GhostWhoVotes reports Newspoll has come in at 56-44 to the Coalition, down from 57-43 last time, which exactly matches Essential Research’s progress over the last week. In Newspoll’s case, the picture on the primary vote is very much the same as a fortnight ago, with Labor, the Coalition and the Greens all up a point at the expense of “others”, to 29%, 48% and 12%. Personal ratings offer multiple stings in the tail for Julia Gillard. Where last time she was up three points on approval and down four on disapproval, those results have exactly reversed, putting her back at 28% approval and 62% disapproval. Tony Abbott has seized the lead as preferred prime minister, gaining four to 41% with Gillard down one to 39%, and his approval rating is up three to 35% with disapproval down four to 54%. GhostWhoVotes also relates that Gillard’s trustworthiness rating is down from 61% to 44% since the 2010 election, with Abbott’s down from 58% to 54%. Presumably this portends a battery of attitudinal results concerning the two leaders.
Essential Research had the primary votes at 48% for the Coalition (down two), 31% for Labor (steady) and 11% for the Greens (steady). Also featured were its monthly personal ratings, which had Julia Gillard’s approval steady at 32% and her disapproval down three to 58%, Tony Abbott’s respectively up two to 38% and down two to 50%, and Gillard’s lead as preferred prime minister shifting from 40-37 to 38-36. Support for the National Broadband Network was up a point since February to a new high of 57% with opposition down three to 22%, and 46% saying they will either definitely or probably sign up for it. There was also a question on appropriate areas for federal and state responsibility, with the states only coming out heavily on top for public transport and “investing in regional areas”.
I now offer a Senate-tacular review of recent happenings relating to the upper chamber, where it’s all happening at the moment:
• There has been talk lately about the potential make-up of the Senate if the Coalition wins next year’s election in a landslide, which might upset long-held assumptions about the political calculus under an Abbott government. Half-Senate elections usually result in each state’s six seats splitting three left and three right, and the territories’ two seats invariably go one Labor and one Coalition. However, four and two results have not been unknown, usually involving Labor winning three and the Coalition two with the last seat going to the Greens or the Democrats. The only four-right, two-left results were when John Howard gained control of the Senate at the 2004 election, in Queensland (four Coalition and two Labor) and Victoria (three Coalition, two Labor, one Family First). There is also the occasional unclassifiable like Nick Xenophon, who is up for re-election in South Australia next year and presumably likely to win, and perhaps even Julian Assange, of whose aspirations we have heard nothing further.
The difficulty for the Coalition is that a four-left, two-right result in Tasmania at the 2010 election (three Labor, two Liberal and one Greens) will carry over to the next parliament. However, on the basis of Newspoll’s recent state breakdowns it is easy to envision this being counterbalanced by a four-right, two-left result in Queensland, either through a repeat of 2004 or, perhaps, a Katter’s Australian Party Senator joining three from the LNP. This would leave the left with 38 and the right with 37 (including the thus-far low-profile Victorian Senator John Madigan of the DLP, a carryover from 2010), plus Xenophon still leaving the left with a blocking majority, even when Xenophon voted with the right. However, the Queensland election wipeout and a further dive in Labor’s federal poll ratings encourages contemplation of further four-right, two-left results in New South Wales and Western Australia. Assuming no cross-ideological preference deals such as that which produced Family First’s win in Victoria in 2004, a rough benchmark here is that the combined Labor and Greens vote would need to fall to about 40%. This compares with Labor-plus-Greens results in 2010 of 42.2% in Queensland, 43.7% in Western Australia and 47.2% in New South Wales. Any two such results would be enough to get the carbon tax repealed, given the likely support of Xenophon, and all three would leave a Coalition government similarly placed to its state counterpart in New South Wales, where Labor and the Greens can be overruled with the support of the Shooters Party and the Christian Democratic Party.
• Bob Brown’s announcement he will exit parliament at the end of June creates a plum parliamentary vacancy for the robust Tasmanian Greens. Speculation first fell upon the party’s current leader in state parliament, Nick McKim, who if interested could have followed the path from state leadership to the Senate previously trodden by Bob Brown and Christine Milne. He immediately ruled himself out though, which has left Bernard Keane of Crikey, Sid Maher of The Australian and Gemma Daley of the Financial Review identifying Peter Whish-Wilson as the front-runner. Maher’s report describes Whish-Wilson as a “wine-growing, surf-riding economist”, while Daley offers that he “worked in equity capital markets for Merrill Lynch in New York and Melbourne and for Deutsche Bank in Hong Kong, Melbourne and Sydney”, before moving to Tasmania in 2004 and making a name for himself as the operator of Three Wishes Winery and a Gunns pulp mill opponent. Daley reports former state leader Peg Putt is “understood to have ruled herself out”, as has former Greenpeace International chief executive Paul Gilding. An ABC report also mentions Hobart deputy lord mayor Helen Burnet as a possible starter, while Sid Maher offers “Wilderness Society campaigner Geoff Law and Geoff Couser, candidate in the federal seat of Denison”.
• A fiercely contested battle over the order of the Victorian Liberal Senate ticket has ended with Scott Ryan taking second place at the expense of Helen Kroger, who is demoted to third, with Mitch Fifield as expected secure in first. Fifield won on the first round with 251 votes to 92 for Ryan and 71 for Kroger, before Ryan achieved a surprisingly strong 276 to 139 victory over Kroger on the second round. VexNews offers a revealing account from a no doubt interested party who says Ryan took advantage of new preselection rules introduced under the “Kemp reforms” to empower the party membership. These provide for one third of the vote to be determined by the members, but the system allocates six delegates to each federal division – rather an odd way of going about it, given that Liberal members appear to number only in the dozens across northern and western Melbourne. Ryan, it is said, has assiduously cultivated support in these “rotten boroughs” to turn the tables on the Kroger camp, which has its power base at higher levels of the party organisation.
• Nick Butterly of The West Australian reports some WA Liberals are “frustrated at the calibre of candidates coming forward” to fill its looming federal parliamentary vacancies: retiring Judi Moylan and Mal Washer in Pearce and Moore, and now, sadly, Senator Judith Adams, who succumbed to cancer on March 31. A further addition to the list is Senator Alan Eggleston, who has announced he will not seek re-election next year. The current form guide is evaluated as follows:
Among the most promising candidates being considered for either a Senate or Lower House spot are State Liberal Party treasurer Dean Smith and aerobatic pilot Drew Searle. Wanneroo councillor Ian Goodenough is so far the only declared candidate for Dr Washer’s seat, while Hyden farmer Jane Mouritz and former Liberal staffer Alex Butterworth are also being touted in some corners as options for Senate spots. One Liberal said yesterday they would push for retiring WA Mines Minister Norman Moore to sit in the Senate.