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The latest Newspoll published in The Australian is devastating for the NSW Labor Party.

Their primary vote has crashed a record low of 26 per cent while the Coalition is up 2 points to 44 per cent. The Greens are up 5 to a record high of 17 per cent.

On a two party preferred basis the Coalition leads Labor 59-41.

Kristina Keneally and Barry O’Farrell are almost split on the preferred premier numbers, 35 to 34.

It’s hard to overstate how bad these numbers are for the Labor Party as they represent a complete wipe out at the next election.

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I just got off a plane, waiting for my connecting flight, and decided to check the news.

What do you know, apparently a special caucus meeting has been called where it’s expected Nathan Rees will be challenged for the leadership by either Frank Sartor or Kristina Keneally.

It’s hard for me to keep updated on the situation from the airport, and when the meeting is on I’ll be on a plane, so consider this an open thread for information and discussion on the challenge.

A quick comment on the issue – If Labor knifes Rees, it’s probably the stupidest thing they could do and will consign them to defeat at the next election.

Update:
The Right need to get their act together if they want to knock off Rees. At the moment, there’s still no consensus candidate with Keneally saying she won’t challenge Rees but if there’s a spill she will contest, and Sartor expected to challenge.

If they remain divided it’s possible that Rees can hold on, given he has pretty much all the Left votes and a handful of those on the Right.

Some Left MP’s have apparently stated that if Keneally becomes Premier they will defect from the party and sit on the crossbenches.

Update: Unconfirmed suggestions that Deputy Premier Carmel Tebbutt is being sounded out by MP’s and the party office.

Update: NSW Liberal leader Barry O’Farrell has called for a no confidence vote in the State Government. Silly move in my opinion. He should just shut up, sit down and watch the fireworks.

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A Nielsen poll out this week has the Coalition leading Labor 55-45 on a two party preferred basis with primaries running at 43 per cent, 31 per cent for Labor and 13 per cent for The Greens.

The Labor primary has not moved since the State ALP conference were Labor figures, including the Premier, were expecting the dumping of the unpopular Joe Tripodi and the populist reaction to the issue of political donations to provide a boost. Indeed, some were claiming that if there wasn’t a bounce it would be the end of Rees’ leadership.

Further polling revealed that the Coalition is now leading Labor as better handlers of every policy area besides education, which is evenly split at 44 per cent.

This is a terrible result for Labor and shows they are far behind in their traditionally strong areas.

Unsurprisingly, the polls have renewed leadership speculation. The problem is still the Right’s inability to choose a replacement.

Today there were rumours of a John Della Bosca-Eric Roozendaal ticket challenging at the final caucus meeting of the year tomorrow. Not a very surprising combo but still just a rumour.

You would think that Labor would be happy enough with the federal Liberal Party exploding without having to create their own excitement. On the other hand, maybe they will use the cover of tomorrow’s Liberal leadership spill to do their own knifing?

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Most readers are probably by now aware of the story of murdered property developer Michael McGurk. I won’t rehash the events of the last few days because this isn’t a crime or gossip blog. There is a good summary of the story here.

What’s more relevant are the political ramifications of the McGurk saga. The story has exposed links between associates of McGurk and the Labor Party and the issue of political donations has again reared its head.

The more pertinent issue at the moment are the allegations of corruption targeted at unnamed State and Federal Government ministers, bureaucrats and local councillors. Earlier today the NSW police handed over evidence to the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC). The Coalition is also initiated an upper house inquiry into the allegations with the help of The Greens and The Shooters. The scope of the inquiry is unclear, but it would be an interesting move if it was widened by The Greens to include the broader issue of political donations. However the Coalition would probably head off any such move.

I’ll update this post with more information as it comes to light.

Update: The Coalition’s attempts to set up an inquiry appear to have stalled with The Shooters wavering.

Update 2: Apparently a NSW MP has been interviewed by police. There are suggestions that McGurk was seeking a seat in Parliament only two days before his death.

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After spending weeks denying that the Government was prepared to do deal with The Shooters over their proposal to legalise hunting in national parks, Nathan Rees and Co. look like they’ve backflipped.

The Premier’s Chief of Staff, Graeme Wedderburn, met with The Shooters MP’s offering a compromise deal that would allow hunting in national parks on a “trial basis”. Labor needs the support of The Shooters in the Legislative Council to overturn a ban on publishing simplistic school league tables.

(more…)

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Any hopes John Della Bosca had of being Premier were shattered last night when it emerged he had an affair earlier this year with a 26 year old woman.

Late last night Della Bosca called Premier Nathan Rees and informed him he was resigning as Health Minister and leader of the the government in the Legislative Council. He also issued a statement:

Tonight I have advised the Premier of my intention to resign as health minister and leader of the government in the NSW Legislative Council.

At no time did I breach my duties as a minister or member of parliament. I took the decision to resign following a series of questions put to me about my personal life.

I do not want this issue to be a distraction to the government. I regret some personal decisions I made and I am deeply sorry for the hurt I have caused my family.

It has been a privilege to serve the people of NSW.

This is going to have far reaching political ramifications throughout NSW. The scandal sucks out whatever oxygen the Rees government had left and allows the Opposition to make mileage on what is often regarded as the most important issue of concern in the state – health. The timing of this allegation is a bit too convenient for it to be coincidental, given the weeks of leadership speculation and today’s caucus meeting.

Nathan Rees might feel as though he has some breathing room now that one of the top contenders for his job has been knocked out but there’s just too many other people calling for his scalp.

The other issue to consider is the government’s performance in the Legislative Council, where Della was leader. With four different micro parties and independents to deal with, Della, who was respected across parties and knew how to get things done, managed to deal his way through most government legislation. Now that The Shooters have gone feral and O’Farrell is willing to inflict maximum political pain regardless of his principles, the person Rees promotes will have to be much more capable than Rees himself.

Update: Attorney-General John Hatzistergos has been appointed care taker Health Minister pending a reshuffle.

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Rees terminal

Breaking: The Daily Telegraph will report tomorrow that Labor powerbroker Eddie Obeid has told Nathan Rees he no longer has his support and also that Rees’ staff have no idea where he is.

If this is the case, I expect a spill this week or next.

Update: Here’s the story:

The Daily Telegraph can reveal Labor kingmaker Eddie Obeid met with Mr Rees and told him he should consider resigning.

Mr Rees has not surfaced since taking a week-long holiday on Saturday. Bizarrely, the official line from Mr Rees’ office yesterday was: “I don’t know where he is.”

Update 2: Channel Nine’s political reporter has apparently been briefed by a number of MP’s, including a “senior cabinet minister” confirming that Rees will be thrown out early next week and replaced with Planning Minister Kristina Keneally.

Update 3: It appears that Nathan Rees has issued a statement effectively declaring that he isn’t going anywhere. If we take the last couple of developments at face value you can come up with a fairly plausible scenario. The Obeid/Tripodi faction that were supporting Rees have now thrown their weight behind Kristina Keneally. Rees is digging his heels in and counting the numbers. No word on whether the non-Tripodi Right will back Rees, Keneally or their own candidate (Della Bosca?).

This article seems to suggest that the Labor Party is trying to quell rumours of an imminent spill. It suggests that John Della Bosca is spreading rumours of a Tripodi-Keneally deal to spread disarray within the party.

I don’t think Della Bosca is that stupid. But any political journalist stupid enough to take what Della Bosca or his supporters say about leadership issues on face value should be sacked.

To me, this smacks of damage control. If the deal to push Rees out was made and it was going to happen next week, the last thing the plotters would have wanted was the story leaked days before, creating and exposing all sorts of tensions within the party.

Update 4: It looks like we were right to be sceptical of any deal. The Daily Telegraph, who broke the story, are backtracking very quickly.

The rumours that a deal had been done for Mr Rees to resign next week in favour of Ms Keneally – who is holidaying in the US – appear to have stemmed from a bizarre text message sent from Indonesia.

Rebel MP Tony Stewart sent a text to backbenchers yesterday morning from Jakarta claiming to have knowledge of a deal. Labor head office also swung in behind Mr Rees last night to protect his leadership amid reports a deal had been done between factional warlords for him to resign.

The leaking of a supposed resignation deal is believed to have also been pushed by MPs in the camp of Health Minister John Della Bosca, who is believed to be manoeuvring to challenge Mr Rees for his job.

But Labor MPs said yesterday it was still too soon – mainly because there was no obvious replacement.

I always find it hilarious that our widely read and supposedly respected newspapers can make an unequivocal statement one day, contradict it the next and continue to act as though they are the irrefutable bastions of truth.

I don’t think is the end of leadership speculation for this week.

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