Bruce Goodluck, the Member for the Tasmanian seat of Franklin, was not known for his intellectual contribution to House of Representatives debate. Nor was he ever a serious candidate for a job on the front-bench, though he served on committees. He was always an eager participant in media stunts, and has never denied being the man who wore a chicken suit into Parliament House.
Goodluck was the quintessential local member. Many people did not know what party he stood for, and he himself never advertised, preferring to run under the Goodluck name at election time, rather than the Liberal one. Indeed, Harry Black, the Labor candidate for Franklin, says people thought that when they were voting for Goodluck they were voting Labor.
Goodluck, who was outspoken against the GST, is retiring after 18 years. He won the seat with a 15 per cent margin in 1975 in the anti-Whitlam swing. At subsequent elections, the margin has been slowly whittled away. He won by 2.2 per cent last election, which Malcolm Mackerras ü(Federal Election Guide 1993, AGPS) estimates is down to 2.0 per cent following a redistribution.
Franklin is one of three marginal Liberal seats in Tasmania. It embraces Tasmania’s south coast and surrounds the Hobart-based seat of Denison which is fairly safe Labor. Franklin includes some Hobart suburbs.
With the retirement of Goodluck, the Liberals needed a good candidate, but they shot themselves in the foot. The local party passed up former state minister Peter Hodgman who is well-known throughout the state in favour of a former radio journalist Graeme Gilbert. Mr Gilbert has only been in Tasmania 18 months, a decided disadvantage in the Apple Isle.
As a result, the Liberals federally have privately given the seat away. Their private polling shows that Labor will take the seat. It means the Coalition will need to capture six Labor seats elsewhere to take government.
However, given the situation in Western Australia, where the state election and other polling shows Labor could lose three seats and in South Australia where the redistribution has made a further three Labor seats very difficult to win, Labor must win Franklin if it is to retain government.
The other two marginal Liberal seats are Lyons (1.8 per cent after redistribution) and Bass (4.8 per cent). Bass (in the north east, including Launceston) is held by the Opposition front bencher Warwick Smith who should win comfortably. Lyons (in the centre) is held by Max Burr who has held the seat for XXXX years and is likely to win again despite the tight margin.
The remaining two Tasmanian seats are safe. The Liberals hold Braddon in the north-west comfortably and Labor holds Denison based on Hobart with 6.2 per cent. Denison will hold some interest, though. Australia’s leading political Green, Dr Bob Brown, is to stand, relinquishing his seat in the state parliament which he had held for two elections. Dr Brown led the Greens to win five seats in the Tasmanian Lower House at the past two elections.
His chances of winning Denison, however, are about equivalent to the chance of the Japanese giving up whale meat as a delicacy. Since Liberal Michael Hodgman lost the seat in 1980 Duncan Kerr has held it for Labor making the majority more comfortable.
It is now fairly well-accepted that the only way an Independent to win a seat in the Reps is to stand in a blue-ribbon seat and squeak ahead of the poorly performing major party, which gives its preference to the independent ahead of the other party. Ted Mack won the blue-ribbon Liberal seat of North Sydney and Phil Clearly won the blue ribbon Labor seat of Wills that way.
As the former Democrat leader Janine Haines found out in 1990, standing as a third force in marginals or moderately even seats is a mug’s game.