The always reliable James J relates in comments that the latest Newspoll result is 56-44, with primary votes of 31% for Labor, 48% for the Coalition and 11% for the Greens. Julia Gillard’s ratings have gone backwards, her approval down three to 27% and disapproval up two to 61%, and her 39-38 lead as preferred prime minister last time has become a 39-36 deficit. Tony Abbott is up a point on approval to 32% and down one on disapproval to 57%. UPDATE: Newspoll also reports 32% find Labor most to blame for the asylum seeker impasse against 28% for the Coalition and 16% for the Greens; 66% believe Labor at least partly to blame against 60% for the Coalition and 57% for the Greens; and 37% think the Coalition best to handle the asylum seeker issue (down 10% on last time), with Labor on 17% (down 4%) and others on 13% (up 1%).
The weekly Essential Research poll also has the Coalition’s two-party lead at 56-44, where it has been for six successive weeks, from primary votes of 31% for Labor (down a point for the second week in a row), 49% for the Coalition (steady) and 11% for the Greens (up one). There are further questions in asylum seekers, of which the most illuminating is the findings that 60% believe the government is too soft, the carbon tax (31% say they have noticed an increase in costs, 54% say they haven’t) and the European economic crisis. We have also had Roy Morgan publish results from its last two weekends of regular face-to-face surveying, which interestingly shows the Greens up 4.5% to 14.5%, their best result since February and equal best result ever from this series. Both parties are down on the previous fortnight, Labor by 3% to 29.5% and the Coalition 2.5% to 45.5%. The Coalition’s two-party lead is down from 54.5-45.5 to 54-46 on previous election preferences, but up from 56.5-43.5 to 57.5-42.5 on respondent-allocated preferences.
NSW ALP state secretary Sam Dastyari will present a motion to the party’s state conference on the weekend calling for the party to put the Greens behind the Coalition on preferences at the federal election. Despite the focus of some news reports, this would mean little with respect to the lower house: Labor can be relied on to make the final count in all seats which matter to the Greens, meaning their preferences are not distributed (the key question remains what the Liberals will do, which will most likely be to follow the Victorian party’s example at the state election and put them last). However, it could come at a very high cost to Labor as well as the Greens by delivering to the Coalition Senate seats which would otherwise stay left. In 2010 the Greens polled well enough that would have won seats in each state in any case, having scored quotas in their own right in Victoria and Tasmania, and close enough to it elsewhere that preferences from left-wing micro-parties would have make up the difference. However, it would only take a gentle swing to cost them seats in New South Wales and Western Australia without Labor preferences, which on anything like present form would mean results in those states of four seats for the right against two for Labor (as well as making life all but impossible for the Greens in South Australia, given the complication of Nick Xenophon).
The most excellent pseph blog Poliquant has analysed the likely impact of Labor preferencing the Greens list with reference to current state-level opinion polling, which suggests it would result in 4-2 rather than 3-3 left-right splits in Western Australia and possibly New South Wales, and that a 4-2 split looms in Queensland regardless of preferences. In each case, one of the four right-wing seats would go to a minor party, obvious possibilities being Katter’s Australian Party in Queensland and the Nationals in Western Australia. Poliquant also offers a review of the lower house effects, which argues the Greens stand to lose a share of anti-major party protest voters whose preference flows are not especially favourable to Labor.
James McGrath, former Liberal federal deputy director, LNP campaign manager at the Queensland state election and chief advisor to London lord mayor Boris Johnson, has dropped a bombshell by nominating for LNP preselection in Peter Slipper’s seat of Fisher. His decision to take on the presumed front-runner, Mal Brough, is said by Michael McKenna of The Australian to have the support of LNP powerbrokers, increasingly concerned about Mr Brough’s involvement in an anti-corruption probe and role in the sexual harassment case against Mr Slipper. McGrath had long been considered the likely successor to Alex Somlyay when he retires as member for the neighbouring Sunshine Coast seat of Fairfax at the next election. His formidable reputation as a political strategist received a considerable boost by the state election result, despite his having been sacked from his job with Boris Johnson in 2008 after telling a black activist that immigrants should go if they do not like it here. Other known candidates for the preselection are Peta Simpson, director of a local recruitment agency (who has Nationals connections and is backed by Brough foe Barnaby Joyce); Richard Bruinsma, a former adviser to Slipper; and Andrew Wallace, a barrister.
A warning from acting LNP president Gary Spence that expulsion awaits those who comment to the media on the party’s internal affairs has been interpreted as a knock to Clive Palmer. After failing to nominate as threatened for the Lilley preselection last week, Clive Palmer told Lateline he had held off at the insistence of Tony Abbott. Palmer has given the publicity wheel further spins by announcing he plans to run for another seat, indicating Fairfax or Kennedy might fit the bill. This echoed a report from Steven Scott of the Courier-Mail that some LNP figures were pushing him in the direction of Kennedy, presumably secure in the knowledge that he would face a humiliating defeat at the hands of Bob Katter. Tony Abbott continues to present thinly disguised arguments against a Palmer candidacy, citing the need for candidates to be there first thing every morning at the bus stops and the railway stations, and for members to treat their parliamentary vocations as full-time jobs.
The LNP’s burst of preselection activity has including the endorsement of its first three candidates for Queensland’s eight Labr-held seats, including confirmation Malcolm Cole will again run against Graham Perrett in Moreton. Cole’s CV includes a period as a journalist at the Courier-Mail and AAP, and later as a staffer to Alexander Downer and former Senator and factional chieftain Santo Santoro. In Oxley, which Bernie Ripoll holds for Labor on a margin of 5.8%, the LNP has also preselected Andrew Nyugen, a 28-year-old policy adviser to Brisbane lord mayor Graham Quirk. The choice of a candidate so named in the electorate formerly held by Pauline Hanson has been noted. In Blair, held by Shayne Neumann on a margin of 4.3%, the candidate is Teresa Harding, who is director of the F-111 Disposal and Aerial Targets Office at the RAAF Base Amberley.
Steven Scott of the Courier-Mail reports the candidate for Lilley in 2010, Rod McGarvie, a former soldier and United Nations peacekeeper, is the front-runner to again contest the seat from an LNP preselection field of about six in Lilley. Also mentioned has been John Cotter, GasFields commissioner and former head of agriculture lobby group AgForce.
Rosanne Barrett of The Australian reports John Howard is among those who have thrown support behind former Wallabies coach in his bid for LNP preselection in Petrie, where 11 candidates have nominated to take on Labor member Yvette d’Ath, who holds the northern Brisbane seat on a margin of 2.5%. Connolly ran unsuccessfully against independent incumbent Peter Wellington in the Sunshine Coast seat of Nicklin at the state election.
Andrew Crook at Crikey reported earlier this week that Senator David Feeney, who is unlikely to be re-elected from his third position on Labor’s Victorian Senate ticket, has been given the right to contest the first House of Representatives seat which becomes available in the election. He would presumably not have to wait long if Labor was defeated, and it suggested a vacancy would shortly become available in the Prime Minister’s electorate of Lalor. Such an agreement would presumably have been owed to the agreement by which Feeney’s own support base and that of the Shop Distributive and Allied Employees Association came back under the wing of the Labor Unity (Right) faction, associated in Victoria with Bill Shorten and Stephen Conroy. The earlier divide in the Right had seen various right forces estranged from the Shorten-Conroy axis and frozen out of a stability pact which divided spoils between Labor Unity and the Socialist Left.
Andrew Crook at Crikey also reports Mark Hay, lawyer with the Office of the Director of Military Prosecutions, is gearing for a preselection challenge against Throsby MP Stephen Jones with the backing of his mother, Wollongong MP Noreen Hay. NSW Right sources quoted earlier in the week by Crook argued a decision to hold a rank-and-file preselection in the seat doomed Jones to defeat, as he had the support of about 50 members out of 300 and held the seat through a long-standing arrangement in which the Right had ceded Throsby to the Left in exchange for the western Sydney seat of Fowler. However, a Left source suggested a deal could be reached to avoid a ballot in Throsby, with the Right extracting a chop out elsewhere.
The Liberals have taken the sting out of the looming NSW state by-election for Heffron by announcing they will not field a candidate. A by-election will be held for the seat on a date to be determined after Kristina Keneally quit politics to take up a position as chief executive of Basketball Australia. Ron Hoenig, a barrister of Jewish extraction who has been mayor of Botany Bay for no fewer than 31 consecutive years, has won Labor preselection unopposed, early favourite Michael Comninos having decided not to run. Hoenig was last on the preselection scene in 1990, when former state and future federal minister Laurie Brereton defeated him for preselection in Kingsford-Smith. The Liberals’ decision to abstain comes despite the margin having been cut from 23.7% to 7.1% at last year’s election, and the 3.0% swing recorded by the Queensland LNP in similar circumstances after Anna Bligh quit her seat of South Brisbane. Sean Nicholls of the Sydney Morning Herald reports some in the Liberal Party feared a very strong possibility of a swing back, which would allow Labor to claim the byelection as a damning referendum on the first year of the O’Farrell government.