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.

NSW state draft redistribution published

Draft boundaries add a new seat in south-western Sydney at the expense of the Labor stronghold of Lakemba.

A draft state redistribution has been published for New South Wales, for which you can see the maps on the New South Wales Electoral Commission site. Keep an eye on Ben Raue’s post at The Tally Room, which should also have a user-friendly interactive map of the old and new boundaries. His existing post also goes into greater detail on describing the changes than I’m about to.

The biggest changes involves the abolition of Lakemba, most of which is now in a radically redrawn Bankstown, whose existing territories are mostly absorbed by surrounding electorates. This allows for the creation of the new seat of Leppington in Sydney’s sprawling south-west, drawing most of its voters from Mulgoa, Liverpool, Holsworthy and Macquarie Fields. As shown below, I reckon this seat to be marginal Labor. The local rearrangement arising from the creation of Leppington causes Mulgoa to resume its earlier name of Badgerys Creek. Other cases of seats essentially being renamed are Kellyville, formerly Baulkham Hills; St Ives, formerly Davidson; Wahroonga, formerly Ku-ring-gai; and Winston Hills, formerly Seven Hills.

Now for my quick and dirty effort to estimate the margins, using a somewhat experimental method, though the results look plausible enough to my untrained eye. This uses two-party preferred data, and thus acts as if Greens and independent members don’t exist (I am indebted to Ben Raue for providing this in easily accessible form on his site). By this reckoning, a big loser would appear to be Lee Evans, the Liberal member for Heathcote, whose seat is set to become notionally Labor by moving into the northern end of the Illawarra. Rising Labor hopeful Chris Minns has his delicate margin in Kogarah reduced to essentially nothing; conversely, a small Nationals margin almost disappears in Upper Hunter. Sydney would go from Liberal to just slightly notionally Labor if it wasn’t held by an independent.

Ipsos state polling and Groom preselection

The LNP settles on a candidate for the Groom by-election, as what doesn’t kill Gladys Berejiklian and Daniel Andrews only makes them stronger.

Ipsos has made its first entry into the Australian polling game since the 2019 election (at which it was probably the best performer of the lot, at least to the extent that it was the only one to accurately read the Labor primary vote), courtesy of New South Wales and Victorian state polls for Nine Newspapers. Unhappily though, neither features results on voting intention, though the question was clearly asked because responses are broken down by party support. In turn:

• Further evidence that Gladys Berejiklian’s travails have harmed her not at all in the view of the public, with the poll in the Sydney Morning Herald showing her with 64% approval and 16% disapproval. This compares with 22% approval and 25% disapproval for Labor’s Jodi McKay, who evidently remains a largely unknown quantity, with Berejiklian leading McKay 58-19 as preferred premier. Interestingly and unusually, opinion was also gauged on all-too-high-profile Nationals leader John Barilaro, who recorded 18% approval and 35% disapproval. Thirty-six per cent believed Berejiklian knew either a great deal or a fair amount about Daryl Maguire’s “alleged corrupt activitity”, with the same amount thinking she knew “not very much”, and 11% of trusting souls that she knew nothing at all. The poll was conducted Wednesday to Friday by phone (which I believe means live interviews, based on Ipsos’s past form) from a sample of 863.

• In Victoria, and courtesy of The Age, Ipsos records 52% approval for Daniel Andrews and 33% disapproval. Still more strikingly, Liberal leader Michael O’Brien records what may prove to be terminal ratings of 15% approval and 39% disapproval, with Andrews leading scarcely less handily than Berejiklian as preferred premier at 53-18. The poll also records 49% satisfaction and 40% dissatisfaction with the state government’s handling of the pandemic, compared with 16% and 44% for the state opposition (not featured, but probably related: opinion on the response of the news media). The state’s chief health officer, Brett Sutton, has 57% approval and 20% disapproval. The poll also finds 50% attribute responsibility for the state’s outbreak to the state government hotel quarantine program and 40% to individuals not taking the risk seriously enough, and 72% support for compulsory mask wearing, 61% for bans on regional travel and 56% for the newly relaxed 25 kilometre travel restriction. This poll was conducted Monday to Wednesday and has a sample of 858; oddly, this one was conducted online rather than by phone.

In other news, the Queensland Liberal National Party’s preselection for the November 28 federal by-election in Groom, which was the subject of my previous post on federal matters, was won by mining engineer Garth Hamilton. Party hardheads are presumably relieved that arch-conservative David van Gend was headed off in the final round of the count, by what the Toowoomba Chronicle reports was a “very close” result, although Hamilton too is seen as part of the right. Van Gend led after leading in the first round thanks to “an automatic 100 votes from the Christian lobby”, according to an LNP source quoted by the Chronicle, from a total of 290 attendees. Support then consolidated behind Hamilton with the elimination in turn of Daniel Cassidy, Andrew Meara, Sara Hales, Rebecca Vonhoff and Bryce Camm.

uComms NSW state poll

A snap state poll from New South Wales slightly improves a tough week for Gladys Berejiklian.

The Ten Network reported this evening on a New South Wales state poll it commissioned from uComms, which was “run over the past 24 hours”, providing me with a helpful opportunity to launch a thread on the biggest issue in Australian politics right at the moment.

The results are welcome news for a beleaguered Gladys Berejiklian, finding 62.7% of respondents do not believe she should resign, with only 27.7% believing she should. Only 23.6% said this week’s revelations made them less likely to vote for her, with 49.8% saying they made no difference and 26.6% offered the seemingly perverse response that they actually made them more likely to vote for her — albeit that most of these respondents would likely have done so in any case. When asked who they would have replace her if she did indeed resign, Rob Stokes lead the field with 38.4%, ahead of 35.6% for Dominic Perrottet and 26.0% for Mark Speakman.

There was also a question on voting intention, but the Ten News report was frustratingly light on detail, saying only that the Coalition was on 38% and Labor 30%. This very likely did not involve distribution of an undecided component that typically comes in at around 8%, so it should be deemed that the true primary votes for both parties were around three points higher – putting both of them more or less where they were at the 2019 election.

Newspoll and Essential Research coronavirus polling

Among many other findings relating to COVID-19, the strongest evidence yet that Victorians are unswayed by news media narratives concerning their state government.

The Australian today reports Newspoll findings on COVID-19 and leadership approval from Victoria and Queensland, which were targeted with expanded samples (608 and 603 respectively) in the poll whose main results were published yesterday:

• Daniel Andrews is up five points on approval from late July to 62% and down two on approval to 35%, whereas Scott Morrison is down six on approval to 62% and up seven on disapproval to 33%. Andrews is reckoned to be doing very well in handling COVID-19 by 31% (up four), fairly well by 31% (down three), fairly badly by 13% (down five) and very badly by 22% (up four), while Morrison is on 26% for very well (down five), 45% for fairly well (down one), 15% for fairly badly (up three) and 10% for very badly (up one).

• Annastacia Palaszczuk’s ratings are only modestly changed, with approval down one to 63% and disapproval up four to 33% as compared with the poll in late July, while Scott Morrison is down five to 67% and up four to 28% as compared with the poll in late June. Both leaders’ COVID-19 ratings are a little weaker than they were in late July: Palaszczuk records 32% for very well (down five), 36% for fairly well (down eight), 16% for fairly badly (up eight) and 13% for very badly (up seven), while Morrison has 34% for very well (down six), 43% for fairly well (up three), 13% for fairly badly (up two) and 7% for very badly (up one).

• The national sample was asked about the restrictions in Victoria and Queensland, which naturally required lengthy explanation (the framing of which seems reasonable enough). For Victoria, the results were 25% too strict, 61% about right and 10% too lenient; for Queensland, 37% too strict, 53% about right and 7% too lenient.

• The balance of concern is nonetheless moving away from “moving too quickly to relax restrictions”, down 20 points since mid-July to 56%, to “moving too slowly to relax restrictions and harming economy, jobs and mental wellbeing”, up 19 points to 39%.

Today also brings the fortnightly Essential Research poll, as related by The Guardian with the full report to follow later today:

• Respondents were in favour of both Scott Morrison’s handling of COVID-19 (a 61% approval rating, up two on a fortnight ago) and Queensland state border closures he wants lifted (66% support, including 70% among Queensland respondents). Forty-seven per cent of Victorian respondents approved of the state government’s COVID-19 management, unchanged from a fortnight ago, while the rating for the New South Wales government was up seven to 67%.

• Thirty-three per cent of respondents felt tax cuts for high income earners should be brought forward from 2022, as the government has signalled it will do, while 38% believe they should be scrapped and 29% believe the government should stick to the original timetable. Twenty-one per cent believe they would be an effective economic stimulus, compared with 41% for moderately effective and 38% for not effective.

• Asked which technology they preferred for future energy generation, 70% favoured renewables and 15% gas and coal.

The poll was conducted Wednesday to Sunday from a sample of 1081.

UPDATE: Full Essential Research poll here.

Affairs of state

One finely crafted electoral news item for every state (and territory) that is or might ever conceivably have been part of our great nation.

A bone for every dog in the federation kennel:

New South Wales

Gladys Berejiklian has backed a move for the Liberal Party to desist from endorsing or financially supporting candidates in local government elections, reportedly to distance the state government from adverse findings arising from Independent Commission Against Corruption investigations into a number of councils. Many in the party are displeased with the idea, including a source cited by Linda Silmalis of the Daily Telegraph, who predicted “world war three” because many MPs relied on councillors to organise their numbers at preselections.

Victoria

The second biggest story in the politics of Victoria over the past fortnight has been the expose of the activities of Liberal Party operator Marcus Bastiaan by the Nine newspaper-and-television news complex, a neat counterpoint to its similar revelations involving Labor powerbroker Adem Somyurek in June. The revelations have been embarrassing or worse for federal MPs Michael Sukkar and Kevin Andrews, with the former appearing to have directed the latter’s electorate office staff to spend work time on party factional activities.

Together with then state party president Michael Kroger, Bastiaan was instrumental in establishing a conservative ascendancy with help from Bastiaan’s recruitment of members from Mormon churches and the Indian community. Having installed ally Nick Demiris as campaign director, Bastiaan’s fingerprints were on the party’s stridently conservative campaign at the 2018 state election, which yielded the loss of 11 lower house Coalition seats. Religious conservatives led by Karina Okotel, now a federal party vice-president, then split from the Bastiaan network, complaining their numbers had been used to buttress more secular conservatives.

The Age’s report noted that “in the days leading up to the publication of this investigation, News Corporation mastheads have run stories attacking factional opponents of Mr Bastiaan and Mr Sukkar”. Presumably related to this was a report on Okotel’s own party activities in The Australian last weekend, which was long on emotive adjectives but short on tangible allegations of wrongdoing, beyond her having formed an alliance with factional moderates after the split.

Continue reading “Affairs of state”