The latest weekly Essential Research survey has Labor’s two-party lead steady on 61-39. As promised, there is also voluminous material on attitudes to the economy and stimulus package:
62 per cent are concerned about job security over the coming year, although 60 per cent are confident Australia can withstand the crisis.
The opposition’s approve-disapprove split on handling of the crisis has widened from 31-35 to 35-44, while the government’s is little changed.
Labor is more trusted to handle the crisis than the Coalition by 55-25.
A somewhat unwieldy question about which leader’s approach to stimulus is preferable has Rudd leading Turnbull 51-33.
Opinion is also gauged on five individual aspects of the package, with free ceiling insulation rated significantly lower than the rest.
Perhaps most importantly, Peter Costello outscores Malcolm Turnbull in a head-to-head preferred Liberal leader contest 37-26.
Last weekend’s Sunday Telegraph reported that Malcolm Turnbull is supporting preselection moves against former NSW Opposition Leader Peter Debnam in the blue-ribbon Vaucluse, which is wholly contained within Turnbull’s federal seat of Wentworth. Those named as possible successors are restaurateur Peter Doyle, barrister Mark Speakman, UNSW Deputy Chancellor Gabrielle Upton, barrister Arthur Moses and former Optus spokesman Paul Fletcher. Debnam quit shadow cabinet last May in protest against his party’s support for the government’s attempt at electricity privatisation, and was left out in December’s reshuffle despite reportedly angling for the Shadow Treasurer position. Also rated as a possible starter is Joe Hockey, who might have other ideas now he’s Shadow Treasurer. Alex Mitchell writes in Crikey that Hockey might also be keeping an eye on Jillian Skinner’s seat of North Shore, and muses that Tony Abbott might also consider the state premiership a more achievable objective than a return to government federally.
Former Howard government minister Richard Alston has nominated for a Liberal federal electoral conference position, which is reportedly a gambit in the keenly fought contest to replace retiring Petro Georgiou in the blue-ribbon Melbourne seat of Kooyong. Described by The Age as a patron of long-standing hopeful Josh Frydenberg, Alston will attempt to gain the position at the expense of incumbent Paula Davey, who is associated with faction of Opposition Leader Ted Baillieu which would prefer that the seat go to Institute of Public Affairs director John Roskam.
Yesterday’s Sunday Times reported that long-serving Fremantle mayor Peter Tagliaferri has been sounded out by Labor as a possible successor to Jim McGinty as state member for Fremantle. The report raised the prospect of McGinty going sooner rather than later, thereby initiating what could prove a very interesting by-election in the Poll Bludger’s home electorate. While Fremantle has been in Labor hands since 1924, McGinty received an early shock on election night when it appeared Greens candidate Adele Carles might overtake the Liberals and possibly win the seat on their preferences. Carles was ultimately excluded at the second last count with 28.6 per cent of the vote to the Liberal candidate’s 32.1 per cent.
Tasmanian Premier David Bartlett rates himself extremely pleased that Winnaleah-based school principal Brian Wightman will seek Labor preselection for Bass at the March 2010 state election. Labor narrowly failed to win a third seat in Bass at the 2006 election, being pipped at the post by the Greens for a result of two Labor, two Liberal and one Greens. The likelihood of a swing against Labor next time means Labor is all but certain to again win two seats: one seems certain to stay with former federal MP Michelle O’Byrne, while the other is being vacated by retiring member Jim Cox. Also in the field will be CFMEU forests division secretary Scott McLean, reckoned by The Mercury to be a star candidate despite having been condemned by many diehard members of the Labor Party in 2004 when he backed Liberal Prime Minister John Howard over Labor’s then-federal opposition leader Mark Latham.
The Hobart Mercury talks of upper house disquiet over Tasmanian government legislation for fixed terms, a draft of which is currently out for consultation. The government wants early elections for the House of Assembly to be allowed if the Legislative Council does so much as block a bill the Assembly has deemed to be significant. This sounds very much like South Australia’s bill of special importance exception, which I gather has never been invoked since it was introduced in 1985. Independent Council President Sue Smith says there is concern that the provision could be used as a threat to pass controversial legislation or as an excuse to go to an early election. Another exception, according to The Mercury, is that the Lower House would also go to an election if the Upper House blocks supply of funds for a budget. This seems to suggest that 1975-style supply obstruction would produce an instant election, though I suspect it’s not quite as simple as that. Nonetheless, Greens leader Nick McKim has foreshadowed an amendment by which the Upper House would also have to go to the polls if it blocked budget supply. This would be a significant development for a chamber that currently never dissolves, as its members rotate annually through a six-year cycle. Less contentiously, the legislation also allows for an early election if the lower house passes a no confidence motion.