Bass – Australia 2019

ALP 5.4%

Incumbent MP
Ross Hart, since 2016.

Bass covers the north-eastern corner of Tasmania. It covers the LGAs of Launceston, George Town, West Tamar and Dorset. Bass also covers Tasmania’s north-eastern islands, including Flinders Island.

Some changes were made to the western boundary of Bass. Bass gained the remainder of the West Tamar council area from Lyons, while losing the remainder of the Meander Valley council area on the edge of the Launceston urban area to Lyons. These changes cut the Labor margin from 6.1% to 5.4%.

Bass was created for the 1903 election, after Tasmania’s MPs were elected at large for the 1901 election. Bass has always been centred on Launceston, and has long been a marginal electorate. Indeed, the seat has changed hands from one MP to another sixteen times in its history, and only twice has an MP been succeeded by a member of the same party.

The seat was dominated by the Barnard family in the middle part of the twentieth century, with Claude Barnard holding the seat from 1934 to 1949, which included a period as Minister for Repatriation in the Chifley government. He was defeated by Liberal candidate Bruce Kekwick in 1949, who himself was defeated by Claude’s son Lance Barnard in 1954. The younger Barnard went on to serve as Deputy Prime Minister under Gough Whitlam from 1972 to 1974, and his resignation triggered the June 1975 Bass by-election, which saw a 14% swing to the Liberal Party, a major blow to the Whitlam government.

Kevin Newman (father of Queensland Premier, Campbell) held the seat from 1975 to 1984, during which time he served as a minister in the Fraser government. He was succeeded by Warwick Smith in 1984. Smith served up to the 1993 election, when he too was defeated by Labor candidate Silvia Smith.

Warwick Smith won seat back in 1996, and he served as a minister in the first Howard government. He was defeated again in 1998 by Michelle O’Byrne, who held the seat for two terms as a Labor MP before losing in 2004 as part of a backlash against Mark Latham’s forestry policies. She too went on to become a state MP for Bass at the 2006 state election.

At the 2007 election, the sitting Liberal MP Michael Ferguson was defeated himself by Launceston alderman Jodie Campbell. Campbell stepped down in 2010 after one term, and Labor candidate Geoff Lyons won the seat.

Lyons only lasted one term, losing in 2013 to Liberal candidate Andrew Nikolic. Nikolic also held the seat for one term before losing in 2016 to Labor’s Ross Hart.


  • Bridget Archer (Liberal)
  • Carl Cooper (Nationals)
  • Ross Hart (Labor)
  • Assessment
    Bass is a marginal seat. While you’d expect Labor to retain the seat in current circumstances, it is a seat with a history of producing surprising results and bucking the national trend, so you would be brave to make a confident prediction.

    2016 result

    Ross Hart Labor 26,80340.5+5.939.7
    Andrew Nikolic Liberal 25,60938.7-9.239.2
    Terrill Riley-Gibson Greens 7,15410.8+2.911.1
    Mark TapsellRecreational Fishers3,2314.9+4.95.0
    Malcolm Peter BeattieChristian Democratic Party1,7652.7+2.72.7
    Roy RamageRenewable Energy Party1,6132.4+2.42.5

    2016 two-party-preferred result

    Ross Hart Labor 37,11956.1+10.155.4
    Andrew Nikolic Liberal 29,05643.9-10.144.6

    Booth breakdown

    Booths have been divided into six areas. Four of these areas cover the entirety of their local government area: Dorset, George Town, West Tamar and Flinders Island. The Launceston council area was split between Launceston Urban and Launceston Rural.

    The ALP won a majority of the two-party-preferred vote in four out of six areas, ranging from 50.3% in West Tamar to 63.1% in George Town. The Liberal Party won 56.9% in Flinders Island and 57.3% in Dorset.

    Voter groupGRN prim %ALP 2PP %Total votes% of votes
    Launceston Urban11.559.136,29241.6
    West Tamar11.750.34,1124.7
    George Town7.663.13,2513.7
    Launceston Rural14.256.52,2412.6
    Flinders Island12.143.14620.5
    Other votes9.651.48,4439.7

    Election results in Bass at the 2016 federal election
    Toggle between two-party-preferred votes and Greens primary votes.

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    1. Ben
      I am surprised at your reticence in not awarding credit for Labor’s victory, to the incredible campaign of Get Up ! Weren’t you heavily involved personally ?.
      What is interesting is that Get Up ! proved that almost any MP can be unseated, with the deployment of sufficient resources. Nikolic, & the others are the first of many victims.

    2. Good choice of candidate by the Liberals, probably not the election for her to be running.

      She may have a better shot in 3 years time.

    3. Carl Cooper has been selected today as the Nationals candidate for Bass. Be interesting to know if the Nats have ever run in Bass and whether or not they will help or hinder the Liberals?

    4. Labor should easily hold this in what is a quite anti lib election environment, but it will be a key race in 2021/22.


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