Seat du jour: Hasluck

A look at a seat in Perth’s eastern suburbs that for a long period changed hands at every election — a habit Labor is hoping it will resume, as Liberal member Ken Wyatt eyes a fourth term.

Welcome to episode 11 of Seat du jour, an opportunity for you to read about and (hopefully) discuss the individual contests that will determine the May 18 election. So far the series has taken us to Herbert, Banks, Corangamite, Chisholm, Reid, Bass, Pearce, Lindsay, Gilmore, Dickson and La Trobe. Today we take our second journey to Western Australia, where the low base Labor is starting from presents it with a number of opportunities. Based on margins alone, the most golden of these is Hasluck, for which the Poll Bludger election guide entry can be found here.

Hasluck encompasses the eastern suburbs centres of Midland, Kalamunda and Forrestfield, and semi-rural territory beyond Perth’s metropolitan limits. Labor’s strongest areas are around Midland and the north and Kenwick in the south, both of which are marked by low median incomes, although the latter is less established and contains a large share of mortgage-paying young families. These areas are balanced by Liberal support around Kalamunda and in the semi-rural areas, which have an older age profile and are singularly lacking in ethnic diversity.

The seat changed hands at every election from its creation in 2001 through to 2013, when Liberal member Ken Wyatt broke the jinx after taking the seat from Labor in 2010. Wyatt added 4.3% to his margin amid the national swing against Labor in 2013, then had a 1.1% boost with the creation of the new seat of Burt, to which Hasluck ceded strong territory for Labor around Thornlie, Gosnells and Southern River. The seat was then brought well back inside the marginal zone by a 4.0% swing to Labor in 2016.

Ken Wyatt is a former director of the Office of Aboriginal Health, and became the first ever self-identifying indigenous member of the House of Representatives with his election in 2010. He has since progressed to parliamentary secretary rank in September 2015, and to the outer ministry as Aged Care and Indigenous Health Minister in December 2017. Wyatt is believed to have supported Malcolm Turnbull in the leadership votes against Tony Abbott in 2015 and Peter Dutton in 2018, and to have moved to the Morrison rather the Dutton camp for the second vote last August, in contrast to a number of his miscalculating WA colleagues. He is an uncle of Ben Wyatt, the Treasurer in the state Labor government. Labor’s candidate is James Martin, Mundaring Shire councillor and director of Marketech Ltd, a firm that develops stock market trading software.

Intelligence about Hasluck has been thin on the ground during the campaign, with no polling having come to light, either public or private. However, media reportage has tended to suggest the Liberals have gone from pessimistic to hopeful, reflecting the impression for the election more broadly.

YouGov Galaxy: 51-49 to federal Coalition in Queensland

A new poll records a 3% swing to Labor in the target-rich environment of Queensland, as the weekend papers report contrasting assessments of the state of play.

The Courier-Mail has results from a Queensland-only YouGov Galaxy poll of 848 respondents, conducted on Wednesday and Thursday, which shows the Coalition with a lead in the state of 51-49. This represents a 3% swing to Labor off the 2016 election result, but is an improvement for the Coalition from the 50-50 result at the last such poll in February. On the primary vote, the Coalition are up three to 38%, Labor is down one to 33%, the Greens and One Nation are both up a point to 9%, and the United Australia Party is on an anaemic 4%.

Also featured are gender breakdowns that have excited the Courier-Mail, but to my eye look rather implausible in having the Coalition primary vote six points higher among women than men. Among men, the result is 50-50, from primary votes of Coalition 35%, Labor 32%, Greens 10%, One Nation 9% and United Australia Party 6%; among women, the Coalition leads 52-48, from primary votes of Coalition 41%, Labor 34%, Greens 8%, One Nation 8% and United Australia Party 4%.

Latest calling of the horse race:

• In her column in today’s Weekend AFR, Laura Tingle says there has been “the sound of something snapping in the federal election this week”. Apparently drawing on Liberal sources in New South Wales, Tingle relates a feeling that “Tony Abbott is gone in Warringah”; that Gilmore and Reid “seem lost”, that Lindsay is no longer looking quite so flash either; that Cowper and Farrer might go independent; and that “senior cabinet ministers are panicking and drawing in resources to protect their own seats”.

• However, no such snapping noise has reached the collective ear of News Corp, whose papers today offer a flurry of bullish assessments for the Coalition. According to Sharri Markson in the Daily Telegraph, the Liberals are likely to gain Wentworth, Lindsay, Indi and Herbert; Labor-held Dobell, Solomon, Cowan, Bass and Braddon are “in contention”; and Corangamite and Gilmore are, “at this point”, likely to stay with the Liberals. Only Chisholm and Dunkley are conceded, although there is some prospect of Labor winning La Trobe, Swan and Reid, and independents winning Cowper and Warringah. However, this appears to be entirely based on an assessment related to Markson by Scott Morrison, who might well be suspected of gilding the lily.

Dennis Shanahan in The Australian also discerns “an almost Trumpian path, difficult and unacknowledged, for Morrison to be re-elected if everything falls his way”. Prospective Labor gains in Queensland “are slipping away and giving Morrison a chance of a net gain”; there is a “likelihood” Labor will lose Solomon; “senior Liberals believe they will hold and even add to the Coalition total” in Western Australia; there is “obviously a big chance for the Coalition to win back Bass and Braddon”, and Labor even fears ousted Liberal candidate Jessica Whelan could pull off a Pauline Hanson in Lyons; while in New South Wales, “expected Labor gains may not materialise” (though it is acknowledged independents may win Cowper and Farrer). That leaves Labor heavily reliant on a brace of gains in Victoria, of which only Chisholm and Dunkley are bolted down, and where they are threatened in Macnamara by the Liberals as well as the Greens.

The Australian also reports today that, contra Laura Tingle, “Tony Abbott’s prospects of surviving a challenge from independent candidate Zali Steggall appear to have improved, according to internal Liberal Party polling that shows him level at 50-50”.

• In the commentary accompanying the YouGov Galaxy poll, Renee Veillaris of the Courier-Mail reports that “LNP insiders believe they may lose just one seat – Flynn – but pick up Herbert”; that Labor is “retreating from key Queensland marginal seats that they believed they could win just weeks ago” (although Bill Shorten did visit Leichhardt yesterday and Petrie the day before, and Scott Morrison was in Capricornia yesterday); and that incumbency effects are likely to cancel out the advantage to Labor recorded by the poll.

• The last of these viewpoints, at least, is not restricted to News Corp, with Amy Remeikis of The Guardian assessing that Queensland is “looking like a zero-sum game for both major parties”. Labor-held Herbert and Liberal-held Leichhardt are rated as even money, and while Flynn and Brisbane are acknowledged as further possibilities for Labor, the Liberals are thought to have their nose in front in Petrie.

Further reading for today is, as ever, provided by the Seat du jour post below this one, relating to the key Queensland seat of Herbert.

Seat du jour: Herbert

Won for Labor by 37 votes in 2016, the Townsville-based seat of Herbert is one the Liberals need to win back – and by all accounts they expect to do so, thanks to the politics of the Adani coal mine.

Welcome to episode ten of Seat du jour, an opportunity for you to read about and (hopefully) discuss the individual contests that will determine the May 18 election. So far the series has taken us to Banks, Corangamite, Chisholm, Reid, Bass, Pearce, Lindsay, Gilmore, Dickson and La Trobe.

Today we look at the Queensland seat of Herbert, which the Coalition is desperately hoping to recover after Labor snared it by 37 votes in 2016. Herbert accounts for most of Townsville, a city noted for defence facilities including Lavarack Barracks and an RAAF base, which accordingly ranks third in the country for number of persons working in defence. Relatedly, a concentration of people in their twenties gives the electorate the country’s third youngest median age. Labor’s win in 2016 was the its first since the Hawke-Keating years, the party having fallen just short at earlier high points in 1998 and 2007.

The seat has existed since federation, although it encompassed Cape York and extended south to Mackay on its creation, and did not become entirely dominated by Townsville until 1984. Labor held it more often than not until 1966, which began a period of Liberal control that lasted through the Whitlam years but ended when the Hawke government came to power in 1983. Ted Lindsay held the seat for Labor throughout the Hawke-Keating period before falling victim to Labor’s statewide rout in 1996, then came within 160 votes of making a comeback in 1998. It was then held for the Liberals until 2010 by Peter Lindsay (no relation to his predecessor), who survived by 343 votes in 2007 and bequeathed the seat in 2010 to Evan Jones.

Jones maintained the seat for another two terms through to 2016, when Labor achieved exactly the 6.2% swing needed to account for the LNP margin after the blowout of 2013. Their successful candidate was Cathy O’Toole, a Left-aligned former chief executive of a regional Queensland mental health not-for-profit. The new LNP candidate is Phillip Thompson, a 30-year-old Afghanistan veteran who has been awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia and Queensland Young Australian of the Year. It was earlier anticipated the field would also include Clive Palmer, but he instead opted to run for the Senate. He had perhaps been dissuaded by portents of his candidacy’s uncompetitiveness, such as a Newspoll finding in January that credited him with 8% of the primary. The party has instead endorsed Greg Dowling, famous as an Australian international and Queensland state-of-origin rugby league player.

A more recent Newspoll survey, conducted on April 20 from a sample of 529, showed Palmer’s United Australia Party on 14%, and a dead heat on two-party preferred. The other primary votes from the poll were Labor 29% (30.5% in 2016), LNP 31.1% (35.5%), One Nation 9% (13.5%) and Katter’s Australian Party 6.9% (10%). Media accounts of the Liberals’ strategic thinking have consistently reported they are confident of regaining the seat, as indeed they must to balance expected losses elsewhere. The issue driving the Liberals’ hopes is the proposed Adani coal mine, the difficulty of which for Labor was illustrated when Cathy O’Toole signed a pledge to support the project early in the campaign. Shorten would only offer that Labor had “no plans“ to review the environmental approvals recently provided by the federal government.

Election minus eight days

A tight race in Cowper, mixed messages from Reid, and an intriguing surge of Labor enthusiasm about Leichhardt.

A sense has taken hold in the news media in the past week that the wind has swung in Labor’s favour (and also in the betting markets). Beyond that though, seat-level intelligence on the parties’ reading of the situation has been rather thin on the ground. The exceptions that prove the rule:

Andrew Clennell of The Australian reports the Nationals’ tracking polling has it at 50-50 in Cowper, where sitting Nationals member Luke Hartsuyker is retiring and independent Rob Oakeshott looks competitive or better. However, the Nationals expect to hold out in Page, where their margin over Labor is 2.3%.

• The above report also related that the Liberals are not optimistic about Reid and Gilmore, suggesting by omission that they feel better about Robertson and Banks. However, a profile of Reid in The Australian yesterday by Greg Brown cited Liberal sources saying their polling had them 51-49 ahead.

• According to Aimos Aikman in The Australian, phone polling conducted by “estranged Country Liberal Party operative James Lantry” had Labor leading 53-47 in Solomon.

• No link available, but Brisbane’s Sunday Mail reported Labor was “increasingly confident” about Leichhardt, “where it is winning support over its environmental plans and long-term MP Warren Entsch is being targeted as past his use-by date”. The impression was reinforced by Bill Shorten’s visit to the electorate yesterday to launch a “renewable energy zone” for far north Queensland, despite the seat not having featured much in earlier commentary on potential Labor gains.

Also today: another instalment of Seat du jour, today looking at the Sydney seat of Banks.

Seat du jour: Banks

David Coleman became the first Liberal ever to win the southern Sydney of Banks in 2013 and 2016, and is rated a solid chance of overcoming his party’s difficulties to make it three in a row.

Welcome to episode nine of Seat du jour, an opportunity for you to read about and (hopefully) discuss the individual contests that will determine the May 18 election. So far the series has taken us to Corangamite, Chisholm, Reid, Bass, Pearce, Lindsay, Gilmore, Dickson and La Trobe. Today’s subject is the southern Sydney seat of Banks, which has been held for the Liberals for the first time in the seat’s history over the last two elections.

Banks extends from the Georges River in the south to the South Western Motorway in the north, encompassing the Liberal-voting riverside suburbs of Oatley and Lugarno through to Labor-voting Padstow and Riverwood in the north. The seat has the nation’s fourth highest Chinese population, after Bennelong, Chisholm and Reid, which is particularly concentrated at the eastern end of the electorate, around Hurstville. Labor held the seat on double-digit margins for the first two decades after its creation in 1949, but a narrowing trend became evident in the 1970s and 1980s. The margin fell below 2% on three occasions after Daryl Melham became the Labor member in 1990: with the defeat of the Keating government in 1996, the weak result for Labor under Mark Latham in 2004, and the anti-Labor backlash across Sydney in 2010. The swing on the latter occasion was 8.9%, reversing a 7.9% swing in Melham’s favour in 2007.

David Coleman became the seat’s first ever Liberal member after a 3.3% swing in 2013, and his success in limiting the swing against him to 1.0% in 2016 was a decisive element in the government’s re-election. A former director of strategy and digital for Nine Entertainment, Coleman has variously been noted as a factional moderate of socially liberal views, and a supporter of Scott Morrison. He sided against Peter Dutton both in his initial unsuccessful spill motion against Malcolm Turnbull last August, and in the leadership ballot against Morrison later in the week. Labor has again endorsed its candidate from 2016, Chris Gambian, an official with the Left faction Community and Public Sector Union whose parents emigrated from India shortly before his birth in the mid-1970s.

Despite the narrow 1.4% margin, the expectation appears to be that Coleman will retain the seat. It has not featured on lists of the New South Wales seats the Liberals considered most endangered, which have typically featured Gilmore and Reid. Neither leader has visited the seat, although Kevin Rudd put his Mandarin skills to use during a mid-campaign visit to Hurstville. The Coalition is even given a slight edge in betting markets, which for the most part have looked highly bullish from Labor’s perspective.

BludgerTrack: 51.8-48.2 to Labor

Labor retains its modest yet decisive lead as three new polls record little change on two-party preferred, and two very different sets of leadership ratings largely cancel each other out.

Three new polls over the last week, from Newspoll, Ipsos and Essential Research, have made next to no difference on BludgerTrack’s reading of the two-party preferred, and none at all on the seat projection. The only change to report is movement from the major parties to the minor parties on the primary vote, with One Nation in particular bouncing back a little after a recent slump. I am not calculating a trend for the United Australia Party at this point – that will only change if I can find the time for it.

With little change in the state breakdowns, the story there continues to be consistent with both sides’ assessment of the situation everywhere except Queensland, where Labor is being credited with what seems an inordinately big swing. It should be noted that BludgerTrack is currently a lot richer in national than state-level data, which should hopefully change reasonably soon with the publication of breakdowns from Newspoll. As ever, it will be interesting to see what these numbers have to say about Queensland.

Newspoll and Ipsos both provided leadership ratings for the week, which caused both leaders to drop slightly on net approval, and resulted in no change whatsoever on preferred prime minister. However, this involved a cancelling out effect of two sets of numbers that were dramatically different from each other, after fairly dramatic bias adjustment measures were applied to Ipsos. So if you look carefully at the leadership ratings trend charts on the BludgerTrack display, the Ipsos results for preferred prime minister and Scott Morrison’s net approval show up as fairly dramatic outliers.

The normal form of Ipsos is to produce more flattering leadership approval numbers than other pollsters, particularly in relation to the Prime Minister. Scott Morrison continued to record a net favourable rating of +3% in the latest poll, but this was seven down on last time, and five worse than his previous low point. There was none of this from Newspoll though, which recorded next to no change. Similarly, it was a case of up from Ipsos and down from Newspoll for Bill Shorten’s net approval rating, with the latter carrying slightly the greater weight.

The full display is available through the link below – and, as ever, don’t miss Seat du jour, today detailing with Corangamite.