Denison – Election 2010

ALP 15.3%

Incumbent MP
Duncan Kerr, since 1987.

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.

The redistribution enlarged Denison by extending the southern border to the Huon Highway. This saw the margin reduced from 15.6% to 15.3%, however this is not a dramatic change in boundaries. About 1000 voters were transferred, and no polling booths sit in the area transferred from Franklin to Denison.

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 has held the seat ever since, as the seat has become a safe Labor seat. He managed to maintain the seat during the entirety of the Howard government. Kerr has announced his retirement in 2010, which will mean he will have served 23 years in the seat, by far the longest term in Denison in the seat’s 106-year history.


Political situation
Denison is Labor’s safest seat in Tasmania. It is also the strongest seat in the state for the Greens.

2007 result

Duncan KerrALP31,00148.46-1.05
Leigh GrayLIB18,97429.66-2.90
Helen HutchinsonGRN11,89818.60+4.00
Robyn MunroFF1,3602.13-0.34
Susan AustinSA4940.77-0.08
Rob LarnerCEC2430.38+0.38

2007 two-candidate-preferred result

Duncan KerrALP41,98265.63+2.34
Leigh GrayLIB21,98834.37-2.34

These results do not take into consideration the effects of the redistribution.

Booth breakdown
Denison consists of Glenorchy LGA and Hobart LGA, along with a small part of Kingborough LGA. I have divided the seat into six areas based on the main suburban centres. I divided Hobart LGA into Hobart, Sandy Bay and New Town, with Sandy Bay also covering the two booths on the southern fringe of the seat. I also divided Glenorchy LGA into Glenorchy, Claremont and Moonah.

The ALP won a majority in all parts of Denison. This varied from Sandy Bay, where they won less than 55% of the two-party-preferred vote, to the centre of Hobart, where they won almost 72%. The only three booths won by the Liberal Party were in the Sandy Bay area. The Greens are much stronger in Hobart LGA than in Glenorchy LGA, polling over 14% in all southern booths and below that in all but one Glenorchy booth. The peak for the Greens is around the centre of Hobart, although the Greens polled 48% in the small Fern Tree booth.

Voter groupGRN %ALP 2CP %Total votes% of votes
Sandy Bay & South24.3254.7311,63618.19
New Town & Lenah Valley18.9065.496,41910.03
Other votes21.6364.6711,57218.09
Two party preferred vote by booth in Denison.
Two party preferred vote by booth in Denison.
Greens primary vote by booth in Denison.
Greens primary vote by booth in Denison.
Two party preferred vote by booth in Claremont and Glenorchy.
Two party preferred vote by booth in Claremont and Glenorchy.
Greens primary vote by booth in Claremont and Glenorchy.
Greens primary vote by booth in Claremont and Glenorchy.
Two party preferred vote by booth in Hobart and Sandy Bay.
Two party preferred vote by booth in Hobart and Sandy Bay.
Greens primary vote by booth in Hobart and Sandy Bay.
Greens primary vote by booth in Hobart and Sandy Bay.


  1. With Duncan Kerr retiring, Denison is shaping up to be one of the most interesting matches of the election. Always a strong seat for the Greens and strong campaign from a high profile candidate could snatch this seat from the ALP. Many Greens voters in the past supported Kerr, unless the ALP can find someone with similar support they will be left with an uphill battle.

  2. That’s in the state election, and I’m not sure how it will hurt the Greens. The first Greens seat in Denison is safe, and I don’t think Wilkie will hurt our chances of getting a second elected. Independents don’t tend to do well in Tasmania, and I think his preferences would flow back to the Greens.

  3. Wilkie’s candidacy has got a fair bit of coverage, see here for instance, seems to be taking the Stephen Mayne approach:

    The Senate results in Denison last time are noteworthy. ALP 40.04%, Lib 30.56%, Greens 25.32%. The difference between the Greens’ Reps and Senate votes was the highest for any seat except the two ACT seats. The next biggest difference, marginally behind Denison, was Griffith.

  4. Just wondering something there, Ben – are those 2cp figures on the maps all ALP vs Lib? If you’re breaking it down to the booth level, it may be interesting to find / mock up a margin for the actual last two parties left at each booth – if the Greens have a vote above 30% in places, that would surely be an ALP vs Grn figure. (Maybe even a Lib vs Grn figure in Sandy Bay, for the trifecta.) I did something similar for Fremantle (WA seat) a couple of months before the by-election, and posted it on here in one of the old comment threads.

  5. Wilkie has a website and a mailing list if anyone’s interested.

    I’d love him to get in, but it will be hard. Labor will get 2 quotas easily, the Greens 1 easily. Wilkie will need the swing to the Libs to be low enough to keep them below 2 quotas.

  6. Quick question – does anyone know if the booth where the Greens got 40% of the vote is there best performing booth in the country of if there are other areas where the Greens perform better. Just curious

  7. We have several booths in the hinterland of the Byron Shire and the hills north of Lismore where the Greens often poll over 50%. Places such as Nimbin, The Channon, Goonengerry, Upper Main Arm and Wilsons Creek.

  8. It will be interesting to see how Wilkie’s preferences in Denison flow in the State Election. If these figures were replicated federally, the Greens would need roughly 85% of Wilkies votes to surpass the Liberals and challenge Labour on preferences.

    Labor 36.8
    Liberal 29.8
    Greens 24.9 (includes SA)
    Andrew Wilkie 8.4

    This of course ignores incumbancy and the likely improve of the Liberal primary vote federally.

  9. It would be surprising if the state figures were recreated federally as there tends to be lag between the Green votes at federal level and state level in Tasmanian electorates; also, the Tasmanian state government was on the nose at the 2010 state election in a way that the Rudd federal one is probably not.

    Even leaving that aside it is my view that the Greens would not gain much leg-up from the Wilkie vote. We never got to see where the Wilkie preferences went because he was not excluded, but some booth analysis I did ( suggested they his votes probably came almost as much from the Libs as from the Greens, and his preferences could well flow in similar directions.

    For Denison to get interesting not only do the Greens need to run a very strong campaign but also the Liberals must actively cooperate by running a weak candidate and preferencing the Greens in an attempt to unseat Labor. If they can do this then the low profile of the replacement for Kerr and the loss of Kerr’s pull with green-leaning voters could just make it interesting. I wouldn’t get too carried away with the chances though. I give Labor 95+% of retaining.

  10. Any news on contenders for Green preselection for Denison? With the Greens having now started their campaigns in inner Sydney and Melbourne surely it’s time for the Denison candidate to be announced if they are hoping for any chance of a strong showing. Will Peg Putt be making a comeback? Will Helen Burnet be taking a punt? or will they be looking outside the party for a high profile candidate like Rodney Croome or Richard Flanagan?

  11. “Will Peg Putt be making a comeback? Will Helen Burnet be taking a punt? or will they be looking outside the party for a high profile candidate like Rodney Croome or Richard Flanagan?”

    Burnet, a consistently strong vote-getter in any election that she runs in, would be the best of those by far. Putt was waning as an electoral force when she resigned and was replaced by Nick McKim – basically once the old warhorses Hidding and Lennon were gone Putt just seemed out of place, and would be likewise against a Labor candidate 20+ years her junior. Flanagan – who has repeatedly declined dares from major parties to run – would be a flop a la Clive Hamilton and while I greatly respect what Rodney Croome has done to make Tasmania a better place, I think he would also be received divisively as a candidate and is much better sticking to lobbying.

    But I think the real problem is that the candidate the Greens need for a really good shot at taking this seat – someone fresh, dynamic and really high-profile but who is not seen as divisive – doesn’t exist (and already would have been preselected if they did.)

    Usually in my experience candidate selection doesn’t matter much to the Green vote unless a really unsuitable candidate is selected but for this one they would need every help they could get.

  12. Great find Nick. Firstly, as I’ve said before, I’m a huge fan of Wilkie. Of all the politicians and candidates I’ve met, he is one of the most impressive. However, I have my doubts that he could come close. At the last election he did well in Green and Liberal areas but struggled in Glenorchy and Labor strongholds. I imagine it will be much the same this time around (if he runs, the article just says that he’s strongly considering it). Equally, his preferences are not assured for the Greens, as a significant part of his vote are from the former Democrat vote (small l libs) and socially conscious Liberals and could well splinter. Perhaps he’s keeping his profile up for the next state election, or the upper house seat of Hobart in 2012? Either way, good luck to the man.

    Any word on the Greens ‘star candidate’?

  13. The Neales article says “The Greens secured 25 per cent of the primary vote in Denison at the March election, but have recorded voter support ahead of elections as high as 35 per cent.” Yes, but the discrepancy between the actual results and the claimed polled support even when the latter is in a “final poll” from EMRS just shows that the EMRS readings are bogus (in particular because they have a very high “undecided” response which they redistribute proportionally, but experience shows consists more or less entirely of soft Lab/Lib support. They have overcooked the Greens vote in Denison by double figure amounts two state elections in a row.

    I think Wilkie would need a primary of at least 18 for any realistic shot at winning Denison federally. He would need to more than double his state result in the same electorate. I wonder if he has considered a run for the Senate instead, though to have a decent shot at it he would really need to have started months ago.

    Yes Denison could be won by an independent but I don’t think Wilkie would be the one to do it. I can think of a certain well-known Hobart hat that if thrown into the ring would make life very nervous for Labor, but I don’t believe the wearer of that hat really wants to go to Canberra. 🙂

  14. One point I did miss though is that people don’t vote tactically under Hare-Clarke, but do with a strong independent with the Federal voting system. If enough Green and Lib voters decide that their party cannot win (both true) and throw their vote behind Wilkie in an effort to defeat Labor, well, it’s a long shot, but not entirely out of the realm of possibility. Independents have to come from somewhere, and usually do best in safe seats.

    Kevin, do you know if Wilkie has any support outside of Denison?

    I’m just a little bit excited now. Good luck to the man.

  15. I think a problem with the idea of Greens voters defecting to Wilkie is that Greens voters have been hyping the seat as winnable for 15+ years and are probably going to think they’re at least as good a chance as he is. Lib voters are another matter. The Liberal Party obviously cannot win the seat, and throwing it to Wilkie is a better outcome for them than Labor getting it, and the best way for that to happen is if a really big bunch of Lib voters go 1 Wilkie 2 Libs. But it does all sound a bit difficult. It’s the kind of thing a party might well pull off in England but Australia isn’t really used to it.

    It’s hard to judge the Wilkie support level outside Denison, because it has never been tested. If the Wilkie vote is, as I’ve suspected, much like an old-style Democrat voter base thing, then he’d be bound to be on the radar to at least the tune of a few points worth in Franklin as well.

  16. Dr Couser is hardly all that high-profile and probably best known to voters (if at all) as one of the usual Doctors for Forests suspects in the forestry debate, though perhaps less so now than several years ago.

    Senator Christine Milne engages in a furphy when she claims: “”The Greens topped the vote in Denison during this year’s state election, so there is no reason why we cannot do it again.”

    Actually the Greens did not top the poll of parties; rather, one of their candidates topped the poll among candidates. In Tasmanian Lower House seats, each party runs five candidates but the Greens, unlike the other parties, deliberately try to concentrate their votes in a lead candidate (in my view, a bad strategy in seats where they get well over a quota, but that’s another story).

    The votes by party in Denison were thus Labor 23151 Liberal 19001 Green 15877 (and, for completeness, Group A (Ind) 5382 and Socialist Alliance a whole 365!) However because the Green vote was reasonably concentrated in their sole sitting MHA, while Labor had three sitting MHAs and the Liberals none (their one retired at this election), the individual candidate votes were led by O’Connor (Green) 10336, Bartlett (Labor) 10169, Groom (Lib) 9602, Bacon (Labor) 7356, Wilkie (Ind) 5382, etc

    As a party, the Greens have never topped Denison at state level and the best they ever did was beating the Libs in 2002. There is every reason why they cannot top the primary vote in this election and they won’t.

  17. I expect that Wilkie will poll fourth, with his preferences determining the outcome. Assuming that the Greens run a strong campaign and the Libs a weak one I see a possible outcome of Labor 35%, Libs 25%, Green 25%, Wilkie 10%, Other 5%.
    If Wilkie’s preferences favour the Greens then Libs preferences then determine the outcome. If his preferences split evenly then Green preferences would likely retain the seat for Labor.

  18. Wilkie today confirmed he is running.

    I don’t think Wilkie 10% and Greens 25% is likely. In the state election the effect of competition from Wilkie was that the Greens vote increased less than one point in the context of a statewide increase of 4.5 points. There could be some drift to the Greens from Kerr’s retirement but I doubt it would exceed a point or two. Seems to me that with Wilkie in the mix the Greens will struggle to get much over 21. They may even go slightly backwards from the 18.6 recorded last time.

    As Wilkie mainly takes votes off the Greens and Liberals rather than Labor I agree with Peter that Labor should still break 40, barring any severe candidate malfunctions.

    All that said it is remarkable how little publicity there is around Jackson’s candidacy at this stage. By this stage in the orderly transition from a very long serving and very high profile member I would have expected youtube ads, media releases by the candidate, a webpage for the new candidate and so on. Haven’t seen any of that kind of action yet. Labels like “obscure” and “low-profile”, which I’ve been using to describe him for a while, are now starting to be picked up in the Tasmanian mainstream media.

  19. Wilkie only really needs to beat one of either the Greens or the Libs to get their preferences and be in with a chance (unless the Greens are spiteful and put Labor before Wilkie, but I doubt that). I agree that Labor should win, but they will need over 40% primary vote, or Wilkie to come fourth.

  20. I can’t understand why Wilkie would go for Denison rather than the Senate. In the Senate it would be quite credible for him to score 4-5% (7% across Denison and Franklin, a bit under 2-4% across the rest). If the Greens repeat their vote last time and have a quota and 4% left over this could lift him past 8%, even allowing for some leakage.

    If Labor was on two and a half quotas their preferences could get him there. Not likely, but in Denison I doubt he will break double figures, and certainly not get close enough to win.

  21. Wilkie will break double figures because traditional Lib voters will vote tactically and put him there. The difference between the state and federal voting system in Tassie is that there isn’t really any kind of tactical voting in state elections, as even Lib voters in a safe Labor electorate will get at least one candidate up. Lib voters know they can’t win Denison and many will vote Wilkie as an anyone-but-Labor candidate, which I estimate will double his vote to the high teens, hopefully enough to beat the Lib or Green candidate, then take their preferences against the Labor candidate.

    It’s a long shot, made more difficult because the Greens have trumpeted Denison as a chance for so long (they can’t win in 2010, sorry), but it’s not out of the question. For Wilkie to win he needs to 1) Come third 2) have Labor poll in the very low 40s at the most.

    As I said, it’s a long shot, but it happens. The Lake Macquarie election in NSW is a case in point, where the Lib vote dropped by about 40% because Lib voters put the independent first (even though Piper is strongly Labor leaning) as any chance to beat the ALP candidate. Sure enough, the indi beat the Libs, took their preferences and won (just).

    Wilkie won’t get the primary vote of Piper, but if he gets ahead of the Libs first, then the Greens, he will be in with a shot.

    If Green voters just care about their primary vote, fine, but if they want to see Labor lose Denison, their only real shot is to vote Wilkie. Eccentric old voting system we have isn’t it.

  22. But you’re quite right, Wilkie would probably stand a better shot in the Senate, but Denison is not as mad as it sounds. Most independents win in safe seats.

  23. Maybe the Libs should make a really blatant throw of it by either just not running at all or endorsing someone really ridiculous. It’s interesting that they still have not endorsed a candidate for this seat as far as I know; in previous elections they’ve had a lot of trouble even finding one.

  24. Libs select former Army Major and now a bank manager, Cameron Simpkins.

    He says he is keen to focus on the needs of working families and those doing it tough.

    “I understand what it’s about to run a small business, I’ve owned a small business,” he said.

    “I understand how it is to work in shift work, I’ve been a truck driver, I know shifts I know long hours and I know terrible wages.

    “I understand that and I’ve been in those jobs and I want to take that voice to Canberra because for too long we’ve been forgotten.”

    Perhaps Kevin knows a bit more?

  25. Never heard of the guy. Google search reveals not much except he was on Matthew Groom’s successful Denison state campaign and appeared in ads. Wonder if he is any relation of Luke Simpkins member for Cowan.

  26. By the way I was at school with Jackson though I’m trying not to hold that against him (two years ahead of him I think.) It’s surprised me that he popped up as the candidate; for a while his sister Kate (also at school with me, same year and later a Tasmania University Union president) was being called one of the frontrunners for endorsement.

  27. “My supporters come from right across the political spectrum, people who might normally vote Labor or Liberals or Greens, and it’s important that I respect their position and respect the fact that they might want to go back to any number of parties after they give me my number one vote,” he said.

    Fair enough.

  28. I noticed on Centrebet recently that not only is Wilkie at shorter odds than Couser there, but he is also the shortest-odds non-sitting independent in any electorate other than Calare. That said he is still very much a longshot at $23.

    If Wilkie is serious about this, he needs to run a massive tactical voting campaign, making the points that the Liberals and Greens cannot win, but he can if Lib and Green voters who want Labor out all put him 1. – outstanding article by Natasha Cica about the Denison contest.

  29. Anyone got the EMRS figures for Denison and Franklin? Only Bass and Braddon are being reported in mainland papers.

  30. Denison: Lib 25 ALP 40 Grn 23 Ind 6 Other 1 Unsure 7 (65-35)
    Franklin: Lib 28 ALP 40 Grn 27 Ind 1 Other 1 Unsure 5 (62-28)

    IMO these are undercooking the Libs in both seats and Wilkie in Denison and overcooking the Greens and 2PP in both seats.

  31. My prediction: If Wilkie can outpoll the Greens, and provided that doesn’t come at a huge cost to the Greens vote, he may well win, but he probably won’t do that well. Labor retain, 3% swing to Libs due to loss of Kerr’s personal vote.

  32. Yeah, bout the same here, I’m tipping 4% 2PP swing and I think Wilkie will get about 10, but he just *might* do much much better. I just think he and Couser will poll not much in the northern suburbs so it doesn’t matter what they do in Hobart City.

    Denison Town Hall debate on Youtube for anyone interested (total of 2 hours of it in 12 parts)

    Can be tricky to hear but with volume ramped to maximum I could hear most of it. I was actually there for most of it. Very Green-leaning audience.

  33. [but he just *might* do much much better.]

    And did!

    [I just think he and Couser will poll not much in the northern suburbs so it doesn’t matter what they do in Hobart City. ]

    Bzzzt! Wrong! Whether he wins or loses from here, Wilkie has really established himself in the northern suburbs this time.

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