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. Are any of you bright sparks able to tell me which electorates Melton (Victoria) has been part of?

    It’s currently in Lalor and prior to 2004 was part of Burke. But what was it in prior to that?

  2. I reckon there’s a limit to how far out of an area an MP (or even a major candidate) should live, but further than just the electorate.

    For example, Latham didn’t live in Werriwa, but he lived in Campbelltown, and in a city the size of Sydney, that’s close enough. People in Minto or Liverpool aren’t gonna vote against someone because they live in Campbelltown.

    However, there are some ridiculous cases. Reba Meagher represents Cabramatta while living in Coogee. It’s not an issue because Cabramatta is the safest Labor turf in the country, but that’s what I find abhorrent, Cabramatta is taken completely for granted and completely ignored, as a punishment for its loyalty to the ALP.

  3. Gordon Chalk, the former Liberal Deputy Premier of Qld to Joh, apparently lived in Taringa/Indooroopilly while representing Lockyer (according to my politics lecturer many years ago). Taringa/Indooroopilly was/is a wealthy middle class suburb in Brisbane’s western suburbs while Lockyer was an electorate in the Brisbane valley between Ipswich and Toowoomba.

  4. It’s sort of on topic to disclose that Maxine McKew will shortly be a neighbour (literally a couple of doors up) in Bennelong. Those of you with very long memories will remember the cliched white picket fence on the cover of one JW Howard’s ill-judged “Incentivation” manifesto that helped bring him down in 1989. Well it’s that house, or the spitting image of it. Has also been used as a film set (was Georgie Parker’s house in All Saints) so it seems a good prop for this quite theatrical campaign.

    Anyway looking forward to chatting with Bob across my picket fence as he wanders up to the very good fruit shop on the corner for papers and milk. Don’t expect to see so much of Max. It’s a good debating point as to whether residence matters but plainly the hard heads in the ALP thought Mosman was a bridge too far from Bennelong. Remains to be seen whether Kirribilli is any better. The sitting member has never lived anywhere near the current boundaries but still manages to bob up at most envelope openings.

  5. Well with the revelations coming thick and fast about Kelly Hoare from the Labor Party in an attempt to destroy any chance she may have as an Independent – I think it is about time that a feminist critique was applied to the whole episode – and I am would probably be better described as a misogynist – so I am not pushing my own barrow here.
    The way the Kelly Hoare affair has played out is a classic case of men in power denying women sexuality and making women look dirty. You know – women are objects of men for sexual purposes, they are not supposed to actually enjoy sex (mainly because the men in power would be incapable of sexually satisfying a woman) and unless they are of an age and have the looks of a Paris Hilton they must not pursue sex- for a woman who is not Paris Hiltonesque – it is dirty.

  6. Well, to be fair, we don’t know for sure that the muck-raking has come from the ALP (though no doubt a valid assumption) – the allegation first ran in the Terror, which has no end of muck-rakers on the payroll.

    While I agree with Alex Turbey that women in politics generally get a raw deal and are frequently victims of double standards, I’m not sure that’s true in this case. Kelly Hoare was a highly ineffective politician who has got where she is because she is the daughter of the former member. And really, she hasn’t really been gone over that badly – just one allegation that she tried it on (unsuccessfully) with her driver, something she herself has admitted is true. Really not that bad or scandalous in this day and age I would have thought. Kelly Hoare was dumped for all the right reasons, and all this other stuff is just blather.

  7. Re: Talent from the Hunter.
    I am hard pressed to name anyone. Charlie Jones, transport minister in the Whitlam government was a man without an education who impressed me with his commitment to the Left. Harold Hawkins was a senior minister in the Cahill and Heffron state governments – he died in 1971.
    Perhaps the best known name, which I hear allthe time, is the former member for Charlestowm and minister for Gaming, the Hon. Dick Face.
    Yeh, pretty disappointing for a string of safe seats really.

  8. The Speaker: Expect more hand-wringing in certain newspapers about how Royal’s failure (and the possibility of Hillary failing) will “haunt, and be used to intimidate, women politicians for a generation” as The Grauniad put it.

  9. I’m not sure that Sego’s failure will translate into a wider women in power thing – after all Angela Merkel has ruled quite adequately in neighbouring Germany for a year now, and rumour has it she would win an election now hands down. Royal’s main problem was that she wasn’t much of a candidate. She looked the goods at first, but then there was nothing to follow it up – no detail on policy, no overall philosophy, and no real response to rise the of Sarkozy until the final debate – a bit late to start fighting, methinks. It probably didn’t help her that the Socialist Party is so faction-ridden that it was unable to unite behind her.

    As always, the far Left would rather be pure in Opposition than compromised in government.

  10. bill weller Says: May 6th, 2007 at 7:12 pm – Gary Bruce who are you referring too? Sorry, Bill haven’t been on for awhile. I’m referring to anyone who may feel it applies to them. If that’s not you then so be it.

  11. The Oz is running a second story about Kelly Hoare on their website this afternoon, again quoting ‘Labor Party Sources’. If the whole business is coming out of the ALP, this is one of the shabbiest little stories that has been around for a while. And if it is revealed that the source has been the ALP – will there be the cries of righteous outrage from Joan Kirner, Meredith Burgmann etc?? Kelly Hoare has lost preselection – and probably quite rightly – but why do they need to destroy the poor woman, not only her parliamentary career but her public standing and possibly marriage as well?

  12. You will hate me but I suspect, without knowing myself that, the characterisation of Ms Hoare (that is as the most useless of all backbenchers) is probably much more suspect, on a discriminatory basis, that the post loss hatchet job. If you look at the deadwood in both houses the chances of her actually been the very worst seems unlikely to me. Have any of you who hate her so much actually met Senator Lightfoot? Do you have some grudging respect for Senator Heffernan?

    So I suspect, without much evidence, an element of latent ‘girl wasting a boys seat’ sexism in this judgement. But I could be wrong.

    I firmly believe in affirmative action, and if Ms Hoare cannot get preselection in an environment with affirmative action well there is a risk she is indeed as bad a seat waster as the score of boys who will return to the post election benches without her.

  13. Can someone please tell me what the ALP affirmative action policy has actually achieved except divert an unwarranted amount of time and energy away from finding the ‘best’ candidate to finding one with the right biology (and most likely one that agrees with the Emily’s List sub faction to boot). The Libs, Nats and Dems manage to preselect women to safe and or winnable seats without an affirmative action policy. In many cases, they have been proven vote winners, Jackie Kelly and Danna Vale being 2. There are ALP women MPs who would be preselected regardless of gender – Julia Gillard and Nicola Roxon for example. By all means don’t put barriers in front on women wanting preselection but don’t put barriers up to men either – such as Fremantle being earmarked as a ‘woman’s seat’ – or Warren Mundine being unable to get a guernsey because of the Affirmative action policy. And once ALP women are in parliament, does that gaurantee them adavncement? Not in Victoria, where there are now far fewer women in the cabinet than 1999 and the women on the ALP front bench are easily outnumbered by those on the Libs bench. The best candidate for the party is that person who can connect with voters and get elected. By all means we need diversity, but we need talent too – from all sides.

  14. Jasmine, while I agree that women politicians often get more vicious scrutiny, I think it is unlikely you will find an MP who has been in as long as Kelly Hoare has who has less to show for it in terms of real achievements. There may be some with equally low records, but not many. Even someone like Bill Heffernan, objectionable as he is, has managed to raise the debate on some issues (eg forests and water) while lowering it on others.

    Hoare’s claims to financial distress are also ridiculous. She is eligible for the parliamentary pension, so she won’t starve, and if after 9 years on an MP’s salary she can’t have a house in the Hunter paid off then she is either living in a mansion or hasn’t been spending sensibly.

    However, if she is genuienly suffering from depression or other mental illness then she deserves sympathy – anyone in that situation does.

  15. I’d have more sympathy for La Hoare if she wasn’t acting like a child that’s had their favourite toy snatched away – “I *must* have Charlton!”

    By the way Edward, that nickname is pretty common and is no different to “Shrub” for a certain George W. Bush

  16. Blackburnpseph asks what affirmative action has achieved.

    1. In any system where quotas, targets etc are employed, AA opens every woman, however talented, to the accusation that she got there only on account of her sex.

    2. AA systems are open to colonisation by groups who can hand out the goodies. For example, Emily’s List (its website lists Ms Hoare as a member) has had the effect that the range of views of the women elected is narrower than that of men.

  17. Blackburn is correct about affirmative action. It has been a totally counter-productive exercise from the point of view of both Labor and women. It has been used to dump a succession of untalented wives, ex-wives, girlfriends and relatives of male faction bosses in safe seats. Hoare is a particularly egregious example, but not the only one.

    Carmen Lawrence and co put up affirmative action no doubt with good intentions, but it has just become a factional rort. Every time one of these cases comes up the Left Women’s Caucus (known as the “moaning Joans” after their most prominent spokeswoman) send up their wail about sexism etc, regardless of the merits, thus making everyone else extremely cynical. As someone above noted, talented women have no difficulty getting selected and elected – Gillard, Roxon, Plibersek, Burke, Wong, many more at state level, such as the next Premier of Qld.

    On whether Hoare is the deadest piece of deadwood in Canberra. I worked there for three years, and my view is that she was the most useless MP on the Labor side. Did and said almost nothing, and when challenged, replied: “Don’t care. I’ve got the numbers”, meaning her numbers in the Charlton branches.

    She cannot be compared to Lightfoot and Heffernan, who people hate because of their *actions* not because they are deadwood. Lightfoot actually works very hard, as obsessives do. I don’t know much about Heffernan apart from his obnoxiousness but Howard obviously doesn’t think he’s deadwood. Better comparisons are with Cadman, 30 years a backbencher, or Stewie McArthur and Senator Chapman, who treat Canberra like a country club. But even McArthur does his bit as a whip, and Cadman is always willing to read out any speech he is given late at night.

  18. Ken Booth was one of the most pleasant men I have ever met but I have always felt he was an example of the Peter’s principle – due to factions he was promoted way beyond his talent. Still he was a much better minister than the former gaming minister.
    Why Bob Horne?

  19. Hope you all watched whatever that show on the ABC is called tonight.

    Only failure of affirmative action is that it hasn’t got rid of enough mediocre men and ensure mediocre women have plenty of company.

    The liberal party position is much much worse – it amounts to let men decide which women are not threats and put them up. Look at Julie bishop, the exception that proves my rule, don’t agree with her politics and know many her hate her from her time as Chairperson of the law firm, but she is more talented than the rest of cabinet put together and took ages to get in there.

  20. What rubbish, Jasmine. Bishop has been promoted quite rapidly and in accord with her obvious talent. But she is a rare exception in the Liberal ranks – a talented woman given preferment. (Personally I find the way she exploits her sex appeal rather offensive, but since I’m in a 5% minority on such matters I will bow to the majority view).

    The Liberals operate on fuhrerprinzip – the Leader promotes whomever he likes. His choice of women has generally been poor – Danna Vale, Jaquie Kelly, Judi Moylan, De-Anne Kelly, Kay Patterson, all duds. (I don’t blame Howard for Bronwyn Bishop, he had to give her something in 1996.) Vanstone and Newman were just passable. Of the current lot, Sharman Stone seems capable, but I’m stretched to think of anyone else.

  21. In relation to Julie Bishop your definition of quite rapidly and mine Adam are clearly quite different. She was held back for years as a Costello backer wasn’t she? I would compare her to Garrett and Turnbull, favorably, and they were a week or two more preferred weren’t they? I would do the maths but I can’t be bothered.

    You can’t oppose affirmative action using as the sole base for your opposition the stupidy of the current male dominated cultures and systems that put in candidates that are just as bad as the kind of male candidates they replaced. If anything it is evidence for additional affirmative action not less.

    And the whingy whiney labor boys I know to have been deprived by affirmative action (and there are that many there isn’t as much affirmative action as might be hoped for) are even stronger evidence of how good it has done for Labor. Mr Mundine would make a fantastic candidate and I hope he is found a seat.

    I go back to my example of affirmative action, and that is a boys club partnership I had the honor of working for, they wouldn’t have in a million years had affirmative action into the partner ranks, but I sat in recruitment meeting after recruitment meeting where the intake was affirmatively actioned – to save the boys who were too lazy or too stupid to do as well at uni. Depending on the sophistication of the partner the excuse went from ‘maintaining a balance’ at the sophisticated end, to ‘she will just leave us and have babies’ at the crude end.

    I am glad I stumbled across that show last night … clearly some of you need to look for the repeat on ABC 2.

  22. Any discussion of deadwood in parliament has to mention Alby Schultz, he is too dead to use as firewood!
    Wilson Tuckey would also get a mention and Annette Ellis from Canberra, who has health problems and would benefit the party enormously by giving up her ultra safe seat for a talented up and comer.

    I believe that all parties should be compelled to cull 10% of members at each election. I know it would never happen, but it’s a great fantasy.

  23. The ALP is at 57-43 at what stage will it be a close election? 54 -46 ? can anyone tell me what the minimum 2pp vote will get the ALP over the line. That if all ALP marginals stay ALP and the swing is uniform in the marginals needed

  24. I beleive the ALP need at least 51.3% 2 party prefered. This would give them 75 seats on a uniform swing. However the last of those seats is Bennelong, which I don’t think Howard will lose. So in practice they would need a uniform 2PP vote of 52.1%. But this doesn’t really bare relation to practice. I think there will be a swing, but it needs to happen in the right places for the government to fall. Look what happened in 1990.

  25. interesting to see what the budget does to the Libs standing. I still get the feeling Howard will fall over the line.

  26. I am sorry – this is probably the wrong place for this – BUT is anyone able to say where one can get an authoritive list of which faction/sub-faction etc of the ALP, members of the NSW Legislative Assembly belong to ?

  27. Wouldn’t you write to the factional convenor / president / secretary and to remain accurate repeat monthy?

  28. Will Howard and Costello get the predicted poll bounce from the budget?
    If tax cut bribery doesn’t significantly narrow Rudd’s poll lead, the Libs are stuffed.

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