Voters go to the polls today in Australia’s two smallest states. In both states long-standing Labor governments are set to take a hit, although the situation is very different.
In South Australia, Mike Rann’s ALP is set to lose seats to Liberal leader Isobel Redmond. If Redmond can win power, she will become the first female Liberal premier in Australia, the first female Premier of South Australia and the first woman to win power from opposition in an Australian state. While Mike Rann’s majority is set to be slashed, the result will likely be either a slim Labor majority or a hung parliament, with Labor falling one seat short of a majority and relying on a crossbencher, such as ex-Labor independent Kris Hanna or Nationals MP (and Rann government minister) Karlene Maywald, to reach a majority. This would be a similar situation to the election results in 1989, 1997 and 2002. In the cases of 1989 and 1997, they saw the incumbent government retain power for one final term.
In Tasmania, the situation is very different. The Hare-Clark system, combined with the poor performance of the state Labor Party, have created a situation where no-one is predicting a majority for any party, and no-one even knows which party would have a better chance of doing so. We pretty know the result: Greens holding the balance of power in a hung parliament. What happens next is the interesting part. Even still, we don’t know what will happen in individual seats. The Liberals look set to gain second seats in Bass, Lyons and Franklin. In Braddon the Liberals and Greens are competing to take the third Labor seat. In Denison, all three parties are guaranteed only one seat, and will compete to win a second. The Greens are running a strong second candidate in Hobart Deputy Lord Mayor Helen Burnet. On the Labor side, polls have suggested Premier David Bartlett could even be in danger of losing his seat in Denison, where the ALP is running Scott Bacon, son of former Premier Jim Bacon, alongside Bartlett and two of his ministers.
While numbers vary, the Tasmanian polls are agreed on some key facts: the ALP has been hit hard, and the Greens are polling much higher than in the past. The ALP campaign was hurt hard this week when negative campaigning tactics backfired. The campaign, already gripped by panic, ran flyers and robocalls attacking the Greens policy on drug reform and on giving prisoners the right to vote, but the usually anti-Green media turned on the ALP over the tactics. While it is not yet clear who will win the key seats in Tasmania, the most interesting element of the process won’t begin until Sunday. The ALP and the Liberals have both insisted that they would not make a governing agreement with the Greens, and seem to be saying that they will let the party with the largest number of seats govern. This may be a short-term strategy to keep the Greens away from the levers of power, but sooner or later either the Greens need to reach some agreement with a major party to support its government, or the opposition major party will be forced to support the government to prevent the Greens bringing down the government. The process will be fascinating.
Consider this an open thread for election day. I will be liveblogging this evening as well as posting commentary on Twitter.