Election minus five weeks

Candidates on both sides of the aisle drop out of contention, Peter Dutton suffers a self-inflicted wound in Dickson, and Shooters Fishers and Farmers rein in their expectations.

Two days in the campaign, and already much to relate:

• Labor’s audacious gambit of running former Fremantle MP Melissa Parke in Curtin has proved short-lived, after a controversy brewed over comments she had made critical of Israel. Parke announced her withdrawal after the Herald Sun presented the Labor campaign with claims she had told a meeting of WA Labor for Palestine that she could “remember vividly” – presumably not from first-hand experience – a pregnant refugee being ordered to drink bleach at a Gaza checkpoint. Parke is also said to have spoken of Israel’s “influence in our political system and foreign policy”, no doubt bringing to the party hierarchy’s mind the turmoil that has lately engulfed the British Labour Party in relation to such matters. In her statement last night, Parke said her views were “well known, but I don’t want them to be a running distraction from electing a Labor government”. James Campbell of the Herald Sun notes the forum was also attended by Parkes’ successor in Fremantle, Josh Wilson.

• Meanwhile, Liberal Party vetting processes have caused the withdrawal on Section 44 grounds of three candidates in who-cares seats in Melbourne. They are Cooper candidate Helen Jackson, who dug her heels in when told her no-chance candidacy required her to abandon her job at Australia Post, so that the integrity of executive-legislative relations might be preserved; Lalor candidate Kate Oski, who is in danger of being Polish; and Wills candidate Vaishali Ghosh, who was, as The Age put it in a report I hope no one from overseas reads, “forced to step aside over her Indian heritage”.

• Peter Dutton has been under fire for his rhetorical overreach against Ali France, the Labor candidate in his marginal seat of Dickson. Dutton accused France, who had her leg amputated after being hit by a car in 2011, of “using her disability as an excuse” for not moving into the electorate. France lives a short distance outside it, and points to the $100,000 of her compensation money she has spent making her existing home fully wheelchair accessible. Labor has taken the opportunity to point to Dutton’s failed attempt from 2009 to move to the safer seat of McPherson on the Gold Coast, where he owns a $2.3 million beachside holiday home, and by all accounts spends a great deal of his time. Dutton refused to apologise for the comments yesterday, while Scott Morrison baselessly asserted that they were taken out of context.

Greg Brown of The Australian reports Robert Borsak, leader of Shooters Fishers and Farmers and one of the party’s state upper house MPs, concedes the party is struggling to recruit candidates, and will not repeat its state election feat of winning seats in the lower house. Nonetheless, it has Orange deputy mayor Sam Romano lined up as its candidate for Calare and plans to run in Eden-Monaro, Parkes and possibly New England. This follows suggestions the party might pose a threat to the Nationals in Parkes and Farrer, which largely correspond with the state seats of Barwon and Murray, which the party won at last month’s state election. Calare encompasses Orange, which Shooters have held since a November 2016 by-election.

• “I don’t trust our polling at all”, says “a senior federal Liberal MP” cited by John Ferguson in The Australian, apropos the party’s prospects in Victoria. It is not clear if the source was being optimistic or pessimistic, but the report identifies a range of opinion within the Liberal camp extending from only two or three losses in Victoria – likewise identified as a “worst case scenario” by Labor sources – to as many as seven.

The day of the happy event

The false starts and prevarications are set to end this morning with the official announcement of a May 18 federal election.

It’s now a known known that Scott Morrison will be visiting the Governor-General early this morning to advise an election for May 18. Two things to mark the occasion: first, what I’ll call a provisional update of BludgerTrack, since it doesn’t include some state-level data I’m hoping to get hold of today. Adding the post-budget polling from Newspoll, Ipsos and Essential Research, it records a 0.3% improvement for the Coalition on two-party preferred, reducing the Labor lead to 52.6-47.4 from last week. If you observe the trendlines in the display on the sidebar or the full BludgerTrack results page, this shows up as a continuation in an ongoing improvement for the Coalition from their miserable starting point in the immediate aftermath of Malcolm Turnbull’s removal, rather than a “budget bounce”.

Secondly and more importantly, I offer the Poll Bludger’s federal election guide, even if it’s not what I’d entirely regard as ready yet.

Here you will find the most finely appointed Poll Bludger election guide yet published, with exhaustive and exhausting summaries of all 151 House of Representatives, each of which features bells and whistles both familiar (previous election booth results maps and displays of past election results) and new (data visualisation for a range of demographic indicators that now extends to ethnicity on age distribution). A Senate guide remains to be added, the betting odds are yet to be added to the bottom of the sidebars, and the whole thing is badly in need of proof reading. Rest assured though that all that will be taken care of in the days and weeks to come, together with campaign updates and further candidate details as they become available.

Calm before the storm

A Seinfeld-ian post about nothing, as pollsters hold their fire ahead of tonight’s budget.

There seems to be a hardening view that Scott Morrison will take advantage of what he hopes will be a positive response to tonight’s budget by calling the election later this week, for either May 11 or May 18. Whenever the election may be called, its proximity makes this an awkward time for us to go a week without new poll results. Newspoll is set for a highly unusual four-week gap, having held off last week due to the New South Wales election and this week due to the budget, while Essential Research is in an off week in its fortnightly cycle. The dam is set to burst next week, with Ipsos joining the two aforementioned with post-budget poll results.

For now, all I can do for you in the way of poll news is to relate what James Campbell of the Herald Sun offered on Liberal internal polling last Thursday: that Pauline Hanson scores net approval ratings of minus 62% and minus 63% in the Melbourne seats of Deakin and Chisholm – and, incidentally, that Peter Dutton has been known to record minus 50% in Melbourne. Beyond that, there is one item of important preselection news to relate, in that the New South Wales Liberals are set to endorse child psychologist Fiona Martin as their successor to the retiring Craig Laundy in Reid. The Australian reports Martin has been chosen ahead of Tanveer Ahmed, a psychiatrist, and Scott Yung, candidate for Kogarah at last week’s state election.

Federal election minus two months

No new federal poll, but preselection latest from Curtin, Moncrieff and Sturt in the House, and the Northern Territory in the Senate.

In an off week in the fortnightly cycle of Newspoll and Essential Research, and no Ipsos poll overnight in Nine Newspapers, it looks like poll junkies will have to make do with New South Wales this week. We do have a poll of Senate voting intention from The Australia Institute, encompassing by Dynata from 2019 voters through February and March, which has Labor on 33%, the Coalition on 28%, the Greens on 12% and One Nation on 8%, from which a post-election outcome is projected of 30 to 32 seats for the Coalition, 28 to 29 seats for Labor, eight to nine seats for the Greens, four to five seats for the One Nation, two to three for the Centre Alliance, one for Australian Conservatives, and possibly one for Derryn Hinch, Jacqui Lambie or Tasmanian independent Craig Garland. The poll was the subject of a paywalled report in the Financial Review, and a full report featuring detailed breakdowns will shortly be available on The Australia Institute’s website.

Other than that, some recent preselection developments to relate:

• Last week’s Liberal preselection to choose a successor to Julie Bishop in Curtin was won by Celia Hammond, former University of Notre Dame vice-chancellor, who secured victory in the first round with 51 votes out of 82. The only other competitive contender was Anna Dartnell, an executive for resources company Aurizon, who received 28 votes. Erin Watson-Lynn, who was said to have been favoured by Bishop, received only one vote, after receiving substantial unhelpful publicity for past social media comments critical of the Liberal Party. It has been widely suggested that Hammond’s socially conservative views make her an ill fit for the electorate, which recorded a 72% yes vote in the same-sex marriage referendum – hoping to take advantage of the situation is Louise Stewart, who established a chain of health care clinics, and identifies as a moderate and “independent Liberal”.

Andrew Potts of the Gold Coast Bulletin reports eight candidates have nominated for the preselection to succeed Steve Ciobo as the Liberal National Party candidate in Moncrieff, which is expected to be held in a few weeks. Gold Coast councillor Cameron Caldwell is reckoned to be the frontrunner, with other candidates including Karly Abbott, a staffer to Ciobo, and Fran Ward, a “local businesswoman”.

• Labor has preselected Cressida O’Hanlon, a family dispute resolution practitioner, as its candidate for the Adelaide seat of Sturt, which will be vacated with the retirement of Christopher Pyne. The Liberal preselection will be held on Saturday – the presumed front-runner, James Stevens, is backed by Pyne and other factional moderates, and faces opposition from two conservatives, Joanna Andrew and Deepa Mathew.

• The Country Liberal Party in the Northern Territory has preselected Sam McMahon, a Katherine-based veterinarian, out of a field of 12 to succeed the retiring Nigel Scullion as its Senate candidate.

BludgerTrack: 53.2-46.8 to Labor (still)

No new grist for the BludgerTrack mill this week, but there’s a Greenpeace-sponsored federal poll and some preselection news to relate.

There haven’t been any new polls this week, so the headline to this post isn’t news as such – the point is that a new thread is needed, and this is it. Developments worth noting:

• We do have one new poll, but it was privately conducted and so doesn’t count as canonical so far as BludgerTrack is concerned. The poll in question was conducted by uComms/ReachTEL for Greenpeace last Wednesday from a sample of 2134, and has primary votes of Coalition 38.8%, Labor 36.7%, Greens 9.7% and One Nation 6.1%. A 53-47 two-party split is reported based on respondent-allocated preferences, but it would actually have been around 51.5-48.5 based on preferences from 2016. The poll also features attitudinal questions on carbon emissions and government priorities, which you can read all about here.

• The Greens have landed a high-profile candidate in Julian Burnside, human rights lawyer and refugee advocate, to run against Josh Frydenberg in the normally blue-ribbon Melbourne seat of Kooyong. This further complicates a contest that already featured independent hopeful Oliver Yates, former Liberal Party member and chief executive of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation.

• The Liberal preselection to choose a successor to Julie Bishop in Curtin will be determined by a vote of 60 delegates on Sunday. Initial reports suggested the front-runners were Celia Hammond, former vice-chancellor of Notre Dame University, and Erin Watson-Lynn, director of Asialink Diplomacy at the University of Melbourne, which some interpreted as a proxy battle between bitter rivals Mathias Cormann and Julie Bishop. However, both have hit heavy weather over the past week, with concerns raised over Hammond’s social conservatism and Watson-Lynn’s past tweets critical of the Liberal Party. Andrew Tillett of the Financial Review reports that some within the party believe a third nominee, Aurizon manager Anna Dartnell, could skate through the middle.

Tom Richardson of InDaily reports moderate faction efforts to install a male candidate – James Stevens, chief-of-staff to Premier Steve Marshall – in Christopher Pyne’s seat of Sturt are prompting a slew of conservative-aligned women to nominate against him. These include Deepa Mathew, a manager at the Commonwealth Bank and state candidate for Enfield last year; Joanna Andrew, a partner with law firm Mellor Olsson; and Jocelyn Sutcliffe, a lawyer with Tindall Gask Bentley. However, Stevens remains the “overwhelming favourite”.

BludgerTrack: 53.2-46.8 to Labor

The BludgerTrack poll aggregate again records little change this week. Also featured: updates on important preselections for the Liberal Party, who are persistently butting their heads against gender issues.

The BludgerTrack poll aggregate, updated with this week’s results from Newspoll and Essential Research, remains unimpressed with much of the recent opinion poll commentary, maintaining a slow trend back to the Coalition that appears to go back to December. The movement since last week on two-party preferred is negligible, with a weak result for the Coalition cancelling out a somewhat stronger one from Essential Research, converting into a one-seat gain for the Coalition on the seat projection. Newspoll provides new numbers for the leadership ratings trends, which are all but unchanged. Full details on the link below.

Other news:

The Guardian reports uComms/ReachTEL polls for GetUp! conducted on Thursday found independent Zali Steggall leading Tony Abbott 57-43 in Warringah, while Labor’s Ali France led Peter Dutton 52-48 in Dickson. The poll also found majority support for the medical evacuations bill in both electorates.

• Following Julie Bishop’s retirement announcement, Andrew Burrell of The Australian reports Bishop’s hope of anointing her own successor in Curtin is likely to be scotched by her opponents, most notably Mathias Cormann. Bishop has reportedly been pushing for Erin Watson-Lynn, 33-year-old director of Asialink Diplomacy at the University of Melbourne. However, a highly fancied rival has emerged this week in Celia Hammond, who resigned on Monday as vice-chancellor at Notre Dame University. Hammond’s social conservatism is noted in a further report in The Australian today, relating a speech from 2013 in which she “railed against sex before marriage and contraception, while arguing against ‘militant feminism’”.

• A Liberal preselection vote on Saturday to choose Michael Keenan’s successor in the Perth northern suburbs seat of Stirling was won by Vince Connelly, risk management adviser at Woodside and former army officer. This was despite the wish of local party heavyweights Mathias Cormann and Peter Collier, along with Keenan himself, for the seat to go to a woman – specifically Joanne Quinn, legal counsel at Edith Cowan University. Quinn was in fact knocked out in the early rounds, together with Georgina Fraser, business development manager with a subsidiary of Kleenheat Gas, and Taryn Houghton, manager with a mental health support not-for-profit. Connelly prevailed in the final round over Michelle Sutherland, high school teacher, Bayswater councillor and wife of former state MP Michael Sutherland. His win out of an otherwise all-female field of five excited much commentary about the Liberal Party’s deficiencies in preselecting women, including my own analysis in Crikey on Monday.

• Sighs of relief could be heard from the Liberal hierarchy the following day when the preselection to replace Kelly O’Dwyer in Higgins was won by Katie Allen, paediatrician and unsuccessful candidate for Prahran at the state election in November. Allen prevailed in the final round with 158 votes to 116 for a male rival, Greg Hannan, former state party vice-president and factional moderate who ran against Michael Kroger for the presidency. Excluded after the penultimate round was Zoe McKenzie, “a non-executive director of the NBN board and former chief of staff to Abbott/Turnbull government trade minister Andrew Robb”.