Tasmanian election 2014

Electorate: Braddon

Dominated by Burnie and Devonport, the electorate of Braddon covers Tasmania’s north-western coastal areas plus King Island. Smaller centres include Currie, Penguin, Savage River, Smithton, Stanley, Ulverstone, Waratah and Wynyard. This is an electorally mixed area, with conservative small towns and farming districts balancing timber and mining industries that traditionally provided a solid working-class base for Labor. Antony Green observes that the parties “tend to try and balance their tickets with candidates from different areas”: for Labor, Brenton Best dominates in Devonport while Bryan Green does so in Burnie, which for the Liberals were respectively the strongest areas for winning candidate Adam Brooks and defeated incumbent Brett Whiteley at the 2010 election.

Labor was dominant in Braddon in the 1960s and 70s, but decline in the area’s industries combined with the Franklin Dam controversy dramatically tilted the balance in the Liberals’ favour in the early 1980s. The pendulum would not swing back until the late 1990s, with Labor dominating at state and federal level from 1998 to 2007, barring the telling interruption of the 2004 federal election when a backlash against Mark Latham’s conservationist forestry policy returned the seat to the Liberals for a turn with a 7.0% swing. This result also pointed to the area’s relative weakness for the Greens, who failed to win seats at the first three state elections held after the number of seats per electorate was cut from seven to five in 1998.

The Greens broke through at the 2010 election when the Labor vote fell from 50.8% to 40.2%, putting them well below three quotas, while the Liberal gain from 37.3% to 45.2% remained well short of what they needed for a third seat. With the Greens up from 10.3% to 13.7%, their lead candidate Paul O’Halloran was able to absorb much of Labor’s surplus after the election of their second member, allowing him to poach a third Labor seat that had been vacated by the retirement of former Deputy Premier Steve Kons. On the Liberal side of the equation, incumbent Brett Whiteley was unseated by newcomer candidate Adam Brooks, who outpolled Whiteley 10.8% to 8.6%. Whiteley has since returned to politics by winning the federal seat of Braddon from Labor’s Sid Sidebottom at the 2013 election.

Labor has two incumbents, both of long standing – Bryan Green, a member since 1998, and Brenton Best, since 1996.

Bryan Green emerged as his party’s strongest performing candidate in Braddon at the 2002 election, and comfortably remained so in 2006 and 2010. He was mentioned as a potential rival to Paul Lennon when talk of a leadership challenge briefly surfaced after the 2004 federal election debacle, and became Deputy Premier when David Llewellyn stepped aside after the 2006 election. However, he was in the position for only four months when he was obliged to stand down over a deal that offered a company part-owned by former Labor MPs a monopoly over accreditation in the building industry. Green faced two trials on charges of conspiracy and attempting to interfere with an executive officer, but both ended with hung juries and the charges were dropped in March 2008. He returned to cabinet after the 2010 election, since which time he has served in the primary industries and water, energy and resources, local government, planning and racing portfolios, and resumed the deputy premiership when David Bartlett made way for Lara Giddings in January 2011. This amounted to a clean sweep of the leadership positions for a Left faction with which Green has been associated since his pre-parliamentary career with the Forestry Union.

Brenton Best is also a member of the Left, having emerged through the Federated Engine Drivers and Fireman’s Association. He was elected to Devonport City Council in 1994 and then to parliament in 1996 off 4.4% of the Braddon vote, which increased to 7.3% in 1998. His vote was again up in 2002, to 10.6%, but was nonetheless only narrowly able to win Labor’s third seat on the latter occasion, holding off Latrobe deputy mayor Michael Gaffney. In 2006 he went untroubled, despite his vote easing slightly to 10.5%, and he managed to increase his share of a diminished Labor vote in 2010 to record 11.0%. Best’s fiercely critical attitude to the governing alliance with the Greens has made him a thorn in the side of Lara Giddings, whom he has called on to make way for David O’Byrne as leader. He has at all times remained on the back bench.

Labor’s newcomer candidates are Shane Broad, a Central Coast councillor and former staffer to Sid Sidebottom, who was the best performing of Labor’s non-incumbent candidates in 2010, polling 5.1%; Justine Keay, a Devonport City Council alderman and former electorate officer to Bryan Green; and Darryl Bessell, who “works on a dairy farm at Smithton, after being made redundant from McCain Foods”.

Seeking re-election for the Liberals are Jeremy Rockliff and Adam Brooks, who have respectively held seats since 2002 and 2010. Jeremy Rockliff was a former state Young Liberals president and factional moderate whose family’s connections with the Sassafras farming region reportedly go back 150 years. He was one of two new Liberals elected when incumbents Tony Rundle and Carole Cains retired at the 2002 election, emerging the star performer of the Liberal ticket with 13.1% of the vote, and his share of the vote progressed to 14.8% in 2006 and 17.1% in 2010. Since 2006 he has served as the party’s deputy leader, having secured the position in a post-election party room vote. He presently holds the shadow portfolios of health, primary industries and industrial relations.

Adam Brooks was well known around Devenport before his entry to parliament due to business interests which a local newspaper report identified as including “Total Performance Sports and recently opened Essentially Mobile in Devonport plus Xcel Fitness in Shearwater as well as Port Sorell take away”. He by all accounts put a considerable amount of his own money into a high-visibility campaign at the 2010 election, allowing him to pull off the difficult feat of unseating a Liberal incumbent in Brett Whiteley, whom he outpolled 10.8% to 8.6%. Brooks holds the shadow portfolios of small business, mining, hospitality and veterans’ affairs.

The new Liberal candidates are:

Kyron Howell, who has worked as a musical performer and tour manager in Japan, and currently works as a Japanese interpreter and trade consultant.

Roger Jaensch, executive chairman of the Cradle Coast Authority and a former member of the Tasmanian Climate Action Council.

Joan Rylah, founder of pro-development group Unlock Tasmania.

Prior to his entry to parliament in 2010, Greens member Paul O’Halloran was assistant principal at the Tasmanian Academy’s Don campus, and later a manager of the Primary Industries Centre for Science Education at the University of Tasmania. His election win was achieved on his third attempt as the party’s lead candidate, having polled 6.5% from a Greens total of 12.0% in 2002, 6.6% from 10.3% in 2006, and finally 8.9% from 13.7% in 2010.

Rounding out the Greens ticket are Chris Cornell, Melissa Houghton, Philip Nicholas and Sally O’Wheel.

Kevin Morgan of the Palmer United Party candidate is being styled by his party as its “candidate for Premier of Tasmania”. He worked as an adviser in the Department of Premier and Cabinet from July 2010 to April 2013, during the tenures of David Bartlett and Lara Giddings, and polled 9.3% as PUP’s candidate for Braddon at the September 2013 federal election, and 14.5% as an independent candidate for the upper house seat of Montgomery the previous May.

Other candidates: Also in the field are three Nationals candidates, one for the Australian Christians and two independents.

Corrections, complaints and feedback to William Bowe at pollbludger-at-bigpond-dot-com. Read William’s blog, The Poll Bludger.

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