Many preselections

Scott Ryan’s retirement brings the Victorian Liberal Senate preselection to a boil; Labor lines up its ducks in New South Wales; a federal voting intention poll from the ACT; and much more besides.

We begin with the unusually complicated state of affairs arising from Senate President Scott Ryan’s announcement yesterday that he will retire from politics before parliament resumes next month, having previously planned to do so when his term ends in the middle of next year. The Victorian Liberal Party now has the task of both filling his vacancy and determining its Senate ticket for the coming election, with the latter process having been up in the air due to the lockdown. Candidates for Ryan’s vacancy are reportedly likely to include Simon Frost, staffer to Josh Frydenberg and former state party director, and Greg Mirabella, Wangaratta farmer and husband of Sophie Mirabella.

The Coalition secured three long-term Senate positions at the 2016 double dissolution, which went to Mitch Fifield, Bridget McKenzie of the Nationals and Scott Ryan. Fifield quit politics after the 2019 election and his vacancy was filled by Sarah Henderson, lately defeated in her lower house seat of Corangamite. With the second position on the ticket reserved to the Nationals, and hence to McKenzie, Henderson urgently needs to win top spot on the ticket.

Rob Harris of The Age reports that she will probably need a rank-and-file ballot for this to happen, since she is unlikely to win a vote of the administrative committee if it exercises its power to take matters into its own hands. The same apparently applies to Frost in his bid to fill the Ryan vacancy, which would appear to suggest that the administrative committee would pick Mirabella both to fill the immediate vacancy and top the Senate ticket at the election. This would, however, be a hugely contentious move, given resentment over the rank and file being denied preselection ballots before the last election.

Further preselection news:

• Daniel Repacholi, a former coal miner who represented Australia in pistol shooting at the Olympics, was confirmed as Labor’s candidate to succeed Joel Fitzgibbon in Hunter by the party’s national executive yesterday. The Australian reports Repacholi “will run as a factionally unaligned candidate but he has the backing of elements of the Right, including Joel Fitzgibbon, and also the Left, including Mr Albanese and the CFMEU”. Preselection hopefuls thwarted by the move include Stephen Ryan, Newcastle barrister and former Cessnock councillor; Morgan Campbell, a former lawyer and local councillor; and Jo Smith, executive director of the Australian Guild of Screen Composers and unsuccessful candidate for Lake Macquarie at the 2019 state election. A late withdrawal was Cessnock nurse Emily Suvaal, whom The Guardian reports had support from Right-aligned unions. The Nationals candidate for the seat is James Thomson, 28-year-old community relations officer at Maitland Christian School; One Nation, who recorded 21.6% of the vote in 2019, have endorsed Singleton hotelier Dale McNamara, who ran for the party at the state by-election for Upper Hunter in May.

• As reported in The Australian, Gordon Reid, a local doctor of Aboriginal heritage, has been preselected unopposed to run as Labor’s candidate for Robertson, held for the Liberals by Lucy Wicks on a margin of 4.2%. The preselection for Reid, held by Fiona Martin on a margin of 3.2%, will be contested between Sally Sitou, a University of Sydney doctoral candidate and one-time ministerial staffer to Jason Clare, and Frank Alafaci, president of the Australian Business Summit Council. In Banks, held by David Coleman on a margin of 6.3%, will be contested between former diplomat Xian-Zhi Soon and Georges River councillor Warren Tegg.

The West Australian reports Ian Goodenough, Liberal member for the Perth northern suburbs seat of Moore, has won a preselection ballot ahead of Vince Connelly, whose existing seat of Stirling is to be abolished in the redistribution, by a margin of 39 to 36. Goodenough is noted for his support network among local Pentecostal churches, and his association with a broader grouping within the state party known as “The Clan”. The report says Goodenough owed his win to support from Young Liberals and religious conservative powerbroker Nick Goiran. Further contested preselections for the Liberal-held seats of Swan and Durack will follow over the fortnight to come.

• The Greens have announced candidates in the two Melbourne seats they could potentially win from the Liberals: Piers Mitchem, an employment lawyer with corporate law firm Thomson Geer, will run against Josh Frydenberg in Kooyong, which Julian Burnside came within 5.7% of winning for the party in 2019 after outpolling Labor; while Sonya Semmens, owner-director of a fundraising consultancy, will run against Katie Allen in Higgins.

• Legal academic Kim Rubenstein has cleared the new-and-improved benchmark of 1500 members to register a party called Kim for Canberra in support of her run for an Australian Capital Territory Senate seat.

Other news:

• A uComms automated phone poll of 1057 voters in Canberra, commissioned by of The Australian Institute, records federal voting intention results for the Australian Capital Territory that are strikingly similar to those at the 2019 election. When the results to the forced-response follow-up for the initially undecided are included, the poll shows Labor on 41.1% (up 0.2% on the election), Liberal on 31.3% (down 0.8%) and the Greens on 16.9% (up 0.4%). One Nation, who did not field candidates in 2019 and probably won’t next time either, were on 3.9%. The poll also gauged Senate voting intention, which had Labor on 35.9% (down 3.4%), Liberal on 29.7% (down 2.6%) and the Greens on 21.1% (up 3.5%), with independents on 7.4%, One Nation on 4.0% and others on 1.7%. However, the disparity between the House and Senate results would be typical of an issue to common to Senate polling, which often inflates minor party support. In any case, both suggest the usual result, in which Labor wins the house seats and the two Senate seats divide between Labor and Liberal.

• Also from the Australia Institute, a tidy display of Essential Research COVID-19 polling data, including time series charts of the regular question on federal and state governments’ handling of the situation.

Final results from the Daly by-election in the Northern Territory: 2022 votes to Labor candidate Dheran Young (56.1%), 1582 to Country Liberal Party candidate Kris Civitarese, for a swing to Labor of 7.3%.

• A federal election preview from Daniel Smith of CGM Communications draws on state-level poll trend calculations I provided, suggesting Labor stands to pick up 13 seats based on the current numbers.

Resolve Strategic: Coalition 41, Labor 30, Greens 11 in NSW

The Berejiklian government retains an edge in the latest NSW state poll, despite a narrowing over the past two months.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports the bi-monthly Resolve Strategic state voting intention result for New South Wales credits the Coalition with a primary vote of 41%, down two points from two months ago, with Labor up two to 30% and the Greens down one to 11%. This suggests a slight swing against Labor on two-party preferred compared with the 2019 election result, at which the Coalition recorded 52.0%. Gladys Berejiklian records a lead of 48-21 over Chris Minns as preferred premier, narrowing from 55-16 last time. The poll also finds 65% support for easing COVID-19 restrictions in mid-October with 70% vaccination rates, including 34% strong support, with only 17% opposed, including 9% strongly opposed.

As I understand it, the poll combines results from this month and last month’s national surveys, although the accompanying report refers to a “survey of 1606 voters between September 15 and 19” – which would seem to be a confusing reference to the entire national sample of this week’s poll. In any case, both survey periods produced federal numbers that were a lot stronger for the Coalition than rival pollsters. The two survey periods of the previous poll included one from before the COVID-19 outbreak and Labor leadership, and one from after it. The survey periods for this poll were August 17 to 21 and September 15 to 19, i.e. Wednesday to Sunday. Next month will be the turn of the bi-monthly Victorian poll.

Resolve Strategic: Coalition 39, Labor 31, Greens 10

Another idiosyncratic set of voting intention numbers from the Age/Herald pollster, suggesting the Coalition would again be returned with a small majority.

The Age/Herald has published its monthly federal voting intention poll from Resolve Strategic, which appeared online yesterday and in print today. The series remains an outlier in its soft reading of support for Labor, who are down one point on the primary vote to 31%, with the Coalition also down one to 39% and the Greens down two on 10%.

With the main players all down, “others” has shot up four points to 7%, which if nothing else about this poll is consistent with this week’s Newspoll – perhaps suggesting that Clive Palmer’s expensive efforts to win support from lockdown skeptics may be having an impact. One Nation also enjoys a mini-surge, up two points to 4%. The remaining 9%, down one on last month, goes to “independents”, which the pollster contentiously includes as a distinct option despite uncertainty as to what candidates voters in most seats will have available to them at the election.

The pollster does not produce its own two-party results, but if preference flows from 2019 are applied to the primary votes, they come out with a Coalition lead of nearly 52-48 – quite unlike Newspoll’s and Roy Morgan’s Labor leads of 53-47 and 52.5-47.5. Anticipating a lively reaction from the Twitter mob, the accompanying report offers the following note of explanation:

The Resolve survey uses a different methodology from others. There is no “undecided” category because Resolve asks voters to nominate their primary votes in the same way they fill in their ballot papers for the lower house at an election. This means the final Resolve tables do not exclude the “uncommitted” group, which can be about 8 per cent of all respondents. There is no “uncommitted” cohort. Respondents have to choose an option.

As usual, breakdowns are offered for the three largest states (they used to have Western Australia as well, but seem to have dropped it now), which suggest a Coalition lead in New South Wales that has grown from around 51-49 last month to 53.5-46.5. In Victoria, the implication is of a stable Labor lead of around 51.5-48.5. In Queensland, however, Labor has done quite a bit better than a particularly bad result last month, suggesting a Coalition lead of 53-47 rather than 58.5-41.5, while tanking in “rest of Australia”, where both major parties lose share to independents and others.

On personal ratings, both leaders are up three on approval and down one on disapproval: Scott Morrison to 49% approval (by which I mean a combined very good and good result) and 45% disapproval (ditto for very poor and poor), Anthony Albanese to 31% and 46%. Morrison’s lead as preferred prime minister narrows from 46-23 to 45-26. I don’t normally pay much attention to breakdowns on leadership ratings, but it may be worth nothing that Albanese has a 30% undecided rating among women compared with 16% among men.

The poll was conducted Tuesday to Saturday from a sample of 1606. At some point in the future, I will take a deeper look at the pollster’s peculiarities relative to its rivals. Tomorrow we should get its bi-monthly read on state voting intention in New South Wales, combining results from this month’s and last month’s surveys.

Newspoll: 53-47 to Labor

Both federal leaders at low ebbs, but little change on voting intention from the latest Newspoll.

The Australian reports the latest Newspoll credits Labor with a two-party lead of 53-47, down from 54-46 in the last poll three weeks ago, from primary votes of Coalition 37% (up one), Labor 38% (down two), Greens 10% (steady) and One Nation 3% (steady). On personal ratings, Scott Morrison records his weakest results since his early pandemic bounce in March last year, with approval down three to 46% and disapproval up three to 50%, but Anthony Albanese also records his weakest net rating to date, with approval down three to 37% and disapproval up one to 48%. Morrison’s lead as preferred prime minister has narrowed from 50-34 to 47-35. No hard details yet, but the poll will have been conducted Wednesday to Saturday from a sample of between 1500 and 1600.

UPDATE (21/9): As reported in The Australian today, it turns out the poll had a larger-than-usual sample of 2144, which was done to produce sufficient sub-samples from the three largest states for meaningful results on the performance of state leaders. On personal ratings, Daniel Andrews leads the field with 64% approval and 35% disapproval, with Gladys Berejiklian (56% approval and 40% approval) and Annastacia Palaszczuk (57% approval and 38% disapproval) similarly placed. Separate questions on handling of COVID-19 give Berejiklian (56% good, 41% bad) and Andrews (63% and 35%) results almost identical to their personal ratings, whereas Palaszczuk does quite a lot better at 67% well and 31% badly.

We also learn that Scott Morrison’s personal ratings are strong in Queensland (56% approval and 41% disapproval), neutral in New South Wales (46% and 49%) and weak in Victoria (41% and 57%). Morrison is deemed to have handled COVID-19 well by 48% out of the national sample and badly by 49%, reflecting no change since the question was last posted in August. This breaks down to 47% well and 49% badly in New South Wales, 40% and 58% in Victoria and 61% and 36% in Queensland. Fifty-three per cent express more concern with moving too fast on relaxing restrictions compared with 42% for too slow, compared with 62% and 34% when the question was last asked in late January.

Western Australian Legislative Council reform plan announced

Western Australia’s Legislative Council set to lose its system of six six-member regions under a new proposal for one-vote one-value.

The Western Australian government has declared its hand on reform for the state’s Legislative Council, with the release today of the report of the Ministerial Expert Committee on Electoral Reform. It recommends abolishing the state’s system of six six-member regions and having the entire chamber elected at large, similar to the situation that applies in the New South Wales and South Australia, but without their staggered eight-year terms.

Whereas the system currently allocates half the members to the metropolitan area and half to the non-metropolitan area, despite the former claiming roughly three-quarters of the state’s population, the proposed reform offers “one-vote one-value”. It naturally does so at the expense of existing regional representation, and is sure to alienate country voters who were repeatedly told by Mark McGowan before the March election that such reform was “not on our agenda”.

With the government apparently also planning to increase the number of members from 36 to 37 (it doesn’t say this in the report, but Attorney-General John Quigley said this was the plan at his press conference today), this means the quota for election will be a mere 2.63%, compared with the 14.28% quota that applies under the existing system, as well as at half-Senate elections; the 7.69% quota that applies for the Senate at double dissolutions; the 4.54% quota in New South Wales has when electing half its 42 members of the Legislative Council; and the 8.33% quota in South Australia when electing half its chamber of 22.

However, the report also predictably recommends the abolition of group voting tickets, so we may at least be assured that parties elected on small vote shares will be the most popular of their kind and not simply beneficiaries of preference harvesting, as was notoriously the case with Wilson Tucker of the Daylight Saving Party, who won a seat in the Mining and Pastoral region at the March state election from 98 votes.

As was done in the Senate, this will be complemented by optional preferential voting, so that abolishing the group voting ticket option does not oblige voters to number ever box on what threatens to be a very large statewide ballot paper. Whereas the Senate ballot paper advises voters to number a minimum of either six boxes above the line or twelve below it, while actually allowing as few as one or six respectively to constitute a formal vote, the recommendation is to direct voters to number any number of boxes above the line or at least 20 below it.

To mitigate against the dramatic expansion that looms in the size of the ballot paper, there are recommendations that the hurdles should be raised for parties wishing to seek election: a $500 registration fee; a requirement that parties be registered for more than six months before the election; tightening the requirement that parties have at least 500 members by requiring that none of them be members of other registered parties; hiking the nomination fee from $250 per candidate to $1000; requiring 200 electors to nominate independent candidates; and requiring at least three candidates for above-the-line groups.

This must all now go through parliament, and while it is more than possible the details will be refined during the process, Labor’s massive parliamentary majorities ensure that it is unlikely to amount to much.

Morgan: 52.5-47.5 to Labor

Some better numbers for the Morrison government, on voting intention from Roy Morgan and COVID-19 management from Essential Research.

Roy Morgan put out its now regular fortnightly poll of federal voting intention yesterday, which has Labor’s two-party lead at 52.5-47.5, down from 54.5-45.5 on a fortnight ago and its narrowest result in two months. On the primary vote, the Coalition is up one to 38.5% (I believe the Morgan release is incorrect when it puts it at 39.5%, which would be up by two and is different from the headline), Labor is down three-and-a-half to 35%, the Greens are up one-and-a-half to 13% and One Nation is steady on 3%.

The state two-party breakdowns have Labor leading 54-46 in New South Wales (out from 53-47 in the last poll, and a swing of around 6% compared with the 2019 election), 57-43 in Victoria (in from 59.5-40.5, a swing of around 4%) 51.5-48.5 in South Australia (in from 57.5-42.5, a swing of around 1%) and 55.5-44.5 in Tasmania (in from 63.5-36.5, a slight swing to the Liberals), while the Coalition leads 54-46 in Queensland (out from 53.5-46.5, a swing to Labor of around 4.5%) and 53-47 in Western Australia (out from 51-49, a swing of around 2.5% — and the Coalition’s best data point from this state all year). The poll was conducted online and by phone over the last two weekends from a sample of 2753.

Also out today was the regular Essential Research survey, containing neither voting intention nor leadership ratings on this occasion. The regular results on federal and state governments’ handling of COVID-19 is included as always, which record improvement for both the federal government and the governments of New South Wales and Victoria. The federal government’s good rating is up four to 43% and its poor rating is down one to 35%; the New South Wales government’s good rating is up six to 46%; and the Victorian government’s good rating is up six to 50%. For the other states with their small sample sizes, Queensland’s good rating is down two to 65%, Western Australia’s is up nine to 87% and South Australia’s is down nine to 67%.

Further questions from the survey suggest Western Australians and to a lesser extent Queenslanders are firmly of the view that states without outbreaks should be able to keep their borders closed for as long as they think necessary (67% and 55% respectively), but that only a minority of those in New South Wales and Victoria do so (28% and 31%). Interestingly though, only 26% of all respondents said they understood and had confidence in the plan specifically attributed to Scott Morrison, while 39% said they understood it and didn’t have confidence in it. The Essential Research poll was conducted Wednesday to Sunday from a sample of 1100.

Note also that today is the day of California’s gubernatorial recall election, on which Adrian Beaumont will provide live updates in the post below.

Weekend developments

Joel Fitzgibbon calls it a day, and other federal preselection news.

The opinion poll schedule for the week is likely to consist of the fortnightly Essential Research, which is not due to include the monthly leadership numbers and should thus be of limited interest (unless it includes their occasional dump of fortnightly voting intention results), and presumably a Roy Morgan voting intention poll on Wednesday.

For the time being, there is the following:

The Australian reports that Labor MP Joel Fitzgibbon will bow out at the election, creating a vacancy in his seat of Hunter, where his margin was slashed from 12.5% to 3.0% at last year’s election with One Nation polling 21.6%. There is no indication as to who might succeed him as Labor candidate, except that “NSW Right figures (are) concerned Hunter could be lost to the faction and go to someone from the left-aligned CFMEU or the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union”.

• There would seem to be no suggestion that the vacancy in Hunter might change the calculus behind Kristina Keneally’s controversial move to Fowler, which was criticised over the weekend by her federal Labor colleague Anne Aly, along with many others inside and outside the party. However, Michelle Grattan in The Conversation notes that the arrangement does not of itself deprive the local party membership of a preselection ballot, since a clause in the state party rules specific to Fowler enshrines the seat as the gift of the Right as a legacy of past branch-stacking controversies.

The West Australian reports on two further preselection challenges to sitting Liberals in Western Australia, on top of that facing Ian Goodenough in Moore from Vince Connelly after the abolition of his seat of Stirling. In Swan, where Steve Irons would appear to have his work cut out for him in defending a 3.2% margin, the challenger is Kristy McSweeney, a Sky News commentator, former adviser to Tony Abbott and daughter of former state MP Robyn McSweeney. McSweeney earlier contested preselection for the once safe but now Labor-held seat of Bateman ahead of the state election in March. In the much safer seat of Durack, Melissa Price will be challenged by Busselton councillor Jo Barrett-Lennard. For what it’s worth, The Age columnist Jon Faine today tells us to “watch out to see if former attorney-general Christian Porter opts for a spot on the Federal Court on the cusp of the election, rather than face probable defeat in his outer-suburban Perth electorate” – namely Pearce, where redistribution has cut the margin from 7.5% to 5.2%.

• As those who followed the post below will be aware, Labor recorded a strong result in the Northern Territory’s Daly by-election, with their candidate Dheran Young leading the count over Kris Civitarese of the Country Liberal Party by 1905 (55.8%) to 1506 (44.2%) with only a handful of votes left outstanding. This amounts to a 7.0% swing compared with the election last August, at which the CLP won the seat by 1.2%. It is the first time a government party has ever won a seat from the opposition at a by-election in the territory, and first time anywhere in Australia since the Benalla by-election in Victoria in May 2000.

Daly by-election live

Live coverage of the count for the Daly by-election in the Northern Territory.

7.51pm. Mobile Team Daly 3 is in, and Labor ends the night with an insurmountable lead of 1856 to 1424, a margin of 6.6% from a swing of 7.8%. CORRECTION: Mobile Team Daly 3 is not so much in, as removed from the NTEC’s list of booths. In any case, we’ve seen everything we’re going to see this evening.

7.31pm. 104 votes from pre-poll and election day centres in Darwin don’t change anything. Apart from declarations and postals, we’re still just waiting on Mobile Team Daly 3.

7.15pm. Now we’ve got Berry Springs EVC and all booths reporting so far in on the two-party, and all of a sudden it looks a great night for Labor. Jennings did better at Berry Springs EVC as expected, but it amounted to little — she’s still on only 15.1%. That reduces it to a traditional CLP-versus-Labor contest, on which Labor leads 56.4% to 43.6%. I’m only projecting that to narrow slightly, with Labor winning by 5.3% from a swing of 6.5%.

7.12pm. Another twist in the tale from two Mobile Team booths that have reported. They account between them for 1807 votes with one of three results still outstanding, whereas the two Mobile Team booths in 2020 totalled only 1651. So clearly these have had more use this time. The results are a body blow for Jennings, who now looks certain to finish third, and a giant fillip for Labor, who got fully 64.5% of the primary vote from the two between them. They have now bolted to a lead of 45.8% to 33.9% over the CLP. Still waiting on the two-party results from the two booths.

7.02pm. It’s pointed out in comments that Jennings’ home town is Berry Springs, where she got 39.1% compared with about 21% elsewhere. One of the outstanding booths is the Berry Springs pre-poll centre, but it should only account for about 20% of the outstanding total. That presumably shortens the odds for the CLP. If the 2020 results are any guide, the one we’re waiting for is Mobile Team Daly 1, which should account for nearly half the outstanding votes. This happened to be a strong booth in 2020 for the Territory Alliance, for which Jennings ran as a candidate in a different seat.

6.52pm. A much better result for the CLP from the Coolalinga early voting centre leaves them with 44.8% of the primary vote, and also narrows Jennings’ lead over Labor to just 12 votes. This is a particularly strong booth for the CLP: they got 56.9% last time and 52.9% this time. Since they remain down on the primary vote on a booth-matched basis, and their primary vote was only 35.8% last time, they remain in trouble if Jennings can stay ahead of Labor. Otherwise, it looks clear now the CLP will retain the seat, as they have a two-party swing of 5.9% against Labor.

6.50pm. The issue for Jennings is whether she stays ahead of Labor to take second place. She currently leads them by 156 votes to 128. The 22 votes of the other independent, Wayne Connop, would presumably widen that. But later reporting votes may be stronger for Labor. If Jennings does drop out, it seems likely the seat will stay with the CLP: they lead the two-party count 267 to 214. This amounts to a 1.4% swing to the CLP, from which a 3.2% winning margin can be projected. There are so many votes outstanding though that that could not be thought decisive. So at present, the only candidate who can be ruled out is Connop.

6.40pm. The CLP has pulled ahead on the primary vote with the other election day booth in the electorate, Wagait Beach, reporting. These are small numbers of votes though so presumably the pre-poll voting centres did very good business. As things currently stand, Jennings still looks well placed to win on Labor preferences.

6.35pm. The Berry Springs booth, one of only two operating on election day, has recorded a rather spectacular result for independent candidate Rebecca Jennings, who has 116 votes to the CLP’s 113 and Labor’s 50. The CLP is down 6.6% on the primary vote and Labor is down 10.4%. Unless this is a local peculiarity, it suggests Jennings will win comfortably on Labor preferences. Results from the NTEC here.

6pm. Polls have closed for the Northern Territory by-election for the seat of Daly, covering pastoral areas to the south of Darwin. The by-election is being held after Country Liberal Party member Ian Sloan, who won by a 1.2% margin at the election last year, retired due to ill health. The candidates are Kris Civitarese of the CLP, Dheran Young of Labor and two independents, Wayne Connop and Rebecca Jennings.