The Legislative Council’s make-up is likely to substantially change with candidates from the state’s two major parties in front in election in Rosevears and Huon.
Rosevears Liberal candidate Jo Palmer is in the lead in that division, having won 41.3 per cent of primary votes, while Labor’s Bastian Siedel leads with 30 per cent of the vote in Huon.
Ms Palmer’s closest challenger, independent candidate Janie Finlay, has won 30.7 per cent of overall primary votes.
Sixty-three per cent of votes have been counted.
Ms Palmer, a former television newsreader, said she sensed a connection with people she visited on the campaign trail after having been in their loungerooms for almost 20 years.
She said people particularly wanted to talk to her about how they had been dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.
“They wanted to share their stories…and pass on information to the Premier,” Ms Palmer said.
She said voluntary assisted dying was another issue regularly, adding she felt privileged they had shared such deeply personal stories with her.
A former mayor of Launceston, Ms Finlay said she had learned more about the Northern Tasmanian community over her campaign.
She said constituents had viewed the independence of the upper house as highly important as well as issues to do with the Tamar estuary.
There were six candidates running for the Rosevears seat left vacant by independent member Kerry Finch after 18 years.
This included Labor candidate Jess Greene and Greens candidate Jack Davenport.
Ms Greene received 9 per cent of overall votes and Mr Davenport received 7.2 per cent.
Independent candidate David Fry said the state of the Tamar estuary and the East Tamar Highway were raised among the main concerns from voters.
He said there should be a single authority established to manage the problematic waterway.
Independent candidate Vivienne Gale said Rosevears constituents had raised health concerns regarding coronavirus and the state’s hospital system’s capacity to deal with a second wave.
In Huon, Ms Siedel won 2906 primary votes to Mr Armstrong’s 1583 votes with all booths counted. Greens candidate Pat Caruana received 1923 votes.
About 40 per cent of electors in Huon and Rosevears either submitted their votes early through pre-poll or postal votes.
About 1300 postal votes still to be returned for each division.
Due to the number of candidates running in both electorates, the final result is not likely to be known until August 11 after candidates are gradually excluded.
BACKGROUND OF ELECTION
The timing of year’s election for the two Legislative Council seats, due to be held on May 2, was uncertain early on due to coronavirus restrictions across the state.
Under legislation passed in Tasmanian Parliament, if the Public Health Services director did not declare these elections safe to be held by December, they would have been delayed until May 2021.
This would have meant five of the 15 seats in the upper house would have been up for election at the same time.
The Tasmanian Electoral Commission eventually gave the green light for a polling day on August 1 with appropriate social distancing requirements.
Former Rosevears independent MLC Kerry Finch only had one challenger in the last election in the division – Liberal candidate Don Morris.
No Greens or Labor candidates contested the open seat of Huon that year either.
The Liberals have not run a candidate in Huon this year though the other main parties have.
UPCOMING LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL BUSINESS:
The two members of the upper house elected this month will be required to vote on Mike Gaffney’s voluntary assisted dying legislation, due to be debated in September.
This is the fourth time an attempt has been made in Parliament to implement such laws in Tasmania, but the first time a bill has been debated in the Legislative Council.
The upper house is set this year to examine a bill that will end the monopoly Federal Group has on gaming in the state.
Under the planned changes, hotels and clubs are to be individually licensed to operate electronic gaming machines.
Federal Group will be able to retain its casino licences but two new high-roller casino licences will be offered – one for the North and one for the South.
A finalised bill for major projects legislation is due to be presented to the House of Assembly this month which means it is certain to reach the upper house this year.
Under the proposed laws, a proponent, council or the Planning Minister can refer a development considered a major project to an independent panel for assessment.
Backers claim the bill will give proponents behind major developments more certainty in the planning process though opponents believe it will shut out the wishes and concerns of communities.