Roy Morgan has conducted a “special Australia-wide telephone Morgan Poll of 1,287 electors”, half of which was conducted way back in October 26-27, and the other half on Tuesday and Wednesday. It has today published New South Wales and Victoria state-level figures from the results – I presume they’re building up to something here. The sample for the New South Wales poll covers 365 respondents (margin of error about 5 per cent), the Victorian poll just 146 (over 8 per cent). I’m not going to bother with the latter, but the former is just worth hanging a new thread off. It has Labor on 22 per cent of the primary vote, the Coalition on 53 per cent and the Greens on 13.5 per cent, with the Coalition’s two-party lead at 65-35.

More to the point, there’s a mountain of preselection action to report on. From the Labor side of the fence:

• Former minister and leadership hopeful Frank Sartor today announced he will not recontest his seat of Rockdale.

• Nathan Rees, who by any measure has an eventful debut term in parliament, appears to have seen off a threat to his preselection in Toongabbie after the party’s national executive stepped in to take control of the process. The intervention is universally expected to result in the rubber-stamping of his endorsement. The Ferguson Left faction had been pushing for Rees to make way for local migration officer Susai Benjamin, and had received support from outgoing Right faction warlord Joe Tripodi. Sean Nicholls of the Sydney Morning Herald described Tripodi’s effort as a “final bid for revenge” over Rees’s dumping of him from cabinet during his brief tenure as Premier. The national executive intervention was considered essential to Rees’s survival due to his foes’ domination of local branches. Nick Soon of the Blacktown Sun reported that of the local party branches, Toongabbie, Seven Hills and Wentworthville branches supported a motion calling for a rank-and-file ballot, with only Lalor Park backing a rival motion declaring support for Rees. According to Heath Aston of the Sun-Herald, Rees was saved by a mobilisation of support from Left rivals of the Ferguson camp including Anthony Albanese and John Faulkner. Nick Soon of the Blacktown Sun reports Benjamin is now considering running as an independent.

• The exodus of Labor members who have announced they will not seek re-election has included two serious political liabilities for the party, one being Paul Gibson in Blacktown. Bryn Kay of the Blacktown Advocate reports Gibson made a last-minute decision not to run due to his mother’s deteriorating health. There was widespread speculation he was about to be shown the door by the party in any case, but he claims he would have run as independent if that had transpired. Gibson’s muscle within the party has been widely credited to his ability to raise funds from the hotel industry, which has been banned from making party donations under new campaign finance reforms (which I summarised in an earlier post). His departure creates an opening for Transport Minister John Robertson, who is looking to move to the lower house to pursue leadership ambitions. However, Sean Nicholls of the Sydney Morning Herald reports he will have to fend off a rival preselection aspirant in Stephen Frost, an electrical contractor and manager of the Nirimba Business Centre.

• The second outgoing political liability is Joe Tripodi in Fairfield, who stands to be succeeded by Guy Zangari, “pastoral care co-ordinator at Freeman Catholic College in Bonnyrigg”. Press reports have been keen to note that Zangari is “the brother of former Labor ministerial adviser Peter Zangari, who worked for Mr Tripodi for 12 months when he was the minister for housing”.

Di Bartok of the Parramatta Advertiser reports local member Tanya Gadiel is confident her preselection will be referred to the national executive. Imre Salusinszky of The Australian says Gadiel “would struggle to win a rank-and-file ballot, due to the influence of the Ferguson forces in her branches”. However, the only report I’ve seen of rival candidate was Granville MP David Borger, who now appears locked in to defend his existing seat.

Soraiya Fuda of the Campbelltown Macarthur Advertiser reports Labor’s head office has been lobbying potential candidates to run for preselection in Campbelltown in opposition to the acknowledged front-runner, local councillor Anoulack Chanthivong, which is rumoured to have been motivated by concern local voters will reject the Laotian-born Chanthivong because of his ethnicity. Former mayor Aaron Rule is named as one of those approached, but it is reported that he “flatly refused”.

Joanne Vella of the Canterbury-Bankstown Express reports local mayor Tania Mihailuk has won Labor preselection unopposed to succeed Bankstown MP Tony Stewart, another who recently announced he would not re-contest his seat. Mihailuk was an unsuccessful candidate for federal preselection in Blaxland before the 2007 election.

Denice Barnes of the Central Coast Express Advocate reports David Mehan, a “business manager with a not-for-profit superannuation fund” who has a background in the union movement, has won a preselection ballot to succeed retiring member Grant McBride as candidate for The Entrance. Other candidates were Peter McCabe, chief-of-staff to Water Minister Phil Costa, and Sue Kealy, an organiser for the Community and Public Service Union. Mehan ran for the corresponding federal seat of Dobell in 2004 and challenged its current member Craig Thomson for preselection before the last election.

• Lawyer Michael Vassili, who ran unsuccessfully in the federal seat of Greenway in 2007, has won Labor preselection for Riverstone, to be vacated at the election by the retirement of John Aquilina. Nick Soon of the Blacktown Sun reports Vassili won “nearly 80 per cent” of the preselection votes ahead of local party activists Chris Quilkey and Allison Roberts.

Len Ashworth of the Lithgow Mercury reports Dale Turner, operator with his wife of a property conveyancing business, has won Labor preselection for Bathurst without opposition. The seat is being vacated at the election by the retirement of sitting member Gerard Martin.

• Solicitor Katie Smith has won Labor preselection unopposed in Gosford following the retirement of sitting member Marie Andrews.

• Michelle Harris of the Newcastle Herald reports Newcastle University corporate development and community partnerships officer Marcus Mariani has won Labor preselection unopposed in the seat of Lake Macquarie, held by independent Greg Piper.

• Despite earlier talk of a challenge, Noreen Hay has won preselection unopposed in Wollongong. Angela Thompson of the Illawarra Mercury reports University of Wollongong project manager Tania Brown and BlueScope Steel engineer Neil Barnett were late withdrawals.

• The Newcastle Herald reports Jodi McKay’s endorsement has been referred to the party’s national executive for rubber-stamping, in “a move most NSW officials have backed”. An ABC report opens with talk of “anger among Newcastle Australian Labor Party branches” about the decision, before conspicuously failing to provide evidence of any.

Shellharbour Labor MP Lylea McMahon faces a December 11 rank-and-file preselection ballot against rivals identified by Sean Nicholls of the Sydney Morning Herald as “a United Services Union organiser, Anna Watson, and a Wollongong Hospital nurse, John Rumble”.

• Another December 11 preselection ballot will take place in Cessnock, to be vacated by the retirement of Kerry Hickey. Michelle Harris of the Newcastle Herald reports the candidates are local councillor James Hawkins, former Transport Workers Union Newcastle sub-branch secretary Mark Crosdale and Port Stephens council officer Clayton Barr.

From the Coalition:

• Liberal staffer Dominic Perrottet has won preselection for Castle Hill, to be vacated by the retirement of Michael Richardson, ahead of Ashley Pittard, a fund manager to Frank Lowy. The preselection had widely been billed as another pitched battle between the candidates’ respective backers, the David Clarke “hard” Right and the Alex Hawke “soft” Right. Sean Nicholls of the Sydney Morning Herald earlier reported the latter camp was “terrified at the prospect of a Perrottet victory, which would mean a state MP working against Alex Hawke on his patch”. Louise Hall of the Sydney Morning Herald reports Pittard subsequently quit the Liberal Party, quoting a Liberal source describing this as a “real blow” to the party in light of his fundraising record.

• Local mayor Nick Berman has announced he will run as an independent in Hornsby after making a late withdrawal from the Liberal preselection contest. Chartered accountant Matthew Kean, a factional moderate, comfortably defeated Hornsby councillor Steve Russell of the Alex Hawke (“soft”) Right in the ensuing vote. Sean Nicholls of the Sydney Morning Herald quotes Berman saying “faction fighting” was behind his decision, although his own bid was said to have been backed by the David Clarke (“hard”) Right. Berman appeared to have frozen out by a deal between moderates and the soft Right in which the former agreed to back Ashley Pittard in Castle Hill.

• Moderate candidate and barrister Mark Speakman has won Liberal preselection for Cronulla, to be vacated by the retirement of Malcolm Kerr. Brian Robins of the Sydney Morning Herald reports Speakman won the preselection vote 82 to 74 over the hard Right-backed Stephen Mutch, who was member for the federal seat of Cook from 1996 to 1998. Robins further reports the hard Right backed Mutch as it feared Speakman might emerge as a rival to Greg Smith for the position of Attorney-General. The preselection was a rematch of the preselection stoush for Cook in 1998 in which Mutch was challenged by Speakman, which was resolved with the installation of moderate faction compromise candidate and Greiner-Fahey government minister Bruce Baird.

• Local dentist Roza Sage has been preselected as candidate for Blue Mountains ahead of local councillor and midwife Fiona Creed and former Blue Mountains Grammar School principal Stuart Walker.

Di Bartok of the Parramatta Advertiser reports University of Western Sydney associate dean Geoffrey Lee has won Liberal preselection for Parramatta after defeating solicitor Sid Hawach in a party ballot 49 votes to 45.

Brian Karlovsky of Fairfield Advance reports the Liberal Party has been “forced to use new rules” to install Dai Le as candidate for Cambramatta after local branches voted 8-5 against endorsing her, despite her being the only candidate. Le was also the party’s candidate at the October 2008 by-election that followed Reba Meagher’s resignation, at which she picked up a 22 per cent swing.

• The Tenterfield Star reports the Nationals have endorsed farmer and accountant Charlie McCowen to run against independent member and Legislative Assembly speaker Richard Torbay in Northern Tablelands.

Kate Carr of the Inner West Courier reports Risk Consulting Company principal James Falk has defeated Leichhardt councillor Vera-Ann Hannaford for Liberal preselection in Balmain.

• The Inner West Courier reports the Liberals have preselected Charles Casuscelli to run against Virginia Judge in Strathfield. Casuscelli is an army major who is “currently appointed on a part-time basis as an Australian Defence Force liaison officer to NSW” with the rank of major”.

Simone Roberts of the Liverpool Leader reports local councillor Mazhar Hadid is thus far the only Liberal candidate for preselection in Liverpool.

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