Newspoll: 59-41 to Coalition in NSW

The latest bi-monthly Newspoll survey of state voting intention in New South Wales is nothing short of a catastrophe for Nathan Rees’s government. In the wake of last month’s mini-budget, which cut against the federal government’s economic strategy with a range of tax hikes and spending cuts, Labor’s primary vote has slumped to 26 per cent from 29 per cent in the last survey – which was itself the worst Newspoll result ever recorded by either major party in New South Wales if the Liberals and Nationals are taken together. Rees’s relatively encouraging personal ratings from the previous survey have evaporated: his dissatisfaction rating has rocketed from 26 per cent to 47 per cent, while his satisfaction is down five points to 34 per cent. Barry O’Farrell now leads as preferred premier, though not by a sufficient margin (33 per cent to 30 per cent) to douse talk about Joe Hockey being drafted to replace him. Tellingly, Newspoll saw fit to ask if the government should be allowed to serve out its full term – 49 per cent said it should, which is less than the Whitlam government was getting in response to similar questions in late 1975. The Greens are up three points to 14 per cent, a further indication they stand poised to win seats in the lower house for the first time. The chart below shows the primary vote across all Newspoll and election results going back to Newspoll’s foundation in 1985.

UPDATE: Antony Green employs the good old-fashioned uniform two-party swing method to calculate which Labor seats would fall to the Coalition if the result of this poll was borne out. However, Antony concedes that “with a third of voters off with the Greens and ‘Others’, more than admitting they will vote Labor, I’m not sure that analysis based on uniform 2-party swing is very useful”. That being so, I’ve taken a different approach: changing the results in each electorate in proportion to the shift indicated in the poll and applying the same preference distributions as last time. No doubt this is statistically clumsy, but accepting the exercise as a bit of fun (unless you’re one of the dwindling band of Labor loyalists), here’s what I’ve come up with. Coalition gains from Labor: Camden, Cessnock, Drummoyne, Gosford, Granville, Heathcote, Londonderry, Macquarie Fields, Maitland, Menai, Miranda, Monaro, Mulgoa, Penrith, Riverstone, Rockdale, Ryde, Swansea, The Entrance, Wollondilly, Wyong. Greens gains from Labor: Balmain, Coogee, Heffron, Marrickville. Independent gains from Labor, should the relevant candidates choose to run again: Charlestown (Paul Scarfe) and Newcastle (John Tate). Result: Coalition 55, Labor 25, Independents 9, Greens 4.

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.

120 comments on “Newspoll: 59-41 to Coalition in NSW”

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  1. Golly who would want to live in NSW? Voting there looks like a choice between death and dishonour. How bad is it that Farrell can only score a 33% BP figure?

    To get the 2PP, it looks like they have simply allocated 50% each to Labor and Liberal of the Green and Other vote?

  2. Ah, if only an election could be held right now to finally end the hell-hole years of Carr/Iemma/Rees; years of gross incompetence, imbecility and corruption.

  3. I wonder if this thread will get to 20 posts…

    It looks like the Rees gamble well and truly flopped. How will Labor turn this around?

  4. GP @ 4

    Not at all sure if electing the Liberals would end the incompetence and the imbecility side of things. They do not impress as the Credible Alternative Government of NSW, do they? The religious wing of the crazy right in the saddle, and in full war cry…retro-mediaeval thinking? Just watch them trying to assert control over what happens in the vicinity of folk’s reproductive zones.

    But then again, even a temporary interruption of the snouting would be a relief.

    Well, as I keep having to say these days, strap yourselves in folks because we are in for an interesting ride.

  5. Labor could suddenly discover how ‘unfair’ optional preferential voting is and make moves to reintroduce complulsory pref voting. Guaranteed Greens preferences under CPV could insulate some inner Sydney seats like Coogee, Rockdale, Strathfield, Kogarah. They’d probably lose the election but could save a few seats.

  6. If NSW Labor can’t reform itself then I hope it does suffer a heavy defeat. It needs a cleanout. They can’t even fund rail lines that will increase their own export income without Federal assistance. For once I agree with GP.

  7. MDMConnell, I can assure that compulsory preferential voting will not be returning in NSW. It was entrenched in the constitution in 1981 and can only be changed by referendum.

  8. MDM@9
    They would have to get it through the upper house and I doubt they would – the Shooters would lose their advantage (electing on less than a quota) so wont support it, and the Coalition and Greens would see it for what it is…

    Seeing some of the local eastern suburbs MP’s they know they’re on a hiding to nowhere – Daley has all but admitted as such privately. Keneally and Garrett are pumping out material where I am, but Keneally now holds the poisoned ministerial chalice of Planning, so her supposedly safe seat could come unstuck.

    The years of mismanagement, especially of rail goes back to the 70’s, when both parties gave up on rail infrastructure. The ALP keeps alive the ‘promise’ of building something, but its worn well and truly thin now. And both sides have had their moments of imbecility (David Clark internal disruptions spring to mind). But yes, the best thing for Labor now is time on the Opposition benches to sort themselves out – perhaps even find some candidates with integrity.

  9. I’ve really still got no idea why the religious right is used as some kind of reason you shouldn’t vote, or at least preference, the Liberals in NSW. As if NSW Labor is in any way left-wing and as if it isn’t also run by its own religious cabal.

    I’m printing shirts that will read “I preferenced NSW Liberals before it was cool”.

  10. The NSW ALP is in desperate need of a cleanout, but all it will receive is a cleanout of its Parliamentary ranks. What it desperately needs is a thorough clean out of its HQ, the legendarily corrupt , venal and grubby Sussex Street office. Unfortunately, thats not going to happen.

  11. #14

    “The NSW ALP is in desperate need of a cleanout, but all it will receive is a cleanout of its Parliamentary ranks”

    And the ones that are cleaned out will be the hard-working marginal seat holders who are more ‘normal’ people with some connection to the real world. The only ones left after a landslide will be the safe seat holders, who tend to be the most loyal party hacks, mates and hangers-on. If anything, a landslide will entrench the influence of the party heavies, since they’ll be the only ones left in parliament.

  12. Totally agree with MDMConnell.

    Labor are going to get hammered which should force a rethink. But old smoking Joe Tripodi will still be in Parliament, trying to run Labor to suit his developer mates.

  13. Labor’s woes are the result of the style of politics that Tripodi et. al. have exemplified for years. There are some signs that the party is moving away from this but it is all much much too late. On these figures I doubt Rees would hold his seat. Labor will lose those western suburban and central coast seats which they held in 1988 but which recorded Liberal majorities in Howard’s glory days. Will Bob Carr be seen as labor’s equivalent of John Howard an effective and disciplined true-believer whose left a poisonous legacy?

  14. I’m wondering from that Newspoll chart… the enormous leads of LNP over ALP are in 1987 (I’m guessing somewhere between the Bass Hill by-election and Unsworth being thrown out), 1991 (before the next election), and now – actually since about 2004, with the helpful exception of a few months either side on the 2007 election. The other huge lead’s in 1995, when Carr won. Why is that so? Seems odd for the Coalition to have a 20 pt lead in an election they lost.

  15. Labor won with a minority of the vote in 1995 and then made itself deeply unpopular in its first year with a vast round of cutbacks and also a reversal on lifting the tolls on the M4 and M5. This was one of the reasons Labor did so badly in NSW at the 1996 Federal election. In its first term the Carr government was determined not to go into defecit to pay for the Olympics, which was very tough to do once the Labor Party conference knocked-back Cabinet’s proposal to privatise the electricity industry in 1997. There was six years there where capital works budgets were squeezed to pay for the Olympics capital works, and money had to be squirrelled away to pay for the one-off non-capital costs required to run the Games. That’s the period when the capital works backlog built up, made worse by not picking the right projects to fund since the financial screws were taken off.

  16. 59/41. Well that’s about right.

    I do feel a little sorry for Rees because he seems to be doing his best but NSW Labor deserves to get slaughtered. We had Iemma, a guy who was nowhere near capable of fixing the catastrophic mess left by Bob Carr. Carr was a useless Premiere who stood for and did favours for his top-end-of-town mates and relied on a well crafted media image to keep winning elections.

    The people of NSW appear angry enough not to forget ’till 2011. Still, if Joe Hockey switched to the NSW Liberals they would be certainties to win. Hockey should switch. Why stay in federal politics to cop hiding when he can become Premiere of NSW?

  17. I keep hearing the Joe Hockey theory, but no one can explain to me how it can be achieved without de-stabilising the state Liberal Party as well as Malcolm Turnbull’s federal leadership for a period of several months.

    Option one is that Joe Hockey has to be parachuted into a state seat in the next six months. That means getting a compliant state MP to resign their seat, with some un-named faction of the party having lined it up so that Hockey can just waltz in and get pre-selection for the seat. A big assumption if you ask me. So, said MP resigns, Hockey is suddenly named as possible candidate. Who issues writs for by-elections? The Speaker, admittedly an Independent, but one who would be out of a job the next day if he didn’t listen to the advice of the government. And that advice would be a long delay. I’d expect it would take 3-months to get the by-election, leaving the Liberal state leadership in a complete mess.

    The alternative is that Hockey not contest the 2010 Federal election, leaving him free to nominate for a state seat for the 2011 state election. Again, problem of leadership is immediately evident because the minute it was known that Hockey wasn’t running, the state leadership is up for grabs. But worse, Hockey wouldn’t be in state Parliament. He’d have to campaign for Premier without being an MP.

    Whichever route is used, the problem is the minute there is a whiff of Hockey switching Parliament, Liberal leadership becomes centre stage, but the Liberal Party have no mechanism of getting Hockey into state parliament where he could assume the leadership.

    The obvious comparison is Neville Wran becoming leader after switching from the Legislative Council at the 1973 NSW election. But that required a snap poll where Labor head office grabbed control of pre-selection, the helpful resignation of a left-wing MP to create a lower house vacancy, the Whitlam government appointing a bored Liberal MLC to the bench to avoid Labor losing an LC seat with Wran’s resignation, and the full support of the head office machine. Even then, Wran’s victory came on a countback after a tied vote, and even that wouldn’t have occurred if Mike Clary hadn’t been defeated by 8 votes in Coogee. The Ducker Labor machine of 1973 was utterly ruthless and nearly failed to pull it off, and I don’t see anyone in the NSW Liberal Party even faintly of that calibre.

    And then, when your 2PP is 59% and the government’s primary vote is 26%, why exactly do you need to change Leader?

  18. “And then, when your 2PP is 59% and the government’s primary vote is 26%, why exactly do you need to change Leader?”

    Yes, kind of wondering about that one myself.

    This has been one thing I’ve thought could save Labor from disaster- that the Liberals start getting arrogant and assuming victory is in the bag, and try to use the leadership as a factional prize. Then again, the Victorian Libs blasted out Alan Brown for Kennett when they were miles ahead and it didn’t do them any harm in 1992.

  19. Antony, if the Liberals were virtually guaranteed of winning the next state election, O’Farrell should have a much larger preferred premiere lead given the circumstances. I don’t know that there would be a problem for both parties if Hockey made the switch. I’m sure he would receive a lot of positive publicity which the party needs and if Hockey turns out to be more popular than O’Farrell, then Hockey could take over the leadership at some time before the election. There is obviously plenty of time before the next election.

  20. I don’t understand why there is a push to replace O’Farrell with anyone either. People don’t have huge question marks about O’Farrell and that’s all that he needs to win at this point in time. The only way the Libs can lose is if there are huge question marks over them. The only question marks over O’Farrell are that he might be ineffective. To which, most people in NSW would say at the moment, couldn’t be any worse than what we’ve got now.

    If they were proposing a factional enemy to come in and replace him, then I could understand it, but aren’t O’Farrell and Hockey part of the same wing of the party?

    On another note the NSW government is lucky that the ICAC report into Railcorp is being overshadowed by other events at the moment. It is just more proof that the Government has utterly failed to change this organisation at all, mostly because they won’t take on the vested interest of the unions.

  21. Its akin to attacking a straw man but further evicdence of how bad the underlying structural financial problems are for NSW State finances. unfunded PS super liabilities now exceed $45 billion:

    If they ever remade that movie “Brewsters Millions” they should just get the hero to walk into NSW treasury at the start of the movie. They could blow the cash in a few minutes.

  22. Centre, find a state opposition leader in recent years who’s less than two years in the position and managing to win a preferred Premier poll. The most important poll is almost always which party are you going to vote for, not who do you want to be Premier. Hockey used to work for John Fahey as NSW Premier, and Fahey always beat Bob Carr as preferred Premier, and we all know who won the 1995 election. Rob Kerin was vastly more popular than Mike Rann and who’s Premier of South Australia today? And in the case of both Carr and Rann, neither of their party’s had the sort of poll lead that the current NSW Opposition does, yet both got into office.

  23. And I do think there is a problem for the Liberal Party in Hockey switching. The NSW Executive is now dominated by the right who have slowly come to an accomodation with factionally unaligned O’Farrell as Leader. Joe Hockey is closely associated with the opposite wing of the Liberal Party and would have to do some very interesting wheeling and dealing to get state executive support for a switch.

  24. [ It also wants a change in the fare structure whereby passengers would pay a fixed initial charge, plus a price per kilometre travelled. ]

    Inner suburbs = gawn.

    What does the Greens’ policy on public transport look like? I imagine they’ve got one.

  25. They still want point to point fares! Twenty five years since they introduced a zonal system in Melbourne and the people in charge of Sydney public transport still don’t get it. In Sydney you can buy a bus travel ten at a newsagent, a bus weekly at a newsagent, a bus-rail weekly at a newsagent, but the minute you want a train only ticket you have to go to the train station. Let’s just say that doesn’t happen because its the most efficient way to sell tickets.

  26. [Inner suburbs = gawn.]

    Already costs me $10 to get from Green Square in Alexandria to Central (one stop).

    Public-private partnerships, yay.

    [the people in charge of Sydney public transport still don’t get it.]

    A dozen of them are about to be charged with corruption, so no surprise.

  27. The silly part about it is Sydney already has a zonal system of sorts with their long-term tickets (red, green, yellow, etc), with some tickets allowing you to change modes. It wouldn’t be that difficult to update the entire ticketing system to use those zones.

  28. While I agree with that idea, smarttdj, I don’t see how it will be magically fix public transport. You still the policies and the will to implement them.

  29. I’ve got fond memories of paying $20 or something to get from the airport to the western suburbs last time I was in Sydney. Probably more these days. The train broke down on the way to Parramatta, too.

    Why is it so hard for Sydney to have integrated ticketing? (ie: being able to transfer between bus / train / ferry within 2 hrs as long as the price on the ticket is sufficient.) They’re all govt run… Melbourne manages it with Metlink and their network is privatised with different operators. Zones would help, too (those colour things look alright), and a smartcard system would give such a simple system you don’t even have to think about how much your fare costs. (That’s no exaggeration: I’ve had one of the things for about 3-4 years, and I no longer remember how much individual tickets cost, just that I pay about $10-15 a week as a uni student.)

  30. The most fascinating element of the latest poll is that the ALP is now closer to the Greens in numbers than to the Coalition. The Coalition is 17% ahead of the ALP, with the ALP 12% ahead of the Greens.

    PS. William, maybe you should stop posting the 2PP figures as the title for NSW and Qld newspolls, and instead post the primaries, since we all seem to agree that the 59-41 number is pretty meaningless (eg. “Newspoll: 43-26-12 to Coalition in NSW”).

  31. It is unlikely (to say the least) but would be interesting if the NSW government saw the writing on the wall and passed a general referral of powers to the Commonwealth.

  32. My analysis would be:

    – Labor can afford to lose 6 seats before it loses its current parliamentary majority.

    – The coalition needs to win 11 to govern in its own right.

    – If Labor sets itself the task of winning back just the two most marginal coalition seats (Port Stephens and Tweed) it will be in a position to survive if it doesn’t lose more than 8 seats in total.

    – Not losing more than 8 seats is almost within the realms of possibility.

    – Of the seats the coalition need to win, some of the marginal Labor seats cannot be considered winnable for the coalition (Newcastle, Balmain, Maitland, Charlestown, Marrickville, Cabramatta).

    – Excluding those, the task for the coalition is that it will then have to reach **even higher up** the pendulum past these above seats to get their 11 seats and a working majority.

    – Eg. in order for a majority coalition government, they would need to win *all* of: Miranda, Menai, Wollondilly, Camden, Gosford, The Entrance, Monaro, Wyong, Londonderry, Coogee and Drummoyne (which are the next ones up the pendulum at up to a 7.6% swing).

    – If the coalition fails to win even 1 of those, it would need to keep searching yet higher again for something else (the likes of Heathcote, Penrith, Riverstone, Rockdale, Swansea).

    – That is the difficulty I see for the coalition. Reaching 11 seats is not as easy as people think. It is such a wide area too, it is not a concentrated patch (eg. western Sydney) the task for the coalition will be to make up ground over a far wider area.

  33. #44 You’re forgetting two things:

    * With such a low primary vote Labor will probably lose seats to the Greens (in inner Sydney) and independents (in Hunter, Illawarra and/or outer Sydney). So they’d need to drop less than 8 seats to the Liberals.

    * Labor got massive swings in traditional marginal seats in 1999 and 2003, blowing out the margin to ridiculous levels. Many seats in the 10-15% range the Liberals have a strong chance of winning in 2011 despite the paper margin. Ryde is a good example of this.

  34. The swing in the current poll is also less than recorded in any of the by-elections in October. I could point #44 to a number of articles in 1987 quoting Premier Unsworth’s senior political adviser making exactly the same case, pointing out the size of the swing and the range of the seats. The best case scenario for the Coalition put by this adviser was that a hung parliament could be produced, which gave the Unsworth government the ability to argue only Labor could guarantee stable government.

    The Rees government is currently suffering poll figures that made the Unsworth government’s position look positively rosy. Given the Ryde result, I don’t see why any of the seats mentioned in #44, or seats that are much safer, shouldn’t be viewed as strong chances for the Liberal Party to win.

  35. I disagree Donna. It’s always possible that Labor could win, but only with a significant statewide swing back. We heard the same arguments about how hard it would be for the ALP last year federally to win 16 seats, but in the end when the swing is on, it is on.

    Such a large swing could easily produce eleven gains for the Coalition. If it’s not that eleven, it would be a different eleven. Those votes have to go somewhere. The Coalition is SEVENTEEN percent ahead. There is no way Port Stephens and Tweed are within reach of the ALP.

  36. Speaking of minority govt, there’s 6 independents at the moment:

    Clover Moore – Sydney
    Greg Piper – Lake Macquarie
    Richard Torbay – Northern Tablelands
    Peter Draper – Tamworth
    Dawn Fardell – Dubbo
    Peter Besseling – Port Macquarie

    Labor will also probably lose some seats to the Greens (Balmain, Marrickville, maybe 2-3 others), and independents could join Greg Piper in the Hunter / Illawarra. Throwing yet another spanner in the works (and that 17% ‘other’ vote), the Nationals could lose a couple more seats to independents in rural NSW (Barwon? Myall Lakes?). There could be over a dozen Green / independent MP’s after the next election.

    So, say the Coalition fall short of a majority. Which of that lot would support a Labor govt? Moore and the Greens are probably the best hopes, but then it looks dicey. The rural MP’s got elected either in opposition to Labor (Piper) or in usually conservative farming regions (the rest). Especially considering how popular the NSW govt is gonna be by 2011, I doubt any of those MP’s would save them.

  37. Kevin Rudd needs to gain 16 seats for victory. If Labor loses Swan and Cowan, then that requirement becomes 18 seats. This is a very challenging task for the ALP and the 2007 election isn’t going to be the laydown misere everyone seems to think it will be…

    Reality check for post #44 – on these figures Barry O’Farrell will romp it in.

  38. Bird of Paradox, I’d say every one of those Independents will back whichever of Labor or the Coalition end up with more seats. To back the party with less seats would condemn them to voting with the government on every significant division, where backing the bigger party allows them to abstain occassionally. The closer the election the more the decision becomes harder. Moore backed the Greiner/Fahey government remember. And the higher the ‘Other’ vote, the more Labor seats that will be lost to Independents and Greens.

    The only time in recent years that Independents backed the smaller party was in Victoria in 1999. But on that occasion, the Nationals had just pulled out of the Coalition agreement and the Labor Party was clearly ascendent. Labor gained two seats at by-elections over the next 6 months.

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