Essential Research has Labor recovering a badly needed point on the two-party preferred vote, with the Coalition’s lead back to 56-44 after rising to 57-43 last week. On the primary vote, Labor is up one to 32 per cent, the Coalition down one to 48 per cent and the Greens up one to 11 per cent. The survey also finds opposition to Australian’s involvement in Afghanistan little changed since November at 64 per cent, with 21 per cent wanting the current presence to be maintained and 4 per cent wanting it increased. Forty-four per cent agreed women were not “respected and treated fairly” in the defence forces against 31 per cent who thought they were, with a strong gender gap recorded in the expected direction. A timely question on Wikileaks had 53 per cent supporting its release of material against 26 per cent opposed, with 36 per cent believing the government had failed to provide sufficient support to Julian Assange in his legal travails, 22 per cent believing he had received appropriate support and 41 per cent saying they didn’t know. The survey also found strong support for unions, with 48 per cent saying they had been good for workers against 17 per cent bad, and 56 per cent agreeing they remained important for working people against only 19 per cent who disagreed.
Plenty of further recent news to report, most of it involving preselections, and most of it involving the Liberals.
• Patrick Secker, who has held the rural South Australian seat of Barker for the Liberals since 1998, has been defeated for preselection by Mount Gambier lawyer Tony Pasin. Sarah Martin of The Australian reports Secker received only 78 votes in the local ballot, despite personal endorsement from Tony Abbott and moderate SA powerbroker Christopher Pyne, against 164 for Pasin and 40 for a third candidate, Millicent real estate agent and Wattle Range councillor Ben Treloar.
• No such difficulties for Boothby MP Andrew Southcott, who trounced former state party president Christopher Moriarty in a late February preselection ballot by 195 votes to 35, with also-ran Mark Nankivell gaining nine votes. Rebecca Puddy of The Australian reports that “much of the support for Mr Moriarty had disappeared after the federal Labor leadership challenge became apparent”. Like Patrick Secker, Southcott has come under fire within the party over his poor fundraising efforts.
• Krystyna Pollard of the Blue Mountains Gazette reports that Louise Markus, the Liberal member for Macquarie, had little trouble seeing off a challenge from Charles Wurf, state division chief executive of the Aged Care Association of Australia, at a ballot held on February 25.
• The Liberals have again preselected marketing executive Fiona Scott, who also ran in 2010, as their candidate for Lindsay. The ABC’s Mark Tobin related on Twitter that Scott won the ballot held last weekend with 62 votes to 42 for Robyn Preston, a Hills Shire councillor. Imre Salusinszky of The Australian reports that teacher Margaret Brand was also in the field.
• David Coleman, director of strategy and digital for Nine Entertainment, won a Liberal preselection ballot on the weekend for the Sydney seat of Banks, where Labor’s Daryl Melham had his margin cut from 10.4 per cent to 1.5 per cent in 2010. The Australian’s Media Diary describes Coleman as a factional moderate and “one of David Gyngell’s closest lieutenants”. Mark Tobin of the ABC announced on Twitter that Coleman won 60 votes at the local preselection ballot against 33 for Ron Delezio, a businessman who came to public attention after his daughter Sophie received horrific injuries in separate accidents in 2003 and 2006.
• Chris Paver of the Illawarra Mercury reports that five candidates have nominated to succeed the retiring Joanna Gash as Liberal candidate for the south coast NSW seat of Gilmore: Shoalhaven Deputy Mayor Andrew Guile, former Kiama councillor Ann Sudmalis, Ulladulla resident Grant Schultz, Nowra businessman Clive Brooks and Meroo Meadow marketing consultant Catherine Shields. Guile, a one-time staffer to Gash who has since fallen out with her, was rated as the front-runner in a report in the Mercury last October.
• Michael Burr, described by the Burnie Advocate as a “high-profile Devonport real estate business owner”, has won Liberal preselection for the Tasmanian seat of Braddon, which Sid Sidebottom holds for Labor on a margin of 7.5 per cent. Also in the field were Glynn Williams, a North Motton farmer and lawyer described by Chris Pippos of the Burnie Advocate as “ultra conservative”, and Jacqui Lambie, described in the local press only as a “Devonport woman”. Sean Ford of the Burnie Advocate reports that Burr’s backers included Senators Richard Colbeck and Stephen Parry and state MP Adam Brooks. It was thought that Brett Whiteley, who lost his state seat in Braddon at the 2010 election, might be another contender, but he announced in the week before the preselection ballot that he would instead focus on a return to state politics.
• ABC Television reported last night that Joe Bullock, the powerful state secretary of the Shop Distributive and Allied Employees Association, is eyeing off Mark Bishop’s position at the top of Labor’s WA Senate ticket. Bishop, who was a number-counter for Kevin Rudd in his recent leadership challenge, says he is still considering whether to seek another term. The other Labor Senator up for re-election is Louise Pratt; there have been suggestions that Labor’s position in Western Australia is so parlous it might only return one Senator, which would be an Australian electoral first.
• John Ferguson of The Australian reports that a complex factional realignment in the Victorian ALP might yet save the career of Senator David Feeney, who at present is stuck with the highly precarious third position on the Senate ticket and is up for re-election next year. Feeney has been adrift of the dominant Bill Shorten-Stephen Conroy grouping in the Victorian Right since early 2009, when the former established a “stability alliance” which excluded Right unions the Shop Distributive and Allied Employees Association, the National Union of Workers and the Health Services Union. However, a deal was reached last month which brought the SDA back into the fold and allowed one of its members in the state parliament, James Merlino, to succeed the outgoing Rob Hulls as deputy leader. Sources quoted by Ferguson say that another aspect of the agreement was that if Feeney “failed to gain a winnable seat at the election, he would be accommodated after the poll, probably via a by-election”.
• The federal redistribution of South Australia’s electoral boundaries has been finalised with no amendment to the draft boundaries proposed in August, which were summarised thus by Antony Green.
• The NSW government will introduce legislation to prohibit members of parliament from also serving as councillors, which if passed would require independent Clover Moore to choose between her gigs as lord mayor of Sydney and state member for the Sydney electorate. The move would take effect when local government elections, including the election for the lord mayoralty, are held in September. Newly elected members would be obliged to relinquish council positions within 18 months. The legislation is supported by the Shooters Party but opposed by the Greens, leaving the swing votes in the upper house in the hands of the two Christian Democratic Party members. The Daily Telegraph reports the government is waiting on Fred Nile to be discharged from hospital before pursuing the matter with them, as it presumably does not have high hopes for his party colleague Paul Green, who is also the mayor of Shoalhaven. The Sydney Morning Herald relates that 29 current members of parliament would be affected by the change, among them 17 Liberals, four Greens, four Labor, two independents and one each from the Nationals and the Christian Democrats, although few doubt that a desire to target Moore has been high on the government’s list of motivations. While it is true that the move will, as Barry O’Farrell says, bring the state into line with Victoria, Western Australia, South Australia and Queensland, it is altogether unclear to me why it should not be left to voters to decide if they want a member of parliament serving them on council. Moore has indicated she would abandon her seat in parliament if forced to make a choice. She held off a strong challenge from Liberal candidate Adrian Bartels at last year’s election (which was mostly down to the huge swing from Labor to Liberal), surviving by 3.1 per cent after preferences. When asked by the Wentworth Courier, neither Bartels nor Liberal councillor and lord mayoralty candidate Shayne Mallard ruled out seeking preselection in the event of a by-election for Sydney.