Tasmanian election guide

Introducing the Poll Bludger’s guide to the May 1 state election in Tasmania.

The Poll Bludger’s guide to the Tasmanian state election is now available in all its painstaking glory. It features guides to each of the five electoral divisions, including interactive polling booth results maps, charts and tables of past electorate data, happy snaps and around 1200 words’ worth of information and analysis apiece, and a 2400-word overview of the electoral and political situation as it seems from my admittedly distant perch. What it doesn’t feature is a page for the Legislative Council, but that will be rectified over the next day or so.

Ahead of tomorrow’s deadline for nominations, which will resolve a few lingering mysteries about the state of the race, a summary of notable campaign developments so far, some of which my election guide still needs to be brought up to speed on:

• After the first week of Labor’s campaign was consumed by controversy over Dean Winter’s failure to win preselection in Franklin, the party’s national executive has intervened on his behalf at the request of Rebecca White. Winter, the mayor of Kingborough and a former economics adviser to White, had been denied by the state party’s Left-dominated administrative committee because of “anti-union views” on penalty rates and privatisation. One union that disagreed was the Right faction Australian Workers Union, of which Winter is a member, which filed a notice of appeal to have the result overturned. Labor will now have six candidates in Franklin rather than the originally mooted five.

Matthew Denholm of The Australian obliquely reports today on an “internal party debate” as to whether an unidentified Left-aligned candidate should be dumped over “allegations of inappropriate behaviour towards a woman”.

• One of the Liberals’ non-incumbent candidates for Franklin, Dean Ewington, was disendorsed last Wednesday for having attended an anti-lockdown rally in Melbourne and posted a video on Facebook railing against the government’s “silly restrictions” relating to COVID-19. He has been replaced by James Walker, a podiatrist and Clarence alderman who ran unsuccessfully for the Legislative Council seat of Pembroke in 2017.

The Mercury reported last Thursday that Labor had entered a “secret deal” with the hotels lobby resolving not to repeat its 2018 election policy of removing poker machines from pubs and clubs, which drew immediate fire from the Greens and independent Clark candidate Kristie Johnston.

Tasmanian election: May 1

Tasmania to go to the polls on May 1, as Peter Gutwein seeks to make it an unprecedented three-in-a-row for the Liberals.

Last night’s rumours proved to be true: Peter Gutwein has called a Tasmanian election for May 1, almost a year ahead of time. I have a paywalled piece in Crikey laying out my thoughts on the matter.

The upshot is that an early election is understandable from a Liberal perspective owing to the government’s COVID-19 popularity dividend and its historic difficulty in winning elections in Tasmania (never before has it won three in a row); but that there are nonetheless considerable risks involved in an early election, even allowing for the excuse that the government lost its majority when Sue Hickey quit the party on Monday. Such risks are compounded by the fact that the election has been imposed on Labor leader Rebecca White barely more than a month before she is due to give birth, the Liberal Party’s insensitivity towards women being very much the issue du jour.

I would optimistically say that I’m a week away from publishing an election guide, on which I got started when the rumours began to swirl earlier in the week. As always in matters Tasmanian, you could do a lot worse than follow the election analysis of Kevin Bonham.

The big issue

Issue polling, Tasmanian polling, election timing and preselection latest.

Note posts below this on latest developments in the Western Australian campaign and a new state poll from South Australia. In other polling news, we have the latest from a regular series on issue salience and a state poll from Tasmania that I don’t quite feel warrants a post of its own:

• The latest True Issues survey of issue salience from JWS Research records a slight moderation of the coronavirus-driven peculiarities of the mid-year results, in that 42% now rate health among the top three issues (down from 47% in June, but still well up on 24% in February) and 19% do so for environment (up three on last time, but still well down on 26% in February. However, a spike in concern about the economy (steady at 32%, compared with 18% in February) and employment and wages (up two to 30%, compared with 21% in February) has not abated. Nineteen per cent rate the federal government’s response to COVID-19 as very good and 37% as good, but state governments collectively fare better at 29% and 35%. Positive ratings are markedly lower in Victoria for both the federal and state governments. Plenty more detail here from the poll, which was conducted from February 18 to 22 from a sample of 1000.

• The latest quarterly EMRS poll of state voting intention in Tasmania is little changed on the previous result in November, with the incumbent Liberals steady on 52%, Labor up two to 27% and the Greens up one to 14%, with the only complication to a static picture being a four point drop for “others” to 7%. Peter Gutwein’s lead over Labor’s Rebecca White as preferred premier is unchanged at 52-27. The poll was conducted by phone from Monday, February 15 to Tuesday, February 23, from a sample of 1000. Much analysis as always from Kevin Bonham.

Other relevant developments:

• The conventional wisdom that the election would be held in the second half of this year, most likely around September, was disturbed by an Age/Herald report last week that the Prime Minister had “told colleagues to plan for two federal budgets before the Coalition government heads to the polls”.

Sarah Elks of The Australian reports Warren Entsch, who has held the far north Queensland seat of Leichhardt for the Liberals and the Liberal National Party outside of a one-term time-out from 2007 to 2010, has gone back on his decision to retire. The 70-year-old announced this term would be his last on the night of the 2019 election, but now feels it “incumbent on me during these uncertain times to continue to support our community and its residents”.

The Advertiser reports the Prime Minister has told South Australian factional leaders they are expected to preselect a woman to succeed Nicolle Flint in Boothby. This presumably reduces the chances of the position going to state Environment Minister David Speirs, who said last week he was “pondering” a run. The Advertiser suggests the front runners are Rachel Swift, a factional moderate and infectious diseases expert who currently has the unwinnable fourth position on the Senate ticket, and Leah Blyth, a conservative and head of student services at Adelaide University. Another woman mentioned as a possibility by Tom Richardson of InDaily was Marion Themeliotis, Onkaparinga councillor and staffer to state Davenport MP Steve Murray.

Winding down

With the end of the year in view, I offer a Tasmanian state poll and not much else.

First up, there are two lengthy and highly substantive new post beneath this one which I like to think warrant your attention: my own review of the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters’ newly published report of its inquiry into the 2019 election, and Adrian Beaumont’s concluding review of Joe Biden’s victory over Donald Trump.

So that the comments sections for those posts might remain on topic, I offer this post as the latest open thread. I’m not exactly sure what the imminent festive season means for the schedule of the pollsters – Newspoll might or might not have one last poll under its sleeve just before Christmas, and I’m pretty sure there will be an Essential Research next week, which should feature leadership ratings though not voting intention. We will also presumably get one of Newspoll’s quarterly geographic and demographic aggregations at some point during the silly season.

There is one poll that slipped through my net: the latest effort on Tasmanian state voting intention from EMRS, which continues to find Premier Peter Gutwein in almost as commanding a position as Western Australian Premier Mark McGowan, the other leader for whom COVID-19 has been nothing but good news. The Liberals are credited with 52% of the vote, down two from August, with Labor up one to 25% and the Greens up one to 13%. However, Gutwein’s lead over Labor’s Rebecca White as preferred premier has narrowed from 70-23 to 61-26. The poll was conducted by telephone from November 17 to 23 from a sample of 1000.

Affairs of state

One finely crafted electoral news item for every state (and territory) that is or might ever conceivably have been part of our great nation.

A bone for every dog in the federation kennel:

New South Wales

Gladys Berejiklian has backed a move for the Liberal Party to desist from endorsing or financially supporting candidates in local government elections, reportedly to distance the state government from adverse findings arising from Independent Commission Against Corruption investigations into a number of councils. Many in the party are displeased with the idea, including a source cited by Linda Silmalis of the Daily Telegraph, who predicted “world war three” because many MPs relied on councillors to organise their numbers at preselections.


The second biggest story in the politics of Victoria over the past fortnight has been the expose of the activities of Liberal Party operator Marcus Bastiaan by the Nine newspaper-and-television news complex, a neat counterpoint to its similar revelations involving Labor powerbroker Adem Somyurek in June. The revelations have been embarrassing or worse for federal MPs Michael Sukkar and Kevin Andrews, with the former appearing to have directed the latter’s electorate office staff to spend work time on party factional activities.

Together with then state party president Michael Kroger, Bastiaan was instrumental in establishing a conservative ascendancy with help from Bastiaan’s recruitment of members from Mormon churches and the Indian community. Having installed ally Nick Demiris as campaign director, Bastiaan’s fingerprints were on the party’s stridently conservative campaign at the 2018 state election, which yielded the loss of 11 lower house Coalition seats. Religious conservatives led by Karina Okotel, now a federal party vice-president, then split from the Bastiaan network, complaining their numbers had been used to buttress more secular conservatives.

The Age’s report noted that “in the days leading up to the publication of this investigation, News Corporation mastheads have run stories attacking factional opponents of Mr Bastiaan and Mr Sukkar”. Presumably related to this was a report on Okotel’s own party activities in The Australian last weekend, which was long on emotive adjectives but short on tangible allegations of wrongdoing, beyond her having formed an alliance with factional moderates after the split.

Continue reading “Affairs of state”

Preselections, defections and state elections

Jockeying begins in earnest for Liberal preselections in Warringah and for the Tasmanian Senate ticket, and a new milestone in the decomposition of Nick Xenophon’s party.

There probably won’t be any polls this week, with the fortnightly Essential Research and tri-weekly Newspoll having dropped last week. But there will of course be a Northern Territory election on Saturday, which is the subject of its own thread here.

Other news:

Sue Bailey of the Launceston Examiner reports that Eric Abetz is expected to retain the top position on the Tasmanian Liberals’ Senate ticket at the next election, contrary to earlier reports that Jonathan Duniam was planning to topple him, after the two “kissed and made up”. However, the report further says that “another senior Liberal” is doing the numbers for the third candidate who will be seeking re-election, Wendy Askew, who filled the Senate vacancy created last year when her brother, David Bushby, took up a diplomatic post in the United States. Also: “It is believed Prime Minister Scott Morrison wants the pre-selection delayed until next year so as not to be a distraction during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Michael Koziol of the Age/Herald has a story on the willing Liberal preselection contest in Warringah, which Tony Abbott lost to independent Zali Steggall at last year’s election. Abbott loyalists are said to be advancing the claim of Sacha Grebe, a former Scott Morrison staffer and employee of lobbying firm DPG Advisory, whose principal is David Gazard, a Morrison ally and candidate for Eden-Monaro in 2010. Grebe backer and local party activist Walter Villatora is engaged in a seemingly forlorn bid to have the preselection held as soon as possible. Others said to be in the hunt are “state MP Natalie Ward, state executive member Alex Dore and Menzies Research Centre manager Tim James”.

• There has been a change in the party balance of the Senate with Rex Patrick’s resignation from the Centre Alliance to sit as an independent. The Advertiser ($) has also reported the party’s two remaining members, Stirling Griff in the Senate and Mayo MP Rebekha Sharkie, are the subject of approaches from Liberals to defect to the party, although the notion is meeting bitter resistance from conservatives.

• The results of Tasmania’s recent upper house elections have been finalised, and as expected have resulted in the election of Labor’s Bastian Seidel in the seat of Huon south of Hobart, and of Liberal candidate Jo Palmer in Rosevears. The former was achieved over independent incumbent Robert Armstrong by the comfortable margin of 7.3% at the final count (12,284 votes to 9,152), but the latter proved a close run thing, with Jo Palmer landing 260 votes clear of independent candidate Janie Finlay, 11,492 votes (50.6%) or 11,232 (49.4%).