I’m in Tasmania for the week, visiting each of the state’s electorates in turn, so I’ll share some of my impressions here.
There are five electorates, each electing five members, corresponding to its five federal seats. That means they’re pretty stable – there are always five of them (each state is guaranteed that as a constitutional minimum, and Tasmania has never been close to getting more), and since there’s not much rapid growth in Tasmania their boundaries never change much: there’s always two in the south, one in the north, one in the north-west, and one consisting of all the bits left over.
Braddon is the electorate in the north-west, based on the urban strip running from Devonport (pictured) through Ulverstone and Burnie to Wynyard. The first thing to notice is that it isn’t good territory for the Greens – it’s the only electorate where they don’t currently hold a seat. Forestry is big here, and even in the urban parts there’s quite a rural, untrendy feel – it’s perhaps symbolic that the TV in my hotel room refuses to give me SBS.
In 2006, Labor won about 50.6% of the three-party-preferred vote, to the Liberals’ 38.9% and the Greens’ 10.5%. Quota was 16.7%, so Labor won three seats and the Liberals two. The subsequent redistribution, which moved the west coast into Braddon, has improved the Liberals’ position by about 0.6% at the expense of Labor, according to Antony Green’s figures (his review of the electorate is here and summary of the candidates here).
But even if the Greens vote stays low, it’s still possible they could pick up a seat: a swing of about half a quota (8%) from Labor to the Liberals would put the third Labor candidate behind the Greens, and the Greens could then beat the Liberals on Labor preferences. A larger swing to the Liberals, however, would put them too close to a third quota to be overtaken.
Given how badly Labor has been travelling, the third Labor seat looks all but unwinnable, but whether it will fall to Liberals or Greens is one of the biggest uncertainties of the election. The polls so far support the Greens; the question is whether their support – and their luck – will hold until Saturday.
There’s also an interesting independent, Timothy Kidd, who’s a clown; he has some profile in the north-west, especially in Penguin, where he lives and where I stopped for lunch. In a close result, his preferences might turn out to be important.