After another eventful day in the Eden-Monaro by-election campaign, the first indication of when it might be held courtesy of The Australian: in late June or early July, according to “senior Liberals”, pending advice from the Australian Electoral Commission. This follows Andrew Constance’s shock withdrawal as Liberal candidates two days before state Nationals leader John Barilaro likewise announced he would not run. Constance said his withdrawal was prompted by a Daily Telegraph report that Barilaro had described him to a parliamentary colleague as a “c**t*”. However, The Australian’s report disputes this, citing further Liberal sources saying Constance was “laughing” over the Barilaro development, and the real reason for his withdrawal was a backlash against his candidacy among local party branches. Among the consequences of this is that there will by no state by-election, at least for the time being, in Constance’s seat of Bega.
According to The Australian’s ever-reliable authority on Liberal internal affairs, Niki Savva, internal polling that separately recorded Barilaro winning 52-48 but Constance winning by 60-40 helped convince Scott Morrison to promote a clear run for Constance, in concert with factional powerbroker Alex Hawke. Savva reports that the former result was “rubbery at best, based on a robopoll which put him only slightly ahead even before Labor’s attack ads started”. However, it appeared that none had reckoned on local reaction within the party, where 2019 candidate Fiona Kotvojs remained widely favoured and feelings remained tender over the imposition of Warren Mundine as the candidate in neighbouring Gilmore. Kotjovs now looks the front-runner for a preselection “due to be held on May 22”, with the Nationals remaining undecided as to whether they will make the effort in Barilaro’s absence.
In further Eden-Monaro reading, a piece by Peter Brent in Inside Story features a chart showing Eden-Monaro’s evolution from bellwether to leaning Labor, which has occurred against the trend in New South Wales and in spite of redistributions that have consistently favoured the Liberals. When three decades of accumulated redistribution adjustments are applied to elections past, Labor loses the supposed bellwether seat throughout the period of the Hawke-Keating government. Much of this is down to the present configuration of the seat, which encompasses parts of the Riverina in defiance of the obvious natural boundary of the Snowy Mountains, while excluding the Batemans Bay area that was part of the seat for most of its history, but which now adds a modest degree of Labor ballast to Gilmore.