Murdoch by-election preview

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.

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.

74 comments on “Murdoch by-election preview”

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  1. IMHO…
    Barbara Scott’s resignation is a shame and a loss.
    Sue Walker’s is not.
    The Parliamentary Liberal Party will have precious few women left the way they are going.

  2. Oh come now VPL. With fixed terms in the Upper House, Barbara Scott will be nearly 70 by the time she actually retires in May 2009. A sensible decision for the good of the party I would have thought.

  3. Hmmm, could make Nedlands interesting again! Maybe Walker’s remembering the byelection when the Greens and Libs 4 Forests (Collin, as an independent, as they weren’t registered) polled over 25% between them. Or perhaps just hoping for a Liz Constable effect? I suspect Nedlands voters will just see her as another unhappy Lib and leave her alone.

  4. Morley – you are right of course, but 70 ain’t what it used to be. Just look at John McCain!
    Nonetheless, I still stand by my comment – Barbara Scott will be a loss. She was a strong, if not outstanding, performer. OTOH I have no doubt many are positively relieved to see the back of Sue Walker.

  5. Hmm, Troyboy has been wooing some Perthnalities to run.

    [HIGH-PROFILE lawyer Patti Chong, above, and cricketer Justin Langer have had talks with the WA Liberals about contesting the next state election.

    Liberal leader Troy Buswell was spotted having coffee with Ms Chong in the city this week.
    Party insiders confirmed he was discussing the possibility of her running as a candidate.

    “Let’s just say that we’ve had coffee,” Ms Chong said yesterday. “But at this very moment I’m a free bird.],21598,23186137-2761,00.html

  6. Oh geez – maybe they’ll get lucky and convince Nicole Cornes to come over to the WA Libs. Now there’s a celebrity candidate!
    I can’t help but despair when I see news like this.

  7. And considering some of Patti’s previous escapades for charity etc, it does seem the Libs are dearth of Talent.

    I’m surprised that Andre guy from series 2 of My Restuarant Rules, who was an Electorate officer for I think David Johnson, and his wife works for Julie Bishop, hasn’t been recruited.

  8. Fulvio – who is your father? I hope you are all happy for us to judge you by his past.
    VPL – check you facts before spouting incorrect facts about where people live.

    Personally, I am interested in well qualified, articulate (and that includes spelling) honest and hard working people ruling this state. I’d be happy NOT to see them at a free pissup.

    If you are all so well qualified to crucify these people, why aren’t YOU standing for these positions?

  9. They need Chong badly. Looking at the results of the last election I see the Libs had 8 women, only two in the lower house. Since then one has stood down, one has quit the party and two have said they’re not running again. Given that one of those not running, and the one quitting the party have alluded to a sexist culture I’d say they are in a lot of danger of people connecting the dots. They’ll need a lot of women candidates, at least one of whom has to be high profile, if they are to shake the tag of a bunch of fratboys.

  10. Marcia
    1) if you check my previous posts I did note that one candidate’s address I couldn’t remember.
    2) You haven’t bothered to mention precisely what qualifications you might consider a ‘well-qualified’ candidate might have. Care to elaborate?
    3) I’m surprised that you would consider a spelling test an important qualification but everyone gets the right to use their own criteria for preferring a candidate.
    4) I assume that you’ll be attending the free pissups to ensure that you don’t see them there?
    5) Are you suggesting that people should not be free to criticise their elected representatives? Or those to aspire to be so? Is it your view that the populace should be silent on the matter unless they also happen to be candidates in their own right. If so, why would you come to a website like this to air your mindless vitriol?
    6) Candidates have been known to post here – how would you know (unless they announced themselves) if any of the posters are not standing for public office?

  11. Marcia, I don’t understand where you are coming from. I assume you have been upset by my reference to the familial progression which seems to take place within the Liberal Party. To be fair it also takes place to a lesser extent within Labor ranks.

    It is the apparent expectation of such nepotic advancement that annoys me, not antipathy to any particular aspirant. Mr. Porter is not known to me either personally or by reputation so I am hardly in a position to make personal criticism of him.

    I too prefer not to have my point of contact with my local member at a free piss up, but regretably I can only speak from experience.

    Finally, I can say that my father’s successes in life, large or small as they may be, have had precious little to do with opening up my life pathways, except for the advantages of support and encouragement, but I can’t complain about the benefits of a reasonable education provided at his expense. Mr, Porter may well be able to say the same thing, and if so he will have my respect.

  12. I am the Uncle of Christian, Chillas’ younger brother. Our Father, Charles Porter, was the Secretary/Director of the Qld Peoples Party when Robert Menzies aproached then leader Bruce Pie to join his new Liberal Party. The three worked together to achieve this result. Charles was then The Director for many of the Qld Liberal Party years before entering Parliament. After initially clashing with the then Country Partry, thus Joh. later he became an admirer of Joh, for many reasons, and was a Cabinet Minister before retiring at about age 70. He was regarded as an honest and upstanding M.L.A. and a brilliant speech maker.
    From the very earliest age Christian has desired to be part of the political scene, The fact that he is Chillas son had but a small part in the current situation.

  13. What a strange little cabal I have discovered, meeting in a metaphorical phonebox on the aether!

    Cast your attentions to John Langoulant’s plans to become the future Premier of this State, having done his bit with CCI, Treasury, even selection of the next grand sporting stadium – and now, a sojourn with Kerry Stokes.

    Check his career out here (public sources only) –,21598,22918801-951,00.html

    From PerthNow, 13Dec2007 (what an impeccable source):

    “Mr Langoulant said he was leaving the CCI after three-and-a-half years to further participate in investments Australia-wide and internationally.

    “The opportunity to move to a very large corporate entity which has very diverse investment activities, which has strong visions and principles and values, which align with my values and principles,” Mr Langoulant told reporters in Perth today.

    Mr Langoulant, who spent nine years as WA’s under treasurer, said there was a “strong chance” his successor would come from within the CCI.

    He would not comment on potential future business moves by Australian Capital Equity.

    There has been previous speculation Mr Langoulant may enter state politics as the Liberal leader, but he today again said he was not interested in such a move.

    WA Opposition Leader Paul Omodei said Mr Langoulant would be a welcome addition to the Liberal Party if he was to consider a career in politics in the future.

    “Where there’s life there’s hope, you never know he may see the light yet,” Mr Omodei said.

    “He would be an excellent addition to the Liberal Party team and there’s been some speculation about that but you never know, time will tell.”

    In the light of recent developments, that article needs a severe re-evaluation.

  14. Well polling is over half way through.
    Voter turnout has looked a tad low at the booths I visited, a view shared by the WAEC staff I’ve had the chance to speak with, likely in part due to the short period of time between the untimely passing of Trevor Sprigg and today.

  15. Just to add, the Liberals have had a strong showing today. The number of Lib volunteers handing out HTV’s has been large and looking well organised at all booths.

  16. William said he’d be half-hearted in his live blogging of this by-election, but I’d say this is zero hearted. Can’t blame him though. Not only is it a walkover (as expected) but after no results went up for ages they gave us 3500 without breaking them down by booth, and now we’ve half an hour with no update. Even an election junkie like me doesn’t consider this a fix.

  17. Looks like I’ll have to do this one myself. They’ve added another 6000 votes. Libs down to 63%, 10% to the two far right parties and 26 to the Greens. Its a bit like calling the last quarter of a football match where one side is more than double the other’s score.

    Trying to find something interesting to look at – what would be a good result for the losing parties: Maybe if the Greens can get above 25% primaries (likely) and 33% two party preferred (unlikely)?

    For the CDP and One Nation I guess the aim is to stay above 10% between them.

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