A woman’s place

More on Pearce preselection prospects, another parliamentary retirement announcement, and a poll suggesting WA voters favour Tanya Plibersek over Anthony Albanese.

After an eventful conclusion to the year’s parliamentary sittings, more retirement announcements and preselection news, plus an opinion poll of sorts.

• The Financial Review reports there are two leading candidates to replace Christian Porter as the Liberal candidate in Pearce: Libby Lyons, former director of the Australian Government’s Workplace Gender Equality Agency (and granddaughter of Joseph and Enid Lyons), and Nicole Robbins, a Melville councillor and high school teacher. No mention is made of Miquela Riley and Alyssa Hayden, who featured in a report in The West Australian on Thursday. Michael Read of the Financial Review reports former state Hillarys MP Peter Katsambanis has indicated he would have been a contender had not the state government’s “heavy-handed” border restrictions left him stranded in Melbourne, but he would have had to contend with the party leadership’s clear preference that a woman be selected to succeed Porter.

Phillip Coorey of the Financial Review reports Christian Porter’s decision to jump ship was influenced by internal polling for his seat that was, according to a source familiar with the matter, “not good”. However, the remainder of the report emphasises Labor’s hard path to a majority: the Coalition “claim they will hold Bass and Braddon in Tasmania”, “feels comfortable in all-important Queensland but may lose at least one seat”, and “believe they can win Lyons in Tasmania and, if Andrew Constance is preselected, Gilmore in southern NSW”. Elsewhere in the Financial Review, Michael Read of the Financial Review reports both parties expect Labor to win the Melbourne seat of Chisholm from Gladys Liu.

• Damian Drum, who has held the rural Victorian seat of Nicholls (known before 2019 as Murray) for the Nationals since 2016, has announced he will not contest the election. Rob Harris of the Sydney Morning Herald reports the Liberals now hope to recover the seat, which Drum won upon the retirement of Liberal member Sharman Stone. Anticipated Nationals preselection candidates are Sam Birrell, former chief executive of the Committee for Shepparton; Michael Dobbie, former paralympian and staffer to Liberal MP Jane Prentice and Nationals MP Darren Chester; and Amanda McClaren, former Strathbogie Shire mayor. The only Liberal mentioned is Stephen Brooks, a “Cobram school teacher, irrigator and former international commodities trader”. Rob Priestly, Greater Shepparton deputy mayor and co-owner of an industrial laundry firm in Shepparton, recently announced he would run as an independent.

• The Katina Curtis of the Sydney Morning Herald reports the Liberals have pushed back the closure of nominations for the Warringah preselection to January 14, in the hope that Gladys Berejiklian might yet agree to run, and also in Parramatta, where the Liberals are hoping the retirement of sitting member Julie Owens will help them knock over the 3.5% Labor margin. State Parramatta MP Geoff Lee has thus far resisted entreaties to run, which have displeased Dominic Perrottet, who would sooner avoid further by-elections.

• The West Australian has a poll by Painted Dog Research in which 801 Western Australian respondents were presented with a four-way preferred prime minister question, putting Scott Morrison at 41%, Tanya Plibersek at 32%, Anthony Albanese at 22% and Peter Dutton at 4%. Plibersek led Morrison by 41% to 36% among women, while Morrison led 47% to 25% among men. When asked who they trusted more out of the Premier and the Prime Minister, Mark McGowan scored 78% and Morrison 22%. Here too there was a significant gender gap, with McGowan’s lead of 71-29 among men comparing with 86-14 among women.

Affairs of state:

Antony Green notes on Twitter that South Australia’s parliament has adjourned ahead of the election without having corrected the legislative anomaly that means pre-poll votes are not counted on election night, which is now unique to the state. As a result, the election night count will be “quick, over early, but will be very incomplete with no guarantee we will know the outcome until the declaration votes start being counted on the Monday after the election”.

Yoni Bashan of The Australian reports Bridget Sakr, who has gained prominence as a victims support advocate since her daughter and three of her cousins were killed after in February last year after a ute mounted the kerb, is considering an approach from the New South Wales Liberals to run in the looming Strathfield by-election. The seat is being vacated with the retirement of ousted Labor leader Jodi McKay, who held the seat by 5.0% in 2019.

Crying Fowler

A plan to move Kristina Keneally from the Senate to the western Sydney seat of Fowler looks set to solve one problem for Labor while creating another. Also featured: a Senate vacancy and a state poll from South Australia.

Before we proceed, please note a) the post below on electoral developments in California, Canada and Germany courtesy of Adrian Beaumont, and b) the fact that tomorrow is the day of the by-election for the Northern Territory seat of Daly, where the Country Liberal Party is defending a margin of 1.2%.

Now to the week’s big item of federal election news, which is that Kristina Keneally is set to be parachuted from her current position in the Senate to the western Sydney seat of Fowler, which will be vacated with the retirement of Chris Hayes, who holds it on a 14.0% margin. The Australian reports this will be accomplished by fiat of head office, without a ballot of local party members.

Moving Keneally to the House of Representatives resolves a difficulty arising from the 2016 double dissolution, at which three of the four elected Labor Senators were allocated full terms of six years, which will expire in the middle of next year. This includes two members of the Right – Sam Dastyari, whom Kristina Keneally replaced after his resignation in February 2018, and Deborah O’Neill – and Jenny McAllister of the Left. Since factional arrangements reserve second position on the ticket for the Left, either O’Neill or Keneally faced delegation to third position, which has not been a winning proposition for Labor at a half-Senate election since 2007. As reported in the Sydney Morning Herald, the power of O’Neill’s backers in the Shop Distributive and Allied Employees Association appears likely to secure her the top spot, although The Australian cites unidentified Keneally supporters saying she was confident of beating her.

The use of Fowler as a backstop for Keneally comes with the substantial difficulty that the electorate boasts the nation’s highest proportion of non-English speakers, in large part owing to the presence within it of the Vietnamese enclave of Cabramatta. As such, Labor appeared to have a promising successor lined up in Tu Le, a 30-year-old lawyer and daughter of Vietnamese refugees. By contrast, Keneally lives in a $1.8 million property in Sydney’s northern beaches. Le had the backing of Hayes and, according to another source cited by The Australian, would have won a rank-and-file ballot if one were held. The ABC reports senior front-bencher Tony Burke shares Hayes’ displeasure at the development, although it also notes that others in the Right felt Hayes “had no right to try to act as a kingmaker or name his replacement publicly”.

In other Labor preselection news, Tom Richardson of InDaily reports the South Australian Senate vacancy created by the death of Alex Gallacher last week is likely to be filled by Karen Grogan, national political coordinator with the United Workers Union and convenor of the state branch’s Left faction. According to the report, a Senate seat was set to pass from Right to Left in the factional deals arising from the abolition of the federal seat of Port Adelaide at the 2019 election. Gallacher’s death may have had the effect of preserving Steve Georganas’s position in the seat of Adelaide, which might otherwise have been used to create the requisite vacancy by providing a refuge for Right-aligned Senator Marielle Smith.

Also from South Australia, the Australia Institute has published a Dynata poll of state voting intention, although it was conducted back in July from a modest sample of 599. It suggests Steven Marshall’s Liberal government might struggle at the March election, recording 38% support to 34% for Labor, 10% for the Greens, 5% for SA Best and 12% for the rest.

Family First the second

Fragmentation on the right continues apace, with even former Labor folk now joining in. Also: a new poll records a big thumbs-down for the weekend’s lockdown protests.

Miscellaneous developments of the week so far:

• Former South Australian state Labor MPs Tom Kenyon and Jack Snelling have quit their former party over “moves to restrict religious freedom” and announced their intention to reactivate the Family First party and field candidates at the state election next March. The original Family First was folded into Australian Conservatives when Cory Bernardi joined it in 2016 and wound up at his behest after its failure at the 2019 federal election. Kenyon and Snelling have long been associated with the Shop Distributive and Allied Employees Association sub-faction of the Right, which is in turn associated with Catholicism and social conservatism, and includes among its number the party’s state leader, Peter Malinauskas. Paul Starick of The Advertiser reports this has the approval of party co-founder Andrew Evans; presumably this explains it obtaining the old party’s database of 6000 supporters, as reported by David Penberthy of The Australian. Whereas the old party consistently directed preferences to the Liberals, Snelling has ruled out preference deals with either major party.

• In other party split news, Peta Credlin writes in The Australian that Ross Cameron, who held Parramatta for the Liberals from 1996 to 2004 but is these days noted as a staple of Sky News after dark, “could head the Liberal Democrats’ NSW Senate ticket”. Earlier reportage on the matter said only that Cameron was involved with the party’s strategy and candidate recruitment.

Tom Richardson of InDaily reports Matt Burnell, an official with the Right faction Transport Workers Union, has been confirmed as Labor’s candidate for its safe northern Adelaide seat of Spence, which will be vacated with Nick Champion’s move to state politics. Burnell reportedly scored 88 union delegate votes and 68 state conference delegate votes, each amounting to a third of the total, to just two and seven respectively for rival candidate Alice Dawkins, daughter of Keating government Treasurer John Dawkins. The rank-and-file membership ballot that made up the remaining third went 140-42 to Burnell.

Peter Law of The West Australian reports that first-term Liberal MP Vince Connelly, whose seat of Stirling is being abolished, “looks certain to contest Cowan, which is held by Labor’s Anne Aly”. By my reckoning, the seat has a post-redistribution margin of 1.5%, making it a seemingly unlikely prospect for the Liberals at a time when polls are pointing to a Labor swing in the state upwards of 10%.

Phillip Coorey of the Financial Review reports a poll conducted on Monday by Utting Research from 1600 respondents in New South Wales found only 7% supported Saturday’s lockdown protests, with fully 83% opposed. The poll also suggested Scott Morrison’s standing is continuing to tumble, with 37% satisfied and 57% dissatisfied (the state breakdown in last fortnight’s Resolve Strategic poll had it at 46% apiece). By contrast, Gladys Berejiklian maintained 56% approval and 33% disapproval, while the state’s chief health officer, Kerry Chant, recorded 70% approval.

• Emma Dawson, the executive director of the Per Capita think tank who appeared set to ran as Labor’s candidate against Adam Bandt in Melbourne, has announced her withdrawal. Dawson said this was for “personal and professional reasons”, although it followed shortly upon her criticism of Labor’s announcement that it would not rescind tax cuts for high income earners if elected.

• Craig Emerson on election timing in the Financial Review:

The December quarter national accounts are scheduled for release on March 2, 2022. Morrison might feel confident that the economy will bounce back in the December quarter from the September quarter’s negative result. But would it be wise to take a chance on a double-dip recession being announced during a federal election campaign? That would be a catastrophe for the Morrison government: marked down for its refusal to accept responsibility for quarantine, presiding over the slowest vaccine rollout in the Western world, and forfeiting any claim to be superior economic managers … But an April or May election would face the same risks, since the March quarter national accounts would not be released until after the election must be held … A late-February election might be the best bet, though the federal campaign would overlap with that of the South Australian state election scheduled for March 19.

YouGov: 51-49 to Liberal in South Australia

Only a modest lead for the Liberals in the latest SA state poll, despite a clear lead for Steven Marshall as preferred premier.

Adelaide’s Sunday Mail newspaper brings us a rare poll of state voting intention in South Australia, and it records a narrowing of the Liberal government’s lead to 51-49 from 53-47 in September. The Liberals are down three on the primary vote to 43%, with Labor up one to 36%, the Greens steady on 10% and SA Best up one to 6%. This is the fourth such poll since the 2017 election: the first, in March 2019, had the Liberals leading 52-48, which was followed by a seemingly aberrant 53-47 to Labor in March 2020.

On preferred premier, Steven Marshall holds a lead of 50-30 over Labor’s Peter Malinauskas, narrowing from 54-26 in September. The poll was conducted February 24 to March 1 from a sample of 843, presumably online.

Opposites detract

As Peter Malinauskas puts the loyal back in loyal opposition, two contenders emerge for the thankless task of leading the WA Liberals to the March state election.

I had a paywalled article in Crikey yesterday that riffed off South Australian Opposition Leader Peter Malinauskas’s pointedly supportive approach to the state’s brief COVID-19 lockdown, and the explicit distinction he drew between his own approach and that of Michael O’Brien in Victoria. It was noted that Malinauskas clearly believes the general tenor of polling coming out of Victoria, even if the likes of Peta Credlin do not. This also afforded me the opportunity to highlight a clip from September in which Credlin and two Sky-after-dark colleagues brought their formidable perspicacity to bear on the likely impact of Queensland’s hard border policies on the looming state election.

Speaking of the which, both Antony Green and Kevin Bonham offer extremely detailed post-match reports on the Queensland election, in which both try their hand at estimating the statewide two-party preferred: Antony Green coming in at 53.2% for Labor, and Kevin Bonham making it 53.1%. This represents either a 1.8% or 1.9% swing to Labor compared with the 2017 election result of 51.3%, which was barely different from the 2015 result of 51.1%. Annastacia Palaszczuk can now claim the vanishingly rare distinction of having increased her party’s seat share at three successive elections. For further insights into how this came about, JWS Research has published full results of its post-election poll.

Elsewhere, Western Australia’s Liberal Party will today choose a new leader after the resignation on Sunday of Liza Harvey, who came to the job last June but has been politically crippled by COVID-19 — a no-win situation for the Liberals in the best of circumstances, but one made quite a lot worse than it needed to be by a response that was more Michael O’Brien than Peter Malinauskas. The two contenders are Zak Kirkup, 33-year-old member for the all too marginal seat of Dawesville in southern Mandurah, and Bateman MP Dean Nalder, who unsuccessfully challenged Colin Barnett’s leadership six months before the Liberals’ landslide defeat in March 2017. The West Australian reports that Zirkup has it all but stitched up, since he has the support of Harvey as well as key numbers men Peter Collier and Nick Goiran.

South Australian state redistribution finalised

As South Australia locks down, its boundaries for the next state election are unveiled.

Among other things, South Australia has this week finalised its boundaries for the next state election in March 2022. The Electoral Districts Boundaries Commission does not publish the boundaries in a form that makes them easy to analyse, but it does calculate its own two-party preferred margins as a hangover from the days when it was required to observe an “electoral fairness” clause (as well as publishing a file that helpfully breaks down its two-party vote estimates by SA1, for those on top of ABS geography). These establish that the impact of the redistribution has been fairly minor, no doubt reflecting the fact that the redistribution before the previous election did its job in delivering a majority to the Liberals after two elections at which it was locked out despite winning the two-party vote.

Accordingly, none of the electorates has been moved to the other party’s column. However, the significant changes in the most marginal seats to be in Labor’s favour, with the Liberal margins pared back in two seats where they had redistribution-assisted wins in 2018: the inner southern Adelaide seat of Elder, where Carolyn Habib’s margin has been cut from 4.4% to 2.0%; and the north-eastern Adelaide seat of Newland, where Richard Harvey’s margin has been cut from 2.0% to 0.2%.

Of greater narrative interest are the cancellation of some fairly substantial changes that have been made from the draft boundaries, which proposed to transfer Mount Barker from Kavel to Hammond, a chunk of rural territory from Schubert to Kavel, and Gawler from Light to Schubert. This inspired Labor’s member for Light, Tony Piccolo, to secure preselection in Schubert, whose Liberal member Stephan Knoll has been on the back foot since losing his job as Transport Minister to an expenses scandal – a bold move, since it involved abandoning his 9.9% margin (boosted to 12.8% in the draft redistribution) to pursue a seat that still had a 5.4% Liberal margin on the draft boundaries, reduced though it was from 14.3%. The unwinding of this pulls the rug from under Piccolo’s endeavour to continue representing Gawler, leaving him pursuing a seat with a clearly insurmountable Liberal margin of 14.7% on the finalised boundaries.

In other South Australian news, Labor leader Peter Malinauskas has offered a response to the state’s six-day lockdown that suggests he’s been paying attention to the Queensland election result and Michael O’Brien’s approval rating. A poll would naturally be interesting to see, but until then, readers are encouraged to use this thread for general discussion relevant to South Australia.

YouGov: 53-47 to Liberal in South Australia

A new poll finds South Australia’s Liberal government opening up an election-winning lead amid a surge of support for Premier Steven Marshall.

The Advertiser has a YouGov poll of state voting intention in South Australia showing Steven Marshall’s Liberal government opening up a 53-47 lead, reversing the result of another such poll six months ago, although it does not radically improve on their roughly 52-48 winning margin in 2018. The primary votes are Liberal 46% (39% in the last poll, 38.0% at the election), Labor 35% (38% and 32.8%) and Greens 10% (11% and 6.7%). The improvement for all concerned reflects the evaporation of SA Best, which polled 14.1% at the last election and is now at 5%, down two from the last poll. Marshall has shot to a 54-26 lead over Labor’s Peter Malinauskas as preferred premier, out from 38-36 in March.

Reflecting a broader COVID-19 era trend, Marshall records dramatically improved personal ratings of 68% satisfied and 16% dissatisfied, compared with 37% and 41% in March. Malinauskas is little changed at 44% satisifed and 22% dissatisfied, respectively steady and down four. The poll was conducted from last Thursday to this Wednesday from a sample of 810.

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.


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.

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