BludgerTrack: 52.3-47.7 to Labor

Two new polls for the week cancel out the slight gain Labor made in last week’s reading of the BludgerTrack poll aggregate.

After recording a slight spike to Labor last week on the back of the Ipsos result, the latest results from Newspoll and Essential Research have brought the BludgerTrack two-party trend reading to about where it was before. This has happened without any changes in the seat projection, in any seat. Newspoll and Essential also both provided leadership ratings, which cause Malcolm Turnbull’s net approval result to improve a little, and Bill Shorten’s to worsen a little. This will be an off week for both the regularly reporting pollsters, but Sky News may step into the breach with a ReachTEL on Sunday morning. We’re also due for Newspoll’s quarterly poll state and demographic breakdowns. Full results from BludgerTrack by clicking on the following:

Preselection news:

• A preselection for the Queensland Liberal National Party Senate ticket has dumped incumbents Ian Macdonald and Barry O’Sullivan in favour of Paul Scarr, described by Jared Owens of The Australian as a “low-profile mining executive”, and Susan McDonald, managing director of a chain of butcher’s shops and member of a Queensland grazing dynasty. The third position goes to Gerard Rennick, a finance executive. Macdonald will have to make do with number four, which was last productive in the freak result of 2004 than delivered the Howard government a Senate majority during its final term. Also frozen out was Scott Emerson, the former minister in Campbell Newman’s government who lost the seat of Maiwar to the Greens in the state election last November.

• The first of two retirement announcements this week from federal Labor MPs in Victoria was that of Michael Danby, who has held Melbourne Ports since 1998. Danby insists the decision was wholly his own choice, which reflects suggestions his pro-Israel outlook may have been contributing to the pressure Labor has increasingly faced in the inner city electorate from the Greens. Three names that have long been mooted as potential successors for Labor preselectionn are Josh Burns, an adviser to Daniel Andrews and former staffer to Danby; Mary Delahunty, a Glen Eira councillor and former mayor (not to be confused with the former state member for Northcote); and Nick Dyrenfurth, executive director of the John Curtin Research Centre. The latter reportedly ruled himself out in February, but has been rated a potential starter in media reports following Danby’s announcement.

• The second was that of Jenny Macklin, who had held Jagajaga since 1996. According to Noel Towell of The Age, the vacancy could finally provide Labor with a solution to its dilemma of how to accommodate Jane Garrett, who refuses to defend her existing state seat of Brunswick from the ever-rising threat of the Greens, and was rebuffed in her bid for a berth in the state upper house. It was earlier suggested that Garrett might get the safe Labor federal seat that was predictably produced by the recently finalised redistribution, but Bill Shorten is now considering taking it instead, as it takes much of his existing seat of Maribyrnong. The redrawn Maribyrnong is perhaps not of interest to Garrett because, as Fairfax recently reported, it was “tipped to turn marginal in the coming years”, although I have my doubts about that personally.

Mid-week miscellany

Federal electoral news nuggets, sourced from Western Australia and the Australian Capital Territory.

We are having one of the poll-free weeks that have occasionally bedevilled us since Essential Research moved from weekly to fortnightly, with Newspoll having one of its occasional three-week gaps so its next poll coincides with the resumption of parliament. So here’s some random bits of electoral news:

• A polling nugget I forgot to relate a fortnight ago: according to a report by Nick Butterly of The West Australian, a Labor internal poll recorded a neck-and-neck result in the Perth seat of Stirling, which Michael Keenan holds for the Liberals by a margin of 6.1%. After excluding the 10.8% undecided, the primary votes were Liberal 40.2% (49.5% in 2016), Labor 37.6% (32.2%), Greens 9.0% (11.7%) and One Nation 5.3%. The poll was conducted by Community Engagement from a large sample of 1735.

Gareth Parker in the Sunday Times reports that Matt O’Sullivan, who ran unsuccessfully in the lower house seat of Burt at the 2016 election, has narrowly won preselection for the third position on the Liberals’ Western Australian Senate ticket, behind incumbents Linda Reynolds and Slade Brockman. O’Sullivan emerged with 56 votes to 54 for Trish Botha, co-founder with her husband of an evangelical church in Perth’s northern suburbs. The closeness of the result surprised party observers, especially given Christian conservative numbers man Nick Goiran backed O’Sullivan. As Gareth Parker noted in his weekly column, Botha appears to have attracted support from “non God-botherers” opposed to Goiran’s alliance with Mathias Cormann and Peter Collier, who may not have been aware of the messianic language employed by Botha’s church.

• Katy Gallagher has announced she will seek preselection to recover the Australian Capital Territory Senate seat from which she was disqualified last month over Section 44 complications, after speculation she might instead seek the territory’s newly created third lower house seat. However, it appears she will face opposition from the newly anointed successor to her Senate seat, David Smith, former local director of Professionals Australia.

• As for the lower house situation in the Australian Capital Territory, Andrew Leigh will remain in Fenner and Gai Brodtmann will go from Canberra to the nominally new seat of Bean, leaving a vacancy available in Canberra. Smith appears set to run if he loses the Senate preselection to Gallagher; Sally Whyte of Fairfax reports he will be opposed by Kel Watt, a lobbyist who has lately made a name for himself campaigning against the territory Labor government’s ban on greyhound racing. Other potential starters include John Falzon, chief executive of the St Vincent de Paul Society; Jacob Ingram, a staffer to Chief Minister Andrew Barr; and Jacob White, a staffer to Andrew Leigh.

• Occasional Poll Bludger contributor Adrian Beaumont has launched his own website of local and international election and polling news.

By-elections and preselections

Can Rebekha Sharkie hold the Mayo? A new poll suggests as much. Also featured: the latest on the many preselection challenges besetting an increasingly fractious Liberal Party.

UPDATE: Now a YouGov Galaxy poll for The Advertiser finds Rebekha Sharkie leading 58-42, with Sharkie leading 44% to 37% on the primary vote, Labor on 11% and the Greens on 6%. Sharkie has a 62% positive rating, 20% neutral and 10% negative; Downer, 31% positive, 21% neutral and 41% negative. The poll was conducted last night from a sample of 515.

After providing the Liberals with encouraging results for Braddon and Longman in its Sky News poll last week, ReachTEL now delivers them a rude shock in a new poll from Mayo, this time for the progressive think tank the Australian Institute. After allocating results from the forced response follow-up for the undecided, the primary votes are 41.4% for Rebekha Sharkie, 35.5% for Georgina Downer, 11.1% for Greens candidate Major “Moogy” Sumner, 8.2% for a wrongly identified Labor candidate (more on that below), and 4.2% for unspecified alternatives. With respondent-allocated preferences going 68.2% to 31.8% in favour of Sharkie’s favour, this translates to a blowout 58-42 on two-party preferred, although my own calculation only gets it to 57-43. Sharkie received 55.0% of preferences at the 2016 election, but the presence of Family First and Liberal Democrats candidates meant there was a higher right-of-centre minor party component than in the poll result. The poll was conducted on Tuesday from a sample of 1031.

A peculiarity of the result is a low primary vote for Labor, who polled 13.5% at the election, well clear of the Greens on 8.1%. The poll identified as the party’s candidate Glen Dallimore, who ran in 2016, but it was today announced that the candidate will be Reg Coutts, owner of a communications consultancy and a former telecommunications professor at the University of Adelaide and member of a panel that advised the Labor government on the National Broadband Network. Coutts won preselection ahead of Alice Dawkins, the 23-year-old daughter of Keating government Treasurer John Dawkins and a recent recipient of a Schwarzman scholarship. Dawkins was earlier rated the front-runner, but Tom Richardson of InDaily notes her pedigree would have blunted Labor attacks on the dynastic pretensions of Georgina Downer.

The ReachTEL poll also features a company tax question that differs from earlier polls in specifying that yet-to-be-legislated cuts relate to large businesses (“like banks, mining companies and supermarkets”), and making the question about the direction the rate should head in, rather than whether it should proceed. Even in this conservative seat, this finds support for increasing the rate at basically the same level as reducing it (25.4% to 24.8%), with 44.9% opting to keep it as is. Given who commissioned the poll, this was presumably intended as a riposte to Newspoll’s qeuestion asking when cuts should be implemented, which left opponents holding out for the last of three listed options (and offered nothing specific to advocates of an increase). Notably, both gave respondents three options, but in ReachTEL’s case the middle course amounted to opposition, while for Newspoll it meant support. Thus did one poll find 25% support for company tax cuts, and another 63%. The Braddon and Longman polls also had questions on company tax cuts, but these specified cuts for all business, and found support at 56.0% in Braddon and 58.1% in Longman.

Another result from the Mayo poll helpful to the Australia Insitute’s agenda is a finding that 42.4% believe tax cuts are most warranted for those on $60,000 or less, progressively diminishing to 28.9% from $60,000 to $120,000, 8.9% from $120,000 to $180,000, 6.6% for $180,000 plus, and 9.0% for “all income brackets”. Conversely, 60.2% were opposed to allowing those on Manus Island and Nauru to settle in Australia, with only 30.8% on support, although a 90-day limit for mandatory detention was strongly supported (62.9% to 25.5%).

On other news, there is quite a bit of preselection action to relate, all of it from the Liberal Party, and with a recurring theme of conflict between conservatives and moderates:

• Reports have indicated that moderate challenger Kent Johns has the numbers to prevail over Craig Kelly, arch-conservative and ally of Tony Abbott, in his preselection challenge for the Sydney seat of Hughes. However, a report from Greg Brown of The Australian suggests conservatives may have succeeding in tipping the scales back in Kelly’s favour by threatening to challenge Nick Greiner for the party presidency at next weekend’s federal council meeting. Tony Abbott has called on Malcolm Turnbull to “involve himself” in support of Kelly, complaining he has gone further to help Ann Sudmalis in her preselection challenge in Gilmore (see below).

• A number of other challengers are unfolding to Liberal incumbents in New South Wales, but press reports suggest none of them are in real trouble. These include Gilmore MP Ann Sudmalis, whose challenger Grant Schultz has not been deterred by endorsements for Sudmalis from Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison; Mackellar MP Jason Falinski, a factional moderate who faces a seemingly quixotic tilt from conservative Frits Mare; and Bennelong MP John Alexander, whose challenger is Ryde councillor Trenton Brown.

David Crowe of Fairfax reports the Victorian Liberal Party’s administrative committee is set to deprive branch members of a preselection vote by intervening to protect all incumbents. Conservatives Michael Sukkar and Marcus Bastiaan are said to be backing the idea partly to protect Kevin Andrews, who has local barrister and former army officer Keith Wolahan circling in his safe seat of Menzies. Other subjects of speculation about preselection challenges are Kevin Andrews in Menzies, Julia Banks in Chisholm, Russell Broadbent in McMillan (shortly to become Monash), Kelly O’Dwyer in Higgins and Tim Wilson in Goldstein.

• The enforced peace in the Victorian Liberal Party does not extend to Senate preselection, where Jane Hume and James Paterson face competition from Karina Okotel, the party’s federal vice-president, and Bev McArthur, wife of former Corangamite MP Stewart McArthur.

• Alex Antic, an Adelaide City councillor, is hoping to take the second position on the party’s South Australian Senate ticket with conservative backing. This would come at the expense of fellow conservatives David Fawcett and Lucy Gichuhi, who have moderate backing for the second and third positions, which are respectively safe and extremely difficult.

By-elections, preselections and Section 44

A round-up of the latest news on by-election and related fronts.

A little extra polling:

• The Australian on Tuesday provided an extra finding from the weekend Newspoll: that opposition to reforming Section 44 has hardened since August, when Barnaby Joyce’s difficulty first emerged. Fifty-one per cent now believe dual citizens should be disqualified from parliament, up seven, with 38% opposed, down five. Forty-six per cent opposed a referendum being held on the matter, with 43% in support.

By-election latest:

• Western Australia’s Darling Range state by-election will be held on June 23. Nathan Hondros of Fairfax reports the Liberal preselection, which will be determined by the party’s state council on Saturday, will be contested by Alyssa Hayden, who unexpectedly lost her upper house seat for East Metropolitan region to One Nation in 2017, and Rob Coales, a police sergeant and Serpentine-Jarrahdale councillor. The early mail was that Coales was favourite, but according to Hondros, it is “understood party powerbrokers are supporting Ms Hayden”.

David Crowe of Fairfax reports the date for the Super Saturday by-elections could be pushed back to July 7, as the government looks at an Australian Electoral Commission recommendation to implement an online tool for candidates to lodge declarations and supporting documentation, so as to avoid further issues arising from Section 44. This had caused initial plans for a date of June 16 to be scotched, although concerns linger about the electoral impact of an eight-week campaign.

• Speaking of, Michael McKenna of The Australian reports the Liberal National Party preselection for Longman is being held off until next Tuesday to ensure frontrunner Trevor Ruthenberg was able to clear up his own Section 44 issue, arising from his being born in Papua New Guinea.

• Georgia Downer has emerged unopposed for Liberal preselection in Mayo. The Australian reports “ambitious conservative” Michael van Dissel was another potential nominee, but withdrew as it became clear the Right was solid behind Downer. In contrast to the Liberals in WA, Labor will be contested Mayo, despite never having held hte saet before. A Labor source quoted by Philip Coorey said the party believed its preferences could assist Rebekha Sharkie, and that failing to run would suppress the party’s Senate vote at the next election.

• Braddon will again be contested for the Liberals by Brett Whiteley, who held the seat from 2013 until his defeat by Labor’s Justine Keay in 2016, and served in the state seat of Braddon from 2002 until his defeat in 2010. The Burnie Advocate reports former McDonald’s licensee Craig Brakey and Wynyard RSL president Gavin Pearce also contested the state executive vote, but Whiteley was chosen unanimously.

• The Western Australian Liberals’ decision to forfeit the Perth by-election, said to have been instigated by Matthias Cormann, has been widely criticised in the party. Following Tim Hammond’s resignation announcement on May 1, Christian Porter told Sky News Australia the party would “undoubtedly” run, and state Opposition Leader Mike Nahan, who had mocked Labor’s unsurprising decision not to field a candidate in the recent by-election for Colin Barnett’s old seat of Cottesloe, said the by-election was “one we need to contest”.

• The Western Australian Greens have announced their by-elections candidates: Caroline Perks, senior sustainability officer at the City of Perth, in Perth; and Dorinda Cox, domestic violence campaigner and former police officer, in Fremantle.

Other preselection news:

• Jane Prentice’s preselection defeat in her Brisbane seat of Ryan has roused controversy over the lack of gender balance in the Coalition. The winner was Julian Simmonds, a Brisbane councillor who once worked on Prentice’s staff when she herself was on council. Simmons, who is identified with the Right, won a local party ballot by 256 votes to 103 over Prentice, a moderate and early backer of Malcolm Turnbull. Charlie Peel of The Australian reports the vote was “roughly split along traditional party lines, with Nationals backing Ms Prentice”. Critics of the decision include Campbell Newman, Leichhardt MP Warren Entsch and Capricornia MP Michelle Landry.

Jared Owens of The Australian reports Ian Macdonald and Barry O’Sullivan, who respectively hold Queensland Senate seats for the Liberals and the Nationals, face preselection challenges from Scott Emerson, the former state Shadow Treasurer who lost his seat of Maiwar to the Greens last November, and Susan McDonald, managing director of a chain of butcher’s shops and a member of “one of Queensland’s grazing families”.

• Michael Owen of The Australian reports on a “strong challenge” for Liberal Senate preselection in South Australia from Alex Antic, an Adelaide councillor. This apparently poses a threat to another female Liberal MP, Anne Ruston, who might otherwise be expected to lead the ticket, but not to the mooted number two candidate, David Fawcett. It might also endanger Lucy Gichuhi’s hold on number three, long shot proposition though that may be.

Federal preselection round-up

A round-up of recent federal preselection news, as the Prime Minister asks his party’s state branches to get a move on.

With the fortnightly cycles of Newspoll and Essential Research in sync for the time being, we would appear to be in another off week for federal polling (although ReachTEL are about due to come through, perhaps at the end of the week). However, there is a fair bit of preselection news to report, with Malcolm Turnbull having told the state party branches to get candidates in place sooner rather than later. That might appear to suggest he at least wishes to keep his options open for an early election, although betting markets rate that a long shot, with Ladbrokes offering $1.14 on an election next year and only $5 for this year.

• With the creation of a third seat in the Australian Capital Territory, the Canberra Times reports the member for Canberra, Gai Brodtmann, will contest the seat of Bean – new in theory, but in reality the seat that corresponds most closely with her existing seat – while Andrew Leigh will remain in Fenner. The ACT Chief Minister, Andrew Barr, said he contemplated running in the Canberra electorate “maybe for a moment”. The other name mentioned is Kel Watt, “a member of ACT Labor’s right faction and lobbyist for the Canberra Greyhound Racing”.

• The Courier-Mail reported a fortnight ago that Jane Prentice, Liberal National Party member for the Brisbane seat of Ryan, is likely to lose preselection to Julian Simmonds, a Brisbane councillor and former staffer to both Prentice and her predecessor, Michael Johnson. Despite Prentice being a moderate and a Turnbull supporter, the move against her has reportedly “outraged” Campbell Newman.

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Next federal election pendulum (provisional)

A pendulum for the next federal election, assuming new draft boundaries in Victoria, South Australia and the ACT are adopted as is.

Following the recent publication of draft new boundaries for Victoria, South Australia and the Australian Capital Territory, we now have some idea of what the state of play will be going into the next election, albeit that said boundaries are now subject to a process of public submissions and possible revision. The only jurisdictions that will retain their boundaries from the 2016 election will be New South Wales and Western Australia, redistributions for Queensland, Tasmania and the Northern Territory having been done and dusted since the last election.

The next election will be for a House of Representatives of 151 seats, ending a period with 150 seats that began in 2001. This is down to rounding in the formula by which states’ populations are converted into seat entitlements, which on this occasion caused Victoria to gain a thirty-seventh seat and the Australian Capital Territory to tip over to a third, balanced only by the loss of a seat for South Australia, which has now gone from thirteen to ten since the parliament was enlarged to roughly its present size in 1984.

The changes have been generally favourable to Labor, most noticeably in that the new seat in Victoria is a Labor lock on the western edge of Melbourne, and a third Australian Capital Territory seat amounts to three safe seats for Labor where formerly there were two. The ACT previously tipped over for a third seat at the 1996 election, but the electorate of Namadji proved short-lived, with the territory reverting to two seats in 1998, and remaining just below the threshold ever since. The Victorian redistribution has also made Dunkley in south-eastern Melbourne a notionally Labor seat, and has brought Corangamite, now to be called Cox, right down to the wire. Antony Green’s and Ben Raue’s estimates have it fractionally inside the Coalition column; mine has it fractionally tipping over to Labor.

The table at the bottom is a pendulum-style listing of the new margins, based on my own determinations for the finalisised and draft redistributions. The outer columns record the margin changes in the redistributions, where applicable (plus or minus Coalition or Labor depending on which side of the pendulum they land). Since I have Cox/Corangamite in the Labor column, I get 77 seats in the Coalition column, including three they don’t hold (Mayo, held by Rebekha Sharkie of the Nick Xenophon Team, and Indi and Kennedy, held by independents Cathy McGowan and Bob Katter), and 74 in the Labor column, including two they don’t hold (Andrew Wilkie’s seat of Clark, as Denison will now be called, and Adam Bandt’s seat of Melbourne).

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