senate election in 2010, claiming that he was ineligible by virtue of having failed to renounce his German citizenship. He has resolved if elected to serve only one term.

Tasmanian upper house elections live

Figures at close of counting on polling day.


Lin Thorp
Tony Mulder
Paul Mason
Penelope Ann
Booths counted (/22)


Craig Farrell
Jenny Branch
Phillip Bingley
Deirdre Flint
Ray Williams
Booths counted (/27)


Rosemary Armitage
5310 31.8%
Steve Bishop
3310 19.8%
Lou Clark
2395 14.3%
Sam McQuestin
5679 34.0%

Sunday, May 8

9pm. The two-candidate preferred figures make it very clear Tony Mulder will defeat Lin Thorp in Rumney: he leads 10,607 to 9343.

5pm. Adam Clarke in comment reports the indicative count in Rumney has Tony Mulder ahead of Lin Thorp by 500 votes: if confirmed, that would pretty much put the issue beyond doubt. Thorp has lost further ground on the primary vote with the addition of 595 pre-polls and 317 postals. The latter is also true of Labor’s Craig Farrell in Derwent, but with 38.6 per cent of the primary vote he should still get up. Sue Neales of The Mercury suggests the Greens might use the opportunity of a reshuffle forced by Thorp’s defeat to push for a third seat in cabinet.

Saturday, May 7

7.54pm. All booths have now reported, so here’s a call of the board. Rumney: My projection still has Lin Thorp a few points above her raw vote, suggesting she did very well on declaration votes last time (UPDATE: No, the discrepancy is because I’m operating off a pre-redistribution baseline. For this reason, I’ve chopped the projection from the table). It’s possible that won’t be replicated at this election, so she could well finish in the mid-30s. Kevin Bonham seems to think that will be enough, but you certainly wouldn’t want to call it. Derwent: Labor’s Craig Farrell is a shade under 40 per cent, which is enough to make him the front-runner but again it’s too close to call. Possibly some intelligence from scutineers will emerge to give us some sense of what to expect. Launceston: Sam McQuestin’s primary vote lead over Rosemary Armitage simply won’t be enough to hold off preferences from anti-Liberal Labor voters and anti-major party indepedendents, such that Armitage’s win here is the one projection I’m entirely confident about.

7.41pm. Two booths left to come in Rumney, including Labor’s best booth of Rokeby. My projection tells me that Lin Thorp will perhaps edge into favouritism once it’s reported. All booths in now from Launceston; one outstanding in Derwent.

7.33pm. Only two booths left to report in Derwent: Craig Farrell’s vote is back above 40 per cent, which is the litmus test for Labor’s secure hold on the seat.

7.27pm. Sam McQuestin’s primary vote lead has widened in Launceston, but not by enough.

7.26pm. With 21 booths in, Craig Farrell’s primary vote had dipped slightly below 40 per cent again, but he’s probably done enough.

7.22pm. Sixteen booths now from Rumney and Lin Thorp’s position has improved. However, much still depends on the imponderables of preferences, such that it probably won’t be possible to call this one this evening.

7.18pm. Rosemary Armitage has now almost caught up with Sam McQuestin on the primary vote in Launceston, and is well and truly home and hosed.

7.12pm. Sixteen booths in from Rumney, and Craig Farrell will be breathing easier now his primary vote has cracked 40 per cent.

7.09pm. Eleven booths now from Launceston cause little change to the situation: I’m still calling it for Rosemary Armitage.

7.06pm. With 12 booths in from Rumney, the situation has stopped improving for Lin Thorp, who will need a very strong flow of Greens preferences to hold off Tony Mulder.

6.58pm. A good result in the Roseneath booth improves Labor candidate Craig Farrell’s position in Derwent, such that I’d now say he’s the favourite. The raw figures still aren’t good, but the good Labor booths to come should push him up near 40 per cent, which will likely be enough.

6.56pm. Nine booths in from Launceston and Rosemary Armitage’s position continues to improve, such that I’m ready to call it for her. She is only just short of the Liberal candidate on the primary vote, and without question will close the gap on preferences.

6.54pm. The count continues to proceed so quickly it’s making my head spin. Twelve booths now in from Derwent, and while the raw figures look lethal for Labor, many of their best booths are yet to report. It will come down to the tightness of preferences and the number of exhausted votes (voters only have to number three boxes). Flint and Williams now neck and neck for second.

6.52pm. Seven booths now from Rumney (fastest count ever!), and while Lin Thorp is struggling, the situation is less bad for her than the initial figures suggested. A solid flow of preferences from the Greens could save her, but she’s not out of the woods. As anticipated, Tony Mulder is the biggest danger to her.

6.49pm. Five booths in from Launceston, and the gap between Armitage and McQuestin has narrowed – the former now looking extremely well placed.

6.47pm. The count proceeds at a rapid clip: now seven booths in from Derwent, and I think you can about say Labor have lost the seat. Their candidate is slightly behind independent Deirdre Flint, who will surely pull further ahead on preferences. Another independent, Ray Williams, possibly can’t be written off yet.

6.43pm. Three booths in from Launceston, and while Liberal candidate Sam McQuestin leads my early sense is that independent Rosemary Armitage would be likely to chase him down on preferences.

6.40pm. Three booths in from Derwent, and here too the Labor vote has slumped well into the danger zone. Ray Williams is the front-runner out of the other candidates.

6.37pm. The Saltwater River booth in Rumney has reported, and while it’s a small booth, it’s very interesting to note the Labor vote there has collapsed from 79.4 per cent in 2005 to 40.2 per cent.

6.00pm. Polls have closed for today’s elections for the Tasmanian upper house divisions of Rumney, Derwent and Launceston. We should probably be seeing the first results in about 45 minutes.

Tasmanian upper house elections

One-fifth of Tasmanian voters will go to the polls tomorrow, the first Saturday in May being the usual date for its periodical Legislative Council elections. These are traditionally dull affairs owing to the chamber’s unique non-partisan composition: the current numbers there are Labor three, Liberal one and independents 11. Recently though, an ageing Labor government’s struggles to retain existing seats has brought a few recent contests to life. Most notable was the Pembroke by-election in August 2009 where Labor humiliatingly declined to offer a candidate to succeed their outgoing member, Allison Ritchie. The seat was won for the Liberals by Vanessa Goodwin, who became the first formal Liberal member in the chamber’s history. This time it’s a sitting member, Education, Children and Police Minister Lin Thorp, who is struggling to survive.

Members of the Legislative Council serve six-year terms, with the divisions organised into a cycle where two or three seats are up for election each year. However, this year the situation is complicated by the concurrence of what is actually a by-election for Derwent, which is being vacated by the retirement of Michael Aird, long-serving Labor member and former Treasurer Michael Aird. There will also be no election for one of the three seats being vacated, as no candidate has emerged to challenge incumbent Ruth Forrest in Murchison.

Rumney is based around Storm Bay about 25 kilometres east of Hobart and including Sorell, Richmond and Port Arthur. Lin Thorp did well to win the seat for Labor on its creation in 1999 at the expense of independent Steve Wilson, who had held the abolished division of Monmouth since 1980. Thorp’s re-election bid has been complicated by the independent candidacy of Paul Mason, a former Children’s Commissioner who has been critical of Thorp and the government over child protection issues, and to whom Thorp had to apologise for revealing confidential details about his job selection. Running as an “independent Liberal” is retired police commander Tony Mulder, who has enjoyed at least moral support from a Police Association campaign against the government over predicted cuts to police numbers. Rounding out the field are Penelope Ann for the Greens and two further independents, Cate Clark and John Forster. The ABC reports that “internal polling has Tony Mulder slightly ahead of Lin Thorp with voters, and the former children’s commissioner Paul Mason is said to be coming third”.

Covering the southern part and most of the centre of the city bearing its name, Launceston is being vacated by independent Don Wing, who has served here since 1982. Liberal and Labor have both stepped into the breach, their respective candidates being Sam McQuestin, the state party president, and Steve Bishop, a local lawyer. Informed Tasmanian observer Kevin Bonham talks of McQuestin running a “subtle as a brick” campaign involving “government-bashing of a kind typically seen in lower house elections”, together with an attempt to marshall anti-Oakeshott/Windsor sentiment against independents. The latter are two: Rosemary Armitage, a Launceston alderman and former deputy mayor, and Lou Clark (a woman), an executive officer of the Launceston Chamber of Commerce. The Greens have contentiously decided not to contest, despite traditionally polling in the high teens in the area. Kevin Bonham thinks Armitage the most likely winner, despite/because of McQuestin’s heavy-handed attacks on her as “a defacto Green candidate”.

Derwent extends from Hobart outskirts for about 100 kilometres through the Derwent Valley. Labor’s nominee to succeed Michael Aird is Craig Farrell, Derwent Valley deputy mayor and electorate officer to federal Lyons MP Dick Adams. The Greens are fielding Phillip Bingley, a New Norkfolk environmental health officer. There are three independents: Jenny Branch, a Glenorchy councillor who ran as a Liberal candidate at the state election and as an independent when Aird was last up for election in 2009; Deirdre Flint, the mayor of Central Highlands; and local retailer Ray Williams. Aird’s vote fell from to 77.3 per cent to 51.6 per cent in 2009, and Labor is likely to fall further in his absence. Nonetheless, Kevin Bonham reckons Farrell should be able to do enough to win.

As always, tune in here tomorrow evening for live coverage of the count.

2011: episode one

Happy new year everybody. Limiting our brief to known knowns, we have the following entries in the 2011 electoral calendar.

• The NSW Labor government’s date for the electoral mincer is set for March 26. Mumble man Peter Brent has bravely ventured that Labor “will do better than opinion polls in 2010 said they would, perhaps emerging with around 30 out of 93 seats”. My tip is that this prediction of Brent’s won’t scrub up quite as nicely after the event as those he made in relation to Victoria.

• John Brumby’s exit from politics will result in a by-election in his ultra-safe northern Melbourne seat of Broadmeadows, probably in February or March. According to David Rood of The Age, early contenders for Labor preselection include “former Brumby adviser and Labor state secretary Nick Reece, former adviser to Steve Bracks and lobbyist Danny Pearson, Hume councillor Burhan Yigit, ex-Labor party officer and right-wing figure Mehmet Tillem, recently defeated Labor upper house MP Nathan Murphy and former Hobsons Bay Council mayor Bill Baarini”. One might surmise that other Victorian by-elections will follow before the year is through.

• Four of the 15 seats in Tasmania’s Legislative Council will become vacant this year, with elections almost certain to be held on May 7. These include two of the three seats held by Labor, with the other two being among the 11 held by independents (Vanessa Goodwin in Pembroke being the sole Liberal). In the normal course of events, two or three seats are on rotation to become vacant each year: this year is the turn of Launceston, Murchison and Rumney. Veteran independent Don Wing is retiring in Launceston, which will be constested for the Liberals by state party president Sam McQuestin. Sitting independent Ruth Forrest will seek another term in Murchison – she will be opposed by a Labor candidate in the person of Waratah-Wynyard mayor Kevin Hyland (UPDATE: Kevin Bonham in comments advises that Hyland is no longer a starter), but not by the Liberals. Labor’s Lin Thorp is up for re-election in Rumney, and I can find no mention of potential challengers (it’s not unknown for Legislative Council members to be returned unopposed, but the Greens at least can be relied upon to take a shot in metropolitan seats). The bonus fourth seat is a by-election caused by the retirement of former Treasurer Michael Aird. Labor’s new nominee is Derwent deputy mayor Craig Farrell.

Newspoll: 52-48 to Labor

After a fairly lengthy period where the phone pollsters marched in lock-step, GhostWhoVotes reports that Newspoll has broken away from the pack with a 52-48 lead for Labor. More to follow.

UPDATE: The Australian reports Julia Gillard’s lead as preferred prime minister is up from 49-34 to 54-31, but that “only 23 per cent of voters believe the government should go ahead with the NBN without meeting the Coalition demands for a full costing of the venture”.

UPDATE 2: Full tables here, as usual courtesy of GhostWhoVotes. Labor is up two points on the primary vote to 36 per cent, the Coalition down four to 39 per cent and the Greens up one to 14 per cent. Julia Gillard’s approval rating is up five to 46 per cent and her disapproval down four to 37 per cent, while Tony Abbott is down two on approval to 42 per cent and up three on disapproval to 45 per cent. Given the lack of corroboration elsewhere, the collective move in Labor’s favour should be treated with due caution (although their figures were probably a bit undercooked in the previous poll). On the National Broadband Network, 42 per cent support the Coalition’s demand for a cost-benefit analysis with the aforementioned 23 per cent opposed, while 19 per cent express wholesale opposition to the project “in its current form”.

Other matters:

• Peter Wellington, who has enjoyed enormous electoral success since winning the Sunshine Coast hinterland seat of Nicklin at the 1998 state election, says he will run in the corresponding federal seat of Fairfax if the Coalition’s “spoiler” tactics succeed in bringing on an early election. Fairfax has been held since 1990 by Alex Somlyay, a former Liberal and current Liberal National who has said he will not seek another term. Kate Dennehy of Fairfax reports speculation that James McGrath, a “former federal Liberal Party deputy director who reportedly had a falling out with its director”, might be interested in the LNP preselection.

Phillip Coorey of the Sydney Morning Herald has more on JWS Research focus group findings which were reported on in the context of the Victorian election by the Sunday Herald-Sun, this time in relation to federal politics. Labor is said to be suffering a perception that having dumped one leader they could very easily dump another, and that its minority government position has made it “too afraid to make a decision at the risk of offending someone”. While Gillard is “liked”, voters “do not think she is shaping up well as a leader”. However, Tony Abbott has problems of his own, with women finding him “a bit of a bully boy”.

Joe Spagnolo of the Sunday Times reports speculation Alannah MacTiernan will run for lord mayor of Perth next year, after failing in her recent bid to move from state to federal politics. The story goes that MacTiernan is keen to again run federally for Canning, but “a three-year wait for another federal election was proving too much”. The report also says Labor was hoping the present lord mayor, Lisa Scaffidi, might make way for by running for the party at the next state election, but the ABC reports she “angrily rejected” suggestions she might do so.

• Tasmania’s Legislative Council last week voted against a motion supporting an increase in the chamber’s numbers from 15 to 19. This follows an agreement between the Labor, Liberal and Greens leaders last month that the Legislative Assembly should revert to the 35-member seven-seat region model which prevailed until 1998, when Labor and the Liberals combined to support a 25-member five-seat model in the expectation that it would neuter the Greens. The ongoing rise in the latter’s electoral support gave lie to that, and the state returned to minority government with the election of one Greens member in each region at the election held in March – with the added sting of the major parties being deprived of the range of parliamentary talent that they would have enjoyed in the old days. However, Premier David Bartlett told Tim Cox on ABC Radio that it would be up to the Council to decide if it wanted to follow suit in reverting to its pre-1998 numbers. The motion was opposed by the chamber’s three Labor members, who were no doubt mindful that the proposed increase in lower house numbers was a hard enough sell as it was – although the solitary Liberal, Vanessa Goodwin, joined with four independents in support.

• Also in Tasmania, state Treasurer Michael Aird has announced he will be quitting his upper house seat of Derwent, to which he was re-elected for a six-year term at the periodical election in May 2009. This means an election for the seat will be held concurrently with the annual periodical upper house elections on the first Saturday in May, which next year will cover the seats of Launceston (previously known as Paterson), Murchison and Rumney, respectively held by independent Don Wing, independent Ruth Forrest and Labor’s Lin Thorp. The ABC reports talk Labor preselection might be contested by David Llewellyn, who lost his seat in Lyons to party rival Rebecca White. More surprisingly, Damien Brown of The Mercury reports former Premier Paul Lennon might fancy a tilt at the seat. The Liberals have confirmed they will field a candidate for the seat, which has traditionally been safe for Labor.

Tasmanian upper house (Elwick) election live

7.29pm. All booths now in: Taylor 48.5 per cent, Labor 38.3 per cent, Greens 13.2 per cent.

7.11pm. Three more booths have slightly increased the Greens vote to 12.9 per cent: Labor now unlikely to crack 40 per cent, Taylor unlikely to crack 50 per cent.

7.04pm. Kevin Bonham: “the bounce to (the Greens) operating in the 2010 state election is either no longer operating or else is being cancelled out by Taylor running as an independent and hence taking more of their votes than Martin did as a Labor candidate”.

7.01pm. Chigwell and Montrose booths leaves the situation unchanged: Taylor to probably come in a bit under 50 per cent, Labor around 40 per cent and remainder with the Greens. Whatever preferences from the latter do, Taylor will won comfortably.

6.52pm. Bonham confirms none of this is a surprise: last time Terry Martin as Labor candidate had exactly the same local strength that Labor does now as the sitting mayor.

6.48pm. Note that Kevin Bonham, who knows what’s going on much better than I do, is following the action in comments. He tells me Adriana Taylor who is “Terry Martin’s successor as Mayor of Glenorchy which more or less coincides with the Elwick boundaries”. So my presumption that this should be an easy recovery for Labor probably wasn’t the conventional wisdom.

6.47pm. Going off booth matching, Labor’s vote is down 16.9 per cent.

6.45pm. Seven booths out of 16 in now, and I don’t think there’s much doubt Taylor’s going to win. A shame I haven’t been following this, because this looks like a rebuff to the government.

6.40pm. Ooh! First figures are interesting. Independent Adriana Taylor wins both the Windermere and Collinsvale booths.

6.30pm. To my shame, I’d forgotten about the periodical election for the Tasmanian Legislative Council district of Elwick (located in northern Hobart) was this weekend. This post will be used for live reporting of the count, although I’m not sure how informative it will be. Here’s the quickest summary I can offer. There are 15 seats in the chamber: as of about two years ago Labor had five and the rest were independents. Then Labor’s member for Elwick, Terry Martin, quit the party and it became 4-11. Last year another Labor member, Allison Ritchie, quit parliament altogether, and the resulting by-election was won by Liberal candidate Vanessa Goodwin, who had previously been slated as the party’s challenger for a second seat in the lower house division of Franklin (which ended up going to Jacquie Petrusma). That made the numbers 3-1-11. Terry Martin meanwhile became embroiled in a very unpleasant scandal that has obliged him to not seek another term. Under the periodical election calendar the electorate of Aspley, covering the east coast and areas to the north-east of Hobart, was also due to be up for election, but nobody emerged to challenge sitting independent Tanya Rattray-Wagner and she has been elected unoppposed. Somewhat disappontingly given recent events, the Liberals have decided not to field a candidate, so the field is union organiser Tim Jacobson for Labor, “senior policy officer” Kartika Franks for the Greens, and “mayor” (of what I can’t say) Adriana Johnson as an independent. One would presume Jacobson will win very easily, putting the numbers at 4-1-10.