Miscellaneous developments of the week so far:
• Former South Australian state Labor MPs Tom Kenyon and Jack Snelling have quit their former party over “moves to restrict religious freedom” and announced their intention to reactivate the Family First party and field candidates at the state election next March. The original Family First was folded into Australian Conservatives when Cory Bernardi joined it in 2016 and wound up at his behest after its failure at the 2019 federal election. Kenyon and Snelling have long been associated with the Shop Distributive and Allied Employees Association sub-faction of the Right, which is in turn associated with Catholicism and social conservatism, and includes among its number the party’s state leader, Peter Malinauskas. Paul Starick of The Advertiser reports this has the approval of party co-founder Andrew Evans; presumably this explains it obtaining the old party’s database of 6000 supporters, as reported by David Penberthy of The Australian. Whereas the old party consistently directed preferences to the Liberals, Snelling has ruled out preference deals with either major party.
• In other party split news, Peta Credlin writes in The Australian that Ross Cameron, who held Parramatta for the Liberals from 1996 to 2004 but is these days noted as a staple of Sky News after dark, “could head the Liberal Democrats’ NSW Senate ticket”. Earlier reportage on the matter said only that Cameron was involved with the party’s strategy and candidate recruitment.
• Tom Richardson of InDaily reports Matt Burnell, an official with the Right faction Transport Workers Union, has been confirmed as Labor’s candidate for its safe northern Adelaide seat of Spence, which will be vacated with Nick Champion’s move to state politics. Burnell reportedly scored 88 union delegate votes and 68 state conference delegate votes, each amounting to a third of the total, to just two and seven respectively for rival candidate Alice Dawkins, daughter of Keating government Treasurer John Dawkins. The rank-and-file membership ballot that made up the remaining third went 140-42 to Burnell.
• Peter Law of The West Australian reports that first-term Liberal MP Vince Connelly, whose seat of Stirling is being abolished, “looks certain to contest Cowan, which is held by Labor’s Anne Aly”. By my reckoning, the seat has a post-redistribution margin of 1.5%, making it a seemingly unlikely prospect for the Liberals at a time when polls are pointing to a Labor swing in the state upwards of 10%.
• Phillip Coorey of the Financial Review reports a poll conducted on Monday by Utting Research from 1600 respondents in New South Wales found only 7% supported Saturday’s lockdown protests, with fully 83% opposed. The poll also suggested Scott Morrison’s standing is continuing to tumble, with 37% satisfied and 57% dissatisfied (the state breakdown in last fortnight’s Resolve Strategic poll had it at 46% apiece). By contrast, Gladys Berejiklian maintained 56% approval and 33% disapproval, while the state’s chief health officer, Kerry Chant, recorded 70% approval.
• Emma Dawson, the executive director of the Per Capita think tank who appeared set to ran as Labor’s candidate against Adam Bandt in Melbourne, has announced her withdrawal. Dawson said this was for “personal and professional reasons”, although it followed shortly upon her criticism of Labor’s announcement that it would not rescind tax cuts for high income earners if elected.
• Craig Emerson on election timing in the Financial Review:
The December quarter national accounts are scheduled for release on March 2, 2022. Morrison might feel confident that the economy will bounce back in the December quarter from the September quarter’s negative result. But would it be wise to take a chance on a double-dip recession being announced during a federal election campaign? That would be a catastrophe for the Morrison government: marked down for its refusal to accept responsibility for quarantine, presiding over the slowest vaccine rollout in the Western world, and forfeiting any claim to be superior economic managers … But an April or May election would face the same risks, since the March quarter national accounts would not be released until after the election must be held … A late-February election might be the best bet, though the federal campaign would overlap with that of the South Australian state election scheduled for March 19.