Tasmanian election 2014

Electorate: Lyons

Known until 1982 as Wilmot, the electorate of Lyons consists of what’s left over after the north-west coast (Braddon), north-east coast (Bass) and Hobart region (Denison and Franklin) are grouped together into communities of interest. It thus includes small towns on either side of Tasmania’s pronounced north-south divide, respectively including New Norfolk outside Hobart and Launceston’s southern outskirts, along with fishing towns and tourist centres on the east coast and a considerable expanse of farming territory in between. Its profile makes it slightly conservative leaning by Tasmanian standards, though it has otherwise moved with the state’s distinct electoral rhythms over the decades.

The recent Liberal decline kicked in early in Lyons when former Premier Robin Gray took his personal vote into retirement at the 1996 election, which saw the Liberal vote drop by 16.3% from its high point of 1992, compared with 12.1% statewide. This cost them a seat and contributed to the Rundle government’s loss of a majority. A further loss when the number of seats per electorate was reduced from seven to five at the 1998 election contributed to the defeat of Tony Rundle’s government and election of Labor under Jim Bacon. Worse was still to come for the Liberals when the Greens gained a seat at their expense at the 2002 election, despite the swing against them of 7.7% being the lowest in the state. That left deputy leader Denise Swan fighting it out for the sole remaining Liberal seat with Rene Hidding, a bitter opponent of both Swan and leader Bob Cheek. Hidding had a slender lead over Swan of 53 on the primary vote which became 82 after preferences, with the result that both the leader and the deputy leader lost their seats, Cheek having succumbed in Denison. The Liberals’ position improved only marginally at the 2006 election, when they again fell well short of winning a second seat.

The situation finally improved for the Liberals on the back of the strong statewide swing of 2010, when they won seats in each of the three electorates that had only delivered them one in 2002 and 2006, Lyons among them. The 9.1% drop in Labor’s primary vote was in fact the lowest of the five electorates, but it was still more than enough to put them well below a third quota, while a 6.1% gain for the Liberals pushed them well over two. The Greens vote was up a solid 5.3%, ensuring that the Liberal gain came at Labor’s expense rather than their own.

The two Labor members elected in 2010 were Michael Polley, a parliamentary veteran of 38 years, and a newcomer in Rebecca White. Polley’s 42-year career is finally coming to an end with his retirement at the coming election, while 31-year-old White is seeking re-election for the first time. The Labor ticket retains a familiar look due to the inclusion of David Llewellyn, who lost his seat to White in 2010. The second defeated Labor incumbent was Heather Butler, who had come to parliament on a recount in 2005 when she filled the vacancy created by the mid-term retirement of Ken Bacon. Her share of the vote when re-elected in 2006 was less than a third that of Michael Polley and David Llewellyn, and she always looked likely to be a victim of Labor’s straitened circumstances in 2010.

Rebecca White was a staffer to federal Denison MP Duncan Kerr prior to the 2010 election campaign, during which she established herself by advocating “renewal in Lyons” by way of impressing upon Labor voters the distinction between her 27-year-old self and the three Labor incumbents, who were 67 (David Llewellyn), 62 (Heather Butler) and 60 (Michael Polley). Llewellyn and Polley reportedly felt sufficiently aggrieved by a YouTube ad in which White targeted the old guard to complain to David Bartlett, and the video was indeed removed shortly after. White went on to poll 10.0% against 12.9% for Polley and 10.3% for Llewellyn, and prevailed over Llewellyn at the final count by 9967 votes to 9370. She won promotion to the front bench as Human Services Minister in January 2014, filling one of two places vacated created by the demise of the Labor-Greens alliance.

David Llewellyn was first elected in 1986 and served as a cabinet minister under Michael Field, Jim Bacon, Paul Lennon and David Bartlett. His prestige grew as he handled the notoriously difficult health portfolio without serious incident, and he became Deputy Premier when lung cancer forced Jim Bacon to stand down as Premier in February 2004, despite resistance from the Left who favoured Braddon MP Bryan Green. Llewellyn kept a low profile during the election campaign, which the Liberals put down to his anger over a “shady factional deal” which they claimed would cost him the deputy leadership after the election. Sure enough, Llewellyn stood aside from the deputy leadership after the election in favour of Green, and was moved from health to the less primary industries, police and energy portfolios, later trading police for planning when David Bartlett became Premier in May 2008. The first indication after his 2010 election defeat that he had not abandoned his political ambitions came the following November, when it was reported that he hoped to contest preselection for the upper house seat of Derwent which had been vacated by the retirement of the outgoing Treasurer, Michael Aird. That did not transpire, but his nomination for preselection to recover his old seat in Lyons was successful, and he will now seek to return to parliament at the age of 71.

The highest-profile of the remaining three Labor candidates is Bob Gordon, who spent six years as managing director of Forestry Tasmania. Gordon was Labor’s candidate for the federal electorate of Lyons at the 1990 election, at which he fell 2.1% short of defeating Liberal incumbent Max Burr. His preselection in January earned Labor a rebuke from Nick McKim, who said Gordon represented “conflicts that Tasmanians had hoped to have moved past”. Darren Clark is a former state president of the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union who currently owns the Horny Cray café in Swansea. Jessey Dillon is a 22-year-old safety manager for security company Serco.

The two Liberal candidates elected in 2010, former party leader Rene Hidding and newcomer Mark Shelton, are both seeking re-election, and have high-profile competition in the shape of former Senator Guy Barnett.

Dutch-born Rene Hidding first won election in 1996, having established himself as a Launceston councillor from 1985 to 1992. He scored 7.6% of the vote on debut, and with the reduction in representation from seven seats per electorate to five in 1998 he narrowly succeeded in winning the second Liberal seat ahead of fellow incumbent Bob Mainwaring, whom he outpolled 7.1% to 6.5%. In 2002 he emerged as the party’s last candidate standing in Lyons, edging out deputy leader Denise Swan. He then ascended to the party leadership, the defeat having also claimed the scalp of leader Bob Cheek as well as his deputy, who had stood together opposite Hidding in the schism that rent the parliamentary party throughout the previous term. Cheek painted an unflattering portrait of Hidding in his memoir, complaining of acts of betrayal and stressing that Hidding had avoided financial portfolios because he was declared bankrupt in 1981. His one election as leader in 2006 was not a success, the party failing to improve on its poor showing of seven seats from 2002, although the statewide primary vote was up 4.5% to 31.9%. He then made way as leader for Will Hodgman, apparently with some reluctance, although both polling and election results indicated Hodgman’s electoral appeal was much the greater. The elevated profile Hidding achieved as leader, combined with the lack of competition from Liberal incumbents, boosted his personal vote to 14.1% at the 2006 election, but he performed unspectacularly in 2010 to record 11.8% despite a 6.1% lift in the Liberal vote. Hidding presently holds the shadow portfolios of infrastructure, local government and road safety.

The second Liberal elected in 2010 was Mark Shelton, formerly a teacher in Bracknell and the mayor of Meander Valley to the west of Launceston, where he drew most of his electoral support. Shelton polled 8.2% of the vote against 7.0% for third-placed Jane Howlett, a margin that had reduced to 0.3% by the point in the count at which Howlett was excluded on 6967 votes to Shelton’s 7161. He holds the most junior position in the 11-person Liberal party room as Shadow Minister for Regional Development, Racing, Consumer Protection and Sport and Recreation, and could struggle unless the Liberals can gain a third seat.

Guy Barnett comes to his first state election with the advantage of the profile he accrued in his nine years as a Senator, in which time he established a reputation as a social conservative through his stance on stem cell research, abortion and the decriminalisation of homosexuality. Barnett was re-elected at the 2004 election from the number two position on the Liberal ticket, but was bumped below Stephen Parry to what proved to be the losing number three position in 2010. He admitted after the election that there was “some tension” arising from the preselection between himself and Right faction powerbroker Senator Eric Abetz, with suggestions animosity between the two went back to Barnett’s attempt to oust Abetz from the top of the ticket in 2002. Since bowing out from the Senate Barnett has established a government and corporate relations consultancy, Guy Barnett Consulting.

The other two candidates on the Liberal ticket are Bertrand Cadart, the mayor of Glamorgan Spring Bay on the state’s east coast and the owner of a business that imports motorcycle suspension units, and Martyn Evans, the mayor of Derwent Valley at the southern end of the electorate.

Tim Morris was part of the influx of new Greens members when the party’s representation increased from one to four at the 2002 election, together with Nick McKim in Franklin and Kim Booth in Bass, each of whom is again seeking re-election. He comfortably topped a ticket of untried Greens candidates in 2002 with 9.1% out of the party’s overall share of 17.1% of the vote, going on to record 10.5% out of 15.8% in 2006 and 14.1% out of 21.1% in 2010. Morris was formerly a tourism operator and a councillor for New Norfolk and its successor Derwent Valley from 1989 to 2000, spending the last two years as mayor. After the 2010 election he became the party’s deputy leader and the House of Assemby’s Deputy Speaker. Other Greens candidates include Hannah Rubenach, a Break O’Day councillor since 2009 and deputy mayor since 2011, and Pip Brinklow, a registered nurse and the partner of Tim Morris, together with Glenn Millar and Stephanie Taylor.

Other candidates: The candidates of the Palmer United Party are Wayne Shoobridge, who has been a Derwent Valley councillor since 2011, Quentin von Stieglitz, who was the party’s candidate at the 2013 federal election, and Mark Grewar, a chaplain and driving instructor. The Nationals are fielding four candidates, and there are two ungrouped independents, Paul Belcher and Murray Stewart.

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

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