ACNielsen: 51-49 to Labor in NSW

ACNielsen has followed yesterday’s Victorian state poll with the one we’ve all been waiting for: the first New South Wales poll to follow the series of disasters that befell Morris Iemma’s 12-year-old Labor government last week. Unfortunately, the poll was conducted “from February 15 to 19 – significantly, before the worst of the Wollongong corruption scandal”. Labor is still in front, leading 51-49 compared with 52.3-47.7 at the March 2007 election, but this reduces to 50-50 following “analysis of the figures based on the allocation of preferences at the last election, under the optional preferential system”. Iemma’s approval rating has slumped to 34 per cent from 52 per cent at the time of the election, which was presumably the last time ACNielsen conducted a state poll.

In other poll news, things aren’t looking good for Helen Clark. Note the recent parallels between Australian and New Zealand poll trends in this chart covering the year up to last September.

Author: William Bowe

William Bowe is a Perth-based election analyst and occasional teacher of political science. His blog, The Poll Bludger, has existed in one form or another since 2004, and is one of the most heavily trafficked websites on Australian politics.

155 comments on “ACNielsen: 51-49 to Labor in NSW”

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  1. It might indeed be a fortunate thing for Iemma that he does not face the voters this year. It is not all bad news for Iemma tough, if Swan can grab inflation by the throat and quickly get it back into the Reserve Bank’s preferred 2 to 3% range, chances are that the Federal and state economies could all be shaking off their sluggishness as interest rates fall on the other side of inflation being bought under control.

    It has occurred to me that for this to happen quickly Swan probably needs to be a bit more flexible with his options and perhaps pay this year’s tax cuts which were promised in the heat of an election campaign as Superannuation and give future tax cuts out as cash only when the budget is being framed with inflation lying within the Reserve Bank’s preferred target range.

    Why follow Costello’s formula for disaster when he is now Treasurer and can frame the budget in an economic responsible way that can benefit the nation as a whole and the states individually.

  2. It’s about time that an underappreciated liberal former federal frontbencher with name recognition parachuted into a safe state electorate to lead the Libs out of the wilderness in three years.

    Question is – who?

    Tony Abbott would be the logical choice, except that he’s just as much of a religious whackjob as the current lot.

    Malcolm Turnbull would be perfect but would never do it. He has his eye on Kevin Rudd’s job.

    Danna Vale would be a worthwhile choice – people at least know her name from all that notoriety, unlike Fatty O’Barrell or anyone else in the state liberal party just now.

    Downer and Costello aren’t from NSW and wouldn’t survive a parochial media.

    Most of the other former “personalities” from the federal liberals (eg Joe Hockey) are just as unknown as the state MPs are, so they’d be no use.

  3. Peter,
    Agree with the concept.
    Actually (apart from Turnbull, whose ego could not be contained by a State role), I reckon Hockey’s the right person for the job.

  4. Will the ALP Right cope with a member of the left as leader? I can’t see it happening. “Control the party at all cost” is their motto.

  5. BSF,
    An interesting dilemma. Probably depends on how much they want to win. Watkins seems like a pretty useless minister but he’s a good talking head who always seems to have a vaguely plausible explanation for why the latest transport fiasco was just bad luck, not anyone’s fault.
    Here’s another spin: if (heaven forbid) something happened to Kevin Rudd right now, it would be hard for the Federal party not to pick Gillard. The “punters” would not take kindly to someone else (presumably a man from the Right) leap-frogging her (in their view, anyway) for the top job.
    I think the times may be changing.

  6. I find it funny how people always seem to want a different state government to the federal one. I know that there are major issues in NSW which have nothing to do with federal politics but it always seems that when there is a Labor federal government the states swing to the Liberals and vice versa. The only exception is QLD which historically has very long serving governments.

    Steve @ 2

    I do agree with you that the tax cuts are not the best idea given the current economic climate however we do live in a democracy and people voted for Labor based on them giving the tax cuts. To take them back would be undemocratic even if it is good for the majority.

  7. steve,
    The last time (before this one) Labor won a Federal election it took away promised tax cuts (“L-A-W law”) and turned them into Super.
    If they did it again this time … the Liberals’ attack lines would pretty much write themselves …

  8. SC @ 9,
    No doubt that’s the internal procedure.
    But I’m sure there’d be a fair bit of public resistance (and a widespread perception of sexism) if there was a non-Gillard choice. She’s got (easily) the second-highest profile now.

  9. 8 Dyno, yes but it would be even more devastating for Labor if the inflation mess of Costello is not sorted out quickly – by say budget time this year and interest rates do not drop to below where they were under the previous government over the next eigteen months or so. That would be a catastrophy that Labor could not tolerate and the Libs would have a field day.

    Let the Libs get on their high horse and cringe about someone cleaning up their economic mess and watch them cower at the next election, as Labor flogs them with the line that interest rates are always lower under Labor.

  10. As a non-NSW person, the whole situation seems amazing. Are the Liberals really that bad that they cannot do better than Iemma? Is the Liberal’s situation still suffering from their successful efforts to get rid of Brogden?

  11. They have no option. Get the Liberal inflation strangled now and allow interest rates to fall again or dilly dally and be a one term government, Dyno. There is no dilemma at all. The choice is clear and billions of dollars put into national savings is far better than messing around with inflation the way the Costello do nothing approach applied to tax cuts and resulting inflation.

  12. What exactly would it take to make redirecting the tax cuts into Super acceptable to the public?

    What was the reaction of the media the last time Labor put tax cuts into Super? This time around many members of the media seem to favour them. Could it be spun to make Rudd/Swan look like tough, responsible economic managers cleaning up after the Liberal’s mess?

  13. 15 Molloby, the promise of being rewarded with lower interest rates and cash tax cuts whenever inflation is within the Reserve Bank 2 to 3% range would be a big carrot.

  14. What is amazing is that people would still want to vote for Iemma even after months and years of back to back scandals and revelations of corruption.

  15. 15 Molloby, just think about how the public would accept the cash now at the cost of higher interest rates in the future a la Costello. As a proven recipe for electoral disaster I wouldn’t recommend this horse and cart tactic to anyone.

  16. Now is probably the best time for a new, genuinely centre-left political party/movement to be established in NSW. Both the ALP and the Coalition seem to be hopelessly corrupt or bereft of ideas due to the way their party machines have become overrun by either religious or outright thuggery.

  17. 18 steve, the question is how it is spun:

    Promise breaking socialists who take money out of your pocket.

    Sober responsible economic managers breaking with the policies of the former government.

    The question is how Labor can get their message into the heads of the News Ltd. reading general public. It is a more sophisticated argument in favour of redirecting the tax cuts than it is keeping them so it has to be more difficult to sell it.

  18. It’s hard to believe this poll. The Iemma govt is truly appalling. I know a lot of usual Labor voters who are going to vote against them next time (myself included).

    The only caveat is that the Libs have to keep their head and keep O’Farrell in charge. If the right destabilise him to put (who?) in, they’ll lose again.

    I feel that Iemma won’t see out the term and Watkins will take over. Watkins at least gives the illusion of competence.

  19. MD,
    Yes, if O’Farrell stays, I don’t think the Libs will lose the next one. He is a decent (if pedestrian) sort of guy.
    I suspect his low recognition (which will improve as the election comes more into focus) is the only reason they are as low as 49%.

  20. 11
    steve – i hate to break it to you but since the last interest rate rises they are higher than when the Tories were last in office, hence your argument falls at the first hurdle LOL!

    Just goes to show you that given enough failings the people will choose the alternative.

  21. Yes, as a rusted-on Labor voter from Sydney I have to say that the Iemma govt is utterly dreadful. What saved Iemma at the last state election was: (a) his administration was presented (disingenuously) as a “new ” government, as opposed to the previous administration of Bob Carr; and (b) the Lib-Nat opposition under Debnam was a dog’s breakfast (no thanks to Debnam himself).

    ALP strategists aren’t dummies; if the Iemma govt continues on its current course, Iemma will be pushed. The backbench is nervous, and (as somebody said) Watkins is a good talking head. But if the ALP is smart, they’ll choose a fresh face – someone who is untainted by any close association with the Premier (the way Iemma himself got the job in the first place!)

  22. In regards to Mr O’Farrell’s lack of recognition.

    Given the incompetance of the ALP in NSW, maybe the lack of recognitiion for O’Farrel will be a good thing. I think most people will be voting against the ALP, rather than for the Libs… they just need for him to keep his nose clean….

  23. Inner Westie – maybe she is, on both scores. 🙂 It’s a shame Carmel Tebbutt (also wife of Anthony Albanese) chose to retire to the backbench. Family commitments, I believe.

  24. Just what is the parliamentry strenght of Labors factions in NSW? I know the right is bigger. But just How much? I know the right has two main sub factions also. I’m just curious how the numbers stack up. I’m not from NSW so my knowledge of NSW politic is limmited.

  25. Completely left-field idea:

    I think some consideration should be given to staggering the length of a government’s term, depending how long they’ve been in office. A brand new government could get a fixed (say) 4-5 year term to implement their new agenda, and also to allow the opposition to consolidate after their loss. A second term government would get fixed 3-4 year term, and perhaps 2-3 years for each term after that.

    It’s uncanny how the wheels just seem to fall off the most competent of governments after about 10 years. It happened with Howard, and before him Keating. Having short terms for long-serving government would be a sort of mercy rule for the public- in this case the NSW people could boot out Iemma in 2009 rather than be stuck with him for another three years.

  26. Is there any pollbludger who actually likes political factions?

    If there is one bit about politics that i hate really hate it is factions.

  27. 24 So was I, but the Liberal ones are more interesting because they are informal groupings rather than formal groupings of politicians. this means they are fluid and constantly changing. Just waiting for the Turnbull faction to grow as Nelson’s shrinks.

  28. Either way steve factions ruin much of the integrity of political office seeing what people have to do to get to where they are.

    Turnbull will be ahead once the new Senate takes over but he wont want it unless he thinks he can win it (the election). Thus more likely if they dont keep Brendan they’ll pick a third party (but not abbott).

  29. 17 Generic Person – I dunno, hell they voted for Askin election after election all those years back. You must remember that is where your true convict ancestry began. What more can you expect?

  30. Yo ho ho – I agree. Factions are a way of containing and defining blocs of party membership based on ideology. It does make debates a lot more streamlined. It may also help to take some of the ad hominem attacks out of certain debates (sometimes, anyway). Arranging the Libs into factions would probably help the party overall.

  31. You could argue exactly the same about parties themselves but the truth is that once you have three people in a group, factions will form.

  32. 30 Glen, given human nature factions will always exist whether formally or in formally. I don’t like them but we have to live with them.

  33. I’m not certain that factions make party debate more efficient – but they do tend to ossify into power groupings rather than ideological/policy-based groups. Also, the ‘heavyweights’ of factions seem to have more influence than the one-vote-per-MP principle would suggest.

    That said, personal influence and the ability to persuade are necessary skills for politicians, both within their parties and outside. I’m not saying there shouldn’t be leaders and followers. But to have votes determined on issues like the NSW power sell-out (oops, that should be sell-off :D) by powerbrokers rather than the MPs themselves… not on.

    same goes for the Libs. That said I’m in the odd position of considering a preference vote for B O’F’s team in 2011 despite being somewhat frightened at the positions held by many of the Lib MPs in NSW. All I can categorically say is that the ALP sure as hell won’t be getting a number on my little ballot slip.

    The joys of optional preferential.

  34. Ah – on the poll, good to see the Greens at 11%. Would like to see Gs to very well come next election.

    On a not entirely unrelated note, is there any precedent/convention that says that an early election can be called? Petition? Referendum? How do we get rid of this bunch ASAP?

  35. Factions make politics even more dirty than it has to be. One has to admire those who took no bar of it like the former Premier Geoff Gallop but IMHO factions are everything that is wrong in politics.

    Look at what you get with factions = Wayne Swan as Treasurer when the ALP have more qualified candidates in Gillard and Tanner but as they are from the Left and Swan is from the Right you’re left with Swan?

    Factionalism is just as bad if not worse in the Libs and it also makes it very hard to recruit the best and brightest into politics so we’re left with a bunch of cut throat politicians who’ve done everything to get to where they are.

    Josh OPV is a very good system and i wish we had it in Victoria you lucky bastards up North have got a far better system for voting in State politics.

  36. But Glen (45) you’re the first to criticise Gillard and Tanner for being of the Left. You were busy warning us of the dangers of gillard before the election. Now she would make a good treasuer?

  37. It’s not factionalism that stops people joining the Liberals Glen, its their policy. How could I join the Liberals under any pretext when I don’t view the world the way they choose to do?

    Of course, factionalism will cause people to leave the party even though they believe in the basic beliefs and policies of a party and may well continue to support the party in other ways.

  38. GP – I guess people (like me) don’t want to vote for the Iemma government but our dislike of the (incompetent and socially unacceptable) liberals is stronger. I suspect Brogden may have been able to win last time as he was moderate enough to be palatable.
    You would think that with every state held by labour that someone in the liberal party would have worked out someone socially moderate but fiscally conservative would be a shoe-in. That seems too hard for them.
    Federal labor eventually worked it out so I guess anything is possible.

  39. 48 Don’t be naieve Glen, sometimes pragmatic politics involves putting a sacrifical lamb like Mr 9% in to bear the worst of the storm. A bit like sending in a night watchman before stumps in the hope that the real performers can survive till conditions are better.

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