Beware the Ides of March (or May)

Odds shorten on a May federal election; Morrison threatens a nuclear option for preselections in New South Wales; plus news on state by-elections, actual or potential.

Yesterday’s tabling of a proposed parliamentary schedule for new year resulted in another spin of the election date speculation wheel, the consensus being that it will be held on either May 7 and 14. The government has, as they say, pencilled in March 29 as the date for the budget, although “sources close to Mr Morrison” tell The Australian he may make use of his eraser if his polling improves over summer, such that March is “still a live option” for the election. That would presumably lead to South Australian Premier Steven Marshall exercising his option to delay the March 19 state election by up to three weeks in the event of a March federal election, a matter Scott Morrison denies having discussed with him.

Other election news, federal and state:

• Scott Morrison told the Liberal federal executive he was considering asking it to exercise powers to override state divisions in preselections to impose his preferred candidates in key New South Wales seats, including state MPs Andrew Constance in Gilmore and Melanie Gibbons in Hughes (Alexandra Smith of the Sydney Morning Herald reports state Police Minister David Elliott is resisting entreaties to run in Greenway). Such a move would be “seen as a declaration of war by key members of the NSW state division”, specifically its conservatives and moderates.

Sarah Martin of The Guardian reports Natalie Baini, who until recently was a cultural diversity manager at the Australian Football League, has withdrawn her preselection challenge against Liberal MP Fiona Martin in Reid and will instead run as an independent, complaining the party had failed to act on her complaint against “inappropriate conduct of some senior members of the party and the government”.

Alexandra Smith of the Sydney Morning Herald reports Labor will yield to the insistence of local party branches and field a candidate in John Barilaro’s seat of Monaro, despite Labor leader Chris Minns rating it an “impossible task”.

John Ferguson of The Australian reported last week on “intense speculation” that a Victorian state by-election could be on the cards in Kew, whose embattled Liberal member, Tim Smith, had been “linked with potential job prospects in Britain, where he once lived”. Sunday Herald Sun columnist “Backroom Baz” rates that Smith will linger until the election if the preselection goes to his ally David Davis, the Shadow Treasurer and Opposition Leader in the Legislative Council, but would be disposed to inflict the by-election on the party if it instead goes to Jess Wilson, a former staffer to Josh Frydenberg and current policy director at the Business Council of Australia. Also in the field are Lucas Moon, former soldier and commercial manager of construction company Winslow, who has been endorsed by Tim Costello; Monica Clark, a family lawyer; Felicity Sinfield, a police officer and Boroondara councillor; and Michael Sabljak, a former electorate officer to federal MP Michael Sukkar.

Northcote by-election live

Live coverage of the count for Victoria’s Northcote state by-election, where Labor is under challenge from the Greens.

Thorpe (Greens)
Lenk (AJP)
Rossiter (LDP)
Burns (Labor)
Booths reporting on primary vote (out of 14)
Booths reporting on two-party preferred (out of 14)
Votes counted as % of enrolment (48,113)

End of night. Postal votes have taken a bite out of the Greens margin; the table above shows a now-redundant booth-based projection that fails to reflect this. So it does not now appear that this will eclipse the party’s 45.6% vote in the New South Wales seat of Newtown as its strongest ever result on the primary vote. Ben Raue at The Tally Room has interactive results maps, which show the Greens did strikingly well in what had hitherto been the best parts of the electorate for Labor, suggesting an expanding domain of the Greens-favouring “latte belt”.

Continue reading “Northcote by-election live”

Northcote by-election preview

A union-commissioned poll finds the Greens falling short in their bid for the Labor-held inner Melbourne seat.

The ABC reports that a CFMEU-commissioned poll has Labor leading the Greens 54-46 in Northcote, the inner Melbourne state seat where a by-election is to be held tomorrow after the death of Labor incumbent Fiona Richardson. After excluding the 9.6% undecided, the primary votes are 41.8% for Labor’s Clare Burns, 36.9% for Greens candidate Lidia Thorpe, 6.3% for the Liberal Democrats, 4.9% for the Animal Justice Party and 10.1% combined for the eight independents. Labor is favoured by the how-to-vote cards of the Liberal Democrats, Laura Chipp, low-profile independent Phil Cooper and, curiously, the Animal Justice Party. The Greens are favoured only by independents, including former Darebin mayor Vince Fontana, anarchist activist and the lesser-known (to me at least) Brian Sanaghan, Nevena Spirovska and Russell Hayward.

Beyond that, my Northcote by-election page offers an overview of the situation. Tune in from 6pm tomorrow for live coverage of the count.

New South Wales and Victorian state by-elections

A deep look into the looming state by-elections for Northcote in Melbourne’s inner north, where Labor is in danger of losing to the Greens, and three in New South Wales, including two where Shooters Fishers and Farmers can hope to repeat their coup against the Nationals in Orange last year.

State by-elections are looming in New South Wales, where voters in three electorates go to the polls in a fortnight’s time, and in Victoria, where the death of Labor government minister Fiona Richardson has initiated a by-election in the seat of Northcote. The latter looms as a tight race between Labor and the Greens, while two of the three New South Wales by-elections present the Nationals with the challenge of holding off Shooters Fishers and Farmers, who deprived them of the formerly safe seat of Orange in a by-election last November. Quick precis follow, together with links to comprehensive by-election guides hosted on my personal web space, which I’m steadily making more use of.

Victorian state by-election, November 18: Northcote

Support for the Greens has been growing in this inner northern Melbourne seat since the party’s breakthrough in 2002, when it first outpolled the Liberals to finish second in Northcote, Melbourne, Richmond and Brunswick. The ABC reports that Labor internal polling points to a Greens victory, with Greens candidate Lidia Thorpe on 40% and Labor’s Clare Burns on 28%, with 17% undecided.

New South Wales state by-election, October 14: Blacktown

Former Labor leader John Robertson’s resignation has brought about a by-election in a seat where Labor looks set to go untroubled. The Liberals are not contesting, the Greens have little support in the seat, and the only other challengers to Labor’s Stephen Bali are the Christian Democratic Party candidate and a low-profile independent.

New South Wales state by-election, October 14: Cootamundra

Vacated by the resignation of Nationals member Katrina Hodgkinson. Labor is making the rare effort to contest this seat and Murray, but the main threat to Nationals candidate Steph Cooke may be Matthew Stadtmiller of Shooters Fishers and Farmers.

New South Wales state by-election, October 14: Murray

Vacated by the resignation of Adrian Piccoli, former deputy leader of the Nationals. Nationals candidate Austin Evans faces Helen Dalton, Shooters Fishers and Farmers candidate who ran second as an independent at the 2015 election with 18.2% of the vote.

South-West Coast and Polwarth by-elections live

Live coverage of counting for two state by-elections being held today in safe conservative seats in western Victoria.

South-West Coast

Swing 2PP
Rodney Van de Hoef 1.8%
Roma Britnell (Liberal) 39.7% -22.4% 57.4%
Roy Reekie 17.2%
Jim Doukas (Country Party) 10.4% +9.4%
Michael Neoh (Nationals) 13.7% 42.6%
Pete Smith 1.9% +1.0%
Thomas Campbell (Greens) 7.9% -1.3%
Swampy Marsh 3.0%
Jennifer Gamble (Animal Justice) 1.3%
Lillian Len (Australian Christians) 1.5%
Michael McCluskey 1.5% -0.2%
TOTAL 30344 17080
Booths (out of 34) 34 34
Counted (% of enrolment) 71.0% 37.7%


Swing 2PP
Joe Miles (Greens) 17.1% +6.2%
Carmel Kavanagh (DLP) 7.9%
Melinda Cass (Country Party) 6.1% +0.8%
David O’Brien (Nationals) 12.7% 35.5%
Brendan Eckel 0.9%
Meredith Anne Doig (Sex Party) 6.7%
Richard Riordan (Liberal) 47.1% -8.6% 64.5%
Geoff Rogers (Australian Christians) 1.6% +0.8%
TOTAL 23009 20397
Booths (out of 41) 41 39
Counted (% of enrolment) 55.6% 46.5%

9.50pm. Roma Britnell has been substantially boosted by early vote, 44.1% of which went her way.

8.38pm. All booths have now reported on the primary vote, with a few outstanding on two-party preferred – not that that matters, given the Nationals are running third in both seats.

7.51pm. Jim Doukas has faded in recent counting, with Roy Reekie now well clear in second place. If he drops out before the Nationals, his preferences might put Michael Neoh ahead of Roy Reekie, but we know from the notional two-party count that the preferences aren’t there for him to overtake the Liberals. If the Nationals drop out before Doukas, Nationals preferences will presumably move straight to the Liberals as per the how-to-vote card, and won’t be there to help Doukas get ahead of Reekie. That would leave Reekie needing about 70% of preferences to favour him over the Liberals, which presumably won’t happen.

7.40pm. The Liberal primary vote in South-West Coast has improved a little, but remains soft. But presumably the only candidate who could find the preferences to overhaul it would be Jim Doukas. The Nationals probably won’t make it to second, and it’s a known known that they are only getting a 57.4-42.6 preference split over the Liberals when they do. Roy Reekie or Jim Doukas will need more like 70% to 75%.

7.32pm. Jim Doukas could win if he finished second and got around 70% of preferences.

7.30pm. New booths include a fourth of the Warrnambool seven, but they aren’t transforming Michael Neoh’s situation, which is that he’s playing for second place against proxy Labor candidate Roy Reekie and a strongly performing Jim Doukas of the Australian Country Party, as the Country Alliance has cutely renamed itself.

7.22pm. The South West Coast count is bouncing around a bit because we’ve had rural booths first, now a mixture, and later it will be the larger centres dominating. Whereas Polwarth’s booths are all similarly sized, so it’s regional peculiarities aren’t coming through in the count. Michael Neoh has moved back further with the most recently added booths from South West Coast, which mostly tells us that none of them were from Warrnambool.

7.18pm. Three of the eight Warrnambool booths are in now for South-West Coast, and the Liberal vote has come down pretty hard, with Michael Neoh as expected improving — but he’s still third behind Labor-identifying independent Roy Reekie, and so far his preference flow is only slightly higher than the Liberals (52.8-47.2).

7.09pm. The Nationals aren’t even coming second in either seat, although Warrnambool booths might put them ahead in South-West Coast. The Greens are second in Polwarth, having nearly won the Anglesea booth, and actually won Deans Marsh and Lavers Hill.

7.01pm. Primary vote booths have now reported in double figures, and the Liberals are on around 50% with the Nationals polling poorly – although presumably Michael Neoh will pick up in South-West Coast when numbers report from Warrnambool, where he is mayor. Clearly no sign of a boilover though.

6.54pm. Those two-party projections I was talking about are looking a bit screwy, so I think I’ll hold off on them for the time being. Both electorates have five booths on the primary and three on two-party, and the Nationals are getting 56.8% of preferences in South-West Coast and 61.1% in Polwarth.

6.50pm. Results coming in at a bit of a clip now, including a two-party result from South-West Coast, with no indication that the Nationals are performing strongly enough to pose a threat to the Liberals.

6.39pm. Second booth in from Polwarth, and it’s a stronger result for the Liberals.

6.38pm. Second booth in from South-West Coast, and another strong result for Liberal candidate Roma Britnell.

6.35pm. One booth in from each seat, with encouraging results for the Liberals in South-West Coast but shakier ones in Polwarth, albeit off extremely small numbers so far. A projection will appear in the right column when I get some two-party counts to play with. This will be calculated by applying a booth-matched swing to the total Liberal Party votes from 2014, and then splitting up preferences between the Liberals and Nationals based on how they have divided in such booths that have reported two-party results. I do have my doubts about this, in that the swing against the Liberals could well be biggest in early-reporting small booths which are stronger for the Nationals. But we’ll see how we go.

6.25pm. Welcome to live coverage of the South-West Coast and Polwarth count, first results for which should be along very shortly. I’ll have tables up with somewhat experimental Liberal-versus-Nationals projections when there are numbers to report.

South West Coast and Polwarth by-elections: October 31

Challenges to the Liberals from the Nationals have added a certain amount of zest to two Victorian state by-elections being sat out by Labor.

Two state by-elections will be held in Victoria on Saturday, for the neighbouring western Victorian seats of South West Coast and Polwarth. This follows joint retirement announcements on August 31 by Denis Napthine, the former Premier, and Terry Mulder, the former Public Transport and Roads Minister. Both seats are safely conservative, to the extent that Labor is not fielding candidates. The seats will, however, be contested by the Nationals – a threat the Liberals are taking seriously enough to be running advertising on regional television. The Liberals are having preferences directed to them ahead of the Nationals by the Greens, the Australian Country Party and Animal Justice; the Democratic Labour Party is favouring the Nationals; and Australian Christians are having two bob each way, favouring the Liberals in South West Coast and the Nationals in Polwarth.

South West Coast

South West Coast is centred on the coastal towns of Portland and Warrnambool near the South Australian border, and also encompasses 5800 square kilometres of surrounding rural territory. It was created at the 2002 election, prior to which Portland and Warrnambool had been separate Liberal-held seats, respectively held by Denis Napthine since 1988 and John Vogels since 1999. The new electorate was bequeathed to Napthine, while Vogels moved to the upper house.

Candidates in ballot paper order:

Rodney Van De Hoef (Independent). A Warranambool businessman who is directing preferences to the Nationals ahead of the Liberals.

Roma Britnell (Liberal). The vice-president of the United Dairyfarmers of Victoria, Britnell won a September 20 preselection vote ahead of Donna Petrovich, a former Northern Victoria region MLC who abandoned her seat for a narrowly unsuccessful run in the federal seat of McEwen in 2013. Petrovich’s decision to run had been described by Denis Napthine as “inappropriate”, since she “has not much in common with the local area”. Others in the field were Denis Napthine’s 24-year old son, Tom Napthine, who works at MacKillop Family Services in Warrnambool; Anita Rank, a Glenelg Shire councillor; Jacinta Anderson, who ran a fashion boutique in Warrnambool before opening a Melbourne outlet; and Deborah Keiller, who runs an accountancy firm in Portland.

Roy Reekie (Independent). Reekie is a solicitor who ran for Labor in the Warrnambool electorate in 1999, and again in South West Coast in 2002 and 2006. He is directing preferences to the Nationals ahead of the Liberals.

Jim Doukas (Australian Country Party). Macedonian-born Doukas has been on Moyne Shire Council since 2002, and served as mayor from 2010 to 2013.

Michael Neoh (Nationals). The mayor of Warrnambool, and a councillor locally for 12 years, Neoh won Nationals endorsement after initially announcing his intention to run for Liberal preselection.

Pete Smith (Independent). Smith has variously worked for BlueScope Steel, AWB, Australia Post, the army and the navy.

Thomas Campbell (Greens). A 24-year-old education student at Deakin University’s Warrnambool campus, who also ran at the 2014 state election.

Swampy Marsh (Independent). Allan “Swampy” Marsh is a Purnim chicken farmer whose efforts to save Middle Island’s penguin population are the subject of the feature film Oddball.

Jennifer Gamble (Animal Justice).

Lillian Len (Australian Christians).

Michael McCluskey (Independent). McCluskey is a Warrnambool veterinarian who polled 1.6% as an independent candidate at the 2014 election.


Polwarth covers over 100 kilometres of the Great Ocean Road coast west of Melbourne, from Bells Beach and Anglesea through Lorne, Apollo Bay and Cape Otway to Peterborough, and extends inland through 12,500 square kilometres of rural territory to encompass Colac and Camperdown. Party support is finely balanced in the Great Ocean Road centres, but the rural interior keeps the seat safely conservative. The Liberals have held the seat since gaining it from the Country Party in 1949, and it has never been in Labor hands in an uninterrupted history going back to 1889.

Candidates in ballot paper order:

Joe Miles (Greens). A disability support worker from Apollo Bay.

Carmel Kavanagh (Democratic Labour Party). According to the party website, Kavanagh “operates a charity providing advocacy, housing and resettlement assistance for asylum seekers and refugees”.

Melinda Cass (Australian Country Party).

David O’Brien (Nationals). O’Brien held an upper house seat in Western Victoria region from 2010 and 2014, when he lost it to James Purcell of Vote 1 Local Jobs, and was previously a Supreme Court barrister.

Brendan Eckel (Independent).

Meredith Anne Doig (Australian Sex Party). Doig is a leading figure in secularist and voluntary euthanasia advocacy groups, and has been a board director with the Port of Melbourne Corporation and Bakers Delight. She is currently on the council of Federation University Australia, and a director of the Federation Training TAFE.

Richard Riordan (Liberal). Riordan is owner-operator of Colac Hire and Riordan LPG. The Warrnambool Standard reports he won a preselection vote on the first round from a field that included Adam Jenkins, president of United Dairyfarmers of Victoria; Stephen Hishon, a Lorne real estate agent and former Ballarat councillor; and Jennifer Cromarty, operator of a Geelong public relations firm.

Geoff Rogers (Australian Christians).

Gippsland South by-election: overview and live coverage

A quick run-through of today’s by-election to choose a successor to former Victorian Nationals leader Peter Ryan, in which the Nationals are being challenged by the Liberals but not Labor.

Live coverage

Midnight. No fewer than 10,291 pre-polls have been added to the count, together with the outstanding booths. This leaves the primary vote totals at 45.4% for the Nationals, 26.5% for the Liberals and 15.6% for the Greens.

8.10pm. Only two laggard booths are outstanding, with the Nationals on 45.1% and likely on my estimation to rise a little, the Liberals on 25.3%, and the Greens on 16.6%.

7.21pm. The Sale booths are in and they had the Nationals in the low forties and the Liberals in the low thirties. We seem to be looking at a Nationals vote of 47% with the Liberals in the upper twenties, and the Greens third on around 15%. There are 33 booths out of 46 in overall, with 13,500 votes counted.

7.10pm. Exactly half the 46 booths are now in, and I now have the projected Nationals primary vote up to 48.1%.

7.03pm. Sixteen booths now and 3339 counted. The raw Nationals vote is 50.2%, from which I make an 11.3% swing on a booth-matched basis for a projected total of 46.0%. The Liberals are 23.3% on the raw vote, but maybe that will increase when votes from Sale and Leongatha come in. Even so, there’s no reason to think the Nationals are in trouble.

6.48pm. The VEC preference throw is Nationals-versus-Greens, which is … not what I would have done.

6.45pm. I’ve now got the drop in the Nationals vote up to 14.3%, from which I’m projecting 43.1%. The Liberals are matching it with them in the larger centres, but the Nationals are polling over 70% in rural booths.

6.40pm. Five booths in on the primary vote, adding up to 649 counted, and the raw vote has the Nationals on 60.1%. I make that to be an 11.7% drop on November in these rural and heavily pro-Nationals booths, pointing to an overall result of 45.6%. With no reason to think preferences will favour the Liberals, that shouldn’t bother them unduly. The Liberals and Greens are so far matching it on around 16.5% of the primary vote, with nobody else registering.

6pm. Polls have closed. The electorate is peppered with very small booths that should conduct their counts very quickly, so we should start seeing results in little more than half an hour.


A minor Victorian state by-election is being held today in the seat of Gippsland South, which has been vacated after Peter Ryan, who led the Nationals during the period of the Baillieu-Napthine government, bowed out in the wake of the November election defeat. Labor has predictably given the by-election a miss, so the main point of interest is presumably whether a Liberal candidate gains any traction.

Gippsland South extends from Leongatha and Korumburra in the west to Sale in the east, encompassing a 200 kilometre stretch of coastline that includes Wilsons Promontory. It has existed without interruption since 1859, and has never been held by Labor. Sir Herbert Hyland first gained the seat for the Country Party in 1929, and retained it through an epic parliamentary tenure that ended with his death in 1970. It then fell to Liberal candidate James Taylor, who was defeated in 1973 and would later return as a member for the local upper house province. Neil McInnes then held the seat for the Country/National Party until he defected to the Liberals in 1980, for which he was rewarded with defeat at the next election in 1982. The Nationals have held the seat ever since, Peter Ryan succeeding Tom Wallace as member in 1992.

The Nationals candidate is Danny O’Brien, who has held a seat for the Eastern Victoria region in the Legislative Council since March last year, when he filled a casual vacancy created by the retirement of Peter Hall. He retained the seat at the election last November from second place on the joint Coalition ticket. O’Brien started his career as a journalist for WIN Television, and was later an adviser to the then federal Nationals leader, Mark Vaile, then chief-of-staff to Barnaby Joyce and Peter Ryan. The Liberal candidate is Scott Rosetti, described by the ABC as a “Wellington Shire councillor and high-profile Sale businessman”. Also in the field are four independents (Warren Sanders, Viv Pepper, Deb Meester and Gerard J. Donohue) and candidates of the Greens (Andrea Millsom) and the Liberal Democratic Party (Jim McDonald).

Considerably more detail is as always available courtesy of Antony Green. Live coverage of the count will be featured here from the close of polls at 6pm.

Lyndhurst by-election live

Live coverage of Victoria’s Lyndhurst by-election, where anything other than a clear win for Labor’s Martin Pakula will come as a rude shock for the party.

8.10pm. All the polling booths have reported, but I gather we’ll get some postals or pre-polls before the night has done. The current Labor primary vote of 40.5% is south of home-and-hosed territory under some circumstances, but here the minor vote is divided enough between left and right candidates that he will almost certainly get over the line. His primary vote position should also improve in late counting. Nonetheless, it’s a much closer result than Pakula and Labor would have liked.

7.50pm. All but three booths now in on the primary vote and the situation is little changed, with Labor remaining stuck on 40.1%, Family First second on 16.6% and a crowded field jostling for third: Hung Vo on 10.5%, the DLP on 9.5%, the Sex Party on 9.2% and the Greens on 8.9%. The VEC is conducting a Labor-versus-Greens preference throw, which is unlikely to prove too illuminating.

7.40pm. Antony Green: “Labor needs only half of Green and Sex Party preferences to win, and that is much much more likely than the preferences of both reaching Family First. So Labor looks set to win. I would also expect Labor’s vote to increase on pre-poll and postal votes, areas where minor parties and independents traditionally poll poorly.”

7.35pm. The Greens, who don’t seem to have much luck in Victorian by-elections, are now in sixth place, behind the DLP and the Sex Party as well as Pakula, Vo and Family First.

7.30pm. The Lyndhurst booth is another very poor one for Hung Vo, who is now on 12.5% to Family First’s 16.4%. Martin Pakula’s vote is little changed.

7.20pm. Five more booths have reported on the primary vote, and Labor has struggled up to 40.1% (down 17.9% on a booth-for-booth basis) – still short of what would assure Martin Pakula of victory. However, Hung Vo’s vote turns out to be wildly variable through the electorate, and he’s now fallen behind Family First on 14.9% to 15.3%. My best guess is that Family First and other conservatives would get Pakula over 50% if a “left” candidate finishes second, and left preferences will do so otherwise.

7pm. Very strong result for independent Hung Vo at the Southvale booth, accounting for 472 votes. Vo has polled 21.6% of the vote against 35.6% for Pakula, compared with 4.7% for Vo at the 2010 election and 59.6% for Labor. If the Labor vote stays that low, Pakula could well be in trouble. The Greens are up 6.2% to 12.3%, and Family First 5.4% to 11.4%. The Sex Party, which didn’t run last time, is on 11.9%.

6pm. Polls have closed for the Lyndhurst state by-election in Victoria, wherein Labor’s Martin Pakula is expected to be confirmed in his move from the upper to lower house following the retirement of Tim Holding. There are seven other candidates, none of whom are from the Liberal Party. First results should probably be in in an hour or so.