Drawing it out

The closure of nominations confirmed growing ballot papers for the House and shrinking ones for the Senate.

Ballot paper draws were conducted yesterday, and full candidate lists have been published by the Australian Electoral Commission and incorporated into my election guide. There are 1203 candidates for the House of Representatives, up from 1056 in 2019, an average of around eight per seat. The United Australia Party is again contesting every seat, and One Nation, which contested 15 seats in 2016 and 59 in 2019, is now contesting every seat but Kennedy and Higgins. Other parties making considerable efforts in the lower house are the Liberal Democrats with 100 candidates, the Australian Federation Party with 61 and Animal Justice with 48.

Conversely, the impact of the 2016 reforms continue to whittle away at the number of micro-parties running for the Senate: the number of columns on Senate ballot papers is down from 35 to 23 in New South Wales, 31 to 26 in Victoria, 26 to 25 in Queensland, 23 to 22 in Western Australia, 16 to 14 in Tasmania and nine to eight in the Northern Territory, though it’s up from 16 to 22 in South Australia and seven to 11 in the Australian Capital Territory.

Other news:

• With the announcement of nominations, it is confirmed that Liz Habermann, who came close to winning the safe Liberal seat of Flinders as an independent at last month’s South Australian state election, will run against Liberal member Rowan Ramsay in the corresponding seat of Grey.

• Shortly after the publication of candidate details, the Australian Electoral Commission issued a statement noting that Rodney Culleton, who leads the Senate ticket of the Great Australian Party in Western Australia, appeared to be an undischarged bankrupt, contrary to a declaration he signed when he nominated. It has referred the matter to the Australian Federal Police. Culleton was elected as One Nation’s Senator for Western Australia at the 2016 double dissolution, but was found to be ineligible the following February on the grounds that he was awaiting sentencing for a minor criminal conviction at the time of his nomination, which came two months after he was declared bankrupt.

Phillip Coorey of the Financial Review cites unspecified sources who rate that the strongest possibilities for teal independents are Wentworth, North Sydney and, “to a slightly lesser extent”, Goldstein. A Liberal source is quoted saying these independents would be less at risk of backing a Labor government than Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott proved to be after 2010, having “developed their own network of voters”.

Mark Riley of the Seven Network writes in The West Australian that Liberal internal polling “shows them coming back in Swan and Pearce, though still trailing Labor”. Similarly, Labor strategists cited by Tony Wright of the Age/Herald merely “hope” they can win Hasluck.

Federal election minus 29 days

Anthony Albanese in sick bay, ballot paper draws ready to go, and some public opinion data points of perhaps dubious provenance.

Facing seven days in isolation after testing positive for COVID-19, Anthony Albanese will “postpone a punishing schedule of marginal seat visits in the next week and instead do media appearances from home”, according to the ABC. That headline-grabber aside, there is also the following to report:

• The West Australian has a poll from Painted Dog Research showing Anthony Albanese leading Scott Morrison 54-46 as best leader to handle the economy, out of a sample of 1241 Western Australian respondents polled on Wednesday. Personal ratings were even better for Albanese in relative terms, his 38% approval and disapproval and 38% disapproval comparing with Morrison’s 26% and 55%. Asked “which is your least desired outcome from the election”, 39% went for a Coalition majority, 22% for a Labor majority and 39% for a hung parliament. It should be noted that this outfit’s accuracy has never been properly tested since it has never conducted voting intention polling, and its numbers are quite a lot difference from those of the last Newspoll breakdown, which gave both leaders a net rating of minus five in the state.

• In her weekly column in the Age/Herald, Niki Savva wrote yesterday that Liberal insiders weren’t raising their hopes far beyond a hung parliament, and believed themselves to be “in trouble in Bennelong, Reid, North Sydney and Wentworth in NSW, Chisholm and Goldstein in Victoria, Boothby in South Australia and a slew of seats in Western Australia including Curtin”. In the inner urban seats where the party faces an independent insurgency, Morrison’s net negatives were at “a horrendous minus 30” as the campaign began. Labor strategists acknowledged the possibility of a hung parliament, but believed the election was still “there for the taking”, depending on the quality of Anthony Albanese’s performance.

• The Greens are claiming they are poised to win the Brisbane seat of Griffith from Labor’s Terri Butler, based on 25,000 responses they have received through their door-knocking campaign. Labor may well be right when they dismiss this is a “Greens party hype campaign”, but the Greens claim the method provided an accurate measure ahead of their successes in the state seats of South Brisbane and Maiwar and the Brisbane council ward of The Gabba.

• The Australian Electoral Commission has published finalised enrolment statistics following the closure of the roll on Monday. Another milestone on the road to the election is reached with the ballot paper draws at noon today in each division, hopefully to be followed in the afternoon by the full publication of candidates.

Federal election minus 30 days

An audience of undecided voters offers a fairly even verdict following last night’s leaders debate, plus sundry other pieces of polling news and campaign detritus.

Polling and other horse race news:

• The 100 undecided voters selected to attend last night’s Sky News People’s forum included 40 who rated Anthony Albanese the winner compared with 35 for Scott Morrison, leaving 25 undecided.

• A uComms poll conducted for independent Kooyong candidate Monique Ryan credits her with a credulity-straining 59-41 lead over Liberal incumbent Josh Frydenberg. A report in the Herald-Sun relates that primary votes of 35.5% for Frydenberg, 31.8% for Ryan, 12.8% for Labor and 11.7% for the Greens, but there would also have been an undcided component. The poll was conducted last Tuesday from a sample of 847. Conversely, Greg Brown of The Australian reports the Liberals concede a more modest drop in Frydenberg’s primary vote from 47% to 44% over the past three months.

The Guardian reports a Community Engagement poll for Climate 200 in North Sydney found independent Kylea Tink, whose campaign Climate 200 is supporting, with 19.4% of the primary vote to Liberal member Trent Zimmerman’s 37.1%, with Labor on 17.3%, the Greens on 8.7%, the United Australia Party on 5.6% and others on 3.8%, with 8.2% undecided. Respondents were more likely to rank climate change and environment as their most important issue than the economy, at 27.2% and 19.7%, with trust in politics not far behind at 16.2%. The poll was conducted by phone on April 11 and 12 from a sample of 1114.

• The Age/Herald has further results on issue salience from its Resolve Strategic poll, showing cost of living the most salient issue for those under 55 and health and aged care leading for those older.

• I had a piece in Crikey yesterday on the recent history of the gender gap as recorded by opinion polls, and the threat posed to the government by the loss of support by women. Right on cue, Peter Lewis of Essential Research writes in The Guardian today that Scott Morrison’s “low standing with female voters … could well determine the outcome of this election”. It is noted that the gender breakdowns from Essential’s current poll have Morrison at 50% approval and 44% disapproval among men, but 39% approval and 51% disapproval among women. There is also a ten-point gap in its latest numbers for the Coalition primary vote.

Michelle Grattan in The Conversation relates detail on focus group research conducted in Wentworth by Landscape Research, which finds participants tended to rate the government highly on management of the economy and the pandemic, but took a dim view of Scott Morrison and favoured a leadership change to Josh Frydenberg.

Nice-looking things on other websites:

• The University of Queensland offers an attractive Election Ad Data Dashboard that tracks the various parties’ spending on advertising on Facebook and Instagram. Through this medium at least, Labor has thus far led the field with 44.5% of spending since the start of the campaign compared with 26.5% for the Coalition, 12% for the United Australia Party and 10.2% for independents, the latter being concentrated in Kooyong, North Sydney, Wentworth and Mackellar. The $15,000 spend on Josh Frydenberg’s campaign in Kooyong is around triple that of any other Liberal seat. The Financial Review quotes Glenn Kefford of the UQ political science department saying Labor’s 2019 election post-morten was “damning of the digital operation and made it clear that they needed to win the share of voice online if they were going to be successful”.

• Simon Jackman of the University of Sydney is tracking the betting markets in great detail, and translating the odds into “implied probabilities of winning” that currently have it at around 55-45 in favour of Labor. Alternatively, the poll-based Buckley’s & None forecast model rates Labor a 67.2% change for a majority with the Coalition at only 11.1%.

• In a piece for The Conversation, Poll Bludger contributor Adrian Beaumont offers a colour-coded interactive map showing where he considers the swing most likely to be on, based on various demographic considerations.

• A report in The Guardian identifying electorates targeted with the most in “election campaign promises and discretionary grants” since the start of the year had Bass leading the field, with the marginal Labor-held New South Wales seats of Gilmore, Dobell and Hunter high on the list, alongside the seemingly safe Liberal seats of Canning, Durack and Forrest in Western Australia.

Everything else:

• The Liberal candidate for Warringah, Katherine Deves, is standing firm against calls for her to withdraw after her social media accounts turned up considerably more radical commentary on transgender issues than suggested by the initial promotion of her as a campaigner for strict definitions of sex in women’s sport. In this she has the support of Scott Morrison, who decried “those who are seeking to cancel Katherine simply because she has a different view to them on the issue of women and girls in sport” (though Samantha Maiden of News Corp notes she has gone rather quiet of her own accord), together with many of the party’s conservatives. Those who have called for her to withdraw include North Sydney MP Trent Zimmerman, New South Wales Treasurer Matt Kean and state North Shore MP Felicity Wilson. A Liberal source quoted in the Sydney Morning Herald dismissed the notion the party had been unaware of her record when it fast-tracked her for preselection last month with the support of Scott Morrison. Barring action by noon today, Deves will appear as the Liberal candidate on the ballot paper.

• An increasingly assertive Australian Electoral Commission has expressed concern about the parties’ practice of sending out postal vote applications and advised voters against making use of them, and establishing a disinformation register responding to conspiracy theories about voter fraud, a number of which are being peddled by One Nation and the United Australia Party.

• Perth’s centrality to Labor’s election hopes has been emphasised by Anthony Albanese’s announcement that the party’s national campaign launch will be held in the city on Sunday, May 1.


• David Speirs, factionally unaligned Environment Minister in the Marshall government, is the new South Australian Opposition Leader after winning 18 votes in a Liberal party room ballot ahead of moderate Josh Teague on five and conservative Nick McBride seemingly only securing his own vote. Liberal veteran Vickie Chapman has announced she will resign from parliament by the end of May, which will result in a by-election for her safe seat of Bragg.

Morgan: 55-45 to Labor; Essential Research 2PP+: Labor 47, Coalition 46

Labor maintains a commanding but narrowing lead from Roy Morgan, while Essential Research finds little in it.

The weekly poll from Roy Morgan finds Labor’s two-party preferred lead at 55-45, in from 57-43 last week and the narrowest the heavily Labor-leaning series has had it since October. Its distinction with Newspoll is now down to preferences, since the major party primary votes are similar to those of Newspoll and indeed Resolve Strategic: 35.5% for the Coalition, up three, and 35% for Labor, down one. However, it’s already strong reading for the Greens has become even more pronounced, with a one-and-a-half point increase to 14%, while One Nation is down half a point to 4.5% and the United Australia Party is steady on 1.5%. I calculate that this would pan out to 53.7-46.3 on 2019 preference flows, but Roy Morgan’s respondent-allocated preferences have been consistently more favourable to Labor.

The state two-party breakdowns have Labor leading 53.5-46.5 in New South Wales (in from 55-45 for a swing of about 6%), 58-42 in Victoria (steady, a swing of about 5%), 51.5-48.5 in Queensland (out from 50.5-49.5, a swing of around 10%), 58-42 in South Australia (out from 53-47, a swing of about 7%) and 61-39 from the tiny sample in Tasmania. The poll unusually credits the Coalition with a lead in Western Australia of 51-49, after Labor led by fully 63.5-36.5 last time, which still amounts to a Labor swing of about 4.5%. The poll was conducted last Monday through to Sunday from a sample of 1382.

The Guardian also has the latest voting intention results from Essential Research, which may already be available in full here by the time you read this. The pollster’s “2PP+” measure, based on respondent-allocated preferences and inclusive of an undecided component, suggests the Coalition have all but closed the gap, with Labor down three to 47% and the Coalition up one to 46%. However, the primary votes are all but unchanged, with the Coalition steady on 37%, Labor down one to 35%, the Greens down one to 9%, One Nation down one to 3% and the United Australia Party up one to 4%.

Anthony Albanese is down two on approval to 41% and up five on disapproval to 41%, whereas Scott Morrison’s ratings are all but unchanged, his approval down one to 44% and disapproval steady at 48%. Morrison’s lead on preferred prime minister is little changed at 40-36, compared with 39-36 last time. The poll was conducted Thursday to Sunday from a sample of 1020.

UPDATE: The poll also offers personal ratings for Adam Bandt (33% approval and 27% disapproval) and Barnaby Joyce (33% approval and 45% disapproval), and finds a 55-45 split in favour of Labor on a forced response question for party expected to win the election. A semi-regular question on “views towards re-electing the federal Coalition government” recorded little change on May, with a steady 48% rating it was “time to give someone else a go” compared with 34% who went for the alternative option that the government deserves to be re-elected, up two.

Newspoll: 53-47 to Labor

A tumble in Anthony Albanese’s personal ratings fails to carry through to two-party preferred, as the Greens record their best result in almost a year.

The Australian brings us what is apparently the first ever Newspoll conducted over the Easter break, presumably portending weekly polling throughout the campaign. In what can only be a morale-booster for Labor after the troubled first week of its campaign, it records no change on two-party preferred, with Labor maintaining a lead of 53-47. Both major parties are down a point on the primary vote, Labor to 36% and the Coalition to 35%. The Greens are up two points to 12%, their best result since May last year, with One Nation and the United Australia Party both on 4%, respectively up one and steady.

The strains of the first week have shown on Anthony Albanese’s personal ratings, his approval rating down five to 37% and disapproval up six to 51%. Scott Morrison is respectively up one to 43% and down two to 52%, and his lead as preferred prime minister is out from 44-39 to 44-37. The poll was conducted Thursday to Sunday from a sample of 1510.

Resolve Strategic: Coalition 35, Labor 34, Greens 11

The first campaign poll shows the scars of Labor’s troubled first week, but still suggests they lead on two-party preferred.

The Age/Herald has the first poll conducted during the campaign period, from Resolve Strategic, which finds the Coalition up a point on the primary vote to 35%, Labor down four to 34%, the Greens steady on 11%, One Nation up two to 4% (the accompanying report notes that part of the increase is down to rounding) and the United Australia Party up one to 4%. Resolve Strategic does not provide two-party results, but this pans out at 52-48 to Labor when preference flows from 2019 applied.

With Resolve Strategic providing state breakdowns only for New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland, the damage is distinctly concentrated in its “rest of Australia”, with the Coalition up six to 36% and Labor down fully ten points to 37%, although it was more the previous result that was the anomaly than this one. Similarly, dramatic change on the gender breakdowns reflects an unusual result last time when the Coalition did better among women than men. I would estimate the current poll’s two-party results as 50.6-49.4 to the Coalition among men and 54.2-45.8 to Labor among women.

On personal ratings, positive movement for Scott Morrison (up five on approval to 44% and down six on disapproval to 47%) is greater than negative movement for Anthony Albanese (down three on approval to 35% and up two on disapproval to 44%). Resolve Strategic’s leadership rating questions unusually ask how the leader has performed “in recent weeks”. Scott Morrison has opened up a 38-30 lead as preferred prime minister after trailing 37-36 last time.

The accompanying report reveals that 27% rate themselves uncommitted, up from 21% a fortnight ago. Many of these would presumably have ended up being allocated through a follow-up question asking to which party they were leaning (Resolve Strategic’s non-membership of the Australian Polling Council, which imposes transparency standards on its members, means this cannot be known for sure). (UPDATE: It’s been pointed out to me that this refers to the pollster’s “how firm are you with your vote” question, which directs respondents to identify as either committed or uncommitted. Resolve Strategic does not provide respondents with an option to identify as uncommitted and have their result counted in the survey, which critics say inflates the non-major party results.) The poll was conducted Monday to Saturday from a sample of 1404.

Federal election minus 35 days

The campaign’s first leaders debate locked in, plus various electorate-level brush fires and candidate announcements.

As the campaign enters a lull over the Easter extended weekend, there is at least the following to report:

• The first leaders’ debate of the campaign will be held on Wednesday, to be hosted in Brisbane by Kieran Gilbert of Sky News and with the leaders to face questions from 100 undecided voters.

Stephen Lunn of The Australian reports the Australian Electoral Commission will be operating 550 pre-poll booths at this election, up from 515 in 2019. The period for pre-poll voting has been reduced since the last election from three weeks to two.

• Liberal Ben Small has had to resign from his Western Australian Senate seat after becoming aware he was a dual citizen of New Zealand, where his father was born, which somehow escaped the notice of all concerned when he filled Mathias Cormann’s vacancy in November 2020. His term was shortly to expire in any case, and he will return if elected from third on the party’s Senate ticket at the election.

Paul Starick of The Advertiser reports that Liz Habermann, who came close to winning the regional seat of Flinders from the Liberals at last month’s South Australian state election, will shortly announce her candidacy for the corresponding federal seat of Grey, held for the Liberals by Rowan Ramsey.

The Age reports Zoe Daniel, the former ABC journalist challenging Liberal MP Tim Wilson as an independent in Goldstein, has apologised over an article she wrote in 2017 in which she said then US President Donald Trump was “satisfying his wealthy Jewish donors” when he declared Jerusalem to be the capital of Israel. The electorate’s 6.8% Jewish population as of the 2016 census was the third highest in the country, behind Wentworth and neighbouring Macnamara.

• A spokesperson for the Law Society of New South Wales told the Daily Telegraph that Sarah Richards, the Liberal candidate for the marginal Labor seat of Macquarie in outer Sydney, may have broken the law in describing herself as a qualified solicitor on her LinkedIn profile. Richards holds a law degree, but ceased to be a practising solicitor in 2007.

Federal election minus 37 days

Miscellaneous federal election news, including focus group findings from the Financial Review and sundry developments at local level.

Market research:

• My first of what will be regular contributions to Crikey each Wednesday through the campaign makes the case for taking opinion polling seriously again, though you may think that I would say that.

• Today’s Financial Review reports focus groups of undecided voters in Sydney and Melbourne found Scott Morrison to be “smirking, unkempt, immature and dishonest”, to which women added “annoying and patronising”. However, he was also considered a hard worker and “good orator”, and marked up for his response to the Ukraine war. Anthony Albanese was “dull, uninspiring and too negative”, and his failure to have made a clear impression meant Labor had failed to fully shake off perceptions it planned to abolish franking credits and introduce a death tax. The focus groups were conducted for the paper by Ipsos on Tuesday – there is no indication that Albanese’s stumbles over unemployment and the cash rate the previous day were raised.

Miranda Ward of the Financial Review reports Nielsen Ad Intel data shows the United Australia Party has spent $3.49 million in media advertising this month, compared with $472,247 by Labor, $103,265 by Liberal and $42,991 by the Greens.

Candidate news:

• George Christensen’s plan to run for One Nation proved to be a damp squib for everyone but his accountant, the big idea being to run for the inconsequential third position on the party’s Senate ticket. This will entitle him to six months’ worth of their salary, or over $100,000, as part of a “resettlement allowance” paid to defeated but not retiring incumbents. According to Andrew Tillett of the Financial Review, Christensen’s claim that he would have been entitled to it anyway on the grounds that he was effectively knocked back for Liberal National Party preselection does not square with the rules set out by the Remuneration Tribunal.

• Fairfield deputy mayor Dai Le will run as an independent in Fowler, seeking to capitalise on discontent over Labor’s preselection of Kristina Keneally over a member of the seat’s substantial Vietnamese community. Le came within 2.1% of gaining the state seat of Cabramatta for the Liberals in the party’s 2011 landslide and polled 25.9% as an independent there in 2019. Her campaign is backed by Fairfield mayor Frank Carbone, who had earlier floated the possibility of running himself.

On the ground:

David Crowe of the Age/Herald reports Scott Morrison will be in northern Tasmania today dispensing $219.5 million from a forestry industry fund, with a view to shoring up the Liberal-held marginals of Bass and Braddon and perhaps snaring Labor-held Lyons.

• Barnaby Joyce was in the Northern Territory on Tuesday to target its two Labor-held seats, promoting the budget’s $1.5 billion of spending on new port facilities in Darwin and promising to spend $440 million on logistics hubs elsewhere in the territory, respectively of interest to Solomon and Lingiari. According to David Crowe of the Age/Herald, this points to Coalition hopes it can “gain ground in the regions despite poor polling in the cities”.

• Katherine Deves, who is running for the Liberals against independent Zali Steggall in Warringah, was found to have deleted social media posts relating to trans rights issues, one of which referred to “vulnerable children surgically mutilated and sterilised in furtherance of an unattainable ideal”. This was evidently thought to have exceeded her brief as a campaigner for strict definitions of biological sex in women’s sport, but even here Scott Morrison now appears less keen than he did when he rated it a point in her favour after rubber-stamping her preselection last week.

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