Friday, March 26, 2021

2021 Tasmanian State Election Guide: Main Page

The election has been run and the Liberals are the largest party but it remains to be determined for sure whether they have a majority.  

Postcount threads are being unrolled:


Windermere and Derwent



Franklin (zzzzz)



Welcome to the main page for my 2021 Tasmanian state election coverage.  This page will carry links to all the other articles about the election that I write prior to the close of polling, and will contain general big-picture stuff and links to all the specialised articles (once these are written).  It will be updated very frequently.  Each electorate has its own guide page.  Note that these are my own guides and I reserve the right to inject flippant and subjective comments whenever I feel like it; if you do not like this, write your own.

On May 1 I will be doing live coverage for the Mercury on their site from 6 pm.  Postcount threads will be unrolled on this site overnight and on May 2 for all Lower House seats and for all Legislative Council seats that have not been called.  

If you find these guides useful, donations are very welcome (see sidebar), but please only donate in these difficult times if you can afford to do so.  Note: if using a mobile you may need to use the view web version option at the bottom of the page to see the sidebar.

Article links

Articles relevant to the election and written during the linkup will have links to them posted here as they are done. 

Electorate and candidate guides

Links will be added here as each electorate guide is written.  Links will also be added to the Legislative Council contests, which are set to be held on the same day for the first time ever.  

There is no election for Mersey as Mike Gaffney has been re-elected unopposed, the first MLC to be so since Ruth Forrest (Murchison) in 2011.  There were four such cases between 2005 and 2011 after a 12-year gap since the previous case in 1993.  

Other articles


The election will be held on May 1.  This is ten months early based on the four-year anniversary of the previous election.  In theory the election could have been held as late as May 14 2022.

Premier Gutwein visited the Governor on 26 March.  The writs are issued on 30 March.  For the Legislative Council elections, nominations close 31 March and are announced midday 1 April. For the Assembly, nominations close midday 7 April and are announced midday 8 April.  Prepoll voting commences on 12 April.  Postal vote applications close 23 April.   

The election was called early after the Government fell into minority when Speaker Sue Hickey was told she would not be preselected and responded by quitting the party.  However this all appears to be a pretext for an early election, given that the government had no other reason to bring the Hickey matter to a head and given that ex-Labor independent Madeleine Ogilvie has now joined the Liberal ticket. The government will have a majority if all incumbents are re-elected and sit with the parties they campaigned for.  (In a very technical sense it is not really a majority government yet as the parliament is dissolved.)

The Premier has correctly argued that an election in June, July or August would have been unfair because of Labor leader Rebecca White's pregnancy. However there is to this stage no evidence that Ogilvie would not have joined the Liberal Party to preserve the government's majority if needed, and no evidence that the government was at risk of collapse whether Ogilvie did this or not.  That said, the government would not have wanted to govern in minority with Ogilvie's support as an independent, as that would have breached their pledge to govern in majority or not at all.  It may also be that even had Hickey not quit the party on being deselected, the Premier would have called an election anyway.  The Premier has said that he thought the voters should have a say about a majority government including Ogilvie in view of her political past.  (NB One media article has referred to me expressing views about the cost of the election on Twitter but in fact I was sympathetically quoting part of an article by Bob Burton).

Richard Herr in The Mercury has also suggested the impending retirement of the Governor, Kate Warner, as a factor in the timing.  If this is the case the government would probably not make a big deal of it as the Governorship would only be likely to matter in the event of a hung parliament.

The Backdrop

The Liberal Party under Will Hodgman won the 2014 state election convincingly, sweeping to 15 out of 25 seats as voters evicted the Labor-Green government led by Lara Giddings.  Through the 2014-8 term the Hodgman government polled poorly and appeared in great danger of losing its majority.  However there was a surge of support back to it in a controversial 2018 election in which Labor's policy of greatly restricting poker machines played a major role.  Labor's policy helped the opposition compete effectively with the Greens in inner-city areas but led to massive campaigns against it from pro-pokies interests.  

Although there was scarcely any swing against the Hodgman government, a very narrow loss in Franklin resulted in it getting only a one-seat majority.  New Liberal MP (and former Hobart Lord Mayor) Sue Hickey was dissatisfied by not being offered a frontbench position and responded by claiming the Speakership against the wishes of her party.  Hickey proved a thorn in the government's side by voting against it on numerous issues and caused many defeats on the floor of the House (most notably on gender birth certificate reforms and mandatory sentencing) before the government had an unexpected lucky break.  This came when popular Labor MP Scott Bacon resigned and was replaced on a countback by Madeleine Ogilvie, a former MP who had lost her seat at the 2018 election and had been involved in internal party conflicts, mainly over her conservative social issue views.  Ogilvie chose to sit as an independent and has mostly voted with the government, joining the Liberal ticket after the 2021 election was called.

Hodgman resigned in early 2020 and was replaced by Treasurer Peter Gutwein, a long-serving MP and former publican with a reputation for parliamentary headkicking.  Gutwein had been in the job for no time to speak of when the COVID-19 pandemic struck and it has so far defined his premiership.  Tasmania has been highly successful at keeping COVID-19 out, with the exception of a cluster in the north-western health system that claimed 13 lives (some of them returning cruise ship passengers).

Relations between Gutwein and Sue Hickey were better than those between Hodgman and Hickey, but on Sunday March 21 Hickey was quoted in the press about seeking preselection.  Shortly after both Hickey and Gutwein issued statements that Gutwein had told Hickey she did not have the numbers to be preselected.  Hickey then quit the Liberal Party, placing the government in minority, following which the election was called.

The Government has struggled with worsening numbers in the state's Legislative Council, which currently consists of five Labor, three Liberal and seven independents.  Of the independents, four are left-wing, two are centre to centre-right, and the sole clearly conservative MLC Ivan Dean is retiring at this election.  This means that the Government generally lacks the numbers to pass contentious legislation.  At this election as well as the vacancy in Windermere, Labor's seat of Derwent is up for grabs, so the government will be hoping to make progress here.  

The System

The Tasmanian lower house is elected by the multi-member Hare-Clark system, a form of proportional representation with similarities to the Australian Senate system.  Five candidates are elected in each of the five electorates.  Voters must number at least five squares and can number as many as they wish.  There is no above-the-line voting and how-to-vote cards cannot be handed out near booths on polling day.

The system favours candidates with high profiles and hence high name recognition, because these are most effective in obtaining preferences both from their ticket-mates and from other candidates.  In cases where all a party's candidates have been elected or excluded, a high proportion of that party's vote will exhaust from the system because some voters just vote 1-5 for their chosen party and stop. As a result, for instance, Greens preferences have relatively little impact.  

The system allows candidates to compete with and in cases displace others from their own party as well as from other parties.  Projecting results from opinion poll data and even from primary vote totals is a complex and difficult task, and this is the place where such projections will be found (in the case of poll-based projections, assuming there are actually any polls.)

Tasmania formerly had seven-member electorates, but this was changed to five from the 1998 poll onwards as part of a process to attempt to reduce costs but also with an eye to increasing the chance of majority government.  See Tasmanian Lower House: 25 or 35 seats? if interested in detailed discussion of the impact of this change.

To win majority government, a party currently needs to win 13 seats.   Since the number of seats became odd in 1959, the lowest vote share to have won a majority was 44.79% (ALP in 1998) and the highest vote share to not have done so was 47.68% (ALP in 1969).  There is only one previous case of government switching from a majority of one side at one election to the other side at the next, and in that case (1982) the government had lost its majority during the term.

The Issues

This section lists issues that may attract attention on the campaign trail.  An issue being an "election issue" does not necessarily mean it will drive votes.  The ABC Promise Tracker may be useful for the many issues I have not had time to cover here (please notify any omissions to them.)  The Mercury has a similar promise tracker (paywalled).

COVID-19: The government will be keen to run on its record in handling COVID-19 and keeping Tasmania safe.  This is likely to play out in a similar manner to the WA election, but the Opposition here has not been so self-destructive on the borders issue.  However, Rebecca White did call on the Premier to set a date for borders to be opened in June, and this is being used against Labor in the campaign.  The issue is a strength for the government but has not been as prominent as it could have been. During the election campaign, Tasmania is commencing wastewater testing, but this is raising the question (which I don't know the answer to) of why this did not happen sooner.  

Post-COVID economy: Both major parties will be keen to tout their credentials for rebuilding the Tasmanian economy and in particular the international tourism sector following COVID.  Labor is presented with a similar challenge to British Labour following World War 2 - to argue that while the incumbent government has got the nation through the darkest days, the key question is who is best placed to rebuild.  Expect to hear a lot about jobs plans and projects (see the promise tracker linked above).  Labor is being criticised for the size of its spending promises but during the COVID era voters are used to money suddenly growing on trees and it's not clear how much embarrassment the criticisms will cause.  (Economist Saul Eslake has pulled the rug out from under the Liberals somewhat by suggesting that savings on unspent infrastructure budgeting have meant that neither side will break the piggy bank.  David Killick has also roasted the government for not delivering on previous promises.)  

Policies can be costed by Treasury - as at 29 April dozens of policies by both major parties had been costed but those costed for Liberals were wide-ranging (they claim to have submitted "each and every one of our policies") but those costed for Labor were generally supports for specific community groups.  

Forestry and protest laws: Forestry conflict is ramping up again with a number of recent protests about logging in parts of the state.  This issue tends to pit the Greens, who oppose all native forest logging, against the major parties, who tend to support the forestry industry (which has had massive impacts in elections where it ends up supporting one side or the other).  Legislation to restrict obstructive forestry protests was recently rejected by the Legislative Council with Labor MLCs voting against it, so the Government is likely to attack Labor over that vote and try to tie them to the Greens. However Labor's objection to the Government's legislation was that it could target other forms of obstructive protest as well - Labor is fine with laws that only target forestry protests and has proposed heavy penalties for such protests.  Their announcement to this effect got ratioed on Facebook. The Greens have flagged climate as the major environmental issue for this election but there has been very little discussion of climate issues outside forestry.

Pokies and donations: Following the contentious 2018 election the Liberals have voluntarily pledged (and Labor has matched) to promptly disclose donations over $5000 received during the campaign - this is an attempt to neutralise the "dark money" concerns raised over the 2018 election and the fact that the government has not passed expected disclosure reform laws yet.   Disclosure advocates have criticised the move as not enough, and there remains ambiguity about whether it includes cumulative donations.  The poker machine issue may be less prominent given the reduced daylight between Labor and Liberal positions, but anti-pokie advocates have told me there still is some, so I expect the issue still to feature but to probably have less impact.  Labor may struggle to hang on to inner-city voters who defected from the Greens in 2018, if their defections were on account of this issue.  As well as the Greens, Clark independent Kristie Johnston is also anti-pokies.  On 31 March Labor made an agreement with the Hospitality Association to work on "potential, viable harm minimisation measures for gaming products while also agreeing that any measures need to be workable for industry".  The agreement was leaked to the media.  Opponents considered the agreement to be a fudge.

Housing: A housing crisis in Tasmania, particularly in budget rental accommodation, reared its head in the 2018 campaign but receded as COVID struck the short-stay rental market and as the Government acted to protect tenants from eviction for rental arrears.   The crisis is now returning with the Hobart real estate market having gone utterly bonkers and Launceston and the North-West Coast not far behind.  The Government does support increasing and extending assistance with homebuilding and homebuying but does not support any regulation of what rental prices home owners can set.  The Greens support caps on rental increases while Labor will propose tighter regulation of short-stay accommodation.   Labor opposes rental caps, believing they distort the market and instead proposes to reduce land tax, but its figures on land tax have been challenged by the Government (see debate section below).  Labor has also had an issue with Bass candidate Janie Finlay announcing a crowdfunding app as being Labor policy only for Shadow Housing Minister Alison Standen to be unaware of it.

Health: The health debate has been somewhat marginalised by COVID and the government has also seen fewer negative headlines since Sarah Courtney replaced Michael Ferguson as Health Minister.  However rural health issues including dangerous roads played into the upset (and decisive) victory by Labor doctor Bastian Seidel in the Legislative Council seat of Huon.  Ambulance response, surgery waiting list times and overworked doctors are all big points of attention in the current campaign.  The Liberals have announced large amounts of health spending to cut waiting lists and create more bed space at the Royal Hobart Hospital, the obvious retort from opponents being why such money hasn't been spent earlier.  Labor have enjoyed having a health spokesman (and potential Health Minister) who is actually a doctor and who has shown little mercy towards the government's proposals, but the government has in turn attacked Seidel over past support for closing the Mersey Hospital.  The government has also strongly criticised Labor's record when it was last in office, but are memories of that time fading?  

Education: The government intends to change TasTAFE into a government business enterprise. Labor says this will result in job losses and has a policy of free TAFE placements and expansions; the government says Labor's policy contains holes and would only offer limited free access.  Union sources have noted that the government's process surrounding this plan has itself been strongly criticised (SurveyMonkey opt-ins and all) by former staffers Brad Stansfield and Brad Nowland on the Fontcast. Labor continues to imply the government intends to privatise TAFE when the proposal is to corporatise it; in a searing attack on both parties David Killick says Labor's claims are neither true nor resonating.  Premier Gutwein's chosen metaphor is that there is "more chance of me growing a full head of hair than this government privatising TasTAFE."  Cynics would conclude from this that it will happen.  

The Feds: Canberra is at present a black hole of sexual allegations and scandals and this is likely to be a background factor in the state campaign.  While Tasmania has female majorities in both houses (quotas for female candidates are therefore a non-issue here at present) the debate will be a drag on the government which will be keen to distance itself from the federal scene.  So far the only Tasmanian figure caught up in the debate is Liberal Senator Eric Abetz, who has been accused by Sue Hickey of making victim-blaming comments about Brittany Higgins, which he denies.  Premier Gutwein wrote to the Prime Minister suggesting he consider the matters raised by Hickey and this response was fairly well received so the issue has not been seen much on the campaign trail.  Radio ads for Labor's Michelle O'Byrne have claimed that the Liberals have a problem with women, but it is an issue Labor has to tread lightly on as it is the party that has lost a candidate over allegations of graphic and inappropriate text messages.  

Institutional Abuse: Institutional child sexual and other abuse revelations have continued to bother the government, albeit mostly historical.  The early election means the government goes to the polls before a report on this matter is handed down, but related issues are continuing to appear in news during the campaign.   Abuse accusations at the infamous Ashley Youth Detention Centre (which the Greens have called to be shut down) were a recent example.  

The Hydro: Labor have alleged that the government intends to privatise parts of Hydro Tasmania.  The basis of this seems to be Hydro considering selling Momentum Energy subject to government approval, combined with legislation that Labor says makes selling parts of Hydro easy.  The government continues to say that they will not privatise the Hydro or parts thereof, with Premier Gutwein even saying "there would be more chance of me going to the moon".  

kunanyi/Mt Wellington Cable Car:  The latest version of a proposal with over a century of failures behind it is now entering its third straight election in development hell, as it currently tries to appeal a court finding that it needs to carry out an Aboriginal heritage assessment (apparently a tactic to buy time), following which it might someday resubmit itself to Hobart City Council for approval.  Years of polling (a subject of contemptible spin and nonsense from both sides) have found the proposal is generally supported statewide but is divisive within the Hobart City part of Clark.  After the first week nothing has been heard from the government on the matter, Labor has said they'll support it if HCC approves it, and Kristy Johnston has supported an alternative route from Glenorchy (a route that has tended to be rejected by the developers because of increased pylon construction costs).  

Van Dairy: During the campaign the massive Van Dairy farm at Woolnorth in the far north-west, owned by a Chinese company, was reported to be failing to meet environmental and animal welfare standards.  The matter is under investigation with most of the political running being done by the Greens and left independents.  

Fish Farming: Salmon farm expansion and environmental impacts were much hyped as a major issue in the 2018 election and had no detectable effect on the results.  The issue is back this election, not only with Craig Garland's campaign in Braddon but also with the launch on 21 April of a Richard Flanagan book attacking the major export industry in the tones of a dystopian novel.  This won't be well received by pro-industry candidates and we may see some strong words in return.  

More issues may be added as the campaign progresses.

The Campaign

This section gives general observations of the campaign; many incidents are mentioned elsewhere.  Overall the Liberal campaign has appeared to be far better resourced, organised and quicker to act than its opponents.  However this has resulted in blowback from one candidate's campaign team implying that candidates are being over-controlled.  The Liberals have also had issues with two candidates, both of whom were risky picks because they were known liabilities.  Labor has been plagued by candidate problems, with two candidates having to be disendorsed or apologise over past text message and social media behaviour, another two going off the reservation on policy (one spectacularly so) and a string of minor issues.  It also spent several days early in the campaign mired in a single preselection issue and the campaign has exposed major faction-fighting.  The Liberals' initial justification for calling an early election has been a hard sell to commentators (what the voters think of it is undetermined) while Labor has been so beset with problems that it found little clear air early to sell its messages on jobs and health.

The first week of prepolling saw a decline in the rate of candidate disasters and something more resembling a normal campaign with Labor more able to focus on key issues.  

The Greens appear to have had a relaxed if low-key campaign.  Of the major independents, Kristie Johnston's campaign appears more organised than Sue Hickey's but both have received plenty of good publicity.

The Strategy

Majority Government: A staple of Tasmanian election campaigns is the game of both major parties of saying they will not go into minority government, especially not with the Greens.  Unlike in the ACT where Labor-Green governments are re-elected, in Tasmania two Labor-Green governments and one Greens-supported Liberal government have been defeated.  The Liberals will campaign on the idea that only they can win majority government and a vote for Labor is a vote for another Labor-Greens minority (cue still more David Bartlett mountain bike clips). Gutwein has said he will govern in majority or not at all, paving the way for him to resign should the Liberals fall short but remain in office (as Ray Groom did in 1996).  White has done the same.  Labor has said they will not work with the Greens under any circumstances so the debate hasn't really moved on from 2018.  Gutwein has said he will also resign as party leader if the Liberals lose but White did not make a similar commitment, saying that she wasn't contemplating losing.  

The possibility of independents holding the balance of power, either alone or with the Greens, is another dimension here.  Johnston has stated that she would be willing to work with either major party but would require input into budget decisions, including support for a long-mooted light rail proposal. She has said she will give supply and confidence but will not do deals and will take each issue on its merits.   Hickey has said she will take into account which party gets the most votes, commitments to accountability, honesty and not doing anything "dodgy" and progress on fixing serious problems.  She has also said she will set requirements for progress, eg electoral reform legislation within 100 days, and is open to doing deals on policy issues.  (Interview here may be useful).  

The Election Itself: The timing of the election could be a focus of attention for three reasons: (i) it is ten months early and appears to have been brought on early in an attempt for political advantage (ii) Opposition Leader Rebecca White is pregnant (iii) it is being held during the pandemic and before vaccinations have been fully rolled out.  Aspect (ii) attracted immediate controversy in light of the current federal debate surrounding the treatment of women.  The issue is sensitive both for the Premier and for his detractors, who will need to be careful to avoid ableist commentaries that imply that a pregnant woman can't campaign effectively (she obviously can).  

Premier Gutwein: Peter Gutwein has recorded COVID-era approval ratings very similar to those of Mark McGowan, though his recent Preferred Premier leads have been not quite as high as McGowan's.  He is everywhere in the campaign and the government is trading strongly on his leadership and image.

Indies: Sue Hickey is in a massive fight for re-election not only with other parties but also with another high-profile indie, Glenorchy Mayor Kristie Johnston.  Johnston announced her campaign early in a move seen as making it harder for Hickey to win as an indie, but Hickey got wall to wall headlines surrounding the calling of the election and accusations against Liberal Senator Eric Abetz, and goes into it with massive name recognition.  Both may pick up left and centre voters disenchanted with the Greens and Labor.  

Labor Problems: Labor has experienced significant preselection tensions over early proposals to preselect candidates in two stages, an approach seen as disadvantaging the Labor Right minority.  The snap election gave Labor a free pass out of this problem, but didn't end the underlying controversy over Dean Winter's candidacy (see Franklin guide).  Labor has also just appointed a new Chief of Staff.  The party seemed half asleep through the Hickey/Government fighting in the leadup, doing little to prevent Hickey hogging the publicity.  It also had difficulty attracting candidates immediately, and has been slow posting candidate profiles online.  Perhaps worst of all, its own party President was effectively sacked as a candidate by the leader over old text messages and responded by attacking her leadership, meaning that Labor goes to the election in its worst condition since the early 1980s and providing the Liberals with an endless flow of ammunition.   What is going on is not even a simple left-right faction fight but rather a fight between the hardline and moderate parts of the left (including over the hardline left's treatment of the right).  

Funded Brochures: The Liberals have used electorate allowances to print "Securing Tasmania's Future" brochures featuring photos of their incumbents (excluding Ogilvie) and obvious election sloganeering (including the title) without explicitly mentioning voting or the election.  Labor asserts the brochures are a breach of relevant conventions while the Liberals say they were printed before the election was called and are allowed.  A similar tactic was used in 2018 without any repercussions, while in 2017 Labor Senator Helen Polley issued fliers that showed her talking to predominantly right-wing state Labor candidates.  Labor have complained to the police about the Liberal tactic, alleging that the use of an electorate allowance for "election material" (whatever that is) breaches Section 231 of the Criminal Code.  I do not necessarily agree with this assertion and am unqualified to assess it, and merely state that it has been made and has been denied by the Liberals.  The relevant Handbook states  "eg this material cannot be deemed to be election material eg contains words such as “votes” or “Vote 1” or “Vote for”."  The material does not contain those words but the "eg" suggests the definition may be broader.  I will edit in comments on a police response when I hear of one.  

Corflute Wars: There have been many comments about a corflute shortage affecting most of the non-Liberal forces, the suggestion being that supplies within the state are limited and imports from out of the state are slow.  In my own suburb (South Hobart), normally a left-wing corflute haven, this is especially stark with an abundance of Liberal corflutes and virtually no others.  There have been some claims on social media that the Liberals bought up all the corflutes to deliberately starve other parties of them (like downbuilding to create a housing shortage in Monopoly or something) but no evidence for these claims has been produced.  The impact of corflutes on election results is often overrated and the ACT Greens secured a great result without using them at all.  

The Debates

A Gutwein vs White debate was held at the Property Council lunch on April 15.  The debate saw the usual boring bidding wars on how much the leaders didn't want to govern in minority.  Aside from that both leaders were impressive.

The second debate was at the Country Club, Launceston hosted by The Examiner on April 22.  The debate was disrupted by protestors carrying "Green Your Vote" signs.  The debate saw the Premier badly embarrass Labor over land tax policy by arguing that Labor was promising to ease land tax for more properties than were actually subject to it.  Gutwein also won several other points of detail, while White had a nice reply to the "sitting in the Premier's chair" rhetoric of Liberal ads by saying she wanted to stand up for Tasmanians instead. (This didn't stop Gutwein continuing with a prepared statement involving said chair).  

The third debate was the Sky People's Forum on April 26. It was an outstanding forum with lively, well prepared and passionate voter questions, though as always I doubt some of these people are really undecided voters (or maybe they are undecided between Labor and the Greens).  White won the audience poll of 100 voters 59-15, up from 52-23 against Will Hodgman in 2018.  I did think Gutwein gave several good answers but did not cover off on criticisms from White about lack of delivery on promises and spending and that this has been an issue with the whole Liberal campaign.  

The Polling

Since the 2018 election, EMRS has released quarterly polls (but not always at the time taken) and there has also been a single uComms in late 2020 for the Australia Institute.  The Hodgman government polled poorly between its re-election and mid-2019 but recorded stronger results in late 2019 and early 2020.  From May 2020 the Gutwein government got a very large boost from the COVID issue, its primary vote lifting to over 50% and remaining there in every poll taken since.  The EMRS polls have pointed to the government increasing its seat majority while the uComms poll suggested the Government would probably retain 13 seats.  The polls are of limited use because they pre-date the announcements by major independents Johnston and Hickey, but they are much better polling than has been seen for any government between elections in a long time.  Unfortunately no further EMRS polling is expected.

As at 4 March my aggregate of available polling was Liberal 15 seats Labor 8 Green 2, but this assumed the public polling is accurate, and included no data on independent prospects.  It is not a prediction.  My coverage of the most recent EMRS poll (15-23 Feb) is here. 

One commissioned poll is reported and analysed here: 

Following this poll my initial attempt at an aggregate-based polling model was Liberal 13 Labor 8 Green 3 IND 1, but this is also not a prediction because of insufficient polling data.  A further attempt landed on the current commentariat consensus (13-9-2-1).  

 Minor polls are below:

* A Tasmanian Forest Products Association uComms of 600 voters between Bass and Franklin was reported on 13 April.  The poll questions concerning the forest industry were of little use as the first would have influenced responses to the rest and two of the three had skewed wording (most brazenly calling contentious anti-protest laws "work, health and safety reform".)  Voting intention numbers were not immediately available (if they even exist), but breakdowns for issue questions were available for Braddon and these suggested to me that the Liberals had a large lead in the sample (something around 60-20 appeared to work well.)

* An Australia Institute uComms poll (sample size 1023) reported on 24 April and conducted a few days earlier unsurprisingly claiming that people agree with the Australia Institute about salmon and water quality issues.  Later releases also claimed respondents agreed with the Institute on a misleadingly described proposal to ban misleading election material and some proposals on donation restrictions that used lead-in preambles.  TAI have a long history of issuing polls with skewed or flawed wordings. 

* The Small Business Council released partial results of a uComms, annoying me considerably by not releasing the full thing.  This found health (35.4%) ahead of jobs and the economy (32.1%) as the key issues.  The rating for health is high, but this is only just higher than 2018, and in that case the poll options included pokies and salmon; here they do not include any obvious magnets for Greens voters.

There have been some rumours of internal polling.  These are at the very low quality end with no pollster named or other details. Internal polling can be expected to be reported during the campaign but should be treated with extreme caution as internal polling is often inaccurate and usually released in a cherrypicked fashion (if not simply made up) for political gain.  

* One rumour that Labor was on 30% in Franklin in its own polling, another that it believed it was holding two in Lyons.

* An Advocate article (20 April) quoting an unnamed Labor source describing unshown party polling (so this is all at least four degrees of blind faith removed from being reliable).  Claims were that the overall primary vote picture was similar to last time, that the Liberals would not win three in Franklin, that the Liberals might not win two in Clark, by inference that the Greens would retain in Clark and that independents were in the mix in Clark.   

* Another just reporting that the Greens thought they had improved prospects in Bass - no basis for that optimism was supplied. 

* I have been informed of rough details of party polling which gave the Liberals about a 25 point lead over Labor (though the source believed the poll was underestimating Labor) and which suggested some interesting possibilities in Clark based on high votes for both key independents.  

The Prospects

Who knows?  There's simply not enough polling.

The Liberal Party goes into the election as a strong favourite given most of polling, the popularity of the Premier, and the general success of incumbent governments in the age of COVID-19.  However counter-arguments exist in the form of federal drag, the decision to call an early election, the government being seven years old and having under-delivered outside COVID, and the challenges of Hare-Clark.  Under normal political circumstances the government would be likely to lose its majority.  Even if it overperforms the historic regression for a government of its age and federal status by the same amount as the McGowan government did, it still only wins 13 seats, so while a WA-style result is possible it should be treated with caution.   No incumbent state government has increased its majority in the face of federal drag since WA 1996.  The last to do so beyond its first term was Victoria 1976 and the last to do so when the federal government was also not first term was Queensland 1972.  

Going into the election the government needs only hold the seats it won in 2018 to retain a majority and rid itself of Hickey.  There are prospects of gains in every electorate if there is a big swing to the government, but the gains requiring relatively small swings would be a third seat in Franklin and a fourth seat in Bass.  If the party's vote is very lacklustre there may be risks to its third seat in Lyons, while its second seat in Clark is at risk if enough Liberal voters shift to independents.  Labor would be hoping to recover its second seat in Clark but faces competition from independents there and has a very weak ticket; at this stage it is hard to see other gains though it has a strong lineup in Franklin.  The Greens will be aiming to at least retain Clark and Franklin, but neither is assured given competition from indies in Clark and the closeness of Franklin in 2018.  Perhaps Clark is in more danger than Franklin.  The Greens will aim to gain seats in Bass and Lyons but the latter at least will be very challenging.  The most significant other chances are the independents Johnston and Hickey in Clark while independent Craig Garland is a long shot in Braddon.  

The disarray in Labor ranks could lead to a very lopsided result, but see above for reasons to be cautious about this.  About as bad as Hare-Clark would probably let it get for them would be one seat in each electorate, in which case the Liberals might win 17-18 with the rest for Greens and indies.  On the other hand, Labor seems to have put that behind them since the first week of the campaign and this now looks a lot less likely.  

Each seat is covered in detail on its own page.

The Parties

Beyond the obvious Labor, Liberal and Green the following parties are registered.  Notes will be added on their campaign activity or lack thereof when known:

Animal Justice Party - has not contested a state Lower House election before. Is running for Derwent (LegCo) and one candidate in each Lower House seat except Braddon.

Australian Federation Party Tasmania - federally this is a rebadge of the former Country Alliance.  At state level the party was formally known as T4T - Tasmanians 4 Tasmania, a strange populist outfit that ran in 2018 and was very uncompetitive.  Running one candidate.

Jacqui Lambie Network - Not running, gearing up for federal election.

Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party Tasmania - running nine candidates.

A new party called The Local Party with founders including Craig Garland (of Braddon by-election fame) and Leanne Minshull (Australia Institute) is forming but has not been able to register in time.  Garland is contesting as an independent instead.

The Betting

Betting in Tasmanian elections has a dire predictive track record.  In 2006 Labor's odds of retaining majority government were as long as $9 at one point; not only did they do this, but they did so easily and nearly gained a seat.  In 2014 odds-on favourite candidates to top the poll failed to do so in three of the five electorates.  In 2018 "Liberal Majority" (a result that eventually occurred with about 6% of the vote to spare) was at $15 six weeks from the election, and the Liberals did not become favourites to win until a couple of weeks out.  (Even by election day they were only in the range 1.33-1.47.)

As at 26 March 2021, Liberal 1.35 Labor 3.25.
At 29 March, 1.18 vs 4.50
6 April, 1.15 vs 5.00
7 April, 1.10 vs 6.00
23 April, 1.08 vs 7.00

Seat markets were also available, the main ranges as of 1 April being Liberals 13-14 1.85 15-16 2.75 Labor 7-8 2.95 9-10 1.75 Greens 1 2.75 2 1.75

As of 16 April, a Liberal majority was at 1.25 and a Liberal minority at 7.00.

As of 29 April, Liberal majority 1.15 minority 8.00 Labor minority 9.00 majority 18 other 101.

On 30 April, late plunge! Liberal majority 1.65 minority 2.75 Labor minority 7 majority 21.

Specific seat markets as of 14 April (generally only odds below $10 noted, and not always these):
Bass: Liberals 2 5.50 3 1.90 4 3.00 Labor 0 7.50 1 2.50 2 1.70 Greens 0 1.12 1 3.50
Braddon: Liberals 2 5.75 3 1.45 4 3.85 Labor 0 9.00 1 2.00 2 2.10 Greens 0 1.13 1 3.50
Clark: Liberals 1 2.65 2 1.91 3 7.50 Labor 0 8.00 1 1.48 2 4.00 Greens 0 3.00 1 1.35 INDS Johnston 1.50 Hickey 3.25 (no option to bet against indies)
Franklin: Liberals 2 2.25 3 2.10 4 9.00 Labor 0 7.50 1 2.25 2 1.95 Greens 0 1.95 1 2.00 2 8.50
Lyons: Liberals 2 5.50 3 1.91 4 2.85 Labor 0 9.00 1 2.00 2 2.10 Greens 0 1.36 1 3.25

As of 16 April significant changes were: Braddon Labor 1 2.40 2 1.75 Clark Greens 0 4.50 1 1.17 Franklin Liberals  2 1.91 3 2.50 Greens 0 2.00 1 1.95 Lyons Liberal 3 1.55 4 4.40 Labor 1 3.00 2 1.55 Greens 0 1.16 1 4.50.

As of 21 April major changes Clark Liberal 1 4.00 2 1.55 3 7.50 Labor 0 8.00 1 1.70 2 3.00 Lyons Labor 1 2.50 2 1.70 Greens 0 1.12 1 3.50

The Electoral Act

Every election sees claims of breaches of the Electoral Act, most of which are made for public grandstanding purposes and a high proportion of which are dismissed.

While some reforms to the Electoral Act were passed in an early tranche of legislation, many unsatisfactory aspects remain - not only the lack of disclosure laws but also the persistence of laws preventing the naming of candidates without their consent in certain vaguely defined kinds of publication ("advertisement, "how to vote" card, handbill, pamphlet, poster or notice").  The Greens successfully contested a ruling from the Electoral Commission that one of their social media videos for the 2020 Legislative Council elections was potentially in breach.  

On 1 April the Liberals issued a press release claiming that Labor had been asked to take down a paid Facebook ad.  The Liberal release claimed  "the fact that is [sic] was effectively ordered off line is more proof they simply cannot be believed – so much so, that the Electoral Commissioner advised he would consider forwarding the matter to the Director of Public Prosecutions if the offending material wasn’t removed or adjusted. "  In fact Tasmania does not have truth-in-electoral-advertising law so the accuracy or otherwise of the content wouldn't have been an issue unless it somehow misled an elector in relation to the act of voting.  Rather, the issue turned out to be an image of a bald man who the TEC argued could be taken to be Premier Gutwein.  The TEC has issued some rather unclear candidate advice, reflecting the unclear status of outdated laws the government has flagged abolishing.  

Party text messages promoting early voting attracted some controversy on social media.  While there is nothing illegal about these messages in my view, they can be seen as encouraging voters to fib that they are unable to vote on election day.  Voters in Tasmania are required to make a declaration that they cannot vote on the day in order to vote early at a prepoll booth.  

Gaffes And Colourful Incidents

* At an event with only a few journalists present, Peter Gutwein was being grilled about his pretext for calling an election and, apparently out of nowhere much, said "It appears to me that the media doesn’t believe in democracy.”

* In his opening TV news preview, ABC election analyst Antony Green twice referred to the People's Republic of Clark by its former name Denison.  This marked a bad start of the campaign for my colleague, who also got pwned by Rebecca White on Twitter after saying that her pregnancy "could complicate Labor's campaign".  

* Labor's website page for Justine Keay erroneously listed contact details for her replacement as Braddon MHR, the Liberals' Gavin Pearce.

* Candidate malfunctions: see Franklin section for the brief career of Dean Ewington as a Liberal candidate and Clark section for Ben McGregor and Sam Mitchell.

* Fabiano Cangelosi's remarkably outspoken and frank campaign saw him compared to Halley's Comet by the Fontcast (about 17 minutes in).  

* As of the end of the first week of voting, Vica Bayley's candidate bio continued to read simply "Coming soon".  Was this a prophetic advertisement for the impending mid-term retirement of his leader?  [No, he was just slow putting it up.]

* Felix Ellis, a well-known social media provocateur before he entered parliament, couldn't possibly watch other candidates getting their social media exploits publicised without getting involved in the show himself.  He too was ratioed on Facebook after trolling vegans

* Janie Finlay announced a "Labor policy" of funding a crowd funding app to address homelessness.  This came as a complete surprise to Alison Standen who holds Labor's housing portfolio when she did a radio interview in Finlay's electorate.

* Late in the campaign it emerged that Adam Brooks' image appeared in two dating profiles under the names "Gav" and "trb44eng".  The Labor Party with naturally touching concern rushed to rescue him from a possible online scam or revenge attack with no fear at all that voters might think the profiles were genuine.  Things got much worse the day before the election with a woman accusing Brooks of pretending to be "Terry Brooks" while dating.   The party says that Brooks denies the accusations.

* Premier Peter Gutwein performed a last day stunt with an electronic scooter but it had a mind of its own and said "Thanks, your trip has ended,"

* Colourful but not a gaffe: On 23 April Peter Gutwein's receipt of the AstraZeneca vaccine turned into a bigger media event than expected when he revealed a panther tattoo that he got after getting his black belt in taekwondo.   This was further milked by establishing a TikTok account, papi_g.  

* Likewise to above: at a candidate forum Sue Hickey referred to antiquated Privileges Committee rules under which an errant MP could be subject to a $40 fine or a duel.  "The reason this is important is because it was former Liberal member Adam Brooks, who is known to be a crack shot.  So I might have been killed."


* This is the first Lower House election at which no incumbent has retired since 1996, which in turn was the first such case since 1959.

* (With thanks to @unirevue) This is the first Lower House election with no Hodgmans as candidates since 1982.

* Chris Clark's candidacy means that eight years after the federal Liberals had "Denison for Denison", Labor has "Clark for Clark".

* Clark has 2.63 candidates per group excluding ungrouped, or 2.67 per group counting ungrouped as a group.  These are the lowest such ratios ever.  I believe it is also only the second time there have been four one-candidate groups in an electorate (this also happened in the same seat in 2014.)

* The worst spelling fail of the election so far was recorded by Michael Ferguson, who while attacking a Labor candidate spelled the name of her electorate Lyons (after Joseph Lyons and Dame Enid Lyons) as Lyon's.  Frightful.  The next day the same mistake occurred in a report in the Examiner/Advocate.

Scratched/Disendorsed Candidates Tally: 2 
(Liberal 1 Labor 1 Green 0)


You can vote in the Not-A-Polls on the sidebar if you have a view about the results.  Remember that there are 25 seats in total.  Based on 2014 and 2018 the Not-A-Polls tend to skew to the left by a seat or two so it will be interesting to see if that is the case again in 2021.  

Other Guides and Resources


  1. "David Bartlett mountain bike clips"

    Could you explain this for a non-Tasmanian?

    1. During the 2010 election campaign then Premier Bartlett said "A deal with the Greens is a deal with the devil and I'm not going to sell my soul for the sake of remaining in power." After he lost his majority, once it became clear that Labor was going to stay in power, Bartlett went on a mountain bike ride with Greens leader Nick McKim and a number of advisers on which they discussed how the government was going to work. Footage of the comments before and the mountain bike ride after were used by the Liberals to attack Labor even in the 2018 campaign.

  2. There is one potential complication for Labor regarding White's pregnancy that has nothing to do with her abilities. T he Liberals will use it to highlight the prospect of a Green acting Premier in the event of a coalition. That this could occur soon after the election will make the inference more potent to those inclined to it.

  3. Although not the scope of your blog, I'm curious to your opinions (maybe it needs another heading) about media coverage? It's probably also a conflict of interest for you.
    ...but I found the Mercury's coverage in today's paper to be quite biased. Lots of spouting of the Liberal party's talking points ("It's a minority government", "Stability is important and we don't have that", etc) and also how surprised the Labor party is and how difficult it will be for them because they're so disorganised. Not many counterpoints given. Was that just my left-wing bias misreading of it? I didn't study it critically.

    1. Sorry, the reason I didn't respond to this comment before is that I either didn't notice or else immediately forgot that there was a question addressed to me in it. Rereading the Mercury of 27 March I see plenty of rebuttal of the pretext for calling the election (including from me), one piece that featured each party leader's position on calling the election, and the claims about Labor being disorganised have only been born out by later events. I also note that since then the Mercury has run various op eds and interviews containing Hung Parliament Club material (see in which indies, Greens and minority government are praised uncritically and support for majority government is derided.

      Yes I get hired by the Mercury a fair bit but I do think it is not obviously biased in the way that the Daily Telegraph, The Courier-Mail and to a slightly lesser degree The Australian are - to say nothing of Sky News, another News Corp outlet that I'm currently boycotting as a guest.

  4. Kevin, what impact do you think the end of Jobkeeper will have on the state election? If the expected job losses materialize it should happen over the next month, be extremely bad timing and add an extra layer to “Federal Drag”?

    1. This will be interesting to see but hard for me to predict just yet. I expect the government will continue to bombard the electorate with spending and job-creation announcements to counter the negative impact.

    2. Seems to me that people should see that as an early-snap election ambush because the best response to the Pandemic is to not risk significant change unnecessarily during the crisis (which may yet break out again).
      Because of the aggravated impact on hospitality and tourism there are people needing immediate assistance, whether housing, income support etc.
      Spending like a drunken sailor should be read as opportunism and poorly targeted waste. For many reasons we need careful long term planning.

  5. Regarding the Ewington fiasco, I wonder what that old tactician PJK would have made of his abrupt termination. I believe that Ewington's views aren't that much of an anathema to many Libs, but they won't admit it.
    As PJK said to Hewson, "I want to do you slowly".
    If Ewington, supposedly already vetted, had lasted the first couple of weeks the impact would and should have been greater.

  6. The three Capitals of arrogance in Tasmania. No, I don't mean Hobart, Launceston, etc.
    Capital G for Green, Capital L for Left and Capital I for Independent each tries to capture if not monopolise its own set of issues.
    We would all be better off if EVERY party had considered policies on, say environment, rather than constant adversarial rhetoric and wedge politics.
    I find the Capital I independents especially egregious, all promises, no responsibility. Aspiring to be politicians when they can't or won't cooperate with others on complex issues. That's not what meaningful politics is about in my view.

  7. the liberal party should win comfortably. Labor desperate enough that they had to have each way Albo campaign for them. Albo is a useless politician and will be smashed at the next federal election.

  8. Woke up this morning to news of big local sports grants. During the early snap election. Oh the gushing of the slushing. Great governance at work in Australia's State of underperformance in health, education social metrics.

    For anybody serious about politics this is just the worst time. An Everest of hype in a sea of apathy.

    From one side I can see a jig of victory already, and hear the faint strains of "Tomorrow Belongs To Me", a cabaret of an election.

    From the other more eerily distant, Uncle Archie sings "Is anybody listening".
    The ambushed are in disarray, split within and between.

    I am reminded of a poster I saw at the US CPAC conference recently. It's of a beaming Trump, dressed as a WWF wrestler, all steroid and cosmetic. He's holding a suited Biden figure in a chokehold. The Loser deserves what he gets, at least to the believers.

    There is an ancient adage about "Wrestling with a pig". It goes, "Why would you wrestle a pig; you both get dirty but the pig likes it".

    Lastly, some friends and I who have followed and joined politics have decided to retreat to Mahler, or Brahms, but that's the most sensible debate going.

  9. Dr Kevin is a cheeky boy for calling us ex Denison-ites the PRC.

    I can imagine our National representative (who loves to dabble in Glenorchy politics) would, under this analogy actually occupy Taiwan. This would enable lots of indulgence in military madness without responsibility for the consequences, and even more for the spooky stuff of spy fiction morphing into some kind of Realpolitik.

    Many further questions arise, suggestions please but I hear the echo chamber from above comments. An awkward extension of Dr K's conjecture might be what is the analogue of the Great Wall, why Creek Road of course.

    My casting of pearls is over here if nobody responds.

  10. I've had a comment submitted that contained unnecessary strong swearing. While I don't have an issue with such language myself, I won't accept comments containing it, except where necessary for the purposes of quoting someone. A single word was the only issue with the comment; if the author wants to make a similar comment again without that word then I'll accept it, or if I hear nothing in a couple of days I'll post the comment manually with the word in question starred out. I can't edit comments, I can only accept them in full or not at all.

    1. Good point, we should be civil, but the symbolic Great Wall within the PRC (AKA Flannelette Curtain) gurgles away, hopefully not thus swearing. It seems to me to make as much sense as our pandemic crisis snap election debate.

    2. Forgot to do this - comment from reader Chris with language starred out:


      "Tasmania formerly had seven-member electorates, but this was changed to five from the 1998 poll onwards as part of a process to attempt to reduce costs but also with an eye to increasing the chance of majority government." I'd argue that it was more seen by some members of the ALP as an opportunity to **** over the Greens at the next election (which it did) rather than being 'genuinely' in the interests of increasing the likelihood of majority governments.

  11. Thank you for this blog Kevin. When I am ready to get the most comprehensive, clearest and most entertaining picture of what I should consider as I decide who to vote for in this election your blog is where I know my time will be best spent. Sadly just 25 seats, five electorates, optional preferential voting and a unique and idiosyncratic electoral process mean that some form of arbitrary result is almost inevitable. The Legislative Council is the only place where shades of grey will get an airing.

  12. Thanks for your analysis Kevin. It's by far the best and most comprehensive.