Essential Research’s rolling fortnightly average continues to swing between 54-46 and 55-45, this week’s move of the pendulum being in Labor’s favour. Labor is up a point on the primary vote to 35 per cent, with the Coalition down one to 47 per cent and the Greens down one to 9 per cent. Also featured are questions on the outlook for 2012 for the economy, the parties (good for Liberal, very poor for Labor and the Greens), political leaders (poor for Tony Abbott, very poor for Julia Gillard, about neutral for Kevin Rudd and Malcolm Turnbull) and respondents personally. Most interestingly, only 26 per cent expect Julia Gillard will still lead the ALP in 12 months’ time against 55 per cent who think she won’t. The respective figures for Tony Abbott are 41 per cent and 34 per cent. Thirty-two per cent expect a federal election in the coming year, against 42 per cent who don’t.

Also:

• Newspoll reports that supplementary questions in its December 2-4 poll had 14 per cent expecting their financial position to improve over the next year (up two from last year), 57 per cent expected it to stay the same (up six) and 28 per cent thought it would get worse (down seven). Coalition voters were solidly more pessimistic than Labor supporters.

• A Liberal Party preselection vote on Saturday for Craig Thomson’s central coast NSW seat of Dobell was won by Gary Whitaker, former Hornsby Shire councillor and managing director of a local educational services company. The Sydney Morning Herald’s Diary reports this as a defeat for Chris Hartcher, state government minister, Terrigal MP and local powerbroker, as his preferred candidate had been WorkCover public servant Karen McNamara. Also reportedly in the field was Matthew Lusted, managing director of a Central Coast construction company.

Michelle Grattan of The Age reports Russell Broadbent, the Liberal member for the western Gippsland seat of McMillan, is likely to pay for his ideological moderation with a preselection challenge. However, Broadbent is thought likely to prevail, as the conservative forces being marshalled against him (“local Catholic members” apparently featuring prominently) will largely be ineligible to participate in the preselection because they have not been party members for two years. Any preselection vote is likely to take place in February and involve 300 local branch members.

• Brett Worthington of the Bendigo Advertiser reports Greg Westbrook, director of legal firm Petersen Westbrook Cameron, has nominated for Labor preselection in Bendigo, to be vacated at the next election by the retirement of Steve Gibbons. Lisa Chesters, a Kyneton-based official with United Voice (formerly the Liquor Hospitality and Miscellaneous Workers Union), is also rated a possible starter.

• There is mounting talk that Lara Giddings’ tenure as Tasmanian Premier is in jeopardy just a year after she replaced David Bartlett. Matt Smith of The Mercury has reported that David O’Byrne, who entered parliament at the March 2010 election, fancies himself as the apple isle’s answer to Kristina Keneally, and has secured backing from party room colleagues Michelle O’Byrne (his sister), Scott Bacon, Graeme Sturges, Brian Wightman, Craig Farrell and Brenton Best. This leaves only Michael Polley and Doug Parkinson in Giddings’ corner, while Bryan Green and Rebecca White remain on the fence. Bruce Montgomery, a former state political reporter for The Australian, writes in Crikey that public sector unions have been angered by Giddings’ pursuit of job cuts to balance the budget, and are hopeful of a more sympathetic hearing from O’Byrne, a former state secretary of the LHMWU. Kevin Harkins of Unions Tasmania, Chris Brown of the Health and Community Services Union and Tom Lynch of the Community and Public Sector Union are identified as critics of Giddings by The Mercury. However, O’Byrne has more recently denied any plans for a challenge.

• With former SA Treasurer Kevin Foley officially resigning from parliament, a by-election in his seat of Port Adelaide has been set for February 11. There is an expectation that Mike Rann’s resignation will follow shortly so that a by-election can be held for his seat of Ramsay on the same day.

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