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REFERENDUMS IN TASMANIA

Background

Tasmanians have been asked to vote or have been given the opportunity to indicate an opinion on State matters only three times since statehood:  in 1916 on the question of hotel closing hours; in 1968 on the question of the issue of a casino licence for Wrest Point Hotel in Hobart; and in 1981 on the question of dam construction and future power options for the State.

Constitutional Position

Whilst they may occur at local government level, no formal requirement to hold referendums exists in Tasmania.  Tasmania's Constitution Act 1934 (94/1934) may be amended by a simple majority of parliamentarians voting in favour of a Bill to enact any changes.  The only special vote necessary is for any change to the four-year term of the House of Assembly, which requires the approval of a two-thirds majority of the Assembly members before alteration (Section 41A).

The referendum provisions in the different States and the Commonwealth vary according to their individual constitutional requirements.

Local government elector polls are provided for under sections 60 and 60A of the Local Government Act 1994 and may cover any issues within the jurisdiction of the local council, however the results are not binding on the council.

The Referendum Process

In 1993 the Liberal Government announced that to overcome some uncertainty in the method of holding statewide referendums it would bring in legislation that would control them.  The Referendum Procedures Act (34/1994) sets out the rules for the conduct of such referendums.  These provisions include:

  • Minimum 21 day campaign and maximum of 51-60 days before voting, or in tandem with election writ.
  • Maximum of 2,000 word arguments authorised by a majority of MPs for and against each proposal; these must be brought to the 'notice of voters'.
  • Valid votes must have the words 'Yes' or 'No' for each proposal on the ballot-paper.
  • Conclusive results announced and published by the Chief Electoral Officer.
  • House of Assembly electoral rolls to be used to record voters.
  • Voting is compulsory.

LIQUOR REFERENDUM 1916

Polling Day: 25 March 1916.
Subject: Hotel Closing Hours (Options: 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 or 11 p.m.).
Summary: 42,713 or 58.7% for 6 p.m.
OPTION BASS DARWIN# DENISON FRANKLIN WILMOT# TOTAL
6 p.m.
8,713
7,425
10,309
8,627
7,639
42,713
7 p.m.
54
63
77
153
80
427
8 p.m.
186
217
165
356
169
1,093
9 p.m.
379
384
246
558
304
1,871
10 p.m.
5,923
4,966
5,817
5,099
4,348
26,153
11 p.m.
137
94
103
163
63
560
Total Valid Vote
15,392
13,149
16,717
14,956
12,603
72,817
Informal Vote
1,040
1,202
1,285
1,445
1,132
6,104
Grand Total
6,432
14,351
18,002
16,401
13,735
78,921
Turnout: 73.53%(before compulsory voting in 1928).
Source: Parliamentary Paper No 33/1916-1917.
  # Darwin became Braddon in 1954; Wilmot became Lyons in 1984.

CASINO REFERENDUM 1968

Polling Day: Saturday 14 December 1968.
Subject: Casino Licence for Wrest Point Hotel, Hobart.
Summary: Yes: 96,839 (53%);  No: 85,862 (47%)
SEAT ENROLLED TOTAL VALID VOTE YES YES % NO NO %
Bass
40,472
34,989
16,622
47.51
18,367
52.49
Braddon
42,420
37,189
18,453
49.62
18,736
50.38
Denison
43,529
38,814
22,407
57.73
16,407
42.27
Franklin
38,248
34,838
20,856
59.87
13,982
40.13
Wilmot*
41,475
36,871
18,501
50.18
18,370
49.82
State Total
206,144
182,701
96,839
53.00
85,862
47.00
Turnout: 92.67%.
Informal: 8,339.
Source: Parliamentary Paper No 3/1970.
  * Wilmot became Lyons in 1984.

POWER REFERENDUM 1981

Polling Day: Saturday 12 December 1981.
Subject: Construction of a hydro-electricity dam.
Summary: See separate table at end.
Gordon River above its junction with Olga River:
20,184
Gordon River below its junction with Franklin River:
119,875
Informal Votes (Ballot Papers containing 'No Dams' etc):
114,060

The very high number of informal votes is striking and was largely the result of a strong conservationist campaign against any dam at all.  The Electoral Office originally ignored 23,839 votes with 'No Dams' on them but further legal opinion recommended that they be recounted.  The results are presented below, but note that they had no impact on the State Government and it was an Australian High Court ruling in 1983 that halted the construction of the dam.

Table One: Informal vote not included.

Seat Enrolled Gordon above Olga Gordon below Franklin
Bass
55,584
4,392 (16.58%)
22,095 (83.42%)
Braddon
53,938
4,175 (13.73%)
26,241 (86.27%)
Denison
54,887
3,515 (14.14%)
21,335 (85.86%)
Franklin
56,568
3,820 (13.76%)
23,934 (86.24%)
Wilmot*
55,189
4,282 (14.02%)
26,270 (85.98%)
State Total
276,166
20,184
119,875

Table Two: Including 23,839 papers classified as informal ('No Dams' etc).

Seat Enrolled Gordon above Olga Gordon below Franklin
Bass
55,584
5,261 (17.17%)
25,379 (82.83%)
Braddon
53,938
5,057 (14.37%)
30,131 (85.63%)
Denison
54,887
4,364 (14.96%)
24,800 (85.04%)
Franklin
56,568
4,952 (14.91%)
28,271 (85.09%)
Wilmot*
55,189
5,210 (14.60%)
30,473 (85.40%)
State Total
276,166
24,844
139,054
* Wilmot became Lyons in 1984.

These first two tables may appear complicated but they become more so when every paper bearing the words 'No Dams' is considered.  The Electoral Office sought to clarify matters by issuing the following:

Summary of Voting:

Particulars of Count Number of Votes Percentage
Total Vote
254,119
100.00
First Option Gordon above Olga
20,184
7.94
Gordon below Franklin
119,875
47.17
Informal Vote (including 23,839 disallowed)
114,060
44.89
Second Option Gordon above Olga
24,844
9.78
Gordon below Franklin
139,054
54.72
Informal Vote
90,221
35.50
NB: Total Ballot Papers endorsed 'No Dams' from all sources
84,514
33.25
Turnout: 92.01%.
Source: Parliamentary Paper No 63/1982.

 

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Last Update: 5 August 2002