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Tasmanian election likely to be close, while Labor continues to lead federally

If the Greens hold the sole balance of power after the Tasmanian election, the next parliamentary term could be a messy business for Labor’s Rebecca White or the Liberals’ Will Hodgman. AAP/The Conversation

Tasmanian election likely to be close, while Labor continues to lead federally

On Sunday, Premier Will Hodgman called the Tasmanian election for March 3. Tasmania uses the Hare Clark system for its lower house, with five electorates, each with five members. The electorates use the same names and boundaries as the five federal Tasmanian electorates of Bass, Braddon, Franklin, Denison and Lyons. A quota for election is one-sixth of the vote, or 16.7%.

At the March 2014 election, the Liberals won in a landslide, with 15 of the 25 seats, while seven went to Labor and three to the Greens. The Liberals won 51.2% of the vote, to 27.3% for Labor and 13.8% for the Greens. The Liberals won four of the five Braddon seats, three each in Bass, Franklin and Lyons, and two in Denison.

With all polls showing a substantial swing against the Liberals, they are likely to lose their fourth Braddon seat and third Franklin seat. If the Liberals lost another seat, they would lose their majority.

Psephologist Kevin Bonham expects the pivot seat to be the Liberals’ third Lyons seat. If the Liberals lose this seat, they are likely to lose their majority. If they win it, they will probably retain their majority.

Other than the established parties, the populist Jacqui Lambie Network (JLN) has a realistic chance of winning seats – its main chance would be in Braddon.


Read more: Tasmania the first test in an election-laden year


Both Hodgman and Labor leader Rebecca White have ruled out governing with the Greens’ support. A large bloc of Tasmanians detests the Greens, and the three previous governments that involved the Greens have had major problems. If Hodgman and White stick to their promise after the election, and the Greens hold the sole balance of power, the next parliamentary term could be messy.

In most polls, the Liberals are leading Labor. The people who detest the Greens have in the past swung towards the major party most likely to win a majority. If this behaviour is repeated at this election, the Liberals could get home. On the other hand, the unpopularity of the federal Coalition government should help Labor.

In December, White announced that a Labor government would remove poker machines from pubs and clubs within five years. I think this is good politics, as it differentiates Labor from the Liberals on an issue that neither major party had tackled in the past. I previously wrote that left-wing parties that differentiated themselves from conservative parties performed better in 2017 elections.

The Tasmanian upper house will not be up for election on March 3. The 15 upper house members have rotating six-year terms; every May, two or three electorates are up for election. Labor and left-wing independents currently have an upper house majority following a November byelection win by Labor.

The last three Tasmanian elections have been held on the same day as the South Australian election (March 17 this year). So, the election date is good news for people interested in elections, as it avoids a clash.

Xenophon’s party leading in Galaxy polls of three South Australian seats

There is no sign of any drop in support for Nick Xenophon’s SA-BEST. According to Galaxy polls conducted January 11-14 for the corporate sector, SA-BEST had 37% in Liberal-held Hartley, which Xenophon will contest, followed by the Liberals with 32% and Labor with 21%; Xenophon led 57-43 after preferences.

In Labor-held Mawson, SA-BEST had 38%, the Liberals 25% and Labor 22%. In Labor-held Hurtle Vale, SA-BEST had 33%, Labor 29% and the Liberals 23%.

Galaxy also polled the federal South Australian seat of Mayo, where SA-BEST member Rebekha Sharkie could be disqualified over the dual citizenship issue. Sharkie would easily retain by a 59-41 margin against the Liberals, from primary votes of 37% Sharkie, 33% Liberal and 18% Labor.

ReachTEL 52-48 to federal Labor

A ReachTEL poll for Sky News, conducted January 25 from a sample of presumably about 2,300, gave Labor a 52-48 lead by respondent-allocated preferences, a one-point gain for the Coalition since a late November ReachTEL.

Primary votes were 36% Labor (steady), 34% Coalition (up one), 10% Greens (steady) and 8% One Nation (down one). The remaining 12% very likely included some undecided voters who were prompted to show which way they lean. As usual, media sources have not given full primary votes. Bonham says this poll would be about 54-46 to Labor by 2016 preference flows.

Malcolm Turnbull’s ratings improved; 30% gave him a good rating (up six), 37% an average (up two) and 32% a poor rating (down eight). Bill Shorten’s ratings were 31% good (up one), 32% average (down four) and 36% poor (up three). Turnbull led Shorten by 54-46 as better prime minister, up from 52-48 in November. ReachTEL’s forced-choice “better prime minister” question usually gives opposition leaders better ratings than other polls.

I think Turnbull’s ratings have improved in parliament’s absence because the public is less exposed to the hard-right Coalition backbenchers.

By 44-32, voters opposed cutting the company tax rate for businesses with a turnover of more than A$50 million. By 39-20, voters thought trade deals were good for employment. However by 49-20, voters thought Labor should oppose the Trans Pacific Partnership if it did not protect jobs.

Essential 54-46 to Labor

In this week’s Essential, conducted January 26-28 from a sample of 1,028, Labor led by 54-46, a one-point gain for Labor since last fortnight.

Primary votes were 36% Labor (down two), 35% Coalition (down two), 10% Greens (up one) and 8% One Nation (up two). As noted last Friday, Essential will appear fortnightly instead of weekly this year.

Essential asked whether the Liberals or Labor would be better at handling various issues. Labor’s position improved on economic management (from Liberals by 15 in June 2017 to Liberals by ten), interest rates (Liberals by ten to Liberals by four) and political leadership (Liberals by eight to Labor by two). The Liberals improved on water supply (Labor by five to Liberals by one).


Read more: Will elections in 2018 see 2017's left-wing revival continue?


48% (up four since November) thought Australia’s political and economic system is fundamentally sound, but needs refining, while 32% (steady) thought it should be fundamentally changed, and 8% (down two) thought the system was already working well.

There were large, favourable changes in perceptions of how the economy and unemployment have performed over the last year, compared to February 2016. There was relatively little movement on other economic issues.

51% (down two since August) thought their income had fallen behind the cost of living, 28% stayed even (up three) and 14% gone up more (down one). Private health insurance continued to be very negatively perceived, with the questions last asked in September.

Essential asked whether sports were exciting or boring to watch. Tennis was easily the best with a net +13 rating, followed by swimming at a net +3 and AFL football at a net +2. Twenty20 cricket had a net -7 rating, rugby league and soccer both had a net -15, Test cricket a net -24, rugby union a net -32, and golf was at the bottom on a net -54.

Far-right Czech Republic president re-elected

In the a presidential election runoff held January 26-27 in the Czech Republic, the far-right incumbent, Miloš Zeman, defeated his opponent, Jiří Drahoš, by a 51.4-48.6 margin.

After a generally good year for the left in 2017 elections, this was a bad start to 2018.