Nelson resigns, triggers Bradfield by-election


Phillip Coorey at the Sydney Morning Herald is reporting that Brendan Nelson will resign from Parliament today, with reports of a press conference planned for 2pm. Nelson had previously announced that he would retire at the next election, and Liberal figures had begun manouevring for the preselection for one of the party’s safest seats, but the preselection was delayed until after the redistribution is concluded. Thus there will be a Bradfield by-election this year, and the Liberal redistribution will be brought forward.

Bradfield is a northern Sydney seat, particularly centred on Ku-ring-gai. It has been held by the Liberal Party since 1949, when it was created, first held by former PM Billy Hughes for the last years of his life. It has never even gone to preferences. Prior to the redistribution, Bradfield is the fifth-safest Liberal seat and eighth-safest Coalition seat. It ain’t gonna fall to Labor.

I can’t see any circumstance in which Labor would run in this seat. They avoided Mayo and Lyne after the disastrous result in the much more marginal seat of Gippsland. They simply won’t win, and in all likelihood Bradfield won’t swing as much as we would expect in the average seat. The Greens will certainly run (I say that without any inside knowledge on the local group’s plans, but we always run in these by-elections) and will gain a whole bunch more votes, but we’re not about to win. This isn’t Mayo.

The most interesting element, then, is determining who will be the Liberal candidate. William Bowe at Poll Bludger has summarised the leading candidates:

By all accounts the two front-runners will be Arthur Sinodinos, legendary former chief-of-staff to John Howard, and Tom Switzer, opinion page editor for The Australian. However, other names were recently put forward by Phillip Coorey: Menzies Research Centre executive director Julian Leeser; Paul Fletcher, director of corporate and regulatory affairs at Optus; and David Coleman, an executive with the Packer family’s Publishing and Broadcasting Limited (last I heard) who is associated with the Left faction and the other side of the town, having run for the federal Cook preselection and been mentioned in connection with the state seat of Cronulla.

Another factor will be if an independent stands. I don’t know much about local politics, but commenters might have knowledge about any figures who could challenge the Liberal dominance in the seat with Greens preferences. It will be interesting to see.

Elsewhere: A quick post from Antony Green.

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  1. As I posted on PB; the 2007 result in Bradfield was pretty similar to the 2007 result in Mayo. 59/26/11 v 51/31/11.

    Assuming that there is no left-leaning indi as there was in the Mayo by election, I’ll say Lib v Green 2PP of 60/40.

    Okay folks, roll up, place your 2PP guess.

  2. Even though Labor won’t contest it, this might be a clever tactic by the Libs to get Nelson to go now so they can have a by-election to enable at least some kind of test of actual electoral support for the Libs as an indicator of whether or not they should avoid a DD trigger at all costs. If their vote holds up, they may reason that they could relatively safely oppose the CPRS and allow the DD trigger, but if it doesn’t they’ll know they have to do whatever it takes to avoid the DD trigger.

    In some ways this could become the ‘climate change by-election’. Perhaps a prominent climate activist(s) as a Green and/or Independent candidate would make it most interesting.

  3. I don’t think a Bradfield by-election with no ALP candidate is any barometer for a DD. The polls make it pretty clear that a DD would be disastrous for the Liberals.

  4. It’s not a very good one, but it’s about the best they can get.

    The polls may be disastrous, but there’s no way to know what would actually happen if a DD were called over the CPRS. Voters minds aren’t focused in the way they would be in those circumstances. I’m sure Labor would still win, but how disastrous it would be for the Coalition I don’t think can really be judged by current polling.

  5. I would rate the current polls as a more accurate measurement for how the Liberals would go in a DD than a by-election in a blue ribbon seat without the Labor Party contesting.

  6. Well, generally yes, but the question in the by-election is whether they perform above or below expectations.

  7. Everyone will make up their own “expectations” after the election anyway to suit their own ideological position.

  8. I kinda feel sorry for the poor bugger. It is never pretty to watch someone set up to go down in a burning heap. Then again, I remember his policies while a Minister and I say good riddance.

    Don’t you just love by-elections? However, this one will be a boring one. the fun and games will be in preselection.

  9. Ben, I’m willing to agree with you that the Bradfield by-election will not provide an accurate barometer for the results of a double dissolution but I don’t agree that a double dissolution will necessarily be disastrous for the Liberals. Remember the 1984 federal election for instance? There may be a backlash against Rudd for going early for instance and it’s always possible that Turnbull may prove much more formidable on the election campaign trail than expected (Beazley was a great one for this -he was much better on the campaign trail than he was at being a day-to-day Opposition Leader and the results of the two elections he contested at the helm tend to reflect this, I think).

    But I guess that’s getting off topic. Bradfield should be interesting. I know they’ve introduced new rules against branch-stacking but I can’t help wondering whether the Clark-aligned Right will make a tilt for what would be a prize seat for one of their accolytes. If Sinodinos doesn’t run (or perhaps even if he does), pre-selection could be fun

  10. Antony Green posted a good post about the odds of a DD and concluded that there’s no reason that Rudd would call one.

  11. He didn’t say there’s ‘no reason’ that Rudd would call one, but said that Rudd has more to gain from a Half-Senate than a DD. But a DD would allow him to have an election much earlier, so it’s more a question of timing rather than DD vs. Half-Senate. A DD would allow them to take advantage of Turnbull’s performance and flush Fielding out of the Senate a lot earlier.

  12. Well, yes. But not that much earlier. Despite what the gutter media says, the only really viable trigger for a DD, I believe, is the CPRS. And given that a DD would give the Greens balance of power, and the Gov seems to prefer negotiating with the Libs over the CPRS, there doesn’t seem to be much to gain from a DD.

  13. I’m too young to remember the 1984 election, but my well-engaged friends who were involved in politics at the time have suggested to me that the next election could go something like that, with everyone feeling as though Labor is cruising to a comfortable victory, and then, perhaps voters feeling they can safely cast a protest vote over something without actually voting Labor out actually make the election result turn out to be far closer than people expected. That’s part of my hesitancy to believe that current polling will actually be borne out in an election (though as I said I still have no doubt Labor will actually win it).

    A few other points on my speculation, which I agree seems far fetched, but there are a few other things to consider.

    Firstly, does Nelson really have it in for Turnbull and the whole party (given that a change of leadership won’t do them any good) that much that he’d want to go now when any by-election is likely to generate such bad press for them, unless there’s something they think they can get out of it?

    Secondly, the CPRS vote is going to be very traumatic for the coalition. With the Nats and some Libs determined to vote against the CPRS no matter what, if Turnbull does negotiate a deal with the govt it is going to be very messy. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to argue that they may be looking for some kind of electoral test to offer some guide, even if we know it’s hardly much of a guide at all, of whether a DD might be as disastrous as the polls suggest.

    Thirdly, the Libs may be thinking they can actually do better than expected in Bradfield, maybe well enough to dissuade Rudd from calling a DD. That seems absurd I know, especially with no Labor candidate, but if their vote does hold up all the media commentary will be about signs of a Liberal resurgence.

    How could the Liberal vote hold up well in Bradfield, and why is it a seat where they might hope to do better than expected? Well, Turnbull has already signalled that the campaign will be focusing on the state govt, that may be an obvious target, especially in an area with no Labor support anyway, but there are local issues which they may be thinking could be used to boost their vote as a anti-state govt protest vote. The big local issue in that part of Sydney is the state govt’s appointment of a planning panel to take over Ku-ring-gai council’s planning powers. This panel is an extraordinary erosion of local democracy as it has the power to completely rewrite the council’s planning controls (though since Ku-ring-gai has 2-councillor wards, and is thus subject to the extraordinarily undemocratic voting system used in our lovely state for 2-councillor wards, the idea that they actually had local democracy in the first place is somewhat debatable). See this video on local opposition to it:

    Now, personally I think any anti-state govt protest vote over this is far more likely to go to the Greens or an Independent, but the Libs are heavily involved in this issue (it’s in O’Farrell’s seat), so I’m sure they think they can get mileage out of it.

    It may not all be entirely plausible, but it is possible.

  14. Hamish: On the contrary – the Government is negotiating with the Liberals rather than the Greens at the moment precisely because the Greens do _not_ have the balance of power, and thus cannot deliver enough votes to get the CPRS through. Since there is no CPRS legislation that would be supported by all of the Greens, Xenophon and Fielding, negotiating with the Coalition is quite literally the only option.

    If the Greens held the balance of power in their own right, then the Government could negotiate with either the Coalition or the Greens to get legislation through – that gives the Government more options than they have now, so it would be to their advantage.

  15. Maybe, but I’m not convinced that Labor or the Greens are willing to both move their positions to a mutually agreeable one. The Libs, well God only knows what their position is, which means the Gov has a shot. You have a point kme, but I maintain that a DD is at least a 10/1 chance.

  16. There wont be a DD.

    The Senate will block the CPRS in November and there will be election called early next year 2010. Most probaly march.

    That will only happen if the corruption in the ALP has cooled off.
    The ALP is on the nose in Qld and NSW.

  17. Ziggy, you cannot hold a half-senate election before August 2010. So an election in March 2010 would be either a Double Dissolution or a House of Reps election, which wouldn’t be much good regarding the Senate.

    So how does that fit with there not being a DD?

  18. Labor probably won’t call a DD. I really don’t think the Government is in a strong enough position to weather a DD election, especially since public opinion for one, even on the CPRS, seems to be falling. Rather Labor may simply call an early election – after August as you say Ben. But given the budget will come out in May, Labor will be praying and rain-dancing for economic growth and falling unemployment.

    Regarding Bradfield – I think that there will be a swing against the Liberals. The attraction of committing sin and voting Green with there be being no real danger of danger of actually throwing the Liberals out, will be simply be too attractive to some liberal Liberals… of course they may unintentionally do just that 😀

    I think that the decision by Labor not to run is probably a good one. As contradictory as it may be, I think liberal Liberals find it easier to contemplate voting Green than Labor. As far as my own experiences go, the Liberals I know have a lot of goodwill towards the Greens, but not so much towards Labor.

    Regarding branch-stacking by the loony right, its really only properly occurred in Mitchell on the Federal level – the result being Alex Hawke. Berowra seems to the scene of an all out war between the hard-right and the alliance of the “soft right” (read sane right) and the moderates. Bradfield and North Sydney Liberal branches are mostly dominated by moderates and liberal Liberals. However if the proposed redistribution goes through without any change, the hard right will gain a strong foothold in Bradfield, by virtue of parts of Thornleigh being added… anyway, off-topic – sorry!

    Ben – regarding the CPRS – do you think the Federal Greens will vote down it down a second time?

  19. Hamish: Oh, I’m not saying the Government wouldn’t prefer that the eventual CPRS agreement is with the Liberals rather than the Greens, for many reasons – but it’ll still be massively helpful to them during the negotiation to have a reasonable “best alternative elsewhere”. When the Liberals know that they’re the Government’s only option to pass the CPRS, it weakens the Government’s bargaining position substantially.

  20. @Ziggy
    Put simply Rudd would not dare go the polls (iE DD) at the moment.
    The ALP government in Queensland is on the nose and Queenslanders certainly arent likely to embrace any CPRS. Liberal Senators up here are feeling the pressure and will probably back the nationals or have the population take to them with cricket bats. Even some of the ALP senators
    are realising that their jobs could go with the CPRS.

    If I were Turnbull I would call his bluff as Kevin Rudds knows a DD would certainly not return the senate control he is after.

  21. I believe so.
    I heard that there was a meeting last week and a candidate pre-selected.
    Thats all I know at the moment and I’m sure that the NSW branch will inform the media when appropriate.

  22. The NSW Branch stated that they would be seeking Pre-selection for the seat. They have stood a candidate in every Bi-Election and with labor not standing I’m sure they’d have their sights on this one.

    From what I’ve heard there were some good candidates putting up their hands so would be interesting.

  23. Federal Bi Election.
    The Stood in Mayo and Lynne. Probably should have said every Federal Bi election since the States re-consituted. Prior to that all decisions were being decided in Vic (head office)
    Those states include NSW,SA,WA and Vic which is also state registered as well.

  24. Putting a DLP may change the mix a bit in Bradfield.
    Liberals will place DLP no 2 and depending on who else stands they will most likely pass to the DLP as well.
    It will be an easy way to punish the liberals without passing to the greens.

    A good candidate could even take a slice of the ALP vote. From what I hear their candidate is no slouch.

  25. You didn’t contest Gippsland either.

    Will your candidate’s name be spelled correctly on the ballot paper? (too cruel?)

  26. @Nick C
    It is only a chat room. But for you nick I’ll drop my typing speed back down a bit.
    I usually am chatting while performing a number of other tasks, your the first one who has whinged. It’s not uncommon for typists to drop a letter now and again. Its seems to be the two finger typist with a dictionary at hand and all the time in the world that whinges.

    I guess your in the category.

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