Stable but serious

Infra-factional argybargy at both ends of the Victorian ALP, plus a poll result for NSW’s Upper Hunter state by-election.

Detailed below are some recent electoral developments, the juiciest of which relate to factional power struggles within Victorian Labor, whose federal preselection process has been taken over by the party’s national executive in the wake of the Adem Somyurek branch-stacking affair. Note also the post below offering a half-time report on the Tasmanian state election campaign.

• Josh Bornstein, employment lawyer and partner at Maurice Blackburn, has pulled out of a challenge against Kim Carr for the safe position on Labor’s Victorian Senate ticket that is reserved to the Left. This followed a report in The Australian that trawled through a decade’s worth of his voluminous social media activity, turning up criticism of party and union figures including Chris Bowen and Penny Wong. The Age reports Left faction unions were divided between Carr and Bornstein, with one or more further challengers likely to emerge. One such is Ryan Batchelor, executive director of the McKell Institute and son of former state MP Peter Batchelor.

• The Age report also says that Sam Rae, a partner at PwC and former state party secretary, is “being encouraged” to run in the new seat of Hawke on Melbourne’s north-western fringe. An earlier report indicated that a stability pact being negotiated between the main factions would reserve the seat for the Right, potentially setting up a turf war between the Victorian Right forces associated with Richard Marles and Bill Shorten, who are emerging as the main rivals for influence within the faction.

• Andrew Laming’s bid to retain preselection in Bowman has predictably fallen foul of the Liberal National Party’s candidate suitability panel.

• I’ll have a dedicated post up shortly for the May 22 by-election in the New South Wales state seat of Upper Hunter, my guide for which can be found here. Results of a uComms poll for the Australia Institute are encouraging for the Nationals, who hold seat seat on a margin of 2.6%. When added together properly, the poll credits the Nationals with a primary vote of 38.5%, compared with 34.0% at the 2019 election; Labor with 23.8%, compared with 28.6%; One Nation, who did not contest in 2019, with 13.8%; the Greens with 10.1%, more than double their 4.8% vote share in 2019; and bookies favourite Shooters Fishers and Farmers with only 8.2%, compared with 22.0%. The poll was conducted on April 7 and 8 by automated phone polling and SMS from a sample of 686.

• A new site called OzPredict offers cleanly presented poll-based forecasting of the next federal election, with the promise of more features to follow.

Easter eggs

Preselection jockeying for Andrew Laming’s seat of Bowman, a looming state by-election in NSW, and a post-mortem into yet another election defeat in the ACT.

The interruption of Easter means we’re not likely to see any opinion polls this week. A new post is wanted though, so I offer the following loose assemblage of news items. My own efforts have late have been consumed by my Tasmanian election guide, which is currently being buffed and polished ahead of publication later today.

Lydia Lynch of the Brisbane Times reports the executive of Queensland’s Liberal National Party has voted to reopen preselection nominations for Andrew Laming’s seat of Bowman, by a bare margin of 11 to 10, but for which the position would be assured for businesswoman Fran Ward, the only candidate to nominate against Andrew Laming when he still intended to run. The Australian reports that “conservative forces” were keen that this should happen to open the way for Henry Pike, communications adviser for the Property Council and unsuccessful candidate for Redlands at the October state election. The Brisbane Times report says the preselection looms as a three-way contest between Ward, Pike and barrister Maggie Forrest. Senator Amanda Stoker has ruled herself out, despite expectations she could use the seat to resolve a difficulty where she and James McGrath are in competition for the safe first and loseable third positions on the LNP Senate ticket, the second position being reserved to the Nationals.

• A by-election will be held in the New South Wales state seat of Upper Hunter following the resignation of Nationals member Michael Johnsen after he was accused of raping a sex worker. I will have a dedicated post and election guide up for the by-election hopefully later in the week. For what it’s worth, Sportsbet has Shooters Fishers and Farmers as favourites to win the seat, paying $1.50 compared with $3.25 for the Nationals and $8 for Labor.

• The Canberra Times reports on the findings of an internal review into the ACT Liberals’ sixth successive election defeat in October, finding more effort should have been made to win over “soft Greens voters” who might be persuaded by a pitch targeting the Greens’ “anti-small business bent” and “soft law and order policies”. The review was conducted by Grahame Morris, lobbyist and one-time chief-of-staff to John Howard, Vicki Dunne, recently retired Liberal MP, and Daniel Clode, the party’s campaign manager in 2016.

Wagga Wagga by-election live

Live coverage of the count for the Wagga Wagga state by-election in New South Wales.

Sunday night. Antony Green is now leaving only the faintest hint of wriggle room, in saying “scrutineer figures suggest McGirr is now certain to win”. Today we have had 1099 postal votes, 441 “enrolment” votes (which I take to be those who availed themselves of enrolment on election day, as is allowed in New South Wales) and 10 absent votes (which I don’t understand). The top three candidates are fairly evenly placed on primary votes, so preferences from the other will determine which of the three is excluded. Clearly those scrutineers reports suggest it won’t be Joe McGirr, confirming the irrelevance of the Liberal-versus-Labor preference count that the NSWEC pulled last night, which showed Labor would have narrowly won. It’s also clear that McGirr stands to receive non-trivial amounts of preferences from either Labor or Liberal, whichever one it is that drops out.

10.51pm. That long awaited Wagga Wagga town pre-poll booth decides it for McGirr, who outpolled both major parties there with 3202 (26.9%) to the Liberals’ 3029 (26.0%) and Labor’s 2737 (23.0%). This means the notional two-party count is surely now irrelevant, but for what it’s worth, the iVotes cut the Labor lead from 2.3% to 1.3%.

10.33pm. Twelve thousand pre-polls take a while to count it seems. My best estimate is that they will push Labor into the lead on the primary vote, at around 25.5%, with McGirr on 24.7% and the Liberals on 23.8%. After that there won’t be much left: at most 1500 postals and 500 bits and pieces. So any turn-up in late counting can only come from the enormous hit of Wagga Wagga town pre-polls that I presume will be through this evening.

9.42pm. Now we have 2666 iVotes, of which McGirr has 23.5%, which he can live with. The Liberals did relatively well, getting 30%, while Labor only got 17.7%. So they’re now back ahead of Labor on the primary vote, though not two-party.

9.33pm. Antony Green says there will be fully 12,000 votes to come in later tonight from the Wagga Wagga town pre-poll. That’s enough to turn up a significant surprise, in whichever direction.

9.32pm. On the two-party count, the swing to Labor in the Tumut pre-poll was 11.7%, which is lower than their 15.0% on the polling booth votes. The Liberal margin is 12.9%, so they would need to do better than that on the remainder of late counting, if indeed it did come down to Labor versus Liberal.

9.20pm. McGirr got 16.7% of the polling booth vote in Tumut, and now 13.6% on pre-poll. He would need to do more than 3% worse on late counting compared with ordinary votes to lose.

9.18pm. However, Antony notes these votes were from Tumut, and McGirr is stronger in Wagga Wagga, which should come through with over 8000 pre-polls votes later this evening.

9.12pm. Now we have 2748 pre-polls counted, and they have gone remarkably badly for Joe McGirr, who only got 13.6% of them.

9.06pm. All booths now in on the primary vote.

8.52pm. Labor now well ahead on two-party, by a little over 52-48. So if there’s any hypothetical threat to McGirr, and it’s a big if, it’s increasingly looking like it will be from Labor.

8.36pm. So here’s the situation. If Joe McGirr makes the final count, he will win easily. If he doesn’t though, it will be lineball between Liberal and Labor. McGirr will presumably manage, but we should have a huge amount of pre-polls come in later this evening, with postals to come through over the coming week. If these come in below 20% for him, it could yet get interesting.

8.34pm. Now Labor are ahead on two-party preferred. Ironically, the extent of the Liberal collapse may end up costing Labor the seat.

8.29pm. Nothing in it on the notional two-party Liberal-versus-Liberal count, with seven booths left to report.

8.24pm. Only one booth left to report.

8.20pm. This was over half an hour ago now, but Antony Green was being cautious in his assessment due to the outside possibility that Joe McGirr will tank on postals and pre-polls, in which case the notional two-party count would no longer be theoretical. The Liberals currently hold a 51-49 lead over Labor here on the raw vote, and my projection has it lineball.

8.04pm. Three booths still to come now. For what little it’s worth, the Liberals have edged to a 52-48 lead on the two-party count.

7.59pm. Only four booths left to go on the primary vote, and it’s increasingly looking like the Liberals will finish third.

7.51pm. Now up to 23 booths out of 29 and the Liberals have definitively fallen behind Labor. The notional Liberal-versus-Labor two-party shows a 13% swing against the Liberals, suggesting this would come right down to the wire if it ended up being a Liberal-versus-Labor contest.

7.41pm. There’s very little in it between Liberal, Labor and McGirr on the primary vote, but presumably McGirr will get a strong flow of minor party and independent preferences.

7.37pm. Now up to 21 booths out of 29 and it’s no longer clear the Liberals will even finish second. Labor is still down on the primary vote, but not by as much as earlier in the count.

7.32pm. McGirr back in front on the primary vote; I’m projecting a tie.

7.30pm. Eighteen booths out of 29 have now reported, and the Liberals are back in front on the primary vote, not that that will save them.

7.27pm. Two more booths in and the situation keeps getting worse for the Liberals. McGirr now leads on both the raw and projected primary vote.

7.21pm. Big surge to Joe McGirr from the last four booths. His primary vote is now only a fraction below the Liberals, both on raw and projected terms, in which case game over. Not much chance of Labor finishing second by the looks.

7.13pm. A tenth booth now, not sure from where, but it has weakened the Liberals and strengthened McGirr. Projected Liberal primary vote back below 30%.

7.10pm. Nine booths in now out of 29, and the Liberals continue to strengthen. Joe McGirr remains in the low twenties and Labor in the high teens. A notional Liberal-versus-Labor count is being conducted, but it probably won’t be much use, as the question seems to be whether McGirr will get enough preferences to overhaul the Liberals.

7.03pm. Seven booths in now, and the results are looking a bit better for the Liberals. I now have their vote down 22.0%, where before it was more like 30%. This means I’m projecting them to finish north of 30% on the primary vote. Joe McGirr is on 24.0% though, and I presume he would get enough preferences if that was how it panned out.

6.49pm. Uranquinty Public booth maintains the earlier trend.

6.47pm. So far Labor are down on the primary vote, so early as the indications are, they are good for Joe McGirr.

6.45pm. Yerong Creek booth now in as well, and it looks much like the first. The raw Liberal primary vote is about 33%, but these booths were about 10% above the Liberal norm in 2015.

6.38pm. One small booth in — Talbingo Public — has, by my reckoning, the Liberal vote dropping by other half. A tiny number of votes of course, but the results look rather a lot like what the polls were showing. Over the fold you will find a primary votes table with booth-matched swings and projections. I hope against hope it doesn’t have too many bugs.

6pm. Polling has closed for the Wagga Wagga by-election. Live commentary to follow.

Wagga Wagga by-election: September 8

A look at this Saturday’s state contested by-election in Wagga Wagga, which is being vacated under duress by Liberal member Daryl Maguire.

I have a guide up for Saturday’s New South Wales state by-election in Wagga Wagga, for which the Liberals are managing expectations ahead of an anticipated bad result. The by-election arises from the sudden career implosion of Daryl Maguire, after Independent Commission Against Corruption investigators recorded a phone call in which Maguire appeared to seek payments in lobbying for development applications on behalf of a Chinese developer. A ReachTEL poll result related here last week recorded an exodus from the Liberals to minor parties and independents, with independent Joe McGirr looming as the biggest threat. Gladys Berejiklian said last week a Liberal win would be “miraculous” in the circumstances, with existing fears further compounded by the Liberals’ federal leadership crisis. The Nationals contentiously bowed to Berejiklian’s demands not to field a candidate, a decision that was criticised last week by federal party leader Michael McCormack.

Après le déluge

Situations vacant for aspiring Liberals, first in Wentworth, now in Chisholm, and perhaps soon in Curtin. Also: polls for the ACT Senate and next weekend’s New South Wales state by-election in Wagga Wagga, neither good for the Libs.

Post-leadership change turbulence costs the Liberals a sitting MP in a crucial marginal seat, as preselection hopefuls jockey for safe seat vacancies:

• Liberal MP Julia Banks yesterday announced she will not recontest her Melbourne seat of Chisholm, citing bullying she was subjected to ahead of last week’s leadership vote by the anti-Malcolm Turnbull camp. Banks won the seat on the retirement of Labor member Anna Burke in 2016, making her the only Coalition member to gain a seat from Labor at the election. Rob Harris of the Herald Sun reports the Liberals will choose their new candidate in a community preselection, which presumably entails an open primary style arrangement in which anyone on the electoral roll can participate. Labor has endorsed Jennifer Yang, former adviser to Bill Shorten and mayor of Manningham who ran second as a candidate in the Melbourne lord mayoral election in May, finishing 3.0% behind winning candidate Sally Capp after preferences. The party initially preselected the unsuccessful candidate from 2016, former Monash mayor Stefanie Perri, but she announced her withdrawal in May, saying she had been deterred by the expreience of Tim Hammond.

Alexandra Smith of the Sydney Morning Herald cites “several senior Liberals” who say the “only real contenders” for the Wentworth preselection are Dave Sharma, former ambassador to Israel, and Andrew Bragg, a director at the Business Council of Australia and former leader of the Yes same-sex marriage survey campaign. The report says Sharma has moderate factional support, including from powerbroker Michael Photios, while Bragg is supported in local branches. It also says it is no foregone conclusion that Labor will contest the seat, despite having an election candidate in place in Tim Murray, managing partner of investment research firm J Capital. An earlier report by Alexandra Smith suggested Christine Forster’s bid for Liberal preselection appeared doomed in part because, as an unidentified Liberal source put it: “She is an Abbott and how does that play in a Wentworth byelection? Not well I would suggest.”

Primrose Riordan of The Australian identifies three potential candidates to succeed Julie Bishop in Curtin, assuming she retires. They are Emma Roberts, a BHP corporate lawyer who contested the preselection to succeed Colin Barnett in the state seat of Cottesloe, but was defeated by David Honey; Erin Watson-Lynn, director of Asialink Diplomacy at the University of Melbourne; and Rick Newnham, chief econmist at the Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Sally Whyte of the Canberra Times reports a Greens-commissioned ReachTEL poll of the Canberra electorate suggests ACT Liberal Senator Zed Seselja’s role in Malcolm Turnbull’s demise may have put his seat in danger. Elections for the ACT’s two Senate seats have always resulted in one seat each for Labor, but the Liberal seat could potentially fall to the Greens if its vote fell significantly below one third. After allocating results of a forced response question for the initially undecided, the results are Labor 39.6%, the Greens 24.2%, Liberal 23.7% and One Nation 2.8%. Even accounting for the fact that the Canberra electorate is particularly strong for the Greens, these numbers suggest there would be a strong possibility of Greens candidate Penny Kyburz overhauling Seselja on preferences. The poll also finds 64.6% of voters saying Seselja’s role in Turnbull’s downfall made them less likely to vote for him, with only 13.0% saying it made them more likely to, and 22.4% saying it made no difference. Among Liberal voters, the respective figures were 38.7%, 29.6% and 31.7%.

In other news, the Liberals in New South Wales are managing expectations ahead of a feared defeat in Saturday week’s Wagga Wagga state by-election, most likely at the hands of independent Joe McGirr. Andrew Clennell of The Australian reports a ReachTEL poll commissioned by Shooters Fishers and Farmers has the Liberals on 30.2%, Labor on 23.8%, McGirr on 18.4% and Shooters Fishers and Farmers on 10.9%, after exclusion of the 7.4% undecided. However, McGirr faces a complication in Shooters Fishers and Farmers’ unusual decision to direct preferences to Labor, which could potentially prevent him from overtaking them to make the final count. According to Clennell’s report, “any government loss post-mortem would be expected to focus on why the Liberals did not let the Nationals run for the seat”.

New South Wales by-elections live

Live commentary of the counts for the New South Wales state by-elections in Blacktown, Cootamundra and Murray.

7.57pm. The two-party count in Murray has nearly caught up with the primary vote count, and the projected and actual Nationals leads have converged a bit above 3%, which I still expect to increase by about 1% in late counting. Whatever lingering doubt might have remained in Cootamundra has been dispelled by 3921 pre-polls, which suggest my projection of the Nationals gain on late counting in Murray may be a bit conservative.

7.38pm. In Murray, there are four booths outstanding on the primary vote, and 16 on two-party. The Nationals have a raw lead of 2.8%, which I get up to 3.4% by filling the gaps on the booths that have only reported primary votes. I further project them to gain 1.0% after declarations and pre-polls are added. So while it’s close, it’s difficult to see them losing.

7.34pm. Seven more booths have reported two-party results from Murray (dizzyingly quick count here) and the Nationals’ lead has indeed come down to 1.5%. However, now my projected result is rosier for them, putting them 3.4% in front.

7.28pm. A strong booth has blown the Nationals two-party lead in Murray out to 4.5%, with 19 booths in out of 47 on the two-party count, but I’m still projecting that to 1.5% by projecting the reported preference flow on to the 20 booths for which only primary vote numbers are available. Probably though the relative strength of the Nationals in those booths will be reflected in a stronger flow of preferences.

7.24pm. Now neck and neck between Labor and the Shooters for second place in Cootamundra. Nationals look safe on 46.3% primary, although I’m projecting that to come down to 42.9% (which is still safe).

7.21pm. The Nationals’ raw two-party lead in Murray is 2.5%, but that comes down to 1.6% if reported preference flows are projected across booths from which we only have primary vote totals. Conversely, my projection suggests the Nationals will pick up 0.8% on the primary vote between now and the end of the count.

7.13pm. I’ve had my eye off the ball a bit in Murray, and Shooters have surged there in the meantime: their raw primary vote deficit is only 40.9% to 33.4%, and they’re only 1.3% behind on the raw two-party count. Nor are my primary vote projections much different from the raw result. Most likely result is that the Nationals will get home, but there won’t be much in it.

7.12pm. Thirty-two booths now in from Cootamundra, and we appear to have a consistent trend of the Nationals doing better in the larger centres: the primary vote swing against them is now 21.0%, and the projected total up to 43.1%, which would be sufficient to win them the seat even with a better flow of preferences to Shooters than Murray seems to suggest.

7.06pm. With three more booths reporting two-party in Murray, the flow of preferences to Shooters has strengthened since my earlier update on that subject, now up to 36.6% with the Nationals on 19.6%. However, the exhaustion rate is approaching 44%, which would put them out of the hunt in Cootamundra if replicated there.

7.03pm. With 27 booths in out of 47, the primary vote swing against the Nationals in Cootamundra continues to moderate, now at minus 23.9% and projecting to a total of 40.2%. Shooters (26.6%) are keeping their nose ahead of Labor (23.0%), but would need a much stronger flow of preferences than would seem plausible.

7.02pm. Labor on over two-thirds of the vote in Blacktown, which is probably the last you’ll hear from me on that subject.

6.59pm. The first two-party count results from Murray are good news for the Nationals, despite their small numbers, with 42% exhausting, and Shooters (32%) getting barely more than the Nationals (25%). If that’s repeated in Cootamundra, they should be okay.

6.50pm. Eighteen out of 47 booths now in from Cootamundra, though naturally this is all the very small ones, and perhaps the most favourable to Shooters. The Nationals’ position has improved a little: I’ve now got their primary vote booth-matched swing at minus 27.5%, which projects to a total of 36.7%. That’s dangerous for them on its face, but the larger booths could behave differently, and we’re completely in the dark on preferences. The foregoing assumes that Shooters will indeed finish second ahead of Labor — their lead is 27.9% to 22.6%.

6.39pm. The NSWEC is doing a Nationals-versus-Labor two-party throw in Cootamundra, which isn’t going to be much use.

6.37pm. Better news for the Nationals from Murray, where the booth-matched primary vote swing from the first four booths is 13.4%. If consistent, that would put them at around 42%, which should be enough.

6.33pm. Ten very small rural booths are already in from Cootamundra, and Matthew Stadtmiller is polling very strongly so far, on 24.1%. On a booth matched basis, the Nationals vote has very nearly halved, from 61.9% to 31.6%. Larger towns may behave very differently however, and I have little sense on what Labor’s 18.2% will do as preferences.

6pm. Polls have closed for today’s trio of New South Wales state by-elections, in Blacktown, Cootamundra and Murray. Live commentary to follow.