Like Essential Media before it, Roy Morgan‘s first poll of the year shows no significant change from the last polls of 2008. The face-to-face survey has Labor’s two-party lead steady at 60-40 and their primary vote down one point to 51.5 per cent, while the Coalition’s is down half a point to 35 per cent. The Greens have recovered two points from the curious slump they suffered in the first poll after the government’s emissions trading scheme announcement, which brought them down from 10.5 per cent to 6 per cent. What’s more:

• South Australia’s first state by-election since 1994 will be held tomorrow in Frome. Read and comment about it here, and tune in to this site for live coverage of the count from about 6.30pm local time.

• It appears a contest is on to fill Petro Georgiou’s Liberal preselection vacancy in Kooyong, with reports emerging that merchant banker Josh Frydenburg is not the shoo-in many had assumed. Frydenburg pursued a membership recruitment drive before the last election in an unsuccessful bid to topple Georgiou, but sources quoted by Andrew Landeryou at VexNews say two-thirds of these memberships have lapsed. This leaves Frydenberg vulnerable to opposition from Institute of Public Affairs director John Roskam, previously an unsuccessful candidate for Senate preselection (and more recently mentioned as a successor to Peter Costello in Higgins), who stands poised to garner support from Georgiou and the locally powerful Ted Baillieu/David Davis faction. Also mentioned is John Pesutto, described by Melissa Fyfe of The Age as “an industrial relations lawyer who led a rewrite of the Victorian Liberal Party’s constitution last year”.

• Liberal Senator Judith Troeth has announced she will retire when her current term ends in mid-2011, adding a new dimension to the Victorian Senate preselection contest for the next election. The Nationals are likely to secure an extension of the agreement that will give them second place on a joint Coalition ticket, leaving the Liberals with the safe first position and the dangerous third. Michael Ronaldson is presumably likely to retain pole position from the 2004 election; Troeth’s departure enhances Nationals renegade Julian McGauran’s chances of taking number three.

Marc Moncrief of The Age on the race to fill Evan Thornley’s vacancy in the Victorian upper house region of South Metropolitan:

Labor’s factions are also in a battle over how to fill the vacancy in the upper house created by Mr Thornley’s departure, with confusion over whether the Southern Metropolitan seat will be delivered to Labor’s right-wing Unity faction or to the Socialist Left. Unity faction powerbroker Michael Danby, the federal member for Melbourne Ports, is believed to have collected a number of names including Julia Mason, former candidate for the federal seat of Goldstein. However, one member of the Right faction said the Left was more likely to have a claim to the post, as Unity now holds all three of the top positions in Parliament – Premier, Deputy Premier and Treasurer. If the Left is given the nod, it will have to ensure the choice is a member who can keep the relatively conservative seat at the next election.

• Other ructions in the Victorian ALP: forces of the Right associated with Bill Shorten and Stephen Conroy have formed an alliance with the Socialist Left, freezing out what The Australian’s Rick Wallace describes as “the portion of the Right aligned with state frontbenchers Tim Holding and Martin Pakula and the shop assistants’ union”. More commentary plus an intermittently interesting comments thread at VexNews.

• Large parts of the media remain convinced that Anna Bligh will shortly be calling a Queensland state election. Mark Bahnisch at Larvatus Prodeo/Crikey isn’t so sure, while fellow local Possum deems Lawrence Springborg to be no better equipped to pitch to Brisbane as leader of the Liberal National Party than he was as head of a fractious coalition.

• The silly season news cycle has been awash with talk of Barnaby Joyce seeking a berth in the lower house to assume leadership of the Nationals, at the urging of John Howard. Joyce himself has mentioned Labor’s 2007 gains of Leichhardt, Dawson and Flynn. More intriguing has been talk of a move south of the border to take on independent Tony Windsor in New England, which locals quoted by Matthew Clayfield of The Australian had no trouble recognising as a most courageous proposition. Possum notes that any such move might cost the Nationals Joyce’s Queensland Senate seat in the event that the Liberal National Party disintegrates following a state election defeat.

Peter Tucker at Tasmanian Politics gets in early on this year’s Tasmanian Legislative Council periodic election action. This year is the turn of Derwent, a Hobart seat held for Labor by Treasurer Michael Aird; Windermere, which extends from outer Launceston up the eastern bank of the Tamar River to the sea, and is held by independent Ivan Dean; and Devonport-based Mersey, held by independent Norma Jamieson. Jamieson’s retirement after one six-year term sets the scene for an unpredictable contest likely to attract a Melbourne Cup field. Aird and Dean are almost certain to be re-elected, potentially without opposition in Dean’s case.

• The indefatigable Ben Raue at The Tally Room has moved to his own domain.

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