Newspoll: 52-48 to Liberal in South Australia

The final quarterly Newspoll of South Australian state voting intention concurs with last month’s Advertiser poll in showing a honeymoon bounce for Labor under new leader Jay Weatherill, but the Liberals still retaining a slight lead on two-party preferred. However, the Liberals’ 52 per cent on two-party preferred (compared with 54-46 last time) is not measurably better than the 51.6 per cent they recorded at the 2010 election without managing to win. Labor is on 34 per cent of the primary vote, up four points on the previous quarter, with the Liberals steady on 40 per cent and the Greens down fully 5 per cent to 9 per cent. The latter result was also reflected by The Advertiser’s poll, and would be consistent with Labor recovering support from their base without landing a significant hit on the Liberals.

Weatherill has scored a handsome 51 per cent approval rating on his debut, which would make him by far the most popular Labor leader in the country, with only 14 per cent disapproval. This compares with Mike Rann’s final figures of 31 per cent and 59 per cent. Liberal leader Isobel Redmond’s healthy numbers are little changed, at 49 per cent approval (down two) and 30 per cent disapproval (up one), but Weatherill scores a big 45-27 lead as preferred premier which compares with Redmond’s 45-34 lead in the last poll under Rann. The sample size for the poll is 871, which by my reckoning puts the margin of error a bit higher than the 3 per cent familiar from Newspoll federally and in the larger states. Numbers as always from GhostWhoVotes.


• With the by-election for outgoing former Deputy Premier Kevin Foley’s seat of Port Adelaide set for February 11, the Liberals have announced they will spare themselves the expense of fielding a candidate – a little timidly in my view, given that Labor’s 12.8 per cent margin is dwarfed by the swings the NSW Liberals were getting in by-elections last year, and is in the ballpark of the 12.3 per cent swing the Victorian Liberals achieved in the similarly safe Labor seat of Altona last February. The Liberal candidate from the 2010 election, Sue Lawrie, has announced she will run as an independent. Labor’s main threat is still reckoned to be Port Adelaide-Enfield mayor Gary Johanson, whom Daniel Wills of The Advertiser tells us is a “former Liberal”.

• The government has announced it will half fund a $7.2 million “town square-style project” to revitalise central Port Adelaide, provided Johanson and his council come good with the other half. Daniel Wills of The Advertiser reports this is “widely seen as an attempt to wedge Mr Johanson, allowing Labor to take credit for the proposal if it goes ahead and blame the council if it fails”.

• If Mike Rann is planning to quit parliament so a by-election for his seat of Ramsay can be held on the same day, as had long been assumed, he’s taking his time about it. After The Advertiser ran a headline last week which read “pressure on Rann to quit for by-election”, Rann wrote on Twitter that he had had “no pressure whatsoever to step down”. I’m not sure of the exact date, but to allow for a February 11 by-election Rann would have to submit his resignation by fairly early next month.

Michael Owen of The Australian reports the Liberal member for Finniss, Michael Pengilly, faces a stiff preselection challenge from Joshua Teague, an Adelaide barrister and son of former Senator Baden Teague. Pengilly embarrassed his party in late November when he tweeted that the Prime Minister was a “real dog”, in reference to Harry Jenkins’ replacement as Speaker by Peter Slipper. His career has been said by local observers to have been on a downward career trajectory since he was dumped from the front bench after last year’s state election.

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.

26 comments on “Newspoll: 52-48 to Liberal in South Australia”

  1. By the looks of things, SA could be the Labor holdout in Australia. Obviously it’s early days but if Weatherill performs well and governs well in the next year, Labor may get the second wind it was hoping for with Weatherill.

  2. Also, I am willing to stand corrected but I think 28 days is the absolute shortest period of possible time between writs and polling day (inclusive) in SA.

    So, if the Speaker were to immediately issue the writs for a by-election, the absolute latest day Rann could resign on to be able to allow a February 11 by-election in Ramsay would be January 14.


    [Premier Jay Weatherill changes Labor’s fortunes
    by: Michael Owen, SA political reporter
    From: The Australian
    December 23, 2011 12:00AM

    JAY Weatherill has led a resurgence for Labor in South Australia two months after replacing Mike Rann as Premier, according to a Newspoll that will increase pressure on Liberal leader Isobel Redmond.

    In the first Newspoll taken since Mr Weatherill took over from Mr Rann on October 21, the new Premier has opened up a comfortable 18-point lead over Ms Redmond as preferred premier, a 29-point turnaround from the lead the Opposition Leader held over Mr Rann.

    But the opposition retains an election-winning edge just shy of the half-way point in the state’s fixed four-year electoral cycle, according to the November-December survey, conducted exclusively for The Australian.]

    More in the article

    Newspoll table above

  4. Predictable bounce for Jay Weatherill – but not enough to win the next election as the redistribution will make those marginal ALP seats like Mawson, Hartley and Light marginal Liberal seats on paper.
    He will need to rely on further Liberal infighting – despite the unpopularity of the ALP the Liberals are not seen by many swinging voters as a viable alternative as they are seen as weak and have presented little in a way of alternative policies, apart from the areas that are now fait accompli (Adelaide Oval, RAH, SE Forests).
    It is why the Independents and others are at 15%. I suspect the Greens drop is a direct result of the attractiveness of Weatherill to the left leaning voters, the Greens have never been very strong in SA.
    As the SA economy stalls and there is nothing but more pain in the next budget, it will be interesting to see how the popularity falls.
    Any thoughts on the poll’s relevance for the Port by-election? I would ask the same for Ramsay but it appears Mr Rann is not going anytime soon.

  5. Mumble on this poll

    The first point to note is that such a jump in support is normal when a foundering party changes leaders. It usually happens when it turns out to have been a good idea, and when it doesn’t.

    So this doesn’t help us much when considering whether Weatherill will do better at the next election than Rann would have. My guess is that the government is headed for a 1992-style pounding—that is an about 40 60 two party preferred loss—in 2014.

    Similar to New South Wales Labor in March this year. Would Morris Iemma or Nathan Rees have done better at that election than Kristina Keneally? Who knows?

    However the turnaround in personal ratings does increase the likelihood that Redmond will get the flick as Liberal leader. Recall how shaky Barry O’Farrell looked for a time as he lagged as better premier behind Keneally despite a massive vote lead.

  6. Respectfully, I will have to disagree with Mumble’s analysis of the SA Labor government’s chances at the next election. Even if the Liberals manage to form government, which on the balance of probabilities is more likely than not, I would foresee them having a very narrow majority. They just aren’t going to get anything like the swings seen in NSW (or likely to happen in QLD). For a start the SA government has had nothing like the scandals that have befallen their NSW or QLD cousins. Secondly, the liberal party contains a lot of dead wood which it should have cleared out after the 2006 election. Even the much vaunted Steven Marshall is not inspiring in my book – he was much less impressive than I expected when I saw him in question time not so long ago. Dan Van Holst Pelekaan may be the stronger performer based on what I have seen. Isobel is bound to be shafted before the next election, but it’s anybody’s guess as to who will replace her. Weatherill has a very good chance of being the last Labor premier standing after March 2014.

  7. A first poll bounce for Weatherall is not that significant, but equally I don’t see SA in the same position as Qld and NSW. The State government here has been relatively efficient and apart from a few personal issues, scandal free as far as delivery of government circumstandes are concerned. There is not the same air of derision here as there is in Sydney or Brisbane.

    I would agree the SA economy is stalled right now. The budget cut spending too quickly IMO. But with Olympic Dam about to begin, that will surely change in 2012, and SA economy should be humming by the 2013 election. I would say Liberals deserve to be favourites for 2013, but it is not unwinnable.

  8. [He will need to rely on further Liberal infighting]

    Jesus, I hope you are not advising him 😛

    I’d be saying that JW needs to keep working at gaining the state’s trust. This bounce is about making the public receptive to Labor again. How they perform in the next year will be crucial. While yes, infighting is always a decent possibility when it comes to the SA Libs, I would not rely on it happening.

    On a different note, I thought a little more about Rann’s possible resignation timing. As I noted, the latest the writs for a Feb 11 by-election could be issued is Jan 14 and I expect that Rann, if he wants to go sooner rather than later, would be a gentleman enough to allow Ramsay to have a Feb 11 by-election (rather than the possibility of a Feb 18, at earliest one) and I expect he wouldn’t be a dick and force the Speaker to have to rush to issue them, so I would say, realistically, if he wishes to resign soon, he will do so no later than the first week of January.

    It should be noted that the writs for the Port Adelaide by-election are going to be issued on January 4, so there’s a good chance chance that, if he is still sleeping on it, he’ll leave it to after Proclamation Day (Dec 28) to contact the Speaker and offer his immediate resignation as a MHA, so that she may issue the Ramsay writs simultaneously with the Port Adelaide ones.

    Of course, the other possibility is the guy, being somebody who (regardless of what you think of him) was genuinely passionate about his job, may decide he wants to spend a while on the backbench, free from the pressure of the party bosses, so he may speak out on the issues and maybe take some public stances he was too timid to, as Premier. If he stays for a while, the party aren’t gonna like it but there’s nothing they can really do about it.

  9. [They just aren’t going to get anything like the swings seen in NSW (or likely to happen in QLD).]

    Eastern staters always do that. They analyse things from a distance and apply the same principles which applied in eastern state elections, then are positively dumbfounded when it doesn’t actually pan out how they anticipated! 😆

  10. CM, you must be the glass half full type of guy, at least as far as Mike Rann is concerned.

    Mike is hanging on in Ramsay to stick it up Jay, Jack Snelling, the SDA and everyone else who shafted him in his selfish desire to become the longest serving SA ALP Premier.

    It is said in some Adelaide circles that he should resign to look after his wife who is under treatment for breast cancer. This is bunkum; many other pollies and of course people in other walks of life do not leave their jobs under these circumstances, but take appropriate leave, as he is of course free to do (and despite my disdain for him as a pollie, he is welcome to that leave and I wish Sasha the earliest possible recovery).

    Back to politics, if there is a book on it, bet a mozza that Mike Rann is still there as Member for Ramsay after the Port Adelaide by-election and as Carey says, there is nought the ALP can do about that.

    In the meantime, any thoughts on the Port Adelaide By-Election?

  11. [CM, you must be the glass half full type of guy, at least as far as Mike Rann is concerned.]

    Possibly but it’s his biggest virtue that he actually truly cares about his state.

    I certainly don’t discount that sticking around is also to stick it to the ALP but Rann has demonstrated, now free from Farrell’s grasp, that he is actually quite progressive in his personal views and maybe he feels like he can atone for his hackery. (If that makes sense.) FWIW, I want him to stay in for this…

    But I know he is not a dick to resign immediately after a Feb 11 by-election is impossible and has to be held sometime after that (it doesn’t punish the ALP, it punishes the public)

  12. Those numbers won’t happen.

    Jay Weatherill is a decent bloke, doesn’t do the Rann annoying the shit out of the labor voters, at least at this stage, although I am a little thing concerned at this pitch for Port Adelaide, but what the hell, I suppose.

    Weatherill is solidly grounded in social values, so we will see how it goes.

    May even result in Boothby remaining in ALP hands, handled well.

  13. [IYHO does Jay truly care about his state?]

    No idea. All I know is he has a very progressive ethos and desperately wants the SA ALP to go back to that. I think he has the best chance out of any of the 34 ALP state MPs to win in 2014 and, as I said, it really depends on what he will helm in 2012 that will define him. I have a friend who is in state parliament but very left-wing who says that, if the federal same sex marriage act fails, JW is gonna push for it straight away (it’s already a SA ALP policy) and, only if Redmond agrees to allow a conscience vote among the Libs (which she has indicated she would) will he allow a conscience vote. However, if the Libs get hijacked by conservatives, he will push a party line vote.

    However, SS marriage is note a vote winner/loser, it may be a necessary reform. On the bread and butter, it’s too early to tell but the fact that he prioritises infrastucture over credit rating bodes well for me. I sincerely hopes he takes on the electricity companies too (but I don’t bate my breath). As I said, I do not know what goes on inside his head but the fact that he promoted Hunter (a left wing homosexual) and Fox (who, whether you like it or not, is a progressive member of the Right) suggests his interests are in shaking things up and being serious about winning in 2014.

  14. Yeah, Boothby and Sturt are going nowhere. No matter what happens, state government-wise. They require Labor leading the federal polls which hasn’t happened since the beginning of the year (if that) which is really a topic of conversation for the main thread 🙂

  15. CM

    Thanks for that. Redmond has put her foot down that it will be a conscience vote for the Libs. I am not sure that a conscience vote with SA Labor will mean it will get up – I would think the Right would kill it off here and effectively embarrass Jay into the bargain. I don’t see the benefit of that for him.

    What I am hearing in the real world of the working man is on the whole they don’t care one way or another for gay marriage – there are more important things to worry about eg utility prices, taxes, employment. As much as we in the rarefied air of parliament may support these social reforms, they are not likely to be of much benefit to people who can’t afford to pay their electricity bill.

    Jay, if you are reading this, I expect consultancy fees for this advice…lol.

  16. Hmmm.

    So, are we expected to take Mumble’s analysis seriously when he mentions the 1992 election loss … when it actually took place in 1993?

    More generally, I get the impression that people are a lot happier now that Weatherill is Premier and especially now that Foley has gone as well. A lot (certainly not all) of the problems Labor has had to deal with is the perceived arrogance of its leadership team.

    Now that Snelling is Treasurer (conservative, trustworthy steady-as-she-goes type) and Weatherill is Premier (progressive, gentle type or character) I get the sense that both the Right and the Left have been placated, in a sense. There is no longer a vibe of arrogance whenever you see the Premier/Treasurer/Minister on TV and that is a very good thing. Weatherill is giving a very good impression of someone who is prepared to listen to people and to negotiate in good faith when there is any sort of impasse.

    And, importantly, I understand from talking to a couple of pollies that he is well liked and well respected amongst his colleagues, much in the same way Gillard is. I get the sense that, whatever happens in 2014, he is in for a Mike Rann-style leadership stint. It would be truly ironic if it ends up being him to break Dunstan’s record … 😀

  17. DL

    I agree that Jay is giving a good impression of someone who is prepared to listen…but ask the people in Mt Gambier as an example about the reality. They’re not happy. Rann/Foley were so unpopular in SA that Jay was bound to be an improvement. How long that will last is yet to be seen. I like the comment calling him ‘Rann Lite’.

    I have no idea who the pollies are you are speaking to, but can safely assume they are on the left…because there are deep divisions in the ALP here based on policy and personality and there are 2 MPs who are telling their mates that Jay has deliberately avoided speaking to them since he has become Premier.

    And I can promise you Gillard is not well liked nor respected amongst her colleagues at all…but she is less hated than Rudd which is why he will never get the job back.

    I am sure your Labor mates will appreciate the positive spin on matters, and I acknowledge a PR improvement, but let’s see after the honeymoon, and what happens if the ALP loses a by-election.

  18. [but ask the people in Mt Gambier as an example about the reality.]

    The otherwise typically Labor voters that they are 😛

    Listen, nobody is saying that Labor is popular. The poll has them in the minority.

    What we are saying is they are now competitive. And things can actually improve for them, if they work for it.

    Yes, some hacks whinge about “same old Labor” but hacks be hacks. What is important about this poll is the ALP don’t need to give up on 2014.

    And comparing this to NSW 2011 or SA in 1993 is both convoluted and willfully ignorant of the events leading to both of those defeats.

  19. CM

    [And comparing this to NSW 2011 or SA in 1993 is both convoluted and willfully ignorant of the events leading to both of those defeats.]

    Totally agree with you there. Labor is competitive now for 2014, but the Liberals still favourites.

    Still want to know who will win the by-election in Port Adelaide.

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