The latest Morgan face-to-face survey (the accompanying spiel says telephone, but I believe this is a mistake) was conducted over the previous two weekends, and it shows no change worth mentioning on two-party preferred, with Labor’s lead down from 58-42 to 57.5-42.5. Both major parties have gained on the primary vote, Labor up 1.5 per cent to 48 per cent and the Coalition up 2.5 per cent to 37.5 per cent. These gains are at the expense of the Greens, down from 11.5 per cent to 8 per cent. Other news:

• The numbers in Western Australia’s finely balanced Legislative Assembly have changed for the second time in as many months following North West MP Vince Catania’s shock defection from Labor to the Nationals. Labor now has 26 seats out of 59 after the double blow of the Catania defection and the Fremantle by-election, while the Nationals are up from four to five – the same as they had in the last parliament, before one-vote one-value was introduced (at which time they had one member in the upper house, compared with their current five). The Liberals remain on 24, with the Greens on one and three independents. The influence of the latter has accordingly diminished, as the governing parties are now only one short of a majority in their own right. Catania’s defection has inevitably been interpreted as a blow for Labor leader Eric Ripper and another triumph for all-conquering Nationals leader Brendon Grylls. Against the latter interpretation must be weighed the fact that the Nationals have chosen to associate themselves with a man responsible for one of the most grotesque acts of disloyalty in Australia’s recent political history.

• The big loser from the proposed Queensland federal electoral boundaries published yesterday is up-and-coming Liberal MP Peter Dutton, whose electorate of Dickson is set to exchange urban hinterland areas for a Labor-voting chunk of suburbia around Kallangur. Antony Green, who writes at length on the curse of Dickson, calculates that Dutton’s existing margin of 0.1 per cent has turned into a notional Labor margin of 1.3 per cent. Peter Lindsay’s Townsville-based seat of Herbert has also crossed the divide, from 0.2 per cent Liberal to 0.4 per cent Labor. The Courier-Mail reports that one early hopeful for the new Gold Coast hinterland seat slated to be called Wright (although AAP reports the name might suffer the same fate as it did the last time it was suggested) is Logan councillor Hajnal Ban, who attracted a fair bit of attention as the Nationals candidate for Forde in 2007 and now hopes to get the nod from the Liberal National Party. Ban was more recently in the news when it emerged she had undergone an alarming sounding surgical procedure to increase the length of her legs.

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• Former Peter Costello staffer Kelly O’Dwyer now looks all but certain to replace her old boss as Liberal candidate for Higgins after the withdrawal of her main rival, Tim Wilson. Rick Wallace of The Australian reports that Wilson “is believed to have pulled out to maintain his focus on advocacy in free trade and climate change through the IPA”. Nominations close next week.

Phillip Coorey of the Sydney Morning Herald reports Philip Ruddock is “almost certain to be challenged for preselection for his safe seat of Berowra”. His likely challenger is former Young Liberals president Noel McCoy, with the local numbers believed to be evenly poised. Another source quoted by Coorey says McCoy might challenge Bill Heffernan’s Senate position if unsuccessful in Berowra. The Herald’s Mark Davis reports Heffernan’s position is in jeopardy in any case as he has earned the displeasure of the leadership of the “religious right”.

• Phillip Coorey further provides a list of possible candidates to replace Brendan Nelson in Bradfield in addition to the oft-mentioned Arthur Sinodinos and Tom Switzer: Julian Leeser, Paul Fletcher and David Coleman.

• The West Australian reports that Tangney MP Dennis Jensen’s pleas to today’s Liberal Party state council meeting for his preselection defeat by Glenn Piggott to be overturned “will fall on deaf ears”, and that he is likely to run as an independent. UPDATE: The West Australian reports that the state council has in fact decided to hear submissions from each of the three candidates (which interestingly keeps Libby Lyons in the loop) over the coming weeks before reaching a final decision.

Michael Owen of The Australian reports that Mia Handshin, Labor’s narrowly unsuccessful candidate for the Adelaide seat of Sturt at the 2007 federal election, is a shoo-in to contest the seat again if she wishes to do so, having locked in the support of Senator and Right faction powerbroker Don Farrell. Handshin says she is “still very carefully considering”. The front-runner for Labor preselection in Boothby is Annabel Digance, a former nurse and member of the SA Water Board.

• Labor’s member for Ivanhoe in Victoria, Craig Langdon, has been defeated for preselection by Anthony Carbines, Banyule councillor, chief-of-staff to Education Minister Bronwyn Pike and step-son of upper house MP Elaine Carbines. Langdon apparently finished one vote behind his Labor Unity colleague after the votes of the party’s Public Office Selection Committee were added to those from local branches, the latter of which I’m told favoured Langdon 71 votes to 46.

• Following the blunt dismissal of a rape charge against him in Melbourne Magistrates Court, it remains unclear if Victorian Labor MP Theo Theophanous will seek to retain preselection for his upper house region of Northern Metropolitan. Not surprisingly, The Age reports that “senior party figures – including supporters of Mr Theophanous – hope he decides to quit politics and give Mr Brumby ‘clear air’ in the lead-up to next year’s election”. Nonetheless, Theophanous has re-nominated for his position. Rick Wallace of The Australian reports that the fight to replace Theophanous is between “forces aligned with federal Communications Minister Stephen Conroy, who want Treasury official Vasko Nastevski, and those aligned with federal parliamentary secretary Bill Shorten, who want plumbers’ union official Nathan Murphy”.

• Wallace further reports that John Brumby is moving to protect Eastern Metropolitan MLC Shaun Leane from Electrical Trades Union assistant secretary Howard Worthing. Worthing’s challenge is said to be supported by ETU secretary Dean Mighell, who was expelled from the ALP after emerging as a political liability in the lead-up to the 2007 federal election, along with a “small pocket of the Right”.

• Imre Salusinszky of The Australian reports that federal Liberal Hume MP Alby Schultz has “lost the battle to convince his party to field a candidate in the southeast NSW state seat of Monaro”. This follows an agreement to avoid three-cornered contests which the Liberals’ state executive signed off on last Friday, which also gives the Nationals free rein in the independent-held seats of Tamworth and Dubbo and Labor-held Bathurst. For their part, the Liberals will contest Water Minister Phil Costa’s marginal outer Sydney seat of Wollondilly and get the ninth position on the upper house ticket, which looks highly winnable on current form. The decision by the party’s state council to refer the matter to the executive was behind Schultz’s party-room altercation with Aston MP Chris Pearce.

UPDATE: CityBlue in comments notes that Jane Garrett has won the Labor preselection in Brunswick, as expected, and that Christine Campbell fended off a challenge from Joe Italiano in Pascoe Vale.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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