THE federal election campaign started on a sour note for Labor in the unmistakably marginal seat of Bass.
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd chose Launceston early one morning in late July as the place to announce his $100 million Tasmanian Jobs and Growth Plan.
He said that the jobs plan was to kick-start the state's economy and generate much-needed jobs.
But the North was noticeably disadvantaged in the carve-up of Mr Rudd's unemployment panacea.
Its share of the funds was just $10million for six projects compared to the South, which received $20.8million for nine projects, and the North-West, which was granted the lion's share of $43.1million for 10 projects.
But Bass became a favoured place for federal politicians of all persuasions as the campaign rolled out.
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott made four visits in less than three weeks and also chose to announce the Liberals' counter-offer to Labor on a jobs and growth plan in Launceston.
Mr Abbott seems keen to get former army brigadier Andrew Nikolic across the line as the new Bass MHR with a number of Bass- specific announcements.
They included a proposal for Northern Tasmania's own federal government agency - a one-stop shop for new projects over $50,000 that need regulatory approval and compliance.
Labor was back last week to announce its short-term solution to the shipping freight problems that affect Northern Tasmania in particular.
Deputy Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said a joint federal-state $40million freight support package would provide funding mostly for exporters to improve their freight efficiency.
An August 22 Newspoll showed that on first preferences Mr Nikolic would poll considerably higher than Bass Labor MHR Geoff Lyons.
It gave Mr Lyons 29.9per cent of first preference votes compared to Mr Nikolic on 51.8per cent and Greens candidate Lucy Landon-Lane on 7.5per cent.
Despite Mr Nikolic's positive polling so far, the Northern business community still hopes that Mr Abbott will be back with a more robust plan to solve the region's international sea freight problems before the election.
THE federal election has been about job creation in Braddon, with voters desperate for a solution to ongoing economic uncertainty.
Liberate candidate Brett Whiteley told The Examiner last week he would unite with a state Liberal party - which he believed would be elected next year - to send a clear message interstate and overseas that the North-West was open for business.
Braddon MHR Sid Sidebottom said quality education and training was key to ensuring Braddon could meet world demand.
But in an electorate with the highest unemployment rate in a state that just reached a national high, businesses were hoping for more.
While both opposition leader Tony Abbott and Prime Minister Kevin Rudd visited Tasmania last month to spruik their plans for jobs and growth - with Mr Rudd assigning $43.1 million to the North-West electorate - it seems voters have been disappointed in a lack of Braddon-specific commitments.
Most of the candidates’ election period funding commitments had been dedicated to sport, with Mr Whiteley announcing $1.1 million for a Devonport soccer ground and $3 million for a Burnie swimming pool, while Sid Sidebottom had announced $2.3 million for a Burnie youth centre with sporting facilities in Burnie and $44,000 to provide heating at the Ulverstone History Museum.
Yet neither candidate has answered calls to pledge $25 million to the Devonport City Council’s Living City Plan - nor have they made firm commitments to the Cradle Coast Authority’s list of 10 regional issues for the federal election.
Mr Sidebottom may have appeased some with Friday’s announcement of $18 million for vegetable processor Simplot and $10 million to Caterpillar Underground, but it doesn’t appear he will win the election.
An August 22 poll showed Mr Whiteley had 50.5 per cent of the votes compared to Mr Sidebottom at 35.8 per cent, with Greens candidate Melissa Houghton trailing at 3.6 per cent.
HELD easily by Labor for two decades, the Southern electorate of Franklin is no longer a certainty for the party, which faces a massive statewide swing against it.
Labor is desperate to hang on to the seat held by Tasmania’s only federal minister Julie Collins, who was promoted from the outer to the inner ministry when Kevin Rudd resumed his prime ministership in June.
Like all electorates, high unemployment has been the primary issue, prompting Ms Collins to successfully lobby for $100 million in promised federal funding to be untied from the controversial forestry peace deal.
The agreement passed its last major legislative hurdle during the week, so it would not have mattered anyway.
The Liberal Party had already agreed to match the commitment, blunting any traction Labor might have gotten from what was widely considered a pork-barrelling exercise.
From a field of six challengers, Liberal first-time candidate Bernadette Black is Ms Collins’s biggest rival.
Ms Black became a mother at 16, went on to become a nurse and public speaker, and was awarded Barnardos Australian Mother of the Year in 2009.
Early in the campaign, she attracted nationwide publicity for her embarrassing attempt to appeal to young voters with a video that began with ‘‘Hey there, rock star’’.
The most recent polling puts Ms Collins narrowly in front at 50.6 per cent after preferences.
Other notable names on the ballot paper are the Australian Greens candidate Rosalie Woodruff, who has pushed to make Tasmania the centre of the electric car conversion industry, and Hobart alderman and former Liberal Party member Marti Zucco, who is running for the Palmer United Party.
Labor should hang on, but Ms Collins can expect her 10.6 per cent margin to be slashed.
INDEPENDENT Andrew Wilkie looks set for reelection in Denison, despite Labor pouring resources into a long-running campaign.
Mr Wilkie has ruled out doing a deal with either party, but acknowledged he’s unlikely to have the same influence in a majority government he enjoyed this term.
‘‘I have been very careful not to let this minority government and balance of power thing go to my head and distract me from my primary job, which is to be the member for Denison,’’ he said.
A ReachTEL poll released last Saturday had Mr Wilkie winning 45.5 per cent of the primary vote, tailed by Liberal candidate Tanya Denison on 24 per cent and Labor’s Jane Austin on 18.7 per cent.
Greens candidate and Climate Action Network founder Anna Reynolds polled just 10.9 per cent.
Political analyst Kevin Bonham said Mr Wilkie had broad appeal and a high profile, meaning
even those who support a party candidate first are likely to put him second.
Mr Wilkie said he was stepping away from the Royal Hobart Hospital and pokie reform as flagship issues.
Instead he said his focus will be on protecting the reforms of the past three years - Gonski education funding, the National Disability Insurance Scheme and the carbon price - as well as promoting economic development in Tasmania and campaigning to reverse cuts to things like university funding and the single parenting payment.
Ms Austin, a mental health worker, said jobs are her focus and points to the recent declaration of Prince of Wales Bay as a defence precinct as a pre-election achievement.
Ms Denison, a mining engineer and business owner, says Liberal economic policies are needed to get the seat moving again.
Both Labor and Liberal are leveraging on the national outcome.
‘‘We are at risk of this seat basically becoming redundant when it comes to who’s in government,’’ Ms Austin said.
Ms Denison agreed: ‘‘It will come down to whether people want someone inside the party room or someone outside sending letters.’’
LYONS has been the overlooked middle child of this election campaign.
Both major party leaders, and senior ministers and shadow ministers, have opened their wallets and diaries for fleeting visits to siblings Bass and Braddon but have not given the same love to the state’s largest electorate.
There have been few locally specific pledges for the diverse rural communities in Lyons, and next to nothing in funding commitments from the campaign’s official start.
Liberal candidate Eric Hutchinson will face off with Dick Adams — who has held his seat for 20 years — for the second time in a federal election.
Mr Adams believes a backlash in the conservative electorate against the Greens’ influence at state and federal levels will hurt him at the ballot box.
Polling in June suggests the same with Mr Adams to only achieve 25.4 per cent at the primary and Mr Hutchinson 50 per cent - although this polling was preRuddolution.
Still, Mr Adams maintains a 12.3 per cent margin and polled 14.5 per cent higher in the primaries against opponent Eric Hutchinson in the 2010 election.
Mr Hutchinson has again struggled to boost his profile and has rarely been seen with the party’s powerbrokers in his electorate, although the same can be said for Mr Adams.
The Greens attracted 16.75 per cent of the vote last time and have a chance of maintaining their ground with candidate Pip Brinklow, the partner of state Greens deputy leader Tim Morris.
Palmer United Party candidate Quentin Von Stieglitz could also do well out of a voting public tired of the major parties.
WITHOUT a shift in the electorate or an unlikely preference outcome, the Liberal Party is set to return three senators for the first time in more than a decade.
That’s the most likely result should current polling data be replicated in the Senate vote on
September 7, which could prove crucial in helping Liberal leader Tony Abbott control both houses.
Current polls would have Liberal senators Richard Colbeck and David Bushby returned alongside Labor’s Carol Brown and Catryna Bilyk.
Parties need to reach about 14 per cent to guarantee the election of one senator and 28 per cent to elect two, a vote achieved by both parties at every poll since 1970.
Should the Liberals crash through 43 per cent of the upper house vote - not achieved since
1996 - trade expert Sally Chandler will accompany them, leaving Labor’s Lin Thorp and Greens’
Peter Whish-Wilson fighting for one spot.
Polling expert Kevin Bonham said lower house voting intention was a key barometer of the Senate vote — but there were exceptions to that.
‘‘The normal trend is Greens poll higher in the Senate than in the house, and that’s extremely likely to be the case this time,’’ Mr Bonham said.
Former Greens leader and preference negotiator Bob Brown agreed, confident of Senator WhishWilson’s election, which would leave Senator Lin Thorp trading in the parliamentary FIFO job.
Mr Bonham said Labor’s hope of retaining three seats would be aided by the profile of four sitting
members, but he expected Senator Whish-Wilson to succeed.
On the conservative side of the election, the scenario where the Liberals fall just short of their three quotas would be causing headaches for party secretary Sam McQuestin.
‘‘With the best preference flow of the Senate micro parties, if the Liberal vote doesn’t quite live up to expectations, there’s a chance Family First could get a seat,’’ Mr Bonham said.
‘‘It’s not likely, but it’s a realistic outside chance.’’
In 2004, Victorian Family First candidate Steve Fielding was elected in a similar manner from just 2 per cent of the overall vote.