Michael Bachelard of The Age reports the blue-ribbon Melbourne seats of Kooyong (9.8 per cent) and Goldstein (10.0 per cent) are in danger of falling because John Howard has refused to move aside. This is according to a senior Liberal figure who desribes the Prime Minister’s new position on the leadership as a catastrophe driven by selfishness, and believes next Tuesday’s Newspoll should be a catalyst for a change. Elsewhere in Victoria, Deakin (5.0 per cent), McMillan (5.0 per cent), Corangamite (5.3 per cent), La Trobe (5.8 per cent) and McEwen (6.4 per cent) are rated almost certain to go, while Dunkley (9.4 per cent) and
Flinders (11.1 per cent) are also under pressure.
Simon Benson of the Daily Telegraph reports that Labor polling in 10 New South Wales marginals pointed to swings of between 8 and 12 per cent, which was deemed so implausible it was redone only to return the same results. The report also confirms no effort will be made to win seats from Labor, and says the Liberals have started polling the blue-ribbon seat of North Sydney because of fears Workplace Relations Minister Joe Hockey could fall (although similar noises could be heard during the 2004 campaign).
Steve Lewis of The Australian reckons the Prime Minister’s announcement that he will hand over the reins to Peter Costello in an increasingly hypothetical next term of government amounts to him sacrificing his own seat to save the Coalition, since it will enable Maxine McKew to point to the certainty of a mid-term by-election. Significantly, the Prime Minister is now promising to serve a full term as member for Bennelong if the government is returned.
Michael McKenna of The Australian reports that Moreton MP Gary Hardgrave appears to have misled federal parliament over the AFP’s inquiries into the phantom staffer and printgate affairs. An AFP spokesman is quoted saying a formal interview was requested with Hardgrave, which appears at odds with his statement in parliament on August 7: I have not even been required for an interview by the AFP in the five-and-a-half months since this matter began.
Focus group sessions conducted by the Sydney Morning Herald, as reported by Peter Hartcher and Annabel Crabb, provide many pages of grim reading for the government and its supporters.
Malcolm Mackerras tells the Canberra Times that the Greens’ Senate candidate in the ACT, former MLA Kerrie Tucker, is a 50-50 chance to lead the party to an unprecedented Senate win at the expense of Liberal incumbent Gary Humphries.
Venturing slightly off topic, Sean Parnell of The Australian reports from Queensland that senior conservatives fear Anna Bligh will use a state electoral redistribution late next year as the trigger for an early election, consigning an ill-prepared Coalition to another three years in Opposition.