Sunday, March 25, 2018

Legislative Council 2018: Hobart

I'm getting in a bit earlier than usual with the Legislative Council guides this year as there are quite a few declared candidates already.  I will have one preview thread for each seat and I expect to have live comments on Saturday 5th May.  There may also be other threads if any campaign issue warrants them.  For more on Legislative Council voting patterns see my 2014-8 voting patterns article.

This piece will be edited through the campaign from time to time for updates, campaign information, added candidates and changed assessments.

Seat Profile

As its name suggests Hobart is mostly inner-city Hobart.  It falls entirely within the state electorate just contested under the name Denison (henceforth to be Clark at both state and federal levels.)  It includes most of the Hobart City Council area with the exceptions of the relatively wealthy Sandy Bay and Mt Nelson areas in the south, and some parts of the far north of New Town and Lenah Valley.  At the recent redistribution Hobart lost the latter areas to Elwick, but gained Tolmans Hill, Ridgeway, Fern Tree and a small part of Dynnyrne from Nelson.

Hobart (my home electorate) is mostly left-wing middle suburbia, with two relatively affluent suburbs (Battery Point and Tolmans Hill) and the very Green areas of Fern Tree and Ridgeway on the fringes of Wellington Park.  However in recent years, the nature of its leftness has been fluid.  Once one of the Greenest areas in the country, Hobart was the centre of Andrew Wilkie's Denison win as a left-wing independent in the 2010 federal election.  At the 2016 election it was the centre of the successful below-the-line campaign to save left-wing Labor Senator Lisa Singh from an otherwise unwinnable ticket position.  Finally at the 2018 state election, Hobart booths saw swings of 10 to 19 points to Labor and 3 to 11 points against the Greens, as Hobart voters responded strongly to Labor's more left-wing campaign and display of social conscience over poker machines.

At the state election, Labor won 41.4% of the primary vote at booths within Hobart, compared to 28.5% for the Liberals and 28.4% for the Greens.  In the process Labor topped all booths in the electorate except for Battery Point (Liberals) and Fern Tree and Cascades (Greens).  My own booth, South Hobart, was among the most extreme with an 18-point swing to the ALP and a 10-point swing against the Greens.  (If you want to play around with booth swings, Ben Raue has a great page here.)

From the mid-19th to the mid-20th centuries there was a larger seat of Hobart which returned three MLCs in a bizarre rotation of single-seat elections for the same seat.  This seat was then split in three in 1946, creating the modern seat, which has had various boundary changes since.  From 1952 until 2012 the modern seat was usually owned by Labor, except for an interruption from 1982-1994.  During that interruption it was held firstly by Hank Petrusma (uncle of Jacquie's husband), a somewhat populist independent and high-profile real-estate agent, and then briefly by conservative independent Jean Moore after Petrusma's attempt to enter the Lower House with his Advance Tasmania party failed dismally.

Incumbent

Rob Valentine (website election page, Twitter) won the contest to replace Doug Parkinson (ALP) on his retirement in 2012.  In a field of six, Valentine polled a primary vote of 37% to 22.6% for Penelope Ann (Greens) and 19.2% for Labor's Dean Winter (now a Kingborough councillor).  After preferences Valentine defeated Ann 62.5-37.5.  Ann's performance was not bad given that she lived well outside the electorate, but following the election the Greens were found to have illegally advertised in The Mercury on polling day.  For far too much detail on the 2012 results see my writeup on Tasmanian Times.

Valentine's voting on particular motions can be quite individual and he doesn't have a very strong tendency to agree with any other specific MLC.  Overall, however, he has always been among the more left-wing Legislative Councillors (indeed he has been ranked the most left-wing in all my reviews of the Council's voting patterns until this year.)  His politics as an MLC therefore bear some broad comparisons to Wilkie's, but his style is less combative and more conversational. Prior to winning the seat in 2012, Valentine was Hobart's longest-serving Lord Mayor.  An alderman since 1992, initially elected on one of a series of residents'-group tickets of the time, he became Lord Mayor in 1999 when he narrowly defeated one-term incumbent John Freeman.  He then retained the position four times by very large margins. Valentine has no known current or remotely recent party connections, but did contest the 1992 state election as a minor Green Independent (without being a party member).

Political disagreements of opinion aside, Valentine's first term as an MLC has been without any controversy, and has even been praised by a formerly harsh critic, the Mercury's Greg Barns.

Declared Challengers

Of the declared challengers only Behrakis and Griggs live within the electorate. 

Simon Behrakis (Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin) is the endorsed Liberal candidate for Hobart.  Behrakis has a degree in economics and is a federal Small Business Outreach Officer and parliamentary researcher.  He is also assistant manager of Hobart grocery chain Salamanca Fresh.

Behrakis was an endorsed Liberal candidate for Denison, polling a reasonable 2317 votes on a ticket dominated by Elise Archer and Sue Hickey.  His best booths both in terms of raw total and his share of the Liberal vote were mostly the wealthier booths, of which only Battery Point falls within the Hobart seat.  Behrakis appears to be a keen culture warrior and in his Australian Christian Lobby questionnaire did his best to collect the full set by attacking progressive history, Safe Schools, gender theory and Change The Date (all in his "top two priorities" section!)

Richard Griggs (independent) (website, Facebook, Twitter) is a lawyer and board member of the Hobart Community Law Service.  He is state Director of Civil Liberties Australia and a former state public service advisor and policy officer.  He was fairly briefly head of office for Greens Leader Cassy O'Connor in 2015-6 and is also a former advisor to the ACT Greens' Shane Rattenbury. He is not currently a member of the Greens but clearly enjoys support from many Greens (eg based on poster sites). 

Griggs is a prominent campaigner for a state Human Rights Act, a proposal which is supported by Labor and the Greens but rejected by the current Liberal government.  He has stated that if elected he intends to assess legislation based on "evidence, human rights benchmarks and the interests of future generations".  Griggs was also highly critical of the government's failed attempts to revise the Anti-Discrimination Act, and has stated that he supports a Tarkine National Park.  Griggs' campaign is authorised by his father, land surveyor and property developer Nick Griggs, who ran for Hobart City Council in 2014 on a campaign endorsed by Legislative Council president Jim Wilkinson, but I'm not inclined to read anything political into that indirect connection.

Shooters, Fishers and Farmers candidate Brendon Hext (SFF state website) is an armoured truck operator and gun owner from Rokeby (outside the electorate).  Hext polled 2.9% of the vote in Franklin at the recent state election but this vote was doubtless bolstered by being the only candidate in Franklin outside of Liberal, Labor and Green.  The otherwise mysterious candidate became a household name to Hare-Clark junkies as his preferences became very significant to the contest there, lifting Liberal Nic Street well ahead of the Greens' Rosalie Woodruff before Street went on to be defeated anyway.

Christopher Simcox (Animal Justice Party) is the first AJP candidate to contest a state election for the party in Tasmania.  Simcox has frequently appeared in media as a spokesman for Animals Tasmania and its precursor Against Animal Cruelty Tasmania.

Alan Barnett (Tasmanians 4 Tasmania) is a "Consultant, semi-retired" (unsure in what yet), who ran for alderman in the recent Glenorchy election polling 113 votes (<1%) and then also for Denison polling 347 votes (c. 0.5%).  This was consistent with a general lack of success for this new party.

Not Running

Labor has announced that it will not endorse a candidate

Socially conservative one-term Labor MHA Madeleine Ogilvie was considering whether to run as an independent or not.  (There is, incidentally, nothing to prevent independents from running as "Independent Labor", with or without tacit party approval.)  Ogilvie, who lives in the electorate, was unseated by within-party challenger Ella Haddad this month, the only MP unseated in this way at the 2018 state election.  Ogilvie's performances within Hobart were typical of her results across Denison as a whole.  Matt Lyons in comments refers to a Facebook post March 21 where Ogilvie has said she is not running (I haven't seen this post.)  Ogilvie confirms in comments below (April 11) that she isn't running.

Campaign and issues

Legislative Council elections used to be dominated by parish-pump style local campaigning but in recent years there has been more focus on state issues in Legislative Council campaigns.

The Hobart electorate is significantly affected (by Tasmanian standards) by traffic congestion.  Griggs has called for free Metro buses in peak hour, leading to some Twitter debate about costings.

The proposed Mt Wellington cable car could appear on the campaign trail.  Polling suggests the proposal is supported by Tasmanian voters generally, but that within the Hobart electorate opinion is probably about evenly divided.  Valentine's was the lone dissent on the Cable Car Facilitation Bill 2017 (on the grounds of claimed bypassing of normal planning process rather than necessarily opposition to the project); Griggs has stated he is "skeptical" about the cable car.

Housing affordability/availability and any possible link to Airbnb expansion was an issue during the state election campaign in this area, although it was difficult to detect any impact of it on the result.  Valentine has supported a call from Rosemary Armitage MLC for an inquiry into the matter.  Griggs is lobbying for 10% of the housing built at Macquarie Point to be affordable housing.

Further notes on the campaign and issues will be added as it develops.

Prospects

Incumbent Legislative Councillors are returned about 80% of the time and had a dream run from 2004-15 with only one incumbent losing in all that time. However two incumbent losses in the last two years, and a rather close call for a third, will have all recontesting MLCs on their toes.  Overall though Valentine is a good fit for his electorate and should be very hard for any opponent to beat provided that he campaigns sufficiently. 

In my view Behrakis and Griggs are the only challengers likely to poll substantial votes; I will be surprised if any of the others are close to double figures.  The seat is simply too left-wing for the Liberals to be likely to win and if they can finish second (breaking the run of three progressive vs Green results) then that will be a respectable outcome provided that they poll above, say, 20%.  Griggs as a Greens-like candidate running as an independent, and making quite an effort, is a more intriguing prospect and it will be interesting to see how he goes, however he is at a large profile disadvantage compared to Valentine.

For the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers this is another very unsuitable seat.  They polled below 1.5% at every booth at the state election and below 1% at all bar three.  They should do better than that in a smaller field but with the state election over, it's surprising that they're running.

Also see

Tally Room guide

6 comments:

  1. Great profile as usual. Minor correction: Hank Petrusma is Jacquie's father-in-law rather than father.

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  2. I'm pretty sure that in the past Richard Griggs has been a Greens staffer for both Shane Rattenbury in the ACT and Cassy O'Connor in Tasmania.

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    1. Thankyou. Note added to this effect as I found online sources that agree with this.

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  3. Madeline Ogilvie says she is not going to be a candidate ( Facebook March 21 post ).

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  4. Hi Kevin, I’m not running - there you go confirmed right here!

    On another note, and not wanting to be pedantic, it is incorrect to call me a ‘social conservative’. I actually had to look it up on Wikipedia to find out what you were trying to get at.

    I am a Social Democrat and I’m also catholic but with a Quaker school background (and hence pacifist lefty leanings). Here’s a link that should assist. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_democracy

    Best to get these definitions right or some people might get confused about why I refer to myself as a ‘moderate’, and not ‘progressive’. Hope that all helps to clarify my political position for future? Call out any time you’d like to discuss.

    Madeleine Ogilvie

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    1. Curiously enough I also have a Quaker school background but I don't think it caused any pacifist lefty leanings in my case.

      Wanting to be pedantic, since it beats defending something I didn't actually say, I did not call you a "social conservative" in this article. I said "socially conservative", and elsewhere on this site I said "social conservative by Labor standards". Neither are quite the same thing as calling someone "a social conservative" without further qualification.

      In Australian political debate all these sorts of references are most commonly used in reference to what are here, and I have never understood why, called "social issues". Those are the issues on which personal liberty and equal treatment concerns stand on one side and primarily religious concerns (though sometimes dressed up as secular arguments) on the other. Recently, same-sex marriage, euthanasia and abortion have been the prominent examples.

      I am well aware that there are quite a few Christians of various denominations who despite holding socially conservative views on those sorts of matters also hold what might be considered strongly left-wing views on issues like poker machines and refugees. But when even the Australian Christian Lobby praised Tasmanian Labor's poker machine policy I am not sure these issues have any use in defining who is socially conservative and who is not.

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