Resolve Strategic: Labor 42, Coalition 28, Greens 12 in Victoria

More evidence to suggest Daniel Andrews’ government is set to match or even exceed its 2018 landslide.

After two monthly federal polls, the Age/Herald Resolve Strategic series has followed its pre-federal election practice of combining two polling samples to produce a state voting intention result for Victoria, which hopefully indicates a return to regular monthly federal and bi-monthly New South Wales and Victorian state polling. Consistent with the recent Newspoll, these numbers suggest another emphatic win for Daniel Andrews’ Labor government, which is up five points since the last such poll back in April to 42% and down only one point on its 2018 result. The Coalition has slumped five points since the last poll to 28%, down seven on the election result, while the Greens are up two to 12%, up more than a point on 2018. Of the remainder, 12% opted for an unspecificied independent and 8% went for minor parties.

Resolve Strategic does not provide two-party preferred results, but the primary vote numbers suggest a Labor lead of as much as 60-40, compared with 57.3-42.7 in the 2018 landslide. Approval and disapproval are not featured, but Daniel Andrews holds a 46-28 lead over Matthew Guy as preferred premier, out from 48-31. The poll was conducted, I presume, both last week and around a month previously from a total sample of 1107.

In other Victorian poll news, The Guardian reported last week on a RedBridge Group poll of the Mornington electorate for Climate 200, which is supporting independent candidate Kate Lardner. The seat will be left vacated after Liberal incumbent David Morris lost preselection to Chris Crewther, former federal member for Dunkley. The headline voting intention result suggested a win for Crewther with 43.2% of the primary vote, with Labor on 28.9% for Labor, 11.4% for a generic independent and 5.9% for the Greens, which much or all of the remainder uncommitted.

When it was put to respondents that the field would include an “independent candidate like Monique Ryan”, 20.3% said they would support that candidate compared with 39.3% for the Liberals, 19.2% for Labor and 6.5% for the Greens, which pollster Kos Samaras projects to a 53-47 win for the independent. The poll was conducted from a sample of 797 shortly after Lardner’s campaign was announced in August.

Victorian state polls: Morgan and Essential Research

Two more polls suggesting Victorian Labor is headed towards another comfortable-to-emphatic victory in November, plus further news of pre-election developments.

Two Victorian state polls have come down the pipe over the past few days, from Roy Morgan and Essential Research. The latter also came through with a New South Wales result, which I’ll cover when I do a big post on pre-election developments in that state in a day or two. The Victorian results ran as follows:

• The Roy Morgan poll has Labor leading 58-42, with both major parties notably low on the primary vote — Labor on 36.5%, the Coalition on 29% and the Greens on 14%, with 20.5% scattered among a wide array of response options. Respondents were also asked to explain why they had chosen the way they did, with the accompanying release offering a wide selection of highlights. However, the poll is not as fresh as it might be, having been conducted from a sample of 1407 in “mid-August”. Like Morgan’s federal polling, it was conducted online and by telephone, whereas its earlier Victorian state polling — the most recent of which was conducted from August 11 to 13, seemingly only a few days before this one, and had Labor leading 60.5-39.5 — was conducted by SMS.

• An Essential Research online poll for The Guardian had Labor on 35.3%, the Coalition on 32.2% and the Greens on 10.2%, without distributing an undecided component of 11.9%. I would make that out to be a Labor lead of around 56-44. This poll was conducted online from August 31 to September 7 from a modest sample of 536. The poll also found 44% supportive and 25% opposed to construction of stage one of the Suburban Rail Loop, on which the Liberals will halt production to redirect funding to health.

Further state election news:

John Ferguson of The Australian reported on September 3 that Liberal research showed more than a quarter of Victorian voters were “’hard’ undecideds”; that Daniel Andrews has a negative 15 per cent approval rating in “key seats”; and that the Liberals had gained traction with its message that it will prioritise fixing problems in the health system.

• The Herald Sun reports the United Firefighters Union will spend $1 million campaigning on behalf of candidates “who support firefighters” and against Labor candidates who it deems not to represent the party’s values. It is unclear who the former might be, but the inclusion of Richmond and Northcote on the list of likely seats suggests Greens, while Melton and Werribee suggests independents. However, it’s less clear how anyone other than the Liberals might benefit in Ashwood, Box Hill, Ringwood and Jacinta Allan’s seat of Bendigo East, or what might be accomplished in Thomastown or Tarneit. Also on the agenda are the upper house regions of Western Metropolitan, Northern Metropolitan and Northern Victoria.

Independent candidates latest:

• Melissa Lowe, manager of student equity at Swinburne University, was formally announced on September 1 as a candidate for Hawthorn, where former Liberal member John Pesutto will attempt to recover the seat he lost to Labor’s John Kennedy in 2018. The launch was attended by Climate 200 convenor Simon Holmes a Court, and her campaign will be managed by Brett Hodgson, who performed the same role for Monique Ryan in Kooyong.

• Sophie Torney, described in The Age as a “project manager with a background in computer science”, will run in Kew with the support of Kew Independents, an “offshoot of the Voices of Kooyong movement” that provided support for Monique Ryan.

• Carol Altmann, a former journalist for The Australian, will run against Liberal member Roma Britnell in South-West Coast. The Age reports Altmann has “built a following after raising integrity issues in Warrnambool institutions through her website The Terrier”, and “many local observers” believe she was instrumental in all seven Warrnambool councillors being voted out in 2020, including her Labor opponent Kylie Gaston.

• South Melbourne Market stallholder Georgie Dragwidge will run in Albert Park, which is being vacated by the retirement of Labor’s Martin Foley, and Daniel Andrews will face independent competition in Mulgrave from Ian Cook, who is pursuing legal action over the forced closure of his catering business due to what he claims was a slug being planted by a council health inspector.

Victorian election minus three months

As independents proliferate, polls and insider talk continue to add to an impression of a Coalition too weak to capitalise fully on Labor’s difficulties come November.

UPDATE: The Australian has published a Newspoll state voting intention poll with a set of numbers very like that of the 2018 election, with Labor leading 56-44 (compared with 57.3-42.7) from primary votes of Labor 41% (42.9%), Coalition 36% (35.2%) and Greens 13% (10.7%). Daniel Andrews has 54% approval and 41% disapproval while Matthew Guy is on 32% and 49%, with Andrews leading 51-34 on preferred premier. The poll was conducted Monday to Thursday from a sample of 1027.

Before we dive in, let it be noted that beneath this post lies post covering recent polls of state voting intention in Tasmania and one of the few federal voting intention polls since the election.

Roy Morgan produced another of its SMS Victorian state polls a week-and-a-half ago, and it produced another eye-popping two-party lead for Labor, this time of 60.5-39.5 (out from 59.5-40.5 in early July), from primary votes of Labor 40.5% (down three), Coalition 27.5% (up two), Greens 14% (up two) and 5% for “a teal independent” (up two). The poll was conducted Thursday, August 11 to Saturday, August 13 from a sample of 1097.

Further on the independent candidate front:

Annika Smethurst of The Age reports Kate Lardner, a doctor at Frankston Hospital, former Greens member and co-founder of a group that “mobilises doctors to address climate change”, will run in Mornington, and quotes an unidentified Labor source saying their polling indicates she will outperform them. Another starter identified in the article is Sarah Fenton, co-owner of the Bellarine Smokehouse, who will run in Labor-held Bellarine, to be vacated with the retirement of Lisa Neville.

• Nomi Kaltmann, a legal interpretation analyst in the Commonwealth public service with a background as a staffer to state minister Marsha Thomson and electorate officer to Mark Dreyfus, has announced she will run as an independent against deputy Liberal leader David Southwick in Caulfield, a week after quitting the ALP. Kaltmann told the Financial Review she became alienated from Labor after its national executive installed Enver Erdogan to fill a Legislative Council vacancy in South Metropolitan region in 2019 without reference to the party membership with backing from the Right faction Shop Distributive and Allied Employees Association, despite him living in Melbourne’s north. However, The Australian reported on Friday that Kaltmann nominated for party office-holder positions as recently as February. The Financial Review further quoted Climate 200 convenor Simon Holmes a Court saying Kaltmann “had been in touch”.

• Jacqui Hawkins, a former adviser to federal Indi independent Cathy McGowan, will again run against Liberal member Bill Tilley in the northern Victorian seat of Benambra, having come within 2.4% of toppling Tilley on her first attempt in 2018.

The Age reports two former Bayside mayors appear likely to enter the ring: Clarke Martin in Sandringham, where he managed a modest 8.4% on his first attempt in 2018, and former Liberal preselection aspirant Felicity Frederico in Brighton.

Further:

Patrick Durkin of the Financial Review reported a fortnight ago that “confidential independent polling” put the Coalition “well short of the 18 seats it needs for victory”, but suggested Labor would lose up to six seats in “Victoria’s growth corridors”.

• Despite heavy publicity from the Herald Sun, which asserted the party was likely to feature in a massively expanded lower house cross-bench after the election, the Victorians Party has announced it will not contest the election “due to the limitations on new political parties raising campaign funding under Victoria’s electoral laws introduced after the last state election”. This presumably refers to laws that cap donations to political parties, old and new alike, at a rate presently set at $4320 over four years. The party was launched by Small Business Australia executive director Bill Lang and sought to attract support from lockdown opponents.

• In the regional seat of Euroa, which will be vacated with the retirement of Nationals member Steph Ryan, the new Nationals candidate is Annabelle Cleeland, editor of Fairfax Media title Stock & Land, while the Liberal candidate will be Brad Hearn, principal of the Flexible Learning Centre in Benalla.

• A Victorian Liberal upper house preselection I missed when summarising them in my previous post: Anne-Marie Hermans, a former Family First candidate, will lead the ticket in South Eastern Metropolitan, replacing the retiring Gordon Rich-Phillips.

• Tom McIntosh, an electrician and former staffer to federal MP Ged Kearney, has been sworn in to replace the late Jane Garrett as Labor’s member for Eastern Victoria region in the Legislative Council. McIntosh had already been preselected to succeed her at the election after she announced her intention to retire in December.

• The Victorian Electoral Commission has calculated its own two-candidate preferred margins for the newly redistributed electoral boundaries, which make use of its data recording which voters voted at which polling booths. It identifies Caulfield, Hastings, Pakenham (formerly Gembrook) and Ripon as having flipped from Liberal to Labor, Bass and Bayswater as having done the reverse, and Mildura as flipping from independent to Nationals. Labor-held Keysborough and Mount Waverley and Liberal-held Ferntree Gully are counted as abolished, and it credits Labor with margins of 22.0% and 23.4% in the new seats of Greenvale and Laverton, and Liberal with a 1.3% margin in Berwick.

UPDATE: The Age reports Resolve Strategic asked the 500 Victorian respondents from this week’s poll further questions about state political issues, and found 42% crediting Labor with greater integrity and honesty compared with 21% for the Coalition, and 53% expecting Labor to win the election compared with 18% for the Coalition.

Victorian election minus sixteen weeks

Labor prospects, Liberal prospects, independent prospects and preselection news from a Victorian election now less than four months away.

With low-level leadership rumblings being heard after the resignation of Liberal leader Matthew Guy’s chief-of-staff, taking with him much of the edge off opposition attacks on the government over corruption issues, Kos Samaras of Redbridge Group “believes the prospect of a minority government is growing increasingly possible”. Polling by Redbridge reported in The Age on Saturday had hypothetical teal independents beating Liberals by 51-49 in Brighton, 54-46 in Sandringham, 56-44 in Caulfield, 55-45 in Hawthorn and 55-45 in Kew, albeit that the wording perhaps helpfully specified that the candidates would be “like Zoe Daniel” or “like Monique Ryan”. While no teal independent candidates are in place, John Ferguson of The Australian reports Brent Hodgson, former marketing and data strategist to Monique Ryan, has set up an office in Hawthorn, and a “Kew Independents” group is being run by Ryan’s former social media manager, Hayden O’Connor.

Sumeyya Ilanbey of The Age reported that 20 seats identified by Labor as key contests are dominated by outer suburban and regional seats where it fears blue-collar alienation with the government’s COVID-19 management. Annika Smethurst of The Age offers that the Liberals are “unlikely to win the election”, but that “the Liberal Party is increasingly confident it can snare the seats of Bayswater, Bass, Box Hill, Cranbourne and Nepean from Labor.”

The Liberals have been determining preselections for their Legislative Council tickets, opening a few cans of worms in the process:

• The Liberals’ choice of Melton City Councillor Moira Deeming to head the ticket in Western Metropolitan has prompted suggestions both within the party and without that the party has failed to make a sufficient break from her predecessor Bernie Finn, who was expelled from the party in May after extensive promotion of hard right views, the last straw being a call for a no-exceptions ban on abortion. Deeming has herself expressed opposition to abortion along with drag queen storytimes and the Safe Schools program, and her opposition to COVID-19 vaccine mandates caused the party’s administrative committee to block her preselection for the western Melbourne seat of Gorton at the May federal election. Paul Sakkal of The Age reports that Deeming won more than twice as many votes as her nearest rival in the preselection, and that Finn has said it would be “fair” to describe her as his protege. The result caused Andrew Elsbury, who held a Western Metropolitan seat from 2010 to 2014, to resign from the party, saying Deeming was “basically going to spout the same stuff as Bernie Finn used to”.

• In Northern Metropolitan region, where the party holds only one seat, Craig Ondarchie was as long foreseen dumped in favour of Evan Mulholland, director of communications at the Institute of Public Affairs and a vociferous critics of federal Labor’s carbon emissions targets. Second position goes to Owen Guest, the state party’s treasurer. Paul Sakkal of The Age reports the first round results were 26 for Mulholland, 14 for Catriona Rafael, former staffer to former party leader Michael O’Brien, 11 for Owen Guest and ten for last-placed Ondarchie. With the latter eliminated, Josh Gordon of The Age reports the second round result was Mulholland 32, Guest 15 and Rafael 14.

• Gippsland chiropractor Renee Heath has deposed incumbent Cathrine Burnett-Wake, who filled the casual vacancy created by Edward O’Donohue’s retirement in December, to take top position in Eastern Victoria by what Sumeyya Ilanbey of The Age reported as a margin of 55 to 53. The Age further reports that “several Liberal officials raised concerns about Heath’s family connection to the City Builders Church, which has been accused of encouraging members to take part in the Living Waters Program, an externally run gay conversion therapy that has since closed”, albeit that the connection involves her father rather than herself. The second position on the ticket is reserved for Nationals incumbent Melina Bath.

• Nick McGowan, a former staffer to Ted Baillieu and reported close friend of Liberal leader Matthew Guy, has secured the second position in North Eastern Metropolitan, with Kirsten Langford in the unpromising third position. Gladys Liu, the recently defeated federal member for Chisholm, was unsuccessful, as was Ranjana Srivasta, an oncologist and Fulbright scholar who had previously sought preselection for the Senate and the federal seat of Casey.

Further:

Rachel Eddie of The Age reports the anti-lockdown Freedom Party has organised a bloc of like-minded parties who will exchange all-important preferences for the Legislative Council, also to include Family First and the Federation Party. Among the party’s number is Aidan McLindon, who in his term in Queensland parliament as the member for Beaudesert from 2009 to 2012 successively represented the Liberal National Party, Katter’s Australian Party and the Queensland Party, and will now run against Daniel Andrews in Mulgrave. McLindon says he and his bloc are uninterested in doing deals with Glenn Druery, noted arranger of preference networks that take advantage of the group voting ticket system, which now survives only in Victoria. The Age report also says the United Australia Party, whose sole success at the federal election was a Senate seat in Victoria, plans to “team up with like-minded parties”.

• Following Steph Ryan’s resignation as deputy Nationals leader and announcement she would not contest the election last month, the Shepparton News reports Strathbogie Shire councillor and local caravan park owner Kristy Hourigan will run for Nationals preselection in her seat of Euroa.

• Russell Northe, who held Morwell for the Nationals from 2006 to 2017 and as an independent thereafter, including after his re-election in 2018, has announced he will retire at the election.

Monday miscellany (open thread)

Return of the vexed question of expelling elected members of parliament, an improbable set of state voting intention numbers from Victoria, and more.

I would guess that Newspoll will return on the eve of the resumption of the parliament, which is still three weeks away. This is an off week for Essential Research; there may be a Roy Morgan poll, or there may not. Until then:

• Kylea Tink, the newly elected teal independent member for North Sydney, says she believes a new federal integrity commission should have the power to sack parliamentarians for sufficiently serious breaches of a parliamentary code of conduct; David Pocock, newly independent Senator for the Australian Capital Territory, says he would have “real concerns about an unelected body being able to dismiss elected representatives”. The federal parliament denied itself of the power to expel representatives through legislation passed in 1987, such power only ever having been exercised in 1920, when Labor MP Hugh Mahon made “seditious and disloyal utterances” regarding British policy in Ireland. Mahon then re-contested his seat of Kalgoorlie but was narrowly defeated, which remains the only occasion of a government party winning a seat from the opposition at a by-election.

• If you can’t wait another three years for my 2025 federal election guide, Robin Visser offers an online geospatial tool for examining polling booth results at the recent federal election.

Victorian state news to go with that related in last week’s dedicated post on the subject:

• Roy Morgan has results of a “snap SMS poll” of state voting intention in Victoria, showing Labor with a rather inplausible two-party lead of 59.5-40.5 from primary votes of Labor 43.5%, Coalition 29.5%, Greens 12%, United Australia Party 2% and Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party 1%. The poll was conducted Thursday to Saturday from a sample of 1710. A similar poll in November produced the same two-party result.

• Morgan’s result is at odds with a detailed assessment of the state of play by pollster Kos Samaras, who expects Labor to struggle to maintain its majority in the face of four to five losses to the Liberals, two to the Greens and others yet to independents. However, it’s also “extremely difficult to see how the Coalition get anything north of 38 to 40 seats” in a chamber of 88.

• Jane Garrett, who held a seat in the Legislative Council for Eastern Victoria region, died on Saturday of breast cancer at the age of 49. Garrett moved to the chamber from the lower house seat of Brunswick at the 2018 election, which duly fell to the Greens. She resigned from cabinet in 2016 after a dispute with the United Firefighters Union in her capacity as Emergency Services Union brought her into conflict with Daniel Andrews. Garrett announced last December that she would retire at the election. Labor’s ticket in Eastern Victoria will be headed by incumbent Harriet Shing, who was last week promoted to cabinet, and Tom McIntosh, a former electrician and (at least as of 2019) electorate officer to federal Batman MP Ged Kearney, who is presumably well placed to fill Garrett’s casual vacancy in the interim.

Also:

• As detailed at length on my live commentary thread, South Australia’s Liberals copped a 6.0% swing in Saturday’s Bragg by-election to add to the 8.8% one they suffered at the March state election, leaving about 2% intact from a margin that was 17.4% after the 2018 election, and had never previously fallen below 12.8%. The next by-election off the rank is for the Western Australian state seat of North West Central, to be vacated with the retirement of Nationals member Vince Catania. The Nationals last week preselected Merome Beard, proprietor of Carnarvon’s Port Hotel, whose BLT comes strongly recommended. Labor is considered unlikely to field a candidate, but the Liberal state council voted last week to call for nominations.

Eminent Victorians

Victorian state preselection news from both sides of the aisle, following Labor’s recent talent exodus and a number of challengers to Liberal incumbents in the upper house.

State polling being not what it used to be, I have resolved to make an effort in future to do occasional posts updating electorally relevant affairs in each state. Presumably we will see some polling from New South Wales and Victoria in the not too distant future, but it does not appear we will continue to get regular bi-monthly polling from Resolve Strategic now that it has wrapped up its monthly polling for Nine Newspapers.

There is much to report right now from Victoria, whose state election will be held on November 26. Four cabinet ministers announced their resignations from cabinet on Friday effective immediately, to be followed by their retirements at the November election: Deputy Premier James Merlino, Health Minister Martin Foley, Police Minister Lisa Neville and Industry Minister Martin Pakula. This has resulted in a reshuffle that has resulted in Jacinta Allan succeeding Merlino as deputy, and brought into cabinet Pascoe Vale MP Lizzie Blandthorn, Bundoora MP Colin Brooks, Oakleigh MP Steve Dimopoulos, Eastern Victoria MLC Harriet Shing and Carrum MP Sonya Kilkenny.

The retirements raise the stakes on Daniel Andrews’ request earlier in the month for Labor’s national executive to maintain its control over the state branch, which was established in the wake of the Adem Somyurek branch-stacking scandal and resulted in it determining preselections at the federal election without reference to the party rank-and-file. Reports at the time suggested most in the party expected the request would be granted.

Vacancies are now available in Merlino’s seat of Monbulk on Melbourne’s eastern fringe, held on a post-redistribution margin of 8.4%; Neville’s seat of Bellarine outside Geelong, with a margin of 11.4%; and Foley’s seat of Albert Park to the south of central Melbourne, with a margin of 12.9%; but not in Pakula’s seat of Keysborough, which has been abolished. Despite these seemingly comfortable margins, Monbulk and Bellarine in particular would be considered marginal seats in the context of a competitive election. Albert Park is of interest because it has been brought on to the Greens’ radar by the result of the federal election, at which the party came within a hair’s breadth of poaching the corresponding seat of Macnamara.

Meanwhile, the Liberal Party have an eventful round of upper house preselections to contend with. Of the seven members elected to the chamber amid the party’s disastrous result in 2018, two are retiring, one (Bernie Finn) was recently expelled from the party and three are facing preselection challengers, with only Matt Bach set for a smooth passage to the next parliament as the lead candidate for what will become the North Eastern Metropolitan region (now Eastern Metropolitan). One of the nominees for the second position in that region is Gladys Liu, the recently defeated federal member for Chisholm. Others are Ranjana Srivastava, an oncologist and Fulbright scholar who has the backing of outgoing member Bruce Atkinson; Shilpa Hedge, a software consultant; and Monica Clark, a family lawyer.

Rachel Baxendale in The Australian reports that nominees to replace Bernie Finn in Western Metropolitan, where the Liberals usually only win one seat, include Tamsin Lawrence, deputy director of workplace relations at the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and Mark Briers, a senior adviser in the Morrison government senior adviser, Fred Ackerman, an education consultant, and Jenny Matic, a staffer to Shadow Treasurer David Davis; and Fred Ackerman, an education consultant.

The party’s sole member for Northern Metropolitan region, Craig Ondarchie, is rated by Baxendale’s sources as likely to lose to one of three challengers: Evan Mulholland, communications director at the Institute of Public Affairs; Catriona Rafael, Leukemia Foundation advocate; and Owen Guest, the party’s state treasurer. In Eastern Victoria, Cathrine Burnett-Wake is being challenged by chiropractor Renee Heath; in South Metropolitan, Colleen Harkin, who was the party’s federal candidate for Macnamara, has challenged both David Davis and Georgie Crozier by nominating for all three positions at the top of the ticket. Baxendale reports this has “put noses out of joint” in the party; Harkin earlier challenged James Newbury in the lower house seat of Brighton, but found little support.

Potential new elements at the election include Climate 200, which according to The Guardian is “understood to be considering the Liberal-held marginal seats of Brighton and Kew and Labor-held Hawthorn”, and the newly established Victorians Party, launched on the back of anti-lockdown sentiment by Small Business Australia executive director Bill Lang, which if nothing else is receiving heavy publicity in the Herald-Sun.

Resolve Strategic: Labor 37, Coalition 33, Greens 10 in Victoria

Resolve Strategic records a dip in support for the Andrews government, though only half of it has gone to the Coalition.

The Age brings us the bi-monthly Resolve Strategic poll of state voting intention in Victoria, combining results from the Victorian respondents out of this month’s and last month’s national polls (next month will be the turn of New South Wales). The poll records a significant drop in support for Labor compared with the previous poll, down four to 37%, with the Coalition up two to 33%. With the Greens down one to 10%, the difference is made up by two-point increases for independents to 12% and others to 9%.

Resolve Strategic does not publish two-party results, but I would guess this to be around 53-47 in favour of Labor, although the combined 21% for independents and others makes it a difficult call. Despite the movement on voting intention, there is little change to Daniel Andrews’ lead as preferred premier, which goes from 47-30 to 48-31. The poll has a sample of around 1000, the most recent batch of 500 having been surveyed from Wednesday to Sunday.

Federal preselection and electoral law developments

Federal preselection news from New South Wales, not all of it about the Liberals, plus plans to lower the voting age to 16 in the ACT and much else.

The mercurial Roy Morgan organisation put out a newsletter this week saying its fortnightly poll had Labor leading 56.5-43.5 and would be published in full within 48 hours, but nothing more was heard. However, there is no shortage of other electoral news to relate, even without getting too deep into the developing situation of the New South Wales Liberals’ federal preselection tangle, which was covered in depth here. Note that I also have a separate post dealing with the imminent Super Saturday of four New South Wales state by-elections.

• The Liberals in New South Wales have at least resolved their dispute to the extent of proceeding with plans for a preselection ballot for Bennelong, which David Crowe of The Age reports is likely to be held in March. The candidates are Gisele Kapterian, former chief-of-staff to Michaelia Cash and current executive at software company Salesforce; Craig Chung, a City of Sydney councillor; and Simon Kennedy, a former partner at McKinsey.

• Labor also has a few loose ends in New South Wales, having yet to choose candidates to succeed retiring members Sharon Bird and Julie Ovens in Cunningham and Parramatta. A membership ballot for Cunningham will be held on February 19 between Misha Zelinsky, Australian Workers Union assistant national secretary and former criminal defence lawyer, and Alison Byrnes-Scully, staffer to Sharon Bird (and wife of state Wollongong MP Paul Scully). Zelinsky has been in the news over social media posts and an e-book he co-authored nearly a decade ago which featured jokes denigrating women. The Guardian reports that Labor is struggling to find a candidate in Parramatta that the party hierarchy considers up to standard, having lately been rebuffed by Cameron Murphy, prominent barrister and son of Lionel Murphy.

• Northern Territory Senator Sam McMahon, a Country Liberals member who sat with the Nationals in Canberra, resigned from the party last week and is leaving open the possibility of contesting the election either for a different party or as an independent. McMahon lost her preselection last June to Alice Springs deputy mayor and conservative media identity Jacinta Price.

Noteworthy matters of electoral law and administration at state and territory level:

• A headache looms in South Australia ahead of its March 19 state election, with no contingency in place for voters put in COVID-19 isolation who are unable to meet the deadline for a postal vote application. A bill to allow for voting to be conducted over the phone in this circumstance was passed by the lower house and amended in the upper, and the lower house had not considered the amendments when it rose in early December. The Advertiser reports that Labor says it would be a simple matter for the house to reconvene and agree to the amended bill, but Premier Steven Marshall says there is not enough time to pass legislation before the government enters caretaker mode ahead of the election. Marshall blames Labor for supporting the amendments, but it appears to me that the government chose to sit on the bill for the last three days of the session.

• The Canberra Times reports Labor has “indicated a willingness” to support a Greens bill to make voting compulsory for 16 and 17 year olds in ACT elections, notwithstanding the local electoral commission’s evident horror at the resulting administrative burden.

Remy Varga of The Australian reports the Victorian government is taking a stand against the pernicious practice of political parties handling postal vote applications so they can harvest data from them.