Independent Andrew Wilkie was re-elected at the 2013 federal election with a positive swing of 15%. His post-preferences vote of 65% makes Denison a safe seat.
Denison covers metropolitan Hobart and Mt Wellington. It is a tiny seat, but it has relatvely high prominence because it is held by Andrew Wilkie, one of the few crossbenchers in the House of Representatives. Wilkie supported the Gillard Government in the hung parliament from 2010, but has had less influence during the life of the Abbott and Turnbull Governments. Wilkie campaigns for the removal of poker machines and is a vocal opponent of the major parties' asylum seeker policies.
The electorate covers Austins Ferry in the north to Kingston in the south, and from Hobart in the eastern region to Collinsvale in the west. It includes the City of Hobart, the City of Glenorchy and parts of the Kingborough municipality.
Today the inner-metropolitan electorate is represented in parliament by Andrew Wilkie, the Independent candidate who won his seat in the 2010 federal election. Mr Wilkie retained the seat with a swing of 14.3 per cent in the 2013 election.
A former lieutenant colonel in the army, Mr Wilkie worked at the Office of National Assessments (ONA) until he publicly resigned in 2003 in protest over the Iraq war, believing the invasion was premature. He later published Axis of Deceit, the acclaimed account of his time with the ONA.
Mr Wilkie serves on the Parliamentary Joint Select Committee on Gambling Reform, its subject being of considerable significance to Tasmanians. In 2015 Anglicare Tasmania found that one in three Tasmanians were effected by probleming gambling or were close to someone suffering its effects. Consequently, their research also found that one in two Tasmanians wanted poker machines removed from pubs and clubs altogether.
Another key issue for Denison voters is Hobart’s traffic congestion. Peak-hour congestion in the city has worsened in recent months and the possibility of introducing a light rail system has been mooted. According to Mr Wilkie, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has expressed interest in constructing the system that will connect the city with its northern suburbs.
The electorate’s economy is driven by processed minerals. The industry brings in over $1.3 billion annually and is by far the biggest contributor to the state’s economy.
Tourism is another important sector for Denison. According to Tourism Tasmania, Hobart and its surrounding areas have consistently recorded strong growth in tourism. This has been attributed to increased cruise ship activity, lower flight fares into Hobart and international student arrivals.
Both of Denison’s municipalities, Hobart to the south and Glenorchy to the north, recorded among the highest percentage increases in house sales across all Tasmania in 2015. Hobart led the way with a 20 per cent rise in sales, while Glenorchy ranked fourth at 12.2 pe cent, according to the Real Estate Institute of Tasmania (REIT).
The Hobart suburb of Battery Point is Tasmania’s most expensive, with a median house price of $828,778, which is significantly higher than Hobart’s overall median price of $500,000. Hobart homes are selling for the highest median prices since the sector hit a peak in 2010 to 2011. Glenorchy, meanwhile, boasts a median house price of $249,000.
Denison has a population of 98,959, which itself consists of 51.5 per cent female and 48.5 per cent male residents. The average age is 39. Most people in Denison were born in Australia, with a total of 78.8 per cent of constituents born locally. The electorate is home to 2581 indigenous Australians.
The Denison workforce is made up of 54.7 per cent full-time workers and 33.8 per cent part-time workers. Most workers in Denison are professionals, which make up 26.8 per cent of the workforce. The electorate has an unemployment rate of 5.9 per cent.
Denison was once Labor’s safest seat in Tasmania, but it lost narrowly in 2010.
Mr Wilkie tightened his grip on the seat in the 2013 federal election with a whopping margin of over 20,000 votes against Labor’s Jane Austin, who will once again contest the seat this year. The Greens have elected to field Jen Brown, a public health consultant and renowned ultra-marathon runner as their challenger, while the Liberals will be represented by IT consultant Marcus Allan.
All three main candidates will face an enormous challenge in contesting Tasmania’s safest federal seat. Mr Wilkie has a very strong presence in the electorate and is buoyant about his chances for a third term in Parliament. His chances may depend upon his ability to push through the proposed light rail project, which would reduce the peak-hour congestion affecting Denison’s communters.