The Battle for the ‘Hinge’ Seats
The multi-member nature of the Hare-Clark electoral system means that Tasmania does not have ‘key’ seats as we describe them in single member electoral systems.
With each electorate having five members, all five electorates are key contests. However, only one and sometimes two seats in each electorate play a part in determining which party or parties win the election.
We can call these seats ‘hinge’ seats, as in the same way that hinges are the point around which a door swings, so under the Hare-Clark electoral system it is the hinge seats on which electoral swing impacts.
At every election, two of the five seats in each Tasmanian electoral will be won by parties of the left, and two by parties of the right. It is the fifth seat, the hinge seat, that determines whether left or right wins a majority in an electorate, or whether a third party wins the balance.
With one hinge seat in each electorate, the party that wins the majority of the hinge seats wins a majority in the House of Assembly.
The diagram below shows the party composition of the five members elected for each electorate at the 2010 election. Both the Labor and Liberal Parties won two seats in each electorate. The five hinge seats in the middle were won by the Greens, creating the current hung parliament.
The above diagram is not meant to represent the Greens as the middle ‘balance of power’ party. It can be argued that the median Tasmanian voter is closer to both the Labor and Liberal Parties than they are to the Greens.
However, to explain how hinge seats work, it is best to set out the diagram with the Labor Party on one side and the Liberal Party on the other, with majority government achieved if either party can push its way into the central hinge seats.
The diagram below sets out the results of the 2006 election in the same format, and shows how Labor achieved a majority by winning four of the five hinge seats.
In 2010 Labor lost the hinge seat in Braddon to the Greens, but in Denison, Franklin and Lyons, it was Labor losing seats to the Liberal Party that changed the balance of power and pulled the Greens into the hinge seats.
With polls indicating the Liberal Party is on the cusp of achieving majority government, the election will be decided by how many of the hinge seats can be won by the Liberal Party. It does not matter whether the Liberal Party win these seats from Labor or the Greens, just whether a third Liberal member ends up occupying the hinge seat.
Three hinge seats would deliver the Liberal Party 13 seats and a one seat majority. Four hinge seats gives 14 seats and a three seat majority, while winning all five hinge seats would deliver the Liberal Party 15 seats and a landslide five seat majority.
One problem confronting the Liberal Party is the near record field of candidates and the emergence of the Palmer United Party. If some of the swing away from Labor and the Greens is captured by minor parties, then the Liberal Party’s quest for the hinge seats may be blocked and another hung parliament becomes possible.
The hinge seats will determine if the Liberal Party can form majority government. Beyond the hinge seats, what happens to Labor and Green support will determine the composition of the new parliamentary opposition.
So what are the prospects for candidates and parties in each electorate?
At the last three elections Bass has displayed divided loyalties, electing two Labor MPs, two Liberal MPs and one Green. Bass was the only electorate that did not deliver three of its five seats to the Labor Party at the 2002 and 2006 elections.
In 2010 the Liberal Party polled 2.56 quotas (42.6%), the Labor Party 2.07 quotas (34.5%) and the Greens 1.26 quotas (21.0%). Based on current polling, the 2014 election will see the Liberal Party poll close to if not more than three quotas, winning Bass’s hinge seat. Labor looks set to slip below two quotas, delivering Labor only one certain seat and leaving Labor’s second placed candidate battling with the Greens for the fifth and final seat.
As in 2010, Liberal Michael Ferguson will easily attract more than a quota in his own right, while party colleague Peter Gutwein should increase his vote enough to capture a quota of his own. The surpluses of Ferguson and Gutwein will then determine which of Sarah Courtney, Barry Jarvis or Leonie McNair win the hinge seat for the Liberal Party.
On Labor’s ticket, Michelle O’Byrne attracted more than a quota in her own right in 2010, but the decline in Labor’s vote means she may fall short of a quota in 2014. O’Byrne should still be the highest polling Labor candidate and be elected, leaving second Labor MP Brian Wightman battling with Greens MP Kim Booth for the final seat.
Vote for the Greens is usually heavily concentrated with Booth, where Labor’s vote will be more evenly divided between candidates. If the Green vote remains above one quota (16.7%), then Booth will win the final seat. If the Green vote falls below a quota and is roughly equivalent to Labor’s surplus beyond its first quota, Booth will still be advantaged because there will be more opportunities for votes to leak out Labor’s more evenly divided ticket. The Greens polled only 7.9% in Bass at last September’s Federal election, and it would take a similar collapse in Green support at the state election to allow Wightman to win a second seat for Labor at the expense of Booth.
Over the last two decades the electorate of Braddon has played an important part in determining majority or minority government. In 1989 it was the Green victory in Braddon that deprived the Gray Liberal government of its majority. The Greens lost their seat in Braddon when the Parliament was downsized in 1998, Labor winning three of the five seats in Braddon in 1998, 2002 and 2006. The Green victory in Braddon in 2010 has coincided with another spell of minority government.
In 2010 the Liberal Party polled 2.71 quotas (45.2%), Labor 2.41 quotas (40.2%) and the Greens 0.83 quotas (13.8%). In 2014 polls indicate the Liberal Party vote will be up, delivering the critical third hinge seat to the party. The Liberal party’s biggest concern would be if increase in their vote stalls because of the high profile campaign being run in support of Palmer United Party’s Kevin Morgan.
The problem for the Greens in Braddon is that Labor can lose six percentage points of support and still poll above two quotas, where any loss of Green support would see their support slip below the Liberal surplus beyond two quotas. Unless there is substantial support for Palmer United, the mostly likely result is the Liberal Party taking a seat off the Greens.
On the Liberal ticket, both Jeremy Rockliff and Adam Brooks will be re-elected, with Roger Jaensch maybe better placed that Kyron Howell and Joan Rylah to win the third Liberal seat. Braddon is a seat of regions, and there is an advantage for candidates able to draw on votes from their home region but also poll well in other areas.
On the Labor ticket, Deputy Premier Bryan Green should retain his seat, as should Brenton Best unless there is a catastrophic collapse in the Labor vote. Labor voters in Braddon would be in little doubt of Best’s antipathy to Labor having formed government with the Greens.
Also on the Labor ticket, agricultural scientist and former rower Shane Broad is having his second run at Braddon. Victory looks unlikely, but he would be well placed at any by-election re-count if either Green or Best retire.
The re-election chances of the Green’s Paul O’Halloran look bleak. The Green vote in Braddon more than halved to 5.2% at last September’s Federal election, while Kevin Morgan polled 9.3% as the Palmer United Party candidate. In 2014 the Greens may be left with only core supporters, as the presence of both Palmer United and the revived National Party provide voters with several alternatives to cast a protest vote against the major parties.
Denison has been described as being Australia’s greenest electorate, and it is the seat where the Liberal Party are least likely to win three seats at the 2014 election. The hinge seat in Denison looks set to stay with the Greens, unless the weakened Labor ticket sees a collapse in support and a larger than expected swing to the Liberal Party.
In 2014 Labor polled 2.18 quotas (36.3%), the Liberal Party 1.79 quotas (29.8%) and the Greens 1.49 quotas (24.9%). Also on the ballot paper ahead of his successful Federal bid, Andrew Wilkie polled 0.41 quotas (8.4%).
In 2010 the Liberal Party had a weak ticket following the retirement of the late Michael Hodgman. Two Liberals were elected, Matthew Groom and Elise Archer, and both should be easily re-elected in 2014 as the Liberal vote rises above two quotas. It seems unlikely that the Liberal Party could win a third seat, but if it did, the choice is between motivational speaker and cancer survivor Deborah De Williams, and two lower profile businessman in Rene Kling and Robert Mallett. For technical reasons to do with the conduct of the count, the Liberal Party’s chance of winning three seats in Denison might be helped if both Groom and Archer fall short of winning full quotas.
Reaching three quotas looks an unlikely prospect for the Liberal Party, but with 10 columns and 30 candidates on the ballot paper, a higher than normal rate of exhausted preferences might see the final seat filled with less than a quota of votes. The final member elected could be the candidate left standing with the highest total of votes.
Labor goes into the 2014 election with a weaker ticket than in 2010. Then Labor had three sitting members, Premier David Bartlett plus Lisa Singh and Graeme Sturges. Singh and Sturges were defeated, newcomer with Scott Bacon winning the second Labor seat. Bartlett has since retired from Parliament, Graeme Sturges elected at the by-election re-count, but he will be retiring at the 2014 election.
Scott Bacon will easily top the Labor ticket, but Labor has had to dig into the past by nominating Julian Amos, a former MP who has twice before been defeated. Amos’s antipathy to the Greens is well known and might go down well with Labor’s traditional base at the Glenorchy end of the electorate. Madeleine Ogilvie will have her second tilt at the seat, the Labor ticket rounded out by Sharon Carnes and Alphonse Mulumba. The presence of Andrew Wilkie makes the Federal election result a poor guide, but there is still probably enough Labor votes, especially in the Glenorchy end of the electorate, to elect a second Labor MHA, even if it is unclear who that would be.
The Greens have gone beyond their usual ‘Snow White and the four dwarves’ tactic by nominating several strong candidates. Sitting member Cassy O’Connor should be easily elected, and Hobart City Councillors Bill Harvey and Philip Cocker should bolster the Green vote, or at least divide it between candidates in a more effective way. The odds are still that only O’Connor will be elected, but Harvey and Cocker will be on the ballot and eligible for any by-election re-count should O’Connor retire in the next parliament.
Complicating Denison is a full ticket of Plamer United Party candidates, including former Integrity Commissioner Barbara Etter. She is no doubt hoping to appeal to the 38.1% ‘anti-party’ vote for Andrew Wilkie at last September’s Federal election. Given Labor’s weak ticket, the likelihood of a decline in Green support, and how much the Liberal vote would have to rise to win a third seat, Etter’s chances of victory can’t be ignored.
Rounding out the Hobart City Council putsch in Denison are councillors Marti Zucco and Leo Foley, repeat candidates who have obtained enough signatures to each have their own columns on the ballot paper. All six independents will be hoping to attract some of the 38% of Denison voters who backed Andrew Wilkie at last September’s Federal election.
Were Etter to win the hinge seat in Denison, it would mean the Liberal Party could not win more than 14 seats and give greater importance to the hinge seats in the other four electorates.
Franklin is an unusual contest in 2014 because all three party leaders represent the seat. It is a seat where Will Hodgman’s personal vote will dominate the Liberal ticket, but will it be large enough to take a seat of Labor’s ticket headed by Premier Lara Giddings, or the Greens headed by that party’s leader Nick McKim?
In 2010 the Liberal Party polled 2.47 quotas (41.2%), Labor 1.83 quotas (30.5%) and the Greens 1.64 quotas (27.4%). Labor’s ticket had been weakened in 2010 by the retirements of Paul Lennon and Paula Wriedt in the preceding term of parliament.
It seems certain that the Liberal vote will rise, approaching three quotas, with Will Hodgman likely to get in excess of two quotas in his own right. His surplus should re-elect the seat’s other Liberal MHA Jacquie Petrusma, while recently resigned Huon MLC Paul Harriss should be able to harness his local support to win a third Liberal Franklin’s hinge seat.
Any Liberal gain looks most likely to come at Labor’s expense. Premier Lara Giddings should top Labor’s ticket, which would leave Police Minister David O’Byrne facing defeat. Only a collapse in the Green vote can save Labor’s second seat.
The Greens have polled above 19% at the last three Tasmanian election, rising to their record level in 2010. The Green vote fell from 20.9% to 12.2% at last September’s Federal election, but Nick McKim has a strong personal vote.
The lead Palmer United Party candidate is Debra Thurley, but realistically the most likely result in Franklin is Paul Harriss grabbing the hinge seat for the Liberal Party, most likely at the expense of Labor’s David O’Byrne. That is unless O’Byrne can outpoll his Premier on the Labor ticket.
Lyons is the most geographically diverse of Tasmania’s electorates and it is unusual for any candidate to poll more than a quota in their own right. The usual tactic of the Labor and Liberal Parties is to select balanced tickets with candidates from different regions of the electorate in an attempt to use local support for candidates to maximise the overall party vote.
In 2010 the Labor party polled 2.57 quotas (42.8%), Liberal party 2.17 quotas (36.1%) and the Greens 1.27 quotas (21.1%). The seat held by Labor’s Heather Butler was lost to Liberal Mark Shelton, while long serving Labor MHA David Llewellyn was defeated by Rebecca White.
In 2014 Labor will be disadvantaged by the retirement of 42 year veteran Michael Polley, while the Liberal Party have chosen a high profile and geographically balanced ticket.
Both sides will have paid attention to last September’s Federal result when Dick Adams became only the second Federal member in 70 years to taste defeat in Lyons. There was a 12% shift of first preference support, the Liberals polling 44.4%, Labor 36.8% and the Green vote halving to 8.3%. The Federal result points to the Liberal Party having a strong chance of grabbing the hinge seat in Lyons.
On the Liberal ticket, long serving MP Rene Hidding will be re-elected, as should Mark Shelton. The Liberal Party start from a low base looking at the 2010 result, but will be encouraged by the Liberal surge last September. Best placed to capitalise on this will be former Senator Guy Barnett, based in the north of the electorate but known across the state for his past national role. Campaigning on the east coast is flamboyant French-born Mayor of Glamorgan Spring Bay Council Bertrand Cadart. The Mayor of Derwent Valley Martyn Evans rounds out the Liberal ticket.
After her upset victory in 2010, Rebecca White should easily win the first Labor seat. Having lost Michael Polley from the ticket, Labor has returned to David Llewellyn, though it seems he would be unlikely to improve much on the vote that saw him defeated in 2010. Former Forestry Tasmania head Bob Gordon has been backed by former federal MP Dick Adams and AWU boss Paul Howes, so will stand a chance of election if Labor’s vote can stay in the vicinity of two quotas.
The Greens have polled above 15% at the last three elections, but Greens MP Tim Morris will be under pressure if there is a substantial fall in Green support. Liberal chances of winning the hinge seat looking strong, so Morris is likely to be in a contest with the second placed Labor candidate to win the final seat in Lyons.