Senate – Tasmania – Election 2010

Incumbent Senators

Term expires 2011
Term expires 2014
Eric Abetz (LIB)
Catryna Bilyk (ALP)
Guy Barnett (LIB)Bob Brown (GRN)
Christine Milne (GRN)
Carol Brown (ALP)
Kerry O’Brien (ALP)David Bushby (LIB)
Stephen Parry (LIB)
Richard Colbeck (LIB)
Helen Polley (ALP)
Nick Sherry (ALP)


Tasmania elected five senators for each major party at the 1951 double dissolution. In 1953, the Liberals gained a sixth seat from the ALP. The Liberals were reduced to five seats in 1955, when one of the ALP’s senators left the party to join the party that became the Democratic Labor Party. In 1961, the Liberals lost their fifth seat to independent Reginald Turnbull, and until 1964 Tasmania was represented by four Labor senators, four Liberal senators, one DLP senator and Turnbull.

The 1964 election saw the ALP regain the seat previously held by the DLP. This 5-4-1 split remained until the 1970 Senate election, when the ALP lost their fifth seat to conservative independent Michael Townley, producing a result of four Labor, four Liberal and two independents. Turnbull retired at the 1974 double dissolution, and the ALP won back a fifth senate seat. Prior to the 1975 election Townley joined the Liberal Party, and in 1975 the Liberals won five seats, the ALP won four (down one from 1974) , and the final seat was won by ex-Labor independent Brian Harradine.

Tasmania continued to be represented by five Liberals, four Labor and Harradine from 1975 until the 1984 election, when Labor won a fifth seat and the Australian Democrats won a seat. This 5-5-1-1 balance remained steady until the 1996 election, when the Democrats lost their single senate seat, and Greens candidate Dr Bob Brown was elected to that seat. This balance remained steady until 2004, although prior to the 2001 election Labor Senator Shayne Murphy resigned from the ALP to serve as an independent. At the 2004 election, Harradine retired, and his seat was won by the Liberal Party, whilst the ALP lost one of its seats to Greens candidate Christine Milne. At the 2007 election, the ALP won a fifth seat back off the Liberal Party, producing the current balance of five Labor senators, five Liberal senators and two Greens.

Tasmanian delegation after each Senate election. Liberal in blue, ALP in red, DLP in yellow, Independents in white, Democrats in purple, Greens in bright green.
Tasmanian delegation after each Senate election. Liberal in blue, ALP in red, DLP in yellow, Independents in white, Democrats in purple, Greens in bright green.
Tasmanian Senate delegation after each Senate election. Red represents ALP + Turnbull + Democrats + Greens. Blue represents Liberals + DLP + Townley + Harradine
Tasmanian Senate delegation after each Senate election. Red represents ALP + Turnbull + Democrats + Greens. Blue represents Liberals + DLP + Townley + Harradine

2007 result

The Greens59,25418.13+4.841.2690
Family First6,6632.04-0.340.1427

The ALP and Liberal Party each won two seats on primary votes, and the Greens won one seat. After distribution of preferences, the last four candidates standing were Labor #3 candidate Catryna Bilyk, Liberal #3 candidate Don Morris, Greens #2 candidate Andrew Wilkie and Family First candidate Jacquie Petrusma. They had the following votes:

  • Bilyk (ALP) – 0.8181 quotas
  • Morris (LIB) – 0.6304
  • Wilkie (GRN) – 0.3438
  • Petrusma (FF) – 0.2035

Petrusma was excluded, and over two thirds of her preferences flowed to the Liberal candidate:

  • Bilyk – 0.8715
  • Morris – 0.7624
  • Wilkie – 0.3614

Wilkie was excluded, and his preferences elected Bilyk:

  • Bilyk – 1.1936
  • Morris – 0.8002


The Liberal Party has preselected the following ticket:

  1. Eric Abetz
  2. Stephen Parry
  3. Guy Barnett

At the 2004 election, Barnett was ranked above Parry, however the Liberal Party changed it’s decision in its preselection.

The ALP has preselected the following ticket:

  1. Helen Polley
  2. Anne Urquhart
  3. Lisa Singh

Sitting Senator Kerry O’Brien was dropped, and the recommendation of the Tasmanian ALP to nominate union leader Kevin Harkins was overturned by the ALP’s National Executive in the face of open opposition to Harkins’ preselection from the Prime Minister, with the Executive moving Urquhart into second spot and adding recently defeated state MP and minister Lisa Singh in the marginal third spot.

Christine Milne will be running for re-election at the head of the Greens’ ticket.

Political situation

The ALP’s third candidate won the last seat in 2007. In order to change that result, the following swings would be needed:

  • A 2.81% swing from the ALP to the Liberals would give the seat to the Liberals.
  • A 2.88% swing from the Liberals to the Greens would give the seat to the Greens, as the Greens would overtake the Liberals and win on their preferences, however this would also require a small swing from the ALP to the Greens (less than 1%) to keep the ALP from reaching three quotas on Family First preferences.
  • A 3.63% swing from the ALP to the Greens would push the Greens ahead of the ALP and the Greens would win the seat on Liberal preferences.


  1. Wait, I’d just like to clarify this…

    A 2.88% swing from the Liberals to the Greens would mean an election of 2 Labor senators, 2 Liberal senators, and 2 Green senators, even though Labor would gain ~40% of the vote, the Liberals would win ~35%, and the Greens would win ~20%?

    I’m sorry if I’m misunderstanding this; that just seems…a strange outcome.

  2. Ben, how are you working out how these swings would alter the result? It seems to me that if Wilkie had got ahead of Morris FF and CEC prefs would’ve gone to Labor, and then any further swing between Libs and Greens would make no difference as the combined Greens+Libs vote would be unchanged.

  3. No, disregard my question Ben, I see how you worked that out now.

    Suspend your disbelief BlackMage, that’s exactly what it looks like when you look at the totals for the last three candidates remaining in the count. It is all about the BTL votes, and there are lots of them in Tas.

  4. Actually Nick you are right. If the Greens overtook the Liberals, then Family First preferences would flow to the ALP. So it’s necessary to amend the scenario to say that the Greens would also need a small swing from the ALP as well.

  5. Correct me if i am wrong, but didn’t Christine almost miss out in 2004 and it had to got to BTL preferences?

    My prediction is that Christine will get a lower % than Bob, although she will earn a quota in her own right. So scrap any hopes for a 2nd Green.

  6. Hey you’re right, when I looked at the distribution of prefs earlier for some reason I thought the quota was 46,889, don’t ask me where i saw that number, but it stuck in my head and I totally ignored the number 46,693 being written everywhere. Add the 212 CEC ticket votes which go to Labor, plus assume some leakage of Lib BTL votes, and Labor presumably does still get the third quota, but it looks very close, and we’ll never know exactly how all the BTL votes would’ve gone in a Labor v Greens count (unless of course you’ve got some info from scrutineers about how Liberal BTL votes went).

    Either way though, your method of working from the progressive totals rather than the primary votes (at least that seems to be what you’re doing) should be more accurate than what I was initially thinking of, as it does allow BTL votes to be taken into account to the greatest possible extent.

  7. Joel, I think I’d agree with you there that Christine probably won’t get as high a primary vote as Bob and Andrew did. Discussion about possible variations on the 2007 results is still interesting though.

    What’s Ronan Lee doing down there? Is he angling for a candidacy (um, I don’t actually need to know)? Reason I ask is that I came across this story from the ABC where he says he’s helping with ‘mainstreaming the Greens in Tassie’, whatever that means.

  8. The ALP ticket has been decided by the national executive. Helen Polley gets the top spot, union official Anne Urquhart gets No. 2, and defeated state MP Lisa Singh gets No. 3 – the national executive overturning the preselection of Kevin Harkins by the Tasmanian branch.

  9. Apparently the previous report was a little premature, but that is confirmed now. The dumping of incumbent Senator Kerry O’Brien of course being the other significant decision there.

  10. From my reading of it if the state election results were reproduced at a DD then it would go 5LIB, 4ALP, 3GRN. LIBs would be just above 5 quotas, the ALP would be about 1.5% short of a 5th and then LIB and IND excess would push a third GRN over the line. This assumes no below-the-line preference spray. I don’t really believe that will happen though, this is not very scientific. I suspect that ‘other’ will be a lot higher, ALP will be higher and GRN will be lower. Still, its plausible. The other possibility is that the ‘rat’ 😉 Wilkie will run. Seeing he got 8% in Denison at the state election, you’d have to think that with say 5% state wide he could be elected alongside two GRNs.

  11. Hamish,

    Although the vote percentage in the state elections will not be reflected in their federal vote, I think their gains will be. If the momentum is maintained, they may be a chance of a second senate seat in 2013.

  12. What are the thoughts in Tassie about a 2-2-2 senate result? Whish-Wilson has a very high profile and polled very well in the State election, he also appeals to a different demographic to Milne.

  13. If the current polling maintains the high Greens vote, there’s a good chance that the quotas will break down to 2.5-2.5-1.6, which should see both majors fail to reach a 3rd quota on other minor party preferences, then the Greens elected on ALP/Liberal preferences.

    The issue is if the Greens get squeezed out of the last senate spot because the ALP & Liberal quota remainder is higher than the Greens, which means the Greens would then be excluded at the last gasp.

  14. Wanderlust – Pretty low I’d think. And, correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t Whish-Wilson number 3 or 4 on the ticket?

    If the Greens couldn’t get two with Bob Brown and Andrew Wilkie, I doubt they’d get close with Milne (who is also liked, but Brown attracts voters from all over the spectrum in a way that other Greens can’t).

    A 3-2-1 split to Labor would be at very short odds I would think.

  15. Whish-Wilson is #2 on the Greens ticket.

    1.6 quotas for the Greens would require a 22.9% statewide vote, which exceeds the remarkably good 21.6% they got in the state election and will not happen no matter what the polling (whichever polling that may be) says. Also in deconst’s scenario there is the question of who gets the other .4 of a quota. If there is even .4 of a quota to go around between the remaining parties, then Family First would get a big slice of it, which then goes to the Liberals.

    Significantly, the Liberals have preferenced Labor before the Greens, as have all the minor right parties, while Labor have preferenced the Greens before the Liberals. So, assuming the majors each have between 2 and 3 quotas and the Greens have over 1 quota, then for the Greens to win then (i) Green + Labor + AD + SOL + Sec will have to be very close to 4 quotas (ii) the Greens + their feeders (AD + SOL + Sec) will have to be not more than about 1 quota behind Labor. File under “virtually impossible”.

    Realistically it will be 3-2-1 or 2-3-1 but as with last time I think 3-2-1 is no foregone conclusion and am actually mildly sceptical (at this stage) about whether Barnett will actually lose. Last time the Libs + their feeder groups polled about the same as Labor and the deciding factor was the substantial Green excess. The Tassie Senate often doesn’t behave the same way as the Reps and the Labor team with only one incumbent is a weak one. Contrawise, the Lib team is the same one that polled 3.23 quotas in 2004. (That was off the back of a Tasmanian rural swing to the Libs over forestry, but the Reps 2PP swing to the Libs statewide that year was just 3.5%.)

  16. I’ve done a couple of simulations by different methods and one gave the last seat to Singh by 1.8% while the other said there was nothing in it between Singh and Barnett.

    First one involved taking Morgan’s senate poll and basically assuming it was just as wrong as last time.

    Second one involved projecting the Lib Reps vote then making some assumptions about how that would differ from their Senate vote based on results for the same Lib ticket in 2004.

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