Tasmanian state election 2021: a quick guide

14 July 2021

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Anna Hough
Politics and Public Administration


This Quick Guide provides a brief overview of the 2021 Tasmanian state election. It also includes background information on Tasmania’s electoral system and developments over the previous (49th) Assembly.

On 1 May 2021, the Liberal Party was re-elected to a third consecutive term in government, winning 13 of the 25 House of Assembly seats. The Labor Party won nine seats, the Greens two seats, and one seat was won by an independent candidate.


The Tasmanian parliament and electoral system

The Tasmanian Constitution Act 1934 provides for a bicameral parliament consisting of:

  • the House of Assembly which has 25 members, with five divisions each returning five members for terms of up to four years and
  • the Legislative Council which has 15 members in 15 single-member divisions elected for six‑year terms. Legislative Council elections are held each May, with three members elected one year and then two the next.

House of Assembly members are elected using the Hare-Clark system, a form of preferential proportional representation. Hare-Clark is also used in the Australian Capital Territory and is a candidate-based system of proportional representation, which distinguishes it from the proportional electoral systems used in the upper houses of most states, and the Senate. Legislative Council members are elected using preferential voting, essentially the same system used in federal House of Representatives elections.

Tasmania is the only state which uses the same electorates for both federal and state lower house elections.

Tasmania’s parliamentary elections are conducted under the provisions of the Electoral Act 2004 (Tas.) and are administered by the Tasmanian Electoral Commission (TEC).

Party representation in the House of Assembly since 2002

The Liberal Party has held a slim majority in the Assembly for the last two terms, following a Labor‑Greens minority government (see Table 1).

Table 1: party representation in the Tasmanian House of Assembly after each election

Assembly Liberal Labor Greens Government
45th (2002–2006) 7 14 4 Labor
46th (2006–2010) 7 14 4 Labor
47th (2010–2014) 10 10 5 Labor-Greens
48th (2014–2018) 15 7 3 Liberal
49th (2018–2021) 13 10 2 Liberal

Source: Tasmanian Electoral Commission, ‘2015–18 Report on Parliamentary Elections’, p. 106.

Developments in the 49th Assembly

Casual vacancies

Five casual vacancies occurred in the House of Assembly during the 49th Assembly. In accordance with Part 9 of the Electoral Act 2004 (Tas.), casual vacancies are filled by recounting the ballots that elected the departing member to determine the next most favoured candidate. Only candidates who contested the original election and who are willing to participate in the recount are included in this process. If it is not possible to fill a vacancy via a recount, a by-election is held.

The details of the five casual vacancies, each of which was filled via a recount, were as follows:

  • The vacancy in the division of Braddon following the resignation of Liberal member Adam Brooks on 11 February 2019 was filled by Joan Rylah on 25 February 2019.
  • The vacancy in the division of Lyons following the resignation of Liberal member Rene Hidding on 25 February 2019 was filled by John Tucker on 12 March 2019.
  • The vacancy in the division of Clark following the resignation of Labor member Scott Bacon on 22 August 2019 was filled by Madeleine Ogilvie on 10 September 2019. Ms Ogilvie, a former Labor parliamentarian who had contested the 2018 election as a Labor candidate, returned to the parliament as an independent.
  • The vacancy in the division of Franklin following the resignation of Liberal Premier Will Hodgman on 20 January 2020 was filled by Nic Street on 5 February 2020.
  • The vacancy in the division of Braddon following the resignation of Liberal member Joan Rylah on 27 July 2020 was filled by Felix Ellis on 17 August 2020.

Other changes

Party leadership in the 49th Assembly

On 14 January 2020, Premier Will Hodgman announced his resignation. Peter Gutwein was elected Premier in a party room ballot on 20 January 2020.

The parliamentary leadership of the other two parties represented in the 49th Assembly, Labor and the Greens, remained unchanged throughout the Assembly. Labor Leader Rebecca White has served in the role since 2017, while Cassy O’Connor has led the Greens since 2015.

The 2021 election

On 26 March 2021, Premier Peter Gutwein called an early election for 1 May 2021. The announcement followed Speaker Sue Hickey’s resignation from the Liberal Party on 22 March 2021, which resulted in the government losing its majority in the House of Assembly.

On 27 March 2021, the day after the election was called, Independent Member Madeleine Ogilvie (Clark) announced she would seek to contest the election as a Liberal Party candidate. The Leader of the Opposition, Rebecca White, said Mr Gutwein had ‘confected’ a reason for calling an early election, since the government would have maintained its majority if Ms Ogilvie had joined the party before the election was called.

Elections for the Legislative Council divisions of Derwent, Mersey and Windermere were also held on 1 May 2021.[1] The election was the first time that elections for the House of Assembly and the Legislative Council have been held on the same date. Concerns were expressed, including by a retiring Member of the Legislative Council and a former premier, that these concurrent elections could result in breaches of the Electoral Act, which prohibits party financing of candidates in Legislative Council elections. However, the Attorney-General, Elise Archer, said the government’s legal advice confirmed that both elections could be held on the same day.

The writ for the Legislative Council election was issued on 22 March 2021, with the writ for the House of Assembly election issued on 30 March 2021. The key dates for the House of Assembly election were:

  • Tuesday 30 March 2021, the day of the issue of the writ and the close of electoral rolls
  • Wednesday 7 April 2021, the cut-off for nomination of candidates
  • Thursday 8 April 2021, the announcement of nominations
  • Monday 12 April 2021, the commencement of pre-poll voting
  • Friday 23 April 2021, the closing date for postal vote applications
  • Saturday 1 May 2021, polling day

For both elections, the date for the return of the writ is no later than 60 days after the day of the issue of that writ.

COVID-19 measures

Elections held in Australia since the emergence of COVID-19 have seen rising rates of early voting. While pre-poll and postal voting options were available to Tasmanian voters, with no community transmission of COVID-19 in Tasmania during lead up to the 2021 state election the TEC did not employ the strategy of other electoral commissions of strongly encouraging early voting. A range of COVID-related safety measures were put in place at pre-poll centres and polling places.


The tables below (2 and 3) summarise the House of Assembly and Legislative Council election results.[2] The Liberal Party achieved a third consecutive term, winning 13 of the 25 House of Assembly seats, essentially returning it to the position that it held in the Parliament immediately prior to the election. The results are notable in contrast to other recent state elections that were held during the COVID-19 pandemic, where incumbent governments secured swings in their favour and increased majorities.

Table 2: party representation following the House of Assembly 2021 election

Party Seats won (change) % of vote won % swing from last election
Liberal Party 13 (0) 48.7 -1.5
Labor Party 9 (-1) 29.6 -4.4
Greens 2 (0) 12.4 2.1
Others 1 (1) 8.0 N/A

Source: ‘Psephos, Adam Carr’s Election Archive’, compiled from Tasmanian Electoral Commission data.

In the Legislative Council election:

Table 3: party representation in the Tasmanian Legislative Council before and after the 2021 election
Party Number of seats (change)
Liberal Party 4 (1)
Labor Party 5 (0)
Independents 6 (-1)

Sources: Tasmanian Electoral Commission, Parliament of Tasmania, and M Lester, ‘Liberals’ victory in Tasmanian election is more status quo than ringing endorsement’, The Conversation, 2 May 2021.

Leadership changes

Following the Labor Party’s election defeat, leader Rebecca White announced on 15 May 2021 that she would stand aside from the leadership. Following a ballot of party members, on 15 June 2021 it was announced that David O’Byrne had been elected the new Labor leader. Following Mr O’Byrne’s resignation as leader after accusations of misconduct during his time as a union leader, Ms White was re-elected unopposed as leader on 8 July 2021.


Premier Peter Gutwein announced his new ministry on 18 May 2021 (see Appendix A). Ministers were sworn in the following day. Four of the nine ministers are women (44.4 per cent).

Shadow Ministry

The Labor Opposition announced its shadow ministry on 17 June 2021. Five of the ten shadow ministers were women (50 per cent). Following the party’s leadership change, a new shadow ministry was announced on 13 July 2021. Eight of the twelve shadow ministers are women (66.7 per cent).

Return of the parliament

The Tasmanian parliament returned on 22 June 2021.


Appendix A: Ministry appointed 18 May 2021 (sworn in 19 May 2021)


Minister Ministerial titles
Peter Gutwein Premier
Minister for Climate Change
Minister for Tourism
Jeremy Rockliff Deputy Premier
Minister for Health
Minister for Advanced Manufacturing and Defence Industries
Minister for Mental Health and Wellbeing
Minister for Community Services and Development
Elise Archer Attorney-General
Minister for Justice
Minister for Corrections
Minister for the Arts
Minister for Workplace Safety and Consumer Affairs
Michael Ferguson Minister for Science and Technology
Minister for Infrastructure and Transport
Minister for Finance
Minister for State Development, Construction and Housing
Guy Barnett Minister for Primary Industries and Water
Minister for Resources
Minister for Trade
Minister for Veterans’ Affairs
Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction
Sarah Courtney Minister for Education
Minister for Skills, Training and Workforce Growth
Minister for Children and Youth
Minister for Hospitality and Events
Minister for Disability Services
Jane Howlett Minister for Sport and Recreation
Minister for Racing
Minister for Women
Minister for Small Business
Roger Jaensch Minister for Aboriginal Affairs
Minister for State Growth
Minister for Heritage
Minister for Local Government and Planning
Minister for Environment
Jacquie Petrusma Minister for Parks
Minister for Police, Fire and Emergency Management
Minister for the Prevention of Family Violence


[1].   As only one candidate, Michael Gaffney (Independent) nominated to contest the division of Mersey, no ballot was required in that division and Mr Gaffney was elected unopposed.

[2].   On 14 May 2021, the day after the results of the House of Assembly election were declared, the Liberal Party’s Adam Brooks resigned. His resignation followed charges against him by Queensland police with offences related to firearms, explosives and identity documents. The resignation triggered a recount in the seat of Braddon. The recount was completed on 3 June 2021 and the Liberal Party’s Felix Ellis was elected.


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