Tasmanian Times

Peter Tucker

Is Bartlett dealing from strength?

Well, my prediction of 9 Labor, 10 Liberal and 6 Greens was a bit off the pace. I admit it: I got seduced by the late polling that pointed to a complete bath for Labor. My main sin was to fall into the trap that the Green vote would be in the mid-twenties state wide, with two quotas in Denison.

But maybe the polls were right. Maybe the Labor scare campaign in the last week did bite enough to knock 3-4 percentage points off the Green top; those who would have been first-time Green voters.

So the result for Labor was not as bad as the 18% swing away I, and the late polls, were predicating, but by any standards the eventual 12% is still diabolical. It is interesting that the Mercury’s Sue Neales reports that premier Bartlett appears quite up-beat about the result. It is as if it was a toss he wanted to lose – if he couldn’t get a majority, he seems to be saying, better to go into opposition and wait for the Liberals and Greens, fumbling in minority government, to be punished at the next election.

The result was no great shakes for the Liberals, either. Considering the state of Labor after twelve long years in office, the Will Hodgman led Libs’ 7.5% gain on their 2006 effort must be considered under par. The Greens got the rest of Labor’s loss, scoring over twenty percent for the first time.

Back to Labor. The swing against Labor was the worst in three decades. One needs to go back to 1982 when Robin Gray’s Liberals swept a Labor government aside, fractured by Doug Lowe’s resignation and the Franklin Dam debate. In that election, Labor shed 17% of its vote to land with a thump on 35% – not far below the 37% where Bartlett now has them.

Bartlett’s main problem might be that his position is not personally strong. His own vote, 8,000 primaries in 2006 and 10,000 in 2010 as premier is way below any recent “popular” premier. (Even Holgate – Harry Who? – in the 1982 drubbing, managed over a quota.) The polls leading up to this election had his preferred premier rating trailing both Will Hodgman and Nick McKim. How vulnerable is he from a coup from within? Will the Left of the party, led by Lara Giddings and the two O’Byrnes, sit quietly and let government slip from their fingers all for not at least talking to the Greens? Will they see a stint in opposition, led by a relatively unpopular leader, as the best way forward from here?

If Labor’s tactic is to sit back and let the Libs make a hash of minority, then that is a big risk. It relies on history repeating itself for a third time. If Field’s minority government was tragedy, and Rundle’s was farce, then Hodgman’s just might be …. Well, he might be third time lucky. Hodgman himself appears to backing away from his pre-election “no deals with the Greens” stance and is setting the scene for some serious Green horse trading.

With postal votes then preference distribution to come, there are five possible make-ups for the next parliament (Labor/Liberal/Green/Wilkie):

In theory, the parties can start their discussions now because any combination of Labor and Green or Liberal and Green provides a majority. Andrew Wilkie, if elected, cannot be “king maker” in terms of his support giving one of the parties a majority.

Kevin Bonham in an earlier TT item does his usual excellent and exhaustive job in working out all the permutations. There are several seats where there are inter-party battles for a spot, but we will restrict ourselves here to Braddon and Denison where the fights are between the parties for the fifth seat.

In Braddon, it is between the Liberal’s Brett Whiteley and the Greens’ Paul O’Halloran. I give O’Halloran a 70% chance of winning and Whiteley 30%.

In Denison it is a three-way battle between the Greens’ second candidate Helen Burnet, independent Andrew Wilkie and the remaining Liberal candidate either Andrew Lowrie (most likely) or Elise Archer. I give Burnet 10% chance, Wilkie 45% chance and Lowrie/Archer 45%.

We can plot the outcomes in a table:
                           Burnet .1           Wilkie .45          Lowrie/Archer .45
Whiteley .3      .03 (10/10/5)   .135 (10/10/4/1)   .135 (10/11/4)
O’Halloran .7   .07 (10/9/6)      .315 (10/9/5/1)   .315 (10/10/5)

Summing the probabilities gives us:

Outcomes where Libs have equal or more seats than Labor
10/10/5 .345 (.03 + .315)
10/11/4 .135
10/10/4/1 .135

Outcomes where Labor have more seats than Liberal.
10/9/6 .07
10/9/5/1 .315

It can be seen, if you believe my probabilities, that the Liberals have about a 60% chance of gaining equal or more seats than Labor, while Labor are a 40% chance of gaining more than the Libs. This calculation is important, as Premier Bartlett said he will not seek to govern if he has the same number or fewer seats than the Libs.

But that is Bartlett’s view. As I point out above, others in the party might make the case that the two left parties, Labor and the Greens, with a combined vote of 57%, is a sign that the majority of Tasmanians prefer a non-conservative government.

Kevin Bonham on all the distribution possibilities: Braddon could be closer than it looks: HERE

Poll Bludger. Make sure you read the comments for more Bonham wisdoms: Photo-finishes: Tasmania: HERE

Tasmanian Politics blog: HERE

Sue Neales, Mercury:

SPLITS are emerging within the Labor Party over Premier David Bartlett’s decision to willingly hand government to the Liberal opposition if it wins the same number of seats as Labor from Saturday’s state election.

Well-placed sources said yesterday profound differences existed between key Labor players about why the Government should go meekly into opposition when it has as much right constitutionally to govern in a minority as do the Liberals. Rumblings of discontent, HERE

Author Credits: [show_post_categories parent="no" parentcategory="writers" show = "category" hyperlink="yes"]


  1. Gerry Mander

    March 24, 2010 at 2:59 am

    If Ministers are to be chosen “on merit” then there is no reason to restrict it to members of political parties.

    They seem to have confused meritorious with meretritious. I would say, if they were to chosen ‘on merit’, they will have to look a long way outside the current political arena.

  2. George Harris aka woodworker

    March 24, 2010 at 12:37 am

    Re #24, I think Churchill was operating a War Cabinet, and that is a mechanism that comes into play in exceptional circumstances.
    However you may feel about the circumstances in Tasmania at this time, it is a very long bow to draw to compare it to that!

  3. Shirley T

    March 23, 2010 at 11:46 pm

    I don’t know about the rest of you interested observers, but I’m feeling overwhelmed by the discussion on the Hare-Clark system. Perhaps we should be looking at how it has operated in other parts of the world and whether there have been similar situations! Kevin, could you give us some information on this? I’m beginning to feel that we should also look at the joint emergency cabinet that Churchill operated during World War 2. How did he select its members and how long did it last? Can you think of any other similar ones.

    Incidentally, looking at the Braddon results, no wonder Whitely was in tears at the prospect of losing; he will lose his superannuation if he goes out. I was also interested to come across Nic Wright (Lab) in Lyons; he is the grandson of Sen Reginald Wright (Lib) whom many of you will remember. ‘Reggie’ had no hesitation in crossing the floor on occasions.

  4. Political Activist

    March 23, 2010 at 5:35 pm

    Yes Woodworker #19 the government of the day has to survive on the Floor of the House of Assembly – but if you read the Constitution Act it is clear that the appiontment of Ministers from the Legislative Council was contemplated and not out of the ordinary.


    8B. Appointment and tenure of office of Ministers of the Crown
    (1) No person shall be appointed a Minister of the Crown unless he is a member of the Council or the Assembly, and, subject to the following provisions of this section, a Minister of the Crown ceases to hold office as such on ceasing to be a member of the Council or the Assembly.

  5. joey

    March 23, 2010 at 4:18 pm

    i do like the ‘rejuvenated team’ bit, woodworker

  6. David Obendorf

    March 23, 2010 at 12:54 pm

    George, it’s a brand new day!

  7. George Harris aka woodworker

    March 23, 2010 at 1:27 am

    Here is a copy of the post I sent in response to the Sue Neales article in the Mercury, ‘Rumblings of discontent’
    Myself, and many others in the Labor party, are mystified as to who some of these un-named sources might happen to be. It is easy to find an also-ran from years ago, or a renegade with a chip on their shoulder, (and boy, there a few of those amongst the Liberals at the moment!) who has some bizarre things to say. Equally, there are lazy journalists that get carried along by weird ideas from their own imaginings, rather than do the hard slog of building proper relationships, or seeking proper interviews with legitimate spokespeople. Even on rare occasions when such conventional journalism is engaged, the resulting copy often bears little relation to the details of the discussion!
    If you are into weird ideas, try this one on for size, (and it is not from party headquarters!): Will Hodgman is so keen to take over, but he does not realize it is a poison chalice, (a la Malcolm Turnbull), and the Greens are keen to get what they can, but it will be lucky if it can last even two years. In the subsequent election the Greens and the Libs are kicked in the polls, and Labor returns to majority government, where it will have a rejuvenated team, and possibly more seats in the Legislative Council, as well. The poison chalice will then be just a bitter memory for at least two electoral cycles, although the Libs will have the nasty taste in their mouths for longer than that, which is what it will take the Greens to recover. Neat, huh?

  8. George Harris aka woodworker

    March 23, 2010 at 1:24 am

    I am amazed at how little understanding people have of the structure and functioning of the House of Assembly, and of the Legislative Council. (see #3) Sure, a government can appoint members in the Legislative Council as ministers, but it must be able to survive as a government on the floor of the House of Assembly, and hold a commission from the Governor. It cannot draft numbers from the Legislative Council to do this! They have to be sitting in the House of Assembly, and be able to cast a vote there. By Westminster convention, the LC members cannot set foot on the green carpet!

  9. David Obendorf

    March 23, 2010 at 12:47 am

    Added to the posible loss of David Llewellyn from the parliament was the loss of Heather Butler, another of the sitting Labor MPs in Lyons.

    Heather Butler conceded that the controversy over the safety of drinking water amongst her east coast constituents had cost her votes.

    Labor Resources Minister David Llewellyn, 68, also appears to have lost his seat in Lyons to a new Labor candidate Bec White, with the young Sorell farm girl equalling his vote but likely to pick up more preferences. Ms White, 27, ran a campaign based on getting rid of incumbents who had stayed in parliament too long. Mr Llewellyn blamed his heavy ministerial workload for losing touch with the people of Lyons. “I guess I was losing touch with the voters”, he told the Mercury.

    The 24-year Parliamentary career of David Llewellyn hangs in the balance. He’s been Minister for Police, Forests, Water, Primary Industries, Environment, Emergency Services, Forests, Resources & Energy, Attorney-Gerneral (for a short while), Deputy Premier …..and the Minister for ffffff..foxes & threatening species!

    Great theatre was on display in Wrest Point tally room on Saturday evening when David Llewellyn broke in on ABC’s Airlie Ward interviewing of Rebecca White. David seemed quite relieved that he might be at the end of his political career. What followed was an unusually free-flowing speech; he wasn’t lost for words and not an ‘um’ or ‘ah’ anywhere. With beaming face and congratulations extended to Bec White, David looked like a winner!

    Mr Llewellyn, being a keen shooter, if you do end up with time on your hands, remember the $5000 fox reward is still open.

  10. P Burns

    March 22, 2010 at 10:49 pm

    Trevor #12, I live in Denison and had to pick 5 candidates to vote for, not one was ALP, two were Liberal, two Greens and an independent. Are you sure I am the one who is caught in tradition and nostalgia or is it your habit to presume that the paradigm never changes?
    Thinking first would do you a lot of benefit in life.

  11. Mark

    March 22, 2010 at 9:57 pm

    #15 I totally agree but unfortunately Eric Abetz does not agree. It will be Eric, Sam and a few other backroom boys who decide the Ministries. Therefore, it will be the independents in the upper house who will be the first to be defrocked (so to speak).

  12. Political Activist

    March 22, 2010 at 9:45 pm

    #13 & #14 & #8 There is absolutely no legal reason why Will Hodgman or David Bartlett (or whoever leads the Labor Party next week) should be restricted to choosing members of their own political party as Cabinet Ministers from the Legislative Council. Many Legislative Council members are experienced and competent and would make good Ministers. If Ministers are to be chosen “on merit” then there is no reason to restrict it to members of political parties.

  13. Mark

    March 22, 2010 at 8:02 pm

    #13 Good point phill! I might get my deckchair out to watch it and the ministry unfold. With only ten lower house members, the Liberals will have to appoint upper house members. Only one small problem – no Liberals in the upper house as they are all independents! Can you hear my grin?

  14. phill Parsons

    March 22, 2010 at 7:51 pm

    #3. To be asked to form and to hold government in our system you need to have support in the lower house. Ministers can and do come from the upper especially after the lower was gutted by LibLab

  15. Trevor

    March 22, 2010 at 6:01 pm

    P.Burns (#10) said: “I am not a Green, but it would appear to me that the four most competent people in Parliament are the four Greens…”

    I guess that from this comment you voted for either the liberals or labor? If both parties are devoid of talent, as you infer in your article, then why vote for either? Tradition?Habit? Nostalgia?

  16. Shirley

    March 22, 2010 at 4:20 pm

    I cannot help but feel some sympathy for Brett Whiteley in his present state of flux, except that I am also delighted to see a breath of fresh air imminent with Adam Brooks and would dearly love to see the well-qualified and likeable Paul O’Halloran elected in Braddon.

    Lyons also needs massaging at any time. Can some of you remember how Ian Braid lost his seat in Lyons when he was overseas representing our State at a Parliamentary Conference in London. While he was away a State election took place and he returned to find he was no longer in Parliament. He took it well and later was returned successfully to serve his electorate well.

  17. P Burns

    March 22, 2010 at 2:51 pm

    Brenton Best will never be capable of holding down a ministry and should not be asked. Brian Green should immediately face a vote of no confidence if he is appointed to a ministry, so that’s two down on the Labor side plus all their newbies, like O’Byrne, White, Bacon and whoever succeeds Cox in Bass, looks like they are stuffed if they try. So Bartlett’s tactic may be the one they need ‘to survive for another day’. In the process nobble the Greens at the next election, train up the newbies in the mean time and watch the Liberals flail around as the ineffective tribe of nothings that they are.
    The biggest problem for the State at the moment is that the Liberals on paper appear to be another bunch of incompetents, with people like Hidding and Ferguson pretending they have got something to offer. Yet can they muster a gene pool adequate enough to keep us out of trouble.
    I am not a Green, but it would appear to me that the four most competent people in Parliament are the four Greens.
    Surely we won’t go to the next election with only 25 chromosomes in the depleted gene pool.

  18. crud

    March 22, 2010 at 2:41 pm

    THE 3 stooges orchestrated the demise of labor,not moe,larry &curly; but paul,john and robin.

  19. Shirley Glen of West Tamar

    March 22, 2010 at 1:30 pm

    The Legislative Council has evolved in my lifetime from being a House of Review to “keep the bastards honest”, into an extension of the House of Assembly, available apparently to be picked over as possible ministers for the govt. This system has developed because of the small choice available in 25 instead of 35 MHAs.

    The experience in the LC is invaluable where it is thank you, and should be left there where it is, doing a great job for the House of Review. Poaching LCs is not, in my view, the way to improve the current Lower House problem. Whoever gets into govt this time around should legislate the number back to 35, and have a good look at limiting the funds available for minders, spinners etc, who are not productive in actual government.

  20. Kester Takayama

    March 22, 2010 at 12:51 pm

    Without taking anything away from Tim Morris, the reason he topped the poll in Lyons is because the Greens run an ordered ticket.

    It’s obviously been a very effective strategy in getting one person elected per electorate, but it’s going to be interesting to see if they start to move away from that to get more members up as their vote continues to build.

  21. red baron

    March 22, 2010 at 12:00 pm

    Bartlett was never in a position of strength since he took over from Big Red’s disastrous 17 percent polling in May 2007, although during the honeymoon period he did shoot up into the 40 percentile rankings. He started well but strayed. What brought him down was his inconsistent “line in the sand” policies, compounded by the imposition of new taxes in 2009, never a smart thing in the lead up to an election. All his backflips late last year made things worse. The perception of arrogance, his obsession with the “young things” over experience, his propensity to listening to spinmeisters over sound advisers, and his inability to deliver policy pronoucements cost him dearly.

  22. amyb

    March 22, 2010 at 11:36 am

    I agree with Davo (#1):
    Tim topped the poll in Lyons because he actually works at his job, appearing often and everywhere in the electorate, and vociferously taking up constituents’ causes. In other words, he does the job he was elected to do, and does it well. Other pollies could take a leaf from Tim’s book on how to do the job, no matter what party they’re in.

    The Labor fossils we’ve been saddled with in Lyons up until now only seem to pop up when Gunns is in a spot of bother, or about three weeks before an election when they litter the countryside with signs extolling personal virtues that most would be struggling to recall any actual examples of.

    Llewellyn hasn’t just lost touch with the voters, he has a demonstrated and total disinterest in them. The chooks just came home to roost this time.

  23. Political Observer

    March 22, 2010 at 11:07 am

    One of the important points barely discussed in the first few days after electing three political parties with none holding a majority, is that the numbers of members available for a Ministry are severely restricted. Several new members with no parliamentary experience will potentially be catapulted straight into Ministries.

    These new members will struggle to get across the detail of new portfolios at the same time as they are learning how to handle Parliamentary debates and potentially vitriolic question time attacks.

    In the wash-up of the election we are forgetting one important Parliamentary player in all this the Legislative Council.

    One of the advantages Labor has is that is currently holds three seats in the Legislative Council, so it has the opportunity of expanding opportunities for a more diverse Ministry and is less constrained by limited numbers in the House of Assembly. The Liberals only have one declared member.

    However, we should not forget that there are a number of very competent conservative people in the upper House who are perfectly capable of operating as Ministers. For example Paul Harris has background on infrastructure, Ruth Forrest is knowledgeable on health, Jim Wilkinson is a lawyer and could manage government business in the Legislative Council and there are others with backgrounds in business and primary industry. Liberal MLC Vanessa Goodwin could be Attorney General.

    Whilst there is discussion about cooperative arrangements we should not ignore the potential of the Upper House, in addition to the Greens. The Greens of course could fill Ministerial positions.

    However, in the long run it is essential to restore the size of Parliament to 35. We do not need another expensive Enquiry to tell us that.

    The Report of the Board of Inquiry into the Size and Constitution of the Tasmanian Parliament in 1994 on Pages 35-36 said unequivocally:

    We advise that having investigated the proposal to reduce the number of Members elected to both Houses of Parliament in accordance with our terms of reference and having reached the conclusions recorded in this Report, it is our opinion that it would not be in the best interests of the State of Tasmania for a reduction of the number of members of Parliament to be included among the measures to be taken to economise in the cost of the Government of the State.

    It is time to recognise that the experiment with a small Parliament has failed. Whilst a larger Parliament may well elect more Greens, an anathema to the major parties, nevertheless it is essential to run an efficient administrative and Executive arm of government. That can only be done with a sufficiently talented, experienced, competent pool of people from which to choose. Whilst in the short term that can be achieved by including members of the Legislative Council, in the longer term the only rational course of action is to increase the House of Assembly to 35 members.


    Political Observer

  24. Heather Donaldson

    March 22, 2010 at 10:27 am

    Is there any possibility Peter that either party could form government by wooing a couple of independents from the Upper house?

  25. Pat Martin

    March 22, 2010 at 10:21 am

    Labor is centre-left while the Greens are fully left-wing. Liberal is centre-right. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_political_parties_in_Australia

  26. Davo

    March 22, 2010 at 9:41 am

    Llewellyn bruised by new blood – Sunday Tasmanian 21 March 2010

    Key quote: David Llewellyn: “I guess I was losing touch with the voters.” –

    You’re not wrong Narelle!!

    Greens MP Tim Morris topped the poll in Lyons with 7479 votes.

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