Electoral Form Guide: Lyons
Margin: Labor 8.4%
Location: Central Regional, Tasmania
In a nutshell: The safe Labor seat of Scullin has been a Jenkins family business since 1969, with Harry Jr succeeding Harry Sr in 1986. Jenkins the younger has achieved a high profile that had previously eluded him since 2007 as Speaker of the House of Representatives.
Electorate analysis: Known until 1982 as Wilmot, Lyons is made up of what’s left of Tasmania after the north-west coast (Braddon), north-east coast (Bass), western Hobart (Denison) and eastern Hobart (Franklin, which also includes towns to the south to make up the numbers) are grouped into communities of interest. It thus includes small towns on either side of Tasmania’s pronounced north-south divide, respectively including New Norfolk outside Hobart and the southern outskirts of Launceston, along with fishing towns and tourist centres on the east coast and a lot of farming land in between. The redistribution has resulted in transfers of territory with Braddon and Franklin, and added 1500 voters at Hadspen and Franklin Valley south of Launceston from Bass. To Braddon it loses the entire length of the sparsely populated west coast (including Strahan, Queenstown, Zeehan, Tullah and Rosebery), while in the north-east it gains those parts of Latrobe Council outside the township of Latrobe itself. Both changes account for slightly over 3000 voters. The adjustment of its boundary with Franklin north of Hobart has added 4000 voters around Brighton north of Hobart plus unpopulated Derwent Valley, and removed 1400 voters around Richmond further east. The changes have slightly reduced the Labor margin, from 8.8 per cent to 8.4 per cent.
Lyons’ rural profile has made it slightly conservative leaning by Tasmanian standards, but it has otherwise moved with the state’s distinct electoral rhythms over the decades. As Wilmot it was won for Labor in 1929 by the man whose name it now bears, Joseph Lyons, who had been the state’s Premier until his minority government was defeated at the previous year’s election. Lyons assumed the senior position of Postmaster-General in the Jim Scullin’s new Labor government but fell out with his colleagues over economic policy, defecting to the opposition in March 1931 and emerging as the head of the new conservative United Australia Party. The Lyons-led UAP enjoyed a landslide win at the election of December 1931, and he remained Prime Minister until his death in 1939. Labor briefly recovered his seat at the ensuing by-election, by Allan Guy won it back for the UAP in 1940 before losing to Labor’s Gil Duthie in 1946.
Duthie built up a solid margin over time, but fell victim to Tasmania’s reaction against the Whitlam government with successive swings of 9.9 per cent and 8.0 per cent in 1975 and 1977. With help from the Franklin dam issue, Max Burr maintained the seat for the Liberals until his retirement in 1993, when the loss of his personal vote combined with a particularly pronounced reaction to John Hewson’s proposed GST to deliver a decisive 5.6 per cent swing to Labor’s Dick Adams, a former state government minister who had lost his seat in 1982. Adams survived a swing in 1996 before piling 9.3 per cent on to his margin in 1998, enough of a buffer to survive a small swing in 2001 and a large one in 2004 when northern Tasmania reacted against Mark Latham’s forest policies, which had been bitterly opposed by Adams. The reaction against Labor in 2004 was reversed in 2007, when Adams picked up a 5.1 per cent swing. He remains associated with the Left faction Liquor Hospitality and Miscellaneous Workers Union, for which he once worked as an organiser.
Analysis written by William Bowe. Read Bowe’s blog, The Poll Bludger.