Kororoit by-election preview

The campaign for Saturday’s state by-election in the Melbourne seat of Kororoit, initiated by the retirement of one-time Police Minister Andre Haermeyer, did not at first seem a matter of great interest. Located in the rock-solid Labor outer western suburbs, from northern St Albans out to Caroline Springs, the seat was won by Haermeyer at the two elections following its creation in 2002 by margins of 27.1 per cent and 25.6 per cent. It was thus easy to dismiss the election as a rubber stamp following the real contest: Labor preselection. This well and truly lived up to the high stakes of a safe seat, producing what Rick Wallace of The Australian described as a “a proxy war for who controls the ALP’s dominant Right faction in Victoria”. In one corner were the Australian Workers Union and the Transport Workers Union, respectively associated with Bill Shorten and Stephen Conroy, who found themselves opposed by an alliance of the Health Services Union and Shop Assistants Union. The two camps’ respective candidates were Natalie Suleyman, former mayor of Brimbank, and Marlene Kairouz, former mayor of Darebin.

The latter group initially succeeded in having the Right’s executive vote eight votes to seven to have Kairouz (right) installed as candidate by the party’s national executive, bypassing local party structures said to have been compromised by branch stacking and fractious relations on Brimbank Council. According to a source quoted by The Age, this decision was made at a meeting at which faction members “screamed abuse” at each other. Shorten and Conroy won round two by having the national executive overturn the decision, resulting in a normal preselection process in which votes were split between local branches and the state party’s Public Office Selection Committee. However, Kairouz was unexpectedly able to defeat Suleyman in the local ballot 125 votes to 123 (after distribution of the 27 votes for Left faction contestant Justin Mammarella), which was credited to the influence of Keilor MP and local numbers man George Seitz. Her win was confirmed by a 38-29 vote in her favour on the POSC.

For all the sound and fury behind the preselection, the spoils for the victor were less secure than the 2006 margin suggested. It is a little realised fact that major parties are most vulnerable to independents in safe seats, where challengers face a lower hurdle to reach second place and potentially win on preferences. The possibility of such a scenario unfolding was dramatically increased by the entry into the field of Les Twentyman (left), who has achieved a level of celebrity throughout Melbourne through his efforts as a social worker, being named Victorian of the Year in 2006. Twentyman’s campaign has been supported by the Electrical Trades Union and, significantly, by Phil Cleary, who won the 1992 federal by-election for Wills in very similar circumstances after Bob Hawke retired. Furthermore, the Liberals have made the surprising but evidently astute decision to field a candidate, public servant Jenny Matic, who is likely to marshall preferences for Twentyman without doing well enough to outpoll him.

According to The Australian, Labor internal polling shows their support down to 45 per cent from 61 per cent at the 2006 election, with Twentyman having picked up “the bulk of Labor’s vote”. However, the report adds the following qualification:

Although the result has alarmed some within the ALP, sources said the polling understates Labor’s position. Almost 50per cent of the electorate was born overseas and about 14per cent of its voters do not speak English well and would be unlikely to participate in a phone poll. The ALP sources argued the ethnic voters excluded from the survey were more likely to vote for it than Mr Twentyman or the Liberals.

It also says the poll had Kairouz leading Twentyman 62-38 on two-candidate preferred, which credits Labor with a remarkably strong flow of preferences from Matic and the other candidates: Marcus Power (Greens), Andre Kozlowski (Citizens Electoral Council) and Tania Walters (Independent). Read all about them at Antony Green’s summary.

UPDATE: AKP in comments notes that Walters did remarkably well to score 14 per cent as Family First candidate in 2006 and is now directing preferences to Kairouz in her run as an independent, which presumably has something do to with her links to the pro-life SDA.

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.

19 comments on “Kororoit by-election preview”

  1. Andrew Landeryou has been giving Les quite a touchup over on his site. Must be up to about 17 individual posts. Funny thing he has been using Les’ own words to crucify him.

  2. Go Les! Would much rather have a person with real world experience and a recognisable face in parliament than another faceless party machine person.

  3. The frenzy by Landeryou against Les Twentyman is quite remarkable..even for such an intemperate creature as Landeryou,the language is bizarre and loathsome…like Landeryou himself.!!
    .it may help Twentyyman…if Landeryou hates him Twentyman can’t be all bad.,,,,,,,,,

    and why is Landeryou’s site so stridently pro-Zionist..Israeli flags and lavish praise of that agressive and unlovely littlle entity…Given that Landeryou is a bankrupt(in every sense of the word)is there some link between Landeryou and Zionist funding ??
    Go Les !!

  4. While it would be good to see Les win, a lot of people in the community work area actively dislike him, specially the people working with young people. From what I can make out, their main beef is that he does everything in order to make himself look good, rather then for the sake of it. They agree he does a good job, just not how he does it. From his charity ads, he comes across that way to me as well. Anyone worked with him got anything good to say about the way he does things?

  5. Nope, got nothing against the guy, hope he wins. Just wanted to find out if there was anyone who agreed with how he does things.

  6. As a party political person, I state my bias up front: I have very little time for independents. I have even less time for independents who seek advice/support from Phil Cleary.
    Firstly, an independent is by definition more egotistic than someone representing a party. The first has said, “I can win this on my own. And when I’m elected, I can change things all by myself.” The second recognises that they need to work within a cooperative structure to achieve.
    Secondly, independents are ultimately unaccountable. They really can promise anything. If something happens, they can claim the credit; if it doesn’t, it’s the evil party system’s fault. (It’s a bit like the Greens and the Dems – you can have fantastic policies when they’re never going to be implemented).
    Thirdly, they tend (and this is where Phil Cleary comes in) to be the ultimate populists. Because they can always blame their failure to deliver on someone else, they can (and do) promise everyone everything.
    And it was Phil Cleary and the way he used the republican debate which turned me off independents. Up until then, I bought into the image that independents hold of being squeaky clean and above the system. What I saw was PC walking both sides of the fence – getting lauded by anti republicans because he wasn’t going to vote for a republic and lauded by republicans because he was in favour of one.
    I saw him promise a crowded room that, if the republic didn’t get up in that referendum, he would be out there pushing for another referendum within a couple of years. He assured them that a ‘no’ vote would only temporarily delay the introduction of a republic.
    Haven’t heard him speak on the subject since.
    Don’t know much about Les Twentyman (although his overreaction to Landeryou suggests he’s precious) and acknowledge the fine work of Craig Ingram, Russell Savage, Tony Windsor and Peter Andren, who I would see as exceptions to the rule.

  7. All this hate for Les and smearing of his reputation is winning him alot of sympathy votes. The hyperdermic leaflet I received in the mail the other day has convinced me to vote for him, if the leaflet I received which told me he’d done a preference deal with the Liberals hadn’t yet convinced me.

    There is a case to be made for a grassroots working class party which can shave off a good percentage of Labor’s primary vote in these “heartland” electorates and make Labor earn them.

  8. Brian, Landeryou is loathsome but his opinions on Israel are long-held and deeply felt (and to my mind far more justified than much of his other content, although that is another matter). SNIP: Love your work, Stephen, but as a matter of principle I’m not going to allow speculation about unorthodox methods a person might be using to fund their “lifestyle” – PB

  9. While I’m at it, My predictions: ALP 2pp of 57% based on primaries of
    ALP 50
    Twentyman 20 (appropriately enough)
    Lib 15
    Walters 10
    Greens 4
    CEC 1

  10. One thing that hasn’t been mentioned in the article, but that is important in this race, is that fact that Tania Walters, who gain 13% of the vote for FF in a not particularlly religious part of the world, has decided to give her preferences to Labor. Rumour has it that she made the decsion sorely on the basis that Kairouz is pro-life and Les (at least to my knowledge isn’t)

    This will put Twentyman out of the race for the seat, and Labor should safely poll over 60% TPP

  11. I have always voted Labor.

    But this is my first ever byelection and personally I see it as a bit of an opportunity for this area.

    If Twentyman can get in I don’t expect him to actually be able to do anything. My rationale is that with an independant in this seat the Labor party might actually be forced to spend some extra money in the area in order to kick Twentyman out next time.

    I’ll be voting for Twentyman.

    Just got the syringe leaflet and it does show how desperate Labor are. Lowest common denominator stuff really, most people should realise that his power to introduce something like heroin injecting rooms would be nonexistant.

  12. I remember when both parties accused the Greens of wanting to introduce injecting rooms. Havent heard a peep from any green about floating the idea. Maybe cos it was never a policy.

    Yet again shows that LIb/ALP/Nat love that gutter they live in.

  13. I’m from an electorate next to Kororoit. Labor in the Western Suburbs is diabolically bad – George Seitz is not the worst of the feudal lords of the West, sadly.

    Go Les.

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