Tasmanian election minus five weeks

Multiple developments from the Tasmanian campaign, as prospective candidates caught on the hop by an early election scramble into place — and out of it.

There is now a semi-complete Poll Bludger guide to the Tasmanian election, featuring the usual extensive guides to each of the five electoral divisions, complete with displays of past election results in chart, table and booth map form, and an overview page that reviews the electoral terrain and a term’s worth of political developments in the state. The sections detailing the party candidates and their backgrounds will need updating after nominations close at the end of the month, with the parties presently scrambling to get their line-ups in place for an election called over a year ahead of time, and independents both entering and dropping out at a bewildering clip. Notably:

• Observers were surprised when Liberal advertising appeared for Franklin promoting the candidacy of former Police Minister Jacquie Petrusma, who resigned from parliament in July 2022 after a career going back to 2010. Petrusma is yet to be formally endorsed, but has confirmed that she is indeed seeking preselection, which will presumably be a formality. This compounds the challenge faced by the electorate’s two Liberal incumbents, Nic Street and Dean Young, who already had Eric Abetz to contend with.

• Jane Howlett, who has held the Legislative Council seat of Prosser for the Liberals since 2018, has announced she will run in Lyons. Prosser will be up for election in any case when the annual periodic elections are held in May, and there will be nothing to stop Howlett running again if she is unsuccessful in Lyons. Labor will likewise run a Legislative Council member, Josh Willie, in Clark, presumably having made the same calculation that familiar candidates will improve its chances overall.

• The number of former major party members running as independents has hit four, and nearly made it to five. Sue Hickey has announced she will seek a comeback in Clark, where she was elected as a Liberal in 2018 and was narrowly unsuccessful in a bid to retain the seat as an independent in 2021, having quit the party four days before the election was announced. Elise Archer also announced she would run in Clark on Wednesday but withdrew the following day, owing to a “health circumstance”. According to David Killick of The Mercury, “concerns were expressed for Ms Archer’s welfare after an appearance on ABC Radio on Thursday in which she did not sound like her normal self”.

• The Greens have announced Hobart deputy lord mayor Helen Burnet, who has run for the party on a number of previous occasions, will be a candidate in Clark. The party will be hoping the new regime of seven-member electorates will put it in contention for a second seat in Clark, which Burnet came close to achieving even with only five seats on offer in 2010. The party’s sitting member in Clark is Vica Bayley, who filled a vacancy created in July 2023 when former leader Cassy O’Connor stepped aside ahead of her run for the Legislative Council seat of Hobart in May.

Tasmanian election announcement announced

Assuming no last minute change of heart, Tasmanians will go the polls for an early election expected to be called today for March 23.

Tasmania is headed for an early election for the second term in a row, with Liberal Premier Jeremy Rockliff announcing yesterday that he will visit the Governor today to seek an election anticipated for March 23. This follows a breakdown in relations with former Liberal MPs John Tucker and Lara Alexander, who reduced the government to minority status when they quit to sit as independents last May. Rockliff has spent the last week attempting to extract from them a commitment only to vote for government-backed motions and amendments in parliament, which would have rendered them independents in name only.

This unexpected development will leave parties scrambling over the coming weeks to get slates of candidate in place for an election that will enlarge parliament from 25 seats to 35. Each of the five electoral divisions (the same ones that apply in the state at federal elections) will now elect seven rather than five members under the state’s Hare-Clark variant of proportional representation, returning to the situation which prevailed before 1998.

The change lowers the quota for election from 16.7% to 12.5%, making life substantially easier for minor parties. A desire to reduce the footprint of the Greens was the principal motivation for the cut in parliamentary numbers in 1998, but the minor party environment has grown more complex since that time. Tucker and Alexander joined a cross bench which, together with two Greens members, included Clark MP Kristie Johnston, who in 2021 became the first independent to win election since 1986.

There is also the question of the Jacqui Lambie Network, which at last report planned to field candidates in every division except Clark, and which was credited with 20% support by a YouGov poll conducted over New Year. However, it must reckon with the disappointing precedent of its attempt to establish itself in state politics in 2018, when promising early polling evaporated during the campaign period and it emerged empty-handed.

I hope to have a preliminary version of an election guide up later today or tomorrow, to which further detail will be added as more candidates are confirmed. On that front, local observer Kevin Bonham is keeping a running tally of all confirmed starters on his site.

The road ahead: Dunkley, Inala and more

With dates set for a federal and a Queensland state by-election, a review of looming electoral events.

House of Representatives Speaker Milton Dick has announced the Dunkley by-election will be held on March 2, with nominations to close on February 8 and be decared the following day, and the Poll Bludger’s guide to the by-election is now up and running. It is the first of my guides to feature historical results charts for the primary vote as well as two-party preferred (among many other things), which I hope is of use to somebody because it involved a lot of work.

In a report on the by-election in The Age yesterday, David Crowe related that “this masthead reported last week that Labor officials privately believe the Coalition has the edge”. I am not clear if this refers to a report from Broede Carmody, saying only that the officials “expect a swing against them”, or one from Paul Sakkal saying “both parties are privately downplaying their chances”.

The other by-election on the way is in Queensland for Annastacia Palaszczuk’s safe Labor seat of Inala, which Premier Steven Miles has confirmed will be held simultaneously with the local government elections on March 16. Seemingly assured of Labor endorsement is Margie Nightingale, former teacher and policy adviser to Treasurer Cameron Dick, who has the support of the Right. Lydia Lynch of The Australian reports the Liberal National Party is “due to preselect its candidate within a fortnight” – I will hold off doing an election guide until then.

The council elections are of substantial interest in their own right, with Brisbane City Council in particular being both the most powerful and the most partisan local government jurisdiction in the country. The conservatives have been dominant since Campbell Newman became Lord Mayor in 2004. The current incumbent, Adrian Schrinner, won by 56.3-43.7 after preferences in 2020, a swing to Labor of 3.0% from 2016. His Labor opponent this time is Tracey Price, a lawyer and sewing shop owner.

The Liberal National Party’s dominance on council reached new heights with the elections of 2016 and 2020, both of which saw them win 19 out of 26 council wards, leaving five for Labor and one each for Greens and an independent. The Greens have high hopes of expanding their footprint after their federal breakthrough in 2022, to the extent of talking up the possibility of displacing Labor as the council opposition. Considerably more detail on the elections is available courtesy of Ben Raue at the Tally Room.

Also looming are Tasmania’s periodic Legislative Council elections, presumably to be held on May 4, which this year encompass two of the chamber’s fifteen seats: Prosser, covering rural territory immediately north of Hobart, and the self-explanatory seat of Hobart. These are of particular interest this year because former Greens leader Cassy O’Connor has abandoned her seat in the lower house to run for Hobart, which if successful will win the Greens its first ever seat in the chamber. The seat will be vacated with the retirement of Rob Valentine, who has held it as an independent since 2012. Prosser is held for the Liberals by Jane Howlett, one of the chamber’s four Liberal members, who won narrowly in 2018 and may struggle amid the government’s declining fortunes. Labor likewise holds four seats, the remaining seven being independents.

Twentieth birthday miscellany (open thread)

The Poll Bludger celebrates 20 years in the only way it knows how: with some poll results and a couple of preselection updates.

Today marks twenty years since the Poll Bludger launched itself on an unsuspecting blogosphere. You may perhaps find in this milestone occasion to reward the site with a birthday present, which will be gratefully received through the “become a supporter” button at the top of the site.

Polling news:

• YouGov has intruded on the long-held monopoly of EMRS by publishing a Tasmanian state poll. It points to the existence of a big market for the Jacqui Lambie Network, which is credited with 20% of the vote – enough in the estimation of YouGov’s “likely outcome” to win it seven seats and a decisive position in a lower house that will expand at the next election from 25 seats to 35. The Liberals duly have no chance of recording another majority, being credited with 31% of the vote and a projected eleven seats. Labor are on 27% and ten seats and the Greens 15% and six seats, with independent Kristie Johnston presumed headed for re-election in Clark. It should be noted that when the Jacqui Lambie Network last tried its hand at a state election, in 2018, strong early poll numbers withered during the campaign period and it emerged empty-handed. The poll also assumes it will run in all five divisions, whereas it was reported in November that it will not be running in Clark. The poll was conducted December 21 to January 4 from a sample of 850.

• The first federal poll of the year is from Roy Morgan, presumably returning to its weekly schedule after a four-week break over Christmas and New Year. The poll has the Coalition leading 51-49 on two-party preferred, the third Morgan poll of recent months to have the Coalition leading after two 50.5-49.5 results since October, reversing the result from the last poll in early December. Labor has taken a three-point hit on the primary vote, falling to 29%, with the Coalition up one to 39%, the Greens up one-and-a-half to 13% and One Nation up half to 5%. The poll was conducted Tuesday to Sunday from a sample of 1716.

Preselection news:

The Age reports Labor’s candidate for the looming Dunkley by-election is likely to be Jodie Belyea, manager of MEGT Foundation, which provides tertiary scholarships for disadvantaged women. Belyea has won the seemingly decisive support of the Socialist Left faction for a preselection that will be formally ratified by the party’s national executive over the coming weeks. The list of Liberal contenders has reportedly been reduced to Nathan Conroy, Donna Hope and Bec Buchanan, with David Burgess withdrawing from contention. The by-election is expected to be held in late February.

The West Australian reports on two prospective nominees for Liberal preselection in the Perth seat of Curtin, which was lost to teal independent Kate Chaney in 2022: Matt Moran, an Afghanistan veteran and former Ten Network reporter now employed in government relations at naval shipbuilder Luerssen Australia, and Tom White, who until recently was Uber’s chief executive for South Korea. It was earlier reported that there was a push in the party for Moran to challenge Ian Goodenough for preselection in Curtin’s northern neighbour, Moore, which is also of interest to Vince Connelly, former member for the abolished seat of Stirling.

Monday miscellany (open thread)

A preselection opponent for Tim Wilson in Goldstein, update on the Queensland by-election for Annastacia Palaszczuk’s seat, and Eric Abetz announces a state comeback bid.

Three items of electoral relevance to emerge amidst the New Year news and polling drought:

Paul Sakkal of The Age reports Stephanie Hunt, corporate lawyer and former legal adviser to Julie Bishop and Marise Payne, will seek Liberal preselection for Goldstein, which Tim Wilson hopes to recover after losing to independent Zoe Daniel in 2022. Wilson remains the front-runner, in the estimation of a further report in The Age today.

Lydia Lynch of The Australian reports Margie Nightingale, former teacher and policy adviser to Treasurer Cameron Dick, is the front-runner to succeed Annastacia Palaszczuk in her seat of Inala, the by-election for which is “tipped to be held in March”. Palaszczuk’s former deputy chief-of-staff, Jon Persley, had long been mentioned as her likely successor, but he has withdrawn from contention, saying the party’s gender quota rules played a “big factor” in the decision.

Sue Bailey of the Sunday Tasmanian reports that veteran former Liberal Senator and conservative stalwart Eric Abetz will seek state preselection in the division of Franklin for an election due in June next year, assuming Jeremy Rockliff’s government is able to keep the show on the road that long.

EMRS: Liberal 39, Labor 29, Greens 12 in Tasmania

Less than two months after it tottered on the brink, a quarterly Tasmanian state poll finds the Liberal government improving its position.

EMRS has released its quarterly read on state voting intention in Tasmania, which despite a rocky three months for the government finds Liberal support up a point to 39% and Labor down three to 29%, with the Greens down two to 12% and others up three to 19%. The results at the May 2021 election, at which the Liberals won 13 out of 25 seats, were Liberal 48.7%, Labor 28.2% and Greens 12.4%. Jeremy Rockliff’s lead over Labor’s Rebecca White as preferred premier widens from 42-39 to 42-35. The poll was conducted November 20 to 27 from a sample of 1000.

Electorally relevant news from the state since the last poll:

• Former Attorney-General Elise Archer is gone from parliament after text messages were leaked in which she denigrated each of the three Liberals who have served as Premier since 2010, and others besides. This occurred against the backdrop of an Anti-Discrimination Commission inquiry into allegations against Archer from at least two staff members of bullying and inappropriate behaviour. Archer initially announced she was resigning from parliament but then prevaricated, leaving open the possibility that a government that had already been reduced to minority status after Lara Alexander and John Tucker quit the party in May. The crisis was defused when Archer went ahead with her resignation, and her parliamentary vacancy in the electorate of Clark was filled on a countback by Simon Behrakis, Hobart alderman and adviser to Treasurer and Deputy Premier Michael Ferguson. Given suggestions Ferguson is a potential leadership challenger, this may have weakened Rockliff’s position, Archer having reportedly been even less keen on Ferguson than she was on Rockliff.

Sue Bailey of The Mercury reports the Jacqui Lambie Network will field candidates at the next election in Franklin, Lyons, Bass and Braddon, but not Clark. Lambie’s party failed to win any seats when it last contested a state election in 2014, but faces a lower bar with the enlargement of the House of Assembly from 25 seats to 35.

Sue Bailey of The Mercury reports Josh Willie, who holds the northern Hobart seat of Elwick for Labor in the Legislative Council, will run for the lower house in Clark at an election due for early 2025. This will require a by-election in Elwick, to which Willie was elected in 2016 and re-elected in 2022.

EMRS: Liberal 38, Labor 32, Greens 14 in Tasmania

A quarterly poll result finds support for the country’s last remaining Liberal government steadying after a solid drop last time.

The quarterly EMRS poll of state voting intention in Tasmania has the governing Liberals recovering two points after a six-point drop in the May poll, putting them at 38%. Labor is up two to 32% and the Greens are down one to 14%, with all others down two to 16%. The Liberals needed 50.3% to get to a majority of 13 seats in 2018 and 48.7% in 2021, although the calculus will be altered next time when each of the five divisions elects seven members rather than five. Jeremy Rockliff has recovered the lead as preferred premier at 42-39, after Rebecca White led 40-38 last time. The poll was conducted last Tuesday to Monday from a sample of 1000.

Notable developments since the May poll:

• Former Labor leader David O’Byrne confirmed earlier this month that he would again seek Labor preselection in Franklin, ensuring the continuation of a saga that began in 2021 when a former union staffer accused him of sexual harassment in incidents dating back to 2007 and 2008. This caused him to be dumped as leader after less than a month in the role and evicted from the parliamentary party. Rebecca White has since resisted his return, but he retains support in the Left and the matter of his preselection is in the hands of the national executive, which last year took over the state branch’s affairs for a period of three years. The matter could potentially be left to Anthony Albanese’s casting vote if the evenly balanced national executive divides on factional lines. Further complicating the matter is the presence on the executive of Michelle O’Byrne, David O’Byrne’s sister and Left faction colleague.

• Cassy O’Connor, former leader of the Greens’ two-member parliamentary contingent, has quit parliament ahead of a run for the Legislative Council seat of Hobart at the annual periodic elections next May, potentially giving the party a seat in the chamber for the first time. The leadership has passed to its only other member, Franklin MP Rosalie Woodruff, and O’Connor’s parliamentary vacancy in Clark has been filled by Vica Bayley, conservationist and adviser to the Aboriginal Land Council of Tasmania. Bayley won a countback ahead of party colleague Bec Taylor by 5380 votes (53.6%) to 4649 (46.4%).

Matthew Denholm of The Australian reported last month that a bid for the state Liberal presidency by Clarence mayor Brendan Blomeley was part of a conservative influence-building campaign with ambitions including a seat in state parliament for former Senator Eric Abetz. However, he was defeated by Michael McKenna, director of chancery services and the archdiocesan master of ceremonies for the Catholic Archdiocese of Hobart, who had the backing of Jeremy Rockliff.

EMRS: Liberal 36, Labor 31, Greens 15 in Tasmania

A dive in support for the country’s last remaining and now minority Liberal government, although Labor fails to reap a significant dividend.

The latest EMRS poll of state voting intention in Tasmania has Liberal support slumping six points since the February poll to 36%, its lowest level in this long-running series since 2018, but with Labor up only one point to 31%. The Greens are up two to 15%, their best result since 2019 in a series that has shown a tendency to overestimate them. Despite Labor’s apparent softness, leader Rebecca White takes a 40-38 lead over Jeremy Rockliff as preferred premier, reversing Rockliff’s 44-36 lead last time. The poll was conducted by phone last Monday to Friday from a sample of 1000.

Recent Tasmanian developments of note:

• The government lost its parliamentary majority a fortnight ago when Bass MP Lara Alexander and Lyons MP John Tucker quit the Liberal Party to sit as independents. Both had flagged concerns with future debt from the AFL stadium at Macquarie Point and Marius Link electricity interconnector with the mainland. This puts the numbers in the House of Assembly at Liberal 11, Labor nine, Greens two and independents three, although Labor’s nine includes David O’Byrne, who was ejected from caucus in July 2021.

• The dominant issue of recent weeks has been the aforementioned Macquarie Point AFL stadium, to which the federal government has contentiously contributed $240 million of the projected $715 million cost. While this has ensured Tasmania will finally land a team at the AFL, the funding has been very widely criticised at a time of serious housing shortages, with state Labor opposing the state government’s contribution of $375 million. A poll of 2541 Tasmanians conducted by Community Engagement last October found 67% were opposed to the stadium with only 17% in favour.

Results have been finalised for the three periodic Legislative Council elections held on May 6, each of which were won easily by the incumbents. Labor’s Sarah Lovell fell seven votes short of holding Rumney without having to go to preferences, with a primary vote of 11,003 (49.97%) out of 22,018 amid a field of four candidates. Independent Ruth Forrest polled 16,542 (71.88%) out of 23,013 against two rival independents and a Shooters Fishers and Farmers candidate in Murchison; another independent, Rosemary Armitage, polled 15,548 (78.23%) out of 19,875 in a two-horse race against the Greens in Launceston.