Toil and trouble

Federal Coalition. Today’s Liberal leadership contest is of course being amply covered elsewhere. I will say only that the 6-to-1 odds on Brendan Nelson from SportingBet look remarkably attractive from what I’m hearing. Warren Truss is set to take the Nationals leadership unopposed following the withdrawal of Peter McGauran. No by-elections loom at this stage, but I suspect they will be happening sooner or later in Higgins, Mayo, Berowra and perhaps Lyne.

Queensland Liberals. The state Liberal Party has been plunged into a constitutional crisis by a four-all leadership deadlock between incumbent Bruce Flegg and challenger Tim Nicholls. Flegg and his three supporters voted down a leadership spill motion yesterday, prompting state president Warwick Parer to declare he must “do the honourable thing and stand down”. The two groups might end up holding separate party room meetings today, each claiming official status. Nicholls is associated with the Santo Santoro/Michael Caltabiano faction of the Queensland Liberal Party, and is supported in the party room by John-Paul Langbroek (Surfers Paradise), Jann Stuckey (Currumbin) and Steve Dickson (Kawana). Flegg represents the moderate “western suburbs” faction and is supported by Mark McArdle (Caloundra), Ray Stevens (Robina) and Glen Elmes (Noosa), at least for now: the Courier-Mail reports Flegg’s supporters are united by animus towards the Santoro faction, and would be willing to back a candidate other than Flegg to keep Nicholls out.

Western Australian Liberals. It had long been understood that the looming federal election was the only thing preventing a challenge against Liberal leader Paul Omodei, and the talk is that a spill will be on next week. On Tuesday the ABC reported that Omodei was about to be tapped on the shoulder and asked to make way for Vasse MP Troy Buswell. Omodei – a dangerous man to be around at times – today told the media any colleagues who did so would be “very lucky if they don’t get a good right hook, and they’ll be lucky to get out of the room standing up”. Like his Queensland counterpart Tim Nicholls, Buswell is a first-term MP. Meantime, former leader Colin Barnett has announced he will not seek re-election for his seat of Cottesloe at the state election due in February 2009. Barnett has told The West Australian he has thought better of retiring immediately, because it “wasn’t the right thing to do and a lot of people in my electorate want me to stay”. His enemies in the Liberal Party say he’ s only staying to block any move to recruit Julie Bishop to the state party leadership by having her take his seat at a by-election.

Northern Territory ALP. Clare Martin and her deputy Syd Stirling have both pulled up stumps and moved to the back bench. The Northern Territory News reports that leadership rival Paul Henderson delivered Martin a “gentle ultimatum” a few weeks ago. Martin accepted this without demur as she had lost her enthusiasm for the job following the federal government’s intervention into Aboriginal communities. Mutterings first emerged last November that Martin’s inaction in indigenous affairs had cost her the support of the most of the Aboriginal members of caucus, and that a challenge by Henderson would win the support of 10 out of 19 party room members. Martin and Stirling have both vowed to remain in parliament until the election due in mid-2009, so it does not appear we will be treated to by-elections in Fannie Bay and Nhulunbuy.

In late election counting news, Labor’s Jason Young is back in front of Andrew Laming in Bowman, if only by 21 votes. The pattern of voting in 2004 suggests Young has cleared his biggest hurdle now that pre-polls have been counted (mostly if not entirely), and should be able to keep his nose in front on remaining postal (where he has performed strongly so far), absent and provisional votes. In Herbert, Defence Force votes have slashed Labor’s lead from 528 to 36: the outlook appears better for Labor’s George Colbran now those are out of the way, but like Bowman it’s still close enough that anything could happen. Liberal member Peter Dutton’s lately acquired lead continues to widen in Dickson, and the Liberals are home and hosed in La Trobe and Macarthur. The only reason McEwen is not on the list is those votes we were told about which were wrongly sent to Scullin, on which I have heard nothing further. Defence Force votes have cut Labor candidate Damian Hale’s lead over CLP member Dave Tollner in Solomon from 718 votes to 427, but he should still get up unless there’s a surprise lurking in the remaining pre-polls. The trend in Swan contains to favour Liberal candidate Steve Irons, now 136 votes in front, although there will be very little in it either way. Anyone wishing to discuss these results is encouraged to use the dedicated threads linked to in the sidebar.

A couple of other seats worth noting. The Greens camp has been talking up a possible late-count boilover in O’Connor, where Nationals candidate Philip Gardiner could theoretically overtake Labor’s Dominic Rose and surf over Liberal veteran Wilson Tuckey on preferences. At the moment Gardiner is some way behind Rose, 20.42 per cent to 18.37 per cent. It is argued that most of the 9.28 per cent vote that went to various minor candidates will go to Gardiner as preferences, although a good many went straight to Tuckey in 2004. The other question is how many of the 6.68 per cent who voted Greens followed the card and gave their second preferences to the Nationals. If the combined 15.96 per cent from minor parties delivers the Nationals 2.06 per cent more than Labor, Gardiner might be in business. In 2004 there was an 18.8 per cent minor party vote that split 7.8 per cent Labor, 5.7 per cent Nationals and 5.3 per cent, but the Greens were running split-ticket how-to-vote cards as opposed to their direct recommendation to the Nationals this time.

A late-count surprise has been a narrowing of Labor’s margin in Flynn, where postal votes have split over 70-30 in favour of the Nationals. This is because postal voting is a favoured method of voters in isolated rural areas, although the size of the gap is still a surprise. Whether or not the Nationals are still a show depends on whether there are more postals to come. Today’s Courier-Mail states that “postal votes were counted today”, which sounds like it means they were all counted, in which case the remaining 590-vote Labor lead should be enough. Pre-polls have in fact been running quite heavily in Labor’s favour, and absent votes are unlikely to buck the overall trend.

Corangamite is now on the AEC “close seats” list with pre-polls and postals having favoured the Liberals 57-43, cutting the Labor lead from 2217 to 767. However, there should be few if any remaining pre-polls and postals, and Labor did quite a lot better on the uncounted absent and provisional votes in 2004.

There has been no significant progress in Senate counting this week, but it might yet be worth keeping an eye on the Australian Capital Territory. The Liberal vote is clear of a 33.3 per cent quota on 34.1 per cent, which will need to drop at least 1.5 per cent if the Greens are to sneak through for an upset. At the 2004 election it actually increased by 0.22 per cent.

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.

1,082 comments on “Toil and trouble”

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  1. Thanks for all the explanations William, and it certainly makes me a bit more optimistic about a few of the close seat contests.

    It can be a bit hard telling whether all the postals have been counted in a particular seat. Should I take it that the number for ‘envelopes issued’ doesn’t necessarily mean the total number of ballots to be counted?

  2. Also William, what’s your opinion on Buswell? I can hardly imagine he’d be more ineffective than Omodei but I’m struggling to think of any other Liberal Party members in WA who would be strong leaders.

    That being said, there’s obviously a lack of talent on both sides of WA politics and they’d both be well cautioned to bring in some new blood at the next election.

  3. Thanks heaps, William,

    Can anyone tell me where I could find the specific vote leads in for all close seats? I’ve tried the AEC and

    Like many here, I’d like to know how the vote count in Bennelong currently stands. Of course, it’s an academic exercise whether McKew wins it now or very soon at a By-election, but sweeter if it’s now.

  4. Abbott has said the Liberals won’t be back the Lodge “for a while”. With him threatening to de-stabilise the new Liberal leader before he is even elected, they won’t be if Abbott has anything to do with it.

    On ya Tone.

    Should be good. If, as expected, Nelson wins (the Liberal Party’s version of Simon Crean as oppoition leader) then both Abbott and Turnbull will spend this term undermining him and each other.

    Should set Labor up in office for the next decade and a half.

    I see that Costello didn’t attend yesterday’s last supper with Howard. Costello must really loathe and detest him.

  5. Mr. Squiggle,

    “1) 1 in 4 Australians are born overseas- exactly what should they apologise for? (sorry for coming here? building a new life, surviving the civil wars I left behind?)”

    Sorry, I am a naturalized citizen born and I have no problems in saying sorry to the indigenous Australians.

  6. Julie @6 Ditto for me on saying Sorry to the first Aussies.

    Just checked my bet site, but alas no Opp. Leader option to put a fiver on Nelson.

    However, they are offering “any other Party” except Labor in 2010 @ $4.50.

  7. Sorry has different meanings. I caught up with someone recently who I hadn’t seen for a long time. She told me her husband died. I said “I’m sorry”, as you do in these situations..

    That doesn’t mean I was taking personal responsibility for his death

  8. Some bloke who was at Sydney Uni. same time as Abbott was telling tales on the Blogocracy site about what a wild man he was during his years there.

    Abbott had a small mob which followed him around most lunch times as he shouted at apathetic students through his bullhorn outside the Library.

    Abbott is the Coalition’s Mark Latham and will increasingly reap a similar whirlwind for his colleagues.

  9. ..sorry for not checking html more closely…not enough coffee yet…hope this is ok

    bennelong is here.

    Look at the links:
    Two Candidate Preferred By Polling Place
    Declaration Vote Scrutiny Progress
    for detailed breakdowns of postal, pre-poll counts etc.

    Thanks for the site William.

  10. Re 8,

    Spiros Says:

    November 29th, 2007 at 7:32 am
    Sorry has different meanings. I caught up with someone recently who I hadn’t seen for a long time. She told me her husband died. I said “I’m sorry”, as you do in these situations..

    That doesn’t mean I was taking personal responsibility for his death

    Since the E*L*E*C*T*E*D government is going to say “sorry” in consultation with what the Aboriginals want (wording/place, etc.), you are by default taking personal responsibility like it or not. We finally have a government in place who will do what is right so I don’t mind that naysayers like you are along for the ride. You haven’t got a choice in the matter now. Cheers 🙂

  11. I would expect Turnbull to be elected today -although the SMH reports that Nelson is gaining the support of conservatives in the party so he could benefit from this. Also Tony Jones said last night on Lateline that some Liberals are disillusioned with Turnbull’s very high profile media campaign and I imagine some of them probably won’t like him abandoning Howard’s positions on key issues and there may be a backlash against Turnbull due to both these factors and Nelson could be the beneficiary. On the other hand, Nelson’s limitless ambition and opportunism could be an off putting factor to many MPs and this may benefit Turnbull

    The Age today quoted Liberal sources as saying Abbott was only capable of mustering up 4 votes for his leadership bid. LOL. Wonder who was planning to vote for him

    This may be an interesting assessment of Howard’s legacy. If Turnbull wins, it could be viewed as somewhat of a repudiation of Howard and may also signify that there is a significant bloc of the party who disagreed with his policies but who kept their silence during his government. The downside for Turnbull is that if he does win, he’ll be relentlessly undermined by Abbott and the other Howardbots in the Liberal Party. I suspect he’ll be the next Andrew Peacock -always the bridesmaid but never the bride (in other words he’ll never be PM).

    I suspect we’ll see Abbott re-positioning himself to try and look more moderate over the next few years (not with any sincerity but similar to the way did that Howard did in 1995 when he pretended to repudiate his past positions on social policy) so that he’ll emerge as a competent leadership contender in the future. Of course if he’s ever elected, he’ll go back to being the right wing ideological zealot he always has been

  12. The AFR this morning seemed to tip the Lib leadership election decidedly in Nelson’s favor. I’m beginning to suspect that, while he can talk a good game, Turnbull simply doesn’t have the numbers. The Libs may be dazed & confused right now, but that hasn’t sent the majority of them into the self-examination needed for radical change. Nelson, to all appearances, is moderate, but I can’t imagine him as the bulldog Opposition leader that the Libs are going to need to constantly harry the Government…

    Will Malcolm get a shadow Treasury portfolio as a consolation prize?

  13. I think Victoria or even Queensland are better chances for the Greens than the ACT. They just need lots of BTL leaking against stated party preferences, whereas the ACT would require a big and unexpected bias in postals/absentees/etc.

  14. There was talk at one time of Barnett not retiring early so he could make a comeback. That’s how bad the libs are these days. This Julie Bishop as state leader thing was never going to happen before, and certainly not now. Don’t wish that on us.

  15. I suspect Nelson as the most moderate, and “sacrificable” without destroying the Party in the process. Abbott is the obvious one to ‘sacrifice’ in the “death seat” of Opposition leader in a first term govt honeymoon, but he’d probably take most of the Party “image” down with him.

    If Turnbull is their best bet for 2010, they’ll save him for later. (Possibly others will also wait in the wings until the *heats* off and memories have faded, eg Downer) I suspect we may even see a number of Opp Leaders, for the first year or two, while others regroup, and then the *true* leadership challenge happens about 12-18 mths out from the next election.

  16. For those interested in a wager just for fun on the Lib leadership, Lord Nelson is paying $9.80 at Betfair. “Kiss me, Hardy.”

  17. 18. Will Malcolm get a shadow Treasury portfolio as a consolation prize?

    Traditionally the deputy leader of the Liberals gets to chose their own portfolio, which has inevitably been treasury. It will be interesting to see what Bishop chooses.

  18. Dave –

    Since Malcolm is the Once and Future King of the Libs, Bishop had better choose very carefully.

    You know the rule: If you strike the King, you must kill him.

  19. Being from WA and apparently winning the deputy position based on fundraising ability, is there any chance Bishop would choose Trade or somthing along those lines? In order to to make herself more attractive to the businesses providing the fundraising?

    Possibly even Environment (to keep the miners happy)?

  20. Graham Young puts the Santo camp’s ploys under the spotlight. Might I add that Joh Bjelke Petersen used a casting vote to keep himself in power about 18 months into his term when he was viewed as a hopeless performer too.

    * There is a convention in leadership ballots that the leader not use their casting vote. Bit hard to work out where they got this one from. The only time I can remember a leader being in a position of needing his casting vote was John Gorton in 1971. Gorton refused to use his casting vote, and was widely derided at the time. I don’t think it creates a precedent, but if it does, Nicholls ought to be wary, because the successful challenger was Billy McMahon, arguably Australia’s worst Prime Minister
    * The Liberal Party State Council can change the party’s constitution to give the Party President a casting vote in a tied parliamentary leadership ballot. Only state conventions can change the constitution, and there is a process that needs to be gone through first, including consultation and notice provisions. It would be a huge philosophical change for the party organisation to be able to dictate to the parliamentary wing, raising the spectre of the “bad old days” in the ALP when Arthur Calwell and Gough Whitlam had to wait outside their party’s executive for their instructions. “Never in our party” has always been the Liberals’ response to that.
    * Bruce Flegg will be unable to vote in any State Council ballot becase of his “conflict of interest”. This would indeed be a breach of precedent if Flegg was prevented from voting on this matter. If this were taken seriously, then Warwick Parer should also be excluded because he obviously has a conflict of interest too, because this is about expanding his power.

  21. Sorry means you wish it hadn’t happened.
    Whether or not you are personally responsible.
    It is what decent and caring people say when they feel for another’s suffering or sorrow.

    This issue for me epitomises all that stinks about the Howard regime and will be the historical lens that future generations view us through, just as we look back in horror on slavery, genocide, and the invasion and destruction of other indigenous cultures around the world.
    Howard’s refusal to apologise to aboriginal people is the greatest travesty of all, as it involves our own people that he was meant to govern on behalf of. – it outweighs AWB, in my opinion.
    It shows a complete lack of humanity. And we allowed it to happen by voting this man into office 4 times..
    To those of you who still support his position, you are fast becoming relics of a dying age.

  22. The Qld Libs remind me of a factionalised co-op board I once had the misfortune to sit on. (Sad to say it was a v.large organisation).

    Board of 8. Rival faction declared unannounced spill against Chairman. Claimed chairman couldn’t vote on his own position. Declared their man elected 4-3. Walked out of meeting claiming power. ‘Old’ chair had this ruse quickly overturned in court, but then to keep board alive had to try governing with his casting vote on every issue to claim a majority, as the rival faction refused to attend meetings.

    A stressful farce at the time, but in retrospect quite an amusing example of ego above entity.

  23. I think that the Libs will actually have some difficulty with their shadows. Pyne’s elevation to the Ministry was done grudgingly and there isn’t much talent below him. At the same time they’ve lost quite a few front line troops, either at the ballot box or by retirement since.

  24. It appears Spiros was echoing Howard’s long stated reason for NOT apologising to me.

    If he was suggesting an apology he chose an unfortunate set of words.

    To me, saying “sorry” is more about saying “I respect you” – at least in this context. The damage done by refusing to say sorry was significant. Even if saying sorry doesn’t actually change much, the removal of the refusal is a significant and symbolic step forward – and probably more important than the actual sorry itself.

  25. RA
    I took Spiros to mean that just because he didn’t cause her grief personally, it was no reason NOT to say sorry. Maybe I’m confused.

    Anyway, point is, it must be done.

  26. Hewson is saying Costello is biding his time to become leader before the next election. If that is true, they can kiss 2010/2011 good by too, because Cossie was the master mind of WorkChoices and any linking to the past will go against them.

  27. DavidS: The Nats need life support. And for Vaile to say the Nats need a generational change and for them to install an older person in as their leader is ridiculous. At least the Libs have younger people who are willing to take on the position.

  28. The fact that the Nats don’t hold O’Connor is a clear indication that they aren’t worth mentioning in WA politics.

    Also, Carps actually appears to be trying to clean out the WA ALP – if so, more power to him! If he succeeds, the ALP will retain Government over here.

    Tabitha #14,

    Kindly leave thinking people (i.e. those who post intelligently on both sides at Pollbludger) alone, and go bother for a while.

  29. Doe’s anyone know if Wilson Tucky is in danger on preferences in O’ Conner in WA. I heard that every party except FF put him last. Is it true?. God I hope so! William your from WA do you have any insight?

  30. Saying sorry: In a broader sense, the Government of Australia is an entity that continues in an unbroken chain over the decades, with the baton passed from one to the other.

    It is perfectly reasonable for the Government of Australia today to apologise for the actions of an earlier incarnation of this Government.

  31. I am astonished that Brendan Nelson is even remotely likely to win this leadership ballot. The guy is a lightweight poser – a bit of meaningless fluff. And I don’t mean to be height-ist but he just doesn’t have the physical presence to be a leader, in any event.

    Still, the party could do Turnbull a huge favour and let Nelson’s mediocrity burn brightly for a year or so.

  32. Looks like Tabitha (14) has jumped ship and become an ALP supporter. Amazing what a good electoral thrashing can do.

    Still no word from the delightful Isabella though. Crawled off somewhere to lick the wounds no doubt.

  33. Howards’ refusal was far more symbolic gesture. It allowed the bigots to wear that symbolic refusal like a Swastika as a symbol of national pride.

    I visited Canada, a couple of years ago, and did the tour of their Parliament House, and was surprised to find out their Senate composition includes 5 Senate seats appointed for life for Indigenous Canadians: 3 for First Nations representatives, and 2 for Inuit peoples.

    Their Senate is not as constitutionally powerful as ours is of course, but still I remember thinking how interesting it would be if our Indigenous peoples, ended up with “balance-of-power” seats in our Senate.

    Such a proposal in referendum I would think is much more solid, than just a few meaningless words in the Constitution Preamble. I would vote Yes with pride.

  34. Yeah i’m surprised turnbull has gone out on a limb so early on. how many opposition leaders will the libs burn through b4 they put forward a serious one. should be good entertainment of the next 18 months or so. Question is who are the darkhorses waiting in the wings?

  35. Lots of sad and sorry looking faces in Wagga – I’m lovin’ it!

    If the Nats don’t amalgamate with the Libs soon, they’ll be kaput within two elections. Warren Truss as leader will only speed up the process.

    Also on the Nats:

    Some may have read the article linked below. It’s written by Dr Troy Whitford, lecturer in politics & history at CSU Wagga. Whitford is also a director of The Page Research Centre, the National Party’s “think-tank”: how’s that for an oxymoron!

    Whitford has some good ideas on reviving the old dog, but he certainly isn’t calling for amalgamation.

    “New leader must fight Libs and ALP”:,25197,22822679-7583,00.html

    Whitford on the Nats: “There is an intellectual vacuum in the party that needs addressing”. You don’t need to be Einstein there, pal.

  36. Rain, if you look at the composition of the NZ parliament I think that would interest you. They have an allotted ‘M?ori electorate’ which allows for their continued participation in the parliament.

    Of course their opinion is varid over a range of policies, and I think they’re generally pretty socially conservative. Definately a very interesting system to look at.

  37. PD1981 Says:
    November 29th, 2007 at 8:22 am

    I suspect we’ll see Abbott re-positioning himself to try and look more moderate over the next few years (not with any sincerity but similar to the way did that Howard did in 1995 when he pretended to repudiate his past positions on social policy) so that he’ll emerge as a competent leadership contender in the future. Of course if he’s ever elected, he’ll go back to being the right wing ideological zealot he always has been

    Forget the left and right, just close your eyes and imagine Abbott as the prime minister; to be blunt, without Howard Abbott is nothing.

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