Recycling Whiteley lacked inspiration
THE Braddon by-election was a challenging one to predict.
Factors in Labor’s favour included the usual anti-government by-election swing, having an incumbent rather than a retiring candidate, and Labor’s good standing in national polling. Factors against it included spillover from the state election, improvement in the Braddon economy, and Justine Keay’s Section 44 embarrassments.
These factors cancelled each other out, leaving a twoparty swing close to zero.
The Liberals had to try to dent Craig Garland’s vote, but their attacks failed abjectly, with Garland’s double-digit vote flowing strongly to Labor in preferences. Indeed there were large two-party swings against the Liberals in coastal booths where Garland was well regarded.
The recycling of Brett Whiteley as the Liberal candidate was a “safe” move in terms of his personal vote, but it failed to inspire the voters and annoyed sections of his own party.
With the on-paper odds against winning, and given Whiteley’s past indifferent form, they should have picked a new contender, perhaps a woman, who might have helped inspire more voters. The Liberals’ Braddon result was still better than the LNP’s terrible outcome in Longman, where their primary vote is down 10 points, with the gains going to One Nation, a gaggle of underrated micro-parties and Labor.
Polls said this seat would be very close but it was not, in a repeat of the mass seat-polling failure that Tasmanians saw two years ago in Bass.
With the Coalition’s chances of winning these by-elections having been over-hyped, the recent narrowing in national polling may turn out to be unsustainable.
PRESSING THE FLESH: The Liberals’ Braddon candidate Brett Whiteley greets voters at Somerset yesterday.