Tasmanian Times


Victorian election … should Tasmanians look at Labor’s win?

The Andrews government in Victoria benefited by what Americans call a wave, or as we say in Australia a landslide. Unexpected by everyone. A hung parliament seemed the likely result. We were wrong.

Tasmanian interest in the Victorian election was certainly there. Rodney Croome said anti-LGBTI prejudice was ineffective in influencing the result of the election, and other states should take heed from this. In some seats in Victoria’s single member 88 seat lower house Croome’s view was certainly accurate, for example in a seat like gay-friendly Prahran, retained by the Greens.

Kelly O’Dwyer, who recently decided she would not re-contest her electorate of Higgins at the forthcoming federal election, said Liberals are widely regarded as homophobic, anti-women and climate change deniers. An exaggeration? On the ultra-conservative Sky News, now screened on Free-to-Air television in Tasmania, a male commentator referred to the influence of a “perfume mafia,” which if an explanation of the Victorian result could only mean that the election was a victory for men rejecting progressive women. We doubt this.

Federal factors may well have been at play. While a remark by Arthur Calwell in the 1960s may have influenced a Victorian state election when he said federal factors would be a major influence, over policy decisions by the Menzies government, the Bolte government was returned with an increased majority. It is difficult to compare elections over different time periods. Politics is a blame game. Supporters of Dutton and Morrison will deny a federal factor. Both stayed away from Victoria. Certainly, the instability of the federal Liberals played a part in Victoria, just how much we can only speculate, but when the Liberals lose a seat held by Shadow Attorney General John Pesutto in up-market Hawthorn (who learned of his defeat while a television commentator on election night) we must be kept wondering. Pesutto was a successor to former Premier Ted Baillieu, and was widely regarded as a good local member. The Liberals at state level in Victoria under Matthew Guy ran a united campaign and their policies seemed likely to appeal to middle-class voters. The ALP certainly had a good record with infrastructure, and this could certainly have been a factor, with seats along the railway line to Frankston, the key to an election win for the ALP, did not change hands.

The Greens, or if you like the Green Party, were a big loser from the election. Victoria’s only indigenous woman lost the seat of Northcote, won previously at a by-election following the death of Family Violence Prevention Minister Fiona Richardson. Northcote returned to the ALP fold after being held by the Greens for just over twelve months. While the Greens won Brunswick and continued to hold two seats they were almost wiped out in the Legislative Council, with former leader Samantha Ratnam their only member to retain her seat. The Greens were divided, and bad publicity arising from some of their male parliamentarians who appeared anti-feminist may have been a factor in a falling Greens vote, yet all Greens parliamentarians who lost their seats in the upper house were women.

The upper house in Victoria has 40 members elected by proportional representation from 8 five-member Regions. Tasmania’s lower house is elected from 5 five-member Electorates under the Hare-Clark system of proportional representation. The difference is that Victoria has above-the-line voting, and this certainly changed the result so that the preference-whispering of Derryn Hinch’s employee Glenn Druery enabled a number, but not all, micro-party members to be elected. Tasmania’s lower house has no micro-party members, but does have 2 Greens members, and they are normally referred to as a minor party.

In Victoria’s upper house the big loser from the election was the Liberals, down to 10, the National Party, down to 1, and the Greens, 1 down from 5. The micro-party members, with micro-party meaning a very small percentage of the popular vote, something from 3 or 4 per cent or less, were 3 from the Derryn Hinch Justice Party (although one member of that party, Catherine Cumming from Western Metropolitan Region, left that party to serve as an Independent), 2 Liberal Democrats, 1 Sustainable Australia, 1 Shooters, 1 Reason Party (formerly the Sex Party), 1 Animal Justice and 1 Transport Matters (a single-issue taxi-driver lobby group). The ALP has 18 members, and will need support from 3 other members to secure passage of legislation.

We suggest a factor in the failure of the Coalition to hold its number of seats in the upper house may well have been the failure of conservative parties to contest the election. Rachel Carling-Jenkins, who left the DLP to join the Australian Conservatives in the upper house, then left that party to remain an Independent, then unsuccessfully contested the lower house seat of Werribee, is an example. She may have retained her upper-house seat had she remained a member of the DLP.

Neither the Australian Conservatives, Australian Christians, nor Rise Up Australia contested this election. All exchanging preferences and recommending a preference for the Coalition and putting Labor and the Greens last, they could have done much damage to the Labor vote. The DLP re-branded itself as Labour DLP (for Democratic Labour Party), a change in spelling to the UK Labour from the Australian and American Labor in 2013. With a limited budget it did not poll much more than four per cent in its best electorate or any Region for the upper house. Labour DLP claimed to be an authentic Labour Party in Victoria, an argument based on a court decision after the 1955 ALP split.

Tasmanians need to be aware of mainland political party operations.  Tasmanians have their own politics, and the ultra-Right are not as influential. Can we compare what may have not worked in Victoria? The Liberals in Victoria ran with slogans like cutting your bills, end traffic chaos, cutting taxes and jail means jail. Television advertising ran on law and order. The ALP promised free TAFE, half price solar panels, and we’re giving power back to Victorians. Their slogan was “Dan Andrews and Labor Delivering for All Victorians.” Both parties had good slogans. Did that really win?

Tasmanian Labor at the previous state election adopted a Greens and Andrew Wilkie initiative to abolish poker machines. This was a policy based on principle. It was not successful, for large sums were spent by the poker machine lobby, arguing that the Labor policy would mean big job losses in the state.  In Victoria poker machines are not an issue. They bring too much money into the pockets of the state government.

Space will not permit a discussion of the micro parties, but some may disappear over time. In summary we believe the federal disintegration of the Coalition was certainly a factor in the ALPs increased vote, as was the failure of well-known conservative parties (other than Labour DLP) to contest the election, and in the upper house providing voters with the option for above the line voting, certainly in allowing the high number of seats to be elected by micro parties.

The continued use of Robson Rotation in Tasmanian elections makes for less volatility, in that voters have a choice between candidates from the major parties and are less likely to vote for minor parties. Nor can the order of names on ballot papers influence voters, for each pack of ballot papers rotates candidate names. How to vote cards are prohibited outside polling booths, and Tasmanians directly vote for candidates. Preference whispering is less likely to be a factor also while Tasmanians can number as little as five preferences for a valid vote in lower house elections. Some in the Liberal Party, like former Premier and after his retirement from state politics a director of Gunns Limited Robin Gray would like to end Hare-Clark and return to single-member electorates after over a century of proportional representation in Tasmania. In a good year this might mean the Liberals winning almost every seat, as happens sometimes in the five Tasmanian federal House of Representatives seats. It could also mean the election of an almost all ALP House of Assembly and few if any Greens.

We favour the continuance of Hare-Clark in Tasmanian elections. While no voting system is ever perfect, we believe Tasmania has probably Australia’s best. We think Tasmanians should always look at elections in other states, but Tasmanians rarely vote on federal issues in state elections. The upper house elections in Victoria, strangely, may be more relevant to Tasmanian House of Assembly elections, but the absence of above the line voting in Tasmania makes this only marginally so. We think the Christian Right could be an important factor in future Tasmanian elections, whether successfully or not we are not able to predict.

Carolyn Allan Smart is a UTAS graduate in Fine Arts, and lives in the Huon Valley. Victorian Infrastructure Minister Jacinta Allan is her niece.

Lyle Allan was before a recent stroke a Council member of the Proportional Representation Society of Australia Victoria-Tasmania Branch.

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


  1. Geoffrey Goode

    February 9, 2019 at 9:33 pm

    The preference whisperers were specifically empowered by Victoria’s clinging on to the least voter-empowering form of the “above-the-line” option, which is Group Voting Tickets.

    Tasmania’s State Parliament has had the good sense to stay with its voter-empowering Hare-Clark system, and by avoiding “above-the-line” devices altogether. See http://www.prsa.org.au/history.htm#gvt

  2. Jack

    February 9, 2019 at 11:06 am

    “The Andrews government in Victoria benefited by what Americans call a wave, or as we say in Australia a landslide. Unexpected by everyone. A hung parliament seemed the likely result. We were wrong.”

    And you may well be wrong again. The reason being that disenchantment with the major parties and the implosion of The Greens and LNP is corresponding with the return of independents and minor parties as the preferred candidates.

    The ALP didn’t ‘win’ the Victorian election – it was the least worst. The LNP of Victoria is on the nose because it is the classic boys club of old money (Kroger, Kennett, Doyle) that is a complete joke – a parody of itself. The leader of the LNP in Victoria dines with mafia and property developers – if the two are not the same.

    The major trend you’ve missed is that people are now voting for ‘the least worst’ and disruption of the stays quo and want true representation. Few expect Bill Shorten’s ALP to succeed; it is just the best-worst of the corrupt duopoly. Very little of policy substance separates the ALP and LNP federally. It is on notice as soon as it is elected.

    Issues such as climate are a sub-set of a corrupted democracy where Big Money, Big Banks, Big Coal and a population Ponzi scheme is connected to a drive to a Big Australia – that few want.

    You may have noticed that the property bubble is bursting? Asset prices have been linked to debt and a corruption of banking and the finance industry regulators. This is dependent on x3 the rate of immigration to buy flammable concrete dog boxes in our cities. It has been the economic model embraced by all three of these parties.

    When the property debt bomb has exploded, all bets are off.

    Unfortunately, the train wreck of The Greens and their ideological failure to address mass immigration, population sustainability, Big Australia and embrace of the economic models based upon crush loading our cities will ever-more people and turning their backs on population sustainability has been noted. This shall grow as an issue. Because you can’t be a ‘Green’ party and contain internal contradiction with population sustainability v radical left ideology.


    “Space will not permit a discussion of the micro parties, but some may disappear over time.”

    A shame really, because this is where the action is. The Greens deserve the status of a minor party if the Victorian elections are anything to go on. The LNP is a joke; the last one standing is the ALP. This is driving more people to independents and minor parties as increasingly it is “none of the above” that will deliver real democracy.

    • Chris harries

      February 9, 2019 at 3:09 pm

      Even deranged independents are being preferred over the status quo. To the extent that Trump was really independent – and he campaigned as one – this was the case there too.

      I don’t know how things will go if parliaments starts filling up with nominal independents, as their real independence will not necessarily be transparent. We once had an entirely independent upper house in Tasmania, except none of them really were. It’s now become so fashionable to stand as independents that some opportunistic Liberals are jumping ship and standing under that banner, but we wonder if their core beliefs are still capital L.

      • Jack

        February 9, 2019 at 8:20 pm

        All true. But until the Australian people become true participants in democracy and we collectively comprehend that ‘democratic institution’ include the public sector, media and regulators, only stop-gap measures will fly.

        It is the only immediate way to disrupt the club-like party system, and that’s the only way to eventually get money and vested-interests out of our parliaments. The big parties had their chance. Even The Greens turned their backs on sustainability for an ideological wank. The Libs are no longer liberal and the Labor Party no longer protects the worker; instead it imports workers and busts unions using mass immigration.

        When there are no political principles left to trust, injecting representatives from the grass roots is the only medicine available – as horrible as it might taste at times.

        We need laws that establish a new contract between political representatives and the people – that have teeth. Welding shut the revolving door between government and the finance industry is the first need. Ultimately we require a system where lying to the Australian people, taking money from lobbyists or representing foreign interests requires serious jail time.

        Yep, I prefer deranged independents to business as usual. Many in our community are now more Green than The Greens and exist on both the Right and Left. They have no party to vote for.

        • chrish618

          February 9, 2019 at 9:40 pm

          Hi Jack. I partly agree but some of the deranged leaders, like Trump, are a potential terminal risk in themselves, and probably even a greater risk that the status quo in some cases. And even though some observers believe we needed to have this derangement to clean up the system, I’m not sure it will get cleaned because global risks are happening in much shorter time frames than election cycles.

          So I don’t have your confidence in politics Jack, since I think the horse has largely bolted. The market place now controls most parliaments and is where most power resides, and this is what has rendered modern day politics (including parties) so hollowed out and bereft of leadership.

          This problem goes way beyond the content of the article, and what policies can be pushed in a state election. But elections loom, and so we speculate.

  3. Chris harries

    February 9, 2019 at 9:25 am

    A climate change focus for a Tasmanian election is fraught by our peculiar circumstances.

    • Most Tasmanians believe that we are doing really well already because we have no coal power stations, so why is climate change an issue for us?

    • The state government backs up this sense of public complacency by (disingenuously) chortling that we’ve reached our 2050 carbon abatement target several decades ahead of time.

    • Nearly all Tasmanian elected reps already talk up renewable energy (and a fiction that we are overflowing with it) and also the much vaunted pumped-hydro (without knowing much about it) so there’s little space to insert a strikingly different alternative dialogue that gets public traction.

    • There’s a popular idea within the public and politics spheres that climate change will benefit Tasmania economically – the flourishing wine industry is always cited to demonstrate this.

    • Ever since the Gillard carbon tax came into being the focus on climate change shifted away for us to Canberra and, in Tasmania’s case, has never come back.

    I’m all in favour of trying to make climate change central, but the above barriers make it very difficult. The one thing that can turn on the electorate is knowing the hugely damaging impacts that climate change is having on natural values (terrestrial and marine) and on various business sectors. However, this all tends to fall into the Adaptation basket, with calls for much more burning off and for more funding of emergency services and financial and logistical support for farmers etc. It doesn’t tweak mitigation policy very much at all.

    There is scope to run on a transport electrification policy which slots in with both Adaptation and Mitigation and can also be argued on economic grounds. This is more like a line item issue, rather than one that would swing an election, but it’s probably an area that the public could tune into.

    • caitcatt

      February 11, 2019 at 1:59 pm

      Fascinating article Carolyn and Lyle. No mention of the fires here in Tassie. The row over the Country Fire Authority and the Firefighters Union was used by the Coalition to win votes, but other issues seem to be at play.

      Here in Tassie firefighting does not seem to be politicised, and the work of the firefighters is very much appreciated.

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