By-elections and preselections

Can Rebekha Sharkie hold the Mayo? A new poll suggests as much. Also featured: the latest on the many preselection challenges besetting an increasingly fractious Liberal Party.

UPDATE: Now a YouGov Galaxy poll for The Advertiser finds Rebekha Sharkie leading 58-42, with Sharkie leading 44% to 37% on the primary vote, Labor on 11% and the Greens on 6%. Sharkie has a 62% positive rating, 20% neutral and 10% negative; Downer, 31% positive, 21% neutral and 41% negative. The poll was conducted last night from a sample of 515.

After providing the Liberals with encouraging results for Braddon and Longman in its Sky News poll last week, ReachTEL now delivers them a rude shock in a new poll from Mayo, this time for the progressive think tank the Australian Institute. After allocating results from the forced response follow-up for the undecided, the primary votes are 41.4% for Rebekha Sharkie, 35.5% for Georgina Downer, 11.1% for Greens candidate Major “Moogy” Sumner, 8.2% for a wrongly identified Labor candidate (more on that below), and 4.2% for unspecified alternatives. With respondent-allocated preferences going 68.2% to 31.8% in favour of Sharkie’s favour, this translates to a blowout 58-42 on two-party preferred, although my own calculation only gets it to 57-43. Sharkie received 55.0% of preferences at the 2016 election, but the presence of Family First and Liberal Democrats candidates meant there was a higher right-of-centre minor party component than in the poll result. The poll was conducted on Tuesday from a sample of 1031.

A peculiarity of the result is a low primary vote for Labor, who polled 13.5% at the election, well clear of the Greens on 8.1%. The poll identified as the party’s candidate Glen Dallimore, who ran in 2016, but it was today announced that the candidate will be Reg Coutts, owner of a communications consultancy and a former telecommunications professor at the University of Adelaide and member of a panel that advised the Labor government on the National Broadband Network. Coutts won preselection ahead of Alice Dawkins, the 23-year-old daughter of Keating government Treasurer John Dawkins and a recent recipient of a Schwarzman scholarship. Dawkins was earlier rated the front-runner, but Tom Richardson of InDaily notes her pedigree would have blunted Labor attacks on the dynastic pretensions of Georgina Downer.

The ReachTEL poll also features a company tax question that differs from earlier polls in specifying that yet-to-be-legislated cuts relate to large businesses (“like banks, mining companies and supermarkets”), and making the question about the direction the rate should head in, rather than whether it should proceed. Even in this conservative seat, this finds support for increasing the rate at basically the same level as reducing it (25.4% to 24.8%), with 44.9% opting to keep it as is. Given who commissioned the poll, this was presumably intended as a riposte to Newspoll’s qeuestion asking when cuts should be implemented, which left opponents holding out for the last of three listed options (and offered nothing specific to advocates of an increase). Notably, both gave respondents three options, but in ReachTEL’s case the middle course amounted to opposition, while for Newspoll it meant support. Thus did one poll find 25% support for company tax cuts, and another 63%. The Braddon and Longman polls also had questions on company tax cuts, but these specified cuts for all business, and found support at 56.0% in Braddon and 58.1% in Longman.

Another result from the Mayo poll helpful to the Australia Insitute’s agenda is a finding that 42.4% believe tax cuts are most warranted for those on $60,000 or less, progressively diminishing to 28.9% from $60,000 to $120,000, 8.9% from $120,000 to $180,000, 6.6% for $180,000 plus, and 9.0% for “all income brackets”. Conversely, 60.2% were opposed to allowing those on Manus Island and Nauru to settle in Australia, with only 30.8% on support, although a 90-day limit for mandatory detention was strongly supported (62.9% to 25.5%).

On other news, there is quite a bit of preselection action to relate, all of it from the Liberal Party, and with a recurring theme of conflict between conservatives and moderates:

• Reports have indicated that moderate challenger Kent Johns has the numbers to prevail over Craig Kelly, arch-conservative and ally of Tony Abbott, in his preselection challenge for the Sydney seat of Hughes. However, a report from Greg Brown of The Australian suggests conservatives may have succeeding in tipping the scales back in Kelly’s favour by threatening to challenge Nick Greiner for the party presidency at next weekend’s federal council meeting. Tony Abbott has called on Malcolm Turnbull to “involve himself” in support of Kelly, complaining he has gone further to help Ann Sudmalis in her preselection challenge in Gilmore (see below).

• A number of other challengers are unfolding to Liberal incumbents in New South Wales, but press reports suggest none of them are in real trouble. These include Gilmore MP Ann Sudmalis, whose challenger Grant Schultz has not been deterred by endorsements for Sudmalis from Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison; Mackellar MP Jason Falinski, a factional moderate who faces a seemingly quixotic tilt from conservative Frits Mare; and Bennelong MP John Alexander, whose challenger is Ryde councillor Trenton Brown.

David Crowe of Fairfax reports the Victorian Liberal Party’s administrative committee is set to deprive branch members of a preselection vote by intervening to protect all incumbents. Conservatives Michael Sukkar and Marcus Bastiaan are said to be backing the idea partly to protect Kevin Andrews, who has local barrister and former army officer Keith Wolahan circling in his safe seat of Menzies. Other subjects of speculation about preselection challenges are Kevin Andrews in Menzies, Julia Banks in Chisholm, Russell Broadbent in McMillan (shortly to become Monash), Kelly O’Dwyer in Higgins and Tim Wilson in Goldstein.

• The enforced peace in the Victorian Liberal Party does not extend to Senate preselection, where Jane Hume and James Paterson face competition from Karina Okotel, the party’s federal vice-president, and Bev McArthur, wife of former Corangamite MP Stewart McArthur.

• Alex Antic, an Adelaide City councillor, is hoping to take the second position on the party’s South Australian Senate ticket with conservative backing. This would come at the expense of fellow conservatives David Fawcett and Lucy Gichuhi, who have moderate backing for the second and third positions, which are respectively safe and extremely difficult.

Author: William Bowe

William Bowe is a Perth-based election analyst and occasional teacher of political science. His blog, The Poll Bludger, has existed in one form or another since 2004, and is one of the most heavily trafficked websites on Australian politics.

26 comments on “By-elections and preselections”

  1. Chances are that Labor will be returned in all seats they currently hold at the by-elections. So, the one to really watch is Mayo where Downer Jr’s IPA-backed nepotism is trying to take over from Rebekha Sharkie. A Progressive preference flow for Sharkie plus the attractiveness of the Centre Alliance for the local moderate right-wingers should do the trick.

  2. Personally I believe Sharkie will retain Mayo, judging by the poll results she must be pretty good local MP. Also I predict Labor will retain both Braddon and Longman and get swings (even if they are small) towards them.

  3. Our great LNP will win Longman Braddon and Mayo and go on to win the next two elections and Turnbull will be best PM ever

  4. The Libs’ ratbag right have been trying to dislodge the moderate John Alexander from Bennelong ever since he embarrassed them with his inquiry into housing prices.
    He has a strong personal following in the seat. KK took half his ~9% buffer at the last by election but his grip is pretty much unassailable.

    If they replace him it could give a good Labor candidate a real chance. Maybe bring back the multilingual Jason Yat Sen Li. We need someone who can inspire the troops.
    If Labor Central Casting preselects another no-hoper then they’ll have to make do with a campaign team small enough to fit in a phone box.

    https://www.smh.com.au/opinion/jason-yat-sen-li-being-australian-is-not-about-the-colour-of-your-skin-20130830-2sv06.html

  5. @Maude Lynne

    I believe only the circumstances of the 2007 election with possibility of John Howard resigning from parliament immediately in the event of a Coalition defeat, allowed Labor to win Bennelong.

  6. Tristo 2018/06/08 @ 10.17

    I think you’re ignoring the strength of candidate put up by the ALP – Maxine McKew.
    She certainly added to the swing against John Howard.

  7. Reading the Mayo figures I noticed that of respondents who voted for Downer 40% of them were 18-34 as opposed to Sharkie with only 10% of that age group.
    I can’t think of a reason for it.

  8. I noticed that too boomy, bizarre. Likely something best ignored and put down to single seat polling being absolute rubbish. With that said, the overall 2PP margin is so great that it probably exceeds the huge MoE for these things.

  9. The Reachtel poll has affected the betting markets:

    Sportsbet now has Sharkie $1.70 and Downer $1.85 (closed last night)

    Centrebet Sharkie 1.75 and Downer 2.00 (closed last night)

    William Hill 1.75 and Downer 2.00 (closed last night)

    Ladbrokes currently closed, presumably to adjust the odds similar to the others.

  10. Re: that age breakdown

    Maybe it’s a leftover from her being a Xenophon candidate? In my experience younger people who weren’t super switched on politically weren’t really buying what he was selling compared to older voters; anecdotally the youngest person I know who openly voted for SA Best at the state election is 39.

    The other factor I can think of is Downer’s opponents pulling the “she moved to Melbourne!” card. If you’re familiar with SA you’ll know that there’s a huge anxiety among older voters that their kids are all gonna move to Melbourne the moment they’re done with uni. It’s not an unfounded anxiety at all and it’s definitely a reflection of a lot of big structural issues SA has but to the kids in question I think the rhetoric around it reads as tall poppy syndrome, as their parents telling them to be less ambitious and that living in a city that doesn’t feel like it’s offering them much is their lot in life.

    Or, mind you, it could just be bad sample sizing or a reflection of the enormous Anti-Liberal-but-especially-Anti-Labor vote in Mayo being a relic of the Democrats’ heyday that’s stuck around because of how old the area skews.

  11. Couldn’t agree more, torchie. My guess is that if Downer loses by less than 10% on primary votes in the by-election, she’ll rock up again when Turnbull calls the next election. Why? Because she believes that Mayo is a personal fiefdom of her family, a “Dieu et mon Droit” if you like.
    Depending on the TPP Polls leading up to that next general election, if the Government looks like it might be returned, the voters of Mayo may decide to back her then on the grounds that having a Government MP representing them may be a good call.
    Conversely, a stunning voter renunciation of her candidacy may persuade her to try for a comfortable blue-ribbon Liberal seat elsewhere so she can maintain her family history of ” Dieu et mon Droit”.

  12. I have just discovered this blog.. And I live in Mayo..Been here for 18 years. And I am a strong supporter of Rebekha Sharkie. So I have a sort of an insiders perspective on all this..

    The issues that matter from the inside are the following
    1 Downer has not lived here for 20 years when she was at secondary school.. Did not even go to Uni in SA.. Her parents sold the family home back in 2014 at St George near Bridgewater when he was appointed High Commissioner to the UK by Abbot..Having been in political ‘retirement’ since 2008 six months after Howard lost to Rudd. ( Jamie Briggles was then anointed the ‘local’ Liberal member – parachuted in from Victoria) So feeling about Downer NOT being a local are extremely strong.
    2 : The heart of Mayo population wise, is the Adelaide Hills. But Ms Downer has chosen to live at Carrickalinga Downer family beach home down South of Willunga on the Gulf coast. It is remote from most of the population and mainly a Summer beach resort…
    3: By contrast Rebekha Sharkie, though British born, has lived with her husband Nathan on their family farm for the past 25 or so years…She is regarded as a real LOCAL…

    4 : In the two years since being elected in 2016 Rebekha Sharkie has worked her but off for the people of Mayo..In the decades when it was a safe Liberal seat the needs of the people were ignored.. Since becoming a seat held by a non Liberal, governments of both persuasions, have started putting money into desperately needed infrastructure…The Mt Barker Swimming pool funding announcement by Turnbul would never have happened otherwise. In fact the first rquest for that funding dates from 2007 when Downer senior was the member for Mayo. The money did not turn up on his watch..instead it’s tuned up 10 years later when his daughter is the candidate.. But Rebekha Sharkie has been lobbying & working with the local council for over 12 months on this one issue. That effort is what lead to Mayo being ‘allowed’ to seek money this time, in February 2018, from the Federal regional funds program. Previously we were excluded by this Federal government.
    .
    I could say a lot more..but I can here the snores through the ether !

  13. Here are a three extra details about why Georgina Downer has met strong opposition from locals in Mayo :

    1 : She has lived in South Yarra a suburb of Melbourne since around 2008…In what is now the safe Liberal seat of Higgins held by Kelly O’Dwyer..
    2: She is a member of the LIberal Party in Victoria and has been on that Liberal Party’s state Administrative Committee since at least early 2015.
    3: It was in this capacity that she nominated to be the Liberal Party candidate for Goldstein when Andrew Robb announced his retirement in 2015. She did not have the support of local Liberal party members in Goldstein and failed to win. Tim Wilson, a well know gay advocate got it instead.
    4: Georgina Downer was then offered by way of a consolation prize, a place on the Victorian Liberal Party senate ticket prior to the general election in 2016.However she knocked that back.
    5 : What with living for so long in Melbourne Georgina Downer she was undoubtedly on the electoral roll for Higgins. But no doubt she has now changed her details so as to be able to vote for herself in the coming Mayo by-election.
    6 : No doubt in May 2018 she has also became a member of the South Australian Liberal Party branch as well.

  14. Bill in Oz – you make some good points. However to correct – Sharkie has not lived “on the family farm with husband Nathan for the last 25 years”. She has resided variously in the township of Mt Torrens, then Queensland for several years and then after returning to Mt Torrens, she subsequently lived relatively briefly on a small hobby farm with her first husband prior to divorce. Marrying Nathan some 4 or so years ago, she and two of her three children reside with him in a suburban sized residence in Birdwood.

  15. Kit – the main point is that Sharkie has lived in the electorate of Mayo or close by for quite a while.
    She has a presence here that Downer cannot match. She has worked extremely hard for the electorate of Mayo.
    Mayo was treated as a forgotten electorate by the liberal for many, many years. Downer senior did sweet f*ck all while he was member.
    Briggs was parachuted in by the liberals from Victoria. Now they want parachute another Victorian into the seat of Mayo. Downer has not lived here for over 20 years. She is not a local. She is a blowhard blow in.
    It is my understanding that Sharkie worked for the liberals, including Briggs and some of the senior members of the liberals when they were in opposition in Sth Aust. She stopped working for them in disgust.
    Never underestimate the scorn that the liberals have for people they cannot control. The liberals have started their dirt campaign. I will predict it will get dirtier.

  16. Mt Torrens & Birdwood are lovely country towns in South Australia, in Mayo. Rebekha Sharkie is a hills folk person – a local ! That is why she has such strong backing for this by-election from small town hills folk here in Mayo.

    But Downer has been absent from South Australia for 20 years, suddenly returning in May to ‘swan’ into the Mayo electorate…Definitely not a local !

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