Victorian election minus two weeks

The Liberals opt to sit it out in Richmond, as a frenzied weekend behind the scenes looms ahead of Sunday’s deadline for upper house preferences.

With the arrival of today’s deadline for nominations, the campaign action cranks up a notch:

• With party nominations closing yesterday (independents have until noon today), the mystery of the Liberals’ intentions in the inner-city seats is solved: candidates will be fielded in Melbourne, Northcote and Brunswick, but not in Richmond. According to The Australian, the Liberals believe this deals a “near unassailable blow” to Labor’s Richard Wynne in Richmond. Another report in The Australian relates that the Liberals’ high hopes of recovering Prahran, into which they have “poured huge resources”, are looming large in their strategic calculations, the hope being that Labor will take the foot off the pedal in Prahran due to its need to focus efforts on Richmond.

• Reports suggest the Liberals will not make a preference recommendation in the inner-city seats where they are running, which is a happier state of affairs for the Greens than their previous practice of putting them last. The Herald Sun reported Labor had sought Liberal preferences as part of a swap in which they would direct preferences to Coalition candidates ahead of independents in Benambra, Ovens Valley and SouthWestCoast.

• Also confirmed is that Nationals-turned-independent MP Russell Northe will run again in Morwell, which has developed into a highly complex contest that also encompasses Labor, Liberal and Nationals candidates, along with Ricky Muir, the former Australian Motoring Enthusiasts Party Senator now running for Shooters Fishers and Farmers.

• The closure of nominations will kick off a frenzy of negotiations over preferences ahead of the deadline for submission of group voting tickets noon on Sunday. The Greens are briefing journalists that they fear losing three of their five seats, leaving them with their core of Northern Metropolitan and Western Metropolitan. While such fears may be sincerely held, publicising them puts pressure on Labor by raising the spectre of a right-wing lockout if they prioritise deals with micro-party preference networks.

• Upper house preferences are again placing the spotlight on Glenn Druery, staffer to Senator Derryn Hinch and freelance preference broker. Druery has been the subject of a police complaint from Fiona Patten, upper house member for the Reason Party (formerly the Sex Party), who raises concerns about the $5000 fee he charges small parties to be privy to his preference networking, and his $50,000 “success fee”.

Victorian election minus three weeks

News aplenty from the Victorian campaign trail as the week one reaches its conclusion.

On top of my review of minor party and independent prospects in Crikey yesterday (paywalled), I can offer the following polling and other horse race news:

The Guardian reports on ReachTEL polls of the inner city seats for the Goongerah Environment Centre, and while the details are sketchy, such results as are provided are encouraging for Labor. Labor is credited with primary vote leads of 40.6% to 32.1% in Richmond, compared with 33.3% to 31.5% at the 2014 election; and 34.2% to 21.4% in Prahran, compared with 25.9% to 24.8%. There’s lots more on the organisation’s website, but unfortunately not relating to the voting intention numbers that are the chief source of interest to readers of this site. However, I’m hoping to chase up further information on this count.

John Ferguson of The Australian reported on Wednesday that the Liberals were not likely to follow through on suggestions they would not field candidates in the inner-city quartet of Melbourne, Richmond, Northcote and Brunswick, where their absence would likely help the Greens. However, the Liberals are reportedly unlikely to direct preferences this time, contrary to their policy of putting the Greens last in 2010 and 2014. Labor is said to be confident of retaining Richmond, if not the other three.

• On Thursday, the Liberals promised to impose a two-storey building limit along a stretch of the bayside that encompasses the crucial marginal seats of Mordialloc and Carrum. Partly this was by way of drawing attention to the government’s contentious “sky rail” constructions to replace level crossings in Carrum.

• Unperturbed, Labor was promising more sky rail to remove level crossings, this time in the south-eastern Melbourne satellite suburb of Pakenham. This reflects Labor’s hopes for the seat of Bass, which Brian Paynter holds for the Liberals on a margin of 4.6%. As The Australian noted earlier in the week, the electorate has been “transformed by more than 17,000 new residents who have moved in since 2014 thanks to a slew of new housing estates”. Evidently the Liberals take the threat seriously, as they promised the next day to instead remove the level crossings by lowering the rail lines beneath the road.

• Daniel Andrews visited Morwell on Tuesday to announce financial support for SEA Electric to establish an electric car manufacturing industry in the Latrobe Valley. The seat is held by ex-Nationals independent Russell Northe, who is still yet to announce whether he will run again. Also in the field is Ricky Muir, the former Australian Motoring Enthusiasts Party Senator, now with Shooters Fishers and Farmers. The seat has been electorally volatile and highly sensitive to local factors, with the Hazelwood coal mine fire of early 2014 contributing to an 11.5% swing to Labor that reduced Northe’s margin to 1.8%.

• Some extra details from the Newspoll earlier in the week that I neglected to relate at the time. Labor is favoured over Liberal to handle the economy (45-37), the energy supply (43-32) and population growth (33-30), with the Liberals holding only a bare 39-38 lead even on their normal strong point of law and order.

• Ladbrokes has opened individual betting markets on all eighty-seat seats, odds for which can now be found at the bottom right hand corner of my election guide pages (and if you’re interested, you can do this site a small good turn by signing up through one of the Ladbrokes ad featured on the sidebar). Labor are rated favourites in a bare majority of 43 out of the 88 seats, the Coalition are favoured in 38, and there is nothing in it in Bentleigh and Carrum. Labor are slight favourites to retain Frankston, Cranbourne, Eltham and Ivanhoe, while the Coalition has the edge to retain its seats of Morwell and South Barwon. The Greens are favoured to retain Melbourne and Northcote, are just ahead in a tight three-way race in Prahran, and are very slightly favoured to take Brunswick from Labor, although Labor has the edge in Richmond. Independent incumbent Suzanna Sheed is favoured to retain Shepparton. Ladbrokes is paying $1.33 on Labor and $3 on the Coalition to form government, which is more favourable to Labor than Sportsbet, which respectively has it at $1.45 and $2.70.

Notable independents in the field:

• The electorate of Pascoe Vale is plastered with billboards advertising independent candidate Oscar Yildiz, the former mayor of Moreland, who is running against Labor incumbent Lizzie Blandthorn after being knocked back for Labor preselection in Northcote. Yildiz tells The Age he expects his campaign will end up costing him $150,000.

• Darryn Lyons, former Fleet Street paparazzo and Geelong mayor, will run against Labor’s Christine Couzens in Geelong. Lyons was mayor when the council was sacked in April 2016 after a commission of inquiry reported widespread internal dysfunction, examples of which included a “loud and abusive outburst” by Lyons towards a council officer. Lyons also threatened defamation action against the council and its chief executive if bullying allegations against him were made public, an action the commission deemed “regrettable in every way”.

• Former Wangaratta councillor Tammy Atkins may be a show in Ovens Valley, where the Nationals are encumbered by the fact that their member, Tim McCurdy, is facing charges of allegedly falsifying documents relating to the sale of two dairy farms.

Newspoll: 54-46 to Labor in Victoria (and introducing the PB state election guide)

With the election less than a month away, a new Victorian poll suggests the Coalition’s troubles weigh heavier in the balance than Labor’s.

With the official campaign period set to begin tomorrow evening, Newspoll has a freshly minted state poll from Victoria, conducted Wednesday to Sunday from a sample of 1092. It shows a blowout in Labor’s hitherto narrow lead, from 51-49 at the previous poll in April to 54-46. Labor is up three points on the primary vote to 41%, with the Coalition down two to 39% and the Greens steady on 11%. On personal ratings, Daniel Andrews is up two on approval to 45% and down seven on disapproval to 40%, While Matthew Guy is down one to 31% and up one to 46%. Andrews holds a 45-29 lead as preferred premier, out from 41-34. A question on the impact of Malcolm Turnbull’s dumping found 16% saying it made them more likely to vote Liberal, 30% less likely and 45% no difference.

The results are consistent with other evidence recently, namely a 53-47 result from YouGov Galaxy in a privately conducted poll and reports of internal polling from both major parties in The Australian. There also a ReachTEL poll for Bike Australian of Prahran, which shows Labor set to win the seat from the Greens.

I am also proud to unveil, just in time for this evening’s issue of the writs to officially launch campaign proceedings, the comprehensive Poll Bludger state election guide. Its features:

• A poll tracker facility that currently credits Labor with a two-party lead of 53.3-46.7, or a 1.8% swing in their favour (NB: the two-party numbers in the table at the bottom aren’t exactly the ones I want there, but it will do for now).

• A meticulous overview of the general electoral and political situation.

• Painstakingly detailed and consumer friendly guides to all eighty-eight lower house seats.

• Ditto for the eight regions that constitute the Legislative Council.