ReachTEL: 50-50 in Wentworth

A new poll suggests the Liberals face a dangerously large swing in the looming Wentworth by-election, particularly if high-profile independents step forward.

The Daily Telegraph today reports a ReachTEL poll for The Australia Institute showing a lineball result in Wentworth, for which an October 6 by-election is anticipated after Malcolm Turnbull resigns on Friday. However, the poll presented respondents with a speculative list of candidates including two unconfirmed independents: Kerryn Phelps, Sydney councillor and former Australian Medical Association president; and Alex Greenwich, independent member for Sydney and a protege of his predecessor, Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore. Both were credited with 11% of the primary vote, with Liberal on 39% (down from 62.3% at the election), Labor on 29% (up from 17.7%) and the Greens on 9% (down from 14.9%). The poll was conducted on Monday from a sample of 886. UPDATE: This is not exactly correct. See bottom of post for further elaboration.

I have just published a preliminary Wentworth by-election guide, which will be fleshed out as details on the candidates are available. As noted here yesterday, news reports suggest the Liberal preselection frontrunner is Dave Sharma, former ambassador to Israel. However, he faces some high-profile opponents, with the field also including Christine Foster, Sydney councillor and sister of Tony Abbott; Andrew Bragg, a director at the Business Council of Australia and former leader of the Yes same-sex marriage survey campaign; Katherine O’Regan, a Woollahra councillor; and Peter King, tha barrister who held the seat from 2001 until Turnbull defeated him for preselection in 2004. Labor has preselected Tim Murray, managing partner of investment research firm J Capital, who is fluent in Mandarin and has won praise from Alex Turnbull, son of the former Prime Minister.

UPDATE: It turns out the Daily Telegraph was jumbling together results from separate poll questions, one specifying Kerryn Phelps and Alex Greenwich as response options, the other being a party-based options with the usual subjects. It’s from the latter that the 50-50 result derives, from primary votes of Liberal 39.6%, Labor 29.9%, Greens 15.2%, One Nation 2.3% and others 6.8%, after exclusion of the 6.3% undecided. The other set of primary vote figures are Liberal 34.6%, Labor 20.3%, Kerryn Phelps 11.8%, Alex Greenwich 11.2%, Greens 8.9%, others 11.3%. Also featured are a series of questions on climate policy, some of which are a bit dubious, but it does find 66.6% favouring an emissions target in the National Energy Guarantee, with 23.5% opposed; 50.9% saying Scott Morrison’s lump of coal routine makes them less likely to vote Liberal, compared with 21.7% for more likely; and 68.6% saying Morrison will do less to tackle climate change than Malcolm Turnbull, compared with 10.3% for more.

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.

50 comments on “ReachTEL: 50-50 in Wentworth”

  1. The Wentworth poll is interesting. The story itself acknowledges single seat polls are less reliable but still, it listed an 800 sample from that one seat, so it must mean something.

    The obvious tactic is for Scummo to delay any decision on a Paris retreat till after the bielection. “Focus” on the drought. (Labor should focus on where the drought relief funds have gone.)

    Meanwhile Labor should hire a big billboard in Wentworth posting a giant shot of that photo of Scummo holding the lump of coal in parliament. The caption should read “Our new generation PM?”

    I think a Labor win in Wentworth might be a bridge too far without a star local candidate. But a genuine independent could get up if the Liberal vote is in the 30s. The Liberal preselection could see a lot of dirt thrown.

  2. I’m not sure the people of Wentworth will feel a kinship with the boy from the Shire. Hard to see there being a Woollahra riots episode. Some well known Labor people have resided in Woollahra.

  3. doGs but even the suggestion o line ball in Wentworth is not good for the Libs. Still, you would have to expect that when the immediate excitement about Lib fwarkups drops to normal levels it will go Lib or good indie.

  4. Golly

    I’m not sure the people of Wentworth will feel a kinship with the boy from the Shire.

    He’s not actually the boy from the Shire. He grew up in Bronte and his father was mayor of Waverley, both in what is now Wentworth. That said, I agree they won’t feel kinship with a lump of coal who now represents the Shire.

  5. What is facinating will be how Turnbull himself acts in this camaign. Will campaign for or against the Libs..? If he truly believes in climate change and is a man of conviction ( which I do not believe he is ) then he should direct or advise the electors to vote against the Libs. I doubt he will, but he should. Any Lib elected is most probably going to toe the party line so the status quo will remain and all opponents of the Libs should be pointing it out non stop.

    The funniest thing will be if those who urged and planned the coup to get rid of Turnbull end up costing themselves govt if the voters in Wentworth decide the govt is too right wing and elect a moderate non Lib member ! Fun times ahead.

  6. I think Turnbull will do the minimum, he won’t campaign against the Liberals, but do little to help them.

    Given the state of the lower house I assume it will be retained, if they had a seat buffer, then it would be in doubt.
    More polling to get a trend that will help.

  7. So, Tony wants to be envoy, but not have to deal with anything hard or controversial. Leave that stuff to Scullion so Tones can concentrate on hovering around like a buzzard in his actual Liberal Party position as Commissar for Ideological Purity.

    You know, a bad result in Wentworth like a BIG swing against the Libs, a run of polling behinds, Muttons au pair difficulties, Cash getting pinged by the AFP…….. could really set it all off again. 🙂

    It will all get gaffer taped together until after the Wentworth bye election i think.

  8. The only way the Libs lose here is if some non-ALP candidate comes in 2nd and the ALP is third. Otherwise preferences from independents get the Lib home. If the polls show someone like Phelps doing well, Labor might want to run dead in this race. But the big story isn’t so much who wins the seat, its the huge drop in the Lib. primary. Some Libs in moderate conservative seats-eastern part of Melbourne maybe?-would be feeling very nervous.

  9. William, the Daily Telegraph misreported the results of the poll. The correct primary votes are:

    LIB 39.6 ALP 29.9 GRN 15.2 ON 2.3 Other 6.8 Undecided 6.3

    LIB 41.9 (-20.4 since election) ALP 31.5 (+13.8) GRN 15.6 (+0.7) ON 2.3 (+2.3) Other 8.9 (+3.8)

    (If Greenwich & Phelps contested seat):
    LIB 34.6 (-27.7 since election) ALP 20.3 (+2.6) Phelps IND 11.8 (+11.8) Greenwich IND 11.2 (+11.2) GRN 8.9 (-6.0) Other 13.3 (+8.2)

  10. Sadly, the Liberals won’t lose Wentworth. The swing will be large, maybe even huge, but that’s to be expected from the loss of a sitting PM. We’ll just get our hopes up, only to have them dashed on the day.

    The good news is that because the Liberals can’t quite be certain of a doddle, and the stakes are so high, they’ll be forced to spend precious resources on the seat’s defence.

  11. How is the speaker of HOR going to justify any delay in by-election in Wentworth if MT resigns this week especially when LNP loose their 1 seat majority. Did ALP select a candidate for Wentworth?

  12. The ALP candidate seems a good choice for the seat and might win over a few more leading up to the election….

    Murray spent nearly 20 years working in China for the brewer Foster’s and Austrade, before establishing his own investment research firm, J Capital. He focused on commodities and Chinese listed stocks mainly in the US. He returned to live in Wentworth five years ago, where he joined the Labor Party and became chairman of the Tamarama Surf Club.

  13. Wouldn’t any incoming independent support the government on confidence? Otherwise they are running to an immediate election for their own seat

  14. I suspect that we can take this poll with a large grain of salt. To be sure, Turnbull did command a substantial personal vote, and the seat does include some Labor-leaning areas (with high rental populations) in the west (Paddington) and south (Bronte, Bondi & Clovelly). But the bulk of the seat takes in classic “old money” suburbs like Vaulcluse, Woollahra and Double Bay, and I think when push comes to shove, the Liberal candidate (and apart from Foster, all the contenders look like a decent match for the seat) should win comfortably enough.

    The one possibility that I can see is that a high-profile independent might secure enough of a primary vote in a low-turnout by-election to sneak through (assuming that both the Greens and Labor preference them, which is probably likely). Greenwich seems to have ruled himself out, but Phelps is a possibility. However, if, as is more likely, the Liberal candidate gets home, they are probably safe in the seat for the foreseeable future.

    Still, it should be a fun few weeks watching Morrison & co freak out that they might just lose it.

  15. Neville Newell won the seat of Richmond in 1993 from the the then leader of the National Party (and chief Stamp Licker) Charles Blunt. From memory (and I may be wrong) Newell got about 27%. Dr Helen Caldicott for the Greens ran third. Her preferences got Newell across the line. Newell kept the seat in the 1996 GST election defeating Larry Anthony – Doug’s son.

  16. Hugo… gives a neat summary.

    My 2c worth:

    Forster is a non starter, and I think looks foolish, especially after her embarrassingly poor showing against Clover Moore in the Lord Mayor stakes. And being Sr Abbott is no plus.

    The shoot out will be between Sharma and Bragg.

    David Sharma will resonate strongly with the Jewish vote. If he’s not Jewish – my Wentworth Jewish friends who met him at Beersheba last year aren’t sure – his ties to the community and Israel are strong. (Canadian born, but that’s sorted I understand.) Said to be backed by Morrison and Photios.

    Andrew Bragg, recently BCA resigned, is branch savvy, keenly associated with same sex issues, and presents very well, and said to be backed by Betts, former Waverley mayor and just elected president of Wentworth federal electoral conference.

    My take on the very ambitious Phelps as Independent is that she might have a few boxes ticked on paper – gay, Jewish (converted to Judaism when she married Jacquie Stricker), high profile, medico – but her tenure on City Council has been uneven, and with her goal of Lord Mayor not likely realisable, she would be seen as opportunistic and lacking a strong policy platform, other than Phelpsism. Her latest petty dig at Clover Moore was a whinge about how much Moore’s ‘City Arch’ (a major city sculpture project with foot plates installed and awaiting the dismally managed state govt light rail project completion before installation) would cost to light. That’s Clover Moore with very strong credentials on renewables and power.

  17. I seem to recall there was a seat poll in Wentworth just prior to last election that showed Turnbull in trouble. So yes, seat polls – pinch of salt….. yadda yadda. However, my recollection is that it was not from a reputable pollster and v small sample.

    I am on a slim limb…. but this will be interesting. Here is hoping Turnbulls son keeps making positive statements about Murray. Here is also hoping Murray doesnt say he is embarking on a two election campaign.

  18. Hugo – Itza: the Labor candidate, though, looks a lot stronger than previous years. Surely, Tim Murray ticks a lot of boxes in this seat.

  19. Shouldn’t we first try to establish a baseline estimate of the Lib TPP vote in Wentworth, without reference to current seat-level opinion poll results, and only then adjust our estimate of current Lib TPP voting intention in Wentworth in the light of that current polling after we have that baseline estimate? To do this, we need to estimate how much more Liberal-voting Wentworth is than NSW as a whole, once we remove whatever personal vote Malcolm Turnbull had.

    I see two ways of estimating this:
    1) Liberal Senate vote in Wentworth relative to Coalition Senate vote in NSW as a whole;
    2) House votes in Wentworth for Peter King in 2001 and for Malcolm Turnbull in 2004 (the last two times Wentworth had no incumbent running), relative to the Coalition TPP in NSW as a whole.

    1) The last four elections where a sitting PM wasn’t the Lib candidate for Wentworth (2004, 2007, 2010 & 2013), the Liberal Senate vote there was on average 7.7% higher than it was for NSW as a whole. (2016 it was 17.1% higher, but then, voting for your local Lib candidate in Wentworth in 2016 meant actually voting directly for the head of a national Liberal Government. It is at least plausible that voters ‘supporting Malcolm’ would also vote to ‘support the stability/workability of Malcolm’s government’. That might explain a Senate voting pattern in Wentworth in 2016 relative to NSW as a whole that aligned much more exactly with the HofR vote relative to NSW. So, I dismiss the Lib’s +17.1% Senate vote in Wentworth relative to NSW in 2016 as an outlier.)

    2) The Lib’s HofR TPP in Wentworth was on average 4.6% higher than their TPP in NSW as a whole across 2001-2004. It was higher across 2007-2016, but it was inflated by Malcolm Turnbull’s (large) personal vote in that period.

    So, one measure has Wentworth 7.7% more Liberal than NSW; the other 4.6%. You could just be agnostic between the two and split the difference to get your estimate. This would suggest Wentworth is 6.1% more Liberal than NSW. However, a strong lower house personal vote for Turnbull in 2007-2016 may have provided coattails for the Liberal upper house vote there. So, I am inclined to shift my estimate downwards, closer to the second of my measures. I would make my estimate of ‘Liberal lean in Wentworth relative to NSW’ 5.6%

    The latest BludgerTrack estimate of Coalition TPP for NSW is 47.2%. Adding 5.6% to that gives my baseline estimate for the Liberal TPP in Wentworth as 52.8%. As the TPP in BludgerTrack changes, so does my baseline for Wentworth.

    As Wentworth poll results come in, I suggest we ‘pull’ their Liberal TPP result towards the baseline (currently 52.8%), perhaps by as much as 75-80% of the difference between them, if we are to make our judgements about the voting intentions of Wentworth voters in the coming by-election as sound as possible.

  20. K.Bonham: A reminder of what happened the last time a rolled Prime Minister quit his seat mid-term in a seat normally safe for his party,_1992

    I’d forgotten this, but it’s an interesting observation. When Bob Hawke quit politics in 1992 after being ousted as leader, the “safe” Labor seat of Wills fell to an independent (Phil Cleary) in the subsequent by-election. The ALP primary vote dropped by 19%.

  21. Kakaru

    I’d forgotten this, but it’s an interesting observation. When Bob Hawke quit politics in 1992 after being ousted as leader, the “safe” Labor seat of Wills fell to an independent (Phil Cleary) in the subsequent by-election. The ALP primary vote dropped by 19%.

    Yeah, it is definitely on. This seat poll is merely supporting evidence (despite the usual seat polling caveats).

    A lot will depend on how well the ALP candidate campaigns and on Phelps and how well they are funded.

  22. kakaru, one factor at play in Wills in 1992 not present in Wentworth in 2018: substantial numbers of the incumbent party’s voters losing their jobs in a deep, long running, dispiriting recession, for which the newly elevated PM had unwisely claimed ‘credit’. There was a lot of working class anger at Federal Labor in NW Melbourne in 1992, on top of general disgust at Victorian Labor, which a plugged-in Independent like Phil Cleary could ride into Parliament. Plus, such voters could vent against Labor then without risking putting the Feral Abacus into power.

    All this is by way of saying that the conditions in Wentworth in 2018 shouldn’t result in as savage an anti-Government swing as what occurred in Wills in 1992. That said, if there is as savage a swing or more, that bodes REALLY badly for the Liberal Government.

  23. Phil Cleary was a hugely popular sporting figure in his day, especially in the area in and around Wills. There won’t be a candidate like him in Wentworth.

  24. people seem to be unsure if its labor or an independent who might threaten to take the seat off the libs. If this poll is anything to go by, an independent – even a strong one – might struggle to get ahead of labor on the 2PP.

  25. Where Phelps would direct preferences is of interest. She stood for City Council on Clover Moore’s team, no friend of the Libs, but has since resigned and is now an independent.

  26. The Oz reporting the strength of Bragg’s support is causing (non resident) Sharma to reconsider entering the race.

    And in a another dose of revenge for Turnbull, cometh the King.

    Mr King, who was famously ousted by Mr Turnbull as the sitting Liberal member for Wentworth in 2004, went on to stand against Mr Turnbull in the seat as an independent.

    But while senior Liberal Party sources regard Mr King as ­“electoral poison”, there are fears he could emerge as a damaging magnet for protest votes for Liberals furious at Mr Turnbull’s ­ousting. “Now, 14 years later and in his late 60s, King wants to stand for Wentworth again, I mean people couldn’t believe his chutzpah,” one senior Liberal Party insider told The Australian last night.

    Turnbull’s chickens coming home.

  27. antonbruckner11 @ #21 Wednesday, August 29th, 2018 – 11:13 am

    Hugo – Itza: the Labor candidate, though, looks a lot stronger than previous years. Surely, Tim Murray ticks a lot of boxes in this seat.

    Evan Hughes was pretty good ab11 – son of Ray Hughes (gallery owner), Paddo resident, young family, Cranbrook boy and then Cambridge, anti stadia rebuild, pro SSM. But that was then, and this is now.

  28. Upnorth-

    Not sure the Richmond example is fully applicable, in several different regards:

    1) Richmond hadn’t been as solid for the Nationals in recent elections- Blunt had received less than 57% of the TPP in 1987.

    2) My understanding is that Blunt had alienated a considerable portion of the National base by trying to move the party closer to the Liberals- I’m not sure that particular issues has relevance at all in Wentworth.

    3) In Richmond, there was a continued trend to the ALP and Greens, as demonstrated by the fact that the ALP has held the seat continuously since 2004. From all accounts, there hasn’t been such a trend in Wentworth.

    Overall, it isn’t completely impossible for someone other than the Liberals to win (especially if they make bad choices at preselection and a strong independent runs), but Richmond is not really that relevant an example for how it could be.

  29. Without Malcolm Turnbull’s personal vote Wentworth would be a fairly safe Liberal seat, a Melbourne equivalent would be Higgins. I am familiar with the latter electorate and Wentworth what I have read resembles it greatly. If Higgins included heavily Jewish Caulfield in exchange for South Yarra-Prahran it would be even more like Wentworth.

    My prediction is a comfortable Liberal win, however the swing will be huge enough to make into a marginal seat.

  30. Tristo, you predict “a comfortable Liberal win”, but with a resulting margin that means it becomes a “marginal seat”?? Come on! Get off the fence! Give us a number! Your words would be consistent with a Liberal win with a TPP anywhere from 50.01% to 59.99%. That’s a wide goal mouth you’ve set up for your own shot at predicting the result!

    BTW, no offence intended. These bet-hedging “predictions” with no reference to sources of uncertainty just make me crazy.

  31. I’m not really surprised that Julia Banks has quit. She was the one that used to sit right behind Turnbull at the dispatch box and used to hang on his every word. Whenever he was in full flight attacking Shorten and the Labor party you could see her shouting “yes, yes yes” just like in that restaurant scene in When Harry Met Sally.

    I really couldn’t imagine her getting all that excited over good old Scomo.

  32. GhostWhoVotes:

    So, all the scenarios from the ReachTEL poll point to a contest between Libs and ALP, with the potential for a 52% 2PP win for the ALP if both Phelps and Greenwich run.
    The farewell letter sent by Turnbull to the electorate may swing enough “moderate” Liberal voters away from the government.

  33. Scomo backing Sharma is interesting given Sharma wrote his article 4 days before Turnbull was ejaculated from the leadership in the hedonistic orgy of the week of big swinging dicks.

  34. Some are doubting the ReachTEL poll. Ummmm ? We here in Mayo had lots of polls done during our long by-election campaign..They were all on the money….including the 2 ReachTEL polls.

    Best the Liberals start whistling in the looming dark.. It might keep up morale sort of 🙂

  35. I would be surprised if either Phelps or Greenwich stood. suggestion of an underlying 52% lib vote is interesting.i think the question comes back to Turnbull 11% plus swing of 2010/2013….. I suspect most of it will go ……. but the result depends upon what happens past that. predict lib vote 53 % to 57%…. but certainly not sure

  36. Seedy-

    ReachTEL also had polls showing the Liberals winning in Longman and Braddon- and that’s without going into the large number of seat polls that were wrong in 2013 and 2016…..

  37. Some are doubting the ReachTEL poll. Ummmm ? We here in Mayo….

    Yes. Reachtel in Longman had to figure out PHON preference flows yet it was probably the ALP primary where they fell short…. They had ALP primary at 37; election was 40.

    However…. the poll was taken a week prior to the election with a sample of 500ish. This poll for Wentworth has 800ish.

  38. A factor in single seat polls is how diverse the electorate is.
    I think Wentworth like Longman is more diverse than Mayo. So a representative poll is more difficult.

    I drove through Point Piper last weekend, that is where the former member has his Harbourside Mansion™
    An entry level house in this area would be $5m.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *