The by-election gazette #5

In New South Wales, the Iemma Government has used the opportunity of Labor’s defeats in Queensland to talk up the swings they will suffer at the triple-M by-elections, now set for September 17 (the same day as the New Zealand election). State secretary Mark Arbib added substance to the argument by telling the Sydney Morning Herald that "the last election was a high water mark in seats like Macquarie Fields and Maroubra" – although there was in fact a slight swing away from Labor in Macquarie Fields. A Liberal source quoted in the article may have hit the mark when he or she said Labor wanted to "sucker-punch us into running in all three". Cutting across all such speculation is Morris Iemma’s surprisingly positive Newspoll debut this week. The poll was full of surprises, most of them pleasant for Labor – their vote was up 37 per cent to 39 per cent on primary and 49 per cent to 50 per cent on two-party preferred, and Morris Iemma’s approval rating of 43 per cent was higher than anything recorded by Bob Carr in recent memory.

Maroubra (Labor 23.5%): The exciting tussle for Labor preselection comes to a climax tomorrow, an event with far higher stakes than the Liberal-free rubber-stamp by-election. Labor has been engulfed in disputes over the eligibility of preselectors, with Bob Carr himself being disqualified due to his branch meeting attendance record. Most of the fuss relates to the eligibility of the party’s Maroubra South branch, said to favour candidate Penny Wright. Wright is associated with the NSW party’s Catholic tendency, whose chief powerbroker Johnno Johnson (a former MLC) wields great influence in the Maroubra branches. Outsider candidate Anthony Andrews has questioned the validity of no fewer than 150 out of 267 preselectors, while Wright has disputed eight. Few reckon Andrews a serious chance, but if upheld his challenges would aid fellow Randwick councillors Chris Bastic, who has been widely rated a favourite, and Michael Daley, who hasn’t been. Lest it be concluded that he is acting as their stalking horse, Menios Constantinou of the Southern Courier reports that Andrews has also challenged members of Bastic’s and Daley’s families. Labor’s credentials committee has been grinding through the challenges since Tuesday; this morning’s Daily Telegraph reports that just five of nearly 170 complaints processed have been upheld, suggesting the Maroubra South branch has emerged unscathed and that Wright has the whip hand.

Marrickville (Labor 10.7% vs Greens): The Liberals are getting a surprisingly hard time in the media over their failure to field candidates in Marrickville and Maroubra, with the Daily Telegraph going in particularly hard against John Brogden. Today the paper took his statement that Liberal supporters should "vote against the Labor party" to indicate support for the Greens (whose "less known" policies include "decriminalising drugs and legalising marriages for same-sex couples") and "other fringe parties".

Macquarie Fields (Labor 22.5%): Last Monday Crikey reported that the Liberals would nominate one of the "whistleblower nurses" who troubled Craig Knowles during the Camden and Campbelltown hospital controversies. So it has proved with yesterday’s unveiling of candidate Nola Fraser. The Daily Telegraph reports that Fraser joined the party "earlier this week".

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.