An unprecedented triple whammy of opinion polls is disastrous enough for the Coalition to lend force to Dennis Shanahan‘s assertion that “Malcolm Turnbull’s political career has been smashed in just one week”. In turn:

• Arriving a day earlier than usual, Newspoll shows that the Coalition recovery detected a fortnight ago has come to a sudden end, with Labor’s lead back out from 53-47 to 56-44. The parties have also exchanged three points on the primary vote, Labor up to 44 per cent and the Coalition down to 37 per cent. However, the real shock is that Turnbull’s personal ratings have suffered what Shanahan calls “the single biggest fall in the survey’s 25-year history”: his approval rating has plunged from 44 per cent to 25 per cent, while his disapproval is up from 37 per cent to 58 per cent. Fifty-two per cent do not believe that John Grant received preferential treatment from the Prime Minister against only 24 per cent who do. Kevin Rudd’s lead as preferred prime minister is up from 57-25 to 65-18.

ACNielsen, which is hopefully back to monthly polling as we enter the second half of the term, has Labor’s two-party lead up from 53-47 to 58-42. Labor’s primary vote is up two points to 46 per cent while the Coalition’s is down six to 37 per cent. Fifty-three per cent say the OzCar affair has left them with a less favourable impression of Malcolm Turnbull, whose approval is down 11 points to 32 per cent with his disapproval has shot up 13 points to 60 per cent. Turnbull comes third as preferred Liberal leader with 18 per cent, behind Peter Costello on 37 per cent and Joe Hockey on 21 per cent. Rudd’s lead as preferred prime minister is up from 64-28 to 66-25, and his approval rating is up three points to 67 per cent.

Galaxy has Labor’s primary vote up a point to 44 per cent and the Coalition’s down two to 30 per cent. Sixty-one per cent believe Kevin Rudd has been open and honest about the OzCar affair, while 51 per cent “believed Mr Turnbull had been dishonest or somewhat deceitful”.

Once again, Victoria dominates the latest round of electoral news:

• The Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters has tabled two major reports which I haven’t got round to sinking my teeth into: the regular conduct of the federal election report, and that into the Commwealth Electoral (Above-the-Line Voting) Amendment Bill 2008.

Rick Wallace of The Australian reports that complicated quarreling in the Victorian ALP has thrown up “rogue challengers” against at least ten state MPs. Keilor MP George Seitz, who faces enforced retirement in the wake of the Victorian Ombudsman’s report into Brimbank City Council, is said to be largely reponsible: Andrew Landeryou at VexNews identifies his state nominees as Tomislav Tomic (against Bundoora MP Colin Brooks), Seeralan Arumugam Gunaratnam (Carrum MP Jenny Lindell), Raymond Congreve (Lara MP John Eren), Rosa Mitrevski (Mill Park MP Lily D’Ambrosio), Philip Cassar (Mordialloc MP Janice Munt), Teodoro Tuason (Narre Warren North MP Luke Donnellan), Teresa Kiselis and Mate Barun (both taking on Northcote MP Fiona Richardson), Josefina Agustin (Prahran MP Tony Lupton), and Blagoja Bozinovski (Thomastown MP Peter Batchelor). For good measure, Seitz candidate Manfred Kriechbaum is taking on federal MP Maria Vamvakinou in Calwell. Other challengers are explained by Wallace in terms the “stability pact” forged between the Left and the Right forces associated with Bill Shorten and Steven Conroy, and counter-moves by rival Right unions seeking to forge ties with some of the more militant unions of the Left. This presumably accounts for Australian Manufacturing Workers Union candidate Andrew Richards joining the aforementioned Kriechbaum in a three-horse race against Vamvakinou in Calwell, Lisa Zanatta of the Construction Mining Forestry and Energy Union challenging Lynne Kosky in Altona, and Kathleen Matthews-Ward of the Shop Distributive and Allied Employees Association joining the Seitz challengers to Fiona Richardson in Northcote. The option of referring preselections to the party’s national executive remains available to John Brumby, who must be sorely tempted.

• Other challenges appear more obscure. A third Labor Unity candidate, Rick Garotti, is listed as a nominee against incumbent Craig Langdon in Ivanoe, in addition to the previously discussed Anthony Carbines. In Preston, Labor Unity MP Robin Scott is being challenged by Moreland councillor Anthony Helou (once of the Socialist Left, but more recently of Labor Unity) and Tamer Kairouz, said by Landeryou to be backed by upper house MP Nazih Elasmar, a principal of a Right sub-faction also linked with Theo Theophanous (not sure if any relation to Kororoit MP Marlene Kairouz). Two Socialist Left members are under challenge from factional colleagues, which Andrew Landeryou suggests can be put down to dealings between the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union and unions on the Right: Yuroke MP Liz Beattie faces a challenge from Colleen Gibbs, an official with the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, while Darebin councillor Timothy Laurence has nominated against Steve Herbert in Eltham. Andrew Lappos, who in the past has been associated with the Left, is listed as a challenger to the Right’s Telmo Languiller in Derrimut, but it was reported last week that Languiller’s preselection had been secured by the national executive.

• The preselection contest for Brunswick has taken on new significance with the news that Phil Cleary will contest the seat as an independent. Cleary defeated the Labor candidate in the federal seat of Wills in the 1992 by-election that followed Bob Hawke’s retirement and was narrowly re-elected in 1993, before losing to Labor’s Kelvin Thomson in 1996. He has more recently worked for the Electrical Trades Union, which under the leadership of Dean Mighell has disaffiliated with the ALP and given support to the Greens. Three candidates are listed for Labor preselection, each a colleague of outgoing member Carlo Carli in the Socialist Left: Jane Garrett, Slater and Gordon lawyer and former adviser to Steve Bracks; Enver Erdogan, 23-year-old Moreland councillor and staffer to House of Represenatatives Speaker Harry Jenkins, said to be aligned with the Kim Carr sub-faction; and Alice Pryor, also a Moreland councillor, aligned with the rival Left sub-faction associated with federal Bruce MP Alan Griffin. Former party state secretary Eric Locke has proved a non-starter; Andrew Landeryou reports he has withdrawn in favour of Garrett, who would appear to be the front-runner. According to David Rood of The Age, Garrett also has the backing of John Brumby.

• Andrew Landeryou further reports that National Union of Workers state secretary Antony Thow has been “elected unopposed” for the third position on Labor’s Victorian Senate ticket. If that means what it appears to, it’s a significant story the mainstream media appears to have ignored, as Labor would seem very likely on current form to repeat its 2007 election feat of winning a third seat.

• The Moonee Valley Community News reports it is “not expected” that Victorian Planning Minister Justin Madden will be opposed in the Labor preselection for Essendon, to which the party has assigned him so sitting member South Eastern Metropolitan MLC Bob Smith can be given a safer seat in Western Metropolitan. Mark Kennedy, a former mayor of Moonee Valley, was earlier reported to have ambitions to replace the retiring Judy Maddigan.

• Federal Liberal MP Chris Pearce has announced he will not seek re-election in his Melbourne seat of Aston. Pearce gave his party a morale-boosting by-election win in the seat in July 2001, limiting the Labor swing to 3.7 per cent – which has since stood as exhibit A in the case that the Howard government’s re-election the following November could not entirely be put down to the subsequent Tampa episode and September 11. He was closely associated throughout his time in politics with Peter Costello, and the fact and timing of his departure have inevitably been linked to Costello’s shock announcement early last week. No discussion yet that I’m aware of as to who might replace him. Dennis Shanahan of The Australian reports that “another swathe of resignations” from federal Liberals is expected when New South Wales and Queensland redistributions are finalised early next year, although no names are named.

• The ABC reports that three Western Australian state Labor MPs, headed by the factionally unaligned Alannah MacTiernan, have moved at state conference for preselection reforms allowing “compulsory secret ballots for preselections, with delegates completing their own papers”.

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