More opinion poll carnage for Labor, this time from Morgan’s face-to-face survey of 951 lucky respondents last weekend. The headline two-party figure is 57.5-42.5, a return to the worst lows of last year. As was the case on those occasions, Labor’s deteriorating primary vote position has been accompanied by a further sag in their already weak share of minor party preferences, which as I have said many times is not what I expect to happen at the election – and indeed, it was again directly contradicted this week by Nielsen, whose respondent-allocated preference result of 56-44 suggested Labor’s preference share was about 70% compared with the 45% currently suggested by Morgan. Using the previous-election method of distributing preferences, Morgan offers a much milder figure of 53.5-46.5. Accounting for the consistent Labor lean in Morgan’s face-to-face polling, the primary vote figures are consistent with the impression from Newspoll and Nielsen: Labor on 32%, the Coalition on 44.5% and the Greens on 13%.

Plentiful preselection action:

• Barnaby Joyce has confirmed he will seek preselection for Bruce Scott’s outback Queensland seat of Maranoa, presumably in pursuit of the party leadership and deputy prime ministership. Scott, who is 69, is yet to make his intentions clear. The party’s current leader, Warren Truss, tells The Australian he will back Scott in any contest between the two, on the basis that “members are entitled to the loyalty of their leader”.

• Unions Tasmania state secretary Kevin Harkins has indicated he is still interested in a Labor parliamentary berth, after being dumped as candidate for Franklin in 2007 and frozen out for Senate preselection in 2010. The guiding hand on each occasion was Kevin Rudd, whose identification of Harkins as a totem of union ratbaggery never entirely added up. A fortnight ago, The Australian reported Rudd had been heard admitting he had confused Harkins with Kevin Reynolds, Western Australian CFMEU colossus and truly the “well-known pugilist” of Rudd’s description. Rudd insisted it was “incorrect to claim that his decision to not support Mr Harkins in 2010 was based on any confusion with Kevin Reynolds”, but Australian Mines and Metals Association chief executive Steve Knott has told The Australian: “Everyone in the IR community and up in Canberra knew that Rudd had mixed up the two Kevins. The problem for Harkins and his political ambitions was Rudd hating to be wrong.” It is now anticipated that Harkins will seek to fill the Senate vacancy to be created at the next election by the retirement of Nick Sherry. Matthew Denholm of The Australian reports a Left-backed push by Harkins would “force sitting Right faction senator Catryna Bilyk to the highly vulnerable No 3 position, potentially sparking a factional brawl”.

Stuart Carless of the Milton-Ulladulla Times reports on the acrimonious withdrawal of two candidates for the Liberal preselection vote to choose a successor to the retiring Joanna Gash in Gilmore. Clive Brooks, owner of South Nowra business Great Southern Motorcycles and reportedly an ally of Gash, complained of “snide, horrible little people” in the local party spreading false rumours about past business failures. Shoalhaven councillor Robert Miller has apparently quit the party altogether, complaining about a letter sent to him by the party’s state director Mark Neeham which treatened him with suspension over rather mild-sounding comments to the media. Still in the field are “Shoalhaven City councillor Andrew Guile, Ulladulla resident Grant Schultz, former Kiama councillor Ann Sudmalis and Meroo Meadow marketing consultant Catherine Shields”. It is said that Gash and Guile are bitter rivals, and that she and state Kiama MP Gareth Ward “exchanged words in a heated argument at radio station 2ST last week”. I gather the subject of the argument to have been a proposal to extend to federal MPs the state government’s mooted ban on parliamentarians serving as mayors and councillors, which would upset her own plan to spend the final year of her term making the transition to the mayoralty of Shoalhaven, which she will contest at local government elections in September.

Heath Aston of the Sun-Herald reports the Liberals will hold a preselection primary for the western Sydney seat of Greenway, which they decisively failed to snatch at the 2010 election. Liberal sources quoted in the report rate this “a calculated bid to prevent the previous candidate, Jayme Diaz, a Blacktown migration lawyer, from running again”. Diaz is reckoned a certainty under normal preselection processes because, as Aston puts it: “Mr Diaz, who arranges visas for clients, has signed many new members to the branches in Greenway and has a ‘stranglehold’ on numbers”. Diaz is a member of the area’s “large Filipino community” and has backing from the Christian Right. It is noted that the Right has suffered a string of preselection defeats of late, and that the effective imposition of another on Greenway “could flare factional tensions”.

• The Liberal preselection for the winnable Sydney seat of Reid has been won by the Tony Abbott-backed Craig Laundy, heir to and general manager of his father’s “$500 million hotel empire”. VexNews reports that Laundy’s rival for the preselection, Dai Le, a frequent preselection contestant and twice candidate for unwinnable Cabramatta, received only nine votes out of 117. VexNews also relates a complaint from an interested party about the NSW Liberals’ poor record in selecting Asian candidates (see also previous entry), which presumably comes from the Right: other accounts paint Laundy’s win as part of the previously noted string of moderate victories over candidates backed by the Right.

• Mario Christodoulou of the Illawarra Mercury reports Senator Bill Heffernan has been taking interest in the preselection for Throsby, a “sign the party believes it can snatch the once-safe Labor seat”. The only contender identified is Larissa Mallinson, “a former press adviser to Gilmore MP Joanna Gash who now works in the office of Liberal senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells”.

Sean Nicholls of the Sydney Morning Herald reports Labor’s preselection primary to choose its candidate for the lord mayoralty has attracted seven candidates. They are Cameron Murphy, president of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties and the son of Lionel Murphy; Cassandra Wilkinson, co-founder of FBi Radio; “restaurateur Jonathan Yee; a former arts adviser to Bob Carr, Vivienne Skinner; the refugee advocate Linda Scott; the former South Sydney mayor Vic Smith and the academic Damian Spruce”. Nicholls explains the procedure thus:

All 90,000 residents on the electoral roll of the City of Sydney will be sent candidate information and a ballot paper and invited to participate, including attending public debates. Voting will open on May 14 and be held online and in person at booths in the council area … Votes will be tallied and the candidate announced on June 2.

If the government succeeds in its bid to drive Clover Moore from her seat of Sydney by prohibiting parliamentarians from serving similtaneously as mayors or councillors, Labor indicates it will repeat the procedure to choose its candidate for the by-election.

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