With low-level leadership rumblings being heard after the resignation of Liberal leader Matthew Guy’s chief-of-staff, taking with him much of the edge off opposition attacks on the government over corruption issues, Kos Samaras of Redbridge Group “believes the prospect of a minority government is growing increasingly possible”. Polling by Redbridge reported in The Age on Saturday had hypothetical teal independents beating Liberals by 51-49 in Brighton, 54-46 in Sandringham, 56-44 in Caulfield, 55-45 in Hawthorn and 55-45 in Kew, albeit that the wording perhaps helpfully specified that the candidates would be “like Zoe Daniel” or “like Monique Ryan”. While no teal independent candidates are in place, John Ferguson of The Australian reports Brent Hodgson, former marketing and data strategist to Monique Ryan, has set up an office in Hawthorn, and a “Kew Independents” group is being run by Ryan’s former social media manager, Hayden O’Connor.
Sumeyya Ilanbey of The Age reported that 20 seats identified by Labor as key contests are dominated by outer suburban and regional seats where it fears blue-collar alienation with the government’s COVID-19 management. Annika Smethurst of The Age offers that the Liberals are “unlikely to win the election”, but that “the Liberal Party is increasingly confident it can snare the seats of Bayswater, Bass, Box Hill, Cranbourne and Nepean from Labor.”
The Liberals have been determining preselections for their Legislative Council tickets, opening a few cans of worms in the process:
• The Liberals’ choice of Melton City Councillor Moira Deeming to head the ticket in Western Metropolitan has prompted suggestions both within the party and without that the party has failed to make a sufficient break from her predecessor Bernie Finn, who was expelled from the party in May after extensive promotion of hard right views, the last straw being a call for a no-exceptions ban on abortion. Deeming has herself expressed opposition to abortion along with drag queen storytimes and the Safe Schools program, and her opposition to COVID-19 vaccine mandates caused the party’s administrative committee to block her preselection for the western Melbourne seat of Gorton at the May federal election. Paul Sakkal of The Age reports that Deeming won more than twice as many votes as her nearest rival in the preselection, and that Finn has said it would be “fair” to describe her as his protege. The result caused Andrew Elsbury, who held a Western Metropolitan seat from 2010 to 2014, to resign from the party, saying Deeming was “basically going to spout the same stuff as Bernie Finn used to”.
• In Northern Metropolitan region, where the party holds only one seat, Craig Ondarchie was as long foreseen dumped in favour of Evan Mulholland, director of communications at the Institute of Public Affairs and a vociferous critics of federal Labor’s carbon emissions targets. Second position goes to Owen Guest, the state party’s treasurer. Paul Sakkal of The Age reports the first round results were 26 for Mulholland, 14 for Catriona Rafael, former staffer to former party leader Michael O’Brien, 11 for Owen Guest and ten for last-placed Ondarchie. With the latter eliminated, Josh Gordon of The Age reports the second round result was Mulholland 32, Guest 15 and Rafael 14.
• Gippsland chiropractor Renee Heath has deposed incumbent Cathrine Burnett-Wake, who filled the casual vacancy created by Edward O’Donohue’s retirement in December, to take top position in Eastern Victoria by what Sumeyya Ilanbey of The Age reported as a margin of 55 to 53. The Age further reports that “several Liberal officials raised concerns about Heath’s family connection to the City Builders Church, which has been accused of encouraging members to take part in the Living Waters Program, an externally run gay conversion therapy that has since closed”, albeit that the connection involves her father rather than herself. The second position on the ticket is reserved for Nationals incumbent Melina Bath.
• Nick McGowan, a former staffer to Ted Baillieu and reported close friend of Liberal leader Matthew Guy, has secured the second position in North Eastern Metropolitan, with Kirsten Langford in the unpromising third position. Gladys Liu, the recently defeated federal member for Chisholm, was unsuccessful, as was Ranjana Srivasta, an oncologist and Fulbright scholar who had previously sought preselection for the Senate and the federal seat of Casey.
• Rachel Eddie of The Age reports the anti-lockdown Freedom Party has organised a bloc of like-minded parties who will exchange all-important preferences for the Legislative Council, also to include Family First and the Federation Party. Among the party’s number is Aidan McLindon, who in his term in Queensland parliament as the member for Beaudesert from 2009 to 2012 successively represented the Liberal National Party, Katter’s Australian Party and the Queensland Party, and will now run against Daniel Andrews in Mulgrave. McLindon says he and his bloc are uninterested in doing deals with Glenn Druery, noted arranger of preference networks that take advantage of the group voting ticket system, which now survives only in Victoria. The Age report also says the United Australia Party, whose sole success at the federal election was a Senate seat in Victoria, plans to “team up with like-minded parties”.
• Following Steph Ryan’s resignation as deputy Nationals leader and announcement she would not contest the election last month, the Shepparton News reports Strathbogie Shire councillor and local caravan park owner Kristy Hourigan will run for Nationals preselection in her seat of Euroa.
• Russell Northe, who held Morwell for the Nationals from 2006 to 2017 and as an independent thereafter, including after his re-election in 2018, has announced he will retire at the election.