Sunday, March 28, 2021

Legislative Council 2021: Windermere

With a snap state election called I am scurrying to get my Legislative Council guides out as fast as possible too, as I am keen to ensure that the LegCo elections do not get neglected (especially as they are currently expected to be on the same day).  I've started with Windermere because it is the most interesting on paper; link to Derwent is here and both pages are linked off my general state election main page.   An analysis of voting in the chamber in recent years has also been posted.

I will be doing live coverage of the state election from 6 pm for The Mercury on their website and this will include the Legislative Council seats too.  Postcount threads will be posted for any seats that remain in doubt or of interest following counting night.

Seat Profile

Windermere covers the eastern side of the Tamar River including George Town and the northern and some eastern Launceston suburbs.  At the 2017 redistribution it was expanded, gaining the Lilydale area from the abolished division of Apsley (the nearest parts of which are now McIntyre).  Windermere is a diverse electorate, including the strongly Labor satellite suburbs of Ravenswood and Waverley, the pro-Liberal suburbs of Norwood and St Leonards, and some booths with fairly high Green votes along the river.

Windermere is slightly more Labor-leaning than the federal/state division of Bass as a whole.  In 2018 votes within Windermere were Liberal 54.6% (cf 58.8% for all of Bass), Labor 30.6% (26.4), Greens 7.5 (9.3), Lambie Network 6 (4.6) and 1.3% for an anti-Green independent, Brett Lucas.  The differences are smaller than those noted in my 2015 guide, which speaks to the failure of Labor's 2018 state campaign to recover votes in the outer suburbs.  

Windermere includes most of the former Westmorland electorate, which had only eight different members in its 114-year history, some with apparent party leanings but none of them endorsed party candidates.  Since the current name was adopted, Windermere has had just two members, "Independent Labor" MLC Silvia Smith and independent Ivan Dean.  It has never been won by an endorsed party candidate.

Retiring Incumbent

Conservative independent Ivan Dean is retiring after three terms.  The timing of the early election has unfortunately deprived him of a valedictory speech.  Dean was a former police commander who trounced Smith (a former ALP federal MP) in 2003, winning 50.1% of the primary vote to Smith's 27.7% (preferences were not distributed).  Dean added the Mayoralty of Launceston in 2005 but concern about him holding two jobs contributed to him losing after a single term to Albert van Zetten, who is still Mayor now after a few close electoral shaves.  

In 2009 Dean defeated "Independent Labor" candidate Kathryn Hay, 55-45 after preferences, in an election dominated by the now defunct Gunns pulp mill proposal.  In 2015 Dean secured a small two-candidate swing to him, winning 55.7-44.3 against endorsed Labor candidate Jennifer Houston (now a Bass MHA).  Dean's victory made him, at 70, the oldest winner of a Council seat since 1965 (but I can hear Joe Biden saying "hold my beer").  

My Legislative Council voting pattern assessments (I hope to find time for a 2021 update soon) consistently found Dean to be a conservative MP and in recent years have placed him to the right of the Liberal Party.  As well as his professional interest in law and order matters, Dean was also noted for his interest in two unusual issues - the presence or absence of foxes in Tasmania and repeated attempts to raise the legal age for buying cigarettes to 21 (another of which failed heavily in his final weeks in office.)

Candidates (5)

Candidates are listed in order of announcement.  More will be added if known.  Candidates are believed to live within the electorate except where noted.

Geoff Lyons (Facebook, candidacy announcement) is the endorsed Labor candidate.  Lyons is best known as Labor's MHR for Bass, 2010-2013.  Lyons ran for Bass on the retirement of Jodie Campbell after one term, picking up a 5.7% swing.  Lyons then lost to the Liberals' Andrew Nikolic with a 10.8% swing in 2013 in an election where the Tasmanian seats were affected by the state Labor-Green government's forestry "peace deal".  Lyons is a current West Tamar councillor and has experience in the health sector, including at the Beaconsfield District Hospital and the Launceston General Hospital.  He is also a sporting administrator (football, netball). At council level in 2014 Lyons polled 8% of the councillor vote and was elected fifth, while in 2018 he polled 7.6% of the councillor vote and was elected third.  Lyons lives in West Riverside which is on the other side of the river to the electorate.  

Will Smith (Facebookcandidacy announcement) is an independent endorsed (and sounded out) by Ivan Dean as his preferred successor.  Smith shares Dean's background as a former police officer (a Tactical Operator with the Special Operations Group).  He is the founder of JCP Empowering Youth, a motivational speaking program for schools and young people.  He was the 2020 Tasmanian Young Australian of the Year.  Smith shares his name with a famous movie actor (who he has met and who has provided the voicemail message on his phone).  Smith has no known prior electoral form above school captain level.  Smith's campaign material particularly stresses his experience of working with marginalised groups in society ("youth offenders, refugees, migrants, First Nations people, families of social disadvantage, victims of domestic violence, survivors of sexual abuse and individuals suffering chronic mental health issues.")  Smith has been a member of both major parties but was only a member of Labor for a few months before running for Windermere.  He states he has values that align with both parties.  

Nick Duigan (Facebook, candidacy announcement), on the other hand, is an actual screen personality who shares his name with a famous footballer.  Duigan is the endorsed Liberal candidate.  He is best known as the co-host (for 20 years) of the commercial TV fishing program Hook, Line and Sinker.  He is also involved as a volunteer with the Royal Flying Doctor Service, with Marine Safety Tasmania and is a national Neighbour Day Ambassador.  He holds a business degree in maritime management and logistics.  Despite childhood family business links to Malcolm Fraser's farm, Duigan also has no previous political form, stating "I wasn't familiar with the Liberal Party's stated set of beliefs, necessarily, but I certainly have become familiar with those in the last month or so [..] The Liberal values of 'a hand up not a hand out' and 'have a go, get a go', those sorts of things, they resonate with me." Duigan has described himself as a moderate and centrist.  

Independent Vivienne Gale (Facebook) owns a self-storage business and is also a carer for her husband and a master of laws student, having previous tertiary qualifications including B. Comp., MBA, Grad. Dip. Psych (all from Monash).  Gale is on the committee of the QVMAG Arts Foundation and Festivale.  Gale contested the seat of Mersey in 2015 (see guide) where she was the sole challenger to independent incumbent Mike Gaffney.  Gale's 2015 campaign included support for the forest industry and opposition to state-based same-sex marriage and other "trendy left" issues, as well as attacks on Gaffney's voting record.  Despite a vigorous campaign Gale was hampered by lack of profile and connection to the electorate and was beaten 75.3-24.7.  Gale ran again for Rosevears in 2020 but finished last of six with 3.3%.  I believe that Gale lives just outside the electorate (but only by a few hundred metres).

Independent Rob Soward (Facebook, candidacy announcement) is a Launceston councillor since 2009 who served as Deputy Mayor 2014-8 after defeating Danny Gibson by 99 votes after preferences (50.23%).  In 2018 Soward stood again for Deputy but finished fourth out of eight candidates (Gibson won).  He was re-elected eighth as a Councillor, polling a low primary vote of 2.1% in a crowded field but overtaking several other candidates on preferences.  Soward is an educator who has worked as a university lecturer and as Assistant Principal of Launceston College.  He has also been a business development and client relations manager for MyPathway (a national education, training and employment services company), and a director of MyState Financial and the Northern Tasmanian Football Association.  He is currently a Project Officer for the University of Tasmania in the area of health and wellbeing and has also been a school football coach.   In 2017 Soward pleaded guilty to an online harassment charge, however the charge was dismissed and no conviction was recorded.  Soward lives in South Launceston which is outside the electorate by about 2 km.  Soward is a former member of the Labor Party but has condemned backroom machinations in major parties.  

Much to my regret in terms of the volume of campaign colour she would have generated for my guide, controversial pro-forestry advocate Kelly Wilton, who announced her candidacy two years before the vote, is a scratching for health reasons.  


Issues in the campaign may include:

* COVID-19 Recovery: Duigan in particular has tried to use his outsider experience to argue that he will be well-placed to help the government with the community's needs despite his lack of political experience.  While the role of the Legislative Council has traditionally been to review government legislation, Duigan and the Liberals seem to be saying that this is more of an all-hands-on-deck situation where the Government needs as many MPs as it can get.  Lyons in turn has touted Labor plans including TAFE rebuilding, a Sea Highway Plan and also local jobs in hydrogen.  Labor has said that Lyons will be a key member in "ensuring our state does not simply return to normal after the COVID pandemic, because normal wasn’t good enough for too many Tasmanians." Soward has also supported more local jobs including "incentives to encourage businesses to relocate to the industrial zones."

* Independence of the Upper House: In last year's elections, two party candidates replaced two independents meaning that for the first time ever independents are a minority in the Council (5 Labor 3 Liberal 7 Independent).  With Dean's retirement there is the prospect of another party gain, although independents would still hold the balance of power and be a major voting block.  Ivan Dean has endorsed Will Smith in the hope that voters will continue electing independents, but a similar call from Kerry Finch in Rosevears did not prevent Liberal Jo Palmer narrowly winning that seat.  In the ABC debate, Duigan attacked the idea of independence in the Upper House citing Janie Finlay running for Labor, but Smith pointed out that had Finlay been elected as an independent she would not have had to toe the party line on votes.  Lyons said that the Upper House has not been truly independent since the 1950s in view of the number of party-connected independents.  The major parties will as usual argue that independents do not have a "seat at the table" of government or a party room and as such have less influence on government policy.  

* Health: Health system issues, especially surrounding elective surgery waiting lists and the Launceston General Hospital, are a perennial feature of Launceston area elections and Lyons has experience relevant to these. Soward is also running on health issues including increasing bulk-billing services and more funding for health education and incentives. Smith has supported Ivan Dean's bill to ban tobacco sales to under-21s which was heavily rejected by the Council recently.  

* Crime: Law and order was always one of Ivan Dean's mainstays.  Both Smith and Soward have stressed rehabilitation of drug users and offenders and linked this to the health issue.  

* Housing: Launceston is also now experiencing the real estate boom that is currently out of control in Hobart.  The non-government candidates generally have said the government needs to act on rental waiting lists and building more affordable housing.

* Poker Machines: Smith has flagged more regulation of poker machines with compensation for disadvantaged venues.  Duigan has flagged harm minimisation but stressed that poker machines are a legal form of entertainment and are fine with him if people want to play them.  

* Anti-Protestor Legislation: The government's attempts to pass anti-protest laws primarily directed at forestry and farm environments were firstly dismantled by the High Court and have since been blocked by the Council.  Duigan strongly supports the legislation (which is Liberal Party policy) and has mentioned experience as a filmmaker re forestry.  Lyons follows Labor policy in supporting legislation targeted at forest protestors only.  Smith, who has been injured removing protestors, says he would have supported the legislation with amendments to avoid catching unintended targets.  Soward also says the bill needs more work.

* Aquaculture:  Duigan was interviewed extensively about fish farming debates during the ABC debate because of his fishing expertise.  The issue is locally signficant in the state election, especially in Braddon.  Duigan says the industry needs to work on becoming more viable offshore.  

* The Tamar: Mud in the Tamar river is an ongoing local issue - many boats on the Launceston docks have signs up complaining about it.  The government has pre-empted an overdue review with an announcement of more dredging, which Duigan has welcomed saying it is one of his main motivating factors to run.  


I will flesh out the campaign section in coming weeks as time permits.  On a trip through part of this electorate in late March, corflutes for Smith and Duigan were plentiful.  I have since heard that Duigan signs are now heavily outnumbering others.

Free publicity for Duigan in Marine and Safety TV advertisements during the campaign period (in which major party candidates will already benefit from saturation party advertising) has been criticised on social media.  

Candidates debated on ABC radio on 21 April.  A second debate was held by the Tamar Valley News (starts at 14:30 in) on the 27th.


In recent years Labor have been winning harder and harder Legislative Council seats, usually against my predictions.  But they haven't done so in the north (where Houston's loss last time was actually one of their better results) and the timing of the Lower House election will not help them in a seat that is not that Labor-friendly.  Furthermore, while Lyons is well known, his council base is on the other side of the river and even there his recent electoral form is solid but unspectacular.  Considering all this I do not think Labor will win this seat.

Duigan has a thin CV from a legislative perspective but his TV experience in a show watched by everyday voters makes him a good choice for resonance in the outer suburbs and to appeal to blue-collar voters in Ivan Dean's support base.  He will also appeal to the fishing/boating communities in the north of the electorate along the Tamar River. Even in the absence of a lower house election I would have predicted that Duigan would at least make the final two, and the question would then be whether Smith also could.

All the independents are disadvantaged by the concurrent timing of the elections (see my article on why I don't like this) and will need to convince prospective Liberal voters especially to split their votes between the Lower and the Upper House.  This will be challenging given the current political mood.  Smith is the most prominent independent with Dean's endorsement but this does not necessarily guarantee a high vote; it will be interesting to see how he goes.  Gale may get some support as the sole female candidate but otherwise I doubt Gale or Soward will greatly trouble the scorers (they might get into high single or low double figures, or they might not get that much).  

On the other hand there is one way in which simultaneous elections might benefit Smith.  Turnout for LegCo elections is generally low and it is likely young voters are disproportionately affected.  The fact that they have to vote for the state election might help in getting them to the ballot box and they may then support a young candidate whose campaign is cool enough for them to have noticed it.  OK, this is drawing a fairly long bow here.  

If the final two are Duigan and Lyons, I expect Duigan will win easily.  If the final two are Duigan and Smith, that's more interesting.  All the same Duigan was probably considered the favourite even before the election call.


Betting is not reliably predictive (then again with LegCo what is) but it's amusing to keep an eye on it anyway.  As of 1 April, Duigan 1.35 Smith 4.50 Soward 8.00 Lyons 12.00 Gale 15.00 As of 14 April, Duigan 1.25 Smith 5.50 Soward 9 Lyons 15 Gale 18.  As of 21 April Duigan 1.20 Smith 5.50 Soward 12 Lyons 18 Gale 21.

1 comment:

  1. Disappointment to read the ghastly Wilton woman is a scratching. I thought she might have provided some light entertainment.