Essential Research: 54-46 to Labor

Spill motion or no spill motion, Essential Research remains stuck where it’s been for three weeks. But it also finds little unconditional support Tony Abbott remaining as prime minister, and few expecting him to do so.

Essential Research once again fails to show much sign of the post-Australia Day collapse in Coalition support evident from other pollsters, with two-party preferred still at 54-46 (only one point weaker for the Coalition than before Australia Day) and primary votes unchanged on last week at 39% for the Coalition, 41% for Labor and 10% for the Greens, excepting a one point drop for Palmer United to 2%. But once again, there is still plenty of bad news for Tony Abbott in the subsequent attitudinal questions, with only 28% saying Tony Abbott should be kept as Liberal leader until the election under all circumstances versus 22% who went for an option allowing him six months to improve, and 39% believing he should go right now. Among Coalition voters, the results are 48%, 34% and 14%. Support for the party room’s decision to reject the spill motion is evenly divided at 40-40, becoming 71-18 among Coalition supporters. The poll reports 49% of respondents expecting Labor to win the next election versus just 23% for the Coalition, and 61% considering it unlikely Tony Abbott will still be leader at the time versus on 20% for likely.

On top of that, a semi-regular suite of questions on which party is most trusted to handle various issues actually finds movement in the Coalition’s favour on economic management, education, climate change and treatment of asylum seekers since the question was last asked at June, albeit that the poll was conducted at the lowest ebb of post-budget backlash. Other results are effectively unchanged, the Coalition retaining strong leads on security and the war on terrorism (up three to 19%), economic management, controlling interest rates and treatment of asylum seekers, but marked down heavily on protection of the environment, and Labor strongly favoured on health, education and industrial relations (UPDATE: I should observe that a flaw in Essential Research’s “difference” column is that it shows Liberal minus Labor, when respondents are in fact given a third choice for the Greens. Presumably Labor would have generally better “difference” ratings otherwise). The poll also finds 44% opposed to the government’s data retention policy with 40% in support, and 37% holding a strong view that submarines should be built in Australia, 34% believing it should only be so if the cost is similar to alternative options, and 12% requiring that the cost be lower.

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.

714 comments on “Essential Research: 54-46 to Labor”

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  1. From the previous thread:

    zoomster @ 2918 and 2921: As I suggested in my response to Diogenes, you would have to confess that there was a bit of a “monkeys typing Shakespeare” element to the PB response to Utegate. Many PBers would perceive any allegation made by the Libs against any Labor politician to be automatically a lie: look at the tenor of most of the posting about Craig Thomson over several years (with some even now believing that he was set up).

    When Utegate came up, most PBers jumped to the conclusion it was a concoction. They turned out to be right. I don’t recall anyone on PB suggesting that Turnbull did indeed have an email from Charlton to Grech asking on the PM’s behalf for the ute owner to receive assistance, but that this was a fake concocted by Grech himself after he had told Turnbull he had the email and then discovered he didn’t because perhaps it was only a phone call and he didn’t take any notes and etc, etc. Perhaps someone did suggest this and you will remind me.

    I don’t know that it’s fair to say that Turnbull, Abetz et al assumed that the PM and the Treasurer were that cheap. More like that they had assumed that Rudd and Swan both had some sort of a friendship with this guy and that Rudd had accepted the loan of the ute and then Rudd and Swan had pressured the public service on the guy’s behalf, but hadn’t put two and two together that this might be seen as corrupt.

    It was something like this that led to Jim Cairns’s demise. One document at the bottom of a pile of thirty he was given to sign over a weekend had him providing a benefit to someone who he (or was it his son?) had had some involvement with outside politics. I’ve heard a conspiracy theory that the document was strategically given to him this somewhat camouflaged way by officials who wanted to see the end of him (an even darker conspiracy theory has it the officials were encouraged to do this by Whitlam or other members of his government, or even – as I once heard alleged by the late Ted Wheelwright – by the CIA).

    Turnbull and Abetz might also have assumed that Grech had helped the process along a bit in a similar way as was done to Cairns: maybe had encouraged Charlton to put the request in an email.

    By the way, the fact that there was said to be an email should also have rung alarm bells. No official worth even a minute fraction of his/her salt would ever put such a request on paper or in an email. Plausible deniability and all that.

  2. Re the Essential results: a consistent 54-46 for Labor is pretty bad news for the Libs as far as I can see. They are in a deep hole and they’re not making any progress towards daylight.

    Around 60 per cent of respondents (54 per cent being Labor voters and around 6 per cent Liberal) effectively want Abbott out of the PMship right now. A further 15 per cent or so (all Liberal voters) want him gone within six months if he doesn’t improve.

    That leaves a rump of about 25 per cent who want him to stay to the next election: around the same percentage who believe that the Libs can win the next election.

    On that basis, I reckon the Windies recovering to win the World Cup is a bet that provides far better value than Abbott to be returned as PM in the next election!

  3. meher baba (last few pages of previous thread)

    It has been amusing reading your hypothetical’s and “If you look at it sideways with your eyes half shut…” rewriting of Utegate. But even more amusing when in the same breath you complain there is no point arguing the facts on PB.

  4. Excellent news that Coalition supporters want to keep Tony Abbott, while everyone else wants him to go. Hopefully this encourgaes the Liberal Party Room to keep Abbott, who has lost all support except among “rusted on” Coalition supporters.

    Thus – go to election with a “Zombie PM” and lose.

  5. I must be reading it wrong, I often find the layout of essential means I read the wrong column, but most issues seem to have moved toward the coalition.

    I am rapidly losing faith in Essential this year…

  6. From previous thread

    New matilda’s take on utegate at the time

    The orchestrated media campaign was music to the ears of Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull — if he could damage fatally the Rudd-Swan team then a voter recovery suddenly seemed possible, especially if there was an early election as widely predicted. The aggressive ambition of Turnbull plus the zealotry of the regime-changers in the editorial chairs at News Ltd made a toxic combination.

    There was, of course, one small snag in this breathtaking power play: the sole piece of evidence upon which the political assassins were relying — an email sent by a senior member of Rudd’s staff to a Treasury official named Godwin Grech — was a fake, a concoction, a fraud.

    https://newmatilda.com/2009/07/21/real-utegate-scandal

  7. Repeated from the end of the previous thread

    [Hewson states the blindingly obvious:

    TONY Abbott’s team has turned out to be surprisingly unprepared for the reality of government, former Liberal leader John Hewson says.

    DR Hewson says the federal government won office on “dot point” policies but desperately needs to flesh them out to stay in charge.

    “I think a lot of damage has been done to a new government which has burnt an enormous amount of political capital,” he told a Brisbane conference…

    Dr Hewson predicted the lack of political vision would persist.
    “It’s not just, in my mind, simply a question of changing the jockey – the horse is crook,” he said.

    http://www.news.com.au/national/breaking-news/abbott-not-govts-main-problem-hewson/story-e6frfku9-1227222722760 ]

  8. PS: Here’s a summary of my version of the facts, based on my recollection of what is in the reports by the Senate and the ANAO. Pick holes in it where you like.

    1. Grech approached Turnbull and Abetz saying that he had evidence that Andrew Charlton in the PM’s Office had asked Grech to provide GFC assistance to a business which Grech knew had lent a ute to Rudd’s office. There was also a suggestion of Wayne Swan having been involved too.

    2. Turnbull and Abetz believe Grech, who was a very senior Treasury offical, and therefore began to raise the matter in the public arena (and privately, in a really ill-judged and inappropriate way, at the Midwinter Ball).

    3. Turnbull and Abetz were expecting the revelations to cause Rudd to go into meltdown and hopefully to resign. Instead, Rudd and Swan strongly denied it all.

    4. Grech’s house was raided and evidence found that the email had been fabricated within the Treasury. Much embarrassment all round on the Liberal side of the house.

    Them’s the facts. Nothing in there about Turnbull or Abetz always knowing that the whole thing was a fabrication, as Fredex has claimed. I’m no great fan of either man, but I would give them the credit for not being silly enough to go large with a fabricated claim of corruption against the PM.

  9. [Question@3: So what’s your version of the facts?]

    My version is that you presented a hypothetical, and then lectured other posters about “facts”.

    My view, as oft stated, is that Turnbull is the best chance for the LNP, but not as great as people think, did pretty badly as LOTO, and was discredited by Utegate.

  10. meher baba@2917

    …..That’s because Turnbull and the Libs believed it was true. And, in some ways, they were entitled to do so.

    Utter nonsense and you know it.

    “Believing” something to be true doesn’t make it so.

    Turnbull is a lawyer and knows proof is required.

    Remarkable given your opening words in your post were –

    [ …I know it’s not usually much use arguing from facts here…… ]

    The facts in this instance are that turnbull showed very poor judgement.

  11. [ must be reading it wrong, I often find the layout of essential means I read the wrong column, but most issues seem to have moved toward the coalition.]

    No, I was reading it wrong. Corrected.

  12. Victoria@7: The New Matilda article is a reasonable summary of the facts, but they are too critical of Turnbull, the media and co for never having seen the actual email. The provenance of the allegations was that they were made to Turnbull and the media by the relevant senior official in Treasury. It was reasonable for all these people to believe Grech when he told them he had the email and, indeed, an email was eventually produced.

    As I have said, any Opposition leader would have had to run with these allegations if they were convincingly put to them. To go back to my original point: the problem illustrated here is not that the nasty Liberals were making up outrageous lies about Labor, but that Turnbull was not a good enough judge of character to see that Grech was a fabulist.

    I think that, given that it is possible that Turnbull will soon be our PM, I am less worried by the idea that he went a bit over the top in making claims of corruption against Rudd than I am that he was such a poor judge of character as to take Grech at face value (read the email exchanges between Grech and Turnbull: it’s amazing stuff).

  13. Mb

    No, my dismay is that Turnbull and his staffers don’t have enough taste to read PB which I consider highly remiss. I know lots of staffers do but Turnbulls were too lazy.

    It was obvious that the email was fake from its text. Grech and Charlton didn’t know each other at all yet Charlton signed off the email “Happy to discuss. A”

    You don’t use a single initial to someone you have never met.

  14. dave@12:

    “Utter nonsense and you know it.” Why? Grech was a very senior Treasury official who was directly in charge of the program that pad out the money to people like Mr Grant, the ute owner. He was, prima facie, a highly credible source. If, when Howard was still PM, Grech had leaked something of similar ilk to Labor, they would have had to have a serious look at it.

    The problem with Grech was Grech. If you read the email exchanges attached to the Senate report, you can see that Grech slowly revealed himself to be a rather bizarre character who seemed to imagine himself as part of the team providing strategic advice to the Liberal leadership.

    So, as you say, “The facts in this instance are that turnbull showed very poor judgement.”

    But, when Grech initially came up with the allegation, Turnbull was entitled to believe that this was a serious piece of whistleblowing from a senior government official. Anyone would have done so: as you can see, Grech convinced a number of senior press gallery journos as well. (Yes, and I know that most of them worked for Murdoch, but they wouldn’t have run with utegate if they hadn’t thought there was something in it: these journos care about their reputations to that extent.)

  15. [It was obvious that the email was fake from its text. Grech and Charlton didn’t know each other at all yet Charlton signed off the email “Happy to discuss. A”

    You don’t use a single initial to someone you have never met.]

    I know a couple of people that do. It’s a bit annoying.

  16. Itep@11: for the reasons I have already suggested, Utegate is a very important thing to think about now, because it reflects poorly on Turnbull’s judgement and, in particular, his ability to read people who come to him with information and advice: a rather major shortcoming for someone who aspires to be a political leader.

    Which is why I initially brought it up a few hours back.

  17. William,

    I understand Essential draw their polling from a pool of voters on their database.

    What effect if any, does this have in comparison with using the whole electorate?

  18. [RR
    Thus – go to election with a “Zombie PM” and lose.]

    Yes, it’s hard to see how TA could hang in and win the next election, but even with a smooth leader transition (not likely) the next election will still be a 50-50 bet. If you had been offered that on election night you would have taken it. I would anyway.

  19. meher baba@9

    PS: Here’s a summary of my version of the facts, based on my recollection of what is in the reports by the Senate and the ANAO. Pick holes in it where you like.

    3. Turnbull and Abetz were expecting the revelations to cause Rudd to go into meltdown and hopefully to resign. Instead, Rudd and Swan strongly denied it all.

    Them’s the facts.

    I’m no great fan of either man, but I would give them the credit for not being silly enough to go large with a fabricated claim of corruption against the PM.

    A very selected version of events which leaves out the extensive attacks in HoR by turnbull over several weeks and requests for him to prove his allegations. Also the subsequent extensive attacks across the media.

    No mention is made of them pursuing this matter without valid proof. Thats the nub upon which it all turns.

    The *facts* are that what they alleged was without valid proof, the allegations were poorly assessed by them and above all was *wRONg*.

    For *no great fan of either man* you have attempted to mount a defence over many posts today.

    All fruitless really – you’re just trying to defend the indefensible. Incompetent bungling at best. At worse ? Well who knows….

  20. meher baba@20

    dave@12:

    “Utter nonsense and you know it.” Why? Grech was a very senior Treasury official who was directly in charge of the program that pad out the money to people like Mr Grant, the ute owner. He was, prima facie, a highly credible source. If, when Howard was still PM, Grech had leaked something of similar ilk to Labor, they would have had to have a serious look at it.

    The problem with Grech was Grech.

    The problem was turnbulls very poor judgement – despite all his legal traing.

    Turning to hypotheticals about Labor are pointless. This is all about turnbulls very poor judgement.

    No matter how much spin put on it.

  21. PS I apologise for having argued for so long against some of the comments from other posters about Utegate.

    It’s just that I find the sort of “everything the Liberals do is evil and they are all in a conspiracy with Murdoch/ABC/Fairfax to spread lies everywhere, etc, etc.” sort of stuff that endlessly gets posted on here rather tiresome: no less tiresome than the sort of conspiracy theory nonsense one can find on right wing blogs (not that I bother reading many of them: well, Catallaxy once upon a time, but there is far too much Sinclair Davidson and Judith Sloan on there nowadays for my taste).

    I guess my problem is that I am not strongly committed to one side or another, so I can’t see the conspiracies that are self-evident to others.

  22. Utegate never jelled properly.

    I wouldn’t say Turnbull knew it was all fake from the start but he was a very successful lawyer, he should have abilities with clients and evidence that would have been sufficient to unravel the very lazy con before it got to Parliament. But having got there Rudd played it with a straight bat. Rudd could have argued he did nothing wrong (despite dodgy things having happened) and yea PB majority would have agreed it was all above board no matter the smell.

    Rudd was not tricky and evasive he was just ‘nope’. And Turnbull persisted – at this point he either did or most certainly should have worked out he’d been played but he stayed on the attack.

  23. Diogenes@26: with the benefit of hindsight I’m sure that’s correct. But we can’t always believe these sorts of statements: eg, BOF said he had never received a bottle of Grange. Bill Clinton said he did not have sexual relations with that woman. (OK, fair enough, he was operating on the basis of a concept that she had sexual relations with him, but that he didn’t with her: after all, he was a Professor of Law before he became President.)

  24. Turnbull’s recourse to Utegate via Grech was because he was generally out of his depth against Rudd as opposition leader. Malcolm had no policies nor political ability. It was his only hope.

  25. Meher baba – most “conspiracies” are based around ignorance on both sides. That is not to say that tendencies to groupthink, as I believe happens in Newscorpse (& PB?????), create perceptions of conspiracy that are quite believable. Cue Mel Gibson in his little flat……

  26. meher baba@30

    PS I apologise for having argued for so long against some of the comments from other posters about Utegate.

    It’s just that I find the sort of “everything the Liberals do is evilI find the sort of “everything the Liberals do is evil and they are all in a conspiracy with Murdoch/ABC/Fairfax to spread lies everywhere, etc, etc.” sort of stuff that endlessly gets posted on here rather tiresome:
    I guess my problem is that I am not strongly committed to one side or another, so I can’t see the conspiracies that are self-evident to others.

    He who accuses must prove.

    If turnbull had proof and years of legal training – he should have taken it to the Police.

    Instead he concocted a dud yarn about an old ute and a baseless fraudulent accusation.

    That was evil and it is indefensible. Even turnbull doesn’t want to defend it.

  27. .Legal practice demands a forensic mind and a forensic slant on the world.

    Turnbull didn’t ever get his forensic mind into gear in Utegate.

    He was blinded by the delicious thought of a quick kill of his foes’ credibility.

  28. Mb

    That kind of thing is very easy to check which made it highly likely Charlton was telling the truth.

    Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.

    Turnbull didn’t prepare his case adequately and it blew up in his face.

  29. Nick Minchin was up to his eyeballs in the Utegate (Godwin Grech) affair.

    But, just like a Godfather, he was two steps away from taking responsibility for leading Turnbull up the garden path.

    The rest is history.

  30. WWP@33: A fair representation. There were elements of a Sophoclean tragedy in it.

    It seems that Turnbull walked into that Midwinter Ball absolutely pumped full of hubris. The triumph was going to be his: the totally unexpected resignation and humiliation of one of the most popular Prime Ministers in Australian history.

    A senior public servant had blown the whistle on corruption that could be traced right into the heart of the PMO. Sure it was extraordinarily petty corruption, but it was so blatant that it would surely spell the end of Rudd: the first Australian PM to be forced to resign in disgrace: even Fraser hadn’t managed to pull that one off with Whitlam.

    And he had a senior public servant who was prepared to go public and to talk to the media.

    But then Rudd denied it. And both he and Charlton seemed genuinely bewildered about the allegation. But Turnbull, with the hounds of the Murdoch press running along beside him, pressed on, and in the end the humiliation was not Rudd’s, but his own.

    And as the emails showed (they’re highly recommended: a fascinating read), Turnbull should have realised that Grech was a seriously weird dude.

    But I suspect that Turnbull was the sort of guy who thinks that public servants generally are a strange, furtive sort of bunch and couldn’t see how atypical Grech truly was.

    Because, as I have said, Turnbull would seem to be a poor judge of character: that’s perhaps his tragic flaw which, as Aristotle would have put it, will bring a sense of catharsis to us as we watch the rest of his career play out).

    If he does become PM, he needs to appoint a chief of staff who is his antithesis (I’m hot on ancient Greek stuff today: who knows, I might start quoting Solon next). That person would be the type who can focus on the minute details of issues and who is able to dissect the personalities of everyone with whom Turnbull comes into contact.

    Otherwise, the next time his hubris gets too far ahead of his judgement, Turnbull might find himself heading for retirement (which is what I would have done years ago if, like him, I had many tens of millions of dollars to my name).

  31. dave@37: How can you seriously suggest that Turnbull himself concocted Utegate? The evidence shows that Grech approached him and handed it to him on a platter.

    Anyway, enough of this. See you all again soon: over and out.

  32. Hmmm.. how are any indicators moving towards the Coalition?

    Is it possible we’re seeing a hint of a Coalition bump based on the expectation Abbott is gorn? I seem to vaguely recall something similar for Labor when the writing was on the wall for Gillard.

  33. I reckon Utegate was a very peculiar episode in Australian political history into which very little if anything can really be read in terms of ongoing implications. How many very senior public servants like Godwin Grech pop up in a lifetime?

    Separately, I’ve been struck again today by the remarkable nature of Malcolm Turnbull’s performance on Q&A last night. Excuse me if this point has been made throughout the day, but I’ve only read the past 100 or so posts, but Turnbull was doing nothing short of
    taunting Abbott in the most extraordinary fashion, though using his barely coded diplomatic speak.

    It seems to me that with every passing day and week, Turnbull is becoming bolder and more willing to push Abbott to breaking point. His eulogy to Philip Ruddock, pointed reference to “captain’s call” and so forth were just screaming out for a response from Abbott. In any other circumstance, surely, a PM in Abbott’s position would demote Turnbull to the backbench – but he knows he can’t do it without sealing his own demise.

    It really is a wonderful spectacle to behold.

  34. Meha,

    You’re performing in front of a pretty tough crowd.

    At the end of the day Turnbull and co made an allegation, fine.

    The fact that they continued to pursue that allegation over a considerable period of time without any supporting evidence is where their problem arises.

  35. I had cause to speak to a fellow who was up in arms about Managed Investments Schemes (remember MIS, aka plantations); he’d lost everything.

    This chap, on behalf of other suckers, managed to get an ‘audience’ with Malcolm Turnbull.

    This chap said he’d never met a more arrogant bastard than Turnbull. Wouldn’t listen. Got escorted out of his office, quick smart.

    Mr People Skills Abbott meet Mr People Skills Turnbull. Same shit, different day.

  36. Bob’s Uncle:

    [Hmmm.. how are any indicators moving towards the Coalition?]

    As William noted in the article, they were last measured back in June when *”…the poll was conducted at the lowest ebb of post-budget backlash.”*

    So it’s just an artifact of the baseline used, I think.

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