Electoral Form Guide: Braddon
Margin: Labor 1.0%
Location: North-Western Regional, Tasmania
In a nutshell: Braddon was one of two Tasmanian seats which fell to the Liberals as part of the forestry policy backlash in 2004, before returning to the Labor fold with relatively gentle swings in 2007. The presence of a mining industry in the electorate has again made Labor nervous about their prospects.
Two-party vote map
Swing % map
Electorate analysis: The north-western Tasmanian seat of Braddon was one of two seats in the state which fell to the Liberals in 2004 before switching back in 2007, providing Labor with a clean sweep in the state to follow those achieved in 1993, 1998 and 2001. Known before 1955 as Darwin, Braddon is dominated by Devenport and Burnie, which respectively supply about 25 per cent and 18 per cent of its voters, the electorate covers the north-western coastal areas of Tasmania plus King Island in the Bass Strait. Burnie is by far the strongest area for Labor, although Devonport also traditionally leans its way. Most of the remainder is finely balanced, with a slight inclination towards the Liberals in Smithton and surrounding towns in the west.
The area covered by Braddon is electorally mixed, with timber and mining industries that traditionally provided a solid working-class base for Labor balanced by conservative small towns and farming districts. The redistribution has resulted in transfers of territory with Lyons: it now covers the entire length of the west coast after taking over West Coast Council (which includes Strahan, situated Queenstown, Zeehan, Tullah and Rosebery), while in the north-east of the electorate it loses those parts of Latrobe Council outside the township of Latrobe itself. Both changes account for slightly over 3000 voters, collectively increasing Labor’s margin by 1.1 per cent.
Braddon/Darwin has followed its own electoral rhythms historically, being held by Labor legend King O’Malley from its creation in 1903 until 1917, then by conservatives of various stripes until Ron Davies won for Labor in 1958. Davies held the seat until the 1975, when future Premier Ray Groom won the seat with the Liberals’ statewide clean sweep. The economic decline that buffeted the area’s industries, along with the political upheaval caused by the Franklin Dam controversy, dramatically tilted the balance in the Liberals’ favour in the 1980s and early 1990s. Groom quit to enter state politics in 1984 and was succeeded by Chris Miles, who was eventually ousted by a 10.0 per cent swing to Labor’s Peter “Sid” Sidebottom in 1998.
Recent years have seen a return to the good old days from Labor’s perspective, barring the 2004 federal election when a backlash against Mark Latham’s conservationist forestry policy delivered the seat to Liberal candidate Mark Baker with a 7.0 per cent swing. Sidebottom had declined to distance himself from this policy, unlike Dick Adams in neighbouring Lyons. The Liberal interregnum only lasted one term, with Sidebottom recovering the seat for Labor in 2007 with a modest 2.6 per cent swing. This was most heavily concentrated in the Smithton region, where a heavy swing to the Liberals from 2004 was reversed.
Before entering parliament Sidebottom was a Central Coast councillor and electorate officer to Senator Nick Sherry, a fellow member of Labor’s dwindling Centre/Independents faction (known in its Hawke government glory days as the Centre Left). He was promoted to parliamentary secretary after the 2001 election, but has not resumed this position since returning to parliament. During the three-year interruption to his parliamentary career he returned to the employ of Nick Sherry. His Liberal opponent at the coming election is Garry Carpenter, a dairy farmer from South Riana.
A statewide EMRS poll conducted late in the second last week of the campaign showed Labor’s vote holding up in Tasmania, and it included a small-sample (200) breakdown for Braddon which had Labor leading 56-44.
Analysis written by William Bowe. Read Bowe’s blog, The Poll Bludger.