Unpredictable Roy Morgan has violated the laws of nature by publishing a face-to-face poll on a Thursday (which surely makes more sense than its normal practice of placing it in the news cycle dead zone of late Friday). This has Labor’s two-party lead up 1.5 per cent on the rather unusual previous face-to-face poll, which was half conducted before Christmas and half after new year, from 57-43 to 58.5-41.5. The figures show a pretty straightforward exchange between the two parties on the primary vote, with Labor up two points to 45.5 per cent and the Coalition down 1.5 to 35.5 per cent and the Greens steady on 10.

Elsewhere:

• After 22 years in parliament, Bob McMullan has announced he will not contest the next election, opening a vacancy in his safe Labor ACT seat of Fraser. Susanna Dunkerley of AAP reports that McMullan denies having been pushed, “despite recently declaring his intention to stick around for another term”. Furthermore, James Massola of the Canberra Times reports Annette Ellis is under pressure to make way for new blood in the other ACT seat, Canberra. Constitutional lawyer George Williams, who recently moved to Canberra and was reportedly Kevin Rudd’s choice to contest the safe Sydney seat of Blaxland in 2007, was said to be planning a preselection challenge against McMullan last October. However, a number of reports have identified the front-runner as Nick Martin, the party’s assistant national secretary. Other possible starters named by Massola are Andrew Leigh, Australian National University economist and prolific blogger, and Chris Bourke, a dentist of Aboriginal heritage who ran in Ginninderra at the 2008 ACT election. Both are factionally unaligned, which might be an asset as they seek to succeed the similarly placed McMullan. Another Canberra Times report mentions Michael Cooney, chief-of-staff to ACT MP Andrew Barr and former adviser to Mark Latham and Kim Beazley. Those whose names were floated but have since ruled themselves out are ACT Chief Minister Jon Stanhope, Deputy Chief Minister Katy Gallagher and prime ministerial chief-of-staff Alister Jordan. Jonathan Pearlman of the Sydney Morning Herald reports an ALP national executive meeting on February 12 is likely to decide whether the candidate will be chosen locally or imposed externally.

Samantha Maiden of The Australian reports Malcolm Turnbull is “being urged by supporters and business leaders to make a run for New South Wales premier in 2011”, firstly by replacing Peter Debnam in Vaucluse, which is located entirely within his existing electorate of Wentworth. Debnam has now confirmed what he describes as an “open secret”, that he won’t be contesting the seat at the next election. It had already been established that University of NSW deputy chancellor Gabrielle Upton would contest preselection, and numerous others have been named in connection with the seat: former John Howard chief-of-staff Arthur Sinodinos, restaurateur Peter Doyle, barrister Mark Speakman, UNSW Deputy Chancellor Gabrielle Upton and barrister Arthur Moses. Also mentioned was Paul Fletcher, before he landed his federal gig in Bradfield. There have also been suggestions, reiterated in Samantha Maiden’s report, that Joe Hockey might assume the seat with Turnbull’s support as an entree to the premiership.

• A couple of Labor national executive preselection determinations that had sliipped through the net. Michelle Rowland, a former Blacktown councillor and member of the Right faction, will contest Greenway, which the redistribution has transformed from 4.5 per cent Liberal to 5.8 per cent Labor (the sitting Liberal member, Louise Markus, will contest Macquarie). Holding Redlich lawyer Laura Smyth, whom Andrew Landeryou at VexNews links to the “Andrew Giles/Alan Griffin sub-faction of the Socialist Left”, will run in the outer eastern Melbourne seat of La Trobe, where Liberal member Jason Wood survived a 5.3 per cent swing in 2007 to hold on by 0.5 per cent. Human Services and Financial Services Minister Chris Bowen will contest McMahon, which is effectively a reincarnation of his existing abolished seat of Prospect.

• Chas Hopkins, 60-year-old former Perth Lord Mayor, has nominated for Labor preselection in the marginal Perth seat of Cowan, where the party has admitted it is struggling to find a replacement for Wanneroo mayor Jon Kelly who doesn’t share his connections with Brian Burke. Other confirmed starters are party state executive member Alex Banzic and political staffer Sam Roe.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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