Palace intrigue

A thread for discussion of today’s release of correspondence between Sir John Kerr and Buckingham Palace before the dismissal of the Whitlam government in 1975.

At 11am today, the Australian public will finally be privy to a long-delayed footnote to the 1975 constitutional crisis when a reluctant National Archives releases material that will include correspondence between Sir John Kerr and Buckingham Palace from immediately before the dismissal of the Whitlam government on November 11. This follows a long campaign by Monash University historian Professor Jenny Hocking, whose efforts established the existence of the material and a stipulation by the Palace after Kerr’s death in 1991 that it should not be unveiled until 2027, and perhaps not even then. It had hitherto been the position of the National Archives that the material constituted personal communication, which Hocking succeeded in having the High Court overturn in a 6-1 ruling in May.

Happy trails

As the election campaign enters a hiatus, a look at where the leaders have been and why.

As the Easter/Anzac Day suspension of hostilities begins, it may be instructive to look at where the leaders have travelled during the campaign’s preliminary phase. Featured over the fold is a display listing the electorates that have been targeted, as best as I can tell, and a very brief summary of what they were up to while they were there. Certain entries are in italics where it is seems clear that the area was not targeted for its electoral sensitivity, such as Bill Shorten’s visit to Melbourne’s West Gate Tunnel project to get some good vision presenting him as a champion of infrastructure, which happened to place him in the unloseable Labor seat of Gellibrand. There are also a few entries that clearly targeted more than one electorate, in which case the margin for the secondary elected is listed on a second line.

What stands out is that Scott Morrison has hit a number of Labor-held seats, consistent with the optimistic impression the Liberals are presenting about their prospects – an assessment which, on this evidence, does not look to be fully shared by Labor. The only activity of Shorten’s that had Labor territory as its primary target was his visit to the Northern Territory on Thursday. Of equal interest to Shorten’s pattern of travel is the clarity of Labor’s early campaign theme of health policy, in contrast of the grab bag of messages promoted by Scott Morrison.

Continue reading “Happy trails”

Election minus five weeks

Candidates on both sides of the aisle drop out of contention, Peter Dutton suffers a self-inflicted wound in Dickson, and Shooters Fishers and Farmers rein in their expectations.

Two days in the campaign, and already much to relate:

• Labor’s audacious gambit of running former Fremantle MP Melissa Parke in Curtin has proved short-lived, after a controversy brewed over comments she had made critical of Israel. Parke announced her withdrawal after the Herald Sun presented the Labor campaign with claims she had told a meeting of WA Labor for Palestine that she could “remember vividly” – presumably not from first-hand experience – a pregnant refugee being ordered to drink bleach at a Gaza checkpoint. Parke is also said to have spoken of Israel’s “influence in our political system and foreign policy”, no doubt bringing to the party hierarchy’s mind the turmoil that has lately engulfed the British Labour Party in relation to such matters. In her statement last night, Parke said her views were “well known, but I don’t want them to be a running distraction from electing a Labor government”. James Campbell of the Herald Sun notes the forum was also attended by Parkes’ successor in Fremantle, Josh Wilson.

• Meanwhile, Liberal Party vetting processes have caused the withdrawal on Section 44 grounds of three candidates in who-cares seats in Melbourne. They are Cooper candidate Helen Jackson, who dug her heels in when told her no-chance candidacy required her to abandon her job at Australia Post, so that the integrity of executive-legislative relations might be preserved; Lalor candidate Kate Oski, who is in danger of being Polish; and Wills candidate Vaishali Ghosh, who was, as The Age put it in a report I hope no one from overseas reads, “forced to step aside over her Indian heritage”.

• Peter Dutton has been under fire for his rhetorical overreach against Ali France, the Labor candidate in his marginal seat of Dickson. Dutton accused France, who had her leg amputated after being hit by a car in 2011, of “using her disability as an excuse” for not moving into the electorate. France lives a short distance outside it, and points to the $100,000 of her compensation money she has spent making her existing home fully wheelchair accessible. Labor has taken the opportunity to point to Dutton’s failed attempt from 2009 to move to the safer seat of McPherson on the Gold Coast, where he owns a $2.3 million beachside holiday home, and by all accounts spends a great deal of his time. Dutton refused to apologise for the comments yesterday, while Scott Morrison baselessly asserted that they were taken out of context.

Greg Brown of The Australian reports Robert Borsak, leader of Shooters Fishers and Farmers and one of the party’s state upper house MPs, concedes the party is struggling to recruit candidates, and will not repeat its state election feat of winning seats in the lower house. Nonetheless, it has Orange deputy mayor Sam Romano lined up as its candidate for Calare and plans to run in Eden-Monaro, Parkes and possibly New England. This follows suggestions the party might pose a threat to the Nationals in Parkes and Farrer, which largely correspond with the state seats of Barwon and Murray, which the party won at last month’s state election. Calare encompasses Orange, which Shooters have held since a November 2016 by-election.

• “I don’t trust our polling at all”, says “a senior federal Liberal MP” cited by John Ferguson in The Australian, apropos the party’s prospects in Victoria. It is not clear if the source was being optimistic or pessimistic, but the report identifies a range of opinion within the Liberal camp extending from only two or three losses in Victoria – likewise identified as a “worst case scenario” by Labor sources – to as many as seven.

BludgerTrack: 52.6-47.4 to Labor

With the final pre-campaign polls added, the poll aggregate records a continuation of the improvement in the Coalition’s position that has been evident for some time, rather than anything that might be called a “budget bounce”.

The BludgerTrack poll aggregate has been updated with the three post-budget polls from Newspoll, Ipsos and Essential Research, the combined effect of which is to reduce Labor’s two-party lead from 52.9-47.1 to 52.6-47.4. There’s also a fair bit going on within the state breakdowns – in fact, probably too much.

The recovery the Liberals believe they are detecting in New South Wales is well and truly coming through on BludgerTrack, albeit that Labor is still credited with a net gain of two seats there. A significant improvement has also been recorded in the Coalition’s position recently in Western Australia, although here too Labor is credited with a net gain of two seats. What we’re not seeing any sign of is the improved position the Coalition claims to be seeing in Queensland, where reports have suggested they are now hopeful of breaking even by gaining Herbert and limiting the damage in the south-east. BludgerTrack is stubbornly detecting a swing to Labor in the strategically crucial state of over 6%, translating into a gain of nine seats.

I would be a lot more confident of all this if I had more data at state level, which I’m hoping Ipsos might publish in due course – they appeared to have adopted the Newspoll practice last year of publishing quarterly state breakdowns, but we didn’t see one for October-December and are now due one for January-March. I’ve been trying to chase this up and will keep you posted.

Newspoll and Ipsos both provided new data for the leadership ratings, which are now detecting an uptick in Scott Morrison’s personal ratings, although the picture remains fairly static on preferred prime minister. All of which you can learn more about through the link below.

TECHNICAL NOTE/APPEAL FOR HELP: I’m hoping those of my readers who know their way around web programming might help me resolve an irritating niggle that’s been bedevilling the BludgerTrack display for some time. Namely, that the state breakdown tabs tend not to work, particularly when the page is first loaded. My own experience is that it requires a hard refresh before they will respond. Tablet users, I am told, can’t even do that well.

Based on my research, it would seem to be that the problem lies with the following bit of Ajax code. If anyone thinks they can offer me any pointers here, please get in touch by email at pollbludger-AT-bigpond-DOT-com.

$(document).ready(function() {
cache: false,
type: "GET",
url: "bt-output.xml",
dataType: "xml",
success: xmlParser

Wentworth by-election final result: Phelps 51.2, Sharma 48.8

With the last remaining postal votes counted, Kerryn Phelps emerges with a winning margin of 1851 votes.

There’s a fair bit going on on the blog right now, so for those of you focused on the top of the page, note the various threads below this one: the main discussion thread, Adrian Beaumont’s post on the US mid-terms, my comprehensive Victorian election campaign summary and the one where I plead for donations.

And now to the matter at hand: the last batch of postals have finally been added for the Wentworth by-election, for which my full accounting of the results can be found here. The late postals have broken 232-164 in favour of Kerryn Phelps, who emerges with a winning margin of 38,989 (51.2%) to 37,138 (48.8%), or 1851 votes. All that remains to be done is the formal distribution of preferences, which might yet turn up a few small anomalies.

BludgerTrack: 53.9-46.1 to Labor

One new poll and no change at all on the latest poll aggregate update.

Essential Research was the only new poll this week, and it has no bearing whatsoever on the voting intention numbers in BludgerTrack. However, there is a fair bit going on in the state breakdowns, with the Coalition losing a seat in New South Wales, but gaining one apiece in Queensland, Western Australia and South Australia. No new numbers this week on leadership ratings. Full results on the sidebar.