No Morgan poll this week, but the past week’s tide of political shenanigans and skulduggery can be held back no longer:
The by-election for the Tasmanian upper house district for Pembroke will
be held tomorrow, which in partisan terms is the most interesting such contest for many a long year. Labor will not attempt to retain the seat being vacated by outgoing member Allison Ritchie possibly a first in Australian electoral history but two independents, James Crotty (who was expected to win the aborted Labor preselection) and Honey Bacon (the widow of former Premier Jim Bacon), are identifiable with the Labor cause in one way or another. Most interestingly, the field also includes a high-profile Liberal in Vanessa Goodwin, who performed impressively in both the state seat and federal seat of Franklin in 2006 and 2007 without quite bringing home the prize. This is the first time the Liberals have fielded an upper house candidate since 2000, when their poor performance reminded them why they are better off leaving the chamber to independents in most circumstances. This site will provide live coverage of the results tomorrow evening. Anybody wishing to discuss the election is invited to do so on the dedicated thread.
The Northern Territory government is in turmoil, with Macdonnell MP and Indigenous Affairs Minister Alison Anderson threatening to quit the ALP and reports Chief Minister Paul Henderson faces a challenge from Karama MP Delia Lawrie. The government has been in a minority position since Arafura MP Marion Scrymgour quit the party early last month. Nick Calacouras of the Northern Territory News says Lawrie avoided the media after Tuesday’s caucus meeting and snuck out the back with Transport Minister Gerry McCarthy (Barkly) and the three indigenous Labor ministers Karl Hampton (Stuart), Malarndirri McCarthy (Arnhem) and Alison Anderson. Darwin academic, former Labor MP and Club Troppo blogger Ken Parish is quoted saying Henderson would be replaced by Christmas. Anderson has been threatening to walk out over the government’s alleged failure to deliver on indigenous housing promised in a federal-territory program announced early last year. She is not ruling out joining the CLP, which would leave the fate of the government in the hands of independent Nelson MP Gerry Wood. Wood has generally been presumed to be of conservative sympathies, but he has expressed doubt as to whether some of these new (CLP) members are ready to govern. In any case, there seems reason to suspect Anderson’s defection threats are born of a desire to strengthen her hand as she seeks a better deal on indigenous housing (UPDATE 1/8/09): Paul Toohey of The Australian doesn’t quite see it that way, saying Anderson was in discussions late last year with the CLP about crossing the floor, and that she will, sooner rather than later, destroy (Henderson’s) government. She has also raised the prospect of an quitting from politics altogether, which she says she will do in any case at the next election. However, Labor would probably be favoured to win an ensuing by-election, with Anderson’s electorate officer John Rawnsley having won her backing to succeed her for preselection.
The Right faction of the New South Wales Liberal Party is being rent by a split between forces associated with state upper house MP David Clarke and his former protégé, youthful federal Mitchell MP Alex Hawke. The philosophical basis of the friction involves the Christian social conservatism of the former sub-faction (the hard Right) and the laissez-faire economic orientation of the latter (the soft Right), although there has also been talk of hard Right elements seeking a purge of Jesuit-educated Catholics. Principals of the Clarke group include state upper house MP Marie Ficarra and Epping MP Greg Smith, while the Hawke camp can claim state party president Nick Campbell. The dispute boiled over on Monday at the AGM of the Sydney University Liberal Club, which Clarke and Ficarra reportedly attempted without success to take control of (subject of a vibrant discussion at VexNews), and again at a Lane Cove Young Liberals meeting the following night. Phillip Coorey of the Sydney Morning Herald reports the split could deliver soft Right support to factional moderate Philip Ruddock in Berowra, who faces a challenge from Noel McCoy of the hard Right, and Scott Morrison in Cook. Coorey relates that Greg Smith is believed to be carrying the flag for the hard Right’s campaign against Ruddock, which most recently manifested itself in a confrontation during a branch meeting in Cheltenham:
On Sunday night in Berowra, Mr Ruddock and Mr Smith attended a meeting of the Cheltenham Branch in Mr Ruddock’s electorate. By six votes to one, the moderates blocked a bid by Mr Smith to admit three new members. The same majority admitted seven new members sympathetic to Mr Ruddock.
The dissension could result in the state party initiating its federal preselection process as soon as the draft boundaries are announced next Friday, rather than waiting as currently planned until they are finalised early next year. UPDATE (1/8/09): Imre Salusinszky of The Australian reports Noel McCoy saying: Now that I have clearance from the state director to speak to the media, I can tell you that I am not contesting the seat of Berowra. Meaning either that there was a lot of smoke without fire, or that recent events have caused him to revise his estimate of his chances.
Michelle Grattan of The Age reports that wealthy Toorak businessman Andrew Abercrombie has emerged as a contender for the Liberal Higgins preselection, in challenge to heir presumptive Kelly O’Dwyer. Nominations for both Higgins and Aston closed yesterday.
James Massola of The Canberra Times reports on movement at the station in Canberra ALP branches, with Bob McMullan having announced the next election will be his last and expectations Annette Ellis might follow. This would make available both Fraser and Canberra to those aspiring for a safe seat. Massola says that depending on who you talk to, constitutional scholar George Williams, former Julia Gillard adviser Jamie Snashall, former Mark Latham adviser Michael Cooney and Rudd’s masterful chief of staff Alister Jordan are all in the box seat for one or other of these prize seats.
Moonee Valley Community News reports Moonee Valley councillor Rose Iser has confirmed she will run for Greens preselection in the state seat of Melbourne, which the party narrowly failed to win in 2002 and 2006. Also in the field are former Liberty Victoria president Brian Walters SC, former candidate Jen Alden, and first-timer Bruce Poon.
On behalf of The Poll Bludger and all who sail in her, heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of valued comments contributor Judy Barnes, who has died at the age of 71.