Saturday, April 6, 2024

Legislative Council 2024: Elwick

This is my guide for the May 4th election for the Legislative Council seat of Hobart. On Wednesday I released a brief survey of the Council's voting patterns.  Links to other seats: Hobart  Prosser . There will be live coverage on the night of May 4th.  

At the start of this year the Legislative Council consisted of four Labor, four Liberal and seven independents, with three of the independents strongly left-leaning, one centrist, and three somewhat right-leaning albeit still left of the Liberal Party.  Council voting has also seen a rapid increase in "Laborial" bipartisan voting patterns where the major parties combine against some or all of the indies.  The 2024 Legislative Council elections follow hot on the heels of an extremely messy lower house election, and for the first time since 1909 three seats fall vacant on the same day.  The three vacancies are one Labor, one Liberal and a left independent, so the elections are very important for both the left-right balance of the Council and the independent-major party balance.

The election for Elwick is a by-election.  The winner will hold the seat for four years rather than the usual six, and will be up for their first defence in 2028.

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.  The once purely blue collar seat has spread south into less working-class territory and the southern Glenorchy area has also gentrified.  Overall it remains a left-wing area.  

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.  Willie then retained the seat easily in 2022 against modest opposition.  

In the 2021 state election at Elwick booths, Labor was so hideously smashed in its former heartland that it was narrowly outpolled by the Liberals and almost outpolled by independents.  In 2024 with Willie running for the lower house Labor recorded an almost 10% swing back to poll 38.1%, with the Liberals getting 26.3, Greens 14.4 and independents Johnston 9.0 and Hickey 4.7.  The swing back to Labor came mostly off the indies, and Labor topped every booth in the electorate.  But it's still not the glory days.

Departing Incumbent

Eight-year incumbent Josh Willie (ALP) resigned the seat to successfully transfer downstairs, a move that was a long time coming.  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 had a relatively trouble-free and successful upper house career, 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 was however in the spotlight of anti-pokies campaigners.  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.

Candidates (4)

As the seat is vacated by Labor but the Liberal Party did not contest in 2022, the announced Labor candidate is listed first, followed by other announced candidates in order of announcement.  

Tessa McLaughlin (announcement, Facebook, instagram, Twitter) is the endorsed Labor candidate. McLaughlin is a TasTAFE-fully-qualified electrical tradie from Lutana (within the electorate) and has worked as a Hydro apprentice at Wayatinah.  She has also worked in hospitality and "up to my elbows in sheep’s wool" and is a renter.   Her lists of accounts followed on social media sites suggest a broad interest in Tasmanian/Australian politics.  There is not a lot of information about McLaughlin online though enjoying watching wood chopping competitions is definitely distinctive enough to score a mention (at least in this electorate).  McLaughlin is being marketed as a "real life experience" candidate and Labor MLC Josh Willie has endorsed her very enthusiastically.  

Fabiano Cangelosi (FacebookannouncementTwitterinstagramtiktokWikipedia bio) is running as an independent.  He was the first publicly announced intending candidate (albeit initially as a notionally intending Labor candidate) and is a high-profile barrister who has been involved in many prominent cases, especially defences of criminal charges.  He is also an occasional op ed commentator.  Cangelosi was until very recently an ALP member.  He ran for Labor in Franklin in 2021 where some gloriously outspoken comments against the party's poker machines policy won him much respect from the commentariat but caused yet another headache for the party's trouble-filled campaign, as did his agreement with an article supporting the American police abolition movement.  (He clarified that he did not support abolishing the Tasmanian police force).  In the end, Cangelosi polled 724 votes.  Cangelosi is generally left and his policies include free public transport (Thomas also supports this) and improved protections for renters.  

In the leadup to the 2024 lower house campaign, Cangelosi issued a long and mysterious Twitter narrative primarily about being trapped in a curtain.  All was revealed on 27 February when he issued a release stating that he was seeking presleection for Labor to contest Elwick, but only in terms that could not have been better designed to prevent him being preselected by the present ALP machine, including asking for a free vote. On 27 March at 5:01 pm Cangelosi resigned from the party citing a lack of response to his letters and proposals regarding campaign strategy for Elwick and Hobart.  Cangelosi's law firm office and authorisation address are in Moonah within Elwick. He lives at Margate in the division of Huon but is moving to Elwick in the next two months.  

Bec Thomas (announcement, GCC page, linkedin, instagram) is the current Mayor of Glenorchy and is running as an independent.  Thomas came to council in 2018 as a member of the Kristie Johnston led team that swept eight of ten places after the previous council was sacked and sent to an early election.  She was elected Deputy Mayor by fellow councillors in 2020 then won the mayoralty in a 2021 by-election, defeating Sue Hickey 59.6-40.4 after preferences. (From 2019-2021 Thomas had worked as an advisor to Hickey, but Hickey was running for Johnston's councillor vacancy after losing her seat in state parliament to Johnston, and hence presumably ran for Mayor for an increased chance of getting a council seat!) In 2022 Thomas was not even taken to preferences by an unimpressive field, getting 53.6% of the primaries against five opponents.  Thomas also topped the Councillor poll with 29.3% of the vote.   Thomas holds an honours degree in sociology and has worked in policy and project management for the Department of Premier and Cabinet between 2008 and 2017, and in the distant past as a bar and gaming attendant.  She currently runs an empowerment and mental health consultancy.  Thomas obviously has plenty of experience working in government for various governments, but has never been a member of a political party and says she has never been "party aligned".  Thomas's Council area includes the bulk of Elwick, which also includes the GCC council chambers, and she lives in Berriedale (I have her as just outside the Elwick boundary, by less than 200 metres).  

In the 2021 campaign while Thomas was acting mayor, there were suggestions she was being tacitly supported by the Liberal Party because she frequently appeared in photos and at events with ministers; supporters of Cangelosi especially have continued to make similar comments on social media during this campaign.  Thomas rebutted the suggestions stating that as acting mayor she was invited to a number of announcements.  Clarence Mayor Brendan Blomeley, who may or may not still be a member of the Liberal Party, has described Thomas as a "great friend and colleague", and conservative Liberal Kingborough Councillor Aldo Antolli is another big fan.   However, Thomas has also been supported on the campaign trail by left-wing independent Nelson MLC Meg Webb.  It will be interesting to see how Thomas actually votes in the Council if she wins.  

Janet Shelley (Linkedin, instagram, Twitter) is the endorsed Greens candidate.  She is Director of Sustainability at the Department of Climate Change, Energy the Environment and Water, having previously worked in Environmental Sustainability for the Bureau of Meteorology - including on reducing the environmental impacts of weather balloons.  She has also been involved in "beach clean-ups, forest campaigns, domestic violence charities, and local fire prevention and traffic management groups."  Shelley was the Greens candidate for Clark in the 2022 federal election getting a 3.9% primary vote swing, and ran for Clark at the recent state election polling 1076 votes.  She lives at Lenah Valley, within the electorate. 

(Note to candidates and connections:

Where I can find one, a candidate's name is a hyperlink to a campaign web presence or Facebook page etc. Subsidiary web presences or announcements are listed in brackets.  Candidates may request one change to the page their name link goes to up until the Saturday before polling day; this will be accepted or not at my discretion.  Requests that include incorrect statements about my coverage will be declined.  Other material will be edited on request only to correct clear errors of fact.  Differences in the length of candidate profiles reflect differences in the amount of available/interesting (to me) material only.)


Leon Compton's ABC Mornings interview and debate involving all four candidates is excellent listening (starts about 40 minutes in).   

As with the other two seats, Elwick is being fought out against the backdrop of a chaotic election for the lower house and its postscript.  It will also be a test for new Labor leader Dean Winter, albeit in a seat where Labor's main opponent has a major profile and experience advantage.  

It is common for local mayors who run for Legislative Council (which many have done successfully) to run on a relatively apolitical platform in which they see the position as a sort of super-Mayor role, and to campaign on their experience, successes in local government and on services for the local community.  Thomas's campaign in general follows that template. 

Glenorchy Council is local government and this contest is state government, but a lot of the campaign will be about Glenorchy Council anyway. Its issues were briefly in the backdrop to the state election campaign with the Glenorchy War Memorial Pool being closed last year because of leaks and structural issues.  Funding of $5 million for the pool was announced by Labor on the campaign trail and immediately matched by the Liberals (also matched by Greens), but this did not stop pool supporters from passing a symbolic motion of no confidence in the council at a public meeting triggered by a petititon with over 4500 signatures.  Rate rises have also led to some comments. 

Another local issue that has attracted attention is "antisocial behaviour" (crime, vandalism etc) - an ongoing problem in even the recently gentrified parts of Elwick.  Cangelosi has a niche policy to subject assailants who spit on first respondents to testing for communicable diseases (Shelley wasn't impressed).   Thomas and Cangelosi differ over increased police patrols with Thomas saying that while not an enduring solution, they make people feel safe; Cangelosi supports greater investment in social work.

Cangelosi's signs are red, which may not delight his old party.  However, he had them out first. Cangelosi is so unorthodox that his signs have a four word slogan instead of three.  The cult candidate's oration in the ABC Mornings debate was followed by recent Greens candidate Trenton Hoare asking on Twitter "Do the people of Elwick want a DnD game master for a representative?" to which the candidate responded "They're talking about nothing else on the doors".

McLaughlin has posted a Facebook reel video trolling the Liberal Party about their failure to win majority government with a guy saying "you sure about that?" over and over.  

Independence versus party control in the upper house is attracting attention with Thomas describing herself as the real independent in the field and Shelley keen to say she would be "independent" despite being an endorsed Green.  McLaughlin is the most vulnerable to pro-independence sentiment and has the normal line about being able to have influence in government, however if the current parliament goes full term and if the government doesn't collapse then Labor won't be in government for more than a few months in her first LegCo term.  Okay, those are substantial ifs ...

A further forum was held at Moonah April 29 but neither Thomas nor McLaughlin attended - there has been some controversy about this with claims that they avoided attending and discouraged Shelley from attending because the organiser was known to support Cangelosi. My understanding (though I have not yet seen a primary comment) is that McLaughlin has emphatically denied discouraging Shelley from attending.  If I see any comment from Thomas I will add reference to it.   

The Macquarie Point stadium proposal has not been that prominent on the Elwick campaign trail.  The Greens are against investment in an AFL stadium believing that the money should be spent on health and education instead.  Thomas is pro-a-stadium and says that we should spend on both a stadium and other priorities ("It's not an either/or"), but says she will consider the outcome of the POSS assessment process and the views of the electorate concerning the Macquarie Point proposal.  Cangelosi is not in principle opposed to a/the stadium but would insist on conditions such as mandated use of Tasmanian constructors and reciprocal funding in social services.  Labor will someday revise whatever that mess was it took to the election about this issue but has not as yet done so.  (They at least support attempting to renegotiate for a different location to Macquarie Point but have never set out what they will do - or how they might decide what to do - if that fails.  Also they're not likely to be the government before the project comes to a vote, if it ever does.)

Equality Tasmania survey responses (well I'm not sure Thomas's counts, but it does at least exist) from some candidates can be seen here.  


Thomas is generally considered the favourite to win Elwick, but that doesn't mean it's as straightforward as it might have been.  

It is not surprising the Liberals gave Elwick a miss; the seat is probably too left-wing to be winnable, especially in the current environment.  The run of recent past winners gives a good idea what to expect here: Labor, Labor (later independent) Mayor, Mayor, Labor.   The main question is whether a Labor candidate who appears to be low-profile but should appeal to a still largely blue collar electorate can pose a threat to an incumbent Mayor who over half the electorate voted for a couple of years ago.  Glenorchy Council is under pressure over the pool issue as noted above and that could help Labor try to stop yet another Mayor migrating to the red couches; McLaughlin has already seized on it in her opening announcement (as has Cangelosi complete with spooky music). However I'm not sure whether one issue will be enough especially as there were commitments to state funding to resolve the issue from the three main parties.  Labor has a generally impressive record in Legislative Council contests in the south of the state in recent years, though they were beaten 44-56 by Adriana Taylor in this seat in 2010.

There is no recognisably right-leaning candidate in this field and Liberal voters could be feeling lost as they confront this ballot paper; many will presumably pick Thomas, a few may even pick Cangelosi.  The Greens poll quite respectably in Elwick these days and their candidate has polled pretty well so far but it's no Hobart for them in terms of past voting behaviour.  You can vote in the sidebar Not-A-Poll if you have a view about the outcome. If viewing by mobile, scroll down and click "view web version" to see the sidebar.

Section 196

This site strongly supports urgent and unconditional reform of Section 196 of the Tasmanian Electoral Act, which makes it an offence to name or depict a candidate in material deemed to be an "advertisement, "how to vote" card, handbill, pamphlet, poster or notice" without that candidate's consent.  This section as it stands is highly likely to be federally unconstitutional, and its application to material on the internet is so obscure that the law became an utter laughingstock in the recent state election when the TEC asked Juice Media to modify a mock advertisement.  A sensible reform would be to restrict Section 196 to how-to-vote cards.  The views of parties and candidates on this matter will be noted here where known and candidates are welcome to advise me of their views:

* Fabiano Cangelosi has stated that S 196 should be abolished and has made various comments about it similar to mine.  

* Labor voted with the Liberals on an amendment to restrict S 196 to how to vote cards, but does not have a standalone position I am aware of to repair S 196 without it being a part of an electoral reform package

* The Greens have displayed a strong commitment to reforming Section 196 .

During this campaign some Twitter graphics posted by former Glenorchy councillor Kelly Sims  attacking Thomas (a former mayoral contest opponent) were the subject of a takedown request that did not state which of the items in the Section they were considered to be.  Also, Cangelosi felt the need to add a statement to a Facebook post naming his opponents explaining that he did not believe Section 196 was breached and would not be removing the post.  

1 comment:

  1. Gutwein's sacking of Glenorchy Council remains unexplained. It was undoubtedly costly to ratepayers and only installed glib mayors with higher ambitions who, while touting "independence", are backed by the Murdochracy and usual PR guff of the right.


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