Super Saturday: July 28

More than nine weeks to go until Super Saturday, following today’s surprise announcement by Speaker Tony Smith.

Speaker Tony Smith today surprised all comers by indicating the Super Saturday by-elections will not be held until July 28. The Australian Electoral Commission has reportedly asked for a delay to allow it to introduce a new system for candidates to prove they are not dual citizens – the substance of which is being facilitated by new regulations, which can be viewed here. However, it is not clear the delay needs to be quite that long, with school holidays invoked as another reason. Labor believes the government wants this date because it clashes with Labor’s national conference that weekend. In a committee hearing earlier today, Senator Penny Wong suggested to Electoral Commissioner Tom Rogers that the commission’s advice “looks partisan”. Links to my newly updated guides for each of the by-elections can be found on the sidebar.

Other relevant developments:

• The decision by the WA Liberal Party’s state executive to sit out the Perth by-election will be challenged by Senator Dean Smith at a meeting of the party’s state council on Saturday. Jim Grayden, whose father Bill Grayden was a veteran member for South Perth (state) and Swan (federal) as both a Liberal and an independent, will run as an independent liberal.

• The Liberal National Party’s candidate in Longman will be Trevor Ruthenberg, who held the state seat of Kallangur from 2012 to 2015 and is now chief executive of the Mosaic Property Group’s philanthropic foundation. Ruthenberg reportedly had a convincing win in the preselection vote over Jason Snow, disability support worker and candidate for Morayfield at the state election, and a local businessman.

• Ladbrokes has shortened the odds on a Liberal win in Mayo, bringing Georgina Downer in from $1.57 to $1.36, while Rebekha Sharkie is out from $2.37 to $2.75.

Then there’s the state by-election for Darling Range on June 23, my thread for which the other day found few takers. Labor’s newly anointed candidate, Colleen Yates, is off to a bad start, with claims she exaggerated her educational qualifications on her LinkedIn page reminding voters of the circumstances that brought the by-election about.

Ireland abortion referendum: May 25

On Friday, Ireland will vote on whether to repeal its restrictive abortion law. Yes leads in the polls, but there are likely to be shy No voters. Guest post by Adrian Beaumont.

Guest post by Adrian Beaumont, who joins us from time to time to provide commentary on elections internationally. Adrian’s work on electoral matters for The Conversation can be found here.

In 1983, Ireland voted by an emphatic 67% to 33% in favour of a constitutional amendment – the eighth amendment – that allowed abortion only if the mother’s life was in danger, including by suicide. Other than this exception, abortion within Ireland is a criminal offence. Irish women who want abortions need to travel to the United Kingdom.

On Friday, May 25, Ireland will hold a referendum to repeal the eighth amendment. If the referendum is passed, parliament will be able to legislate regarding abortion. A Department of Health policy paper proposes to allow abortion within the first twelve weeks of pregnancy; where there is a foetal condition likely to lead to death before or shortly after birth; or where there is a physical or mental threat to the mother’s health. These proposals are likely to be adopted by Parliament if the Yes vote wins the referendum.

There have been three polls with field work during May. Two of these polls gave Yes a lead of 28 to 29 points, and over 50% of the vote including undecided voters. The most worrisome poll for Yes supporters was an Ipsos poll that gave Yes just a 44% to 32% lead. There are likely to be shy No voters who say they are undecided in a referendum on social reform.

In 2015, Ireland approved same-sex marriage at a referendum by a 62% to 38% margin. However, the four final polls had a Yes vote averaging 71% on a two-answer basis, so they overstated the actual Yes vote by nine points, and the difference between Yes and No by 18 points. If we subtract 18 points from the Yes lead in the current Irish polls, Yes leads by 10-11 points in the stronger May polls, but No leads by six in Ipsos. It is likely that Yes will win the referendum, but not as likely as implied by looking at the raw Yes leads in the polls.

Polls in Ireland close at 10pm May 25 local time (7am May 26 Melbourne time). However, counting will not begin until 9am May 26 Irish time (6pm Melbourne time). I would expect final results by Sunday morning Melbourne time.

Essential Research: 51-49 to Labor

Essential’s two-party gap narrows to its lowest point in 18 months, despite Labor’s tax and budget policies being favoured over the Coalition’s.

We have an Essential Research poll for the third week in a row, last week’s post-budget poll having been additional to the normal fortnightly cycle, rather than an adjustment. The result is the Coalition’s best from Essential since November 2016, with the Labor lead down to 51-49 from 52-48 last week, and 53-47 the week before. Primary votes will be with us when the full report is published later today. UPDATE: Full report here. The Coalition is up two to 40%, Labor is steady on 36%, the Greens are steady on 10% and One Nation are up a point to 8%.

This is despite a range of results on tax and budget matters that are uniformly favourable for Labor and/or unfavourable for the Coalition. As reported by The Guardian, the poll finds Labor’s income tax policy favoured over the Coalition’s by 45% to 33%, and 44% favouring Labor’s “increasing spending on health and education while giving a tax cut to low and middle-income earners”, over “the Coalition’s approach, which is to give both companies and workers a tax cut”. Sixty per cent said they did not want company tax cuts to proceed; 50% supported Labor’s proposed tightening of negative gearing, with 24% opposed; and 42% supported Labor’s dividend imputation policy, with 27% opposed. However, the two parties were tied at 32% on the question of best party to manage a fair tax system, with 22% saying it made no difference.

The funding cut to the ABC was supported by 35% and opposed by 45%, and 36% supported the cut to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, with 39% opposed. Questions on a republic found 48% supportive and 30% opposed, with 65% favouring direct election of a head of state compared with just 9% for “a governor-general style appointment by the prime minister of the day”, and 12% for appointment by a two-thirds majority of a joint sitting of parliament.

Also note the post for the Western Australia’s Darling Range by-election immediately below this one.

Darling Range by-election: June 23

A date is set and the main starters confirmed for the challenging by-election faced by Western Australia’s McGowan Labor government.

While we remain in suspense as to the timing of the federal by-elections, which appear likely to be held on either June 30 or July 7, we at least have a date for the Darling Range state by-election in Western Australia, for which a date of June 23 was confirmed on Friday. The major party candidates are now in place, with Labor last night endorsing Colleen Yates, former chief executive of Regional Development Australia Perth. The Liberal candidate is Alyssa Hayden, who held a Legislative Council seat in East Metropolitan region from 2008 to 2017, when she unexpectedly lost her seat to One Nation. Hayden reportedly had a narrow victory in the local preselection over Rob Coales, police sergeant and Serpentine-Jarrahdale councillor. Her backers included Christian Porter and Ken Wyatt, while Coales had the support of Tony Simpson, who held the seat for the Liberals until his defeat by outgoing Labor member Barry Urban last year. Nathan Hondros of Fairfax reports the party’s state council may have insisted on Hayden even if she lost the vote. The Poll Bludger’s guide to the by-election may be viewed here.

BludgerTrack: 51.9-48.1 to Labor

No change in voting intention, but Malcolm Turnbull’s approval rating is at its strongest in nearly two years.

The post-budget poll flurry prompted much confusion, amid divergent headline figures from Newspoll and Ipsos (more on that from me in a paywalled Crikey article), but it has made no difference to the two-party preferred reading from BludgerTrack. What has changed is the seat projection, which is entirely down to the Queensland-only Galaxy poll, which has boosted the Coalition by 2.9% and three seats in that state. Labor also loses one of its two gains from a quirky result in Victoria last week.

The other notable movement this week is the upswing in Malcolm Turnbull’s personal ratings, as recorded by both Newspoll and Ipsos. Turnbull’s net approval reading on BludgerTrack is up 6.0% to minus 13.9%, returning him to around where he was at the time of the last election. Bill Shorten is more or less unchanged, and Turnbull’s improvement on preferred prime minister is a relatively modest 2.9%, putting his margin over Shorten at 11.5%. Full results from the link below:

By-elections, preselections and Section 44

A round-up of the latest news on by-election and related fronts.

A little extra polling:

• The Australian on Tuesday provided an extra finding from the weekend Newspoll: that opposition to reforming Section 44 has hardened since August, when Barnaby Joyce’s difficulty first emerged. Fifty-one per cent now believe dual citizens should be disqualified from parliament, up seven, with 38% opposed, down five. Forty-six per cent opposed a referendum being held on the matter, with 43% in support.

By-election latest:

• Western Australia’s Darling Range state by-election will be held on June 23. Nathan Hondros of Fairfax reports the Liberal preselection, which will be determined by the party’s state council on Saturday, will be contested by Alyssa Hayden, who unexpectedly lost her upper house seat for East Metropolitan region to One Nation in 2017, and Rob Coales, a police sergeant and Serpentine-Jarrahdale councillor. The early mail was that Coales was favourite, but according to Hondros, it is “understood party powerbrokers are supporting Ms Hayden”.

David Crowe of Fairfax reports the date for the Super Saturday by-elections could be pushed back to July 7, as the government looks at an Australian Electoral Commission recommendation to implement an online tool for candidates to lodge declarations and supporting documentation, so as to avoid further issues arising from Section 44. This had caused initial plans for a date of June 16 to be scotched, although concerns linger about the electoral impact of an eight-week campaign.

• Speaking of, Michael McKenna of The Australian reports the Liberal National Party preselection for Longman is being held off until next Tuesday to ensure frontrunner Trevor Ruthenberg was able to clear up his own Section 44 issue, arising from his being born in Papua New Guinea.

• Georgia Downer has emerged unopposed for Liberal preselection in Mayo. The Australian reports “ambitious conservative” Michael van Dissel was another potential nominee, but withdrew as it became clear the Right was solid behind Downer. In contrast to the Liberals in WA, Labor will be contested Mayo, despite never having held hte saet before. A Labor source quoted by Philip Coorey said the party believed its preferences could assist Rebekha Sharkie, and that failing to run would suppress the party’s Senate vote at the next election.

• Braddon will again be contested for the Liberals by Brett Whiteley, who held the seat from 2013 until his defeat by Labor’s Justine Keay in 2016, and served in the state seat of Braddon from 2002 until his defeat in 2010. The Burnie Advocate reports former McDonald’s licensee Craig Brakey and Wynyard RSL president Gavin Pearce also contested the state executive vote, but Whiteley was chosen unanimously.

• The Western Australian Liberals’ decision to forfeit the Perth by-election, said to have been instigated by Matthias Cormann, has been widely criticised in the party. Following Tim Hammond’s resignation announcement on May 1, Christian Porter told Sky News Australia the party would “undoubtedly” run, and state Opposition Leader Mike Nahan, who had mocked Labor’s unsurprising decision not to field a candidate in the recent by-election for Colin Barnett’s old seat of Cottesloe, said the by-election was “one we need to contest”.

• The Western Australian Greens have announced their by-elections candidates: Caroline Perks, senior sustainability officer at the City of Perth, in Perth; and Dorinda Cox, domestic violence campaigner and former police officer, in Fremantle.

Other preselection news:

• Jane Prentice’s preselection defeat in her Brisbane seat of Ryan has roused controversy over the lack of gender balance in the Coalition. The winner was Julian Simmonds, a Brisbane councillor who once worked on Prentice’s staff when she herself was on council. Simmons, who is identified with the Right, won a local party ballot by 256 votes to 103 over Prentice, a moderate and early backer of Malcolm Turnbull. Charlie Peel of The Australian reports the vote was “roughly split along traditional party lines, with Nationals backing Ms Prentice”. Critics of the decision include Campbell Newman, Leichhardt MP Warren Entsch and Capricornia MP Michelle Landry.

Jared Owens of The Australian reports Ian Macdonald and Barry O’Sullivan, who respectively hold Queensland Senate seats for the Liberals and the Nationals, face preselection challenges from Scott Emerson, the former state Shadow Treasurer who lost his seat of Maiwar to the Greens last November, and Susan McDonald, managing director of a chain of butcher’s shops and a member of “one of Queensland’s grazing families”.

• Michael Owen of The Australian reports on a “strong challenge” for Liberal Senate preselection in South Australia from Alex Antic, an Adelaide councillor. This apparently poses a threat to another female Liberal MP, Anne Ruston, who might otherwise be expected to lead the ticket, but not to the mooted number two candidate, David Fawcett. It might also endanger Lucy Gichuhi’s hold on number three, long shot proposition though that may be.