The Poll Bludger
Margin: Liberal 1.2%
Region: Central Regional, Tasmania
In a nutshell: Dick Adams kept Lyons nailed down for Labor through two decades of electoral convulsions in northern Tasmania, until the statewide rebellion of 2013 proved too much for him.
Candidates in ballot paper order
The central Tasmanian seat of Braddon formed part of a clean sweep by the Liberals in 2013 of the three electorate’s covering the state’s centre and north, all achieved on the back of double-digit swings, in this case by 13.5%. Known prior to 1983 as Wilmot, the electorate covers what remains of Tasmania after the north-west coast (Braddon), the north-east coast (Bass), central Hobart (Denison) and Hobart’s outskirts (Franklin) are ordered into more-or-less natural communities of interest. It thus includes small towns on either side of Tasmania’s pronounced north-south divide, including New Norfolk outside Hobart and the southern outskirts of Launceston, along with fishing towns and tourist centres on the east coast and rural territory in between. According to the 2011 census, Lyons has the lowest proportion of non-English speakers of any electorate in the country, along with the second lowest proportion of people who finished high school and the sixth lowest median family income.
Wilmot was in conservative hands from 1901 to 1929, when it was won for Labor by the man whose name it now bears. Joseph Lyons had been Tasmania’s Premier until the defeat of his minority government in 1928, and assumed the position of Postmaster-General in the newly elected government of Jim Scullin immediately upon entering parliament. However, Lyons and his followers split from Labor in 1931 in a dispute over economic policy in response to the Depression. Joining with the opposition to become the leader of the new conservative United Australia Party, Lyons became Prime Minister after a landslide win at the election held the following December, retaining the position through two further election victories until his death in 1939.
Labor briefly resumed its hold on Wilmot after the by-election that followed Lyons’ death, but Allan Guy recovered it for the United Australia Party at the general election of 1940. It next changed hands at the 1946 election, when Labor’s Gil Duthie unseated Guy against the trend of a national swing to the newly formed Liberal Party. Duthie went on to hold the seat for nearly three decades, until all five Tasmanian seats went from Labor to Liberal in 1975. The 9.9% swing that delivered the seat to Max Burr in 1975 was cemented by an 8.0% swing at the next election in 1977, and the Franklin dam issue ensured the entire state remained on side with the Liberals in 1983 and 1984. Burr’s retirement combined with the statewide backlash against John Hewson’s proposed goods and services tax to return the seat to Labor in 1993 off the back of a 5.6% swing.
Labor’s member for the next two decades was Dick Adams, a former state government minister who had lost his seat with the Labor government’s defeat in 1982. Adams survived a swing in 1996 before piling 9.3% on to his margin in 1998, enough of a buffer to survive a small swing in 2001 and a large one in 2004, as northern Tasmania reacted against Labor forestry policies which Adams had bitterly opposed. Strong successive performances in 2007 and 2010 left Adams with what appeared to be a secure buffer, but this proved illusory in the face of a swing in 2013 that reached double figures in all but a handful of the electorate’s booths, and in several cases topped 20%. The victorious Liberal candidate was Eric Hutchinson, a wool marketer with Tasmanian agribusiness company Roberts Limited, who had also run in 2010. Hutchison has remained on the back bench in his debut term, and is known to have stuck with Tony Abbott in the September 2015 leadership challenge, together with all but one of his six Tasmanian Liberal colleagues.
Lyons will be consted for Labor at the coming election by Brian Mitchell, owner of media consultancy company in Penna.
Together with the other four Tasmanian electorates, Lyons was the subject of a ReachTEL poll of around 600 respondents on May 11 for the Sunday Tasmanian newspaper. The results were highly encouraging for Eric Hutchinson, crediting him with a favourable swing of 3% and a 54.1-45.9 lead on two-party preferred. The primary votes were Liberal 45.8%, Labor 29.2%, Greens 13.3% and Jacqui Lambie Network 6.5%.
Analysis by William Bowe. Read William’s blog, The Poll Bludger.