Tasmania has ‘a habit’ of large seat swings, and this election won’t be any different, experts say

The marginal Tasmanian electorates of Bass, Braddon and Lyons are likely to get plenty of visits from federal politicians over the six weeks before the May 21 election.

Bass in the state’s north is the most marginal seat in the country, while Clark in the south is one of the safest.

Electoral analyst Kevin Bonham said Tasmania had been unpredictable in the past and often bucked the national trend.

“Tasmania has a habit of having large seat swings even when there’s not a lot going on nationally,” he said.

“So trying to predict Tasmania off the national trend hasn’t worked very well over the last 30 years.”

Bass, held by Liberals

Liberal Bridget Archer won the north-eastern seat that includes Launceston at the 2019 federal election by 563 votes, giving her a 0.4 per cent margin.

Dr Bonham described Bass as the “ejector seat of Australian politics”.

Bass voter Jamie said improving housing affordability was important to him.

“Particularly in Launceston, rent is very expensive and going up, house prices are expensive, it’s very hard for people to get accommodation here that’s affordable,” he said.

Bridget Archer standing and addressing the House of Represenatives
Liberal Bridget Archer won the Bass seat at the 2019 federal election by 563 votes,(ABC News: Tamara Penniket)

Braddon, held by Liberals

The north-west Tasmanian electorate of Braddon also has a recent record of switching between Liberal and Labor members.

The current member, Liberal Gavin Pearce, holds a 3.1 per cent margin.

The seat covers the coastal population centers of Devonport and Burnie, as well as rural towns like Smithton and Sheffield, and communities focused on mining and tourism on the west coast.

Dr Bonham said the contest would probably be close.

“Braddon is likely to have some of the same factors in play, the reversal of some of the things that happened in 2019, so I think Braddon is definitely a seat in play,” he said.

For Braddon voter Tori Rattray, rising housing costs are a concern.

“That needs to be a big point that’s focused on, because it’s absolutely horrible to think about renting or even owning your own house currently,” she said.

Gavin Pearce has taken Braddon.
Liberal Gavin Pearce holds a 3.1 per cent margin in Braddon.(ABC News: Laura Beavis)

Lyons, held by Labor

The vast electorate of Lyons stretches from Launceston’s outer suburbs in the north to towns like Sorell and New Norfolk in the south, as well as taking in the rural midlands and east-coast tourism hot spots.

Labor’s Brian Mitchell holds the seat with a 5.2 per cent margin, but Dr Bonham said the gap might be closer than it appears.

“The five per cent margin is deceptive because of what happened in the 2019 campaign with [Liberal candidate] Jessica Whelan being dissendorsed, “he said.

“Without that dissendorsement, and had the Liberals picked a candidate earlier, then I think that Lyons would have been very close last time and may even have fallen.”

Lyons voter Amy Whelan said the surging cost of everyday essentials was the most important issue to her.

“The rising cost of living, because young families are struggling with the low income and there’s just really no relief from that without a rise in income or a reduction in the cost of living, things will just get harder,” she said.

Brian Mitchell MP Federal Member for Lyons and Anthony Albanese MP, Leader ALP in the ABC Launceston studio.
Labor’s Brian Mitchell holds the Lyons seat with a 5.2 per cent margin.(ABC)

Franklin, held by Labor, and Clark, held by independent

The incumbents in the southern seats of Franklin and Clark have large enough margins that their seats are considered safe, so they’re unlikely to attract as much campaigning as the volatile northern electorates.

Franklin takes in Kingston and the Huon Valley south of Hobart as well as some eastern-shore Hobart suburbs.

Labor’s Julie Collins holds the electorate by 12.1 per cent.

Independent Andrew Wilkie has a 22.1 per cent margin in the Hobart-based Clark, making it one of Australia’s safest seats.

“Wilkie will be re-elected very easily and I don’t think Labor will have any problems winning Franklin,” Dr Bonham said.

A woman speaks to media.
Labor’s Julie Collins holds the Franklin seat by 12.1 per cent. (ABC News: Luke Bowden)

Minor party could win sixth Senate seat

A half-Senate election will be held on the same day as the lower house poll.

Six of Tasmania’s 12 senators will have to fight for re-election: Liberals Eric Abetz, Wendy Askew and Jonathan Duniam, Labor’s Helen Polley and Anne Urquhart, and the Greens’ Peter Whish-Wilson.

Liberal preselectors have placed veteran Senator Eric Abetz in third spot on their party ticket, which Dr Bonham said would make it more difficult for him to retain his seat.

“We finally get to see an actual test of Eric Abetz’s popular support after him being on top of the ticket forever, so I’m looking forward to seeing how he goes,” Dr Bonham said.

He said there is a chance a minor party might pick up the sixth senate seat instead.

“On the results from last time, the Jacqui Lambie network is in the box seat, but Lambie is not herself the candidate this time around and it remains to be seen how much her support holds in that circumstance,” he said.

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