Griffith by-election live

Live coverage of the Griffith by-election count, featuring booth-matched swing calculations and result projections.


While Terri Butler’s 2.3% buffer at the end of the night is enough to secure her victory, Bill Glasson can at least claim the uncommon feat of delivering a by-election swing to the party in government. The current margin represents a 0.7% two-party swing to the Liberal National Party compared with the September election result, which is likely to widen a little further on postals.

Commentators around the place have been scrambling to place the result into historical context, mostly with reference to the long record of federal by-elections. A general paucity of swings to governments is easy to spot, but closer examination shows how much swings can vary according to the circumstances of the by-election, and how unreliable a guide they can be to a government’s future electoral performance. The last pro-government swing federally was achieved when Carmen Lawrence moved from state to federal politics in Fremantle in 1994, and it was followed by a shellacking for the Keating government at the next general election two years later. The most recent state example I can think of is the Peel by-election in Western Australia in February 2007, when Alan Carpenter’s Labor government boosted its margin 18 months before being dumped from office.

Given the array of circumstances that can bring by-elections about, an effort should be made to compare like with like. Griffith is part of a long tradition of by-elections held when a member of a defeated government decides opposition isn’t for them. Unfortunately, those involved tend to be senior figures representing safe seats which the opposing party doesn’t bother to contest. During its first term, Rudd Labor only took the field when Peter McGauran departed in the seemingly winnable seat of Gippsland, only to cop a bloody nose for its trouble. Few were surprised Labor stayed out of the fray in Higgins (Peter Costello), Bradfield (Brendan Nelson), Mayo (Alexander Downer) and Lyne (Mark Vaile). Labor likewise went undisturbed during John Howard’s first term at by-elections to replace Paul Keating in Blaxland and John Langmore in Fraser.

The one by-election held during the parliament elected in December 1975 was occasioned by the death of Rex Connor, with the remainder of Labor’s diminished caucus staying put. It was a different story early in the life of the Hawke government, as Malcolm Fraser (Wannon), Doug Anthony (Richmond), Billy Snedden (Bruce), Jim Killen (Moreton) and Tony Street (Corangamite) headed for the exit at a time when forfeiting a by-election was still thought poor form. The last useable example in anything resembling modern history is the Parramatta by-election of 1973, which brought Philip Ruddock to parliament.

From this field of seven, the only result to match Griffith is Richmond in 1984, when Labor picked up a slight swing upon the retirement of Doug Anthony. No doubt this reflected an unlocking of the loyalty accumulating to brand Anthony, which between father Larry and son Doug had occupied the seat for an unbroken 46 years. Even so, the other Hawke government by-elections weren’t far behind, with the exception of Bruce where voters seemed to take a shine to Liberal candidate Kenneth Aldred for some reason. Coincidentally or otherwise, the two worst swings, in Gippsland (a 6.1% swing against Rudd Labor in 2008) and Parramatta (a 7.0% swing against Whitlam Labor in 1973) were suffered by the two shortest-lived governments of the modern era.

However, Griffith looks quite a bit less exceptional if the eight state results I can identify going back to the early 1990s are thrown into the mix. Four swings in particular dwarf those in Griffith, the two biggest being at by-elections held in country seats in New South Wales on May 25, 1996. Results in Clarence and Orange provided a fillip to Bob Carr’s year-old Labor government and a severe blow to the Nationals, perhaps reflecting the party’s recent acquiescence to the Howard government’s post-Port Arthur gun laws. On the very same day, Labor had an historically mediocre result against the Liberals in the Sydney seat of Strathfield, and finished third behind the Democrats in the Liberal stronghold of Pittwater.

The third and fourth placed results are from early in the life of the Bracks government in Victoria, when Labor pulled off rare victories in Jeff Kennett’s seat of Burwood in 1999 and Nationals leader Pat McNamara’s seat of Benalla in 2000. Also higher up the order than Griffith is the Elizabeth by-election of 1994, held four months after Dean Brown’s Liberal government came to power in South Australia. This may have indicated the popularity of outgoing member Martyn Evans, soon to be Labor’s federal member for Bonython, who had been designated as “independent Labor” for most of his ten years as a state member. Rob Borbidge’s Queensland government of 1996 to 1998 did less well, with the looming Liberal collapse in that state foreshadowed by swings to Labor in the Brisbane seats of Lytton and Kurwongbah.

All of this is laid out in the chart above, which ranks swings to the government (positive at the top, negative at the bottom) from the eight federal and eight state by-elections just discussed. Red and blue respectively indicate Labor and Coalition governments, the lighter shades representing state and the darker representing federal. Stats enthusiasts may care to know that the model y=10+44.3x explains 38% of the variability, where y is the government’s eventual longevity in office measured in years and x is the swing to the government across 15 observed by-elections. For what very little it may be worth, the positive 0.5% swing in Griffith associates with 10.3 years in government.


# % Swing 2PP (proj.) Swing
Timothy Lawrence (SPP) 570 0.8% +0.7%
Geoff Ebbs (Greens) 6,890 10.2% +0.3%
Christopher Williams (FFP) 651 1.0% +0.3%
Karel Boele (IND) 458 0.7%
Anthony Ackroyd (BTA) 526 0.8%
Anne Reid (SPA) 379 0.6% +0.1%
Terri Butler (Labor) 26,356 39.0% -1.6% 52.5% -0.5%
Melanie Thomas (PPA) 1,051 1.6%
Travis Windsor (Independent) 585 0.9%
Ron Sawyer (KAP) 694 1.0% +0.4%
Bill Glasson (Liberal National) 29,456 43.6% +0.9% 47.5% +0.5%
FORMAL/TURNOUT 67,616 71.2%
Informal 2,093 3.0% -1.8%
Booths reporting: 42 out of 42

Midnight. Finally got around to adding the Coorparoo pre-poll voting centre result.

9.22pm. Or perhaps not – Coorparoo pre-poll voting centre still to report, which is likely to amount for a lot – 5859 votes cast there at the federal election.

8.51pm. Morningside 2PP now in, and I’d say that’s us done for the night.

8.36pm. Camp Hill reports 2PP, leaving just Morningside. Glasson and LNP reportedly not conceding, but 2.4% leads (which accounts for the fact that the LNP is likely to do better on postals – Labor’s raw lead is 3.3%) don’t get overturned on late counting.

8.29pm. That’s all the fixed booths in on the primary vote; the outstanding ones referred to in the table are special hospital booths that may not actually exist (but did in 2013). Camp Hill and Morningside still to come in on two-party, and then I think we’re done for the night. It’s been a pretty quick count.

8.03pm. Two more booths a slight move to the LNP.

8.00pm. Four more booths in and a slight tick in Labor’s favour on the swing projection.

7.53pm. One more primary result and a number more on two-party preferred, it remains unclear who will end up with bragging rights to the negligible swing. What is clear though is that Terri Butler is over the line.

7.45pm. Thirty-two of 43 booths reporting, and the picture of a status quo result is unchanged.

7.36pm. A big rush of results that taxed my data entry chops to the limit has produced very little change to the projection, which essentially looks like no swing at all.

7.26pm. Coorparoo Central was a tricky one from a booth-matching perspective, as it’s a “merger” of two booths from the 2013 election.

7.25pm. Coorparoo Central, Greenslopes, Morningside South and West End in on the primary; Buranda West and Norman Park South on two-party. Upshot: a bit more breathing space for Terri Butler, who will be difficult to pull in from here.

7.19pm. The informal vote seems to be down pretty solidly.

7.18pm. I note that none of the booths from the electorate’s north-western latte belt have reported yet.

7.15pm. Bulimba, Carina Heights, Greenmeadows and Norman Park find Labor still with its nose in front, despite a slight swing against. Annerley has also reported a two-party result, so I’ve switched on preference projections based on the booths that have reported so far. This finds Labor’s share of preferences up 6% on 2013.

7.12pm. Annerley, Bulimba Heights and Norman Park South booth results provide better news for Labor, with Butler now pulling into a projected lead. However, I’m still going off 2013 preferences here, as only two very small booths have reported two-party results.

7.03pm. Holland Park and Buranda West are in, and also Murarrie on two-party, and the swing to the LNP is sticking, as is the extremely close projected result.

6.53pm. Another small booth on the fringe of the electorate – Mount Gravatt East in the south-east – and it’s another bad result for Labor, down almost double digits on the primary vote. I’ve switched off the preference swing calculation for now, so the two-party is going off 2013 preference flows.

6.50pm. The preference result is in from Holland Park West, and Labor has 7.2% more preferences than it got in 2013 – but we’re only going off 14 votes here. Nonetheless, my model is extrapolating off it to project the result for the other booth, causing Labor to go up about 1%. Bottom line: hold off reading anything into anything yet.l

6.42pm. Both booths are on the very fringes of the electorate: Holland Park West in the south and Murarrie in the east. The dynamic nearer the city may well be very different. I’ll stop getting a “#VALUE!” result on the Stable Population Party when I get a result from a booth where their vote in 2013 wasn’t zero.

6.38pm. Two very small booths on the primary vote provide a measure of encouragement for Bill Glasson, suggesting a very close result if 2013 preferences are any guide.

6.30pm. There have apparently been 2090 ballots cast at the Whites Hill booth, which compared with the 2083 cast at the election suggests a pretty healthy turnout.

6pm. Welcome to the Poll Bludger’s live coverage of the Griffith by-election. With polls closing round about now, first results should be in in maybe about an hour, although this can be a bit variable. Results in the table will show raw figures for the primary vote and booth-matched swings for both primary and two-party vote, together with a projected two-party total based on the booth-matching. Where available, the latter will be based on booth two-party results; at booths where only primary vote totals have been reported, two-party projections will be derived from 2013 preference flows taken together with the “swing” in preferences recorded across booths where two-party results have been reported. I’ll be copping my results off the ABC Elections page, as the AEC annoyingly does not publish booth results as they are reported (or at least, never has in the past). So those without a minute to lose should note that my table updates will lag about that far behind the ABC.

Griffith by-election: February 8

The definitive end of the Kevin Rudd era likewise means the end of the longest federal by-election drought in over 60 years, in what looms as a fascinating early test for Tony Abbott and Bill Shorten alike.

Friday, February 7

Interesting to observe a run on Bill Glasson in the betting markets, following reports showing Labor internal polling had him on 47% of the primary vote. After being at $6.25 a few days ago, a Glasson victory will now only get you $3.75, with Labor’s Terri Butler out from $1.10 to $1.25. However, Labor sources now tell Troy Bramston of The Australian they have pulled ahead in their most recent polling, with Glasson down to 44% and Butler with 42% of the primary vote and 53% of two-party preferred. At the same time, Andrew Fraser of The Australian relates Labor concerns that voters are “suffering extreme electoral fatigue and may stay at home”. On the other side of the equation, Joanna Heath of the Financial Review reports Liberals have “all but given up hope”. I find myself believing the Liberals on this occasion, and will be requiring rather more than $3.75 before I take a punt on them.

Wednesday, February 5

With the campaign in its final week, Labor seems keen to dispel the notion that it has the matter in hand to the extent that Centrebet should be offering $1.10 on their candidate Terri Butler, against $6.25 for the LNP’s Bill Glasson. Among others, Dennis Atkins of the Courier-Mail has spoken of Labor internal polling conducted early last month showing Bill Glasson’s vote up to a formidable 47% from the 42% he recorded at the election. Phillip Coorey of the Financial Review puts considerably more meat on the bones of Labor polling talk, offering personal ratings for the two candidates, the party leaders and Campbell Newman. These indicate that both Glasson and Butler are viewed very favourably, but with Glasson quite a bit better known, scoring an “unsure” rating of 18% compared with Butler’s 40%. Bill Shorten is viewed neutrally, which he might be pleased with given this is Kevin Rudd’s turf. Both the Coalition leaders are viewed unfavourably, Campbell Newman especially. However, the numbers do not encompass voting intention, a Labor source merely offering that “the primary vote for Dr Glasson continues to be in the high 40’s”. This is said to be very much a “personal vote” for Glasson, who told attendees at his campaign launch on Sunday that voters should be concerned only with “selecting the next member for Griffith”. This came as news to Julie Bishop, who several times during her speech said they would be doing so for the seat of Griffin.

Friday, January 17

With the closure of nominations yesterday, 11 candidates have emerged, with Bill Glasson copping last place on the ballot paper. In order: Timothy Lawrence (Stable Population Party); Geoff Ebbs (Greens); Christopher David Williams (Family First); Karel Boele (Independent); Anthony Ackroyd (Bullet Train for Australia); Anne Reid (Secular Party); Terri Butler (Labor); Melanie Rose Thomas (Pirate Party); Travis James Windsor (Independent); Ray Sawyer (Katter’s Australian Party); Bill Glasson (Liberal National Party).

Tuesday, January 7

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Bronwyn Bishop, yesterday set February 8 as the date for the by-election, hence my bumping of this post to the top of the blog. Nominations close on Thursday, January 16, with the ballot paper draw to be held the following day. As foreshadowed in the previous entry, Labor’s candidate will be Terri Butler, to face Bill Glasson of the LNP and Geoff Ebbs of the Greens. Clive Palmer has announced that the Palmer United Party will not be fielding a candidate, preferring instead to focus its energies on the anticipated Western Australian Senate re-match. Here’s how I reviewed the situation in an overview of the electoral year ahead for today’s Crikey:

The first of these is the byelection to choose a successor to Kevin Rudd in his inner-southern Brisbane seat of Griffith, which was yesterday set for February 8 by Bronwyn Bishop in her capacity as Speaker. It’s been a mere eight weeks since Rudd’s surprise resignation placed this particular item on the agenda, but that’s been more than enough time to require that the original conventional wisdom about the contest be cast aside.

Although Griffith’s inner-city orientation makes it one of Labor’s most reliable seats in Queensland, the party has known it to be loseable since Rudd himself failed to carry it on his first attempt in 1996. The circumstances of the byelection also granted the Liberal National Party something of a head start.

Labor’s administration had no advance warning of Rudd’s intentions, whereas the LNP found itself ready to go with the candidate it had optimistically recruited to take the fight to Rudd in September, former Australian Medical Association president Bill Glasson. That was certainly how betting markets initially read the situation, with Sportsbet making an opening offer of $1.75 on Glasson against $2.10 for a then-unnamed Labor candidate, who has turned out to be Maurice Blackburn lawyer Terri Butler.

It also seemed safe to assume that the deck would contain a wild card in the shape of the Palmer United Party, fresh from polling over 11% in Queensland at the federal election and facing the apparently golden opportunity of an electorate primed for a protest vote by the inconvenience of a byelection.

Both those bets are now off, almost literally in the first instance — coincidentally or otherwise, Kevin Rudd’s resignation coincided precisely with the Abbott government’s end-of-year dive in the polls, which has been accompanied by a blowout in Sportsbet’s price on Glasson to $4. Clive Palmer has also surprised by staying out of the fray, arguing his considerable resources can be better marshalled elsewhere.

Thursday, November 27

Tony Moore of Fairfax reports that February 1 is looming as the likely date of both the Griffith federal and Redcliffe state by-elections. Bill Glasson has confirmed he will run as the Liberal National Party candidate, while two candidates have emerged for a Labor preselection to be held on December 14, with Virgin Blue pilot Jeremy de Lore putting his name forward together with Maurice Blackburn lawyer Terri Butler, who appears to have the nomination sewn up. Sportsbet’s market for the seat has moved heavily towards Labor over the past fortnight: a Labor win is now paying $1.50 after starting at $2.10, while the LNP is out from $1.75 to $2.50.

Sunday, November 17

Bill Glasson has confirmed his intention to stand as the Liberal National Party candidate. However, two of the Labor front-runners identified in the post below – Di Farmer and Shayne Sutton – have both announced they will not contest the Labor preselection, for which nominations open tomorrow. Farmer had been rated particularly highly as a preselection prospect, but has cited family reasons for her decision not to put her name forward. The remaining Labor contender out of the three is Terri Butler, an industrial relations lawyer and member of the Left. Dennis Atkins of the Courier-Mail said on Insiders this morning that the Right was “scrambling around” for a new candidate in place of Farmer. A local operating under the handle of @GriffithElects is helpfully following events as they unfold Twitter.

Sportsbet has a market open on the by-election, rating the LNP favourites at $1.75 with $2.10 for Labor, $9 for the Palmer United Party and $34 for the Greens.

Thursday, November 14

Kevin Rudd’s announcement that he will resign from parliament at the end of the week provides the occasion for a) renewed debate about his political legacy, which I will leave to others to pursue (in some cases for the rest of your lives), and b) the breaking of the longest federal by-election drought since 1951. The looming contest for Rudd’s inner southern Brisbane seat of Griffith will be the first by-election in over four years, and almost certainly the first contested by both major parties in nearly six. Labor will be fighting to defend a margin of just 3.0%, following a 5.5% swing to the Liberal National Party on September 7. Antony Green calculates that the earliest possible date for the by-election is December 21, but with a date that close to Christmas out of the question, and school holidays generally being off limits, it is unlikely to be held any earlier than February.

The Australian reports that three names are being mentioned as potential Labor candidates: Di Farmer, who held the locally corresponding state seat of Bulimba until she joined Labor’s massive casualty list at the election of March last year; Terri Butler, a lawyer with Maurice Blackburn; and Shayne Sutton, a former Rudd staffer who serves Morningside ward on Brisbane City Council, on which she once led the Labor opposition. The Australian speaks of “growing support among the branches for Ms Farmer”, but Fairfax reports something similar of Butler, whose alignment with the Left would appear to stand her in particularly good stead in the green-left area around South Brisbane and West End. The Fairfax report says the trump card for Farmer, a member of the Right, is that she is likely to have the support of Rudd. Sutton on the other hand might be dissuaded by the need to abandon her seat on council in order to run, which would involve sacrificing a position worth nearly $150,000 a year for the sake of an uncertain electoral prospect.

As for the Liberal National Party, it is generally expected that their candidate at the recent election, Bill Glasson, will again take the field. Glasson is an ophthalmologist and former Australian Medical Association president whose father, Bill Glasson Sr, was a state National Party MP and minister in the Bjelke-Petersen, Ahern and Cooper governments. Bernard Keane of Crikey is among those who like his chances, presumably on the basis that Labor will be hit hard by the loss of Rudd’s personal vote. This point is well illustrated by charts displayed to the right, which track the two-party vote in the electorate going back to 1984. The bottom chart shows the difference between Griffith and Queensland state results with adjustments made to cancel out the effects of redistributions. This suggests either that some manner of demographic shift happened to coincide with Rudd’s tenure as member commencing in 1998, or that he personally was responsible for a solid improvement in Labor’s vote – albeit that the effect wore off somewhat at the most recent election (on which basis I might hypothesise that Rudd, like John Howard before him, suffered from a perception that he would shortly be gone from parliament in any case). Further evidence of a strong personal vote for Rudd was provided by the result of the 2004 election, when a large area of Griffith was carved off to create the new seat of Bonner. The affected areas swung heavily to the Liberals in Rudd’s absence, contributing to a surprise Labor defeat in the new seat.

Nonetheless, swings to governments at federal by-elections are exceedingly rare, even for newly elected governments in the apparent bloom of their honeymoon. The first by-election held after the election of the Rudd government was in Gippsland in June 2008, following the resignation of Nationals member and Howard government minister Peter McGauran. Labor’s two-party preferred vote as measured by opinion polls of the time was tracking in the high fifties, but they nonetheless emerged on the wrong end of a 6.1% swing despite having devoted considerable energy to their campaign. An ascendant Hawke government was similarly disappointed when it failed to poach Griffith’s highly marginal neighbouring seat of Moreton at a by-election in November 1983. An exception was the Liberals’ strong win in Lindsay in October 1996, but this appeared to be specific to the circumstances of the by-election, with voters responding unfavourably to the pedantic Labor legal challenge that caused Jackie Kelly’s election win to be declared void.

What follows is the entry for Griffith from my 2013 federal election guide, slightly modified for the occasion and with a map showing the most recent booth results (click to enlarge).

Griffith covers inner Brisbane immediately south of the Brisbane River, from South Brisbane east to Bulimba and Queensport, south to Annerley and south-west to Carina Heights. Prior to 1934 it was called Oxley, that name later being revived for an unrelated new Ipswich-based seat in 1949. Highly marginal historically, Griffith changed hands between Liberal and Labor in 1949, 1954, 1958, 1961, 1966, 1977, 1996 and 1998. Don Cameron won the seat for the Liberals with the 1966 landslide and then had his position strengthened by redistribution, which helped him retain the seat through the opposition years from 1972 to 1975. A redistribution at the 1977 election shifted the seat heavily in Labor’s favour, resulting in Cameron switching to the new Gold Coast seat of Fadden and Griffith being won for Labor by Ben Humphreys.

The Labor preselection which followed Humphreys’ retirement at the 1996 election was won by Kevin Rudd, a former diplomat who wielded great influence as chief-of-staff to Wayne Goss during his tenure as Queensland Premier from 1989 to 1996. In doing so he established a factional association with the locally dominant AWU sub-faction of the Right, which secured his preselection despite grumblings that the state branch was failing to meet affirmative action standards. However, the statewide rout that Labor suffered in 1996 saw Rudd fall it his first electoral hurdle, with Graeme McDougall gaining Griffith for the Liberals off a 6.2% swing. Rudd returned for a second attempt amid the far more favourable circumstances of 1998, picking up a 3.9% swing to prevail over McDougall by a margin of 2.4%.

Rudd established a formidable electoral record in Griffith, picking up 3.3% and 2.4% swings against the trend of the 2001 and 2004 elections. The electorate was substantially reshaped by redistribution at the 2004 election, absorbing inner city areas at East Brisbane, South Brisbane and Dutton Park while its eastern parts were hived off to the new seat of Bonner. In what may have been an early portent of Rudd’s electoral impact, the booths which were transferred out of the electorate contributed to a surprise defeat for Labor in Bonner by swinging heavily to the Liberals in his absence. Rudd enjoyed a further 3.8% swing as his party’s candidate for the prime ministership in 2007, and as its recently spurned ex-leader in 2010 he suffered what by Queensland standards was a relatively mild swing of 3.9%.

Morgan phone poll: 53-47

I held off doing a post on yesterday’s unconvincing Morgan phone poll result in the hope they would give us a face-to-face poll this week, but either they’ve gone on Christmas break or are returning to their old pattern of combining results fortnightly. Yesterday’s effort was a phone poll from a sample of just 493 respondents, conducted on the back of a survey about climate change. The results were not unlike those of last week’s similarly dubious poll: Labor up a point to 42 per cent, the Coalition down 1.5 per cent to 41.5 per cent and the Greens down one to 9.5 per cent, with Labor’s two-party lead steady on 53-47.


Phoebe Stewart of the ABC reports Palmerston deputy mayor Natasha Griggs has been preselected as the Country Liberal Party candidate for Darwin-based Solomon, defeating three other candidates including Darwin City Council alderman Garry Lambert and Tourism Top End head Tony Clementson. Bob Gosford of The Northern Myth further writes that Bess Price, described by the Northern Territory News as an “indigenous domestic violence campaigner”, has nominated for CLP preselection in the territory’s other electorate, Lingiari. Price has the backing of Alison Anderson, Labor-turned-independent member for Macdonnell, and says she has “always voted Labor” in the past.

VexNews hears the NSW Liberals could dump Chris Spence as candidate for The Entrance early in the New Year. At issue is Spence’s comprehensive resume as a former One Nation activist: research officer to the party’s state upper house MP David Oldfield, federal candidate for Fraser in 1998, state candidate for Barwon in 2003, New South Wales state party secretary, national and state president of the youth wing “Youth Nation”, and ACT branch president and regional council chair.

Samantha Maiden of The Australian reports possible scenarios for federal intervention into the NSW Labor Party include replacing secretary Matthew Thistlethwaite with an administrator answerable to the federal executive, and stripping Joe Tripodi and Eddie Obeid of their preselection (respectively for Fairfield and the upper house).

• Nick Minchin told ABC Television on Wednesday that it would be “healthy for democracy” if restrictions were placed on television election advertising to reduce the costs of campaigning.

• The Labor national executive has endorsed Rob Mitchell for a second try at McEwen, to be vacated at the next election by retiring Liberal Fran Bailey. The court ruling in Mitchell’s unsuccessful legal challenge against the 2007 result saw his margin of defeat increased from 12 to 27.

Damien Madigan of the Blue Mountains Gazette reports the the state leadership change has inspired Labor’s national executive to delay its preselection decision for Macquarie, where Blue Mountains mayor Adam Searle is expected to be named successor to the retiring Bob Debus.

• Reader Sacha Blumen points me to a Wentworth Courier article from a month ago (see page 22) naming two potential Labor candidates for Wentworth – “Paddington veterinarian Barry Nielsen and Darlinghurst barrister Phillip Boulten” – in addition to Stephen Lewis, described in last week’s edition as a Slater & Gordon lawyer, anti-high rise activist and members of the Jewish Board of Deputies. Former Australian Medical Association president Kerryn Phelps has also been mentioned in the past. This week the Courier reports the Greens have endorsed Matthew Robertson, a Darlinghurst-based legal researcher for the Refugee Advice and Casework Service.

• Antony Green berates those of us who were “examining the entrails of the booth by booth results to try and divine some patterns” from Saturday’s by-elections, arguing such entrails are only interesting for what they tell us about “how Labor voters react to the Greens as a political party”. The conclusion is that “Labor voters in the ritzier parts of Bradfield seem more likely to view the Greens as a left-wing alternative to Labor than Labor voters in less affluent areas”. Antony has since conducted some entrail examination of his own to conclude that the resulting positive relationship between the two-party Liberal vote in 2007 and the Liberal swing at the by-election is unusual for urban electorates. My own post-mortem was published in Crikey on Monday.

• The NSW Nationals have announced the state seat of Tamworth will be the laboratory for its open primary experiment, in which the party’s candidate will be chosen by a vote open to every person enrolled in the electorate. The naturally conservative seat is held by independent Peter Draper, having been in independent hands for all but two years since Tony Windsor (now the federal member for New England) won it in 1991.

Robert Taylor of The West Australian has written an action-packed column on Labor federal preselection matters in Western Australia. It commences thus:

On the surface, the WA Labor Party’s powerful state administrative committee looks to have a straightforward job next Monday when it meets to approve candidates in crucial seats for next year’s Federal election. In typical Labor fashion, three of the candidates for the most winnable Liberal seats of Swan, Cowan and Canning are unopposed, the backroom deals having already been done between the factional powerbrokers to obviate the need for a vote and all the inherent dangers that accompany them. In Durack, where there’s an outside chance of Labor rolling incumbent Barry Haase in the redrawn Kalgooorlie-based electorate, former State Geraldton Labor MP Shane Hill is also unopposed, but that’s because he was really the only one who wanted it badly enough. In Stirling, where Labor has a second to none chance of rolling incumbent Michael Keenan, something obviously went wrong because two people decided to nominate against the favourite Louise Durack, but an upset is highly unlikely.

So the administrative committee had very little to worry about until last Thursday when the Corruption and Crime Commission released its long-awaited report on goings-on at the City of Wanneroo, which handed a couple of misconduct findings to deputy mayor Sam Salpietro and fired a salvo across the bows of Wanneroo mayor Jon Kelly. The problem for Labor is that Mr Kelly is the party’s hope in the seat of Cowan, held by the Liberals Luke Simpkins with a thin 2.4 per cent margin. Labor sees a combination of the local mayor and Kevin Rudd as an irresistible combination in Cowan and had all but pencilled in the seat as a win before last week’s report. The CCC made it clear that in its opinion Mr Kelly was prepared to curry favour with former premier-turned-lobbyist Brian Burke in order to further his own political ambitions. Mr Kelly argued both at the commission and since the report came out that he did everything possible to distance himself from Mr Burke, but put bluntly the CCC just didn’t believe him – which must make the ALP’s administrative committee wonder whether the voters of Cowan will either.

• Dennis Shanahan of The Australian has been in touch to point out an error in last week’s Newspoll post, which stated both Newspoll and the Nielsen poll were both conducted on the Friday and Saturday. Newspoll’s surveying in fact continued throughout Sunday, with The Australian releasing the result at the end of the day.

Higgins and Bradfield by-elections live

O’Dwyer (LIB) 34764 54.4% 0.2% 59.6%
Hamilton (GRN) 20778 32.5% 22.2% 40.4%
Australian Sex Party 2084 3.3%
Liberal Democrats 311 0.5%
Australian Democrats 1455 2.3% 1.1%
One Nation 199 0.3%
Democratic Labor Party 2452 3.8%
Independents 1828 2.9%
TOTAL 63871
COUNTED: 72.5%
BOOTHS (OF 38): 38
Fletcher (LIB) 39159 56.3% -3.2% 63.8%
Gemmell (GRN) 17608 25.3% 14.4% 36.2%
Democratic Labor Party 1477 2.1%
Australian Sex Party 2222 3.2%
One Nation 450 0.6%
Liberal Democrats 561 0.8%
CCC 702 1.0%
ENE 719 1.0%
Independents/CDP 6646 9.6%
TOTAL 69544
COUNTED: 73.1%
BOOTHS (OF 40): 40

Tuesday. 3726 postals from Bradfield, massively favouring the Liberals (75.4-24.6 on 2PP).

Sunday (9pm). Turnout on ordinary votes was 88.8% of the 2007 election in Higgins and 95.9% in Bradfield, compared with 89.3% at the Mayo by-election, 93.2% in Lyne and 89.4% in Gippsland. So it was actually quite high in Bradfield and only slightly below par in Higgins. Part of the reason in Higgins might be that it’s not a growth area. We could equally get a high number of pre-polls and postals bringing the number closer to average. I suspect we’ve seen half the pre-polls counted so far (the rest should come in quite quickly) and a third of the postals (which should dribble in over the next week).

Sunday (7.30pm). 2938 postals from Higgins added. Error in my Bradfield table corrected.

Sunday (4.30pm). 5841 pre-polls from Higgins and 3765 from Bradfield added. These have been particularly strong for Kelly O’Dwyer, increasing her two-party margin from 8.3 per cent to 9.1 per cent. Special hospital team (about 500 votes) also added from Bradfield; not yet available from Higgins.

Sunday (early). The AEC has seen fit to publish booth results, so too late to be any use, I hereby reinstate the table. Also, here’s a revised version of my regional Higgins breakdown. I’ve abolished the distinction between the “pink-green” area of Prahran-Windsor and “red” Carnegie – notwithstanding that there’s some distance between the two, the figures were near identical. The other distinction is between “deep blue” Toorak-Kooyong and the “light blue” bulk of the electorate.

Light Blue 52.76% -1.2% 24.4% 58.5% 1.1%
Deep Blue 61.13% -2.9% 19.8% 65.3% -0.7%
Marginal 41.03% 2.1% 27.9% 48.6% 6.8%

And here’s the Bradfield breakdown, the “marginal” area being what I described previously as “pockets on the edges of the electorate in the north-west at Asquith and Hornsby and in the south at Chatswood and Willoughby”.

Deep Blue 58.0% -5.6% 25.2% 66.0% -1.7%
Marginal 48.4% 0.2% 28.9% 57.1% 4.1%

The general impression is that while the Greens absorbed most of the missing Labor vote across the board, some of it leaked either to the Liberals or to other minor parties (the DLP in particular polled 6.6 per cent in the marginal areas of Higgins, and scored double the vote in the marginal areas of Bradfield compared with the rest of the electorate) and thence to the Liberals as preferences. This counterbalanced a fall in the Liberal primary vote in the deep blue areas of both electorates, which proved nowhere near the magnitude required to put them in danger. It’s interesting to note that this fall was lower in Higgins than in Bradfield, which it’s tempting to put down to resistance to Clive Hamilton among those at the highest end of the income scale.

9.20pm. I’ve performed a similar exercise in Bradfield. There are marginal pockets on the edges of the electorate in the north-west at Asquith and Hornsby and in the south at Chatswood and Willoughby. These areas swung to the Liberals 4.7 per cent in two-party terms. However, the wealthy Liberal heart of the electorate, from Killara north through St Ives, swung 5.1 per cent to the Greens.

8.40pm. Psephos in comments notes the trend detectable from Higgins in the table below (which I’m continuing to update as the last few booths come in) is reflected in Bradfield: “Hornsby Central, Labor’s best booth in the seat: Liberal primary vote up 5.9%.”

8.20pm. I’ll keep that coming in tabular form. “Light blue” zone is the bulk of the electorate; “deep blue” the riverfront from South Yarra through Toorak to Kooyong; “pink-green” Prahran/Windsor; “red” the Carnegie area.

Light blue zone 0.9% 20 out of 21
Deep blue zone -0.8% 6 out of 6
Pink-green zone 6.3% 6 out of 6
Red zone 7.1% 3 out of 3

8.02pm. While I’ve been quiet, I’ve been calculating the Higgins booth results provided by Antony into four zones. While this has been happening the Liberal-Greens margin has blown out to 9 per cent. All four zones have swung to the Liberals: the normally Labor-voting area in the south-east around Carnegie by 9.3 per cent; posh Toorak/Kooyong has swung 1.7 per cent; pink-green Prahran/Windsor 4.3 per cent; and the middle-Liberal balance, from Armadale to Glen Iris and Camberwell to Malvern, by 1.1 per cent. That’s assuming my calculations are correct, which I can’t state with total confidence.

7.38pm. Twelve booths now in from Higgins, swing steady at 5.4 per cent, Kelly home and hosed. Props though to the 400 or so voters of Toorak West for the short-lived entertainment they provided.

7.32pm. Another booth pushes Liberal two-party lead in Higgins to 5.4 per cent. Antony has abandoned commentary, but if he hadn’t I’m guessing he would be calling it now.

7.30pm. No alarms for the Liberals in Bradfield: projected margin 12 per cent.

7.28pm. Antony nonetheless says Higgins “can’t be called yet”.

7.27pm. Antony Green has eight booths in from Higgins and 9.2 per cent counted – O’Dwyer with an almost certainly sufficient 4.8 per cent two-party lead.

7.22pm. Possum, who took about 10 seconds to call the US election for Obama, says on Twitter: “Shorter Higgins – Greens went well with wealthy Lib voters but not so good with middle income Libs. Failed with ALP voters. game over”.

7.19pm. I’ve abandoned the table – it is not possible to keep up with the furious number crunching I needed to do to keep track as each new booth reported. Head to the ABC for elucidation on what’s happening.

7.15pm. That Toorak West result looking quirkier after Gardiner booth reports, but it’s still close. Having trouble keeping up due to AEC failure to report individual booths, so double check anything you see above.

7.13pm. Better result for Liberals in Higgins from Kooyong Park.

7.05pm. Both the booths have 2PP votes in, so my 2PP figures are now less speculative.

7.02pm. First Higgins booth is super wealthy, super Liberal Toorak West, and it shows a very interesting plunge in the Liberal vote.

6.49pm. Unless I’m mistaken – please let it be so – the AEC are not providing individual polling booth figures, which means I might as well pack up and go home.

6.46pm. Lady Davidson Hospital booth in from Bradfield – only 293 votes, but no evidence of a remarkable result.

6.36pm. Still nothing. These are urban electorates so there are no small booths that report quickly; the large number of candidates, particularly in Bradfield, might also be slowing things down.

6.20pm. Until I get notional 2PP counts, my 2PP will be based on the following preference estimates:

HIGGINS: ASP 80-20 to Greens; LDP 80-20 to Liberal; Dems 70-30 to Greens; ONP and DLP 80-20 to Liberal; all others 55-45 to Liberal.

BRADFIELD: DLP 80-20 to Liberal; ASP 80-20 to Greens; ONP and LDP 80-20 to Liberal; CCC and ENE 50-50; all others 75-25 to Liberal.

# and % primary vote figures are raw; primary vote swing and 2PP figures are based on booth matching.

6pm. Welcome to the Poll Bludger’s live coverage of the Higgins and Bradfield by-elections. First figures should be in in about 20 minutes.

Bradfield by-election: December 5

Friday, December 4

Ben Raue of the Tally Room cases the joint, and reports the following intelligence concerning the Christian Democratic Party:

Apparently the party has divided the seat’s polling booths between the nine candidates. Each candidate has their own how-to-vote card which puts themselves first then goes to all the other CDP candidates through a donkey vote. Then the the vote goes to the DLP, Bill Koutalianos, One Nation, Simon Kelly, Philip Dowling, Environmentalists for Nuclear Energy, Brian Buckley, Liberal Democrats, Peter Hanrahan, CCC, the Liberals, the Greens and the Sex Party last.

Friday, November 20

A candidates forum will be held at 6pm tonight at the Killara High School, hosted by the school and the Australian Youth Climate Coalition.

Friday, November 13

The ballot paper draw has been conducted, and the full list of 22 candidates can be viewed here. Expect a high informal vote thanks to the Christian Democratic Party, which has been unable to make quite as much of a joke of this very serious process as they had hoped to: only nine candidates are being fielded, rather than the promised 11. Were I a Bradfield voter, I’d send these idiots a signal by placing them from 14 to 22.

Monday, November 9

News Limited reports that Zoo Weekly has approached “chk chk boom girl” Clare Werbeloff to promote its wares by having her run as a candidate. A similar enterprise proposed for the March state election in Queensland, at which former AFL player Warwick Capper was to join Pauline Hanson in running for Beaudesert, was thwarted when the great man and his policy brains trust, Mark Jackson, neglected to submit the nomination in time.

Friday, November 6

LATE: Antony Green has updated his by-election with candidate details, which lists two who had escaped my attention: medical practitioner Simon McCaffrey of the Democratic Labor Party, and fitter and turner Victor Waterson of One Nation.

EARLY: Imre Salusinszky of The Australian reports the Christian Democratic Party’s 11 candidates will run “an emotive anti-Muslim, anti-carbon trading campaign”:

The party’s propaganda for the December 5 by-election, which has been provided in advance to The Australian, declares “Enough!” and urges Australians to “Stand your ground in defence of Christian values”. It uses a selection of alternating slogans, including, “Ten-year moratorium on Muslim immigration”, “No nukes for Iran – we must defend Israel” and “No carbon tax – stop the ETS”.

Tuesday, November 3

The North Shore Times relates the aforementioned Simon Kelly is an “anti-safe seat campaigner”, and that the Liberal Democratic Party will also field a candidate.

Monday, November 2

Seven candidates are listed on Wikipedia: the aforementioned Paul Fletcher, Susie Gemmell, Marianna Leishman and Brian Buckley; another independent, “local IT businessman” Simon Kelly; and two Christian Democratic Party candidates, Leighton Thew and Heath Wilson.

Thursday, October 29

The Australian Sex Party has announced its candidate will be one Zahra Stardust, who is apparently no relation to Ziggy – her birth certificate reportedly records her as Marianna Leishman. Stardust-Leishman is billed as “a feminist writer and law graduate who also works as a trapeze artist, burlesque performer, showgirl, fire twirler and pole dance instructor”. Nominations close November 12, with the ballot draw to follow the next day.

Tuesday, October 27

Enjoy Paul Fletcher’s by-election website.

UPDATE: And, in the interests of balance, Greens candidate Susie Gemmell’s. Thanks to Spanners and Marg for their awareness-raising efforts in comments.

Monday, October 26

Speaker Harry Jenkins has confirmed that the Higgins and Bradfield by-elections will be held on December 5.

Monday, October 19

Brendan Nelson formally tendered his resignation today to Speaker Harry Jenkins, who is expected to announce an election date of November 28 or December 5 in the coming days. Antony Green has weighed in on local reports that the Christian Democratic Party might field as many as 11 candidates: one for each disciple other than Judas, which is presumably how Fred Nile and campaign manager Michael Darby view estranged party MLC Gordon Moyes. Already pencilled in are Leighton Thew and Heath Wilson. Antony says the plan would amount to the CDP “abusing its privileges as a registered party”, which allow it to nominate candidates without obtaining the signatures of 50 voters as independent candidates are required to to. He suggests reforming the law to require nominating signatures if a party wishes to field multiple candidates.

Saturday, October 10

With the by-election process still not officially under way, Phillip Coorey of the Sydney Morning Herald discusses the question of timing:

Governments set byelection dates and, on average, have opted in recent years for polls 52 days after resignations were tendered. That would push Bradfield and Higgins back to Saturday, December 5. They could be a week earlier on November 28. Either way, the polls would follow the final two-week parliamentary sitting in which the Coalition – if it doesn’t filibuster – will have to vote on Labor’s emissions trading scheme.

Saturday, October 3

The North Shore Times reports potential independent candidates include Ku-ring-gai mayor Elaine Malicki and “Australian nationalist” Brian Buckley (hat tip to Nick C in comments).

Tuesday, September 29

An exquisitely detailed report on the preselection by Imre Salusinszky of The Australian details the ballot thus:

Courtesy of the special rule, the first ballot took care of everyone apart from Fletcher (28 votes), Switzer (15), Coleman (14), Leeser (11) and, surprisingly, Burton (12) and Alexander (7). A second ballot redistributed the vote as follows: Fletcher (40), Switzer (23), Leeser (19), Coleman (14), Burton (11), Alexander (7). The tennis champ was retired, hurt. Burton and Coleman were eliminated in the third and fourth ballots. As Coleman fell, the Left moved strategically against Switzer. Leeser leapfrogged him, picking up 13 of Coleman’s 17 supporters. The fifth vote came out: Fletcher (47), Leeser (38), Switzer (26). Leeser’s supporters began to speculate on how soon Turnbull would be elevating their man to the shadow ministry: with Switzer eliminated, they assumed the Right would lock in behind Leeser. They were wrong. Switzer’s vote split straight down the middle. Neeham walked briskly down the stairs of the RSL, to a room next to a billiard parlour, where the candidates were holed up. He told them Fletcher had beaten Leeser by 60 votes to 51, and took them through the successive balloting.

Sunday, September 27

Paul Fletcher won last night’s Liberal preselection over Julian Leeser by a margin of 60 to 51 in the final round, according to VexNews. Tom Switzer and David Coleman reportedly made it through to the third round, the also-rans presumably having been knocked out in the first and second. Stephanie Peatling of the Sydney Morning Herald reports the preselection proceedings were delayed by a bomb scare. Fletcher holds dual British citizenship which he says he will relinquish on Monday, the High Court having established in 1999 that this constitutes “allegiance to a foreign power” when it overturned Queensland One Nation candidate Heather Hill’s election to the Senate.

Other candidate that I’m aware of: Susie Gemmell of the Greens.

Saturday, September 26

Today’s the big day for the Liberal preselection. Writing in The Australian, Peter van Onselen describes the procedure thus:

If you are reading this on Saturday, take a moment to feel for the 117Liberal Party members locked away from the outside world at the Hornsby RSL. There won’t even be a television in the background broadcasting the AFL grand final. If they’re lucky, theyll get a few newspapers to share around. The process will continue through the day as the 17 candidates formally work their way around small groups of preselectors in round table format to answer questions and make short pitches. By 7pm the voting process starts as each of the candidates gets eliminated. It is entirely possible we won’t know the result until the early hours of Sunday morning. If you are reading this article on Sunday, in all likelihood the result will be available on The Australian’s website, even if it wasn’t known in time to make it into the Sunday papers. The talk will quickly move from the process of the preselection to the choice of the candidate selected.

These are the 17 starters in vague order of likelihood of victory, as best as I can ascertain it.

Paul Fletcher. Former Optus executive, described by Imre Salusinszky as “a communications consultant and former staffer with former federal communications minister Richard Alston”. Phillip Coorey of the Sydney Morning Herald reports “number crunchers” give Fletcher slight favouritism ahead of David Coleman. This is partly because he has strong support from the Left, which accounts for 35 votes, while Right (30 votes) support is scattered among Julian Leeser, Tom Switzer, Sophie York, Simon Berger and “dark horse” John Hart. Fletcher is also rated the favourite by Peter van Onselen, who nonetheless observes he “has the twin negatives of being close to the left-wing clique The Group and not living in the area”.

David Coleman. An executive with the Packer family’s Publishing and Broadcasting Limited who is associated with the Left faction and the other side of town, having run for the federal Cook preselection and been mentioned in connection with the state seat of Cronulla. Described as a “centrist” by Peter van Onselen, who rates him one of four front-runners but warns he “doesn’t live in the area and the risk for him is not having enough support early in the count to last long enough to pick up expected preferences”.

Simon Berger. Openly gay staffer for Nelson. Not Friends with Miranda Devine, who says he squibbed the emissions trading system issue while in Nelson’s employ. Andrew Landeryou at VexNews reports he “enjoys the doctor’s strong endorsement”, and is “loosely associated with the Alex Hawke part of the Liberal Right, but the associations with most of these candidates and the dominant factions are very loose”. Phillip Coorey of the Sydney Morning Herald observes that Berger’s branch will be transferred to North Sydney under the current redistribution proposal. Peter van Onselen says both Berger and Leeser “should get strong local support but the difficulty for each of them is winning enough factional support to secure a majority if they make it to the final two”.

Julian Leeser. Menzies Research Centre executive director. According to Andrew Landeryou at VexNews, he would enjoy support from within the Alex Hawke sub-faction of the Right, but “also worked for factionally Left Phil Ruddock so he maintains good relations across the usually warring NSW Liberal tribes”. Phillip Coorey of the Sydney Morning Herald says Leeser is a member of a Berowra branch that will be transferred into the electorate under the current redistribution proposal. Peter van Onselen reports both Leeser and Tom Switzer have been playing up the idea that a local resident is necessary to forestall a challenge by an independent running on development controversies, but says Leeser’s challenge is “winning enough factional support to secure a majority” if he makes the final two.

Tom Switzer. Former opinion page editor of The Australian, adviser to Brendan Nelson and waiter for Studs Afloat in a strictly “pants on” capacity. Said by Andrew Landeryou of VexNews to be backed by the David Clarke faction of the Right. Friends with Miranda Devine. Peter van Onselen reports Switzer has been playing up the idea that a local resident is necessary to forestall a challenge by an independent running on development controversies.

Sophie York. Like Tom Switzer, Friends with Miranda Devine, and evidently very good friends at that: she lists York’s qualifications as “barrister, author, lieutenant-commander in the navy reserves, mother of four sons”, being “part of a new breed of conservative feminists, generous and warm but with courage and a steely intellect”, and sharing Switzer’s qualities of being “successful, normal and fun, with a fine mind, good judgment, loving family and clear moral compass”.

Paul Blanch. Candidate for Calare at the 2004 federal election, at which time he was a spruiked as a sheep farmer who owned a property near Bathurst, he is now described by Phillip Coorey of the Sydney Morning Herald as a “local lawyer and businessman”.

John Alexander. Former Davis Cup champion (loosely defined), “voice of tennis” and referee on Gladiators. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Alexander only recently joined the Liberal Party and attended his first branch meeting last week. A day before the preselection. Imre Salusinszky of The Australian reported Alexander had “unleashed a late offensive, telephoning about half of the 120 preselectors”.

John Hart. Chief executive of Restaurant and Catering Australia, rated a “dark horse” by Phillip Coorey of the Sydney Morning Herald.

Paul Ritchie. Public affairs manager for the NSW Business Chamber.

Namoi Dougall. A solicitor who once sat with Malcolm Turnbull on the Republic Advisory Committee.

Greg Burton. Another solicitor, Burton contested preselection for the state seat of Davidson in 2002.

Maureen Shelley. Former Ku-ring-gai councillor who challenged Bronwyn Bishop for preselection in Mackellar ahead of the 2007 election, losing by 90 votes to 17.

Philip Senior. A late entrant described by Peter van Onselen as an “author and business analyst”.

Richard Bell. Another late entrant, described by Andrew Priestley of the North Shore Times as a “barrister and community radio presenter”.

Robin Fitzsimons. Still another late entrant, described by Andrew Priestley of the North Shore Times as a “Sydney University senate fellow and neurologist”.

Mark Majewski. One more late entrant, described by Andrew Priestley of the North Shore Times as a “small business owner”. Majewski was the Liberal candidate for Blaxland at the 2007 federal election.


Arthur Sinodinos. Considered the front-runner if he chose to run but has declined to do so, pleading the demands of politics on family life. Phillip Coorey of the Sydney Morning Herald quotes a “senior source” saying that if Sinodinos had run, “there would have been potential to embarrass him over his relationship with the disgraced Treasury official Godwin Grech”. Peter van Onselen of The Australian has been promoting the idea that Sinodinos might want to enter state politics instead, perhaps replacing the outgoing Peter Debnam in Vaucluse.

Nick Campbell. State party president, said by Phillip Coorey of the Sydney Morning Herald to have put his hand up on news of Arthur Sinodinos’s no-show, but ultimately didn’t follow through.

Adrienne Ryan. Former Ku-ring-gai mayor and ex-wife of former police commissioner Peter Ryan, mentioned in relation to every NSW Liberal preselection since time immemorial, but not ultimately a contestant in this one.

Nick Farr-Jones. Former Wallabies rugby union star mentioned early in the hunt, but evidently thought better of the idea.

Monday, September 14

Ben Raue at The Tally Room reports the Greens have preselected Susie Gemmell, their candidate from the 2007 election and for the corresponding state seat of Ku-ring-gai in 2003 and 2007. Gemmell works as an adviser to state upper house MP and Senate candidate Lee Rhiannon.

Friday, September 11

Imre Salusinszky of The Australian reports a “draft timetable” circulating the Liberal Party has the preselection scheduled for September 26. According to Salusinszky, Fletcher is “narrowly favoured … at this stage”.

Tuesday, September 1

Malcolm Mackerras in Crikey tips a Liberal-Greens two-party margin of 59-41. He also provides an interesting rebuttal of the conventional wisdom that by-elections are bad for governments: true of the days when most resulted from the deaths of sitting members, he says, but trumped by the desire of voters to react against a “greed-driven resignation of the sitting member” by voting against their party. Without question there’s a lot of meat on these bones, but it doesn’t explain last year’s solid swing to the Nationals in Gippsland.

There may be an interesting new addition to the Liberal preselection race if an item in yesterday’s Crikey Tips and Rumours section is to be believed:

The contest for preselection in Bradfield is about to get a little more interesting with international lawyer Jason Yat-sen Li to declare his candidacy. Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull has been working very hard to convince Yat-sen Li to run. Turnbull and Yat-sen Li have been very close ever since they first met at the Constitutional Convention in 1998. Other front-runners for Bradfield, including Julian Leeser and Tom Switzer, fear that Yat-sen Li might just have what it takes to win the preselection, especially if he has Turnbull’s backing.

Li was the lead New South Wales Senate candidate in 1998 of the Unity Party, formed to send a multicultural message against Hansonism. He left the party shortly after, accusing it of negotiating preference deals with unsavoury right-wing micro-parties. I will hold off including him in my Liberal preselection form guide, which I will move up to the top of this post each time I add a new update:

Monday, August 31

It is expected that the by-election will be held in November: around the time, notes Dennis Shanahan of The Australian, that the Rudd government will reintroduce its Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme legislation, daring the opposition to provide it with a double dissolution trigger. Helpful Liberal sources inform Glenn Milne that Malcolm Turnbull is “finished” if he can’t add 2 per cent to the Liberal primary vote. This is revealed in an interesting article for News Limited’s Sunday tabloids which doesn’t seem to be online:

The battle for Bradfield will be an internal Liberal party referendum on Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership. No more, no less. And for anyone who thinks that a cruel and unusual benchmark for a leader scraping the bottom of poll figures no politician would wish upon another, hark back a moment, if you will, to May, 2008. That was the time of the Gippsland by-election. A happier time for Brendan Nelson, whose decision to quit politics early has turned the contest for Bradfield into a make-or-break moment for Malcolm Turnbull.

Nelson was leader of the Liberal Party and Turnbull his putative challenger. Turnbull and his supporters told anyone who would listen that Gippsland was Nelson’s last stand. If Gippsland went, held by the Nationals for more than 20 years, so too would Nelson’s leadership. Gippsland happened in the full sunlamp glow of Kevin Rudd’s honeymoon. Back then, no one had heard of the global financial crisis. Nelson didn’t have an issue to fly with. But in tough-minded fashion, he grafted some. He opposed the Government’s alco-pops tax as an attack on the “ute-man” demographic in Gippsland, and he flayed Rudd over his broken election promises to bring down grocery and petrol prices. Critically, he used his Budget in Reply speech to propose a five-cents-a-litre-cut in fuel tax.

It flew. Behind the scenes, Turnbull described it as “populist crap”. But after Nelson announced – the first time around – he’d be retiring at the next election, Kevin Rudd had him around for a private cup of tea. Rudd declared Nelson’s speech on the Budget one of his finest moments as Liberal Leader. Unlike Turnbull, Rudd knew a good political manoeuvre when he saw one. The National Party went on to retain Gippsland with an 8.4 per cent swing against Labor.

Critically, the emphatic victory came off the preferences of the 20.4 per cent of the vote won by the Liberal candidate, Rohan Fitzgerald. And you know what that victory bought Brendan Nelson? Three weeks of clear air. That’s all. Three weeks before Turnbull and his supporters again began white-anting him before finally bringing him down five months later. So don’t let anyone tell you that posing the Bradfield by-election as a test for Malcolm Turnbull is a maliciously minded set-up. It is simply a matter of applying Malcolm’s own standards to himself.

The Liberal preselection will be decided at the end of September by 72 local branch delegates and 48 from the state council and state executive. There is talk of as many 20 candidates taking the field. Phillip Coorey of the Sydney Morning Herald reports talk in Liberal circles that some might be running to serve notice to the members for neighbouring Berowra and Mackellar, Philip Ruddock and Bronwyn Bishop, that it won’t do for them to squeeze out another term while the surplus of Bradfield preselection talent goes begging.

Elsewhere, AAP reports the Greens will preselect a candidate on September 14. There’s a crazy large guide to the electorate on Ben Raue’s The Tally Room. The similarly thorough Antony Green offers some late news on the 1952 by-election for the seat.

Tuesday, August 25

Phillip Coorey of the Sydney Morning Herald reports Brendan Nelson “will not stay until the next election” and will “make an announcement in the next 24 hours”, suggesting a by-election is imminent in his north Sydney seat of Bradfield. The electorate runs from Chatswood north through Killara, Turramurra and St Ives to Wahroonga and has been very safe for the Liberals since its creation in 1949, the inaugural member being a venerable Billy Hughes. Brendan Nelson came to the seat in 1996 after a preselection coup against David Connolly, member from 1974.

Nelson announced he would not contest the next election in February, leading to considerable jockeying ahead of a preselection that was delayed pending the announcement of new electoral boundaries. To head off branch stacking, the party’s state executive promptly ruled that any new members in the electorate would not be eligible to vote in the preselection ballot due nine months’ hence, whereas the rule normally requires only six months of membership. By all accounts the two front-runners will be Arthur Sinodinos, legendary former chief-of-staff to John Howard, and Tom Switzer, former opinion page editor for The Australian. However, other names were recently put forward by Phillip Coorey: Menzies Research Centre executive director Julian Leeser; Paul Fletcher, director of corporate and regulatory affairs at Optus; and David Coleman, an executive with the Packer family’s Publishing and Broadcasting Limited (last I heard) who is associated with the Left faction and the other side of the town, having run for the federal Cook preselection and been mentioned in connection with the state seat of Cronulla.

Antony Green has quickly whipped up a post on the matter, noting as a certain fact that Labor won’t run and that “the real contest in Bradfield is likely to be in Liberal pre-slection, not the subsequent by-election”.

UPDATE: According to Christian Kerr of The Australian, an “influential local Liberal” says: “If Arthur wants the seat, he’s got it. If he doesn’t run, then it’s an open race.”

UPDATE 2: The psephoblogosphere doesn’t stuff around: posts up already from Possum and Ben Raue.

UPDATE 3: Andrew Landeryou at VexNews says his sources believe Sinodinos is “not interested in running and has told people so as late as today”. He also names as another contender “master campaign tactician Simon Berger, an openly gay staffer for Nelson who enjoys the doctor’s strong endorsement”. Berger is “loosely associated with the Alex Hawke part of the Liberal Right, but the associations with most of these candidates and the dominant factions are very loose”. Leeser “would enjoy support from within the Hawke group. Interestingly, he once also worked for factionally Left Phil Ruddock so he maintains good relations across the usually warring NSW Liberal tribes”. Tom Switzer has support from the “Taliban Right” associated with local operative Noel McCoy and hard Right warlord David Clarke, “although they don’t really claim him as a member as such”. Apparently still in the mix is barrister Mark Speakman, recently discussed as a possible successor to Peter Debnam in Vaucluse and a challenger to federal incumbent Stephen Mutch in Cook way back in 1998, which led to the installation of Bruce Baird as a compromise candidate. Landeryou reckons David Coleman’s “decision to drag the party off to court over a previous preselection (for Cook before the last federal election) made him as popular as a bikini model in a Kabul coffee house”.

Mayo by-election thread

I’ve been too preoccupied to offer commentary on Saturday’s Mayo by-election, but maybe interested readers can do the job for me in comments. Liberal candidate Jamie Briggs is a short-priced favourite to succeed Alexander Downer in the traditionally safe seat, but two other candidates in the field are of at least theoretical interest. One is Bob Day, the cashed-up Liberal candidate for Makin at the November 2007 election who is running with Family First after being knocked back for preselection. The other is independent Di Bell, described on her website as “writer and editor in residence at our very own Flinders University” and “Professor Emerita of Anthropology at The George Washington University in Washington DC”. Bell has the backing of Senator Nick Xenophon, which was seen as a decisive factor in independent Kris Hanna’s surprise re-election in Mitchell at the 2006 state election after parting company first with Labor and then the Greens.