UPDATE: Essential Research has the Labor lead down from 52-48 to 51-49, with the Coalition up two on the primary vote to 42%, Labor steady on 38% and the Greens steady on 10%. One of many questions on the budget records 20% approval overall and 29% disapproval, with 35% for neither and 15% for don’t know. All the others, together with questions on detention centres, can be seen on the full release. We also have a poll today in The Guardian for Lonergan, conducted Friday to Sunday from a sample of 1841, which reaches 50-50 on two-party preferred from primary votes of Coalition 42%, Labor 35% and Greens 12%.
In response to Radio National Drive host Patricia Karvelas’s desire to refer to yesterday as day one of the election campaign, a listener helpfully offered that the actual day of the announcement, Sunday, might be deemed “day zero”. That works for me, so there’s your headline. However you care to number it, here are some highlights:
• Andrew Probyn of The West Australian reports a Liberal Party internal poll derived from “15-minute interviews with 600 people on April 30 and May 1” recorded a dead heat on two-party preferred in the new electorate of Burt in southern Perth. The report also cites optimism from Liberal insiders about Cowan and Hasluck, where “the advantage of incumbency and strong local campaigns” are expected to make the difference.
• In other internal polling news, Mark Riley of Seven News reported on Thursday that Liberal polling conducted on April 29 showed the party trailing 53.1-46.9 in Eden-Monaro, but leading 50.3-49.7 in Reid, 50.9-49.1 in Banks, 50.2-49.8 in Gilmore, 51.6-48.5 in Bennelong, 51.2-48.8 in Lindsay and 58.8-41.2 in Hughes, with Barnaby Joyce holding a 53.1-46.9 lead over Tony Windsor in New England. The report copped a more than usually vehement response from Liberal pollster Mark Textor, who denied any such polling had been conducted by his own firm, Crosby Textor. Riley said in his report that the polling was “delivered to New South Wales Liberal executives by campaign guru Lynton Crosby yesterday and leaked to Seven News”, to which Textor retorted that Crosby was out of the country. Riley responded that he had “at no stage said it was your polling”, and insisted it had been distributed to prominent members of the party. In his report the following evening, Riley said “Liberal-National director Tony Nutt said it wasn’t commissioned by the party and rejected the numbers”.
• Ellen Whinnett of the Herald Sun reports the Liberals are “on the brink” of a deal in which they will direct preferences to the Greens in Batman and Wills, while the Greens run open tickets in marginal seats in the Melbourne suburbs. The former half of the bargain returns to the Liberals’ usual practice before 2013, but for the Greens to fail to direct preferences in marginal seats is a little more unusual. However, the impact of the former will be far the greater. When the Liberals flipped their preference recommendation in 2013, the Greens’ share of their preferences in the Melbourne electorate slumped from 80.0% to 33.7%. This would have gouged about 10% of Adam Bandt’s two-party vote against Labor, but the improvment of his position on the primary vote was sufficient to exactly cancel it out. In Batman and Wills, the Greens’ share of Liberal preferences in 2013 was 32.6% and 28.7% respectively. If that changed to 80% with no alteration to the primary vote, David Feeney’s 10.6% winning margin over Greens candidate Alex Bhathal, who opposes him again this time, would reduce to zero, while Labor would hold on to a 3.5% margin in Wills. By contrast, the Greens running an open ticket appears to reduce Labor’s share of their preferences by only 3%. The Greens vote in Labor’s Victorian targets of Deakin, La Trobe and Corangamite was in each case a fraction above 10%, so the difference is likely to be 0.3% to 0.4%.
• Crikey founder and shareholder activist Stephen Mayne has announced he is running against Kevin Andrews as “a pro-Turnbull, liberal-minded independent” in the eastern Melbourne seat of Menzies. Andrews is currently embroiled in a branch-stacking scandal that has resulted in the resignation of his electorate officer, Ananija Ananievski, involving elderly Macedonian immigrants who were reportedly unaware of their party membership. In an article in Crikey yesterday (paywalled), Mayne wrote that Georgina Downer, a lawyer, former diplomat and daughter of former Foreign Minister Alexander Downer, was “hoping Kevin Andrews is removed and she can be slotted in as a last-minute replacement before nominations close on June 1”. Downer was an unsuccessful candidate for the recent preselection to succeed Andrew Robb in the seat of Goldstein, which was won by former Human Rights Commissioner Tim Wilson.
• Liberal MP Dennis Jensen, who was disendorsed as the party’s candidate for his Perth seat of Tangney in favour of former party state director Ben Morton, announced yesterday he would run in the seat as an independent. He declined to resign from the Liberal Party in doing so, but state director Andrew Cox said yesterday that he had cancelled his membership in announcing his intention to run against an endorsed candidate of the party. Jensen foreshadowed yesterday’s actions in a speech to parliament last week, in which he called Morton “the Liberal branch stackers’ and powerbrokers’ candidate”, criticised the government’s record on tax reform, called for a royal commission into the banks, and spruiked himself as “a candidate who has deep Liberal values, but who will fight for constituents first and foremost; a free thinker who will be their voice in parliament without fear or favour”. Andrew Probyn of The West Australian noted a fortnight ago that running at the election would mean Jensen continued to draw a salary up until the day before the election, which would earn him around $35,000.
• The state council of the Liberal Party in Western Australia determined the order of the double dissolution Senate ticket on the weekend, and delivered a defeat to former Defence Minister David Johnston by relegating him to the highly loseable sixth position on the ticket. The order of the ticket will run Mathias Cormann, Michaelia Cash, Dean Smith, Linda Reynolds, Chris Back, David Johnston. All are incumbents, reflecting the party’s consistent success in winning three seats at half-Senate elections, and the difficulty it faces accommodating all of them at a double dissolution election that is more likely to net them only five. Many in the party had hoped that Johnston, who was dumped as Defence Minister in December 2014, would lighten the burden by retiring, but he failed to oblige. Johnston was more gracious in the face of disappointment than some, conceding he was “in the twilight of my career”, and telling the ABC: “The Liberal Party has been very, very good to me and I’ve had 14 years in Parliament which has been a fabulous adventure.” The state council’s decision reportedly ran ran contrary to the recommendation of its four-person selection committee, which proposed that Johnston take fourth place and Back take sixth. Joe Spagnolo of the Sunday Times reports one of the members of the selection committee, party state president Norman Moore, stormed out of a state executive meeting last week and threatened to resign as it became apparent the recommendation would not be supported, before apologising for what he conceded was a “dummy spit”.
• Mark Coultan of The Australian (paywalled, I’m guessing) reports that the Liberal member for Barton, Nick Varvaris, has finally decided after much prevarication that he will seek re-election in the seat he won from Labor in 2013. Varvaris has been poleaxed by the latest redistribution, which has turned his 0.3% margin into a notional Labor margin of 5.2% by adding territory around Marrickville. Mark Coultan also reports the Liberals are still yet to endorse candidates in the competitive seats of Paterson and Kingsford Smith, but are likely to do so this weekend.
• Jared Owens of The Australian has a useful article (probably paywalled) on the state of the parties’ double dissolution Senate tickets. While many remain to be finalised, Coalition tickets are now set in Victoria (incumbents Mitch Fifield, Scott Ryan, James Paterson and Bridget McKenzie, followed by newcomer Jane Hume, who recently suffered a surprise defeat to Paterson in her bid to fill Michael Ronaldson’s vacancy), Queensland (Ian Macdonald, George Brandis, Matt Canavan, James McGrath, Barry O’Sullivan and Joanna Lindgren, all of whom are incumbents) and South Australia (Simon Birmingham, Cory Bernardi, Anne Ruston, David Fawcett and Sean Edwards, all incumbents). Labor’s ticket in Queensland will be headed by two newcomers in former state MP Murray Watt and former party state secretary Anthony Chisholm, who are repectively of the Left and the Right. Behind them are incumbents Claire Moore and Chris Ketter, with another newcomer in Jane Casey in fifth place.
Stay tuned for the regular Tuesday poll release early this afternoon from Essential Research, which will probably be followed by a bit of a lull after the weekend storm. A full update of BludgerTrack, incorporating the latest state breakdowns, should follow a few hours after.