Was the Voters Block successful in the federal election?

At the time of the Nov 07 federal election the Voters Block listed 15000 voters who pledged not to support any political candidate who favoured the pulp mill. Both Labor and Liberal parties supported the pulp mill whilst the Greens and several independents were strongly opposed.

Federal election results for Tasmania

In the Senate, the Greens vote reached the Senate quota barrier of 14.2% for the first time and may reach 18% or more than 50,000 as counting continues.

In the House of representatives, an average of 15.7% of Tasmanian voters (total = 50 575) supported the Greens and independents who opposed the pulp mill. Results for each electorate:

  • Bass – Greens Tom Millen 15.2% up 7.1%. Independent Sven Weiner 1.8%. (total 17.0%);
  • Braddon - Greens Paul O'Halloran 8.0% up 2.4%;
  • Denison – Greens Helen Hutchinson 18.5% up 3.9%;
  • Franklin – Greens Gerard Velnaar 14.4% up 3.2%;
  • Lyons – Greens Karen Cassidy 11.2% up 1.1%. Independent Ben Quinn 9.6% (total 20.8%).

Except for a 0.75% increase in Labor's Braddon vote, all Labor candidates' votes shrank in contrast to the national trend towards Labor. In all 5 electorates Labor depended on Greens' preferences to win.

Performance of independent Ben Quin

In analysing the effect of the pulp mill issue on voting in Tasmania, Professor Richard Herr (UTas) concludes that for “a significant number of voters, it was their first priority”. He goes on to say that Independent Ben Quin “may well have won Lyons had he remained the endorsed Liberal candidate. Sitting ALP candidate Dick Adams received 43% of first preferences and Liberal Geoff Page 32.5% and Ben Quin just over 9.6%. Mr Quin’s personal vote was virtually entirely dependent on his public anti mill stance and so if this were rolled together with the Liberal vote had he remained the endorsed Liberal candidate, the result in Lyons would most likely have been decided by the Green’s 11% of the vote. There are no prizes for guessing where these would have gone in Lyons.” (Examiner 7 Dec 07)

Tamar valley booth by booth results

Peter Henning’s “Rudd and the pulp mill” describes the impact of the pulp mill on voting booth by booth across the Tamar valley. Go to http://tasmaniantimes.com to read the full article by Peter.

Peter Henning says 'the booths in the Tamar valley tell the story. On the west side of the valley in the Lyons electorate, the eight booths of Exeter, Beaconsfield, Beauty Point, Gravelly Beach, Sidmouth, Legana, Frankford and Glengarry recorded an average of 23% first preferences for Ben Quin, the former Liberal Party candidate who resigned from the party and ran as an independent when Malcolm Turnbull gave his stamp of approval to the mill. The Greens candidate, who ran a low profile campaign, polled 14%, giving a combined anti-mill vote of 37%. The sitting member, pro-mill Labor’s Dick Adams, received 36% first preferences and Quin’s Liberal replacement, Geoff Page, publicly bankrolled by former Tasmanian Premier and Gunns board member, Robin Gray, got 35%. Adams’ vote was bolstered by strong support for him in the mining town of Beaconsfield, and Page’s by strong support in well-heeled suburban Legana. Without those two strongholds, support for the anti-mill position would have been more emphatic, but even so the anti-mill vote would quite probably have seen Quin elected if the electorate had been the West Tamar valley.

On the East Tamar, in the conservative electorate of Bass, the ten booths of Dilston, Georgetown, Georgetown South, Hillwood, Karoola, Lebrina, Legana (Bass), Lilydale, Pipers River and Weymouth, recorded an average vote for the Greens Tom Millen of 20% of first preferences, an average swing of 10% from 2004. In coastal Weymouth, east of the location of Gunns’ proposed effluent pipeline, Millen received 27% of the vote, an 18% swing, and the Labor Party’s Jodi Campbell also got 27%, an 11% swing away from Labor. Even in largely working class Georgetown, one of the strongholds of pro-mill sentiment in Tasmania, which anticipates a boom in housing prices and influx of wealth from the pulp mill, especially in the construction phase, the Green vote was over 11%, a positive swing of nearly 5%. Every booth recorded a swing to the Greens, and every booth recorded swings against the sitting Liberal, Michael Ferguson, with an average swing of nearly 7%. With one exception, every booth swung against Labor, four booths giving Campbell less than 30% of the vote and another three between 30 -33%. Only three of the booths exceeded 40% for Labor, including both Georgetown booths.

There were no swings to the major parties in the Tamar valley. It was all one way traffic. This is a microcosm writ large of the voting pattern throughout the state. Every electorate showed swings to the Greens, every electorate swung against the Liberals, and every electorate except Braddon swung against Labor.

The pattern was repeated in the senate, the Greens’ 18% more than double the national average, only matched by the ACT. There are already plenty of people fighting against the pulp mill at national and local levels. The voters at Gravelly Beach on the West Tamar are testimony to that, 44% casting a Green senate vote and 49% an anti-pulp mill vote for the House of Representatives. In the same booth both major parties first preference votes didn’t reach 30%.


Among the many issues affecting voter’s preferences eg. economy, work choices, education and health; the pulp mill played a significant role in Tasmanian voting patterns. Numerous opinion polls show a majority of Tasmanians oppose the pulp mill. The Voters Block reflects a new political reality that candidates who support the pulp mill risk political oblivion. The next political campaign target for the Voters block will be pro-mill local government councillors in October 2009 and state politicians in State election to be held  March 2010.