GRACosway Weekly Wrap Up: Wentworth by-election showdown looms

19 October 2018
  • The Coalition will fight to retain its one-seat majority at Saturday’s by-election in the Sydney seat of Wentworth
  • Nationals Leader Michael McCormack has hosed down leadership speculation within the junior Coalition partner
  • Australia’s unemployment rate has dropped to 5 per cent, the lowest level since April 2012.
  • This week’s Newspoll shows improvement for the Coalition, however Labor still leads on a two-party preferred basis
  • Australia officially ratifies the Trans-Pacific Partnership

From the Wentworth campaign trail 

The Morrison Government will fight to hold the traditionally blue-ribbon seat of Wentworth at tomorrow’s by-election, after the seat was made vacant by the retirement of Malcolm Turnbull following his loss of the prime ministership in August. With polling indicating high-profile independent candidate Kerryn Phelps leads Liberal candidate Dave Sharma by 55 per cent to 45 per cent on a two-party-preferred basis, preference flows will be crucial in determining the seat. In the final days of the campaign, the Government announced it would consider relocating Australia’s embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem; condemned an email smear campaign targeted at Dr Phelps; and endured commentary from Malcolm Turnbull’s son publicly urging voters to back independents. In Turnbull’s absence, former prime minister John Howard was asked to lend his star power to the campaign in an attempt to convince Liberal voters in Wentworth not to punish the government with a protest vote on the weekend.

The loss of the seat would leave the Government with only 75 members in the 150-seat House of Representatives, and only 74 votes on the floor, requiring it to either seek to appoint a member of the crossbench to the speakership or seek the support of at least one of their number to continue to govern. However, the Prime Minister is insisting, for the time being, that he has no plans to replace Speaker Tony Smith. Despite refusing to unequivocally guarantee supply in a Sky News interview on Thursday evening, Dr Phelps has since reiterated that she has “no intention of bringing the government down”, if elected, and appears likely to resist Labor’s attempts to force an early election.

Nationals deny leadership speculation 

Leader of The Nationals and Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack has played down media speculation that his leadership is under pressure, following reports from ‘unnamed senior’ Nationals MPs that there is mounting dissatisfaction with his performance and an internal push for a Barnaby Joyce comeback. While Mr McCormack maintains he has the “absolute support” of the Nationals party room, Mr Joyce said he is open to returning to his former role, if the opportunity was “offered” to him.

Government spruiks employment boom 

The Government’s economic credentials have been boosted by the latest employment figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), which reveal the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell to 5.0 per cent in September – the lowest level since April 2012. Minister for Jobs Kelly O’Dwyer said these results show that the Coalition Government’s plan for the economy is working, with almost 1.15 million jobs having been created since coming to office in 2013. Shadow Minister for Employment Brendan O’Connor welcomed the improvement, however, warned Labor remained “concerned” about “high underemployment and stagnant wages growth”.

Coalition sustains political recovery

This week’s Newspoll revealed a one-point improvement in the two-party preferred (2PP) vote for the Coalition, which now trails Labor by 47 to 53, marking the third consecutive lift in the polls for the Government and a three-point rebound since Scott Morrison became Prime Minister. Mr Morrison has also firmed up his lead over Opposition Leader Bill Shorten on every metric of better management, including handling the economy, tax cuts and cost-of-living issues. However, Mr Morrison’s lead over Mr Shorten as preferred prime minister has decreased by two points to 45-34 per cent.

Looking ahead 

The Federal, NSW, SA, ACT and NT Parliaments are sitting next week; Senate Estimates will be held from Monday to Friday.


Back to articles