Fremantle by-election: May 16 (episode two)

This post is being progressively updated to follow the campaign for the May 16 by-election in the Western Australian state seat of Fremantle. Episode one followed events from Jim McGinty’s resignation on April 3 through to May 6.

Saturday, May 16

4pm. Just completed a circuit of the Fremantle booths. Carmelo Zagami was represented everywhere with volunteers wearing Liberal-ish rosettes and spruiking their candidate as “independent Liberal”, which is good if not entirely unexpected news for the Greens. The CDP and Socialist Alliance were represented at most booths, Varga (also promoted as “independent Liberal”) and Boni at about half. I encountered the DLP directly at three booths and heard talk they had been around in two others, so I suspect they have a few flying squads in action. I quite often saw batches of Jan ter Horst cards hanging off his signs, but zero actual volunteers. Not a single Family First volunteer was encountered, although they had a lot of signs about – evidently they had a small force who decorated all the booths early in the morning, but pretty much left it at that. The signs were clearly the same ones as were used at last year’s state election, including some that presented Anthony Fels as a party leader of sorts. Indeed, one discarded poster at the Christ the King School booth in Beaconsfield promoted a candidate for Cockburn. I had a chat with Alan Carpenter, who was handing out how-to-vote cards at Christ the King School. He hadn’t found the voters any less inscrutable than usual, but said voters in the Norfolk Street area where he had door-knocked were extremely engaged with the by-election and seeking a representative with a “green tinge” (not that that comes as a surprise).

12 noon. Just done my bit for democracy at the Fremantle Primary School booth, where I had no trouble amassing how to vote cards from Labor, Greens, Carmelo Zagami, Sam Wainwright, the CDP and Rosemary Lorrimar. There was one bloke there who might have been Family First, but nobody for Varga, Boni, ter Horst or the CEC (the first two surprise me, the latter don’t). Labor’s card has a photocopied back with translations into Italian, Portuguese and Croatian – I wonder if this varies from booth to booth. Lorrimar’s has the DLP logo at the top, and Tagliaferri third behind the CDP. Wainwright has Carles second and Tagliaferri third (“people and planet before profits, vote for a real worker”, quoth the Socialist Alliance volunteer as she handed me the card). Zagami has Carles fifth, Tagliaferri last and no mention of the word “Liberal”. There was no presence of any kind for either of the daylight saving camps. Will whip around to the other polling booths over the next few hours.

Friday, May 15 (late edition)

The final Fremantle Herald of the campaign leads with an article headed “Cliffhanger”, that being the assessment of talented and good-looking Notre Dame University academic Martin Drum. Page two relates that Peter Tagliaferri’s mother, Giovanna, is recovering in Fremantle Hospital after suffering two heart attacks. Beneath is a story about the Greens’ push for a light rail line, accompanied by a photo of Adele Carles and Greens Senator Scott Ludlam. There are fewer ads than last week, as the paper does not hit letterboxes until tomorrow. There’s this small Greens ad on page one and this full-page effort on page five, along with two further efforts on page five which look like Greens ads but have been placed by freelance supporters: this one from the Fremantle Markets Stallholders Association, and this one from a Jon Strachan, who I’d probably have heard of if I got out more. Two more freelance anti-Tagliaferri ads, one from the Fremantle Markets Stallholders Association, the other from anti-development group SpeakOutWA! (which is pro-Carles as well as anti-Tagliaferri). Two previously seen Labor ads, here and here, are given another run, as are the usual full-pagers from Nik Varga and Steve Boni.

Further campaign material: a Labor mailout hit the letterboxes this week, consisting of this covering letter and a flyer with front and back. Here’s the Greens how-to-vote card; the front and back of a pamphlet I’d previously missed; and localised leaflets for Hamilton Hill/Spearwood and East Fremantle/Bicton, which both have this on the other side.

Friday, May 15 (early edition)

According to tonight’s ABC Television news, it’s “understood Labor’s internal polling puts the margin between the two candidates at less than 3 per cent”. This presumably means the poll has Tagliaferri in front. Here’s a piece I wrote for today’s Crikey Daily Mail, which seems to have ended up on the cutting room floor:

Western Australian voters get their fourth opportunity tomorrow to give the correct answer in a referendum on daylight saving, after earlier narrow defeats in 1975, 1984 and 1992. While that should account for most of the local headlines in coming days, politics watchers will be equally engaged by a concurrent event that could see the WA Greens create history, or something very close to it.

As well as saying yea or nay to annual summer clock tampering, voters in Fremantle will choose a new state MP to replace Labor factional titan Jim McGinty, who has used the referendum to minimise the opprobrium which normally attaches to forcing a mid-term by-election. With the seat having been in Labor hands since 1924, and the Liberals not bothering to field a candidate, this would normally be of only academic interest.

However, one of the surprises of last September’s state election was the fright McGinty received from Greens candidate Adele Carles, who fell 642 votes short of overtaking the Liberals and scoring an unlikely win on their preferences.
The Greens have done the logical thing and once again nominated Carles, who brought to the party a 5.8 per cent personal vote she scored as an independent in 2005. That compelled Labor to pick a candidate with a local profile of his own – Fremantle mayor Peter Tagliaferri, who was offered preselection at the expense of union officials who had long had designs on the seat.

As has frequently been noted by his many opponents on the left, Tagliaferri’s Labor credentials are none too convincing. He earlier made a run as an independent at the 1991 by-election which brought Jim McGinty to the seat, directing his preferences to the Liberals. When Melissa Parke won preselection to replace Carmen Lawrence as local member at the 2007 federal election, Tagliaferri complained about the nomination process (which was very much like his own) and threatened another run as an independent. Parke’s name now appears on the authorisation notices for his own campaign material.

Critics have also made great play of Tagliaferri’s decision last year to join the Liberal fundraising group the 500 Club, which he always maintained was to gain access to ministers in the newly elected Liberal-National government. To this has been added the accumulated baggage of eight years as a pro-business mayor, with many local sensibilities having been affronted by rent hikes for stallholders at Fremantle Markets and non-union contracts for council workers.

Another local issue with a complex bearing on the campaign is the grand vision for a $10 billion complex of houses, offices and artificial islands on the other side of Fremantle Harbour. Two independents who support the project have made themselves highly visible through full-page advertisements in local newspapers, prompting suspicious mutterings from the Greens. One such candidate is real estate agent Nik Varga, whose ads have incorporated a Liberal Party logo in the spelling of his name, to the chagrin of party director Ben Morton. Varga has been linked to lobbyist and former Labor MP John Halden, whose clients include the North Port Quay consortium. Another NPQ supporter, Steve Boni, hails from the other side of the political fence, having run for Labor in a country electorate in 2001. Both are directing preferences to Labor ahead of the Greens.

The key to the by-election is the 30 per cent who voted Liberal last year, which Labor will be hoping it can partly convert into a personal vote for Tagliaferri. It would further hope that the remainder scatters among independents and religious party candidates (Family First, the Christian Democrats and the unregistered Democratic Labor Party are all in the field) whose how-to-vote cards recommend that the Greens be put last. Should the Liberal faithful maintain their normal practice of putting Labor last, perhaps via a vote for one-time Liberal candidate Carmelo Zagami, the Greens might yet secure a mainland lower house seat for only the second time in the party’s history.

Such a result could also have substantial consequences for Labor in both the state and federal spheres. The West Australian’s Robert Taylor last week described the by-election as a “make-or-break poll” for the party’s unconvincing state leader, Eric Ripper, who might find himself deposed by popular Gallop-Carpenter government Alannah MacTiernan. That would require MacTiernan to abandon her widely reported federal ambitions in the seat of Canning, currently held for the Liberals by Don Randall – who remains best remembered by the nation at large for his 1998 suggestion that Cheryl Kernot had “the morals of an alley cat on heat”.

I’m dragging this next bit up from yesterday’s entry so it sits alongside my details on polling booths and their surrounding areas. The following map shows the 2008 primary vote for Labor and the Greens, with the size of the numbers varying in proportion to number of votes cast – click on it to toggle from one to the other. The colour coding indicates 2006 census responses by collection district for the two variables which appeared to have the strongest correlation with the parties’ respective votes – income for Labor, not surprisingly (inversely correlated, of course), and “no religion” for the Greens, which should best be viewed as a proxy for a broader set of attitudes. It can collectively be seen that the electorate can be divided into three areas: a wealthy post-materialist zone around the city itself, the heartland of the Greens; a wealthy materialist zone along the river east of Stirling Highway, home to riverfront views, expensive real estate and a Liberal majority; and the less glamorous southern half of the electorate, which despite a considerable counter-cultural presence still conforms to the low-income, high-immigrant Labor-voting mould.

Click on image to toggle between Labor and Greens primary vote booth results from 2008

The following table matches polling booths with their surrounding census collection districts. Age refers to median age; MFY is median family income; “families” the percentage of households inhabited by families; “Italian” those who report that Italian is the main language spoken at home.

ALP LIB GRN Votes Age MFY Families Italian
1. Anglican Church Hall 37% 38% 20% 774 39 $1,557 55% 4%
2. Beaconsfield PS 39% 23% 34% 1918 43 $1,313 53% 10%
3. Bicton PS 31% 45% 20% 805 46 $1,692 54% 2%
4. Christ the King School 48% 25% 23% 1655 40 $957 57% 13%
5. East Fremantle PS 38% 28% 31% 2184 40 $1,585 50% 6%
6. Fremantle PS 36% 25% 36% 1513 35 $1,517 48% 9%
7. Palmyra PS 37% 29% 30% 660 39 $1,341 41% 11%
8. Phoenix PS 48% 24% 21% 620 42 $993 54% 2%
9. Richmond PS 29% 48% 20% 1834 42 $1,809 54% 2%
10. Rottnest Island 36% 16% 41% 61
11. St Patrick’s PS 38% 24% 35% 1655 44 $1,396 30% 9%
12. White Gum Valley PS 48% 20% 28% 1344 40 $1,159 46% 16%

Explanatory notes. Bicton Primary School was not a designated Fremantle polling booth last year; its vote totals were arrived at by taking 25 per cent from Richmond Primary School and 20 per cent from Anglican Church Hall. St Patrick’s School has replaced the nearby Fremantle Town Hall booth, which is why the vote figures on the map are in a slightly different place to the number 11. Similarly, Christ the King School has replaced Winterfold Primary School, located just down the road. Rottnest Island of course has no residents, and thus no census data and very few votes.

I spent much of the afternoon doing field work in Fremantle, taking photos of election paraphernalia. Posters in shop windows suggest the business community is strongly behind Peter Tagliaferri, but in other respects the Greens campaign has been more visible. Enjoy official Greens pianist Geoffrey’s provocatively Italian-style musical tribute to Adele Carles:

Thursday, May 14

Internet chat reports that Eric Ripper and Alan Carpenter are out doorknocking for Peter Tagliaferri, but so far they’ve given my house/area a miss. I have however had another Labor mailout which I’ll scan if and when I have time, although unlike Russell on the Larvatus Prodeo thread, nothing from the “independent Lib” (which presumably means Carmelo Zagami).

Tuesday, May 12

A new Labor pamphlet has hit the letterbox – front and back. Anna Winter of Larvatus Prodeo has a thread up on the by-election which is doing much brisker business than this one.

Monday, May 11

The second item on Saturday’s ABC TV evening news related Adele Carles’s concerns over alleged links between independent candidates and the North Port Quay project. Quoth Carles: “This looks more like a Melbourne Cup than a by-election. Suddenly 11 candidates popped out of nowhere and suddenly very big ads with this pro-North Port Quay message, anti-Greens stuff being printed.” The report noted that independent Nik Varga’s real estate business had sold exclusive apartments for project backers Strzelecki Group in Mandurah. Varga had right of reply on last night’s bulletin, saying he had “no relationship to Strzelecki Group until six months ago, for which I have now sold them one property. And I’ve sold my interest in my business, so I don’t see that will be a conflict of interest after the end of June.”

An anonymous “Election Insider” has passed on a 1980s vintage photo of Peter Tagliaferri and Geoff Gallop (then a Fremantle council colleague) without their hands around each other’s throats, by way of demonstrating that Tagliaferri “didn’t have much of a problem with Labor back then as others have made out”. But is that really Gallop and Tags, or is it 1960s harmony pop duo Peter and Gordon? I report – you decide.

Saturday, May 9

With only a week to go, the tempo of the campaign is starting to quicken:

• Robert Taylor in The West Australian says the by-election is “shaping as a make-or-break poll for Eric Ripper, whose grip on the Labor leadership would be seriously weakened by an ALP defeat”. A poor result might see him replaced by Alannah MacTiernan, who is regularly reported as seeking an entry into federal politics via the Liberal-held seat of Canning. However, Taylor says she is “holding off declaring her hand in case she is called upon to lead the WA Labor Party”.

• Yesterday, The West reported on a claim by independent candidate Carmelo Zagami that two people connected with the North Port Quay project had offered to provide polling booth volunteers and funding for political advertising if he agreed to preference Labor ahead of the Greens. Zagami earlier said he had approached the developers for a donation but had been rebuffed. Another independent, Nik Varga, is a client of former Labor MP John Halden’s lobbying firm Halden Burns, which also has the North Port Quay developers on its books. According to Jenny D’Anger of the Fremantle Herald, Varga “audibly gulped” when asked if Halden was assisting him, before conceding Halden had been engaged in an “advisory capacity”. D’Anger also reports the Liberal Party will be writing a “stern letter” to Varga over a local newspaper advertisement in which the “V” in his name is spelled with a tilted Liberal Party logo.

• The Herald also has more election advertising than you can poke a stick at, including a very large number of entries from people with various axes to grind against Tagliaferri. The most interesting of these is a full-page ad containing 110 signatories calling on Tagliaferri to resign as mayor. One of its four j’accuse entries reads: “You call yourself an ‘environmental campaigner’ when you refused to reject the proposed total destruction of Port Beach by NPQ”. What then to make of the ad’s endorsement by Carmelo Zagami, who as just discussed is ardently in favour of the project. Elsewhere we have a half-page open letter to Peter Tagliaferri and the Fremantle Council from Stallholders Association chairman Richard Murphy; an odd assortment of complaints authorised by one Helen McLeod of Beaconsfield; a half-page ad from Tagliaferri’s council antagonist Les Lauder; and the Australian Services Union maintaining the rage over non-union council contracts across a half-page ad. Deputy mayor John Dowson has also run a third ad following earlier efforts here and here. See below for further party and candidate advertising.

• The Socialist Alliance will conduct a campaign rally from noon today at Kings Square next to the Fremantle Town Hall. The speakers are Socialist Alliance candidate Sam Wainwright (who scored a rave front page review in the Herald for his spirited performance at Tuesday’s candidates forum), Adele Carles (which seems a bit unusual for an opposing party’s rally), and Paul Burlinson of the Australian Services Union.

For those of you who have just joined us, here’s an updated overview of the candidates in ballot paper order.

Nik Varga (Independent). A real estate agent from Riverton (well outside the electorate) of openly Liberal sympathies. However, Varga says the Greens won’t get his preference recommendation, perhaps explaining the Liberals’ displeasure with his use of their logo in this full-page ad, which has featured twice each in the Fremantle Herald and Fremantle Gazette Community.

Rob Totten (Citizens Electoral Council). Totten has not done any advertising that I’ve seen, but a two-sided flyer (front and back) was proffered at the candidates forum. The showpiece of his spiel at the forum was a poster brandished to demonstrate the extent of Antarctic sea ice, by way of showing that climate change was a fraud – which didn’t go down too well with the assembled throng of Freo lefties.

Jan ter Horst (Independent). Ter Horst has made himself known locally with claims of council corruption, which he has publicised by covering his house with slogans and driving a car with a coffin on top. He has been in long-running dispute with the council over a neighbouring strata development which blocked his ocean views, at one stage being contentiously imprisoned for contempt of court. Ter Horst has been running this ad in local newspapers during the campaign, and issued this flyer at the candidates’ forum.

Carmelo Zagami (Independent). Zagami ran as the Liberal candidate for the federal seat of Fremantle at the 2004 election, polling 35.9 per cent against Carmen Lawrence. He is the manager of the Fremantle United soccer club, and works as a paralegal at the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions. The ABC reports he is running “to give Fremantle voters a chance to vote for a conservative candidate”, and plans to direct his preferences to the Greens. Zagami has been running two ads in local newspapers, here and here, to which he has this week added this intriguing effort replete with Liberal Party logo. It will be interesting to see if the Liberals are as “stern” in their response to a candidate who is directing preferences away from Labor.

Steve Boni (Independent). Described by Robert Taylor of The West Australian as a “pro-development Labor lawyer”, Boni was Labor’s candidate for Roe (which has since been superseded by Eyre) at the 2001 state election, running fourth with 16.2 per cent of the vote. He seems to be doing okay for campaign funding, having run this full-page ad twice in each of the two local newspapers.

Andriétte du Plessis (Family First). Du Plessis is a nurse who originally hails from South Africa. She was also the Family First candidate at last year’s state election, and for the federal seat of Fremantle at the 2007 federal election. The party does not seem to have run any advertising, outside of a page on the party website. Family First more often than not directs preferences to Labor ahead of the Greens, but did not do so in Fremantle at the state election last year. However, Glenn Cordingley of the Sunday Times says it is “understood” du Plessis’ preferences will be directed to Tagliaferri.

frem09alppostalPeter Tagliaferri (Labor). Tagliaferri is a member of a prominent local Italian family, and assumed ownership of its Interfoods cafe in 1983. In that year he became at 23 the youngest person ever elected to local government in Western Australia when he was elected to East ward on Fremantle City Council. He ran as an independent in the 1990 by-election that brought Jim McGinty to the seat, polling 3.6 per cent. In 2001 he was elected mayor, defeating incumbent Richard Utting, and was re-elected in 2005 with 62 per cent of the vote.

The Labor how to vote card runs 1. Tagliaferri; 2. Family First; 3. Steve Boni; 4. Christian Democratic Party; 5. Rosemary Anne Lorrimar; 6. Nik Varga; 7. Citizens Electoral Council; 8. Jan ter Horst; 9. Carmelo Zagami; 10. Greens; 11. Sam Wainwright. If some of this is not what you would expect, the rationale was to make the card easy to follow by listing candidates where possible in either forward or reverse ballot paper order. That doesn’t quite explain the CDP being put fourth, which was presumably the result of a preference deal.

Labor advertising:

Campaign website
Fremantle Herald advertisement (quarter page), May 9
Fremantle Herald advertisement (full page), May 9
Covering letter of advertising mailout, received May 5
Mailout flyer
Mailout pamphlet (front)
Mailout pamphlet (back)
Fremantle Herald advertisement, May 2
Flyer accompanying postal vote application mailout
Fremantle Herald advertisements, April 18 and April 25

Julie Hollett (Christian Democratic Party). Julie Hollett is director of the Jubilee Welfare Fund charity, and her advertising sells her as a “former Australian of the Year nominee”. It also speaks of her opposition to the Greens’ “agenda to introduce primary school curriculum to teach young children lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and inter-sex lifestyles”. Sure enough, Adele Carles has been placed last on the how to vote card, the other side of which states the party’s case. Hollett also ran at last year’s state election, polling 1.9 per cent.

Rosemary-Anne Lorrimar (Independent). Robert Taylor of The West Australian reports Lorrimar is “a nurse who blames Mr McGinty for turning her from a private sector employee into a public servant”, and says she “will be directing preferences to Mr Tagliaferri not the least because the Greens are ‘more worried about trees and whales than people’.” As Rosemary Taboni, she was a candidate for the Democratic Labor Party three times in the 1970s – against Kim Beazley Sr in 1972, and for the Senate in 1974 and 1975 – and she is presumably also the Rosemary Lorrimar who for the Christian Democratic Party in Willagee in 2005. Lorrimar has run a low-key campaign, not fielding any advertising that I’ve seen and being the only candidate absent from Tuesday’s candidates forum.

frem09greensheraldad0805Adele Carles (Greens). Carles is a 41-year-old lawyer and resident of South Fremantle. She came to local prominence first as part of the Save South Beach campaign, which opposed a housing development within contentiously close range of the beach’s dunes, and later when she launched a legal challenge against the state government’s plans to dig up a former lead smelter site in South Fremantle. Carles polled 5.8 per cent as an independent running in opposition to the South Beach development in 2005, and surprised most observers by scoring 27.6 per cent when nominated by the Greens in 2008 – more than 10 per cent higher than former MPs Ian Alexander and Jim Scott had achieved in 2001 and 2005, and 6.0 per cent higher than the combined vote of Carles and Scott in 2005.

The Greens how-to-vote card runs 1. Carles; 2. Sam Wainwright; 3. Jan ter Horst; 4. Carmelo Zagami; 5. Labor; 6. Steve Boni; 7. Nik Varga; 8. Family First; 9. Citizens Electoral Council; 10. Rosemary Anne Lorrimar; 11. Christian Democratic Party.

Greens advertising:

Campaign blog
Fremantle Herald advertisement (full page), May 9
Campaign flyer (front and back)
Campaign flyer (front and back)
Campaign brochure
Campaign pamphlet
Fremantle Herald advertisement (full page), May 2
Fremantle Herald advertisement, April 25

Sam Wainwright. Wainwright is the candidate of the unregistered Socialist Alliance, for which he ran officially as federal candidate for Fremantle in 2007 and unofficially in the state upper house region of South Metropolitan in 2005. The Green Left Weekly describes him as “a wharfie, member of the Maritime Union of Australia and activist in the Fremantle Community Solidarity group”. Wainwright has been running variations on this advertisement around the place, including multiple appearances in the Fremantle Herald. The latest of these instructs voters to number Adele Carles 2, Peter Tagliaferri 3, and to thereafter do as they please.

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.

113 comments on “Fremantle by-election: May 16 (episode two)”

Comments Page 3 of 3
1 2 3
  1. By the way… 4pm is too late to notice this, but I am holding in my hand an ALP HTV from (I think) the Anglican Church booth in Palmyra which has:

    a) The ALP logo cut in half
    b) No Authorisation or Printed By advice whatsoever.

    Obviously a colour copy of the original which has cut the authorisation off. Technically, if I was a vindictive man, I could probably go up to the returning officer of that booth and get these all confiscated.

  2. [Even if the ALP win this election, I think this campaign has done some serious long term damage to what was a safe ALP seat. Certainly to their own local branch. In the race to grab the Liberal vote they’ve sold themselves out badly.]

    Political bias aside, Carles does seem like a very intelligent person who really cares about the electorate. Tagliaferri might care about Fremantle as well but he’ll just be a bankbencher* who’ll barely get a say in parliament. If Carles gets up she’ll effectively be able to act as an independent for Fremantle whilst linking up the Greens in the upper house and Federally.

    *I think The Greens should have hammered this point more. “A local Green voice standing up for Fremantle vs. A Labor backbencher”.

  3. [I think that Adele Carles might be a future Deputy-Premier of Western Australia.]

    I think you’re having a laugh…

  4. I think that if she is elected then she should be made leader of the Parliamentary Greens so she can give the Greens a profile as a lower house party and increase their vote.

  5. If their was a Labor Green coalition (not out of the question) then it would be highly likely she would take Deputy-Leader of the coalition and thus Deputy-Premier.

  6. [If their was a Labor Green coalition (not out of the question) then it would be highly likely she would take Deputy-Leader of the coalition and thus Deputy-Premier.]

    Which would mean voting with Labor on virtually everything.

  7. Greens won in Cunningham from a 38:23 split. There was the union backed independent who preferences favoured the Greens but he alone would have only got them to a vote in the low 30s. The Cunningham example would suggest a Green victory.

  8. Surprising the CEC are not out in force. They usually manage to cover the booths at by-elections where they run. Not that it would change the outcome by more than 20 votes.

    Geoff, in Cunningham all but one of the smaller candidates preferenced the Greens ahead of the ALP. Here its 6 to Labor, 3 to Green. Of course its really more like 2 each based on the reports, since people who are not handing out don’t count. (If Varga and Boni are each only covering half the booths then they count as half each, and with the CDP give Labor 2 to balance Zagami and Wainwright).

  9. [Eric Ripper will be gone after the result tonight IMHO.]


    Don’t count your chickens 🙂 Or else that quote is going to come back and HAUNT you 🙂

Comments are closed.

Comments Page 3 of 3
1 2 3