Miscellany: by-elections latest (open thread)

Major party starters in place for Fadden, a date set for Rockingham, and nine candidates emerge for Liberal preselection in Warrandyte.

News to report on the three by-elections presently in view – one federal and two state, two with dates confirmed and one to be announced:

• The Liberal National Party candidate for the Fadden by-election on July 15 will be long-serving Gold Coast councillor Cameron Caldwell, who won a final round vote of 153 preselectors over Dinesh Palipana, with Fran Ward, Owen Caterer and Craig Hobart falling by the wayside in earlier rounds. Lydia Lynch of The Australian reports a meeting of Labor’s administrative committee last Friday unanimously endorsed Letitia Del Fabbro, a nurse educator who was also the candidate at the May 2022 election.

• Nine candidates have nominated for Liberal preselection in Warrandyte, expected to be held in about a fortnight, controversial former Kew MP Tim Smith not being among them. As reported by Rachel Baxendale in The Australian, they are John Roskam, former executive director of the Institute of Public Affairs; Sarah Overton, KPMG director; Nicole Ta-Ei Werner, who ran in Box Hill at the November state election; Jason McClintock, a tech business founder who ran in Eltham (and who donated heavily to the party’s state election campaign); David Farrelly, who ran in Pakenham; Jemma Townson, “energy industry communications director and former Matthew Guy and Katie Allen staffer”; Antonietta di Cosmo, 22-year-old “Ryan Smith staffer, champion rower and law student”; Allison Troth, “cancer campaigner and former John Howard staffer”; and Andrew Conlon, “Manningham councillor and maths teacher”. The report says factional conservatives are likely to back Roskam or Werner, while “an opposing factional grouping that coalesces around powerbrokers Frank Greenstein and Holly Byrne” might support Overton, McClintock or Townson.

• The Rockingham by-election to replace Mark McGowan has been set for July 29. The West Australian reports that Labor’s candidate will likely be Magenta Marshall, who has won backing from the Right, despite last week saying she was “not sure it’s my time”. Marshall is in her late twenties and works in a “specialised campaigning role” in party headquarters, having previously been an electorate officer to Balcatta MP David Michael.

Newspoll: 55-45 to Labor (open thread)

Business as usual on voting intention from Newspoll, but a question on the Indigenous Voice finds yes with its nose barely in front.

The Australian reports the latest Newspoll has Labor maintaining its 55-45 two-party lead from the post-budget poll three weeks ago, from primary votes of Labor 38% (steady), Coalition 34% (steady), Greens 12% (up one), One Nation 6% (down one). The reports says Anthony Albanese is down two on approval to 55% while Peter Dutton is steady on 36%, with disapproval ratings not yet provided (UPDATE: down one to 37% for Albanese, down one to 50% for Dutton). Albanese’s lead as preferred prime minister shifts from 56-29 to 55-28.

The poll provides further evidence for a deterioration in support for the Indigenous voice, with 46% in favour and 43% opposed, in response to a question based on that to be put at the referendum. The poll was conducted Wednesday to Saturday from a sample of 1549.

Utting Research: 61-39 to Labor in Western Australia

The first Western Australian state poll of any kind since the March 2021 election finds that even without the McGowan factor, Labor’s primary vote still has a five in front of it.

The West Australian has results from a poll it commissioned from Utting Research on Wednesday, which is the first voting intention poll from the state since the March 2021 election. It inevitably finds Labor coming down from its 69.7-30.3 win on two-party preferred at the election, but not by so much as to offer it serious discouragement, with a government now led by Roger Cook holding a lead of 61-39. The primary votes are Labor 52% (59.9% at the election), Liberal 28% (21.3%), Nationals 5% (4.0%) and Greens 8% (6.9%).

Leadership ratings were gauged for Roger Cook, Mark McGowan and Liberal leader Libby Mettam – the formal mantle of Opposition Leader in fact belongs to Nationals leader Shane Love, whose party holds four lower house seats to the Liberals’ two, although there have been negotiations to transfer the role to Mettam before the next election is held. Cook holds an approval rating of 42% and a disapproval rating of 26%, while Mettam registers 31% approval and 33% disapproval, with McGowan towering above both at 68% and 19%. Cook leads Mettam as preferred premier by 50-24. The poll had a sample of 800, and I assume was conducted by automated phone polling.

What follows is a wrap-up of electorally relevant state political news from the last few months. So far as the Rockingham by-election is concerned, I know of nothing to add from the previous post.

Josh Zimmerman of The West Australian reported in March that Bill Johnston, whose formidable portfolio load encompasses mines, energy, industrial relations and corrective services, was considered likely to retire at the next election by “multiple sources within the WA Labor Party”. That would create a vacancy in his eastern suburbs seat of Cannington, which is safe for Labor at the worst of times and presently held on a margin of 30.4%.

Joe Spagnolo of The Sunday Times reports that former Liberal leader and Dawesville MP Zak Kirkup says his favoured seat for a political comeback would be Churchlands, where he presently resides, but which has been associated with the ambitions of Perth Lord Mayor Basil Zempilas. However, Kirkup also allows that South Perth would “sit quite well”, with Spagnolo’s sources saying Zempilas would be favoured in a preselection contest.

Josh Zimmerman of The West Australian reported in April that David Honey “appears certain” to face a preselection challenge in Cottesloe, with “a growing belief that he would be dumped”. Property Council executive director Sandra Brewer, who sought preselection to succeed Colin Barnett in the seat in 2018, was rated a possible starter.

Josh Zimmerman of The West Australian reports Liberal MLC Nick Goiran, whose factional activities as a figurehead of “the Clan” have been under intense scrutiny, remains determined to run again at the 2025 election.

Miscellany: by-elections left and right (open thread)

As the major parties move forward with candidate selection for Fadden, state by-elections now loom in Victoria and Western Australia.

There are now three by-elections in the pipeline, one federal and two state:

• The Gold Coast Bulletin reports a Liberal National Party preselection vote for the July 25 Fadden by-election this weekend has attracted five candidates: the reputed front-runner, Cameron Caldwell; two widely noted rivals with strong support in Dinesh Palipana and Fran Ward; and apparent dark horses in Owen Caterer, who boasts “a long career in wealth management” including a decade working in China, and Craig Hobart. Labor is now committed to fielding a candidate, after earlier reports that Anthony Albanese would prefer to forfeit, with David Crowe of the Age/Herald reporting that the candidate from 2022, Letitia Del Fabbro, was “seen as the leading contender”.

• In Victoria, Liberal MP Ryan Smith announced his resignation on Wednesday, initiating a by-election in his eastern suburbs seat of Warrandyte, which he retained at the November election by 4.2% with a slight favourable swing. This has yielded the stimulating possibility of a return to politics for Tim Smith, who tested over double the legal blood alcohol limit in 2021 after crashing his car into the side of a house in Hawthorn, and abandoned his seat of Kew at the election. Smith had won favour with conservatives for the vehemence of his attacks on Daniel Andrews during the Melbourne lockdowns, and has presumably continued to do so as a regular on Sky News. His comments professing an interest in the seat were implicitly critical of party leader John Pesutto, who says he would “very much like to see a woman in amongst the candidates”. Between reports in The Age and The Guardian, five such are mentioned: Caroline Inge, one of the party’s federal vice-presidents and a “former staffer and political ally” of Smith; Sarah Overton, a director at KPMG; Michelle Kleinert, a Manningham councillor; Nicole Werner, a former Pentecostal pastor who ran at the election in Box Hill; and Ranjana Srivastava, an oncologist who was recently fortunate to be overlooked for the Aston preselection. The Guardian reports the by-election is “expected to be held between 5 August and 30 September”.

The West Australian reports three Labor preselection candidates have emerged as potential successors to Mark McGowan in his surely unloseable southern Perth seat of Rockingham. These are Matt Dixon, who was the party’s state secretary in 2018 and 2019, and has more recently been a staffer to Stephen Dawson, Emergency Services Minister and a prominent figure in the AMWU sub-faction of the Left; Clem Chan, state president of the United Professional Firefighters Union; and Magenta Marshall, a locally based party official. However, there is said to be concern that Dixon’s candidacy would be “a distraction” due to the circumstances of his departure as state secretary, which followed controversy over the use of funds raised by state parliamentarians on the 2019 federal campaign, and Marshall is quoted saying she is “not sure it’s my time”. Electoral commissioner Robert Kennedy tells The West Australian the by-election is likely to be in late June or July.

Also of note:

• Maria Kovacic, who stood aside as the party’s state president to contest the preselection, won a Liberal Party ballot on the weekend to fill the late Jim Molan’s New South Wales Senate vacancy. Kovacic prevailed in the final round over Andrew Constance, former state government minister and unsuccessful candidate for Gilmore at last year’s election, by 287 votes to 243. Kovacic’s win means a seat formerly held by a factional conservative now goes to a moderate. Constance, who is also a moderate, gained some support from conservatives by promising to abandon the seat at the next federal election for another run in Gilmore, which is still considered likely to do. Anthony Galloway of the Sydney Morning Herald reports the seat would likely have stayed with the right if Dallas McInerney, chief executive of Catholic Schools NSW, had nominated, but in the event the only right nominee was Jess Collins, who narrowly failed to make the final round. Earlier exclusions were Space Industry Association chief executive James Brown, former Lindsay MP Fiona Scott and Shepherd Centre executive David Brady.

• An analysis by former Labor Senator John Black of Australian Development Strategies in the Financial Review identifies Labor’s targets to regain lost primary votes as working families on $100,000 to $150,000 a year, “digitally disrupted families” on $50,000 to $100,000, parents with children at state schools, and Christians who have supported Labor only under the leadership of Kevin Rudd; and the Coalition’s as white migrants, defectors in the teal seats, professional women on more than $150,000 a year, and professionals and the 35-to-50 age cohort.

Rhianna Down of The Australian reports Anthony Albanese told colleagues on Tuesday that Labor’s target Liberal-held seats for the next election are Canning, Moore, Bass, Braddon, Banks, Menzies and Sturt, though presumably hopes for the first two have taken a knock with Mark McGowan’s resignation.

Charlotte Varcoe of Border Watch reports Liberal MP Tony Pasin won a preselection ballot for his South Australian seat of Barker with 284 votes against 58 for Katherine McBride, who owns grazing property with husband Nick McBride, the state member for MacKillop.

US debt limit deal: passage through Congress

Will Congress pass the debt limit deal before next Monday’s deadline? Also covered: it’s not looking good for the left in either New Zealand or Spain.

2:29pm The Senate’s roll call vote is now available. There’s no party summary, but just five of the 36 Nays came from Dems. So Dems (including three indies who usually caucus with them) voted in favour by 46-5, while Reps were opposed by 31-17. One Rep missed the vote. So 90% of Senate Dems but just 35% of Senate Reps were in favour of this debt limit deal. That’s much worse for McCarthy than the House vote.

2:11pm The bill has passed the Senate by a 63-36 margin, and now heads to Biden’s desk for his signature. And that’s the end of the 2023 debt limit crisis.

11:42am Friday It looks as if the US Senate could vote for final passage of the debt limit bill about 2pm AEST today (midnight US eastern). Senate leaders have told their colleagues there’s no time for the Senate’s usual delays.

3:57pm There was some drama, with 52 Dems voting for the rule that set the parameters for the debate on the debt limit bill. It’s very unusual for the minority party to give the majority any support on rule votes, but they had to or the rule would have failed owing to 29 Rep defections. The rule passed by 241-187, and there’s speculation a deal was cut between McCarthy and Dem House leader Hakeem Jeffries.

12:15pm The full roll call is now available. Reps voted in favour by 149-71, a 68% “yes” vote, and Dems by 165-46, a 78% “yes” vote. The overall “yes” percentage was 73%. Four missed the vote: two Reps and two Dems.

11:33am Thursday In the end there was no late drama regarding McCarthy’s speakership in the House, and the debt limit compromise bill has been passed by the House by a 314 to 117 margin.

Guest post by Adrian Beaumont, who joins us from time to time to provide commentary on elections internationally. Adrian is a paid election analyst for The Conversation. His work for The Conversation can be found here, and his own website is here.

The US House of Representatives, where Republicans hold a 222-213 majority, is expected to vote on the debt limit compromise bill Thursday morning AEST. If this vote is held, I expect it will pass easily as the bill is only being criticized by the right, and Democratic support will make up for Republican defections.

There are two ways right-wing Republicans could derail this vote, both involving the ousting of Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. First, they could attempt to show that McCarthy no longer has the confidence of a majority of House Republicans. Second, they could initiate a “motion to vacate” to the full House. Democrats would then be in the odd position of needing to vote to save McCarthy. If McCarthy were ousted, the House could not consider other business until a new Speaker was elected.

Cooperating with the opposition on a no-confidence vote is much harder in a parliamentary system, as, if it succeeds, the most likely outcome is a new election, not a more right-wing leader. But neither chamber of the US Congress can be dissolved early.

If the bill passes the House, it must still be approved by the Senate, where Democrats hold a 51-49 majority. The Senate can only act quickly if unanimous consent is provided. If even one of the 100 senators is bloody-minded enough to deny unanimous consent to every motion, it will cause major delays. This US ABC article says it could take a week to pass the Senate, and names Republican Mike Lee as someone who could deny unanimous consent. If that occurred, the Senate would not pass the bill until after next Monday’s deadline.

From a tactical perspective, I believe the right’s anger with McCarthy is justified. Democrats made a major blunder by not lifting the debt limit while they still held control of the presidency, House and Senate prior to January 3 this year. As I related on the previous debt limit thread, national polls showed support for spending cuts, that there was little difference in who voters would blame for a default, and that Joe Biden’s ratings were falling.

This was a massive opportunity for McCarthy to force a much worse deal on Biden that would have distressed the left. Instead he let Democrats off the hook for their earlier blunder. In the end, McCarthy was more like a pussycat than a tiger.

If Biden had been forced to agree to an ugly deal, he could have faced a primary challenge to his nomination from the left. As it is, Biden is virtually assured of renomination as the Democratic 2024 presidential candidate.

NZ polls suggest right-wing coalition ahead with election in October

The New Zealand election will be held on October 14. The 120 MPs are elected by proportional representation with a 5% threshold that is waived if a party wins a single-member electorate.

Most polls now have a possible right-wing coalition of National and ACT ahead of Labour (governing) and the Greens, although the gap is close enough in some polls that the Māori party could be decisive (they are likely to win at least one of the seven electorates for those on the Māori roll).

The Kantar Public poll that was taken after the May 18 budget was particularly good for the right, giving National and ACT a 48-42 lead over Labour and the Greens. The last Kantar poll in March had given Labour and the Greens a 47-45 lead.

Spanish election called for July 23 after poor regional results for left

Twelve Spanish regional elections were held last Sunday. The conservative People’s Party (PP) won control of eight regions, the centre-left Socialists two and two are unclear. PP made a total of six gains in control since 2019, five from the Socialists and one from regionalists. There were large vote share increases for PP and the far-right Vox. After these elections, the incumbent Socialist national government announced a national election for July 23, about four months early. Current polling and these regional elections indicate that Spain is likely to be another major European country after Italy last year to fall to the right.

Polls: Essential Research and Roy Morgan on voting intention, housing and Indigenous Voice (open thread)

More stable results on federal voting intention, and the first Indigenous Voice poll in a while that doesn’t suggest falling support.

The fortnightly federal voting intention numbers from Essential Research, inclusive of an unchanged 5% undecided component, have Labor down a point to 34%, the Coalition steady on 31%, the Greens up one to 15%, One Nation up one to 6% and the United Australia Party on one to 2%. The pollster’s 2PP+ measure has Labor down one to 52%, the Coalition up one to 43% and undecided steady on 5%.

The poll also included questions on the housing system, which only 13% rated as good for renters along with 12% for future generations, respectively compared with 63% and 59% for bad. The system was deemed most favourable for existing home owners (43% good, 20% bad) and residential property investors (37% good, 27% for bad). The Housing Australia Future Fund, which respondents were told “aims to invest $10 billion and spend the earnings on building 30,000 affordable homes over the next five years”, was considered too much investment by 9%, too little by 30% and about right by 41%.

Questions on negative gearing found 36% support for its abolition with 25% opposed, widening to 49% and 17% for a limitation to one investment property. Majority support was recorded for all of five proposed reforms that did not involve tax, restrictions on foreign investment (69% supportive, 12% opposed), rental freezes (60% and 17%) and migration caps (60% and 15%) more so than allowing super to be accessed (56% and 20%). The poll was conducted Wednesday to Sunday from a sample of 1138.

Also out today was an SMS poll from Roy Morgan on the Indigenous Voice, which found 46% saying they would vote yes in a referendum, unchanged on mid-April, with opposition down three to 36%. Yes led in New South Wales (48% to 38%), Victoria (47% to 32%), Western Australia (41% to 35%) and South Australia (47% to 32%), but not Queensland (39% to 46%). The poll was conducted Friday to Monday from a sample of 1833.

The pollster’s weekly federal voting intention results, conducted separately online and by phone from Monday to Sunday, have Labor’s two-party lead unchanged at 55.5-44.5 from primary votes of Labor 36%, Coalition 33.5% and Greens 11.5%. There was also an SMS poll of state voting intention in Victoria last week that had Labor leading 61.5-38.5, conducted from a sample of 2095 from May 17 to 22.

Mark McGowan resigns

Australia’s most popular political leader unexpectedly calls it a day.

Tuesday update

Roger Cook, who has served as Labor’s deputy leader ever since he first entered parliament in 2008, and as Deputy Premier since the government came to power in 2017, has emerged from a day of factional manoeuvring as the winner by acclamation of the party room. This was despite the parliamentary membership of the sub-faction associated with the United Workers Union, which dominates the Left and claims Cook among its number, voting 17 to 11 yesterday to favour the alternative claim of Health Minister Amber-Jade Sanderson. However, Cook was then able to gain the support of the other major Left union, the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, after entering a unity ticket with Rita Saffioti, who abandoned her own pitch for the leadership in a deal that will secure her the deputy leadership and, The West Australian reports, the Treasury portfolio. The Right faction will reportedly complete the formality of backing Cook at a meeting tomorrow. A contested race would have required a ballot of the membership, which the party hierarchy was keen to avoid as it would have taken four weeks to conduct.

Original post

Mark McGowan has announced his unexpected departure from politics, having been Premier of Western Australia since 2017 and led Labor to what was by some distance the most sweeping election victory ever recorded in Australia in 2021, professing himself “exhausted”. As well as a initiating a by-election in his seat of Rockingham, which should be purely a formality for Labor, it also leaves open the question of the next Premier – The West Australian reports this “will either be Deputy Premier Roger Cook or Health Minister Amber-Jade Sanderson”.

UPDATE: The West Australian has a piece on potential successors that further includes Transport and Planning Minister Rita Saffioti, who I would have assumed to be a contender.

Miscellany: Fadden by-election, Liberal and Greens candidate selection (open thread)

A date set for the Fadden by-election, and an LNP candidate soon to be as well — along with a Liberal successor to the late Jim Molan in the Senate.

Before we proceed to a brief summary of electorally relevant current events in federal politics, please note the other quality content that it’s pushing down the order: a guest post from Adrian Beaumont on the threat of US debt default and other international events, a post on a Tasmanian poll with a summary of recent events in that state, and a detailed analysis of results from last year’s federal election in thirteen seats in inner Melbourne.

• The Fadden by-election has been set for July 25, with nominations to close on June 23. As was covered in the previous post, a Liberal National Party preselection that has attracted five nominees will be conducted today. Phillip Coorey of the Financial Review reports that Anthony Albanese would rather Labor forfeit the by-election for a seat the LNP holds on a 10.6% margin, but must reckon with a local branch “agitating to run a candidate”.

• The New South Wales Liberal Party will hold its preselection this weekend to fill the Senate vacancy resulting from the death of Jim Molan in January. The field have candidates has narrowed to three: former state Transport Minister Andrew Constance, former state party president Maria Kovacic and Space Industry Association chief executive James Brown. The Sydney Morning Herald reports the latter has a long list of high-profile backers including John Howard, Julie Bishop and Dave Sharma.

• The Byron Shire Echo reports comedian Mandy Nolan will again run as the Greens candidate for the Byron Bay and Tweed Heads region seat of Richmond at the next federal election. Nolan added 5.0% to the party’s primary vote share last May to outpoll the Nationals, although preferences from right-wing minor parties pushed the Nationals candidate ahead of her at the final exclusion.