The latest Morgan face-to-face poll finds no post-budget respite for Labor, whose two-party lead is now at 50.5-49.5, down further from 51.5-48.5 last week and replacing it as Labor’s worst result in the series since July 2006. Labor has taken a solid hit on the primary vote down 3.5 per cent to 37.5 per cent but most of the dividend has been gained by the Greens, up 3 per cent to 12 per cent. The Coalition is up half a point to 43 per cent. As always the poll was conducted over the weekend, and would therefore not record any effect from recent problems for the opposition. Also out is the latest monthly Reuters Poll Trend aggregate, which has Labor’s lead at 50.6-49.4, down from 55.2-44.8 last time.
Ryan MP Michael Johnson has been expelled from the Liberal National Party, throwing open preselection in a seat which has traditionally been safe Liberal territory but has been rendered highly marginal by the redistribution. The catalyst was Johnson’s attempt to broker a coal export deal between the Queensland Coal Corporation and a Chinese conglomerate during parliamentary sittings and with the use of his parliamentary email address. A commission of as much as $12 million for brokering the deal was discussed, but Johnson denies he stood to benefit personally. Johnson had already been the subject of a long-running party investigation into alleged use of the party’s Ryan campaign account for personal benefit, with party sources quoted by the Courier-Mail talking of hundreds of suspect transactions. Johnson claims he has advice that he could successfully challenge his explusion in the courts but lacks the resources to do so, and says he will contest the election as an independent. His explusion marks the second change in the party composition of the House of Representatives since the 2007 election, the first being the Nationals’ loss of Lyne at the 2008 by-election which followed Mark Vaile’s retirement. The numbers are now Labor 83, Liberal 54, Nationals nine and independents four. A new Liberal National Party preselection process has quickly swung into action, and The Australian reports the likely front-runners are Jane Prentice, a high-ranking Brisbane councillor, and Seb Monsour, a manager with catering and cleaning firm Spotless and formerly Brisbane Water. Monsour is the brother-in-law of Brisbane lord mayor Campbell Newman, and made the news over an incident on the night Newman was elected in 2004 when he entered the Brisbane Water offices to prevent documents being shredded by the outgoing Labor administration. He also stood aside as the Liberal candidate for the state seat of Ashgrove in 2006 over a claim in his party website biography he had played and is still associated with (rugby union) teams such as the Queensland Reds, which proved to be untrue. Labor has nominated Queensland Public Sector Union official Steven Miles.
David Gazard, who as Tim Colebatch of The Age puts it has the unique distinction of having been an adviser to John Howard, Peter Costello and Tony Abbott, won Liberal preselection for Eden-Monaro last week ahead of regional sales representative Duncan Haskins and small business operator Benjamin Innes. He has more recently been acting director of the ACT Liberal Party.
Michael Owen of The Australian reports seven candidates have nominated for Liberal preselection in Adelaide, though The Advertiser subsequently reported the field had narrowed to six. This presumably includes young conservative Sam Duluk and state Enfield candidate Luke Westley, who were earlier named as front-runners. Not in the field is Maurice Henderson, a Burnside councillor and long-time friend of powerbroker Christopher Pyne, whose nomination was rejected because of a corruption inquiry involving his tenure as the head of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Research Foundation. Labor’s Kate Ellis holds the seat with a margin of 8.5 per cent.
ABC Riverina reports six candidates have emerged for Liberal preselection in Riverina, which looms as an open three-way contest with the retirement of Nationals member for Kay Hull. They are Wagga city councillor Julie Elphick, Tumut’s deputy mayor John Larter, marketing manager Karla McCormack, teacher Paul McCormack, entrepreneur Charles Morton and company director Andrew Negline.
Andrew Eales of the Ballarat Courier reports Ballarat councillor Des Hudson has withdrawn from Labor preselection for the state seat of Ballarat West, to be vacated at the next election by Karen Overington. The preselection is likely to be fought out by welfare worker Sharon Knight and another councillor Cheryl Bromfield.
Pointy-headed electoral law and administration stuff:
The Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters has released the report from its inquiry into the Lindsay pamphlet scandal. The inquiry has brought to light this charming effort which appeared during the 2004 campaign for Greenway, when Labor’s Muslim candidate Ed Husic was defeated by the Liberals’ Louise Markus. The Lindsay pamphlet can be viewed here. The report recommends increasing fines and tightening provisions requiring authorisation of electoral advertisements and notices, to make it more difficult for people to claim that they did not know that a pamphlet was not authorised. A dissenting report by
Bob Brown complains that the issue is not authorisation, but the latitude the laws allow for false and misleading material so long as it is not in relation to the casting of the vote. The Greens propose an amendment to the Electoral and Referendum Amendment (Close of Rolls and Other Measures) Bill currently before the Senate that will extend the law to matter inaccurate of misleading to a material extent. The main points of this bill are to establish a seven-day gap between the issue of the writs and the closure of the electoral rolls and remove the requirement that those casting provisional votes provide identification, which reverse Howard government measures and remain opposed by the Coalition. Three other measures have bipartisan support: allowing pre-poll votes cast within the division to be treated as ordinary rather than declaration votes, and thus to be counted on election night; allowing enrolment changes to be made online or at AEC offices other than in the voter’s home division; and preventing party registered officers from lodging multiple candidate nominations, which allowed the Christian Democratic Party to effortlessly field nine candidates at the Bradfield by-election.
Mark Davis of the Sydney Morning Herald reported a few weeks back that the federal government’s plans for political donations laws, which are still to be made public, might be referred to a parliamentary committee if bipartisan agreement cannot be reached, which would end the already fading prospect of them taking effect before the coming election. Cabinet is believed to have settled on a proposal that would impose limits on the size of donations to political parties by companies, unions and individuals, and curtail campaign spending by interest groups, while increasing public funding for parties. Negotiations with the Liberals were interrupted by the leadership change late last year.
Via Democratic Audit, the Australian National Audit Office’s report into the Australian Electoral Commission’s preparedness and conduct of the 2007 election complains of a deteriorating enrolment rate: By December 2009 it was estimated that just under 1.4 million eligible electors were not enrolled to vote… In addition, the number of enrolment forms being processed by the AEC has been falling since 2001–02 and, for 2008–09, and was at the lowest level since 1996–97.