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. It appears the advice of Bennett only reaches a conclusion that it is his opinion Dutton is not ineligible to sit. That is NOT to the point.

    The question for the Sol G MUST be:

    Is there a reasonable basis upon which Dutton could be found to be ineligible by the Court of Disputed Returns? If so, then he needs to be referred to clarify the issue.

  2. Good Morning Bludgers 🙂

    So 43 turkeys have decided to vote for Christmas? They are convinced that the way to victory at the next election is to chase PHON’s voters?

    Senator Seselja said he was supporting change to reverse the drift of traditional coalition supporters to fringe parties, particularly Pauline Hanson’s One Nation. He cited the Longman byelection where Hanson’s candidate polled 17 per cent and the LNP polled a primary of 29 per cent.

    “If we’re getting a primary vote around that it would very, very difficult to hold onto seats in Queensland, it would be very, very difficult to hold on to government.

    “In order to win elections you have to start by securing your base … it is very, very difficult to win elections without your traditional supporters behind you and that is one of the reasons why a number of people have come to the conclusion that Peter Dutton is the best man to lead us,” he said.

    However, the arithmetic doesn’t stack up.

    Not all PHON voters even give their second preference to the LNP in Queensland now. So with a 1 seat majority, chasing down all their votes, will see the Coalition lose ground. Not to mention that Pauline Hanson might have something to say about having her voters poached. As well as the fact that people vote for Pauline because she has been true to her positions for decades and she is that ‘conviction politician’ that some people love. The Coalition doing it at 5 minutes to midnight doesn’t have the same sense of authenticity about it.

    And that’s before you get onto the votes south of the Tweed that the Coalition are going to definitely lose under Joh 2.0, Peter Dutton.

  3. Anyway, I reckon that the S-G is more likely than not to find in Dutton’s favour: which, of course, doesn’t rule out a later HC challenge if someone with the ability to make one chooses to do so.

    Assuming that 43 signatures have been found, this will mean a three-way contest at lunchtime. It’s difficult to predict. Yesterday, I thought Dutton – if eligible to remain in Parliament – was a certainty. However, the struggle to get to 43 signatures doesn’t seem to bode all that well for him. From the press reports about who voted for him on Tuesday, it would appear that he has a hard core base of 31 conservatives, plus the three who came across to his side yesterday – Cash, Cormann and Fyfield – plus Hunt, Keenan, McGrath and Laming who are supporting him for other reasons. That makes 38.

    It’s possible that Cash, Cormann and Fyfield have brought some others with them, although the suggestion that Cash and Cormann were campaigning hard for signatures yesterday, and that they had still only got to “about 40” by yesterday evening, doesn’t suggest that they have brought many to add to the 35 other than themselves.

    It’s also in the nature of these leadership contests that some people flip flop, so it’s possible that some who voted for Dutton on Tuesday have now had second thoughts, eg: News Corp listed Van Manen among Dutton’s strongest supporters, but he was sounding mightily annoyed on Wednesday. Being a loyal LNP footsoldier, he’ll probably fall into line, but there are others who could possibly drift.

    Anyway, there does seem to be a rather firm upper limit on Dutton’s support base of about 40 MPs and Senators. Of course, if it had come down to a straight Turnbull vs Dutton contest, Dutton would certainly have won, because some people would have decided to shift from Turnbull to Dutton simply to put an end to the civil war (eg, the same reason that Shorten, Wong and others decided to vote for Rudd in 2013).

    But it’s a whole new ball game now. Dutton’s only chance is to promise plum jobs to some of the Turnbull supporters. But, now, Morrison and Bishop, have an equal opportunity to do the same thing to some of the conservatives. And there might be a few of these who would be feeling that the push to get rid of Turnbull has been self-destructive, and that an election loss is pretty much certain. And, therefore, that Morrison or Bishop have a better chance of “saving the furniture.”

    And it would appear that it’s Bishop who now has the inside running over Morrison. And it’s also possible that Abbott will also jump in front of Dutton proclaiming an “I’ll save the furniture line.” Anyway, the last round looks set to be a head-to-head clash between a conservative and a moderate, and I reckon both will get 40+ votes.

    Marx’s famous quote about events happening twice in history first as tragedy (eg, Rudd-Gillard-Rudd) and second as farce (Abbott-Turnbull-?) didn’t go anywhere near far enough. This is beyond farce, beyond parody, beyond belief!

  4. These lunatics think the blue-rinse nongs they meet at branch meeting ARE the liberal party. What about the millions who vote for you, you idiots.

  5. Morning all. It will be interesting to find who attacked Duttons office and their motive. Will he complain about extremism now?

  6. I was ggoing to suggest a song playlist to cheer up the Liberals if they were feeling down, peerhaps Slip Sliding Away. Then I thought poetry might be better.

    The Second Crumbling, after Yeates

    Turning and turning in the Canberra mire
    The MP cannot hear the Prime Minister;
    Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
    Greed and stupidity loosed upon the world,
    The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
    The degree of incompetence is exposeed;
    The moderates lack all conviction, while Abbott and Dutton
    Are full of passionate intensity.

  7. Socrates

    Morning all. It will be interesting to find who attacked Duttons office and their motive. Will he complain about extremism now?


    The problem is that, whoever did it, we the taxpayers pay for it to be repaired.

  8. I have met the Liberals at close of day
    Coming with vivid faces
    From counter or desk among grey
    harbourside houses.
    I have passed with a nod of the head
    Or polite meaningless words,
    Or have lingered awhile and said
    Polite meaningless words,
    And thought before I had done
    Of a mocking tale or a gibe
    To please a companion
    Around the fire at the club,
    Being certain that they and I
    But lived where motley is worn:
    All changed, changed utterly:
    A terrible Prime Minister is born.

  9. Let’s assume the following order of events.

    Leadership spill.
    Dutton wins.
    Turnbull resigns.
    GG demands Dutton demonstrate confidence on the floor of the HoR.
    2 weeks passes, parliament sits.
    All the coalition vote for confidence. 74 (76, minus Turnbull and speaker).
    All the xbench vote no confidence along with labor. That’s 74.
    Speaker gets the tie breaker.

    How does tradition say he should vote?

    Vote no to maintain the status quo?

    Or vote yes for stability?

  10. Greg Jericho tweets

    What a total shit show.

    All that to change nothing on policy but instead replace the most popular person in the Liberal Party with Scott Morrison

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