Morgan: 51-49 to Labor

Morgan’s final pre-budget poll records next to no change, with Labor recording the barest of leads on two-party preferred.

The latest fortnightly result from Roy Morgan has Labor poking its nose in front on the headline respondent-allocated measure of two-party preferred, which now reads 51-49 in its favour after a tied result last time. However, the result based on preference flows as per the 2013 election result is slightly the other way, with a 51-49 Labor lead narrowing to 50.5-49.5. The shifts on the primary vote are no less subtle, with the Coalition down half a point to 40%, Labor up half a point to 32.5%, the Greens down half a point to 13.5%, and the Nick Xenophon down half a point to 4%. The poll was conducted by face-to-face and SMS over the last two weekends from a combined sample of 2951.

Double dissolution election (maybe) minus nine weeks

To tide us over through a quiet spot, a closer look at the Australian National University’s latest survey on issues of public concern.

We’re about half-way between the weekly BludgerTrack and when I’m anticipating the next opinion poll, this being the period of pre-budget calm before the storm, and a new thread is wanted. So I’ve decided to hang this one off the latest ANUpoll survey, an exercise conducted by the Australian National University two or three times a year to gauge the public mood on a specific area of public policy, and track the salience of various issues over time. The subject of the latest instalment, which was conducted by phone from a sample of 1200 in February and March, is tax and equity in Australia. Among various findings on tax that would be familiar from those who follow Essential Research, the report also finds support for increased spending on social services at its highest level since the series began in 1987. The report also finds that, in spite of everything, 56% consider the existing system “moderately fair”, on top of another 4% for “very fair”, while 22% rate it “not too fair” and 18% “not at all fair”.

The survey also features regular questions in which respondents are asked to name the first and second most important political problems, out of a list that presently includes 27 options. To make this easier to interpret, I’ve condensed results into various categories, which are hopefully generally self-explanatory (particularly economy/budget, environment and better government – security/external covers wars, terrorism, defence and immigration, while services covers health and education and such). The progress of these results since 2008 is shown in the chart below.


From which a number of points are clearly worth noting. Concern about service provision mounted to giddy heights after the 2014 budget, but promptly returned to normal after Malcolm Turnbull became prime minister. The combined result for the various economic issues is at a low point in the latest survey, having peaked in the years immediately following the global financial crisis. Security/external and crime/society, which are largely conservative concerns, are on an upward trend. “Better government”, I’m guessing, was a popular response among Coalition supporters while Labor was in power, but is not a correspondingly popular choice for Labor voters now it’s the Coalition’s turn.

BludgerTrack: 50.4-49.6 to Labor

It’s now been four weeks since the last poll showing the Coalition in the lead, and Labor has now poked its nose in front on the BludgerTrack aggregate’s two-party preferred measure.

The only new poll this week was the weekly Essential Research, owing to the poll glut last week and the Anzac Day public holiday on Monday. The Essential result was an eye-opener, with the normally sedate series lurching two points in favour of Labor, who have opened up a 52-48 lead. The primary votes are Coalition 40% (down two), Labor 39% (up three) and Greens 10% (down one). Other questions found 40% approving of a double dissolution election, up one from two weeks ago, with opposition up four to 28%; 42% expecting the Coalition to win compared with 28% for Labor; 35% saying Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership has made them more likely to vote Coalition, compared with 23% for less likely; and 67% saying they would view their vote as one in favour of the party they supported, compared with 21% saying it would be against the party they opposed. On next week’s budget, respondents anticipated it would be good for business and the well off, bad for everyone else, and neutral for the economy overall. The poll also found that 45% would sooner see Helen Clark as secretary-general of the United Nations compared with 21% for Kevin Rudd.

Single Essential Research results tend not to knock the BludgerTrack poll aggregate off its axis, but this result was forceful enough to drive a half-point shift on two-party preferred, which tips the balance in favour of Labor. However, the gains from last week to this have tended to be concentrated in states where they are of little use to Labor on the seat projection, which only ticks one point in their favour through a gain in New South Wales, leaving the Coalition with the barest possible absolute majority. That would be a little less bare if I started crediting Clive Palmer’s seat of Fairfax as a Liberal National Party gain, which I really should have been doing since a Galaxy poll of the seat in January credited Palmer with 2% of the vote. I’ll implement that one next week. Nothing new this week on the leadership ratings.


Other news:

• The WA Liberal Party’s state council has endorsed Matt O’Sullivan as the party’s candidate for the new seat of Burt in the southern suburbs of Perth, formalising its overturning of a local party ballot three weeks ago. O’Sullivan is closely identified with mining magnate Andrew Forrest, as the chief operating officer of his GenerationOne indigenous youth employment scheme. The earlier ballot was won by Liz Storer, a Gosnells councillor who had backing from the Christian Right. Storer defeated O’Sullivan with 13 votes out of an eligible 25, but the state council ruled three weeks ago that the number of preselectors was insufficient, and that it would take matters into its own hands.

• The Central Western Daily lists four candidates for Saturday’s Nationals preselection in the rural New South Wales seat of Calare, to be vacated at the election by John Cobb: Andrew Gee, the state member for Orange; Alison Conn, a Wellington councillor; Sam Farraway, owner of the Hertz franchise in Bathurst; and Scott Munro, a butcher and Orange councillor.

• The Blue Mountains Gazette last week reported that a ReachTEL poll conducted on April 19 for the NSW Teachers Federation had Liberal and Labor tied in the Blue Mountains seat of Macquarie, which Louise Markus holds for the Liberals on a margin of 4.5%. Markus has secured the Liberal preselection for the seat after the withdrawal of a challenge by Sarah Richards, a local party branch president.

• It escaped my notice four weeks ago that The Australian had ReachTEL results commissioned by the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union from the Liberal-held Adelaide seats of Hindmarsh and Sturt. Results in the report are incomplete, but they appear to credit Christopher Pyne with a 5% margin in Sturt, down from 10.1% at the 2013 election, and also have the Liberals leading in the difficult seat of Hindmarsh. Only modest support was recorded for the Nick Xenophon Team, at 14.5% and 11% before exclusion of the undecided. A good deal has happened in the month since the poll was conducted, with Coalition support continuing to plummet nationally, and the government this week seeking to staunch the flow in South Australia specifically by committing to have the $52 billion submarine construction project built in the state. I have also obtained ReachTEL polling conducted early last month for The Australia Institute, which has the Nick Xenophon Team’s support in South Australia at 16.1% in the House of Representatives and 24.8% in the Senate – keeping in mind that polls like this have form in overstating the distinctions between House and Senate results (or at least, they did before the Senate vote went haywire in 2013). There are also Queensland results inclusive of the parties of Clive Palmer, Glen Lazarus, Nick Xenophon and Jacqui Lambie, which have their Senate support ranging from 1.6% (Lambie) to 3.4% (Xenophon).

BludgerTrack: 50.1-49.9 to Coalition

It’s close but no cigar for Labor in the latest reading of the BludgerTrack poll aggregate, which projects the Turnbull government grimly hanging on to a parliamentary majority.

As the many polls published before this week’s parliamentary sitting showed no let-up in the Coalition’s deteriorating standing in the polls, the BludgerTrack poll aggregate has come as close as close can be to tipping over in Labor’s favour. However, it continues to credit them with a bare parliamentary majority (which can probably be bumped up another notch with the near certainty that Clive Palmer’s seat of Fairfax will revert to type), owing to the advantage it attributes to sitting members. The boost to Labor adds five to their projected seat total, including three gains in Queensland, two in Western Australia and one in New South Wales, balanced by the loss of one in Tasmania. Note that the Nick Xenophon Team now gets its own entry on the vote totals (although not yet on the graphs), since its primary vote is now being tracked by ReachTEL as well as Roy Morgan. ReachTEL is no longer recording the Palmer United Party, whose support is now statistically insignificant.

Newspoll and Ipsos both provided new numbers on leadership ratings this week, the effect of which has been to throw things a little out of whack, owing to the gaping difference in the numbers for Malcolm Turnbull. Where Ipsos recorded Turnbull with a diminishing but still positive net approval rating of 13%, Newspoll recorded the reverse (i.e. minus 13%), despite their similar results on voting intention. Since BludgerTrack uses bias adjustments based on each pollsters’ performance relative to all the others, this result alone has shaken up the entire model. With all that said though, all the movements on the leadership ratings were fairly modest.

The familiar BludgerTrack graphs on the sidebar are a casualty of the Crikey redesign that was launched this week, but stay tuned, because there will soon be a module to accommodate them. Here’s a make-do for the time being, below which you can find the latest round of preselection news and what have you.


• The Greens are hawking a ReachTEL poll of 800 respondents in the seat of Melbourne Ports which finds 60% of Labor voters oppose the party directing preferences to the Liberals ahead of the Greens, as Labor member Michael Danby has threatened to do (albeit that he exceeded his brief in doing so). Danby’s threat came amid an increasingly complex situation with respect to preferences in Victoria, as Liberal Party state president Michael Kroger says the party is open to a “loose arrangement” with the Greens, who are “not the nutters they used to be”, which he puts down to the leadership of Victorian Senator Richard di Natale. Kroger’s hope is presumably to lure the Greens into running open tickets in Victorian marginal seats, in return for the Liberals directing preferences to the Greens ahead of Labor in the inner-city seats of Melbourne, Wills and Batman, contrary to their position in 2013.

• After 22 years as local member, and 29 in parliament altogether when her time as a Senator is taken into account, former Speaker Bronwyn Bishop was defeated in Saturday’s preselection vote in her northern beaches Sydney electorate of Mackellar. The seat will now be contested for the Liberal Party by factional moderate Jason Falinski, owner of a health care equipment business, former adviser to John Hewson and Barry O’Farrell and campaign manager to Malcolm Turnbull in Wentworth in 2004. Falinski prevailed over Bishop in the final round by 51 votes to 39, following the exclusion of Walter Villatora – a party activist who has spearheaded a campaign for preselection reforms that are principally favoured by the hard Right, and a close ally of Tony Abbott’s as the president of the Liberal Party’s Warringah branch. The score in the previous round had been Falinski 40, Bishop 37 and Villatora 12, with Villatora’s supporters breaking overwhelmingly in favour of Falinksi in the final round. This reflected the hostility of conservatives towards Bishop over her support for Malcolm Turnbull in the September leadership challenge vote. The currently unpaywalled Crikey has a thorough account of Saturday’s proceedings from a source familiar with the matter.

• Another safe seat Liberal preselection on the weekend, in Philip Ruddock’s seat of Berowra, resulted in an easy victory for Julian Leeser, a former executive director of Liberal-aligned think tank the Menzies Research Centre, and current director of government policy and strategy at the Australian Catholic University. Leeser is of Jewish background, and is said to be aligned with the Centre Right. He won 97 votes in the ballot against 10 for Robert Armitage, a local barrister; four for John Bathgate, a staffer to Christoper Pyne; and three for Nick McGowan, a one-time adviser to former Victorian Premier Jeff Kennett.

• Bob Baldwin, the Liberal member for the regional New South Wales seat of Paterson, has announced he will not contest the next election. Baldwin suffered a heavy blow in the redistribution as the seat exchanged conservative rural territory for more populous areas of the Hunter region, turning Baldwin’s 9.8% margin from 2013 into a notional Labor margin of 1.3%. The Michael McGowan of the Maitland Mercury reports preselection nominees are likely to include Newcastle businesswoman Karen Howard and Port Stephens councillor Ken Jordan. Howard performed well as an independent candidate in the Newcastle state by-election of October 2015, and ran for the Liberals in the seat at the state election the following March. However, her tone-deaf attack on a local high school student over his geography project in November might cause some to doubt her judgement.

• After a bumpy ride, Liberal MP Craig Kelly has been confirmed in his preselection for the southern Sydney seat of Macarthur. The conservative Tony Abbott backer had earlier appeared to be under threat from Kent Johns, a powerbroker of the increasingly dominant moderate faction, but Malcolm Turnbull persuaded him to withdraw in February. He remained under challenge from Michael Medway, who ran in Werriwa in 2004 and appears to work in financial services, but Murray Trembath of the St George & Sutherland Shire Leader reports he has now withdrawn.

• The article mentioned in the previous item also relates that Nick Varvaris, who won Barton for the Liberals in 2013 but has now been poleaxed by the redistribution, was “still in discussions with the Liberal Party” as to whether he will recontest the seat, after earlier indications he would spare himself the effort.

• Barrister Andrew Wallace has won the Liberal National Party preselection to succeed Mal Brough in the Sunshine Coast seat of Fisher. As the ABC reports it, Wallace “won the preselection ballot convincingly in the first round of voting ahead of five other candidates”.

• The West Australian reports on the headache facing the WA Liberals as they prepare to defend six Senate seats at a double dissolution election that is likely to net them fewer than that, with none of the incumbents intending to retire. It had been hoped that David Johnston, who was dumped as Defence Minister in December 2014, might lighten the load by accepting a diplomatic posting, but he has now confirmed he will run again. The report says the state branch’s protocol should see ministers Mathias Cormann and Michaelia Cash take the top two positions and Johnston take third owing to “seniority”, but that Johnston might be bumped to fourth to make way for Dean Smith, with Linda Reynolds and Chris Back in fourth and fifth.

• The West’s report likewise says that Louise Pratt, who lost her seat from the second position at the state’s 2014 Senate election re-run, is well placed to take the fourth position on the Labor ticket with help from affirmative action, and is even hopeful of bumping Glenn Sterle for a place in the top three. Earlier indications had been that the order of the top end of the ticket would run Sue Lines, Glenn Sterle and Pat Dodson, with the fourth up in the air.

• Duncan McGauchie, a former policy adviser to the then Victorian premier, Ted Baillieu, has prevailed in a field of five to win Liberals preselection to succeed Sharman Stone as the Liberal candidate in the rural Victorian seat of Murray. He faces significant opposition at the election from Damian Drum, Nationals candidate and state upper house member.

• Labor’s candidate for Christopher Pyne’s loseable Adelaide seat of Sturt is Matt Loader, a gay rights activist and (I think) manager at South Australia’s Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure. Hat tip to Chinda in comments.

Essential Research: 50-50

Another sedate result on voting intention from Essential Research, which finds more evidence of strong support for a royal commission into the banking sector.

This week’s fortnightly rolling average from Essential Research is once again at 50-50, with the Coalition steady on the primary vote at 42%, Labor up a point to 36%, and the Greens steady at 11%. Other findings:

• Essential conducted one of its occasional experiments where separate halves of the sample are offered different versions of the same question, in this case relating to a royal commission into the banking and financial services industry. The more straightforward version recorded 59% supportive and 15% opposed. The more elaborate version attributed the notion to Bill Shorten and noted the resistance of Malcolm Turnbull, and got 54% supportive and 21% opposed, with the partisan effect particularly pronounced in the case of Coalition voters.

• From five options on school funding, the most favoured involved a greater involvement for the federal government, with 49% in favour of it becoming the main funder of all schools and 27% opposed.

• Thirty-six per cent said kids these days have more opportunities than back in the day, against 30% for less opportunities and 21% for the same.

• Fifty-six per cent said retirees received too little support, versus 7% for too much and 24% for about right.

• Seventy-six per cent thought it harder for young people to buy a house than for their parents’ generation, and 55% thought it harder for them to find a job. The respective figures for easier were 7% and 17%.

Newspoll: 51-49 to Labor; Fairfax-Ipsos: 50-50

Now Ipsos joins the 50-50 club, while Newspoll dispenses with the notion that Labor’s lead a fortnight ago was a one-off.

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Hot on the heels of ReachTEL, and ahead of the regular results over the next two days from Roy Morgan and Essential Research, the two biggest media-commissioned polls have been added to the glut that marks today’s resumption of parliament. The three polls so far have sung from very much the same song sheet:

• Courtesy of The Australian, Newspoll’s latest voting intention result is exactly identical to last time, with Labor leading 51-49 on two-party preferred from primary votes of Coalition 41%, Labor 36% and Greens 11%. Malcolm Turnbull is down two points on approval to 36% and up one point on disapproval to 49%, while Bill Shorten is down one on both measures to 31% and 52%. Turnbull’s lead as preferred prime minister is little changed, narrowing from 48-27 to 47-28. The poll also records 45% saying “the Turnbull led Coalition” would be “most likely to spend responsibly and manage government debt”, compared with 31% for “the Shorten led Labor Party”. Presented with three options for what the priority of the next government should be, 39% opted for “reduce spending to pay down debt”, 26% for “reduce spending to cut taxes” and 23% for “increase spending on government programs”. The poll was conducted Thursday to Sunday by automated phone polling and online surveying, from a sample of 1628.

• The latest monthly Ipsos poll for the Fairfax papers concurs with ReachTEL in having a two-party result of 50-50, after the last poll had the Coalition leading 53-47. Primary votes are Coalition 42% (down three), Labor 33% (up two), Greens 14% (steady). The poll was conducted Thursday to Saturday from a sample of 1402. Malcolm Turnbull is down four on approval to 51% and up six on disapproval to 38%, while Bill Shorten is steady on 33% and up three on disapproval to 55%. Turnbull’s lead as preferred prime minister has narrowed from 61-22 to 54-27. Other findings are that 67% support a royal commission into the banks, with 21% opposed. Also featured are extensive results on the qualities of the two leaders, which are neatly displayed in an interactive graphic at the Financial Review. The live interview phone poll was conducted Thursday to Saturday from a sample of 1402.

UPDATE (Roy Morgan): The latest fortnightly poll for Roy Morgan, conducted face-to-face and by SMS over the past two weekends from a sample of, is another 50-50, after the Coalition opened up a short-lived 52.5-47.5 lead last time. This is based on respondent-allocated preferences – using 2013 election preferences, Labor holds a lead of 51-49, after trailing 51.5-48.5 a fortnight ago. On the primary vote, the Coalition is down 1.5% to 40.5%, Labor is up a point to 32%, the Greens are up one to 14%, and the Nick Xenophon Team is steady on 4.5%.