Sunday, June 5, 2016

The Five Tasmanian House of Representatives Seats

This article gives a detailed discussion of the five Tasmanian House of Representatives seats, which will be updated as needed up til election day.  Two seats (Denison and Franklin) are generally not considered to be in play at this election.  Three (Bass, Braddon and Lyons) are Coalition marginals that could change hands with swings of 1.2 to 4%.  Current national polling points to a close federal election, although this may still change during the final week.  If it does not change, then these three seats could be very important to the outcome of the election, or to whether the winner has a majority or not.  As of 25 June, with the national swing estimated at 2.7% , my projections favoured one or two Liberal losses, with a possibility of all three seats falling. However, there is really not a lot of quality public polling data for the state.  A late swing to the Coalition could make all these seats safe, while a late swing to Labor might see all of them lost.

To explain why these seats are tricky, it is worth looking at the strange results in the state from the 2013 election.  Labor won 51.2% of the state's two-party-preferred vote, but only won one of five seats.  The swing against Labor was the largest of any state by far (9.4%) but the uneven nature of it meant that Lyons, held with a 12.2% buffer, fell with a 13.5% swing.  However Franklin, on a 10.8% margin, was easily retained.  Causes of the massive swing included a downturn in the forestry industry, anger at the state's then ALP-Green coalition government over its "forests peace deal", and a correction from 2010 in which year the Liberals had campaigned very badly in the state. Both at the 2013 federal and 2014 state elections, Tasmania may as well have been two different states, with the anti-Labor mood extremely strong in the north.

Aggregated samples for Tasmania (see BludgerTrack) have generally shown the swing against the Coalition in the state to be somewhere between zero and the national swing, and at times even shown a swing to the Coalition, but the final ReachTEL poll is likely to change that.  All else being equal, the swing back in Bass, Braddon and Lyons should be cushioned by the new personal votes gained by the incumbents Andrew Nikolic, Brett Whiteley and Eric Hutchinson. On that basis if the state swing is modest but otherwise uniform then all of them should hold.  However, at the last election we saw a spread of swings around the state, with swings below 7% in the southern seats and above 10% everywhere else.  If that sort of uneven swing occurs again but in reverse, then personal votes may not save them.

For this reason seat polls would seem important, but federal seat polls at the 2013 election were a basket case.  In Tasmania ReachTEL polling had the right winner for all five seats, but overstated Liberal support by an average of 4-5 points compared to final outcomes.  When seat polling for this election shows Tasmanian seats on close margins, it is hard to be confident that the leader would actually win.  Even 5% margins are not conclusive.  See also my detailed articles on the May 12 Tasmanian ReachTEL and the June 23 Tasmanian ReachTEL.

Also, while it is tempting to assume that seats would fall in order of margin if any fell at all, the reasons for risk vary between the three.

In early June Tasmania was affected by massive flooding, which affected substantial parts of Bass, Braddon and Lyons.  Many voters will have had much more than the election on their minds in last few weeks.  However Labor's Mediscare campaign may have bitten hard in the northern electorates, which are all very sensitive to health services issues at this election.

Only polling taken since Malcolm Turnbull became Prime Minister is included in this article.  For a review of seat polls during the Abbott prime ministership see Would Wood Waste Waste The Seat Of Franklin?  Also, The Tally Room has detailed accounts of the history and 2013 voting patterns.

Note to candidates: I will be adding new candidates once I am aware they are running.  Apart from that I will not be making changes on request to the listings, links or profiles (please don't ask) except if there are clear factual errors.


Bass (Liberal, 4.0%)

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, having changed parties at six of the last eight 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.

Incumbent: First-term incumbent Andrew Nikolic is a former Army Brigadier and Department of Defence public servant, who was the first Liberal candidate preselected for the 2013 federal election. There is evidence that he acquired one of the highest personal votes for a new candidate in the nation. Following the sacking of Phillip Ruddock, Nikolic briefly became a (not the) Government Whip and was a staunch supporter of Tony Abbott to the end.  Earlier this year Nikolic was made chairman of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Intelligence and Security.

Nikolic has a combative political personality and is frequently involved in a range of scrapes (mostly on social media) with the Tasmanian left, one of which was ruled on by the Press Council. Despite (and/or because of) this he has persistently polled very good personal ratings.

Interestingly Nikolic has received an endorsement from the Chairman of the Launceston Flood Authority, despite it being established by an act of state parliament.  This connection to a recent event in which Launceston escaped the worst of recent flooding is likely to stand Nikolic in very good stead, whatever might be said about whether authority chairs should be endorsing candidates.

On the other hand, Nikolic's history of social-media scrapes has now reached a much broader audience (including a claim that he blocked his ALP opponent).

Main challenger: The Labor candidate is Ross Hart, a lawyer (bio here) and occasional comment poster on this site! He has been quite prominent on state media during the election leadup.  The slogan "put the Hart back into Bass" has been used as a play on the candidate's name and also perceptions that the incumbent is a bit of a meanie.

Other candidates: Terrill Riley-Gibson (Greens)
Roy Ramage (Renewable Energy Party)
Malcolm Beattie (Christian Democratic Party (Fred Nile Group))
Mark Tapsell (Australian Recreational Fishers Party)

1. Mercury ReachTEL May 12 primaries Lib 46.2 ALP 36 Grn 9.7 Lambie Network 4.9 Other 3.3.  Note: Lambie Network is not contesting Lower House seats.  Published 2PP 51-49 to Liberal by respondent preferences (51.9% to Liberal by last-election preferences).  The poll showed health services, a Labor strength area, to be considered a very important issue in Bass.

2. GetUp! commissioned ReachTEL May 31 primaries Lib 45.2 ALP 34.3 Green 11.7 Ind/Other 8.8. Published 2PP 51-49 to Labor by respondent preferences, but this is based on an unrealistic 82.7% flow of preferences to ALP.  By last-election preferences Nikolic would win with 51.5% on these primaries, but this is probably a shade generous following the demise of PUP as a force.

3. Newspoll June 13-15 primaries Lib 47 ALP 38 Grn 9 Other 6. 2PP 52-48 to Liberal by last-election preferences.  Bass voters preferred Malcolm Turnbull to Bill Shorten by an unconvincing 47-35.

4. ReachTEL June 23 primaries Lib 42.6 ALP 36 Green 9.7 Others 13.6  Published 2PP 50-50 to Liberal by respondent preferences.  My estimate off primaries 50.8% to Nikolic.

Assessment: Probable Liberal retain, but loseable. The margin from 2013 will be amplified by the Liberal Party picking up a personal vote for their new member (sophomore effect) meaning that the effective swing required is more like 6% than 4%.  The volatility of Bass is such that this swing could still conceivably happen, and some observers think that the seat is in more danger than even Lyons.  The argument made by Richard Eccleston that the Liberals' federal campaign is not a good match for low-income areas and service-dependent seats is valid.  The balance of public polling evidence suggests the seat is (just) holding but Nikolic's personal rating has fallen through the campaign, and while it remains fairly good it is possible that Bass will see another cliffhanger.

Braddon (Liberal, 2.7%)

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: Braddon has been mostly Liberal-held since 1975, with the exception of two six-year terms for former Labor member Sid Sidebottom (1998-2004 and 2007-2013).  Decades ago the north-west was infamously socially conservative, but Braddon has changed greatly in the last 20 years and has become another swinging marginal seat, changing hands at four of the last six elections.

Incumbent: First-term incumbent Brett Whiteley was a state Liberal MHA for eight years until his defeat in one of the intra-party contests possible under the Hare-Clark system at the 2010 state election.  His loss was largely caused by being outspent by popular local businessman Adam Brooks.  Whiteley's reputation as a state MP was as a conservative headkicker.  This side has been less seen in federal parliament though he did recently call for drug-testing of the long-term unemployed.  The recent ReachTEL shows indifferent personal ratings for Whiteley (much less positive than for the other two Liberal incumbents.)

Whiteley has been the target of a bizarre sign vandalism episode with an unknown "artist" superimposing bondage masks on his pictures and changing his name to "GIMP".

Main challenger: Whiteley's main opponent is Justine Keay.  Keay (bio) has been a Devonport councillor since 2009 and contested the state seat of Braddon (which has the same boundaries) in the 2014 state election, polling 1382 votes.

Extremely vague responses from Keay to questions about boat turnbacks during a radio interview became fodder for a Liberal attack ad.

Other candidates: Scott Jordan (Greens) - a high profile activist with the group Save The Tarkine. Polled 12% as Greens candidate for this seat in 2010 and has also run as a minor state candidate.

Josh Boag (Liberal Democrats)
Clinton Rice (Renewable Energy Party)
Glen Saltmarsh (Australian Recreational Fishers Party)
Graham Hodge (Christian Democratic Party (Fred Nile Group)) - apparently responsible for a certain infamous sign

1. Mercury ReachTEL May 12 primaries Liberal 46.4 Labor 34.4 Green 6.6 Lambie Network 8.9 Others 3.5.  Note: Lambie Network is not contesting Lower House seats.  Published 2PP 53-47 to Liberal by respondent preferences (53.3% to Liberal by last-election preferences, but inclusion of Lambie in poll makes any conclusion about preferences difficult)

2. Mercury ReachTEL June 23 primaries Liberal 42.7 Labor 37.9 Greens 8.8 Others 10.3.  Published 2PP 50-50 by respondent preferences but I get 51.2 to Justine Keay from same figures.

Assessment: Slightly leaning Liberal, but at significant riskThere has not been much discussion of this seat compared to Bass and Lyons.  Although Whiteley had a more comfortable lead in the first ReachTEL sample than the other two Liberals, his indifferent personal ratings suggested some level of risk not hinted at in the poll headline.  Whiteley has not had a glorious campaign and the second ReachTEL suggests he is very vulnerable.  National issues in the final week may reduce the danger but my seat model classes the seat as a tossup based on current polling.

Denison (IND 15.5% vs ALP)

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 is one of the greenest areas in Australia (with small pockets of strong Liberal support).

History: After winning the seat from the Liberals, Labor's Duncan Kerr held the seat for 23 years.  On his retirement Labor flubbed the preselection and the campaign resulting in independent Andrew Wilkie very narrowly winning the seat on preferences from third place.  Trashy negative campaigning by Labor against Wilkie in 2013 backfired and Wilkie was re-elected easily.

Incumbent: Andrew Wilkie is a former army officer and intelligence analyst who famously blew the whistle over the Howard government's support for invading Iraq.  (This matter still comes up in political debate from time to time with a document relating to the leaking of related matters to be released on June 17 (apparently at 5 pm not 9 am as per the story)). He then joined the Greens and ran against John Howard in Bennelong, polling 16.4%.  He moved to Tasmania and ran as the Greens' second Senate candidate in 2007 but he quit the party shortly after, and ran as an Independent for Denison at the 2010 state election.  The profile built in this very narrowly unsuccessful tilt assisted him to win the federal seat.  Wilkie's support assisted the Gillard government to remain in power following the 2010 election.  After the government did not follow through on its agreements with Wilkie concerning poker-machine precommitment, Wilkie announced he was no longer supporting the government but would not support no-confidence motions except in extreme cases.  He has since maintained he will no longer deal with either major party.

Wilkie is a clearly left-wing independent whose major issues have included poker machines, asylum seekers and health services in Denison.  The May ReachTEL showed very strong personal ratings for him.

Labor challenger: Jane Austin (background) is a senior policy analyst working in mental health and suicide policy prevention.  Austin was also the candidate in 2013.  She could have won a seat at the 2014 state election but had announced that she was going to have another run at the federal seat.

Liberal challenger: Marcus Allan (linkedin) is an IT consultant and former contracted Hydro business analyst.  He seems to be putting more energy into this run than other recent Denison Liberal candidates.  He has been most notable for a call to reinstate Eric Abetz to the frontbench, which wouldn't win him a single vote in Denison but might play better for the party's Senate vote in other seats.

Other candidates: Jen Brown (Greens) has drawn the short straw of running for the Greens against Wilkie this time.

Amanda Excell (Christian Democratic Party (Fred Nile Group))
Wayne Williams (Democratic Labour Party)


1. Mercury ReachTEL May 12 Primaries Wilkie 33.2 Liberal 27.3 Labor 22.1 Green 13.3 Lambie Network 2.8 Other 1.5 Note: Lambie Network is not contesting Lower House seats.  Published 2PP 61-39 Wilkie over Liberal by respondent preferences, but Labor could be second after preferences (even on this sample).  Estimated 2PP 61-39 Wilkie over Labor assuming 2013 preference flow.

2. Mercury ReachTEL June 23 Primaries Wilkie 34.5 Liberal 29.5 Labor 24.5 Green 8.7 Others 2.7. Published 2PP 65-35 Wilkie over Labor by respondent preferences.  On this sample Liberals would be second after preferences, though I still think Labor actually will be.

Assessment: Independent retain.  The recent ReachTELs provide some evidence (albeit inconclusive) that Wilkie's primary vote could be slipping, which if true might be attributed to his relative lack of power in the current majority parliament. Anecdotally, I have also detected slightly more noisy Wilkie-fatigue this time around than last time, but his personal ratings are outstanding.

While both Greens and Labor would benefit in the long-term from evicting Wilkie (even at the cost of throwing the seat to the Liberals for a term), Denison is so left-wing that Green attempts to preference Labor and Labor attempts to preference the Liberals both failed in 2013.  Supporters simply didn't follow the how-to-vote cards.  If Labor is again second (which I expect) Liberal supporters will be more obedient, but the Liberal Party and its voters have no strategic reason to help anyone but Wilkie win the seat.  Therefore while Wilkie's margin may be reduced, I cannot see a path to victory or even a close result for any other party.

A recent win by Labor in the Legislative Council seat of Elwick, which contains 35% of Denison voters, shows that the party has the capacity to rebuild its vote in the northern suburbs.

Franklin (Labor, 5.1%)

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).

Incumbent: Julie Collins is a three-term incumbent who served as a Minister in various portfolios (including Social Services) under both Gillard and Rudd in the previous parliament.  She is currently Shadow Minister for Regional Development, Local Government and Emergency Services.  The ReachTEL polling showed quite strong personal ratings for Collins but also a fairly high non-recognition rate, suggesting that her profile has been low in Opposition.

Main challenger: Franklin is the seat where both the Liberals and Greens have preselected their most interesting challengers.  The Liberal challenger for Franklin is Amanda-Sue Markham, a former intensive care nurse who is also a former (WA 2001) Christian Democrat.  Markham's prominent advocacy on same-sex marriage and abortion in recent years suggest her views probably haven't changed that  much since she was in the Fred Nile fold.  However she has also espoused some pro-asylum-seeker views on a now-scrubbed Twitter account.  I found these via the old Twitter-searching website Topsy, but it has sadly since gone belly-up.  I saved one, which Labor was then wrongly given credit for unearthing.

I've also now found Facebook posts in which Markham said she was "Really looking fwd to" an Amnesty rally called "Not in our name: human rights are not optional" that was staged to protest (from the pro-refugee left) against Kevin Rudd's asylum seeker policy in the leadup to the 2013 campaign.  Markham also posted "An appropriate Christian response to asylum seekers: 'Do not oppress or mistreat the foreigner among you for you were foreigners in Egypt' Exodus 22:21 We must care for those seeking refuge."  She also appears to have written a sympathetic post about Julian Assange (scroll down to comments section).  These matters are interesting in light of the pursuit of Labor candidates who are deemed to be soft on boats.

Markham is the only female candidate running for the Liberals in Tasmania (out of 11).  You can see her reacting to what might be called a citizen gotcha journalism attempt on penalty rates here.  On 17 June the Fairfax press reported that Markham's registration as a nurse had lapsed although she was continuing to use it as a selling point.  This matter continues to be debated.

Other candidates: Martine Delaney (Greens) is a long-time LGBTI rights campaigner.  Her successful actions against the Exclusive Brethren, Timber Communities Australia and the Liberal Party over hateful campaign tactics in the 2006 state and 2007 federal elections are the stuff of Tasmanian political legend.  These actions had the effect of exposing Liberal Party complicity in the placement of Exclusive Brethren ads, although this had been denied by one Damian Mantach (yes that one) at the time.  Delaney's prominent recent action against the Catholic Church over their "Don't Mess With Marriage" booklet was less successful and eventually withdrawn, after at one stage arousing the ire of commentators in The Australian on a seemingly almost daily basis.

Tim Sanderson (Arts Party)
George Muskett (Christian Democratic Party (Fred Nile Group))

1. Mercury ReachTEL May 12
primaries Lib 40.7 ALP 34.3 Grn 15.9 Lambie Network 3.2 Other 5.8.  Note: Lambie Network is not contesting Lower House seats.  Published 2PP 54-46 to Labor by respondent preferences (53.1% to Labor by last-election preferences).

2. Morgan aggregate 2016
primaries Lib 38.5 ALP 34 Green 14.5 Other 10.  Sample size about 310, no published 2PP but Labor would win about 51.5-48.5.  Aside from their small sample size and the age of the data, these Morgan samples are prone to local pool selection effects and Morgan's tendency to overestimate third-party votes, so they are not very useful.

3. Mercury ReachTEL June 23
Primaries ALP 37.6 Lib 37.1 Green 18.6 Others 6.9.  Published 2PP 59-41 to Labor by respondent preferences (I get 58-42 from same figures)

Assessment: Labor retain. During the Turnbull honeymoon there were some thoughts that the Liberals might recapture this seat but that has all gone out the window as federal Liberal stocks have crashed.  Collins is popular and Markham has been a contentious candidate.

Lyons (Liberal, 1.2%)

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 (see maps at The Tally Room).

History: Partly because of the difficulty of building name recognition in a seat with so many scattered communities, Lyons has had only three incumbents (two Labor, one Liberal) in the past 70 years. Former Labor member Dick Adams survived a scare in 2004 by attacking his own party's forests policy, but was unable or unwilling to repeat the dose in 2013 and was dislodged after 20 years with the biggest 2PP swing in the nation.  

Incumbent: Eric Hutchinson is a former wool-marketer who won the seat at the second attempt in 2013.  His profile has been lower than that of the other two Liberal incumbents and the May ReachTEL poll showed him to have good approval ratings but a high (15%) proportion of respondents did not know who he was.

Main challenger: A former journalist/editor and now media consultant, Brian Mitchell does not fit the mould of a typical Lyons candidate at all, but he does at least have an appropriate hat.  Mitchell previously attracted my attention with the booklet A Compelling Case For The Reform Of Tasmania's Legislative Council Brought To You By Kittens.  (Little has been seen of the Transform Tasmania Alliance since.) Mitchell was preselected for Lyons in 2014, in recognition of the long run-up needed to have any chance of winning this electorate as a new candidate.

Other candidates: Hannah Rubenach-Quinn (Greens), a Break O'Day councillor who was Deputy Mayor from 2011 before unsuccessfully running for Mayor at the 2014 elections (she was second of four candidates but defeated 59.5:40.5 by Mick Tucker).  Somewhat unusually for a Green, Rubenach-Quinn is a Christian school chaplain.

Duncan Livingston (Renewable Energy Party)
Shelley Shay (Australian Recreational Fishers Party)
Gene Mawar (Christian Democratic Party (Fred Nile Group))

Mercury ReachTEL 12 May primaries Liberal 45.9 Labor 29.2 Green 13.3 Lambie Network 6.5 Others 5.2 Note: Lambie Network is not contesting Lower House seats.  Published 2PP 51-49 to Liberal by respondent preferences (54.1% to Liberal by last-election preferences).

Mercury ReachTEL 23 June primaries Liberal 40.4 Labor 35.2 Green 11.8 Others 12.7. Published 2PP 55-45 to Labor by respondent preferences (I get 53.9 to Labor from same figures).

Assessment: Leaning Labor, but may be retained. Through the last few months my projections have sometimes pointed to another Liberal win in Lyons, and I have made some rather bullish media comments on their chances here. (One comment became much too bullish when quoted out of context!)  However even before the current poll the seat was now and then dipping into tossup territory.  The margin in the current ReachTEL poll swamps all previous and statewide evidence and my national seat model now considers the seat a probable loss, but the margin in that poll seems on the high side and there may be a general late shift back to the Coalition. Labor sources were making confident noises before this poll, with Liberal sources reported as considering the seat "difficult" and one Green source suggesting that the seat was practically gone.  While Lyons has a history of giving incumbents long terms, a first-term incumbent there might be vulnerable because of the time taken to build name recognition, especially if some of the vote against Labor last time was just a short-term backlash against the then state government.  Hutchinson has possibly not been high-profile enough and there are concerns about whether he has done enough to protect what support the Liberals had in the south of the electorate against a swing back.

The low Labor primary in the first ReachTEL was probably a sample error.  Lyons is not an easy seat to poll and a single 55-45 poll result does not prove it is going back, but this now seems rather likely.


  1. Can't help but think whatever chance Labor might have in Denison has been blown by the treatment of Lisa Singh in the senate pre-selection making more than a few people in Denison unhappy with the Labor party in general. You'd have to think Jane Austin would need to poll at least 38% to win the seat unless the preference flows change significantly. Can't see that happening this time.

  2. Dr Bonham, with the lacklustre performance of the Liberal party State ministers and that their only success has been the ramping up of clear-felling Native Forests at an ever increasing rate at a cost to the Tasmanian taxpayer, I can't see this party having the credibility that will have them achieving anywhere near the success they hope for given that they had promised much to the people of Tasmania, while delivering zippo. (Then the fact that the Liberals are guilty of introducing further cuts to the Health budget for our State.)
    Then on the other hand there is Bryan Green leading the Labor party who must still be seen as an incompetent all the while reeling from the time of the Lennon and Green era with both engaging in many nefarious dealings, how is it possible that either party can lift themselves any higher with such poor credibility ratings?
    In the past your finger on the pulse has a good deal of accuracy relative to the outcomes of voting in Tasmania, yet I note that you have the Liberals with an ascendancy over the Labor party.

    Do you have any comments to add regarding the number of new independent representative of fringe group party candidates, as having an influence that will detract a sufficiency of votes to see an almost hung parliament this 2nd July election?

    1. There was a disclaimer on the top of the article this morning for a reason; the article has now been revised following the recent polling. I have to say that forestry is the last thing that would be damaging Liberal chances in any Tasmanian seat at present; indeed the out-of-touch attitudes of the former Labor/Greens state government on forestry are a big part of the reason why there are three Liberals there in the first place.

      My comments re various federal crossbench chances can be found on other articles.


The comment system is unreliable. If you cannot submit comments you can email me a comment (via email link in profile) - email must be entitled: Comment for publication, followed by the name of the article you wish to comment on. Comments are accepted in full or not at all. Comments will be published under the name the email is sent from unless an alias is clearly requested and stated. If you submit a comment which is not accepted within a few days you can also email me and I will check if it has been received.