Essential Research: 54-46

This week’s Essential Research poll, released a day later than usual due to the long weekend, has Labor’s lead steady at 54-46, which is where it’s been for a while. Also covered are views on the federal health agreement (48 per cent approve, 25 per cent disapprove), its effect on services (43 per cent better, 15 per cent worse), government performance on various issues, to whom the government has given too little and too much support, whether Australians pay too much (61 per cent) or too little (4 per cent) tax, and circumstances in which respondents would be prepared to pay a higher GST (“directly invested in hospitals and health services” almost breaks even). Also out is the Reuters Poll Trend aggregate for April, which has Labor’s lead at 55.2-44.8, up from 53.6-46.4 in March.

As well:

• Labor preselections for the two ACT seats of Canberra and Fraser have turned up surprises for those accustomed to factional stitch-ups. The expectation had been that an agreement between the Left and the Centre Coalition would deliver Fraser to the Left’s Nick Martin, the party’s assistant national secretary, while Canberra would go to the Centre Coalition’s Mary Wood, an adviser to Housing Minister Tanya Plibersek. This was viewed by most without an immediate interest as a source of dismay, given the quality and diversity of the other aspirants. Instead the winner in Fraser was Andrew Leigh, Harvard-educated economist, academic and blogger, while Canberra went to Gai Brodtmann, a PR consultant, former DFAT official and wife of senior ABC journalist Chris Uhlmann. Leigh’s margin over Martin in the final ballot was 144 votes to 96, while Brodtmann defeated Wood 123 votes to 109. Stephen Dziedzic of the ABC reports Martin suffered from a decision of “several independent and underdog candidates” to preference him last, made because “they just realised it was the only tactic that offered any of them a glimmer of hope”. As a result, “Martin took a big lead in the first round, but it was steadily whittled away by Leigh as the preferences flowed to him”. James Massola of the Canberra Times reports the Labor Unity faction, which in local terms is a “right-leaning faction” distinct from the Centre Coalition, threw its weight behind both Leigh and Brodtmann after its own candidates dropped out. Massola also reports that the cross-factional support base stitched together by Brodtmann could form the basis of a third Right faction, after local MLA John Hargreaves (whose wife was a candidate early in the process) and party operative Chris Sant refused to fall in behind the deal endorsed by their Centre Coalition faction. Other opponents of the deal included Bob McMullan and Chief Minister Jon Stanhope, who were both keen on Fraser candidate Michael Pilbrow.

• The Liberals will take the opportunity of Nationals MP Kay Hull’s retirement in Riverina to field a candidate there. Stephanie Peatling of the Sydney Morning Herald quotes from a Nationals strategist who is keen on the idea that they should choose a “young, energetic candidate” rather than a “70-year-old farmer in a tweed jacket who thinks it’s his turn”. The ABC reports the Nationals have named five candidates: Michael McCormack, former editor of the Daily Advertiser, John Minogue, a farmer from Barmedman; Bill Maslin, a Gundagai councillor; Wesley Fang, a Child Flight helicopter pilot from Wagga Wagga; and Mark Hoskinson, a farmer from Kikoira. A local observer puts it to me that that Fang, a former army helicopter pilot of Anglo-Chinese heritage, is “a very interesting young man”, whereas the others are of the tweed jacket variety.

• The Sunday Telegraph reports “former Liberals leader Malcolm Turnbull is seriously reconsidering his decision to quit politics”, and “will reveal his decision when he returns to Sydney next weekend” (a “well-placed source” rated the chances of a move to state politics as “about 5 per cent”). The report says internal polling from two weeks ago show he “remained the strongest candidate to retain the federal seat in Sydney’s eastern suburbs”. A report by Phillip Coorey of the Sydney Morning Herald indicates other names being run past voters were Nick Farr-Jones, Kerryn Phelps and, less surprisingly, Arthur Sinodinos. The Liberals are at present merely seeking “expressions of interest” in Wentworth rather than formal nominations.

The Australian reports Andrew Ramsay, a Left-backed CFMEU official, is challenging his preselection defeat for the new Queensland seat of Wright at the hands of Sharon Murakami, a Right-backed media consultant. Ramsay won the union and party delegate vote 26 to 24 and the local party vote 38 to 25, but Murakami ended up with her nose in front after the affirmative action weighting was applied. Ramsay says the issue is a “procedural problem” unrelated to application of the weighting.

• The ABC reports David Boyle, a former South Sydney and state-of-origin rugby league player, will seek Labor preselection in Gilmore. The candidate from 2007, Neil Reilly, is also in the field.

• The parties’ submissions for the redistribution of federal Victorian electorates can be viewed here. The Liberal proposal is particularly radical: among other things, Psephos in comments claims it seeks to “redraw the whole eastern suburbs to turn Deakin, Bruce and Chisholm into Liberal seats”.

Gavin Lower of The Australian reports that former South Australian independent MP Kris Hanna, who narrowly lost his seat of Mitchell at the recent state election, has launched a legal challenge in the Court of Disputed Returns complaining “Labor distributed leaflets and set up a poster suggesting he had failed on crime”, which to my mind doesn’t sound like terribly strong grounds for a case.

• The Camden Advertiser reports federal Liberal MP Pat Farmer has will not contest either the state or federal elections, having counted the numbers in the state seat of Camden after losing preselection in his existing seat of Macarthur. Camden by all accounts is stitched up by the local mayor, Chris Patterson.

• The Mudgee Guardian names three candidates to replace retiring incumbent Russell Turner as Nationals candidate for Orange: Kim Currie, chief executive of local tourism marketing group Taste Orange; Andrew Gee, barrister and local party branch president; and Fiona Rossiter, an Orange councillor.

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.

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