Margin: Labor 15.3%
Location: Hobart, Tasmania
Outgoing member: Duncan Kerr (Labor)
In a nutshell: Duncan Kerr ended Labor’s Tasmanian drought when he gained Denison in 1987, and will retire at the coming election. The seat is now very safe from the Liberals, but the loss of Kerr’s personal vote would give Labor vague cause to worry about the Greens.
Electorate analysis: Denison has covered the better part of Hobart since Tasmania was it was first divided into single-member electorates in 1903, currently covering all of Hobart west of the Derwent River plus some hinterland beyond. The redistribution has added an area around Neika south of Mount Wellington, adding 1800 new voters from Franklin and cutting Labor’s margin by 0.3 per cent. It is one of the strongest electorates in the country for the Greens, who polled 18.6 per cent at the 2007 federal election and 24.9 per cent at the 2010 state election. Labor first won the seat with its 1910 election landslide, but lost it when member William Laird Smith joined Billy Hughes in the Nationalist Party following the 1917 split. The seat was hotly contested over subsequent decades, changing hands in 1922, 1925, 1928, 1931, 1934, 1940 and 1943. It thereafter switched along with the changes of government in 1949, 1972 and 1975, the winner on the latter occasion being Michael Hodgman. The mould was finally broken in 1983 when the Franklin dam issue delivered all five Tasmanian seats to the defeated Fraser government. Hodgman was defeated by Labor’s Duncan Kerr in 1987, later to return as a long-serving state MP. This proved to be the beginning of a long-term drift to Labor that has delivered Kerr double-digit margins at each election since 1993. Part of Labor’s electoral strength comes via preferences from the Greens, who poll around 15 per cent.
Duncan Kerr will retire at the coming election after a 23-year parliamentary career that included a four-week stint as Attorney-General while incumbent Michael Lavarch’s status as member for Dickson was up in the air after the 1993 election, and a rather longer spell as Keating government Justice Minister. As a fiefdom of the Left faction, the Labor nomination for the seat went without controversy to its favoured candidate Jonathan Jackson, a chartered accountant and son of former state attorney-general Judy Jackson. Others named as possible contenders were George Williams, constitutional lawyer, “Kerr associate” and unsuccessful nominee for the Fraser preselection; Rebecca White, a staffer to Kerr who went on to win a seat in Lyons at the March 2010 state election; Anne Urquhart, secretary of the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union secretary, who has since secured the unloseable second position on the Senate ticket; and Lisa Singh, a former Bartlett government minister who lost her state seat for Denison at the 2010 election and has since gained the third position on the Senate ticket.
The Liberals have endorsed Cameron Simpkins, a Westpac mank manager. The Greens candidate is Geoff Couser, an emergency specialist at Royal Hobart Hospital. Also in the field will be independent Andrew Wilkie, who came to fame as an Office of National Assessment officer who resigned in 2003 in protest over the Iraq war, and who recently fell narrowly short of winning a state seat in Denison at the March election.
Analysis written by William Bowe. Read Bowe’s blog, The Poll Bludger.