Monday, March 28, 2022

Legislative Council 2022: Elwick

ELWICK (2016 margin ALP vs IND 3.18% - pre-redistribution)

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Welcome to my coverage of the Tasmanian Legislative Council elections this year. My guide to Huon has been posted and this is the guide for Elwick.  McIntyre, where independent Tania Rattray is seeking a fourth term, will be added if she gets an opponent.  I hope to find time to update my voting patterns analysis for the Council before the election as well, though that may be difficult given that there is a federal election impending.

I will be doing live coverage of the Legislative Council elections on this site on election night.  Election night is currently expected to be Saturday May 7, though if that is the federal election date then the Legislative Council contests will be moved to another Saturday in May.  

For several years the Liberal government has had a difficult upper house to deal with.  The current numbers are four Liberal, two mildly right of centre independents, four Labor, four left independents, and one ex-Labor vacancy.  The good news for the government is that unless Rattray somehow loses to someone to the left of her, this year is a free swing, and the pressure is on Labor.


Seat Profile

Elwick includes most of the Glenorchy City Council area in the northern suburbs of Greater Hobart (from Berriedale southwards) and also includes parts of the Hobart City Council area suburbs of Lenah Valley and New Town.  It is an expanded version of the former division of Buckingham.  Since World War II, incumbents in this area have usually had Labor connections, but have varied as to whether they were formally endorsed.  The sole exception was Ken Lowrie, MLC 1968-1986, who after very narrowly beating a young Doug Lowe went on to be Leader for the Gray Government before being smashed by a now independent Lowe in a long-delayed rematch.  Lowe was followed by Labor Treasurer David Crean, then by popular Glenorchy Mayor Terry Martin, who was later expelled from the Parliamentary Labor Party for his vote against the proposed Gunns Bell Bay pulp mill.  Martin retired after the side-effects of medication contributed to him being charged in a child-prostitution scandal, and Taylor, his successor as Mayor, defeated Labor as an independent at the 2010 contest.   Taylor's term saw her lose touch with her original base and attract some criticism for strange comments in parliament, and she was in turn beaten by Labor's Josh Willie.  

In 2016 I could still write that Elwick was "a working-class Labor stronghold" where the party topped nearly every booth at the 2014 state election, despite Labor losing that election heavily.  How times have changed.  In the 2021 state election at booths in Elwick, Labor (28.5%) was narrowly outpolled by the Liberal Party (30.5%) with independents (mostly former Glenorchy mayor Kristie Johnston and Elwick resident and ex-Liberal Speaker Sue Hickey) taking 24.3% and the Greens 13.2%.  It is still obviously well to the left of the state average, but the once rusted-on Labor primary has been hit hard by independents, gentrification, redistribution,  realignments in working class voting behaviour and the party's 2021 Clark malaise.  It is a similar story at federal level, where the party does somewhat better against Andrew Wilkie than it does in Clark on average, but still loses every booth to him by wide and in 2019 widening margins.   

Incumbent

Josh Willie (Facebook, Twitter, parliament page) is the recontesting Labor incumbent.  Prior to politics, Willie was a relatively little-known primary school teacher but was viewed as a new star within the party and immediately delivered by unseating Taylor in his first run for state politics.  A prolific spokesperson for the party, Willie has had a relatively trouble-free and successful first term, attracting little controversy beyond routine partisan sparring.  At one stage his efforts sufficiently pestered the Government for them to attempt to label him as "Whinging Willie" but the label failed to stick.  He has however been in the spotlight of anti-pokies campaigners (see issues section below).  A threatened preselection push against Willie over the issue proved to be freelancing by unrepresentative party members and he was unanimously re-endorsed.  

Willie is currently Shadow Minister for Education and Early Years, Shadow Minister for TAFE, University and Skills and Training, Shadow Minister for Transport and Shadow Minister for Sport.

There has from time to time been speculation that Willie would switch to the Lower House, including in the leadup to the last state election (at which Labor had a dire shortage of high-profile candidates for Clark).  However, it has so far not eventuated.  

Challengers (2)

(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. Any differences in the length of different candidate sections reflect differences in amount of available/(in my view) interesting material.)

Hannah Bellamy (Facebook, linkedin, candidacy announcement, launch interview) is the endorsed Greens candidate. Bellamy is a lawyer who has worked widely for NGOs including the Australian Conservation Foundation and community legal centres, and currently works as a Legal Officer for the Land Titles Office.  Bellamy is also studying for a Masters of Environment degree (on top of a previous Master of Laws specialising in climate change induced migration) and has among other achievements managed a bar and restaurant, volunteered at refugee camps and for the Red Cross and trained as a yoga teacher in India.   

Rick Cazaly (linkedincandidacy advertisement (p 5)  another bio) is an independent candidate (initially a Shooters, Fishers and Farmers candidate - see campaign section).  He is a health and fitness consultant and grandson of football great Roy Cazaly Sr (who, incidentally, contested Denison as a Liberal candidate in the 1950 state election*.) He has been a health and wellness coach in industrial, business and government settings in Tasmania and has taught in this capacity at the University of Tasmania and TAFE.  He is the former state director of a men's health initiative called "Gutbusters".  Rick Cazaly has established the Roy Cazaly Football Club to promote health, sportsmanship and football communities.  Cazaly says he is in the middle politically and is particularly concerned with government policies that favour big business rather than small business.  Cazaly lives within the electorate.  

The Liberal Party was considering running as of January but didn't.

Issues

Issues mentioned in this article form part of the backdrop of the campaign and debate surrounding it.  They will not necessarily affect how people vote.

Poker Machines:  Elwick is home to the "Golden Mile" of pokies pubs and is ground zero for the ongoing debate about the harms caused by gambling addiction.  In the 2018 election Labor promised if elected to restrict poker machines to one casino in Hobart and one in Launceston.  This policy became a massive distraction for the party, which obtained large swings at the Greens' expense in inner city booths that appeared to be partly driven by it. There were also swings to Labor in southern Glenorchy but the party failed to rebuild support in the more working-class northern Glenorchy booths where the policy was supposed to have the most positive impacts, but encountered vigorous opposition from the Tasmanian Hoteliers Association.  

Roll on 2021 and the party ditched the policy (with a memorandum of understanding with the industry that was leaked to the party's embarrassment). While there was probably still some policy daylight between the parties, opponents accused the party of having caved in to gambling interests out of fear of a repeat.  If Labor got any benefit out of the change, it was lost in the sea of other things that went wrong for it in Clark.

In late 2021 Willie told the Legislative Council that the issue had been done to death and was now of relatively little interest to Elwick voters.  Labor largely supported the Liberals' changes to poker machine laws, which duly passed.  Outspoken public threats were made against Willie's preselection by forces allied to the "HACSU left" component of Labor's 2021 factional trainwreck, but nothing came of it.  In this campaign Labor will be criticised by the Greens and possibly others over the issue, with Bellamy already saying that Willie "lacks the spine to stand up to the pokies lobby or other corporate interests".  Cazaly has also said it was a travesty that the legislation passed through the upper house more or less unamended.

Affordable Housing:  Real estate prices in Greater Hobart have been climbing rapidly for years and rental prices with them.  Most of Elwick is not as affected in raw terms as the inner Hobart suburbs, but it is also coming off a lower income baseline.  Cazaly in his advertising to date has flagged various detailed policies that he says would address the issue including: a tender process for demountable flats with council fees waived, reducing regulation of the building industry and boosting recruitment and training of "tradies".  He has said the state government should declare a state of emergency relating to the issue.  I expect the party candidates will also be saying things about this issue on the campaign trail.  As I launched this article Hobart City Council was considering a freeze on short-stay licences, though this only affects a very small part of Elwick.

COVID: As I write we don't have a government candidate, so it's possible COVID will just be a matter of furious agreement on the campaign trail.  The state government took a big whack in polling after Tasmania's essentially COVID-free status ended with a reopening in the face of Omicron over the holidays that gave the impression there was nobody home in COVID control.  However the party most consistently calling for a stricter approach, the Greens, have not gained any benefit.  

Others may be added as the campaign develops.

Campaign

Cazaly Party Status: Cazaly was initially a Shooters, Fishers and Farmers candidate, stating in a January advertisement (p 7) that the party was "small, independent and agile enough to truly represent everyday Tasmanians".  However by early March Cazaly had resurfaced as an independent, with his new advertisement minus Shooters policy trappings.  The background to this change (whether a falling out or a strategic decision) is unknown to me, though I will add that no candidate endorsed by the Shooters has ever got near winning a seat anyway.

Prospects

The general expectation is that Willie will retain the seat (as most but not all LegCo incumbents do) and that neither the recent condition of his party nor the pokies issue are reason enough to expect otherwise.  Labor was racked by infighting and uncompetitive at the 2021 election but still retained Derwent.  The formation of government is not at stake in this year's election, Labor has performed strongly in southern seats in the LegCo in recent years, and Labor incumbents in the Legislative Council seldom lose.  (In the last fifty years only two have lost, Lin Thorp (2011) while the party was in minority government and Kath Venn (1982) the week after it lost office heavily.)  Cazaly is likely to attract a substantial vote with the advantage of being the only independent in the field, but it would be a big surprise if he dislodged the incumbent.  

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(*Note: In the Mercury on 6 March Rick Cazaly claimed that Roy Cazaly's campaign was "not successful by 124 primary votes".  This is incorrect.  Roy Cazaly's primary vote (0.9%) was indeed 124 primary votes behind Horace Strutt who was later elected, but Strutt was elected not because of his (very low) primary vote but because of a 38.6% preference flow from Rex Townley's surplus, Strutt being the only other sitting Liberal besides Townley.  This flow resulted in Strutt moving from 11th place on primaries to 3rd after Townley's surplus (Strutt was eventually elected 5th).  Cazaly Sr got 6.8% of Townley's surplus and ended up eliminated in 11th place with 684 votes including preferences (quota being 3978).

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