More month of May miscellany

Preselection challenges aplenty against federal Liberals from New South Wales; a potential second Labor membership ballot as the party seeks a new leader in New South Wales; and a state by-election looms in Queensland.

There has been an outbreak of preselection challenges against federal Liberal incumbents in New South Wales, which would appear to be the fruit of new preselection rules that put more power in the hands of the party rank-and-file. However, the branch has not been so democratised as to deny the possibility of federal intervention, which Sarah Martin of The Guardian reports is likely to be invoked by the Prime Minister to protect the incumbents.

• Environment Minister Sussan Ley faces a challenge in her rural seat of Farrer from Christian Ellis, whose conservative credentials extend to an effort to expel Malcolm Turnbull from the Liberal Party after he published his autobiography last year. The Sydney Morning Herald reports that Ley has complained of “outsiders” descending upon her electorate with “city-based factional branch stacking” and “a toxic culture which isn’t about the policies or the candidate”.

• Further challenges are brewing against two leading factional powerbrokers: Alex Hawke of the centre right, from conservative-aligned army colonel Michael Abrahams; and Trent Zimmerman of the moderate faction, from both Hamish Stitt, a conservative barrister, and Jess Collins, a member of the centre right.

• In the marginal Sydney seat of Reid, moderate-aligned Fiona Martin faces a challenge from sports administrator Natalie Baini. Apparently at an earlier stage of gestation are potential challenges to Bennelong MP John Alexander from Gisele Kapterian, former chief-of-staff to Michaelia Cash; and Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, whose Senate seat is reportedly being eyed by conservative colleague Dallas McInerney, chief executive of Catholic Schools NSW.

• One challenge that will not proceed is the one said to have been of “most concern” to senior Liberals in a report by Sarah Martin of The Guardian. Melissa McIntosh, a member of the centre right faction who won the key seat of Lindsay from Labor in 2019, was said to have been under serious pressure from Mark Davies, Penrith councillor and husband of state Mulgoa MP Tanya Davies, having “lost control of her branches to the conservative faction”. However, Clare Armstrong of News.com.au reports the conservatives have “done a deal to drop the challenge”, the terms of which are unclear.

Preselections elsewhere:

Tom Richardson of InDaily reports that candidates for Labor’s preselection in the Adelaide seat of Spence include Matt Burnell, an official with the Right-aligned Transport Workers Union, and Alice Dawkins, who works with “a consulting firm specialising in Asian strategic engagement” and is the daughter of Keating government Treasurer John Dawkins. The safe Labor seat in northern Adelaide will be vacated at the election by Nick Champion’s move to state politics.

• A Liberal preselection last weekend for the Adelaide seat of Boothby was won by Rachel Swift, moderate-aligned management consultant and medical researcher. Swift was chosen ahead of conservative rival Leah Blythe, who had the backing of outgoing member Nicolle Flint.

• The Tasmanian seat of Lyons will be contested for the Liberals by Susie Bower, Meander Valley councillor and chief executive of the Bell Bay Advanced Manufacturing Zone. Bower was a candidate for Lyons at the recent state election, but polled last out of the six Liberal candidates with 3.5% of the vote. Lyons could potentially have joined Bass and Braddon as a Liberal gain at the 2019 election if not for the mid-campaign disendorsement of the party’s candidate, Jessica Whelan.

Other news:

• Jodi McKay’s resignation as New South Wales Labor leader on Friday potentially sets up a second membership ballot for the party to go with the one that will choose Rebecca White’s successor in Tasmania. This depends on whether former leader Michael Daley puts his name forward in opposition to Chris Minns, who would appear to be the clear favourite. Today’s Sun-Herald reports that head office would prefer that Minns take the position unopposed so as to avoid “an expensive ballot of rank-and-file members, which would take weeks”. However, a tweet by Daley yesterday suggested he was not of a mind to oblige them.

• Labor MP Duncan Pegg announced his resignation from the Queensland parliament early this week after a terminal cancer diagnosis. This will lead at some point to a by-election for his southern Brisbane seat of Stretton, which Pegg retained by a margin of 14.8% at the state election last October. Such has been the electoral record of opposition parties recently that one might have thought the Liberal National Party would sit this one out, but they have in fact jumped into the fray with the endorsement of Jim Bellos, a police officer and former Queenslander of the Year. The Courier-Mail reports the front-runner for Labor preselection is James Martin, an electorate officer to Pegg.

• Occasional Poll Bludger contributor Adrian Beaumont has a piece in The Conversation on the apparent trend of non-university educated whites abandoning parties of the centre left in the United States, United Kingdom and Australia.

Sarah Martin of The Guardian reports the Liberal party room was told this week that the election would be held next year.

Of plagues and houses

Results finalised on Queensland’s two status quo state by-election results, and COVID-19 question marks over looming elections in New Zealand, the Northern Territory and for two Tasmanian upper house seats.

Counting has concluded for the Currumbin and Bundamba by-elections of a fortnight ago, with Laura Gerber retaining Currumbin for the Liberal National Party by a 1.5% margin against a 1.8% swing to Labor, and Lance McCallum retaining Bundamba for Labor by a 9.6% margin ahead of second-placed One Nation (UPDATE: Make that a 1.2% margin in Currumbin and 9.8% in Bundamba). As noted previously, the flow of Greens preferences to Labor in Currumbin was relatively weak, though not quite decisively so. Deep within the innards of the ECQ’s media feed, it says that Greens preferences were going 1738 to Labor (72.8%) and 651 (27.2%), though this can’t be based on the final figures since the Greens received 2527 rather than 2389 votes. Had Labor received 79.17% of Greens preferences, as they did in the corresponding federal seat of McPherson last May, the margin would have been pared back from 567 (1.5%) to 215 (0.5%).

I have three tables to illustrate the results in light of the highly unusual circumstances of the election, the first of which updates one that appeared in an early post, recording the extent to which voters in the two seats changed their behaviour with respect to how they voted. Election day voting obviously fell dramatically, as voters switched to pre-poll voting and, to only a slightly lesser extent, outright abstention. What was not seen was a dramatic increase in postal voting, which will require investigation given the considerable anecdotal evidence that many who applied for postal votes did not receive their ballots on time — an even more contentious matter in relation to the mess that unfolded in Wisconsin on Tuesday, on which I may have more to say at a later time.

The next two tables divide the votes into four types, polling places, early voting, postal and others, and record the parties’ vote shares and swings compared with 2017, the latter shown in italics. In both Currumbin and Bundamba, Labor achieved their weakest results in swing terms on polling day votes, suggesting Labor voters made the move from election day to pre-poll voting in particularly large numbers, cancelling out what had previously been an advantage to the LNP in pre-poll voting. This is matched by a particularly strong swing against the LNP on pre-polls in Currumbin, but the effect is not discernible in Bundamba, probably because the picture was confused by the party running third and a chunk of its vote being lost to One Nation, who did not contest last time.

In other COVID-19 disruption news:

• The Northern Territory government has rejected calls from what is now the territory’s official opposition, Terry Mills’ Territory Alliance party (UPDATE: Turns out I misheard here – the Country Liberal Party remains the opposition, as Bird of Paradox notes in comments), to postpone the August 22 election. Of the practicalities involved in holding the election under a regime of social distancing rules, which the government insists will be in place for at least six months, Deputy Chief Minister Nicole Manison offers only that “the Electoral Commission is looking at the very important questions of how we make sure that in the environment of COVID-19 that we do this safely”.

• After an initial postponement from May 2 to May 30, the Tasmanian government has further deferred the periodic elections for the Legislative Council seats of Huon and Rosevear, promising only that they will be held by the time the chamber sits on August 25. Three MLCs have written to the Premier requesting that the elections either be held by post or for the terms of the existing members, which will otherwise expire, to be extended through to revised polling date.

• The junior partner in New Zealand’s ruling coalition, Winston Peters of New Zealand First, is calling for the country’s September 19 election to be postponed to November 21, which has also elicited positive noises from the opposition National Party. It might well be thought an element of self-interest is at work here, with Peters wishing to put distance between the election and a donations scandal that has bedeviled his party, and National anticipating a short-term surge in government support amid the coronavirus crisis. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern may be softening in her opposition to the notion, saying earlier this week it would “depend on what alert level we are at”. There has regrettably been no polling of voting intention in New Zealand in two months, although the government recorded enormously encouraging results in a Colmar Brunton poll on handling of the pandemic in New Zealand and eight other countries, conducted last week.

Something for the weekend

Random notes: a WA only poll on coronavirus, some detail on the elections in Queensland last Saturday, and a look at Donald Trump’s counter-intuitive poll bounce.

The West Australian had a Painted Dog Research poll of 500 respondents on attitudes to the coronavirus, with field work dates undisclosed – or at least its website did, as I can’t see any mention of it in the hard copy. What the online report ($) tells us is that 71% believed the federal government should “enforce a full lockdown”; that 25% expected three months of social distancing, and 23% six months; that 18% were extremely worried about losing their job by September, with another 42% slightly worried; and that 68% were most concerned about the health impact, compared with 28% for the economic impact.

Other than that, I have the following to relate about Queensland’s elections on the weekend, which I’ll put here as the dedicated post on the subject doesn’t seem to be doing much business:

• As the dust settles on the troubled counting process, it’s clear the Liberal National Party has enjoyed something of a triumph in the election for Brisbane City Council, extending their 16-year grip on the lord mayoralty and quite probably repeating their feat from 2016 of winning 19 out 26 wards on the council. Incumbent Adrian Schrinner leads Labor’s Pat Condren in the lord mayoral race by a margin of 5.5%, although the latter gained a 4.0% swing off Graham Quirk’s landslide win in 2016. The ABC projection is awarding 17 ward seats to the LNP, to which they look very likely to add Enoggera, while maintaining a slender lead over the Greens in Paddington. The Greens’ combined council ward vote is up 3.4% on 2016 to 17.9%, and they retained their sole existing seat of The Gabba with swings of 12.2% on the primary vote and 8.5% on two-party preferred.

• However, it was a less good performance by the LNP in the two state by-elections, where all the detail is laid out at my results pages for Bundamba and Currumbin. The party finished a distant third behind One Nation in Bundamba, which remains a safe seat for Labor, and have only narrowly held on in Currumbin, where Labor has achieved a rare feat for a governing party in picking up a swing of nearly 2% at a by-election. Party leader Deb Frecklington would nonetheless be relieved by the result, since a defeat in Currumbin, which a pre-election poll suggested was in prospect, would surely have imperilled her leadership, despite her being able to point to the highly unusual circumstances in which the election was held.

• Speaking of which, I offer the following numbers on the ways the enrolled voters of Bundamba and Currumbin did and didn’t vote, with the qualification that there is an indeterminate number of postals still to be counted — perhaps rather a few of them, given I understood that there had been a surge in applications (although it seems a number of applicants never received their ballots).

Finally, a few thoughts on the situation in the United States, elaborating on a subject covered in yesterday’s post here by Adrian Beaumont – you are encouraged to comment on that thread if you have something specific to offer on matters American, and in particular on Donald Trump’s confounding opinion poll bounce over the past few weeks. I sought to put the latter event in context in a paywalled Crikey article on Monday, the key feature of which is the following comparison of his approval rating trend, as measured by FiveThirtyEight, with comparable trend measures of my own for Angela Merkel, Boris Johnson, Emmanuel Macron and Scott Morrison.

The upshot is that leaders the world over are enjoying a “rally around the flag” approval bounce, and that Donald Trump’s looks meagre indeed compared with his colleagues across the Atlantic. I feel pretty sure that the lack of a clear bounce for Scott Morrison is down to the fact that there have been no new numbers since Essential Research’s poll of over a fortnight ago, with the surges for Merkel, Johnson and Macron being concentrated since that time.

It’s also interesting to observe that Trump’s improvement has not been consistently observed. The chart below records his trends so far from this year from the five most prolific pollsters. For some reason, Rasmussen, the pollster that is usually most favourable to him — and which is accordingly the most frequent subject of his vainglorious tweets on the odd occasion when it reaches 50% — has in fact found his approval rating going in the direction he deserves. There is also no sign of change from the Ipsos series. However, the improving trend from the other three is more in line with the many other pollsters included in the FiveThirtyEight series, hence its overall picture of his best ratings since his post-election honeymoon.

Queensland elections: Currumbin, Bundamba and Brisbane City Council

Two polls find the Liberal National Party opposition struggling in Queensland’s two state by-elections. Also: a quick look at the lord mayoral and council elections in Brisbane.

In spite of everything, elections will proceed on Saturday in Queensland’s state by-elections for Currumbin and Bundama, together with its local government elections. It appears pre-poll voting has more than doubled since 2016, and postal voting has doubled almost exactly, though I’m hearing anecdotal evidence of applicants who struggled with a floundering website before the deadline last Monday failing to receive their ballots. By my rough reckoning, the proportions in 2016 were 63% ordinary, 23% pre-poll and 14% postal, but should now be at around 18%, 54% and 28%. I will have live results pages in action for the by-elections, but the radical changes in voter behaviour just noted will make it unusually difficult to get an accurate read on the swing.

The Courier-Mail had polls for Currumbin and Bundamba that paint a bleak picture for the Liberal National Party, showing Labor at level pegging in their bid to snare Currumbin, and the LNP crashing to fourth place in Bundamba, where Labor is credited with a 62-38 lead over One Nation. The polls were conducted by uComms last weekend from samples of 700 in each seat — I’m unclear if they were commissioned by the newspaper. Both Currumbin, which covers the Gold Coast at the New South Wales border and has an LNP margin of 3.3%, and Bundamba, covering eastern Ipswich and with a Labor margin of 21.6%, are straightforward four-cornered contests involving Labor, the LNP, the Greens and One Nation. One Nation are directing preferences to the LNP, the Greens to Labor, and the LNP to One Nation. However, the impact of this will be limited as parties are not allowed to distribute how-to-vote cards at polling booths.

The other big story on Saturday is the election for Brisbane City Council, Australia’s biggest, most powerful and most conventionally partisan local government. There will be a direct election for the lord mayoralty and elections for the 26 single-member wards of the council, conducted with optional preferential voting. The Liberal National Party achieved crushing victories in 2016, when Graham Quirk was re-elected as mayor over Labor’s Rod Harding with 59.3% of the two-candidate preferred vote. Quirk retired in March 2019 and was succeeded by Adrian Schrinner, as chosen by the council from among its own number. He had previously been deputy mayor, a prize of the majority party. His Labor opponent is Patrick Condren, a journalist with a high profile as former state political editor for the Seven Network. Reflecting a general impression that current circumstances will favour incumbency, Ladbrokes has Schrinner a clear favourite at $1.22 to Condren’s $3.

The LNP won 19 of the 26 council seats in 2016, with Labor winning only five and the Greens and an independent scoring one apiece. One of the LNP wards, Pullenvale, will be contested by incumbent Kate Richards as an independent after being referred to the Crime and Corruption Commission and dumped as LNP candidate. Another ward, Doboy, was won by the LNP on a 4.3% margin but now credited with a post-redistribution notional margin of 0.3% by Ben Raue at the Tally Room, although Antony Green gives it a tiny LNP margin of 0.03%.

There are nine wards with margins of under 10%, including two, Coorparoo and Paddington, for which the Greens are at least partly hopeful. These wards respectively neighbour the Greens’ existing seat of The Gabba to the north-west and east, the three collectively covering inner-city territory immediately west and south of the central business district. Jonathan Sri holds a solid 7.0% margin over the LNP in The Gabba, but Labor could threaten him if voters defect to them from the LNP.

Labor’s potential gains are further afield: Northgate (1.7%), The Gap (4.5%), Enoggera (5.6%) and Marchant (7.6%) in the north of Brisbane, and Holland Park (4.1%) and Runcorn (8.7%) in the south. A roughie might be the CBD ward of Central, which the LNP holds with a margin of 8.2% over Labor, but the Greens were within striking distance of second place last time. Former LNP independent Nicole Johnston looks secure in Tennyson, but it’s anyone’s guess how Richard might go in Pullenvale.

The state’s other councils do not have declared party alignments, but they are often present if you know where to look. Outer Brisbane and the coastal sprawl to its north and south are covered by (in descending order of population) the cities of Gold Coast, Moreton Bay (think Dickson, Longman, northern Petrie), Sunshine Coast, Logan (most of Moreton and northern Forde, plus some low-density hinterland from Wright), Ipswich and Redland (which perfectly corresponds with Bowman), with Toowoomba, Townsville and Cairns being the largest municipalities regionally. The first five of these are usefully explained by Ben Raue and guest Alexis Pink at The Tally Room.

Pestilential as anything

Democracy battles on in the face of adversity in Queensland and (at least for now) Tasmania, as a poll finds most Australians believe the media is exaggerating the crisis (at least for now).

The campaigns for Queensland’s local government elections and Currumbin and Bundamaba state by-elections next Saturday are proceeding in the most trying of circumstances. My guides to the by-elections can be found on the sidebar; I’ll find something to say about the Brisbane City Council elections, which I have thus far neglected entirely, later this week. Updates:

• The Electoral Commission of Queensland relates that 560,000 postal vote applications have been received for the statewide local government elections, which compares with 260,680 postal votes cast at the previous elections in 2016. However, not all applications will result in completed votes being returned – the conversion rate in Queensland at last year’s federal election was 86.0%. There have also been more than 500,000 pre-poll votes, exceeding the 435,828 cast in 2016 with a week left to go. To those understandably reluctant to turn out on so-called polling day next Saturday, the commission has been expanding opening hours at pre-poll booths. All of which will make the results that come in on Saturday night particularly hard to follow.

• A ban has been imposed on the dissemination of how-to-vote cards and canvassing for votes at polling booths. Booth supervisors may allow the material to be displayed at the booths “in a manner deemed appropriate”.

Elsewhere:

• An international poll by Ipsos on attitudes to coronavirus finds 34% of Australians strongly agree, and 35% somewhat agree, with closing borders until the virus “is proved to be contained”, which is about average among the twelve nations surveyed. The survey has been conducted over four waves going back to early February, in which time the number of respondents identifying a very high or high threat to them personally has risen from around 10% to 23%. However, Australians recorded among the highest response in favour of the proposition that the media was exaggerating about the virus, which actually increased over the past fortnight from the high forties to 58%. A notable outlier in respect of all questions is Italy, where only 29% now say the media is exaggerating the threat, slumping from around 80%.

• Tasmanian Attorney-General Elise Archer announced this week that May 2 elections for the Legislative Council seats of Huon and Rosevears are “safe to proceed”, with “significant measures being put in place to maintain public safety”.

• A Roy Morgan SMS poll of 974 respondents asked whether respondents trusted or distrusted a list of current and former politicians that included Jacinda Ardern, but was apparently otherwise entirely Australian. All we are given at this stage is a top ten list of the best net performers, which is headed by Jacinda Ardern and otherwise notable for not including a single male conservative. However, this is all pretty useless without hard numbers, which will apparently be forthcoming “in coming days”.

Three things

The major parties in Victoria get fiddling to nobble the Greens in local government; candidates confirmed for Queensland’s Bundamba by-election; and Barrie Cassidy’s moustache strikes back.

Three things:

• The Victorian parliament has passed contentious legislation to change the process by which boundaries are drawn for local government elections, the effect of which will be an end to proportional representation in many councils and a return to single-member wards. This was passed through the upper house with the support of both major parties, and fairly obviously targets the Greens, whose local government footprint expanded considerably in 2016. The legislation is covered in greater detail by Ben Raue at The Tally Room. Relatedly, The Age reports Labor plans to endorse candidates across metropolitan councils at the elections in October, after doing so in only three councils in 2016. The Liberals in Victoria have never endorsed candidates.

• The closure of nominations for Queensland’s March 28 by-election for Bundamba on Tuesday revealed a field of four candidates representing the Labor, the LNP, the Greens in One Nation, just as there will be in Currumbin on the same day. You can read all about it in my election guides for the two seats, which are linked to on the sidebar.

• For those who have forgotten what a Labor election win looks like, Malcolm Farnsworth has posted four hours of ABC election night coverage from 1983 in two parts, here and here. The broadcast predates results at polling booth level and indicative two-party preference counts, which would have to wait until the 1990s, and without which it was difficult for analysts to read the breeze from partial counts in any but the most homogenous seats.