By-elections of the XXXIV Olympiad

’Tis the night before a Queensland state by-election; we may not have seen the last of Nick Xenophon; Labor picks candidates for key Melbourne seats; plus further matters for those with a professional interest in our nation’s electoral affairs.

Election news:

• The Palaszczuk government faces what it may now think a fortuitously timed by-election tomorrow in the southern Brisbane seat of Stretton. The seat was vacated by the late Duncan Pegg, who retained it for Labor by a margin of 14.8% at the state election last October. The intimidating margin has not stopped Liberal National Party taking the field, together with the Greens, Animal Justice and the Informed Medical Options Party. My guide to the by-election can be found here; tune in tomorrow for live results, my page for which awaits the numbers here.

Jack Morphet of the Sunday Mail reports Nick Xenophon is “seriously considering another tilt at federal politics”, ostensibly because the federal government has failed to protect the rights of Australian producers to market sheepskin boots as ugg boots, the name of which is trademarked by an American company.

• The Herald Sun reports Labor’s Victorian preselection process, which has been commandeered by the party’s national executive after a branch-stacking scandal, has confirmed candidates in four marginal Liberal seats. Gladys Liu will defend her negligible margin in Chisholm against Carina Garland, former assistant secretary at Victorian Trades Hall Council, who was chosen ahead of Monash mayor Rebecca Paterson. In Higgins, the once safe Liberal seat that is developing into a three-cornered contest between Liberal, Labor and the Greens, Katie Allen will face Michelle Ananda-Rajah, consultant physician in general medicine and infectious diseases at Alfred Health. In Casey, where the Liberals will defend a 4.6% margin in the absence of retiring incumbent Tony Smith, Labor has again chosen its candidate from 2019, engineer and small business owner Bill Brindle. In Deakin, which Michael Sukkar holds for the Liberals by 4.7%, the Labor candidate is Matthew Gregg, a teacher.

From the world of academia (Queensland chapter):

• In the Australian Journal of Politics and History, Paul Williams of Griffith University offers Queensland’s role in the 2019 Australian federal election: a case study of regional difference (paywalled, naturally). Williams argues the Coalition’s strong federal performance in Queensland can be understood in terms of its six diverse regions and five elements of its political culture. The former reflect the state’s decentralisation and reliance on primary industries, which show up demographically in low educational attainment, high religious observance and a paucity of migrants. The political culture elements are “a predilection for strong, masculine political leadership; a zealotry for state development; a disproportionate focus on regional and rural districts in budgetary allocations; a pragmatically flexible approach to policy-making” (the Humphrey Appleby-esque note struck by the latter would seem to be deliberate) and “a parochial chauvinism celebrating a Queensland difference, and drawing a moral superiority from it”.

• In the Australian Journal of Political Science, Graeme Orr of the University of Queensland and Tracey Arklay of Griffith University are rethinking voter identification: its rationale impact. This includes an analysis of Queensland’s one-off experiment with a soft voter identification regime in 2015, which reaches the unsurprising conclusion that migrant and especially indigenous areas had the greatest number of voters needing to lodge a provisional vote for want of acceptable identification on the day. For this reason, and despite the measure’s clearly modest impact on the voting returns, the paper concludes “there is no real case for voter ID in Australia”, which it deems “a solution in search of a problem”.

Psephological arcana:

• In keeping with its code of conduct obligations as a member of the recently launched Australian Polling Council, YouGov has published methodology statements for the last four Newspoll surveys. Among other things, these fully detail the questionnaires that were presented to the respondents.

• David Barry has developed a tool for exploring Senate preference flows at the 2019 election using the ballot paper data files, which is immensely nifty if you can work out how to use it.

• A Tasmanian Electoral Commission report into the recent state election, which unusually coupled a statewide lower house election with one of the state’s periodic upper house elections for two of the chamber’s 15 seats, finds over 6% of those who ought to have lodged an upper house vote did not do so because they attended a booth in the wrong part of the electorate, and a further 1% were not issued with a ballot due to staff error. It argues against the contention that this should invalidate the election, since the errors in the former case were committed by the voters rather than the commission, and the latter were too few in number to affect the results.

Resolve Strategic: Coalition 43, Labor 28, Greens 12 in NSW

A new poll brings an encouraging set of numbers for the Berejiklian government, all things considered.

The Sydney Morning Herald today brings us the bi-monthly reading of state voting intention in New South Wales from Resolve Strategic, which combines results for the state from its two monthly national surveys to produce a sample of 1100. Keeping in mind that this means half the poll was conducted before the recent COVID-19 outbreak and lockdown, the results suggest support for the Berejiklian government is holding up: its primary vote is down only one point to 43%, while Labor and the Greens are both unchanged on 28% and 12% respectively. The poll has Shooters Fishers and Farmers down from 4% and 1%, with most of the slack taken up by independents and others, although this may not be all that meaningful.

Despite the fact that Labor has traded in Jodi McKay for Chris Minns since the last poll, Gladys Berejiklian’s lead as preferred premier is all but unchanged at 55-16, compared with 57-17 against McKay two months ago. The 550 respondents of last week’s survey were asked various questions of the rollout, which found 56% believed Sydney had been too slow to go into lockdown, but that 46% nonetheless agreed or strongly agreed that the outbreak had been well handled.

The two survey periods for the poll were June 8 to 12 and July 13 to 17, i.e. last Tuesday to Saturday.

Resolve Strategic, Essential Research and more

A new federal poll from Resolve Strategic plus a data dump from Essential Research equals a lot to discuss.

First up, the Age/Herald bring us the forth instalment in its monthly Resolve Strategic poll series, which has so far come along reliably in the small hours of the third Wednesday each month, with either New South Wales or Victorian state numbers following the next day (this month is the turn of New South Wales – note that half the surveying in the poll due tomorrow will have been conducted pre-lockdown). The voting intention numbers have not changed significantly on last month, with the Coalition down two to 38%, Labor down one to 35%, the Greens up two to 12% and One Nation up one to 4%. This series seeks to make a virtue out of not publishing two-party preferred results, but applying 2019 election flows gives Labor a lead of around 51.5-48.5, out from 50.5-49.5 last time.

There seems to be a fair bit of noise in the state sub-samples, with Queensland recording no improvement for Labor on the 2019 election along with an unlikely surge for One Nation, which is at odds with both the recent Newspoll quarterly breakdowns and the previous two Resolve Strategic results. From slightly more robust sub-sample sizes, New South Wales and Victoria both record swings to Labor of around 2.5%; at the other end of the reliability scale, the swing to Labor in Western Australia is in double digits for the second month in a row, whereas Newspoll had it approaching 9%.

Scott Morrison records net neutral personal ratings, with approval and disapproval both at 46%, which is his worst result from any pollster since March last year. Anthony Albanese is down one on approval to 30% and up two on disapproval to 46%. Both leaders consistently perform worse in this series than they do in Newspoll and Essential Research, perhaps because respondents are asked to rate the leaders’ performances “in recent weeks”. Morrison’s lead as preferred prime minister is at 45-24, little changed from 46-23 last time. Labor’s weakness in the Queensland voting intention result is reflected in Albanese’s ratings from that state (in which he happened to spend most of last week) of 22% approval and 53% disapproval.

The poll continues to find only modest gender gaps on voting intention and prime ministerial approval, but suddenly has rather a wide one for Albanese’s personal ratings, with Albanese down five on approval among men to 28% and up six on disapproval to 51%, while respectively increasing by two to 31% and falling by two to 41% among women. The full display of results is available here; it includes 12 hand-picked qualitative assessments from respondents to the poll, of which four mention the vaccine rollout and two mention Barnaby Joyce. The poll was conducted last Tuesday to Saturday from a sample of 1607.

Also out today was the usual fortnightly Essential Research poll, which less usually included one of its occasional dumps of voting intention data, in this case for 12 polls going back to February. Its “2PP+” measure, which includes an undecided component that consistently comes in at 7% or 8%, has credited Labor with leads of two to four points for the last six fortnights. The most recent result has it at 47-45, from primary votes that come in at Coalition 40%, Labor 39%, Greens 11% and One Nation 4% if the 8% undecided are excluded. If previous election preferences are applied to these numbers, Labor’s two-party lead comes in at upwards of 52-48.

All of this provides a lot of new grist for the BludgerTrack poll aggregate, but it’s done very little to change either its recent trajectory or its current reading, which has Labor leading 52-48 on two-party preferred. The Resolve Strategic leadership ratings add further emphasis to established trends, which saw Morrison taking a hit when sexual misconduct stories hit the news in April, briefly recovering and then heading south again as the politics of the pandemic turned against him, while Albanese has maintained a slower and steadier decline.

The Essential poll also includes its occasional question on leaders attributes, although it seems to have dropped its practice of extending this to the Opposition Leader and has become less consistent in the attributes it includes. The biggest move since mid-March is a 15% drop in “good in a crisis” to 49%; on other measures, relating to honesty, vision, being in touch, accepting responsibility and being in control of his team, Morrison has deteriorated by six to nine points. A new result for “plays politics” yields an unflattering result of 73%, but there’s no way of knowing at this point how unusual this is for a political leader.

The poll also finds approval of the government’s handling of COVID-19 has not deteriorated further since the slump recorded a fortnight ago, with its good rating up two to 46% and poor up one to 31%. State government ratings are also fairly stable this time: over three surveys, the New South Wales government’s good rating has gone from 69% to 57% to 54%; Victoria’s has gone from 48% to 50% to 49%; and Queensland’s has gone from 65% to 61% to 62%. The poll was conducted Wednesday to Sunday from a sample of 1100.

In a similar vein, the Australia Institute has released polling tracking how the federal and state tiers are perceived to have handled COVID-19 since last August, which records a steadily growing gap in the states’ favour that has reached 42% to 24% in the latest survey. Breakdowns for the four largest states find Western Australia to be the big outlier at 61% to 11% in favour of the state government, with Victoria recording the narrowest gap at 34% to 25%. Fully 77% of respondents supported state border closures with only 18% opposed.

Newspoll: 53-47 to Labor

A trend of declining approval for Scott Morrison and the government’s management of COVID-19 starts to bite on voting intention, according to the latest Newspoll.

As reported by The Australian, the normally stable Newspoll series has recorded a solid bump in favour of Labor, who now lead 53-47 on two-party preferred, out from 51-49 at the previous poll three weeks ago. The Coalition and Labor are both on 39% of the primary vote, which is a two-point drop for the Coalition and a two-point gain for Labor, with the Greens down one to 10% and One Nation steady on 3%.

Scott Morrison is down four points on approval to 51% and up four on disapproval to 45%, while Anthony Albanese is respectively down two to 38% and up one to 46%. Morrison’s lead as preferred prime minister is at 51-33, narrowing from 53-33 last time. The Australian’s report also relates that approval of Morrison’s handling of the pandemic is down nine to 52% (UPDATE: disapproval is up nine to 45%), and that the government now records a net negative rating on handling of the vaccine rollout for the first time, with approval down 10 points to 40% and disapproval up 11 to 57%.

The poll was conducted Wednesday to Saturday from a sample of 1506.

Preselection latest

As the Victorian Liberals get candidates in place for target Labor seats, a new vacancy opens in a marginal of their own.

Recent developments relevant to the looming federal election, mostly involving the Liberals in Victoria:

• House of Representatives Speaker Tony Smith announced this week he would retire from politics at the election, after holding the seat of Casey on Melbourne’s eastern fringe since 2001. Phillip Coorey of the Financial Review reports “leading contenders” for the Liberal preselection are David Lau, a manager with medical supplies company Ebos Group, and Aaron Violi, a manager with a company that provides online ordering services to restaurants. Both have form as political staffers, Lau with Senator Sarah Henderson and Violi with Senator James Patterson. The “controversial comments on Facebook related to abortion” that caused Lau to quit his job with Henderson appear not to have done him any harm with the party membership. Smith retained Casey by a margin of 4.6% in 2019, which has not changed with the redistribution.

• The Victorian Liberals have preselected former Geelong mayor Stephanie Asher for Corangamite, where Labor’s Libby Coker unseated Sarah Henderson in 2019, and lawyer and one-time Survivor contestant Sharn Coombes for Dunkley in Melbourne’s south-east, which Labor gained after a favourable redistribution in 2019. Brodie Cowburn of Bayside News reports other candidates for Dunkley included Chris Crewther, who held the seat for the Liberals from 2016 until his defeat in 2019, and Donna Hope, who as Donna Bauer held the marginal local state seat of Carrum for a term from 2010 to 2014.

• Queensland’s Liberal National party has preselected Colin Boyce, who has held the state seat of Callide since 2017, as its new candidate for the central Queensland seat of Flynn, held for the party on a margin of 8.7% and to be vacated at the election with the retirement of Ken O’Dowd. Matthew Killoran of the Courier-Mail reports Boyce “convincingly” won a local party ballot over Mitchell Brownlie, Ron English and Tracie Newitt.

Newspoll quarterly breakdowns: April to June

New polling data suggests Labor has held on to big gains it made earlier in the year in Queensland and especially Western Australia.

The Australian has published the regular quarterly aggregation from Newspoll, providing large-sample breakdowns for the mainland states and demographic sub-groups compiled from polling conducted from April through to June. This amounts to a sample of 6049 combined from the last four Newspoll surveys.

The results show little change overall on the previous quarter, with all states recording unchanged two-party results except South Australia. This means a 50-50 result in New South Wales, a swing to Labor of around two points compared with the 2019 election; 53-47 to Labor in Victoria, essentially unchanged; 53-47 to the Coalition in Queensland, a swing to Labor of around 5.5%; 53-47 to Labor in Western Australia, a swing of around 8.5%; and 54-46 to Labor in South Australia, compared with 55-45 in the January-March aggregate and 50.7-49.3 at the 2019 election. The striking fact of this stability is that the surges recorded to Labor last time of five points in Queensland and seven points in Western Australia have stuck.

The demographic breakdowns have been similarly placid, the biggest movements being of three points to the Coalition among the 65+ cohort (to 65-35) and the lower-middle income cohort (to 51-49). There is still no gender gap on two-party preferred, but there is now one on prime ministerial approval, with Morrison’s net rating deteriorating by 12% among women to +15% but by only 5% among men to +21%. Morrison has also held up better in New South Wales, where his net rating is down six to +26%, than in Victoria (down 11 to +6%), Queensland (down 15 to +20%) and Western Australia (down 15 to +22%).

The results also include breakdowns by working status for the first time, which find Labor leading 51-49 lead among those working full time, 54-46 lead among those working part-time and 60-40 among an “other” category that accounts for about 15% of the sample, while the Coalition leads 61-39 among the retired.

Essential Research leadership and COVID polling

The shine continues to come off Scott Morrison’s COVID-boosted personal ratings, plus new evidence of a softening in support for the Coalition among women.

The fortnightly Essential Research poll includes the pollster’s monthly leadership ratings, which gives Scott Morrison his weakest results since the onset of COVID-19 – down six on approval to 51% and up four on disapproval to 40%, with his lead as preferred prime minister narrowing slightly from 48-28 to 46-28. Anthony Albanese is up two on approval to 41% and down one on disapproval to 35%. These numbers have been fed into the BludgerTrack poll aggregate, sharpening Morrison’s established downward trend.

Approval of the federal government’s response to COVID-19 has also deteriorated, with a nine point drop in the good rating since last month to 44% and a six point increase in poor to 30%. Among respondents in New South Wales, the good rating for the federal government has slumped from 62% to 44%, and that for the state government is down from 69% to 57%. A range of other questions are featured on matters relating to COVID-19, including findings that 36% would be willing to get the Pfizer vaccine but not AstraZeneca (5% said vice-versa); that 40% believe the vaccine rollout is being down efficiently, down from 43% a month ago (and 68% earlier in the year); and that 64% believe it is being done safely, down from 67%.

The poll was conducted Wednesday to Sunday from a sample of 1099; full results can be viewed here.

Elsewhere, the Age/Herald yesterday published results aggregated from the three monthly Resolve Strategic polls which compared current voting intention with how respondents recalled having voted in 2019, and found women were more likely to have shifted away from the Coalition (down four points to 37%) than men (down one to 41%). On the subject of Resolve Strategic, Macquarie University academic Murray Goot casts a critical eye over its (and to a lesser extent Essential Research’s) attitudinal polling in Inside Story and takes aim at its refusal to join the Australian Polling Council and adhere to its transparency standards.

A preselection, two redistributions and a by-election

An assemblage of random stuff to kick off the new week.

It being the mid-point of the year, we’re about due for Newspoll’s state and demographic aggregates and Essential Research’s dump of voting intention numbers, both of which come along quarterly. In the meantime, there’s the following:

• The Queensland Liberal National Party’s preselection for a successor to Andrew Laming in Bowman has been won by Henry Pike, media and communications director for the Property Council. Pike was the only male candidate in a field of five, and prevailed despite earlier urgings from the Prime Minister for a woman to be preselected. Madura McCormack of the Courier-Mail reports he won in the final round of the ballot of local preselectors with 107 votes against 88 for Maggie Forrest, a barrister. Pike said last week that comments he made on the subject of “f***ing a fat chick” in a group chat twelve years ago, when he was about 21, do not “reflect the person I’ve grown to be”.

• Antony Green has published a report calculating party vote shares for the draft state redistribution in Victoria. Finalised state boundaries for New South Wales will be along at some unspecified point in the probably not too distant future.

• I have published a guide to the by-election for the Queensland state seat of Stretton, to be held on July 24 to choose a successor to Labor member Duncan Pegg, who resigned in April due to ill health and died on June 10.