Foreign affairs and Senate preferences

A comprehensive new survey on attitudes to foreign affairs, and deeper-than-ever dive into Senate voting and the preference question.

We’re still yet to have a new poll of federal voting intention after the election, for whatever that may still be worth, but I would imagine Newspoll will be breaking its drought to mark next week’s resumption of parliament. We do, however, have one of the Lowy Institute’s occasional surveys on attitudes to foreign affairs, the results of which are attractively presented on the organisation’s website.

The headline topic of the poll is Sino-American relations, and the results point to a sharp decline in trust towards China, which a clear majority of respondents rated the “world’s leading economic power”. Even clearer majorities, of around three-quarters, believed China was pursuing regional domination, and that Australia should do more to resist its military activities even if it affected our too-close economic relationship.

However, the poll also finds a further decline in trust in the United States, to add to the body-blow it took when Donald Trump was elected. Of particular interest here are the age breakdowns. Whereas there was little to distinguish the age cohorts in their positive view of the US on Obama’s watch, respondents in their youth and early middle-age now take a substantially more negative view than older ones.

Relatedly, the highly negative and worsening view of Trump personally, while evident across all age cohorts, is most pronounced among the young. This carries through to a head-to-head question on whether respondents should prioritise strong relations with the United States or China, with a majority of those aged 18-30 favouring China, and a large majority of the 60-plus cohort favouring the United States.

Beyond that, the survey offers no end of interesting material:

• Respondents were asked about their satisfaction with democracy – which, one often reads, is in freefall throughout the western world, particularly among the young. However, the Lowy Institute’s yearly tracking of this question going back to 2012 doesn’t show any such thing. If anything, there seems to be a slight trend in favour of the response that “democracy is preferable to any other kind of government”, which is up three on last year at 65%. While the young are less sold on this notion than the old, there has been a solid improving trend among the 18-to-30 cohort, with this year’s result up six on last year’s to 55%, a new high over the course of the series.

• Evaluations were sought on a limited sample of foreign leaders, specifically concerning whether they could be trusted in world affairs. Donald Trump ranked down alongside Vladimir Putin, while Jacinda Ardern recorded near-unanimous acclaim, with 88% expressing either a lot of or some confidence. New Zealand was rated “Australia’s best friend” out of six available options by 59%, up from six since 2017.

• Brexit was rated a bad thing for the United Kingdom by 62%, a bad thing for the European Union by 70%, and a bad thing for the West in general by 58%. The UK’s rating on a “feelings thermometer” fell six points, to 76.

• Concern about climate change maintained an upward trajectory, with 61% favouring action “even if this involves significant costs”. The long-range trend on this question going back to 2006 suggests climate change is less of a problem when Labor are in office.

• Views on immigration were less negative than last year, after a significant hardening of opinion between 2014 and 2018. However, the immigration rate was still held to be too high by 48% of all respondents, and a very large majority of older ones.

The survey was conducted online and by telephone from March 12 to 25 from a sample of 2130.

The second part of today’s lesson relates to Senate preference flows, from which we can obtain no end of information thanks to the Australian Electoral Commission’s publication of the data files containing the preference order for every single ballot paper. By contrast, we’re still waiting on the two-party preference splits the AEC eventually publishes for each party in the House of Representatives. There will be a lot of analysis of this information here over the coming weeks, but for starters I offer the following:

This shows, from left to right, the rate of voters’ adherence to their favoured party’s how-to-vote-card; the rate at which minor party voters’ preference orders favoured Labor over the Coalition or vice-versa, or neither in the event that they did not number either party (“two-party”); and a similar three-way measure that throws the Greens into the mix (“three-party”).

This shows that United Australia Party voters heavily favoured the Coalition over Labor, but not because they were following the party’s how-to-vote cards, a course followed by around 0.1% of the total electorate. One Nation preferences were only slightly less favourable to the Coalition, and even fewer of the party’s voters followed the card. Since One Nation’s preferences in the lower house split almost evenly in 2016, out of the 15 seats where they ran, it seems safe to assume a shift in One Nation preferences accounted for a substantial chunk of the two-party swing to the Coalition. I will calculate Senate preference flows from 2016 for comparison over the next few days.

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.

1,777 comments on “Foreign affairs and Senate preferences”

  1. C@tmomma says:
    Monday, July 1, 2019 at 9:58 am

    I think Buce must be hanging around PB until he gets called up to be Australia’s next Military GG.

    He could be Jim, biding his time, hoping for a Senate recall.

  2. Sally Rugg@sallyrugg
    3h3 hours ago

    Albanese says Labor lost the election bc they had too many policies, so has moved to “gut” references to LGBTIQ rights.

    Labor have already removed the role of equality minister.

    Are Labor gearing up to support Morrisons’s ‘religious protections’ act?

  3. Are Labor gearing up to support Morrisons’s ‘religious protections’ act?

    Of course. Everyone knows Shorten’s problem was that he just didn’t commit hard enough to being Lib-lite. 🙂

  4. I notice that recently there have been several adverts by Mining (unspecified) which laud their care for the environment, showing pics of ‘beautiful grass’ after restoration. As if any land can be returned to its original state.

  5. Matt Cowgill (Grattan Inst.)

    Under the Government’s personal income tax plan, we estimate that most people will pay more tax (as a percentage of their income) than they did in 2017-18; the top 15 per cent of tax-filers will pay less.

  6. lizzie @ #1504 Monday, July 1st, 2019 – 10:11 am

    I notice that recently there have been several adverts by Mining (unspecified) which laud their care for the environment, showing pics of ‘beautiful grass’ after restoration. As if any land can be returned to its original state.

    Remind me how long it takes to grow an actual Eucalypt that a Koala can live in again? Basically it’s a long, long time.

  7. C@t

    I think the accepted time to 80-100 years, which is why Forestry’s standard period of 40-60 years is so destructive.

  8. This is about her investment on the Gold Coast

    Sussan Ley@sussanley
    Your assertion is defamatory.
    You have published – and repeated – a false statement regarding me, with the intention of of slandering or harming my reputation and character.
    I reserve my right to take legal action against you.

    Replying to @sussanley
    It is all from a story I read in a newspaper. Why doesn’t your government release the findings? We paid for the investigation. #auspol

  9. Barney

    I believe that Albo moved too quickly and has provided Morrison with an excuse to act against militant (sic) unions. Trying to bring in tighter laws against union reps daring to set foot in a dangerous workplace will bring on another fight with Labor.

  10. There is no technical reason for the global economy to be generating GHG.

    My understanding is that if all the world’s governments committed to eliminating greenhouse gas emissions we could eliminate nearly all emissions with existing technology. However, jet fuel for planes and coking coal for the production of steel do not yet have substitutes that are devoid of greenhouse gas emissions.

    We could get close though. It is a damn shame that we haven’t done a lot more.

  11. lizzie says:
    Monday, July 1, 2019 at 10:26 am


    I believe that Albo moved too quickly and has provided Morrison with an excuse to act against militant (sic) unions. Trying to bring in tighter laws against union reps daring to set foot in a dangerous workplace will bring on another fight with Labor.

    It’s certainly providing oxygen, especially when they have so little of their own that they wish to talk about.

  12. I caught sight of the Daily Tele in the corner store this morning, and actually laughed out loud – they have executed a flawless and incredibly funny self-parody.

  13. The Potato takes back control.

    How surprising¿

    I missed this last week, but speaking of medevac, Peter Dutton has taken back control of the decisions from David Coleman.

    Here is what he told David Speers on Sky on the 20th:

    Mr Coleman’s obviously had this area of responsibility for a period of time and I’ve take it back since the machinery of government changes since the election.

    The Guardian blog

  14. C@tmomma says:
    Monday, July 1, 2019 at 10:51 am

    Barney in Makassar @ #1508 Monday, July 1st, 2019 – 10:20 am

    Setka is not lying down.

    Did Albo move too quickly and without appropriate consideration?

    That’s been my concern.

    From the Guardian blog

    John Setka has been convicted of and has pled guilty to, Domestic Violence charges. End of story. He has to go.

    But C@t, that is not the basis of Albo’s complaint.

  15. Mr Albanese has opened up the expulsion process for Setka to extend to non Rose Batty matters.

    Removal of any person from an organisation inevitably gives rise to fairness issues and matters of procedure.

    Mr Albanese would have had the option of saying that he asked the ALP to investigate Setka re removal.

  16. Barney in Makassar @ #1518 Monday, July 1st, 2019 – 10:55 am

    But C@t, that is not the basis of Albo’s complaint.

    Where does it say that matters?

    As in, is there some Labor party bylaw that says if someone requests review of another person’s membership on the grounds of character issues then that review can only consider the specific character issue(s) raised in the initial request and not all aspects of their character?

    If not, then it doesn’t matter what Albo initially complained about. If so, then Albo should be using his position as party leader to amend that rule so that it’s less stupid.

  17. I liked this from David Hurley’s speech, quoting David Malouf, an Australian author.

    Australia is still revealing itself to us. We ought not close off possibilities by declaring too early what we have already become”.

    Australia is not a finished product.

    It captures the evolving nature of Australia’s make up and shows up the lie of those who wish a return to the past.

  18. Barney. The basis of Albo’s complaint was a number of cumulative issues. The Rosie Batty stuff was just the last in a long line. The resonance with those comments and Setka’s own real life pending charges was too obvious to ignore. Especially given the partial admissions on social media he made on the day that he was charged. Albo couldn’t simply let this albatross bleed for any longer.

  19. Hurley’s first job, tomorrow, will be opening parliament. He’ll deliver the agenda speech, which is written by the government, laying out the plans for the term.

    I suppose right now there is a team of scribes rushing to think up ‘plans’ that do not include ‘blame Labor for everything’.

  20. Albanese assured everyone that Setka would be gone from the labor party by the 5th of July. No perhaps, no let us see what we can do. A straight out gone by the 5th of July from Albanese the leader of the federal labor party.

    We shall wait and see if his word is worth much on this issue. If Albanese thought Setka would just roll over and go quietly after his very public intervention then the judgement of Albanese must be bought into question on this.

    We shall see how National executive responds over the next few days. Perhaps they will find some way to get Albanese off the hook.

  21. The only time Labor has won a majority federally since 1993, was in 2007 with the News Corporation newspapers apart from the Herald Sun and the Advertiser endorsing Labor. Given that News Corporation own every major newspaper in Queensland that is telling.

  22. KayJay
    We have a 75/25 border collie/kelpie and his movements are just the same as he finds and rounds up the chooks and gets them back into the henhouse. He was never trained.

  23. BK and KJ

    Some friends of mine went on a group camping holiday last month that included several children and dogs, one of which was a border collie who spent its time herding the children into groups. 🙂

  24. BK @ #1528 Monday, July 1st, 2019 – 11:25 am

    We have a 75/25 border collie/kelpie and his movements are just the same as he finds and rounds up the chooks and gets them back into the henhouse. He was never trained.

    BK – my (and my wife’s) last dog ABBEE was a border collie. Just such wonderful creatures. 🐩🐕🐶
    and 🌭 hot dogs for lunch.

  25. lizzie @ #1529 Monday, July 1st, 2019 – 11:31 am

    BK and KJ

    Some friends of mine went on a group camping holiday last month that included several children and dogs, one of which was a border collie who spent its time herding the children into groups. 🙂

    I have a “sort of” reverse experience when a collection of family members arrive with the youngest great grandson (3 and a half). It appears that the little gentleman rounds us up (more or less) in tiny groups of entertainment for him.

    Lunch for one please Muriel.

  26. Australian Unions@unionsaustralia
    2h2 hours ago

    “The fact that Morrison wants to talk up changes to industrial relations only after the votes have been cast and counted is a rather obvious way of showing contempt for voters” #auspol

  27. @samanthamaiden
    8m8 minutes ago

    Some serious rewriting of history on Sky where Chris Kenny is bagging his colleague Nikki Savva’s new book Plots and Prayers and claiming it had to be substantially rewritten because of election result which I don’t think is actually even true. Suppose it doesn’t matter.

  28. The history of capitalism shows that when businesses are allowed to reduce red tape, consumers and the economy eventually lose out, because businesses profit from not having to do things that consumers don’t know need to be done.

    Our prime minister appears to cheer for such an outcome.

    And so now after the election, we see Morrison’s economic vision – changes to industrial relations, businesses coming up with ideas on which regulations they no longer want to adhere to, and, as ever, the desire to cut taxes for the wealthiest.

    Pity. That would have made for an interesting election campaign.

  29. When Scott ‘AA’ Morrison goes, ‘ancient history’ about what went on in the Turnbull to Morrison government last year, someone should say back to him, ‘People study ancient history you know! You can learn a lot from it.’. 😐

  30. @lizzie

    After reading that article, it is adding to some troubling thoughts, that I am having about the state of Australian Democracy.


    The Government says it will release tenders to contract for the operation of those services on Adelaide Metro.

    It says it will still own and control “rail assets”, including trains, trams, tracks and stations, and will continue to set the fare price for travel.

    Transport Minister Stephan Knoll said Adelaide’s public transport network was underperforming, with one of the lowest patronage levels in the country.

    He said the new model would deliver more efficient services.

  32. Tristo

    It seems that Morrison and his strategists deliberately set out to appeal to the disinterested and non-thinkers, and he succeeded.

  33. The book’s publication will reignite tensions in the Liberal Party just as the new Parliament is due to sit for the first time since the May 18 election.

    Oh, I do hope so 😆

    The book also reveals that Mr Morrison and his fellow Pentecostal and close friend and numbers man Stuart Robert, prayed that “righteousness would exalt the nation,” in the minutes before Mr Morrison was made prime minister by the Liberal party room.

    Mr Morrison had asked his receptionist to text his wife to ask that his family pray for him as he headed into a prayer session with Mr Robert, now the Minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

    “We prayed that righteousness would exalt the nation … righteousness would mean the right person had won,” Mr Robert told Savva.

    The book also reveals Mr Morrison described his May 18 election win as a “miracle” and that he texted deputy Liberal leader and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg the night before to say the result was “in God’s hands” and that “I believe in miracles.”

  34. lizzie

    I enjoyed it too – thanks. Reminded me of The Thick Of It episode that featured Nicola Murray’s “quiet batpeople”.

  35. [The black skimmer bird was photographed at a beach in Florida, US, picking the butt up and putting it in the baby’s mouth.

    Karen Mason, who took the photographs, issued a simple plea as she posted the pictures online: “If you smoke, please don’t leave your butts behind.”]

  36. @lizzie

    I agree, also that disinformation campaign waged jointly by the government parties, Clive Palmer and even One Nation was fueled by a lot of black money.

    There are parallels to Brexit and the 2016 US Presidential election, indeed Scott Morrison has the sort of extensive support from the commercial media and even the ABC, that Donald Trump can only dream of.

  37. After an invitation from Donald Trump for Morrison to join his ‘Axis of Assholes’, namely:

    Bolsanaro from Brazil
    Erdogan from Turkey
    Morrison from Australia

    Notionally to join the Rat in Chief and rat on their own Paris commitments – little did we know that Morrison’s own Minister Keenan called Scott Morrison ‘an absolute arsehole’, with little if any rebuttal from his dining companions..

    “By Latika Bourke

    One of the first two cabinet ministers to quit Parliament after last year’s Liberal leadership coup described Prime Minister Scott Morrison as an “absolute arsehole,” an explosive new book claims.

    Michael Keenan, who served as justice minister when Scott Morrison was immigration minister, made the comments to colleagues at a lunch at the Garum Restaurant in Perth in April 2018, just months before Mr Morrison became leader.

    According to Plots and Prayers, political commentator Niki Savva’s new book about last year’s leadership stoush, Mr Keenan told his West Australian colleagues, including Finance Minister Mathias Cormann, Attorney-General Christian Porter and Mr Morrison’s chief ally Ben Morton, that Mr Morrison was an “absolute arsehole”.

  38. Kakuru

    I’m seriously worried, if the smug look indicates that Morrison believes that god is on his side, he will also believe that he is always right. That’s the way that dictators are made. Labor cannot relax for a moment.

  39. @sprocket_

    I believe Scott Morrison aspires to become an ‘authoritarian’ strong man leader like Bolosanro and Erdogan. So it could be possible Morrison will try to turn Australian into a corrupt, authoritarian, ‘illiberal democracy’. Those are the troubling thoughts I have had on the state of Australian Democracy as of late.

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