Denison encompasses the western shore of Hobart’s Derwent River and hinterland beyond, with the eastern shore suburbs and the southern outskirts township of Kingston accommodated by the seat of Franklin. It has emerged over recent decades as one of the greenest electorates in the country, to the extent that the Greens have occasionally entertained notions of winning a second seat, and is correspondingly weak for the Liberals, who were reduced to one seat at the 2002 and 2006 state elections. At federal level, the seat has decisively moved away from the Liberals since Michael Hodgman’s 12-year tenure ended in defeat at the 1987 election, and has been held since the 2010 election by independent Andrew Wilkie, who was second on the Greens Senate ticket behind Bob Brown at the 2007 election.
The emergence of the Greens, who became a cohesive force after the Green independents won five seats in 1989, initiated a period of electoral stability that ended with the Liberals’ calamitous performance at the 2002 election, when Bob Cheek became the first Tasmanian party leader since 1903 to lose his seat. Cheek’s personal vote fell to 7.7% from 12.9% at the previous election still the highest vote for a Liberal candidate, but party veteran Michael Hodgman took the sole Liberal seat after receiving a stronger flow of preferences. The 2006 election produced an apparently straightforward exchange of votes from Labor (down 3.9% to 46.9%) to Liberal (up 3.6% to 26.6%), but not of sufficient force to endanger Labor’s three seats.
The heavy statewide swing against Labor in 2010 saw the Liberals gain a seat in Denison at Labor’s expense, despite the fact that the Liberals’ gain of 3.2% was the weakest of any of the state’s five seats. The dividend from the 10.6% fall in the Labor vote mostly went to Andrew Wilkie, who polled 8.4% as an independent without causing the Greens vote to fall. The final seat emerged as a tight contest between Wilkie and the second Liberal, Elise Archer, in which the latter’s narrow victory enabled the Liberals to secure parity of seats with Labor, while crucially falling two seats short of a majority. Wilkie’s time would come later in the year when he won the federal seat of Denison upon the retirement of Labor’s Duncan Kerr, firstly getting ahead of the Liberal candidate on Greens preferences, and then finishing 1.2% clear of Labor on Liberal preferences. In 2013 he comfortably topped the primary vote and finished 15.5% ahead of Labor after preferences.
Labor has had frequent changes to its line-up of Denison members over the past decade, starting with then Premier Jim Bacon’s enforced retirement in March 2004 after he was diagnosed with the lung cancer that claimed his life the following June. A second member, Judy Jackson, retired at the 2006 election, leaving only Graeme Sturges from the three members elected in 2002. Labor’s other two winners in 2006 were David Bartlett, who had filled Bacon’s vacancy on a countback, and newcomer Lisa Singh. Both Sturges and Singh lost their seats in 2010, with Labor’s representation falling from three seats to two and one of the seats going to Jim Bacon’s son Scott Bacon. Bacon polled 11.5% against 6.0% for Singh and 1.9% for Sturges, who had made headlines six months earlier after saying to a security guard at Parliament House: “Don’t you know who I am? I’ll have your f..king job.” David Bartlett initially remained in parliament after relinquishing the premiership in January 2011, serving under Lara Giddings as Attorney-General, before resigning in May. By this time Lisa Singh had won a Senate seat from the number three position on the party’s ticket at the 2010 federal election, so it was Graeme Sturges who won the recount to fill Bartlett’s vacancy. Sturges is not seeking another term, leaving Scott Bacon as the only incumbent on the Labor ticket.
Prior to his entry to parliament, Scott Bacon was an economist and an adviser to Energy and Resources Minister David Llewellyn, and he shares with his father and Llewellyn an alignment with the Right faction. In May 2011 he filled the cabinet vacancy created by David Bartlett’s resignation, and has since served in the tourism, finance and veterans affairs portfolios. The most familiar name of the remaining Labor candidates is Julian Amos, who was a member from 1976 to 1986 and again from 1992 and 1996, with both tenures brought to an end by electoral defeat. Amos also served as a minister in Doug Lowe’s government from 1979 to 1982. He currently operates a business consultancy specialising in strategic advice, communication techniques and negotiating skills. The second most familiar name, at least to observers of the electoral process, is Madeleine Ogilvie, a human rights lawyer and co-convenor of Labor for Refugees Tasmania. Ogilvie was also a candidate at the 2010 election, and was defeated by Graeme Sturges in the recount to fill David Bartlett’s vacancy in May 2011, receiving 4197 preferences out of the votes cast for Bartlett at the 2010 election to 5362 for Sturges. In 2012 she sought preselection for the upper house seat of Hobart, but was ruled ineligible on the grounds she was a non-financial member of the party. The other two candidates are Sharon Carne, a Glenorchy councillor and electorate officer to Graeme Sturges, and Alphonse Mulumba, a 25-year-old refugee support worker at Pontville detention centre who came to Australia from the Congo as a refugee in 2008.
The Liberals have two sitting members who are defending seats they won for the first time at the 2010 election, when the one existing Liberal member, Michael Hodgman, retired due to ill health after a political career extending back to 1966. His son, Will Hodgman, is now contesting his second election as leader of the Liberal Party.
By far the strongest performing Liberal candidate in 2010 was Matthew Groom, who enjoyed the noted advantage in the Hare-Clark context of a recognisable political name, his father Ray Groom having been a federal member for Braddon from 1975 to 1984, state member for Denison from 1986 to 2001, and Premier of Tasmania from 1992 to 1996. Groom had earlier worked for a number of firms as a lawyer and as a business development manager for Hydro Tasmania, and currently holds the shadow portfolios of energy, environment, parks, heritage, climate change and sustainable transport.
The second elected member from 2010 was Elise Archer, formerly a Hobart alderman and lawyer. Archer had a slightly lower primary vote than fellow Liberal candidate Richard Lowrie, who polled 4.9% to Archer’s 4.7%, but Archer was able to overtake him on preferences. She then had a tight race for the final seat against independent Andrew Wilkie, eventually prevailing by 315 votes. Archer holds the shadow portfolios of police and emergency services, planning, community development and Aboriginal affairs.
The new candidates on the Liberal ticket are Deborah de Williams, a world and Australian ultra–marathon record holder who established the breast cancer charity Running Pink while undergoing treatment for the disease in 2006; René Kling, who owns a consulting and training business and served for nine years in the RAAF; and Robert Mallett, a small business owner and executive officer with the Tasmanian Small Business Council.
The Greens have been represented in Denison without interruption since 1983, when Bob Brown won a seat on a countback which had been won for the Australian Democrats at the 1982 election by Norm Sanders, who resigned from parliament the following December in protest over Franklin Dam issue. Brown had run at the election as an independent, and received considerably more of Sanders’ preferences than any of the four Australian Democrats candidates. Brown quit state parliament in 1993 for an unsuccessful run at the federal seat of Denison, before winning a Senate seat in 1996. His vacancy was filled by Peg Putt, who was the party’s only remaining member after the 1998 election, and led the party after its representation increased to four seats at the 2002 election.
Putt resigned from both the party leadership and parliamentary seat in 2008, at which point her seat was won on a countback by the present incumbent, Cassy O’Connor, who had recently worked as an adviser to Duncan Kerr, the federal Labor member for Denison. After easily retaining her seat in 2010, O’Connor became one of two Greens members to enter the ministry under the terms of the party’s alliance with Labor, first as cabinet secretary and then as Minister for Human Services and Community Development after November 2010. This arrangement came to an end when Lara Giddings ended the alliance in January 2014.
Joining O’Connor on the Greens ticket are Penelope Ann, a Risdon Cove bed-and-breakfast operator who polled 1.3% as a Denison candidate in 2010, 13.4% as candidate for the upper house district of Rumney in 2011, and 22.6% as upper house candidate for Hobart in 2012; Alan Whykes, who runs a small business that provides cookery classes; and two Hobart aldermen in Philip Cocker and Bill Harvey.
The highest-profile of the Palmer United Party’s five candidates is Barbara Etter, a former Western Australian deputy police commissioner who became the inaugural chief executive of Tasmania’s Integrity Commission in 2010, but resigned a year later and sued for breach of contract, claiming the government had undermined her. The party had originally endorsed Hobart alderman Marti Zucco, a perennial independent candidate and Liberal preselection aspirant who ran as the PUP’s candidate for Franklin at the 2013 federal election. However, Zucco quit the party in December after its Tasmanian Senator-elect Jacqui Lambie left a series of unfriendly messages on his voicemail. He then launched a failed bid to block the party’s registration in the Supreme Court, claiming of improper paperwork. Zucco is now running as an independent.
Other candidates: Also in the field are three candidates of the Nationals, one of the Socialist Alliance, and a further three independents in Leo Foley, Lucas Noyes and Hans Willink.
Corrections, complaints and feedback to William Bowe at pollbludger-at-bigpond-dot-com. Read William’s blog, The Poll Bludger.