• In her column in The Australian yesterday ($), Niki Savva wrote that unspecified Labor MPs were convinced Mike Kelly would “be gone by Christmas and that his resignation could be the trigger for others such as Mark Dreyfus and Brendan O’Connor”. This raises the prospect of by-elections for, respectively, the famously marginal south-eastern New South Wales seat of Eden-Monaro (Labor margin 0.8%), the Melbourne bayside seat of Isaacs (6.4%) and the western Melbourne Labor stronghold of Gorton (15.4%). Savva also canvasses the prospect, noted here last week, of Eden-Monaro being contested for the Nationals by state party leader John Barilaro, who holds the corresponding seat of Monaro and is said to hanker for the federal leadership.
• A move to federal politics, successful or otherwise, by John Barilaro would also require a state by-election in Monaro. Labor held the seat from 2003 to 2011, and Barilaro eked out only modest wins in 2011 and 2015, before a 9.1% swing blew the margin out to 11.6% in March. That could just be the beginning of things on New South Wales by-election front – as Andrew Clennell of The Australian ($) reported yesterday, John Sidoti’s difficulties at the Independent Commission Against Corruption are likely to result in a vacancy in the safe Liberal seat of Drummoyne (margin 15.0%), and there are suggestions Labor MP Nick Lalich “might want to retire early” from his safe seat of Cabramatta (margin 25.5% against Liberal, 12.9% against independent Dai Le). There were also said to be rumours an unspecified Liberal MP was “suffering an illness”.
Latest from the event-packed preliminaries to the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters’ inquiry into the federal election:
• A submission from the Australian Electoral Commission has raised the possibility that counting of pre-poll votes might begin before the 6pm close of polls on election day. This would address the growing issue of election night being a two-stage affair in which most of the election day booths are done counting by 9pm, while the larger pre-poll voting centres can be delayed by several hours beyond that.
• A submission from the Liberal Party has called for the number of pre-poll voting centres to be reduced ($), and the pre-polling period to be cut from three weeks to two. Labor’s submission has also noted a three-week period places “significant pressure on political parties’ ability to provide booth workers”.
• GetUp! remains in the sights of the Liberal Party, and indeed much of the conservative end of the news media, with the Liberals aggrieved that the organisation has escaped classification as an associated entity of the ALP, despite it targeting exclusively Coalition members.
• Labor is correspondingly unhappy with the Australian Electoral Commission’s determination that the Liberal election day advertising that has prompted the challenges to the Chisholm and Kooyong results is beyond the reach of the section of the Electoral Act dealing with “misleading or deceptive publications”.
• The Greens want political truth-in-advertising laws adjudicated by an independent body, campaign spending caps and fixed three-year terms.
• A submission from Facebook has sought to address Labor complaints that the service was used to disseminate misinformation about Labor’s plan for a “death tax” by saying “thousands of posts” making such claims were demoted to give them less prominence in their news feeds, thanks to the work of its “third-party fact checkers”. It also claims to have shut down two accounts for spreading fake news, without providing any further detail.