Idle speculation: Easter edition

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 The Gold Coast Bulletin reports speculation that "the Santoro mob have withdrawn their candidate and opposition to Mr Quinn so they can regroup before the federal election to push Mr Powell into the No. 2 spot, hoping Mr Quinn’s popularity,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.

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.

401 comments on “Idle speculation: Easter edition”

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  1. Adam, you are right (according to The Australian website). Apologies for that, obviously not as connected as I thought… must be the holidays 😉

    Interesting that they call him a “community leader.”

  2. The speaker said

    The Greens are hard left and not multi-dimensional at all.

    I find it strange that all the Green Party experts are not actual members. Here in South Australia we have ex Democrats, ex left ALP ex CPA/DSP/SA/SP. environmental activists some union activists and a large ex small l Liberal grouping. In fact i would say the Greens are just left of center. The now disintegrating Socialist Alliance ( The ISO formally left the SA on the weekend) is hard left. The SA is now under 500 members and will fold soon leaving all the micro Socialist parties to die quick death

  3. The funny thing is if the Socialist Alliance and its (former) constituent elements think that that they have any impact on politics whatsoever. Their ideas could be moreso described as “disconnected from reality” rather than hard-left.

  4. I think the news of SA’s demise will prove to be false at the end of the day. Resistance, the DSP, DSEL, SA and whatever else that particular brand of 4th Internationalists want to call themselves (although I do remember the DSP formally leaving the 4th Int some years ago, but you know what I mean…) have managed to survive one way or another for almost 40 years, so I don’t think the far-left has died out yet. The same goes for the CPA, SPA, ISO and all the other brands of socialist/communist/trotsyist parties. They will continue on with their own form of ultra-leftism for many years.

    As to the Greens being ‘hard-left’, well that rather depends on where you place the center. In any normal context they are a left party, but with many of the values and policies that would seem at home in a Fraserite Liberal Party (ie; small business). And yes they have policies that are much further to the ‘left’ of the ALP than most other parties would consider. But in general, the structure and organisation of the party places them more and more in the mainstream of Australian (and global) politics.

    While it might sometimes be fun to bait Greens (just as it is to do to any party!), being as dismissive as some have been on this list does not advance political discussion or the understanding of future political trends. For my part, I think the Greens will be around for a number of years yet, but whether they evolve fully into a mainstream party like the ALP, taking on the mantle of ‘reasonableness’ and commiting to the maintenance of the political and economic status quo is something will only be shown in the fullness of time.

    On WA: thankyou David for the update on the info on the state of play in the WA redistribution – I am still wondering if any here were considering making any comments or submissions regarding the redistribution?

    As to The OC & Mr Landeryou – I would be interested if any Qld Greens would like to comment on his story so far…

  5. All you have to do is take a look at where the Greens poll well to see that they are multi-dimensional. In Victoria (at State level), we poll over 20% in the inner-city, (former) Labor heartland areas (Melbourne, Richmond, Northcote, Brunswick), but we also poll between 15-20% in Liberal strongholds such as Hawthorn and Kew. Furthermore, we poll around 20% in Albert Park and Prahran, where the ALP and Liberals poll 40% each, and even out in regional Victoria, though we are weaker than in the metro areas, we still poll 10% in Ballarat, and have two Councillors in the Greater Bendigo Council, including the current (and former) Mayor.

    So Andrew Landeryou and all those self-proclaimed Greens experts really don’t know what they’re talking about. I occasionally read Landeryou’s blog for its amusement value – a man in his mid/late 30s who still rants like a ill-informed student and ends his posts with “Game on” can hardly be taken seriously. He also undermines his arguments (particularly those against the Greens) with his vitriol. One example which had me chuckling was when he said:

    “The battle is shaping up between new kid on the block luscious Larissa Waters and heavyweight National Convenor Juanita Wheeler, sloth club member Anja Light and two others who can’t win whose names our stoned Greens sources were unable to recall.”

    So, his sources were “stoned” and apparently suffering from amnesia yet he believed every word they said? Oh dear. Sounds like a bit of desperation to me.

  6. I would think (this could be easily tested using census data) that the Green vote corresponds very closely to the % of people with tertiary education in any given seat. This explains why safe Liberal seats like Kooyong and safe Labor seats like Melbourne both produce high Green votes: the Greens are now the party of choice of the urban intelligentsia. Victorian regional centres like Ballarat and Bendigo are being colonised by wealthy Melbourne exurbanites and they are taking their Green sympathies with them. Since Queensland has the lowest % of tertiary educated, it also has the lowest Green vote. (Tasmania doesn’t fit this theory, but there are obviously local factors at work there.) If this is so, it also suggests where the natural “ceiling” of the Green vote is.

  7. “Andrew Landeryou’s blog is a fantastic read. ” Yep. Much in the way “Der Stürmer” was.

  8. The Green vote is only partly education influenced.
    Having proportional representation means that smaller parties get more of a public voice, especially between elections (party leader MPs get a higher profile than party spokespeople).
    This is part of the reason that the highest green vote is in Tasmania and to a lesser extent the ACT (lower house PR), medium level votes in Vic, NSW, WA and SA (upper house PR) and lowest votes in Qld and NT (No PR).

  9. Another good poll for WA Labor in yesterday’s West Australian. From a sample of 401: Labor up 2 per cent to 44 per cent, Coalition down 1 per cent to 40 per cent, Greens up 3 per cent to 11 per cent. On 2PP, Labor up from 51.2 per cent to 54.5 per cent. The previous poll was conducted in the immediate aftermath of the resignations of Tony McRae and John Bowler.

  10. So the consolidated Newspoll gives us pro-Labor swings of:
    * 8-9% in “marginal” seats
    * 12-13% in “non-marginal” Coalition seats (for a 2pp of 50-50!)
    * 7% in “non-marginal” Labor seats

    A “non-marginal” Coalition seat is defined as one with a margin of more than 6%. On these figures, that’s a problematic defintion.

  11. Adam, you seem to be saying that educated people vote Green. If this were true, we can assume that people who know what is going on in the world are voting Green saying that the The Greens know how to run things properly, not like the current bunch of incompetents.

  12. Taking the last 2 Newspoll Quarterly polls by State and marginality, and combining them with recent nationwide Newspoll, Morgan, Nieslsen polls, plus the spot polls done in a very few seats, one can make an average swing for each seat, based on the numbers as they were about mid-Feb. The results are as below, which shows that these numbers were then pointing at the ALP picking up 38 seats and having a 48-seat majority, which is about the same as Howard’s 1996 majority. By the time of the next quarterly consolidated figures, all the trend lines behind this will be straightening up and making a bee-line for election day. The numbers are final ALP TPP in %

    BASS 54.8%
    BENNELONG 53.6%
    BLAIR 51.8%
    BONNER 57.8%
    BOOTHBY 53.1%
    BOWMAN 51.0%
    BRADDON 56.3%
    COWPER 52.5%
    DEAKIN 52.4%
    DICKSON 50.9%
    DOBELL 52.8%
    EDEN-MONARO 55.5%
    FLYNN 52.4%
    GIPPSLAND 51.1%
    HASLUCK 54.8%
    HERBERT 53.7%
    HINKLER 51.5%
    KALGOORLIE 51.8%
    KENNEDY 51.0%
    KINGSTON 58.4%
    LATROBE 51.5%
    LINDSAY 54.7%
    LONGMAN 53.4%
    MAKIN 57.5%
    MCEWEN 52.4%
    MCMILLAN 52.4%
    MORETON 55.6%
    PAGE 52.1%
    PARRAMATTA 56.7%
    PATERSON 52.7%
    PETRIE 52.5%
    ROBERTSON 52.1%
    SOLOMON 54.6%
    STIRLING 54.6%
    STURT 53.2%
    WAKEFIELD 57.8%
    WENTWORTH 52.2%

  13. The NSWEC has published a complete primary count for the NSW Upper House. Eliminations and Preference distributions commence today.

  14. I doubt that well see a repeat of 1996. I think people have forgotten how much hatred there was for keating, and Howard hasnt alienated regular suburbia the way Keating did.

    A lot of the figures presented by Geoff Lambert, except i will contest Kennedy, and say Bob Katter will survive, and Malcolm Turnbull will also survive. And also a guy called Howard will win Bennelong, and when he is gone the Liberals will win it again, because the only reason the seat is marginal is becuase of the size of the field of candidates, and nearly all of them preference against John Howard

  15. Re Drew Hutton, he was very clear in 2004 that it was his last run, due to various personal reasons, his age and the number of times he’s run. Nothing can or should be read into him not standing this time, other than that he was telling the truth in 2004.

    Re who votes Green, Adam is right. The best correlators are tertiary education, age and, interestingly, indicating ‘no religion’ on the Census. The other obvious point to make is that generally we do better in safe seats of either colour because voters feel safer to vote for a minor party, and because the majors are not campaigning. In blue ribbon Liberal seats often the Labor campaign is so poor that the Greens are the more visible alternative party.

  16. I’ve got to give it to Dennis Shanahan. Even in these days of woeful poll figures for the coalition he can find something positive for his conservative mates. That is real skill and masterful spin. Hell if the polls show Labor on 53 percent TPP by the election Dennis will tip a coalition win I reckon.

  17. Poor Greens voters, one minute they are hardcore ferals, the next they are tertiary educated urban intelligentsia.

    Re Drew Hutton, I understand that he has been a relatively polarizing figure within the Qld Greens for some years now. The real problem with 95 was not the preference deal as such because, as pointed out it was hardly one-way and, despite the odour of the government, I don’t think people really did expect the election to go that badly. The real problem was afterwards not admitting that it was a perfectly defensible tactic that misfired (FF anyone?). Instead DH came out saying that it was a good decision, the Goss government had been terrible etc. *That* really annoyed people.

    RE Andy Landeryou, although his commentary is questionable, on the matter of the Qld Greens vote it appears that his data is reliable.

  18. I agree with Martin B – the Greens tactic in ’95 was perfectly defensible from the Greens point of view – the general feeling before the election was that the Goss govt was going to be returned – and so hitting it in a few seats (eg Springwood) was a way of sending it a message. In that election, it’s interesting to note that the ALP held quite a few very marginal seats (eg Hervey Bay, Maryborough, Whitsunday) while losing some less marginal ones (Springwood, Gladstone, Greenslopes).

  19. I think what people found annoying was not so much that the Greens did a preference deal with the Nats – all parties do preference deals – but that they were are still are so pious about their own purity and everyone else’s wickedness. As Disraeli who said of Gladstone: “I don’t mind that he always has an ace up his sleeve, but I do wish he would stop pretending that God put it there.”

  20. has the NSW ALP Branch preselected for wentworth, lindsay, page and eden-monaro yet? They are the obvious ones from the pendulum.

  21. Sorry Speaker but that’s not right. The best Labor did in Newspoll at the beginning of the election campaign in 2004 was 50 – 50 TPP and slipped from there. By the way we’re dealing with a totally different set of issues and circumstances – no comparison really. Give me 53 – 47 any day at the start of this campaign – I’m sure the Libs would gratefully accept that right now and be happy about avoiding a complete rout.

  22. Actually having re checked the figures you could be right Speaker but my point about Shanahan still stands as does the fact that we’re dealing with a totally different set of issues and circumstances. Let’s face it Labor’s Primary vote hasn’t been this high in years and Rudd is preferred PM by a larger margin than Latham for a lot longer. For that reason I say again give me 53 – 47 going into this election anyday.

  23. Re Geoff Lambert’s list, only Bennelong, Cowper, Corangamite, Gippsland, Sturt and Wentworth have not been held by Labor at some stage in the last 20 years. In each case boundary and demographic changes have moved them within range. Labor hasn’t held a couple of the others under their current names but they cover territory which was previously Labor-held under different names eg Longman (was Dickson/Fisher) and Wakefield (mostly former Bonython).

    So it’s far from implausable.

  24. And I should add his Bennelong margin is bang in line with my estimate of the 2PP in Bennelong booths in the NSW State election. Coincidence?

  25. About Geoffs list:

    Take the seat of Kalgoorlie of the list, that wont happen.

    Hasluck might.. The current member is a dolt and the former member is having a tilt.

    As for polls remember there is Australia, then there is WA.

  26. Gary:
    Let’s face it Labor’s Primary vote hasn’t been this high in years and Rudd is preferred PM by a larger margin than Latham for a lot longer.

    If Howard gets it back to 53:47 then those polls will no longer be relevant.

    I’ve always held the view that undecideds typically shift to the incumbent government as their minds become more focused. The incumbent is safe and won’t change their lives. It gives governments a (very rough) 2% extra boost. (In my opinion)

    This means at 53:47 Howard will be within striking distance. A good scare campaign and he’ll win.

    This election is going to be emotional and dramatic.

    I’m very excited and can’t wait.

  27. I agree – Labor will need to at 55% or so at the *start* of the campaign to withstand Howard’s “shock and awe” blitz of negative advertising against Rudd. And as we all know, negative advertising works – ask Peter Debnam.

  28. Agree there’s usually a drift to incumbents over the course of campaigns but you wouldn’t want to count on it – both sides can play the negative game. In 1996 the Libs had great fun with PJ Keating and and JW Howard has provided quite a bit of material for a return serve this time around.

    A lot of Labor people believe Latham’s biggest mistake was not taking on the Libs on interest rates. They won’t do that again. And unlike Debnam, they will have the cash. We’ve already seen what the unions can do and there’s a fair bit of petrol left in their tank.

    As for business, at worst for Labor they’ll be hedging their bets and some sections seem to be warming to Rudd on issues like climate change and productivity.

    That means a lot of fundraising pressure on dysfunctional state and territory Lib/Nat branches. Normally about now we’d start to see the taxpayer funded “An Australian Government initiative” campaigns cranking up but they seem to be having trouble getting a fix on where to start. Any thoughts on why that might be, anyone?

  29. Negative campaigning only works when there is something to be negative about. Latham was a goldmine for attack. Debnam, meanwhile, didn’t exude the aura of leadership and made himself vulnerable to attack by appearing in speedo’s and constantly sounding shrill and hysterical.

    Negative attacks will only be effective when they exploit pre-existing, latent fears about the candidate, not when they try to create new fears. I can’t see the negative campaign blitz wearing Rudd down quite the same way that it was successful against Latham and Debnam.

    I would also hasten to add that Wentworth is winnable. Turnbull doesn’t have a lot of fat on his margin thanks to a punishing redistribution and on the flak of an anti-Liberal swing in 2004 (which I think existed despite, not because of, the Peter King factor).

  30. Preselections are not being done at head office Adam – they are being announced, circulated to branch members etc, as normal. Preselection timetables are scheduled ‘if required’. None have been required, but that is usual. Point is, challengers could challenge if they wanted.

  31. It would be a cold day in hell before Labor won Cowper. Having been involved in campaigns in Cowper and Lyne for the past 12 years, I can say that Labor never tries, or spends money, in either of them. Years ago Labor used to talk up Cowper but that was only to get the Nats to divert resources there. The Nats know this and Labor now knows that the Nats know.

  32. Blacklight is probably right to say Kalgoorlie not in the mix, but there’s always a smokey come election time. Today’s figures look really good for Labor in WA, despite the Shanahan spin. Worth remembering that Labor in WA is coming off low base – 34.7% primary, whilst the Libs coming from an unsustainably high – 48.8% primary. These numbers won’t be repeated in 2007 – that will deliver Stirling, Hasluck and maybe Kalgoorlie and will certainly protect Swan and Cowan. A seat to watch on election night is the volatile seat of Canning.

    Don’t buy the spin from the national media about local Labor being on the nose. Carpenter is, according to the most recent Newspoll numbers, Australia’s most popular premier!

  33. Anonymousie, what is your source for that? My understanding, from down here in Mexico, was that because of the state election there was no time for regular preselections and there were being done under N40 or whatever it’s called. The first batch – Bennelong, Dobell, Macquarie, Parramatta – were announced last week. But maybe I am wrong and the rest are being done as normal. I would have thought however that Labor needs candidates in the field in Eden-Monaro, Lindsay, Robertson, Page and Wentworth asap. Then there is the thorny question of whether to dump Irwin, Hatton and Hoare, and if so in favour of whom. Does someone have the full dirt on what the process is?

  34. The Speaker I think you underestimate Labor’s own scare campaign. You aint seen nothin yet. As for an incumbants advantage this applies if the incumbant is somewhat popular in the first place. If they are on the nose you can forget the 2 percent. It didn’t help Keating in ’96. Let’s face it, if the swing is on it’s on. I think there is too much residual thinking here that Howard is Houdini. This reputation is built on spurious information on past performances. Rudd is clever enough to blunt the Libs scare campaign. You can actually see where he is heading with this now. I’d be interested in your thoughts as to what you see as the whizz bang scare campaign the Libs will run.

  35. Meanwhile it is ‘reported’ at Crikey that it is ‘almost official’ that Senator Vanstone is headed off to Rome…

    This, if true, (to use one of the Prime Minister’s more favoured short phrases) is unlikely to have a hugh political affect, but what there is, is hardly likely to be favourable for the coalition.

    On the subject of senators taking their leave, can anyone say where we are actually at with respect to the previously foreshadowed resignation of Senator Santoro?

  36. Just reading all the comments above it seems we got a green talk going with even Adam showing some positive attitudes

  37. Boothby is a very different seat now to what it was in the days when the McLeays held it as a hereditary fiefdom. It now has a lot of rather *vulgar* suburbs in it, where the people are *not like us*. Also Dr Southcott seems a rather dull dog even by SA standards. After reading today’s polls in the Australian he might well be perusing the Jobs section of the MJA.

  38. Adam your description of Southcott is spot on and when the GST was introduced he had no idea on how to reply to local small businesses on that subject. In the end i think he started to hide

  39. Does anyone know who the Labor pre-selects are for Boothby and Sturt.
    If the polls hold up, ALP will expect to re-gain Wakefield and Kingston and win Makin. The next target will be Boothby and Sturt, which will paint the whole of Adelaide and environs Red. Even Alexander should get nervous.

  40. Sacha said

    Their ideas could be moreso described as “disconnected from reality” rather than hard-left.

    Funny that most of the old SWP (DSP/SA) from the seventies are now in the ALP

  41. The Libs are a bit unlucky with the boundaries in Adelaide. The upper-crust belt of suburbs in the south-east could make one ultra-safe Lib seat, but instead they are divided between Boothby and Sturt, which are both fairly safe in good years but which will both be lost in a bad year.

    Alexander has his scare in 98 when the Dems found a top-notch candidate. I don’t think the Greens can pull off the same trick. Perhaps a strong independent could. Where are you Natasha?

  42. Adam, no dirt. If you are a paid up member of NSW ALP and have given head office your email you get a monthly email digest that announces such things. So it’s no secret – contrary to popular belief. The N40 rule has not been deployed so far, and won’t be until such time as it’s needed. I would expect that there will be monthly or even fortnightly announcements of preselections, working through the held and winnable seats to get the right candidates in place and then, at the last minute, the unwinnables and any controversial preselections.

    Contrary to popular belief, the N40 rule IS only used in exceptional circumstances or for a clearly announced agenda, such as getting women into parliament.

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