Liberal John Alexander today resigned as the Member for Bennelong, owing to concerns he had British citizenship by descent through his father. As Barnaby Joyce has also been ousted pending a 2 December by-election in New England, the Coalition now has 74 of the 148 occupied lower house seats, not quite a majority. Since the Speaker cannot vote except to break a tie, they have 73 of 147 votes on the floor. If all five cross-benchers vote with Labor, Labor would win divisions.
The Senate alone sits next week, with the full Parliament to hold a two-week sitting from 27 November. Joyce is likely to be absent for both these weeks. Even if he wins convincingly, the electoral commission will take some time to formally declare the New England result.
If the Coalition does not want to attempt minority government for these two weeks, Turnbull could ask the Governor-General to prorogue (suspend) Parliament until after the New England and Bennelong by-elections are held.
At the 2016 election, Alexander won Bennelong by 59.7-40.3 vs Labor, a 2 point swing to the Liberals. Alexander said he will re-contest Bennelong at the by-election, and this makes Labor’s task more difficult. In most by-elections, the incumbent party loses the personal vote of the sitting member, but not in either New England or Bennelong.
Labor’s Maxine McKew famously ousted incumbent PM John Howard from Bennelong at the 2007 election, but Alexander regained it for the Liberals in 2010, and has held it since.
17 candidates have nominated for the New England by-election, likely increasing the informal vote. Many of these candidates will forfeit the $1000 deposit for failing to win at least 4% of the vote. The most original candidate name was “MEOW-MEOW, Meow-Ludo Disco Gamma” from the Science Party. Joyce is the overwhelming favourite, with Independent Rob Taber and Labor’s David Ewings likely to contest second.
3 of 4 Senate vacancies filled, but questions over Hughes
Following recounts of Senate votes for four ousted Senators, yesterday the High Court declared Greens Andrew Bartlett elected to replace Larissa Waters, Greens Jordan Steele-John elected to replace Scott Ludlam and One Nation’s Fraser Anning elected to replace Malcolm Roberts. These Senators will be sworn in when the Senate resumes Monday.
Nationals Fiona Nash’s replacement has been complicated as Liberal Hollie Hughes, the next on the joint Coalition ticket in NSW, took up public service work following her failure at the 2016 election, and may be disqualified under Section 44(iv) of the Constitution. The full High Court will consider Hughes’ case next week. If Hughes is disqualified, Liberal Jim Molan is next on the Coalition ticket.
Qld Galaxy seat polling and preference recommendations
The Queensland election will be held in two weeks, on 25 November. Galaxy conducted seven electorate polls, on 8-9 November from samples of 500-700 per seat. The seats polled were Logan, Mundingburra, Hervey Bay, Rockhampton, Cairns, Bonney and Glass House.
In only one seat, Logan, was One Nation second on primary votes with 32%, but they were losing to Labor 52-48 after respondent-allocated preferences. In the other seats, One Nation’s vote was at most 25%.
Mundingburra was the only seat shown as changing hands on this polling, with the LNP leading 52-48, a 4 point swing to them. However, Glass House and Bonney were both tied 50-50, representing swings to Labor. Labor-turned-Independent candidates in Cairns and Rockhampton were not a threat.
Labor and the Greens will put One Nation last on their how-to-vote cards in all seats. One Nation will put sitting members second last ahead of the Greens, with a handful of exceptions, primarily for the two Katter party MPs. According to the ABC’s Chris O'Brien, the LNP will recommend its voters preference One Nation ahead of Labor in at least 50 of the 93 seats.
I think the LNP’s preference decision is likely to be a negative in south-east Queensland, where well-educated conservative voters may be unhappy with their party preferencing a perceived racist party.