Media Room

On the Hill - Campaign Watch, 15 August

Liberals preference Greens last

Yesterday Opposition Leader Tony Abbott announced that the Liberal Party would preference the Greens below Labor in all 150 seats of the House of Representatives. It was later confirmed that the decision would also apply to the Senate.

In preferencing the Greens behind Labor, the Liberal Party is signalling that they are unwilling to engage in the horse-trading of the previous Parliament and are intent on winning a clear mandate to govern alone.

This signals a break from previous election strategies, where the Liberal Party has opted to preference the Greens above Labor in an attempt to split the left vote (despite the fact that the Liberal Party has never received a preference benefit in return).

The move has not only highlighted the abysmal record of Labor’s alliance with the Greens in the current Parliament, but has also endangered the Greens election chances.

The Greens rely heavily on the preferences of other parties. In the 2010 federal election, for example, Greens candidate for Melbourne Adam Bandt only gained 36.2% of the primary vote, but was elected with 56% of the two party preferred vote on the back of Liberal preferences. This time around, Mr Bandt will practically be forced to win the seat on primaries in order to retain Melbourne. Without Liberal preferences, the Greens have little chance of winning other seats in the House of Representatives, including Batman in Victoria and Grayndler in NSW. South Australian Senator Sarah Hanson Young also faces an uphill battle, particularly since fellow independent Senator Nick Xenophon has decided to preference both Labor and the Liberals ahead of the Greens.

Labor’s reaction has been deflection. Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has ruled out any possibility of Labor engaging in an alliance with Greens or Independents in the case of a hung parliament. Labor has refused, however, to rule out the possibility of preferencing the Greens on a seat-by-seat basis. Whatever Labor decides, preference deals must be made by Saturday.

 

Independents in Marginal Seats

A number of notable independents have announced they are contesting in the Federal election. Peter Slipper will be recontesting the seat of Fisher in Queensland. Mr Slipper left the Liberal Party to become an independent upon accepting the role of Speaker of the House, although lost the support of the government following allegations of misusing taxi charges. He is up against popular Liberal candidate Mal Brough, a former minister in the Howard government.

The central coast seat of Dobell is also in the spotlight, with former Australian international cricketer Nathan Bracken announcing he will contest the seat as an independent. Mr Bracken is part of ‘Team Central Coast’, along with fellow Independent Lawrie McKinna who is standing for the neighbouring seat of Robertson. Mr McKinna is the current mayor of Gosford and was formerly the coach of the Central Coast Mariners. Both campaigns have received the backing of advertising executive John Singleton, who is a long-time property owner in the area.

The current member for Dobell is the former Labor member Craig Thompson, who is facing fraud charges for the alleged misuse of union credit cards. He is contesting the seat as an Independent, but Liberal candidate Karen MacNamara is likely to pick up the seat for the Coalition.

 

Battleground: Tasmania

Tasmania currently sends no Liberal MPs to the House of Representatives – the Coalition is hoping for a different story post September 7.

The Coalition is banking on impressive local candidates and an unpopular Labor/Greens state government to deliver victory in Tasmania. Strong leadership by the Coalition’s Tasmanian Senate team, led by Coalition Senate Leader Eric Abetz, has increased the Liberal Party’s chances of reclaiming the seats of Bass and Braddon in the Apple Isle, and increasing Tasmania’s Liberal vote in the Senate. Lyons, currently held by 12.3%, has also emerged as a possible gain for the Coalition.

Earlier this year ABC election analyst Antony Green said, “The biggest swing against Labor is likely to be in Tasmania.” Tony Abbott’s suite of announcements in Launceston this morning shows that he shares Green’s optimism. The Coalition’s Economic Growth Plan for Tasmania includes:

  • The creation of a Major Projects Approval Agency in Launceston (within the seat of Bass), which would act as a one-stop-shop for any new major project requiring Commonwealth approval
  • $38 million to expand Hobart International Airport and secure Hobart as a world centre for Antarctic and Southern Ocean research
  • The establishment of a Joint Commonwealth and Tasmanian Economic Council, which would include the Prime Minister, Treasurer, representatives of Tasmanian business and the State Government to elevate Tasmania’s jobs and economic growth prospects
  • A jobs programme offering $3,250 to Tasmanian businesses that hire long term unemployed job seekers
  • $400 million to upgrade the Midland Highway
  • A joint Productivity Commission and ACCC review into Tasmania’s shipping costs, the competitiveness of Tasmania’s freight industry structure, and improving the equity and effectiveness of the Tasmanian Freight Equalisation and Bass Strait Passenger Vehicle Equalisation Schemes
  • Commitments to Sense-T, the Pathways to Market project and an advanced sensor manufacturing facility to boost investment in ICT
  • Support for long-term Regional Forest Agreements
  • The expansion of the fruit and vegetable industry by creating a Fruit and Vegetable Industry Taskforce; and
  • Protecting Tasmania’s share of the GST.

Click here to download the Coalition’s Economic Growth Plan for Tasmania.

Seats to watch in Tasmania

 

Bass

Location

North-East Tasmania, centred around Launceston.

Held by

Geoff Lyons (ALP) by 6.7%.

Liberal Candidate

Brigadier Andrew Nikolic, AM CSC – With a distinguished career in the Australian Defence Force as a soldier, officer and senior public servant, Andrew Nikolic has proved himself a formidable campaigner in the seat of Bass after being selected as the Liberal candidate in July 2011.

Assessment

Recent polling in Bass conducted by Reachtel has shown the Liberals commanding 54% of the two-party-preferred vote. The strong performance of Andrew Nikolic as a candidate, the poor perception of the current Labor/Greens state government and the minimal impact of Kevin Rudd in Tasmania will make Bass a seat to watch on election night and a likely gain for the Coalition.

Braddon

Location

Western Tasmania rural electorate, including Devenport, Burnie, King  Island and Strahan.

Held by

Sid Sidebottom (ALP) by 7.5%.

Liberal Candidate

Brett Whiteley – As a former State Shadow Treasurer and Shadow Health Minister, Brett is a high-profile candi date for the Liberal Party in Braddon. His small business background and representation of the local community at local and State level holds him in good stead to reclaim the sate of Braddon for the Liberal Party.

Assessment

Similar to Bass, recent published Reachtel polls show the Liberal Party reclaiming the seat. Incumbent Labor MP Sid Sidebottom has been voted out previously in 2004 and looks vulnerable at this election against known quantity, Brett Whiteley.  When the seat was won in 2004 the Liberal Party achieved a 7.1% swing, which would not be enough to reclaim Braddon at this election. This is a new political climate and Braddon will be one to watch on election night with the result likely to come down to the wire.

 

For further information, please contact CapitalHill Advisory on (02) 6198 3210 or via email enquiries@capitalhilladvisory.com.au

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