The latest fortnightly Roy Morgan face-to-face survey finds Labor maintaining the remarkable upward trend it has recorded across recent polling: its primary vote is up 2.5 per cent to 52 per cent, the Coalition’s is up 0.5 per cent to 34.5 per cent, while the Greens, Family First and independent/others are all down. On two-party preferred, Labor’s lead has edged up from 60-40 to 60.5-39.5. The pattern is further demonstrated by the latest Reuters Poll Trend aggregate, which finds Labor’s two-party lead has crept steadily upwards since June, and has now increased to 59.0-41.0 from 58.0-42.0 a month ago. George Megalogenis of The Australian offers an exquisitely simple hypothesis: the women swing first, then the men. This was apparently the pattern when the current governments in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia were elected (I suggest One Nation complicated the picture in Queensland and Western Australia), and it gives every appearance of playing out at present federally. However, there is the curious exception of men under 35, many of whom seem to have abandoned Labor since the onset of the financial crisis.
Phillip Coorey of the Sydney Morning Herald reports Julia Gillard is working behind the scenes to save the career of Laurie Ferguson, a fellow member of the soft Left faction who backed the Rudd/Gillard coup against Kim Beazley in December 2006. Ferguson has been left high-and-dry by the effective abolition of his western Sydney seat of Reid, the redrawn seat of that name being the effective successor to its abolished neighbour Lowe. However, Ferguson’s efforts to find a new home are being resisted by the hard Left faction of Anthony Albanese. Coorey reports Ferguson believes he has the numbers to win a local preselection vote in Fowler, to be vacated with the retirement of Julia Irwin, but it seems at least as likely that this and other contentious seats will be filled by the decree of Kevin Rudd and the panel of factional leaders which was empowered to make final determinations through a recent change to the party constitution. VexNews intimates that if denied, Ferguson might look at obtaining support for a potentially expensive and spectacular legal challenge.
Paul Sheehan of the Sydney Morning Herald had an interesting piece last week on the Liberal preselection for Cook ahead of the last federal election, which saw the dumping of the initially victorious Michael Towke and his eventual substitution with Scott Morrison. Towke’s Right faction lost the PR battle at the time (as my own electorate profile attests), but as Sheehan tells it, talk that Towke had fudged his CV had little or no foundation in fact. Rather, he was a victim of a view among some senior Liberals evidently including John Howard that a Lebanese Australian could not win Cook in a tight election. It will be recalled that the expanse of southern Sydney covered by the electorate includes Cronulla. Sheehan also relates that the Daily Telegraph’s reporting of Towke’s preselection led to a defamation action which was settled out-of-court with a payment of $50,000.
Peter Caton of the Tweed Daily News reports the Nationals are struggling to find candidates to run against Labor incumbents Justine Elliot, in the one-time party stronghold of Richmond, and Janelle Saffin, in its marginal neighbour Page. The only known candidate for the latter is Kevin Hogan, who according to The Northern Star runs his own finance business from his Clunes cattle farm.
Pat Farmer, the Liberal member for Macarthur, has as expected been soundly defeated for preselection by Russell Matheson, a police sergeant and former mayor of Campbelltown. The margin was 22 votes to nine.
Rick Wallace of The Australian reports the Victorian ALP will follow the footsteps of the NSW Nationals by choosing a state election candidate through a US-style primary. Whereas the Nationals are still to decide which seat in which to conduct their experiment, Labor has earmarked the Liberal-held marginal of Kilsyth. The decision stems from a cross-factional committee report which also recommends reinvigorating the party organisation by slashing membership fees.
VexNews reports that Louise Staley, who has previously sought federal preselection for Wannon and Menzies, is now hoping for a state berth in the country seat of Ripon, which Labor’s Joe Helper holds on a margin of 4.4 per cent. Staley is a former state party vice-president and Institute of Public Affairs agriculture policy expert. Also said to have nominated are John van Beveren, a local winery owner and education professor and Vic Dunn, the local inspector at Maryborough.
The Australian Review of Public Affairs has published my review article on Australia: The State of Democracy, written by Marian Sawer, Norman Abjorensen and Phil Larkin through the auspices of the Democratic Audit of Australia and published by The Federation Press.
Plenty happening in Tasmania:
Labor’s troubled first-term member for Bass, Jodie Campbell, has confirmed she will not contest the next election. Geoff Lyons, a staffer to Senator Helen Polley, has been mentioned as a possible successor, which would see the seat’s factional alignment transfer from Left to Right. The Liberals have preselected Steve Titmus, a former television news reader and PR consultant for Gunns Ltd. The winner will be the seat’s sixth member in less than two decades. UPDATE: The Launceston Examiner reports that the new candidate is likely to be determined by prime ministerial fiat after the dust settles, and that there is a second potential candidate in Winnaleah District High School principal Brian Wightman, who is currently pencilled in as one of six candidates for the Bass state election ticket.
Terry Martin, independent member for the northern Hobart upper house division of Elwick, faces criminal charges which regardless of their merits are politically lethal by nature. Martin was elected as a Labor member in 2004, but was expelled by the party in March 2007 after crossing the floor to vote against the government’s fast-tracking of the proposed Tamar Valley pulp mill. He is due to face re-election at the next round of periodical elections in May; a by-election need not be held if the seat is vacated after January 1.
Sue Neales of The Mercury reports the Liberals have finalised their state election ticket for Denison, adding renewable energy lawyer Matthew Groom, businesswoman and former Miss Tasmania Sue Hickey, and high-profile school parents advocate and Glenorchy councillor Jenny Branch to the already announced Michael Hodgman (the sole incumbent), Elise Archer and Matt Stevenson.
Tasmanian government legislation for fixed terms has been referred to a committee, scuppering any chance of it being passed in the week remaining before a recess that will last until the election. Premier David Bartlett nonetheless swears that the election will be held on March 20, again locking the psephological community into the headache of simultaneous elections in South Australia and Tasmania.
Elsewhere on the site, note that it’s all happening on the Willagee by-election thread, while things are ticking over more slowly yet still surely on the Bradfield and Higgins threads. Observe also the New South Wales Newspoll post immediately below.