In addition to Saturday’s Upper Hunter by-election in New South Wales, the results and aftermath of which you can discuss here, I have the following electoral news to relate, much of it involving federal preselections in Queensland:
• James Massola of the Age/Herald reports that “Liberal MPs believe an early election is increasingly likely after Josh Frydenberg’s well-received third federal budget”, although “much will depend on Australia’s COVID-19 vaccination rollout”. An early election may still mean next year rather than this: according to an unnamed Liberal MP quoted in the report, “the thinking was it would be May 2022, now it’s February-March or maybe even October-November”.
• The Liberal National Party’s candidate for the Brisbane seat of Lilley is Ryan Shaw, an army veteran who served in East Timor and Afghanistan, and the unsuccessful LNP candidate for the corresponding seat of Nudgee at last year’s state election. The Prime Minister visited the seat with Shaw in two last week to promote the government’s HomeBuilder program. Phillip Coorey of the Financial Review reported the seat was one of two in Queensland that the LNP was “making a play for” – notwithstanding that “the Coalition is acutely aware that the huge swing towards it in Queensland at the last election could easily go the other way next time … without the red hot issue of the Adani coal mine, the Bob Brown convoy and an unpopular leader in Bill Shorten”.
• The second of the two Queensland seats the Coalition hopes to add to its pile is Blair, which Shayne Neumann has held for Labor since 2007. This is one of two seats which have been the subject of speculation surrounding former state Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington, whose state seat of Nanango largely corresponds with it. The other is the rather more attractive prospect of Flynn, which will be vacated with the retirement of LNP incumbent Ken O’Dowd. Michael McKenna of The Australian reports Frecklington has “denied she had considered running for Flynn, but has not responded to questions about a possible preselection bid in Blair”. Another nominee for the LNP’s Flynn preselection is Colin Boyce, who has held the state seat of Callide since 2017. Labor announced last week that its candidate for the seat would be Gladstone mayor Matt Burnett.
• In Capricornia, another theoretically winnable seat for Labor in regional Queensland that inflicted a blowout swing on the party in 2019, Labor has endorsed Russell Robertson, who works at the Goonyella coal mine.
• Labor in Tasmania will conduct a ballot of party members as part of its process to choose a successor to Rebecca White, who resigned as leader after last month’s election defeat. The contestants for the position are David O’Byrne, a figure of considerable influence in the Left faction, and Shane Broad, whose profile is rather a bit lower. The membership vote will constitute 50% of the total, with the other half consisting of a ballot of the party’s state conference. I believe this will be the third such party membership vote for a parliamentary leader in Australia, after the contest between Bill Shorten and Anthony Albanese after the 2013 federal election, and that between Jodi McKay and Chris Minns after the 2019 state election in New South Wales (readers may correct me in comments if I’ve missed something).