The BludgerTrack poll aggregate swings back to Labor this week, following an improved but still below par result from Newspoll, and softer results for them from Morgan and Essential Research. Together with the previous week’s strong result for Labor from ReachTEL washing out of the system, the result is a 0.7% move to the Coalition on two-party preferred and an improvement of three on the seat projection, including one seat each in New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland. With the further addition of Newspoll numbers to the leadership ratings, there’s still no let-up of the emphatic trend in favour of Tony Abbott relative to Bill Shorten since immediately after the Liberal Party spill vote at the beginning of February, with Abbott now being credited with the lead on preferred prime minister for the first time since October.
Electoral reform news:
Heath Aston of the Sydney Morning Herald reports that speculation is rising that the government will attempt to pass measures that would effectively sign the death warrant for micro parties immediately before calling the next election (while further speculation reported by Laurie Oakes says that election may be rather soon). However, the task of achieving that is said to be complicated by splits in both Labor and the Greens. Among those in the Labor camp raising concerns are Penny Wong, Stephen Conroy, Sam Dastyari and a number of unions, who reportedly consider that micro-parties are mostly winning seats at the expense of the Coalition, and believe the proposal to abolish group voting tickets through a move to optional preferential voting would advantage the Greens (although Gary Gray and Alan Griffin, both Labor members of the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters, stand by the committee’s recommendation to that effect). The Greens nonetheless appear divided on both the reform’s likely impact on their prospects, and whether that should be their primary objective in any case. It is said the reform could starve the Greens of preferences required to win seats in Queensland (understandably), South Australia (understandably only for as long as Nick Xenophon’s on the scene) and Western Australia (not understandably, as far as I can see). At the same time, there is concern about how the party membership would react if the party cut a deal with the Coalition, which might involve a compromise of maintaining group voting tickets but imposing a 4% primary vote threshold.
Daniel McCullogh of the Launceston Examiner reports that Labor in Tasmania is grumbling about the state’s quirky Legislative Council system, in which the chamber’s 15 electoral districts face election over a staggered six-year cycle. Labor complains the low-key campaigns result in depressed turnout and an unfair advantage to incumbents. Labor is also unhappy about the tight $15,000 spending caps for Legislative Council elections.
Sharyn O’Neil of the Morning Bulletin reports that Peter Freeleagus, a Moranbah miner and former Belyando Shire mayor, will again seek Labor preselection in Capricornia, the central Queensland seat where he narrowly failed in a bid to succeed retiring party colleague Kirsten Livermore. The seat has since been held for the Liberal National Party by Michelle Landry, who won the seat by a margin of 0.8%. The report also says Rockhampton mayor Margaret Strelow had been planning to nominate, but is no longer.
Stephen Smiley from the ABC reports it is generally expected Christine Milne’s resignation as Greens leader yesterday is to be followed in the not too distant future by retirement from the Senate. The leading candidate to fill her vacancy would appear to be Nick McKim, who holds a state seat for Franklin and was the party’s state leader until after the March 2014 election. The best-placed Greens candidate to win McKim’s state seat from recounting of last year’s election looks to be Huon Valley councillor Rosalie Woodruff.
Labor has preselected Mike Kelly to attempt to recover the seat of Eden-Monaro which he narrowly lost to Liberal candidate Peter Hendy by a margin of 4.8% in 2013, a result that retained the seat’s bellwether status going back to 1972.