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From power prices to chocolate fountains, the Tasmanian election campaign has been a promise avalanche

The billboards are fading in the harsh sun. Antony Green is doing his vocal warm-up exercises. The 2024 Tasmanian election campaign is almost done and it’s now over to the voters.

The five-week campaign has been largely uninspiring but not without notable moments, from wildcard independents to promises of the world’s largest chocolate fountain.

So what’s the state of play going into election day? Which announcements have cut through, and what’s been lost in the flood of promises? And of course, what might we prefer to forget?


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The key players

Tasmania has five electorates: Bass, Braddon, Clark, Franklin, and Lyons. Each of these will elect seven members to the lower house for the first time since 1998, when each electorate was reduced to five seats.

Jeremy Rockliff is leader of the Liberal Party (there’s no Coalition down south), and has been premier since April 2022.

He’s had a rough ride. There have been several cabinet reshuffles, and he’s been forced to govern in minority since May 2023, when two of his MPs quit the party to sit on the crossbench. He called the election in a bid to re-establish his parliamentary majority.

In the opposite camp, Rebecca White is leader of the Labor Party, and will be hoping to avoid her third straight electoral defeat. Like Rockliff, the past few years haven’t been smooth sailing for White and Labor.

She resigned as party leader after the 2021 election defeat and was replaced by David O’Byrne. However, O’Byrne was forced to quit three weeks later following a sexual harassment claim, and White was re-elected as leader. She and Labor have struggled to cut through during the election campaign.

Rosalie Woodruff is the leader of the Greens, which have long been the third party in Tasmania. Woodruff took over from Cassy O’Connor in July 2023, but is something of an unknown quantity, with a lower public profile than previous Greens leaders.

Here’s where things get interesting. This election will see the highest number of independents (29) contesting a Tasmanian election for decades.

While there are too many to list them all, ones to keep an eye on include:

  • John Tucker and Lara Alexander (the Liberal MPs who quit in 2023)

  • David O’Byrne (former Labor leader)

  • Kristie Johnson (a sitting independent MP)

  • Sue Hickey (former Hobart Lord Mayor, former Liberal then independent MP).

Finally, there’s the Jacqui Lambie Network (JLN), which is running candidates in all seats except Clark. The JLN made the controversial decision not to release any policies, instead pitching themselves as a group of down-to-earth people that wants to “keep the bastards honest”.


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Which issues have dominated the campaign?

Polling during the campaign showed the top concerns for most Tasmanian voters were health care and cost of living. Labor and Liberal both put forward several measures aimed at these areas, among others.

Millions of dollars have been promised with the enthusiasm of a discount carpet warehouse closing-down sale – but this hasn’t necessarily helped win votes. In fact, this sort of policy bonanza can confuse and overwhelm voters.

In an ideal world, we would each decide our vote by comparing each candidate or party’s full set of policies, and figuring out which one best matches our own values. But who has time for that?

In reality, people typically vote based on a combination of other things, including specific, controversial issues, eye-catching headlines, and candidates’ personalities. This is how democracies tend to work all over the world.

So what were the things that might have shifted votes during this campaign?

The long-running divide in Tasmanian society between environmental conservation and economic development remains, meaning voters may decide whom to side with depending on each party’s stance on salmon farming or the proposed new AFL stadium, for example.

Some influential issues are hyper-local, such as a long-closed community pool.

There have been a few “headline grabbers” during the campaign, designed to stick in the minds of undecided voters. The best example of this is the Liberals’ promise to build the world’s largest chocolate fountain if elected. Labor’s refrain “Tasmanian prices for Tasmanian power” is also in the mix.

The final thing that may sway voters is what Dennis Denuto would call “the vibe” around candidates.

Rockliff has benefited from the perception that he’s a “nice guy” in tough circumstances, while White has struggled to separate her brand from the O’Byrne controversy and earlier Labor factional fighting.

The Greens have been doorknocking hard, particularly in the state’s northwest. That personal contact may help them get a new candidate across the line.

The JLN has leaned heavily on their namesake’s forceful “battler” personality. Each independent has tried to build their own brand, typically by focusing on a specific issue or spruiking their ability to stand up to the major parties. It’s tricky to tell how successful these efforts have been – the proof will be in the votes.

The lowlights

There have been a few lowlights during the campaign. First prize goes to the fake JLN site set up by the Liberal Party. This particular piece of skulduggery is not against electoral law, but it’s certainly against the spirit of democracy. It might not have the desired effect: this type of negative campaigning can turn voters away from the offending party.

Another disappointing aspect of the campaign was Rockliff and White repeatedly ruling out offering ministries or policy concessions to independents, the JLN, or the Greens in exchange for their support. This is due to the perceived failure of previous power-sharing deals in Tasmania.


Read more: The Jacqui Lambie Network is the latest victim of 'cybersquatting'. It's the tip of the iceberg of negative political ads online


Rockliff even proposed that MPs who quit their party should be booted out of parliament and replaced with a candidate from the same party – a stunt that ignores that our political system is based on candidates being elected to represent a constituency, not a party.

Rockliff and White may come to regret their strident rhetoric when the votes are counted. It looks very unlikely either party will win the 18 seats needed to form a majority government.

Robert Hortle does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.