The much-loved Idle Speculation series will henceforth double as a vehicle for updates on preselection and other election-related action. Developments of note from the past week:
Queensland Senate (Liberal): Next Saturday, about 250 Queensland Liberal preselectors will determine who will fill the vacancy created by Santo Santoro’s departure. The person chosen will serve out the remainder of Santoro’s term, which ends in July next year. What happens then is yet to be determined. Before Santoro’s departure, the party had decided upon a ticket with Ian Macdonald at number one, Santo Santoro at number two, Young Liberals president Mark Powell at number three, and businesswoman and disabled advocate Sue Boyce at number four. The party administration is yet to determine whether the second position will be filled by promoting Powell up the order, or by holding a new preselection. Many an eyebrow was raised last weekend when Powell withdrew from the race to fill the short-term vacancy, instead throwing his support behind former state party leader Bob Quinn (who reportedly has the support of the Prime Minister). This was despite Powell’s links to the Santoro faction and its traditionally strained relations with Quinn. The Gold Coast Bulletin reports speculation that "the Santoro mob have withdrawn their candidate and opposition to Mr Quinn so they can regroup before the federal election to push Mr Powell into the No. 2 spot, hoping Mr Quinn’s popularity, if he is a Senator then, would be enough to launch all three into the Senate from the third position". A further motivation might have been a desire to thwart Sue Boyce, the favoured candidate of state party leader Bruce Flegg. Flegg’s "western suburbs" grouping played a similar spoiling role against Powell last year when it blocked his preselection bid for Quinn’s old state seat of Robina, by shifting support from its own candidate to the unaligned Ray Stevens. Other candidates for the Senate vacancy include Ted O’Brien, chairman of the Australian Republican Movement; David Moore, staffer to Longman MP Mal Brough; and Doug Young, a lawyer "specialising in the resources sector".
Queensland Senate (Greens): Fairfax’s Brisbane Times website reports that environmental lawyer Larissa Waters is believed to have had a "landslide" win over Juanita Wheeler in last Thursday’s Greens preselection vote. Andrew Landeryou‘s sources have told him of a 300-100 margin in Waters’ favour, although Greens supporters might be inclined to take issue with aspects of Landeryou’s account. The party is "expected to make an announcement" of the result next week.
NSW Senate (Labor): The Sydney Morning Herald reports that Labor’s state general secretary Mark Arbib is contemplating a run for the Senate, contrary to earlier reports he hoped to unseat the notoriously unproductive Michael Hatton in the safe lower seat of Blaxland. It is reported that two of Labor’s winnable seats will go to incumbent Ursula Stephens of the Right and Australian Manufacturing Workers Union national secretary Doug Cameron, who has the numbers to unseat incumbent George Campbell for the position reserved for the Left. It is not clear which of the three hopefuls would take the safe first and second positions, and which would have to settle for the dubious third. Anne Davies of the Sydney Morning Herald reports speculation that Arbib’s jockeying for union support played a role in state Blacktown MP Paul Gibson’s ill-fated appointment to cabinet.
Page (NSW, Nationals 5.5%): Clarence Valley councillor Chris Gulaptis has won the Nationals preselection for this north coast seat, which has been left vacant by the retirement of sitting member Ian Causley. The Northern Star reports Gulaptis won "comfortably" with over half the first preference vote, from a field that included local doctor Sue Page, Kyogle mayor Ernie Bennett, Ballina councillor Sharon Cadwallader and radio presenter Neil Marks. The paper also reports that Labor is "at least two months" away from selecting its own candidate. Those said to be "considering" a run are Clarence mayor Ian Tiley and former state MP Janelle Saffin. Saffin was a Lismore-based upper house member from 1995 until 2003, when she withdrew from preselection after it became clear she would not retain a winnable position on the party ticket.
Dobell (NSW, Liberal 4.8%). Amid little fanfare, Health Services Union official Craig Thompson has been endorsed as Labor’s candidate to recover the central coast seat it lost to current Liberal member Ken Ticehurst in 2001.