Image for Tasmanian Federal Liberal’s Bitter Harvest: Parts 1 & 2

With the AEC declaring the Senate results for Tasmania and the Northern Territory on Tuesday 27 July 2016, the loss of the fifth seat by the Tasmanian Federal Liberal Party is totally self-inflicted.

Sadly, the previous Senator Richard Colbeck and capable former Minister for Tourism and International Education under the first Turnbull Ministry, lost his seat because his own party organisation listed him in the unwinnable fifth position on the Liberal’s ticket.

Let’s look at the first preference vote results for the Liberal candidates in descending order:

Richard Colbeck: 13,474
*Eric Abetz:            8,709
*Stephen Parry:        1,994
*David Bushby:        1,278
John Tucker:            844
*Jonathon Duniam:    654
[*Elected Senator]

Incredibly, Colbeck, who had the most first preferences; and Duniam, who had the least first preferences, traded places. Colbeck lost his Senate position and Duniam leapfrogged both Colbeck and Tucker to become the fourth Liberal Senator. Thanks to the Liberal Party-sanctioned above-the-line campaign.

According to ABC News today, in an email to Tasmanian Liberal Senate selectors, Senator Eric Abetz attributed the blame to a “failed campaign to save a dumped minister” for his party not picking up five Senate seats in Tasmania.

So who “dumped” Richard Colbeck?

Look no further than his own party organisation and the driving forces behind it.

But this problem is not unique in the Tasmanian polity.

The Tasmanian Federal Labor Party is equally guilty, having placed Lisa Singh in the unwinnable sixth position on the ALP ticket.

She received 20,741 first preference votes, the most of any Tasmanian candidate.

And guess who had the second highest first preference votes after Lisa?

Richard Colbeck.

To be fair about the ill that plagues both the Liberal and Labor parties in Tasmania, here is at the first preference vote results for the Labor candidates in descending order:

*Lisa Singh:      20,741
*Ann Urquhart:  4,465
*Helen Polley:    1,964
John Short:        1,214
*Catryna Bilyk:  1,111
*Carol Brown:    1,074
[* Elected Senator]

In Senator Abetz’s email to Tasmanian Liberal Senate selectors, the ABC reports him as writing: “If instead of funding a destabilising below-the-line campaign, Mr Bovill invested his time and effort in the Liberals above-the-line campaign, empathically endorsed by Senators Parry, Duniam and Bushby along with Councillor Tucker, we would have won five seats.”


There are several important reasons why the Tasmanian Liberal Party got walloped at the recent federal election in both the lower and upper houses.

But before I do so, I would like the numbers above speak for themselves, in volumes! I will revisit this in part 2 ...

Tasmanian Federal Liberal’s Bitter Harvest: Part 2

Newsflash: In today’s news …

Tasmania’s health system under pressure as federal funding dries up

Tasmanian consortium misses out on Defence vehicle tender

‘Lack of funding’ sinks Tasmania’s bid to secure HMAS Tobruk as dive wreck

Get the picture?

Canberra’s powers-that-be has sent Tasmania to the dunce corner.

For the next three years.

Is this because Tasmanian voters have wiped out the Liberal stranglehold on the House of Representatives in Tasmania and reduced their Senate seats from five to four?

Would Canberra be that spiteful?

No, it’s a much more nuanced picture, pitting the current struggle between Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull over the renegade flat-earth “wish-Tony-Abbott-was-back” obscurantists that reside in the Tasmanian federal Liberal Party.

Taswegian voters are much smarter and have more sense than the local federal politicians that led them into the recent federal double-dissolution. And, Stephen Bradbury-style, the Labor Party was the last standing, nothing to be proud of.

Why would Taswegians vote for the three amigos that had all noisily nailed their allegiance to the loser, Tony Abbott, when Malcolm Turnbull was now calling the shots for the past ten months?

Why would they buy into the Turnbull-Abetz stouch that pitted the genuine liberals versus the neo-cons?

Had the Tasmanian Liberal political establishment forgotten that Tasmanians rely more on Centrelink benefits than any other state?

And yes, the Medicare scare campaign nailed it.

A closer look at what transpired is that the strategy of the Tasmanian Liberal Senate ticket that “dumped” the pro-Turnbull Richard Colbeck would force the Prime Minister to re-appoint Abetz to the ministry, “because your supporter is gone”.

Bad move.

Abetz and his supporters are yesterday’s men (yes, there are no women) as far as Canberra is concerned.

And now Turnbull has his mandate, so expect the old guard to be purged or sidelined.

Watching Abetz on TV news tonight claiming he was popular was a parallel-existence viewing experience. He only received 8,700 first preference votes compared to Colbeck’s 13,500!

A lame-duck Senator for six years “a la Abetz” will not make Tasmanians happy, particularly since he is on the outer of a winning federal Coalition government.

Expect more bad newsflashes …

*Phil na Champassak co-owns The Madsen Boutique Hotel in Penguin and is a founding board member of the Cradle Coast Innovation Inc whose purpose is switching on innovation in a regional context and enterprise.

Progressive Conversation: EVER WONDERED WHY THE NATIONALS HAVE SEVEN TIMES AS MANY SEATS AS THE GREENS WITH LESS THAN HALF THE VOTES? IT’S ALL IN THE GERRYMANDER. Earlier this week I wrote about inaccuracies in our voting system which are impacting who wins government. I showed how the LNP have held government far more often than Australia’s voting preferences suggest they should – and how if we had used a more accurate model in the 2016 election, Bill Shorten might be PM now instead of Malcolm Turnbull. The reason for these inaccuracies is that the model of voting we use for our House of Representatives is focused primarily on ensuring that every location in Australia is represented in parliament at the expense of ensuring that the mix of political parties in parliament reflects the wishes of the Australian people. The model basically assumes that it’s more important to you that you have someone from your local area representing you than that your representative is from the political party that you support …

• Anonymous but known to Editor: Don’t fret, it’s time to rejoice! Eric Abetz may soon be leaving our shores. His statement yesterday that Kevin Rudd is “a narcissist, a micro-manager, an impulsive control freak and a psychopath” must surely be a wake up call that he too is applying for, and equally qualified to be, Secretary General of the United Nations. Kevin Rudd may have been a diplomat but the Abetz family has a much longer diplomatic pedigree, including Ambassadorship to (Vichy)France.