Friday, July 31

Tune in tomorrow for the usual live coverage of the count. Michael Stedman of The Mercury has a thorough round-up of the campaign and candidates; Kevin Bonham and Peter Tucker have added a sequel to their earlier overview; and Tucker offers a few more cents’ worth at his own Tasmanian Politics site. Antony Green will also be covering the count at ABC Elections, and explains what will be on offer on his blog. The under-attended candidates’ debate can be viewed on YouTube.

Saturday, July 18

Labor has indeed chickened out, prompting a pertinent question from MDMConnell in comments: “When was the last time the party currently holding a seat refused to contest it at a by-election?” A field of eight candidates has come forward, who are dealt with in ballot paper order below. Further reading from Antony Green, Peter Tucker and Kevin Bonham at the Tasmanian Times, Center for Media and Democracy’s SourceWatch wiki and Malcolm Mackerras at Mumble (not sure exactly when he wrote his email to Peter Brent, but suffice to say the assertion that I had not noticed the by-election is erroneous).

Honey Bacon. The most colourful development of the campaign has been the entry of the widow of former Premier Jim Bacon. As a reporter on the ABC AM’s program noted, the vote-pulling power of the Bacon name appeared to be demonstrated in 1998 when the low-profile and unrelated Labor candidate Ken Bacon won a lower house seat in Lyons, and again when he was returned in 2002 with 14.3 per cent of the vote.

Peter Cooper. Cooper is listed as a Clarence councillor and taxi driver who lives in the electorate at Bellerive. Antony Green tells us he “previously contested Pembroke in 1983 when he polled 10.1 per cent, and 1989 when he polled 14.0 per cent”.

James Crotty. Crotty is a Hobart lawyer, described by Peter Tucker and Kevin Bonham as “left-leaning” and “green-tinged”. He polled 3.8 per cent as a Labor candidate for Denison at the 2006 election, and came close to beating David Bartlett on the countback in 2004 which followed the departure of Jim Bacon. More recently he has been touted as a lower house Labor candidate for Franklin at next year’s state election. It was reported that Crotty was set to be endorsed June 22, but the announcement was withdrawn due to “last-minute commitments”. The Mercury reported that Labor subsequently failed in bids to recruit Julian Amos, a lower house member for Denison from 1976 to 1986 and again from 1992 to 1996, and Wendy Kennedy, a “racing figure and local identity”. Labor then announced it would not field a candidate, at which point Crotty curiously anounced he would run as “independent Labor” and refused to rule out taking a position with the government if one was offered. Crotty has won the endorsement of Harry Quick, the former federal Labor member for Franklin who endorsed Vanessa Goodwin at the 2007 election out of distaste for his Labor successor Kevin Harkins (who was soon forced to stand aside), and more recently considered running against state Treasurer Michael Aird as Greens candidate for Derwent. Aird himself has denied reports he was at odds with David Bartlett’s decision not to formally endorse Crotty as a Labor candidate.

Vanessa Goodwin (Liberal). Antony Green describes Goodwin as “a 39 year-old criminologist and lawyer who has worked for the Department of Police and Public Safety for a decade with responsibility for implementing and managing several crime prevention projects such as Project U-Turn (turning around the lives of young offenders) and Project Samaritan (burglary prevention)”. Goodwin narrowly failed to win a state seat in Franklin at the 2006 state election, and performed more than creditably to pick up a 3.1 per cent swing as federal candidate for Franklin in 2007 – the best result for any Liberal candidate in the country, albeit under difficult circumstances for Labor. Like Crotty, Goodwin was expected to run as a candidate for Franklin at the state election, before the circumstance of the Pembroke by-election presented both candidate and party with an opportunity in which neither had much to lose.

Wendy Heatley (Greens). Antony Green describes Heatley as “a 46 year-old lawyer who works as a Director for the Australian Taxation Office in Hobart”, whose “involvement with the Greens stretches back to the days of the Franklin Dam blockade”. The Greens candidate for Pembroke in 2007, Neil Smith, polled 13.4 per cent, while Antony Green calculates the local booths produced Greens votes of 17.2 per cent and 15.8 per cent at the 2002 and 2006 state elections, and 8.0 per cent and 10.9 per cent at the 2004 and 2007 federal elections.

Richard James. James is an accountant and Clarence City alderman making his third bid for Pembroke. He performed extremely impressively to poll 32.6 per cent in 1995, and more modestly at the 1999 by-election and the 2007 periodical election at which Allison Ritchie was re-elected, respectively scoring 13.3 per cent and 18.4 per cent. He nonetheless made the final two-candidate cut on the latter occasion with 31.2 per cent against Ritchie’s 68.8 per cent. At the 2006 state election he ran in Franklin, polling a very modest 489 votes (0.7 per cent).

John Peers. A Clarence alderman since 1994, Peers polled 9.3 per cent running against Ritchie in Pembroke in 2007.

Kit (Sharon) Soo. Soo is listed as a PR consultant residing in Sandy Bay; beyond that, nothing is known.

Wednesday, July 1

A minor, but potentially very interesting, electoral event will take place in Tasmania on August 1, when voters in the Legislative Council district of Pembroke choose a replacement for outgoing Labor member Allison Ritchie. The Liberal Party’s normal practice of not contesting seats in the Legislative Council makes elections for the chamber, which normally take place for two or three of the 15 divisions each May, of little interest to those attuned to the adversarial cut-and-thrust of partisan politics. However, this time the Liberals have resolved to take the field with a quality candidate in a seat which is one of only four currently held by Labor. It thus looms as a fascinating test of strength for Premier David Bartlett, the apparently popular head of an ageing government who has yet to face the voters, and Opposition Leader Will Hodgman, who seems the Liberals’ most promising leadership prospect in recent memory despite his patchy record in the polls.

Pembroke covers most of the urban area on the Derwent River’s eastern shore, from Otago south through Lindisfarne and Bellerive to Tranmere. The by-election will be held under the newly redistributed boundaries which have added marginal areas at Otago at the northern coastal end and Mornington in the east, neither of which should have a measurable impact. The primary votes from this area at the 2007 federal election were Labor 44 per cent, Liberal 42 per cent and the Greens 11 per cent, with a two-party Labor margin of 5.6 per cent.

Ritchie announced she would quit parliament on June 20 after enduring a storm of controversy over her appointment of several family members to her staff. She was first elected to the seat in 2001 when she defeated independent incumbent Cathy Edwards, in large part due to her successful attacks upon Edwards’ dual role as Mayor of Clarence, and easily won re-election in 2007. Ritchie claims to have been the victim of a plot from within her own party, which presumably explains why she has decided to go now rather than wait for the more convenient juncture of early next year, when a by-election could be held with the state election in March (though Antony Green is unsure whether this is feasible) or the annual periodical upper house elections in May.

Things got really interesting last week when the Liberals, after initially signalling that they would follow their normal practice of sitting the election out, announced as their candidate Vanessa Goodwin, a Hobart criminologist who narrowly failed to win a state seat in Franklin at the 2006 state election, and performed more than creditably to pick up a 3.1 per cent swing as federal candidate for Franklin in 2007 – the best result for any Liberal candidate in the country, albeit under difficult circumstances for Labor, with popular incumbent Harry Quick retiring and his nemesis Kevin Harkins, the state secretary of the Electrical Trades Union, being forced to stand aside as candidate after his union became the focus of Coalition attacks. Given the disastrous performance of Liberal candidates in the upper house when the party last tested the waters in 2002, which voters evidently saw as an intrusion on the chamber’s cherished independence, this appears a bold move. However, there are reasons to believe circumstances will be different this time, partly due to the standing of the candidate, but also because this election is taking place in an urban rather than rural seat. It is in Hobart that Labor has succeeded in getting candidates elected, and it presumably follows that city conservatives are also less attached to the Legislative Council as an extension of local politics.

Remarkably, it is now Labor that is considering not fielding a candidate. It was reported that Hobart lawyer James Crotty was set to be endorsed June 22, but he withdrew due to “last-minute commitments”. Matthew Denholm of The Australian named as possible candidates Julian Amos, a lower house member for Denison from 1976 to 1986 (including a spell as minister in the Lowe/Holgate government from 1979 to 1982) and again from 1992 to 1996; Pharmacy Guild director Louise Sullivan; and Roger Joseph, former staff member for Harry Quick. Another interesting name to emerge was Kevin Harkins, whose recent re-emergence as a potential Senate candidate has been vigorously opposed by the Prime Minister. Evidently it is feared that none of these candidates will be the goods to take on Goodwin. A decision from the party was expected this afternoon, and has presumably been made but not yet reported.

The Greens have announced they will field a candidate, but are yet to say who. Michael Stedman of The Mercury also reported that Jenny Branch, a Glenorchy councillor and Liberal Party member who polled strongly against Treasurer Michael Aird in the May periodical election for Mersey, was considering standing, but she has presumably thought again now the Liberals are fielding an official candidate.

More from Peter Tucker at Tasmanian Politics.