Newspoll. What to make of the widening of the two-party gap from 54-46 to 57-43, in a poll conducted between Friday and Sunday? Lag effects (note the 6 per cent slump in Kevin Rudd’s approval rating and the narrowing preferred PM gap)? A pox on both their houses (note the 3 per cent lift in the "others" vote)? Cynicism about Ian Campbell’s dismissal? Statistical noise? To elucidate the second point, I offer two graphs showing recent leaders’ approval rating performance in their first seven Newspolls (except Rudd, who is only up to number five). The second excludes Crean and the two Beazley leaderships, which began in the aftermath of election defeats when opinion polls follow different rhythms.
Kevin Rudd’s silly call for an early election. This will dispose me towards negative interpretations of Labor’s next few sets of poll figures, if only because it has exposed his apparent lack of sure-footedness when forced on the defensive. To clarify this point: as Rudd well knows, restrictions on the timing of half-Senate elections mean that a normal House-and-half-Senate poll cannot be called until June 1, for a date no sooner than August 4. With no double dissolution trigger currently available, any election before that would have to be a House-only election to be followed by a separate half-Senate election over the course of the following year. To my knowledge, nobody has yet put it to Rudd that this is what he’s advocating. Glenn Milne went part of the way in his column in yesterday’s Australian, although he was incorrect to state that "if Howard acceded to Rudd’s election demand, we would be going to a double-dissolution election" no trigger for such an election currently exists.
The West Australian’s 1975-style call for a state government "rendered dysfunctional by an unprecedented series of ministerial scandals" to do the honourable thing and face the people. One problem though: the supposed alternative government is not even pretending to be ready to step into the breach. With simmering sectarian violence threatening to boil over into full-scale civil war, Liberal leader Paul Omodei has declared the state to be "almost ungovernable" but not to the extent that his Coalition might be expected to win an election. The West’s Graham Mason reported on Friday that Omodei’s lack of aggression on this front was fomenting discontent with his leadership, which sounds about right: since there is not going to be an election in any case (despite surprising talk from Greens leader Giz Watson about the prospect of blocking supply), the opposition should be taking the opportunity to at least appear as if they’re on the front foot. The aforementioned West editorial called for Colin Barnett to return to the Liberal leadership, which also sounds about right.
In typical style, the paper seized on the government’s troubles by commissioning Patterson Market Research to conduct a poll of 400 voters over the weekend, just as it did when revelations regarding Norm Marlborough’s activities were exposed last November. Polls conducted in such unusual circumstances are of little help in gauging a government’s long-term political fortunes, but they can be of very great value in providing a good headline providing those surveyed follow the script. On this indication however, the impact of the last fortnight’s events seems to have been fairly modest: Labor down from 44 per cent to 39 per cent on the primary vote and the Coalition up from 37 per cent to 39 per cent, with Labor still ahead 51.2-48.8 on two-party preferred.