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. WA Premier Carpenter let loose today with a withering spray at Buswell on the ABC. He mentioned just about every picadillo the Jackass has been known to have commited, and then a few more.

    For the first time in a while he came across as a man with fire in his belly.

    I think the Libs and the West Australian (same thing really) are going to find it a lot harder going than they imagine in the lead up to the next state election.

    A monkey will still win Murdoch in the by election though, mores the pity.

  2. Fulvio,

    It will be interesting to see the Sue Walker thing develop, she’s still missing in Action and I reckon she will resign from the party immediately and join Liz Constable and Janet Woollard on the cross-benches.

    Plus the Libs now havew a new President, Barry Court, Son of Charlie, Brother of Dickie and a former Union Boss (Pastrolist & Graziers Association).

    Plus I expect the Govt to go hard on Buswell in Parliament, especially considering that Trow was once a member of the ALP, I hope he didn’t make any speeches which may come back to haunt him ? ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. I think Sue Walker will return to the Liberal fold after her little hissy fit, Frank. She is too ruthless and ambitious to let a little matter of conscience get between her and her percieved devine right to the Attorney Generalship and beyond.

    Like a true lawyer she will have weighed up the choice of the unpalatable nothingness of being an independent, and the vast possibilities of being high on a heirarchy headed temporarily by a blathering illdisciplined incompetent.

    No, Sue will accept the invitation to return, while keeping the knife sharpener in gainful employment until the time is right.

    As far as Barry Court is concerned, the ability of the Liberals to chose their leadership on all manner of considerations other than the obvious, does not suprise me. By right of blood is a favourite qualification for them.

    To be fair, going hard on our slightly dipsomanic friend Buswell will not, in all probability, be more difficult a task than catching a sprat by shooting a shotgun into a barrelfull of anchovies.

    Actually, metaphorically speaking, comparing the WA Liberals to an insignificant small fish with a distictive odour about it, is probably not far off the mark.

  4. The difference between Gallop and Boozy Buzwell is Dr Gallop was twice elected a labor Premier of Western Australia (the first win a miracle) and Boozy hasn’t yet, maybe he will be a Lib premier, maybe he wont.

  5. David Walsh: The issue is that the preselections have already been held, and the winning member wasn’t Sprigg. If they don’t preselect the winning candidate for Bateman, someone Jarvis IIRC, the winner of this by-election will have to take the unsafe seat that Sprigg had been preselected for, and probably lose it in a few months.

  6. Jarvis didn’t end up submitting the forms, apparantly he was overseas or something. So we have an NA (porter), an NCB (keriath) and some fool who thinks he can win.

  7. And according to ABC TV News, Christian Porter has been pre-selected.

    BTW, Christian is the son of for Liberal Party Director Chilla Porter.

  8. I forgot to add that the ABC has so far chosen to not cover the story involving the latest “Bombshell Email” between McGinty & Fong, instead focussing on the still absent Sue Walker, who is expected to make an appearance this Saturday ata Coffee Morning at the Subiaco Community Centre, where she is expected to reveal her plans for the future.

    If Porter does win Murdoch, with his legal background, I reckon they will parachute him in as Shadow Attorney-General.

  9. FS #3,

    If (as may well happen) a hung Parliament is the result of the 2009 WA Election, then an Indie matters hugely. Even if not, they can still make a significant difference – it simply requires charm, charisma and negotiating skills, rather than relying upon party numbers to back them up. This is why Walker won’t go as an Indie – she knows that she could never win (lacking any hint of any skills other than an ability to suck up to WACCI fat cats and her party’s head honchos), unlike Liz Constable who, in the words of BillBowe, is “in Parliament for as long as she wants”.

  10. Porter getting in is very interesting – there is no way he would have had his own numbers in murdoch, which means his win is factional based.

  11. chilla porters son

    well well well

    SNIP: Potentially defamatory statements removed – PB

    Despite the recent northern allaince wins, NCB still has it it seems.

  12. I went to high school with porter (Hale School, Class of 87). He was a reasonable student and a decent debater. After a politics degree at UWA he spent some time working at Parliament House in Canberra (from memory for Daryl Williams but I could be wrong) and some time in London. He studied law more recently as a mature age student.

  13. In circumstances of a hung Parliament or an Upper House balance of power situation you are of couse absolutely right, Mathew. I don’t necessarily share your view that a hung Parliament is a distinct possibility at the next election but it could happen.

    I agree that Ms Constable and Ms Woollard are competent and active members within their constituencies and that both are eminently re-electable as independents. But no Lower House independent in WA, since before the election of the last Court Government in the early 90’s, has been able to direct any Government policy or have any controversial legislation passed, let alone rise above the position of being the local member. At least not to my knowledge.

    I suspect the worthy Ms Walker has much higher aspirations than that, and will use all the means available to realise her ambitions. Which means staying with the Libs.

  14. Four Candidates to Contest Murdoch, and not an ALP candidate in sight ๐Ÿ™‚

    [A field of four candidates will contest a by-election for the state seat of Murdoch on the 23rd of February.

    The seat was held by the Liberals’ Trevor Sprigg, who died recently from a heart attack.

    The Liberal Party’s Christian Porter looks certain to be the new member for Murdoch after Labor decided not to field a candidate.

    One Nation, The Greens and the Christian Democratic Party will contest the poll.]

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2008/02/01/2152600.htm

  15. According to Ch 7 News, there are concerns that Sue Walker hasn’t paid her Liberal Party membership fees.

    Methinks she’ll tell Buswell she’s out of the party.

  16. From the last link, re Burke & The West.

    [“By campaigning so openly for his rehabilitation, The West sent a message to all MPs that it considered the ban on Burke was unreasonable,” The Australian said.

    “The newspaper has done its readers a disservice by, unwittingly or not, becoming a player in the unfolding drama and helping to sow the seeds of WA Inc Mark II.” ]

    http://www.postnewspapers.com.au/20080202/news/013.shtml

    So it looks like The West is trying to relive it’s glory days of the 80’s.

  17. “Glory days of the 80’s”?? That’d be when it had some real competition and a good editor. In my opinion it has neither now – with possible exception of the Post newspapers in the western suburbs & Freo.

    I suspect the Murdoch result will be something like 70:30, as Blacklight @24 suggests. The byelection in Nedlands when R Court resigned (and Sue Walker was elected) was 53.4%-46.6% vs the Greens, but this on the back of an unneccessary election and a very low turnout (less than 70%) as a result. Since then the Greens scored 8.5% in Vic Park and 9% in Peel – not scintillating scores, but the Nedlands result was off only 14% too. The other issue is the timing – very quick. Will this be a factor in the turnout?

    With Sprigg dieing people I think voters will come out in a sympathy support so I would expect a higher turnout and a strong Liberal vote. Then again, Harper is a union organiser which may go down well with ALP voters, and Carpenter is upping the ante on Buswell ahead of the byelection.

  18. So Graham “I’ll be the hangman” Kierath isn’t standing for Murdoch.I’m surprised, as he no doubt needs to earn a living somehow. There can’t be many jobs in the private sector for would be executioners….

    As for Mayor Mair, she ain’t what she used to be….

  19. Well Frank, it seems you were right and I was wrong on Ms Walker’s decision to stay or go.

    Either way though, it’s a huge headache for the Libs.

  20. Ok – those of you who’ve lurked here for awhile will know one of my favorite bug-bears – candidates with no links to their electorates.
    Now with the official list of candidates out it appears to me that NOT A SINGLE ONE OF THEM has an address in the electorate.
    From memory Porter lives in Scarborough, someone in Success, someone in Albany of all places and I can’t remember the other one.
    On a related note, it seems to me to reflect rather poorly on one’s commitment to representing an electorate and the consituency that dwells therein if you are positioning yourself for one electorate, then jump into another at the first opportunity – particularly when you have no particular connection to either.
    That said, I have no reason to believe that Porter will not be as good a local member as most.
    Now, on to the Walker fiasco. Seems to me like the Libs made a rod for their own backs there – it seemed from very early on that Sue Walker was always going to do what suited Sue Walker. Putting her into a blue-ribbon seat like that just set her up to do what she’s doing.
    Finally, I have said before and will say again, the Libs need to be looking at their blue-ribbon seats and lining up candidates for those spots who will lead the party over the next couple decades. It is ridiculous to be looking for leaders in marginal seats or hoping a decent option just crops up.

  21. Nearly all members are overwhelmingly elected on the basis of the party they belong to, and the concept of their representing “their Electorate” in practice is, to my thinking, idealistic, not realistic. Nevertheless there is an obvious hypocrisy in purporting to do so, and to stand on “Local Issues”, when you don’t live in the electorate and are using it only as a vehicle to get into parliament.

    I’ve lived in Murdoch for 30 years or more, and haven’t seen any local member outside the occasion of a free piss up.

  22. With Walker about to walk, a reshiuffle will be delayed until after the By-election and Porter will be parachuted in.

    Mind you, this doesn’t make Party Troy look good at all – so much for bringing the party together, along with his ballsup on the FOI stuff.

  23. Well relaeasing so-called emails between Fong and McGinty, only to be guzzumped by McGinty releasing ALL the Libs FOI stuff in one foul swoop, and finally discovering that the explosive revelation was actually discussed in Parliament 5 months earlier by Omodei ๐Ÿ™‚

    [After landing a solid blow against the previously untouchable Mr McGinty on Wednesday by producing emails obtained under FOI that showed the minister downplayed links between his health chief and Mr Burke, Mr Buswell yesterday produced another batch of FOI emails.

    He said the “new” documents provided strong grounds for believing Mr McGinty had misled parliament and he demanded a parliamentary inquiry.

    Hours later, a bemused Mr McGinty revealed that identical emails and allegations were debated in parliament almost five months ago.

    He said the emails were provided by his office to former Liberal leader Paul Omodei in August and debated a week later.

    Mr Buswell was present during the debate.

    Mr McGinty said the incident highlighted the new Opposition Leader’s dishonesty.

    “This is Troy Buswell desperately rehashing an issue to try to distance himself from the sleaze and dishonesty that accompanied his ascension to party leader,” Mr McGinty said.

    Mr Buswell later conceded the emails were not new but he defended his actions by saying the full extent of Dr Fong’s behaviour had not been exposed in August. ]

    http://www.news.com.au/perthnow/story/0,21598,23142587-2761,00.html

    and not a word on those emails since.

  24. All very interesting. Had occurred to me that the plan was to get Porter in and make him leader before the election, too. He and Hames would make an interesting team, I think.

  25. Andrew@43,

    You may well be correct, but there may be a problem of Murdoch being abolished in the redistribution (By-Election is being run using the old gerrymandered boundries).

    Also, there is still some more Smiths Beach stuff in the CCC to come, and conisdering that Troy was Busselton Shire President at the time, then things may get rather ugly.

  26. All of which leads me to think that maybe there will be an early election. I know of one instance that activities involving a minister have been moved up to May rather than October, so there may be other signs shortly of Carpenter looking to go in August/September rather than in early 09.

    Re Sue Walker, there is a report than she will most likely go by Friday, but interestingly that Porter will be parachuted straight into shadow Attorney General.
    http://www.news.com.au/perthnow/story/0,21598,23156539-2761,00.html

    And to VPL @38 – Harper lives in Coolbellup. Actually I would hope that when a party selects someone to represent them they pick the best person not just someone whose sole qualification is living in a geographical area. If the best person who will be able to provide represntation on a party’s interest lives in an adjacent electorate that would make them a good choice. That said, some connection or ability to connect the electorate would be good – Harper has lived in and around Murdoch I believe over the past 10 years. We also need to consider the circumstances of the byelection and time constraints – a very limited time for parties (or independents) to talk to memebrs/friends etc and nominate for this byelection, and then there will be a general election on new boundaries within a year.

  27. Stewart
    Apparently I stand corrected – I did say I couldn’t recall the other one! ๐Ÿ˜‰
    I also sympathise with your ‘best person’ line, but with the average enrollments of metro electorates being around 25,000 (from memory) I find it hard to believe that a decent candidate can’t be found from those thousands.
    Frank
    You’ve managed to hit on another of my bug-bears. The present boundaries are NOT gerrymandered. They may, however, be malapportioned. The difference is neither subtle nor complex. A gerrymander occurs when a district is created so as to produce a particular outcome – usually with borders being drawn along peculiar and unnatural lines. Malapportionment, on the other hand, happens when the electorates are not equal (or nearly so) in population of electors such that one elector’s ‘voting power’ is not comparable to another’s.
    Andrew
    I would have to seriously consider euthanasia for the State Libs if they put Porter straight into the leadership. Again, no reflection on him but its a far cry from Hawkie. I would have thought that even going straight into AG was a big ask.

  28. Oh, it looks like the Tiara’s are out ๐Ÿ™‚

    [PARLIAMENT is no place for a “princess”, the West Australian Opposition women’s affairs spokeswoman said, amid continued infighting in the Liberal Party.

    Helen Morton was speaking after her disaffected senior Liberal colleague, Sue Walker, quit the opposition frontbench, saying she did not trust party leader Troy Buswell.

    Ms Walker yesterday also attacked other Liberal members, claiming the party was a boys’ club and that she had been continually undermined and refused resources while in the shadow attorney-general’s portfolio.

    While he was decent and competent, Ms Walker said of new leader Mr Buswell: “I haven’t, with Troy, over the time he’s been in parliament, developed a lot of trust in him as a person.”

    Ms Morton today hit back at her Liberal colleague, saying she did not think the party was a boys’ club.

    “The parliament’s no place for a princess,” Ms Morton said.

    “People have to have strength of character and be incredibly willing to withstand the competition and challenges that come to them.

    “If people are too precious to deal with those issues then the parliament is not the way for them to try and meet their objectives.” ]

    http://www.news.com.au/perthnow/story/0,21598,23164039-2761,00.html

  29. Frank

    What are the challenges in the WA libs for a woman,

    Getting your bra undone by a drunken colleague, lewd comments, boys club?

    Interesting Sue Walker also made the comment in an earlier article about Bishop

    “She said her isolation from the party was linked to its failure to parachute Federal deputy leader Julie Bishop into State politics and that both of its factions wanted Nedlands. ”

    Bishop doesn’t want to be in Fed politics and the state libs don’t want her in state politics?

  30. walker comes across as completely paranoid. i wouldn’t be surprised if all her complaints about the party hierarchy are a complete myth. her strategy is to paint herself as the victim for the ensuing by-election fight which she runs as an independent. am i the only peron who finds her disappearing act weird? her comments about buswell weird? etc etc.

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