Illawarra poll: Kiama, Keira, Wollongong and Shellharbour

It had escaped my attention previously, but it turns out the Illawarra Mercury is in the habit of commissioning occasional opinion polls from local outfit IRIS Research. IRIS’s credentials seem solid enough, and it performed well before the federal election in recording a 53 per cent two-party vote for Liberal incumbent Joanna Gash in Gilmore, compared with an actual result of 54.1 per cent. The sample sizes are 300 or more per electorate, suggesting a shaky margin of error of about 5.5 per cent. Three polls of local state electorates have been published over the past two years, covering Kiama, Keira, Wollongong and Shellharbour both this time and in September 2008, but just Keira and Wollongong in May 2008. Results in a nutshell:

• In Kiama, Labor MP Matt Brown is on 29 per cent of the primary vote in the latest poll, compared with 50.7 per cent at the March 2007 election. This at least is 6 per cent higher than he managed in the previous Mercury/IRIS poll of September 2008, conducted immediately after some fun and games in his parliamentary office cost him his job as Police Minister. It can be presumed this puts him ahead of the Greens, who at 28 per cent were five points ahead of him in the earlier poll – probably not enough to overhaul the Liberals’ 39 per cent on Labor preferences, but not far off. Unfortunately, primary vote figures for the Liberals and the Greens in the latest poll are not provided, but we are told the Liberal two-party lead is 57-43, which would amount to a swing of 19 per cent.

• In Keira, David Campbell is on 36 per cent of the primary vote – the same as he recorded in the September 2008 poll, but down from 44.5 per cent in the May 2008 poll and 57.8 per cent at the 2007 election. He holds a two-party lead over the Liberals of 53-47, also suggesting a swing of 19 per cent.

• Of Wollongong, we are told only that Noreen Hay “would remain safe, although her share of the primary vote would fall”. The September 2008 poll had her primary vote at 49 per cent, the May 2008 poll had it at 46 per cent, and her result at the 2007 election was 58.4 per cent.

• In Shellharbour, Lylea McMahon’s two-party lead is 61-39 compared with 58-42 in September 2008, pointing to a swing of 11 per cent.

UPDATE: Commenter Peter Young has tracked down a hard copy of the paper in the hope it would provide full tables of results, but no dice. We are however told that 39 per cent of respondents preferred Kristina Keneally as Premier compared with 31 per cent for Barry O’Farrell, and that 29 per cent believed she would make a better Premier than Nathan Rees against 14 per cent worse and 46 per cent about the same.

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.

34 comments on “Illawarra poll: Kiama, Keira, Wollongong and Shellharbour”

  1. Hi William!
    It might be a good idea for Sussex St to force Matt Brown to retire before the next election, and put up someone new in Kiama.

  2. In very rough terms (and solely from memory):
    1. These figures are pointing to a 10-20% swing against Labor.
    2. The swing against Labor in the October 2008 by-elections was 20%.
    3. The Liberals need 7% swing to be in a position to be able to form a minority government and 10% to form government in their own right.

    So even though the Liberals face a big margin, they seem to be on track to achieve it quite easily.

    Surely a swing against a government of say 15% in a general election must be a historically high one in Australia?

  3. It’s hard to believe a party is in line to cop such a massive shellacking at an election, and yet the opposition aren’t a certainty to form government.

  4. #4

    In the web article it doesn’t mention it. However it may have a table in the actual hardcover paer. It’s in Saturday’s edition, so I will go up to the newsagents (they stock it) this afternoon and get a copy – if it hasn’t sold out – and let you know.

  5. Margin of error’s pretty high and government odium is particularly pronounced at the moment. As bad as the government is, though, David Campbell is a vigorous and attentive local member and I can’t believe a swing of 19% in Keira. Sure, Ryde swung but John Watkins’ personal vote would have been substantial and that area was Liberal before he colonised it. Campbell is the incumbent, and as a sometime Transport Minister appears less popular than he is viewed from Sydney where people get angry about that sort of thing. The suburbs of Wollongong won’t go Liberal in a pink fit, and the idea of Keira falling to the Greens is.. well, it’s not going to happen. The leafy inner suburbs of Wollongong don’t resemble inner Sydney or Melbourne in any way, shape or form and the Greens will poll better than last time but Campbell will win and probably the 2pp will be against the Libs. Keiraville the suburb in particular is full of older voters, and while there are students in the electorate, UoW students are nowhere near as “rah rah Greens!” as Sydney campuses. Remember, people, Michael Organ came _third_ behind the Liberals at the 2007 election, and you can’t expect the anti-Labor primary vote to coalesce behind the Greens. The Libs will be the major beneficiaries of the drop in the Labor vote. I reckon Labor will win with a margin of 10%.

    Kiama, the Greens are at least a theoretical possibility to get into 2nd on the primary vote if Brown is the candidate, and if they don’t, I can see their preferences exhausting and electing the Liberal. Labor should punt him if they want to minimise their seat damage but since they deserve everything they’re about to get, I really hope they don’t. A primary of 39% would probably see the Liberals win it anyway, and then hold it in 2015. There is conservative territory around there.

    Noreen Hay will be under no threat whatsoever in Wollongong.

    Shellharbour is interesting – the feeling I got (a mate of mine is in her extended family by marriage) was that her unpopularity peaked around the time she was preselected so there’d be less of a swing than there would be in Keira where the local member wasn’t resented and she’d now be performing closer to a generic Labor candidate, something which isn’t that poisonous in the Illawarra.

  6. #4
    Well good news, I got the last copy. Unfortunately it cost $2. The bad news is it didn’t have any tables setting out the breakdowns in any of the seats. It was a survey of 300 people in 4 electorates, a total of 1,200 people, taken by phone over the period 18-22 December 2009.

    In addition to the individual seat voting, the respondents were also asked:
    1. Who would make better Premier? A. 39% Kristina Keneally, 31% Barry O’Farrell and 30% Don’t Know.
    2. Will Keneally be better leader than Rees? A. Better – 29%, Worse – 14%, About the Same – 46%, Don’t Know – 11%.

    On a 2 party basis it has the sitting MPs over the 50% mark, except for Brown in Kiama on 43%.

    The editorial includes this:
    “Kiama MP Matt Brown is well known for losing his pants but now he faces losing his seat”

  7. By the sound of this and other things, KKK will save some furniture. As time goes on I expect the outrage to the ALP to soften and the liberals to only just get in. Good game plan I reckon. Role out the Barrell will probably mess it up and be a one or two termer at best.

  8. These seats shouldn’t even be in play, and provided Brown is invited to explore other opportunities, it’s likely they will all stay in the ALP column – and all but Kiama are certainties for the ALP – irrespective of the “New Narrowing” that gets talked about these days. The only real chance of taking the other 3 seats outside the ALP is if a strong local independent runs. Whether such a person exists and is willing to run is a seat-by-seat question.

    I’m interested to hear that Campbell is a good local member. I’m not surprised, but as edward o suggests, he doesn’t appear to give a stuff about Sydney. But Keira isn’t going Liberal. And talk of Greens taking these seats at a general election (as opposed to a by-election) is a total pipedream.

    But the very fact someone has decided it is worth polling such seats is interesting. Data from elsewhere (such as maybe AC Nielsen, which is in the Fairfax fold I think) may well be indicating the interesting numbers coming out of safe ALP seats, thus initiating the polling.

  9. Further to Rogan’s comment, I actually think it is good to see a local media outlet do soem polling and while these three seats will remain ALP, it is good to see what is potentially having away from Sydney.

    I am not surprised that Jo Gash appears to eb polling well in Gilmore for she comes across as a good MP. Gilmore will be a very interesting seat to watch.

  10. Rogan – #315

    The Illawarra Mercury has been doing this Illawarra polling for some time. You have to understand the paper:-
    1. It has a strong regional basis (Illawarra is No 1).
    2. It has long campaigned that the Illawarra is taken for a ride and ignored because it has safe Labor seats.
    3. It likes to do things its own way. Before joining Fairfax it was locally owned and managed. I remember it even claimed to have the best Melbourne Cup tipping record of any newspaper in Australia.
    4. You will see it continues it’s local is best campaign by using a local business to do the survey.

    I don’t think anything can be read into its carrying out the polling.

  11. No doubt safe seats can come into play. But I can’t really see it happening here. The other thing I’ve always wanted to know is, really, how much worse is the government in 2010 than it was in 2006? Not that much bad has happened that would tilt people who stayed with Iemma in 2007, and indeed, in areas where the government has performed the worst, like public transport, Sydney might be doing it rough but Wollongong’s has improved a fair bit in the last few years. Health isn’t a huge gaping sore in the Illawarra either.

    Of course, I preferenced the Libs in 2007 and will do it again, so what do I know.

  12. Geoff – #18

    That link just gave me an “error” page.
    What book are you referring to and what chapter?
    I have most of the books published for the Sesqui-Centenary, but haven’t read them all !!!

  13. edward o

    The ALP in 2006 was elected on that it was a changed government and that Iemma was going to right the wrongs of the Labor government …. ie not doing anything since the olympics

    So in the next 2.5 years, they have changed 2 premiers and has so far done nothing in relation to the infrastructure/housing/transport need of the state

    Fool me once …..

  14. It seems that in the rush to please developers KK has failed to act according to law and thus stuffed up big time.
    However, one lawyer has claimed that the decision of the Land & Environment Court in the Canberra Airport case may have wider implications, affecting all rezoning processes as at 1 July 2009.
    The SMH reports:
    A HOST of local rezoning policies across NSW are under a legal cloud because of a legislative error made while the Premier, Kristina Keneally, was planning minister.
    The error is contained in amendments to the NSW Planning and Assessment Act introduced as part of Ms Keneally’s push to streamline the planning process in 2008.

    KK has form for having courts strike down her actions. She was in charge of WYD arrangements for the Pope, when the Federal Court struck down NSW laws specially formulated to ban “annoying” t-shirts during the Popes visit.

    In the airport case NSW (read taxpayers of NSW) were ordered to pay the costs of the applicant. In the “annoying” case, fortunately , taxpayers were only slugged with having to pay 1/3rd of the applicants costs. In the end result, NSW taxpayers have been forced to fork out money, because the government couldn’t get it right.

    The airport case result is not surprising. When questioned about her qualifications to be Planning Minister KK had this to say:
    I was given the Planning portfolio by the Premier.

    Q: So you do not actually have any qualifications, you do not have any
    experience and you do not really know how you should exercise your discretions?
    Ms KRISTINA KENEALLY: Mr Pearce, I have just outlined for you that I have, in fact, read the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act, and I have been appointed to this portfolio by the Premier.$FILE/090929%20Corrected%20transcript.pdf

  15. The Illawarra region is no stranger to the problems that developers can bring. The Wollongong City Council was sacked and administrators appointed because of revelations of a developer led scandal.
    It seems that developers are often involved in the downfall of political figures. In Northern Ireland, Iris Robinson arranged a “loan” from her developer friends (2 parcels of $25,000 each) to her then 19 year old boyfriend.

    One has to ask the obvious questions:-
    1. Why is it that developers always seem to be awash with cash, to be given away or loaned – particularly to political partys.
    2. Why is it that developers have a strong tendency to cultivate close relationships with politicians.
    3. Why is it that politicians allow developers to establish such relationships with them.

    There has been no firm suggestion to date that any of the Illawarra MPs were involved in anything untoward, in relation to te Wollongong City Council scandal, and Noreen Hay MP was specifically declared by the ICAC not to be a person of interest in its investigations.

    Yet one has to wonder whether Illawarra electors are subconsciously concerned about developer links with local MPs.

  16. The ‘I didn’t dance in my underpants” story has prompted some printers ink being spilt.

    The editorial team at the Illawarra Mercury, who were the messengers of bad news for Matt Brown in the form of the recent IRIS poll, have put pen to paper:
    as has Crikey’s Andrew Cook:-

  17. Michelle Hoctor, journalist with the Illawarra Mercury has a story as well (hardcopy p.6)
    which includes:

    Matt Brown had been on the go for 16 hours before the fateful party that led to his ministerial downfall.
    NSW Parliament had gone into virtual lockdown for the state budget on June 3, 2008, and Mr Brown, as Housing Minister, came and went from the chamber to put his case forward.
    Contentious reforms tabled by Planning Minister Frank Sartor required that his ALP colleagues remain on standby in the event a division was called, signalling a long day ahead.
    The session broke for dinner about 6.30pm, followed by the traditional post-budget party when politicians and their staffers mingled to either commiserate or celebrate the budget handouts.
    About 10pm, Mr Brown invited colleagues and their staffers back to his office to continue the analysis and unwind.
    “I had been consistently working 16-hour days, dealing with a whole range of issues,” he said.
    “On that particular night I wanted to let off some steam and I wanted to do it with a few close colleagues.”
    Mr Brown said he usually dealt with the stress of his job through exercise, but on this day, because of the Sartor reforms, he could not leave the building.
    “There had been 14 hours of parliamentary debate, you know. I wasn’t stir crazy – it was just the culmination of a lot of hard work.”
    Mr Brown said people came and went from his office that night, among them Wollongong MP Noreen Hay, who divided her time between Mr Brown’s gathering and a soiree in the treasury department.
    Jokes were told, grievances were shared and bottles of wine were uncorked. At some point, someone turned on a radio and people began dancing.
    “It was a jovial and friendly atmosphere,” Mr Brown said.
    “There was music; there was dancing. The music was on, we had a twirl. It was whatever station or whatever volume people turned it on.”
    Mrs Hay this week recalled sharing a glass of wine and possibly a dance.
    The soiree continued until midnight; the parliamentary session concluded at 2.30am.

    Three months later on Friday, September 5, Premier Morris Iemma was replaced by left-wing Nathan Rees, who, in a complete Cabinet reshuffle, promoted right-wing Mr Brown to the more senior portfolio of Police Minister and Minister for the Illawarra.
    The new Cabinet was sworn in on Monday. Three days into the job, all hell broke loose.
    Mr Brown said he began receiving calls at 5pm from a journalist who put to him allegations about budget night.
    “It was drip-fed to cause maximum pain, in my opinion … It was obvious to me that myself and the Government were under attack,” he said.
    The full extent of the claims was that Mr Brown had stripped down to his underpants and danced on a newly purchased green Chesterfield couch, and that he had “mounted the chest” of Mrs Hay and called to her adult daughter, “Look at this, I’m titty-f…ing your mother.”
    Mr Rees was first contacted by Mr Brown at 5.30pm. By midnight, he had asked Mr Brown to resign.
    Mr Rees said the following day that he asked Mr Brown to resign because the Kiama MP lied to him about the allegations.
    Mr Brown said this week there was no lie and he did not strip to his underwear. There was little more than a loosening of his tie and undoing of his shirt buttons.
    “At one stage during the night Nathan said to me, ‘Is there anything else?’ and I said ‘no’,” Mr Brown said.
    “To me, when he said is there anything else, I thought it was a factual question, not whether there was a rumour.”
    Regardless, at a press conference held at Kiama’s Blowhole Point the following day, Mr Brown apologised for behaving “in a manner not befitting a minister”.
    He described the allegations of a sexual act on Mrs Hay, which were never investigated or proved, as “offensive lies”.
    Mrs Hay supported his stance, both at the time and again this week, believing Mr Brown had been the victim of “dirty politics”.
    This week, Mr Brown said he had vowed to keep his silence while Mr Rees was premier. He said that despite the damage to his reputation and political career – the smear of him being a liar and immoral – he was a “team player” who respected and accepted his leader’s position and the fact the damaging allegations had arrived at a crucial time.

    In the first 24 hours following his forced resignation, Mr Brown said he considered leaving politics.
    He said he had been emotionally exhausted over the dumping of Mr Iemma, of whom he was “a loyal supporter”, the sudden change in his ministerial responsibilities and the six hours of “attack” that ended in his resignation.
    Support from his constituents, however, encouraged him to continue.
    But the week-long chain of events nevertheless took their toll.
    “I got depressed and it lasted a good while. I couldn’t sleep – I sought counselling. I felt very uncomfortable for months afterwards. I got back on the horse but all the while I just wanted to hide under a rock.”
    Mr Brown was one of the signatories supporting Mr Rees’ dumping in favour of Kristina Keneally last month, but said it had nothing to do with payback.
    “It was fixing up a problem … We had to do something to strengthen the Government.”

    Mr Brown, a divorced father of one, asked that, ultimately, he hoped people would forgive him his mistake.
    “I can see how the public would think it was inappropriate to drink at work but you have to put it into context.
    “I would ask people to judge me on my job as a minister and what I have delivered for the electorate. If people want to hang me on two hours of my life that is up to them.”
    Today, the infamous Chesterfield couch – which is maroon, not green – sits in Mr Brown’s Kiama kitchen.
    He has his suspicions as to who made the allegations, but did not want to become involved in a witch-hunt.
    He was concerned by a Mercury/IRIS poll which showed voter support in his Kiama electorate had plummeted to the point where he would lose his seat, but felt that with a new leader he would recover.
    He did not care if he never sat on the front bench again.
    “At the end of the day, I entered this job to make a difference and I feel I am achieving that right where I am,” he said.

    Indexing (document details)

  18. Matt Brown’s cries of innocence appear to have re-opened the story of the “Night of the Short Underwear” to an examination of why he was so badly treated, and who it was that leaked (the false) story to the media.
    It seems Frank Sartor was not responsible, nor was Paul McLeay.
    The Opposition says something bad happened, but don’t specify what it was.
    Of course Brown’s plea of innocence puts former Premier Nathan Rees in the spotlight too.

    So it will be interesting to get to the bottom of this story.

  19. It is interesting to see one of the comments to the original Daily Telegraph story:
    [ Gillian Sneddon of Swansea Heads Posted at 11:50 AM January 15, 2010
    Does that mean that the politicians voting on Sartor’s Planning Legislation where under the influence of alcohol whilst representing their electorates in Parliament House? That needs addressing. Also, Matt if you are innocent of the inappropriate behaviour,then why did you not show a bit of courage and integrity and speak out at the time? How could you put your family through that without speaking out? It shows how Labor Politicians are so afraid of the Labor Party Machine (Head Office – the ones who pull the strings of their puppet politicians), they are so afraid that they roll over….Well how can any voters have any confidence in you?]

    I am wondering if this commentator is the same as Gillian Sneddon, who was been treated atrociously by Labor because she put doing the right thing ahead of the interests of the Labor Party in the Okopoulos child sex scandal.

  20. The Australian was able to speak to former Premier Nathan Rees and asked him whether his sacking of Matt Brown was below the belt.

    Rees, however, wasn’t backing away from dumping Brown, telling Strewth yesterday: “I’m entirely comfortable with the decision I made at the time.” Rees has been on the wrong side of the boot since then, of course, and added this conciliatory note: “Having said that, he has subsequently worked hard for his electorate and he deserves to put the incident behind him.” A bit like his undies.

  21. Readers of this blog may be interested to note that the previous IRIS poll put the Greens at 28% and Matt Brown on 23%. I spoke to one of the journos at the Mercury who wrote the poll story who confirmed that in the current IRIS poll Matt Brown has 29% and the Greens are on 16%.

    The ‘two party preferred’ assumes the Greens will preference Matt Brown, which is getting less likely. Shoalhaven Deputy Gareth Ward, or former Kiama councillor Ann Sudmalis, are shaping up as the likely NSW Liberal candidate for Kiama, with Gareth Ward much more likely to attract Green preferences. Kiama has the interest of NSW Liberals, and I would not be surprised if some of the contributors to these comments, are involved in the campaign!

    I think that in Kiama, just like in Noreen Hay’s seat of Wollongong, a high-profile independent could enter the fray and do very well, attracting preferences from all sides.

    The great irony is that the Keneally government should welcome losing seats to independents (who might vote them back in) but the NSW ALP is closer to the NSW Liberal party than any other party and may exchange preferences with them rather than lose any seats to any newbies!

    I can assure readers that Matt Brown is very much seen in Kiama as a poor performer, (who remember the integrity of the previous member Bob Harrison fondly) addicted to re-announcing things over and over, and I think the voters in Kiama are keen to see someone else step up. The ALP branches in Kiama are down to almost nothing. I suspect that Sussex Street (after all Mat Brown moved the motion to spill Nathan Rees, yet is on the outer with Premier Keneally, receiving no jobs whatsoever) has told him, another bad poll, you’re gone, and we will parachute someone into Kiama.

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