Election minus five weeks

Candidates on both sides of the aisle drop out of contention, Peter Dutton suffers a self-inflicted wound in Dickson, and Shooters Fishers and Farmers rein in their expectations.

Two days in the campaign, and already much to relate:

• Labor’s audacious gambit of running former Fremantle MP Melissa Parke in Curtin has proved short-lived, after a controversy brewed over comments she had made critical of Israel. Parke announced her withdrawal after the Herald Sun presented the Labor campaign with claims she had told a meeting of WA Labor for Palestine that she could “remember vividly” – presumably not from first-hand experience – a pregnant refugee being ordered to drink bleach at a Gaza checkpoint. Parke is also said to have spoken of Israel’s “influence in our political system and foreign policy”, no doubt bringing to the party hierarchy’s mind the turmoil that has lately engulfed the British Labour Party in relation to such matters. In her statement last night, Parke said her views were “well known, but I don’t want them to be a running distraction from electing a Labor government”. James Campbell of the Herald Sun notes the forum was also attended by Parkes’ successor in Fremantle, Josh Wilson.

• Meanwhile, Liberal Party vetting processes have caused the withdrawal on Section 44 grounds of three candidates in who-cares seats in Melbourne. They are Cooper candidate Helen Jackson, who dug her heels in when told her no-chance candidacy required her to abandon her job at Australia Post, so that the integrity of executive-legislative relations might be preserved; Lalor candidate Kate Oski, who is in danger of being Polish; and Wills candidate Vaishali Ghosh, who was, as The Age put it in a report I hope no one from overseas reads, “forced to step aside over her Indian heritage”.

• Peter Dutton has been under fire for his rhetorical overreach against Ali France, the Labor candidate in his marginal seat of Dickson. Dutton accused France, who had her leg amputated after being hit by a car in 2011, of “using her disability as an excuse” for not moving into the electorate. France lives a short distance outside it, and points to the $100,000 of her compensation money she has spent making her existing home fully wheelchair accessible. Labor has taken the opportunity to point to Dutton’s failed attempt from 2009 to move to the safer seat of McPherson on the Gold Coast, where he owns a $2.3 million beachside holiday home, and by all accounts spends a great deal of his time. Dutton refused to apologise for the comments yesterday, while Scott Morrison baselessly asserted that they were taken out of context.

Greg Brown of The Australian reports Robert Borsak, leader of Shooters Fishers and Farmers and one of the party’s state upper house MPs, concedes the party is struggling to recruit candidates, and will not repeat its state election feat of winning seats in the lower house. Nonetheless, it has Orange deputy mayor Sam Romano lined up as its candidate for Calare and plans to run in Eden-Monaro, Parkes and possibly New England. This follows suggestions the party might pose a threat to the Nationals in Parkes and Farrer, which largely correspond with the state seats of Barwon and Murray, which the party won at last month’s state election. Calare encompasses Orange, which Shooters have held since a November 2016 by-election.

• “I don’t trust our polling at all”, says “a senior federal Liberal MP” cited by John Ferguson in The Australian, apropos the party’s prospects in Victoria. It is not clear if the source was being optimistic or pessimistic, but the report identifies a range of opinion within the Liberal camp extending from only two or three losses in Victoria – likewise identified as a “worst case scenario” by Labor sources – to as many as seven.

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.

1,433 comments on “Election minus five weeks”

  1. There are a number of attractive things about thorium power; but the one that attracted my attention today related to the question about what to do with the long term storage of waste from traditional uranium fission reactors: incinerating it in a thorium reactor seems to be a neat idea.

    Really tripping down amnesia lane I recall reading that most of the research into thorium power was done by the US Airforce back in the late 1940s when they were looking for a power source that could be no bigger than a small car that they could install in nuclear weapons strategic bombers to keep them in the air for months at a time. I recall that the Air Force scientists actually got a working reactor down to the size of a lounge room when the pentagon scrapped the program because ballistic missile technology made the program redundant. It could be interesting to see whether small thorium reactors make a comeback as alternatives to turbo-fan aviation fueled jets in the not to distant future …

  2. Cud Chewer says:
    Sunday, April 14, 2019 at 2:52 pm


    Tokamak style fusion is also a dead end for the same reason: cost

    I tend to agree; renewables are now too cheap; it’s now a science exercise. It looks like they are going to give it a red hot go though.

  3. BB its an argument for at least keeping the capability to quickly build gas generators.

    But it also depends on a lot of things – like how large our reserves of liquid ammonia (hydrogen) are.

  4. AE @ 2:28
    Thanks for your long and informative post.
    I have one quibble. You blithely state that the waste from Thorium would ‘only’ take 500 years to decay.
    This is roughly saying that waste from a nuclear reactor built in the reign of Henry VIII, or Martin Luther would by now be as easy to dispose of as ‘coal waste’. or if it had been built when what is now the USA was colonised, it would be safe in another two or three human lifetimes.
    Of course , this is only 10% of the entire history of the human race, if the Bishop of Armagh is to be believed!
    The trouble is that even if we started building reactors, there’s no way they could be up and running in anything like the time the human race has to solve its current problems with pollution, to give it its real name. (‘Greenhouse gases’ sounds too benign, with pictures of hydroponic tomatoes and the like).

  5. Andrew as I said, nuclear power (including thorium) is dead. Its too expensive and slways will be – for reasons of basic physics and engineering.

  6. It would be a smart move for government to keep a Coal-Fired or Gas-Fired power plant on Care and Maintenance. Though I imagine I, for one, wouldn’t really want to survive a ‘nuclear winter’ without immediate access to power for an extended period of time.

  7. “It could be interesting to see whether small thorium reactors make a comeback as alternatives to turbo-fan aviation fueled jets in the not to distant future …”

    I suppose a nuclear reactor dropping out of the sky from several thousand meters at 600kph is not that big a problem.

  8. “At the centre of the fuel rod is the ‘seed’ for the reaction, which contains plutonium.
    Wrapped around the core is the ‘blanket’, which is made from a mixture of uranium and thorium.”

    So a thorium reactor would actually be a plutonium-uranium-thorium reactor.

    That’s reassuring.

    No wonder there isn’t a single commercial “thorium” reactor in the world.”

    Yeah. Nah. That’s not the reason why there is no thorium reactor commercially operating in the world. Also the issue you identify of concern is actually the neat trick I was talking about. The reactor rods you are talking about are more safe than the rods that are already in existence AND they get ‘incinerated’. This means that all those war heads, transitive waste elements can be converted into much more benign and manageable substances. The reactor itself is subcritical – which means the risks in the actual reactor are of a magnitude less than uranium reactors – they can’t meltdown.

  9. C@t I think its inevitable that we’ll be keeping some gas plants in mothballs for a while. Coal plants otoh are too expensive to mothball for years and too slow to crank back up

  10. Andrew_Earlwood, I vaguely recall one or even two start-ups in the Seattle area getting into “Thorium Candles”, with a little bit of backing from B. Gates, 15(?) years ago. They idea was that much of the raw material was literally standing around at Hanford, and so easily available and safer inside a candle. The safety benefits were clear if you could make it work. One business plan was to put the candles on boats or barges and ship them to disaster areas or remote locations as short term emergency power. Each candle would burn from one end to the other and last 40 or so years. Given the silence I expect difficulties intervened.

  11. It could be interesting to see whether small thorium reactors make a comeback as alternatives to turbo-fan aviation fueled jets in the not to distant future …

    My understanding is that the weight of the lead shields required to protect the crew of such nuclear-powered bombers from radiation made it impossible for the aircraft to take off.

    This would go double for civilan passenger aircraft.

    How about hydrogen as a portable fuel for aircraft?


  12. So this is what Niki Savva was referring to on Insiders this morning.

    The support of former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s son, Alex Turnbull, for several independent political candidates, including Kerryn Phelps in his father’s old seat, is part of a long-term plan to challenge the major parties and reduce the influence of the Murdoch family over Australian politics.

    Alex Turnbull, a private investor who lives in Singapore, said he was helping coordinate a project to provide corporate and technological support to help independents campaign, raise money and comply with electoral laws.

    “If you want to destroy News Corp’s influence in Australian politics you need to provide the infrastructure for lazy members of the incumbent parties to face challenges from their constituents,” he said in an interview on Sunday.

    Nine news reported on Friday evening that Alex Turnbull organised $8000 in funding for the website of Julia Banks, a Liberal MP-turned-independent who is standing against Health Minister Greg Hunt.


  13. “Has anyone given a thought to what might happen – as far as electricity production is concerned – if there is, say, a major volcanic eruption, or perhaps a largish (but not extinction-level) bolide collision with Earth causing a “nuclear winter” that substantially limits solar radiation reaching solar cells worldwide?”

    In time frames of 100 million years or so, these are high probability events.

    In time frames of 10 thousand years or so, these are incredibly low probability events.

    However the point about diversifying energy production sources is valid. Which is why it is a good idea that the renewable energy mix include: solar, wind, hydro, geothermal, biogas and eventually tidal. Which as far as I know it already does.

  14. poroti @ #1062 Sunday, April 14th, 2019 – 3:06 pm

    Meanwhile at The Torygraph.


    Tories face 60 seat loss amid Brexit backlash as ‘Corbyn bound for No. 10’

    I can’t read the article. Does it give a seat count projection? (Labour have 262 seats and even picking up every one of those 60 seats would not quite have a majority in its own right.)

  15. Afternoon all.
    My take from the volunteer rally this morning was positive. So this doesn’t come across as a Shorten love-in, I’ll say he gave a good speech, being in front of a friendly audience meant he was probably more relaxed . He still started woodenly but finished well. What was important wasn’t any soaring oratory but:
    The content of the speech,
    How he addressed and framed criticism of policies, for example characterizing the franking credits refund as a ‘gift’.
    He appeared well prepared and on top of his brief. In a word ‘competent’.
    Just the right amount of confidence.
    He emphasized his team, bringing them on stage for the conclusion.

    A first term Labor government won’t be a socialist paradise, but while open to criticism,I think it will surprise people by how progressive it it. By all means press such a government to go further, but any final judgement should wait, hopefully after 2-3 completed terms.

  16. “Andrew as I said, nuclear power (including thorium) is dead. Its too expensive and slways will be – for reasons of basic physics and engineering.”

    The Chinese and Indians would beg to differ. They seem to think that thorium is scalable in a cost effective way. It seems that both countries have having an each way bet – still building some traditional uranium based reactors (which are necessary for their indigenous nuclear weapons and military nuclear power programs) AND developing thorium reactors (which aren’t militarily necessary).

    However, it seems the rush to thorium has stalled. It will be interesting to see whether there is a revival or the various programs are ultimately shelved. I for one would like to see at least a few dozen thorium reactors up and running – if for no other reason than to incinerate the existing stockpiles of nuclear waste and warheads.

  17. Andrew_Earlwood quotes Cosmos:

    “But wait, there’s more: thorium has another remarkable property. Add plutonium to the mix
    – or any other radioactive actinide – and the thorium fuel process will actually incinerate
    these elements. That’s right: it will chew up old nuclear waste as part of the power-generation process. It could not only generate power, but also act as a waste disposal plant
    for some of humanity’s most heinous toxic waste.”

    I’m having trouble with the scientific term “chew up”
    What would the waste become after mastication?
    It’s atoms, and they don’t disappear.
    They may become transmuted by action of neutron or alpha or beta bombardment, but they still exist, usually as radio active atoms.

    Mark me down as unconvinced

  18. No ideological responses please. This is not an ideological question.

    Does the wind stop for this long dark tea time of our society?

  19. A large fleet of steam locomotives should be deployed as a reserve transportation capability.
    And run often to keep them in good nick.

  20. lizzie says:
    Sunday, April 14, 2019 at 2:07 pm

    Laura Tingle @latingle
    4h4 hours ago

    From a friend: Winx for PM!
    Way ahead in the polls.
    Doesn’t shoot her mouth off.
    Finishes super-strong.
    Certified s44-compliant.
    Good nag > knackers nags.
    Resuscitates the ‘donkey vote’.
    Minor methane issues only.


    Don’t know about Section44-compliant she has an Irish dad, Street Cry and a Kiwi mum Vegas Showgirl. Apparently she was born here. Don’t want to nag, but does she have to renounce.

    But significantly if you had been at the yearling sales, her great great grandfather on her mother’s side was the great 1964 Kentucky Derby winner Northern Dancer, the preeminent sire of the last half of the 20th century. On her father’s side, three generations back there were the also great Nashua and Native Dancer.

  21. sprocket_ @ #938 Sunday, April 14th, 2019 – 12:41 pm

    Scotty’s backdrop poster holders seem to have a scattergun of motherhood messages..

    ” rel=”nofollow”>

    I think Pastor ScoMo is proclaiming a miracle!
    Less revenue due to maintenance of tax rorts and tax cuts for the rich on the one hand and higher spending on services and a nett improvement in the budget position!

    Truly a MIRACLE!!!!

  22. The last long darkness drove some interesting literature, we’d probably still be all slaving away at jobs in high rise buildings.

  23. BK @ #1077 Sunday, April 14th, 2019 – 3:33 pm

    Late Riser
    Copy and paste the article’s link into Outline and you’ll get this.

    Here is Outline.

    Thanks BK. I did that and it started out well enough but stopped abruptly at

    Experts said the dramatic fall in support was down to anger among Tory voters “at the Government’s failure to deliver Brexit”. Prof Sir John Curtice, president of the British Polling Council, said…


  24. Nuclear is the classic triangulation technique for the clandestine coal lovers who want to pretend to care about Global Warming
    Whenever the renewables v coal/oil/gas gets a bit hot for the latter, they chuck in nuclear.
    Works every time.

  25. If the betting on Sportsbet is any indication it will be literally a landslide (seat-by-seat number are worse for Coalition than the pundit predictions)

  26. Piers might have had his photo deleted from Abbott’s twitter feed, but he’s not about to go quietly. This whole thing is just gold for Zali Steggall.

    PatriciaKarvelasVerified account@PatsKarvelas
    7h7 hours ago
    Piers Akerman will come on my show this week to talk about campaigning with Tony Abbott I’ll let you all know the day #ausvotes

  27. But I guess what I’m asking is whether we shouldn’t keep at least some fossil, and perhaps nuclear generation capability as a national “reserve tank”?

    I dont think that decision needs to be made now. Existing coal power stations will be around for a while yet. Small modular style options (nuclear, diesel, gas and even wood gasifiers) could be built – some quickly some not. It would be which of the options will lose the whole feed in infrastructure under the weight of renewables. I cant see deisel and gas production collapsing any time soon.

    But you raise a good point. It would be good to have some easy to access fossil fuels in the bank for super volcano day.

  28. He was using a TelePrompTer – you could see it.

    It was a long speech – to be expected, especially considering the number of ‘details’ he quoted.

  29. Edi – since I “work” with gambling industry, I can tell you following the money isn’t the most sensible option. In an 8-10 horse race favourites win in 2 of 5 races.

    That said – politics cannot be compared to horse racing.

    Betting is even more vulnerable to emotion that opinion polls.

  30. BK, I am anti gambling so I do not visit gambling sites.
    I never gamble either but the bookies’prices are a very good indicator.

  31. The following Mackerras pendulum shows the notional margins for seats following boundary redistributions in Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, the Northern Territory and the ACT.

    Based on a) ABC analyst Antony Green’s calculations of the effect of boundary redistributions for the next election,[1] b) Coalition MPs moving from the government to the crossbenches,[2][3] and c) the outcome of the 2018 Wentworth by-election, the pendulum has the Coalition government on 72 of 151 seats with the Labor opposition on 71 seats and a crossbench of eight seats.[1]


  32. jenauthor, it should be a landslide, but I doubt it will be.

    It is a two horse race based on the preferences of a bunch of hacks (us) in a system set up to avoid landslides… with reputable news/entertainment outlets determined to give each side equal credibility (or lack thereof) and so many rusted on voters.

  33. Are those canny Scots stealing Australia’s National Hydrogen Roadmap?
    A google search did not turn up a Dr Donald MacRae at the CSIRO!!

    “A NEW blueprint has been drawn up to turn Scotland into a global powerhouse for green energy – a move which economists and scientists say would be transformative when it comes to the wealth and standing of the nation.

    The study lays the ground for Scotland to take full advantage of the hydrogen revolution. ………….

    The Scottish economist and scientist who head up the new HIAlba-Idea think tank say Scotland could effectively fuel the proposed European supergrid, and generate so much money for the economy that the nation could establish a Sovereign Wealth Fund, as Norway did with North Sea oil. The UK failed to set up such a fund.

    HIAlba-Idea, ……… is run by the economist Professor Ronald MacDonald, and the mathematician, scientist and engineer Dr Donald MacRae. …………. MacRae has held under-secretary positions in the Australian government and was a director with Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO).”


  34. Can we have dibs on where the next supervolcano will blow?

    Put me down for, in order;
    Lake Toba
    Mount Gambier.

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