With less
than three weeks to go, a minority Labor government is still being
tipped as the likely outcome of the Tasmania election: Centrebet is giving 3 to 1 against Labor retaining its absolute majority. Local expert Richard Herr, quoted in Saturday’s Mercury, says that voters “are not going to vote for a party they cannot stand just to prevent a minority government being elected.”

Both parties started out
saying they would not do a deal with the Greens to secure government,
although the Liberals are more dogmatic about it. This has led some to
speculate that a possible outcome could be a temporary coalition
between the two major parties, during which they would re-jig the
electoral system to disadvantage the Greens, possibly by abolishing
proportional representation altogether, and then hold a fresh election.

This
theory could only be entertained by mainlanders who don’t realise how
marginalised the Tasmanian Liberal Party has become, or by Tasmanians
who are so used to the Hare-Clark system that they don’t realise how
much single-member electorates advantage the majority.

In the
last election, Labor won about 53% of the three-party vote, as against
28% for the Liberals and 19% for the Greens. Assuming Labor would get
70% of Green preferences, that’s about 65-35 two-party-preferred.

Under
Hare-Clark, the result was roughly proportional, 14-7-4. But under
single-member districts, the Liberals would have difficulty winning any
seats at all.

I’ve done a rough allocation of the 2002 figures
to 25 single-member districts, and the results are quite shocking.
Labor would win 23 of them, and the Greens, who have a strong
concentrated vote in central Hobart, would win the other two. Another
three Labor seats would be at some danger from the Greens (margins less
than 10%), and four (all in the north) would offer some chance to the
Liberals – but none with margins of less than 8%.

And that’s without counting any swing the Greens would gain from being the victims of a shady deal between the other two.

Peter Fray

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