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.