A tale of four seats

Four new campaign updates for the ever-burgeoning House of Representatives guide. Once again, the action begins in the electorate of …

Wentworth (NSW, Liberal 7.9%): The Greens announced that the order of their preference recommendation would be Labor’s David Patch, followed by independent Peter King, and then Malcolm Turnbull. The importance of Greens preference allocations is often over-rated, since their voters overwhelmingly favour Labor over the Coalition regardless of what the card says. However, the party’s formal preference might influence Greens voters who were less clear on who they preferred out of Labor and Peter King. King obviously thought so, as he unsuccessfully courted the Greens with a series of environmental policy announcements he was in no danger of ever having to act upon. King now faces a greater struggle to achieve his aim of overhauling Labor and then securing victory over Turnbull with their preferences. On Tuesday, The Australian reported that "recent internal ALP polling" had Turnbull on 30 per cent, Patch on 27 per cent and King on 25 per cent. For Patch and King, these are identical results to those in an ACNielsen poll last week, but Turnbull is 4 per cent lower. Both suggest the split of King’s preferences will decide the outcome between Turnbull and Patch.

Fairfax (Qld, Liberal 9.5%): For the second time in less than a week, Labor candidate Ivan Molloy has been at the centre for a firestorm that knocked Labor "off-message" in an important phase in the campaign. On Tuesday the Courier Mail published a photo taken in the Philippines in 1983 that showed Molloy bearing a sub-machine gun and standing next to a similarly equipped local whom the Mail claimed to be a member of the Moro National Liberation Front, a Marxist rebel group with roots in the same soil as the troublesome Moro Islamic Liberation Front. Molloy seems to have conducted legitimate and indeed quite remarkable academic research through his penetration of this organisation, but it appears he sensed the subtleties of the matter were doomed to be lost and gave his party a questionable assurance that he had had no dealings with extremist Muslim organisations. The controversy prompted Mark Latham’s most embarrassing gaffe of the campaign when he confused his candidate with similarly named serial killer Ivan Milat, but most would have been impressed by his sure-footed recovery.

Greenway (NSW, Labor 3.2%): An article by Paul Sheehan in the Sydney Morning Herald on Monday took Labor candidate Ed Husic to task for his near-total media silence, specifically his persistent refusal to speak to either Sheehan or to the The Bulletin for an article it ran on Greenway earlier in the campaign. Sheehan contrasts this with the highly fancied Liberal candidate, Louise Markus, who promptly agreed to an hour-long interview as would be expected of a candidate who was taking her campaign seriously. Husic’s reticence is unusual given his background as PR flack for state-owned Integral Energy, but Sheehan reports that the real story behind his preselection was his background in "the Labor right faction which dominates the Communications Electrial and Plumbing Union", with whom Sheehan has had a troubled relationship.

Riverina (NSW, Nationals 19.9%): Nationals member Kay Hull has twice caused the Coalition embarrassment in the part fortnight. On Tuesday Hull said she would cross the floor to vote down the sale of Telstra if the numbers were such that her vote would prove decisive. Hull was one of a number of National Party MPs who publicly agonised over the party’s decision to fall in behind the Liberals on the Telstra sale legislation that came before the House last year and she eventually abstained from the vote after moving an amendment to have the matter put to a referendum, which failed to get a seconder. Last week Hull suggested that those who could afford to do so should be made to pay fees to send their children to public schools.

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.