30/10/2015 - 14:45

Seat changes test allegiances

30/10/2015 - 14:45


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Federal and state electoral boundary redistributions can cause havoc in party ranks.

TOOHEY FOR TWO: Dean Nalder may have designs on the new seat of Toohey, but so does Liberal MP for Bateman Matt Taylor.

Federal and state electoral boundary redistributions can cause havoc in party ranks.

Tensions are building in the major political parties as officials and candidates wait for the federal and Western Australian redistribution commissioners to complete their redrawing of the electoral boundaries on which the next elections will be fought.

Once the electorates are decided, the parties can proceed with the selection of candidates. The challenge, of course, is to get the best fit; and that’s where trouble can arise.

Conflict already has emerged within the Liberal Party at the state level, and federally in the case of Labor. And both sets of commissioners are still some months away from completing their work.

Federal and state redistributions normally operate on different timetables. But this time they have clashed. MPs are always nervous about change. Will they lose ‘friendly’ pockets of voters in exchange for ‘hostiles’? It’s always on the cards.

As already noted (Political Perspective, October 5), the worst result is that experienced by the Liberal member for Eyre, Graham Jacobs, with state commissioners recommending his seat be abolished because of population movements.

But there’s also the case of first-term MP, and transport minister, Dean Nalder, in the comfortable seat of Alfred Cove. It is proposed the seat be renamed Burt, giving the Liberal Party a notional majority of 10.8 per cent.

However Mr Nalder believes that, because 55 per cent of his current seat will go in to the new electorate to be named Toohey (with a 23.2 per cent margin), it would be a better fit for him.

The Liberal MP for Bateman, Matt Taylor, also has designs on Toohey, saying it is his old seat rebadged. Party members in the area will decide initially, although if the issue gets too hot, it could spill over to the state council. 

That’s not the only Liberal issue south of the river. Dennis Jensen’s hold on the plum federal seat of Tangney has been considered tenuous for some years. On at least two occasions he has been voted out in local pre-selection ballots, only to be saved by party intervention.

Dr Jensen earned national attention when he was one of the leading agitators behind the failed leadership spill against Tony Abbott in February. Good for the profile perhaps, but the action enraged his state colleague and Department of Corrective Services Minister Joe Francis, who holds the nearby seat of Jandakot.

Mr Francis rounded on Dr Jensen at a recent Liberal forum in a most unflattering way. What added to the hostility was that Mr Francis, who originally hails from NSW, has been a strong supporter of Mr Abbott. Indeed, Mr Francis worked on Mr Abbott’s staff early in the former prime minister’s career.

So, again, how safe is Dr Jensen’s endorsement?

Heading north of the river, the vultures are circling over the state seat of Hillarys, waiting to see which way the veteran member, and disaffected former police minister, Rob Johnson, will jump.

Mr Johnson (72) has held the seat since its inception in 1996. But he had a spectacular falling out with Premier Colin Barnett after being dumped from the ministry in 2012. He’s not rushing to reveal his next move.

The main issue for the Labor Party so far is lawyer Matthew Keogh’s designs on the proposed new federal seat of Burt, after he polled strongly in the recent Canning by-election. Some of the party’s faceless powerbrokers say the Burt endorsement must go to a member of the left faction, but it’s still early days. 

Political wishes

SOMETIMES in politics, as in life, you have to be careful what you wish for. The recent change in the prime ministership is a case in point.

Right from the time he became Liberal leader in 2010, Labor always believed Tony Abbott to be unelectable as prime minister. He proved them wrong, but helped contribute to his own eventual demise by some extraordinary errors of judgment.

Poor opinion polls for Mr Abbott in August increased the pressure for change. Labor’s Perth MHR, the loquacious Alannah MacTiernan, wrote in early September: “Tony Abbott has to go – his own party know it and are putting together a coup.”

She was right on that, and she was right on this: “It (change) will make Labor’s job harder to win the next election ­– but removing Tony Abbott is essential to restore any semblance of dignity to politics in this country. It will be the right thing.”

Many of her colleagues will be hoping that the subsequent Newspoll ratings – such as Malcolm Turnbull’s 63 per cent rating as preferred prime minister, and a two-party preferred lead of 52 per cent for the coalition over 48 per cent for Labor – prove transitory.

Otherwise, come next year’s federal election, they know that their political careers could go the same way as Mr Abbott’s leadership.



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