The latest Essential Research survey has the two parties locked together on 50-50, suggesting Labor has not received a dividend from its success in forming a minority government. The more recent part of the rolling two-week survey was conducted from last Tuesday, when the rural independents’ made their announcements, until yesterday, and it has dragged Labor down from the 51-49 recorded in the previous survey. However, the primary vote figures suggest there is unlikely to have been much in it either way: the Coalition is up a point to 44 per cent and Labor steady on 39 per cent, with the Greens down a point to 10 per cent. Approval or disapproval of the independents’ decision was predictably split on party lines, for a total of 41 per cent approve and 45 per cent disapprove. Respondents were asked to rate the performance of the parties since the election and for some reason the Coalition rated better than Labor, recording a net positive rating of 9 per cent compared with 4 per cent for Labor. However, Julia Gillard was thought to have shown more leadership abilities during the period since the election than Tony Abbott, 47 per cent to 35 per cent. Forty-five per cent of respondents rated the increased strength of the Greens as good for Australia against 38 per cent bad, which goes against other polling conducted earlier. Conversely, 44 per cent agree the independents will hold too much power, with only 36 per cent disagreeing.
Anna Bligh has raised the prospect of a return to compulsory preferential voting in Queensland, with The Australian reporting the matter is likely to be considered by a (Labor-dominated) parliamentary committee. Bligh notes concerns that the operation of different systems at state and federal level causes confusion and a higher informal vote, and it is indeed the case that the optional preferential states of New South Wales and Queensland generally have a slightly higher informal rate at federal elections than other states. However, that hasn’t been the case this time in Queensland the informal vote was 5.45 per cent, against 5.55 per cent nationally (the national total admittedly having been pulled up by a 6.82 per cent rate in New South Wales). It is clear that Labor’s sudden enthusiasm for compulsory preferential in Queensland is due to their parlous electoral position, and the very high likelihood they will bleed votes to the Greens that might not return to them, as they mostly did at the federal election. As an opponent of electoral compulsion in all its forms, I would much sooner the confusion be resolved by a move to optional preferential voting at federal level though Labor is most unlikely to be keen on this, as it would have cost them three seats at the federal election. UPDATE: As Kevin Bonham correctly notes in comments, it would also have saved them Denison. Note that Peter Brent at Mumble has expressed sentiments almost identical to my own.
A by-election looms in the Western Australian state seat of Armadale, which Alannah MacTiernan vacated to make her failed run for Canning. Armadale is Labor’s safest seat, and the by-election will not be contested by the Liberals. Labor’s candidate is Tony Buti, a law professor at the University of Western Australia. Also in the field are Owen Davies for the Greens, Jamie van Burgel for the Christian Democratic Party and independent John D. Tucak, who polled 298 votes as an upper house candidate in 2008. The by-election will be held on October 2.
Another by-election following from the federal election is for the Brisbane City Council ward of Walter Taylor, vacated by newly elected Ryan MP Jane Prentice. Emma Chalmers of the Courier-Mail reported on August 18 that even before his defeat in Ryan, dumped Liberal Michael Johnson was sizing up the seat. The Liberal National Party will hold its preselection tomorrow. The by-election will be held on October 23.