Essential Research: 51-49 to Coalition

The latest Essential Research survey is out, but they’ve sent it as a Word document rather than a PDF and for some reason WordPress won’t let me upload it (UPDATE: The good people at Essential have sent through a PDF). It has the Coalition maintaining its 51-49 lead for a third week running, though down a point on the primary vote to 44 per cent with Labor steady on 38 per cent and the Greens up one to 11 per cent. Other questions relate to gay marriage, which 50 per cent support but only 37 per cent consider important, and the National Broadband Network, with 69 per cent agreeing it is important that it be built.

Legal matters:

• The New South Wales government last week passed significant campaign finance reforms through parliament with the support of the Greens in the upper house, including several measures new to Australian practice which could set trends for the federal and other parliaments. Imre Salusinszky of The Australian described the bill, no doubt correctly, as “an intriguing mix of progressive public policy and political rat cunning”. To deal with its major features in turn:

Spending caps. Salusinszky’s “rat cunning” lies in the government’s decision to impose limits on electoral communication expenditure just as corporate donors fall over themselves to curry favour with a soon-to-be-victorious Coalition. More predictably and still more contentiously, the bill defines trade unions as third parties whose campaigning will not be affected by caps on party spending, even if they are affiliated with Labor (Barry O’Farrell has peddled legal advice claiming this to be unconstitutional), and treats the Coalition as a single party. Party spending in the six months up to an election will be limited to $9.3 million centrally and $100,000, amounting to another $9.3 million given there are 93 electorates. It should be noted that “electoral communication expenditure” excludes such expensive party operations as polling and other research, and there is a view abroad that this means it is not as restrictive as it should be.

Donation caps. Apart from the largely symbolic $50,000 cap on donations from the gaming industry in Victoria, these have previously been unknown in Australia. The legislation caps donations at $5000 per financial year to parties, not counting party subscriptions of up to $2000, or $2000 a year to candidates or elected members. Furthermore, donations have been banned altogether from the alcohol and gambling sectors (together with the tobacco industry at the suggestion of the Greens), which have done so much to fill NSW Labor’s coffers over the years. This move is particularly interesting in light of recent retirement announcements by Paul Gibson and Joe Tripodi, who are renowned for having built their influence as conduits for such funding. This will apply not only to hotels and the Australian Hotels Association, but also to Coles and Woolworths owing to their liquor retailing activities. However, a late agreement between Labor and the Greens saw the exemption of non-profit registered clubs.

Public funding. The parties have compensated themselves for donations caps with what will amount to a hefty increase in public funding, under new arrangements that rupture the traditional link between votes cast and funding received. Parties that score more than 4 per cent of the vote will instead be reimbursed for their electoral communication expenditure to a maximum of a bit under $10 million. Parties or candidates only running in the Council have been treated more generously at the insistence of the Greens – constitutional expert Anne Twomey says this might create legal problems as one type of political entity will be favoured over another, though George Williams says this is “arguable”.

Further north:

AAP reports Queensland Opposition Leader John-Paul Langbroek has committed to sweeping electoral reforms if elected to government, including truth-in-advertising laws, campaign spending caps, electronic voting and a referendum on fixed terms if elected to government. In contrast to the spending cap just introduced in New South Wales, Langbroek proposes that campaign spending by (presumably Labor-affiliated) unions would count as part of Labor expenditure. In addition to these largely laudable measures, Langbroek also proposes to require that voters provide photo identification at the polling booth, citing spurious concerns about voting fraud to justify an effective restriction on the franchise to his own party’s electoral advantage.

Jeremy Pierce of the Courier-Mail reports that a Gold Coast couple is challenging a fine for failure to vote in last year’s state election on the grounds that they did not know the election was on, having “never received one bit of information about it”. University of Queensland Law School academic Graeme Orr’s newly published The Law of Politics: Elections, parties and Money in Australia (available now from Federation Press) relates a number of unsuccessful challenges against fines brought by voters on the basis that they lacked a genuine preference between the candidates on offer, but nothing of this kind. UPDATE: Graeme Orr writes in comments: “There is case law rejecting a defense of ‘I had no information about the candidates’. They might win by arguing the general criminal law defense of honest mistake of fact.”

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.

4,251 comments on “Essential Research: 51-49 to Coalition”

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  1. Centre

    I am a Catholic who went into the voting booth and voted for a PM who is an atheist, and despises an OL who is a Catholic 🙂

  2. jen, of course all people should have equal rights.

    If a couple of gays want to enter into any binding legal agreement, they should be able to do so. But you can’t call it marriage, a marriage is between a man and a women.

  3. Centre

    who cares what it is called. Gay couples should be entitled to enter the same type of relationships as straight couples. What does it matter? They are entitled to be as miserable as the rest of us 🙂

  4. [I am a Catholic who went into the voting booth and voted for a PM who is an atheist, and despises an OL who is a Catholic 🙂 ]

    Love it, Victoria!

    My hubby is a ‘lapsed’ Catholic … and he did too.

    I’ve only ever met 2 people in my life who are actually what I call true catholics — i.e. they live by the doctrine they espouse. In the case of the election — I am glad of the fact! Otherwise, the Rabbott would now be in charge and we’d have a ‘guided democracy’.

  5. Centre

    Seriously, my neighbours are a lesbian couple. They have been together for over 25 years. If they wanted to get married, why should they be deprived. Their relationship is just as important and valued as a straight one.

  6. Yes Victoria, and have a look at the election result. Julia, one of the most talented women in the world, almost loses to Tony Abbott.

    Besides, the majority of catholics think differently to you. The ones who religiously attend church won’t have a bar of it.

  7. [But you can’t call it marriage, a marriage is between a man and a women.]

    Definition of marriage:
    Marriage is a social union or legal contract between people that creates kinship. It is an institution in which interpersonal relationships, usually intimate and sexual, are acknowledged in a variety of ways, depending on the culture or subculture in which it is found. Such a union, often formalized via a wedding ceremony, may also be called matrimony.

    The social union element is the key here — and gays are being shut out of it.

    Note there is nothing that says: between a man and a woman … like I said, it is an artificial human construct, though most people insist on associating it with their religion.


  8. Centre

    as I just mentioned, I know countless Catholics. Suffice to say we live in the 21st century. and those religious types you talk about are few and far between.

  9. Centre, you’re assuredness in what is the truth is the essence of humankinds fatal flaw of vain arrogance. A vain arrogance that has been rendered unfounded by every progressive step forward.

  10. Centre

    you can’t seriously believe Julia nearly lost because she is an atheist. I don’t know if you have noticed, but Australians are not all that religious. Maybe religiously follow AFL Rules and NRL, but not religion persay.

  11. [You know two people. I actually know none]

    Yep — my brother-in-law is very irritating, but I respect the fact that he does attend church and does live by his beliefs (what is more, my sister is an athiest!) but his christian values allow for that.

    The other is MySay (though we haven’t physically met) … but from what she says here, I respect her for it too.


  12. T’was tedious little men in days of yore who invented marriage so that men could buy their brides who had land and goods the men covetted.

    Let us not pretend it is anything else.

    I got married in a registry office but was required to hire a lawyer to get out of it.

    It’s just nonsense.

    Ban marriage, that’s the best way to equalise for everyone.

  13. The Commonwealth Parliament almost certainly the power to legislate for marriage equality.

    The argument that marriage is defined in the Constitution as marriage was defined in the UK in 1900 is unlikely to be upheld as the Constitution is interpreted more progressively these days. The Common Law definition of marriage in 1900 in the UK included the words “in Christendom” and section 116 of the Constitution seems to imply that Australia is not “in Christendom”.

    The 1900 UK definition of Marriage included legislative a ban on certain types of marriage allowed in Australia now.

  14. [victoriaPosted Monday, November 29, 2010 at 4:42 pm | PermalinkCentre
    you can’t seriously believe Julia nearly lost because she is an atheist. I don’t know if you have noticed, but Australians are not all that religious. Maybe religiously follow AFL Rules and NRL, but not religion persay.

    Believe it or not, quite a few “Christians” do base their vote on that.

    Sad, but true.

  15. [who cares what it is called]

    Exactly. It’s the gays who get all in a tiff if you don’t call it marriage.

    There is nothing to stop gays from living their lives like a married couple. And if they really sick in the skull like the rest of us, they should enter into a legally binding agreement to combine all their assets.

  16. jenauthor

    Yes,there is mysay. She is like my mother. They have theirfaith, and as I have said in the past, that is what I admire about them both.


  17. [Maybe religiously follow AFL Rules and NRL, but not religion persay.]

    An atheist is a person that follows neither the AFL nor the NRL.

  18. jenauthor

    my mother believes gay couples should be entitled to get married if they so wish. We have a family friend whose daughter has lived with her partner for years. They had a ceremony many years ago, and my mum said at the time, but it is not really recognised. They should be able to get married like everyone else.
    As I said my mum is a catholic (and an Italian migrant to boot) 🙂

  19. I am always perplexed that people who tend to define themselves by their religious affiliation seem to want to treat those of us who don’t with disdain.

    They don’t say “I believe in/follow catholicism” they say “I AM a Catholic” or “I AM a Jew” or whatever.

    It is semantics, I know, but it is a curious thing when you think about it.

  20. Centre

    The meanings of words change all the time. What is happening is that most of society has come to the conclusion that the meaning of ‘marriage’ should be expanded to include marriages between same sex couples.

    OTOH, a decreasing minority in Australia believe that ‘marriage’ should keep its more traditional meaning.

    IMHO, the debate about the ‘meaning’ of ‘marriage’ is actually a surrogate for a debate about something else entirely – namely, the ‘right’ of a religiously-driven minority to decide the values and beliefs that others must conform to. It used to work effectively in Australia. It still works in countries which have Sharia law.

    IMHO, it is only a matter of time before parliament reflects majority views in this matter.

  21. victoria, given the closeness of the election result, maybe Julia could have won by a little more than 50.12 to 49.88 had she been a catholic and Tone an athiest.

    jen, the culture is the key. And the culture of marriage is between a man and a women. There is nothing to stop a gay couple from entering into an other social union.

    middle man so unless we allow gay unions to ba called marriage we cannot progress forward? Poppycock!

  22. [As I said my mum is a catholic (and an Italian migrant to boot)]

    Ahh but there is the thing — a true catholic would allow anyone to marry if they wished. True catholicism is inclusive.

    From my experience, it is many of the lapsed types who seem to get so het up about it because they tend to think exclusively.

  23. jenauthor

    yes, I see what you mean.

    Language used is funny sometimes. My parents are Italian, and I always say to people, I am from an Italian background. Whereas some others in the same boat as me, say they are Italian, even though they are born here. Which is curious. If you are born and reside in Australia, you are an Australian. You cannot be Italian if not born or reside there. Italy does not even know you exist.
    Yes, it is interesting how people define themselves.

  24. I was born a catholic, raised a catholic and will always be a catholic/christan. I no longer go to church. I no longer accept everything the church puts out as “policy” but I believe i am still a catholic/christan because I believe everyone should be treated fairly and equally and I try to live my life that way.

    I believe gay unions should have the same status as marriage both from a legal and a social perspective. Whether you call it marriage is irrelevant I think. It is a matter of fairness.

    A further point. I now believe that anyone who supports Tony Abbott and is prepared to vote for him based on his policy direction and actions cannot consider themselves to be a catholic/christian no matter how much they claim to be.

  25. I agree with shepherdmarilyn at 65.

    Marriage was invented because it was a way of determining who was the father of a child, probably back in the stone ages. There can never be such problems with gays.

  26. [There is nothing to stop a gay couple from entering into an other social union.]

    And what would you call it if not ‘marriage’?

    Silly argument.

    Why can’t gays have the same social and legal recognition as the rest of us? Having a penis/ovaries or not should not be a prerequisite.

  27. [ScarpatPosted Monday, November 29, 2010 at 4:58 pm | PermalinkTrue catholicism is inclusive.
    …however can the same be said of true Catholicism…

    Catholic Schools don’t employ staff who aren’t practicing Catholics.

    You were saying ?? 🙂

  28. On gay marriage: it is blatant discrimination not to allow gay couples to have the same rights as hetero couples, including being married in the same way heteros can get married.

    I suspect this is what annoys many gays, rather than actually getting married.

  29. we can progress forward in every other area in life. but we aren’t discussing every other area of life. we are discussing rights for citizens as determined by their government. and currently the government (as requested by its citizens past wishes – explicit or implied) say that gay people cant get married. however it appears from polls that the wishes of a majority of citizens have changed and we would like to confer on gay people that right. so in that sense the changing the law would be moving forward.

    notice i didnt mention religion? it has nothing to do with the governments role in sanctioning civil marriages. religion can decide who gets married in their own churches. discrimination and exclusion is their foundation.

  30. [There can never be such problems with gays.]

    And if gays adopt? Or get artificial insemination/surrogates? What is that child’s status? Are they wards of the state?

  31. […however can the same be said of true Catholicism…]

    I used lower case because I see religious affiliations as ‘adjectival’ forms, not proper nouns.


  32. [I used lower case because I see religious affiliations as ‘adjectival’ forms, not proper nouns.]

    jenauthor, nicely put 🙂

  33. Centre

    [Marriage was invented because it was a way of determining who was the father of a child, probably back in the stone ages. There can never be such problems with gays.]

    Great argument, Mr Ruddock. The same could be said of couples who can’t have children due to infertility, being post-menopause etc.

    Should we ban post-menopause marriage?

  34. [it is blatant discrimination not to allow gay couples to have the same equal rights as hetero couples]

    Yeah unless you call it marriage it is blatant discriminatiomn! How silly is this?

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