14 July 2021
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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
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: party representation in
the Tasmanian House of Assembly after each election
Electoral Commission, ‘2015–18 Report on Parliamentary Elections’, p. 106.
Developments in the 49th Assembly
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.
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
for the Legislative Council divisions of Derwent, Mersey and Windermere
were also held on 1 May 2021.
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.
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
Saturday 1 May 2021, polling day
For both elections, the
for the return of the writ is no later than 60 days after the day of the
issue of that writ.
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.
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
Table 2: party representation
following the House of Assembly 2021 election
of vote won
swing from last election
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
of seats (change)
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.
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).
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
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 for Climate Change
Minister for Tourism
Minister for Health
Minister for Advanced
Manufacturing and Defence Industries
Minister for Mental Health and Wellbeing
Minister for Community Services
Minister for Justice
Minister for Corrections
Minister for the Arts
Minister for Workplace Safety
and Consumer Affairs
||Minister for Science and Technology
Minister for Infrastructure and
Minister for Finance
Minister for State Development,
Construction and Housing
||Minister for Primary Industries
Minister for Resources
Minister for Trade
Minister for Veterans’ Affairs
Minister for Energy and
||Minister for Education
Minister for Skills, Training
and Workforce Growth
Minister for Children and Youth
Minister for Hospitality and
Minister for Disability Services
||Minister for Sport and
Minister for Racing
Minister for Women
Minister for Small Business
||Minister for Aboriginal Affairs
Minister for State Growth
Minister for Heritage
Minister for Local Government
Minister for Environment
||Minister for Parks
Minister for Police, Fire and
Minister for the Prevention of
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
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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