New results from Newspoll and Essential Research have made very little difference to the BludgerTrack poll aggregate this week, which records only minor shifts on every measure of voting intention and no net change in the seat projection, with the Coalition up a seat in New South Wales and down one in Western Australia. Both pollsters also provided leadership ratings, which also produce very little change to the aggregates, suggesting Malcolm Turnbull’s surging popularity in his two months in the job is finally levelling off.
• Kelvin Thomson announced on Tuesday that he will be bowing out at the next election, which means an open Labor preselection for the inner northern Melbourne seat of Wills. The seat was held by Bob Hawke throughout his parliamentary career from 1980 to 1992, then won at a by-election by independent Phil Cleary, whom Thomson unseated in 1996. Factional arrangements reserve the seat for the party’s Right faction, which is divided in Victoria between the Bill Shorten/Stephen Conroy axis and rival elements excluded from its “stability pact” with the Socialist Left. A potential candidate for the former is Mehmet Tillem, a former staffer to Conroy who briefly held a position in the Senate before failing to win election from number three on the Labor ticket at the 2013 election. The rival Right forces include David Feeney, member for the neighbouring seat of Batman, who appears to be interested in exerting his influence. The Age reports he made an unsuccessful approach to Helen Kapalos, a former Seven Network journalist and chair of the Victorian Multicultural Commission, and others named as possible candidates include one of his staffers, Ben Maxfield. Also “believed to be interested” are Jamila Rizvi, Mamamia editor and a former staffer to Kevin Rudd; Peter Khalil, formerly director of corporate affairs at SBS and now a colleague of Helen Kapalos on the Victorian Multicultural Commission; Moreland councillors Meghan Hopper and Lambros Tapinos; and Labor staffers Anthony Cianflone and Anna-Maria Arabia. Maribyrnong councillor Sarah Carter was also mentioned in a report by Annika Smethurst of the Herald-Sun. The only confirmed starter appears to be Joshua Funder, a funds manager and former Yarra councillor. The Age report said former SBS newsreader Mary Kostakidis was “being discussed”, although it didn’t say by whom, and Kostakidis herself was quoted saying she isn’t interested. Labor could potentially face a threat in the seat from the Greens, and Phil Cleary has indicated that he might run again, although his recent entries have state elections have not met with great success.
• Denice Barnes of the Central Coast Express Advocate reports that Belinda Neal will again seek preselection for her old Gosford-based seat of Robertson. Neal had a controversial tenure in the seat after gaining it for Labor in 2007, resulting in a preselection defeat at the hands of Deb O’Neill, who retained the seat in 2010, lost it to Liberal candidate Lucy Wicks in 2013, and has since taken a seat in the Senate. O’Neill’s chief-of-staff, Anne Charlton, will also contest the preselection vote, which is to be held on December 12.
• Labor’s preselection difficulties in Western Australia have been resolved by the withdrawal of two Left-backed candidates who were threatening to upset the national organisation’s applecart: Adam Woodage, a 28-year-old electrician who was threatening Gary Gray in his seat of Brand, and Pierre Yang, a Gosnells councillor who was seeking preselection in the new seat of Burt, which Bill Shorten wanted to go to Canning by-election candidate Matt Keogh. Woodage cited “family reasons” for his decision to withdraw, although it also emerged he had not been a financial member of the party without interruption for the previous 12 months, meaning he would have required a special exemption from the state party’s administrative committee in order to stand. I wrote about these matters at length in an article for Crikey on Friday.
• The Western Australian federal redistribution process has been finalised, with the commissioners making two changes of consequence to the original draft in response to public submissions. One was to reverse a plan to transfer North Fremantle from Fremantle to Curtin, which would have disturbed an arrangement that had been in place in 1980. The commission has also gone back on a plan to transfer the Shire of Wandering from O’Connor to Canning. Left undisturbed is the much-criticised transfer of Collie from Forrest to O’Connor.
• A federal redistribution process for the Northern Territory’s two electorates has also begun, but with a resolution date set for February 7, 2017, it will not be in effect by the time of the next election. Solomon currently has 67,699 enrolled voters compared with 61,872 for Lingiari, suggesting territory will be transferred from the former electorate, which accommodates Darwin, to the latter.