Roy Morgan has spared the government a new set of poll results this week, presumably holding over last weekend’s face-to-face results for a combined two weeks’ result to be published next week. So here’s some stuff that has accumulated during my recent period of indolence:
The federal parliament’s Joint Standing Committee of Electoral Matters brought down its report into the 2010 federal election a fortnight ago. One noteworthy innovation is a less pompous report title, The 2010 Federal Election: Report on the conduct of the election and related matters replacing the traditional formulation of Report on the conduct of the (insert year) federal election and matters related thereto. Antony Green summarises its recommendations here; now that my holidays are over I’ll shortly get around to reviewing it and will have more to say after I’ve fully absorbed it.
One of the majority report’s recommendations was that the federal government follow the example of New South Wales and Victoria in allowing government records such as drivers licences, vehicle registration and Year 12 school enrolments to be used to automatically update the electoral roll. However, this is opposed in the dissenting JSCEM report from the committee’s Coalition members, for reasons I do not find persuasive. Antony Green has reviewed the impact of such measures in New South Wales since their introduction last year, observing that only 12 per cent of the 70,000 people whose enrolments have been added or updated have taken the trouble to enrol the old-fashioned way for the federal electoral roll. His conclusion: On the evidence so far, by the time of the next commonwealth election in the second half of 2013, there could be as many as 200,000 voters enrolled for NSW elections and eligible to vote at commonwealth elections who will be missing from the commonwealth roll or be enrolled at the wrong address.
Draft electoral redistribution boundaries have recently been published for both our nation’s territory parliaments. Antony Green surveys the results for the Northern Territory here and the Australian Capital Territory here. An ACT redistribution would normally be of minor interest, as the territory is only divided into three electorates for purposes of a regionally based system of proportional representation, but Antony asserts that in this case the changes are radical enough to be of substantial interest, and in particular to put at risk the fourth seat the Greens won at the 2008 election. For the Northern Territory, Antony has calculated new margins for each of the 25 seats, with the caveat that the enormous sitting member factors which result from pocket-sized electorates of 4000 to 5000 voters make party-based margins less reliable than usual.
There has been much talk lately about the possibility of an incoming Coalition government calling an early double dissolution election should it meet Senate resistance from its efforts to abolish a carbon tax. Tony Abbott’s argument to those concerned about the resulting uncertainty and expense is that opposing its repeal in the Senate would be politically suicidal for a defeated Labor Party, a case pursued by Queensland legal academic James Allan in The Australian.
There was a fair bit of material I had been compiling on Western Australian matters to coincide with a looming quarterly state Newspoll, but I was caught on the hop when it was published a month earlier than I’d anticipated.
Legislation to fix election dates for the second Saturday in every March has passed through the Legislative Council and currently awaits the rubber stamp of the lower house. The bill allows some flexibility: automatic postponement if clashing with a federal election or a week either side of Easter Saturday, or a later date under exceptional circumstances as agreed to by the Premier and Opposition Leader. Despite the federal election provision, the date could still cause problems for future federal governments wishing to avoid clashes federal and state campaigns, early March having been a traditionally popular time for elections (most recently in 1990, 1993 and 1996). The parliament may still be dissolved at any time up to four months prior to the scheduled election date, but any government that does so will be exposing itself to a separate Legislative Council election held on the usual day. Barring such exceptional circumstances, the next election will be held on Saturday, March 9. This will result in the current parliamentary term being the longest of any federal or state parliament in Australian history, a legacy of Labor Premier Alan Carpenter’s decision to disturb the normal electoral cycle by calling for September 6, 2008 an election that was not due until February or March of 2009.
There have been widespread suggestions that former Channel Nine newsreader Dixie Marshall will run as the Liberal candidate for Churchlands at the next election. Marshall has recently taken up a position as the government’s chief media strategist, and her father Arthur Marshall was a Liberal member for the seats of Murray and Murray-Wellington from 1989 to 2005. Churchlands will be vacated by the retirement of independent Liz Constable, an ally of Premier Colin Barnett who has served as Education Minister in his government since its came to office. Ben Harvey of The West Australian (see below) says other names in the mix include cricket legend Justin Langer, hospitality tsarina Kate Lamont, media personality Adrian Barich and Australian Hotels Association (WA) boss Bradley Woods.
Ben Harvey of The West Australian offers a further review of preselection rumours doing the rounds. This appeared in the paper’s gossip-style Inside Cover section, prompting Harvey to qualify: If they turn out to be wrong, then please discount this column as light-hearted fluff. But if any of them are right, then remember what you are about to read is an example of world-class forensic journalism. The most interesting suggestion contained is that Deirdre Willmott, former Chamber of Commerce and Industry director and current business manager for Andrew Forrest’s Fortescue Metals Group who won preselection before the 2008 election to succeed Colin Barnett in Cottesloe but then had to hand it back to him when he secured the party leadership, might run in the naturally conservative seat of Alfred Cove against sitting independent Janet Woollard, whose nine electoral lives are probably due to run out. Another suggestion with quite a few ifs attached is that Labor state secretary Simon Mead might succeed Eric Ripper in Belmont should Ripper lose the leadership and decide to bow out of politics. Still more qualified is an assertion that Alannah MacTiernan might be parachuted back in to assume the party leadership and stave off electoral disaster, the plausibility of which is indicated by the fact that no seat is nominated as a vehicle for her return. Harvey’s suggestion that MacTiernan might succeed Lisa Scaffidi as lord mayor and Scaffidi take over the seat of Perth was subsequently given short shrift by Scaffidi herself, who has dealt similarly with other such suggestions in the past. The rumour on which I would put the least money is that Troy Buswell will face a preselection challenge in Vasse from his wife Margaret, the former having taken up residence with the Greens-turned-independent Fremantle MP Adele Carles.