Polls sound out Bass trio for Libs

LIKE the rest of the state, jobs has been the top issue in the electorate that covers Launceston. 

The state's high unemployment rate has driven a strong swing towards the Liberals, making the outcome in Bass arguably the easiest to call out of the state's five electorates. 

``You'd expect that if the swing is on with the ferocity the polls are suggesting the Liberals would be so close to getting a third [seat],'' Tasmanian political commentator Professor Richard Herr said. 

Polling has consistently shown the Liberals are on track to claim a third seat at the expense of a Labor minister and the Greens will retain one seat. 

Much harder to predict is which candidates will fill those spots. 

Three Liberal candidates will battle it out for the third spot with Dorset Mayor Barry Jarvis the front runner. However, the popular mayor shares his support base with prominent incumbent Peter Gutwein which leaves Launceston Preparatory School co-principal Leonie McNair in with a chance to outpoll him. 

Political scientist at the University of Tasmania Richard Eccleston said the more interesting battle was between Mr Gutwein and fellow Bass Liberal MHA Michael Ferguson for top of the polls. 

``They've got a lot to fight for. It is an advantage for whichever candidate claims top spot in terms of seniority and influence presumably within the party,'' Dr Eccleston said.

In 2010, Mr Ferguson, a former federal MHR, easily outpolled Mr Gutwein, but since then Mr Gutwein's profile has been boosted by his role as treasury spokesman and plenty of appearances alongside his leader. 

The figures may also help in future Liberal leadership battles, according to Dr Herr.   

If the polls are accurate and Labor falls short of two quotas it will be the party's worst state election result in Bass since 1992. 

Health Minister Michelle O'Byrne is likely to have the edge over first term MP Brian Wightman. In 2010, Ms O'Byrne scored 11,380 primary votes compared to Mr Wightman's 3191.

But there are plenty within the party backing Mr Wightman, who has run a stronger on-the-ground campaign. 

``Those newer candidates that are fresh faces are the ones that Labor wants to rebuild the party,'' Dr Eccleston said.

The resurrection of the pulp mill as an issue by Labor appears to have done little to increase its support in Bass, but has shored up the Greens base. 

In previous elections, Kim Booth has only scraped back in but the latest polling indicates his seat is safe this time around. 

``The fact that the pulp mill's back on the agenda has mobilised Greens voters,'' Dr Eccleston said. 

The impact of new minor parties is also an unknown. The Palmer United Party's big-spending campaign has helped it claim 6.8 per cent of first preferences in the most recent ReachTel poll.  With only four PUP candidates on the ballot paper, Dr Herr said that meant there would automatically be some leakage to the other major parties. 

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