The Tasmanian Liberal Party’s position in the crucial southern electorate of Clark has improved after more vote counting on Sunday, but the race remains messy, with former Liberal-turned-independent Sue Hickey also gaining.
The final two seats in Clark look like being taken up by either an independent and a Liberal MP — which seems most likely — or two independents.
Of the independents, Glenorchy Mayor Kristie Johnston is ahead of former speaker Sue Hickey for now, while it’s unclear whether a Liberal seat would be occupied by Simon Behrakis or Madeleine Ogilvie.
With just over 81 per cent of the vote counted as of Sunday evening, the Liberal Party had moved ahead on 1.91 seat quotas, improving its chances of gaining a second seat, and majority government as a result.
Liberal Simon Behrakis faced the media on Sunday as one of the handful of Clark candidates whose future remains uncertain.
He said his campaign had been strong, and he was confident the Liberals would secure that second seat.
“It’s too early to say I’ve got a seat or Madeleine’s got a seat, we’ll just have to wait and see, but I am confident there is a second seat there,” Mr Behrakis said.
Labor has traditionally enjoyed strong support in the seat, but its vote collapsed after the loss of Scott Bacon midway through the last term of parliament.
The seat was held for decades federally by Labor’s Duncan Kerr, but independent Andrew Wilkie took it over in 2010 and has held it with increasing margins ever since.
Former Labor premier Lara Giddings said the impact of Mr Wilkie holding the seat in federal parliament was that people in the traditional Labor heartland were now happier to shift their votes around, particularly to independents.
“There’s multiple factors around why Clark has voted the way Clark has,” Ms Giddings said.
“You do have two strong independents, you have electorate officers for Liberals in traditional Labor heartland, you had Kristie Johnston, a mayor who effectively had an electorate office in the northern suburbs of Clark, and you had Clark now no longer welded on to the Labor Party, very much happy to accept independent members.
“They had voted for Andrew Wilkie for some years now, so for them it was not a major shift to move to Kristie Johnston or indeed Sue Hickey, and that has hurt the Labor Party.”
Ms Giddings directed scathing criticism at Liberal leader Peter Gutwein for calling the election while Labor leader Rebecca White was heavily pregnant.
“I won’t ever forgive Peter Gutwein for what he did to Rebecca White as a pregnant woman, and the stress he’s put on her baby during an election campaign that was not required,” Ms Giddings said.
“It should not have been held until March of next year, and he will have to carry that, I believe, for ever more.”
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