Entering the final week of the campaign for New South Wales’ Super Saturday, consisting of four by-elections for which the rough order of interest seems to be Bega, Strathfield, Monaro and Willoughby, the latter being forfeited by Labor. The preceding links take you to my election guide pages, where you will also find live reporting of the results complete with booth results and swings and a mapping feature come Saturday. However, projecting the results will be made highly fraught by the fact that every enrolled voter will be sent a postal vote ballot without having to register, which will presumably lead to a collapse in election day turnout. This has been felt necessary as the NSW Electoral Commission has advised against use of the iVote electronic voting system after failures at the local government elections in December.
To summarise the situations in turn:
Bega. Call it expectations management if you will, but a report on the Seven Network last weekend spoke of “new secret polling”, apparently for the Liberals, which showed them to be in trouble. Yoni Bashan of The Australian reports a view in the Liberal camp that Andrew Constance’s personal popularity has obscured the party’s weakening position in the seat over the past two decades:
Property prices are booming along the coastal fringes of Bega, a haven of retirement living where wealthy newcomers, mainly from capital cities, have swelled the local population, bringing a left-leaning perspective to the region’s once conservative outlook. The result has seen a gradual erosion in support for the Liberal Party over the past decade, according to political observers, who say there are growing doubts over the NSW government’s ability to retain the seat at a by-election on February 12. “The situation in Bega is that it has been getting worse for the government, progressively, over the past 20 years,” said a senior Liberal strategist. “As the population has grown, a lot of the people moving there have been people from Canberra, particularly retired public servants. They generally vote Labor.”
Monaro. The aforementioned article in The Australian notes that the Nationals have no corresponding concern about holding Monaro to match those held by the Liberals in Bega.
Strathfield. The Liberals are seemingly not optimistic of taking the seat being vacated by former Labor leader Jodi McKay, although there is some concern in the Labor camp that independent Elizabeth Farrelly will take a bite out of their vote and fail to return it as preferences, with her how-to-vote card recommending an exhausted vote.
Willoughby. Nothing came of suggestions that Liberal candidate Tim James might face an independent challenge from one of the women he defeated for preselection, with his best-credentialled opponent looking to be Penny Hackett, president of Dying With Dignity NSW, who is running for the Reason NSW party.