Eric Hutchinson is one of the first-term Tasmanian Liberal MPs known as the “Three Amigos”, along with Andrew Nikolic and Brett Whiteley.
Lyons covers the bulk of Tasmania and is the state's biggest seat. With a margin of just 1.2% it is the state's most marginal electorate and the Coalition's fourth most marginal seat in the country. Before the 2013 federal election it had been held for 20 years by Labor's Dick Adams.
Lyons is Tasmania’s largest electorate at 32,910 sq km it covers almost half the state.The seat is primarily rural, from Tamar River in the north to New Newfolk in the south, and from Derwent Bridge in the west to Bicheno in the east.
Considered a marginal seat, Lyons and has changed many times between the Australia Labor Party (ALP) and the Liberal party over its 32-year history. The seat has a history of long-serving members. Liberal Party MP Max Burr held the seat for three terms, followed by the ALP’s Dick Adams for seven terms over 20 years.
At the 2013 federal election, Liberal Party candidate Eric Hutchinson gained a 13.5 per cent swing to win the seat from Mr Adams. Mr Hutchinson holds a 1.2 per cent margin against the ALP, making it a knife-edge seat for the 2016 federal election.
Mr Hutchinson, who has been Liberal’s sitting member for one term, was born and raised in Launceston. After leaving Tasmania he worked as an exporter and trader for Japanese company, Nissho lawi Australia Ltd. Returning to Tasmania in 1997, Mr Hutchinson became the Wool Marketing Manager for Roberts Limited, a major Tasmanian agricultural and real estate enterprise. Mr Hutchinson, along with his colleagues Andrew Nikolic and Brett Whiteley, is part of the self styled “Three Amigos” of the Liberal Party of Tasmania.
The Lyons constituency have a broad range of concerns, most centering on the the environment and the economy.
As with the other Tasmanian seats, unemployment is an important matter for the people of Lyons. The electorate’s unemployment rate is 7 per cent, higher than the national average. In the Central Highlands the major issues are tourism and agriculture.
As a regional electorate, the major industry is agriculture, with a focus on sheep, dairy and beef cattle and fruit growing. The demand in the dairy sector is rapidly increasing due to interest from China. Other smaller industries across Lyons include fishing, forestry, wine making, hydro generation, mining and tourism.
Norwegian pulp and paper company Norske Skog is the largest employer in Lyons, with its paper mill located near the town of New Norfolk. Norske Skog employs more than 300 people. It is one of the four biggest companies in Tasmania, which together contribute more than $1.5 billion to the state’s economy annually.
According to realestate.com.au, the median house price across Lyons varies slightly from around the mid $100,000s to the high $200,000s. Like many parts of Tasmania, Lyons has some of the cheapest real estate in Australia. For most of the seat, the median price has not increased in the past eight years because of its low-demand market.
The only place to have some sort of growth is Sorell, the largest town in the electorate, with 14,000 residents. Coastal town Sorell has a real estate growth of 20 per cent in the past eight years.
Lyons has a population of more than 100,000 residents, with a near-equal percentage of men and women. The median age of people in the electorate is 42, which is higher than the national average. More than 85 per cent of Lyons residents were born in Australia.
Lyons has Australia’s second lowest proportion of residents born in a non-English speaking country (2.6 per cent), the fourth lowest proportion of high-income families (14.8 per cent) and the second highest proportion of residents who finished school at Year 10 or earlier (54.9 per cent).
The people of Lyons are served by 11 separate councils (Latrobe, West Tamar, Meander Valley, Northern Midlands, Break O’Day, Glamorgan-Spring Bay, Southern Midlands, Central Highlands, Derwent Valley, Brighton, Sorell and Tasman) and this is a challenge for the electorate as the issues of dispersed and isolated communities need to be recognized. The ABC’s Antony Green described the seat as “containing the parts of the state that didn’t logically fit in one of the other four regions”.
Mr Hutchinson goes into this year’s federal election with a small margin of 1.2 per cent against the ALP. Before the last election, Lyons was considered to be a safe Labor seat with Mr Adams having held it for the 20 years.
Widespread criticism across Tasmanian voters saw Labor pummelled across the state, including in Lyons where the two-party preferred swing was 13.5 per cent. While it is considered a marginal seat, it is likely that Mr Hutchinson will retain the seat for the Liberals.