Idle speculation: national conference edition

The Coalition has again narrowed the gap in this fortnight’s Newspoll, although it remains at a daunting 57-43. Lateline reports that Kevin Rudd’s preferred prime minister rating is down two points to 46 per cent, with John Howard’s up three points to 39 per cent. The Australian’s report is not online yet, but will be by the time most of you read this. In other developments from the past week:

• Labor’s national executive has acted quickly on the authority it received from the national conference to preselect candidates for 25 New South Wales seats, nominating military lawyer Colonel Mike Kelly to run against Liberal member Gary Nairn in Eden-Monaro. In his role with the coalition provisional authority after the invasion of Iraq in 2003, Kelly is credited with efforts to blow the whistle on mistreatment of prisoners in Abu Ghraib and AWB’s payment of kickbacks to Saddam Hussein’s regime. David Humphries and Andrew Clennell of the Sydney Morning Herald assess the state of play elsewhere as follows:

Greg Combet, the ACTU secretary, will be candidate for the Hunter seat of Charlton, replacing Kelly Hoare, who replaced her father, the former minister Bob Brown, in 1998. The right wing will decide replacements for Michael Hatton, who filled Paul Keating’s vacancy in Blaxland in 1996, and Julia Irwin, the MP for Fowler, also in Sydney’s south-west, since 1998. If Mr Rudd got his way, the likely candidate in Blaxland would be the University of NSW constitutional lawyer George Williams. But speculation is that the contest will be between Tania Mihailuk, the Mayor of Bankstown, and Bernie Riordan, the Electrical Trades Union boss. The favourite in Fowler, Warren Mundine, the former ALP president, may be overlooked because of demands to strengthen the number of women candidates.

• Following Senator Amanda Vanstone’s appointment as ambassador to Rome, the South Australian Liberal Party will hold its preselection to replace her on May 25, with nominations to close on Thursday. This is the third South Australian Liberal Senate vacancy in little over a year, following Robert Hill’s departure last March and Jeannie Ferris’s death earlier this month. As was the case with Santo Santoro’s vacancy in Queensland, the party administration has opted for a new ballot rather than promote an existing candidate for the coming federal election. The position would otherwise have gone to Maria Kourtesis, head of the nursing agency Prime Medical Placements. Kourtesis has been preselected for the unwinnable fourth position on the Senate ticket (which she also filled at the 1996 election), behind Cory Bernardi (who replaced Hill), Simon Birmingham (who will replace Ferris) and Grant Chapman, a Senator since 1987. Kourtesis’s defeat at the hands of the long-serving but little-known Chapman caused considerable angst due to the state party’s poor record on female representation. It was also a defeat for the beleagured moderates faction; Vanstone, also a moderate, is among those who have called for the balance to be redressed by having Kourtesis take her spot. Kourtesis will instead face opposition from the Right’s Mary Jo Fisher, workplace relations lawyer and manager at Business SA. The winner will not face election later this year, as Vanstone’s term does not expire until 2011.

• Also in South Australia, Labor has endorsed Nicole Cornes, columnist for the Sunday Mail newspaper and wife of football identity Graham Cornes, to run against Liberal member Andrew Southcott in the Adelaide seat of Boothby. Cornes admits to having voted Liberal in the past, and wrote in her column in 2004 that John Howard had “proved himself to be a fine PM”. In the other normally safe Liberal seat in Adelaide, Sturt, Labor has nominated Mia Handshin – a former Young South Australian of the Year and “founder of inspirational speaking and consultancy group Mana of Speaking” – to run against Christopher Pyne.

Western Australian Liberal Senator Ross Lightfoot announced he would retire from politics on Friday after it became clear he would lose the number three position to Mathias Corman, state party senior vice-president. Corman is linked with fellow WA Senators Chris Ellison and Ian Campbell in a pro-Howard camp opposed by forces aligned with indestructible powerbroker Noel Crichton-Browne. Last year, Lightfoot said he would have “no honourable course” but to quit the Liberal Party and serve out his term as an independent if he was dumped in an “undignified” manner. The Prime Minister reportedly instructed the state party to hold off on its preselection for as long as possible to minimise the effect of such an eventuality. However, despite Lightfoot’s complaint that the party should have chosen someone “more appropriate with respect to family values”, it does not appear that he plans to do so. The other incumbents, Alan Eggleston and David Johnston, have been re-nominated.

New South Wales Labor Senator George Campbell has announced he will retire from politics when his term expires in mid-2008, rather than face an inevitable preselection defeat. Campbell’s seat will go to his successor as national secretary of the Left faction Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, Doug Cameron, who by all accounts had stitched up the numbers to depose the 65-year-old Campbell long before. The other NSW Labor Senator up for re-election, Ursula Stephens, is reportedly at risk of being demoted in favour of the party’s high profile state secretary, Mark Arbib, who it was earlier believed had his eyes on Michael Hatton’s seat of Blaxland.

• The Northern News reports that the Liberal preselection for the safe northern Sydney seat of Mitchell will be held on an “unspecified date in May”. Under-achieving sitting member Alan Cadman, now 69, is apparently set on contesting again, despite having survived a challenge ahead of the 2004 election 58 votes to 55. Andrew Clennell of the Sydney Morning Herald reports that the party’s state vice-president, Nick Campbell, has been “encouraged” by two federal ministers to nominate. Others mentioned as contenders are Australian Hotels Association deputy chief executive David Elliott and solicitor Mark Blanche.

• The Poll Bludger has just had to cough up $239 in web hosting fees for the privilege of keeping you all entertained for another year. Contributions are welcome.

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.

333 comments on “Idle speculation: national conference edition”

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  1. Mr Speaker,

    Hear hear!

    Having watched degenerate into “Howard’s a liar, Rudd’s an idiot, no he’s not, yes he is” sniping over the past months, I’d hate for a similar thing to happen here.

  2. The latest Morgan poll is fun reading, ALP up.

    of course look at the poll dates, and remember its morgan…

    still at the very least shanahans juggernaut coming to a halt comments look a little optimistic.

  3. Not so much a stutter as chanting in disbelief until my aura balances and my understanding of the Christian concept of the trinity can be explained coherently without using a three leaf clover example.

    I 100% agree with you Ray we do indeed get the Government we deserve.

    I just repeat I promise for the last time – the bars being setup for the female candidates in South Australia for seats that probably need a really strong Rudd win would trip up (and i’m making these numbers up completely) 30% of Federal Members of Parliament (to day nothing of those they defeated) and up to 60% of members of State Parliament (perhaps 80% of State upper houses).

  4. Mr Speaker,

    Here is an obscure point of electoral trivia.

    According to Wikipedia, Mr Justice Callinan’s birthday is 1 September, which this year is the date of his mandatory retirement. The replacement must made by the Governor-General in Council, which means a date no earlier than 2 September.

    Events this week show how quickly the tide could turn against the ALP, on this occasion halted only by Senator Heffernan’s innovative intervention.

    But consideration of the High Court position could be a very serious deterrent to Howard calling a snap election in the winter, even if the ALP suddenly seemed in free-fall.

    For if Howard should lose, then Rudd would get to make three High Court nominations rather than two.

    If that happened, Howard in his retirement might be as popular with the establishment as, well, Malcolm. This is a prospect, one suspects, that he may find unattractive.

    If the Coalition wants a functioning Executive Council on 2 September, and does not want to lose days of campaigning to the APEC meeting on 8 and 9 September, then the earliest day to call the election would be late on 9 September.

    This gives 13 October as the earliest possible election date, if my calculations are right.

  5. I see Morgan has it back to 61-39 again.

    My initial reaction to the Nicole Cornes interview was OMG. However on further reflection I think that this may well have been a more shrewd move than meets the eye. I agree with anonymousie above that she seems sincere. My thoughts were that she seemed to be without guile. This combined with the fact that she had previously voted for Howard could resonate with a certain segment of usual liberal voters. And not necessarily just in Boothby. Rudd’s performance yesterday with her and Handshin indicated that Labor think they are a chance in both Sturt and Boothby.

    It would be good to get a new thread leading up to the budget.

  6. Yes, it is only a Morgan poll, and only takren up till last weekend, but still – Labor with 52% of the PRIMARY vote. I guess the Newspoll (due 15/5) will be the most instructive – not so much because it’s a Newspoll, but rather the timing will mean that the Labor IR stuff and the Budget will be taken into account.

    With every week my Dad’s prediction (made before Easter) that “people have already made up their minds – it will be a Labor landslide” (and dad is by nature a pretty cautious bloke) is looking more prescient. It could be that Rudd needs to be responsible for a terrorist act himself and be caught doing it on live TV to lose from here.

    However, never under-estimate the ability of parties from the Left to lose the unloseable.

  7. Opinions on the Workchoices backflip by Howard ?

    It seems to me that Howard has lost the “who will blink first” test on IR. In fact I would go further to say that he may well have just signed his own political death warrant by the admission today that elements of workchoices have removed certain protections. He has admitted that workers who signed AWAs in the past year and lost conditions have no recourse to win them back. This really is trouble with a capital T.

  8. The polls seem remarkably consistent, jumping either side of the 59-41 mark, within a fairly reasonable margin of error, and as such I’d be very disinclined to think there’s actually much movement in the bulk of the electorate at the moment. One or two point swings in polling from poll to poll don’t seem to me to be indicative of either party doing anything to really change the situation.

    I suspect that we won’t see much change unless something dramatic happens (ie 9/11) until the general populace come to grips with the concept there’s an election coming up. At the moment, I’d guess they just like the idea of a change, and Rudd seems to suit that.

  9. Having watched degenerate into “Howard’s a liar, Rudd’s an idiot, no he’s not, yes he is” sniping over the past months, I’d hate for a similar thing to happen here.

    I support your opinion 100%.

    The comments area there is has been ruined by partisan fighting. I stopped reading it six months ago.

    blackjack said:

    According to Wikipedia, Mr Justice Callinan’s birthday is 1 September, which this year is the date of his mandatory retirement. The replacement must made by the Governor-General in Council, which means a date no earlier than 2 September.

    If the Coalition wants a functioning Executive Council on 2 September, and does not want to lose days of campaigning to the APEC meeting on 8 and 9 September, then the earliest day to call the election would be late on 9 September.

    This gives 13 October as the earliest possible election date, if my calculations are right.

    Aah the soothing sound of numbers.

    Excellent analysis by the way.

    Leader’s always look statesmanlike coming out of APEC and CHOGM etc, so another reason to call an election at that time.

  10. Don’t you believe it – APEC will be a PR disaster. Half of Sydney will be locked down (and it only takes a small prang to cause traffic chaos in this town, so something this big will make ripples across the city), and I’m not sure George W is going to be quite the electoral asset that Howard was hoping for. Dick Cheney was in town about a month ago, and it wasn’t a popular visit. I think Howard would be much more likely to let the dust settle – the AFL and NRL Grand Finals are two weeks later, and my guess is he’ll call the election then. This points to an early November date (3rd or 10th), but if the polls stay as they are, we might have to wait till early December – you’d think the 8th would be the last possible date.

  11. A PR disaster? I wouldn’t bet on it. The punters get a holiday on the Friday, and it’s all over by Sunday evening.

    W. is a classy, engaging and wily campaigner. One thing he can do.

    The interesting question, just IMHO, is how much W. is going to be prepared to help a little mate in trouble.

  12. I suspect that it will be PR nightmare in part due to inadequacies of the State (ALP) government, but I don’t think the average punter will draw that distinction. Yes, we get a holiday (woo-hoo!), but I stand by my comment that it won’t be a huge plus for Howard.

    Your comments about W are curious – yes, he has been effective campaigner in the American context, but you’d be way off course suggesting that he has ever been good at convincing anyone outside of Nortn America – he is the most unpopular president in living memory. I have no doubt that he’ll try and help JWH out – after all, he did over mad Mark in 2004 – but Bush does not enjoy the same status that he did three years ago, so it’d be a mixed blessing at best Howard.

  13. “We are we supposed to get our candidates from? At random off the street?”

    Your ideas are intriguing to me and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter…

  14. I see La Hore as Adam calls her has chucked another fit now she’s been dumped for Combet.

    “Na Na Na Naah, Way Hey Hey and Goodbye!”

  15. Well Martin I see no-one has even tried to answer that question which I posed yesterday.

    William, do we understand that Ian Campbell has (a) resigned immediately (b) will resign at election time (c) will serve out his term?

    Thank goodness Combet has taken the plunge. Bye bye Kelly The. What is the current state of gossip over Blaxland and Fowler?

    Has a Liberal candidate for Parramatta appeared yet? If not, is this not somewhat amazing?

    Greetings from Dresden, comrades

  16. Good to hear from you Herr Doktor – where else in Germany are you travelling?

    As for Blaxland i hear that Hatton is doing a Hoare – trying every trick in the book to delay the inevitable.

  17. Prague, Nuremberg, Munich, Brussells, WW1 battlefields (my grandfather was gassed at Ypres), Paris, Edinburgh, London. My feet are already killing me. Yesterday I did Buchenwald – very upsetting.

    I am currently stuck in an internet cafe offloading about 300 photos because my camera is full.

    Memo: don´t come to Germany if you want to lose weight. Mein gott these people can eat.

    Labour doesn´t seem to be doing as badly in the Scottish and Welsh elections as predicted.

  18. I realise I’m drawing a a bit of a long bow here but surely Campbell would be back in Howard’s ministry after the election if the Libs win. Is this a sign he has his doubts about the prospects of the party at the next election? Will we see more resignations if the polls remain bad? Speaking of which, what is the feeling regarding Howard’s IR backflip? I notice it’s being likened, by the news services, to Howard’s petrol backflip in 2001 and his resultant victory. I’m not convinced.

  19. There was talk a few weeks ago that there are some health issues in Campbell’s family, and that after the initial shock of his downfall Campbell came to view it as a blessing in disguise.

  20. “I see no-one has even tried to answer that question which I posed yesterday.”

    That’s cause it’s simple. To guarantee victory the ALP merely need to select candidates that

    have a lifetime devotion to the labo(u)r cause (lest they be opportunistic) but have never had a job that reflects that (lest they be a hack);
    be well-known in their electorate (lest they be a blow-in) but not actually be famous for anything (lest they be a celebrity);
    be an ordinary person yet have a full command of all aspects of public policy;
    be good looking (but not too good looking);
    be intelligent (but not too intelligent);
    be ambitious (but not too ambitious);

    Meanwhile a knockabout farmer who knows nothin and likes it that way is just fine for the coaltion…

    On your question above, none of the above. It is reported that “The resignation would take effect in a few weeks.”

  21. With Campbell its family and a huge corporate gig in WA

    seen the Money been splashed around WA at the moment ?

    He could name his price.

    He was one of the rare decent coalition MPs too

  22. Blacklight Says: “He (Campbell) was one of the rare decent coalition MPs too.” I tend to agree with that although the parrot incident was a silly decision.

  23. A pity that Campbell is going … I think he should have given Howard a bit of a kick on the way out. Even though he did absolutely nothing wrong, his forced resignation will ensure that his name will appear (erroneously) tainted. A pity.

  24. I’m curious … all these Labor MPs who won’t get preselected for the next term – Hoare, Hatton, Irwin – were they all Beazley supporters? I know Irwin was… On that note, do we have a complete list somewhere of who voted Beazley and who voted Rudd?

  25. How many Senators have the Coalition lost this year so far?


    Is this a lot?

    And Robert Hill left last year.

  26. More photo-downloading at 10pm, which I think is 6am in Australien. I had dinner tonight sitting in a restaurant with a view of the floodlit Frauenkirch, which must be one of the most beautiful buildings in the world. Its reconstruction is one of the great stories of international reconciliation. I recommend it to all.

    (And yes, before anyone asks, I think the Allies were perfectly justified in bombing Dresden. By that I mean that although the area bombing campaign was probably militarily misguided, it was *morally* just because it was part of a war of self-defence against a ruthless enemy against whom any measures short of actual genocide were justified. The Desdeners were quite happy to cheer when it was Warsaw or London being bombed, or indeed synagogues in their own city being burned down. Some at least recognise this. There is a big plaque on the front of the Kreuzkirche, another big Dresden church which was burnt out though not destroyed in the bombing, headed “with shame and faith,” which says that the houses of God in Dresden were burned because the Christians of Dresden had sinned by doing nothing to resist the Nazis or to help the Jews. A very sound historical judgement.)

    Totally off-topic, sorry.

  27. Ben, you also need to add Ross Lightfoot to your list.

    All had lost the support of the PM with the exception of Jeannie Ferris who sadly passed away after a long illness.

    I wonder if Bill Heffernan might be next?

  28. Adam, see here in response to your question about Ian Campbell’s immediate future. Mixed metaphor of the year: “the resignation creates an opportunity to parachute new blood into the Government before the election”.

  29. I have been away for a while but heard Kelly Hoare (nee Brown) speak for the first time yesterday. Does anyone else think she suffers from developmental delay?
    Adam has said that the Weimar constitution was flawed and different from ours because the president could rule by decree during a declared emergency (this was only to suspend named civil rights). We have very few named civil rights and the Governor-General can rule by decree without even having an emergency declared.

  30. Yes, but the Australian Constitution works so well because we ignore 90% of it, a display of good old Aussie pragmatism.

  31. Charlie – looks like they’ll be trickling through this afternoon. The former Carr staffer won Blaxland preselection.

    Neil – Lightfoot is serving out his term.

  32. OK. Here we go. The results of Super Saturday:

    Blaxland – Jason Cla(i?)re
    Charlton – Greg Combet
    Eden-Monaro – Mike Kelly
    Fowler – Julia Irwin
    Hughes – Greg Holland
    Lindsay – David Bradbury
    Paterson – Tim Arneman
    Robertson – Belinda Neal
    Throsby – Jennie George
    Wentworth – George Newhouse

  33. Rudd’s candidate losing out in Blaxland… is that the first time he’s demanded something and been knocked back?

  34. Have just checked out Poll Bludger for the first time in a few days and I cannot believe it has taken until this afternoon for somebody to comment on Kelly Hoare’s performance on radio yesterday. I heard her on AM – “I’m a single mother with a child at university, I could lose my house as a result of this”!!! – it was unbelievable stuff, what a completely hopeless individual! I can’t help but be amazed at the sledging Paris Cornes has been copping – she couldn’t be any sillier than Kelly Hoare, someone who has been allowed to mark time in a safe ALP seat for 9 years.

    Two other things about Paris and Boothby: I agree with the school of thought that in metropolitan seats, Cornes and Southcott are just names on a ballot paper and their presence a footnote to the real issues such as the economy, WorkChoices etc. However, if this is wrong, Cornes may well be a big asset as someone who has abandoned JWH and the Liberals – and that has got to count for something in a traditonally Liberal seat where the key to victory is convincing lifelong Liberals to follow the example of the ALP candidate. US analogies are not always helpful, not least of all because of non-compulsory voting, but its noteworthy that last year the Democrats regained control of the US Senate by winning the Virginia and Montana races (two Republican-Red states) with candidates who were former Republicans. Given the razor thin margins in each of these contests, the candidates’ history may well have been decisive. Of course, all of this is overlooking one other undeniable fact: at the very least, the Cornes factor will consume valuable Liberal resources that would otherwise be deployed in Kingston, Wakefield and Makin.

    Also, one other thing: how does everyone think Rudd will match up against Howard in the inevitable pre-poll debate? And will it matter?

  35. It’s Jim Arneman, not Tim Arneman. Ambo from Port Stephens who missed out on last state election by a whisker.

    Am surprised George Williams did not prosper in Blaxland.

  36. I too am a liitle surprised and a bit disappointed that neither George Williams or Warren Mundine got up – they’d both be superior additions to Caucus than those who won. Still, overall it’s one of the best list of candidates Labor has fielded in NSW for years.

    Saw a poll from Bennelong the other day – actually it was more analysis of the NSW State election results – which suggested that this seat is considerably more marginal than previously thought. McKew is definitely having an impact and seems to have been well received by the locals. You’d have to think that it’s too late for JWH to cut and run (though I wouldn’t totally discount the chances of it happening), but he may well be in serious trouble if he doesn’t.

  37. Ah hah. Good pick up, anonymousie.

    Which would make Jim-not-Tim the sole beneficiary (so far as I can tell) of delaying the federal preselections until after the state election.

    I stuffed up the link in my previous post. Here it is again.

  38. Hugo , i would have thought that you wouldn’t have fallen for that old ploy of transposing state results to federal seats etc. In Bennelong, it may be so, but what does it prove?

    You could go through every seat and find some sort of outcome that suits whatever argument someone is pushing. Maybe, even the avid readers of this site should pay more attention to the nous, interest, concerns and even wisdom of the average voter rather than treating them like some sort of mindless jelly like blob that only drags themselves away from the telly on election day because they have to.

  39. But the point is Blaxland is a safe seat. Shouldn’t that be the general strategy? Get your hard nose policy people into parliament via safe seats, then use popular community focussed, and grass roots candidates in more marginal electorates. Pat Farmer finds it hard to talk during parliamentary debates, but he has strong local support which keeps that seat on the LIberals side.

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