Sunday, March 31, 2019

Legislative Council 2019: Pembroke

PEMBROKE (ALP vs Lib 7.45% - pre-redistribution by-election margin)
Incumbent: Jo Siejka (ALP)

Welcome to the second of my three Legislative Council guide pages this year.  The one for the most interesting-looking contest, the Nelson vacancy, has been doing business for some time, and the guide for Montgomery is now up too.  I will be updating my voting patterns assessment as well but am waiting for the upcoming session to complete in view of the lack of data in the last 12 months so far, so I expect to do that update in the third week of April. [EDIT: I ran out of time to do this before the election!]

And there will be live coverage here of all three seats on the night of the election, expected to be Saturday May 4th.

This piece will be edited through the campaign from time to time for updates, campaign information, added candidates and changed assessments.

(Note: candidates may contact me once only to request a change to the link their name goes to, or additional links which will be added, or not, at my discretion.  No other changes will be made on request except to correct clear factual errors.  Candidates are welcome to comment in the comment section. Differences in the length of different candidate sections reflect differences in amount of available/(in my view) interesting material.)



Seat Profile

Pembroke (see map) is a small suburban seat that falls entirely within the City of Clarence on Hobart's eastern shore.  The electorate extends from Tranmere in the south to Geilston Bay in the north.  A redistribution has removed the most pro-Labor booth of Risdon Vale, making the seat about 0.7% closer "on paper" than the 7.45% margin from last time.  However, that's an unreliable margin anyway (see below). The suburb of Tranmere is wealthy and Liberal-leaning, Warrane is blue-collar and good for Labor, and the rest is all middle suburbia, with a fairly high Green vote in Bellerive.  At the 2018 state election Labor picked up swings from both Liberals and Greens in Pembroke, with the Liberals polling 47.4%, Labor 39.2% and the Greens 11.2%.  (These votes do not include postal votes, which tend to favour the Liberals.)  That places the seat somewhat on the left side of the Tasmanian average, but not hugely so.  The Liberal vote would have been boosted by Premier Hodgman's huge personal vote, so in 2PP terms the seat might be considered a little bit ALP-leaning.

Pembroke is a swing seat that has been held by both major parties back and forth in the last 30 years, with a brief independent interruption.  The resignation of the late Vanessa Goodwin for health reasons in 2017 resulted in the Pembroke by-election (see guide, see coverage thread).  This was a three-cornered contest between the Liberals' James Walker (a local councillor), Labor's Jo Siejka and the local mayor Doug Chipman, an independent and former Liberal Party state director.  In scenes that had seasoned Tasmanian politicos reeling, the Liberals attacked Chipman over his age and lifestyle, and seemed more concerned about beating him than beating Labor.  The attack succeeded in getting Walker into second by a very small margin, but destroyed any hope of a friendly preference flow from the mayor.  The Liberals were thrashed on the 2PP count (Chipman vs Labor would have been 52.4% to Labor) and later apologised.

Incumbent

Jo Siejka (ALP) (Facebook, Twitter, candidacy announcement)  is the most recently elected of the four Labor MLCs.  Prior to winning Pembroke, Siejka had no previous electoral form that I could find.  She had earlier been the CEO of the Youth Network of Tasmania, Chair of the National Youth Coalition for Housing, and a board member of TasTAFE.  In a recent Shadow Cabinet reshuffle, Siejka was promoted to be Shadow Minister for Disability and Shadow Minister for Ageing.  The Ageing portfolio is especially relevant to the Pembroke electorate, which does not have a high average age overall but which has some suburbs (eg Lindisfarne) with high retired populations. In 2017, Siejka polled 32.4% of primaries in a field of 7 candidates, and received 54% of preferences to just 36.5% for Walker, with the rest exhausting.

Siejka's brief parliamentary career so far has been uncontroversial, but she has often been seen as surprisingly low-profile, especially in contrast to neighbouring MLC Sarah Lovell.  Siejka has had a lot more media over the last six months but she would still not be on the list of Labor household names across Tasmania generally.  She has flagged health services, TAFE, penalty rate cuts and cost of living pressures as issues of concern. Siejka lives within the electorate.

Challengers

Kristy Johnson (Liberal) (Facebook, linkedinACL questionnaire, candidacy announcement) is the owner-manager of the all-female 24-hour Fernwood Gym in Bellerive (within the electorate), and also of Glenorchy Health and Fitness, and has 20 years' involvement in the fitness industry.  Johnson, not to be confused with Glenorchy Mayor Kristie Johnston, contested Denison (now Clark) for the Liberals at the 2018 state election, polling a very respectable 3234 votes at the first attempt.  Her vote was far higher in the Glenorchy booths than the Hobart booths, but this was probably caused by Sue Hickey being the former Lord Mayor for the latter rather than the name-confusion issue.

As of the state election Johnson lived in West Moonah, on the other side of the river. Johnson has flagged support for parents, education and literacy and a 20-year infrastructure plan as issues.

Tony Mulder (Independent) (Twitter) was MLC for the adjacent seat of Rumney from 2011 until his rather narrow defeat by Labor's Sarah Lovell in 2017.  Mulder is a former police commander and was a Liberal state election candidate in Franklin in 2010; for more on the complex history of his association with the Liberal Party see my Rumney preview.  After contesting Prosser (where he finished a disappointing fourth with 9.7%, well behind competing independent Steve Mav), Mulder romped back onto Clarence Council, polling second on primaries for Councillor and also finishing second to incumbent Chipman in the mayoral contest (44:56).

I've rehashed my description of Mulder as a forthright and somewhat grumpy contrarian with small-l liberal/libertarian tendencies often enough that anyone interested can click on the Rumney link above for more details.  At this election Mulder is describing his position as of the "sensible centre" and a moderating influence over party politics, and is running especially on the independence of the Upper House.  Other issues flagged by Mulder include a proposal for a new hospital at Cambridge, cost of living issues, public sector wage setting and poker machines.  On the latter Mulder's position is unusual in a very polarised debate - he supports the freedom to gamble but also supports stopping addictive programming, reducing the house edge and stopping "the government rake-off". Mulder lives in Howrah, within the electorate.

Ron Cornish (Independent) (candidacy announcement) was a member of the Tasmanian House of Assembly for 22 years.  First elected to Braddon for the Liberal Party in 1976, Cornish was a solid electoral performer for the party who was re-elected in Braddon six times, generally comfortably, though he never polled a quota in his own right.  Cornish held 14 different portfolios at various times (see list), most prominently Attorney-General in the Ray Groom government.  He was one of six Liberals to vote against gay law reform in 1997. He has remained vocal about gun control, introduced by the Rundle government following the Port Arthur massacre and recently topical.  Cornish lives at Rose Bay, within the electorate.

Cornish quit the party in 2014 after Tony Abbott decided not to proceed with changes to racial discrimination law (the "18C" controversy). He appears to be running to the right of the party on "political correctness" issues, and is also opposed to the Lower House's recent amendments concerning genders on birth certificates.  His campaign has created some bemusement because its centrepiece is opposition to federal Labor's franking credits changes. This is a federal issue of concern to quite a few Pembrokers (disclosure: especially my dad!) but which a Tasmanian MLC could have no impact on even if they were declared elected before the federal election.  Cornish states he's running to give voters a way to protest, and possibly influence Labor policy.  The Cornish campaign continues a trend of nostalgia candidates, with a few names from the past also cropping up in Prosser last year.

Carlo di Falco (Shooters, Fishers and Farmers) (announcement).  is from Forcett in the adjacent electorate of Rumney and also ran for Pembroke in 2017, polling 3.1% (which was actually more than I expected in an area where the SF+F normally poll poorly).  He is a target shooter, hunter and gun collector.  A previous bio said he has "been involved in the State National Service Rifle discipline for 6 years hosting a National event in the position of discipline chair in 2013." He has written op eds in the Mercury arguing against gun control and to raise concerns about restrictions being placed on gun owners because of thefts.  He has also appeared on Tasmania Talks.

At this election, di Falco has flagged support for "proscribed" (I think he means prescribed) burnoffs in the wilderness World Heritage Area, strengthening whistleblower legislation and increasing funding for the Ombudsman and Integrity Commission. He has also flagged an intention to work for better mental and preventative health services, and to better represent "rural voters".  (There are no rural voters in Pembroke, though I think I've seen the odd sheep round the edges.)

Not Running

Perennial candidate Hans Willink has taken the Sherman pledge on this one with the memorable line "the more people get to know me, the less they appear to like me."

Also out: Chipman, Richard James, Bill Harvey.

The Greens have shown no signs of interest in what is not a very strong area for them.

Issues

Some of the issues canvassed in the Nelson campaign may also crop up here.  Some others to be raised in this one are as follows:

Traffic Congestion: Traffic is a long-running issue on the Eastern Shore and was a factor in the fall of neighbouring Rumney to the ALP in 2017.  Labor has accused the government of inaction on the issue, with Siejka bringing up the Mornington roundabout as an example.  They also have organised a petition leading to an independent review.  The same roundabout was also a political football when Goodwin won the seat with Labor in office back in 2009.  Tony Mulder supports a Flagstaff Gully link road and suggests the eastern shore has been "forgotten", and also alludes to a mysterious funding commitment somewhere in or near the electorate that the government has not detailed.  The Liberals have promoted an upcoming ferry service.

Balance of the Legislative Council: The Liberals are likely to continue the tactic seen at many recent Council elections of trying to attack perceived obstruction of the Government's mandate in the Upper House by Labor and the four left-wing independents.  Johnson refers to these eight on Facebook as the " 🛑/ bloc" (highlight the red x and look what happens!)  So far the Liberals really haven't had a lot of success with this message, though perhaps that's just because they haven't found the right Facebook icons previously.  Mulder is running against both parties and promoting independence.

Firearms: With Cornish in the campaign, firearms were bound to appear, with Cornish slamming the Liberal Party's handling of the review of gun laws as "inept".  Unsurprisingly di Falco has a different view, claiming that the proposed changes contentious at the end of the state election campaign are a non-issue.

Dying with dignity: In the ABC candidates' debate, all the candidates showed various only subtly different shades of in-principle support subject to safeguards.

Mandatory sentencing: The Liberal Party supports mandatory imprisonment for child sex offenders, a measure blocked by the Legislative Council. The rug was pulled out from under the Liberal Party's feet on this issue in the final week when their own rebel Speaker Sue Hickey voted the government's reintroduced bill down.  None of the non-Liberal candidates support mandatory imprisonment.  Mulder has argued against the measure based on his police experience that those prosecuted are sent to jail anyway.

Other issues will be added as I notice them.

Campaign

Notes on anything interesting in the campaign, if there is anything, may be added.  I expect this to be a sleepier affair than 2017.  Overshadowing by the federal election will not help with getting media publicity for campaign matters, and in comparison to Nelson this seat has already been pretty much ignored.

The Liberal Party's messaging is interesting - the bio of Johnson leads not with her career achievements but with her status as a single mother and experience of single-parent family struggles.  This is a tactic much more often seen from the left.  It may be a pitch to the lower-income parts of the electorate but may also be a strategy to put distance between this campaign and the last one.

Siejka appears to have a serious advantage over the Liberals in ground game.  She has been doorknocking for some time (not just in the immediate leadup), and has had small doorknocking teams out with thousands of residents already contacted as of mid-February.  At the candidate's forum, Siejka reported doorknocking a staggering 10,000 houses as well as visiting schools and other centres.  Johnson in contrast was not preselected until early March.

I have heard that Mulder signs are very common in the electorate, Siejka signs are fairly common and Johnson signs are rare.

Mulder is running partly on his work rate.  A letterbox flier compares his presence on the floor of parliament in terms of speeches, amendments and Hansard mentions to Siejka and Prosser Liberal MLC Jane Howlett (neither of whom he is allowed to name).

The Liberals have attracted criticism for including two policies together under the heading "Protecting your children".  One of the policies is described as "Mandatory sentencing for pedophiles" and the other as "Against removal of gender on birth certificates".  Leaving aside that both these criticisms are misleading, the placing of the two together implies that making gender an opt-in field on birth certificates is somehow a threat to children that deserves bracketing with sexual abuse.

(Cornish supports the Liberal position on the birth certificate issue, as obviously does Johnson.  In the ABC debate Johnson said voters were confused about the issue, but Siejka accused Johnson of "choosing not to understand" the issue and misinforming voters. Mulder sees it as pretty much a non-issue.)

Prospects

Labor's biggish margin from 2017 is an inflated baseline.  Aside from the redistribution that has removed Risdon Vale, the 2017 margin owed much to the high-risk nature of the Liberal campaign that resulted in them having no friends in the preference flow.  It's possible that the by-election being called a by-election also had something to do with it (though in some ways all LegCo elections have a by-election flavour), but a straight Liberal-Labor contest without Chipman on the scene would have been a lot closer.  Nonetheless I think Labor should have the Liberals covered.

Whether they have Mulder covered is less clear.  Given the relatively close Chipman vs Labor 2CP last time it could be that Mulder vs Labor would be a problem for Labor if Mulder can make the final two and then benefit from Liberal preferences.  Mulder could poll a good vote here on his home Council turf but the question is whether he can beat Chipman's 20% and then sneak into the final two.  Chipman was higher-profile as mayor but was also dragged down by the Liberal attacks.  Mulder in contrast has had a clean run with no adverse publicity during this campaign.  I think he has some chance but it would be brave to bet against a Labor retain, probably easily.

2 comments:

  1. Who are the pro-mountain candidates in the 4 May Legislative Council elections? If any. Or at least who is the least pro cable car candidate?

    I don't think there are any friends of the mountain in this lot, the sort who would stand by Rob Valentine (MLC, only LC vote against CC Facilitation Bill (2017).
    I might have thought the ALP candidate would be the most supportive of the mountain from this lot, but after their support of the CC Facilitation Bill they have shown they are not.

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    Replies
    1. Good question. I've really not seen the cable car mentioned as an issue in the Pembroke campaign at all so I have no idea if any of the candidates have expressed concerns about it.

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