An institute you can disparage

A poll for the Institute of Public Affairs shows mixed views on the ABC, but it may be showing its age. Also featured: updates on by-elections in the Northern Territory and Queensland.

Way back between December 6 and 8, an online poll of 1016 respondents was conducted by Dynata for the Institute of Public Affairs covering myriad issues, results of which have been apportioned out piecemeal ever since. The latest serving seeks to counter the consistent finding of other pollsters that the nation’s most trusted news organisation is the ABC. The results have naturally been received with skepticism in some quarters, although asking respondents if they feel the ABC “does not represent the views of ordinary Australians” only seems dubious in that it’s framed in the negative for no clear reason. The poll found 30% in agreement with the proposition versus 32% who disagreed, leaving 38% on the fence.

The result has been elevated to a vote of no confidence in the organisation by Coalition Senator James McGrath (who I suspect might be surprised if he learned how many of its critics are on the left), while a News Corp report seizes on the result for the 18-24 age cohort to suggest the ABC has lost the esteem of the young. The latter overlooks a sub-sample size that would imply an error margin upwards of 10%. The survey period also predated the worst of the bushfires, which have presumably been good for the broadcaster’s public image. Previous results from the survey have covered the date for Australia Day, local councils making political statements and the powers of unelected bureaucrats and removing references to race from the Constitution.

Some news on state (and territory) affairs, including updates on two of the three by-election campaigns currently in progress, guides to which can be accessed on the sidebar:

• The Northern Territory by-election for the northern Darwin seat of Johnston will be held on February 29, an unwelcome development for Michael Gunner’s struggling Labor government ahead an election on August 22. Much attention was focused on the Greens’ decision to put Labor last on its how-to-vote cards, but it may also prove consequential that the Country Liberals have Labor ahead of the Territory Alliance, the new party formed by former CLP Chief Minister Terry Mills. The party’s candidate, Steven Klose, has been boosted by suggestions the party could emerge as the official opposition if it wins the seat, since it would have three seats to the Country Liberals’ two if Mills is joined by Klose and Jeff Collins, an ex-Labor independent who says he is a “50-50 chance” of joining the party. Tune in to the blog on Saturday for live results reporting with more bells and whistles than you might think the occasion properly demands.

• Labor’s candidate for Queensland’s Bundamba by-election will be Lance McCallum, a former Electrical Trades Union official and current executive director of the Just Transition Group, a government body to help energy workers whose jobs might be lost amid the transition to renewables. Michael McKenna of The Australian ($) reports McCallum was nominated unopposed after winning the endorsement of the Left, to which the seat is reserved under factional arrangements. A rival candidate for the Left faction’s ballot, Nick Thompson, had the backing of the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union, whose state secretary Michael Ravbar has disputed the legitimacy of the result. The only other known candidate is Sharon Bell of One Nation, who was the party’s federal candidate in Blair last year. No word on a Liberal National Party candidate, but The Australian reports the party is “expected to run”, despite the 21.6% Labor margin. Nominations close on Tuesday.

• A Tasmanian parliamentary committee report has recommended restoring the state’s House of Assembly to 35 seats, from which it was cut to 25 in 1998. Each of the state’s five electoral divisions have returned five members under the Hare-Clark proportional representation system, compared with seven seats previously. An all-party agreement was previously in place to do this in 2010 and 2011, before the then Liberal opposition under Will Hodgman withdrew support as a riposte to government budget cuts. No recommendations have been made in relation to the Legislative Council, which was cut from 19 to 15 in 1998, except insofar as the committee considered the possibility of it have dedicated indigenous seats.

Also, note below this one the latest guest post from Adrian Beaumont, covering recent developments involving the nationalist Sinn Finn party in Ireland and the far right Alternative fur Deutschland in Germany, along with yet another election in Israel.

Bundambarama

A second by-election now looms in Queensland, in which One Nation may cause trouble in a traditionally Labor-voting working class seat. Elsewhere, Josh Frydenberg faces a contentious Section 44 challenge, and a Victorian Liberal aspirant regrets not paying his train fare.

At the top of the sidebar are links to guides I have up for three by-election campaigns currently in progress, including yesterday’s new addition:

• Queensland’s festival of democracy on March 28 looks set to receive a new attraction after Jo-Ann Miller’s announcement to parliament yesterday that she is resigning as member of the eastern Ipswich seat of Bundamba, effective immediately. After two decades as Labor member, Miller has grown increasingly estranged from her party over time, a particularly interesting manifestation of which was an appearance alongside Pauline Hanson on the campaign trail two days before the December 2017 state election. One Nation did not field a candidate against Miller in 2017, but has been quick to announce it has a candidate ready to go for the by-election, who will be announced on the weekend. Since Ipswich was the birthplace of the Hanson phenomenon, this could yet make the by-election more interesting than the 21.6% two-party margin suggests. Tony Moore of the Brisbane Times reports Steve Axe, Miller’s electorate officer, will contest the preselection, but Sarah Elks of The Australian reports the front runners are two candidates of the Left: Nick Thompson and Lance McCallum, who are respectively aligned with the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union and the Electrical Trades Union. I have a provisional by-election guide up and running which takes it for granted it will be held on March 28, though this is yet to be officially confirmed. Also on that day will be the Currumbin by-election and council elections, including for the big prizes of the Brisbane city council and lord mayoralty.

• Further on the by-election front, I had a paywalled piece in Crikey yesterday on the Greens preferences imbroglio in Johnston.

Legal matters:

• The Federal Court is hearing a Section 44 challenge against Josh Frydenberg relating to his Hungarian-born mother, which complainant Michael Staindl argues makes him a dual citizen. Frydenberg’s mother and her family fled the country in 1949 as its post-war communist regime tightened its grip on power, describing themselves as stateless on arrival in Australia. Staindl maintains that the whole family’s Hungarian citizenship rights were restored with the collapse of communism in 1949. Staindl is also pursuing defamation action against Scott Morrison over the latter’s claim that his action was motivated by anti-Semitism. The Australian ($) reports a decision is expected “within weeks”.

• In further legal obscurantism news, Emanuele Cicchiello has withdrawn from the race to fill Mary Wooldridge’s vacancy in the Victorian Legislative Council on the grounds that he once pleaded guilty to an offence carrying a prison term of more than five years – for improperly claiming a concessional train fare when he was 19. The Australian ($) reports that those remaining in the field are Asher Judah, former Property Council deputy director and Master Builders policy manager, and Matthew Bach, deputy director of Ivanhoe Girls Grammar.

Return of the frack

A contentious preference recommendation by the Greens brings a Northern Territory by-election to life, while the closure of nominations yields only a small field of candidates for the Queensland seat of Currumbin.

No Newspoll this week, owing to The Australian’s enthusiasm for unleashing them at the start of parliamentary sitting weeks, requiring a three week break rather than the usual two. However, we do have a extensive new poll on the bushfire crisis from the Australian National University’s Centre for Social Research and Methods and the Social Research Centre. It finds that fully 78.6% of the population reports being affected by the fires in one way or another, 14.4% severely or directly. Half the sample of 3000 respondents was asked how Scott Morrison had handled the bushfires, of whom 64.5% disapproved; for the other half the question was framed in terms of the government, with 59.4% disapproving.

Beyond that, there’s the two state/territory by-election campaigns currently in progress:

• I have posted a guide to next Saturday’s by-election in the Northern Territory seat of Johnston, which has suddenly became of more than marginal interest owing to the Greens decision to put Labor last on their how-to-vote cards (albeit that local electoral laws prevent these being distributed within close proximity of polling booths). This has been done to protest the decision by Michael Gunner’s Labor government to lift a moratorium on gas fracking exploration. The party has not taken such a step in any jurisdiction since the Queensland state election of July 1995, when it sought to punish Wayne Goss’s government in the seat of Springwood over a planned motorway through a koala habitat. This made a minor contribution to its loss of the seat, and hence to its eventual removal from office after a by-election defeat the following February. There’s acres of useful information on all this on Antony Green’s new blog, which he is publishing independently due to the ABC’s cavalier treatment of the invaluable blog he had there in happier times. There will also be a piece by me on the Greens’ decision in Crikey today, God willing.

• The other by-election in progress at the moment is for the Queensland seat of Currumbin on March 28, for which my guide can be found guide can be found here. With the closure of nominations last week, only two candidates emerged additional to Laura Gerber of the Liberal National Party and Kaylee Campradt of Labor: Sally Spain of the Greens, a perennial candidate for the party in federal and state Gold Coast seats; and Nicholas Bettany of One Nation, about whom the only thing I can tell you is that he recently deleted his Twitter account (what’s preserved of it on the Google cache reveals nothing particularly outrageous).

All the fun of the fair

Leadership action for two parties at the second tier of federal politics, dates confirmed for Queensland and Northern Territory by-elections, and the Liberals choose a successor for Cory Bernardi’s Senate seat.

Party leadership developments:

• Barnaby Joyce has announced he will contest the Nationals leadership when the party room holds its first meeting on the resumption of parliament this morning, with a view to deposing Michael McCormack, who replaced Joyce him after his resignation in February 2018. This follows the opening of the deputy leadership position after Bridget McKenzie resigned from cabinet on Sunday over her handling of grants to sports clubs while serving as Sports Minister before the election. Joyce has two confirmed supporters out of a party room of 21, most notably Matt Canavan, who also quit cabinet yesterday (while also taking the opportunity to concede a loan under the North Australia Infrastructure Facility Act, over which he has ministerial oversight, had been given to an NRL club of which he was a registered supporter). The other is Wide Bay MP Llew O’Brien, who will move the spill motion that will vacate the leadership position if it gets the required 11 votes. Sharri Markson of News Corp reports claims Joyce has precisely that many votes, but this does not seem to be the majority view: a Seven News reporter related a view that Joyce had about seven, while an unnamed Liberal MP told The Australian ($) Joyce would not get “anywhere near” winning. David Littleproud, Keith Pitt and David Gillespie will all nominate for the deputy position, with Littleproud rated the favourite.

• Richard Di Natale announced yesterday that he was quitting both the Greens leadership and would shortly leave the Senate, saying he wished to spend more time with his family. Every indication is that he will be succeeded this morning by the party’s sole member of the House of Representatives, Melbourne MP Adam Bandt. The Australian ($) reports there are “discussions under way” for Queensland Senator Larissa Waters to take on a new role as party leader in the Senate”. Di Natale will remain in parliament pending the party’s process for choosing his replacement, which is likely to take several months. There is only the vaguest of speculation at this point as to who the successor might be.

By-election news:

• It has been confirmed the Queensland state by-election for the Gold Coast state seat of Currumbin, to be vacated with the resignation of Liberal National Party member Jann Stuckey, will be held on March 28, the same day as the state’s council elections. The selection of lawyer Laura Gerber as LNP candidate has fuelled Stuckey’s attacks on the party, on the basis that she was chosen by the party’s state executive rather than a vote of local members, and that this reflected a determination for the seat to be contested by “a skirt”. Among the reasons for Stuckey’s alienation from the party is that her own favoured successor, Chris Crawford, was blocked by the party’s vetting committee last year. The LNP has held the seat since 2004, currently on a margin of 3.3%.

• The date for the Northern Territory by-election in the Darwin seat of Johnston has been set for February 29. The seat is being vacated with the retirement of Labor member Ken Vowles after a period of estrangement from the party and its leader, Chief Minister Michael Gunner. The seat will be contested by Joel Bowden for Labor; Josh Thomas for the Country Liberals; Steven Klose for the Territory Alliance, the new party associated with former CLP Chief Minister Terry Mills; and Aiya Goodrich Carttling for the Greens. Labor has held the seat since its creation in 2001, currently on a margin of 14.7%.

Preselection news:

• South Australia’s Liberals have chosen a factional moderate, Andrew McLachlan, to fill the Senate vacancy created by the retirement of Cory Bernardi. McLachlan has served in the state’s Legislative Council since 2014, and been the chamber’s President since the 2018 election. Tom Richardson of InDaily reports McLachlan won 131 out of 206 votes in the ballot of state council members to 51 for former Law Council of Australia president Morry Bailes and 24 for former state party treasurer Michael Van Dissel, both of whom are associated with the Right. Bailes’ weak showing in particular amounted to an “epic defeat” for hard right forces including Boothby MP Nicolle Flint and Barker MP Tony Pasin.

• Another looming federal redistribution in Victoria, whose population boom will again entitle it to an extra seat, has set off a round of turf wars within the ALP, highlighted by a scuffle that broke out at a branch meeting last week. This reportedly followed the arrival of 100 supporters of Labor Right powerbroker Adem Somyurek at a branch meeting held at the Hoppers Crossing home of Jasvinder Sidhu, a Socialist Left preselection aspirant, who was allegedly assaulted after telling the group to leave. Somyurek is said have designs for his faction on the seat of Lalor, held formerly by Julia Gillard and currently by Joanne Ryan, which the party’s once stable factional arrangements reserved for the Left. According to a Labor source quoted in The Age, the Right has secured control of branches in the Calwell electorate and is likely to take the seat when the Left-aligned Maria Vamvakinou retires, while the Left is seeking to gain leverage by putting pressure on Right-aligned Tim Watts in Gellibrand.

Also, the Nine/Fairfax papers are reporting on an Ipsos poll of 1014 respondents concerning climate change, which is apparently part of an annual series conducted by the pollster, with no information provided as to who if anyone might commission it. While the poll records a high pitch of concern about climate change, it does not find this to be at a greater height than last year (somewhat at odds with the recent finding of Ipsos’s Issue Monitor series, which recorded a post-bushfire surge in concern about the environment), and actually records an increase in the number of respondents who had “serious doubts about whether climate change is occurring”: from 19% two years ago to 22% last year to 24% this year.

Queensland state by-election(s) and the Brisbane lord mayoralty

Queensland state by-elections loom in at least one seat, almost certain to be held on the day of the state’s council elections.

Queensland looks like it may have a practice run for its October state election on March 28, in the shape of by-elections for two state seats together with its council elections, which are themselves of unusual interest due to the extent of the City of Brisbane and the partisanship of its council politics. Certainly a contested by-election looms in the southern Gold Coast seat of Currumbin, after Liberal National Party member Jann Stuckey resigned on Wednesday, trumping her announcement last June that she would not seek another term. The other potential by-election is in the seat of Bundamba in eastern Ipswich, a seat safe enough for Labor that it was among the seven retained at the party’s 2012 election wipeout. The situation there arises from suggestions that Jo-Ann Miller, a long-standing thorn in the side of her party’s leadership, is considering jumping ship to run for the mayoralty of Ipswich. The ABC quotes the Electoral Commissioner, Pat Vigden, as saying the cost of a by-election would be cut from $350,000 to $210,000 if it was held on the same day as the council elections.

Jann Stuckey’s announcement on Wednesday that she was retiring due to a battle with depression carried the sting that political life had exposed her to “bullying, personal attacks and insults”. This follows threats to her preselection after she and two other LNP members voted to remove abortion from the criminal code in November 2018 in what was supposedly a conscience vote (the only Labor member who voted against was the aforementioned Jo-Ann Miller), and her publicly voiced displeasure that the party’s candidate vetting committee knocked back the preselection nomination of her favoured successor, Chris Crawford. However, LNP leader Deb Frecklington insisted Stuckey’s comments in her retirement announcement referred to attacks on her by Labor, which Stuckey has endorsed to the extent of telling Seven News she had been “humiliated” by recent government attacks on her in parliament.

Stuckey has held Currumbin for the Liberals and then the LNP since 2004, most recently on a margin of 3.3% at the 2017 election. This followed a 2.4% swing to Labor, reducing the margin to its lowest point since her first two wins in 2004 and 2006. The seat was previously held for Labor from 1992 to 2004 by Merri Rose, a Beattie government minister whose career ended ignominiously. Labor’s candidate will be Kaylee Campradt, a part-time campaign officer for the Queensland Council of Unions who was preselected to run at the state election last October. No word on the LNP preselection that I’m aware of, other than a statement from the party’s administration that it will be “expedited”.

The Brisbane lord mayoralty election will pit LNP incumbent Adrian Schrinner against Labor candidate Patrick Condren, a television news journalist. Labor originally selected its unsuccessful candidate from 2016, Rod Harding, but dumped him in favour of Condren in September. The Liberals (technically the LNP since 2010) have won four successive lord mayoral elections since 2004, the last three by landslide margins. Campbell Newman was the winner in 2004 and 2008, and was succeeded on his entry to state politics in 2012 by Graham Quirk, the winner of 2012 and 2016. Quirk in turn resigned in April last year and was succeeded by Schrinner, the choice of the LNP-dominated council.

The LNP won 19 of the 26 council wards in 2016 to Labor’s five, with the others going to an ex-Liberal independent and the Greens. In the ward of Pullenvale, former federal Ryan MP Jane Prentice suffered another preselection defeat on Wednesday at the hands of Greg Adermann, as both vied to succeed incumbent Kate Richards, who has been disendorsed and referred by her own party to the Crime and Corruption Commission.

Toowoomba South by-election: preview and live coverage

Voters in the state seat of Toowoomba South again trudge to the polls today after their former member, John McVeigh, sought a higher calling by replacing Ian Macfarlane as federal member for Groom.

Live coverage

8.45pm. Postals put the LNP back on course, with Janetzki getting 1442 and Thorley on 823 out of 2615 counted. His primary vote is now 46.2%, which will presumably head upwards on late counting. Thorley would need 80% of preferences on the current numbers, and since Janetzki’s primary vote is likely to improve further as more postals come in, he appears likely to get over the line.

7.53pm. The LNP wins the last polling day booth, Rangeville, by 887 to 714 out of 1966 total, bringing Janetzki’s primary vote to 42.7%. This is 11.3% lower than the LNP ordinary vote total from 2015, which projects to a final primary vote total of 44.2%. It would seem that Thorley would win with something approaching three-quarters of preferences, which doesn’t seem implausible.

7.33pm. As anticipated, Middle Ridge is a better booth for the LNP, giving 1098 to Janetzki and 738 to Thorley, out of 2244 formal votes. Janetzki’s primary total edges up to 42.1%.

7.22pm. Thorley wins Harristown 793 votes to 747 for Janetzki, from a total of 2007. The total LNP primary is a perilously low 40.8%, but the two outstanding fixed booths were both very strong for them in 2015, and they should do well on postals.

7.14pm. Tor Street booth is typical of the others, with 331 for Janetzki, 305 for Thorley, 821 total. I’m picking up a rough 5% swing against the LNP, still projecting to around 50%, but the ABC is projecting 9.5%, and Antony will have thought harder about booth relocations than I have. That projects to an LNP primary vote total of 45.9%, which suggests a close final result.

7.08pm. Gabbinbar indeed comes in higher for the LNP, at 749 votes to 458 for Thorley, opening a 41.6% to 37.0% gap on the primary vote.

7.06pm. This by-election has been totally off my radar over the past fortnight, and I’ve given no thought to the fact that it’s the first election held after the restoration of compulsory preferential voting. It would be interesting if that ended up costing the LNP the seat, which is certainly plausible.

7.02pm. Thorley has a slight primary vote lead in Centenary Heights and Darling Heights, Janetzki has one in West Street. Two of the outstanding booths, Gabbinbar and Rangeville, were particularly strong for the LNP at the election. So despite the 39.6% raw primary vote, you still get the LNP to around 50% if you project off the swing.

6.52pm. Glenvale booth in line with the others: Janetzki 473, Thorley 429, total 1200.

6.51pm. Hume Street South booth doesn’t dispel the impression of a close result, with 299 for Janetzki and 266 for Thorley out of a total of 708.

6.49pm. Based on primary vote swings, Antony Green is suggesting an LNP total of 49%, suggesting Janetzki should be safe.

6.47pm. But now a second fixed booth, St Josephs, gives it to Thorley 189 to 186 out of a 472 total.

6.41pm. However, 233 “telephone votes” have heavily favoured the LNP.

6.30pm. The first booth is Toowoomba, and it’s a worry for the LNP, with Thorley matching it with Janetzki at 159 votes apiece out of 409.

6.28pm. I had a bloody hard time finding the results page on the Electoral Commission of Queensland site, but here it is. Nothing reporting yet.

Preview

A by-election is being held today for the Queensland state seat of Toowoomba South, whose former Liberal National Party member, John McVeigh, has now replaced Ian Macfarlane as member for the corresponding federal seat of Groom. The Liberal National Party candidate is David Janetzki, head of banking operations at Heritage Building Society, who won preselection ahead of Sam Wright, a partner at Ambrosiussen Accountants. Labor is not contesting the seat, but the Liberal National Party has cause to be concerned about the prospects of independent candidate Di Thorley, a former mayor of Toowoomba. The Courier-Mail reports of “rumours of polling showing a significant swing against the LNP but not enough to boot it from the seat”.

Toowoomba South covers the areas of the city located 130 kilometres west of Brisbane to the south of the Warrego Highway, with most of the town centre accommodated by Toowoomba North. Whereas Toowoomba North was in Labor hands from 2001 to 2012, and earlier for a term after the 1989 election, Toowoomba South has been held by the National Party and the Liberal National Party since the 1974 landslide. The present division of Toowoomba into northern and southern electorates dates back to 1972, and replaced an arrangement of Toowoomba East and Toowoomba West that in turn went back to 1960, before which the city was encompassed by a single electorate. Prior to the 1974 landslide the city had leaned somewhat to Labor, who had held both of its electorates since 1966.

The seat was held for the Nationals and then the Liberal National Party from 1991 to 2012 by Mike Horan, who passed largely untroubled by the challenges of One Nation in 1998 and the Peter Beattie landslide in 2001. After the 2001 election he served as Nationals leader until February 2003, when he was deposed by Lawrence Springborg. The redistribution before the 2009 election led to suggestions Horan should make way for up-and-coming MP Stuart Copeland, whose seat of Cunningham had been abolished. But Horan remained set on serving another term, and Copeland ran unsuccessfully in the new seat of Condamine as an independent. With Horan’s retirement in 2012, Toowoomba South passed to John McVeigh, previously a Toowoomba councillor and agribusiness management consultant. McVeigh won immediate promotion to cabinet as Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Minister, and maintained the position through to the government’s defeat in early 2015.

If the LNP retains the seat, it will maintain parity with the Labor minority government, which won 44 seats out of 89 at the election last January but has since lost two to the cross bench. The cross bench consists of two Katter’s Australian Party and three independents, including the two former Labor members and one who was elected as such. The candidates in ballot paper order are Ken Elliott (Katter’s Australian Party); David Janetzki (Liberal National Party); Di Thorley (Independent); Rob Berry (Independent); Alexandra Todd (Family First); Ken Gover (Greens). Live coverage of a sort will be featured here after the close of polling booths at 6pm.