Monday, July 25, 2022

Jacquie Petrusma Resignation And Recount

Updates Aug 15: Today's the day - nominations close at noon; I expect we'll know the result today (parliament resumes tomorrow).  Updates will be posted in this section.

Update: Candidates contesting the recount are Enders and Young (Lib), Brumby (ALP), Cordover (Green) and Flannery (ungrouped).  The latter three have no chance whatsoever.  Having only two Liberals contesting should mean the count is much faster with a majority on first preferences for either Enders or Young likely (unless it's very close).  Even if it is very close it will not then take long to distribute the other candidates.

Update: That was quick, and a slightly surprising result too: Dean Young wins.  Young defeated Enders 51.1% to 46.5% with negligible numbers for the others.  That is a bullet dodged for the government which would not have been wanting Enders on board.  


Before I could even whip out a guide for the upcoming Pembroke by-election prompted by the resignation of Labor's Jo Siejka we have yet another resignation from the Tasmanian Parliament, this time from the lower house.  It has been announced that Jacquie Petrusma is resigning from her Franklin seat for personal and family reasons. I don't have to cover off on the usual speculation about ministries as Felix Ellis is the big winner, landing a collection of portfolios reported as including police, fire, emergency management, resources, skills, training and workforce growth.  That leaves who is contesting, the outcome of the recount and whether it will muck around with the sitting of parliament.

Petrusma is the fourth minister to leave the ministry this term (following Sarah Courtney, Peter Gutwein and Jane Howlett MLC) and the fourth Liberal MP to leave the parliament (following Courtney, Gutwein and technically Adam Brooks, who resigned his seat as soon as he was elected to it.)  Four is the most government MPs to resign from the House of Assembly in one term since the 1972-6 term, which saw six Labor resignations.  

Petrusma first came to Tasmanian electoral notice in the 2004 Tasmanian Senate race where, as a Family First candidate, she at times threatened to defeat Christine Milne under the now discredited Group Ticket Voting system.  She later joined the Liberal Party and defeated Tony Mulder in a within-party race for one Franklin seat in 2010, and was re-elected in 2014, 2018 and 2021.  In 2021 she conveniently topped the poll with over a quota in her own right.  

Hare-Clark recounts consist only of the votes that elected the departing member, so how many primary votes a candidate got in the recount and how close they came to being elected has no direct bearing on the result.  Except in highly unusual circumstances (and this is not one of them) these recounts always elect a member of the same party as the vacating member.  The contenders are therefore whoever contests out of former Huon Valley Mayor Bec Enders, newsagent and 2019 federal candidate Dean Young and Clarence City Councillor and podiatrist James Walker.  Walker was a late replacement in the 2021 Franklin campaign after original candidate Dean Ewington was found to have criticised the government's COVID management. 

At this stage Young has confirmed he intends to contest.  Comment re the others' decisions to contest or not contest will be added when known

Because Petrusma was elected on primary votes, the recount consists solely of her primary votes, and there is information from her surplus about where many of them will go.  What is known of the distribution is as follows:

38.12% 1 Petrusma 2 Street
22.89% 1 Petrusma 2 Enders
18.73% 1 Petrusma 2 Young
13.74% 1 Petrusma 2 Walker
6.52% 1 Petrusma 2 for various non-Liberal candidates

The votes that are 1 Petrusma 2 Street will be thrown to the next available candidate, in most cases being a Liberal.  All the non-Liberal candidates contesting the recount will poll trivial primary vote tallies and be quickly eliminated.  If all the Liberals contest then the one in third place (most likely Walker) will be excluded and their preferences distributed.

Assuming the final two are Enders and Young, Enders starts with a 4.16% lead over Young with 58.38% to throw, meaning he needs something like a 54-46 split on the remaining votes after accounting for exhaust.  There isn't any particular reason to think he would get this so I expect that if Enders does run then she probably wins (but absent of very detailed scrutineering, we'll need to see the recount to be sure as surprises can happen).  Likewise, if Enders doesn't run Young has a lead of nearly 5% and would seem likely to win.  

Recounts can play havoc with the resumption of Parliament and I am awaiting news on what will happen here.  Premier Rockliff has been reported as saying he didn't think the resumption would be affected, but I can't see how this is so (unless Petrusma delays her resignation til late August).  In 2019 the Electoral Act was amended to increase the time for candidate consents to be returned from ten to fourteen days (on account of slow postal services).  This means that even if the notice is published on Tuesday 26 July, the recount could not be held before Tuesday 9 August, the scheduled day for resumption.  The recount takes all day.  The government has so far been reluctant to resume Parliament in similar circumstances lest the non-government MPs use numbers on the floor to embarrass it.   I suspect we will see a delay.  

Bec Enders might not be the most popular MP in the Huon if elected, and would be a target for opposition and crossbench MPs.  Enders was elected Mayor of the Huon Valley Council in 2018 and was initially a very popular Mayor as she set about cleaning up what had been one of the state's more shambolic councils.  However, from late 2021 the council became involved in a new scandal after it was revealed the director of the consultancy firm involved in the recruitment process for a new General Manager was in fact the partner of the person eventually appointed.  The council itself was cleared of any wrongdoing.  Enders resigned as Mayor and from the council in March 2022, at which time she and three other councillors were facing a code of conduct complaint over the issue.  (The complaint against Enders specifically was never ruled on because of her resignation.)

More comments will be added as information comes to hand.  Depending on the timing of the recount, I may or may not be able to post comments on it at the time it is counted.  

(Note: re Pembroke, I expect that to be in September to November, maybe earlier in the piece rather than later.)

Update: Recount set for August 15, so that's one week of scheduled parliamentary sittings under a cloud.   I should be available to cover it.

Update (2 August): As expected parliament will be prorogued for a week (without affecting the number of sitting days). 

Update (3 August): It's been reported today that Bec Enders and Dean Young are contesting the recount while James Walker is not.


  1. The way they're going the government will be made up of people that no one actually elected.

  2. Has there ever been a case where the recount does not go to the same party as the retiring member?

    1. The only case where someone who had not run as the same party as the retiring member was Bob Brown (IND) replacing Norm Sanders (DEM) despite other Democrats contesting the recount. There's also a case of a Labor member replacing an Independent (Reg Turnbull) instead of the Independent's running mate, and the recent Madeline Ogilvie case where Ogilvie had originally contested as a Labor member but did not sit as such after winning a Labor vacancy recount.


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