Quarterly poll aggregate breakdowns, state polling from Essential Research, and extensive accounts of preselection friction emerging from the factional warfare engulfing the Liberal Party in New South Wales.
I have published a new seat of detailed state breakdowns from BludgerTrack, which points to next to no regional variation in the shift to the Coalition on Malcolm Turnbull’s watch, with the possible exception of it being particularly pronounced in Victoria.
Essential Research will resume its publication of weekly federal polling numbers next week – in the meantime, it has treated us to state voting intention results. These are aggregated from Essential’s polling from October through to December, with samples ranging from 797 in South Australia to 3205 in New South Wales, and follow on from a recent state polling onslaught from Newspoll, which you can read all about in the entries below this one. Essential’s results in New South Wales and Victoria aligned very closely with Newspoll, with the Coalition leading 56-44 in the former and Labor leading 53-47 in the latter. However, Labor was credited with a 54-46 lead in South Australia, compared with 51-49 in Newspoll, but was level with the Liberal National Party in Queensland, where Newspoll had Labor leading 52-48. The biggest disrepancy was from Western Australia, where Newspoll had Labor surging to a lead of 53-47, but Essential has the Liberal-National government with its nose in front, by 51-49. For more on the situation in Western Australia, I had a paywalled article in Crikey on Tuesday.
• Most contentiously, moderates are talking up the prospect that Hume MP Angus Taylor will come under challenge from Russell Matheson, member for the neighbouring seat of Macarthur. The redistribution will transfer the Sydney fringe centre of Camden from Macarthur to Hume, and push Macarthur northwards into Labor-voting suburbs, cutting its margin from 11.3% to 3.3%. Camden is a power base of a local faction identified as the “southern cartel”, which includes Matheson and Wollondilly MP Jai Rowell. It had earlier been part of the Right, but recently shifted allegiance to the moderates, and its presence with Hume has weakened Taylor’s position, despite him having a considerably greater reputation as a rising talent than Matheson. There were suggestions that Taylor might react to such a challenge by joining the Nationals, but he rejected the notion yesterday. Even before talk of a challenge, Taylor had expressed his displeasure with the redistribution, which makes the electorate considerably less rural in character.
• Another member in the moderates’ sights is Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, a Senator and ideological warrior of the Right. Sarah Martin of The Australian reports that the moderates are “absolutely” confident they could see Fierravanti-Wells make way for Richard Shields, “a former deputy state director and head of government relations for the Insurance Council of Australia”.
• Should she choose not to retire, Bronwyn Bishop is set to face a challenge in Mackellar from Jason Falinski, a long-standing moderate operative who has worked for John Hewson and Malcolm Turnbull, and been state president of the Australian Republican Movement. However, Sarah Martin’s report in The Australian says state upper house MP Natasha McLaren-Jones might be another challenger, which is a bit hard to process given that her husband, Damien Jones, is Bishop’s chief-of-staff and has sometimes been mentioned as her favoured successor. Another potential candidate is said to be Jim Longley, who held the state seat of Pittwater from 1986 to 1996, and challenged Bishop for preselection unsuccessfully before the 2013 election.
• Also likely to face preselection challenges if they don’t retire are Philip Ruddock, in Berowra, and Senator Bill Heffernan. Sarah Martin reports that Heffernan is under pressure to make way for Hollie Hughes, the party’s country vice-president. Tony Abbott, on the other hand, is expected to recontest Warringah.
• Gilmore MP Ann Sudmalis faces a challenge from Grant Schultz, son of former Hume MP Alby Schultz, but is “expected to survive”.
Meanwhile, south of the border:
• Royce Millar of The Age reports on a big field of potential contestants for Liberal preselection in the south-eastern Melbourne seat of Dunkley, to be vacated at the election with the retirement of Bruce Billson. Included are Paul Peulich, mayor of Kingston and son of veteran state MP Inga Peulich; Donna Bauer, who held the marginal bayside seat of Carrum from 2010 to 2014; Peter Angelico, founder of Dandenong steel bending company Kazed; Nathan Hersey, a member of Billson’s staff; Theo Zographos, a Monash councillor; Matt Berry, a former staffer to troublesome state Frankston MP Geoff Shaw; and Chris Crewther, who ran for the Nationals-held seat of Mallee in 2013 and now runs a consultancy in Frankston.
• The Victorian Liberal Party is sorting out a replacement for Senator Michael Ronaldson, who is quitting politics after being demoted to the back bench by Malcolm Turnbull, along with the order of its Senate ticket. Richard Willingham of Fairfax reports that candidates for the vacancy include James Paterson, deputy director of the Institute of Public Affairs, and Sean Armistead, a manager at Crown Casino and the Liberals’ unsuccessful candidate for Frankston at the 2014 state election. It appears that whoever gets the gig would have to contest a half-Senate election from the dicey number three position, since support is building for Jane Hume, a senior policy adviser for Australian Super who won preselection for the position last year, to be promoted to the top spot. The second position on the ticket is reserved for the Nationals, whose member is Bridget McKenzie.
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