Bega Valley Shire mayor Kristy McBain has been anointed by Anthony Albanese as Labor’s candidate for the Eden-Monaro by-election, despite the fact that a designated nominations period had yet to expire. The Nationals have justified their optimism by providing The Australian ($) with an internal poll conducted immediately after Mike Kelly’s retirement announcement on Thursday, the paper’s report of which begins thus: “NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro would win the Eden-Monaro by-election if he chooses to stand” (UPDATE: See account of weekend developments at the bottom of the post). This fact turns out to have been established by a 52-48 lead over Kristy McBain, and primary votes that have Barilaro leading hypothetical Liberal candidate Jim Molan by 30% to 21%, with McBain on 35% and Greens candidate Patrick McGinlay on 8%.
However, a report by David Crowe of the Age/Herald ($) suggests state Transport Minister and Bega MP Andrew Constance has been responsive to colleagues’ suggestions he should seek Liberal preselection, and Barilaro has said he will not run if Constance does. Furthermore, “some state sources said there was still a chance both men would pull back from the contest”. In that case, it would seem Fiona Kotvojs, who ran at the election last year, would get another run for the Liberals, and the Nationals would presumably go back to being uncompetitive. Candidacies of either or both of Barilaro and Constance respectively raise the prospect of state by-elections for the seats of Monaro (Nationals margin 11.6%) and Bega (Liberal margin 6.9%), neither of which are unloseable by the recent historic standards of by-elections.
In other news, Roy Morgan has conducted its occasional exercise of publishing the latest results of its federal voting polling, which these days it keeps to itself except when it believes it has identified a newsworthy angle to the results. Onthis occasion its a forceful swing to the Coalition that was missed by Newspoll, such that it now leads 51.5-48.5 after trailing 53-47 in polling from mid-March (compared with 51-49 from the Newspoll of the time). On the primary vote, the Coalition was up seven to 43.5%, Labor down three to 33%, the Greens up half to 11.5% and One Nation down one to 3%. Among the unanswered questions are what impact an apparent chopping and changing of survey methods may have had, with this latest result said to combine phone and online polling for a sample of 2806 over the two weekends just past. Many others besides have been canvassed by Kevin Bonham.
Then there’s the latest effort from Dynata for the Institute of Public Affairs, this time concerning coronavirus restrictions, which I’m not going to say anything about except that it’s out there. Among the questions respondents were invited to agree or disagree with was the following: “There should be an immediate easing of petty restrictions with appropriate social distancing in place”. If I were completing such a survey, my reaction to this question would be to recognise that I was being manipulated and refuse to complete it, and I suspect I’m not alone.
UPDATE (4/5/20): Conflicting signals on the John Barilaro front this morning, courtesy of apparently separate sources both said to be close to him. The Sydney Morning Herald ($) reported overnight that Barilaro would formally announce his intention not to run this morning, but The Australian ($) has been told that this is wrong and that Barilaro is still considering his position. The Herald reports claims from Liberals that Crosby Textor internal polling shows Andrew Constance would win the seat in canter, and that the state Liberals consider Constance’s seat of Bega to be easier to defend at a by-election than Barilaro’s seat of Monaro, which might fall to Shooters Fishers and Farmers or such like. Barilaro and Constance are apparently both on the record saying they will drop out if the other runs rather than expose the state government to two by-elections, which merely raises the question of which claim takes precedence.