No Morgan poll this week. There is the following however:

• ReachTel continues to pump out the Queensland state automated phone polls. Perhaps emboldened by a recent effort pointing to a 27 per cent anti-Labor swing in Stretton, they have this week targeted two safe Labor seats and elicited similarly dramatic results. A survey of 384 respondents in the seat of Ipswich is fully as bad for Labor as the Stretton poll, showing a 26 per cent swing and a win for LNP candidate Ian Berry over Labor incumbent Rachel Nolan by a margin of 9.4 per cent. In the Brisbane seat of Bundamba, a poll of 371 respondents found a 20 per cent swing which would all but eradicate Labor member Jo-Ann Miller’s margin. Katter’s Australian Party was on double figures in both seats. Last week ReachTel published a poll of 366 respondents in Ferny Grove which showed a 15 per cent swing, easily enough to account for Labor member Geoff Wilson’s margin of 4.3 per cent. It should be noted however that ReachTel is a new outfit using a methodology which is yet to prove its worth, and all the swings mentioned are well over the 13 per cent indicated by recent Newspoll and Galaxy polling.

• John Ferguson of The Australian reports polling by the Victorian Liberal Party shows it poised to win not only the Labor-held marginals of Deakin, Corangamite and La Trobe, but also recording primary votes of 50 per cent and 48 per cent in relatively safe Bruce and Chisholm. Particularly difficult to believe is a funding from Bruce that “Julia Gillard had a minus 22 per cent favourability rating with Mr Abbott at plus 2 per cent”, which compares with Nielsen’s recent Victorian results of minus 13 and minus 25. Ferguson’s report further says that former members Phil Barresi (voted out in 2007 and again unsuccessful in 2010) and Jason Wood (voted out in 2010) are considering comebacks in Deakin and La Trobe. Local councillor Tim Smith is another possible starter in Deakin, and Ernst & Young partner John Nguyen “would be backed by many local members” in Chisholm. John Roskam of the Institute of Public Affairs and lawyer John Pesutto are mentioned as being likely preselection aspirants, though it is unclear in relation to which seats.

Michael McKenna of The Australian reports “lobbyist and former 2007 Liberal candidate for the seat of Brisbane Ted O’Brien and Sunshine Coast businesswoman Peta Simpson” will join Mal Brough in the LNP preselection contest for Peter Slipper’s seat of Fisher, with Brough “expected to easily win”. In the period between his appearance at a local function with Kevin Rudd and his defection from the party, the LNP state executive was considering having Slipper deposed at a snap December 19 preselection, which would have prevented the state election campaign clashing with any move by him to pursue internal appeals processes. However, this failed to take into account that many of Brough’s local branch “recruits” (according to The Australian, “since returning to the party in December last year, Brough has doubled the membership in the Fisher LNP branch to more than 1000”) would have been unable to participate due to the rule requiring 12 months’ membership. According to The Australian, it was “suspected that Slipper may have orchestrated the Rudd visit to entrap the LNP into calling an early preselection to defeat Brough”. Following Slipper’s defection, it is now clear the preselection will now be held after the state election.

Sean Nicholls of the Sydney Morning Herald reports on the latest exchange in the hundred years war between NSW Liberal Right faction rivals David Clarke and Alex Hawke. The Clarke faction (the “hard” Right) has unsuccessfully sought a Supreme Court injunction to prevent the Baulkham Hills and Castle Hill Young Liberal branches from participating in the preselection for Hawke’s federal seat of Mitchell. These were the very same branches involved in a famous episode before the previous election when the unanticipated arrival of 40 Clarke supporters prompted Hawke to call the police. The Herald report further relates that “up to a dozen” NSW MPs have defected from Clarke to Hawke’s “centre right”, among them Wollondilly MP Jail Rowell and upper house MP Matthew Mason-Cox, as they were “understood to be unhappy over their treatment by Mr Clarke and his colleague, Marie Ficarra”. This is presumably one of the reasons the Clarke candidate in Mitchell, Robert Picone, is not considered much of a chance.

John Ferguson of The Australian reports on a widening in the long-simmering battle over Victorian Liberal Senate preselection. Previously the issue had been whether the number two candidate from 2007, Helen Kroger, would suffer demotion at the expense of the number three, Scott Ryan, who has since been promoted to a more senior parliamentary position. However, a split in the Costello-Kroger faction is now jeopardising the position of the number one candidate, Mitch Fifield. A Liberal source is quoted accusing Fifield of “engineering” Ryan’s push against his factional colleague Kroger, prompting the latter’s supporters to contemplate securing her position by moving to depose Fifield from the top of the ticket. With the Liberals thought likely to win three seats in the current electoral environment, Fifield’s enemies are said to be canvassing possible challenges from John Roskam and, perhaps a little fancifully, Peter Reith.

• A belated note, after much back and forth, about last week’s highly unfortunate Crikey system failures. I am delighted to be able to announce that it’s Ray Hadley’s fault. A story published by Crikey last Tuesday led to a mammoth spray against Tim Flannery and Crikey on Ray Hadley’s program on 2GB the following morning. As a result of Hadley’s outburst, Crikey received a massive spike in traffic to the website – so much so that the site’s servers could not handle the traffic increase and melted down two days in a row. Of course, these have not been Crikey’s only outages, and the broader difficulty remains of the system’s incapacity to cope under pressure. Management are now undertaking server cost analysis and preparing for IT/bandwidth increases.

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