Essential Research: Newstart, robodebt, social media

More evidence that voters favour social democratic policy options, right up until polling day.

The fortnightly Essential Research poll, which is still yet to resume results for voting intention, focuses largely on questions around social security. Among its findings are that the Newstart rate is deemed too low by 58%, about right by 30% and too high by 5%. Forty-four per cent expressed strong support for an increase from $280 per week to $355, a further 31% said they somewhat supported it, and only 18% said they were opposed, 7% strongly.

I don’t normally make anything out of breakdowns published in average sample polls, but it’s interesting to note that the “too low” response increases progressively across the three age cohorts to peak at 66% among the 55-and-over. There was also a relationship between age and correct answers to a question in which respondents were asked to identify the weekly Newstart payment, the overall result for which was 40%, up from 27% when it was previously asked last June. Only 29% of Coalition voters expressed strong support for an increase compared with 55% for Labor supporters, but the difference was narrower when combined with the “somewhat” response, at 84% to 68%.

On the Centrelink “robodebt” debt recovery program, 58% supported calls for it to be shut down compared with 32% opposed. Twenty-two per cent said they had heard a lot about the program and 30% a little, while 18% said they had not heard any details and 30% that they were not aware of it at all.

The one question not relating to social security covers social media companies’ collection of personal information, with 80% expressing concern about the matter and the same number wanting tighter regulation. The affirmative response for both questions progressively increased across the three age cohorts.

Also noteworthy from the poll is that Essential Research has taken to publishing “base” figures for each cohort in the breakdown, which evidently reflect their proportion of the total after weightings are applied. This is at least a step in the direction of the transparency that is the norm in British and American polling, in that it tell us how Essential is modelling the overall population, even if it doesn’t divulge how much each cohort’s responses are being weighted to produce those totals.

The poll was conducted Thursday to Sunday from an online sample of 1102 respondents.

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.

533 comments on “Essential Research: Newstart, robodebt, social media”

  1. a r says:
    Wednesday, August 7, 2019 at 11:50 am

    “But it sets such a good precedent for Folau.”

    I preface this by saying I’m not a lawyer but have done a bit a few legal units, some HR training and a few legal issues over the years.

    Folau’s case is unlikely to be about free speech and has nothing to do with the employment conditions of a civil servant who the AAT thinks has been hard done by in a Workers Comp case.

    It is more likely to be about whether the Religious Discrimination Provisions of the Federal Fair Work Act have been breached (noting that the NSW Anti-discrimination law doesn’t appear to include religious discrimination within its’ scope). You cannot contract out of that.

    And if you don’t believe me then take it up with Gillian Trigg who knows a shed load more about this type of thing and for once we appear to be in agreement.

  2. Andrew,

    I spent the whole election campaign waiting for Labor to open the lollie jar. They never did.

    And moreover, Bowen seemed proud of that. Not good optics.

  3. It’s also disinflationary, which everyone but hard MMT peeps value.

    Keeping inflation low and stable while maintaining unemployment of 1 or 2 percent is a big part of what MMT peeps want to see in the world.

    They also emphasise the role of taxation in controlling inflation, reducing inequality of wealth and income, and influencing behaviours (which includes things like discouraging speculative investment and encouraging productive investment).

  4. I spent the whole election campaign waiting for Labor to open the lollie jar. They never did.

    2.3B for cancer?
    But I generally agree. Maybe blame the polls? Maybe as the ‘take and give’ of the Gillard carbon policies didnt, work they thought – ‘f it, why bother’.

  5. They also emphasise the role of taxation in controlling inflation, reducing inequality of wealth and income, and influencing behaviours (which includes things like discouraging speculative investment and encouraging productive investment).

    Well well well, that sounds an awful lot like keeping the budget balanced over macroeconomic cycles.

    Not going soft on us are you?

  6. 2.3B for cancer?

    Small beer. Didn’t talk about it relentlessly like they should have. Should be doing it anyway.

    But I think we are in furious agreement.

  7. Dandy

    I’m told Bowen was obsessed with getting the biggest surpluses possible and couldn’t be swayed on this.

    Yet any organisation I’ve worked with has recognised that ‘money in the bank’ is either money that shouldn’t have been collected to start with or a wasted asset which should be invested in some way (for example, in providing better services).

    To ‘sell’ policies such as negative gearing etc there had to be clear gains.

  8. …and all the lollie jars opened created winners and losers – ‘cancer patients will get this, but diabetics won’t’ ‘childcare users will get this, but other parents won’t’ etc etc. So for every person pleased, someone else was p*ssed.

  9. Simon Katich says:
    Wednesday, August 7, 2019 at 12:14 pm
    “I spent the whole election campaign waiting for Labor to open the lollie jar. They never did.

    2.3B for cancer?”

    As a cancer survivor who forks out hundreds of $ for annual CT scans I could see the scheme was a load of bollocks, and poorly targeted.

  10. Didn’t talk about it relentlessly like they should have.

    Aint that the clincher. A combination of not getting their heads on enough airwaves, not getting a fair run from most airwaves, not being good enough to overcome that weight, not good at selling and hammering home the right messages in the few spaces they had open to them.

    And… not spending enough on well targeted ads. The release of election spending results will be interesting.

  11. As a cancer survivor who forks out hundreds of $ for annual CT scans I could see the scheme was a load of bollocks, and poorly targeted.

    The health industry confuses me. I know a survivor who had quarterly then yearly then two yearly MRIs. All covered by medicare.

  12. From BK’s dawn patrol:

    “Last night Paul Keating said that Labor lost the election because it was proposing higher taxes and not because the public rejected bold policy reform and that Shorten failed to understand the middle class.
    https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/bill-shorten-failed-to-understand-the-middle-class-paul-keating-says-20190806-p52ejk.html”

    The summary is a bit misleading. I’ve just watched the Keating interview on iView and the point he made is the same one I’ve been making – if you are going to cut ‘tax expenditures’ thereby broadening the tax base then politically some of this at least needs to be returned as tax cuts. For those that fulminate about how ‘bad’ tax cuts are, it’s also worth noting the astonishing cost to the budget each year of tax expenditures- at least $160 billion: further, they are clearly poorly targeted and – thanks largely to John Howard and Pete Costello – favour selected ‘worthy’ interests groups all within the top economic decile.

    The immediate lead up to the last election provided a classic example of a missed opportunity: once Frydenberg announced a $7 billion surplus projection for the 2019/20FY BUT insisted on both stage 2 and 3 tax cuts being still postponed for 4-5 years there was a tremendous opportunity for labor to fill a political void with a big fat immediate middle class tax bribe forced squarely at the folk that determine elections. For a cost of only $3.5 billion per year Labor could have brought forward stage 2 and given the middle class another ~ $1400 per year back in the hand from July THIS year: this could have been sold as THE benefit (amongst others) of Labor’s tax expenditure claw back policies. I reckon it would have stopped the ‘Bill you cant afford’ tax scare campaign ever gaining flight. Let alone killing Labor it ended up doing.

    Stage 1 and 2 acting in concert for 1 July 2019 would also have had the benefit of stimulating a flatlining economy as well.

  13. So, the Public Service Code requires public servants to be “apolitical at all times”?
    I don’t know how I would have fared in my, admittedly unhappy, days as a lower level clerk in a federal department when, on election day, I handed out how-to-vote cards for the ALP. When I later worked as a journalist I checked with my union to see there was no problem arising from me doing the same. The union assured me that it was okay, provided it did not interfere with my reporting in any way.
    I believe that I managed to keep my political opinions out of my coverage, applying the principles of fair and accurate reporting. Indeed, I decided that if I ever were challenged because of my political opinions, I would in turn challenge the person to indicate any biased coverage on my part.
    But to get back to the public service, it seems to me that any worker in a government department or anywhere else should be free to air political opinions, unless it can be shown that they interfered with their terms of employment.
    The High Court ruling is indeed a worrying development.

  14. Simon Katich says:
    Wednesday, August 7, 2019 at 12:35 pm

    Clearly that person was treated in the public system. I was treated in the private system so medicare only covers about half my CT scans.

    Waiting on results of my 5 year scan.

  15. Sir Henry Parkes says:
    Wednesday, August 7, 2019 at 12:40 pm

    “But to get back to the public service, it seems to me that any worker in a government department or anywhere else should be free to air political opinions, unless it can be shown that they interfered with their terms of employment.”

    Given she was working for the Immigration Department and publicly attacking the policies of the department I’m pretty sure this case meets your rider of “unless it can be shown that they interfered with their terms of employment”.

  16. Clearly that person was treated in the public system. I was treated in the private system so medicare only covers about half my CT scans.
    Waiting on results of my 5 year scan.

    And your private insurance doesnt cover the rest?
    Yes, fully public. He has no complaints. I also had a lump removed that was thought to be a bad one. Turned out not to be. I paid for the consultations with the best surgeon in town (lump was in a tricky place) knowing he would be either doing the surgery or at least in the theatre at the public hospital.

    A girl in my child’s sports team just got diagnosed with a tumour. Cancer sux.

    Fingers crossed for you bro.

  17. And when do you intend to start paying down the debt?

    It is misleading to call Commonwealth Government Securities debt because they are not debt in the ordinary meaning of the term.

    The Commonwealth Government provides a zero risk interest-bearing asset to the private sector. It does not need to do this. The private sector prefers to save in the form of CGSs than in the form of reserves because they pay a higher interest rate.

    What you call “the public debt” is actually just the private sector’s savings. That is a more accurate and meaningful way of labelling it.

    There is no solvency risk for any Australian dollar liabilities owed by the Australia Government.

  18. Sk
    The surgeon will not necessarily be in theatre. Many larger hospitals have common waiting lists. The hospital allocates public patients to the surgeon with an appropriate space on their list
    Private patients have surgery performed by the surgeon of their choice

  19. Simon Katich says:
    Wednesday, August 7, 2019 at 1:03 pm

    Private Health Insurance only covers in-hospital stuff – not scans afterwards. I went to one of the best surgeons in Australia who is a mate.

    Thanks for the thoughts. I expect to be clear – we got it early but it cost me a large section of my deep sewer and a major rebuild – 5 years is the rather unemotional statistical goal they set for us to make it to.

    Got sent the test pack for my 50th birthday last year which shows that the our system isn’t very good at communicating with the different parts. I really don’t understand the virulent opposition to the MyHealth data sharing.

    The Big C is a bitch. I hope the kid is ok -amazing what can be done these days.

  20. Nicholas says:
    Wednesday, August 7, 2019 at 1:10 pm

    Here’s a tip, Champ: don’t bother reading or responding to my posts on economics because I don’t bother reading yours on economics.

  21. The surgeon will not necessarily be in theatre. Many larger hospitals have common waiting lists. The hospital allocates public patients to the surgeon with an appropriate space on their list
    Private patients have surgery performed by the surgeon of their choice

    Yes. But not for this particular jobbie. Parotid gland. GP sent me to a breast surgeon. I decided that was BS and went to a ENT parotid specialist. He told me he would do the cut. He was definitely there in the theatre. And he was on the rounds.

  22. I’d suggest people think about “paying down debt” when the reactionary toerags end their destruction of the ecological commons for their own personal financial interest.
    When they start paying down the ecological debt already accrued, perhaps think about it.

    As for coalies and oilies, another report seems like another nail in the coffin of fossil fuels.

    There’s a few issues to address, but it seems on cost per unit energy basis for mobility, renewables and EV’s will smash fossil fuel transport.

    Why solar, wind and EVs will be the death of the petroleum industry
    https://reneweconomy.com.au/why-solar-wind-and-evs-will-be-the-death-of-the-petroleum-industry-93816/

    A stunning new report from French-based global banking group BNP Paribas signals the death toll for the petrol industry – a mixture of solar, wind and electric vehicles can deliver more than six times the “mobility” returns on each dollar invested than oil.

    The report, entitled “Wells, Wires and Wheels”, has been described as “seismic” by the likes of solar pioneer and entrepreneur Jeremy Leggett because he says it demonstrates the huge capital efficiency of wind and solar and EVs over the petroleum industry.

  23. Mavis Davis says:
    Wednesday, August 7, 2019 at 1:21 pm

    “Have you ever considered the proposition that you can be apolitical publicly, political privately?”

    Yes, and that’s what all Public Servants do. Everyone has personal political views. These are expressed in private. You can be members of your choice of political party and attend functions etc. Just don’t express your views publicly. I did that for 13 years. I didn’t publicly campaign, hand out HTV cards etc.

  24. B
    So facebook, where posts are generally only visible by friends, would be ok. Twitter not. I hope the HC spell some of this out.

    What bothers me about Folau – as a high profile representative of RA; his statements were very public. You can have political views and state them. You can have religious views, and state them. But their can be limits set before an employer can step in and terminate a contract.

    IMO, more cases like this should get to the HC – less settled out of court. With bozos making legislation… we need more common law to make sense of it all. And if peeps dont like the common law, then the bozos need to enact better uptodate legislation.

  25. Simon Katich says:
    Wednesday, August 7, 2019 at 1:41 pm

    I doubt anything on Facebook would be considered acceptable no matter the privacy settings. I wouldn’t risk it if I was in the APS or ADF now.

    The FWA doesn’t say anything like that so until it is clarified by the HCoA we won’t know. We don’t even know what was the written contract or what the ARU think was in the contract including verbal terms.

  26. The scary “public debt / national debt” that keeps Bucephalus up at night is paid in the following way.

    Financial institutions have a reserve account (technically called an Exchange Settlement Account) and a securities account at the central bank. You can think of it as similar to an individual having a checking account and a term deposit account at a commercial bank.

    When CGSs mature (they are a type of bond), the central bank debits a securities account and credits a reserve account.

    It is simply a record-keeping task for the central bank.

    For the private sector, CGSs are a savings vehicle that, like reserves, are zero risk, but they pay a higher interest rate than reserves.

    That is why the total value of all CGSs outstanding – what is misleadingly called the “public debt / national debt” – should really just be called the private sector’s savings.

    It is not a burden on the federal government or on taxpayers.

    People who intone about the need to “pay down the public debt” do not know what they are talking about.

    The worst thing about these people is that they bias government policy towards austerity.

    If people understood how government finance really operates, we could discuss our policy options on the basis of public wellbeing and real resource availability, instead of stifling discussion with spurious financial arguments.

  27. Ah, Buce nag chimes in with his ‘paying down the debt’ gizmo: the ‘standard’ that only applies to Labor apparently. Even with bringing forward stage 2 the fiscal package that Labor took to the last election ran rings around ScoMo & Josh’s package when it came to fiscal consolidation.

    So, mate – its your team wot actually won it. Don’t you think you should be asking them when they are going to actually develop some policies beyond their current magical thinking settings, if ‘paying down the debt’ is actually a thing, and not just some convenient anti-labor gizmo? No?

  28. Andrew_Earlwood says:
    Wednesday, August 7, 2019 at 2:01 pm

    Can’t say I’m a huge fan of or see the need for continual new policy announcements. I’m happy with Ministers and Public servants focusing on making existing things work as well and efficiently as possible.

  29. Some of the tweets are set out

    They are very political statements.

    I hope this extreme case isnt used to clamp down on, say environmental scientists working for the government expressing concerns on, say, lack of good climate policy to their friends on facebook or in a pub… or, heaven forbid, a BBQ.

    Just a thought. Are companies who get government contracts also not allowed to pursue freedom of political communications?

  30. First one is just a gratuitous insult.

    Here is the principle:

    [As has been emphasised by this Court repeatedly, most recently before the Tribunal’s decision in this matter in Brown v Tasmania[43], the implied freedom of political communication is not a personal right of free speech. It is a restriction on legislative power which arises as a necessary implication from ss 7, 24, 64 and 128 and related sections of the Constitution and, as such, extends only so far as is necessary to preserve and protect the system of representative and responsible government mandated by the Constitution[44]. Accordingly, although the effect of a law on an individual’s or a group’s ability to participate in political communication is relevant to the assessment of the law’s effect on the implied freedom, the question of whether the law imposes an unjustified burden on the implied freedom of political communication is a question of the law’s effect on political communication as a whole[45]. More specifically, even if a law significantly restricts the ability of an individual or a group of persons to engage in political communication, the law will not infringe the implied freedom of political communication unless it has a material unjustified effect on political communication as a whole.]

  31. shellbell says:
    Wednesday, August 7, 2019 at 2:01 pm

    You’re just stirring up trouble now – all the justifications will be nuanced to the nth degree.

    I don’t actually know but somehow I don’t think she is voting for either major party.

    I doubt she was highly motivated – I wonder what her productivity was like at work? (Was she being performance managed?)

  32. Bastards

    On Tuesday a number of 11th-hour amendments were floated by MPs including senior Liberal Party minister Mark Speakman and Rob Stokes.

    The amendments put forward by Speakman and Stokes would place new restrictions on terminations after 22 weeks so that a pregnant woman would need the approval of a four-person hospital advisory committee, rather than a second medical practitioner as proposed under the original bill.

    Describing the amendments as “unnecessary and insulting” the AMA said the “clear intention” was to “impose an additional burden on medical practitioners and to delay access to care”.

    “In the vast majority of cases, abortions after 22 weeks arise due to a significant abnormality in the foetus. Families and their doctors already face the most difficult decision of whether to end a wanted pregnancy and these amendments would draw out that process and make it more painful.”

    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/aug/07/nsw-abortion-law-liberal-minister-accuses-colleagues-of-using-red-herring-to-stall-bill

  33. The individual doesn’t have a constitutional right to freedom of political communication. Instead, the Commonwealth Parliament has a constitutional obligation to refrain from restricting the freedom of political communication that is necessary for the system of responsible and representative government mandated by the Constitution.

  34. shellbell @ #141 Wednesday, August 7th, 2019 – 2:13 pm

    First one is just a gratuitous insult.

    Here is the principle:

    [As has been emphasised by this Court repeatedly, most recently before the Tribunal’s decision in this matter in Brown v Tasmania[43], the implied freedom of political communication is not a personal right of free speech. It is a restriction on legislative power which arises as a necessary implication from ss 7, 24, 64 and 128 and related sections of the Constitution and, as such, extends only so far as is necessary to preserve and protect the system of representative and responsible government mandated by the Constitution[44]. Accordingly, although the effect of a law on an individual’s or a group’s ability to participate in political communication is relevant to the assessment of the law’s effect on the implied freedom, the question of whether the law imposes an unjustified burden on the implied freedom of political communication is a question of the law’s effect on political communication as a whole[45]. More specifically, even if a law significantly restricts the ability of an individual or a group of persons to engage in political communication, the law will not infringe the implied freedom of political communication unless it has a material unjustified effect on political communication as a whole.]

    It appears that the tweets went quite a lot further than just criticism of policy but extended to criticism of the actions and character of politicians and other public servants. Even the most benign interpretation of a right to political communication would have struggled with this mixture.

    Having worked myself in the APS in a new policy area to which the political party of my choice was opposed, I never thought I had the right to go into the public arena and use my subject knowledge to criticise the policy and the department. To do so is to undermine the basis of the apolitical public service. The only alternative if you think your work is too opposed to your conscience is to seek a transfer to another area or to resign.

  35. shellbell @ #141 Wednesday, August 7th, 2019 – 2:13 pm

    First one is just a gratuitous insult.

    Both tweets are pretty meh imo. The government is exceedingly thin-skinned to be bothered by such things.

    Here is the principle:

    [As has been emphasised by this Court repeatedly, most recently before the Tribunal’s decision in this matter in Brown v Tasmania[43], the implied freedom of political communication is not a personal right of free speech. It is a restriction on legislative power which arises as a necessary implication from ss 7, 24, 64 and 128 and related sections of the Constitution and, as such, extends only so far as is necessary to preserve and protect the system of representative and responsible government mandated by the Constitution[44]. Accordingly, although the effect of a law on an individual’s or a group’s ability to participate in political communication is relevant to the assessment of the law’s effect on the implied freedom, the question of whether the law imposes an unjustified burden on the implied freedom of political communication is a question of the law’s effect on political communication as a whole[45]. More specifically, even if a law significantly restricts the ability of an individual or a group of persons to engage in political communication, the law will not infringe the implied freedom of political communication unless it has a material unjustified effect on political communication as a whole.]

    TLDR; An “implied freedom of X” is basically worthless, for any and all values of ‘X’.

  36. [‘The High Court has developed the implied right to freedom of political communication in a number of high-profile cases. The key thing to understand is that this is not a personal right that each person enjoys (such as, for example, a right set out in the US Bill of Rights). Instead, it is a limitation on the power of the legislature to prevent it from exercising its functions in a way that curtails freedom of political communication.’]

    What’s clearly needed, then, is a Bill of Rights affording a “personal right” to freedom of political discourse. Maybe today’s judgment is impliedly putting that question to the legislature? On second thoughts…

  37. This morning I went to the small aged care home on whose board I have sat for about a year to celebrate Aged Care Workers Day with staff and residents. It was a fancy hat morning tea. Quite a few of the residents made unsolicited comments about the wonderful care they have received over several years and praised the food and carers.
    Given all the horror stories in the news lately it was pleasing to see. It can be done, but it’s not easy. Almost impossible for for-profit outfits I’d say.

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