With nominations having closed on Friday and pre-polling opening tomorrow, there has been a frenzy of activity with preference negotiations:
• The Australian reports that Labor will not direct preferences in South Australia, and the Liberals will do likewise in South Australian seats safely held by Labor. The purpose of this is to clip the wings of the Nick Xenophon Team, and add some measure of credibility to Malcolm Turnbull’s and Bill Shorten’s insistence that they will not emerge from the election pleading for the support of cross-benchers in a hung parliament.
• In a similar spirit, Malcolm Turnbull has pulled rank on the Victorian Liberal Party organisation by announcing that the Greens will be placed behind Labor on all how-to-vote cards. This maintains a policy that was first adopted at the 2013 election, which slashed Liberal preference flows to the Greens from at least three-quarters to around a third.
• Labor’s part of this apparent bargain is that it will direct preferences to the Liberals ahead of the Nationals in the three-cornered contests of Murray in Victoria, and Durack and O’Connor in Western Australia.
News from the Victorian front:
• Daniel Andrews’ government in Victoria is at the centre of an ill-timed controversy over the state’s Country Fire Authority, which led to the resignation on Friday of his Emergency Services Minister, Jane Garrett, and the sacking of the board of the authority. At issue is a proposed enterprise agreement which would grant the United Firefighters Union powers over the management of the authority, such as it exercises over the non-volunteer Metropolitan Fire Brigade. The CFA board refused to sign the agreement on the basis that the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission has ruled its effective bans on part-time work to be discriminatory. The issue is of heightened sensitivity in each of Victoria’s most marginal seats, since the boundary between the CFA and MFB zones runs well inside Melbourne’s suburbs, having been drawn in the distant past. Issues involving the CFA are acutely important in Corangamite, scene of the Surf Coast bushfires between Christmas and New Year; McEwen, which takes in some of the area affected by the Black Saturday bushfires of 2009; and La Trobe, which consists of urban fringe and semi-rural hinterland in Melbourne’s east. The issue is somewhat less pressing in the eastern Melbourne marginal of Deakin, but it nonetheless falls within the zone of the CFA. Corangamite, La Trobe and Deakin were the three seats won by the Liberals in 2013, and McEwen for Labor by a margin of 0.2% in the face of a 9.0% swing.
• In McEwen, however, the Liberals’ job is being complicated by their candidate. Chris Jermyn is back in the spotlight after Adam Gartrell of Fairfax provided a fascinatingly detailed account of his role in a social media project that emerged with nothing to show for $15 million in venture capital funding. The Liberal Party passed up an opportunity last weekend to disendorse Jermyn ahead of last Thursday’s nominations deadline.
• The Liberals are down a candidate in the unimportant northern Melbourne seat of Calwell, held for Labor by Maria Vamvakinou on a margin of 13.9%. This follows the resignation from the party of John Min-Chiang Hsu over a failure to declare a business interest on his preselection nomination form, namely an establishment that purports to be nothing less than the “best brothel in Frankston”. Since nominations close, Hsu will continue to be listed on the ballot paper as the Liberal candidate.
• After bowing out in Lyne at the 2013 election, Rob Oakeshott seeks to re-enter the fray in the seat of Cowper, which post-redistribution encompasses Port Macquarie, where his political career began in state parliament. Cowper is held for the Nationals by Luke Hartsuyker. Oakeshott says he would give Malcolm Turnbull “first go” at forming government if he again found himself holding the balance of power.
• Penrith councillor Marcus Cornish is running as an independent in Lindsay and directing preferences against the Liberal member, Fiona Scott. Cornish quit the Liberal Party in protest against the removal of Tony Abbott, and said Scott had “stabbed him in the back” by supporting Turnbull.
• Phillip Coorey of the Financial Review reports that Coalition internal polling has Tony Windsor’s primary vote in New England at just over 30%. The report says this would be “enough to topple the Deputy Prime Minister if preferences go Mr Windsor’s way”, but it’s difficult to say exactly how troubling the result would be for Barnaby Joyce without knowing his own primary vote.
• One parliamentarian and two candidates ran into trouble last week over Australian Defence Force guidelines against use of military uniforms in election campaigning. Andrew Hastie, who won the Canning by-election for the Liberals in September last year, refused to desist from using an image of himself in army fatigues on billboards that sold him as “not another politician”, which resulted in his dismissal this week from an army reserve unit. A similar threat has been made to Pat O’Neill, Labor’s candidate in the seat of Brisbane, and attention has been drawn to Labor candidate Mike Kelly’s use of such images in a pamphlet, which he claims to have been permissible by virtue of being “low key”. Fairfax reports that the ADF is considering asking the government to prohibit campainging in uniform under the Electoral Act.
• It has also emerged that Andrew Hastie did not declare his purchase of a home on March 27 before the dissolution of parliament in May 9, when parliamentary rules required he do so by April 24.
• Labor’s confidence about Herbert is said to relate to a promise made on May 10 to contribute $100 million to a 25,000 seat home stadium for the North Queensland Cowboys in Townsville.
• Barnaby Joyce has been able to shore up his position in New England this week by announcing $8.5 million in funding for a sports precinct in Tamworth, followed by a promise that the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority would be relocated from Canberra to Armidale. Phillip Coorey of the Financial Review reports that the latter initiative has displeased ACT Liberal Senator Zed Seselja and the National Farmers’ Federation, “which fears the valuable work done by the agency will suffer because many staff won’t go”.
• Phillip Coorey in the Financial Review dissects “$1.7 billion worth of relatively minor announcements” since the campaign began, including a series of major road announcements last Monday. This included $42.6 million in funding for an upgrade of the Hann Highway in north Queensland, which forms part of a direct inland route from Cairns to Melbourne, and is thus of particular interest in Warren Entsch’s electorate of Leichhardt. In Tasmania, the battleground seats of Braddon, Bass and Lyons were respectively promised roads funding worth $4.5 million, $3.0 million and $1.1 million.
• Sportsbet has responded quickly to the Liberals’ preference announcement by revising the Greens’ prospects downwards in all seats where it is thought to be competitive. In Batman, the payout on a Labor win has been slashed from $2.50 to $1.15, while the Greens are out from $1.50 to $4. The Liberals are now credited with favouritism in Murray, coming in from $2 to $1.50 while the Nationals are out from $1.70 to $2.50
• More generally, there has been fairly substantial movement to the Coalition on betting markets over the past week. On the Betfair exchange, the Coalition is in from $1.34 a week ago to $1.23, or from 75.2% to 81.3% in implied win probability terms. Labor is out from $3.85 to $4.80, or from 27.0% to 22.2%. In Sportsbet individual seat markets, both parties are now on $1.87 in Page, after Labor had $1.65 to $2.15 favouritism a week ago; the Liberals are in from $1.75 to $1.50 in Deakin, while Labor is out from $2 to $2.50; Peter Dutton is in from $1.35 to $1.10 in Dickson, with Labor out from $3 to $6; and Christian Porter is in from $1.20 to $1.01 in Pearce, with Labor out from $4.20 to $12. The chart below provides a measure of three agencies’ implied win probabilities for the election overall, derived from a composite of their odds on the Coalition and Labor.