Seat of the week: Chisholm

Chisholm covers a band of suburbs in Melbourne’s electorally sensitive east, from Box Hill and Mont Albert in the north through Burwood and Mount Waverley in the centre to Chadstone, Oakleigh and Clayton in the south. Labor is strongest in the far south, with most of the remainder being naturally marginal and the Mont Albert area leaning Liberal. Reflecting the area’s static population, the redistribution that will take effect at the next election has added around 18,000 voters at Blackburn South, Burwood East and Forest Hill in the east (previously in Deakin), balanced only by the transfer of about 8000 voters around Glen Waverley to Bruce and 1500 in Mont Albert North to Kooyong. Antony Green calculates the changes have shaved 0.3% from the Labor margin, which is now at 5.8%.

Chisholm was created with the enlargement of parliament in 1949, but was then based on Camberwell and Glen Iris further to the west. It no longer contains any of its original territory, which now bolsters the Liberals in Higgins and Kooyong. Its progressive drift to the east accordingly made a Labor-leaning seat of what had traditionally been a safe one for the Liberals, its members being Wilfrid Kent Hughes until 1970, Tony Staley until 1980 and Graham Harris until 1983. The Liberal grip was loosened by successive swings in 1977, 1980 and 1983, the Labor candidate on each occasion being Helen Mayer, who succeeded on the third attempt. Early Howard government Health Minister Michael Wooldridge recovered the seat for the Liberals in 1987, and held it precariously until he jumped ship to the more secure Casey in 1998. The current Labor member, Anna Burke, prevailed at the 1998 election with a 2.1% margin that was little changed in 2001 and 2004. She finally achieved a secure margin with a 4.7% swing in 2007, before the seat went slightly against the statewide trend with a 1.3% swing to the Liberals in 2010.

Anna Burke had been an industrial officer with the Finance Sector Union before entering parliament, and is aligned with the Right sub-faction associated with the Shop Distributive and Allied Employees Association. She has had two spells as Deputy Speaker since Labor came to power in 2007, the interruption coming after the 2010 election when the government partially bolstered its fragile parliamentary position by having Liberal member Peter Slipper take her place. Burke returned to the role after the government appeared to go one better in having Slipper replace Harry Jenkins as Speaker in November 2011, and her national profile received a considerable boost when allegations of sexual harassment and misuse of taxi dockets compelled Slipper to stand aside in April 2012, leaving her the semi-permanent occupant of the chair.

The Liberals have again preselected their candidate from 2010, Vietnamese-born John Nguyen, a partner at Ernst & Young who was five years old when his family fled their native country in 1979. VexNews reports that Nguyen won the preselection ballot ahead of Nicholas Tragas, Telstra executive and Boroondara councillor, and that the two were respectively backed by “the sometimes united Kroger/Costello group” and its traditional rivals associated with Premier Ted Baillieu.

Seat of the week: La Trobe

This week’s better-late-than-never installment of Seat of the Week brings us to La Trobe, one of two crucial gains for Labor in Victoria at the 2010 election which helped redressed losses in New South Wales and especially Queensland. The defeated Liberal member, Jason Wood, will attempt to recover the seat from Labor’s Laura Smyth at the next election after winning a preselection ballot earlier this week.

La Trobe has covered Melbourne’s eastern fringe since its creation with the enlargement of parliament in 1949, drifting south-eastwards over time from its starting point of Dandenong and Croydon. It now consists of two rapidly growing outer Melbourne areas separated by the Dandenong Ranges – Boronia and Ferntree Gully in the north, and the Berwick area in the south – and extends eastwards through Belgrave to Emerald, Cockatoo and Gembrook. Labor’s strength around Belgrave is countered by Liberal dominance around Berwick. The redistribution that will take effect at the next election has effected a swap of about 16,000 voters around Bayswater, who have been transferred to Aston, for a similar number in Narre Warren, who were previously in Holt. Another 3000 voters around Pakenham have been transferred to McMillan. Antony Green calculates that the changes have boosted Labor’s margin from 0.9% to 1.7%.

Along with other seats in Melbourne’s outer suburban “sandbelt”, La Trobe played a decisive role in the election of the Whitlam government in 1972, falling to Labor for the first time with a 10.2% swing. It swung almost as heavily the other way when the Liberals recovered it in 1975, but returned to the Labor fold in 1980 when Peter Milton defeated Liberal member Marshall Baillieu (part of the clan that includes the current Premier). An unfavourable redistribution in 1990 combined with the statewide anti-Labor tsunami at that year’s election to deliver a 1.4% victory to Liberal candidate Bob Charles. The seat had a remarkably stable time of it on Charles’s watch, staying with the Liberals by 2.4% in 1993, 1.4% in 1996, 1.0% in 1998 and 3.7% in 2001.

With Charles’s retirement at the 2004 election, La Trobe emerged as a contest between Liberal candidate Jason Wood, a police officer who had worked in counter-terrorism and organised crime units, and Labor’s Susan Davies, who held the since-abolished state seat of Gippsland West as an independent from 1997 to 2002. The result was an easy win for Wood, who overcame the loss of Charles’s personal vote to pick up a 2.1% swing that was concentrated in the heavily mortgaged suburbs nearer the city. Wood had won preselection with the backing of the Kennett faction after cutting his teeth as candidate for Holt in 2001. It was noted at the time he had “been a member of Greenpeace for longer than he has been a member of the Liberal Party”, and he went on to embarrass his party ahead of the 2007 election by issuing a brochure that failed to sing from its song sheet on nuclear power.

Wood went into the 2007 election with a 5.8% margin, of which only 0.5% was left after a swing that was most conspicuous in the areas that had moved to the Liberals in 2004. He was promoted to parliamentary secretary for justice and public security when Malcolm Turnbull assumed the Liberal leadership in September 2008, despite the embarrassment he had recently suffered after stammering his way through a parliamentary speech on genetically modified organisms (which repeatedly came out as “orgasms”). The 1.4% swing that unseated him at the 2010 election was fairly typical for Victoria, which collectively swung to Labor by 1.0%. The successful Labor candidate was Laura Smyth, a lawyer for Holding Redlich whom VexNews linked to the “Andrew Giles/Alan Griffin sub-faction of the Socialist Left”.

VexNews reports that Jason Wood’s victory in this week’s preselection ballot was achieved with 61 votes in the first round out of 140, against 38 for Mark Verschuur, managing director of Fairmont Medical Products (and, apparently, a former ALP member); 17 for “IT uber-nerd” and “chick magnet” Martin Spratt; 14 for local councillor and former mayor Sue McMillan; and 12 for Michael Keane, an anaesthetist and former member of the Liberal Democratic Party.

Seat of the week: Robertson

Roy Morgan’s effort to pull the rug from under Newspoll on Tuesday, as noted in the update to the previous post, has deprived me of my usual Friday poll thread. It us thus left to Seat of the Week to fly the flag on its lonesome. The latest instalment looks at the NSW Central Coast seat of Robertson, held for Labor by what on present indications looks to be an undefendable margin of 1.0%.

One of the happier aspects of the 2010 election for Labor was an apparent tactical win in New South Wales, where a statewide swing of 4.8% yielded the Coalition a notional gain of only four seats – half of what would have been achieved on a uniform swing. Remarkably, the four marginals Labor retained against the trend – all of which were outside Sydney – were the only four in the state which swung in Labor’s favour: Eden-Monaro (2.0% swing), Page (1.8%), Dobell (1.1%) and, most fortuitiously, Robertson, where a winning margin of just 0.1% from 2007 became 1.0% in 2010. This was despite the unceremonious departure of Labor’s accident-prone sitting member, Belinda Neal.

Robertson covers the coast about 60 kilometres north of Sydney, with the Hawkesbury River marking its southern boundary with Berowra. All but a small share of its voters live at its coastal end, which includes Labor-leaning Woy Woy, Liberal-leaning Terrigal and marginal Gosford. The remainder of the electorate covers Popran National Park, McPherson State Forest and the Mangrove Creek dam. Although technically a federation seat, it was a different beast when it was created, covering the inland rural areas of Mudgee, Singleton and Scone.

As Robertson was drawn over time into the increasingly urbanised coast, the conservatives’ hold weakened to the point where Barry Cohen was able to gain it for Labor in 1969, and to withstand the party’s disasters of 1975 and 1977. The seat drifted back slightly in the Liberals’ favour thereafter, and was held by them throughout the Howard years by Jim Lloyd, who unseated Labor’s Frank Walker with a 9.2% swing in 1996.

Robertson returned to the Labor fold in 2007 when a 7.0% swing delivered a 184-vote winning margin to their candidate Belinda Neal, wife of Right faction powerbroker and then senior state minister John Della Bosca. Neal had earlier served in the Senate from 1994 until 1998, when she quit to make a first unsuccessful run in Robertson. Once elected Neal soon made a name for herself with a peculiar parliamentary attack on a pregnant Sophie Mirabella, and an episode in which she allegedly abused staff at Gosford restaurant-nightclub Iguana Joe’s. In 2009 her husband, who had been present during the Iguana Joe’s fracas, resigned as state Health Minister after it was revealed he was having an affair with a 26-year-old woman.

Suggestions that Neal’s preselection might be in danger emerged soon after the Iguana Joe’s incident. A challenger emerged in the shape of Deborah O’Neill, an education teacher at the University of Newcastle and narrowly unsuccessful state candidate for Gosford in 2003. O’Neill won the favour of local branches and, so Peter van Onselen of The Australian reported, “NSW Labor Right powerbrokers”. The national executive allowed the decision to be determined by a normal rank-and-file ballot, in which O’Neill defeated Neal 98 votes to 67. O’Neill went on to prevail at the election against Liberal candidate Darren Jameson, a local police sergeant.

The preselected Liberal candidate for the next election is Lucy Wicks, who has contentiously been imposed on the local branches by the fiat of the party’s state executive. Barclay Crawford of the Daily Telegraph reports this occurred at the insistence of Tony Abbott, who lacked confidence in the local party organisation owing to its poor performance at the 2010 election and the recent preselection of a problematic candidate in Dobell.

The solution was to impose candidates on both electorates; to choose women for reasons of broader electoral strategy; and to share the spoils between the warring Alex Hawke “centre Right” and David Clarke “hard Right” factions (local potentate Chris Hartcher being aligned with the latter). Robertson went to soft Right in the person of Lucy Wicks, who according to the Telegraph was a particularly galling choice for members due to her tenuous local credentials and membership of the very state executive which imposed her as candidate.

Morgan face-to-face: 58-42 to Coalition; Seat of the week: Eden-Monaro

The latest Morgan face-to-face poll, conducted last week from a sample of 893, shows a slight improvement for Labor, up 1.5% to 32% on the primary vote with the Coalition down half a point to 45.5% and the Greens down 1.5% to 10.5%. This translates into a one point improvement on the respondent-allocated two-party preferred measure, from 59-48 to 58-42, and a half-point improvement on the previous election method, down from 55.5-44.5 to 55-45.

UPDATE (28/5/12): Essential Research has Labor losing one of the points on two-party preferred it clawed back over previous weeks, the result now at 57-43. Primary votes are 50% for the Coalition (up one), 33% for Labor (steady) and 10% for the Greens (steady). Other questions gauged views on the parties’ respective “attributes”, with all negative responses for Labor (chiefly “divided” and “will promise anything to win votes”) rating higher than all positives, and the Liberal Party doing rather better, rating well for “moderate” and “understands the problems facing Australia”. Bewilderingly, only slightly more respondents (35%) were willing to rate the state of the economy as “good” than “bad” (29%), with 33% opting for neither, although 43% rated the position of their household satisfactory against 28% unsatisfactory.

In today’s installment of Seat of the Week, it’s everybody’s favourite:

Seat of the week: Eden-Monaro

Taking in the south-eastern corner of New South Wales, including Queanbeyan, Cooma, Tumut and the coast from Batemans Bay south to Eden and the Victorian border, Eden-Monaro is renowned throughout the land as the seat that goes with the party who wins the election. Until 2007 its record as a bellwether was in fact surpassed by Macarthur, which had gone with the winning party at every election since its creation in 1949, but while Eden-Monaro stayed true to form by being among the seven New South Wales seats to switch to Labor with the election of the Rudd government, Liberal member Pat Farmer held on in Macarthur. The seat bucked the statewide trend in 2010 by recording a 2.0% swing to Labor, in what was very likely a vote of confidence in the popular local member, Mike Kelly.

Perhaps explaining its bellwether status, Eden-Monaro offers something of a microcosm of the state at large, if not the entire country. It incorporates suburban Queanbeyan, rural centres Cooma and Bega, coastal towns Eden and Narooma, and agricultural areas sprinkled with small towns. Labor’s strongest area is the electorate is the Canberra satellite town of Queanbeyan, excluding its Liberal-leaning outer suburb of Jerrabomberra. The coastal areas, which swung particularly heavily to Labor in 2007, can be divided between a finely balanced centre and areas of Liberal strength at the northern and southern extremities, respectively around Batemans Bay and Merimbula. The smaller inland towns are solidly conservative, but Cooma is highly marginal. The area covered by the electorate has been remarkably little changed over the years: it has been locked into the state’s south-eastern corner since federation, and its geographic size has remained fairly consistent as increases in the size of parliament cancelled out the effects of relative population decline. Outside of the interruption from 2007 and 2010, when it expanded westwards to Tumut and Tumbarumba, its boundaries since 1998 have been almost identical to those it had before 1913.

Eden-Monaro was held by conservatives of various stripes for all but one term until 1943, the exception being Labor’s 40-vote win when Jim Scullin’s government came to power in 1929. Allan Fraser won the seat for Labor with the 1943 landslide and held it against the tide in 1949 and 1951. He was defeated in 1966 but was back in 1969, finally retiring in 1972. The loss of his personal vote almost saw the seat go against the trend of the 1972 election, with the Country Party overtaking their conservative rivals for the first time to come within 503 votes of victory. The Country Party again finished second in 1974, this time coming within 146 votes of defeating Labor member Bob Whan (whose son Steve unsuccessfully contested the seat in 1998 and 2001, and was later the state member for Monaro). However, 1975 saw the Liberals gain strongly at the expense of the Country Party as well as Labor, and their candidate Murray Sainsbury won the seat with a two-party margin of 5.6%. Sainsbury held the seat until the defeat of the Fraser government in 1983; the same fate befell his Labor successor, Jim Snow, who was swept out by a 9.2% swing when Labor lost office in 1996, and then Gary Nairn, who served as Special Minister of State from January 2006 until the November 2007 election defeat.

Labor’s successful candidate was Lieutenant-Colonel Mike Kelly, a military lawyer who had been credited with efforts to warn the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade about the AWB kickbacks scandal, and the Australian military about possible abuses at Abu Ghraib prison. Kelly was installed as candidate a week after the party’s national conference empowered the state executive to appoint candidates in 25 key seats over the heads of the local party branches. A member of the Right faction, he won immediate promotion to parliamentary secretary for defence support, shifting to the water portfolio in February 2009. After the 2010 election he was shifted to the agriculture, fisheries and forestry portfolio, which was criticised owing to Kelly’s status as the federal parliament’s only war veteran. He was restored to his earlier role in the December 2011 reshuffle.

The Liberal candidate at the next election will be Peter Hendy, a former Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive and previously a staffer to Brendan Nelson and Peter Reith. Hendy reportedly had a comfortable victory over three other candidates, including Sustainable Agricultural Communities director Robert Belcher. The Nationals have reportedly approached Cooma mayor Dean Lynch to run, having determined that the Liberals’ endorsement of Hendy offers them a “point of difference” owing to his stance on foreign investment and the currency of foreign farm ownership as an issue locally.

Morgan face-to-face: 59-41 to Coalition; Seat of the week: Bass

Morgan’s face-to-face polling from last weekend, which has been published a day earlier than usual, shows Labor up slightly off a record low the week before, with their primary vote up a point to 30.5%. The Coalition is also up slightly, by half a point to 46%, with the Greens steady on 12%. A narrowing in the headline respondent-allocated two-party figure, from 60.5-39.5 to 59-41, is mostly down to a slight increase in the preference flow to Labor. With regard to the ongoing disparity between this result and the two-party figure derived from preference flows at the last election, which is steady at 55.5-44.5, Morgan has taken to adding the following footnote: “An increasing proportion of Greens voters are indicating a preference for the L-NP ahead of the ALP. At the 2010 Federal Election only 20% of Greens voters preferenced the L-NP, but recent Morgan Polls have this figure closer to 40%”.

The latest instalment of Seat of the Week, like the last two, is brought to you by the letter B.

Seat of the week: Bass

Continue reading “Morgan face-to-face: 59-41 to Coalition; Seat of the week: Bass”

Newspoll: 55-45 to Coalition; Seat of the week: Banks

GhostWhoVotes reports Newspoll has strayed from the pack with its latest fornightly federal poll result, with the Coalition holding a relatively moderate lead of 55-45 on two-party preferred compared with 59-41 last time. The primary votes are 30% for Labor (up three), 45% for the Coalition (down six) and 12% for the Greens (up one). In contrast to voting intention, the leaders’ ratings are essentially unchanged: Julia Gillard is on 27% approval (down one) and 63% disapproval (steady), and Tony Abbott is on 34% (up one) and 56% (up one). Results for reaction to the budget presumably to follow shortly.

UPDATE: The regular annual Newspoll budget questions have 18% saying it will make them better off and 41% worse off (compared with 11% and 41% last year); 37% saying the Coalition would have done a better job and 42% saying they wouldn’t have (38% and 41% last year); and 37% rating it good for the economy and 37% bad (37% and 32% last year). Newspoll has been asking these questions after each budget since the 1980s, with mean results over that time of 17.2% better off and 34.9% worse off; 29.8% opposition-better and 47.4% opposition-not-better; 42.3% good for the economy and 27.6% bad. With respect to “will the budget leave you better or worse off”, the five most positive results ever recorded (with some distance between fifth from sixth) occurred consecutively from 2004 to 2008. Outside of this golden age, the mean results have been 13.5% better off and 37.9% worse off.

Today’s Essential Research had the two-party preferred at 57-43, down from 58-42 last week, from primary votes of 50% for the Coalition (steady), 30% for Labor (up one) and 11% for the Greens (steady). Also featured were Essential’s monthly personal ratings, which welittle changed on April (contra Nielsen, Tony Abbott’s net rating has actually deteriorated from minus 12 to minus 17), and responses to the budget. The most interesting of the latter questions is on the impact of the budget on you personally, working people, businesses and the economy overall, for which the respective net ratings are minus 11, plus 7, minus 33 and minus 6. All of the eight specific features of the budget canvassed produced net positive ratings, from plus 5 for reduced defence spending to plus 79 for increased spending on dental health. There was a statistical tie (34% to 33%) on the question of whether Wayne Swan or Joe Hockey was most trusted to handle the economy.

Seat of the week: Banks

A little over a week ago I promised that my Friday posts would henceforth profile a significant federal electorate, but I was diverted on Friday by the onslaught of budget polling. Today I make good the omission with an overview of the southern Sydney electorate of Banks.

Located on the outer edge of Labor’s inner Sydney heartland, Banks has been held by Labor at all times since its creation in 1949, but over the past few decades the margin has fallen below 2% on three occasions: with the defeat of the Keating government in 1996, when Mark Latham led Labor to defeat in 2004, and – most ominously for Labor – in 2010, when a sharp swing against Labor in Sydney left intact only 1.5% of a 10.4% margin (adjusted for redistribution) from the 2007 election.

Labor’s strength in the electorate is in the suburbs nearer the city in the electorate’s north, from Hurstville through Riverwood to Padstow, which is balanced by strong Liberal support in the waterside suburbs along the Georges River which forms the electorate’s southern boundary, from Blakehurst westwards through Oatley to Padstow Heights. As a knock-on effect from the abolition of Lowe, the redistribution before the 2010 election shifted the electorate substantially eastwards, exchanging areas around Bankstown for the Blakehurst and Hurstville Grove area (from Barton) and Hurstville (from Watson), which cut 1.4% from the Labor margin.

Labor’s member since 1990 has been Daryl Melham, a former barrister and member of the Left faction. Melham rose to the shadow ministry in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander affairs portfolio after the 1996 election defeat, but quit in August 2000 in protest against his party’s decision not to oppose Queensland’s contentious native title laws. He returned after the 2001 election, but voluntarily went to the back bench after the 2004 election saying he preferred to focus on committee work. Since the current government came to power he has served as chair of the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters.

The Liberal candidate at the next election will be David Coleman, director of strategy and digital for Nine Entertainment, whom The Australian’s Media Diary describes as a factional moderate and “one of David Gyngell’s closest lieutenants”. Coleman won a local preselection ballot in March with 60 votes against 33 for the candidate from 2010, Ron Delezio, a businessman who came to public attention after his daughter Sophie received horrific injuries in separate accidents in 2003 and 2006.