Supplemented with a bumper crop of new results, from Newspoll, Nielsen, ReachTEL and Essential Research, plus a brace of new state-level data, this week’s BludgerTrack poll aggregate records its first big move since the election. As shown on the sidebar, Labor is up nearly 2% on two-party preferred in just one week, driven by a significant increase in the their primary vote. The Nielsen poll of course has been a major contributor, but the 50.8-49.2 two-party split lands right on the ReachTEL result and isn’t far different from Newspoll once accounting for its preference distribution method that was probably slightly unflattering to Labor. On the seat projection, Labor gains five seats in Queensland on last week together with three in New South Wales, one in Victoria, two in Western Australia and one in the territories, which can only mean Solomon. The odd man out is South Australia, where Labor’s state-level data for this week was notably soft, although only small sample sizes were involved. Here Labor has actually gone from a projected gain of a seat to a projected loss.
Elsewhere around the site, there’s updates on Queensland’s two looming by-elections, at federal level in Griffith and state level in Redcliffe, and posts on new state polling in Victoria and Queensland. Further to which, two electoral reform news nuggets:
A package of electoral reforms before the Queensland parliament may offer a litmus test for the federal government’s future plans, particularly after its position in the Senate strengthens in the middle of next year. Most pointedly, the bill contains a provision to require voter identification at the polling booth, having been foreshadowed by Liberal federal director Brian Loughnane’s post-election complaint that you can’t go and hire a video without a card that requires a photo ID, but you can turn up to present to vote and just assert who you are. This is perhaps the first entry into Australian politics of what has emerged as a flashpoint issue in the United States, where Republicans have invoked the ease with which malefactors can impersonate others in the absence of identity requirements, and Democrats have responded with complaints of voter suppression laws designed to create obstacles for the poor and minority groups in the name of a problem which appears barely to exist in practice.
Despite the Queensland government’s penchant for radicalism, the measures proposed in its bill come with a very substantial safety net, in that voters who find themselves unable to provide identification can lodge a signed declaration vote. The vote is later admitted to the count if election officials deem the vote to be bona fide, which they can presumably do by checking the signature against the voter’s enrolment form. The measure nonetheless promises to make life a lot more complicated on polling day, and to impose a further burden on the Electoral Commission as it conducts an already torturously cumbersome vote counting process. More on this from Peter Brent of Mumble, and a report on community radio current affairs program The Wire which features the redoubtable Graeme Orr.
Other measures in the Queensland bill include the abolition of caps on donations and campaign spending which the previous government introduced before the last election, setting the Newman government on a different course from the O’Farrell government which further tightened donation rules and spending caps in 2011. The bill likewise abolishes the increase in public funding which was introduced to compensate political parties for donation caps, and reinstates the old dollars-per-vote public funding model while setting the minimum vote threshold at 10% rather than the more familiar 4%. The threshold for disclosure of political donations, which Coalition governments would prefer be at least ten times the level favoured by Labor, will revert to the CPI-indexed $12,400 established at federal level by the Howard government, after the Bligh government slashed it to $1000. The bill has been referred to the parliament’s legal affairs and community safety committee, which is scheduled to report by February 24.
As to what the new federal government might have planned, that should become clearer with the looming establishment of the new Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters and the commencement of its inquiry into the conduct of the recent election. The committee will consist of five government members including the chair, four opposition members including the deputy chair, and one from the Greens. Andrew Crook of Crikey reports the chair and deputy are likely to be Alex Hawke and Alan Griffin, while Lee Rhiannon will take the Greens’ position.