This post will be progressively updated as events unfold in the lead-up to Western Australia’s Murdoch by-election, to be held to replace recently deceased Liberal member Trevor Sprigg. The date for the by-election was set last week for February 23, which has left the Liberals complaining they have just days to finalise a candidate ahead of Thursday’s close of nominations. Beyond that the by-election is looming as something of a fizzer, with Labor state secretary Bill Johnston telling the media the party is unlikely to field a candidate. Given the government’s political difficulties following the Brian Burke-related resignation of Health Department director-general Neale Fong, this would probably be a sensible decision. Nonetheless, the first opinion poll conducted after Troy Buswell’s messy Liberal leadership takeover last fortnight is all good news for Labor, even if it does come from the erratic Westpoll. Published in yesterday’s West Australian, the monthly survey of 410 voters shows an improbably large 10-point reversal on two-party preferred in favour of Labor, who now lead 58-42 after trailing 52-48 a month ago. No word yet on potential Liberal preselection candidates, at least to my knowledge.
January 30. ABC television reports the Liberals have preselected UWA law lecturer Christian Porter, who had frequently been mentioned as a possible successor to Colin Barnett in Cottesloe (now expected to go to Deirdre Willmott, policy director with the Chamber of Commerce and Industry). Porter is the grandson of Charles Robert Porter, who locked horns with Joh Bjelke-Petersen as a Queensland Liberal MP in the 1970s, and the son of Charles Chilla Porter, a former state party director and fundraiser closely associated with Noel Crichton-Browne. He was also a classmate of your correspondent in the UWA political science honours program in 1993.
January 31. The West Australian reports that Porter won preselection emphatically over Graham Kierath, the Court government workplace relations minister who lost his seat of Riverton in 2001 and ran unsuccessfully for Alfred Cove in 2005.
February 1. Nominations closed today, confirming that Labor will not field a candidate. The four candidates in ballot paper order:
Christian Porter (Liberal).
Ka-ren Chew (Christian Democratic Party). Chew is a local solicitor who ran as the CDP candidate for Tangney at the November 24 federal election.
Neil Gilmour (One Nation). The party’s state president, Gilmour was candidate for Curtin at the 2001 federal election and the South Metropolitan upper house region at the 2005 election.
Hsien Harper (Greens). Australian Services Union organiser and candidate for Willagee at the 2005 state election.