October 20th 2018

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY Internal strife at Fortress ABC by Peter Westmore

EDITORIAL The state is separating children from families

CANBERRA OBSERVED Liberals are bare favourites for Wentworth

DEREGULATION Sugar growers are getting burned on churned-up playing field

EUROPE Attempt to discipline Hungary divides the EU

CHINA Social Credit System gives complete control of every citizen

EDUCATION Curriculum refinements will not fix schools

BANKING ROYAL COMMISSION Banks' failures are a symptom of social malaise

HISTORY Moby Dick and American exceptionalism

SHAKESPEARE Tick-tock: clues to the timeless appear of the Bard

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS Trump to UN: we'll do it our way; you do it yours

MUSIC Well-tempered scale: might put an alien in a bad temper

CINEMA Alpha: Beautiful beginnings

BOOK REVIEW Essays towards reconstruction

BOOK REVIEW Can society survive the decay of religion?


CLIMATE CHANGE Hockey 1, hockey 2: Good science contradicts IPCC's two-degree alarmism

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Liberals are bare favourites for Wentworth

by NW Contributor

News Weekly, October 20, 2018

In the upcoming by-election for Malcolm Turnbull’s seat of Wentworth, Prime Minister Scott Morrison won’t be making the same mistake Mr Turnbull did in the lead-up to the recent “Super Saturday” by-elections. Then the former PM allowed expectations to run that he might actually win one or possibly two of the Labor seats that were up for grabs.


That miscalculation and the resulting panic about the collapse of the LNP vote in Queensland were contributing factors to the subsequent implosion inside the Liberal party room a short time afterwards.

Instead, Mr Morrison knows that the battle for the seat of Wentworth will be hard fought all the way through to October 20, with the NSW Liberal Party working overtime to retain the federal seat, even though it has never had a Labor member.

In fact, Labor is very unlikely to win, although the independent, Dr Kerryn Phelps, could, and Mr Morrison knows it.

Seasoned Labor campaigners who are running Dr Phelps’ campaign encouraged her to be the Liberal protest vote candidate, which is why she told Liberal voters early on to put her first and Liberals last on the voting ticket.

However, under advice from her Labor advisers, she also sought to reassure Liberal voters that she would not vote against supply to force the Government out and that she wouldn’t be a destabilising force in Parliament.

It is a cynical ploy by Labor because their preference will be for Labor to run dead in the race and, if enough Liberals move to Dr Phelps, she will pose a serious challenge to the Liberals’ David Sharma.

Unlike the battles for the seats of Longman and Braddon, where there was wall-to-wall media coverage, interest in Wentworth has been muted, especially from the Fairfax and ABC stables, although prominent gay advocate Dr Phelps is, not surprisingly, the media’s favourite candidate.

Perhaps this is the strongest sign (together with betting markets that put the Liberals as the short-priced favourite) that the result is most likely to be a reasonable Liberal win, albeit with a significantly reduced majority.

Then again, nothing is certain in politics these days.

Wentworth is the second smallest seat in the Parliament. It is a compact but complex seat that ranges from pockets of extreme affluence in Vaucluse and Belleview Hill, through to the relaxed beach neighbourhoods around Bondi, which have a high turnover of mainly younger voters.

Wentworth had been considered a blue-ribbon Liberal seat, and Malcolm Turnbull retained the seat at the last election with a margin of 17.6 per cent.

However, there will be a backlash against the dumping of Mr Turnbull, who was an extremely popular member and whose politics were in sync with most of the electorate’s worldview.

The most recent ReachTel poll had Mr Sharma at 40.6 per cent, Labor candidate Tim Murray at 19.5 and Phelps on 16.9 per cent, but the main political parties say it is much tighter.

NSW Labor hardheads won’t ever say so publically, but knowing their chances are slim, the party wants to get Phelps into second place because all Labor’s second preferences will go to Phelps, putting her within distance of knocking off Sharma.

A big field of candidates makes predictions extra difficult.

Fairfax columnist and longtime political watcher Tony Walker also believes the seat is closer than many people think and that a loss would be devastating for the Government.

“Loss of Wentworth would not simply rob the Government of its majority, it would presage an intensification of a wider battle for the ‘heart and soul’ of the Liberal Party,” Walker wrote recently.

More problematic would be that a loss in Wentworth would kill morale, basically destroying Scott Morrison’s “Scomentum” as the fresh, new prime minister.

Walker cited a Parliamentary Library analysis of House of Representatives by-elections between 1901 and 2017 that revealed that no by-election to date had brought about the fall of a government. However, they have foreshadowed the fall of governments.

For example, Labor’s unexpected victory in the north Queensland seat of Dawson in 1966 presaged a Gough Whitlam ascendancy, while Labor’s loss of Bass in Tasmania in 1975 preceded his demise.

The Liberals won the seat of Canberra in 1995, a curtain raiser to John Howard’s victory the following year.

John Hewson’s recent intervention into the campaign – calling for a protest vote over climate change – will probably help the Liberal vote. Dr Hewson has been an increasingly destructive force for the Liberal Party and his commentary usually serves as a rallying point for disaffected Liberals coming back to the fold.

Wentworth will be close, and predicting the outcome is fraught. But even the slimmest victory at this stage of the electoral cycle would be a big boost for the Morrison Government.

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