The past fortnight’s face-to-face Morgan polling has Labor’s two-party lead down from 60.5-39.5 to 58-42. Labor is down three points on the primary vote to 47.5 per cent, the Coalition is up 0.5 per cent to 34.5 per cent and the Greens are up one to 9.5 per cent. Apart from that:

Phillip Coorey of the Sydney Morning Herald reports on the state of play after the redistribution proposal abolishing Laurie Ferguson’s Sydney seat of Reid:

There was a rumour he was eyeing Parramatta under a plan which would see the incumbent in that seat, Julie Owens, move to Greenway, a Liberal seat which is assuredly Labor thanks to the redistribution. For various reasons, that scenario is not going to fly. More solid is a plan, backed by Ferguson and his support group in the Left, for him to move to the western suburbs seat of Fowler. It is held by Julia Irwin but it is anticipated she will retire at the election. Irwin belongs to the Right but the Left controls the branches in Fowler and wants the seat back. Ferguson, however, faces resistance to getting any seat at all, and that includes from elements of his own faction. “How do you think we would look in terms of renewal?” said one powerbroker. Left kingmakers are leaning towards the Liverpool Mayor, Wendy Waller, for Fowler. The Right is pushing Ed Husic, who ran for Greenway in 2004 but was the victim of a race-hate letterbox campaign … Ultimately Rudd has the final say, a power the Opposition Leader, Malcolm Turnbull, could only dream of given the looming preselection fights among NSW Liberals. But it is a power that needs to be used wisely, sparingly and sensitively. “Kevin should not be unfavourable to Laurie,” warned a Ferguson friend, claiming Ferguson had helped Rudd win the leadership.

• Very soon after the previous report appeared, it emerged the NSW Liberal Party was changing its rules to allow, as Imre Salusinszky of The Australian describes it, a three-quarter majority of the state executive to “rapidly endorse a candidate on the recommendation of the state director and with the go-ahead of the state president and the party’s state and federal parliamentary leaders”. The rules are ostensibly designed for by-elections or snap double dissolutions, but can essentially be used at the leaders’ pleasure. This places the party on a similar footing to Labor, whose national executive granted sweeping federal preselection powers to Kevin Rudd and five party powerbrokers earlier this year. The most obvious interpretation of the Liberal move is that it’s an attempt to stymie the influence of the hard right in party branches, and Salusinszky indeed reports the reform is expected to be opposed by “a large part of the Right faction”. However, the Labor parallel demonstrates it can equally be seen as part of a broader trend to centralisation necessitated by the ongoing decline in membership and resulting opportunities for branch-stacking.

• From the previously cited Phillip Coorey article, Nathan Rees’s chief-of-staff Graeme Wedderburn is said to be assured of a winnable position on the Senate ticket at the next election: second if Steve Hutchins retires, third at the expense of incumbent Michael Forshaw if he doesn’t. “Unless, of course, he can be persuaded to enter state politics, which is another option being floated.”

Phillip Coorey of the Sydney Morning Herald (again) notes that South Australian Senator Cory Bernardi is causing angst by agreeing to appear at a hard-right fundraiser in Cook, where federal member Scott Morrison continues to battle the forces that initially delivered preselection to factional operative Michael Towke before the 2007 election.

• The ABC reports that Tony Crook, Goldfields pastoralist and candidate for Kalgoorlie at the 2008 state election, has been “recruited” to stand as Nationals candidate against Wilson Tuckey in O’Connor. In response to a reader’s email, I recently had occasion to transpose the state election booth results on the new federal boundaries. In O’Connor, the Nationals would have polled 38.0 per cent to the Liberals’ 25.3 per cent and Labor’s 20.7 per cent. In Durack (successor to Barry Haase’s seat of Kalgoorlie), it was Labor 29.2 per cent, Liberal 29.7 per cent and Nationals 28.5 per cent. It should be noted that these numbers are heavily distorted by the presence of sitting Nationals members at state level, as well as the impact of state issues like Royalties for Regions and one-vote, one-value. The Nationals’ federal campaign in Western Australia will be bankrolled by litigious Queensland mining billionaire Clive Palmer, with the stated objective of gaining a Senate seat.

• There is increasing talk that former NSW Opposition Leader Peter Debnam will vacate his seat of Vaucluse at the next election. He faces multiple preselection challenges in any case, the apparent front-runner being University of NSW deputy chancellor Gabrielle Upton. Local paper the Wentworth Courier has taken aim at Debnam with an article and accompanying vox pop on his parliamentary inactivity during the current term.

Sonia Byrnes of the Cooma-Monaro Express reports that Queanbeyan councillor John Barilaro will nominate for Nationals preselection in the state seat of Monaro, which the party has won the right to contest without challenge from the Liberals. Labor’s Steve Whan holds the seat by 6.3 per cent.

• Commenter Hamish Coffee relates that a local newspaper has Clover Moore dismissing rumours she won’t seek another term as state member for Sydney.

Ben Raue at The Tally Room reports that the South Australian Greens are conducting their preselection for the Legislative Council ticket at next year’s state election. The candidates are Carol Vincent, who as SA Farmers Federation chief executive offers an unusual pedigree for a Greens candidate; Tammy Jennings, one-time Democrat and current convenor of the state party; former convenor and unsuccessful 1997 lead candidate Paul Petit; and the apparently little-known Mark Andrew. At stake is a very likely seat for the first candidate, and an outside chance for the second.

• The Sydney Morning Herald has carried a piece from NSW Liberal leader Barry O’Farrell outlining the party’s position on campaign finance reform: caps on spending extending to third parties, caps on donations and bans on donations from other than individual citizens, tighter regulation of lobbyists and extension of Independent Commission Against Corruption powers to cover the nexus between donations and government decisions.

• Mumble man Peter Brent gives the once-over to the recent Essential Research survey on which leader is best equipped to handle “issues of national importance”, noting how much these questions are influenced by incumbency.

Courtesy of the latest Democratic Audit of Australia update:

• Last month’s Audit seminar on campaign finance, Dollars and Democracy: How Best to Regulate Money in Australian Politics, will be the subject of tonight’s episode of The National Interest on Radio National from 6pm. A fortnight ago, Electoral Commissioner Ed Killesteyn appeared on the program discussing enrolment procedures and electoral boundaries.

• The Audit’s submission to the Victorian Electoral Matters Committee inquiry into the Kororoit by-election gets it right on proposals to tighten laws on misleading campaign advertising, namely that the cure would be worse than the disease.

• Brian Costar discusses campaign finance reform on Meet the Press.

• The Queensland Government has published its green paper on “a range of topics including political donations and fundraising, lobbying, whistleblowing and pecuniary interest registers”.

• Norm Kelly argues the merits of a ban on overseas donations in Australian Policy Online.

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