Tasmanian election 2014

Electorate: Franklin

Franklin includes the areas of Hobart on the eastern shore of the Derwent River, small towns south of the city and the unpopulated southern part of the World Heritage area to the west. The federal electorate was usually held by the Liberals on modest margins from 1946 until 1993, when Harry Quick gained it for Labor and consolidated thereafter, bequeathing it to Julie Collins when he retired in 2007. At state level, the electorate reflected the pattern of traditional Labor dominance that foundered upon the Franklin Dam controversy in the early 1980s. At the 1996 election, the last held under the seven-member system, former federal Liberal member Bruce Goodluck gained a seat as an independent at the expense of one of the Liberals’ usual three, polling 6.3% and receiving a good many second preferences from Liberal voters. He did not recontest in 1998, and with the number of seats reduced to five both Labor and Liberal retained their existing representation of three and two seats, with the Greens missing out.

The real Liberal disaster was to come in 2002 when they dropped another seat, this time to the Greens, after slumping from 37.0% to 23.7%. Labor meanwhile retained its three seats in both 2002 and 2006, despite expectations on the latter occasion that one of its three high-profile members – Premier Paul Lennon, Economic Development Minister Lara Giddings and Education Minister Paula Wriedt – might miss out. While the Liberal primary vote swing of 7.7% was the biggest in the state, they remained stranded on one seat. After only narrowly missing out on that occasion, the Liberals easily achieved a second seat on the back of a forceful swing in 2010, when the Labor vote slumped by 16.7% while the Liberals were up by 9.8% and the Greens by 8.0%. Labor only slightly outpolled the Greens, by 30.5% to 27.4%, although their second elected candidate won by a fairly comfortable margin over the second strongest candidate for the Greens.

The Liberals will be hoping to make it to a third seat at the coming election for the first time since the five-seat regime was instituted in 1998. However, to do so they will need to claim a major scalp, with the three sitting members opposing them being Premier Lara Giddings, senior Labor figure David O’Byrne, and Greens leader Nick McKim. Their cause has been boosted with the recruitment of Paul Harriss, who has served the local area as independent member for the upper house seat of Huon since 2006.

Labor’s two seats in 2010 were won by incumbent Lara Giddings with 15.1% of the vote and newcomer David O’Byrne with 7.6%, the latter prevailing over two incumbents in Ross Butler (2.9%) and Daniel Hulme (3.5%), who had assumed their seats mid-term upon the respective retirements of Paul Lennon in May 2008 and Paula Wriedt in January 2009. Over the course of the past term, the two Labor members have emerged as the Premier and the person most frequently nominated as her successor to the Labor leadership.

Lara Giddings became the youngest woman ever elected to an Australian parliament when she won a seat in Lyons at the age of 23 in 1996, but she was squeezed out at the 1998 election when representation was cut from seven seats per electorate to five. She returned as a candidate for Franklin at the 2002 election, at which she emerged the third elected Labor member at the expense of Neville Oliver, who had entered parliament after a mid-term recount when Fran Bladel abandoned her position for an unsuccessful tilt at the upper house seat of Huon. Giddings scored 9.2% of the vote against 18.2% for Paul Lennon and 13.8% for Paula Wriedt, with the next-placed Labor candidate polling 4.5%. Despite being of the Left faction, Giddings was described as a protégé of Right faction stalwart Paul Lennon, and she entered the ministry in the economic development and arts portfolios when he became Premier in March 2004. She won further promotion to health and human services after the 2006 election, and became Deputy Premier when Lennon made way for David Bartlett in May 2008, become the fourth person to hold the position in little over two years since the election. Her portfolio responsibilities were also reassigned at that time to Attorney-General and Justice Minister, and had Treasury added to her workload when Michael Aird retired in December 2010. That made her the obvious successor to David Bartlett when he stood down in January 2011 citing family reasons, with Bartlett pledging her his “full support”.

David O’Byrne was secretary of the Left faction Liquor Hospitality and Miscellaneous Workers Union before entering parliament, and had earlier been the ALP’s state president. He is the brother of Michelle O’Byrne, Community Development Minister and member for Bass. O’Byrne was immediately elevated to cabinet in portfolios including environment and workplace relations, trading the former for economic development and infrastructure in December 2010. He further gaining innovation, science and technology from David Bartlett when he resigned as Premier in February 2011, and then police and emergency management three months later. At the end of the year, it was widely reported that unions unhappy with Lara Giddings’ acquiescence to the Treasury line on budget cuts wished for O’Byrne to depose her. Denison MP Scott Bacon said at the time that O’Byrne had sufficient support to win the leadership, but that both he and O’Byrne were remaining loyal to Giddings.

Three further candidates on the Labor ticket are Heather Chong, a Clarence alderman and owner of an apricot-growing business; Julie Dick, the sister of Senator Carol Brown, for whom she works as a community liaison officer; and Russell Mitchell, who works in the security industry.

The two elected Liberals from 2010 are both seeking re-election: Will Hodgman, then and now the Opposition Leader, and Jacquie Petrusma. Will Hodgman is a representative of the evergreen Hodgman political dynasty, which has included his grandfather (who served as both a Liberal and independent member), father Michael and uncle Peter. Hodgman first won election in 2002 with over double the vote of the sole defending Liberal incumbent, Martin McManus, who had filled the mid-term vacancy created by the retirement of Peter Hodgman. Will Hodgman served alongside his father in parliament from 2002 until the latter’s retirement due to ill health at the 2010 election, three months before his death. Arriving in parliament after his party’s drubbing at the 2002 election, Hodgman moved straight into the deputy leadership, and distinguished himself from his monarchist father by taking up the position of deputy convenor of the Australian Republican Movement. Polling found Hodgman to be the preferred leader of many Liberal voters before the 2006 election, at which Rene Hidding failed to improve upon the party’s poor showing in 2002. Hidding subsequently relinquished the leadership, apparently without reluctance, and Hodgman succeeded him without opposition. Hodgman has since achieved the unenviable feat of serving two full terms as Opposition Leader, for most of that time being favoured over the Labor leader of the time in opinion polls. He appeared to most observers to have done enough on the night of the March 2010 election, having increased his party’s vote by 7.1% and its seat share from seven to ten. However, the Governor’s rejection of David Bartlett’s advice that he could not form a government together with the Greens’ refusal to support a no-confidence motion caused Labor to remain in office in an alliance with the Greens. Hodgman has since seen off a second Labor Premier in David Bartlett and establish a clear ascendancy in polling over his successor Lara Giddings.

It had been expected ahead of the 2010 election that the anticipated second Liberal seat would be won by Vanessa Goodwin, who narrowly failed to win a seat at the 2006 election. It appeared on that occasion that Goodwin might gain a seat at the expense of Labor’s Paula Wriedt, but the latter ultimately prevailed by a fairly comfortable 1032 votes. As Tasmanian psephologist Kevin Bonham noted, “Will Hodgman leaked far more than Paul Lennon and Paula Wriedt continued to gather leakage from everywhere while the Liberals’ lack of profile apart from Hodgman did them in”. Goodwin was preselected for a second attempt, but ended up being redeployed to successfully contest the upper house seat of Pembroke at an August 2009 by-election caused by the resignation of Labor member Allison Ritchie, making her the party’s only official member in the Legislative Council. In Goodwin’s absence, the race for the second Liberal seat was a fairly close contest between four rival candidates, with Will Hodgman overwhelmingly dominating the Liberal primary vote with 31.7% out of a total of 41.2%. The winner was Jacquie Petrusma, who polled 3.9% against 3.3% for third-placed Tony Mulder, a Clarence alderman and former commander of the state security unit of Tasmania Police, which inflated to a lead of 16.1% to 12.6% after the distribution of preferences. Mulder was elected to the upper house seat of Rumney as an independent in 2011.

Jacquie Petrusma was a nurse before entering politics, which she first sought to do as Family First’s Tasmanian Senate candidate at the 2004 and 2007 federal elections. On the former occasion she came close to winning a seat at the expense of Christine Milne of the Greens, thanks to preference arrangements similar to those that delivered a seat to Steve Fielding in Tasmania. Petrusma had reportedly won the favour of Right faction powerbroker Senator Eric Abetz, and denied receiving special assistance in her campaign after rival Liberal candidates complained about the visibility of her advertising. She currently holds the shadow portfolios of human services, children and the cost of living. In recognition of their hopes of gaining a third seat, the Liberals have poached a strong candidate in Paul Harriss, the independent member for the upper house division of Huon, which covers areas to the south of Hobart including the outskirts suburb of Blackmans Bay and the townships of Margate, Huonville and Cygnet. Harriss was first elected in 1996, shortly after being edged out by independent Bruce Goodluck when he ran as a Liberal candidate for Franklin at the state election a few months previously, and comfortably re-elected in 2002 and 2008. His term expires in May, which will enable him to vacate his existing seat without initiating a by-election. Rounding out the Liberal ticket are Nic Street, a Kingborough councillor and Blackmans Bay business owner, and Sue Bastone, owner of a local bed-and-breakfast.

The Greens are represented in Franklin by party leader Nick McKim, one of three candidates to win seats for the party at the 2002 election to add to the one seat they retained in 1998 when representation was cut from seven seats per electorate to five. A former wilderness guide and advertising executive, McKim was being spoken of as Peg Putt’s most likely successor as leader by the time of the 2006 election, and so it transpired when Putt retired in July 2008. There were also suggestions he was being groomed to succeed Bob Brown in the Senate, but he ruled himself out when Brown retired in April 2012, the vacancy instead going to Peter Whish-Wilson. When the Labor-Greens alliance was formed after the indecisive 2010 election result, McKim assumed one of two positions in cabinet allocated to the Greens, taking on sustainable transport and alternative energy, corrections and consumer protection, climate change, human services and community development. Human services and community development were transferred the following November to his colleague Cassy O’Connor, whose formal responsibility had previously been limited to the position of cabinet secretary, while McKim took on a newly created Aboriginal affairs portfolio. The following May, after David Bartlett’s resignation from parliament and Labor member Lin Thorp’s electoral defeat in her upper house seat of Rumney, he took on the important education portfolio, while retaining corrections and consumer protection and sustainable transport. His ministerial responsibilities were brought to an end when Lara Giddings terminated the alliance in January 2014.

The most politically established of the four other Greens candidates would look to be Houn Valley councillor Rosalie Woodruff, who is joined on the ticket by Richard Atkinson, Zoe Kean and Simon Burnet.

Other candidates: The lead candidate of the Palmer United Party is Debra Thurley, who works as an assistant to independent upper house MP Tony Mulder, who as noted was a Liberal candidate at the 2010 election. The Mercury helpfully summarises the remainder of the PUP ticket for me as “former police officer Michael Figg, Clarence alderman John Peers, law student Luke Rutherford and business owner Con Spiliopoulos”. Also running are three candidates of the Nationals and one of the Socialist Alliance.

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

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