The latest weekly Essential Research survey shows Labor’s two-party lead at a commanding 59-41, up from 57-43 last week and 56-44 the week before. Also featured are questions on whether the Liberals should support (51 per cent) or oppose (20 per cent) the government’s plans for an emissions trading scheme, whether the federal government should take over health services from the states (62 per cent support, 11 per cent oppose), whether they should take over all hospital services from the states (57 per cent support, 18 per cent oppose), how much support the government should provide for Australians who get into various kinds of trouble overseas, whether 16 and 17 year olds should be allowed to vote (13 per cent yes, 79 per cent no), and whether respondents feel like they’re being worked too hard (yes). Elsewhere:

• Mia Handshin has unexpectedly withdrawn from her bid to win Christopher Pyne’s Adelaide seat of Sturt, where she fell 0.9 per cent short in 2007. Brad Crouch of the Sunday Mail said the announcement came “within hours” of her being queried by the paper over her family’s involvement with the real estate group of former Entrepreneur of the Year Cathy Jayne Pearce, the collapse of which has cost investors more than $20 million. However, Michael Owen of The Australian reports Handshin’s withdrawal has “sparked speculation she will contest an eastern suburbs seat, Hartley, at the March state election, and the Hartley MP, Grace Portolesi, 41, will run in Sturt against Mr Pyne at the next federal election” (UPDATE: The ABC reports Portolesi denying she is interested in federal politics). A “Labor hardhead” quoted by Christian Kerr in the same paper described Handshin as “a potential premier”. Kerr said there had been earlier suggestions from the Labor camp that Handshin should replace perennial back-bencher Vini Ciccarello in the state seat of Norwood. However, with Ciccarello’s nomination confirmed this “seems out in the short term”, and former member Greg Crafter hopes to use his “clout in the branches” to eventually secure the seat for his son Sam, “an executive with gas giant Santos and a former adviser to Premier Mike Rann”. It should be noted that every seat named is none too safe for Labor: Sturt has been won by the party twice since its creation in 1949, most recently in 1969, Hartley was gained from the Liberals in the 2006 landslide, and Norwood was won narrowly when the Rann government came to power in 2002 and gave Labor its smallest swing in Adelaide in 2006.

Andrew Landeryou at VexNews provides complete lists of candidates for the contested Liberal preselections in Wannon, Higgins, Aston and the state seat of Sandringham. Higgins and Sandringham are two-horse races, the former between front-runner Kelly O’Dwyer and Andrew Abercrombie, the latter between incumbent Murray Thompson and challenger Margaret Fitzherbert. In Wannon, the previously discussed Daniel Tehan, Rod Nockles, Louise Staley, Stephen Mitchell, Hugh Koch, Matt Makin, Elizabeth Matuschka and Katrina Rainsford are joined by Simon Price (unsuccessful Colac Otway Shire Council candidate and former electorate officer to Stewart McArthur, previously mentioned as an aspirant for McArthur’s old seat of Corangamite) and one David Clark. In Aston, Nick McGowan, Sue McMillan, Darren Pearce and Alan Tudge are joined by proverbial bad penny Ken Aldred and a squadron of little-known contenders: Neil Angus, Terry Barnes, Michael Flynn, Michael Kabos and James Matheson.

Joe Spagnolo of the Sunday Times reports that former WA Police Union president Mike Dean has joined the Liberal Party, but will not as earlier rumoured contest the seat of Hasluck at the next federal election. Dean says he has decided not to proceed due to personal issues, but does not rule out a future career in state politics. Robert Taylor of The West Australian reported last month that state Labor MPs John Quigley and Ben Wyatt said Dean had asked them for support in winning Labor preselection for Swan. He told Spagnolo that some in the ALP had “wrongfully presumed he was one of them” and that he had “broken some hearts I didn’t expect to break”.

• The Sunday Times also reports that Gallop-Carpenter government minister Alannah MacTiernan “has delayed her decision on whether to join Kevin Rudd in Canberra”. It is open knowledge that the option of contesting Canning is available to her, but she is believed to be weighing up the option of staying in state politics with a view to assuming the leadership.

Michael Stedman of The Mercury reports that Tasmanian Premier David Bartlett has floated the possibility of publicly funded election campaigns and spending caps for state lower house elections. His comments were in response to complaints by Peter Whish-Wilson, Greens candidate for Windermere during the May periodical upper house elections, about the stringent spending cap of $12,000 which exists for upper house elections.

• Speaking of the Tasmanian Legislative Council, Liberal candidate Vanessa Goodwin pulled off a historic win for the party in Saturday’s Pembroke by-election, which you can read all about here.

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