Seat of the week: Melbourne

After powering to an historic victory in the electorate of Melbourne at the 2010 election, Greens MP Adam Bandt is likely to find the going a lot tougher next time around.

The electorate of Melbourne produced a watershed result at the 2010 election, with Labor suffering defeat at the hands of the Greens in a seat it had held without interruption since 1904. It thus became the first federal lower house seat to be won by the Greens at a general election, and the second overall after a by-election victory in the New South Wales seat of Cunningham in 2002. Currently the electorate extends from the central business district westwards to the Maribyrnong River, northwards to Carlton North and eastwards to Richmond. The redistribution has transferred around 6000 voters in Clifton Hill and Alphington to Batman, and another 6000 at Fitzroy North to Wills.

Contributing to the Greens’ strength are the second youngest age profile of any electorate (the first being the strongly indigenous Northern Territory seat of Lingiari), substantial student populations associated with the University of Melbourne and RMIT University campuses, and the nation’s highest “no religion” response in the 2011 census. Other demographic features include substantial Chinese, Vietnamese and Korean populations. The Greens are strongest in the inner-city bohemia of Carlton, Fitzroy, Collingwood and Richmond, excluding some local-level concentrations of migrant populations which remain strong for Labor. They are weakest in and around the central business district itself and at Ascot Vale in the seat’s outer north-east, which are respectively strong for Liberal and Labor.

Melbourne was held for Labor from 1993 to 2010 by Lindsay Tanner, who in turn succeeded Hawke-Keating government Immigration Minister Gerry Hand. Their highest profile antecedent in the seat was Arthur Calwell, member from 1940 until 1972. A leading light of the Left faction, Tanner became Finance Minister when the Rudd government was elected, and emerged as part of a four-member “kitchen cabinet” which dominated the government’s decision-making. On the day that Kevin Rudd was deposed as Labor leader, Tanner dropped a second bombshell in parliament when he announced he would not contest the election, which he insisted was unrelated to events earlier in the day. He has since emerged as a public critic of the leadership change and the political process more broadly.

Tanner’s exit at the subsequent election brought into play a seat where the Greens had rapidly grown as a threat since the 2001 election, when their vote lifted 9.6% to 15.8% on the back of concern over asylum seeker policy. It rose again to 19.0% at the 2004 election, when the party harvested much of a collapsing Democrats vote. A further breakthrough was achieved in 2007 when their candidate, Adam Bandt, overtook the Liberal candidate to reach the final preference count. On that occasion the primary vote for Labor’s Lindsay Tanner was 49.5%, enough to ensure him a 4.7% margin after preferences. With Tanner’s retirement at the 2010 election, the Labor vote fell 11.4% while the Greens were up 13.4%, which panned out to a comfortable 6.0% win for the Greens after preferences.

Adam Bandt came to parliament with an instant national profile by virtue of his position on the cross-bench of a hung parliament, which events since have only enhanced. However, he has twice received portents from the sphere of state politics that he will face a tougher environment at the next election than the last. The first was in the state election campaign of November 2010, when the Greens’ high hopes for breakthroughs in the electorate’s corresponding state seats were dashed by a Liberal Party decision to put Labor ahead of the Greens on its how-to-vote cards. This decision was seen by some as a catalyst for the Coalition’s election victory, and there seems a high probability it will be repeated federally. The effect at the state election was to cut flows of Liberal preferences to the Greens from around three-quarters to around a third, which would have cut Bandt’s two-party vote by over 9%. The second was the Greens’ failure to win the by-election for the state seat of Melbourne, despite an expectation that they would profit from annoyance at the mid-term departure of the outgoing Labor member Bronwyn Pike.

Labor has again preselected its unsuccessful candidate from 2010, Cath Bowtell, a former ACTU industrial officer, current state party president and member of the Socialist Left. Bowtell won the preselection against what proved to be token opposition from Harvey Stern, the state president of Labor for Refugees.

Swings (Queensland) and roundabouts (Hindmarsh)

Roy Morgan has again rained on Julia Gillard’s poll parade, with a poll of 800 voters in four Queensland marginals showing Labor no better placed than they were said to be before Kevin Rudd’s demise. The four seats targeted are outer suburban Longman and regional Flynn, Dawson and Leichhardt, and if by some coincidence the figures for each are accurate – which is unlikely, as the margin of error on each 200-sample poll is about 7 per cent – Labor stands to lose all except the latter with respective swings of 7.3 per cent, 8.2 per cent and 3.4 per cent, with no change recorded in Longman. However, it would be more instructive to combine the results and think in terms of a collective swing of a bit below 5 per cent and a margin of error of 3.5 per cent. If consistent across Queensland, this would cost Labor eight seats held actually and two held notionally. Helpfully, three of these seats were covered in Newspoll’s marginal seat survey of Tuesday before last, conducted during Kevin Rudd’s last weekend as Prime Minister, the exception being Leichhardt. This showed a 6 per cent swing from a margin of error of 4 per cent. Presumably Morgan will offer a face-to-face poll from last weekend tomorrow, the first such poll conducted on Gillard’s watch.

There is better news for Labor from The Advertiser, which has Labor leading 56-44 in the Adelaide seat of Hindmarsh, held for Labor on a margin of 5.1 per cent. The survey involved 633 respondents and would have a margin of error of a little below 4 per cent, although this presumes a random sample which The Advertiser probably lacks the expertise to obtain.

Federal preselection news:

• The Socialist Left faction of the Victorian ALP, which dominates the local branches, has chosen ACTU industrial officer Cath Bowtell as its candidate for the federal preselection for Melbourne, to be vacated on the retirement of Lindsay Tanner. The faction’s secretary, Andrew Giles, had been favoured by some for the position, but agreed to stand aside in favour of Bowtell, whose endorsement is now considered a fait accompli. The preselection will be conducted locally on Sunday and finalised by the party’s public office selection committee on Tuesday.

• Queensland’s troubled Liberal National Party has picked a new candidate for the Brisbane seat of Moreton, which Labor’s Graham Perrett won from sitting Liberal Gary Hardgrave in 2007, after the original nominee, Michael Palmer (20-year-old son of mining magnate Clive), withdrew citing health concerns. The winner was Malcolm Cole, former Courier-Mail journalist and staffer to former Senator Santo Santoro, who defeated local businessman Steve Smith.

• It’s been noted lately that the New South Wales Liberals are dragging their heels getting candidates in place in important electorates: Lindsay, Parramatta and Greenway. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, these will be resolved over the next fortnight. The Penrith Press reports two candidates have nominated in Lindsay: marketing manager Fiona Scott and casual teacher Margaret Grand.

State preselection news from New South Wales:

• The Nationals’ ground-breaking “open primary” preselection for Tamworth was conducted last weekend, delivering victory to local businessman Kevin Anderson. The ballot was open to anyone registered in the electorate, attracting 4293 voters. Anderson won 2110 vote (49.4 per cent) to 1100 (25.7 per cent) for James Treloar, 648 (15.2 per cent) for Russell Webb and 414 (9.7 per cent) for Mark Rodda, with the distribution of Rodda’s preferences electing Anderson. A similar effort by the Victorian ALP in the Liberal-held state seat of Kilsyth in April only attracted 170, although the only procedural difference was a requirement that participants register online. The winner on that occasion was former electorate officer Vicky Setches with 75 per cent of the vote.

• The Sydney Morning Herald reports the Liberal preselection for the safe Liberal NSW state seat of Baulkham Hills, to be vacated at the election by retiring Wayne Merton, has been postponed after originally being scheduled for tomorrow. The preselection is the latest front in the war between state upper house MP David Clarke and federal Mitchell MP Alex Hawke, former allies in the Right. At issue is the validity of the membership of 14 Clarke supporters who attempted to join at an infamous Baulkham Hills Young Liberals meeting in Hawke’s electorate office last year, which ended with Hawke calling the police. The Hawke forces are backing state Civil Contractors Federation chief executive David Elliott, who unsuccessfully challenged Clarke for his upper house preselection earlier this year. Clarke supports Damien Tudehope, solicitor and Australian Family Association spokesman Damien Tudehope. Also in the field is Hills Shire deputy mayor Mike Thomas. It appears the preselection will be postponed until the federal election is out of the way, in the likely event that it is called shortly.

• Greens state upper house MP Sylvia Hale, who earlier made what most presumed to be a retirement announcement when she said she would not seek re-election, has announced she will seek to run in the highly winnable lower house seat of Marrickville. She must first win next week’s preselection vote against Marrickville deputy mayor Fiona Byrne, the candidate from 2007.

• Crikey’s Tips and Rumours reports Peter Fraser, former chief-of-staff to John Brogden, might emerge as a starter in the endlessly confusing preselection to choose a successor to Peter Debnam in Vaucluse. The remainder of the field is summarised as “Left numbers woman Gabrielle Upton, independent restaurateur Peter Doyle, Woollahra mayor Andrew Petrie, Turnbull branch fixture Mary Lou Jarvis and Sydney gymnasium tycoon and right-winger Peter Cavanagh”.

Newspoll: 53-47 to Labor

Julia Gillard’s first Newspoll confirms the trend of other polls, with Labor’s primary vote storming back seven points to 42 per cent, but the yield coming mostly from the Greens (down five to 10 per cent). The Coalition vote is steady on 40 per cent. This results in a relatively modest shift on the two-party preferred vote, with the Labor lead increasing from 52-48 to 53-47, but it makes that vote share a lot less dependent on hypothetical and probably over-generous preference estimates. Julia Gillard leads as preferred prime minister 53 per cent to 29 per cent, compared with Kevin Rudd’s final figures of 46 per cent and 37 per cent. Tony Abbott can at least take heart from a return to a net positive personal rating, with approval up four to 42 per cent and disapproval down eight to 41 per cent.

Preselection news:

Melissa Fyfe of The Age reports from “senior party sources” that Labor polling in Melbourne showed the Greens running neck and neck with Lindsay Tanner. On the question of Tanner’s successor as Labor candidate, Andrew Crook from Crikey reports there is “little standing in the way” of Andrew Giles, chief-of-staff to state minister Lily D’Ambrosio. Giles is secretary of the Socialist Left faction, which dominates local branches. However, Melissa Fyfe’s sources say they are hoping to find someone with a higher profile. Other possible contenders are ACTU industrial officer Cath Bowtell, who according to Crook is “said to be owed a shot at pre-selection after being turned down for the ACTU presidency in favour of Ged Kearney”, and refugee activist Paris Aristotle. UPDATE: VexNews reports the Socialist Left has endorsed Cath Bowtell, with Andrew Giles agreeing not to run, and that Bowtell’s endorsement by the party is now a fait accompli.

• Scott Buchholz, chief-of-staff to Senator Barnaby Joyce, has won Liberal National Party preselection for the new Queensland seat of Wright, after initial nominee Hajnal Ban was forced out. Most prominent among his defeated rivals was former Blair MP Cameron Thompson.

UPDATE: Essential Research has done what it needed to do by dividing its results between this week’s polling and last week’s, and it confirms the overall picture. Kevin Rudd was on a gentle recovery trend in his last days – his final poll shows Labor improving from 51-49 to 52-48, with Labor’s primary vote up three to 38 per cent and the Coalition’s down one to 40 per cent – followed by a fillip on the primary vote under Julia Gillard. Interestingly, the Greens vote fell solidly over both periods, from 14 per cent to 11 per cent and then to 9 per cent. Labor’s primary vote under Gillard has gone from 38 per cent to 42 per cent, with the Coalition’s down one to 39 per cent. Forty-seven per cent approve of the leadership change compared with 40 per cent opposed, with an even split as to whether respondents declared themselves more (26 per cent) or less (24 per cent) likely to vote Labor now. Gillard leads Tony Abbott as preferred prime minister 49 per cent to 29 per cent, but Newspoll’s resounding improvement in Abbott’s ratings is also reflected in Essential, with his approval up five to 40 per cent and disapproval down 11 to 39 per cent. Again, respondents would prefer a full term (41 per cent) to an early election (28 per cent). There are further questions on parental leave, the mining tax and future economic conditions.

UPDATE 2: Excellent post by Possum analysing polling trends of the late Rudd epoch.

Julia Gillard: day two

Australian politics has entered uncharted waters after yesterday’s brutally efficient leadership coup, but the consensus view is that Julia Gillard is favourite to lead Labor to a victory which might have been beyond Kevin Rudd. One naysayer is Peter Brent of Mumble, a man who has been known to get things right from time to time. Brent’s assessment, published in The Australian yesterday, is that the odds now slightly favour the Coalition, whereas Labor under Rudd would most likely have increased its majority. I think he has it the wrong way around.

Certainly there is a view abroad – Mark Bahnisch of Larvatus Prodeo being one proponent – that changing leaders, particularly when in government, is inherently destabilising and destructive. The New South Wales state government’s game of musical chairs is usually offered as a cautionary tale. However, it is a mistake to compare the federal government with one whose problems are underlying, terminal and, most crucially, age-related. Through Morris Iemma, Nathan Rees and Kristina Keneally, NSW Labor’s primary vote has been super-glued to 30 per cent in the polls, for the simple reason that the leadership hasn’t been the problem.

It was a different story entirely with Kevin Rudd, who led a first-term government with a strong economic record that ought to be well ahead. The main problem lay with a leader whose credibility in the eyes of voters had been irreparably damaged by the celebrated series of policy backdowns followed by the government advertising fiasco. As is now well known, such problems were mirrored within the party. Stunning as events of recent days have been, there has been no mystery about their underlying cause: when Rudd’s poll lead evaporated, so did his authority in the party. All that remained to be answered was whether the party still felt he could struggle through to an election win, allowing the matter to be dealt with less bruisingly after the event.

Key to the decision that he couldn’t was internal polling which reportedly showed Labor headed for a net loss of 18 seats. Purported details of such polling were provided by a party insider to Andrew Bolt, and they tell a believeable story. Included are Labor seats on less than 5 per cent and Coalition seats on less than 1.5 per cent – about 40 all told. The broad picture is of Labor facing swings of 4 per cent in New South Wales and Queensland and as much as 8 per cent in South Australia, but no change in Victoria or Tasmania. In Western Australia, Hasluck would be lost, but no swing can be determined as Brand and Perth weren’t included in the poll. Also said to be a lost cause for Labor was Darwin-based Solomon.

Twenty-one seats in all were identified as Labor losses against three gains, which coming off 88 seats notionally held by Labor would leave them five seats short of a majority. This would involve an overall swing of about 3.5 per cent and a Labor two-party vote of about 49 per cent, slightly below the trend of published polling. Taken together, the evidence pointed to a worrying but by no means irretrievable situation for the government. What proved fatal to Rudd was a lack of confidence, based on recent performance, in his capacity to turn the ship around.

With regard to the likely electoral consequences, Peter van Onselen in The Australian pretty much bangs the nail on the head as far as I’m concerned, as does Niki Savva at The Drum. This from Lenore Taylor the Sydney Morning Herald also caught my eye:

Tony Abbott put a brave face on Labor’s last-ditch leadership change but privately the Coalition was desperately disappointed that it would not face an election against Kevin Rudd.

And it was utterly dismayed the mining industry had – as one source put it – ”succumbed to [Gillard’s] guile” by agreeing to her offer of a negotiating truce in the mining super profits tax war and to take the industry advertisements attacking the government off the air.

The Coalition has gone out on a limb in support of the mining industry and the prospect of a deal between the miners and the government has left it edgy.

Some developments from the upheaval:

• In what would be red-letter news on any other day, Lindsay Tanner made the shock announcement he would quit politics at the next election, making Greens candidate Adam Bandt a short-priced favourite to take his seat of Melbourne. VexNews reports “talk” that Tanner hopes to be succeeded in the seat by academic, commentator and occasional broadcaster Waleed Aly, who would seem just the thing to defuse the threat of the Greens, and Socialist Left warlord Andrew Giles, who wouldn’t.

• Shortly before the spill, VexNews reported that if Rudd went, so might two Queensland marginal seat MPs: Chris Trevor in Flynn and Jon Sullivan in Longman. Trevor said yesterday that Gillard would “always have my full support”, but Emma Chalmers of the Courier-Mail reports from Labor sources that he was contemplating quitting. Chalmers also quotes Sullivan expressing disappointment at the result, but going no further than that.

• According to The Australian’s Jack the Insider, “Liberal Party polling tells (Abbott) that he is starting this contest against Gillard from a long way behind. Kevin Rudd may have had his nose in front but the polling tells Abbott that Gillard would win the next election by the length of the straight.”

And while I’m here, here’s a piece I wrote for Crikey last week on the electoral state-of-play in South Australia. It might be showing its age in some respects.

South Australia was Labor’s forgotten triumph of the 2007 election, replicating on a smaller and less spectacular scale the decisive tectonic shift in Queensland.

The statewide two-party swing to Labor of 6.8% was only slightly below Queensland’s 7.5%, which was borne out in the proportion of seat gains: three out of 11 in South Australia, nine out of 29 in Queensland.

Labor’s resurgence put an end to a slump which dated back to 1987, the last time they had won a majority of the South Australian two-party vote, and 1990, when they last won a majority of seats.

Before that the state had been a source of strength for Labor in the post-war era, notwithstanding that a dubious electoral boundaries regime kept them out of office for much of that time at state level.

This was partly because the state party branch was spared the worst of the 1954-55 split, but also because of the large blue-collar workforce required to service an economy based largely on manufacturing and industry.

The difficulties experienced by these sectors meant the state was hit hard by the economic upheavals of the 1980s, which together with the damage done to Labor by the 1991 State Bank collapse led to a fundamental electoral shift in the Liberals’ favour.

At federal level this was manifested in a series of grim federal election results that reduced Labor to two seats out of 12 in 1996, to which only one seat was added in later terms of the Howard Government.

With one seat having been abolished in 2004, Labor’s doubling of their representation at the 2007 election gave them a bare majority of six seats out of 11, and left the Liberals without a safe seat in Adelaide.

The two Liberal hold-outs in the city were Christopher Pyne’s seat of Sturt and Andrew Southcott’s seat of Boothby, which cover the traditional party strongholds of the east and inner south.

In a tale that will become increasingly familiar as this series proceeds, speculation about the coming election was long focused on the Liberals’ chances of retaining these existing seats, but such talk faded as the new year began and disappeared with Labor’s poll collapse over the past two months.

Labor’s main strength in South Australia lies in the coastal plain north of the city centre, which makes a safe Labor seat of Port Adelaide and marginals of four others which are leavened with more conservative areas beyond.

The electorate of Adelaide covers inner suburbs both north and south of the city, which are respectively strong and weak for Labor, and the growing inner-city apartment population in between, which has proved highly volatile in its electoral habits of late.

In a rare sighting of the “doctors’ wives” effect, Labor’s Kate Ellis bucked the trend of the 2004 election to win Adelaide from Liberal incumbent Trish Worth, and she emerged from the 2007 election with what seemed like a secure 8.5% margin.

However, the Liberals are talking of internal polling showing them “closing the gap”, after staggering swings were recorded in the electorate at the March state election (at which Education Minister Jane Lomax-Smith lost the state seat of Adelaide with a swing of 14.4%).

To the west of Adelaide is coastal Hindmarsh, which combines Labor-voting inner city areas with prosperous and conservative Glenelg in the south. Labor’s Steve Georganas won by the narrowest of margins when popular Liberal member Chris Gallus retired in 2004, before picking up a relatively modest swing in 2007.

North-east of the city centre is Makin, home to newer suburbs in the hills along with the eastern part of Salisbury on the plain. Makin is the only seat in the state which has form as a bellwether, being held by Labor from its creation in 1984 until 1996, Liberal through the Howard years and Labor’s Tony Zappia since 2007.

Further north is Wakefield, which offers even starker contrasts: deep red Elizabeth in the south, rapidly growing Gawler just past the city’s northern limits (where change is favouring Labor, if the state election is anything to go by) and conservative rural and wine-growing areas beyond.

Wakefield was a safe Liberal country seat until it absorbed Elizabeth at the redistribution before the 2004 election. Liberal candidate David Fawcett unexpectedly retained it for the Liberals on that occasion, but his narrow margin was eliminated by Labor’s Nick Champion in 2007 (Fawcett now stands poised to enter the Senate).

The only seat in Adelaide which conforms neatly with the mortgage belt marginal seat stereotype is Kingston, covering the city’s outer southern coastal suburbs. Labor’s Amanda Rishworth recovered this seat for Labor in 2007 after it was lost in 2004, interest rates having had a lot to do with it on each occasion.

The diversity that characterises the other marginals is significant, as it leaves their members as susceptible to rebellions in party heartlands as to the normally more decisive ebb and flow of the mortgage-payer vote.

This is where the mining tax could cause problems for Labor, as many blue-collar workers perceive a connection between the mining boom and the industrial and manufacturing sectors which employ them.

While South Australia is rarely given a guernsey as a “mining state”, BHP Billiton’s massive Olympic Dam project single-handedly allows the industry to punch above its weight, as it is associated in the public mind with the state shaking off its “rust belt” reputation from the 1990s.

Uncomfortably for Labor, BHP Billiton says the tax will jeopardise a $20 billion expansion to the project which is currently under consideration, a process that will certainly not be completed before the election.
Premier Mike Rann captured attention last week when he claimed any decision to stall the project would cost Labor four or even five seats.

For all that, the Liberals have big hurdles to clear if South Australia is to produce any of the seats it needs to overhaul Labor’s majority.

The problem is a lack of low-hanging fruit — even the most marginal of Labor’s six seats, Kingston, sits on an imposing margin of 4.4%.

Furthermore, the March state election suggests Labor has a trump card in the form of a ruthlessly efficient marginal seat campaign machine, which helped Mike Rann hang on to office with just 37.5% of the primary and 48.4% of the two-party vote.

The only seats in the state which swung to Labor were the two most marginal, Light and Mawson (respectively in Wakefield and Kingston federally), and the critical eastern suburbs seats of Hartley and Newland likewise held firm against a torrid tide. Elsewhere, Labor suffered double-digit swings nearly everywhere they could afford to.

Federal Labor will be hoping to achieve similar successes in working-class areas with a campaign to focus minds on industrial relations, thereby shoring up valuable support in Makin and Wakefield in particular.
Beyond Adelaide, the state’s three non-metropolitan seats are of limited electoral interest, notwithstanding the vague threat the Democrats and now the Greens have posed in Mayo, where Jamie Briggs struggled over the line in the September 2008 by-election that followed Alexander Downer’s resignation.

That leaves Barker in the state’s east, which covers rural territory which has never been of interest to Labor, and the outback electorate of Grey, which has transformed over the past two decades from safe Labor to safe Liberal — testament to the decline of the “iron triangle” cities of Whyalla, Port August and Port Pirie, and reflecting the experience of Kalgoorlie west of the border.

Morgan: 59.5-40.5

The latest Roy Morgan survey (two fortnights of face-to-face polling with a sample of 1129) has Labor’s two-party lead down from 62-38 to 59.5-40.5. Labor’s primary vote is down half a point to 51 per cent, the Coalition are up a solid three to 35.5 per cent and the Greens are down two to 7.5 per cent.

Geoff Chambers of The Gold Coast Bulletin reports “senior party figures” have told Julie Bishop to withdraw her apparent endorsement for Minna Knight in tomorrow’s Liberal National Party preselection for McPherson, where Peter Dutton faces the prospect of an embarrassing failure in his bid to seek refuge from endangered Dickson. Bishop has told the paper her reference for Knight was “not intended to be used as preselection material”, but she has nonetheless “stopped short of endorsing Mr Dutton”. The report says Knight and rival candidate Karen Andrews have between them “locked in crucial votes from the Currumbin and Burleigh branches”. In a bid to smooth the path for Dutton, Knight has reportedly been offered a free run in the new neighbouring seat of Wright, while Andrews has been promised a Senate seat.

Matthew Denholm of The Australian reports last month’s assault charge against the partner of Bass MP Jodie Campbell halted a “gathering momentum” that would have cost her preselection. Campbell reportedly remains “under pressure to lift her performance”. Perhaps more importantly, Denholm reports that “while Ms Campbell is from Labor’s Left faction, many in the Right see Bass as their seat”. The preselection ahead of the last election was initially won by the Right-backed Steve Reissig, although this was achieved because state executive backing for Reissig outweighed support for Campbell in the branches. Reissig later withdrew amid rumours of a smear campaign, and a complicated factional deal helped Campbell win the re-match. Geoff Lyons, a staffer to Right faction Senator Helen Polley, has been mentioned as a possible successor.

• Crikey’s Tips and Rumours section suggests Kerry Bartlett, who lost Macquarie to Bob Debus at the federal election, has determined to contest preselection for Debus’s old state seat of Blue Mountains, after failing to re-nominate for Macquarie. Both Debus and his successor in Blue Mountains, Phil Koperberg, are set to retire, with some talk that Koperberg might do so before the election. Labor is said to have two possible candidates in mind for Macquarie: former netballer Liz Ellis and St Vincent DePaul Society chief executive John Falzon, who apparently shares Debus’s and Koperberg’s links with the Socialist Left faction (of which he “used to be” a member). Also said to be interested is Blue Mountains mayor Adam Searle, who was part of the jockeying to succeed Debus ahead of the 2007 election, but is said to lack factional support.

• Further from the above, it is suggested that David Bradbury, who won Lindsay on the third attempt in 2007, is “seeking the numbers to make a move to neighbouring Chifley if government Whip Roger Price decides to retire”. Bradbury is reportedly concerned hostility towards the state government might cost him his seat. He has “even canvassed the idea of a move to Greenway considering it is now a very safe prospect post-redistribution”. Liberal MP Louise Markus is apparently looking good in her bid to move to Macquaire from Greenway, which has a notional Labor margin of 5.6 per cent on the draft redistribution boundaries.

• Late news: Kathleen Maltzahn, whose human rights activism included authorship of a book on the trafficking of women for prostitution in Australia, was announced as Greens candidate for the winnable Victorian state seat of Richmond a month ago. It was also confirmed Adam Bandt, who in 2007 became the party’s first candidate to make the final count at a general federal election, will again run in the federal seat of Melbourne.

Malcolm Mackerras in Crikey predicts a double dissolution election will be held on August 21, 2010, that presumably being the latest date allowable under the provision which states double dissolutions cannot be held later than six months before the expiry of the House of Representatives (UPDATE: Turns out it’s not the last date – not sure why Mackerras picked this one exactly). He also discusses the method that will be used to decide which of the elected Senators will be “long term”, and which will be chosen to face the people at the next half-Senate election. The Constitution leaves this to the Senate to decide, and it was traditionally done on the basis of the order of election. However, a peculiar result in Tasmania in 1951 meant four out of five Liberal Senators came to be deemed “long term”, which eventually prompted the Hawke government to require that the Electoral Commission calculate a hypothetical half-Senate election result for purposes of directing a “fair” outcome. This however remained non-binding, and at the first and so far only opportunity since (the 1987 double dissolution) the Senate chose not to be bound, instead conducting the division in a manner advantageous to the Australian Democrats. Mackerras notes Labor felt “guilty” about its failure to observe its own reform and promised that in future it would support a Senate resolution to give effect to the half-Senate count before the election took place, which Mackerras expects to be put and carried before his August election.

• Also in Crikey, Andrew Crook offers an overview of the two parties’ preselection processes, dealing in turn with Labor and Liberal (minor parties to follow).

• The latest Reuters Poll Trend aggregate of Newspoll, Morgan and Nielsen has Labor’s lead at 58.0-42.0.

Newspoll: 55-45

The Australian reports that the latest fortnightly Newspoll has Labor’s lead at 55-45, down from 57-43 at the previous two polls. Labor’s primary vote is down one point to 44 per cent and the Coalition’s is up one point to 38 per cent. Malcolm Turnbull’s approval rating is up four points to 30 per cent. More to follow. UPDATE: Graphic here. Turnbull’s approval is the only leadership measure that has moved noticeably.

The weekly Essential Research survey has Labor’s lead steady at 58-42. Also featured: support for an ETS-driven early election continues to fall; confidence in the economy continues to rise; there is no one widely held view on who should be our next US Ambassador; and two-thirds agree that “the Liberals are just not prepared at the moment to take on the difficult task of governing Australia”.


• The Gold Coast News reports that Peter Dutton faces “an ugly pre-election battle” if he wishes to move from notionally Labor Dickson to the safe Liberal Gold Coast seat of McPherson, to be vacated by the retirement of Margaret May. Rival candidates include federal divisional council chair Karen Andrews, a “close ally” of May; Dr Richard Stuckey, husband of Jann Stuckey, state front-bencher and member for the local seat of Currumbin; and Michael Hart, who unsuccessfully contested the state seat of Burleigh at the last two state elections.

• For the second election in a row, Dennis Jensen will represent the Liberals in their safe Perth seat of Tangney despite having lost the initial preselection vote. The West Australian reports that Jensen won a State Council vote over the initially successful candidate, Glenn Piggott, by no less a margin than 76 votes to five. This result was foreshadowed a month ago by a commenter on this site travelling under the name of Matt Brown’s Imaginary Friend (Matt Brown being the initial victor of the 2007 preselection), who wrote: “Council knows that if Jensen (is) dumped, the Libs’ chances of holding the marginals will dive because campaign funds will be so stretched, adverse publicity will have (a) ripple effect, and Tangney itself could be lost to Jensen if (he) stood as an independent, whether to him or even to the ALP if he did the obvious and swapped preferences with them”.

• Saturday’s Weekend Australian featured a post-redistribution proposal Mackerras pendulum, which you can see at Mumble. The accompanying article takes aim at the assertion of Peter van Onselen and others that the redistributions of New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia collectively constitute a “Ruddymander”.

Simon Benson of The Daily Telegraph reports that the tensions over the New South Wales Labor leadership could be coming to the boil:

With the various warring factions in the Labor party room unable to decide on who would be a replacement, Mr Rees was said to be considering acting before he gets chopped. Sources confirmed he was using threats of a reshuffle to axe “trouble-making” ministers, a veiled reference to Health Minister John Della Bosca, if sniping about his leadership continued. The internal malaise in the Government has become so bad that very few MPs believe the current situation can continue. Mr Rees is also reported to have told those closest to him that his position was untenable if the plotting against him could not be arrested. Another Labor source said Labor powerbrokers including national secretary Karl Bitar were considering tapping Mr Rees on the shoulder next week if they could convince Deputy Premier Carmel Tebbutt to take over. It is understood Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is also being drafted into the soap opera with sources claiming his Infrastructure Minister Anthony Albanese has directly lobbied Mr Rudd to support a move to install Ms Tebbutt, who is Mr Albanese’s wife.

John Della Bosca today added fuel to the fire by declaring it was “no state secret” that it was constitutionally possible for an upper house MP such as himself to be Premier. However, Andrew Clennell of the Sydney Morning Herald reports focus group research shows “many people still think (Rees) should be given time to make a go of the job”, and gives an insight into the public view of Della Bosca, Tebbutt and other sometimes-mentioned leadership prospects, Kristina Keneally, John Robertson and Frank Sartor.

• The ABC reports that the member for the Nationals member for the Victorian state seat of Murray Valley, Ken Jasper, will retire at the next election. Jasper is 71 years old and has held the seat since 1976. I must confess the seat does not loom large in my consciousness, but my election guide entry tells me the Nationals are “concerned at their ability to hold the seat without him”. Jasper nonetheless held the seat in 2006 with 50.9 per cent of the vote against the Liberal candidate’s 21.9 per cent.

• The Victorian Greens have preselected for the highly winnable state seat of Melbourne a barrister and former president of Liberty Victoria, Brian Walters, ahead of Moonee Valley councillor Rose Iser.

Lots more information on various Greens preselections from Ben Raue of The Tally Room:

• Raue appears to have the inside dope on the state upper house preselection in South Australia, declaring former Democrat and current state party convenor Tammy Jennings the “clear frontrunner” for the lucrative top spot (he earlier named SA Farmers Federation chief executive Carol Vincent, former convenor and unsuccessful 1997 lead candidate Paul Petit and unheralded Mark Andrew as the other candidates).

• Raue also names preselection candidates for the Queensland Senate: Larissa Waters (the 2007 candidate, who also ran for Mount Coot-tha at the March state election), “perennial candidates” Libby Connors and Jenny Stirling, and 2009 Sunnybank candidate Matthew Ryan-Sykes.

• Raue names Emma Henley and Peter Campbell as candidates for the Victorian upper house region of Eastern Metropolitan.

• In the Tasmanian state seat of Braddon, Paul O’Halloran has apparently been chosen to “lead the ticket”, to the extent that that means anything under Robson rotation. Braddon is the only one of the five divisions currently without a Greens member.

Antony Green corner:

• In comments on this site, Antony discusses the prospects of a Victorian redistribution before the next federal election:

A Victorian redistribution is due because the boundaries from the last redistribution were gazetted on 29 January 2003. A re-draw starts seven years later, the end of January 2010. A redistribution is not required in the last 12 months before the House expires. The current House first sat on 12 February 2008 so it expires 11 February 2011. This means there is an unfortunate two week gap that will force a redistribution. If the Victorian boundaries had been gazetted two weeks later in 2003, or if the Rudd government had re-called parliament in December 2007, the redistribution would be deferred. Unfortunately, the Electoral Act is very prescriptive on dates so it appears the redistribution will have to take place, unless the act is changed.

• Two posts on his blog relate to the slow decline of the Nationals, one directly, the other with reference to the relative decline of rural population.

Also featured is a post comparing the current position of the state Labor government in New South Wales with that of the Unsworth government as it drifted to the abyss in 1988.