Tasmania 2010

Tasmania’s electorates
Five electorates are used to elect Tasmania’s House of Assembly. Tasmania’s five electorates follow the same boundaries and have the same names as Tasmania’s five federal electorates. A recent redistribution will result in new boundaries being used for the federal and state elections in 2010. Click through to read detailed profiles of each electorate.

  • Bass – North-eastern Tasmania, including Launceston. Elected 2 ALP, 2 Liberal, 1 Green in 2006.
  • Braddon – North-western Tasmania, including Devonport and Burnie, as well as the West Coast of Tasmania. Elected 3 ALP, 2 Liberal in 2006.
  • Denison – Hobart. Elected 3 ALP, 1 Liberal, 1 Green in 2006.
  • Franklin – Southern Tasmania, including Clarence, and Huon Valley. Elected 3 ALP, 1 Liberal, 1 Green in 2006
  • Lyons – Central Tasmania. Elected 3 ALP, 1 Liberal, 1 Green in 2006.

Download the Google Earth map of Tasmania’s electoral boundaries.

Electoral system
Tasmania uses a system of preferential proportional representation known as Hare-Clark. Each electorate elects five MPs. The quota is 16.7% of the vote in each electorate.

In addition to using proportional representation, Tasmania uses the system of Robson Rotation. Under this system, party’s nominate a slate of candidates (usually five, occasionally as many as seven), but they are not listed on the ballot paper in a set party order. Instead, different ballot papers have candidates listed within their party column in different orders. This removes the power of the party machine to direct their supporters to vote for particular candidate. Individual candidates from each party will compete against each other and it is possible for MPs from one party to be defeated by another member of their own party. This also means that personal votes for candidates matter a great deal. Prominent MPs such as party leaders often top the polls in their electorate, and their surplus can carry across other members of their party.

Tasmania also uses a system of ‘countback’ to fill vacancies in the House of Assembly. By-elections would not work in a multi-member electorate system, since all voters would get to have a say in electing a replacement for an MP who had only been elected by one portion of the electorate. Instead of using the Senate system of allowing parties to appoint replacements, countback involves re-examining the ballot papers to determine which candidate wins an election with the resigning MP removed. This system has resulted in the election of a candidate from the same party as the former MP in all but one case. The only exception took place in 1982, when Democrats MP Norm Sanders was replaced by independent candidate Bob Brown. Sanders had been elected partly on the basis of his environmentalist credentials, and many of these voters preferenced Brown above other Democrats candidates.

Tasmania’s Legislative Council is not elected at the same time as the House of Assembly. The Council is elected by fifteen single-member electorates using different boundaries to those used for the House of Assembly. MLCs serve six-year-terms, with two or three electorates going to the polls in May every year. Most MLCs are independents. Traditionally the Liberal Party has not contested Legislative Council seats, although there are a small number of Labor MLCs representing seats around Hobart and Launceston. In 2009 Liberal candidate Vanessa Goodwin won the seat of Pembroke in a by-election, breaking a long tradition of Liberal abstention from the upper house.

Tasmania introduced a system of proportional representation at the 1909 election, using the boundaries of the federal electorates for Tasmania. The five electorates each elected six members of the House of Assembly for a total of thirty.

Tasmania’s proportional representation system has gone through three stages. From 1909 to 1956 each electorate elected six MPs. This tended to produce results where both major parties won three seats each in an electorate, even where one party won a substantial majority. This tended to produce deadlocks. Eight out of 17 elections during this period produced hung parliaments. In four of these cases, one party won half the seats while the other party won a smaller number, and in two cases in 1955 and 1956 the two major parties each won 15 seats.

After the House of Assembly produced a 15-15 result for two elections in a row, the 1959 election saw each electorate elect a seventh MP. During the 35-seat era, four elections produced hung parliaments while seven produced majorities. Majority governments won election in 1972, 1976, 1979, 1982 and 1986, but the rise of the Tasmanian Greens led to a hung parliament after both the 1989 and 1996 election. The second hung parliament led the two major parties to cut the number of seats to five per electorate, which has produced three ALP majority governments over the last 12 years.

The ALP governed Tasmania from 1934 until the 1969 election. They managed this long term of government despite the fact that there were six hung parliaments during this period. The last Labor premier of this period was Eric Reece, who took office in 1968. The 1969 election produced a hung parliament with 17 Labor MPs, 17 Liberals and a sole Centre Party MP, former Liberal Kevin Lyons, son of former Prime Minister and Premier Joseph Lyons. Lyons formed a coalition to support Liberal leader Angus Bethune as Premier.

The 1972 election was a decisive victory for the ALP, who won four seats out of seven in all electorates, and five in Braddon, putting Eric Reece back in power. The ALP stayed in power and maintained its majority at the 1976 and 1979 elections., under Premiers Bill Neilson, Doug Lowe and Harry Holgate.

The Liberals won their first majority government in fifty years at the 1982 election, in the midst of the Franklin Dam campaign, led by Robin Gray. A countback the next year saw Green independent Bob Brown win a seat in Denison. Gray was reelected with a majority government in 1986, with two Green independents on the crossbenches.

Gray’s government fell one seat short of a majority at the 1989 election. The ALP lost a seat too, with the Green independents winning a seat in every electorate. The ALP and Greens signed an accord whereby the Greens supported a minority Labor government led by Michael Field in exchange for policy concessions. This agreement collapsed in 1992, and the Liberal Party won a majority at an early election, making Ray Groom premier.

Groom went to the polls in 1996 vowing to not negotiate an agreement with the Greens. The election saw the Greens lose a seat and the Liberals lose three seats, producing a hung parliament. The ALP refused to work with the Greens, and the Liberals and Greens negotiated an agreement for the Greens to support a Liberal minority government. Groom resigned as Premier, and Tony Rundle led the Liberal government as Premier in its second term.

After two years of Liberal minority government, the ALP and Liberal Party reached an agreement to cut the number of seats in the House of Assembly from 35 to 25. The Greens argued that this was an attempt to remove the influence of the Greens from Tasmanian politics, and it temporarily worked at the early election called shortly after the legislation was passed. The ALP maintained its fourteen seats, while the Liberal Party lost six of its sixteen seats and the Greens lost three of their four seats, with only Denison MP Peg Putt surviving. The new Labor government was led by Jim Bacon.

At the 2002 election, the Liberals were driven even further back, with the Greens winning three seats off the Liberals, who only held seven seats. Jim Bacon retired in 2004 due to cancer, and was succeeded by Paul Lennon. Lennon won a further term in 2006, when the numbers for each party in the House of Assembly were maintained at 14-7-4. Lennon resigned in 2008 and was succeeded as Premier by David Bartlett.

Political situation
Polling data is hard to find for Tasmania, but the shreds of polling suggest that the ALP is on track to lose ground in March’s election. The ALP will lose its majority if it loses only two seats, while the Liberal Party needs to win six to gain a majority in their own right. It seems most likely that the Greens will gain the balance of power in a hung parliament, even without gaining any seats.

The best prospects for the Liberal Party of gaining ground are in Lyons, where they could gain a seat off the ALP or possibly the Greens, and in Braddon, where the third Labor seat could be lost to the Liberals. Kim Booth of the Greens is also vulnerable to the Liberal Party in Bass, as is one of the ALP’s three seats in Franklin.

The Greens will find it hard to win extra seats, but if there is a swing towards the Greens it should strengthen the positions of Kim Booth and Tim Morris in Bass and Lyons, and possibly win seats for Paul O’Halloran in Braddon and Helen Burnet in Denison.

In the likely scenario of a hung parliament, it is possible that the Greens could support either party. It seems more likely the Greens would go with the ALP, but the Liberal Party has traditionally had less resistance to the idea of coalition government than the ALP, and it is conceivable that the Liberal Party could offer ministries to the Greens while the ALP refuses. The Liberals have expressed reluctance to cooperate with the Greens, but neither party has ruled out the prospect. The decision could come down to which major party wins more seats.

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.