Re­cy­cling White­ley lacked in­spi­ra­tion

Sunday Tasmanian - - NEWS - KEVIN BON­HAM ANAL­Y­SIS

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.

Pic­ture: CHRIS KIDD

PRESS­ING THE FLESH: The Lib­er­als’ Brad­don can­di­date Brett White­ley greets vot­ers at Som­er­set yes­ter­day.

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