After a few weeks where it appeared the trend to Labor had tapered off, the BludgerTrack poll aggregate records a solid nudge to Labor this week on the back a Newspoll result crediting it with a 51-49 lead. BludgerTrack doesn’t go quite so far, but it does have the Coalition losing a full point off the primary vote since last week. This translates into a surprisingly mild net gain of one for Labor on the seat projection, with gains in New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania being balanced by losses in Queensland and the Northern Territory – the latter being the result of a methodological tweak (I continue to have very limited faith in my Northern Territory projections one way or the other). Newspoll also provided a new set of data for the leadership ratings, which have maintained their existing trajectories – headlong downward in Malcolm Turnbull’s case, and steadily upwards in Bill Shorten’s.
Two further items of polling floating around in the past few days:
• The Australian has a second tranche of results from Newspoll, relating to the Liberal leadership. The poll finds 57% believe the Liberals were right to depose Tony Abbott, down five since October, with still only 31% opposed, up four. A question on preferred Liberal leader found Malcolm Turnbull leading on 35%, Julie Bishop on 22%, Tony Abbott on 14% and Scott Morrison on 8%. This suggests only modest change since an Essential Research poll in mid-March which had Malcolm Turnbull on 39% (down from 42% in December), Julie Bishop (down one) on 13% and Tony Abbott on 9% (steady), along with high “someone else” and “don’t know” components. Roy Morgan got a very different and much stronger result for Turnbull in October, presumably because respondents were asked who they would favour if they were Liberal or Nationals voters.
• A poll conducted by Research Now by the progressive Australia Institute think tank found 63.4% of 1412 respondents felt Tony Abbott should retire, compared with only 26.3% who preferred that he remain.
Much preselection news to report this week, largely thanks to the Western Australian Liberals, who have conducted a number of important preselection ballots, results of which remain to be confirmed by the party’s state council this weekend:
• The Liberal member for the Perth seat of Tangney, Dennis Jensen, suffered a resounding preselection defeat on the weekend at the hands of the party’s former state director, Ben Morton. Morton’s winning margin in the ballot of local party delegates was 57 to seven. This was the third time Jensen had lost a local preselection vote in a parliamentary career going back to 2004, earlier results having been reversed by the intervention of John Howard in 2007 and the party’s state executive in 2010. Jensen concedes he is unlikely to appeal this time, which would surely be futile given the scale of the defeat and the enthusiasm for Morton among the party hierarchy. Jensen has claimed to be a victim of “dirty tricks” from the Morton camp after news reports emerged last week concerning a novel he had written containing a graphic sex scene, which he says was designed to damage his standing in the eyes of religious conservatives. He has also launched defamation proceedings against The Australian over a report on Friday that he had moved out of the family home to live with his girlfriend at a property located outside the electorate.
• A second WA Liberal preselection on the weekend, for the new Perth seat of Burt, was won by Liz Storer, a Gosnells councillor and staffer for two state MPs prominent in the southern suburban “Christian Right” – upper house member Nick Goiran and Southern River MP Peter Abetz, who is the brother of Tasmanian Senator Eric Abetz. Storer’s win came at the expense of Matt O’Sullivan, who runs mining magnate Andrew Forrest’s GenerationOne indigenous employment scheme. Another preselection vote for the Perth electorate was won by employment consultant Jeremy Quinn over a field that included Darryl Moore, the candidate from 2013; Leona Gu, a property developer and real estate agent; and Trudi Lang, who has recently had roles in France and Switzerland with the OECD and World Economic Forum.
• Liberal MP Nola Marino has seen off a preselection challenge in her seat of Forrest, which covers south-western Western Australia. Marino ultimately enjoyed a 51-16 winning margin over Ben Small, a Bunbury businessman who had “worked in commercial shipping and as a property developer”. Small had the support of Marino’s precedessor, Geoff Prosser, and there were suggestions he was serious threat. However, The West Australian also reported this week that the party’s state council would be “under pressure to rescue Mrs Marino” if Small carried the day.
• The ABC reports there are four candidates for the Liberal preselection to replace Sharman Stone in the regional Victorian seat of Murray: Duncan McGauchie, former policy adviser to the then Victorian premier, Ted Baillieu; Emma Bradbury, Campaspe Shire councillor and chief executive of the Murray Darling Association; Camillus O’Kane, an urban planner; and Andrew Bragg, policy director at the Financial Services Council and an unsuccessful candidate in the Victorian Liberals’ recent Senate preselection.
• Ninety-six preselectors will vote in the Liberals’ Mackellar preselection next weekend, drawn equally from local branches and head office. Contentiously, the former contingent includes four of Bronwyn Bishop’s own staff members. Heath Aston of Fairfax hears Bronwyn Bishop and Jason Falinski are approaching 40 votes each, with 10 to 15 backers of Walter Villatora set to decide it for Falinski on the second round.