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. Word on the street is that Melissa Parke (a UN Lawyer since 1999, most recently as a senior lawyer in the Office of the Under-Secretary-General for Management in the UN headquarters, New York) is a front runner for preselection for Fremantle.

  2. So what’s the gossip on Labor candidates in Fremantle? As I’m sure William knows, this is the only seat to have been held by four Labor Cabinet ministers in a row (Curtin, Beazley, Dawkins, Lawrence), so it demands a first-rate candidate.

  3. Andren’s decision means that he wants to be a player, as an independent in the HoR he does not hold much sway, unless there is a hung parliament.
    As a senator he has more bargaining power for an incoming labor government or a returned liberal government.
    But I think he has read the signs and feels he will be dealing with a labor government with a majority in it’s own right.

  4. Melissa Parke was the name mentioned on Lateline.

    Who’s McGinty? I’m not a close follower of state politics in the wild west.

  5. It’s a bit of a shame Labor would be unlikely to be able to tempt Geoff Gallop out of retirement.

    McGinty was a former Labor opposition leader (before Gallop), and I believe he’s currently the Deputy Premier. One of the few truly capable members of the WA Parliament, so please don’t take him. Member for Fremantle in the WA Parliament.

  6. I wonder how much chance Debus has of winning Macquarie. He’ll ultimately benefit from Andren’s decision not to contest and he obviously has had a high profile as the State MLA but nevertheless people may consider that the peak of his political career may be behind him after so many years in state politics. I don’t know much about Kerry Bartlett so am not in a position to make a prediction on this seat

  7. I suspect andren has a clever plan in mind. Such as running a host of indies in lower house all preferencing him 4 senate.

  8. Andren told his press conference yesterday that he plans running a “peter andren independents” ticket so that he can get his name above the line on the Senate ballot paper.

    Also banking on independents (state/federal level) across the rest of the country to help on polling day.

    Melissa Parke was effectively annointed by Carmen yesterday for Fremantle.

  9. I agree Andren’s move is quite bizarre. I guess I can see his reasoning, that there is an opening there for a centrist, but he’s running in the hardest state to win in, and I can’t see him getting that many votes in Sydney. Do we have any intell on who his planned running mates might be?

    Carmen has probably picked a good time to go, though it’s a shame that the bulk of her career has been in Opposition. What do we know about Melissa Parkes?

    The intell I’ve been getting from the Blue Mountains is that Debus should win Macquarie. He has been a very popular State MP for the area, and the federal seat is ready to swing to Labor in any event.

  10. Debus should win Macquarie.
    Any word on who will be seeking pre-selection for Greenway? Markus is a very hard-working local member but it is a blue collar working class seat. Will be interesting.

  11. The redistribution has made Greenway safe for the Liberals I believe -I think the margin is now in the safe Liberal range. I have a friend who lives around the electorate of Greenway -he reckons that Markus will have no difficulty retaining the seat because of the redistribution

    Debus’s move to federal politics so late in his career is interesting. One wonders why he didn’t run for Macquarie in the 1988-1995 period after he had lost his Blue Mountains seat. I’d say he’d probably have had a chance of winning (if Maggie Deahm could win the seat in 1993, I’m quite sure that someone as high profile of Debus would have an even less of a problem). Had he done that, he’d have had a long federal career and even a tilt at the Labor leadership. I guess he probably expects to be promoted to federal Cabinet or federal Shadow Cabinet if he wins the seat and I think he will be but it’s an interesting career switch at this point of time

  12. There has been a bit of a stoush regarding the ALP preselection in Deakin.

    Does anybody out there know what the latest is?

  13. basically the redistribution effected Greenway (added the Hawkesbury area
    improved massively for liberals) changed Macquarie… is now Marginal
    Labor is Blue Mountains plus Bathurst and Lithgow and
    Calare…. took out Bathurst and Lithgow in the abscence of Mr Andren
    standing probably a fairly safe non labor seat.
    I still do not know why Mr Andren did no stand in the redrawn Calare
    as I’m sure he would have won.

  14. Having spent 11+ years in opposition, and with Labor looking the goods to win later this year, it seems odd for Lawrence to walk away now. She’d surely win a ministry in a Labor government, possibly something fairly senior. Walking away in 2010 after serving one term on the frontbench seems a better way to go than bowing out from perpetual opposition. Is there some bad blood between her and Rudd?

  15. Re Greenway, not only has the redistribution made the seat safer but friends living in the seat suggest that Markus would have held off even a huge swing to Labor given her high profile as a hardworking local MP.

    In South Australia the ALP has been promising a big-name candidate for the seat of Sturt (Chris Pyne’s leafy electorate, held by, i think, 6.8%), but this hasn’t come to fruition. Radio host Tony Pilkington was mentioned, but I believe he has declined. Sounds like big talk from an arrogant state ALP.

  16. Kerry Bartlett is reasonably well-liked here in Macquarie, but his electoral base was always in the Hawkesbury, which is no longer in the electorate. The electorate now comprises two main sections, the Blue Mountains and Lithgow/Bathurst/Oberon: Mountains have always leaned Labor to a greater or lesser extent, and as L/B/O residents don’t know either of the candidates very well they’ll probably just go for party affiliations, which would be Labor.

    I think Bartlett is pretty much dead in the water after the redistribution, especially with a strong Labor candidate instead of the nonentities who’ve contested the seat for the last couple of elections. Of course, notionally it’s very marginal and Bartlett (and the Liberals) will fight tooth and nail to hang on to it, so we can expect even more junk mail than in 2004. What an exciting thought that is.

  17. I don’t think Carmen would have had any chance of being elected to the ministry if Labor won the election. She is nearly 60, she indulged herself in resigning from the front bench in a huff and has sniped from the back bench ever since. Plus she has all that baggage from the Eastin affair. Despite the above comments, I have a lot of respect for her, but she had no future in Canberra and this was the correct choice.

  18. Marcus, Lawrence actually entered Parliament in 1994 at a by-election, and spent the remainder of that term as Health Minister, so she has already been a Cabinet Minister under Keating – so not perpetually in opposition.

    Perhaps she’s just had enough?

  19. I think when you turn 60 you start to think, “if I’m going to do something else useful in life, I’d better do it now.” It’s a pity a lot of people in Canberra much less talented than Carmen don’t have the same thought.

  20. Debus should win Macquarie comfortably. A high profile, locally-based quality candidate like Debus, who has already faced most of the voters in the seat before (despite having lost it for a period and re-winning it) is a powerful combination for the ALP.
    Debus’ announcement would explain why Macquarie’s Labor spokesperson and former Macquarie candidate Mark Ptolemy has scurried down the hill for a sniff at another winnable seat, this time in Lindsay. You only have to compare the two men’s CVs to see how preselectors would vote in a contested ballot.
    With Andren practically ceding Calare to the Coalition, Lindsay will now have more pressure on it for the ALP to win if it is to bag 17 seats. Jackie Kelly is a seasoned campaigner, no matter what your assessment of her political skills. If the ALP stood a unionist against her, you’d think she would play merry hell with the union bullying angle, particularly if it’s Ptolemy, who is already embroiled in a messy court case with a local real estate agent over some kind of harrassment.
    The other likely candidate would be David Bradbury, who is a former Mayor and candidate in Lindsay. He seemed to have been able to break some of the spell cast over the western Sydney voters by the Kelly/Howard combo, and given the right national ingredients (i.e., a competitive Rudd Labor Opposition), money would have to be on a proven local candidate. I understand he’s got a fair few kids, four or five (I think he’s only 30?? Obviously the Catholic thing is still alive and kicking in the ALP…), so a shift to Canberra would probably be weighing heavy on any decision-making. Although, that could actually be a good counter to ‘I’m a mum and (used to be) on the frontbench’ Kelly, who has made childcare her pet issue.
    Greenway is, as you all rightly mention, very safely in the hands of the Libs, taking in the parts of Macquarie (Hawkesbury), and the Hills district, while jettisoning more working-class Blacktown into Chifley. Louise Markus was on a very tight margin, of less than one per cent, but that’s been bumped up to 11 per cent. It would be stretching things for the ALP to arrest much of that conservative vote from Markus in those new areas, particularly if she campaigns on ethnicity and religion as she did so successfully in 2004.

  21. To give an indication of what I intended for this post, I have added summaries for Fremantle and Deakin. I invite those more familiar with the Victorian ALP to vet my Deakin entry for accuracy, and all and sundry to offer suggestions for further entries.

  22. Re: Macquarie

    Although I believe Debus will win in a tight campaign, and I can’t believe I am going to say this, but I think many of you are underestimating Kerry Bartlett in Macquarie.

    As a candidate during the 2004 federal election in Macquarie I made every attempt to be at all public events. Along the way I saw more of Kerry Bartlett than the Labor candidate. Kerry was a very smooth politician who knew how to project a good image of himself even in the most difficult of circumstances.

    And sure there were many other factors that contributed to his win, but Kerry won most of the booths in Macquarie even in the Blue Mountains with the exception of some Katoomba booths, and he won them convincingly on first preferences.

    I think Debus will win, but don’t underestimate Bartlett (unfortunately).

  23. That tiny margin for Labor in Macquarie according to the result is an understatement. Labor recorded like 60% of the two party vote in Blue Mountains part of the new Macquarie at the last federal election. And given that Bathurst/Lithgow part of the electorate at least line-ball, probably better for Labor in reality. You can expect a two party preferred result of 55% or higher.

  24. Deakin and Latrobe aren’t seats Labor is going to win, unless there is going to be a great result for Labor overall.

  25. Thanks William for the Deakin update.

    Peter Lynch was a very visible candidate in 2004 especially compared to Helen Buckingham in 2001. I have the feeling his main problem was that he lives in Hawthorn – out of the electorate. Probably not such a problem in leafy Blackburn where the ‘Doctors Wives’ thing was happening and he managed a swing towards the ALP but I feel it didn’t go down well in places like Croydon, which are a long way from Hawthorn … in lots of ways!! and that end swung very heavily to the libs, not dissimilar to what happened in Aston and Casey.

    For those of you are non Melbournians, Deakin is basically a long thin electorate running east to west for about 30 – 35km but only about 4 – 5km wide.

    Did Peter McMullin get the ALP nod in Corangamite as that was disputed as well?

  26. PL81

    No doubt Debus if had contested for Macquarie in say 1990, would have won the seat. However he would have been swept away in 1996, when there were huge swings aganist Labor in electorates across NSW.

  27. The 2PV figures being put about for Macquarie are very soft, because 43% of Macquarie voters were in Calare in 2004 and obviously Calare didn’t vote on party lines.

  28. Yes, the ALP has a lot of egg on its face over its failure to produce a glamour candidate for Sturt (or for Boothby, for that matter). A great candidate – a potential federal attorney-general – has stood in the wings for Sturt (or Adelaide before that) for two or three elections, but you can’t blame him for putting his distinguished academic career first.

  29. Joel: did Bartlett dominate that much in the Blue Mountains? I seem to remember looking through the booths on VTR and Ptolemy seemed to lead by a bit in most of them. This was 2 1/2 years ago, of course, so my memory will be faulty.

    Ptolemy was not much of a campaigner, although arguably the Libs put a lot more money into the seat that Labor. I heard during the campaign that the ALP didn’t think Macquarie was winnable, so they didn’t really invest much in it.

  30. Those should be “my memory *may* be faulty” and “a lot more money into the seat *than* Labor”. I need to get more sleep.

  31. Tristan Jones

    You’re right that Debus would more likely than not have lost his seat in 1996 -I forgot to add that to the calculations. Perhaps he saw the writing on the wall for the Hawke-Keating government after he lost his Blue Mountains electorate (note that I posted as PL1981 because I was using a different computer and got my username wrong!)

    I think Joel McRae is right -don’t underestimate Kerry Bartlett. I think he’s probably got a substantial personal vote from being the local MP for the last ten years (even though the boundaries have changed) and probably knows how to work a marginal electorate. I still think Debus must be favored but this race is not as clear cut as it originally appears IMO

    It seems to me that apart from Debus and a few others, the ALP is struggling to find good quality candidates in key seats at this election. That is one of the key factors that makes me pessimistic about a Labor victory

  32. No doubt people have looked at the Senate votes in Calare to try to gain some sense of how people might have voted in the absence of Andren in 2004?

  33. Looking at the booths in the Blue Mountains which are in the new Macquarie: the Liberals carried the three Springwood booths, Blaxland East, Faulconbridge, Glenbrook, Lapstone, Valley Heights, Warrimoo and Winmalee, while Labor carried all five Katoomba booths, Blackheath, Blaxland, Bullaburra, Hazelbrook, Lawson, Leura, Medlow Baths, Mt Victoria, Wentworth Falls and Woodford.

  34. I crunched the numbers for Macquarie last year. Here’s the cumulative booth votes.

    The Blue Mtns basically split 50/50 in 2004. It’s the parts taken from the old Calare (i.e. Bathurst, Lithgow & surrounds) that gives Labor its notional majority.

    To this end, Debus may be an inspired choice, for his appeal is greatest in Labor’s weakest section.

    For what it’s worth, I doubt Macquarie will be much of a contest at all. Labor will win the seat easily because (a) the ALP would have won this seat even on the mediocre 2004 results, (b) 2007 looks like being a much better election for Labor and (c) Bob Debus.

  35. I assume you are able to produce these figures because the AEC recounted all the votes in Calare to calculate a two-party majority for each booth, distributing Andren’s votes between Labor and Liberal. Is that correct? That raises the question of whether Andren directed preferences to Labor on his HTV. Do you know whether he did?

  36. Labor are preselecting in the seat of Kalgoorlie at the moment. It is a three-way go between Sharon Thiel, Jane Truscott and Paul Robson. Of people I have spoken with in the electorate pharmacist Robson is the one with name recognition, having advertised his businesses on tv in the past. Rumoured to have the bucks to fight the biggest seat in the country. Other than that I don’t know anything about the respective merits or allegiances of the candidates.

    Kal was a labor seat until Graeme Campbell spat the dummy over Keating’s engagement with Asia and turned independent, flirting with the early Howard era Hansonite forces. Liberal Barry Haase won it in 1998 in a tight three-way go against Campbell and the ALP. He has increased his margin since and it sits notionally at 6.4% now. However a few factors suggest that this margin might be a bit soft.

    In 2004 the ALP candidate died suddenly as the election was called and former state minister and now MLA Tom Stephens stepped in to contest the seat at the last moment with little time to campaign. The Labor party machine appeared during that time to be keeping plenty in reserve for the state election which followed only a few month later. Latham did not appear to go down well in this electorate, so the margin was probably also inflated by that as well.

    A concerted effort by Labor backing a good candidate could bring this seat back to very marginal. Not out of the question that it could change hands although the tyranny of distance makes it an expensive seat to contest seriously. Seems to be generally agreed that a candidate being known around Kalgoorlie itself would be of significant advantage although the national campaigns will carry just as much resonance.

  37. Yes, the AEC did such a count. Here is the two party preferred count for Calare.

    And no, Andren did not direct preferences to either party. On a previous thread here I cited a 2004 media release stating this. However, Andren seems to have removed this document with the revamp of his site.

  38. I think an interesting implication for Andren’s decision to run in the senate (and presumably organise a coalition of independents at the H. of Reps level so the ‘how to vote cards’ throughout the state can get him over the minimum 200 000 votes he needs) will be the possibility for these local independents who are affiliated with Andren to have their own profiles boosted. In particular, a popular independent who runs in the new Maquarie or Calare with Andrens backing may get up, or more likely, decide the outcome according to their preferences.
    As Andren has now registered himself as party to get above the line on the senate ticket, the ‘coalition of independents’ may prove to be a formidibal force for preferences in the semi-rural electorates.

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