Poll positioning

Federal preselection season is in full swing, at least in some parts of the country. Three big Victorian Liberal contests are coming to the boil following the departure of sitting members in safe seats, while one Labor-held seat has produced a substantial challenge against a sitting member. The action in New South Wales and Queensland is in stasis pending redistributions which will be finalised early next year, although some preliminary jockeying has been under way. Things seem fairly quiet in South Australia and Western Australia, the latter situation prompting a spray at the Liberals from Peter van Onselen in The Australian, who complains about the apparent security of tenure for the state party’s bloated retinue of ageing backbenchers (only the relatively youthful Dennis Jensen in Tangney faces a challenge). Beyond that, there’s one item of news to report from Tasmania.

The Age reports Victorian Liberal deputy director Daniel Tehan has resigned his position to contest preselection for Wannon, to be vacated at the next election by David Hawker. Tehan is the son of the late Marie Tehan, who was among other things Health Minister in the Kennett government. His confirmed opponents will include Louise Staley, former state party vice-president and Institute of Public Affairs agriculture policy expert; Rod Nockles, Howard government adviser and runner-up in the recent preselection for the less desirable prospect of Corangamite; Elizabeth Matuschka, a University of Ballarat administrator who ran unsuccessfully in Ballarat at the 2004 federal election and for Ballarat City Council last November; Matt Makin, a Corangamite councillor; Katrina Rainsford, a Southern Grampians councillor; and Hugh Koch, whom the Warrnambool Standard tells us is a Southern Grampians tourism manager. David McKenzie of the Weekly Times reports that former Victorian Farmers Federation president Simon Ramsay, recently unsuccessful in bids for Corangamite and a position on the board of the National Farmers Federation, has decided against nominating and will instead seek a state upper house berth in Western Victoria. Andrew Landeryou at VexNews has also named as possibilities “complicated Costello loyalist” Georgie Crozier and former police sergeant and anti-corruption crusader Simon Illingworth. UPDATE: The Age says the closure of nominations has produced 10 candidates, which includes “company director Stephen Mitchell”.

• Nicholas McGowan, former adviser to state Opposition Leader Ted Baillieu, has put his hand up to succeed the outgoing Chris Pearce as the Liberal candidate for Aston. Also in the field are two Knox City councillors, Sue McMillan and Darren Pearce (respectively representing Dobson and Taylor wards). McMillan earlier stood for preselection in both Ferntree Gully and Monbulk ahead of the 2006 state election. The Knox Leader reports that former mayor Emanuele Cicciello “has been tipped to run but is remaining tight-lipped”. On July 1, the Herald Sun reported that names “yet to be confirmed” included “former Howard government adviser Alan Tudge and lawyer John Pesutto, who performed well in the recent Kooyong preselection battle”, but VexNews reports the latter assertion is “not correct”.

Rick Wallace of The Australian reports that the preselection contest for Higgins is “being fought out between Kelly O’Dwyer, a former senior adviser to Mr Costello, and Institute of Public Affairs director Tim Wilson”, who respectively have the backing of the Kroger and Baillieu factions. Definitely out of the running are Institute of Public Affairs executive director John Roskam, Crosby Textor consultant Jason Aldworth and former state party director Julian Sheezel, which Andrew Landeryou at VexNews credits to gentle persuasion from Michael Kroger in support of O’Dwyer. No word lately on Tom Elliott, hedge fund manager and son of John.

• With Mal Brough frozen out of the running in Higgins and Aston, Andrew Landeryou at VexNews relates he is “apparently looking or waiting to be drafted”, which might yet occur when Fran Bailey vacates McEwen at the election after next (assuming she can hang on to her 27-vote margin).

• This weekend sees the local ALP preselection ballot take place for the safe Labor Melbourne seat of Calwell. Incumbent Maria Vamvakinou, a stalwart of Kim Carr’s sub-faction of the Left, faces a challenge from Andy Richards, Geelong councillor and official with the Left faction Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (metalworkers’ division). The ballot accounts for half the overall vote, the other half being determined by the party’s Public Office Selection Committee. According to Rick Wallace of The Australian, Richards could secure support from the Right faction National Union of Workers and Health Services Union – collectively known as the “Ambition Faction” – which forged alliances with the AMWU after being excluded from a “stability pact” between the Kim Carr Left and Bill Shorten and Stephen Conroy of the Right. Should this transpire, moves to heal the rift between the rival Right groupings could miscarry. Wallace reports that Richards also has support from “local Turks aligned with ALP identity and local councillor Burhan Yigit”. If support for Richards holds firm, Wallace says the decisive factors will be “local Kurds and a local Lebanese numbers man, Mohamad Abbouche”. As Andrew Landeryou of VexNews tells it, the former might be inclined to back Richards because they are angry that Kim Carr has failed to support Moreland councillor Enver Erdogan in the state preselection for Brunswick. Landeryou says the Ambition Faction is hopeful of securing as much as 60 per cent of the vote for Richards, but the Carr camp is “confident they’ll be able to snaffle at least 20 per cent of the vote back from pesky ethnic warlords who are pledged to support Richards”. UPDATE: See below.

• Nick Butterly of The West Australian says that while Dennis Jensen’s chances of surviving Saturday’s Liberal preselection ballot in Tangney have been boosted by the support of Malcolm Turnbull and “Perth business heavyweights”, Liberal insiders say he “still faces defeat in this Saturday’s ballot because of local concerns about his fundraising efforts and performance in Federal Parliament”. It is not stated which of his two opponents is considered the more formidable: Alcoa government relations manager Libby Lyons, or Toyota Finance executive Glenn Piggott. UPDATE: See below.

• The Launceston Examiner reports that the frontrunner for Liberal preselection in Bass, Brigadier Andrew Nikolic, has withdrawn citing family and work issues. The nomination is now likely to go to Steve Titmus, a former television newsreader.

• The Australian’s Strewth column is advised by a Liberal source that there is “absolutely no truth” to rumours Melanie Howard might contest preselection for Bennelong. Earlier reports suggested approaches to former state MPs Kerry Chikarovski and Andrew Tink had been rebuffed. Also mentioned a while back was former rugby union international Brett Papworth.

UPDATE (18/7/09): Via Frank Calabrese, we learn that ABC TV news in Perth reports that Glenn Piggott has defeated Dennis Jensen in the Tangney preselection vote. Remembering of course that Jensen also lost before the last election, only to have the result overturned on the intervention of John Howard. Meanwhile, Andrew Landeryou reports that Andy Richards has pulled out of the Calwell preselection, so there should be no problems now for Maria Vamvakinou – notwithstanding earlier reports that one Manfried Kriechbaum had also nominated as part of a campaign of mischief-making by state Keilor MP George Seitz.

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.

1,045 comments on “Poll positioning”

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  1. Actually I’ve got a question for William, re your photos at the top of the page.

    Do you know why Gough Whitlam, Malcolm Fraser and John Howard look like they have their arms raised in surrender?

  2. Howard actually has only one arm aloft, of which you can make what you will. I believe I was actively seeking arms aloft photos, because that’s what we tend to do in this country when we score a try/kick a goal, but I guess different cultures might interpret it otherwise.

  3. OT, but does anyone see something familiar with this comment from GM’s blog site?
    The comment was certainly very apt though as this “Simon:” is a persistent Lib tr*ll who posts consistantly the latest Lib talking points with gusto!

    [ Frank
    Thu 16 Jul 09 (01:18pm)

    Your comment “usual flood of Partisans who have typically swamped in to stifle debate… Normally with histrionics…” …ummmm pot, kettle, black? ]


  4. Tehan is also the grandson of the late Senator Tom Tehan, so it will be a three-generation dynasty if he is elected. These are fairly rare. There have only been the Anthonys and the Downers federally, but there have no doubt been others at state level – the Barnards of Bass? the Butlers of SA?

  5. Tehan is a hack.

    As are both candidates going for Higgins.
    As are 2 candidates for Aston.

    The Libs are a joke, they wonder why we are doing so badly by giving Hacks safe seats while talented people like Keenan and Dutton sit on less than 1% and at the same time we allow people like Tuckey and Slipper to hold safe seats when they have nothing to contribute.

  6. Psephos
    Posted Thursday, July 16, 2009 at 3:45 pm by Psephos

    [On the whole, it is, particularly given that they are under constant threat of attack. The Haredim (ultra-Orthodox) are about 10% of the Jewish population, and even of them, only a minority behave like that. It’s wrong to generalise about them. Some are totally inward-looking and do nothing but study Torah all day. There are Haredi sects (Satmar and Neturei Karta) which regard Zionism as blasphemous and have meetings with the PLO.]

    All very true, but it also happens to be true on the other side, the problem is not caused by moderates on either side. The extremists on both side should be called for what they are and no excuses made by anyone for any of them.

  7. I find the two arms in the air thing to remind strongly of the early 1970s and of Richard Nixon

    men shouldn’t do it while wearing a suit jacket – the shoulders go all funny

  8. Glen #6
    [The Libs are a joke]

    I agree and nothing is going to change between now and the next election. You should get with the strength and vote Labor.

  9. Glen,

    Keenan, Dutton and Pyne are all in the firing line right now. Either they know how to attract support or they’ll die. Who did they support for Leader. Was it Nelson? Was it Turnbull. If they were any good they’d be pushing the dead wood aside and connecting with the broader community.

    You blather on about their alleged talent. Let’s see some evidence.

  10. Glen

    If you are hopeless at everything and don’t have enough brains or aptitude to have a career, do you have to have a job in the Institute of Public Affairs to become a Liberal politician? Is that the equivalent of being a Union Thug in the Labor Party?

  11. fredn, a very weak comparison. The Haredim may be *religious* extremists, but they don’t carry out suicide bombings or fire rockets into Muslim towns. And as I said, some of them are anti-Zionist on religious grounds. Judaism is not an evengelical religion – really observant Jews simply ignore the existence of the goyim as far as possible. Israeli expansionism, to the extent that it still exists, is the work of secular Zionist militants like Avigdor Liebermann. Islam and Christianity, on the other hand, are evangelical religions, Islam violently so.

  12. Pseephos, one side has a state behind it the other doesn’t. Violence perpetrated by a state is still violence. The whole mess would be cleaned up a lot quicker if less people tried to justify the unacceptable behavior of either side.

  13. China warns Australia according to the Courier Mail.

    [CHINA has warned Australia not to interfere in the case of a Rio Tinto executive held on spy claims, after Prime Minister Kevin Rudd took a tough line against Beijing.
    “We are firmly against anyone stirring up the case and interfering with the independent judicial authority of China. This is not in the interest of Australia,” foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang said.]


  14. Glen, what is your definintion of a “hack”? Do you mean “a professional political operative”? If so, that’s exactly what the Liberals need more of. Men like Robb and Minchin may be dull, but at least they know what they are doing. The faith the Libs place in amateurism is very touching, but also very harmful.

  15. Thanks for that, William. I didn’t notice Howard had only one arm up.

    I thought maybe they were saying, “Thanks for electing me, guys, but actually I’ve already given up. I’ve got no idea.”

  16. As much as it repulses me to admit it, I have to agree with Psephos on this one.

    The anti “hack” culture in the Liberal Party is stifling. Thankfully it has been on the wane over the past decade (proof is in the latest round of preselections).

    Yes, it’s not good to have a party full of political operatives – but its also bad to have one full of political neophytes with attractive resumes (ie Andrew Lamming). The Liberal Party needs more true believing “haters” in parliament.

    Let’s have a look at a couple of hacks from our side of the aisle: Howard (a party hack of the highest order), Minchin and Robb (as Psephos pointed out), Arthur Sinodinos (hopefully he’ll make a go at it), Fraser (before he became “compassionate”) and Phillip Ruddock to name a few. It’s pretty hard to challenge their political accomplishments and competence.

    I’m not saying at party hack = good. What I am saying is that hacks should not be sneezed at or treated with unfair disdain.

  17. The poll bludger party room had a rapture after the centre-right faction leader called the Liberals a joke!!

    Now all that is needed is for GP the leader of the far-right faction to endorse the comment!!!

  18. I think Kelly O’Dwyer might be a good candidate in Higgins I also think the Liberals should go with John Pesutto in Aston and Elizabeth Matuschka in Wannon.

    One thing that I am rather bemused by is Kevin Andrews being re-selected without anyone putting their hand up, this I think said more about the Liberals than if they choose a hack in Higgins or Aston.

  19. Whilst on pre-selections do the ALP plan to have Tilley from Stirling contest any seats this time around for he seemed a talent.

  20. Under Howard the Libs made a cult of recruiting MPs with no political background but good records in their local communities. They were elected in a flood in 1996, and became the famous “Howard potplants” who blind loyalty to Howard was the main reason Costello never had the numbers. That’s how the Libs got Pat Farmer, Danna Vale, Trish Draper, Jason Wood and similar wastes of space. Some people of this type are no doubt a good thing, especially if they can win and hold marginals, but too many of them clutters the talent pool, as is now painfully obvious. Meanwhile Labor brings in Arbib, Bowen, Shorten, Butler, Combet, Feeney, Marles – all hacks, and all ready-to-go frontbenchers.

  21. Patrick,


    Seriously, this blog needs more comment from your side of the divide.

    However, if it is all snark and aggression, it is hard to have a conversation.

  22. [CHINA has warned Australia not to interfere in the case of a Rio Tinto executive held on spy claims, after Prime Minister Kevin Rudd took a tough line against Beijing. “We are firmly against anyone stirring up the case and interfering with the independent judicial authority of China. This is not in the interest of Australia,” foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang said.]

    Well, well, well, i spoke too soon, from the previous thread:

    [she will not tolerate to be used a whipping boy by the Aussies whenever they feel like it for domestic political purposes, in particular by the MSM and the Coalitions.]

  23. Psephos! Your point highlights how the ALP have made better use of placing talent in safe seats, the thing about the Liberal MPs is several of them held seats that the Liberals don’t normally win, Vale isd a good example she took Hughes which on papaer was a safe ALP seat and Draper took and held Makin a seat that normally is an ALP seat.

    I also think the ALP have done very well to pick and nuture talent in general the ALP does a better job of looking after its own.

  24. Surprisingly enough, Turnbull and Bishop seem to have been very quiet about this little fact that has had virtually no coverage in the MSM.

    [Mr Rudd’s warning to Beijing came as it emerged the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade was now assisting in 41 other consular cases involving Australian citizens incarcerated in China.

    DFAT documents show consular staff are managing 14 prisoner cases, including eight of fraud and “economic crimes”, four of drugs and transnational crimes and two of “serious” crimes.

    In the same categories, another 27 Australians are awaiting trial, including 19 for economic crimes, two for drug offences or transnational crimes, five for miscellaneous offences and one (Mr Hu) for “suspicion of espionage and stealing state secrets”.]


  25. Steve

    You left out the best bits of the article, IMHO, including these observations from spokesperson QIN:

    “There is … an old Chinese saying: “A man of noble character acquires his wealth by honourable means,” he said.

    “What is honourable means? First it’s the law. We request foreign enterprises in China to abide by the laws and regulations of China.”

  26. Oh but the street runs two ways, though!

    Labor have their fair share of useless seat-warmers.

    Mike Kelly and Maxine McKew are all hype and nothing special.

  27. scorpio turnbull and co will be shown to be the rash opportunists they are. they really cant accept that rudd is competant and the majority of the voters believe that and they are not going to be convinced otherwise by hysterical sniping and carping

  28. [Labor have their fair share of useless seat-warmers.]

    A few, but not nearly as many as the Libs. The Coalition has 19 backbenchers who will be over 65 next year, of whom only one (Troeth) is retiring. Labor has two, and one of them (Debus) is retiring.

    [Mike Kelly and Maxine McKew are all hype and nothing special.]

    Obviously you’ve never met Mike Kelly.

  29. bishop was still going on at the weekend that labor had “lost control of the budget”. What planet are these people on?? Did they miss the last quarterly growth figures?? The avoidance of a recession?? Do they SERIOUSLY believe that if they say things enough times people will just believe them?? What a rabble.

    One of Rudd’s key successes as an opposition leader was to choose his battles, not oppose everything for the sake of opposing.

  30. Patrick,

    Mike Kelly, War hero and MBA. Photogenic, intelligent and highly regarded.

    Maxine McKew, Slayer of a non descript PM. Labor people will always throw petals before her as she walks.

  31. Patrick I think you’ve chosen the least 2 appropriate examples to illustrate your point. I’ll take your McKew and raise you a Neale. And youre missing the point- until the Libs realise that they have to refresh and renew and reflect they will be in the wilderness. They must accept they lost and be brave enough to change. There is every indication it will take a few more election losses for them to get there

  32. And GG youre right. Even if McKew stayed mute for the next 3 years she is a heroine. She beat Howard. What more could you ask???

  33. Both Kelly and McKew are Parly Secs, a strange kind of para-ministerial beast who get lots of drudge work but no glory, and who can can neither ask nor answer questions, which must be very frustrating.

  34. Andrew

    Not so fast, I think Julie may have been right.

    I just saw the Budget roaring down the street. The Budget was behind the steering wheel of a ute load of Rio Commercial Information Specialists, some frightened Howard PotPlants, and a lost neo-con. The ute was being chased by a debt truck.

    The debt truck had Turnbull behind the wheel but Julie and Peter were lending a hand with the steering. Robb had both feet on the brakes and Turbull had both feet on the accelerator and his mouth around the horn button thingy.

  35. Boer war,

    Someone with feet on the accelrator and rest on the brakes.

    No wonder, they blow a lot of smoke.

  36. Psephos @ 45

    Not to mention the frustrations of having to work under the aegis of Real Ministers.

    Still it does provide a good training opportunities for the newbies.

  37. The libs seem to be getting upset and are accusing Rudd of engaging in something that Howard turned into an art form over a decade. They don’t even seem to like that some of the money is going to Liberal marginals also. I wonder why?

    [Malcolm Turnbull said the way the spending was being rolled out showed it was all about spin and photo opportunities and not about lifting the nation out of a financial crisis. “The Rudd Labor government has a political strategy, but no economic strategy,” the Opposition Leader said.

    Opposition employment participation spokesman Andrew Southcott said the government had taken a scatter-gun approach to spending without proper planning.

    He said it was “disturbing” the government had not done basic analysis such as how many jobs would be created.

    “In the end, voters are quite sophisticated about these things — they won’t be fooled by the government’s spin,” he said.

    Dr Southcott said he was very concerned that Labor appeared to have decided to channel the second round of Jobs Fund spending towards Labor-held and marginal seats. “It appears they’ve now decided to spend it very much in their own target areas,” he said.

    The accusations follow the release of a report last week by Senator Arbib and Parliamentary Secretary for Employment Jason Clare, which recommended the second round of spending be targeted towards 20 vulnerable areas.

    Dr Southcott said the majority of those fell in marginal or Labor seats.

    However, a spokeswoman for Senator Arbib said the priority employment areas were selected on factors including their unemployment rate and the proportion of people on income support.

    “The electoral map is irrelevant to determining whether an area is an priority employment area,” she said. She said not all of the priority areas fell in Labor seats, with some projects announced this week falling in the Liberal seats of Dunkley, Flinders and La Trobe.

    The spokeswoman denied projects were deliberately being announced slowly to maximise the potential for photo opportunities.

    “As decisions on projects are made, recipients are advised and the projects are announced publicly,” she said. ]


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