Morgan SMS poll: Turnbull versus Shorten versus Dutton

A snap poll points to the limits of the Liberals’ Peter Dutton solution. Also featured: Dutton’s Section 44 problem, and the practicalities of an early election.

Miscellaneous Liberal leadership latest:

Roy Morgan has conducted an SMS poll of 1288 respondents with two rounds of preferred prime minister question: Malcolm Turnbull versus Bill Shorten, and Peter Dutton versus Bill Shorten. The former credits Turnbull with a lead of 52% to 44.5%, while the latter has Shorten leading 59% to 36.5%. Morgan’s SMS polling doesn’t have a brilliant track record, and it has been noted in comments that the party breakdown figures suggest a sample with an excess of “others” voters, which includes One Nation. Even so, the poll is unlikely to be so flawed that Dutton’s poor showing should be dismissed outright. The demographic breakdowns are of interest in that Shorten leads Dutton by about 45% among respondents under 35, but Dutton has a slight lead among those 65 and over, which illustrates that Dutton’s constituency closely reflects that of the Liberal Party as a whole. Dutton also does particularly badly in Victoria, but better in Queensland.

• The government has referred the question of Peter Dutton’s potential Section 44 ineligibility to the Solicitor-General, Stephen Donaghue, as Labor circulates advice that a “reasonable prospect” exists that the High Court would disqualify him, given the chance. Malcolm Turnbull’s equivocal comments about the matter in Question Time yesterday angered Dutton’s supporters, given the matter can very easily be swept aside by making no move to refer it to the High Court. The prohibition on parliamentarians with a “direct or indirect pecuniary interest in any agreement with the Public Service of the Commonwealth” was interpreted with extreme narrowness by Chief Justice Garfield Barwick in 1975, then far more broadly by a majority of the court in the Bob Day case last year. It seems a case can be made either way as to whether Peter Dutton lands on the wrong side of the new line, by reason of a family trust that owns two childcare centres in receipt of government subsidies. Anne Twomey in The Conversation notes the government could face a welter of litigation arising over any action taken by Dutton as minister while ineligible, which would apply from three months after the time he became subject to the pecuniary interest.

• Antony Green lays out the case against an early election. On top of anything else, it is noted that the Liberals simply aren’t ready for one, financially or in terms of candidate selection. He also comes down hard on the notion that Malcolm Turnbull could forestall a leadership defeat by going to an early election (which may owe its popularity to the end of season three of The Thick of It), on the grounds that it is so obviously self-defeating as to be unworthy of consideration.

• Nonetheless, the potential for a dissolution to be requested by a tottering leader raises intriguing constitutional questions. In her book The Veiled Sceptre: Reserve Powers of Heads of State in Westminster Systems, Anne Twomey cites somewhat contrary views from Robert Blackburn, who suggests a Governor-General would be “duty-bound to reject any request by a Prime Minister for dissolution during a leadership contest”, and George Winterton, who argues a chief minister should be required to demonstrate his or her support on the floor of parliament where the matter is in doubt. Blackburn’s quote raises the question of what constitutes a leadership contest, which is distinctly different in the British context he was addressing as compared with Australian practice. Winterton’s point arose in a piece on Australian state Governors, and well describes the attitude taken by Queensland Governor Walter Campbell in 1987, when Joh Bjelke-Petersen was setting the current record for intransigence by a leader in the process of being ousted by his party.

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.

1,768 comments on “Morgan SMS poll: Turnbull versus Shorten versus Dutton”

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  1. The RW have a large bloc, but plainly they do not have a majority. If they lose here they face exclusion from power. It’s basically existential for them. They are the DLP – the Groupers – of the contemporary Liberal Party.

    My guess is they will lose. They are the dark side and will not prevail.

  2. RGR wars has nothing on the Turnbull Abbott Turnbull wars.

    The three Sky bearded RWNJs predict:
    Morrison PM
    Morrison PM
    Dutton PM Cormann dep PM (the only Liberal MPs that have acted with honour)

    You couldnt script this …..

  3. Boomy1….if the House were sitting, Dutton could walk and move no confidence. The motion would pass with Labor’s support and Turnbull would have been history.

    As it is, Dutton cannot impose on Turnbull. Dutton may have requested the adjournment for his own convenience – s44 and all – but Turnbull is the greater beneficiary.

  4. As it is, this has put Dutton and his challenge into a kind of limbo. With the House adjourned and the party room shut down, Turnbull is calling the tactical shots, controlling the timing of events.

    Dutton PM Cormann dep PM (the only Liberal MPs that have acted with honour)

    lol, just seagulls looking for chips on a hot seaside afternoon.

  5. I am a bit with briefly. I think

    Turnbull might survive tomorrow and that throws the challenge off the rails.

    If the 43 had signed I reckon somebody would have leaked it.

    These things are best done quickly but the parliament doesn’t sit again for two weeks and maybe a few MPs might get some interesting feedback from their electorates.

    Edit. Maybe they gave the 43 …

  6. Seriously, if an S44 ineligible minister is such a big deal due to their inability to exercise executive power, imagine the consequences with a Prime Minister. What if we went to war? What about the conventions with regard to advising the crown to appoint the GG etc? It’s intolerable that they even continue proposing him while under a cloud. Turnbull is actually doing him a favour by requiring him to be eligible before permitting him to address the party room, the stupid fool

  7. Murdoch has no influence in Canada, New Zealand and Scotland, all of which are sane compared to England, USA and Australia.

    ‘“Is Anglophonia a disease??”
    Not as such, but a disease infests the Anglosphere. Is Newscorp the vector?’

  8. Dutton is no more inelligible to be Prime Minister than he is inelligible to sit in parliament. Turnbull wanting to refer him now is the height of hypocrasy.

  9. jenauthor – The electorate did breathe a sigh of relief when Abbott was knocked off by Turnbull, but was that because of his paleo-conservatism, or only because of embarrassing and offbeat stuff like shirtfronting Putin, knighting Prince Phillip and eating raw onions?

    Yes a number of political theatre-goers would have had their eye turned by Turnbull’s leather jacketed appearances on Q&A, riding a train and his stirring words about global warming – they are probably the group most injured by Turnbull’s seeming “cowardice” since becoming PM. But most other swinging voters would have been happy to turn to a cosmopolitan leader who presented as smart and successful, and wouldn’t make us a laughing stock internationally. Otherwise his political convictions could have been exactly the same as Abbott’s. Don’t forget this same group of voters delivered the L-NP a solid majority in 2013 after being swayed by the poison and bile of the 4 years leading up to that.

  10. Daily Tel changed its headline from ‘Madness’ to the ‘The Madness of Malcolm’.

    Rupert overplaying his hand methinks.

    Malcolm today showed some sink or swim …. he didnt fold … and played every card left, 43 signatures, referral to Solicitor General, I’ll resign if I’m turfed. That’s a trifecta of dummy spits. Too little too late probably but he’s not going out with a whimper….

  11. Some poor blighters in the SG’s office have been assisting in drafting an advisory opinion that might be instrumental in changing the course of Australian political history. Big gig.

  12. sohar

    Murdoch has no influence in Canada, New Zealand and Scotland,


    Scottish Sun is a Murdoch newspaper in Scotland .. a version of The Sun.

  13. Not sure what you base that opinion on Roger Miller. Like all of these other cases it seems to me that only the High Court is able to determine that, they seem to go case by case on these decisions and frequently set new precedent. Not that I’m a lawyer, but even our most prominent constitutional lawyers have been incorrect on past cases so to actually nominate for the position is highly insulting to our constitution

  14. Sohar @ #1707 Thursday, August 23rd, 2018 – 11:07 pm

    12m12 minutes ago
    Midday partyroom meeting confirmed by PMO after 43 signatures reached, @simonbenson reports. Only took them all day. … #auspol #libspill

    I refuse to believe that until it’s reported by a more credible source than The Australian.

  15. I realise it’s a bit of a moot point now, given events, but the fact remains that the Turnbull flunkies in the CPG told us that signing into the NEG by Labor and the states was of paramount importance for the nation.

    Two (or is it three?) versions down the track from the original version of just last week, the one we were told only cynical political opportunists were holding back from agreeing to, plus the rest of the shit around who’s PM today, and the CPG have gone strangely silent on Energy.

    Funny, that.

  16. Turnbull was only elected leader to stop a wipeout that was going to come in the 2016 election with Abbott as leader. It’s all about power for the Libs….never policy.
    If Abbott had stayed Shorten would have been PM. Hopefully next election he will be.

  17. BB – the three candidates tomorrow should be asked which NEG version they plan to put to the states. The NEG, which was supposed to wedge all the Labor jurisdictions, was another Baldrick-inspired “cunning plan” by the Liberals.

  18. Seems to me Murdoch’s Newscorp and IPA involvement runs close to breaching the new foreign influence laws. Maybe Americans don’t count as foreigners these days.

  19. Gecko

    Maybe Americans don’t count as foreigners these days.

    Haha… thay are the most dangerous foreignrs.. They have far more control than the Chinese will ever have.

    Turning us into global liberal capitalists.

    Look at all the right wing wankers on here who pretend they are left wing. 🙂

    As left wing as McDonalds is a restaurant!!

  20. “Branch members of Labor have a say in who leads them. ”

    I don’t know if this has been posted but it was only a couple weeks ago some on this blog were slamming the voting rules as making it too hard dislodge Shorten. After what gone on this week the Labor rules giving branch members are say on the leadership and the machinations making it harder for backroom number crunchers to play games has been coming out of this looking splendid. There is an article here praising Labor’s voting procedures and stability which has helped its leadership.

  21. Shiftaling
    You missed my point. Turnbull is saying that Dutton cant be PM because s44. s44 says nothing about PM or Minister. If he is ineligible to be PM it is because he is inelligible to sit in parliament. When explaining his reasoning at the podium Turnbull almost said Dutton shouldn’t be a Minister, then he corrected himself and said Prime Minister. Saying that Dutton might be inelligible now is the height of hypocrasy, because if he is inelligible now he has always been inelligible. The only way to confirm his elligibility is by refering him to the high court. Unfortunately the only way he can be refered is by the government. While he was a minister, he was not refered. Now that he has challenged Turnbull, Turnbull wants to get legal advice. Utter Hypocrasy.

  22. Final prediction for tonight –

    If SG “clears” Dutton, he will beat Morrison 45-39 after Bishop gets around 20 in round one
    If SG suggests High Court, Abbott will challenge and win 43-41 v Morrison

  23. Peter Dutton
    This advice is in addition to my original advice from Guy Reynolds SC which also confirmed I was not in breach of s.44(v).
    Mr Bennett’s unequivocal advice puts to rest the spurious & unsubstantiated allegations raised against by eligibility. 3/3

  24. Morrison should beat Dutton I reckon, getting a strong preference flow so to speak from Bishop backers; the real risk is Bishop finishing above Morrison in the first round. I can’t see the RWNJ faction treating Bishop with any less contempt than they do Turnbull, they’ll get right back to destabilising if she wins. At least Morrison might keep them just quiet enough until May.

    Btw, has there been any verification of the Benson/Australian story that the petition has 43 signatures?

  25. Rachel Baxendale
    Slight correction: that’s 42 signatures reached, with Karen Andrews’ expected to be a 43rd tomorrow

  26. Can you “unsubscribe” from the petition?

    If not, and the trigger is pulled if and AFTER Dutton is found to have a s44 issue, then presumably many might have regrets. ☺

  27. Does anyone recall how the PHON preferences split at Longman by election? Voters told to preference L/NP on HTV, unlike 2016 when they helped ditch Wyatt Roy.

    AEC site may not update for another few weeks.
    Its the seat beside Duttons

  28. ANTONBRUCKNER11 says:
    Thursday, August 23, 2018 at 9:03 pm
    Don – there must be a partyroom meeting in two week’s time when Parliament resumes. I will not be the least bit surprised if he does not see the letter with 43 signatures and he says, get stuffed. I won a ballot on Monday. I’m still PM. He is NOT just going to roll over. He will fight like an alley cat. Then he might see if he can rally the moderates around him and pretty much exclude the conservatives. The party has to be split. Why not now? Dunno. But he’s not going to roll over to his enemies.


    That is a nightmare scenario. Not just for the LNP, but for Australia.

  29. What has ever happened to the self-righteous spittle and choking indignation so possessed of the Libs?
    Thick hides and catty faces as the Libs front up to the house this morning in search of respite from this public display of self-flagellation. A dish served cold!

  30. Don
    It’s not really a nightmare as the Libs were not governing for the best interests of Australia. They haven’t since Howard’s last term.
    In the end, the result will benefit Australia and we’ll all move on.
    No troops involved, no radio and TV stations ceased, no fleeing, not yet anyway!

  31. The image of a helmeted Abbott and a camouflaged Bronwyn Bishop arriving atop armed tanks to save us all from democracy is difficult to quash.

  32. Wish Turnbull had stood up to the nutjobs on policy etc when he first got in, energy / tax / marriage equality etc could have all been done differently. To say he has been a disapointment is an understatement. …….the alternative within the Coalition is scary though.

    We as a country are now insular and competing with Trump’s America for self serving idiocy.

    The most logical outcome is for Dutton to win. I fear if Dutton get’s in is he will practice the only way he knows, divide, play to peoples fears and divide some more.

    Hope Turnbull drags Dutton down.

    Bring on some two party preferreed poling

  33. Interesting

    Leaving aside the current context, I have to say that I feel pretty somewhat towards Barnett’s arguments. From a common sense point of view (which, of course, doesn’t necessarily apply in legal opinions), child care centres receive payments from the government on behalf of their customers. In order to receive these payments, they must demonstrate their eligibility in a range of ways: that the care they provide meets the standards required for child care, that they actually have children at the centre for the periods claimed, etc. The key to receiving the payments appears to be demonstrating, and continuing to demonstrate eligibility, rather than entering into any form of contract or agreement.

    It’s similar to the arrangement by which medical practices accept payments from Medicare on a patient’s behalf. Interestingly, for many years, the doctors who refused to bulk bill were also highly antipathetic to the idea of processing Medicare claims on behalf of patients at the practice, and then only charging the patient the difference. Their gripe was that “this would mean that we would be working for the government rather than for the patient.” Successive Health Ministers argued otherwise, and almost all doctors have now relented. But, if the Solicitor-General accepts that Dutton has a s44 problem, then perhaps these recalcitrant doctors could claim that they had a point.

    Although, as I understand Bret Walker’s argument, he is suggesting that the purpose of the relevant part of section 44 is about avoiding any sense whatsoever of a conflict of interest on behalf of politicians, and that this requires the bar to be set very high, so that the meaning of the word “agreement” was intended to be very broad, and to go way beyond standard contractual arrangements. So, if I understand him correctly, section 44 would cover any conceivable arrangement by which a politician might be receiving a financial benefit from the government other than through their salary as a MP.

    It’a very hardline interpretation of s44, but then that’s what we saw from the High Court in relation to the citizenship provisions.

  34. What ever the outcome it is very hard seeing the Liberals holding their one seat majority. I think Victoria could be fighting the state election with a Federal Labor Government in power and a Federal election date announced.

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