Miscellaneous developments from the past week:
• The Toowoomba Chronicle reports eight candidates have nominated for Liberal National Party preselection for the Groom by-election, of whom the front-runners are Rebecca Vonhoff, a Toowoomba councillor; Garth Hamilton, a businessman; Sara Hales, former general manager of Wellcamp Airport; and Shane Charles, former Toowoomba and Surat Basin Enterprise chief executive. Also in the field are “Elders Rural Services’ Andrew Meara … race car driver Daniel Cassidy, Australian Lot Feeders president Bryce Camm and Doctor David van Gend”, the latter being a firebrand social conservative whom the outgoing member, John McVeigh, defeated for preselection when he succeeded Ian Macfarlane in 2016. Notably absent from the list is Senator Matt Canavan, despite a decision by the state executive to leave it to the branch membership whether the seat should go to a Liberal, as it has since 1988, or a National. The date of the by-election is yet to be confirmed.
• Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack said on Thursday that the government would introduce a bill that will ensure the Northern Territory retains its two seats in the House of Representatives, though by what mechanism is unclear. A Labor-sponsored bill currently before the Senate provides a crude guarantee of a second Northern Territory seat (without extending the courtesy to the Australian Capital Territory, albeit that its population is such that the question does not arise), but when the same issue emerged before the 2004 election, it was dealt with through a technical tweak to the population statistics used to determine seat entitlements. The bottom line is that the Labor-held seats of Solomon and Lingiari, created when the territory first became entitled to a second seat in 2001 and respectively covering Darwin and the rest of the territory, will continue to exist despite enrolments of less than two-thirds the national norm. It also means the House of Representatives
• The Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters is conducting an inquiry into the “future conduct of elections operating during times of emergency situations”, encompassing “restrictions arising from a health pandemic”, “access to polling places during times of natural disasters”, “other potential drivers of social restrictions, such as future civil unrest, or international conflict” and “alternative voting methods including early, remote and postal voting”.
• The West Australian has a Painted Dog Research poll of 932 respondents in WA showing 64% want the state’s hard border maintained beyond December, with 36% favouring a resumption of travel with the eastern states.Hou