Bass – Tasmania 2010

Incumbent MPs

  • Sue Napier (LIB), since 1992. Leader of the Opposition 1999-2001.
  • Jim Cox (ALP), since 1996. Previously Member for Bass 1989-1992.
  • Kim Booth (GRN), since 2002.
  • Peter Gutwein (LIB), since 2002.
  • Michelle O’Byrne (ALP), since 2006. Minister for Environment, Parks, Heritage and the Arts, Minister for Tourism and Minister for Sport and Recreation, Previously federal Member for Bass 1998-2004.

Bass covers the north-eastern corner of Tasmania. It covers the LGAs of Launceston, George Town and Dorset, along with small parts of West Tamar and Meander Valley LGAs to the west of Launceston. Bass also covers Tasmania’s north-eastern islands, including Flinders Island.

Bass was left largely intact by the redistribution, while it gained two small areas from Lyons to the south of Launceston.

Bass was first created as a state electorate in 1909, when Tasmania moved to a system of proportional representation with each district electing six members. Bass has always had the same boundaries as the federal electorate of the same name.

At the 1909 election, the Anti-Socialists won three seats, the ALP two and one seat went to the “Liberal Democrats” party. The ALP and the Liberals won three seats each at the 1912, 1913 and 1916 elections.

The Nationalists won a 4-2 majority in 1919, although one of those four seats was lost to an independent in 1922.

The ALP and Nationalists maintained a 3-3 split at the 1925, 1928 and 1934 elections, with the Nationalists gaining a 4-2 majority in 1931.

The ALP won a majority in Bass for the first time in 1937, maintaining it until a 3-3 split was restored in 1948. Bass continued to elect even numbers of Liberals and Labor MPs from 1948 until 1959, when an expanded House of Assembly saw Bass elect a seventh seat, which went to an independent.

After the ALP and Liberals won three seats each at each election, the seventh Bass seat was traded back and forth from 1964 to 1986, with the ALP winning in 1964, 1972 and 1979, and the Liberals winning in 1969, 1976, 1982 and 1986.

Green independent Lance Armstrong won the seventh seat in 1989, and retained it in 1992, when the Liberals won a fourth seat off the ALP, who were reduced to two seats.

The ALP regained their third seat in 1996 at the expense of Armstrong, producing a 4-3 split favouring the Liberals.

The reduction of seats at the 1998 election hit the Liberal Party hard, who lost two of their four seats, while the ALP retained their three seats. The ALP lost one of those three seats to Kim Booth in 2002.

The 2-2-1 split was retained at the 2006 election, although former federal MP Michelle O’Byrne topped the poll and helped engineer the only pro-Labor swing in the state, almost defeating Booth, who won the final seat by a 136-vote margin over Labor candidate Steve Reissig.

Party share of seats in Bass, 1909-2006.


Political situation
The position of the Liberal Party in Bass was weakened on February 10 when long-serving Liberal MP Sue Napier announced that she would not seek re-election due to ill-health.

Recent election results suggest that neither the ALP or the Liberal Party are at great danger of losing one of their two seats. Michelle O’Byrne performed very strongly in 2006, and should be sufficient, and considering that the ALP almost won three seats in 2006, they shouldn’t struggle to maintain their seats. On the other hand, Liberals Peter Gutwein and Michael Ferguson should both be able to hold Liberal seats. It will be a contest between Labor, Liberal and Greens to win the fifth seat currently held by Kim Booth.

The Liberal strategy for Bass relied on the prospect of three strong candidates, two sitting MPs and a former federal MP, who could all pull their own voter bases and win three quotas. With the withdrawal of Napier, the remaining Liberals do not seem particularly helpful to such a strategy. On the Labor side, the party has O’Byrne, but it’s only other prominent candidate is Brant Webb, one of the survivors of the 2006 Beaconsfield mine disaster. While his name may attract votes, any statewide swing away from the ALP should wipe out much of a chance of the government gaining a third Bass seat.

As long as the ALP is losing ground in the 2010 election, and there is no collapse in the Greens vote, Booth should be re-elected, although it may not be with any room to spare.

See also: Antony Green’s analysis of the race for Bass.

2006 result

Courtney Grant1,7232.840.17
Jim Cox9,28615.300.92
MIchelle Cripps1,3032.150.13
Mike Greene8971.480.09
Michelle O’Byrne14,14623.311.40
Steve Reissig2,7554.540.27
Australian Labor Party30,11049.612.98
Pamela Fratangelo5500.910.05
David Fry4,2747.040.42
Peter Gutwein8,21813.540.81
Sam McQuestin1,7452.870.17
Sue Napier5,7179.420.57
Liberal Party20,50433.782.03
Jeremy Ball1,1101.830.11
Kim Booth5,6539.310.56
Kate Case5840.960.06
Peter Cover3440.570.03
Jill Thompson5400.890.05
Tasmanian Greens8,23113.560.81
Robert Wallace4110.680.04
Tasmania First4110.680.04
Jim Collier2650.440.03
Les Rochester1,1781.940.12

Booth breakdown
The vast majority of voters in Bass live in Launceston and surrounding areas. About 80% of ordinary votes are cast in the urban part of Launceston LGA and the few suburbs in West Tamar and Meander Valley LGAs. The Greens vote is about even between the rural and urban areas. The ALP polled higher in urban Launceston, 51% versus 46.7% in rural areas. The Liberal Party polled about 4% higher in rural areas.

Voter groupALP %LIB %GRN %Total votes% of votes
Rural Bass46.7336.5913.2610,15316.73
Other votes47.0035.4514.579,95916.41
Polling booths in Bass, showing Labor votes at the 2006 election.
Polling booths in Bass, showing Liberal votes at the 2006 election.
Polling booths in Bass, showing Greens votes at the 2006 election.
Polling booths in Bass, showing Labor votes at the 2006 election in Launceston.
Polling booths in Bass, showing Liberal votes at the 2006 election in Launceston.
Polling booths in Bass, showing Greens votes at the 2006 election in Launceston.


  1. Whish-Wilson ran for an upper house seat there last year and polled quite well. Bass is the seat most in danger for the Greens, so hopefully he’ll attract a wider vote without splitting the Green vote too much.

  2. On the official candidates list Brant Webb lists his occupation as ‘Miner / Political candidate’.

  3. I haven’t been reading too much about the Tassie campaign, but this story grabbed my attention. A novel campaign tactic – one of the independent candidates here, George Town councillor Tim Parish, is promising to give a lotto ticket to every voter if he wins.

  4. Great set of maps Ben; especially in Tasmania it is good to have the Greens included which so many other election sites skip over.

    I feel a bit disappointed by Labor’s candidates in Bass. With Cox retiring you’d think that a more high-profile or seemigly more talented bunch would have come forward. It’ll be interesting to see whether one of the new four garner a big share of primaries. I don’t know much about Wightman but he looks like the pick of them for the second spot. In one sense I’ll be embarassed if Bass voters go for Webb, but at least it would stop McClean getting in. The last thing Parliament needs is more old-labor union forest industry representation.

    The Greens have got a really good ticket here, it’s a shame they don’t have a chance for more than one. Ball polled very well in the last Launceston City Council elections, as did Whish-Wilson in Windermere. Splitting the vote isn’t a problem per se, only to the extent that preferences leak out of the ticket. The risk of this might be lower than it could have been with Labor’s team being a bit weak. Three strong candidates will be good to pull in primary votes, and the Greens will need to do more of this if they want to work up to getting more than one in each electorate.

    The Libs seem to have a strong set of candidates. Remarkable that 6 were pre-selected, now down to a sensible 5 with Napier not recontesting. I think Gutwein has been pretty good on Treasury and is definitely one of my more favoured Liberals in Tasmania. McGinity has been associated with the anti-pulp mill campaign. I thought this could have been a big plus for her, there’s a lot of anti-mill people who don’t like the Greens (and maybe 0.2 or more of a quota of Green preferences to be distributed if we believe the polls), but she quickly announced her support for it. Still, she’s given a signal about where she sits on the spectrum which might differentiate her from some of the others.

    Ferguson is a strong candidate and will poll well, but it’s looking like the Libs will end up with quite a big Christian conservative right faction in their caucus. Ferguson here and ex-Family First Petrusma in Franklin look v likely to get in, and then Archer in Denison would add to it were she elected.

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