One sort-of-poll, and three items of Liberal preselection news:
• The latest results of the JWS Research True Issues survey records growing concern about the environment and climate change, which is now rated among the top five most important issues by 38% of respondents, compared with 33% in June and 31% a year ago. There is diminishing concern about immigration and border security (26%, down from 30% in June and 34% last November and defence, security and terrorism (18%, down from 20% in June and 29% a year ago). A range of measures of general optimism and perceptions of government performance produced weaker results than the June survey, which appeared to record a post-election spike in positive sentiment.
• Jim Molan will shortly return to the Senate after winning a party vote last weekend to fill the New South Wales Senate vacancy caused by Arthur Sinodinos’s resignation. Molan scored 321 votes to 260 for former state party director Richard Shields, adding a second silver medal to his collection after being shaded by Dave Sharma in Wentworth last year. This was despite Molan’s attempt to retain his seat from number four on the ticket at the May election by beseeching supporters to vote for him below the line, to the displeasure of some in the party (and still more of the Nationals, who would have been the losers if Molan had succeeded). Molan was reportedly able to secure moderate faction support due to the apprehension that he will not seek another term beyond the next election.
• The Victorian Liberal Party is embroiled in a dispute over a plan for preselection proceedings for the next federal election to start as soon as January, which has been endorsed by the party’s administrative committee but is bitterly opposed by affected federal MPs. The committee is determined not to see a repeat of the previous term, when preselections were taken out of the hands of branch members to head off a number of challenges to sitting members. Those challenges might now come to fruition, most notably a threat to Howard government veteran Kevin Andrews, whose seat of Menzies is of interest to Keith Wolahan, a barrister and former army officer. Tim Wilson in Goldstein and Russell Broadbent in Monash (formerly McMillan) have also been mentioned as potential targets. According to Rob Harris of The Age, votes in Liberal-held seats could happen as soon as late February, with marginal seats to unfold from April to August and Labor-held seats to be taken care of in October.
• Matthew Denholm of The Australian ($) reports Eric Abetz and his conservative supporters believe they have seen off a threat to his position at the top of the Liberals’ Tasmanian Senate ticket, following elections for the state party’s preselection committee. Abetz’s opponents believed he should make way for rising star Jonathan Duniam to head the ticket, and for the secure second seat to go to Wendy Askew, one of the Tasmanian Liberals’ limited retinue of women MPs.