Newspoll: 54-46 to Labor in New South Wales

Six months out from the election, polls from Newspoll and Resolve Strategic find Labor opening up an election-winning lead in New South Wales.

The Australian today brings a state Newspoll result from New South Wales that suggests big trouble for Dominic Perrotett’s Coalition government, crediting Labor with a two-party lead of 54-46 from primary votes of Coalition 35% (compared with 41.6% at the 2018 election), Labor 40% (33.3%) and the Greens 12% (9.6%). Perrottet nonetheless has reasonable personal ratings of 47% approval and 41% approval, although Labor leader Chris Minns does better in net terms with 42% approval and 27% approval, while Perrottet has a 39-35 edge as preferred premier. The poll was conducted Monday to Thursday from a sample of 1006.

UPDATE: And now the Sydney Morning Herald has come through with a Resolve Strategic result drawn, like the earlier Victorian poll, from the samples for its last two federal polls. The results in this case are quite a bit worse for the Coalition than Newspoll’s, putting Labor ahead 43% to 30% on the primary vote, with the Greens on 10% and Shooters Fishers and Farmers on 2%. By my loose reckoning, this would pan out to a Labor lead of around 60-40 on two-party preferred. Dominic Perrottet and Chris Minns are tied on 28% for preferred premier, leaving fully 44% uncommitted. The polling was conducted “in August and September” from a sample of 1170.

Other recent news from the state relevant to the March 25 election:

• If I correctly understand a complicated situation, Right faction candidates on the Legislative Council ticket will include incumbent Courtney Houssos in top spot, along with the following newcomers: Emily Suvaal, a Cessnock nurse who was in contention for the federal Hunter preselection, in a position described by one report as “unbeatable”; Stephen Lawrence, Dubbo-based barrister and former mayor; Sarah Kaine, an honorary professor at the University of Technology Sydney; Nick McIntosh, deputy national secretary at the Transport Workers Union; and Canterbury-Bankstown mayor Khal Asfour. The Left has endorsed incumbents Rose Jackson, John Graham and Mick Veitch. All of which remains to be confirmed at next month’s state conference. However …

Brad Norington of The Australian reports that Cameron Murphy will defy his defeat in the Left faction by nominating for a position on the ticket at state conference. The results of Left ballot were 81 for Rose Jackson, 74 for John Graham and 73 for Mick Veitch, with Murphy on 64. Murphy and his “soft Left” backers (once identified as the Ferguson Left) are crying foul at the exclusion of 23 CFMEU delegates of the vote, a ruling made by George Simon, assistant state secretary and member of the rival hard Left.

• Labor’s member for Bankstown, Tania Mihailuk, was dumped from the shadow ministry yesterday after using parliamentary privilege on Tuesday to accuse the aforementioned Khal Asfour of “unprincipled actions in furthering the interests of developers and identities, in particular Eddie Obeid”. Max Maddison of The Australian reported yesterday that a letter from ICAC from 2013 referred to circulation of such claims by Mihailuk as “baseless” and “undesireable”. Mihailuk is at the centre of a preselection impasse that looks likely to shunt her to the seat of Fairfield, where local mayor Frank Carbone appears to be preparing an independent run after serving as a prime mover behind Dai Le’s successful campaign in the corresponding federal seat of Fowler, with Fairfield MP Guy Zangari moving to Cabramatta, which is being vacated with the retirement of Nick Lalich, and Jihad Dib moving to Bankstown from his abolished seat of Lakemba. The mooted possibility of an escape hatch for Mihailuk into the Legislative Council has not transpired.

• Following Jonathan O’Dea’s recent retirement announcement, Alexandra Smith of the Sydney Morning Herald reports suggestions Roads Minister Natalie Ward, a moderate-aligned member of the Legislative Council, will nominate to succeed him in his safe Liberal seat of Davidson. Another candidate is Matt Cross, who has worked for Barry O’Farrell and Mike Baird and as an electorate officer to Gladys Berejiklian.

• Alexandra Smith further reports that nominees to succeed retiring Liberal member Gabrielle Upton in blue-ribbon Vaucluse will be “journalist-turned-executive Kellie Sloane, Woollahra mayor Susan Wynne, former NSW Liberal Women’s Council president Mary-Lou Jarvis and businesswoman Roanne McGinley Knox”.

New South Wales election minus six months

A new poll suggests a tight race in New South Wales, as retirement announcements and preselection contests proliferate.

The Guardian reported on Monday that an Essential Research poll for New South Wales, released in tandem with one reported here yesterday for Victoria, had the Coalition on 36.4%, Labor on 32%, the Greens on 8.5% and 13% unallocated by virtue of being undecided. My best guess is that this would result in a fairly even split on two-party preferred, although the poll’s modest sample of 661 together with its high undecided component implies an error margin of around 4%.

I also have a large accumulation of preselection news since my previous New South Wales state post on July 8 to unload, so strap yourselves in:

Max Maddison of The Australian last week reported that an impasse over factional “branch allocations” threatens Transport Minister David Elliott’s plans to contest the safe seat of Castle Hill. The redistribution will transform Elliott’s current seat of Baulkham Hills into the new seat of Kellyville, which will be contested by Elliott’s centre right colleague Ray Williams, the current member for Castle Hill. Branches in Castle Hill are presently dominated by conservatives, meaning a party ballot would likely be won by insolvency lawyer Noel McCoy.

Brad Norington of The Australian reports a meeting of Labor’s Right tonight to determine its Legislative Council nominees is likely to result in incumbents Adam Searle and Shaoquett Moselmane being dropped in favour of Stephen Lawrence, Dubbo-based barrister and former mayor; Sarah Kaine, an honorary professor at the University of Technology Sydney; and Nick McIntosh, deputy national secretary at the Transport Workers Union. Kaine is also linked with the TWU, being the sister of national secretary Michael Kaine and ex-wife of the latter’s predecessor, Senator Tony Sheldon, although Norington’s sources say her preselection is in fact being pushed by the Shop Distributive and Allied Employees Association. For their part, Searle is lacking union support (although he has some from YouTube celebrity Jordan Shanks), while Moselmane has faced criticism over links to figures connected with the Chinese Communist Party. Right faction incumbent Courtney Houssos will head the party’s ticket, while another faction member, Walt Secord, will bow out after losing his position in the shadow ministry last month over bullying allegations.

• Brad Norington’s report further suggests that the abolition of Jihad Dib’s lower house seat of Lakemba could variously result in Bankstown MP Tania Mihailuk facing a preselection challenge from Dib; seeking preselection in Cabramatta, where she would run into Guy Zangari’s plan to move from his existing seat of Fairfield; or moving to the upper house with the support of Chris Minns. It was earlier reported that a plan to accommodate Mihailuk in Fairfield had been complicated by suggestions that Frank Carbone, local mayor and a key backer of Dai Le’s successful independent campaign in Fowler at the federal election, was considering running there as an independent.

Alexandra Smith of the Sydney Morning Herald reports the Left has endorsed Legislative Council incumbents Rose Jackson, John Graham and Mick Veitch. This leaves the hard Left with a lock on the faction’s upper house positions, and presumably means the CFMEU and its soft Left allied failed in their efforts to have Veitch deposed in favour of Cameron Murphy, barrister, son of the late High Court justice Lionel Murphy and twice narrowly unsuccessful candidate for the lower house seat of East Hills. Michael McGowan of The Guardian reported last month that CFMEU delegates had been blocked from the Left faction conference after the union’s withdrawal from the state conference after its father-and-son state secretary and assistant secretary, Darren and Michael Greenfield, were suspended from the party at the urging of Chris Minns after being charged with accepting bribes, which remains before the courts.

• Parliamentary speaker Jonathan O’Dea announced last week that he will not seek re-election in his blue-ribbon seat of Davidson, which makes life easier for the Liberals as they seeks to manage the fallout from the redistribution in their northern Sydney strongholds. James O’Doherty of the Daily Telegraph earlier reported Treasurer Matt Kean might move from Hornsby to Wahroonga, the successor to abolished Ku-ring-gai, whose member Alistair Henskens could then move to Davidson if O’Dea were so obliging as to retire. Linda Silmalis of the Sunday Telegraph further offered that such an arrangement would make Hornsby available to Maria Kovacic, newly elected state party president and unsuccessful candidate for Parramatta at the federal election, and thwart designs on Davidson held by Matt Cross, former electorate officer to Gladys Berejiklian, which were deemed undesirable for reasons unclear.

• Customer Service Minister Victor Dominello announced in mid-August that he would not seek re-election in Ryde. NCA Newswire reports likely nominees for preselection to succeed him included Ryde mayor Jordan Lane and former Sydney councillor Craig Chung. Other recent retirement announcements include Geoff Lee, the Liberal member for Parramatta, and Nationals Melinda Pavey and Stephen Bromhead, members for Oxley and Myall Lakes.

• Guyra farmer Aileen MacDonald was yesterday sworn in to the Legislative Council after winning Liberal preselection to fill the vacancy created by the retirement of Catherine Cusack. Her husband, Scot MacDonald, was earlier a member of the chamber from 2011 to 2019. An unidentified “senior Liberal” complained to the Daily Telegraph that the state executive had conspired to produce a preselection panel consisting of “party warlords and a handful of other people controlled by factions”, with prospective nominee Yvonne Kean, former mayor of Hills Shire, withdrawing due to concerns over the process.

Sydney and the bush

Poll findings and preselection news ahead of a New South Wales state election now eight months away.

The Guardian reported on Saturday in disagreeably vague terms about an Essential Research poll of state voting intention in New South Wales, which finds the Coalition on 37% of the primary vote (42% among men, 32% among women) and Labor on 33%, compared with 41.6% and 33.3% at the 2019 election. Dominic Perrottet was on 49% approval and 35% disapproval, while Chris Minns was on 39% approval and 22% disapproval. I’m guessing the poll was conducted for an unidentified private client and not for The Guardian, which would have made a bigger deal out of it otherwise. It was conducted in “over five days after the release of the state budget last week”, which I guess means June 22 to 26, from a sample of 700.

Further election-related news from the premier state:

• Gabrielle Upton, who has held blue-ribbon Vaucluse for the Liberals since 2011, has announced she will not contest the next election in March. The Sydney Morning Herald reports possible contenders for Liberal preselection include Daisy Turnbull, teacher, author and daughter of Malcolm and Lucy Turnbull, and “journalist turned executive” Kellie Sloane, who unsuccessfully contested the preselection to succeed Gladys Berejiklian in Willoughby. The Daily Telegraph further throws in Woollahra mayor Susan Wynne, Export Council director Cristina Talacko, and two Woollahra councillors, Mary-Lou Jarvis and Richard Shields. There is clearly a view among party hardheads that the candidate should be a woman, although local preselectors ignored a similar sentiment when choosing a successor to Gladys Berejiklian in Willoughby.

Max Maddison of The Australian earlier reported that Vaucluse was one of a number of seats where the Liberals are concerned about prospects for teal independents, together with Willoughby, Lane Cove and Wakehurst. Willoughby was rated most at risk, with Wakehurst having the potential to join it if its member, Health Minister Brad Hazzard, opted to retire. However, Liberal sources said they believed the challenge would be blunted by “campaign funding caps, optional preferential voting and the ‘Matt Kean effect’”. Community group North Sydney’s Independent, which activated Kylea Tink’s successful federal campaign, have identified Lane Cove, North Shore and Willoughby as potential targets, with the former offering the opportunity to capitalise on discontent with local member Anthony Roberts’ decisions as Planning Minister.

• The Sydney Morning Herald reported yesterday that the New South Wales Liberal Party’s state executive has set a target of 40 per cent of seats to be contested by women at the March election. Max Maddison of The Australian reports the state executive has opened preselections for seats specifically identified as targets at the election, including Opposition Leader Chris Minns’ seat of Kogarah, where the redistribution has cut the Labor margin from 1.8% to 0.1%. The others are Leppington (newly created in the redistribution with a notional Labor margin of 1.5%), Londonderry (Labor margin down from 6.5% to 3.0% in the redistribution), The Entrance (Labor margin of 5.3%), Bega (Liberal margin of 6.9% at the election, Labor margin of 5.1% at the February by-election), although another unnamed insider says only Leppington was a serious prospect.

Linda Silmalis of the Sunday Telegraph reports that Fairfield mayor Frank Carbone, a key backer of Dai Le’s successful independent campaign in Fowler, could now run as an independent in the corresponding state seat of Fairfield. This threat has complicated a Labor plan to deal with the redistribution by moving Bankstown MP Tania Mihailuk to Fairfield, Fairfield MP Guy Zangari to Cabramatta and Lakemba MP Jihad Dib to Bankstown. Concerns that Mihailuk might go the way of Keneally have prompted suggestions she should be cast aside in favour of Tu Le, whose ambitions for Fowler were thwarted by the anointment of Kristina Keneally. Another possible contender is Khal Asfour, the mayor of Bankstown.

Resolve Strategic: Coalition 37, Labor 34, Greens 8 in New South Wales

Shortly after defeat at the Bega by-election, Dominic Perrottet falls behind as preferred premier as Labor draws about level in the latest New South Wales state poll.

The Sydney Morning Herald has published the Resolve Strategic bi-monthly reading of state voting intention in New South Wales, which coming after a patchy-at-best performance in the by-elections the weekend before last offers a worrying result for the government. The Coalition is down four on the primary vote since November to 37% with Labor up three to 34%, the Greens down two to 8% and Shooters Fishers and Farmers steady on 2%. The pollster does not provide a two-party preferred result, but this would likely put Labor slightly ahead on two-party preferred, whereas the previous poll would have had the Coalition leading in the range of 52-48 to 53-47. Furthermore, Labor’s Chris Minns has opened up a 32-29 lead over Dominic Perrottet as preferred premier, who led 34-23 last time. The poll combines surveying from this week’s national poll, conducted Tuesday to Sunday, and the similar poll last month, for an overall sample of around 1000.

New South Wales by-elections live

Live coverage of the count for the New South Wales state by-elections in Bega, Monaro, Strathfield and Willoughby.

Full display of results: Bega, Monaro, Strathfield and Willoughby.

Saturday, February 19

The Willoughby count has been updated with 9673 postals on the primary vote, and while these have leaned less heavily to the Liberals than postals did in 2019, they suggest Tim James’ lead is likely to widen from here rather than narrow. James has added 4357 primary votes, or 45.0% compared with 43.4% of all either votes, while Penn has gained 2651, or 27.4% compared with 32.2%.

End of Thursday

Counting has completed in Willoughby for what I expect will be all votes other than postals, leaving Tim James on 8365 (51.76%) to Larissa Penn’s 7797 (48.24%), with 2085 votes having exhausted. The total of 18,247 votes counted is put in the shade by the 25,071 postal votes that have now been received, which will be supplemented by a small number over the next week, counting of which will finally begin on Saturday.

End of Tuesday

I’m bumping this thread back to the top of the page because the NSWEC is conducting a new two-candidate preferred count in Willoughby between the actual leading candidates, Liberal Tim James and independent Larissa Penn, having conducted what proved to be a superfluous Liberal-versus-Greens count on the night. With results reported from 14 out of 24 booths, preferences are flowing heavily enough against the Liberals (10.2% to Liberal, 42.7% to independent and 47.1% exhausted) to perhaps make James nervous. The numbers are available at the NSWEC website – they are not being published to the media feed unfortunately, so my own results display doesn’t show them. James presently leads 51.4-48.6, which increases to 51.9-48.1 if the preference flow so far is projected across the yet-to-report booths.

That leaves, so far, 18,033 postal votes that have been received, which is more than the sum of the votes so far counted with many more still to arrive, none of which will be counted before the weekend. Ordinarily I would point to the fact that Gladys Berejiklian polled 66.5% of postals in 2019 compared with 57.6% of election day and pre-poll votes and deem the door still closed. But that was from a total of a mere 2269, in contrast to the present extraordinary circumstance where postal ballots were sent to every enrolled voter in the electorate. It may be that, as in the United States, that pool of postal voters, which is traditionally older and more conservative, is now dominated by those most concerned about COVID-19.

For more on the by-elections, below is a discussion between myself and Ben Raue which was recorded on Monday afternoon:

End of Saturday

Counting closed last night with quite a bit of the pre-poll vote still unreported – I’m unclear as to whether that will be finished off today or tomorrow. In the very unusual circumstances of these by-elections, there will then be very little to report for a full week, since counting of the unprecedentedly large number of postal votes will not start for another week, as was explained here. There may be a few other types of vote added to the count (absents, provisionals and telephone voting), but these will be few in number.

What we may see is a preference throw between the two leading candidates in Willoughby, Liberal candidate Tim James and independent Larissa Penn, to supersede the redundant count between the Liberals and the Greens that was conducted on the night. James leads by 43.5% to 32.2% on the primary vote, which as it stands might be dangerous for him under full preferential voting, but exhausted votes will result in a weaker flow to Penn. Besides, postal votes are likely to widen the gap, with Gladys Berejiklian having polled 66.5% on postals in 2019 compared with 57.6% on election day and pre-poll votes.

The headline-grabber is Labor’s win in Bega from a thumping swing of 14%, based on all election day votes and two out of six pre-poll booths. Michael Holland duly gains the seat formerly held for the Liberals by Andrew Constance, who will now run in Gilmore at the federal election. It was a better night for the Nationals, who have held Monaro against a 6.3% swing, with four of six pre-poll booths in together with the election day vote. This is a fairly creditable result, given they have held some of the 9.1% swing John Barilaro picked up at the 2019 election.

Labor appears to have held Strathfield with no substantial swing either way, leaving Jason Yat-Sen Li with a 4.4% lead based on all election day votes plus two out of three pre-poll booths. There’s presumably a good reason why no one is countenancing the possibility that the avalanche of outstanding postal votes might overturn this, but it’s very far from mathematically impossible. This would ordinarily be reckoned a soft result for an opposition party at a by-election: mitigating circumstances might include a particularly appealing Liberal candidate, the popularity of outgoing Labor member Jodi McKay, and the fact that independent Elizabeth Farrelly, who was recently a Labor council election candidate, polled nearly 10% and recommended an exhausted vote.

New South Wales by-elections minus one day

One day to go until Super Saturday, and the long and arduous counting process that is likely to follow.

Only one day to go before New South Wales’ quartet of state by-elections, for which the consensus remains that Willoughby, Monaro and Strathfield
will remain with Liberal, the Nationals and Labor respectively, but with Alexandra Smith of the Sydney Morning Herald reporting that “Dominic Perrottet is bracing for Bega to fall to Labor”.

Antony Green at the ABC notes that while this will be far from the first electoral event since the onset of the pandemic, it is “the first held at a time when there is significant levels of infection in the population”. This has resulted in the novelty of all voters being sent postal ballot papers, a familiar enough procedure from local government elections but a first at parliamentary level. Since counting of the many postal votes will not begin until the election day rolls have been scanned as a check against multiple voting, it will take a full week counting of postal votes begins, which will assuredly leave results up in the air as of tomorrow night wherever they are not clear cut.

This site will offer live publications of results at booth level and attendant commentary from tomorrow evening. For now, here is thread for discussion of the big event, and New South Wales state politics in general.

New South Wales by-elections minus six days

Dominic Perrottet’s first electoral test looms, with concerns in the Liberal Party that the Bega result may send the government deeper into minority.

Entering the final week of the campaign for New South Wales’ Super Saturday, consisting of four by-elections for which the rough order of interest seems to be Bega, Strathfield, Monaro and Willoughby, the latter being forfeited by Labor. The preceding links take you to my election guide pages, where you will also find live reporting of the results complete with booth results and swings and a mapping feature come Saturday. However, projecting the results will be made highly fraught by the fact that every enrolled voter will be sent a postal vote ballot without having to register, which will presumably lead to a collapse in election day turnout. This has been felt necessary as the NSW Electoral Commission has advised against use of the iVote electronic voting system after failures at the local government elections in December.

To summarise the situations in turn:

Bega. Call it expectations management if you will, but a report on the Seven Network last weekend spoke of “new secret polling”, apparently for the Liberals, which showed them to be in trouble. Yoni Bashan of The Australian reports a view in the Liberal camp that Andrew Constance’s personal popularity has obscured the party’s weakening position in the seat over the past two decades:

Property prices are booming along the coastal fringes of Bega, a haven of retirement living where wealthy newcomers, mainly from capital cities, have swelled the local population, bringing a left-leaning perspective to the region’s once conservative outlook. The result has seen a gradual erosion in support for the Liberal Party over the past decade, according to political observers, who say there are growing doubts over the NSW government’s ability to retain the seat at a by-election on February 12. “The situation in Bega is that it has been getting worse for the government, progressively, over the past 20 years,” said a senior Liberal strategist. “As the population has grown, a lot of the people moving there have been people from Canberra, particularly retired public servants. They generally vote Labor.”

Monaro. The aforementioned article in The Australian notes that the Nationals have no corresponding concern about holding Monaro to match those held by the Liberals in Bega.

Strathfield. The Liberals are seemingly not optimistic of taking the seat being vacated by former Labor leader Jodi McKay, although there is some concern in the Labor camp that independent Elizabeth Farrelly will take a bite out of their vote and fail to return it as preferences, with her how-to-vote card recommending an exhausted vote.

Willoughby. Nothing came of suggestions that Liberal candidate Tim James might face an independent challenge from one of the women he defeated for preselection, with his best-credentialled opponent looking to be Penny Hackett, president of Dying With Dignity NSW, who is running for the Reason NSW party.

New South Wales by-elections: February 12

The New South Wales government fires the starter’s gun on a short by-election campaign, despite suggestions it might have been an idea to hold off.

It is now confirmed that the four looming by-elections in New South Wales will be held on February 12, despite reports overnight that they might be delayed until March 19 — which would have been inconvenient from my point of view, since that is the day scheduled for the South Australian state election. The New South Wales Electoral Commission has pleaded that its iVote digital voting system is not currently fit for use, after problems encountered in last month’s local government elections, and last night’s Sydney Morning Herald report said a February 12 by-election would require “an adequate alternative to in-person voting can be achieved, such as postal voting”.

I now have election guide pages in place: Bega, Monaro, Strathfield and Willoughby.

The Liberals and Nationals now have candidates in place in each seat, following the weekend’s preselection upset in Willoughby. This saw Tim James, executive director of the Menzies Research Centre and former chief-of-staff to Planning Minister Anthony Roberts, defeat former Willoughby mayor Gail Giles-Gidney in the final round by 58 votes to 52. Excluded in the first round was former television reporter Kellie Sloane, with 31 votes to Giles-Gidney’s 41 and James’s 37. While the success of the male candidate was inevitably widely noted, it would appear most of Sloane’s supporters swung behind James in the second round, despite James being of the hard right and both Giles-Gidney and Sloane being identified as moderates.

With its preselection of Bryce Wilson, Queanbeyan-Palerang councillor and adviser to federal Bean MP David Smith, Labor now has candidates in place for each seat except Willoughby, which it will presumably not contest.