The Poll Bludger's federal poll aggregate has recorded little change since the previous result a week ago. Also featured: preselection argybargy, changes to electoral legislation, a new Chief Minister for the Northern Territory, and a by-election result.
In recognition of the quickening tempo as the federal election draws nearer (let’s continue to presume it will indeed be on September 14), my mid-week update to the BludgerTrack 2013 poll aggregate will henceforth get its own thread. This means that in the normal course of things there will be three more-or-less evenly spaced federal politics post a week: one hanging off the main poll release on Sunday or Monday, the regular “Seat of the Week” on Friday or Saturday, and the BludgerTrack update in between.
The latest update throws the latest results from Nielsen and Essential Research into the mix, producing little change after the slight recovery for Labor last week. However, the state relativities have changed slightly with the addition of data from Nielsen, one of only two pollsters which provides state breakdowns with any consistency. The swing recorded for New South Wales is now higher than for Victoria, as most commentary suggests it should be. As noted in the previous post, the weekly Morgan result is being excluded from the calculation for the time being until there is enough data from its new “multi-mode” methodology to allow for a credible bias measure to be determined with reference to the overall polling trend.
• Four nominees have emerged for the Labor preselection in the Sydney seat of Barton, to be vacated upon the retirement of former Attorney-General Robert McClelland. They do not include former NSW Premier Morris Iemma, who may have had his factional association with Eddie Obeid to consider, together with the extreme difficulty any Labor candidate will face defending the seat. Paul Osborne of The Australian reports the contest is effectively between Shane O’Brien, Rockdale mayor and NSW Public Service Association assisant secretary; Kirsten Andrews, “former state and federal ministerial adviser”; and Steve McMahon, former Hurstville mayor who “made a name for himself when he sold the mayoral car to build a children’s playground”. O’Brien is “widely seen as the frontrunner”; Another nominee, state upper house MP and former Rockdale mayor Shaoquett Moselmane, withdrew his nomination after two days, choosing instead to make headlines with a parliamentary attack on Israel. Murray Trembath of the St George & Sutherland Shire Leader earlier reported that Moselmane’s run was thought to be “a lever to seek a more secure position on Labor’s upper house ticket for the next election”. The Liberals have endorsed Nick Varvaris, accountant and mayor of Kogarah.
• A day after the Financial Review reported he had received assistance from Eddie Obeid as he sought to enter parliament in 1999, independent state MP Richard Torbay has dropped a bombshell by announcing his withdrawal as Nationals candidate for Tony Windsor’s seat of New England. The Nationals’ state chairman, Niall Blair, confirmed Torbay was asked to stand aside after the party received unspecified information “of which we were not previously aware”. Barnaby Joyce has expressed interest in the past in using the seat for a long-desired move to the lower house, and there were immediate suggestions he might take Torbay’s place.
• Troy Bramston of The Australian reports Tim Watts, Telstra executive and former adviser to Communications Minister Stephen Conroy and former Victorian Premier John Brumby, is the front-runner to succeed Nicola Roxon as Labor candidate for the safe western Melbourne seat of Gellibrand.
• With John Forrest bowing out at as member at the next election, the Nationals preselection for Mallee has attracted 10 candidates. Those named in an ABC report are Horsham farmer Russell McKenzie, former Victorian Farmers Federation president Andrew Broad, Buloke Shire mayor Reid Mather and Swan Hill deputy mayor Greg Cruickshank. Liberal party sources quoted by Terry Sim of the Weekly Times said the Liberals were “unlikely to field a candidate”. Labor has endorsed Lydia Senior, chief executive of the Lower Murray Medicare Local.
• Legislation which completed its passage through federal parliament earlier in the month has raised the bar for prospective election candidates by increasing nomination deposits (from $500 to $1000 for the House of Representatives and $1000 to $2000 for the Senate) and requiring of independent candidates more supporting signatures on nomination forms.
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• The Northern Territory had a change of Chief Minister last week, with Adam Giles emerging as the first indigenous leader of an Australian government. Terry Mills, whom Giles ousted as leader just seven months after he led the Country Liberal Party to victory at the polls, was informed of his ill fortune by text message while on government business in Japan.
The present leadership crisis began a fortnight ago when deputy leader Robyn Lambley stood aside for Giles with a view to healing a long-standing rift, only for Giles to up the ante by indicating he would move to replace Mills as leader unless further conditions were met. In this he had hoped for support from Alison Anderson, the most senior of the CLP’s complement of indigenous MPs, but she instead publicly blasted Giles for refusal to accept the deputy leadership and threatened to take her “bush coalition” of four MPs (the cohesiveness of which is disputed) to the cross-benches or even into coalition with Labor. The turmoil coincided with the period of a Newspoll survey for the Northern Territory News targeting 437 respondents in the CLP-held seats of Sanderson, Blain and Brennan, which showed a 22% against the CLP on the primary vote and 14% on two-party preferred. Mills’s personal ratings were at 26% approval and 67% disapproval, compared with 39% and 38% for Opposition Leader Delia Lawrie (whom Mills nonetheless led 38-37 as preferred Chief Minister).
The situation was transformed the following week when Anderson and the bush MPs were persuaded to put the previous week’s acrimony behind them and throw their support behind Giles, with Anderson telling Amos Aikman of The Australian the decision was made to forestall a rival challenger she declined to identify. The victory for the Giles camp was confirmed when his key supporter, Fong Lim MP and former federal Solomon MP David Tollner, was installed as deputy leader and Treasurer. Mills meanwhile is widely expected to head for the exit in fairly short order, promising to initiate a challenging by-election in his seat of Blain.
• All of which nicely leads into my belated results summary for last month’s Wanguri by-election, which delivered a bloody nose for the CLP and a morale-boosting result for Labor, which had suffered a 7.7% swing in the seat when Paul Henderson contested it as Chief Minister at the election on August 25.
William Bowe is a Perth-based election analyst and occasional teacher of political science. His blog, The Poll Bludger, is one of the most heavily trafficked forums for online discussion of Australian politics, and joined the Crikey stable in 2008.