Success for Dave Sharma and failure for Greg Mirabella in bids for Liberal parliamentary comebacks.
A few pieces of state news before we move on to the hard stuff. The finalisation of Western Australia’s state redistribution is covered in the post above, and a new state poll from Tasmania gets the once-over in a the post below. In Victoria, the results from the Mulgrave state by-election were finalised earlier this week, and they defied Liberal claims on the night that they had improved on their state election performance to the extent of finishing second. In fact, independent Ian Cook amassed 9,122 votes (25.3%) at the second-last exclusion to take the silver ahead of Liberal candidate Courtney Mann on 8,964 (24.9%), the final score being 20,363 (56.5%) for Labor’s Eden Foster and 15,681 for Cook (43.5%), a swing to Cook of 4.3%.
On with the show:
• Sunday’s preselection to fill the New South Wales Liberal Senate vacancy created by Marise Payne’s retirement delivered an upset win for Dave Sharma, who held Wentworth from 2019 until his defeat in 2022 at the hands of teal independent Allegra Spender. Sharma won the party ballot at the final count with 295 votes against 206 for the widely touted favourite, former state government minister and federal Gilmore candidate Andrew Constance. The favoured candidate of Peter Dutton, arch-conservative former ACT Senator Zed Seselja, dropped out at the second last round with 155 votes to Sharma’s 177 and Constance’s 169, at which point his supporters seemingly fell in heavily behind Sharma. Earlier exclusions with non-trivial vote shares were, in reverse order, Jess Collins, James Brown, Monica Tudehope and Pallavai Sinha.
• Sue Bailey of The Mercury reports Clarence mayor Brendan Blomeley has failed in his conservative-backed to topple moderate incumbent Richard Colbeck from the business end of the Tasmanian Liberal Senate ticket, on which Colbeck will have second position behind conservative incumbent Claire Chandler, reversing the order from 2019. The third position, which has not availed the Liberals since 2004, goes to Jacki Martin, an electorate officer to Senator Wendy Askew.
• A Victorian Liberal preselection ballot on Sunday chose Kyle Hoppitt, former Baptist preacher and director of JAK Audio Visual, as third candidate on the party’s Senate ticket. The result was a snub to Greg Mirabella, who stood aside as the party’s state president to run. Mirabella served in the Senate from November 2021 until mid-2022, having failed to win re-election from the number three position at the May 2022 election. The Age reports Hoppitt prevailed with 187 votes to 173 for Mirabella, who lost conservative support as state president for acquiescing in the expulsion of factional powerbroker Ivan Stratov by the party’s administrative committee. Neither federal Liberal leader Peter Dutton, who backed Mirabella, nor state Liberal leader John Pesutto, who favoured Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Karyn Sobels, succeeded in getting their preferred candidate up.
• Pat Dodson, Labor Senator for Western Australia, has announced he will retire from the Senate on January 26 due to health issues. The West Australian reports Varun Ghosh, Right-aligned barrister for Francis Burt Chambers and the son of first-generation Indian immigrants, is the front-runner for the vacancy.
• Noel Towell of The Age reports the Liberals have preselected candidates for Higgins and Chisholm, the two Melbourne seats the party lost to Labor at the 2022 election. Katie Allen will again contest Higgins after winning a ballot ahead of Port Phillip mayor Marcus Pearl. Allen she served from 2019 until her defeat at the hands of Michelle Ananda-Rajah, who became the seat’s first ever Labor member. The candidate for Chisholm will be Monash councillor Theo Zographos, who was preselected unopposed.
• Roy Morgan has an online poll of 1006 respondents exploring the half-formed opinions of Australians concerning the Middle East crisis.
• The Australian Electoral Commission scored the strongest ratings of any government agency in an annual public survey conducted by the Australian Public Service Commission, with 87% saying they trusted it (either strongly, somewhat or somewhere in between) and 91% professing satisfaction with it.