Denison – Australia 2013

IND vs ALP 1.2%

Incumbent MP
Andrew Wilkie, since 2010.

Denison covers the suburbs of Hobart on the western shores of the Derwent River. The seat covers Hobart and Glenorchy LGAs as well as northern parts of Kingborough LGA. The seat includes the Hobart CBD and is by far the most compact seat in Tasmania.

Denison was first created for the 1903 election. The seat was first held by Sir Philip Fysh, a former Premier of Tasmania and minister under Edmund Barton and Alfred Deakin. His retirement in 1910 saw the seat fall to the ALP, with the ALP member William Laird Smith joining the new Nationalist party in 1916. He lost the seat to a Labor candidate in 1922, and for the next twelve years the seat changed hands every three years, with the Nationalists winning it back in 1925, the ALP winning it back in 1928 and retaining it in 1929 before the new United Australia Party won the seat in 1931.

In 1934, the ALP regained it yet again, and held it for two terms until the 1940 election. A new UAP member of Parliament won the seat in 1940, and again only held it for three years, before the ALP’s John Gaha won the seat at the 1943 election. For the next half-century, Denison was a bellwether seat, going to the party that won federal government at each election.

Gaha lost the seat in 1949 to the Liberal Party’s Athol Townley. Townley held the seat for the next fourteen years, which was the longest term of service in Denison up until Duncan Kerr’s time. Townley served as Minister for Defence under Robert Menzies, before dying in December 1963 shortly after being appointed as Ambassador to the United States.

He was succeeded by Adrian Gibson, who retired in 1969 to be replaced by Robert Solomon. Solomon was defeated after one term in 1972 by Labor’s John Coates, who himself was defeated by Michael Hodgman in 1975. Hodgman served in a variety of junior ministerial roles under Malcolm Fraser and held the seat until 1987. Indeed, his victories in 1983 and 1984 were the only times Denison had gone to an opposition candidate in decades.

Hodgman was defeated in 1987 by the ALP’s Duncan Kerr. Kerr held the seat from 1987 until 2010, by far the longest term in Denison in the seat’s 106-year history.

In 2010, Kerr was replaced as ALP candidate by Jonathan Jackson. He was challenged by independent candidate Andrew Wilkie. Wilkie was a former analyst at the Office of National Assessments who resigned in protest over the Iraq War. He ran against John Howard in Bennelong for the Greens in 2004 and then ran as Bob Brown’s running mate for the Senate in Tasmania in 2007. After the 2007 election, Wilkie had a falling-out with the Tasmanian Greens and became an independent. He came close to winning a seat in Denison at the 2010 Tasmanian election. At the federal election, Wilkie came third on primary votes but overtook the Liberal Party on Socialist and Green preferences, and narrowly defeated the ALP on the two-party-preferred vote.


  • Tanya Denison (Liberal)
  • Andrew Wilkie (Independent)
  • Anna Reynolds (Greens)
  • Wayne Williams (Democratic Labour Party)
  • Bob Butler (Sex Party)
  • Brandon Hoult (Stable Population Party)
  • Trevlyn Mccallum (Family First)
  • Debra Thurley (Palmer United Party)
  • Jane Austin (Labor)
  • Graeme Devlin (Rise Up Australia)

Denison is one of the most interesting seats in the country. In 2010, Andrew Wilkie was the only candidate to get elected from third place on primary votes. The Greens will be pushing hard to overtake Wilkie, which would kill off his chances and likely turn the seat into a Labor vs Greens race.

It is most likely, however, that Wilkie will benefit from a personal vote as a sitting MP, and will increase his vote. If he does, this seat will likely be a race between Wilkie and the ALP, and will depend on Greens and Liberal preferences. A 2012 ReachTel poll had Wilkie well out in front on 40% with the Labor and Greens votes both dropping and the Liberals coming second. While this should be taken with a grain of salt, it is plausible that Wilkie’s presence as a progressive independent will take a large chunk out of both Labor and Greens and give him a strong lead.

2010 result

Jonathan JacksonALP23,21535.79-12.37
Cameron SimpkinsLIB14,68822.65-7.34
Andrew WilkieIND13,78821.26+21.26
Geoffrey CouserGRN12,31218.98+0.40
Mel BarnesSA8561.32+0.56

2010 two-candidate-preferred result

Andrew WilkieIND33,21751.21
Jonathan JacksonALP31,64248.79

Polling booths in Denison at the 2010 federal election. Claremont in yellow, Glenorchy in green, Hobart in red, South in blue.

Booth breakdown
Booths have been divided into four areas. Most of the population of Denison lie in Glenorchy and Hobart local government areas. Booths in Glenorchy have been split between Claremont (north) and Glenorchy (south). Booths in Hobart have been divided between Hobart and South. The handful of booths in Kingborough council have also been included in South.

The 2010 federal election results revealed a very sharp divide between booths north of the Glenorchy-Hobart council boundary and those south of it.

In the north, the ALP polled 49% of the primary vote and over 60% of the vote after preferences, and the Liberal Party came second. In the south, the four main candidates all polled between 23% and 26%. While Labor still led the pack, they polled only 0.9% more than Wilkie and much less once preferences are factored in. After preferences, Wilkie polled 60.4% in the south of the electorate.

Voter groupALP %LIB %IND %GRN %IND 2CP %Total votes% of votes
Other votes35.0326.0519.4018.4051.6114,29522.04
Total South25.8823.3524.9824.5160.3628,499
Total North49.0919.5317.6512.2239.1522,065

Click on the following maps to enlarge them to full size.

Two-candidate-preferred votes in Denison at the 2010 federal election.

Labor primary votes in Denison at the 2010 federal election.

Liberal primary votes in Denison at the 2010 federal election.

Primary votes for Andrew Wilkie in Denison at the 2010 federal election.

Greens primary votes in Denison at the 2010 federal election.

About the Author

Ben Raue is the founder and author of the Tally Room.If you like this post, please consider donating to support the Tally Room.