Taverner: 54-46 to Coalition in NSW

The Sun Herald has published a Taverner poll showing the Coalition leading 54-46 in New South Wales, bearing in mind that two-party results can be a bit askew under the state’s optional preferential voting system. That being so, it’s more than usually unfortunate that no primary vote figures are provided. Barry O’Farrell leads Nathan Rees as preferred premier 50 per cent to 33 per cent. A question on alternative Labor leaders found 20 per cent support for Carmel Tebbutt (who looks likely to face a strong challenge from the Greens in her seat of Marrickville), 10 per cent for Frank Sartor and 7 per cent for Kristina Keneally. There are further responses on individual issues, all of it bad news for Labor. No sample size is provided, which is poor form – it’s bad enough that Australian newspapers don’t discuss the margin of error – but past experience suggests it was on the low side, maybe around 600.

UPDATE: Oz in comments reports the sample was but 500, according to the print edition.

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.

66 comments on “Taverner: 54-46 to Coalition in NSW”

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  1. It’s a strange one, for sure.

    What the poll’s saying, in effect, is that O’Farrell is the one thing keeping the Liberals afloat, whereas Rees is the one thing dragging Labor down. The conventional wisdom seems to be the opposite: O’Farrell’s solid but unspectacular and Rees is the best of a bad bunch.

    Given incumbents almost always lead preferred premier, 54-46 makes no sense in the context of an opposition leader being 17 points ahead.

  2. Until they provide the full data I’m not taking this poll seriously. I have no doubt Labor is well behind but I have much doubt about the preferred premier figure.

  3. MDMConnell, do you mean that you think the 2PP should be much better for the Coalition?

    It could be that Labor’s primary is in the 20’s but The Greens and “others” are quite high, and based on last elections preferences that translates into an artificially high 2PP.

  4. #4

    If the preferred premier is anywhere near accurate then I’d expect the 2PP gap to be bigger, since even hopeless incumbents are competitive in the preferred premier stakes. But we don’t seem to have the primary votes so it’s hard to know how accurate the 2PP here is.

    Of course, it could just be that the preferred premier is way off. An opposition leader ahead by 17 points as preferred premier is very hard to credit, although Rudd might have got there a few times in 2007.

  5. I wonder why Labor leads are traditionally more bloated and less in tune with actual election results than Coalition leads? A “shy-Tory” factor replicated in Australia, perhaps?

  6. “A “shy-Tory” factor replicated in Australia, perhaps?”

    Not in NSW, surely, given the state of the government.

  7. #1 Maybe the conventional wisdom is wrong.

    Since the conventional wisdom is based upon chatter, I have noticed that it is generally ALP types name-calling O’Farrell as unelectable, which only serves to increase his visibility as an opposition leader.

    That said, I think given the past twelve months in NSW, almost anybody voting Liberal 2PP would be likely to prefer their leader to the current option.

  8. Oh and Kristina Keneally has a higher preferred ALP leader rating than Nathan Rees did in a similar poll a bit over a year ago.

    Watch this space closely.

  9. Keneally is an interesting choice, not often talked about in the media.

    She’s from the right and close to Obeid and Tripodi. She’s young and female, definitely helping the ALP reinvigorate their image.

    She’s less likely to lose her seat in 2011 than Tebbut.

    On the other hand, she’s been a pretty weak minister, but her portfolio (planning) is often called the “poisoned chalice”. However, how ministers seem to perform in their portfolios doesn’t seem to matter to the ALP.

    If I was Labor I wouldn’t waste her yet. She should hold tight until after the next election.

  10. The implication (in the print edition) of the poll was that there has been a 6% TPP swing to the Coalition since the last election.

    Now – since we don’t know the primaries – if this was true and applied uniformly, Labor would lose its majority but the Coalition wouldn’t come close to forming government in its own right. A 6% TPP swing gives the Coalition an extra 6 seats from Labor (Miranda, Menai, Wollondilly, Camden, The Entrance and Gosford) and may give them a couple of extra seats from independents (although this is pure speculation on my part).

    However, they need 12 seats to win government in their own right – which a 6% swing won’t give them…

  11. Marrickville will probably be safe this time – though watch out when Labor’s in Opposition, doubly so if Carmel decides she doesn’t hang around after 2015, and even MORE than that if there’s a by-election. There are Liberal-voting pockets in there somewhere, and now the Libs have an electorally acceptable leader, not only will Labor lose votes to the Liberals, some protest votes will either go back to the Liberals either primary or even a few on preferences and keep them ahead of the Greens. One of the things that I think has hurt the Greens in this area is not running the same person again – they should repeat them to try to build up a personal vote. Fiona Byrne should have been Grayndler candidate in Fed 07, and she should get another go here.

    I think the Greens will deservedly win Balmain, and I’d put money on it if they renominate Rochelle Porteous who is a good, no-nonsense worker for constituents rather than just being a generic one-issue whinger. Very popular, and good at getting her message out in a way that resonates with non-traditional Green voters. The posher parts of Balmain are more Green friendly than the equivalent bits of Marrickville too. Verity Firth also will have angered a lot of people because of her blase attitude to actually representing causes she trumpeted from her speeches to her campaign t-shirts. She’ll probably hold her ground in places like Haberfield and Birchgrove but suffer terminal damage in Leichhardt, Annandale and Rozelle. The Libs actually put up a relatively moderate, pro-environmentalist kinda guy last time in Peter Shmigel who probably kept their vote up – I reckon they’ll run a bit more dead this time.

    Heffron, I don’t think the Greens have much of a shot at all. The Liberal vote has been very depressed the last few elections but with a general resurgence to the right I think that this time they won’t come close to overtaking the Libs.

  12. #13

    Yeah, but the margins in the key swinging seats are very inflated for Labor, whereas many of the Liberals (and some Labor) safe seats swung big to the Libs last time. Wouldn’t surprise me to see 10%+ swings in the seats the Coalition needs to win, with smaller swings in other seats.

  13. The problem for NSW Labor is that two of its most talented ministers(Carmel Tebutt & Verity Firth) are in seats very vulnerable to the Greens.
    The nightmare scenario for the ALP in 2011 is a heavy defeat and the loss of Tebutt & Firth, leaving them with the choice of Sartor or someone else uninspiring as Opposition Leader.

  14. evan14

    Not to worry. If, and it is a biggish if, O’Farrell makes a half-way decent go of it, Labor will have plenty of time to sort out its various nightmares.

  15. Swing Lowe,

    So if the protest vote gets parked with the Greens instead of transferred to the Libs, are you implying Labor will probably get over the line again is NSW?

  16. [(Carmel Tebutt & Verity Firth)]

    Why are they considered talented?

    What has Tebutt done as environment minister? She promised a renewable feed-in scheme 6 months ago but got rolled by Roozendal and Tripodi.

    Firth? She wants to reintroduce league tables, even though they’ve been demonstrated to lead to segregation and other poor outcomes all around the world.

  17. [So if the protest vote gets parked with the Greens instead of transferred to the Libs, are you implying Labor will probably get over the line again is NSW?]

    With compulsory preferencing, maybe. But with optional preferencing maybe the Greens voters will just exhaust.

  18. Oz,

    Do you really believe that Greens voters will let their vote exhaust? I would have thought that to be temperamentally impossible.

  19. This would (or should) be of interest to GP and Glen et al. As of Friday, my vote had migrated from the ALP to Liberal after four or five years of dealing with indifference from successive Housing ministers. 34 years is along time to be voting for one party and then switching. The change would have more than likely led to a change at Federal level but I haven’t really made up my mind. The issue is the most clear cut case of fraud imaginable. And one can only assume that this is endemic across the state, and probably the country. Some time back, my patience ran out with the local member (the totally useless Kristina Kenneally) and the ministers and public servants behind them. I wrote to Rees, the Minister responsible (Borger) and Barry O’Farrell. I got the response (or non-response) I expected from Rees and Borger. But I offered O’Farrell complete access to over five years of correspondence that he would be free to embarrass the government with. And, believe me, there is plenty of material. But his response simply defies belief. I could not believe how lily-livered this guy is. He had my vote and has lost it. And he won’t be getting it back. If GP and Glen are as close to the Libs as they claim, they will start agitating to get rid of this lump. There are thousands of things wrong with NSW. Labor is not responsible for all of them and I also don’t expect the Libs to be able to fix them all. But the reply I got from O’Farrell tells me that he is interested only in getting the position. Barry O’Farrell is clearly not the person for the job.

  20. Just to clarify, in my post 15, I’m saying that some protest votes in Marrickville that went Green in 07 will come home to the Liberals and keep the _ALP_ ahead of the Greens, not get the Liberals ahead of the Greens. That simply isn’t going to happen! I just think the Green vote might just have peaked in 2007 and there’s simply very little else for additional votes to come from when the Libs will do a bit better.

  21. I expect protest voters who vote Green will tend to exhaust – which may well put seats like Drummoyne and Coogee in serious danger of falling (if they aren’t already).

    It is true that several Labor margins are inflated (or at least seem to be) – the only problem was that this was the exact same argument used before the 2007 election and they’re still “inflated”.

    Case in point – my seat of Strathfield, which after 2003 had a 16% margin. Everyone said that margin was inflated before the 2007 election – after all, the Libs had held it until 1999. However, after the 2007 election, the margin dropped to 15%. The problem with the “inflated” margin argument is that these margins have been seemingly inflated since 2003 and, for some seats, since 1999. This may have been enough to turn these “inflated” margins into solid margins.

    That said, I fully expect Labor to lose the 2011 election – however, I would now say that they:

    1) Have some momentum – they’re no longer losing 58/42 in these polls; and
    2) Have a much greater chance of winning than British Labour – something that I never expected to say in the context of the 2011 election.

  22. Any clue from the Liberals on whether they will direct preferences to the Greens in Balmain, Marrickville, etc.?

  23. #25 Swing Lowe until late last year, people could have said the same re inflated margins in Ryde. I know it was a by-election, and a special case, but the entire electorate went from every booth voting Labor to every booth voting Liberal.

    I am certain that the ALP will lose seats in 2011 where they won every booth in 2007.

    #16, coming from a seat that swung 10+% in 2007, I have a feeling that there hasn’t really been a change of mood in these areas (as there isn’t much more that can change). The mood swing seems to be elsewhere in the state.

  24. Not correct to evaluate the Labor/Green marginals as though Greens are part of an opposition vote. Edward 0@15 is correct. Labor are heading for a severe defeat and the only question is whether they can hold enough seats to make a viable opposition, they just managed this in 1988, but the likely drift of Green preferences will make it more difficult. The 1996 and 2004 federal figures suggest that the Sydney fringe is no longer a lock for Labor. Even if Labor held Cessnock & Monaro they could lose Riverstone, Londonderry etc. and Toongabbie isn’t that safe.

  25. Toongabbie at 14.5% is pretty damn safe. Kevin Rudd’s only at 12%. I expect the polls to close as the election nears and people take a closer look at the NSW Libs. While O’Farrell can maintain a moderate image, it’s hard to hide some of the David Clarke types.

    It’s an early call, but I think this will be a close election.

  26. A close election would mean an increased chance of a hung parliament. Is it possible that the Greens and independents would have enough numbers to fill all ministries in a pox on both your houses Labor and Liberal free government?

  27. [A close election would mean an increased chance of a hung parliament. Is it possible that the Greens and independents would have enough numbers to fill all ministries in a pox on both your houses Labor and Liberal free government?]

    No, I would be very surprised if the Inds could increase more than a couple. 10 at the absolute max.

    The Libs need to win 11 ALP seats to govern in their own right, which is a swing of 7.5%, ot over 10% if just 3 of those 11 under 7.5% don’t fall.

    That is a huge swing and I just can’t see it happening. A number of independents will make it interesting if neither major manages the 47 seat majority.

  28. Well the Greens could have seven in total so that would make 17 which would still be a bit short for a cabinet wouldn`t it?

  29. [Well the Greens could have seven in total so that would make 17 which would still be a bit short for a cabinet wouldn`t it?]

    The Greens could have 2 in total and I included them in the 10 independents.

  30. Maybe a shot at 3 if Clover calls it a day.

    Baby steps Tom, the Greens, if they have any sense, won’t be taking Balmain and M’ville for granted and will plough all of their resources into them. Assuming that an anti-Government wave will hand them the seats would be very foolish, especially with popular local members. If an election were held today, I would tip Carmel to hold and Verity to fall, but either could change in the next 22 months.

  31. I apologise for repeat posting, but I’m curious what seven seats the Green could win?

    Balmain and M’ville, sure.

    Coogee at the extreme outside chance.

    Sydney, Heffron, no.

    What were the others, Vaucluse, Blue Mountains, Ballina, Maroubra? No way.

    Slow building is the only way.

  32. I think Tom was talking about 2 MLC’s carrying over from 2007, 3 more MLC’s and 2 MLA’s in Balmain and Marrickville. If the Greens got themselves into a coalition government they’d have all those to choose from for ministers, not just the two in the lower house.

    Which way are the independents likely to swing, anyway? A minority govt could be bloody interesting, what with Dubbo / Tamworth / Port Macquarie / Armidale independents, Clover Moore and inner city Greens.

  33. The other five are the Legislative Council Seats. The 2 elected in 2007 and the polls are indicating that they will get 3 next time.

  34. I do think that Balmain and Marrickville are not certainties and that the Greens should put a lot of effort into them. Hopefully the Libs will direct to preference the Greens rather that exhaust as this would significantly increase the Greens chances (and would have given them Balmain last time).

  35. If the Greens and Libs do a deal to get those seats for the Greens, then the Libs will want something back; since the Greens aren’t really able to direct preferences to the Libs in marginal ALP vs Lib seats (Green voting folk’ll just ignore any such HTV card), it could compromise the Greens if there ends up being a hung parliament. The Greens really need to consider what they’ll do if it turns out that way; if safe ALP seats around Newcastle / Wollongong go independent, there’d be enough Green / independent MP’s to give quite a high chance of one. It’s probably a hopeless choice, but who’s less objectionable to the Greens out of NSW ALP and NSW Liberals?

  36. No 23

    Roy, what defies belief is that you accept that Labor is useless but won’t vote them out.

  37. Tom, you were talking about your fantasy of a ‘pox on both your houses’ government a month ago, and I explained then why it wasn’t going to happen. It doesn’t make a difference even if Greens and Independents hold, between them and taking both Houses together, enough seats to fill up the Cabinet. Once you understand how the procedural details of how the system works, you should be able to see that your fantasy can’t come true. I don’t know whether you absorbed my explanation or not, but no matter how much you like your fantasy, that’s not a good reason to ignore the facts.

    Here’s what I told you a month ago.

    Let’s say that neither the ALP nor the Coalition wins a majority in the Legislative Assembly, and let’s say ‘others’ win a total of, say, 15 seats. What happens next? Either the Premier tenders his resignation at once or he doesn’t.

    If he doesn’t tender his resignation, presumably he will try to secure undertakings of support, or at least qualified support, from crossbenchers. If he gets enough, that’s it. If he doesn’t, what happens next? Probably, Parliament meets and the Coalition leader moves a motion of no confidence in the government (or its procedural equivalent). If this isn’t carried, the ALP government will continue. If it is carried, the ALP government will resign.

    So, if we get, one way or the other, to a situation where the ALP government resigns, what happens next? Either the outgoing Premier will advise the Governor who to commission as Premier or not. If he does, who is he going to advise if not the Opposition leader?–particularly if the Opposition leader has moved a succesful motion of no-confidence, but probably even if not. The Governor doesn’t have to take the outgoing Premier’s advice, but is likely to, and is likely anyway to nominate the Opposition leader if he has moved a succesful motion of no-confidence. Even in a scenario where the ALP Premier resigns immediately after an election defeat and tenders no advice to the Governor, who else is the Governor going to commission if not the Opposition Leader? We’re looking at a situation where the crossbenchers still only have about 15 seats, and they will also have no recognised leader. Even if they could get together to agree on a leader, that person would not have been in the public eye as leader, let alone potential Premier, during the election campaign and won’t have the same public status as the Opposition Leader–and, in this scenario, will still have the support of fewer MPs than either the ALP or the Coalition leader.

    Once a Coalition Government is formed, the ALP, having just resigned from government, is hardly likely to move an immediate motion of no-confidence, and is also hardly likely to support one if the crossbenchers move it. So the Coalition Government will carry on for the time being.

    In the immediate aftermath of an election with the kind of results you’re talking about, pretty much the only way the crossbenchers could prevent the formation of a Coalition Government is by keeping the ALP government in office, protecting it from defeat on a motion of no-confidence.

    In any case, where do you see your scenario going from here? I just can’t see any sequence that leads up to your government of Independents and Greens.

  38. [Roy, what defies belief is that you accept that Labor is useless but won’t vote them out.]

    GP, have you met David Clarke?

  39. What if the crossbench defeated a Coalition vote of no confidence but then put up one of its own? Would the Coalition support it?

  40. I don’t know whether the Coalition would support it or not, but that’s only part of the problem.

    Firstly, you have to assume a collection of crossbenchers who wouldn’t see it as an act of rank cynical hypocrisy to vote that they do have confidence in the government and then immediately turn around and vote that they don’t.

    Secondly, you also have to assume that they are confident that their voters won’t see such action as rank cynical hypocrisy.

    Thirdly, you have to assume that the Coalition will play along.

    And even after all that, there is still nothing to say that the Governor would commission one of the crossbenchers to form a government. With or without the advice of the outgoing Labor Premier, the Governor still might prefer to give the Coalition leader the opportunity first, given that the Coalition would still have more MPs and more electoral support than the crossbenchers.

    If you imagine a scenario where a Labor Government is brought down by the combined votes of the Coalition and the crossbench, and then a Coalition Government is brought down by the combined votes of Labor and the crossbench, and then a government of crossbenchers is formed, what is to stop Labor and the Coalition joining to vote out the government formed from the crossbench? This would be an obvious move, given that the unavoidable result would be a fresh election, something which would have to be a less attractive option for the crossbenchers than either Labor or the Coalition, for two reasons. The first is that recently elected Independent MPs are more likely than a major party to flinch from the task of finding the resources for another election campaign so soon. The second is that the major issue of such an election campaign would be bound to be the recent instability, and on that issue the crossbenchers will easily be portrayed as the irresponsible troublemakers who have forced the voters an unnecessary early election, solely because they think they’re the only people who should be allowed to form a government, even though they came third in the election.

    The only way a ‘third force’ government is going to function is if it has an explicitly negotiated arrangement for support from one (or both) of the big players, and then it’s not really a ‘pox on both your houses’ government, is it?

  41. I am consistently amused at the David Clarke spectre being invoked as a reason not to vote for a Liberal government, as if there aren’t right-wing Catholic moralists beasts in the Labor caucus. There are plenty of other reasons to dislike the Liberal Party, but in the context of NSW politics, conjuring up that bogeyman is pot-kettle-black stuff.

  42. No 42

    Have you met Frank Sartor? Have you met Milton Orkopoulos? Have you me Joe Tripodi? Have you met Carl Scully? Geez….a congaline of suckholes right there and the best you can do is bring up David Clark?

    You are a lost cause phil.

  43. I’ve met Frank and David. One struck me as a somewhat arrogrant but generally bored middle aged man and one struck me as a moral crusader.

    One bored me and the other scared me. Guess which is which.

  44. [Which way are the independents likely to swing, anyway? A minority govt could be bloody interesting, what with Dubbo / Tamworth / Port Macquarie / Armidale independents, Clover Moore and inner city Greens.]

    I would guess that Greg Piper (Lake Macquarie) would have to go for a Labor Gov given his constituency, ditto if there are any successful Greens.

    I think that Tamworth, Port Macquarie and Dubbo would go Coalition. Torbay in Armidale wouldn’t want to, he hates Nationals, but he would probably have to lean coalition too. If Clover stands again she’ll win and, as an independent who made her name trying to be a bit different, it would be hard for her not to look for a new Government as a ‘change’ thing. She sided with the libs about 15 years ago after all.

    If any Indi’s come in the Hunter Valley, they would probably support a Labor Gov.

    So, assuming that there are 6 indi’s (we’ll ignore Greens because they would have to support Labor anyway), probably 5 would support the Coalition and 1 Labor, though Torbay could possibly be swayed.

    So, if we add 5 to the Coalition total they’re on 41 and we add 1 to the Labor total, which puts them on 52, Labor would have to lose 6 seats to the Libs for a probable change in Gov (assuming Indi’s go the way I think and any possible Greens or Hunter Valley Indi’s go Labor.)

    So, for a minority Gov, the Coalition needs a uniform swing of at least 5%, for a majority Gov, a uniform swing of at least 8%, probably more overall because I’m including Cabramatta in that on the by-election margin as well as seats that I think a changing demographic will hold for Labor such as Monaro and Drummoyne (but by a uniform swing 8%).

  45. philofsydney at 49

    I agree with the analysis as to the likely personal inclinations of the independents. However, realistic scenarios are canvassed above where the coalition gets 53 or 54% 2PP and still can’t get a majority of seats. If the ALP is down below 30% on primaries, but the coalition don’t get 47 seats, it would by then be extremely brave for ANY independent or even Green to support another 4 years of a broadly unpopular government, that has somehow managed to stay in the game.

    Only if the ALP has more seats than the coalition should this scenario be countenanced. And THAT outcome, in my view, is somewhat unlikely.

    Having said all that, if the coalition can’t get 47 seats then they only have themselves to blame for whatever misfortune comes their way… Frankly, the conservatives should be aiming for 60 seats, given the moth-eaten nature of the government they are trying to replace.

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