Party leadership developments:
• Barnaby Joyce has announced he will contest the Nationals leadership when the party room holds its first meeting on the resumption of parliament this morning, with a view to deposing Michael McCormack, who replaced Joyce him after his resignation in February 2018. This follows the opening of the deputy leadership position after Bridget McKenzie resigned from cabinet on Sunday over her handling of grants to sports clubs while serving as Sports Minister before the election. Joyce has two confirmed supporters out of a party room of 21, most notably Matt Canavan, who also quit cabinet yesterday (while also taking the opportunity to concede a loan under the North Australia Infrastructure Facility Act, over which he has ministerial oversight, had been given to an NRL club of which he was a registered supporter). The other is Wide Bay MP Llew O’Brien, who will move the spill motion that will vacate the leadership position if it gets the required 11 votes. Sharri Markson of News Corp reports claims Joyce has precisely that many votes, but this does not seem to be the majority view: a Seven News reporter related a view that Joyce had about seven, while an unnamed Liberal MP told The Australian ($) Joyce would not get “anywhere near” winning. David Littleproud, Keith Pitt and David Gillespie will all nominate for the deputy position, with Littleproud rated the favourite.
• Richard Di Natale announced yesterday that he was quitting both the Greens leadership and would shortly leave the Senate, saying he wished to spend more time with his family. Every indication is that he will be succeeded this morning by the party’s sole member of the House of Representatives, Melbourne MP Adam Bandt. The Australian ($) reports there are “discussions under way” for Queensland Senator Larissa Waters to take on a new role as party leader in the Senate”. Di Natale will remain in parliament pending the party’s process for choosing his replacement, which is likely to take several months. There is only the vaguest of speculation at this point as to who the successor might be.
• It has been confirmed the Queensland state by-election for the Gold Coast state seat of Currumbin, to be vacated with the resignation of Liberal National Party member Jann Stuckey, will be held on March 28, the same day as the state’s council elections. The selection of lawyer Laura Gerber as LNP candidate has fuelled Stuckey’s attacks on the party, on the basis that she was chosen by the party’s state executive rather than a vote of local members, and that this reflected a determination for the seat to be contested by “a skirt”. Among the reasons for Stuckey’s alienation from the party is that her own favoured successor, Chris Crawford, was blocked by the party’s vetting committee last year. The LNP has held the seat since 2004, currently on a margin of 3.3%.
• The date for the Northern Territory by-election in the Darwin seat of Johnston has been set for February 29. The seat is being vacated with the retirement of Labor member Ken Vowles after a period of estrangement from the party and its leader, Chief Minister Michael Gunner. The seat will be contested by Joel Bowden for Labor; Josh Thomas for the Country Liberals; Steven Klose for the Territory Alliance, the new party associated with former CLP Chief Minister Terry Mills; and Aiya Goodrich Carttling for the Greens. Labor has held the seat since its creation in 2001, currently on a margin of 14.7%.
• South Australia’s Liberals have chosen a factional moderate, Andrew McLachlan, to fill the Senate vacancy created by the retirement of Cory Bernardi. McLachlan has served in the state’s Legislative Council since 2014, and been the chamber’s President since the 2018 election. Tom Richardson of InDaily reports McLachlan won 131 out of 206 votes in the ballot of state council members to 51 for former Law Council of Australia president Morry Bailes and 24 for former state party treasurer Michael Van Dissel, both of whom are associated with the Right. Bailes’ weak showing in particular amounted to an “epic defeat” for hard right forces including Boothby MP Nicolle Flint and Barker MP Tony Pasin.
• Another looming federal redistribution in Victoria, whose population boom will again entitle it to an extra seat, has set off a round of turf wars within the ALP, highlighted by a scuffle that broke out at a branch meeting last week. This reportedly followed the arrival of 100 supporters of Labor Right powerbroker Adem Somyurek at a branch meeting held at the Hoppers Crossing home of Jasvinder Sidhu, a Socialist Left preselection aspirant, who was allegedly assaulted after telling the group to leave. Somyurek is said have designs for his faction on the seat of Lalor, held formerly by Julia Gillard and currently by Joanne Ryan, which the party’s once stable factional arrangements reserved for the Left. According to a Labor source quoted in The Age, the Right has secured control of branches in the Calwell electorate and is likely to take the seat when the Left-aligned Maria Vamvakinou retires, while the Left is seeking to gain leverage by putting pressure on Right-aligned Tim Watts in Gellibrand.
Also, the Nine/Fairfax papers are reporting on an Ipsos poll of 1014 respondents concerning climate change, which is apparently part of an annual series conducted by the pollster, with no information provided as to who if anyone might commission it. While the poll records a high pitch of concern about climate change, it does not find this to be at a greater height than last year (somewhat at odds with the recent finding of Ipsos’s Issue Monitor series, which recorded a post-bushfire surge in concern about the environment), and actually records an increase in the number of respondents who had “serious doubts about whether climate change is occurring”: from 19% two years ago to 22% last year to 24% this year.