Final results from the Tasmanian election show a perfect status quo
result, with no seats gained or lost. The Liberal Party however can
take some comfort from the improvement in their vote, to the tune of
about 4.5%. How little comfort they should take can be shown from a
quick comparison with New Zealand.

In 2002, Tasmania and New Zealand held their elections on successive
weekends. Both were huge victories for Labo(u)r: in Tasmania, the
Liberal vote fell below 28%. The National Party in NZ did even worse,
with a little under 21%.

New Zealand went to the polls again last September, and National
recovered its lost ground, getting 39%. That wasn’t enough to win, but
they came very close, and there’s no doubt that they’re back in the
game. Not so the Tasmanian Liberals.

Their position is obscured a little by two (related) peculiarities of
the island state – the strength of the Greens, and proportional
representation in the lower house. If we leave aside the fact that the
Greens are players in their own right and calculate a
two-party-preferred vote on the model of the other states, the Liberals
are still down on about 38%, worse than any of their counterparts on
the mainland.

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PR gives them a respectable tally of seven seats, but if Tasmania had
single-member districts they would be lucky to win any seats at all.
And the presence of the Greens provides the further embarrassment that
they have to look over the shoulder at the possibility of being
replaced as the official opposition.

There is nothing preordained about the Liberals’ performance: New
Zealand demonstrates that a right-of-centre opposition can come back
from near oblivion. Can Will Hodgman perform the same trick?