Independents out, Liberal and Labor in, as Huon and Rosevears voters have their say

Tasmanian Electoral Commission sign advertising a polling place
Postal votes mean final results may not be known until the second week of August.(ABC News: Loretta Lohberger)

Tasmania’s Upper House appears set to be dominated by the major parties for the first time in its history, with new faces looking likely to enter the state’s Parliament from the divisions of both Huon and Rosevears.

Dr Bastian Seidel
Bastian Seidel looks to have won for Labor in Huon.(ABC News: Gregor Salmon)

After a campaign prolonged by the coronavirus pandemic, voters have finally had their say on representation in the Legislative Council seats of Huon, south of Hobart, and Rosevears along the West Tamar in Tasmania’s north.

In Rosevears, Liberal candidate Jo Palmer and independent Janie Finlay — a former Launceston Mayor — were virtually neck-and-neck throughout early counting, before strong performances in Legana and Riverside booths helped push former newsreader Ms Palmer ahead.

Ms Palmer was on 41 per cent of first preference votes at the close of counting on Saturday night, and Ms Finlay behind on 30 per cent, with 63 per cent of votes counted.

The other four candidates in Rosevears all remained in single digits.

Man puts a ballot paper in the ballot box as an Electoral Commission official watches on
Robert Armstrong casts his vote in Cygnet.(ABC News: Loretta Lohberger)

In Huon, Labor candidate Bastian Seidel led the counting all night, polling 31 per cent of first preference votes, with 64 per cent of votes counted.

A profile picture of Jo Palmer
Jo Palmer appears to have won for the Liberals in Rosevears.(Supplied: Tasmanian Liberal Party)

The incumbent, conservative independent Robert Armstrong, overtook Greens candidate Pat Caruana on postal votes to finish the night in second place with 19 per cent, ahead of Mr Caruana’s 17 per cent.

Huon called for Labor

Electoral analyst Kevin Bonham posted on his Twitter feed at 1:00am “called. Huon ALP gain”.

Earlier, Professor Bonham said it would be “very difficult for the candidates in second place, which is now Finlay and Robert Armstrong in Huon, it’s very difficult for them to get up from here”.

If the final result is as predicted, there will be no significant change in the make-up of the Legislative Council in terms of progressives and conservatives.

Dr Seidel would replace the conservative Mr Armstrong for Labor in Huon, but retired progressive Kerry Finch would be replaced by Jo Palmer for the Liberals.

It would also be the first time in its history that party members have outnumbered independents in the Legislative Council, with both Labor and the Liberals adding new members over the past few years.

Labor would end up with five members in the Upper House, and the Liberals three.

“Party representation in the Legislative Council as a percentage was already at an all-time high even before this election, so if the parties win both these seats it will go up to eight out of 15 which will be a majority for the first time,” Dr Bonham said earlier on Saturday night.

“It will also be the highest number of party members in the council at one time, there was a time in the old Legislative Council with 19 seats where there were seven party members in.”

Final results may not be known until after postal votes close on Tuesday, August 11.