Boris totters

Boris Johnson digs in, but the consensus view is that the crisis of his leadership is in its terminal phase.

As of very early morning Australian time, the situation in Britain as I understand is that 34 ministers and aides have resigned citing lack of confidence in Boris Johnson as Prime Minister — including two of the most senior cabinet ministers in Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and Sajid Javid, the Health Secretary — and that a delegation of about seven of the 23 cabinet ministers have confronted him to demand his resignation, one of whom is freshly minted chancellor Nadhim Zahawi. At least some of these have told Johnson that they will resign if he doesn’t.

Johnson is nonetheless refusing to go, and the Conservative Party’s governing 1922 committee has decided not to change rules prohibiting two leadership votes within a year, after he narrowly survived one a month ago. A second delegation of members of parliament has also gone to 10 Downing Street to urge him to fight on, which reportedly included Zahawi, determined to have two bob each way. However, elections for a new executive of the 1922 committee will be held next Monday, which could produce a result that will revisit the question of rewriting the party rules, potentially forcing Johnson out.

There have been suggestions that Johnson might seek a way out by calling a snap election, on which he is apparently sending mixed signals. It would seem to me that this would put Her Majesty in a difficult spot, since she ought not grant a dissolution to a Prime Minister who does not hold the confidence of parliament if a new administration can be formed without one. My guess though is that it won’t ultimately come to that.

YouGov: 50-50 in Queensland

A new poll finds the Greens the chief beneficiary of a significant drop in support for Queensland’s Labor government, though Annastacia Palaszczcuk continues to be viewed favourably.

The Courier-Mail has results from a YouGov poll of state voting intention in Queensland showing Annastacia Palaszczuk’s Labor government and the Liberal National Party opposition tied on two-party preferred. This compares with a result of 53.2-46.8 in Labor’s favour at the October 2020 election, and 52-48 in Labor’s favour at a similar poll in February. The primary votes are Labor 34% (down from 39.6% at the election and 39% at the February poll), LNP 38% (up from 35.9% and steady), Greens 14% (up from 9.5% and 10%) and One Nation 10% (up from 7.1% and 8%).

Annastacia Palaszczuk nonetheless retains net positive personal ratings of 45% approval (down five since February) and 39% disapproval (up three), while Opposition Leader David Crisafulli is up five on approval to 31% and down five on disapproval to 23%, with the uncommitted remainder of 46% suggesting an ongoing weakness in name recognition. Palaszczuk leads Crisafulli as preferred premier by 41-28.

Further questions on Palaszczuk, some tailored to reflect lines of criticism she has received recently (particularly from the News Corp papers), find 50% agreeing and 19% disagreeing that she “enjoys the high life” and 35% agreeing and 32% disagreeing that she is “easily influenced” (presumably by lobbyists). However, 52% agree that she works hard and 60% that she cares about Queensland, compared with 27% and 25% who disagree.

The poll was conducted from June 23 to 30 from a sample of 1044.

Monday miscellany (open thread)

Return of the vexed question of expelling elected members of parliament, an improbable set of state voting intention numbers from Victoria, and more.

I would guess that Newspoll will return on the eve of the resumption of the parliament, which is still three weeks away. This is an off week for Essential Research; there may be a Roy Morgan poll, or there may not. Until then:

• Kylea Tink, the newly elected teal independent member for North Sydney, says she believes a new federal integrity commission should have the power to sack parliamentarians for sufficiently serious breaches of a parliamentary code of conduct; David Pocock, newly independent Senator for the Australian Capital Territory, says he would have “real concerns about an unelected body being able to dismiss elected representatives”. The federal parliament denied itself of the power to expel representatives through legislation passed in 1987, such power only ever having been exercised in 1920, when Labor MP Hugh Mahon made “seditious and disloyal utterances” regarding British policy in Ireland. Mahon then re-contested his seat of Kalgoorlie but was narrowly defeated, which remains the only occasion of a government party winning a seat from the opposition at a by-election.

• If you can’t wait another three years for my 2025 federal election guide, Robin Visser offers an online geospatial tool for examining polling booth results at the recent federal election.

Victorian state news to go with that related in last week’s dedicated post on the subject:

• Roy Morgan has results of a “snap SMS poll” of state voting intention in Victoria, showing Labor with a rather inplausible two-party lead of 59.5-40.5 from primary votes of Labor 43.5%, Coalition 29.5%, Greens 12%, United Australia Party 2% and Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party 1%. The poll was conducted Thursday to Saturday from a sample of 1710. A similar poll in November produced the same two-party result.

• Morgan’s result is at odds with a detailed assessment of the state of play by pollster Kos Samaras, who expects Labor to struggle to maintain its majority in the face of four to five losses to the Liberals, two to the Greens and others yet to independents. However, it’s also “extremely difficult to see how the Coalition get anything north of 38 to 40 seats” in a chamber of 88.

• Jane Garrett, who held a seat in the Legislative Council for Eastern Victoria region, died on Saturday of breast cancer at the age of 49. Garrett moved to the chamber from the lower house seat of Brunswick at the 2018 election, which duly fell to the Greens. She resigned from cabinet in 2016 after a dispute with the United Firefighters Union in her capacity as Emergency Services Union brought her into conflict with Daniel Andrews. Garrett announced last December that she would retire at the election. Labor’s ticket in Eastern Victoria will be headed by incumbent Harriet Shing, who was last week promoted to cabinet, and Tom McIntosh, a former electrician and (at least as of 2019) electorate officer to federal Batman MP Ged Kearney, who is presumably well placed to fill Garrett’s casual vacancy in the interim.

Also:

• As detailed at length on my live commentary thread, South Australia’s Liberals copped a 6.0% swing in Saturday’s Bragg by-election to add to the 8.8% one they suffered at the March state election, leaving about 2% intact from a margin that was 17.4% after the 2018 election, and had never previously fallen below 12.8%. The next by-election off the rank is for the Western Australian state seat of North West Central, to be vacated with the retirement of Nationals member Vince Catania. The Nationals last week preselected Merome Beard, proprietor of Carnarvon’s Port Hotel, whose BLT comes strongly recommended. Labor is considered unlikely to field a candidate, but the Liberal state council voted last week to call for nominations.

Bragg by-election live

Live coverage of the count for South Australia’s Bragg by-election.

Click here for full Bragg by-election results updated live.

Monday

4.50pm. A large batch of 4356 formal declaration votes just got unloaded into the count, and it’s caused my Liberal win probability to go from a shade under 95% to 100%. As compared with the total declaration votes from March, these have actually recorded a 0.6% swing to the Liberals. However, that might well be because these are largely or entirely postals rather than pre-polls, and that the declaration vote swing will move around quite substantially as different types of vote are added to the count.

End of Saturday

Liberal candidate Jack Batty ends the night with a lead of 6531 (50.9%) to 6289 (49.1%), which should be enough — it amounts to a 6.0% swing to Labor on the election day vote, whereas the overall margin is 8.2%. Rechecking will be conducted tomorrow, with the counting of the declaration votes — 5377 pre-polls and what will eventually be about 3500 postals — to begin on Monday. Declaration votes at the March state election favoured the Liberals by 60.1-39.9, compared with 57.0-43.0 for polling booth votes. This included absent votes, which are not a factor at a by-election, but their exclusion isn’t likely to make them any more favourable to Labor. South Australia uniquely does not report different types of declaration vote separately, one of many ways in which its electoral arrangements are badly in need of an overhaul. Another is that pre-polls are still counted as declaration rather than ordinary votes, which is why none of them could be counted this evening.

Election night

8.53pm. All booth results are now in. The swing to Labor is now up to 6.1%, but the Liberals have a raw lead of 0.9%, which will almost certainly increase on postals.

8.09pm. A sixth TCP booth result, not sure which, has nudged the raw Liberal vote up to 51.1%, a little closer to my projection.

8.03pm. All eight booths are in on the primary vote, with three more to come on two-party, which should be all we get for the evening.

7.57pm. Now the projection is behaving as it should be, but a flurry of new results has meant the Liberal scare has passed, at least so far as my projection is concerned. They have their nose in front on the raw count, and postals should increase it.

7.55pm. My projection is still stuck, but the raw TCP result has the Liberal margin down to 0.7%, where is about where it should be.

7.48pm. I believe I’ve worked out the problem, and it should fix the next time I get a results update. For the time being, whereas my projection has the Liberals ahead by 3.2%, it should have them ahead by just 0.4%.

7.45pm. There’s now a TCP result in from Burnside, and whereas I was projecting Labor to get 69% of all preferences, here they have landed 77%, such that Labor has very narrowly won the booth. Unfortunately, my projection is still working off my estimates for some reason. I’ll look into this.

7.30pm. Rose Park now in on the primary vote, making it six out of eight, with the situation otherwise unchanged. The Liberal win probability is creeping up towards 90% as the vote count increases, without the projection of a 3.2% winning margin changing.

7.24pm. Linden Park is the fifth of eight booths in on the primary vote, and it hasn’t changed my projection. Still waiting for a two-party result to give some indication of how accurate my preference estimates are.

7.14pm. Burnside and Glen Osmond primary vote results moderate my projected swing to 5.0%. This is still based on preference estimates though, which are giving the Liberals 20% from the Greens, 70% from Family First, 75% from the Liberal Democrats and 50% from an independent who I don’t know anything about. These will continue to be used until one of the booths reports at two-party preferred result.

7.06pm. Second primary booth result in from Tusmore, and it’s a bit better for the Liberals, with their primary vote down 6.8%.

7.03pm. The Wattle Park booth is in on the primary vote, and the result is big enough to make things interesting: I have the Liberals down 10.5% on the primary vote, which translates to a 7.0% swing to Labor off an 8.2% margin assuming my preference estimates are correct. The Greens are well up on the primary vote, and the other candidates are barely registering.

6pm. Polls have closed for South Australia’s Bragg by-election. Results will appear as they come in on the page linked to above, which features neat and tidy tables and charts, exclusive booth-level swings and a booth results map. There were only eight polling booths in operation today, with three from the March election that were split booths with neighbouring elections out of commission. Since these are all suburban booths that will have traded in large numbers of votes, it will probably be an hour or so before we start to see results. I also have a guide to the by-election profiling the electorate and main candidates and outlining how the by-election came about.

Donation drive

Every two months, this site sends out an appeal to its readers for donations, which can be made through the “become a supporter” button at the top of the page. This is usually accompanied with a spiel about how especially deserving I am at this particular point in time. On this occasion I need only point to the immense amount of work I’ve been putting in of late, having composed 32 posts in the 40 days since the federal election, very few of which simply involved rattling off poll numbers. While I probably won’t keep up exactly that level of productivity forever, it does reflect a determination going forwards to maintain a steady flow of substantive posts with issue-specific discussion threads.

Even amidst the post-election poll drought, Australian politics should provide no shortage of material in the coming months, with two or maybe even three state by-elections in the offing, and what promises to be one of the most interesting state elections in recent history in Victoria come November. A by-election for the South Australian seat of Bragg will be held this Saturday, allowing another workout for my now finely tuned live results facility (last seen in action a fortnight ago at Queensland’s Callide by-election, and of course last month at the federal election), which will also be in action at the Victorian election.

Coming to our census

Some insights on electoral demographics from this week’s census data release, plus a look at how states’ House of Representatives seat entitlements might look when the matter is determined next year.

The first and best tranche of data from the 2021 census was released yesterday by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, prompting an article by me in Crikey yesterday in which I examined how the demographics of various electorates had changed over the past two five-year census cycles, with an inevitable focus on the teal independent seats (which have actually changed very little in demographic terms, some reporting and conservative rhetoric to the contrary) and other seats that turned against the Coalition. The latter tended to be notable for having few old people and, in many cases, large Chinese populations.

For the purposes of this exercise, I supplemented the new census data for federal electorates with comparable figures from the 2011 and 2016 census, aggregating finely granulated Statistical Area 1 results to produce numbers based on current boundaries. From this I further offer the tables below, the first two of which identify the fastest and slowest growing electorates in population terms over the past ten years. The majority of the former are on the outskirts of Melbourne and, in one case, Geelong — although as will be noted below, the underlying population boom this reflects has hit the skids since the onset of the pandemic. The latter include fully urbanised seats in the big cities and remote electorates that tend to be stagnant at the best of times, but have particularly come off since a resources development boom that peaked over a decade ago.

The tables in the Crikey article show which electorates have changed the most in terms of age, income and multiculturalism. Those below simply list those which rank highest and lowest on these measures, and where they placed on the rankings based on the 2011 data. It is notable that all ten of the bottom ranked seats by household income, as well all being in regional areas, are held by the Coalition – this was not the case ten years ago, when Lyons, Richmond and Gilmore featured. Labor’s near lock on the most multicultural seats, marred only by the loss of Fowler, has been assisted by the gain of Reid, which in turn was symptomatic of the swing against the Coalition among voters of Chinese heritage. Bennelong and Chisholm are placed twelfth and fourteenth on the list, and first and second for Chinese language speakers. The “growth” figures are as compared with the 2016 census.

Talk of federal electorates and population growth naturally leads on to the important question of how House of Representatives seats will be apportioned between the states and territories after the next election, which will be determined on the basis of the latest available population figures in the middle of next year. This is a little hard to call at the moment given growth hit a wall in the year after the onset of the pandemic, the impact of which fell so heavily on Victoria that its population actually fell by 1.5% over 2021, but a compensating recovery is now projected by people whose business it is to project such things. With that in mind, the following table shows how the determination would have looked based on population figures from the end of the past three years.

So steep has been the fall of Victoria’s share of the national population that it would appear to be headed for an unprecedented loss of two seats, although I would presume that with the return to normal conditions it will now bounce back and in fact lose only one. New South Wales is also presently teetering on the cusp of 46.5, below which it will lose a seat. By contrast, population growth in Queensland and Western Australia proceeded apace over the past three years, such that Western Australia looks like it will recover the sixteenth seat it lost last time — a fact that would once have boded ill for Labor, but seemingly no more — while Queensland would gain a thirty-first if its quota growth rate were maintained. It’s also not impossible that South Australia will arrest over three decades of declining representation to gain an eleventh seat. Constitutional limits and vagaries of the calculation formula ensure the status quo will be maintained in Tasmania and the Northern Territory.

Polls: Morning Consult, Essential Research, Lowy Institute (open thread)

Anthony Albanese’s approval remains in the ascendant, plus further polling on the minimum wage, the gas crisis and foreign affairs.

American pollster Morning Consult’s current read on various international leaders’ domestic approval credits Anthony Albanese with an approval rating of 57%, up six on his debut showing last month, with disapproval up one to 26% and the balance accounted for by a drop in the uncommitted. It seems this poll is conducted on a daily basis and its published numbers are seven-day rolling averages – I’m not sure how often updates are published, but this one came out a week ago, from polling conducted between June 15 to 21.

In the absence of anything to tell us on voting intention or leadership approval, the most interesting finding of the fortnightly Essential Research survey for mine is that 67% support the Fair Work Commission’s decision to increase the minimum wage by 5.2%, with only 15% opposed. It appears Essential Research now has a regular question on whether Australia is headed in the right or wrong direction, the latest figures of 47% and 29% differing little from the result a fortnight ago, which registered a post-election surge of optimism.

The survey also features questions on the gas crisis and emissions targets, which to my mind are flawed by a lack of response options capturing anti-renewables climate skeptic sentiment. Forty-five per cent blamed the gas crisis on “years of neglect and of successive governments” when given a choice between that and “factors that couldn’t have been predicted, like the war in the Ukraine and the pandemic” and the “fossil fuel lobby and the LNP” having “deliberately fought against the transition to renewables”, which scored 35% and 20% respectively. Forty-nine per cent felt the government should implement the emissions reductions target it took to the election and 30% felt it should go further, with “unsure” the only option for those of neither opinion.

There were two questions on foreign policy, one of which found overwhelming majorities felt it important to have close relationships with the United States, Pacific nations and European Union nations, with a more modest 58% feeling the same way about China and 33% doing so about Russia. Sixty-two per cent believed “Australia should take a more assertive role in protecting our national interest”, compared with 38% who favoured the alternative option of “Australia should look for opportunities to increase global cooperation”. The poll was conducted Thursday to Monday from a sample of 1087.

For a lot more on the foreign policy front, the Lowy Institute has published its annual in-depth poll on the subject, which I haven’t had time to look at properly yet. It would seem declining confidence in Joe Biden is not a purely domestic affair, with 58% having confidence in him to do the right thing in world affairs, down from 69% last year. This places him effectively level with Boris Johnson on 59% and behind Jacinda Ardern on 87%, Emmanuel Macron on 67% and Japan’s Fumio Kishidia (who I’m guessing respondents weren’t required to recognise by name) on 65%. Vlaidimir Putin was down ten points to 6%, placing him on par with Kim Jong-un on 5%. The survey was conducted March 15 to 28 from a sample of 2006.

Eminent Victorians

Victorian state preselection news from both sides of the aisle, following Labor’s recent talent exodus and a number of challengers to Liberal incumbents in the upper house.

State polling being not what it used to be, I have resolved to make an effort in future to do occasional posts updating electorally relevant affairs in each state. Presumably we will see some polling from New South Wales and Victoria in the not too distant future, but it does not appear we will continue to get regular bi-monthly polling from Resolve Strategic now that it has wrapped up its monthly polling for Nine Newspapers.

There is much to report right now from Victoria, whose state election will be held on November 26. Four cabinet ministers announced their resignations from cabinet on Friday effective immediately, to be followed by their retirements at the November election: Deputy Premier James Merlino, Health Minister Martin Foley, Police Minister Lisa Neville and Industry Minister Martin Pakula. This has resulted in a reshuffle that has resulted in Jacinta Allan succeeding Merlino as deputy, and brought into cabinet Pascoe Vale MP Lizzie Blandthorn, Bundoora MP Colin Brooks, Oakleigh MP Steve Dimopoulos, Eastern Victoria MLC Harriet Shing and Carrum MP Sonya Kilkenny.

The retirements raise the stakes on Daniel Andrews’ request earlier in the month for Labor’s national executive to maintain its control over the state branch, which was established in the wake of the Adem Somyurek branch-stacking scandal and resulted in it determining preselections at the federal election without reference to the party rank-and-file. Reports at the time suggested most in the party expected the request would be granted.

Vacancies are now available in Merlino’s seat of Monbulk on Melbourne’s eastern fringe, held on a post-redistribution margin of 8.4%; Neville’s seat of Bellarine outside Geelong, with a margin of 11.4%; and Foley’s seat of Albert Park to the south of central Melbourne, with a margin of 12.9%; but not in Pakula’s seat of Keysborough, which has been abolished. Despite these seemingly comfortable margins, Monbulk and Bellarine in particular would be considered marginal seats in the context of a competitive election. Albert Park is of interest because it has been brought on to the Greens’ radar by the result of the federal election, at which the party came within a hair’s breadth of poaching the corresponding seat of Macnamara.

Meanwhile, the Liberal Party have an eventful round of upper house preselections to contend with. Of the seven members elected to the chamber amid the party’s disastrous result in 2018, two are retiring, one (Bernie Finn) was recently expelled from the party and three are facing preselection challengers, with only Matt Bach set for a smooth passage to the next parliament as the lead candidate for what will become the North Eastern Metropolitan region (now Eastern Metropolitan). One of the nominees for the second position in that region is Gladys Liu, the recently defeated federal member for Chisholm. Others are Ranjana Srivastava, an oncologist and Fulbright scholar who has the backing of outgoing member Bruce Atkinson; Shilpa Hedge, a software consultant; and Monica Clark, a family lawyer.

Rachel Baxendale in The Australian reports that nominees to replace Bernie Finn in Western Metropolitan, where the Liberals usually only win one seat, include Tamsin Lawrence, deputy director of workplace relations at the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and Mark Briers, a senior adviser in the Morrison government senior adviser, Fred Ackerman, an education consultant, and Jenny Matic, a staffer to Shadow Treasurer David Davis; and Fred Ackerman, an education consultant.

The party’s sole member for Northern Metropolitan region, Craig Ondarchie, is rated by Baxendale’s sources as likely to lose to one of three challengers: Evan Mulholland, communications director at the Institute of Public Affairs; Catriona Rafael, Leukemia Foundation advocate; and Owen Guest, the party’s state treasurer. In Eastern Victoria, Cathrine Burnett-Wake is being challenged by chiropractor Renee Heath; in South Metropolitan, Colleen Harkin, who was the party’s federal candidate for Macnamara, has challenged both David Davis and Georgie Crozier by nominating for all three positions at the top of the ticket. Baxendale reports this has “put noses out of joint” in the party; Harkin earlier challenged James Newbury in the lower house seat of Brighton, but found little support.

Potential new elements at the election include Climate 200, which according to The Guardian is “understood to be considering the Liberal-held marginal seats of Brighton and Kew and Labor-held Hawthorn”, and the newly established Victorians Party, launched on the back of anti-lockdown sentiment by Small Business Australia executive director Bill Lang, which if nothing else is receiving heavy publicity in the Herald-Sun.