Carmen goin’

A big day for federal election news, with Carmen Lawrence’s retirement announcement, Bob Debus’s confirmation that he will run in Macquarie, and Peter Andren’s unexpected decision to contest the Senate rather than Calare or Macquarie (the former now very likely to be won by the Nationals). Fremantle being the Poll Bludger’s home electorate, there will be a temptation for me to over-report the imminent preselection contest caused by Lawrence’s departure. A better idea would be to collate a thorough summary of all important preselection contests still in play, but most of the recent action in this area has happened under my radar. I therefore invite the assistance of the Poll Bludger brains trust, who are invited to share their knowledge of local party argybargy in comments.

Fremantle (WA, Labor 7.7%): All the talk so far has surrounded United Nations human rights lawyer Melissa Parke, who you can read about here. Parke has the backing of both Carmen Lawrence and Jim McGinty, Left faction chieftain and state member for Fremantle. It appears the party’s affirmative action policy dictates that the candidate be female.

Deakin (Victoria, Liberal 5.0%): The federal ALP was this week asked to adjudicate over a fraught preselection process that was supposed to be decided a month ago. This follows an appeal brought by local general practitioner Peter Lynch, the party’s candidate from 2004, against his three-vote defeat by Mike Symons of the Electrical Trades Union. A plebiscite of local party members reportedly gave Peter Lynch 64.8 per cent support compared with 35.2 per cent for Symons (Lynch claiming support from the Left, Pledge and Independents factions), but this accounts for only 50 per cent of the final vote. The rest is determined by the party’s tightly factionalised Public Office Selection Committee which met on February 28, but the counting of its votes was delayed pending investigation of a challenge to the eligibility of a POSC member who also sat on the party’s administrative committee. When the count gave victory to Symons on March 15, Lynch complained of further irregularities and launched an appeal. In an email to party members published in Andrew Landeryou’s The Other Cheek on March 1, Lynch complained of a deal between the Right and the Left sub-faction centred on Dean Mighell and the Electrical Trades Union, in which the former would back the ETU’s Mike Symons in exchange for the latter’s support for Peter McMullin in Corangamite (the Financial Review reported Symons also won the backing of the Left faction CFMEU). Also in The Other Cheek was a letter from Kathy Jackson, a figurehead of the Right faction Health Services Union, which accused her own faction’s leadership of misleading Lynch into believing he had their support while they marshalled forces for Symons.

Page (NSW, Nationals 4.2%): Sitting member Ian Causley is retiring. Nominees for Nationals preselection originally included former cabinet minister Larry Anthony, who lost his seat of Richmond in 2004. However, he announced his withdrawal on March 22, saying "the ambition’s there but the impact it would have had on the family would have been just too much for them". Others mentioned have included Clarence Valley councillor Chris Gulaptis, Kyogle Mayor Ernie Bennett and Lennox Head GP Sue Page (apparently not part of the Earle and Don Page clan).

Kalgoorlie (WA, Liberal 6.4%): Ed the Pseph write in comments that the Labor preselection is "a three-way go between Sharon Thiel, Jane Truscott and Paul Robson". The West Australian describes "high profile" former mayor Robson as the "standout". Thiel is an electorate officer to state front-bencher Jon Ford, a member for the upper house Mining & Pastoral region. Michael Gorey of the Kalgoorlie Miner reports that Truscott is a nurse at Kalgoorlie Regional Hospital who "moved to the Goldfields five months ago after spending 10 years in the United States".

WA Senate (Liberal): Despite being 70 years old, Senator Ross Lightfoot will seek another six-year term at a party preselection vote on April 28. He faces a strong challenge from the party’s much touted state senior vice-president, Mathias Cormann.

Queensland Senate: Nominees to fill the position created by Santo Santoro’s departure include Young Liberals president Mark Powell, disabled advocate and businesswoman Sue Boyce, former state party leader Bob Quinn and Brisbane councillor Jane Prentice. As Powell had already been preselected as the party’s number three candidate for the coming election behind Ian Macdonald and Santoro (Boyce was fourth), the party’s management committee had the option of elevating him to the vacancy without opening for nominations. Santoro’s faction usually wielded a majority on the committee with support from a "rainbow coalition" in the centre (associated with Ryan MHR Michael Johnson), but he was evidently unable to keep the latter on board in his present circumstances. There were also reports of efforts to circumvent the confrontation by recruiting an external star candidate – names mentioned included former Defence Force chief Peter Cosgrove and rugby league player Shane Webcke, but all have ruled it out. If a report in Crikey’s "tips and rumours" section is to be believed, other names of interest include Michael Caltabiano, John Caris, Phil Blain and Steve Dixon.

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.

192 comments on “Carmen goin’”

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  1. It’s a chicken-and-egg situation, though. Why would you join the ALP today, when you don’t have any say in preselections? If you gave more power to local members to decide preselections, those members would become more representatives and a greater number.

  2. No, the branches would just be more ruthlessly stacked. The days of genuine mass party membership are over, for sociological reasons beyond our control. The only solution is to abolish party branches and put candidate selection in the hands of Labor voters.

  3. The way to put voters in control of who from the parties gets elected having multiple candidates from each party and Robson Rotation (multi-member electorates are also preferable).

  4. Surely Adam there are ways in which the party can put in place mechanisms to prevent branch stacking?

    The problem with primaries is that it lends itself to people who have a high profile and has enough money to run a personal preselection campaign. People who have a high profile and money aren’t necessarily the people best to represent a community.

  5. They are more likely to be so than anonymous hacks chosen by tiny cabals of fanatics (this comment applies to all parties, not just Labior). People who have high profiles and lots of money are much more open to scrutiny. If the factions want to retain control of a seat, they will have to choose candidates who have some standing in the community and/or ability to appeal to voters.

  6. Adam,

    I am not sure what category I am in – “nostalgic” – probably, but not elderly; factional fanatic – certainly not; no life -??? [I hope this isn’t the site that bans multiple question marks].

    Ultimately the people decide. Occasionally, the factions use their power to put in a good person, but they are just as likely to reward a numbers-harvester. I don’t like primaries because the cost of contesting them would make it even harder for an “ordinary” person to get into parliament and they remind me of Amway rallies.

  7. My guess is that the major party branches, like many things in life, vary from good to hopeless with all of the shades of grey in between. Sometimes you’ll get a few good people who encourage informed debate and empowerment of their fellow members. Othertimes you’ll get manipulators, stackers, or politically correct types who’ll stifle debate.

    Anyway, I have been wondering whether anyone has an opinion on the latest Newspoll? The recent poll in the Courier Mail had it 57/43 in QLD and I thought that it suggested that the national 2pp might have been headed back towards more believeable figures. Given that the latest Newspoll has it nationally at the same ratio, what does this suggest about where the current notional swings might be in each state?

    Its been months since we’ve seen a state breakdown of voting intentions. The only single seat poll that I’ve seen was for Bennelong. Wonder if that has changed since the NSW election? Hard to be a pseph in this country with only national samples available. Could it still be 60/40 in some states? Is it more like 50/50 in others? Where are the swings being registered? Is the apparent overall swing to ALP only occurring in their safe seats, or is it happening in the marginals? In the cities or in the provincials? Think we are very much in the dark really. Should change my name to “frustrated pseph.”

  8. Newspoll hasn’t published a state breakdown since before the Age of Rudd. I think today’s poll shows basically that Labor is maintaining its lead. I suspect the last one was a bit of a fluke. But as I have said before, I think we should wait till after the ructions at the Labor Nat Conf and then the Budget before getting carried away. If Labor is still on 55% 2PV at the end of May I will start to get excited.

    Re the earlier discussions. I can assure Chris there is no shortage of “ordinary persons” in Caucus – some of them are very ordinary indeed. If primaries encourage higher profile people with more talent and more money-raising ability to run, as is certainly the case in the US, I am all for them. The current system does nothing but encourage factionalism and reward mediocrity. This is true on both sides, but the effects are worse for Labor because the Liberals have a clause in their rules that allows millionaires to buy seats, as Turnbull did.

  9. if someone can stack a thousand people into a seat, then be able to control those numbers, they should be able to pick and choose their seat.

    There are very few people who can stack on the scale of turnbull, he should be congratulated

  10. # dovif Says:
    April 3rd, 2007 at 8:03 am

    Geoff R

    The problem is that many of the ones selected by the trade union are as far from blue collar as possible, if you look at the bios. There resume normally say either B LAW, B Comm HR, join U*** at age of 21, worked for **** from the U*** as advisor

    They would not have any idea on what blue collar work is

    How true this is. The days of a blue collar worker having the chance of being an ALP candidate is over. Or did it ever happen?

  11. In SA the Unions got to split up the 3 marginals between themselves hence we have “weird” candidates in electorates that they don’t live in or don’t represent . Very strange system and more the stranger when preselection comes up and all the candidates pull out for a ring in

  12. A good community action today at Christies Beach SA when Howard opened a new college. A voice in the crowd yelled “Whos that?” “Dunno” said another. “isn’t he the opposition leader” said the first?

  13. Bill out of the three marginals two are from SDA and one from a not a union FACT

    Wakefield Nick Champion grown up in Kapunda and now lives in Burton all part of Wakefield and from the SDA

    Makin Tony Zappia has been involved in makin’s community since 1977 and he lives in Pooraka Zappia not from a union

    Kingston Amanda Rishworth from the sda

    So bill the first two candidate Champion and Zappia are they “weird” candidates in electorates that they don’t live in or don’t represent” ?

    So bill is it strange for a candidate to come from community they want to represent?

  14. So bill is it weird for candidates to from their electorates ? it not about what union they are from It about it their from their community Champion and Zappia are

    You can say the SDA to not represent their people from union and any person can say they do

    But one thing is for sure they represent a part of the Australian community and part of Labor working class bases

  15. YLU you are assuming that these SDA candidates represent their workers. I do not know a single union member that actually supports their delegate. The problem is, when elections are held, the people who actaully work for better conditions all year round are people who dont want to be elected. So you have the option of voting for people you dont agree with.
    Facts of life: activists do the work, delegates and staffers get the recognition.

  16. More on the NSW Senate preselections:

    There are three winnable spots on the NSW Labor ticket. The incumbent senator Ursula Stephens is expected to fill one, and the union boss Doug Cameron will push aside the former union boss and senator George Campbell for another. The other would be Mr Arbib’s for the taking if he wished, party sources told the Herald.

    The NSW Liberals’ federal preselections will be next month. The party’s right has its eyes on the moderate NSW senator Marise Payne’s seat. But Liberal figures said yesterday Mr Howard had “put the word out” that he wanted Senator Payne left alone, almost guaranteeing her the spot.

    Also, Labor’s House of Reps preselections are underway. Both McKew and Debus have been endorsed. The other new candidate is Craig Thompson, who will stand in Dobell. The only description we get of him is “local community leader”.

  17. His community work appears to have been local community pressure groups, but the real story is that he’s national head of the Health Services Union and has been groomed for this seat by Senator Steve Hutchins (the seat used to be held by Hutchins’ good friend Michael Lee). I have a dim recollection that Hutchins moved the HSU’s head office (and Thompson) to Sydney for exactly that purpose.

  18. If the NSW Right dump Senator Payne, I for one will never udder a nice word about the NSW Liberal Party, infact I may never vote for the Liberal Party again.

  19. Howard is smart enough to see that Payne being dumped would set off a huge media hoo-haa in Sydney (the Gallery loves her), which would do the Libs a lot of damage among the softer parts of their electorate.

  20. I agree Adam. Given the vulnerability of the Libs, I don’t think that Howard will let all-out war break out amongst the factions.

  21. Dave C said

    Facts of life: activists do the work, delegates and staffers get the recognition.

    Boy dont i know that and i will go further. Small parties and independents connect to the community. ALP & LIBS TAKE THEIR IDEAS AND GET THE RECOGNITION

  22. # bmwofoz Says:
    April 5th, 2007 at 7:03 pm

    If the NSW Right dump Senator Payne, I for one will never udder a nice word about the NSW Liberal Party, infact I may never vote for the Liberal Party again.

    Do people vote for the Libs? Everyone i meet denies they do

  23. “No, the branches would just be more ruthlessly stacked. The days of genuine mass party membership are over, for sociological reasons beyond our control. The only solution is to abolish party branches and put candidate selection in the hands of Labor voters.”

    Until 1949, in NSW at least, all members of affiliated unions could vote in ALP preselections regardless of whether they were a member of the party or not.

  24. 2004 4 Million Australians voted Liberal or National including many ABC watching Latte slipping suits otherwise seats in Melbourne’s East and inner South and the Northern Beaches of Sydney and Wentworth would have gone to the ALP.

    The Government obtained at least 20% of the vote in every Electorate around the Country and even in the safest ALP booths the Government reached this benchmark.

  25. What would be the current federal swings in South Australia generally.

    (Personally, I live in Makin and Day vs. Zappia looks like being one of the most exciting in years. I don’t think you can cancel Zappia simply because the demographics should this could be a seat (marginal) that could decide government.)

  26. In the Fitzroy booth the Liberal candidate polled 12.8%. That’s the first one I looked up – there are many other booths where Coalition candidates failed to get 20%.

  27. Thanks Adam for picking up on my comment, after posting I looked at it and thought no I should have put TPP, but even then that wouldn’t be right for I can think of a booth in Richmond where the Liberal vote is very low.

  28. Adam (Re: sample sizes),

    I think you’re remembering is that the proportion of the total population is unimportant. i.e. a (proper randomly selected) sample of 100 from a population of 20,000,000 is as accurate as a sample of 100 from a population of 5,000. (Strictly speaking, there is a slight difference between the two, but not nearly as much as people think).

  29. Unless there is a big swing on to the ALP (which despite all the hype at the moment, I don’t see as likely especially after the Libs demolish Rudd in a Debnam like ad blitz), Jackie Kelly will hold Lindsay. The Lib vote in the added areas at the eastern end of the seat was very low in 2004 but with her profile and popularity (not to mention actually having Libs handing out how to votes on election day!) her restated margin of around 2.9% is under cooked..could be more like mid 3’s is my guess. The ALP’s Bradbury was OK but will never be able match Kelly’s recognition levels and her friendly knock about manner that goes down a treat with Lindsay voters. Whether he wants to run again for family reasons and not to mention getting beaten for third time by Kelly remains to be seen. Kelly would wipe the floor with Ptomely (ex ALP candidate in Macquarie).

    Macquarie is far less predictable, and will only become more predictable when nominations close as I am still surprised that Debus (in his mid 60’s and no doubt keen to slow down a little) has decided to run. The hard working, respected Bartlett actually lives in the electorate and cannot be written off. Macquarie now takes in the ex Lindsay lower mountains booths of Lasptone, Glenbrook and Blaxland and I believe Kerry Bartlett will better maximise the Lib vote in these areas than Jackie Kelly did in 2004. Whilst cult Kelly is a hit on the plains and with with Glenmore Park aspirationals, I think her non politician MP strategy never sat comfortably with the more reserved and ‘aware’ folk of these lower mountains areas.

    For what its worth, I think the 2007 fed election will as close or closer as 1998 with little Johnny falling over the line mainly thanks to a stable economy but also thanks to Labor having being in power across all the states and territories. Aussies love evening the score and this is one of the Libs greatest trump cards.

  30. Western views, I think you’re right in your assessment of Jackie Kelly as a formidable campaigner, but she isn’t invincible. In fact, I think it is safe to argue that her popularity is linked very closely to that of Howard’s. This is reflected in many of the marginal seats and that is why many marginal MPs like Kelly were ready to pull the plug if Costello took the reins.

    But, as we’ve seen from today’s Newspoll, Howard’s on the nose in the marginals and this will continue in mortgage belt seats like Lindsay that have been hit hard by IR and interest rates.

    In terms of ALP candidates in Lindsay, Bradbury has been able to do the most damage to Kelly so far, and I would have to say he’d be most likely to tip the seat this time around. He’s got the local profile, and Kelly is intimidated by him. I hear Ptolemy has announced he intends to stand, but it would appear more in response to Debus’ run in Macquarie. He’s also a union official, not to mention the Gibson-tainted NUW, which would make it easier for Kelly to run the ‘union scare campaign’ line, and he lives a long way out of the electorate. Kelly plays the victim well, and there is no better victim than a Liberal MP being bullied by the unions.

  31. I also think she will be hard to beat. But not impossible. I think the fact that Bradbury has lived in the electorate for a long time and raised a family there counts for a lot. He’s also put in the hard yards on Council, and areas like Penrith respond positively to pollies who put in the hard yards over a long period of time.

  32. C-Woo

    If the swing indicated by the current polls is only partially maintained, then it should be all over Red rover in Makin. But Day is already spending money in that electorate like there is no night. I have three handy little six inch rules in my house reminding me to vote for Bob Day.

    The thought that money can not only buy further wealth, but also power, I find repulsive. Although he might try and bank roll his election, he will not buy my vote.

    You’re right it will probably be a tight contest, but for all the wrong reasons.

  33. Ray

    of course money buys power, why do you think the unions are running so many ads on TV on industrial relation, they wants to buy power.

    Why does John Howard Pork Barrell older voter every election? It buys power

    How did the NSW Labor, who is incompetant stays in power? They have money, money is power

  34. Have you read Freakonomics? That book argues that actually money doesn’t buy power, citing the case of an independent who had masses of capital but still failed to pull much of a vote.

    Spending is important because it helps you with profile (through ads and direct mail, etc) but ultimately you need good candidates and good ideas. Otherwise the party in government would always be able to pork barrel themselves into a win.

    Or, as in the recent NSW election, not-as-bad-as-the-others’ ideas and candidates.

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