Saturday, April 13, 2019

Tasmanian House Of Representatives Seats Guide (2019)

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This article gives a fairly detailed discussion of the five Tasmanian House of Representatives seats, which will be updated and edited as needed up til election day.

Two seats (Clark and Franklin) are generally not considered to be in play at this election.  Three (Bass, Braddon and Lyons) are Labor marginals that the Liberals won from Labor in 2013 and Labor won back in 2016.  These could change back again if the Liberals can pick up swings of 1.5 to 5.3%.  Current national polling as I start this article (12 April) points to about a 3% swing to Labor.  If it stays like that, then it is likely few if any Labor seats will fall to the Coalition nationwide.  But should the campaign close up, then Tasmanian seats may come into play.  On the other hand, in 2010 there was a large 2PP swing to Labor in Tasmania even against the backdrop of a national swing against the party.



The Liberal Party has so far shown a fair amount of interest in Tasmania, where it performed very poorly at both House and Senate levels in 2016, and was criticised for dumping Senator Richard Colbeck down the ticket and for preselecting only one woman.  At the moment I interpret the Tasmanian campaign largely as a strategy to force Labor to defend the seats, leaving it with less resources to deploy on trying to win Coalition seats elsewhere.  Optimistic noises are being made based on the Liberal victory in the state election, but Tasmanian voters are old hands when it comes to splitting state and federal voting, and state elections often produce lopsided vote shares as voters strive to avoid minority governments.   Last year in the space of a few months, Braddon voters voted 56.1% Liberal (primary) at the state election then only 39.3% at the federal  by-election.

An added point of interest in some Reps seats at this election is the return of the National Party to Tasmania.  The party has made various forays into the state but tends to get only a few percent of the vote each time.  My pet theory on this is that even rural areas of Tasmania are closer to and have more connections to Tasmania's cities than rural areas on the mainland.  There is not the same feeling of the bush being forgotten or disconnected from the city.  Polling so far has insignificant Nationals votes.  Also, the party has quickly shown signs of disunity, with Braddon candidate Sally Milbourne distancing herself from Senator Steve Martin's announcement of a Senate how-to-vote-card preference swap with One Nation.

A prominent debating point at this election is the status of funding promised by the Liberals to the northern electorates during the campaign.  As these funds are not budgeted they may be conditional on the overall federal election result.  Labor has yet to announce which of these promises it will honour if elected.  The Liberals have been goading Labor alleging that it is taking the state for granted and claiming this is a mistake.

Very little Tasmania-specific federal polling has been seen this term, though an EMRS statewide poll showing a small swing to Labor was seen in late 2018.  Bludger Track currently models Tasmanian seats off the federal swing only.  Tasmanian seat polling has a history of inaccuracy and skew even by the low standards of seat polling generally.  In 2013 ReachTEL polls were skewed to the Liberals by 4-5 points and in 2016 all five polls taken missed the Bass margin by at least five points.

For more details on seats and their history see also the Poll Bludger and Tally Room guides.

The extraordinary situation that has developed in Lyons has resulted in detailed coverage of the disendorsement and subsequent independent campaign of Jessica Whelan, so the Lyons section is somewhat longer than the others.

Note for candidates: as this page has to cover all five seats, the candidate profiles will be kept to a link (if I can find one) and one to a few lines except for (i) incumbents, (ii) Labor/Liberal candidates, (iii) any  candidate who I identify as a credible chance to win a seat based on polling or strong subjective evidence (iv) any candidate who I consider unusually notable.  

Candidates may contact me once only to request a change in the link (if any) that their name goes to.  No other changes will be considered except in cases of clear factual error. Length of main candidate profiles is influenced by the volume of available material/dirt. Ordering of other candidates is influenced by past election results for their parties in the seat.  

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Bass (Labor, 5.4%)

Geography: North-eastern Tasmania, consisting mostly of urban Launceston and also the rural north-east with major centres including Scottsdale and Bridport.

History:  Bass is a revolving-door seat with a habit of dumping incumbents, having changed parties at seven of the last nine elections.  This all started when Liberal Warwick Smith lost the seat by 40 votes, ending a 17-year Liberal tenure, in 1993.  He then won it back in 1996 and lost it by 78 votes in 1998. Forestry issues played some role in the Liberal wins in 2004 and 2013 but primarily Bass is won and lost in the suburbs of Launceston, with the southern and eastern suburbs especially volatile in recent elections.  The failed Bell Bay pulp mill proposal caused a surge in the Green vote in 2007 but this has since gone away.  Bass was the only seat in Australia to record double-digit 2PP swings in both 2013 and 2016.  In 2016 Andrew Nikolic (Lib) was defeated after a single term, with the crushing loss (of a scale unforseen in polling) being generally attributed to health issues including the Launceston General Hospital and Labor's "Mediscare" and also to a GetUp! campaign which was strongly supported by left-wing locals displeased with Nikolic's abrasive style.

Incumbent: First term incumbent Ross Hart was a lawyer prior to politics, with a long involvement at Rae & Partners, of which he was a Director and Managing Partner prior to election.  Hart also had a number of community involvements (see bio) and was also a sporadic comment poster on this site! 
Following his victory over Nikolic, Hart has been a low profile MP on the national stage, with one very prominent exception: in a June 2018 interview with Tasmanian commercial radio host Brian Carlton, Hart very repeatedly declined invitations to back Bill Shorten's proposal at the time to reverse tax cuts for medium-sized businesses.  Shorten's "captain's call" was soon reversed but the incident, contributing to leadership speculation at the time,  blew over after Labor retained all its seats on Super Saturday.

Hart, a member of the Labor Left, has a "nice guy" persona in contrast to his precursor.  Liberals have been reported as considering him a weak incumbent who they think they may knock off, but any evidence for this belief beyond the Carlton interview is unknown.

Main challenger: The Liberal candidate is Bridget Archer, the incumbent Mayor of George Town, a working-class industrial town near the mouth of the Tamar River.  Archer was a candidate for the party at the 2018 state election, polling 1803 votes in an improbable quest for a fourth seat for the party.  (Archer was eliminated just shy of the Greens and Labor candidates but would have lost had she been just ahead of one anyway).  Archer, elected unopposed as Mayor in 2014, was re-elected Mayor later in 2018, but only just - beating off-council challenger Greg Kieser 51:49.  Archer probably received a lot of blowback for having become known as a Liberal in a Labor-voting town, and this result shouldn't be considered any reflection on her quality as a candidate.

Other candidates:

Tom Hall (Greens), medical doctor, specialist anaesthetist, minor 2018 state candidate polling 394 votes
Allan Roark (United Australia Party), corporate driver trainer, marketer, former motor racing driver
Carl Cooper (Nationals), rural pharmacist in Tasmania and NSW, expertise in sports doping
Susan Woodbury (Animal Justice), former animal welfare sector worker
Todd Lambert (IND), recreational fisher and anti-supertrawler campaigner, former President of now defunct Recreational Fishers Party

The ballot order in Bass is Greens, Labor, AJP, Liberal, Lambert, UAP, Nationals.

Polling (Voting Intention)

1. EMRS sub-200 vote sample Dec 2018 ALP 36 Liberal 43 Green 11. I calculate 2PP at 51.8% to Labor by last-election preferences.  Samples of this size are extremely unreliable.

2. Liberal internal Media Reach poll (sample 545)  Primaries Liberal 39.01, Labor 38.84, National 1.97, Greens 4.23, UAP 4.46, PHON* 4.36, JLN* 5.40, Other 1.49, Don't Know 0.24.  Parties marked * are not known to be running. 2PP 50.40 to Liberal by respondent preferences.  The Green vote in this poll is too low to be credible and internal polling should be regarded extremely cautiously because of the potential for selective release.

3. Australian Forests Products Association uComms (sample 847) 54-46 to Liberal off primaries of Labor 32.6 Liberals 42.8 Greens 10.0 Christian Democrats 1.9 (not running), Nationals 1.2, "Palmer's [sic] United Party" 2.7 Other 2.5 Undecided 6.3. A breakdown of the Undecided was available but it unhelpfully added to 131.4%.  In any case clearly the flow of respondent preferences to Liberal here has been unnaturally strong; I get about 53-47 by national last-election preferences and about 52-48 by preferences from previous elections in this seat.  uComms uses ReachTEL's framework but is a distinct pollster (recently controversial).  An AFPA ReachTEL was very good at the Braddon by-election but the accuracy of uComms has not been much tested at elections yet.  The major party primaries (suggesting a swing of 8% against Labor and nothing against the Liberals) are a little surprising.

4. Newspoll released 13 May. 52-48 to Labor off primaries of  ALP 39 LIB 40  GRN 10  UAP 4 NAT 2 leaving 5% for Lambert and AJP.

Other polling:

1. Liberal internal TeleReach: Liberal figures claiming that Bill Shorten was unpopular in the seat (a net rating of -19 compared to +6 for Scott Morrison) were selectively released.  Seat polling is unreliable, internal polling especially so, and the cherrypicked nature of the result (released three weeks after it was taken) is more reason to treat this with caution.  Also, Opposition Leader approvals have little impact on federal voting intention.

2. Labor internal unknown pollster: Labor selectively released figures from an internal poll with a sample size exceeding 500 that claimed Ross Hart had a net personal rating of +18 to Bridget Archer's +10 (ie both pretty good).

3. Liberal polling on gender issues: The Liberals released poll results of a poll about "removing gender from birth certificates" but I decline to report the results as the question wording was bogus and the results therefore useless.  They also did this for Braddon and Lyons.

Assessment: Leaning Labor (I think) but tricky. Ignore the state election result in this seat (because Tasmanian voters generally do ignore federal results).  Also, ignore the 2016 margin given the contribution of the GetUp! campaign against Nikolic and the subsequent Liberal porkbarrelling attempts in the seat - the seat is probably closer than it looks on paper.  Nonetheless I am not at this stage aware of anything that quite explains the poor poll results for Labor, and would treat them with caution at this stage.

Over Easter, the Liberals moved into betting favouritism in this seat.  This may result from punters overreacting to seat polling (unaware of its dire record in this seat, this state and generally) or there may be more to it.  It is highly unlikely there would be a 9% swing to the Liberals in an election that currently is expected to see a swing to Labor federally.  It is even possible betting is being deliberately weaponised.

I do have concerns about Labor's strategy for Tasmania which included massive funding for MONA but relatively little commitment to the north.  Labor's support for an AFL team is being attacked by Liberals on parochial grounds, alleging that it would be based in Hobart.  Some are arguing that all Tasmanians now understand the MONA effect on tourism jobs but I am unsure if it is really true, and if anything could lose the seat it would be this.  On the other hand, health (which is a strong point for Labor) continues to be a big issue in this seat.

Braddon (Labor, 1.7%)

Geography: North-west and western Tasmania, including the small regional cities of Devonport and Burnie and the large town of Ulverstone, the rural north-west (Smithton, Wynyard) and the west coast mining and tourism towns (Queenstown, Zeehan, Strahan)

History: Decades ago the north-west was infamously socially conservative, but Braddon has changed greatly in the last 20 years.  Braddon was Liberal-held from 1975 to 1998 but has since become another swinging marginal seat, changing hands at five of the last seven general elections.  Since the last election, Labor won the 2018 Braddon by-election caused by Section 44 issues.  The by-election appeared to be very close but the Liberal Party blundered away whatever chance they had by targeting local independent Craig Garland, not only driving up Garland's primary vote but also taking their focus away from targeting Keay and Labor.

Incumbent: First term incumbent Justine Keay was previously an electorate officer and a local Devonport councillor, with a diverse education but also life experience typical of the electorate (see Braddon by-election preview).  Keay had to resign her council seat to contest the 2016 election (unncessarily as it turned out) but was rewarded when she defeated incumbent Brett Whiteley.  Keay's first term was most nationally prominent because of the Section 44 issues that forced her resignation to recontest her seat in the 2018 Braddon by-election.

Keay's style is that of a somewhat folksy fighter for locals and the disadvantaged, and polling in the Braddon leadup showed her to be reasonably popular in the electorate, with YouGov-Galaxy giving her a +11 net personal rating.

Liberal Candidate: The new Liberal candidate is Gavin Pearce.  Pearce is a local beef farmer and Vice-Chair of a local farming lobby group.  He is President of the Wynyard RSL and a "decorated soldier with 20 years of military service".   Pearce stood for preselection for the by-election but was overlooked in favour of Whiteley.  He has no other past electoral form known to me.

Other candidates:

Kate Spaulding (United Australia Party), accommodation operator, former agribusiness owner
Phill Parsons (Greens), horticulturalist, background in farming and environmental design
Sally Milbourne (Nationals), Devonport City Councillor, media producer, restaurateur
Graham Gallaher (One Nation), manager of Tarkine Forest Adventures (tourism business)
Craig Brakey (Independent), storage businessman, former McDonalds franchisee and bakery owner, unsuccessful Liberal preselection aspirant.  Has some significant local support and a sign for him on the fence of Liberal MLC Leonie Hiscutt's property has attracted interest.
Brett Smith (IND), fisherman, farm hand, campaigner against Lake Malbena tourism development
Shane Allen (Fraser Anning's Conservative Nationalists), fitter machinist

The ballot order is UAP, Brakey, FACN, Liberal, National, Green, Smith, Labor, PHON.  The field of nine is the most Braddon has ever had, and the second largest ever for a Tasmanian seat (Denison had ten in 2013).

Bruno Strangio (Australian People's Party) was reported as a declared candidate but this was a product of an extremely out of date APP website.

Polling (voting intention):

1. EMRS sub-200 vote sample Dec 2018 ALP 38 Liberal 40 Green 8. I calculate 2PP at 52.5% to Labor by last-election preferences.  Samples of this size are extremely unreliable.

2. Australian Forest Products Association ReachTEL April 29 51-49 Liberal off raw primaries of Lib 38.2, ALP 33.5, Green 6.3, UAP 5.3, Nat 3.5, ON 3.9, Other 4.8, "Undecided" 4.5 (who were leaning slightly to Keay). Brakey not named in readout.

Other polling:

1. Liberal internal TeleReach: Liberal figures claiming that Bill Shorten was unpopular in the seat (a net rating of -28 compared to +1 for Scott Morrison) were selectively released.  Seat polling is unreliable, internal polling especially so, and the cherrypicked nature of the result (released three weeks after it was taken) is more reason to treat this with caution.

Assessment: Appears close but leaning Labor in my view.  Firstly the margin has been reduced following the redistribution.  Secondly there is a case that Labor's result in the by-election was weak (especially by comparison to Longman), and could have been weaker without the Liberals picking fights with Garland (a Senate candidate this time around).  However, it is also possible the proximity of the state election affected that result.  Thirdly Labor is not being helped by the collapse of the always-modest Green vote in this electorate and may struggle for preferences.  On the other hand, there seems to be some disunity in conservative ranks with some prominent backing for Brakey, so the Liberals are not as well placed for a clear run at the seat as in Bass.

Betting has seen the seat move into Liberal favouritism on one site as of 1 May, but the size of the move seemed to be an overreaction to the seat poll.  A few days later it moved back.

Clark (Ind 17.8% vs Labor)

Geography: Western shore Hobart.  Includes two very different halves - the working-class Glenorchy half which is strongly pro-Labor), and the Hobart City half which has been one of the greenest areas in Australia (with small pockets of strong Liberal support).  At the 2018 state election Labor made major inroads against Green support in the Hobart City half.  This electorate was previously known as Denison but was renamed to honour Andrew Inglis Clark.

History: After winning the seat from the Liberals in 1987, Labor's Duncan Kerr held the seat for 23 years.  On his retirement Labor flubbed both the preselection and the campaign, resulting in independent Andrew Wilkie very narrowly winning the seat on preferences from third place.  Wilkie was re-elected by massive margins in 2013 and 2016 with the highest Independent primary in the country.

Incumbent: Andrew Wilkie is a former army officer and intelligence analyst who blew the whistle over the Howard government's support for invading Iraq. He ran for the Greens in Bennelong 2004 and Tasmania Senate 2007 then left said party, narrowly missing a seat in the Tasmanian House of Assembly as an independent in 2010.  Later that year he won Denison.

Wilkie initially supported the Gillard Labor government in the 2010-3 hung parliament but withdrew support after the government did not follow through on its agreements with him concerning poker-machine precommitment.  At the tail end of the current parliament, Wilkie was blessed with another hung parliament situation, and the flow of announceables for sports facilities, housing and so on has resulted in claims that the government has given him an open chequebook.

Wilkie is a generally left-wing independent with forthright, often black-and-white moral views on issues, and whose major issues have included the environment, asylum seekers and health services in Denison.  During this term he was also the first plaintiff in one of two failed legal challenges to the holding of the same-sex marriage "postal survey".  Polling in the 2016 leadup showed very strong personal ratings for Wilkie across the whole electorate, but no polling of his ratings has been seen by me since.

Labor Candidate: First-time Labor candidate Ben McGregor is a social worker and mental health clinician working in Hobart children's mental health services.  I am unaware of him having previous political form.  McGregor's run was announced back in September and Labor are arguing that they are going to win the election in majority so voters should elect someone who will be part of the new government.   He also has an excellent photo album of cats he has met while doorknocking.

Liberal Candidate: Amanda-Sue Markham is a nurse at the Royal Hobart Hospital and postgraduate student.  She was the Liberal candidate for Franklin in 2016 and had a controversial campaign including coverage of her status as a nurse (she is now re-registered) and her anti-abortion views (for more controversies see my 2016 guide).  Markham, a former Christian Democrat, is a religious social conservative involved with the Cornerstone Presbyterian Church run by her husband Campbell Markham.  The Cornerstone Church has attracted frequent controversy over its strident anti-gay and anti-abortion blogging and street preaching, and incidents involving the latter in the Hobart mall.

In 2016 there was a 5.6% swing against the Liberals in Franklin with Markham as the state's sole female Liberal candidate.  This was not an especially large swing by the standards of the state, but the seat had had a muted swing away from Labor in 2013 when the Liberal candidate also struck trouble.  Markham as a candidate would have had some resonance in the bible-belt parts of Franklin. However her preselection for socially liberal Clark strongly suggests the Liberals are not taking the seat (in which they lost the 2PP 65-35 last time) even remotely seriously.

Other candidates:

Juniper Shaw (Greens): proprietor of the Grand Poobah alternative music venue*, previously cafe owner
Jim Starkey (United Australia): who claims to be great-grandson of former PM Joseph Lyons, founder of the original UAP.

Starkey is happy to consider the UAP as a revival of the original, but several descendents of historic UAP leaders have had a different view and also dispute Starkey's claim to be descended from Lyons. Anne Henderson (biographer of Lyons) has rejected the claim unequivocally.  As of 2018 Starkey was reported as living in Illawarra, NSW.

The ballot order in Clark is Wilkie, Labor, Liberal, Green, UAP.

(* Of which your host is now and then a patron.)

Polling:

1. EMRS sub-200 vote sample Dec 2018 ALP 39 Liberal 19 Green 15 Others 28. However this sample is useless not only because of the tiny sample size but more seriously because it failed to name Wilkie in the readout, and failing to name high-profile independents generally suppresses their polled vote.  (I estimated the 2CP at 51.7% to Wilkie off these numbers, for what it's worth, which you can safely assume is very little.)

Assessment: Wilkie retain.  It will be interesting to see if Labor can make significant inroads against Wilkie's support this time, but even if they were to manage a large primary vote swing (from a baseline of 44-23 in Wilkie's favour) they would not be able to do anything about the 70+% flows of Liberal and Green preferences to the incumbent.  On that front, Labor had increased success in Green strongholds at the state election, but (i) this was partly off the back of the state party's poker machines policy, since recanted (ii) Wilkie has already gutted federal Green support levels in these areas.   I have heard some good impressions of McGregor as a candidate, but this was also true of his predecessor Jane Austin.  Having often seen voters reject the strategic argument to "have someone in government" before, I think it is more likely the seat will be decided by voter impressions of the incumbent.

Franklin (Labor, 10.7%)

Geography: An oddly shaped electorate containing the eastern shore Hobart suburbs within the Clarence council area, and also the Kingston area, D'Entrecasteaux Channel and Huon Valley areas on the other side of the river.

History: Franklin has been won by Labor at every election since the 1993 retirement of Bruce Goodluck, who had held the seat for the Liberals since 1975 (often by force of personality or electorate work rather than by party identification).  Franklin attracts a high Greens vote, but not enough to threaten to win the seat.

Incumbent: Julie Collins is a four-term incumbent who served as a Minister in various portfolios (including Social Services) under both Gillard and Rudd in the 2010-13 parliament.  She is currently Shadow Minister for Ageing and Mental Health, having been Shadow Minister for Regional Development, Local Government and Employment Services in the previous parliament.

ReachTEL polling in the 2016 leadup showed quite strong personal ratings for Collins but also a fairly high non-recognition rate, suggesting that her profile had been low in Opposition.  I am not aware of any more recent polling of her approval.  Aside from a tongue-tied press conference in 2010 (used by the Liberals in an attack ad in 2013) I am unaware of Collins receiving any distinctively negative publicity as an MP.  She has been blessed by having trouble-plagued Liberal opponents at the last two elections, but would have been re-elected at both anyway.

Liberal Candidate: The Liberal candidate is Dean Young, a newsagent and qualified accountant who also holds a diploma in law.  Young was a Liberal candidate for Clark (then Denison) at the 2018 state election polling 1260 votes, the lowest for a major party candidate in that seat.  (Young lives in Bellerive, in Franklin, but his business is in Glenorchy in Clark).

Other Candidates:

Kit Darko (Greens): activist (climate change etc), software developer
Darren Winter (United Australia Party): bakehouse owner, high-profile General Manager of Lauderdale Football Club and multi-premiership-winning (and sometimes controversial) local football coach
Darren Hawes (Fraser Anning's Conservative Nationals), electrical contractor

The ballot order is Green, Liberal, FACN, Labor, UAP.

Darko described himself as an "anarcho-#communist" as of January 31 this year on a now deleted Mastodon account of which I've retained screenshots, and also described the current Prime Minister as a "vile excuse for a human". However as of May 7 he denied being a communist or anarcho-communist.
Winter has received some adverse publicity over a nine-year-old Facebook post about parenting teenage girls, while the absence of any coverage of Darko's social media strongly suggests that Andrew Bolt is asleep.

Polling:

1. EMRS sub-200 vote sample Dec 2018 ALP 44 Liberal 33 Green 14.  I estimate 2PP at 60.6 to ALP by last-election preferences.  Samples of this size are extremely unreliable.

Assessment: Labor retain.  Zzzzzzz.  In Franklin the minor party candidates in Franklin are more entertaining than the majors, with the Liberals selecting a safer candidate after their misadventures with Bernadette "Hey there rockstar" Black and of course Markham.  However Young is no world-beater based on his Denison result and there is no reason to expect any significant decline in Labor's margin.

Lyons (Labor, 3.8%)

Geography: A mainly rural seat including the large regional town of New Norfolk, the fringes of Hobart and Launceston, and numerous small towns dotted across the centre and east of the state.  Lyons has a sharply north-south voting divide, with the northern part much more pro-Liberal.

History: Partly because of the difficulty of building name recognition in a seat with so many scattered communities, Lyons (formerly Wilmot) had only three incumbents (two Labor, one Liberal) between 1946 and 2013. Long-serving Labor MP Dick Adams was dislodged by the nation's largest swing caused by anger over the state's forestry "peace deal" in 2013 (having survived a similar scare in 2004) but his replacement Eric Hutchinson lasted only one term before Labor recovered the seat.

Incumbent:  A former journalist/editor and later media consultant, Brian Mitchell did not fit the mould of a typical winner of this rural seat at all, but he did at least have one or more appropriate hats.  Preselected two years in advance of the 2016 election, Mitchell worked the electorate and was rewarded when he dislodged Hutchinson with a 3.5% swing.  He is a member of Labor's Country Caucus.

Mitchell is a larrikin who unsurprisingly adapted well to parliamentary rough and tumble, being Labor's sixth most frequently suspended MP in this term.  In one instance he had to apologise after extending this behaviour to a journalist challenging Keay about her citizenship status.  (The audio is indistinct and Mitchell has denied that he used the word "maggot" as claimed by the ABC.)

While overshadowed by the disendorsement of his opponent, Mitchell's campaign has also hit some trouble with Glamorgan Spring Bay mayor Debbie Wisby reporting an acrimonious phone call from Mitchell's chief of staff over the issue of whether Labor would match funding the Liberals had promised.  Mitchell has apologised.  He was also targeted in one of the weakest dirt unit attempts of the campaign, which he laughed off.

Nationals Candidate (endorsed by Liberals): Following the disendorsement of Jessica Whelan (who will appear on the ballot papers as Liberal), the Liberal Party has now endorsed the Nationals' Deanna Hutchinson.  Hutchinson (see bio) is about as left-field a Nationals candidate as you could get, being a technologist and CEO of something called the Spatial Industries Business Association. I will be expanding this section with more comments about her when time permits.  I understand she is not related to Eric Hutchinson, Liberal MP for this seat 2013-6.

Hutchinson has no known previous political form - some prior local profile but generally apolitical.  She has said she is "conflicted on the coal issue".  Hutchinson is clearly a very intelligent candidate but is also not at all well known given her sudden prominence in the campaign.

Disendorsed Liberal Candidate (Appears as Liberal on ballot paper): The Liberal candidate is  was Jessica Whelan, who is now running as an independent after being disendorsed.  Whelan is a first-term Brighton councillor, having been elected 6th out of 9 candidates for her council in 2018.  Whelan is a former restaurant owner with a background in "aged care, HR, hospitality and more recently in property."

Whelan was the first female major party candidate ever formally nominated for Lyons.  Little is  was known to me of Whelan's politics although former Liberal candidate and later "independent liberal" MLC Tony Mulder has described her as moderate. It seems either that that was a long way wide of the mark, or that her views have recently changed greatly.  Whelan stated she is somewhere "in between" small-l Liberals and Christian conservatives in the party, and not religious herself.

On 16 April Whelan stated she supported an increase in the Newstart allowance. According to the Mercury's Emily Baker " She later clarified she’d learned about the energy bonus “which is great and addresses my concerns” ".  (Mitchell also supported increasing the Newstart allowance.)

Whelan Social Media Issues and Disendorsement

On 1 May Whelan was accused of making anti-Islamic posts on social media. The alleged posts included telling someone they "shouldn’t even be in Australia if you believe in ALLAH!" and some more extreme material (content warning, and Whelan has denied making the later post).  Following a flood of other alleged posts, Whelan either resigned or was disendorsed as Liberal candidate and from the party on May 3.

Prior to Whelan's resignation/disendorsement, I established that some posts by a "Jessica Whelan" about issues including the Royal Hobart Hospital and same-sex marriage were made from a Facebook account that has been deactivated or hidden.  Labor alleged that Whelan had a specific old account with the username "superhotchick" that was deactivated around the time she was preselected, and Whelan's own personal Facebook account only has posts dating from the start of the year.  More old alleged Whelan posts were soon published or claimed including one apparently showing Whelan expressing interest in running for One Nation, a range of further generic anti-Islamic material, and according to the Mercury a disparaging physical comment about the Tasmanian Speaker Sue Hickey.

Earlier in the campaign, 2016 ungrouped Senate candidate George Lane posted a video revealing Whelan had "liked" Fraser Anning's Facebook page.  I investigated this and found Whelan had "liked" a large number of pages across the political spectrum (mostly Liberal) and had even "liked" both sides of an opposing issue, the kunanyi/Mt Wellington cable car.  Lane's video also showed Whelan liking pages of Alan Jones, Cory Bernardi, Mark Latham etc.  It seemed at the time Whelan was just using "like" as a way to follow politics across the spectrum, albeit naively.

After a day of media hounding, Whelan resigned as Liberal candidate on 3 May.  While continuing to deny the worst post attributed to her, Whelan admitted to making "ill-advised and misinformed" comments on social media, and admitted to making "anti-Islamic" posts.  She has apologised for her past posts. The Liberal Party alleged that the most extreme post was digitally manipulated but have provided no evidence that this is so, while Whelan has claimed it was completely fake.  Whelan, after ceasing to be a Liberal candidate, explicitly stated she had "no evidence at this stage" of alteration.  However on the same afternoon, the Australian Federal Police announced that the matter had been referred to them and was being considered.

Despite all this, Whelan will still show on the ballot paper as the endorsed Liberal and could still in theory be elected and sit in parliament.  Pauline Hanson was elected in similar circumstances in 1996 after she continued campaigning.  Whelan has indicated she will serve if elected, and in the immediate wake of her disendorsement has been all over the place about whether she will campaign seriously or not.  On the night of the 3rd May she put up an "Independent for Lyons" Facebook page showing a photo of her Liberal for Lyons car, but this was quickly taken down though a (as far as I can see unauthorised) comment was instead up on her personal Facebook.  Whelan's campaign largely consists of media appearances and sporadic Facebook postings, with a request for how-to-vote card hand-out assistance.

Whelan states that she has "very strong opinions" on immigration numbers and border security.  It took some time for her to make anything much else known about what she stood for.  On 9 May she released a list of her most important issues numbered 1, 2, 3, 6, 7, 8, 9.  Most of these were left-wing issues: cost of living including rent and homelessness, poverty, health care, traffic, the NDIS, "The Child Support System", phone and NBN services.  Despite this her partial how to vote preferenced the Greens second-last and Labor last.  However she later put out a different how-to-vote recommendation: Nationals, UAP, One Nation, Labor, Greens.

Following this Whelan posted an anti-foreign-aid meme showing Labor's Penny Wong and anti-UN conspiracy theory images.  Similar images have been posted on far-right Facebook pages such as Respect Australia Rally and are common in "Agenda 21" anti-globalist paranoia. On 11 May Whelan was found to have "liked" an post supporting Fraser Anning on the page of an obscure Fraser Anning supporter.  She denied that this amounted to an endorsement. Later that night her Facebook page disappeared, but it has since reappeared.

Whelan signs continue to be seen in large numbers and the Liberal Party has been tardy in removing them.  Preferencing shenanigans have also been evident with the Nationals' site how-to-vote card link for Hutchinson not working for several days, then being replaced with a Liberal how-to-vote card preferencing the UAP ahead of Whelan and Labor ahead of One Nation (this card also misspelled Hutchinson's surname), then reverting to the original Nationals card which preferences Whelan and One Nation ahead of UAP, then being removed again.

Other Candidates:

Gary Whisson (Greens), Lyons branch convenor, ecologist formerly working for WA Environmental Protection Authority
Mick Warne (United Australia Party), finance broker (Buyers Choice), previously in telecommunications
Tennille Murtagh (One Nation), Brighton councillor and local community worker (see profile here)

The ballot order is Nationals, Labor, Greens, PHON, (ex-)Liberal, UAP.

Polling:

1. EMRS sub-200 vote sample Dec 2018 ALP 43 Liberal 32 Green 10.  I estimate 2PP at 60% to ALP by last-election preferences.  Samples of this size are extremely unreliable.

2. Internals prior to Whelan's disendorsement, Labor sources had stated they were ahead 54-46 two-party preferred, while Whelan had claimed (with no figures) that things were very close.  Internal poll results are frequently based on small-sample tracker polls and are often strategically released, making them highly unreliable.

3. "Coalition internal" post-disendorsement with sample size 503 and partial primaries released: Labor 38 Nat 19 Whelan 12 One Nation 11.  No primaries released for UAP or Greens.  Leaving aside the extreme unreliability of internal seat polling with such a tiny sample size anyway, the unsourced and presumably party-provided interpretation in the Mercury article was rubbish.  The numbers were spun as showing Hutchinson was in with a chance based on the claim "Assuming the results reflect reality and voters who cast a primary vote for conservative candidates preferenced the Nationals ahead of Labor, Ms Hutchinson and Mr Mitchell would be about even."  But this is a bogus assumption because One Nation preferences never flow that strongly.  Even if 90% of Whelan preferences and 70% of One Nation preferences flowed to National over Labor, Labor would still lead by 5 points off those, and that's ignoring the Green preferences which would come from the 20% not included.  So on these figures Labor would win easily.

Assessment: Highly likely Labor retain.  Prior to the disendorsement of Whelan I pointed out that Lyons has only been won once by the Liberals since 1993 and kicking incumbents out of it is hard work.  Whelan was only preselected in February with little existing profile and very little time to build it.  While I have seen no polling on his standing, journalists have told me Mitchell is considered popular in the seat, which may explain the Liberals' tardiness in finding an opponent.  The redistribution has also assisted Mitchell by increasing his margin.

Then there was the Whelan social media disaster (highly unusual in Tasmania).  The situation has obvious parallels with the disendorsement of Pauline Hanson in 1996 (following which Hanson won the seat of Oxley) but there are also significant differences.  Oxley was a safe seat that was taken for granted whereas Labor has already been campaigning hard in Lyons.  Hanson had a higher existing profile whereas Whelan has only been on a small council for six months and is politically inexperienced.  Right-wing populists do have some appeal in Lyons, but only so much  - it isn't Ipswich.

On the other hand, any appeal Whelan may have may be not only to the racists supporting her and who she is interacting with on social media, but also to some Labor voters who might agree with her Newstart comments; in this regard there is more similarity with Jacqui Lambie than Hanson.  And it is unclear how many Liberal voters will actually cross to voting Labor or preferencing Labor.

I am expecting a blowout in Labor's favour but the Whelan situation leaves a real vacuum in terms of where the Liberal vote will go.  If they don't vote for Whelan how much will they switch to the Nationals, whose candidate is even less well known?  This will be a very interesting primary vote count on the night.

3 comments:

  1. What a sad joke The Mercury newspaper has become since the new editor arrived on the scene.... to put the recent Bass Australian Forests Products Association uComms Poll on its front page which favors the Liberal party ( how is this relevant to the newspapers main southern readership base? ), having ignored the two minor polls before that, which didnt favor the Liberal Bass candidate? Pathetic journalism

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  2. So what does this say for the system of 3 weeks' pre-poll voting?
    Are the votes already in for the Liberals or are they for Whelan personally?
    Should they all be ruled invalid and the voters invited to vote again?
    At least with Creasey (assuming he pulls out) counting can move straight to no2 preferences. Yes, Kevin?
    Would just 5 days pre-poll be better? Might save money too.

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    Replies
    1. Candidates contest the election as candidates, and the printing of party names on the ballot is just to help voters find their party. Being disendorsed after the ballots are printed has no effect on a candidate's ability to get votes or, if they get enough votes, to be elected. Any votes they have already received still count.

      A candidate cannot be excluded from the count just because they have been disendorsed. Perhaps such a system should be created to avoid voters being deceived but until then that is the way it is.

      A shorter pre-poll period would be likely to reduce the turnout as voters who were going to be away for longer would have to vote by post, which can be less convenient. However a lot of voters are abusing prepolling to vote early when they do not have to and in my view this isn't good.

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