The latest Newspoll is no worse for Labor than the last on voting intention, but Julia Gillard has lost her lead as preferred prime minister.
The Australian reports the latest Newspoll has the Coalition leading 55-45 on two-party preferred, down from 56-44 at the previous poll three weeks ago, with both Labor and the Coalition down a point on the primary vote to 31% and 47% respectively and the Greens up two to 11%. Tony Abbott has apparently hit the lead as preferred prime minister; more to follow.
UPDATE: GhostWhoVotes relates that Julia Gillard’s ratings have plunged yet further, her approval down six points to 30% and disapproval up six to 58%. Tony Abbott is effectively unchanged at 33% (steady) and 55% (down one), but his 41-39 deficit on preferred prime minister is now a lead of 40-36.
UPDATE 2: The latest Morgan face-to-face result combines the last two weekends of polling, and it shows the Coalition sustaining a commanding primary vote lead of 44% (down one) to 33.5% (steady), with the Greens up a point to 10%. On respondent-allocated preferences the Coalition lead has narrowed from 56-44 to 54.5-45.5, while on previous election preferences it’s down from 54.5-45.5 to 53.5-46.5.
• The Australian Electoral Commission has accepted Julian Assange’s enrolment in the Melbourne seat of Isaacs, which clears him to proceed with his Senate bid unless someone cares to mount a legal challenge. I had expected that Assange might fall foul of the requirement that a person enrolling overseas must intend to resume residing in Australia within six years of having left. To the best of my admittedly limited knowledge, Assange was last here furtively in 2007. Another legal grey area is his political asylum status, and what it might mean for the constitutional injunction that parliamentarians not be “under any acknowledgement of allegiance, obedience, or adherence to a foreign power, or … a subject or a citizen or entitled to the rights or privileges of a subject or citizen of a foreign power”.
• Gary Humphries, who has held the Liberals’ ACT Senate seat since 2003 and was the territory’s Chief Minister from October 2000 to November 2001, has lost preselection to Zed Seselja, leader of the ACT opposition through five years and two election defeats. Seselja prevailed in the contentious party ballot on Saturday by margin of 114 to 84. Humphries says he will abide by the result, but even before the vote his supporters had petitioned for it to be referred to a divisional council meeting on the grounds that the process had been rushed to Seselja’s advantage. That would throw the vote open to around 400 extra party members who were denied a vote because they hadn’t attended a branch meeting in six months.
• With Seselja standing aside from the leadership to contest the Senate preselection, the ACT Liberals have chosen Molonglo MP Jeremy Hanson as their new leader ahead of former leader Brendan Smyth. This was despite Gary Humphries’ claim that a deal had been reached between Seselja and another MP, Alistair Coe, in which Seselja would decisively throw his weight behind Coe in exchange for Coe’s support for his Senate preselection bid (which was nonetheless forthcoming, along with that of the remainder of the Liberal party room). Humphries claimed his decision to reveal the deal to the public caused it to come undone, although Coe denied it had ever been made. Coe won the party room ballot for the deputy leadership, unseating Smyth.
• Natasha Griggs, the Country Liberal Party member for the Darwin-based seat of Solomon since she unseated Labor’s Damian Hale in 2010, has seen off a preselection challenge from Peter Bourke, a clinical immunologist at Royal Darwin Hospital. In January the Northern Territory News reported a party source saying Bourke was likely to prevail, as Griggs was “not cut out to be a politician”.
• A rank-and-file Labor preselection vote for the south-western Sydney seat of Werriwa will be held on March 5, pitting Labor veteran Laurie Ferguson against union and party activist Damien Ogden, who had been an aspirant for the seat when Ferguson moved there after his existing seat of Reid was merged with neighbouring Lowe at the 2010 election. Anna Patty of the Sydney Morning Herald reports Ogden has some support from both the “hard” and “soft” left, respectively associated with Anthony Albanese and the United Voice union, although it appears to be generally expected that Ferguson will see off the threat. A report by Samantha Maiden in the Sunday Telegraph suggests that might not avail him in the long run, with union polling conducted late last year said to point to a decisive swing against Labor of 13%.
• Ben McClellan of the Blacktown Advertiser reports the Liberal preselection for Greenway has been set for March 9, with 12 shortlisted candidates including 2010 candidate Jayme Diaz, Rose Tattoo singer Gary “Angry” Anderson, Hills councillor Yvonne Keane and “anti-bullying campaigner and motivational speaker” Brett Murray. Also in the field are business coach Robert Borg, gym owner Rowan Dickens, senior financial analyst Mathew Marasigan, marketing manager Ben Jackson, Hills councillor Mark Owen Taylor, accountant Mark Jackson, security supervisor Renata Lusica and, curiously, Josephina Diaz, mother of Jayme. The choice will be made from a panel of delegates from the electorate’s five branches and head office.