Thursday, April 4, 2024

Legislative Council 2024: Prosser

This is my guide for the May 4th election for the Legislative Council seat of Prosser.  Prosser gets to go first because it has the most declared candidates! On Wednesday I released a brief survey of the Council's voting patterns.  Links to other guides: Elwick Hobart .  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

Prosser is a fairly large rural and satellite-town seat in the midlands, east and south-east of Tasmania (see map).  Its largest population centres are Brighton, Dodges Ferry and Sorell (all in the south) and other significant centres include Bagdad, Bicheno, Campbell Town, Swansea, Triabunna, Nubeena and Oatlands.  Industries include farming, fishing and what remains of forestry, but around Sorell there has been a rapid increase in young commuting families.

Prosser was created in the 2017 redistribution and held its first election in 2018.  It drew voters mainly from Rumney (a historic swing seat that has lately firmed up for Labor), Apsley (a historically independent seat) and to a lesser extent Derwent (safely Labor).  At the 2024 election booths within Prosser, including the Sorell pre-poll, recorded votes of Liberal 37.5, Labor 33.1, Green 12.3, Jacqui Lambie Network 7.3, Shooters 4.8 and John Tucker 2.7, making Prosser very representative of Lyons as a whole.  The swings against the government in Prosser were in general higher the further one went north, with swings in the mid to high teens across the north of the seat (those on the north-east coast amplified by high votes for local ex-Liberal indie John Tucker there) and as low as a few percent at Orford and Triabunna (in general, well below the state average in the south of the seat).

Retiring incumbent

The previous incumbent Jane Howlett (Liberal) resigned from Prosser with a few months to go before the election in order to contest the state election, at which she polled an impressive 6968 primary votes and will within days of this guide going live have been elected.  Howlett had polled well in three previous state elections for Lyons without getting elected and had also run for the federal seat of Franklin.  In 2018 Howlett topped the primary vote count for Prosser with 26.1% in a field of thirteen, and increased her lead very slightly on preferences to win the seat 52.66-47.34 against Labor's Janet Lambert.

Howlett's term was not without controversy.  She served in Cabinet from 2020 to 2022 in a range of portfolios but resigned for personal reasons while also under scrutiny over conflict of interest allegations.  These claims resurfaced in the state election with Labor alleging that Howlett was the subject of a specific Integrity Commission investigation, but as I expected Lyons voters did not care.  Howlett indeed polled much better than I thought she might,  Controversial or not, if she manages to stay out of trouble she could be an important addition to a too-male Lower House party room.

Candidates (5)

Nominations close April 11 and are announced April 12.  Major party candidates are listed first in view of the 2018 result, followed by others in order of announcement.   Note to candidates and connections at the bottom of the list.  I am surprised Prosser attracted only five candidates this time around.  

Kerry Vincent (Facebookannouncement) is the endorsed Liberal candidate and the Mayor of Sorell Council.  Vincent was elected to Council in 2009.  In 2014 he comfortably won the vacant mayoralty over Carmel Torenius, who had been elected Mayor in 2011 but resigned during the term.  Vincent was re-elected unopposed as Mayor and Councillor in 2018 and in 2022 defeated a single off-council opponent for the mayoralty with a two to one margin and topped the councillor ballot with 24% of the vote.  Vincent co-owns a rural supplies enterprise (now run by his son Brent Vincent).  In his 2022 councillor statement Vincent trumpeted "unprecedented levels of investment in education, employment, community and sporting infrastructure" in Sorell.  I am unaware of anything contentious in Vincent's career.  

Bryan Green (announcement) is the endorsed Labor candidate and a former Deputy Premier Opposition Leader.  First elected to Braddon at the 1998 election, Green served as Minister for Primary Industries and Minister for Infrastructure among other portfolios in the Bacon and Lennon governments between 2002 and 2006.  In 2006 he was very briefly Deputy Premier but quit the frontbench in a scandal over a deal signed with the Tasmanian Complaince Commission.  He twice faced conspiracy charges in 2007 and 2008 but both trials ended in hung juries and the charges were dropped.  After being re-elected in 2010, Green became Deputy Premier for the second time, serving from 2011-2014 under Premier Lara Giddings.  Following the party's crushing defeat in 2014 Green was left to clean up the mess as leader opposing Will Hodgman, but made little headway and resigned in 2017.   After politics (for now) Green, a passionate angler, started a fly fishing business based near Buckland, within the electorate.  Green has several times spoken candidly about struggles with anxiety and depression during an up and down career, and also of missing the competitive nature of politics.

Rumours of Green's candidacy were floated on Twitter by references to the run being likely to make dolphins happy.

Pam Sharpe (announcement, Twitter) was the first independent to announce for Prosser.  Sharpe is a retired Professor of History at UTAS and founder and co-chair of the Save UTAS group.  From time to time I note when candidates hold a PhD but I do not often get to note that it was from Cambridge; Sharpe has also been a Lecturer in Social and Economic History at the University of Bristol.  She is now sales assistant for a wine business based at Apslawn, within the electorate, and moved to Swansea about two years ago.  Sharpe describes herself as a "progressive independent", which appears to be a thoroughly fair description, she has commended left independent candidates for other divisions Charlie Burton and Fabiano Cangelosi.  

Phillip Bigg (announcement, Twitter) is the State Secretary of the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers party and ran for them in Lyons at the Lower House election polling 715 primaries.  He also contested the 2022 Derwent Valley Council election, missing the final seat by 51 votes. Bigg, a tradesman and hunter, lives at New Norfolk which is just outside the electorate.   He is a regular contributor to #politas Twitter across a range of issues.  During the state campaign he was featured in an entertaining Guy Rundle piece about the Shooters' struggles to make any impact in the election and the extent to which a seemingly right-wing party can overlap with left-wing causes.  

Kelly Spaulding is the third announced independent, and the first candidate to have run for Prosser twice.  (He finished 10th in 2018 with 2% of the vote).  Having served a much earlier term as Tasman Councillor starting 2002, Spaulding was elected Deputy Mayor from off council in 2014, then elected unopposed as Mayor in 2018.  In 2022 he was defeated for the mayoralty by off-council challenger Rod Macdonald, but was re-elected as a councillor with the second-highest councillor vote.  During his term as Mayor, Spaulding successfully campaigned against amalgamation with Sorell Council.  He is or was owner of Lucky Ducks Cafe Nubeena within the electorate and has also worked in agriculture, forestry, fishing and tourism.  

(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.)


Liberal candidate for Pembroke (2002), Rumney (2023) and Lyons (2024) Gregory Brown announced he would run as an independent but withdrew on 4 April.  Brown contested the seats of Pembroke (2022) and Rumney (2023) for the Liberal Party and was thrashed by Labor in both; Pembroke was 63.3-36.7 and Rumney would not have been much closer.  Brown's campaign in Pembroke was praised despite the heavy defeat, but in Rumney his comments about mandatory sentencing for child sex offenders twice led to trouble on the campaign trail.  In Lyons at the recent state election he polled 1353 primaries (the lowest Liberal tally in Lyons).  Brown had claimed that the Liberals were not going to select Prosser candidates until mid-April (this seems unlikely given when nominations closed) and had also said that he was running for the Liberals in Lyons on the understanding that the party would run him in Prosser.  He withdrew just after Vincent's run was announced; this may have also been a factor.


The campaign for Prosser has mutated quickly following Howlett's transition to the lower house!  Green has been actively campaigning since December and enjoys a large head-start on Vincent and most of the others, as if it was needed given his prior political profile. 

My understanding as of the second week of April was that Vincent has a lot of signage up now; Green's signs have been up along the Midlands Highway for some time but are sparse there.  

There's been very little mainstream coverage of this seat's campaign.  The ABC Mornings interview (starts about 45 mins in) with the candidates occurred on Tuesday April 30 and extensively covered some issues I have not covered here, such as water quality and supply with parts of Prosser on water restrictions even now following an exceptionally dry late summer and autumn.   You can read pitches from all candidates on pp. 8-9 here.

Sharpe has printed 15,000 fliers and has also been issuing a lot of mini policy statements on social media.  Sharpe was not impressed with an ABC TV item about the three seats that focused on Prosser as a major party contest and that also quoted yours truly as saying Hobart was the most interesting of the three.  She has also referred to being "invisible" in the Mercury's coverage despite running since January.

Bigg has been active on social media commenting on a range of issues as eclectic as decriminalising cannabis, diversionary youth training and firearms "trafficking" laws. 

The proposed Macquarie Point AFL stadium was a drag on the Liberal vote in the recent state election and was according to campaign strategist Brad Stansfield "the biggest pile of stinking poo" for Liberal candidates doorknocking everywhere "north of Bagdad" (which is three quarters of Prosser geographically, but only a fifth of its voters).  This is consistent with the state election swing pattern - I suspect the stadium plays OK at least in Brighton, Sorrell etc.  

Green has said that Labor needs to refine its messaging on the stadium to make it clear to voters that the party will not put the Devils AFL team at risk, but has also supported moving to the Stadium 2.0 proposal or elsewhere (a position the AFL has so far refused to budge on).  That said his own messaging on the ABC Mornings interview rejected a "whatever it takes" approach to the stadium, continuing Labor's inability to communicate a clear position on whether they will accept Macquarie Point if there is no alternative.  Sharpe is totally against the stadium stating that it is unaffordable as well as in the wrong place.  Vincent launched Sorell's own stadium last year but hasn't had that much to say about the footy version on the campaign trail. He supports the stadium and in the ABC Mornings debate countered the general narrative of the stadium's unpopularity and said he had encountered "staggering" support for the team and stadium, citing claimed economic benefits of both.  Spaulding is also "100%" pro-stadium. 

The UTAS Hobart city move is not a salient issue in an electorate with very low school retention rates but it was interesting that the stadium breakdown was replicated on it with Sharpe against the move, Spaulding and (at least in principle) Vincent for, and Green not stating any position but just claiming that the Liberals' promised vote on the issue was a campaign thoughtbubble.  (I am unsure if his comment that "there won't be a vote" refers to the government's legislation to require a vote of parliament for the university to sell its Sandy Bay campus, or the vote itself.  Concerning the former, the legislation appears in Madeleine Ogilvie's ministerial charter letter).

Equality Tasmania survey responses from some candidates can be seen here


Prosser turned out to be a close two-party contest in 2018. It's difficult to see it as anything but a two-party contest in 2024, but how it goes is another question.  Three concerns for the Liberals would be that in a two-party contest based on the state results they would lose decisively, that they are coming off a very short run to fill a sprawling seat, and that the state election backdrop may not be doing them favours.  They only barely won it in 2018 when they were basking in the glow of a better than expected state election performance; their overall stocks are much lower now.  On the other hand Vincent is an electorally popular mayor whose municipality covers about 40% of the seat's population, and he seems a very good get for the party at such short notice.  

There were many groans online at the announcement of Green as yet another blast from the past for this seat, but he is a very experienced if somewhat battle-scarred campaigner, and a good demographic fit for parts of the electorate.  

Sharpe could poll significantly as she is the candidate making the most obvious pitch to attract voters who are averse to party politics in the upper house or would normally vote Greens (indeed she has raised environmental issues including fish-farming and old-growth logging that would appeal to Greens voters).  She is also the only female candidate.  That said the non-right non-major-party vote in this electorate at state level is not that high; in 2018 there was a high total vote for the nine combined independents but it didn't stick together as preferences.  If an independent does make the top two they can do well on the excluded major party's preferences, but in recent years in a range of these contests with both majors running that has generally not occurred (Huon 2022 the lone exception).  

It would not surprise me to see a substantial SFF vote in the northern parts of this seat where conservative voters were mightily annoyed with the Liberals in the state election campaign but don't have a lot of other places to go.  

Vincent may be vulnerable on Sharpe's preferences flowing to Green (or vice versa if Labor were to run third) and could need a substantial primary vote lead to win. 

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:

* The Liberal Party has a published commitment to repeal Section 196 and has voted for an amendment to restrict it to how to vote cards.

* Labor voted with the Liberals on the above amendment, 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

Other Electoral Law Matters

Bigg has made a post complaining about the conduct of the lower house election, however I disagree with some of his comments and am not aware of any basis for the others.  Specifically it is not a requirement for scrutineers to be present for counting to occur, the correction of errors in counting is a normal part of the rechecking process (not a "recount") and most of the time taken to get a result in the Assembly is caused by waiting for postal votes to arrive.  

Green has suggested the TEC should be looking at the various porkbarrel items promised by the Liberals on the Prosser campaign trail but I am not aware of any electoral law that the Liberals could appear to have broken by making spending promises.  

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