What’s on in Queensland and Victoria (mostly)

No intentional theme here, Queensland and Victoria just happened to be where the action was in the second half of the opening week. With one notable exception:

Wentworth (NSW, Liberal 7.9%): Peter King revealed yesterday that he would indeed be standing against Malcolm Turnbull as an independent in the seat he has held for one term as a Liberal. King did well to make a big media event out of his announcement at Bondi Beach and spent the rest of the day hosing down talk that his decision could make the seat for winnable for Labor. At one point he said "the Labor Party knows it cannot win Wentworth and my independent polling shows it can’t win Wentworth – it’s simply scaremongering to suggest otherwise"; later, he said Labor would win Wentworth if he didn’t intervene and save it from them. King claimed on both occasions that his own polling backed him up, but did not provide details. If he was right the first time, expect Labor to run dead in the hope that King can overtake their candidate David Patch and ride over Turnbull on his preferences. However it’s more likely that Labor, and their candidate in particular, are rubbing their hands at the prospect of preference leakage from King combining with burgeoning support for the Greens and widespread anti-war sentiment in the fashionable beachside suburbs to wear down the Liberals’ substantial but by no means insurmountable margin.

Deakin (Vic, Liberal 1.6%) and La Trobe (Vic, Liberal 3.7%): The Bracks Government’s broken promise on tolls for the Mitcham-Frankston Freeway has been an unwelcome complication for Labor in an area described by the Australian Financial Review as "home to about a million people and a fair slab of Melbourne’s industry", not to mention a string of marginal seats. On Thursday, Mark Latham announced that the $420 million the Federal Government was withholding from the Mitcham-Frankston Freeway project due to the Victorian Government’s plan for tolls would instead be allocated to other road projects around Victoria. Michael Harvey of the Herald Sun argued that with federal Labor’s acceptance that the Bracks Government had made tolls inevitable, "any chance Labor had of winning the Ringwood-based seat of Deakin has all but gone", and "La Trobe, stretching from Lilydale to Berwick, moved that much further out of the frame". But it does allow Labor to argue that a Latham government would at least spend the federal money on Victorian roads. Expect eastern Victoria, home to the state’s only other concentration of marginal seats, to do well out of the allocation.

Ryan (Qld, Liberal 9.4%): Liberal member Michael Johnson maintained his habit of causing the Prime Minister trouble, vouching for the "character and integrity" of the man who claimed Senator George Brandis had called him a "lying rodent" whose "arse" needed "covering" over the children overboard affair. That man was Russell Galt, Johnson’s campaign treasurer for the 2001 election who had contentiously authorised repayment to Johnson of $10,000 for a campaign "loan" which others in the branch had understood to be a donation. Galt had received Johnson’s backing for preselection in the unloseable state Liberal seat of Moggill (all loseable state Liberal seats having been lost) and for his subsequent efforts to have his defeat overturned, first internally and then in the courts. It appears Johnson was subsequently persuaded that Galt wasn’t such a good chap after all, as he later said "I completely reject Mr Galt’s actions" and "I am very concerned about his motivation in making these allegations". Galt now faces explusion from the Liberal Party.

Dickson (Qld, Liberal 6.0%): This Brisbane seat looms higher on Labor’s hit list than the margin suggests, the 6 per cent swing from 2001 having been boosted by the unpopularity of defeated Labor member Cheryl Kernot. However, Scott Emerson of The Australian reported on Wednesday that "Liberal Party polling is understood to show Mr Dutton in a good position to hold the seat".

McMillan (Vic, notional Liberal 2.9%): Two days into the campaign the Government "raised the prospect" of using federal environment laws to block the controversial Bald Hills wind farm development on the Gippsland coast, approved by the Bracks Government against the wishes of the local council.

Author: William Bowe

William Bowe is a Perth-based election analyst and occasional teacher of political science. His blog, The Poll Bludger, has existed in one form or another since 2004, and is one of the most heavily trafficked websites on Australian politics.