Tasmanian 2010 election overview

  1. Summary

The Tasmanian Labor Government has been in power since 1998.  Now led by David Bartlett, Labor is aiming to win a fourth consecutive election at the March election.

Historically, Tasmanian politics has been dominated by Labor.  Since 1934, non-Labor parties have only held government for 16 years.  More recently, the situation has been more equal – thirteen of the non-Labor years have been since 1982.

Tasmania’s electoral system is unique among Australian states (though the ACT uses a similar system).  The state is divided into five electoral divisions, each of which elects five representatives to the House of Assembly.

To elect numerous members from each division, voting is by the Hare-Clark electoral system.  Voters indicate preferences for a slate of candidates – successful candidates are those achieving a vote total above the required quota (after the distribution of preferences). In essence, the top five candidates from each electorate become MPs.

Hare-Clark is not overly different from the system used for the Australian Senate – successful candidates achieve a quota of the total vote.  Unlike the Senate however, voters do not vote ‘above the line’.  Rather, they vote for individual candidates.  In the past this has equated to many popular and long-standing local members being able to corral a solid personal, rather than party, vote – the retirement of sitting MPs can have an extra volatility.

Politically, the Hare-Clark system is significant because proportional allocation makes it easier for a third party to establish itself in the lower house.  While on raw numbers the Tasmanian Greens have polled higher than their counterparts on the mainland, Hare-Clark has enabled the Greens to be better positioned as a significant third force in Tasmania.

Because of this, a minority government is always a strong possibility in Tasmania.  To achieve a majority, a party needs to poll very well across the state.  Should Labor lose its majority, it is expected any minority Government would be formed by the party with the greatest number of seats – any such government would rely on support from the Greens to maintain the confidence of the House.

  1. Political and Parliamentary outline
  1. Current state of Parliament

There are 25 seats in the Tasmanian lower house, the House of Assembly.

Party seats
Australian Labor Party 14
Liberal Party 7
Tasmanian Greens 4


To form a majority government, a party requires 13 seats.  The loss of two seats would see Labor become a minority government.

  1. The party leaders

David Bartlett

Bartlett is the ALP Premier of Tasmania.

Bartlett has been a member of the House of Assembly since 2004. He was appointed Minister for Education and Skills after Labor’s win in the 2006 election, and replaced Steve Kons as Deputy Premier in early 2008.

On the resignation of Premier Paul Lennon in May 2008, Bartlett was elected Labor leader and thus Premier by Caucus.

This is his first election as leader.

Will Hodgman

The Tasmanian Liberals are led by Will Hodgman, who has been in charge since 2006.  He took the reins from Rene Hidding, who lost the 2006 election to then-Premier Paul Lennon.

Hodgman is the son, grandson and nephew of current and former Tasmanian Liberals.  His father, Michael, will retire from the Tasmanian House of Assembly at the upcoming election.

In his time in Parliament, Hodgman has served in a number of shadow ministries – Treasury and Finance, Employment, Education among others – but has never served in government.

Nick McKim

The Greens generally poll well in Tasmania and are led by Nick McKim.  He has been a member for Franklin since 2002 and Greens leader since 2008.

  1. Key Seats


Current – 2 Labor, 2 Liberal, 1 Green

2006 Bass % Vote ALP LIB GRN OTH
Old Boundaries 49.6 33.8 13.6 3.1
New Boundaries 49.7 33.7 13.5 3.0

Over the past few elections, the fifth seat in Bass has been split between Labor and the Greens. According to ABC election analyst Antony Green, that means “even a 0.1% shift from Green to Labor could have a critical impact.”

Sitting Liberal MP Sue Napier, a former Opposition Leader, and Labor MP Jim Cox, won’t recontest the seat.

Labor and the Liberal generally split four of the five Bass seats.  However, the Greens generally poll better in the southern electorates – should the fifth seat be won by either major party, Bass will be crucial to the election’s outcome.

Bass’ region, northeastern Tasmania, is centred around Launceston.



Current – 3 Labor, 2 Liberal

2006 Braddon % Vote ALP LIB GRN OTH
Old Boundaries 50.8 37.3 10.3 1.6
New Boundaries 51.4 36.6 10.3 1.6

Braddon is the only state seat without a Greens MP.  Labor MP Steve Kons will not be seeking reelection.  With Braddon representing the lowest Greens vote in Tasmania, Braddon’s fifth seat will be a key part of forming government for either party.

Geographically, Braddon covers the state’s western half.  Regional centres include Burnie, Devonport and Circular Head.



Current – 3 Labor, 1 Liberal, 1 Green

2006 Denison % Vote ALP LIB GRN OTH
Old Boundaries 46.9 26.6 24.1 2.4
New Boundaries 46.8 26.8 24.0 2.4


Denison is centred on Hobart.  Sitting Liberal MP Michael Hodgman is not recontesting the seat.

Again, the fifth seat looms as crucial – with the Greens polling strongly in the Hobart region, Denison’s first four seats should split Labor, Labor, Liberal, Greens.  Whether Labor can hang onto their fifth seat will depend on what type of swing eventuates.

Andrew Wilkie, former ONA intelligence officer who resigned during the Iraq invasion and challenged former Prime Minister Howard as a Green in Bennelong in 2004, is running as an Independent.



Current – 3 Labor, 1 Liberal, 1 Green

2006 Franklin % Vote ALP LIB GRN OTH
Old Boundaries 47.2 31.4 19.4 2.0
New Boundaries 46.0 31.9 20.0 2.1

According to ABC analyst Antony Green, Franklin is the seat where the Liberals have the best prospects of gaining a Labor seat.

Since the last election, Labor has lost long-standing MPs Paul Lennon and Paula Wriedt.  Opposition leader Will Hodgman is a Franklin MP.

The seat covers the outer edges of Hobart and surrounding parts of southern Tasmania.



Current – 3 Labor, 1 Liberal, 1 Green

2006 Lyons % Vote ALP LIB GRN OTH
Old Boundaries 51.9 30.0 15.8 2.3
New Boundaries 52.3 30.0 15.4 2.3

Lyons covers the central part of Tasmania, stretching from the outer rim of Launceston in the north to Hobart in the south.

All sitting MPs are recontesting the seat. With Lyons traditionally representing Labor’s strongest vote, barring a significant swing against Labor the fifth seat may come down to a battle between the Greens and the Liberals.  For the Liberals, winning a seat from the Greens would provide a boost for any possibility of outpolling Labor statewide and finishing the election with a plurality of seats.


  1. Most recent polls

The only dedicated polling outfit in Tasmania is Enterprising Marketing and Research Service (ERMS), who conduct a quarterly poll.  Their results over the past year are below:

Primary votes

Party November 2008 February 2009 May 2009 August 2009 November 2009
ALP 30 34 33 26 26
Liberal 26 29 27 33 37
Tasmanian Greens 18 15 13 17 17
Independent 1 2 3 2 2
Undecided 23 20 24 22 19


Primary votes (after undecided distributed to parties)

Party August 2009 November 2009
ALP 35 33
Liberal Party 41 44
Tasmanian Greens 21 21
Independent 3 2


Preferred Premier

Preferred Premier February 2009 May 2009 August 2009 November 2009
David Bartlett 41 39 30 28
Will Hodgman 29 31 37 40
Nick McKim 12 13 15 19
None of the above 17 16 18 13


Source: http://www.emrs.com.au/pdfs/State%20Voting%20Intentions%20November%202009%20Report.pdf