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. Kalgoorlie is winnable for Labor. I do not think they will pick it up this time although. Sitrling and Hasluck I believe Labor has a good chance of picking up both although.

  2. David Walsh, I suspect you’re right about Labor winning the new Macquarie against the Coalition, unless this year’s election is even worse for Labor than the 2004 one, which seems hard to imagine.

  3. I know nothing about Mike Symon, or about Greg Pargeter in La Trobe. They may both be superb candidates for all I know. But one has to wonder about the wisdom of running trade union officials in such solidly middle class seats, particularly Deakin. This suggests that the Victorian ALP does not really think these seats are winnable, and is concentrating on defending Holt, Isaacs and Bendigo.

  4. The AEC link provided by David Walsh above probably understates the conservative vote by a good 4%. Most would agree that Calare would be a coalition seat if there was no Peter Andren. And, that conservative MP would have some personal vote to carry forward.

    On the Deakin preselection, had a discussion with Mrs Blackburnpseph last night, who until 2004 had always voted Labor – Mark Latham was too much for her and Medicare Gold sealed it. When the trade union hack was mentioned as candidate, the look on Mrs pseph’s face was priceless and she had to sit down!! Possibly, one more potential ALP vote lost there!!

  5. Just because someone is a trade union official doesn’t make them a “hack”, any more than a Liberal candidate who is a real estate agent or a used care dealer is necessarily a crook. As I say, Symon may well be an outstanding person. My point was that a union official per se may not be the best candidate for a solidly middle-class seat like Deakin.

  6. The Libs have obviously done well in demonising trade unions and their members. It’s just a pity sensible people seem to be having trouble, it seems, seeing past this claptrap.

  7. Adam thanks for the macquarie break down.

    I will also add (with caution, memory of 3 yrs ago is fading) that the booths the Liberals won, they won comfortably. These booths are largely towards the lower mountains (ie springwood and east of the electorate) where the demographic and culture are somewhat distinct from the the upper mountains; the lower mountains has a stronger christian and professional element. I cannot see the lower mountains changing all that much.

    In some (emphasis on some) of the upper mountains booths, Labor won, but not so comfortably because the Greens vote was quite high. Nevertheless, the Greens votes would have passed strongly to Labor.

    Even though I am no longer in the macquarie electorate I am certainly going to keep my eye on this hard fought macquarie election.

    How does lithgow vote? Being a mining town i could probably guess…

  8. blackburnpseph:

    1. Yes, the 2004 Calare, minus Andren, would be a coalition seat. That’s precisely what those figures show. Rendering redundant your arbitary 4% add-on.

    2. Of what possible relevance is the “personal vote” of a non-existant MP?

  9. In fact, wasn’t Calare a Labor seat up until Andren won it in 1996? It’s traditionally been a bellwether seat. Indeed until 1996 it was usually put in the same pile as Eden-Monaro. It’s not a typical Nationals seat.

    Although I should have written that in the past tense, as Calare 2007 has little in common with the Calare of old.

  10. Calare was represented for 13 years by David Simmons, who was not only a Labor MP but a Cabinet minister during the Hawke-Keating governments. It was widely expected to revert back to the Nationals in 1996 but Andren won it

    I agree with you Adam -it seems to me that too many Labor candidates seem to have got there on the basis that they hold positions with the trade unions and/or are former electorate officers or whatever. Labor needs to go back to its past record of selecting candidates with a broader life experience. People like John Watkins and John Faulkner. I’m not saying that affiliation with a trade union is a bad thing but it seems to me that too many candidates get selected these days because of their credentials as a union official or party hack at the expense of quality candidates and this in turn affects the party’s ability to win seats. This is why I don’t think Labor can win this election

  11. “…as Calare 2007 has little in common with the Calare of old.”

    As is the case with Greenway. The new Greenway has little in common with the old Greenway with most of the seat (population wise) going to Chifley which has moved east and north and is still safe Labor and Parramatta.

    I don’t know where anybody has got the idea that Markus is a hard working local member from. In the 2 and half years she has been around she has made very little impact really despite the advantages of sympathetic local coverage in the Cumberland owned B’town Advocate and the independently owned B’town Guardian. Face the fact that she was given a real leg up by the fact that the 2004 ALP candidate for Greenway was unelectable, was outspent 3 or 4 to 1, and did nothing himself until the ALP woke up to the fact that he was in trouble by which time it was too late.

    She did nothing to help the Liberals in the recent state election leaving their candidates for Blacktown, Toongabbie and Mt Druitt swinging in the wind. THE ALP improved or dropped very slightly their 2PP in those electorates.

    As an example of how weak the Liberals are in Sydney’s west on the Blacktown booth I was on the Liberals had two workers on duty. They actually lived in Londonderry and were in fact Labor voters only helping out because the Liberal candidate was a friend of the family.

  12. “She did nothing to help the Liberals in the recent state election leaving their candidates for Blacktown, Toongabbie and Mt Druitt swinging in the wind. THE ALP improved or dropped very slightly their 2PP in those electorates.”

    Add Riverstone which is the population core of the new Greenway to that list. Riverstone was won handily by that nice Mr Aquilina.

  13. Deakin is an interesting seat for it runs from Bayswater North, Blackburn, Blackburn North, Blackburn South, Burwood East, Croydon, Croydon South, Forest Hill, Heathmont, Mitcham, Nunawading, Ringwood, Ringwood East, Ringwood North and Vermont

    All mostly middle class with pockets of less well off areas this makes it a Liberal leaning marginal Lathem’s failure to visit the Eastern suburbs was a snub which hurt the ALP along with the Scoresby blackflip.

    While its a Marginal the ALP have only won a seat called Deakin in 1983/84 but I think that seat was further East, the ALP in 2004 on TPP only won 5 booths Burwood Hights 51%, Eley Park 50%, Manooka 50%, Nunawading 53% and Tally Ho 50%

  14. To Adam

    Even you have to admit that there are many trade union ‘hacks’or party apparatchik ‘hacks’ sitting on the FPLP benches. Mike Symon may or may not be a ‘hack’ but Bill Shorten he ain’t.

    To Gary Bruce

    One of the major problems of the ALP over the last 20 years and even more pronounced since 1996 is that they have become so inbred. This point has been extensively bemoaned by the likes of Barry Cohen who after the 2004 election compared the professional background of MPs elected in 2004 with those who had been elected with him in 1969. The difference was staggering. In 2004, the overwhelming number of MPs (it was something like 70+%) had been trade union officials, party officials, or staffers. In 1969, there were union officials (as you would expect), a broad range of professionals, farmers, small businessmen (like Barry Cohen), policemen (Bill Hayden), and many others. The problem with these staffer and trade union types is that they don’t actually çonnect’with ordinary people. The fact that so many ALP MPs are married to, or related to other MPs, or former MPs just furthers the inbreeding. At least the ALP is recognising this to some extent by endorsing people such as (Mike?) Tinley, or Mark Dreyfus.

    To David Walsh

    You have misunderstood what I was trying to say about the Calare votes. Of course, there is no Coalition MP, BUT, if there was, they would most likely have a personal vote. In the academic exercise carried out by the AEC, qualitative factors cannot be taken into account. Therefore, the 51.5% (or whatever) notional coalition vote would probably have been something like 55.5%.

  15. Corrections on Deakin source Adam Carr website.

    The ALP Memeber in 1983 was a state president of the Telecommunications employees, and the seat contained Watina (Aston) Heathmont and Nunawading

  16. Whoever said that Watkins and Faulkner had broad life experience picked an interesting pair … they were both teachers, and the third most populous grouping in the ALP, behind hacks and lawyers, is teachers.

    Just sayin’

    Though teaching in state schools gives you the broadest life skills you can have (except if you are a policeman).

  17. Greenway does look well out of reach, but if there was a 6% swing to Labor overall there would be shock surprises that would swing over 10%, which would they be? Probably outer suburbs of Brisbane however.

  18. The problem with Deakin isn’t so much the scoresby (not really a issue that hurts) but that residents hardly know that the ALP are running there. I have many friends there, and they saw few posters, no leaflets, in fact they were asking me if the ALP WERE running.

  19. I agree with you Dave C considering the state of the polls any seat under 10% looks winnable but the ALP need to get out there and up the pressure on the Government MPs for in a landslide any seat is winnable and quite often its the effort 6 months out that makes the differents on Election day.

  20. I think the Liberals will hold Greenway but one thing which may help the ALP is Kebin Rudds Christian worldview, but Lousie Markus looks like she’ll be returned with a smaller margin.

    At first I thought Andren had made a mistake running for the senate, but a lot of rural people are not happy with this Government and have shown a willingness to vote for Indepentants, and I suspect some city people would vote for him for he has a good profile and is seen as no friend of either side.

    I would image that the likes of Tony Windsor and the rural state Indepentant MPs would be backing him which would help both the Liberals, Nationals and the ALP will put him high up their HTV cards.

    The only danger for Debrus is the Liberals can connect him with the Carr Government which may hurt, also this area is one I would expect the Greens to improve their vote, I’m not convinced that we can possibly say who will win this seat.

  21. Just from memory, Wasn’t Faulkner the assistant security (Left) of the NSW ALP before going into parliament. I seem to remember that he had some sort of political job with Marrickville council as well.

  22. You have misunderstood what I was trying to say about the Calare votes. Of course, there is no Coalition MP, BUT, if there was, they would most likely have a personal vote. In the academic exercise carried out by the AEC, qualitative factors cannot be taken into account. Therefore, the 51.5% (or whatever) notional coalition vote would probably have been soImething like 55.5%.

    And I’d suggest you’re looking at it the wrong way.

    Without a sitting MP from either party, we get a true picture of the underlying generic two party vote in this electorate. Surely this is a much more useful figure to go on than one inflated by the profile of a sitting MP.

  23. Another example of the complete ignorance of political journalists of how the electoral system works: George Megalogemis in today’s Australian (“Making ALP the safer bet,” p21):

    “The Coalition will have control of the Senate until June 30 next year, regardless of what happens at the ballot box later this year. The new Senate doesn’t get sworn in until July 1, 2008. Assuming the Government is returned in the lower house… that would give the PM enough time to get Work Choices mark II passed before the balance of power presumably moves to the Greens or independents.”

    Presumably? Evidently Megalogenis thinks that the two “fluke” Coalition/FF gains in the Senate in Qld and Vic in 2004 are up for re-election this year. In fact of course they are not up until 2010, and there is not the faintest possibility that a returned Coalition government would have to face a hostile Senate. It is highly uinlikely that the Coalition will lose two seats in the Senate even if Labor comfortably wins the election.

  24. Adelaide’s Sunday Mail says the Liberal candidate for Makin, multi-millionaire Bob Day, is now the bookies’ favourite to win the seat following the paper’s recent front page revelation (more a resurrection) that Labor candidate Tony Zappia some years ago gave a personal reference for a convicted drug dealer. Before that, the two candidates were equal favourites at $1.85 but Day was now at $1.55 and Zappia at $1.25.


  25. If Labor can’t win Makin they have no chance of winning the election. Even before Zappiagate, they were only a 50 percent chance, and that kind of swing is likely to see the Coalition comfortably returned with maybe a loss of two seats.

    Today’s Sunday Mail in Brisbane had Labor on 57% of 2pp in Queensland from a survey sample of 504. The margin of error would be astronomical and this is hard to believe in Howard’s strongest state. It is even harder to believe with Labor only getting 41% of primaries in this survey. Perhaps it is an April Fools’ Day joke.

    Well Costello looks like cutting the top marginal rate another five points to 40%. That would be a great result for the economy and the nation. And it’s only another six months until a 5th term Howard Government! I can’t wait!

    Happy Easter, Mr Howard!!!

  26. Bob Day will win Makin. He is spending big in the electorate (similar to Malcolm Turnbull’s splurge in Wentworth 2004) and is a very popular local business leader. He will hold onto the seat (margin 0.9) with the margin not moving in either direction.

  27. Makin’s an interesting one, as it swung 3% TO Labor in 2004, almost certainly due to a backlash against Trish Draper’s travel rorts. Had it not been for that, it probably would have swung several % in the opposite direction like all the other outer suburban seats. Probably one of the few cases where a retiring sitting member will benefit the party holding the seat!

  28. The pollbludger says about the next ALP candidate for Fremantle that “It appears the party’s affirmative action policy dictates that the candidate be female.”

    Now I don’t know much about this Melissa Parke person, she sounds quite capable and she may be the best candidate, but what a joke. Rather than pre-selecting the best person the ALP selects a person primarily on the basis of gender before ability.

    Discrimination is discrimation, even if it is smudged over with the term “affirmite action”.

    Wouldn’t Ms Parke, or whoever else is pre-selected, have more credibility if they won endorsement against all potential candidates. I can safely say that if I find this policy irritating I’m sure others, such as potentially 50% of the population, do as well.

    No wonder the ALP have been in opposition for 11 years. They need the best people in parliament, rather than the best from artificial quotas.

  29. More arounding ignorance:

    “LABOR’S bid to win government suffered a setback yesterday when the NSW federal independent MP Peter Andren all but ceded his seat of Calare to the Coalition by announcing he would stand for the Senate. Mr Andren’s decision means Labor needs a net gain of 17 seats to govern in its own right, instead of the 16 it was banking on.” Phillip Coorey Chief Political Correspondent, Sydney Morning Herald

    Can we offer the Golden Bludger for the worst piece of psephological nonsense in the media this year?

  30. Mindboggling stupidity from Coorey.

    Neil, the above is unfair. For a start, I’m fairly sure that William was merely editorialising above. Nevertheless, from what I have read of Parke’s career so far, she is a solid gold star candidate – a future Foreign Minister in the making.

  31. re Makin
    overall it is a marginal seatI do not think it has very strong liberal areas
    like Wentworth does. The SA metro seats swings were all over the place
    at the 2004 election. labor lost 2 and gained 2 all by small margins.
    maybe Trish Draper does have a personal vote?
    maybe a better comparision would be Hindmarsh in 2004.

  32. I’m sure Parke is a good candidate Charlie but if she’s that good then she would beat anybody for pre-selection.

    It’s a bad look. Potentially there could be a pre-selected candidate who is well below par. It may be happening elsewhere. In fact I’m sure it is, especially in NSW.

    The electorate deserves better.

  33. Today’s Sunday Mail in Brisbane had Labor on 57% of 2pp in Queensland from a survey sample of 504. The margin of error would be astronomical and this is hard to believe in Howard’s strongest state.

    The margin of error is a little over 4%. That’s a hefty lead in whichever part of the confidence interval the real figure lands.

  34. Dave

    Of course a margin of error of 4% means it also could be 61% to labor.
    Labor actually polled 61% in recent SA poll on a state level. I don’t know whether this would have much influence on a Federal basis.
    I have a limited contact with people and businesses in SA but what I have had is that they are quitely proud about the way things are moving ahead in SA.

  35. I think that the biggest area of doubt in the poll published in the Sunday Mail today is that it has the Nats on only 6%, whereas they got 9.7% in 2004 and even with an anti-coalition swing, are unlikely to drop anywhere near that much.

    Underestimating the National Party vote is a constant feature of polls conducted in Qld.

    I think all we can really make of the poll is that it is consistent with other evidence of a swing to the ALP in Qld, at least based on current intentions, or moods, which as William has often said are not very set as yet, but I wouldn’t put too much weight on the actual figures.

  36. Statistics is not my field, but I’m told by a friend of mine with a degree in maths that there is no relationship between sample size and accuracy of outcome, provided the sample is truly random. In other words a national poll of 1,000 people will be just as accurate (or inaccurate) as a poll of 100,000 people, provided there is no bias in selecting the sample. Perhaps someone with competence in statistics can comment on this.

  37. Neil, it’s hardly uncommon for ‘we choose the best people regardless of gender’ to become ‘we choose the best man regardless of gender’.

  38. Fargo61:

    The Nationals vote is always higher than the polls indicate because of Liberal voters trapped in National designated seats who have no choice but to vote for them.

  39. Possibly Charlie, but two wrongs don’t make a right.

    My point is that theoretically there could be a ripper of a candidate who is disqualified from being pre-selected for Fremantle because of his gender. It’s a disgrace.

    I agree there are too few women in parliament. But I don’t like this policy of affirmitive action where to even up the gender balance there has to be institutionalized discrimination. It’s crap. Surely there must be a better solution. Discrimination of any kind is appalling.

    Anyway, I’ll get off my soap box now!

  40. Previously on the Liberals’ Senate ticket? Has Powell withdrawn from both the casual vacancy contest and the federal election or just the former?

    Also to do with the Queensland Senate, is the Coalition arrangments:

    As late as yesterday, the Queensland Nationals rejected a plan endorsed by Prime Minister John Howard to run a joint Coalition Senate ticket at this year’s election.

    I’m not sure what’s stranger: that the Liberal Party would want to abandon the two ticket ploy that netted the Coalition four Senate seats at the last federal election. Or that the Nationals would knock back a plan to protect their sitting Senator.

  41. Damnit, where’s the edit key?

    Obviously that last paragraph is me, not the article (now fixed – PB).

    And Adam – I can’t agree with your friend. The higher the sample size, the lower the margin of error for any given confidence interval.

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