Luke Foley resigns

Less than five months out from a state election, Luke Foley’s leadership implodes in more than usually spectacular fashion.

Luke Foley has resigned as Labor leader in New South Wales in rather extraordinary circumstances, after ABC journalist Ashleigh Raper issued a statement concerning an incident between the two at a Christmas party in 2016, which was raised in parliament last month by Liberal MP David Elliott. Foley denied the claims and announced he would pursue defamation action, while also saying the distraction made it untenable for him to remain as leader. Reports suggest he is all but certain to be succeeded by the current deputy, Michael Daley.

Foley came to the leadership in the first week of 2015, a little less than three months before the election the following March. He was at least successful in restoring electoral normality after the extraordinary scale of Labor’s defeat in 2011, gaining a 9.9% swing but still losing the two-party vote by 54.3-46.7. However, his personal ratings were never strong, his highest approval in Newspoll being 38% on the eve of the election. Both his approval and disapproval tracked in the thirties throughout his leadership, with the residual uncommitted rating remaining unusually high at around 30%.

Polling has been thin on the ground in New South Wales over the last year, despite the proximity of the state election to be held in March. Over the fold below is a trend measure derived from 40 opinion polls published since the last election, of which only three are from this year, the most recent being a 50-50 result from ReachTEL in September. Results from Morgan’s SMS series have been heavily bid adjusted, explaining the misalignment between some of the data points and the trendline.

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ReachTEL: 50-50 in New South Wales

Six months out from a state election, the first New South Wales poll in a surprisingly long time produces a tied result.

Today’s Sun-Herald has a ReachTEL poll of state voting intention in New South Wales, showing the Coalition and Labor level on two-party preferred. After exclusion of the 5.9% undecided, the primary votes are Coalition 37.3%, Labor 33.5%, Greens 10.8%, Shooters Fishers and Farmers 6.5% and One Nation 4.5%. Gladys Berejiklian and Luke Foley were also level on the question of preferred premier, remembering that ReachTEL’s forced response approach to this question tends to produce unusual results. The poll was conducted on Thursday from a sample of 1627. Given a state election is six months away, this was the first published state poll from New South Wales in a surprisingly long time, the last having been another ReachTEL poll from March that had the Coalition leading 52-48. That poll had both major parties higher on the primary vote, with the Coalition on 44.7% and Labor on 34.6%.

Wagga Wagga by-election live

Live coverage of the count for the Wagga Wagga state by-election in New South Wales.

Sunday night. Antony Green is now leaving only the faintest hint of wriggle room, in saying “scrutineer figures suggest McGirr is now certain to win”. Today we have had 1099 postal votes, 441 “enrolment” votes (which I take to be those who availed themselves of enrolment on election day, as is allowed in New South Wales) and 10 absent votes (which I don’t understand). The top three candidates are fairly evenly placed on primary votes, so preferences from the other will determine which of the three is excluded. Clearly those scrutineers reports suggest it won’t be Joe McGirr, confirming the irrelevance of the Liberal-versus-Labor preference count that the NSWEC pulled last night, which showed Labor would have narrowly won. It’s also clear that McGirr stands to receive non-trivial amounts of preferences from either Labor or Liberal, whichever one it is that drops out.

10.51pm. That long awaited Wagga Wagga town pre-poll booth decides it for McGirr, who outpolled both major parties there with 3202 (26.9%) to the Liberals’ 3029 (26.0%) and Labor’s 2737 (23.0%). This means the notional two-party count is surely now irrelevant, but for what it’s worth, the iVotes cut the Labor lead from 2.3% to 1.3%.

10.33pm. Twelve thousand pre-polls take a while to count it seems. My best estimate is that they will push Labor into the lead on the primary vote, at around 25.5%, with McGirr on 24.7% and the Liberals on 23.8%. After that there won’t be much left: at most 1500 postals and 500 bits and pieces. So any turn-up in late counting can only come from the enormous hit of Wagga Wagga town pre-polls that I presume will be through this evening.

9.42pm. Now we have 2666 iVotes, of which McGirr has 23.5%, which he can live with. The Liberals did relatively well, getting 30%, while Labor only got 17.7%. So they’re now back ahead of Labor on the primary vote, though not two-party.

9.33pm. Antony Green says there will be fully 12,000 votes to come in later tonight from the Wagga Wagga town pre-poll. That’s enough to turn up a significant surprise, in whichever direction.

9.32pm. On the two-party count, the swing to Labor in the Tumut pre-poll was 11.7%, which is lower than their 15.0% on the polling booth votes. The Liberal margin is 12.9%, so they would need to do better than that on the remainder of late counting, if indeed it did come down to Labor versus Liberal.

9.20pm. McGirr got 16.7% of the polling booth vote in Tumut, and now 13.6% on pre-poll. He would need to do more than 3% worse on late counting compared with ordinary votes to lose.

9.18pm. However, Antony notes these votes were from Tumut, and McGirr is stronger in Wagga Wagga, which should come through with over 8000 pre-polls votes later this evening.

9.12pm. Now we have 2748 pre-polls counted, and they have gone remarkably badly for Joe McGirr, who only got 13.6% of them.

9.06pm. All booths now in on the primary vote.

8.52pm. Labor now well ahead on two-party, by a little over 52-48. So if there’s any hypothetical threat to McGirr, and it’s a big if, it’s increasingly looking like it will be from Labor.

8.36pm. So here’s the situation. If Joe McGirr makes the final count, he will win easily. If he doesn’t though, it will be lineball between Liberal and Labor. McGirr will presumably manage, but we should have a huge amount of pre-polls come in later this evening, with postals to come through over the coming week. If these come in below 20% for him, it could yet get interesting.

8.34pm. Now Labor are ahead on two-party preferred. Ironically, the extent of the Liberal collapse may end up costing Labor the seat.

8.29pm. Nothing in it on the notional two-party Liberal-versus-Liberal count, with seven booths left to report.

8.24pm. Only one booth left to report.

8.20pm. This was over half an hour ago now, but Antony Green was being cautious in his assessment due to the outside possibility that Joe McGirr will tank on postals and pre-polls, in which case the notional two-party count would no longer be theoretical. The Liberals currently hold a 51-49 lead over Labor here on the raw vote, and my projection has it lineball.

8.04pm. Three booths still to come now. For what little it’s worth, the Liberals have edged to a 52-48 lead on the two-party count.

7.59pm. Only four booths left to go on the primary vote, and it’s increasingly looking like the Liberals will finish third.

7.51pm. Now up to 23 booths out of 29 and the Liberals have definitively fallen behind Labor. The notional Liberal-versus-Labor two-party shows a 13% swing against the Liberals, suggesting this would come right down to the wire if it ended up being a Liberal-versus-Labor contest.

7.41pm. There’s very little in it between Liberal, Labor and McGirr on the primary vote, but presumably McGirr will get a strong flow of minor party and independent preferences.

7.37pm. Now up to 21 booths out of 29 and it’s no longer clear the Liberals will even finish second. Labor is still down on the primary vote, but not by as much as earlier in the count.

7.32pm. McGirr back in front on the primary vote; I’m projecting a tie.

7.30pm. Eighteen booths out of 29 have now reported, and the Liberals are back in front on the primary vote, not that that will save them.

7.27pm. Two more booths in and the situation keeps getting worse for the Liberals. McGirr now leads on both the raw and projected primary vote.

7.21pm. Big surge to Joe McGirr from the last four booths. His primary vote is now only a fraction below the Liberals, both on raw and projected terms, in which case game over. Not much chance of Labor finishing second by the looks.

7.13pm. A tenth booth now, not sure from where, but it has weakened the Liberals and strengthened McGirr. Projected Liberal primary vote back below 30%.

7.10pm. Nine booths in now out of 29, and the Liberals continue to strengthen. Joe McGirr remains in the low twenties and Labor in the high teens. A notional Liberal-versus-Labor count is being conducted, but it probably won’t be much use, as the question seems to be whether McGirr will get enough preferences to overhaul the Liberals.

7.03pm. Seven booths in now, and the results are looking a bit better for the Liberals. I now have their vote down 22.0%, where before it was more like 30%. This means I’m projecting them to finish north of 30% on the primary vote. Joe McGirr is on 24.0% though, and I presume he would get enough preferences if that was how it panned out.

6.49pm. Uranquinty Public booth maintains the earlier trend.

6.47pm. So far Labor are down on the primary vote, so early as the indications are, they are good for Joe McGirr.

6.45pm. Yerong Creek booth now in as well, and it looks much like the first. The raw Liberal primary vote is about 33%, but these booths were about 10% above the Liberal norm in 2015.

6.38pm. One small booth in — Talbingo Public — has, by my reckoning, the Liberal vote dropping by other half. A tiny number of votes of course, but the results look rather a lot like what the polls were showing. Over the fold you will find a primary votes table with booth-matched swings and projections. I hope against hope it doesn’t have too many bugs.

6pm. Polling has closed for the Wagga Wagga by-election. Live commentary to follow.

Wagga Wagga by-election: September 8

A look at this Saturday’s state contested by-election in Wagga Wagga, which is being vacated under duress by Liberal member Daryl Maguire.

I have a guide up for Saturday’s New South Wales state by-election in Wagga Wagga, for which the Liberals are managing expectations ahead of an anticipated bad result. The by-election arises from the sudden career implosion of Daryl Maguire, after Independent Commission Against Corruption investigators recorded a phone call in which Maguire appeared to seek payments in lobbying for development applications on behalf of a Chinese developer. A ReachTEL poll result related here last week recorded an exodus from the Liberals to minor parties and independents, with independent Joe McGirr looming as the biggest threat. Gladys Berejiklian said last week a Liberal win would be “miraculous” in the circumstances, with existing fears further compounded by the Liberals’ federal leadership crisis. The Nationals contentiously bowed to Berejiklian’s demands not to field a candidate, a decision that was criticised last week by federal party leader Michael McCormack.

Après le déluge

Situations vacant for aspiring Liberals, first in Wentworth, now in Chisholm, and perhaps soon in Curtin. Also: polls for the ACT Senate and next weekend’s New South Wales state by-election in Wagga Wagga, neither good for the Libs.

Post-leadership change turbulence costs the Liberals a sitting MP in a crucial marginal seat, as preselection hopefuls jockey for safe seat vacancies:

• Liberal MP Julia Banks yesterday announced she will not recontest her Melbourne seat of Chisholm, citing bullying she was subjected to ahead of last week’s leadership vote by the anti-Malcolm Turnbull camp. Banks won the seat on the retirement of Labor member Anna Burke in 2016, making her the only Coalition member to gain a seat from Labor at the election. Rob Harris of the Herald Sun reports the Liberals will choose their new candidate in a community preselection, which presumably entails an open primary style arrangement in which anyone on the electoral roll can participate. Labor has endorsed Jennifer Yang, former adviser to Bill Shorten and mayor of Manningham who ran second as a candidate in the Melbourne lord mayoral election in May, finishing 3.0% behind winning candidate Sally Capp after preferences. The party initially preselected the unsuccessful candidate from 2016, former Monash mayor Stefanie Perri, but she announced her withdrawal in May, saying she had been deterred by the expreience of Tim Hammond.

Alexandra Smith of the Sydney Morning Herald cites “several senior Liberals” who say the “only real contenders” for the Wentworth preselection are Dave Sharma, former ambassador to Israel, and Andrew Bragg, a director at the Business Council of Australia and former leader of the Yes same-sex marriage survey campaign. The report says Sharma has moderate factional support, including from powerbroker Michael Photios, while Bragg is supported in local branches. It also says it is no foregone conclusion that Labor will contest the seat, despite having an election candidate in place in Tim Murray, managing partner of investment research firm J Capital. An earlier report by Alexandra Smith suggested Christine Forster’s bid for Liberal preselection appeared doomed in part because, as an unidentified Liberal source put it: “She is an Abbott and how does that play in a Wentworth byelection? Not well I would suggest.”

Primrose Riordan of The Australian identifies three potential candidates to succeed Julie Bishop in Curtin, assuming she retires. They are Emma Roberts, a BHP corporate lawyer who contested the preselection to succeed Colin Barnett in the state seat of Cottesloe, but was defeated by David Honey; Erin Watson-Lynn, director of Asialink Diplomacy at the University of Melbourne; and Rick Newnham, chief econmist at the Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Sally Whyte of the Canberra Times reports a Greens-commissioned ReachTEL poll of the Canberra electorate suggests ACT Liberal Senator Zed Seselja’s role in Malcolm Turnbull’s demise may have put his seat in danger. Elections for the ACT’s two Senate seats have always resulted in one seat each for Labor, but the Liberal seat could potentially fall to the Greens if its vote fell significantly below one third. After allocating results of a forced response question for the initially undecided, the results are Labor 39.6%, the Greens 24.2%, Liberal 23.7% and One Nation 2.8%. Even accounting for the fact that the Canberra electorate is particularly strong for the Greens, these numbers suggest there would be a strong possibility of Greens candidate Penny Kyburz overhauling Seselja on preferences. The poll also finds 64.6% of voters saying Seselja’s role in Turnbull’s downfall made them less likely to vote for him, with only 13.0% saying it made them more likely to, and 22.4% saying it made no difference. Among Liberal voters, the respective figures were 38.7%, 29.6% and 31.7%.

In other news, the Liberals in New South Wales are managing expectations ahead of a feared defeat in Saturday week’s Wagga Wagga state by-election, most likely at the hands of independent Joe McGirr. Andrew Clennell of The Australian reports a ReachTEL poll commissioned by Shooters Fishers and Farmers has the Liberals on 30.2%, Labor on 23.8%, McGirr on 18.4% and Shooters Fishers and Farmers on 10.9%, after exclusion of the 7.4% undecided. However, McGirr faces a complication in Shooters Fishers and Farmers’ unusual decision to direct preferences to Labor, which could potentially prevent him from overtaking them to make the final count. According to Clennell’s report, “any government loss post-mortem would be expected to focus on why the Liberals did not let the Nationals run for the seat”.

ReachTEL: 52-48 to Coalition in New South Wales

An overdue post on a New South Wales state poll published last week, and a look at the state’s poll trend since the 2015 election.

I’m way late with this one, but while I was preoccupied with South Australia and Batman last Friday, the Sydney Morning Herald had a ReachTEL poll of state voting intention in New South Wales, conducted last Thursday from a sample of 1521. After excluding the 6.2% undecided, the poll had the Coalition leading 52-48 on two-party preferred, and with 44.7% of the primary vote, up 3.8% on the last poll in October – quite a bit better than the 50-50 and 38% attributed to them by Newspoll recently. The Labor primary vote is up 0.9% to 34.6% and the Greens up 0.1% to 10.0%, which much of the Coalition gain coming off a declining One Nation, down 3.5% to 5.4%. Gladys Berejiklian led Luke Foley 52.3-47.7 as preferred premier. The poll also found 58.9% opposed to the government spending $2.5 billion on new stadiums, with only 25.6% supportive.

To make this overdue post worthwhile, I offer the poll tracking measure below going back to the last election. The general picture is that the Coalition’s dominant position as of the 2015 election was whittled away during Mike Baird’s final year as premier, but had stabilised by the time he resigned in January 2017. Support for the two parties has been fairly balanced in Berejiklian’s year and a bit in the job, with the Coalition perhaps very slightly in front.

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