This fortnight's Newspoll is just like old times, with Labor bounding out of their recent
This fortnight’s Newspoll is just like old times, with Labor bounding out of their recent trough to record a 56-44 lead, up from 52-48. Labor are up four points on the primary vote to 43 per cent, with the Coalition down three to 38 per cent and the Greens up one to 12 per cent. Kevin Rudd’s approval rating is up three to 51 per cent and his disapproval down two to 39 per cent, and his lead as preferred prime minister has widened seven points from 55-30 to 59-27. Tony Abbott’s approval rating is down three points to 44 per cent, with his disapproval up five to 43 per cent. Also featured are responses on the parties best to handle the economy (Labor leading 44 per cent to 39 per cent) and health and Medicare (Labor leading 48 per cent to 30 per cent). We have also had a confusing set of results today from Essential Research: Labor’s lead since last week is down from 56-44 to 54-46, but Tony Abbott has suffered a striking slump on his personal ratings, with approval down 45 per cent to 33 per cent since last month, with disapproval up from 36 per cent to 50 per cent.
State elections have prevented me maintaining coverage of preselections over the past few weeks, so brace yourself as I open the floodgates. The impending retirement of Bob McMullan and Annette Ellis means Labor preselections are in train for Fraser and Canberra, which are to be decided on April 24 and as befits the two electorates which serve the nation’s capital, they are proving to be horrendously complicated.
Michael Cooney, former adviser to Mark Latham and Kim Beazley and current chief-of-staff to ACT Education Minister Andrew Barr, has withdrawn from the race to succeed Annette Ellis as Labor candidate for Canberra after initially being touted as the front-runner. In the ACT Legislative Assembly last week, Liberal MLA Vickie Dunne claimed to have been told by Labor front-bencher John Hargreaves that the Prime Minister was preparing to block Cooney’s ascenscion by having the national executive intervene, a story broadly corroborated by sources quoted in the Canberra Times. Dunne further claimed Hargreaves was willing to surrender his Assembly seat to Mick Gentleman, who lost his seat in the 2008 ACT election, in return for Left support for his wife’s bid for Canberra. If that was indeed in prospect, Cooney thwarted it by withdrawing from the race and throwing his support behind Mary Wood, an adviser to Housing Minister Tanya Plibersek. Wood duly defeated Jenny Hargreaves in a vote to choose Cooney’s successor as the endorsed candidate of the Centre Coalition faction, prompting Hargreaves to withdraw from the race as well. Such is the Centre Coalition’s strength in ACT branches that The Canberra Times now rates Wood the front-runner. Also in the field are Brendan Long, former staffer to Joel Fitzgibbon, and David Garner, former staffer to Simon Crean and Joe Ludwig, both of the Right; and former CFMEU official Louise Crossman, of the Left.
On Saturday, James Massola further reported party strategists were seeking a deal between the Centre Coalition and the Left in which Mary Wood would get Left backing, and the Centre Coalition would support the Left’s Nick Martin bid to succeed Bob McMullan in Fraser. This was to involve the withdrawal of Louise Crossman in Canberra and David Peebles in Fraser, although I’m informed the latter has in fact already done so. However, an attempt by the Left leadership to win the endorsement of its rank-and-file was defeated earlier this week by one vote, which according to a Canberra Times source resulted from concern that such a deal would unite all other factions against Martin, along with doubts the Centre Coalition would be able to retain a united front. A Left source told the paper there was a view the faction would be better off securing an arrangement with Gai Brodtmann, who has stitched together a cross-factional support base in her bid for Canberra. Other candidates for Fraser are University of New South Wales constitutional law maven George Williams, a member of the Right, and the non-aligned Andrew Leigh (professor of economics at the Australian National University), Michael Pilbrow, Chris Bourke, Philip Ironfield, Christina Ryan, Richard Niven, Mike Hettinger and Jim Jones.
But never mind Canberra. What’s going on in Queensland, you ask? Hell, what isn’t.
Queensland’s Liberal National Party has raised many an eyebrow by preselecting Wyatt Roy, a 19-year-old University of Queensland politics student, as its candidate for highly marginal Longman. According to Madonna King in the Courier-Mail, Roy won the local preselection vote over former Caboolture councillor Peter Flannery and local businessman Steve Attrill on the second ballot after 80-odd local selectors were impressed with his talking ability, and the decision was endorsed by the party’s state council on Saturday. Mal Brough, who was defeated by Labor’s Jon Sullivan in 2007, has told The Australian he finds it hard to see how a 19-year-old will connect with the electorate’s large component of veterans and seniors. According to a rumour published in Crikey, Roy’s preselection caused a division between McIver and state party treasurer Barry O’Sullivan, who has indicated he will withhold funds to the Longman campaign.
There’s a similar story in the Brisbane seat of Moreton, where Labor’s Graham Perrett unseated Gary Hardgrave in 2007 and holds a post-redistribution margin of 6.2 per cent. The Liberal National Party has nominated Michael Palmer, the 20-year-old son of mining not-quite-billionaire Clive Palmer, who ran in the safe Labor seat of Nudgee at last year’s state election.
Also confirmed as a Liberal National Party candidate is Ken O’Dowd, owner of Busteed Building Supplies in Gladstone and further described by the Central Queensland News as a racing identity, who will run against Labor’s Chris Trevor in Flynn.
The Liberal National Party has chosen John Humphreys, formerly a big wheel of the libertarian Liberal Democratic Party, to run against Kevin Rudd in Griffith. Labor has wasted no time in exploiting a comment he made last year calling for the age pension to be scrapped, naturally stripping it of its context: a speech delivered at the Festival of Dangerous Ideas in Sydney.
The status of Liberal member Michael Johnson’s endorsement in Ryan is currently on hold pending investigation of his expenditure records and fundraising activities. Peter Foley of the Queensland Times reports party sources are speculating Brisbane City councillor Jane Prentice could replace Mr Johnson if he is disendorsed. Labor’s preselection for the seat is a contest between Steven Miles and Martin Hanson, the former rated the favourite by Emma Chalmers of the Courier-Mail, despite backing for the latter from the Prime Minister’s Labor Unity faction.
In Bonner, the Liberal National Party is giving Ross Vasta a chance to recover the seat he lost to Labor’s Kerry Rae in 2007.
Labor’s national executive has installed three marginal seat candidates in what The Australian reported as a deal granting Herbert to the AWU sub-faction of the Right, Dawson to its rival Labor Unity sub-faction and Bowman to the Left. The respective candidates are former Townsville mayor Tony Mooney, who won the nod despite local support for councillor Jenny Hill; Whitsunday mayor Mike Brunker, who was picked over Julieanne Gilbert of the Queensland Teachers Union and finance industry worker Louise Mahony; and local businesswoman and mother of two Jenny Peters. The candidate for Bowman in 2007, Jason Young, reportedly lost his Left faction’s backing late last year due to his campaigning against the Bligh government’s asset sales in his capacity as an Electrical Trades Union organiser. Sean Parnell of The Australian reports Brunker faces the difficulty of a lengthy Crime and Misconduct Commission investigation over his links with property developers.
Bundaberg’s News-Mail newspaper reports Fraser Coast deputy mayor Belinda McNeven has been preselected unopposed as Labor candidate for Hinkler, which Paul Neville of the Nationals holds by a post-redistribution margin of 1.5 per cent. Sean Parnell of The Australian reported that Neville fought off unnamed vultures to retain Liberal National Party preselection, despite being 69 years old and suffering health problems.
Sean Parnell of The Australian reports Labor’s preselection candidates for the new Queensland seat of Wright, Andrew Ramsey of the Left and Sharon Murakami of Labor Unity, will face off in a local ballot on April 17.
Communications Electrical and Plumbing Union assistant secretary Kevin Harkins today announced he would seek Senate preselection. This causes a problem for the Prime Minister, who vetoed his preselection for Franklin before the 2007 election to avoid giving traction to Coalition scare campaigns about union heavies. It was reported at the time that the pill had been sugared with offers of an elevated union position, increased salary and a future Senate seat, but Kevin Rudd proclaimed last year that the chances of the latter transpiring were buckley’s and none. Harkin nonetheless retains the support of the Left faction for one of the two safe Labor Tasmanian Senate seats, with reports last year suggesting they could go to Helen Polley of the Right and either Harkins or Anne Urquhart of the Left. Incumbent Kerry O’Brien was reportedly set to face demotion to the loseable third position. Harkins was in the news a fortnight ago when it was alleged he had been paying for workers’ party memberships.
Susan Templeman has been officially preselected as Labor candidate Macquarie. Damien Madigan of the Blue Mountains Gazette reports her main rival, Blue Mountains mayor Adam Searle, withdrew before the March 20 local party ballot complaining a fair vote was not possible. Templeman’s only opponent was former policewoman Donna Ritchie, whom she defeated 84 votes to 34.
Ben Raue at The Tally Room reports Greens state party secretary Tony Hickey has been preselected for the state seat of Sydney, and former Marrickville mayor Sam Byrne has got the nod in Anthony Albanese’s federal seat of Grayndler.
Wayne Merton, Liberal member for the New South Wales state seat of Baulkham Hills, has announced he will not contest the next election. This looks set to unleash a second round of David Clarke-versus-Alex Hawke turf warfare, with one of the candidates being David Elliott, who last month attempted to topple Clarke from his upper house seat. The Clarke forces will either back Damien Tudehope, Australian Family Association spokesman, or Mike Thomas, deputy mayor of The Hills Shire. Elliott had earlier planned to contest the less attractive prospect of Riverstone, which Andrew Clennell of the Sydney Morning Herald reports now looms as a contest between Kevin Connolly, a Catholic Education Office project officer backed by David Clarke, and Nick Tyrell, a Blacktown councillor. Clennell also reports restaurateur Peter Doyle has won the backing of Peter Debnam to succeed him as member for Vaucluse at the next state election, and is likely to win further backing from Right powerbrokers Chris Hartcher and Mike Gallacher.
Menios Constantinou of the Wentworth Courier reports Bruce Notley-Smith won last weekend’s Liberal preselection for the New South Wales state seat of Coogee, held for Labor on a margin of 7.1 per cent, with 48 votes against 21 for David Shalhoub and three for Bruce Morrow. Edward Mandla and Justin Owen were late withdrawals.
The WA Nationals, no doubt flush with funds from the backing of aforementioned Queensland mining not-quite-billionaire Clive Palmer, are screening regional television ads to advance their cause at the federal election. These seem to me every bit as potent as the ones that powered their breakthrough at the state election. There’s this one for Senate candidate John McCourt, and this for Lynne Craigie, who will contest the new seat of Durack against the Liberal member for Kalgoorlie, Barry Haase.
I held off doing a post on yesterday’s unconvincing Morgan phone poll result in the hope they would give us a face-to-face poll this week, but either they’ve gone on Christmas break or are returning to their old pattern of combining results fortnightly. Yesterday’s effort was a phone poll from a sample of just 493 respondents, conducted on the back of a survey about climate change. The results were not unlike those of last week’s similarly dubious poll: Labor up a point to 42 per cent, the Coalition down 1.5 per cent to 41.5 per cent and the Greens down one to 9.5 per cent, with Labor’s two-party lead steady on 53-47.
Phoebe Stewart of the ABC reports Palmerston deputy mayor Natasha Griggs has been preselected as the Country Liberal Party candidate for Darwin-based Solomon, defeating three other candidates including Darwin City Council alderman Garry Lambert and Tourism Top End head Tony Clementson. Bob Gosford of The Northern Myth further writes that Bess Price, described by the Northern Territory News as an indigenous domestic violence campaigner, has nominated for CLP preselection in the territory’s other electorate, Lingiari. Price has the backing of Alison Anderson, Labor-turned-independent member for Macdonnell, and says she has always voted Labor in the past.
VexNews hears the NSW Liberals could dump Chris Spence as candidate for The Entrance early in the New Year. At issue is Spence’s comprehensive resume as a former One Nation activist: research officer to the party’s state upper house MP David Oldfield, federal candidate for Fraser in 1998, state candidate for Barwon in 2003, New South Wales state party secretary, national and state president of the youth wing Youth Nation, and ACT branch president and regional council chair.
Samantha Maiden of The Australian reports possible scenarios for federal intervention into the NSW Labor Party include replacing secretary Matthew Thistlethwaite with an administrator answerable to the federal executive, and stripping Joe Tripodi and Eddie Obeid of their preselection (respectively for Fairfield and the upper house).
Nick Minchin told ABC Television on Wednesday that it would be healthy for democracy if restrictions were placed on television election advertising to reduce the costs of campaigning.
The Labor national executive has endorsed Rob Mitchell for a second try at McEwen, to be vacated at the next election by retiring Liberal Fran Bailey. The court ruling in Mitchell’s unsuccessful legal challenge against the 2007 result saw his margin of defeat increased from 12 to 27.
Damien Madigan of the Blue Mountains Gazette reports the the state leadership change has inspired Labor’s national executive to delay its preselection decision for Macquarie, where Blue Mountains mayor Adam Searle is expected to be named successor to the retiring Bob Debus.
Reader Sacha Blumen points me to a Wentworth Courier article from a month ago (see page 22) naming two potential Labor candidates for Wentworth Paddington veterinarian Barry Nielsen and Darlinghurst barrister Phillip Boulten in addition to Stephen Lewis, described in last week’s edition as a Slater & Gordon lawyer, anti-high rise activist and members of the Jewish Board of Deputies. Former Australian Medical Association president Kerryn Phelps has also been mentioned in the past. This week the Courier reports the Greens have endorsed Matthew Robertson, a Darlinghurst-based legal researcher for the Refugee Advice and Casework Service.
Antony Green berates those of us who were examining the entrails of the booth by booth results to try and divine some patterns from Saturday’s by-elections, arguing such entrails are only interesting for what they tell us about how Labor voters react to the Greens as a political party. The conclusion is that Labor voters in the ritzier parts of Bradfield seem more likely to view the Greens as a left-wing alternative to Labor than Labor voters in less affluent areas. Antony has since conducted some entrail examination of his own to conclude that the resulting positive relationship between the two-party Liberal vote in 2007 and the Liberal swing at the by-election is unusual for urban electorates. My own post-mortem was published in Crikey on Monday.
The NSW Nationals have announced the state seat of Tamworth will be the laboratory for its open primary experiment, in which the party’s candidate will be chosen by a vote open to every person enrolled in the electorate. The naturally conservative seat is held by independent Peter Draper, having been in independent hands for all but two years since Tony Windsor (now the federal member for New England) won it in 1991.
Robert Taylor of The West Australian has written an action-packed column on Labor federal preselection matters in Western Australia. It commences thus:
On the surface, the WA Labor Party’s powerful state administrative committee looks to have a straightforward job next Monday when it meets to approve candidates in crucial seats for next year’s Federal election. In typical Labor fashion, three of the candidates for the most winnable Liberal seats of Swan, Cowan and Canning are unopposed, the backroom deals having already been done between the factional powerbrokers to obviate the need for a vote and all the inherent dangers that accompany them. In Durack, where there’s an outside chance of Labor rolling incumbent Barry Haase in the redrawn Kalgooorlie-based electorate, former State Geraldton Labor MP Shane Hill is also unopposed, but that’s because he was really the only one who wanted it badly enough. In Stirling, where Labor has a second to none chance of rolling incumbent Michael Keenan, something obviously went wrong because two people decided to nominate against the favourite Louise Durack, but an upset is highly unlikely.
So the administrative committee had very little to worry about until last Thursday when the Corruption and Crime Commission released its long-awaited report on goings-on at the City of Wanneroo, which handed a couple of misconduct findings to deputy mayor Sam Salpietro and fired a salvo across the bows of Wanneroo mayor Jon Kelly. The problem for Labor is that Mr Kelly is the party’s hope in the seat of Cowan, held by the Liberals Luke Simpkins with a thin 2.4 per cent margin. Labor sees a combination of the local mayor and Kevin Rudd as an irresistible combination in Cowan and had all but pencilled in the seat as a win before last week’s report. The CCC made it clear that in its opinion Mr Kelly was prepared to curry favour with former premier-turned-lobbyist Brian Burke in order to further his own political ambitions. Mr Kelly argued both at the commission and since the report came out that he did everything possible to distance himself from Mr Burke, but put bluntly the CCC just didn’t believe him – which must make the ALP’s administrative committee wonder whether the voters of Cowan will either.
Dennis Shanahan of The Australian has been in touch to point out an error in last week’s Newspoll post, which stated both Newspoll and the Nielsen poll were both conducted on the Friday and Saturday. Newspoll’s surveying in fact continued throughout Sunday, with The Australian releasing the result at the end of the day.
The past fortnight’s face-to-face Morgan polling has Labor’s two-party lead down from 60.5-39.5 to 58-42. Labor is down three points on the primary vote to 47.5 per cent, the Coalition is up 0.5 per cent to 34.5 per cent and the Greens are up one to 9.5 per cent. Apart from that:
There was a rumour he was eyeing Parramatta under a plan which would see the incumbent in that seat, Julie Owens, move to Greenway, a Liberal seat which is assuredly Labor thanks to the redistribution. For various reasons, that scenario is not going to fly. More solid is a plan, backed by Ferguson and his support group in the Left, for him to move to the western suburbs seat of Fowler. It is held by Julia Irwin but it is anticipated she will retire at the election. Irwin belongs to the Right but the Left controls the branches in Fowler and wants the seat back. Ferguson, however, faces resistance to getting any seat at all, and that includes from elements of his own faction. How do you think we would look in terms of renewal? said one powerbroker. Left kingmakers are leaning towards the Liverpool Mayor, Wendy Waller, for Fowler. The Right is pushing Ed Husic, who ran for Greenway in 2004 but was the victim of a race-hate letterbox campaign … Ultimately Rudd has the final say, a power the Opposition Leader, Malcolm Turnbull, could only dream of given the looming preselection fights among NSW Liberals. But it is a power that needs to be used wisely, sparingly and sensitively. Kevin should not be unfavourable to Laurie, warned a Ferguson friend, claiming Ferguson had helped Rudd win the leadership.
Very soon after the previous report appeared, it emerged the NSW Liberal Party was changing its rules to allow, as Imre Salusinszky of The Australian describes it, a three-quarter majority of the state executive to rapidly endorse a candidate on the recommendation of the state director and with the go-ahead of the state president and the party’s state and federal parliamentary leaders. The rules are ostensibly designed for by-elections or snap double dissolutions, but can essentially be used at the leaders’ pleasure. This places the party on a similar footing to Labor, whose national executive granted sweeping federal preselection powers to Kevin Rudd and five party powerbrokers earlier this year. The most obvious interpretation of the Liberal move is that it’s an attempt to stymie the influence of the hard right in party branches, and Salusinszky indeed reports the reform is expected to be opposed by a large part of the Right faction. However, the Labor parallel demonstrates it can equally be seen as part of a broader trend to centralisation necessitated by the ongoing decline in membership and resulting opportunities for branch-stacking.
From the previously cited Phillip Coorey article, Nathan Rees’s chief-of-staff Graeme Wedderburn is said to be assured of a winnable position on the Senate ticket at the next election: second if Steve Hutchins retires, third at the expense of incumbent Michael Forshaw if he doesn’t. Unless, of course, he can be persuaded to enter state politics, which is another option being floated.
Phillip Coorey of the Sydney Morning Herald (again) notes that South Australian Senator Cory Bernardi is causing angst by agreeing to appear at a hard-right fundraiser in Cook, where federal member Scott Morrison continues to battle the forces that initially delivered preselection to factional operative Michael Towke before the 2007 election.
The ABC reports that Tony Crook, Goldfields pastoralist and candidate for Kalgoorlie at the 2008 state election, has been recruited to stand as Nationals candidate against Wilson Tuckey in O’Connor. In response to a reader’s email, I recently had occasion to transpose the state election booth results on the new federal boundaries. In O’Connor, the Nationals would have polled 38.0 per cent to the Liberals’ 25.3 per cent and Labor’s 20.7 per cent. In Durack (successor to Barry Haase’s seat of Kalgoorlie), it was Labor 29.2 per cent, Liberal 29.7 per cent and Nationals 28.5 per cent. It should be noted that these numbers are heavily distorted by the presence of sitting Nationals members at state level, as well as the impact of state issues like Royalties for Regions and one-vote, one-value. The Nationals’ federal campaign in Western Australia will be bankrolled by litigious Queensland mining billionaire Clive Palmer, with the stated objective of gaining a Senate seat.
There is increasing talk that former NSW Opposition Leader Peter Debnam will vacate his seat of Vaucluse at the next election. He faces multiple preselection challenges in any case, the apparent front-runner being University of NSW deputy chancellor Gabrielle Upton. Local paper the Wentworth Courier has taken aim at Debnam with an article and accompanying vox pop on his parliamentary inactivity during the current term.
Sonia Byrnes of the Cooma-Monaro Express reports that Queanbeyan councillor John Barilaro will nominate for Nationals preselection in the state seat of Monaro, which the party has won the right to contest without challenge from the Liberals. Labor’s Steve Whan holds the seat by 6.3 per cent.
Ben Raue at The Tally Room reports that the South Australian Greens are conducting their preselection for the Legislative Council ticket at next year’s state election. The candidates are Carol Vincent, who as SA Farmers Federation chief executive offers an unusual pedigree for a Greens candidate; Tammy Jennings, one-time Democrat and current convenor of the state party; former convenor and unsuccessful 1997 lead candidate Paul Petit; and the apparently little-known Mark Andrew. At stake is a very likely seat for the first candidate, and an outside chance for the second.
The Sydney Morning Herald has carried a piece from NSW Liberal leader Barry O’Farrell outlining the party’s position on campaign finance reform: caps on spending extending to third parties, caps on donations and bans on donations from other than individual citizens, tighter regulation of lobbyists and extension of Independent Commission Against Corruption powers to cover the nexus between donations and government decisions.
Mumble man Peter Brent gives the once-over to the recent Essential Research survey on which leader is best equipped to handle issues of national importance, noting how much these questions are influenced by incumbency.
Courtesy of the latest Democratic Audit of Australia update:
Last month’s Audit seminar on campaign finance, Dollars and Democracy: How Best to Regulate Money in Australian Politics, will be the subject of tonight’s episode of The National Interest on Radio National from 6pm. A fortnight ago, Electoral Commissioner Ed Killesteyn appeared on the program discussing enrolment procedures and electoral boundaries.
The Audit’s submission to the Victorian Electoral Matters Committee inquiry into the Kororoit by-election gets it right on proposals to tighten laws on misleading campaign advertising, namely that the cure would be worse than the disease.
Brian Costar discusses campaign finance reform on Meet the Press.
The Queensland Government has published its green paper on a range of topics including political donations and fundraising, lobbying, whistleblowing and pecuniary interest registers.
Norm Kelly argues the merits of a ban on overseas donations in Australian Policy Online.
The latest weekly Roy Morgan face-to-face poll has Labor’s two-party lead unchanged at 61-39, although its primary vote is down 1.5 per cent to 51.5 per cent while the Coalition is unchanged on 33.5 per cent. The slack has been taken up by Family First and independent/others.
The Central Midlands & Coastal Advocate reports that Liberal Kalgoorlie MP Barry Haase has been making himself known in the areas of O’Connor which will be in the new seat of Durack under the radically redrawn boundaries. Despite being 75 years old, Wilson Tuckey has reportedly been taking an interest in the city of Kalgoorlie, which along with the southern coast from Albany to Esperance and areas of the South West will constitute the redrawn O’Connor.
Liberal National Party candidate Andrea Caltabiano is launching a challenge against her 74-vote defeat by Labor’s Steve Kilburn in Chatsworth at the March 21 Queensland election. Claimed irregularities include double voting, particularly by candidates who lodged absent votes, and voters being wrongly removed from the roll.
The Australasian Study of Parliament Group Queensland Chapter is holding a behind the scenes review of the Queensland 2009 State Election at the George Street parliamentary annexe from 6pm on Monday, Apirl 27. Star attractions are Antony Green, Treasurer Andrew Fraser, Keating government Attorney-General Michael Lavarch and Lawrence Springborg’s former chief-of-staff Paul Turner. RSVP by Monday to Erin Pasley, who can be reached at Erin-DOT-Paisley-AT-parliament-DOT-qld-DOT-gov-DOT-AU or on 3406 7931.
No, I haven’t forgotten the May 2 Tasmanian Legislative Council elections I will have a post up when I get time. In the meantime, Antony Green outlines the candidates.
NOTE: I am leaving open the previous thread for those who wish to continue the discussion, if that’s the right word, about asylum seekers, indigenous affairs, racism and the rest. This thread is for pretty much anything else.