Liberal Brett Whiteley defeated Labor MP Sid Sidebottom in 2013. Whitely was a pastor between 1993 and 1999 and served as a member of the Burnie City Council for three years. He was also a member of the Tasmanian Parliament betwen 2003 and 2010. He was appointed Government Whip by Malcolm Turnbull in 2015.
Braddon covers the western side of Tasmania and several Bass Strait islands, including King Island. Its towns of Smithon in the north and Zeehan, Queenstown and Strahan in the south have shifting economies - from mining, logging and agriculture to service industries and tourism. Labor's environment policy is closely watched in this electorate, following the 2004 election when Labor's Sid Sidebottom lost the seat for the first time.
Braddon is a rural electorate, best known for the 1982 protest against the development of a hydro-electric dam on the Franklin River which became a point of contention between the Tasmanian and Federal Governments. Subsequently this area is now on the World Heritage Register and the dam was never developed.
The incumbent member for Braddon is Brett Whiteley who won the seat in 2013 against Labor’s Sid Sidebottom. Whitely worked as a pastor between 1993 and 1999 and has also served a three year term on the Burnie City Council. As been a member of Tasmanian Parliament he held the position of Shadow Minister for Infrastructure, Shadow Minister for Local Government, Shadow Treasurer, and Shadow Minister for Health and Human Services. Mr Whiteley has also served as the Government Whip in the House of Representatives since September 2015, making him a key player within the Liberal party.
Residents of Braddon are concerned with failing industries and growing unemployment in their electorate. The north-west coast of Tasmania has an unemployment rate of 7.8 per cent, compared to the state average of 6.2 per cent. The closure of the Mt Lyell mine, near the town of Queenstown has gutted the economy of the area and the closure of an abattoir on King Island cost the local area 100 jobs. There have been calls for an emphasis to be placed on tourism to revitalize the electorate’s flagging economy.
Braddon’s other industries include dairying and other agriculture. The coastal city of Devonport is the port for the Spirit of Tasmania ferry, a gateway for many visiting the state.
The land itself within Braddon is of high value, with the electorate featuring most of Tasmania’s World Heritage Areas. Furthermore, alongside agriculture, Braddon is host to mineral processing, mining, sawmilling and wood chipping industries. However in recent times some of these industries have had to shut down or employees have been made redundant.
Tasmanian real estate is relatively cheap compared with many other states in Australia. Sales price distribution tends to be towards the lower end of the market with 71 per cent of sales below $399,999. Queenstown is the most affordable place to live in Tasmania, with average house price being $61,000.
The median house prices as of 2015 for Burnie and Devonport were $248,500 and $240,000 respectively, with these two cities comprising the highest population of voters in the electorate.
There are 71,677 electors in Braddon. The median age of constituents is 42, with roughly 5 per cent having a non-English speaking background. Census statistics from 2011 showed technicians and labourers made up over 30 per cent of the Braddon workforce, which is high for Australia.
Braddon is considered a disadvantaged electorate with one third of resident’s dependent on a government pension. The average household income is $735, compared with the Australian average of $1,027.
Devonport and Burnie make up about 43 per cent of the electorate’s voters. Braddon also comprises King Island, La Trobe and Waratah-Wynyard.
The Sustainable Murchison Community Plan is an initiative of local governments within Braddon to provide a unified vision for the next 25 years. However, the proposal alter electoral boundaries and create a a single Tasmanian Planning Scheme has been met with widespread disapproval from local government officials and representatives.
The aging population of the electorate puts pressure on the local governments and communities to improve and increase aged care facilities. The Circular Head community raised more than $530,000 for new facilities in just over 12 months, and the local and state governments have funded over $1 million each towards the project.
Given the demographics of Braddon and the 10 per cent swing to Brett Whiteley in the 2013 election, Braddon could be considered a relatively safe Liberal seat in 2016. The main concern for the electorate is whether shifting away from the agricultural industries towards a tourism-based economy is viable. The success of a Labor candidate in Braddon is largely dependent on Labor’s environmental policy, which many criticised in 2004 for adversely affecting the logging industry.