Super Saturday: July 28

More than nine weeks to go until Super Saturday, following today’s surprise announcement by Speaker Tony Smith.

Speaker Tony Smith today surprised all comers by indicating the Super Saturday by-elections will not be held until July 28. The Australian Electoral Commission has reportedly asked for a delay to allow it to introduce a new system for candidates to prove they are not dual citizens – the substance of which is being facilitated by new regulations, which can be viewed here. However, it is not clear the delay needs to be quite that long, with school holidays invoked as another reason. Labor believes the government wants this date because it clashes with Labor’s national conference that weekend. In a committee hearing earlier today, Senator Penny Wong suggested to Electoral Commissioner Tom Rogers that the commission’s advice “looks partisan”. Links to my newly updated guides for each of the by-elections can be found on the sidebar.

Other relevant developments:

• The decision by the WA Liberal Party’s state executive to sit out the Perth by-election will be challenged by Senator Dean Smith at a meeting of the party’s state council on Saturday. Jim Grayden, whose father Bill Grayden was a veteran member for South Perth (state) and Swan (federal) as both a Liberal and an independent, will run as an independent liberal.

• The Liberal National Party’s candidate in Longman will be Trevor Ruthenberg, who held the state seat of Kallangur from 2012 to 2015 and is now chief executive of the Mosaic Property Group’s philanthropic foundation. Ruthenberg reportedly had a convincing win in the preselection vote over Jason Snow, disability support worker and candidate for Morayfield at the state election, and a local businessman.

• Ladbrokes has shortened the odds on a Liberal win in Mayo, bringing Georgina Downer in from $1.57 to $1.36, while Rebekha Sharkie is out from $2.37 to $2.75.

Then there’s the state by-election for Darling Range on June 23, my thread for which the other day found few takers. Labor’s newly anointed candidate, Colleen Yates, is off to a bad start, with claims she exaggerated her educational qualifications on her LinkedIn page reminding voters of the circumstances that brought the by-election about.

YouGov Galaxy: 52-48 to federal Coalition in Queensland

Some encouraging poll news for the government from Queensland, as the Western Australian Liberals opt to sit out the Perth and Fremantle by-elections.

The Courier-Mail has a Queensland-only YouGov Galaxy poll of federal voting intention (presumably state results from the same poll will follow tomorrow or the next day), and it records the Coalition with a 52-48 lead, which compares with a 54.1-45.9 result at the 2016 election. This is unchanged from the last such poll in early February, although that result was stronger for the Coalition than other polling from Queensland. The primary votes in the latest poll are Coalition 40% (41% in the February poll, 43.2% at the election), Labor 33% (32% and 30.9%), Greens 10% (10% and 8.8%) and One Nation 10% (9% and 5.5% from ten seats contested). Other findings from the poll:

Other questions related to the budget: 39% said the budget will make them better off, compared with 32% for worse off; 26% think Labor would have delivered a better budget, with 51% for the negative; 39% said it would be good for Queensland, and 28% bad; 21% said it would make them more likely to vote Coalition, 17% less likely and 57% no influence; 46% said Malcolm Turnbull and the Coalition had “the best long-term plan for Australia’s future” compared with 31% for Bill Shorten and Labor; and Scott Morrison led Chris Bowen as preferred treasurer 38% to 23%. The poll was conducted Wednesday and Thursday from a sample of 900.

It’s a bit out of date now, but let the record note that the latest BludgerTrack update had Labor up two seats in Victoria and down one in Western Australia following some quirky state breakdown results, but recorded next to no change on national voting intention. This was all based on this week’s Essential Research poll, which also included a new set of leadership numbers. There will presumably be a lot more post-budget polling to come over the next few days.

Also noted:

• The state council of the Liberal Party has announced it will not be fielding candidates in the by-elections for Fremantle (not surprising) and Perth (very surprising). The party’s Twitter account says is “will not be distracted by Bill Shorten’s duplicity and dishonesty”, and will instead devote its energies to the state by-election in Darling Range. Jessica Strutt of the ABC reports the candidate is likely to be Rob Coales, Serpentine-Jarrahdale councillor and candidate for Thornlie at the state election. If so they will be overlooking Alyssa Hayden, who unexpectedly lost her upper house seat to One Nation last year, and again be exhibiting their lack of concern for anything resembling gender parity.

• A poll of 1277 respondents in Longman, conducted on Thursday night by ReachTEL for The Australia Institute, gives a remarkably strong result for the Coalition, who lead 53-47 on respondent-allocated two-party preferred from primary votes of Coalition 36.7% (39.0% at the election) and Labor 32.5% (35.4%).

• Jane Prentice has lost Liberal National Party preselection for her Brisbane seat of Ryan to Brisbane councillor Julian Simmonds, and the Liberal state council meeting in Western Australia appears set to take over the preselection process in Moore to protect Ian Goodenough from four challengers (Andres Timmermanis, John Raftis, Paul Miles and Robert Marie).

YouGov Galaxy budget polling: Robertson, Chisholm, Herbert

Modestly encouraging results for the governments in post-budget electorate polls, plus latest developments on the by-election front.

Nine News has results of post-budget polling of three federal marginal seats, these being automated phone polls conducted by YouGov Galaxy.

• In the seat of Robertson on the central coast of New South Wales, the Liberals are credited with a 52-48 lead on two-party preferred, little changed from Lucy Wicks’ 1.1% winning margin in 2016. Primary votes are Liberal 44% (44.7% at the election), Labor 37% (38.4%), Greens 6% (8.4%) and One Nation 7%. Twenty-four per cent rated the budget would make them better off, 20% worse off and 48% no difference; 42% supported the government’s company tax cuts, and an equal share opposed the. The sample for the Robertson poll was 514.

• In the seat of Chisholm in Melbourne’s south-east, which was the one seat gained by the Coalition from Labor in 2016, the score is 50-50, compared with a 1.2% winning margin for Liberal member Julia Banks in 2016. The primary votes are Liberal 44% (45.3%), Labor 38% (35.9%), Greens 9% (12.3%) and One Nation 3%. Twenty-six per cent said the budget would make them better off, 23% worse off and 43% no difference; 32% supported, and 50% opposed, the company tax cuts. Sample: 539.

• In the Townsville-based seat of Herbert, which Cathy O’Toole gained Labor by a handful of votes in 2016, the Liberal National Party is credited with a 51-49 lead, from primary votes of Labor 34% (30.5%), LNP 38% (35.5%), One Nation 19% (13.5%) and Greens 3% (6.3%). Sample: 554.

I also offer the following by-election news. If you would like to leave a comment on the by-election that’s not going to get lost in the flow, I can recommend this thread. See also the links to detailed guides for all five seats featured on the sidebar.

The West Australian reports Labor’s federal executive will today anoint the party’s candidate in Perth, which will almost certainly be its state secretary, Patrick Gorman. Prominent lawyer and former Cottesloe mayor John Hammond has also nominated, but it may be presumed that Gorman has the numbers. It was reported that an alternative scheme might involve Senator Louise Pratt contesting the seat, and her Senate vacancy going to Gorman. However, Latika Bourke of Fairfax reported yesterday that the plan had not found the favour of the Australian Manufacturing and Workers Union, the Left faction union that has long been Pratt’s power base.

• The Courier-Mail reports the Liberal National Party preselection in Longman is likely to be contested by Trevor Ruthenberg, who held the state seat of Kallangur from 2012 to 2015 and is now chief executive of the Mosaic Property Group’s philanthropic foundation, and Jason Snow, a disability support worker. One Nation has endorsed Caboolture small businessman Matthew Stephen, despite the controversy that attended his run for the state seat of Sandgate, in which it emerged he had repeatedly had his trades licence suspended, narrowly avoided bankruptcy, and was prone to politically incorrect utterances on social media.

The Mercury reports that a Liberal internal poll gave the party a 53-47 lead on federal voting intention in Braddon. However, it was also noted that the poll had a small sample and, as Kevin Bonham observes, the result may have been contaminated by the Liberals’ easy victory at the March state election. (UPDATE: Kevin Bonham explains in comments that I don’t have the right end of the handle here. “The 53 for the Liberals in Braddon in their internal poll sample is the primary not the 2PP. Labor was on 20 and the Greens were on 15. Hence (and there are other reasons too) my rubbishing of it whenever I have been asked. And that was the seat sample from a state sample of 756, so probably only about 150 voters.”)

• The Australian today stirs the pot on the eligibility of Cowan MP Anne Aly, who has only been able to provide a letter from the Egyptian embassy acknowledging its receipt of her application to renounce her citizenship dated two months before the 2016 election (UPDATE: Aly has today produced a letter from the Egyptian embassy that would appear to put the matter to rest).

By-elections aplenty

A detailed look at the biggest by-election bonanza since federation, following yesterday’s decisive High Court ruling against Labor Senator Katy Gallagher.

A Super Saturday of five federal by-elections, perhaps as soon as June 16, is now in prospect after four MPs resigned from the House of Representatives yesterday. The result will be the biggest day of by-elections since federation, the previous record being held by simultaneous by-elections for Corangamite, Hughes and Richmond in 1984. The hardest intelligence I’m aware of as to when the by-elections might be held is from The Australian, which reports the date “could be pushed back to July”. This would “set up an electoral showdown weeks out from Labor’s national conference in Adelaide from July 26 to 28, where Mr Shorten will come under pressure on border protection, industrial relations and energy”.

All of this has been precipitated by a High Court disqualification that will not lead to a by-election, namely that of Katy Gallagher, Labor’s Senator for the Australian Capital Territory. Since Gallagher is a Senator, her vacancy will be filled by a recount of the votes from 2016, which amounts to a guaranteed win for the second candidate on the Labor ticket, David Smith. Local website RiotACT describes Smith as “director of the ACT branch of Professionals Australia, the union representing people such as scientists, engineers and technical staff”.

Gallagher came to the Senate when she filled Kate Lundy’s casual vacancy in March 2015, and did not take steps to renounce the citizenship she derived from her British-born father until April 2016. This was not registered by the British Home Office until August 16, by which time she had retained the seat at the election held on July 2. Gallagher argued her election was valid as she had taken “reasonable steps” to renounce before nominating, protecting her from Section 44’s “allegiance to a foreign power” provision. Consistent with the tenor of its earlier findings, the court ruled that this argument could only fly if foreign law presented an “insurmountable obstacle”.

The four MPs whose resignations followed soon after include three from Labor and one aligned to Nick Xenophon, and all have announced their intention to run again at the by-elections. Then there is the separate case of Perth, where Tim Hammond announced his retirement plans last week, for reasons unrelated to Section 44. Hammond is yet to tender his resignation, as he said last week he first wished to tie up loose ends. My preliminary election guide for Perth can be found here (and that for the Western Australian state by-election in Darling Range can be found here; click the header links below for similar guides to the four electorates in question.

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Perth by-election thread

A preliminary guide to the surprise federal by-election that now looms in the seat of Perth, and a thread for the discussion thereof.

I have posted a preliminary Perth by-election guide, following today’s very surprising announcement from Tim Hammond that he will shortly resign from the seat he has held since the 2016 election. The guide includes an overview, 2016 election results map, and displays of historical election results and demographic data. The latter illustrates that Perth is, typically for a city centre seat, dominated by people in their twenties and thirties, and is fairly ethnically diverse by Western Australian standards. However, there are marked differences between the city end of the seat, which is both affluent enough to provide a support base for the Liberals and young enough to be strong for the Greens, and its north-eastern reaches around Morley and Bassendean, which are less fashionable and strong for Labor.

Update: May 4

It transpires that Labor’s factional wheels hadn’t finished turning at the time of Wednesday’s media reports indicating the candidate would be Patrick Gorman, the party’s state secretary. There is now a push from the Left to have the position go to Senator Louise Pratt, with Gorman to fill Pratt’s vacancy in the Senate. Andrew Burrell of The Australian reports Pratt’s backers cite her “better inner-city credentials”, but Nathan Hondros of Fairfax also notes that Gorman is “a problematic figure for Mr Shorten and his supporters”. This is because of his revelation in 2015 of a meeting between Shorten and Kevin Rudd ahead of the 2013 leadership change, which forced Shorten to admit to Melbourne radio host Neil Mitchell that he had lied to him about the matter on air.

Furthermore, Hondros’s report suggests the Right, contrary to earlier reports that it would be mollified by faction member Martin Dixon’s ascension from assistant to actual state secretary in Gorman’s place, is less than sanguine about losing Hammond’s seat. The potential Right nominee is Steve Catania, whose father Nick Catania served inner urban electorates in the state parliament from 1989 to 1996, and whose brother Vince Catania is a state Nationals MP, having defected to the party from Labor in 2009.

The Liberals have not committed to fielding a candidate, but Christian Porter told Sky News yesterday that the party would “undoubtedly” do so. I’m aware of two names that have been mentioned as possibilities: Michael Gannon, the president of the Australian Medical Association, and Brent Fleeton, a Bayswater councillor and former staffer to state MP Peter Katsambanis.

There are more of my thoughts on the matter in a paywalled article in Crikey yesterday, the upshot of which is that Labor, while very short-priced favourites to retain the seat, probably won’t win as emphatically as the poll trend from the state suggests.

Once more with feeling: Batman, SA, Tasmania

One last look at last month’s two state elections and one federal by-election.

Now the dust has settled, a considered review of the three big electoral events of March.


Labor’s win was ultimately more comfortable than it appeared on election, which has fed into the post-election speculation as to what it all means. For what it’s worth, a ReachTEL poll commissioned by a timber industry lobby group two days out from the election came within one point of accuracy on the two-party vote, and found Adani, health and education each recording about 20% on the question of most important campaign issue.

First the basic results:

A table further below zeroes into the count’s two curiosities, the first of which is the extent of Labor’s surge on late counting. The result is broken down into polling day votes, namely ordinary election day votes, provisional votes and (in the case of the 2016 election, to derive the swing) absent votes; pre-poll, which includes both the pre-poll voting centre booths and declaration pre-polls; and postals, which is just postals.

The fact that Labor didn’t do so well on the day has led suggestions that something must have happened late in the campaign to blunt Labor’s momentum, with the most obvious culprit being Labor’s dividend imputation policy. There may certainly be something in this, but the same pattern was evident in lesser degree at the Northcote by-election, at which the Greens’ swing was 1.9% weaker on pre-polls and 4.4% weaker on postals as compared with polling day votes, with the equivalent differences in Batman being 3.6% and 5.8%.

The second notable feature of the result was the disparity between the Labor-loyal northern end of the electorate and the Greens-leaning south. The former area did actually deliver the Greens the gentle swing they needed to win the seat, while the latter swung solidly to Labor – although there remains a 15.1% differential between the two, compared with 21.5% at the 2016 election. The table separately records votes cast north and south of Bell Street, and excludes votes where this cannot be discerned (postals and such).

South Australia

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