The latest Roy Morgan face-to-face poll has Labor’s two-party lead at 57-43, down from 58-42 a fortnight ago. On the primary vote, Labor is down 0.5 per cent to 48.5 per cent, the Coalition is up 2 per cent to 38 per cent and the Greens are down 1 per cent to 7 per cent.
In other news, it’s all happening in Victoria:
Peter Costello’s surprise announcement that he will not contest the next election has raised the flag on another epic Victorian Liberal preselection stoush in his Melbourne seat of Higgins, which housed successive Liberal prime ministers in Harold Holt and John Gorton. Furthermore, Costello has raised the possibility of an early departure and a by-election, if it’s in the party’s interest. Immediately prior to Costello’s announcement, Institute of Public Affairs executive director John Roskam signalled his intention to run if Costello stood aside, after earlier testing the waters in Kooyong (see below). However, Peter van Onselen in The Australian reports that Costello has resolved to oppose Roskam due to equivocal comments he made to David Penberthy of The Punch about Costello’s future value in politics. Van Onselen further reports widespread displeasure at this and other remarks seen to be in breach of Liberal rules that preselection aspirations are not to be discussed with the media. Costello reportedly wishes for the seat to go to a former staffer, Kelly O’Dwyer. It had earlier been reported that O’Dwyer might depose incumbent Ted Baillieu loyalist Andrew McIntosh in the state seat of Kew. The other big name in the Higgins mix is Mal Brough, who has moved to Melbourne and is said to be hopeful of a return to politics that doesn’t involve further dirtying his hands in the morass of the Queensland Liberal National Party. However, Phillip Coorey of the Sydney Morning Herald reports party sources say he has no chance. Also mentioned are former state party director Julian Sheezel, who was said to be backed by Costello but opposed by Michael Kroger when talk of Costello’s departure was in the air after the election, Jason Aldworth, a former banking colleague of Michael Kroger and more recently a consultant for Crosby Textor; and, intriguingly, Tom Elliott, hedge fund manager and son of John, who memorably sought to depose Roger Shipton as member for this very seat in pursuit of his prime ministerial ambitions.
Merchant banker Josh Frydenberg has won the hotly contested preselection to succeed Petro Georgiou as the Liberal candidate for Kooyong. Andrew Landeryou at VexNews reports that Frydenberg won the second round ballot over industrial relations lawyer John Pesutto by 283 votes to 239 after all other contenders were excluded in the first round. The result is a defeat for Ted Baillieu, whose power base had pursued various stratagems designed to thwart Frydenberg, the preferred candidate of the rival Kroger faction.
The ALP national executive’s role in Victorian state preselections has been further expanded following John Brumby’s decision to refer to the body all state upper house preselections for next year’s election. Labor insiders quoted by David Rood of The Age relate that the decision will all but end the career of Theo Theophanous, who faces a vigorously contested rape charge and was recently among those named adversely in the state Ombudsman’s report into Brimbank City Council. This week the national executive acted as expected in relation to a number of lower house preselections referred to it in the wake of the latter imbroglio, selecting former Trades Hall Council deputy secretary (and wife of New South Wales Senator Steve Hutchins) Natalie Sykes-Hutchins to replace George Seitz in Keilor and confirming incumbents Telmo Languiller, Rob Hulls, Marsha Thomson and Marlene Kairouz in Derrimut, Niddrie, Footscray and Kororoit. It has also been confirmed that Victorian Planning Minister Justin Madden will seek to move to the lower house by nominating for preselection in Essendon, to be vacated by the retiring Judy Maddigan. In his absence, the national executive has chosen incumbents Martin Pakula, Khalil Eideh and Bob Smith to head the ticket in Western Metropolitan (Smith currently represents South-Eastern Metropolitan).
Helen Shardey, Victorian Shadow Health Minister and member for Caulfield, has indicated she will stand down at the next election. It had been reported she faced a preselection challenge from David Southwick, previously unsuccessful in the federal seat of Melbourne Ports in 2004 and for the state upper house Southern Metropolitan in 2006.
Andrew Landeryou at VexNews reports that former Liberal MP Phil Barresi, whom he describes as a factionally unenthusiastic Krogerite, has been given the green light to attempt to recover the seat of Deakin which he held from 1996 until his defeat in 2007. Barresi reportedly won on the first round over eccentric perennial Ken Aldred, who was dumped in favour of Barresi in 1996 after peddling weird conspiracy theories, and one Deanna Ryall. Perhaps Barresi is encouraged by the precedent of 1984, when the Liberals unexpectedly recovered the seat (with some help from a redistribution) after losing it when the Hawke government was elected in 1983.
Glenn Milne in The Australian reports on the Labor succession in the federal seat of Macquarie, which will be vacated at the next election by Bob Debus. As Milne tells it, Debus or his supporters put it about that his recent decision to withdraw from the ministry and bow out at the next election, which helped the Prime Minister no end as he sought to construct a new cabinet in the wake of Joel Fitzgibbon’s resignation, was conditional upon Debus being given the right to anoint his own successor. This was hotly disputed by Right powerbrokers who are bitterly opposed to Debus’s objective of freezing out industrial barrister Adam Searle, a Left faction colleague but personal rival.
Two new goodies from Antony Green. An extensive paper for the New South Wales Parliamentary Library provides all manner of detail on the state’s Legislative Council election in 2007, while an accompanying blog post scrutinises the performance of the optional preferential above-the-line voting system introduced after the 1999 election produced a tablecloth-sized ballot paper and elected candidates from groupings that would be flattered by the micro-party designation. He further discusses the potential for such a system to resolve the issues which saw Steve Fielding elected to the Senate in 2004. For the more casual election enthusiast, a new 2010federal election calculator allows you set the two-party result to taste to find out the seat outcome in the event of a uniform swing. It turns out a 50-50 result would give the Coalition exactly half the seats and presumably allow it to govern with support of the three independents. Labor loses its majority at 50.8 per cent.
Queensland independent MP Peter Wellington has introduced a private member’s bill providing for fixed three-year terms, with an escape clause if a new government cannot be formed in the wake of no-confidence motion and a provision allowing for a five-week postponement if there is a clash with a federal election or a widespread natural disaster. The major parties both support fixed four-year terms, which unlike Wellington’s proposal would require a referendum. Negotiations for such a referendum broke down last year when then Opposition Leader Lawrence Springborg insisted on further unrelated reforms, but his successor John-Paul Langbroek has foreshadowed a more flexible approach in future discussions with the government.
Christian Kerr of The Australian evaluates the Australian political blogosphere.
UPDATE: Thanks to Rebecca in comments for bringing my attention to the fact that Allison Ritchie, Labor member for the Tasmanian Legislative Council district of Pembroke, yesterday announced she would quit parliament after enduring a storm of controversy over her appointment of family members on her staff. This will presumably result in a by-election shortly in Pembroke, where Ritchie defeated an independent incumbent in 2001 and won re-election in 2007. The Electoral Act allows the government enormous latitude on the timing of such a by-election, so I’ll hold off on giving it its own post until its intentions become clearer. Ritchie claims to have been the victim of a plot from within her own party, which presumably explains why she has decided to go now rather than wait for the more convenient juncture of early next year, when a by-election could be held with the state election in March or the annual periodical upper house elections in May.