Friday, April 5, 2024

Legislative Council 2024: Hobart

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: Prosser Elwick. 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.

Seat Profile

As its name suggests Hobart is mostly inner-city Hobart.  It falls entirely within the state electorate of Clark.  It includes most of the Hobart City Council area with the exceptions of the relatively wealthy Sandy Bay and Mt Nelson areas in the south, and some parts of the far north of New Town and Lenah Valley.  

Hobart (my home electorate, see map) is mostly left-wing middle-class suburbia, with two relatively affluent suburbs (Battery Point and Tolmans Hill) and the very Green areas of Fern Tree, Cascades and Ridgeway on the fringes of Wellington Park.  However, its leftness is a movable feast.  It was once one of the Greenest areas in the country, then became the centre of Andrew Wilkie's Denison federal win in 2010.   At the 2016 election it was the centre of the successful below-the-line campaign to save left-wing Labor Senator Lisa Singh from an otherwise unwinnable ticket position. At the 2018 state election the area saw big swings to Labor as the party's poker machine policy was well received in the area, but these went straight out the door in 2021.  

At the 2024 state election just held, day booths in Hobart recorded results of 33.4% Greens, 25.7% for a resurgent ALP, 20.2% Liberal, 7.6% Kristie Johnston (IND), 4.1% Sue Hickey (IND), 3.1% Ben Lohberger (IND).  The Greens topped every booth except for New Town West and Mount Stuart in the north of the seat, topped by Labor.  I exclude here the Hobart prepoll which would have included many voters from more Liberal-friendly Nelson.  

From the mid-19th to the mid-20th centuries there was a larger seat of Hobart which returned three MLCs in a bizarre rotation of single-seat elections for the same seat.  This seat was then split in three in 1946, creating the modern seat, which has had various boundary changes since.  From 1952 until 2012 the modern seat was usually owned by Labor, except for an interruption from 1982-1994.  During that interruption it was held firstly by Hank Petrusma (uncle of Jacquie's husband), a somewhat populist independent and high-profile real-estate agent, and then briefly by conservative independent Jean Moore after Petrusma's attempt to enter the Lower House with his Advance Tasmania party failed dismally.  

Retiring Incumbent

Two-term incumbent Rob Valentine (IND) has decided to hang up his once-famous hat after a long political career in the region.  Elected to Hobart City Council in 1992 on one of a number of then-prominent residents' group Council tickets, Valentine became Lord Mayor in 1999 narrowly defeating one-term incumbent John Freeman.  Valentine then retained the mayoralty by enormous margins four times and became the longest-serving Lord Mayor in Hobart's history.  His switch to the Council in 2012 was more like a promotion than an election especially once it became clear Labor's Doug Parkinson would not recontest (62.5-37.5 vs the Greens) and 2018 was little different (61-39 vs green independent Richard Griggs).  Valentine had no party-type associations beyond a 1992 run as a minor Green Independent.  

Reflecting his electorate, Valentine has been consistently ranked alongside Meg Webb as one of the most left-wing MLCs in my reviews of voting patterns on this site, lately very rarely (14%) voting with the Liberals on contested divisions.  In this he invites comparisons to Wilkie, who represents the same seat federally, but his style was softer and more conversational.  

Candidates (7)

Nominations close April 11 and are announced April 12.  As the seat is vacated by an independent, candidates are listed in order of announcement.  

Cassy O'Connor (Facebook, Twitter, announcement) is the endorsed Greens candidate and former Greens leader.  Originally a journalist and prominent in the Save Ralphs Bay campaign against proposed canal developments, O'Connor arrived in state parliament on Peg Putt's recount in 2008.  She was Greens member for Denison/Clark until 2023, including serving as Minister for Human Services, Community Development, Climate Change and Aboriginal Affairs in the 2010-4 Labor/Greens coalition.  She led the party between June 2015 and July 2023 before resigning to run for Hobart with almost a year of lead-in.  She topped the poll for Denison/Clark twice in 2010 and 2021.  

O'Connor is an accomplished parliamentary performer and also one of the more distinctive presences in the Australian Green movement.  Three quirks that have attracted particular attention are a neocon-like wariness of Chinese Communist Party influence, a line of COVID commentary from the opposite extreme to the anti-vaxxers, and taking the side of Johnny Depp in his legal battles with Amber Heard.  (Greens operatives will never change, so the last caused more internal conflict and even an officebearer resignation than the first two.)  Concerning COVID, O'Connor is an active member of the social media subculture often tagged as "zero COVID" or "COVID isn't over", and was again expressing her view that the treatment of people with disabilities during COVID constitutes "eugenics" as recently as March 25

Charlie Burton (announcement, linkedin, just.equal) is an independent candidate endorsed by both Valentine and Andrew Wilkie.  Burton is a former federal policy analyst and parliamentary researcher who at one point worked for former Denison Labor MP Duncan Kerr.  He is the current Deputy CEO of the Tasmanian Council of Social Service and has also worked in magazine editing, photography, UTAS community engagement and even a rug shop.  He has also served on a range of community and advocacy boards, and holds a PhD in Political Science from ANU.  Burton has been running since December 2023 and is campaigning in an active and organised fashion.   I believe this is his first run for election.  

Stefan Vogel (linkedin) is the second announced independent candidate.  Vogel is a glaciologist, a career he describes as a lifelong destiny after his feet got stuck in snow in the European Alps at age 3. In an attempt to fit even more big words into one sentence than I do he advises that he "worked on underwater robotics developing an ROV and biogeochemical instrumentation to study subglacial hydrological systems including subglacial lakes and the sub ice shelf cavity."  He is also transitioning to a new career in law, psychology and counselling including freelance work in mental health and suicide prevention for parents post relationship breakups.  Vogel is a former Liberal and had a low-key endorsement from the party at the 2018 Hobart council elections, but has left the party citing a focus on short-term economic gains at the expense of sustainability and people in need.  He describes his politics as centrist.  Vogel ran in the 2018 and 2022 Hobart elections polling 160 and 115 votes and in the recent Clark election as an ungrouped independent polling 162. 

John Kamara (announcement, linkedin) is the endorsed Labor candidate after also running in Clark.  He is a long-term Senior Child Protection Worker in the Department of Health and Human Services and the President of a refugee inclusion service and an education pathway service for children from Sierra Leone.  A former refugee from that country himself, Kamara was Tasmanian Australian of the Year 2023.  He is active as a preacher in local Christian communities and attends the C3 church in South Hobart (there is an interview about his faith and the state election here).  He is also co-founder of the Culturally Diverse Alliance of Tasmania.  In the Clark campaign, Kamara generally polled better in the Elwick division booths than the Hobart division booths, but also better in the latter than the Nelson division booths; he got 2.5% of the total vote in the Hobart LegCo area compared to 3.2% outside Hobart.  However, that was just because Labor did better in those booths; his share of the Labor vote was an average just below 10% both inside and outside the Hobart area.  He did especially well at Battery Point West, a booth I've often noted for post-three-party voting.  Kamara gave his location for the 2024 lower house campaign as Granton, about 12 km outside the Hobart boundary.  

John Kelly (announcement, Facebook, Twitter) is an independent candidate and is a high-profile first-term Hobart councillor who came reasonably close to defeating Lord Mayor Anna Reynolds in his first run for council.  Kelly is best known as the long-term former owner of the State Cinema in North Hobart under whose ownership the theatre expanded greatly; indeed he is widely credited with saving it.  He has also been involved in the restoration of other heritage buildings and in the Army Reserve.  He was 2016 Hobart Citizen of the Year.  In 2022 in his first run for Hobart Council, Kelly was fairly narrowly defeated by incumbent Anna Reynolds for the Hobart Lord Mayoralty (53.4: 46.6 after preferences) and was the second highest polling Councillor candidate, very closely behind Reynolds.  

Kelly is difficult to classify politically in an Australian context (less so if this was the UK), with a mix of big picture environmental (eg anti-cable-car) and pro-business or at least fiscal-conservative views (but not yet fully sold on the stadium).  So far in this Hobart Council term I find that he votes somewhat more with the "blue" side - but in a Council term that has seen few natural-environment issues.  The following are his agreement percentages on distinct votes at full Council meetings with at least two Councillors on one side (most HCC votes are unanimous): Behrakis 79, Elliot 66, Zucco 63, Coats 61 (small sample), Bloomfield 52, Lohberger 50, Sherlock 49, Posselt 47, Dutta 46, Reynolds 45, Harvey 43, Burnet 36.  (Post-election note: for my full analysis prior to the next election or perhaps mid-term I will be adding Planning Committee meetings though the number of divisions there is much smaller.)

Michael Haynes (linkedin) is an independent candidate who is a town planner, consultant in placemaking and the current President of Hobart Rotary.  He currently works in a small architecture and planning business called Future Common, and is also a shoeshiner working recently in both Perth (WA) and Hobart! Haynes was previously state co-ordinator for something called Bicycle Network and Event and Logistics Officer for TEDx.  He has also been involved in street busking festivals and theatre.  I'm not aware of him having any previous political form.  There is not a lot of online material about Haynes' campaign.  At the candidate forum in Battery Point he spoke about wanting the City of Hobart to succeed through greater self-belief.  

Sam Campbell (Twitter) is the final independent candidate.  He is a former state co-ordinator of Tasmanian branch of Australian Unemployed Workers Union, and studied History and English with Professional Honours in TESOL.  His website includes work-in-progress policy pages surrounding housing solutions, prioritising public transport (including over street parking on some major roads), systems for community investment and a proposal to get rid of Hobart councillors and replace them with a citizens' assembly model (shudder!)  At the 2022 Hobart Council elections 213 voters disobeyed his request to put him second and at the 2024 state election, where he ran for the Local Network for Clark, 112 did so.  

(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 profile 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.)


As of April 5 I was amazed that there were at that time only two announced candidates, there had been claims there will be many.  Several other Hobart Councillors were at times mentioned by the rumour mill as possible candidates including Lord Mayor Anna Reynolds (said not interested ), Ben Lohberger, Ryan Posselt (this was an unconvincing Liberal Party trolling attempt surrounding him not being picked for the state election) and Louise Elliot (not running, briefly endorsed Kelly on Facebook but the, on my understanding, unsolicited endorsement was since removed).  


All seven candidates appeared on Mornings with Leon Compton on 24 April (playback here from about 43 mins in).

We aren't seeing a lot of sparks fly from O'Connor vs Burton, as their political shopping lists are very similar (health, housing, environment, governance), except that one is an independent and one is a Green and their approaches to the job will be quite different.  O'Connor is a classic Greens political fighter (but has flagged that she would modify her style, somewhat) while Burton is likely to be more a policy/evidence/conversation based MLC, and similar to Valentine.  

O'Connor's position as the first Green to run with what looks like a real chance is a curveball for the age-old debate about the independence of the upper house.  It can be argued that the usual objections to electing party members to the Upper House (strengthened by the recent "Laborial" displays in the chamber) don't really apply with the same force to a Green, at least not when the Greens aren't part of government, so I'll be interested to see how that develops.  It was strange to be seeing the usual lines about party control early in the campaign when there were no major parties running!  O'Connor is portraying herself as an "independent Green voice" in an attempt to blunt generic anti-party sentiment.  Valentine has been among those arguing that voters should elect only independent candidates, including via an op ed published during the prepoll voting period.  Both O'Connor and Burton have been out campaigning for several months now, which is just as well as the pointy end of the campaign is being overshadowed by the scrumptious chaos that has been elected downstairs.  

Wilkie's endorsement of Burton (who is freely using Wilkie colours in some but not all advertising material) has attracted some criticism from two disgruntled former Wilkie staffers on Twitter (one of whom I blocked for a sexist response), falsely claiming that it was unprecedented for Wilkie to openly endorse candidates.  (Once it was unusual but not recently).  They have also complained that the endorsements do not declare that Wilkie was married to Burton in the distant past.  Wilkie commented about the endorsement as I was releasing this guide.  

The proposed Macquarie Point AFL stadium is mentioned by candidates as a major issue in doorknocking. O'Connor and Burton are against it with Burton describing the feedback as being that it is a project we "don't need, in a location nobody wants at a price we can't afford".  Kelly has said there is not enough information to make a decision, prompting blowback from O'Connor who says that there is enough information to oppose it.

Housing availability and affordability remain issues despite news that rental availability has improved for the first time in years, to the point that some landlords are struggling to find renters (hmmm, they could try offering multi-year lease options!)  Burton and the Greens support capping rent rises (in Burton's case temporarily until the vacancy rate reaches 3%) and eliminating whole home conversions to short-stay.  Kelly does not support telling property owners what they can do with their properties and argues that radically improved transport across Greater Hobart would unlock home-building in the northern suburbs to address the property shortage.

The University of Tasmania move into the Hobart CBD is an issue mainly in the south of this electorate (but more so in adjacent Nelson).  Kelly, O'Connor and Vogel are all opposed to the move, while teams of sniffer dogs failed to detect any Labor policy on the matter at the recent state election.  Haynes supports the Utas move and turning the former campus into an aged care site.  Burton says he is unlikely to support further moving, and Campbell would support a statewide "referendum" (Tasmanian for plebiscite) on the move.  

Kelly has letterboxed a card with a painting showing North Hobart including the State Cinema on one side and a statement on the back, stating "protection of our precious forests, fisheries and freshwater" as his priority.  

A candidate forum (stream video here) hosted by the Confederation of Greater Hobart Business was held at Battery Point on 16 April, attended by all candidates except Campbell who was unavailable.  The video may give a good idea of the candidates' personal styles but the most friction detected was between an audience member and his chair about five minutes from the end.  

Labor has sought to counter the Greens' push for a historic first upper house seat by asking voters to make a different kind of history - very few black candidates have ever been elected in Tasmania, none of them African to my knowledge.  Their claim to be offering "real diversity" received some criticism as an implied attack on diversity in the existing gender-balanced parliament and on the diversity claims of some other candidates.  

Sadly it was also attacked by several racists, including supporters of the "National Socialist Network", prior to replies being closed.  None of the overtly racist accounts were Tasmanian, but one account attacking the preselection on the strange ground that Kamara was "not a shadow minister" apparently was.  O'Connor has condemned the attacks.  Australian fascists are not noted for their intellects, and these efforts resulted in a free newspaper front page for the ALP candidate.

Kelly has stated that he is not seeking and won't be using any endorsements, donations or outside political assistance.  This message was lost on anti-transgender group Women Speak Tasmania which quoted his anti-endorsements message while supporting his candidacy.  I have mentioned the soon-deleted Louise Elliot endorsement above; Clark Liberal MP Madeleine Ogilvie also posted on Facebook "I like John Kelly - wishing him great success in the Hobart Legislative Council election." with a staged photo of the two together.  The photo was not however new; it was previously posted on November 30.  

Equality Tasmania survey responses from several candidates can be seen here.  


Hobart is the most left-wing electorate in the Council and among the Greenest in the state.  It is unthinkable that a Liberal could win the seat any time soon.  It has become challenging even for Labor these days (especially with an out-of-area candidate) though the free publicity for Kamara care of dim racists could assist.  The preference for independents in the Legislative Council often cuts across ideological boundaries and I am not sure Kelly should be written off as not left enough.  The question more with Kelly is how he goes with a largely last-minute run (though he had previously canvassed running) against candidates who have been doorknocking for months.  Kamara also has this challenge but had the state election for some profile boost; he has been doorknocking quite a bit in the seat (including my house).  

The state election results suggest that there is enough Green vote in the seat that O'Connor should make the final two, unless a lot of voters who did not support indies in the state election but who vote for Wilkie federally also support Burton.  However, O'Connor would want a sizeable primary vote lead as she is potentially vulnerable on preferences against any opponent as there are still plenty of voters in the seat who are to the right of the Greens or who may decide that they prefer independents.   O'Connor's polarising image could also be a factor here.  It's not unusual for me to hear unpromoted even from otherwise loyal Greens voters that they won't vote for O'Connor because they find her too "negative" or "confrontational", but obviously also plenty of people do vote for her.  Burton I think will do well on preferences and the question there is what sort of primary vote he gets, which could fall in a wide range.  

I expect that O'Connor, Burton, Kelly and Kamara at least will all poll significantly and it will be fascinating to see in what order!  

It should be noted that there is some history of high-profile Green attempts to win single seats failing.  Examples include Bob Brown getting only 14% (though that was a big swing to the Greens) in a much-hyped run against Duncan Kerr in 1993, and Gerry Bates not making the final two after preferences in Queenborough 1995.  But this is far more winnable on paper for them than those were.  

The Liberal Party never seemed interested in even a token run for this seat, which saves me from working out whether they would finish fourth or fifth.  There is no doubt that Kelly winning would be the best the Liberals could hope for but that is not to say he would be a reliably helpful vote for the government.  


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.  

The purpose of the Not-A-Polls is to gauge the opinion of my readers about who will win the election and provide a fun predictive challenge for people who follow this site.  On 1 May candidate Stefan Vogel became aware of how to access the Not-A-Poll, having been unable to do so before for technical reasons.  Immediately following this awareness, two things happened within a space of 15 minutes.  Firstly he received two votes in the Not-A-Poll, having previously received 0/132.  Secondly he made a Facebook post asking people to vote for him on the poll "If you like to support me".  Following this, he received 11 votes in the next 24 hours.   While there have been other incidents of curious voting on Not-A-Polls (such as a stack for Tony Abbott in a historical Best PM poll) it is the first time I know of that a candidate has openly asked people to vote for them on one in this way.  The purpose of the poll is to gauge the opinion of the regular readers of the site regarding who will win. If a candidate is asking people who may not be ordinarily readers of this site to express "support" for them by voting on the poll then that's not really the point of it.  

I have decided that a candidate openly canvassing for voters to support them in this manner distorts the purpose of running Not-A-Polls (which are mainly for amusement anyway) and have therefore disallowed all votes for Vogel after his Facebook post.  Thus far 11 votes have been deleted.  

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:

* The Greens have a strong commitment to reforming Section 196 and O'Connor has been at least as outspoken about it as I have been. 

* Charlie Burton has advised me that he supports reviewing Section 196 in view of its ambiguity when applied to online material.

* 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

* Stefan Vogel has said "I fully agree that S196 needs a review. This, for the purpose of updating to include the internet as you say, but also to strengthen protection of candidates and parties to be misrepresented by others (partly covered in S197), while at the same time permitting free speech and satire."


  1. Kevin, interesting that you cite Burton as anti-stadium and yet his website pitch doesn't mention it.
    Typical of the all-things-to-all-people approach of conservative independents like Wilkie who are so independent that they don't get on with anybody ?

    1. Source for that was Burton's comments in the ABC radio interview (link at top of "campaign" section).

  2. Given that the known financials for the Stadium are so appalling I find it borderline dishonest to ignore that millstone of an issue.

  3. So, one set of policy for ABC listeners and another for a general audience, a bit like dancing on the fence ?

    1. An anti-stadium comment is included in the "future focus" section on Charlie Burton's website though I do not know exactly when it was added (sometime between 2 April and now).

  4. Gatekeeper, hardly. I couldn't even get Julie Sladden disendorsed!

    Now for anyone wondering what on earth all the above is about, this and at last count at least a dozen whingy tweets resulted after I did a couple of non-polls on Twitter just asking people who they thought would win and who they would like to win. Twitter polls are limited to four options and there are seven candidates for Hobart, but three of them show few or none of the signs that are usually associated with a competitive run. So I limited the Twitter poll to the four candidates who are generally considered the frontrunners, while making it clear that they were not the only candidates.

    If there is any hard evidence that anyone else is attempting to stack my poll with votes from non-readers or cast for reasons that are not the intent of the poll I would be interested, but I won't be publishing any further such claims that are made without hard evidence as that's unfair to the other candidates. (And I should stress that comments here are accepted in full or not at all, and at my absolute discretion.) I can say that stacks tend to be very obvious when they occur and there is zero evidence of a stack in the voting for other candidates on the poll so far.

    I'm not interested in any attempt to apply "basic psychological research" to election outcomes unless it has been shown to in fact apply to election outcomes, and to do so in Australia or a country with a similar voting system. The last qualifier is important: in elections in first past the post or PR-threshhold systems, perceptions of competitiveness strongly affect people's vote because a vote for a candidate who does not make the final two or the threshhold is a wasted vote. But in Australia you cannot waste your vote except by voting informally or not at all, and voters in this electorate which is one of the most electorally literate places in the country know that. There is no evidence in Australia that polling on either who voters will vote for, or on who voters think will win, has any tendency to influence outcomes in any direction or indeed at all.

    I give enough coverage here of each candidate that anyone whose interest is piqued by the profile section and who finds an appealling product on clicking the web link is not going to be affected by the rest of what I say, unless I have exposed something negative about the candidate. It is not my role to deliver unpaid free advertising to candidates whose campaigns I can barely detect. Do you really want a paragraph about you that says "Stefan Vogel has a reasonable number of signs up and some car sign and has been to a couple of candidate forums but that's all I've seen him do except talk to himself on Facebook and rant about me on Twitter and I'll eat a scrutineering badge with scrambled eggs on top if he gets his deposit back?"

    I also question that what a candidate brings to the job vs their connections to the media is a real dichotomy. Being able to use the media to get stuff done (including by putting pressure on other politicians) is a crucial part of the skill set of being a politician. Those who can't do it on the campaign trail won't be likely to do it in office.

    Finally the comments section here is open to candidates who want more information about their campaigns to be available to readers than I have provided - provided this doesn't go overboard (a couple of posts per campaign would in general be fine) and isn't problematic legally or otherwise. By noticing this and providing a comment, you've gone some way towards disproving your own complaint.


The comment system is unreliable. If you cannot submit comments you can email me a comment (via email link in profile) - email must be entitled: Comment for publication, followed by the name of the article you wish to comment on. Comments are accepted in full or not at all. Comments will be published under the name the email is sent from unless an alias is clearly requested and stated. If you submit a comment which is not accepted within a few days you can also email me and I will check if it has been received.