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.

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.

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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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey