The Australian reports Newspoll has Labor’s two-party lead at 52-48, down from 53-47 and back to where it was a fortnight before, although both parties are up a point on the primary vote Labor to 40 per cent and the Coalition to 41 per cent. Dennis Shanahan reports this is because a slump in support for the Greens detracted from Labor’s second preferences. More later.
UPDATE: Full results here, including nifty Flash display of results. Greens down three to 9 per cent. Tony Abbott is up three points on preferred prime minister to 30 per cent the first time in the Rudd era it’s had a three in front of it, as noted in comments while Rudd is steady on 55 per cent. Abbott’s also up four points on approval to 48 per cent, though disapproval is also up one to 38 per cent. Rudd has recovered a point from last fortnight’s approval low of 50 per cent, with disapproval steady on 40 per cent.
Today’s Essential Research has Labor’s lead at a new low of 53-47, down from 54-46 last week and 55-45 a week before. A question gauging Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott’s attributes records little change since December, while other questions find hostility towards population growth and support for means testing the private health insurance rebate.
Have I got news for you. From New South Wales:
Simon Benson of the Daily Telegraph reports Labor’s national executive is expected to abandon plans to impose its preferred candidate to succeed Bob Debus in Macquarie, instead allowing the matter to be decided by a rank-and-file ballot. This is a win for the Anthony Albanese Left over the Mark Arbib Right, as it is believed the former’s preferred candidate, Susan Templeman, has the numbers in the local branches. A national executive imposition would have installed Blue Mountains mayor Adam Searle, who in the past has been identified with the soft Left but is evidently backed in the current instance by the Right. Searle was previously thwarted in his bid to succeed Debus as state member for Blue Mountains when Debus drafted Phil Koperberg. Benson paints Templeman and Robertson nominee Deb O’Neill as part of a move to follow the Howard-era Liberal strategy of having marginal seats contested by soccer mums rather than professional politicians.
Labor Right faction convenor Matt Thistlethwaite will quit his position as New South Wales party secretary after the federal election and seek preselection for the Senate. Imre Salusinszky of The Australian reports Thistlethwaite’s current position has become untenable after he lost the confidence of Luke Foley, deputy secretary and member of the Left, plus many on the Right when he moved against Mr Rees last December but then backed NSW Environment Minister Frank Sartor for the premiership rather than the eventual winner, Kristina Keneally. He will be succeeded in his current position by 27-year-old Sam Dastyari, a protéegé of Employment Participation Minister and Right faction heavyweight Mark Arbib. The evident certainty that Thistlethwaite will secure second postion on the Senate ticket behind John Faulkner means Graeme Wedderburn will not get the Senate seat he was promised when lured from the private sector to serve as chief-of-staff to Nathan Rees. In either event, the seat was to come at the expense of one of two incumbents: Steve Hutchins or Michael Forshaw.
Labor sources tell Imre Salusinszky of The Australian that Robertson MP Belinda Neal has suffered a blow in her bid to survive Saturday’s preselection challenge from academic Deborah O’Neill, as 2005 attendance and membership records from the Woy Woy branch cannot be located. The branch is considered loyal to Neal, and the records are necessary to establish that members have attended meetings for at least four years, as required of preselectors by party rules. The sources say this could cost her up to 40 votes in a ballot of about 150 preselectors.
Belinda Scott of the Central Coast Advocate reports Labor’s unsuccessful candidate for Cowper in 1998 and 2007, training consultant Paul Sefky, has expressed interest in running again. Sefky appears to harbour a grudge against the paper for its reporting of the manner in which he replaced local area health service worker John Fitzroy as candidate two months out from the 2007 election.
Ben Smee of the Newcastle Herald reports Health Services Union organiser and former ambulance officer Jim Arneman has won Labor preselection for Paterson unopposed. Arneman was also the candidate in 2007, when he fell 1.5 per cent short of toppling Liberal incumbent Bob Baldwin. The redistribution cut the margin to 0.4 per cent.
State upper house member Robyn Parker has been confirmed as Liberal candidate for the lower house seat of Maitland. Michelle Harris of the Newcastle Herald reports rival candidates Bob Geoghegan and Stephen Mudd, of Maitland City Council, and Brad Luke, of Newcastle City Council, withdrew ahead of the preselection meeting last Saturday. Maitland mayor Peter Blackmore says he will decide soon whether to run again as an independent, after falling 2.0 per cent short of toppling the now retiring Labor member Frank Terenzini.
Reporting in the aftermath of last week’s preselection win by upper house member David Clarke against challenger David Elliott, Andrew Clennell of the Sydney Morning Herald said Elliott’s supporters were aggrieved at moderate elements, in particular Fahey government minister Michael Photios, for encouraging him to stay in the race so as to give the faction leverage in other preselection battles. Such leverage was used to secure preselection for Greg Pearce in the upper house and Robyn Parker in Maitland, in exchange for moderate support for Clarke at the expense of Elliott.
Nathan Paull of the Townsville Bulletin reports the Labor preselection for Herbert will be determined in the normal fashion, by a ballot divided between rank-and-file members and a central electoral committee, apparently following the intervention of Right faction powerbroker Bill Ludwig. This comes as a blow to former mayor Tony Mooney, who has the backing of the Prime Minister and was looking set to take the position on the intervention of the national executive. Emma Chalmers of the Courier-Mail reports Townsville councillor Jenny Hill is believed to have more backers in the local party than Mooney. John Anderson of the Townsville Bulletin reports that the Left has been directed (by whom he does not say) to fall in behind Mooney, despite the faction’s long-standing antagonism towards him. The candidate from 2007, local McDonald’s franchisor George Colbran, is yet to decide whether to nominate.
The Whitsunday Times reports former Whitsunday Shire councillor Louise Mahony has expressed an interest in Labor preselection for Dawson, which James Bidgood is vacating after one term as member for health reasons. Whitsunday Regional Mayor Mike Brunker has ruled himself out. The Liberal National Party endorsed Mackay regional councillor George Christensen in November.
An LNP insider tells Russel Guse of the Central Telegraph that Ken O’Dowd, owner of Busteed Building Supplies in Gladstone, is expected to be a candidate for preselection in Flynn, following the withdrawal last month of Colin Bourke for personal reasons.
Emma Chalmers of the Courier-Mail reports Labor preselection in Ryan loom as a contest between Steven Miles and Martin Hanson of the Right, the latter being favoured by Rudd but the former apparently having the edge in the branches.
From the Australian Capital Territory:
James Massola of the Canberra Times rpeorts Jenny Hargreaves, a public servant with the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare and wife of former ACT minister John Hargreaves, is considered likely to win the Centre Coalition faction’s endorsement for Labor preselection in Canberra. His rivals are Michael Cooney, chief-of-staff to ACT Education Minister Andrew Barr, and Gai Brodtmann, who runs communications firm Brodtmann & Uhlmann Communications and is married to ABC reporter Chris Uhlmann. Massola says Hargreaves is a friend of the present incumbent, Annette Ellis, and is believed to be close to securing her endorsement. CFMEU industrial officer Louise Crossman has won the endorsement from the Left, and David Garner and Brendan Long are the main competitors for the endorsement of the Right, but it is the Centre Coalition which is believed likely to be decisive. Massola reports Hargreaves’ nomination points to a breakdown in relations between John Hargreaves and Andrew Barr, who are both figures in the Centre Coalition.
In the ACT’s other seat of Fraser, to be vacated by Bob McMullan, Nick Martin is said to be the favourite after winning endorsement from the Left; George Williams has the backing of Labor Unity (not to mention Malcolm Fraser); and David Peebles and Chris Sant are the front-runners for the Centre Coalition. The preselection for both seats is likely to be determined in late April.
After a traumatic final term in parliament, ALP Victorian upper house member for Northern Metropolitan Theo Theophanous has made a surprise decision to quit parliament nine months before the election. His vacancy will be filled by Nathan Murphy, plumbers’ union official and ally of Bill Shorten, who had already been preselected for the election.