Newspoll: 53-47 to Labor

A boost to Anthony Albanese’s personal ratings, but otherwise steady as she goes from the last Newspoll of the year.

As reported by The Australian, the final Newspoll for the year records Labor’s two-party lead unchanged at 53-47, from primary votes of Coalition 36%, Labor 38% (steady), Greens 10% (down one) and One Nation 3% (up one). Scott Morrison’s personal ratings are unchanged at 44% approval and 52% disapproval, while Anthony Albanese are respectively up two to 39% and down three to 45%. The report says Morrison is down one on preferred prime minister to 45% and Albanese is down two to 36%. The poll also finds 47% expect Labor to win the election compared with 37% for the Coalition. It was conducted Wednesday to Saturday from a sample of 1518.

A woman’s place

More on Pearce preselection prospects, another parliamentary retirement announcement, and a poll suggesting WA voters favour Tanya Plibersek over Anthony Albanese.

After an eventful conclusion to the year’s parliamentary sittings, more retirement announcements and preselection news, plus an opinion poll of sorts.

• The Financial Review reports there are two leading candidates to replace Christian Porter as the Liberal candidate in Pearce: Libby Lyons, former director of the Australian Government’s Workplace Gender Equality Agency (and granddaughter of Joseph and Enid Lyons), and Nicole Robbins, a Melville councillor and high school teacher. No mention is made of Miquela Riley and Alyssa Hayden, who featured in a report in The West Australian on Thursday. Michael Read of the Financial Review reports former state Hillarys MP Peter Katsambanis has indicated he would have been a contender had not the state government’s “heavy-handed” border restrictions left him stranded in Melbourne, but he would have had to contend with the party leadership’s clear preference that a woman be selected to succeed Porter.

Phillip Coorey of the Financial Review reports Christian Porter’s decision to jump ship was influenced by internal polling for his seat that was, according to a source familiar with the matter, “not good”. However, the remainder of the report emphasises Labor’s hard path to a majority: the Coalition “claim they will hold Bass and Braddon in Tasmania”, “feels comfortable in all-important Queensland but may lose at least one seat”, and “believe they can win Lyons in Tasmania and, if Andrew Constance is preselected, Gilmore in southern NSW”. Elsewhere in the Financial Review, Michael Read of the Financial Review reports both parties expect Labor to win the Melbourne seat of Chisholm from Gladys Liu.

• Damian Drum, who has held the rural Victorian seat of Nicholls (known before 2019 as Murray) for the Nationals since 2016, has announced he will not contest the election. Rob Harris of the Sydney Morning Herald reports the Liberals now hope to recover the seat, which Drum won upon the retirement of Liberal member Sharman Stone. Anticipated Nationals preselection candidates are Sam Birrell, former chief executive of the Committee for Shepparton; Michael Dobbie, former paralympian and staffer to Liberal MP Jane Prentice and Nationals MP Darren Chester; and Amanda McClaren, former Strathbogie Shire mayor. The only Liberal mentioned is Stephen Brooks, a “Cobram school teacher, irrigator and former international commodities trader”. Rob Priestly, Greater Shepparton deputy mayor and co-owner of an industrial laundry firm in Shepparton, recently announced he would run as an independent.

• The Katina Curtis of the Sydney Morning Herald reports the Liberals have pushed back the closure of nominations for the Warringah preselection to January 14, in the hope that Gladys Berejiklian might yet agree to run, and also in Parramatta, where the Liberals are hoping the retirement of sitting member Julie Owens will help them knock over the 3.5% Labor margin. State Parramatta MP Geoff Lee has thus far resisted entreaties to run, which have displeased Dominic Perrottet, who would sooner avoid further by-elections.

• The West Australian has a poll by Painted Dog Research in which 801 Western Australian respondents were presented with a four-way preferred prime minister question, putting Scott Morrison at 41%, Tanya Plibersek at 32%, Anthony Albanese at 22% and Peter Dutton at 4%. Plibersek led Morrison by 41% to 36% among women, while Morrison led 47% to 25% among men. When asked who they trusted more out of the Premier and the Prime Minister, Mark McGowan scored 78% and Morrison 22%. Here too there was a significant gender gap, with McGowan’s lead of 71-29 among men comparing with 86-14 among women.

Affairs of state:

Antony Green notes on Twitter that South Australia’s parliament has adjourned ahead of the election without having corrected the legislative anomaly that means pre-poll votes are not counted on election night, which is now unique to the state. As a result, the election night count will be “quick, over early, but will be very incomplete with no guarantee we will know the outcome until the declaration votes start being counted on the Monday after the election”.

Yoni Bashan of The Australian reports Bridget Sakr, who has gained prominence as a victims support advocate since her daughter and three of her cousins were killed after in February last year after a ute mounted the kerb, is considering an approach from the New South Wales Liberals to run in the looming Strathfield by-election. The seat is being vacated with the retirement of ousted Labor leader Jodi McKay, who held the seat by 5.0% in 2019.

Pearce off

Important Liberal preselections loom in Christian Porter’s seat and, by all accounts, Greg Hunt’s. Also: voter identification laws off the table for now.

A lot of news at the moment concerning matters pertinent to this blog, with Christian Porter announcing yesterday he will not contest the election, Greg Hunt universally expected to follow suit with today’s last parliamentary sitting day of the year, and voter identification legislation scuttled after a deal between government and opposition.

Annabel Hennessy of The West Australian reports a nominee has already come forward for Liberal preselection in Christian Porter’s loseable northern Perth seat of Pearce: Miquela Riley, a former naval officer and current PwC Australia manager who performed a thankless task as the party’s candidate for Fremantle at the March state election. Other potential nominees identified are Libby Lyons, former director of the Australian Government’s Workplace Gender Equality Agency, and Alyssa Hayden, who held the state seat of Darling Range from 2018 until her defeat in March and was earlier in the Legislative Council from 2009 to 2017.

• The most widely named successor to Greg Hunt as Liberal candidate for the Victorian seat of Flinders is Zoe McKenzie, an NBN Co director and former chief-of-staff to Abbott-Turnbull government Trade Minister Andrew Robb. The Age reports other potential starters are Mark Brudenell, chief-of-staff at Latitude Financial and former adviser to Malcolm Turnbull as both Communications Minister and Prime Minister, and Simon Breheny, former Institute of Public Affairs policy director.

• A deal between government and opposition has resulted in the abandonment of plans to introduce voter identification at the coming election. In exchange, Labor has agreed to support a bill that will halve the expenditure threshold at which third parties will have to file disclosure returns, over the objections of critics who argue the associated red tape will discourage charities from political campaigning. It appeared unlikely the voter identification bill would have gained the required votes in the Senate, with Jacqui Lambie having announced yesterday she would vote against it.

• Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats are pursuing a High Court action against recently enacted legislation that will prevent parties other than the main ones having words like Liberal and Labor in their name. Absent a favourable outcome, this will presumably result in formal challenges against the Liberal Democrats and the New Liberals, the latter of whom have withdrawn their application to change their name simply to TNL.

Beware the Ides of March (or May)

Odds shorten on a May federal election; Morrison threatens a nuclear option for preselections in New South Wales; plus news on state by-elections, actual or potential.

Yesterday’s tabling of a proposed parliamentary schedule for new year resulted in another spin of the election date speculation wheel, the consensus being that it will be held on either May 7 and 14. The government has, as they say, pencilled in March 29 as the date for the budget, although “sources close to Mr Morrison” tell The Australian he may make use of his eraser if his polling improves over summer, such that March is “still a live option” for the election. That would presumably lead to South Australian Premier Steven Marshall exercising his option to delay the March 19 state election by up to three weeks in the event of a March federal election, a matter Scott Morrison denies having discussed with him.

Other election news, federal and state:

• Scott Morrison told the Liberal federal executive he was considering asking it to exercise powers to override state divisions in preselections to impose his preferred candidates in key New South Wales seats, including state MPs Andrew Constance in Gilmore and Melanie Gibbons in Hughes (Alexandra Smith of the Sydney Morning Herald reports state Police Minister David Elliott is resisting entreaties to run in Greenway). Such a move would be “seen as a declaration of war by key members of the NSW state division”, specifically its conservatives and moderates.

Sarah Martin of The Guardian reports Natalie Baini, who until recently was a cultural diversity manager at the Australian Football League, has withdrawn her preselection challenge against Liberal MP Fiona Martin in Reid and will instead run as an independent, complaining the party had failed to act on her complaint against “inappropriate conduct of some senior members of the party and the government”.

Alexandra Smith of the Sydney Morning Herald reports Labor will yield to the insistence of local party branches and field a candidate in John Barilaro’s seat of Monaro, despite Labor leader Chris Minns rating it an “impossible task”.

John Ferguson of The Australian reported last week on “intense speculation” that a Victorian state by-election could be on the cards in Kew, whose embattled Liberal member, Tim Smith, had been “linked with potential job prospects in Britain, where he once lived”. Sunday Herald Sun columnist “Backroom Baz” rates that Smith will linger until the election if the preselection goes to his ally David Davis, the Shadow Treasurer and Opposition Leader in the Legislative Council, but would be disposed to inflict the by-election on the party if it instead goes to Jess Wilson, a former staffer to Josh Frydenberg and current policy director at the Business Council of Australia. Also in the field are Lucas Moon, former soldier and commercial manager of construction company Winslow, who has been endorsed by Tim Costello; Monica Clark, a family lawyer; Felicity Sinfield, a police officer and Boroondara councillor; and Michael Sabljak, a former electorate officer to federal MP Michael Sukkar.

Morgan: 55.5-44.5 to Labor

Roy Morgan’s fortnightly poll gives the Coalition further cause for alarm, although the headline figure may have been juiced a little by an excessive preference flow to Labor.

The latest fortnightly federal poll from Roy Morgan records Labor’s lead increasing from 54-46 in the previous poll to 55.5-44.5, from primary votes of 35.5% of both the Coalition (down one) and Labor (up one), 12% for the Greens (up half) and 3.5% for One Nation (steady). It has been noted that the two-party result, which is based on respondent-allocated preferences, credits Labor with nearly 70% of all minor party and independent preferences compared with 60% at the 2019 election. This has to some extent been a feature of Morgan’s polling throughout the current term, though never quite to this degree before. Given the size of the non-major party vote in the poll, the effect of such distinctions is considerable, adding around two-and-a-half points to Labor’s two-party result compared with the 2019 election and more than one point compared with the previous poll a fortnight ago.

State breakdowns credit Labor with two-party leads in all six states, a first for the sixteen Morgan polls published this term (the first of which was in July last year). Labor’s two-party results are 55.5% in New South Wales (up two points on last time for a swing of nearly 8%), 58% in Victoria (up three, a swing of about 5%), 51.5-48.5 in Queensland (up four-and-a-half points, a swing of around 10%), 53.5% in Western Australia (steady, a swing of around 9%), 55.5% in South Australia (down two, a swing of around 5%) and 53% from the particularly small sample size in Tasmania (down five, a 3% swing to the Liberals). The poll was conducted over the previous two weekends from a sample of 2795.

Also, it’s been pointed out to me that the new Essential Research website includes the voting intention numbers from the last two polls, although it seems the existing policy of unloading these results once a quarter will otherwise be maintained. After excluding the 7% undecided, the latest result is Coalition 39.4%, Labor 38.3%, Greens 10.6%, One Nation 4.3% and United Australia Party 2.1%. The pollster’s “2PP+” measure has it at Labor 48, Coalition 45 and undecided 7; applying 2019 preference flows, I make it around 52-48 to Labor.

The display also features a lot of previously unavailable results from early last year, plus results throughout the term for the United Australia Party (whose much-touted recent surge doesn’t amount to much if this pollster is to be believed). This provides a lot of new grist for the BludgerTrack poll aggregate, which you can peruse here. The changes recorded in the “since previous” column show the effect of the three voting intention polls since Newspoll, which included a relatively strong result for the Coalition from Resolve Strategic, a slightly above par one from Essential Research, and a weak one from Roy Morgan.

Resolve Strategic NSW poll and Morgan Victorian poll

Two new polls suggest recent events have done little harm to state governments in New South Wales and, especially, Victoria.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports the latest bi-monthly New South Wales state poll from Resolve Strategic suggests the change of Premier has made next to no difference to voting intention, with the Coalition steady on 41%, Labor up one to 31%, the Greens down one to 10% and Shooters Fishers and Farmers steady on 2%. Dominic Perrottet scores a 34-23 lead over Chris Minns in his first result as preferred premier, compared with Gladys Berejiklian’s lead of 48-21 in her final survey.

Resolve Strategic’s state polls combined the results of two monthly surveys, both having been conducted since Perrottet succeeded Berejiklian on October 5. The more recent round was conducted from Wednesday to Sunday while the earlier round was four weeks previous, each having gauged between 500 and 600 respondents. Alexandra Smith of the Sydney Morning Herald offers sketchy detail on further results from the poll, indicating that Gladys Berejiklian is still held in high regard — more so now indeed than in the final days of her premiership — but that 47% nonetheless feel the Independent Commission Against Corruption “has done important work and should not have its powers reduced”.

Also out overnight was a second Roy Morgan SMS poll in fortnight showing Labor with a crushing lead in Victoria, in this case of 59.5-40.5 on two-party preferred, compared with 58-42 in both the previous Morgan poll and last week’s Newspoll, and 57.3-42.7 at the 2018 election. The primary votes are Labor 45% (up two on the last poll and from 42.9% at the election), the Coalition on 29% (down two and from 35.2% at the election) the Greens on 10.5% (down half and hardly changed from 10.7% at the election) and the United Australia Party on 4% (up one). As Kevin Bonham observes, these primary votes would give Labor an even bigger two-party lead if preference flows from the previous election were applied, of around 61-39.

The poll also credits Daniel Andrews with a 63.5-36.5 approval-disapproval split, compared with 60.5-39.5 a fortnight ago, and finds a 76-24 split in favour of vaccine mandates in the workplace. The poll was conducted yesterday from a sample of 1105.

Resolve Strategic: Coalition 39, Labor 32, Greens 11

Resolve Strategic continues to be the odd pollster out in suggesting a tight race on two-party preferred, with the Coalition if anything slightly in front.

The latest monthly Resolve Strategic federal poll for the Age/Herald marks a return to this series’ lean to the Coalition relative to other pollsters, with a two-point increase in their primary vote to 39% and a corresponding drop in Labor’s to 32%. The Greens, One Nation and other parties are steady at 11%, 3% and 5% respectively, with the low collective major party vote reflected in a likewise steady 9% for the pollster’s “independents” measure. The latter is a contentious feature of the poll, as it is unclear how or if the pollster deals with uncertainty as to where independents might run, as nothing is publicly known about how its questionnaire is structured.

Resolve Strategic doesn’t provide two-party preferred numbers, but I estimate a 51-49 break in favour of the Coalition on two-party preferred based on 2019 preference flows, reversing the result from last month. Breakdowns for the large states suggest the Coalition leads 53-47 in New South Wales, compared with 50-50 last time, and a swing of a bit over 1% in their favour compared with 2019; Labor leads 53-47 in Victoria, little changed on either the last poll or the 2019 election; and the Coalition leads 56-44 in Queensland, compared with 51-49 last time, for a swing to Labor of about 2.5%. Despite the voting intention numbers, the poll finds Scott Morrison has taken a solid hit on his personal ratings, consistent with the finding of other polls over the past month, with his approval rating down seven points to 40% and disapproval up to 49%. Anthony Albanese is respectively up one to 31% and four to 45%, and he has narrowed his deficit on preferred prime minister from to 44-26 to 40-29.

Full results from the poll, which was conducted Wednesday to Sunday from a sample of 1606, can be viewed here. Further results from the poll concerning the economic outlook (most expect it to improve) and immigration (most believe there should be less of it than pre-pandemic) can be viewed here. The pollster’s bi-monthly New South Wales state voting intention result will presumably be along this evening.

Also out yesterday was the regular fortnightly poll from Essential Research, which now comes with a flash new display, though I personally will miss the PDF that brought it all together in one easily stored file. This release features neither the monthly leadership ratings nor the quarterly dump of voting intention numbers. What it does include is the regular question on COVID-19 response by the federal government, whose good rating is down three to 45% with poor steady on 29%, and the state governments, with New South Wales’ good rating steady on 57%, Victoria’s down six to 50% and Queensland’s down two to 60%.

A question on best party to manage the economy does not follow the usual form for this issue in favouring the Coalition: instead, Labor and Liberal are tied on 34%. Furthermore, Labor leads 40-29 as the better party to “ensure the economy works in the interests of everyday Australians”, and 37-23 as best party to manage household expenses. Perhaps relatedly, fully 62% wanted the government to play a more active role in managing the economy, with only 16% wanting it to be less active and 22% thinking it has it about right. Further questions relate to government help for businesses to recover from the pandemic (respondents overwhelmingly in favour), an emissions target for 2030 (respondents believe it should be more ambitious) and freedom of speech (respondents actually aren’t all that keen on it). The poll was conducted Wednesday to Sunday from a sample of 1095.

Finally, Sky News has a curious set of figures from a poll of 4010 respondents conducted way back in September by unheralded outfit Ergo Strategy, described as “News Corp’s final exclusive survey”, though I can’t find any record of anything earlier. No voting intention figures are provided, but we are told how voters for each party in 2019 intend to vote this time. Eleven per cent of Coalition voters said they were switching to Labor compared with 5% vice-versa, suggesting a shift of around 3% in favour of Labor.

Laying down the law

The latest on voter identification law and other electoral legislation, plus reams of federal preselection news.

This week should see the fortnightly federal voting intention poll from Roy Morgan, the regular fortnightly Essential Research poll which is scheduled to feature neither voting intention numbers nor leadership ratings, and possibly the more-or-less monthly Resolve Strategic poll from the Age/Herald. Until then:

Tom McIlroy of the Financial Review reports the Centre Alliance will push for an inquiry into the government’s voter identification bill when it comes before the Senate, to which it will presumably progress swiftly after coming before the House of Representatives today. Three further electoral bills come before the House on Tuesday: to reduce the thresholds beyond which those who spend money on their own election campaigning are required to lodge annual disclosures; to provide for measures deemed desirable under emergency conditions such as pandemics, including greater flexibility with postal and pre-poll voting; and to require security assessments and such like for the computer systems and software used to conduct the Senate count. Two notable bits of detail include bringing forward the deadline for receipt of postal vote applications from the Wednesday before the election to the Tuesday, and requiring the Australian Electoral Commission to publish the Senate vote data files within seven days of the return of the writs, having presumably been allowed to play it by ear in the past.

• A preselection vote on Saturday to determine the successor to Victorian Liberal Senator Scott Ryan, both in respect to the vacancy arising from his imminent retirement and the third position on the Coalition ticket at the election, was won by Greg Mirabella, Wangaratta farmer and husband of Sophie Mirabella. James Campbell of the Herald Sun reports Mirabella won the final round by 165 votes to 141 over Simon Frost, staffer to Josh Frydenberg and former state party director. Incumbent Sarah Henderson comfortably won the ballot for the top position, with the second reserved for Bridget Mackenzie of the Nationals. Other unsuccessful candidates were Emanuele Cicchiello, former Knox mayor and deputy principal at Lighthouse Christian College, and Ranjana Srivastava, an oncologist who also contested the preselection for Casey.

• A dispute within the New South Wales Liberal Party affecting preselections for Warringah, Hughes, Gilmore, Eden-Monaro, Dobell and Parramatta reached a new pitch at a meeting of its state executive on Friday night, which resolved to close nominations on December 3 with plebiscites likely to follow in February. However, James Massola of the Sydney Morning Herald reports the issue could be settled next week by a deal between Scott Morrison and Dominic Perrottet, potentially through the federal executive choosing candidates with plebiscites. Broadly speaking, the dispute pits centre right powerbroker Alex Hawke against the combined forces of the moderates and the hard right, with the former wanting candidates to be promptly installed by the state council and the latter wanting party plebiscites at the cost of delaying the process until February. One aspect of this is that Scott Morrison, who is close to Hawke, is backing state MPs (specifically Holsworthy MP Melanie Gibbons run in Hughes and Parramatta MP Geoff Lee’s for the federal seat of the same name) for preselection in federal seats while Dominic Perrottet, from the hard right, would sooner avoid the resulting state by-elections.

• Dominic Perrottet’s concerns apparently do not extend to the done deal of Bega MP Andrew Constance contesting preselection for Gilmore. However, Constance’s field of competition has now expanded to include Jemma Tribe, a charity operator and former Shoalhaven councillor, and Stephen Hayes, a former RAAF officer and staffer to Christopher Pyne. They join Shoalhaven Heads lawyer Paul Ell, who by all accounts has strong support in local branches, while Constance is favoured by Alex Hawke and the centre right.

• Sharon Bird, who has held the Illawarra seat of Cunningham for Labor since 2004, has announced she will retire at the election. With the seat seemingly the preserve of the Right faction, candidates to succeed her reportedly include Misha Zelinsky, Fulbright scholar and assistant national secretary of the Right faction Australian Workers Union, who aborted a planned challenge to Bird’s preselection before the 2016 election; Alison Byrnes, an adviser to Bird; and Tania Brown, Wollongong councillor and an administrator at the University of Wollongong.

• Labor’s candidate for north coast New South Wales seat of Page, which was held by Labor through the Rudd-Gillard period but now has a Nationals margin of 9.4%, is Patrick Deegan, who works for a domestic violence support service and also ran in 2019.