Laming heck

Yet more trouble for the Morrison government, this time with the at least vague prospect of a by-election attached.

Recent revelations surrounding sociopathic bully Andrew Laming raise, or should raise, the prospect of a by-election in his seat of Bowman, located in southern bayside Brisbane and held by the LNP on a margin of 10.2%. In response to the latest news — that Laming took an upskirt photo of a young woman and then whinged that her manager was being “awkward” in demanding he delete it from his phone — the Prime Minister, who recently forced out the female chief executive of Australia Post over a couple of watches, has laid down the law: Laming’s already scheduled sessions with an “empathy consultant” will be brought forward. That at least was the impression given by last night’s report on the Nine Network, although it sounds too stupid to be true. UPDATE: Laming has stepped down from his parliamentary committee roles, and developed a sudden concern for “privacy”.

One way or another, I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that won’t be the end of the matter. The Age/Herald reports that Laming’s victim, Crystal White, is considering a police complaint for an offence that carries a maximum penalty of three years’ imprisonment. A conviction for such an offence, regardless of the penalty applied, would disqualify him from parliament. While the wheels of justice may perhaps not turn quite that quickly, there will surely be irresistible pressure to force Laming out of the Liberal Party, which would cost the government its majority on the floor of parliament.

In semi-related news, the Prime Minister said on Tuesday he was “open to the idea” of Labor-style gender quotas for his party, although the notion has long been bitterly resisted within the party organisation. As Crikey’s Kishor Napier-Raman noted, the website of Queensland’s Liberal National Party, which has preselected Andrew Laming at the last six elections, boasts that its members are “elected on merit”, since it “believes in choosing the best person for the job, regardless of gender”.

In less related news, except perhaps to the extent that it was ostensibly brought about by the government’s loss of its parliamentary majority, a Tasmanian state election was called on Friday for May 1, which you can comment on here. The Western Australian election should also reach its final resolution when the buttons are pressed on the Legislative Council counts at some point in the coming days, and you can comment on that here.

Creeping greenery

The latest on federal election timing, preselections and the Greens’ big ambitions.

Sundry recent developments relevant to the next federal election, whenever that may be:

• A report by David Crowe of The Age/Herald relates that a) unidentified Liberals are “saying privately that a poll in the first months of 2022 is most likely”, and that b) the Greens are about to identify nine House of Representatives seats they will be targeting, and believe they would have won the inner Melbourne seat of Macnamara at the last election if the newly published draft boundaries had been in place. The latter propose tidying the electorate’s eastern boundary as a straight line down Williams Road and Hotham Street, which would remove Caulfield and its surrounds and add large parts of Prahran and South Yarra. My own estimates are perhaps a little less favourable for them, indicating a 2.0% boost in the Greens vote to 26.3%, still astern of Labor on 30.7% (down 1.1%) and the Liberals on 36.7% (down 0.6%). Josh Burns comfortably won the seat for Labor in 2019 after the Greens were excluded.

• Marion Scrymgour has been preselected as Labor’s candidate for Lingiari, which covers the Northern Territory outside of Darwin. Scrymgour served in the Northern Territory parliament from 2001 to 2012 and as Deputy Chief Minister from 2007 to 2009, and has more recently been chief executive of the Northern Land Council. The Northern Territory News reports other candidates for preselection included Matthew Bonson, who served in the territory parliament from 2001 to 2008; Jeanie Govan, a town planner; and Rowan Foley, chief executive of the Aboriginal Carbon Foundation.

• The New South Wales Greens have preselected David Shoebridge, who has held a seat in the state upper house since 2010, as lead Senate candidate for the next election. AAP reports Shoebridge won a ballot of 2263 party members ahead of Amanda Cohn, the deputy mayor of Albury, and Rachael Jacobs, a lecturer in creative arts education at Western Sydney University.

• Shortly after reports indicating former Deputy Prime Minister John Anderson would seek preselection for the Nationals’ position on the New South Wales Coalition Senate ticket, The Australian reports Fiona Nash is keep to recover the position, which she lost in 2017 after being disqualified on grounds of dual British citizenship under Section 44. Also identified as a potential candidate is former state party director Ross Cadell.

Roy Morgan and Essential Research polls

A new federal poll from Roy Morgan records a narrower Labor lead than Newspoll, but an apparently wider gender gap.

Two further polls in the wake of the weekend Newspoll, including voting intention numbers from Roy Morgan and its regularly conducted but irregularly published federal polling series. This shows Labor with a 50.5-49.5 lead on two-party preferred, unchanged from the last such poll a month ago, from primary votes of Coalition 41% (up one), Labor 34.5% (unchanged), Greens 12.5% (down half a point) and One Nation 2.5% (down one). The poll was conducted online and by telephone over the previous two weekends, from a sample of 2747.

The accompanying release takes a deep dive into gender breakdowns in light of recent events, as The Australian did yesterday with recent Newspoll data, which you can read about as an update at the bottom of this post. Whereas The Australian came up empty, Morgan tells us of a 4.3% differential in Coalition two-party preferred between April 2020 and early February (53.5% among men, 49.3% among women), but a 6.2% differential since late February (52.8% among men, 46.5% among women).

There is also the regular fortnightly Essential Research poll which includes the pollster’s monthly reading of leadership ratings. These have Scott Morrison down three on approval to 62% and up one on approval to 29%, Anthony Albanese up one to 41% and down one to 32%, and Morrison’s lead as preferred prime minister narrowing slightly from 52-24 to 52-26.

Concerning recent rape allegations, 37% agree with Scott Morrison’s contention that an inquiry into the Christian Porter matter would “say the rule of law and our police are not competent to deal with these issues”, with 33% disagreeing. Sixty-seven per cent felt it was “time women were believed when they say they have been assaulted”, but 62% also felt that “because the charge of rape is so serious, the burden of proof needs to be high” – a difficult circle to square. Fifty-five per cent felt there needed to be an independent investigation compared with 45% who favoured an alternative proposition that “the police has said they will not be pressing charges and that should be the end of the matter”.

Regular questions on COVID-19 management find federal and state governments recovering ground that most had lost in the previous result a fortnight ago. The federal government’s good rating is up eight to 70% and its poor rating is down two to 12%. For the state governments, New South Wales’ good rating is up three to 75%, Victoria’s is up thirteen to 62%, Queensland is up two to 75%, Western Australia is up six to 91% and South Australia is up to 85%. For the small states especially, caution is required due to small sample sizes (though the WA result may be the highest yet recorded anywhere, which would be neat timing if so).

Also featured is an occasional suite of questions on trust in institutions, which finds 66% expressing a lot of or some trust in state and territory governments, up six points six August, and 72% doing so for border security agencies, up five. Other institutions record little change except the print media, which already rated poorly and is now down four points to 35%. The poll also found 38% support for an aged care levy with 30% opposed. The poll was conducted Wednesday to Monday from a sample of 1124.

Newspoll, Essential and Roy Morgan between them have amounted to a healthy infusion of data for the BludgerTrack poll aggregates, which you can see summarised on the sidebar and in much greater detail here. Labor is now credited with a 51.2-48.8 lead on two-party preferred, following a dead heat when the numbers were last updated three weeks ago.

Newspoll: 52-48 to Labor

First a state election rout in WA, now a soft result for the Coalition federally from Newspoll.

As reported by The Australian, Newspoll caps a sobering weekend for the Coalition by giving Labor its best result for the term, recording a 52-48 lead compared with 50-50 three weeks ago. The Coalition is down three on the primary vote to 39% with Labor up two to 39%, the Greens steady on 10% and One Nation on 3%. Scott Morrison’s leadership ratings are nonetheless largely unscathed, his approval down two to 62% and disapproval up two to 34%. However, but Anthony Albanese’s are considerably improved, with approval up four to 42% and disapproval down four to 41%, and he has narrowed the gap on preferred prime minister from 61-26 to 56-30. The poll was conducted Wednesday to Saturday from a sample of 1521.

UPDATE (16/3): The Australian today goes deeper into the Newspoll data in search of gender effects, but doesn’t come up with much — though this may partly be because they have combined the results of the last two polls to get a larger sample size in testing the effect of recent events, and the previous poll three weeks ago would probably have been too early. As compared with the combined polling from October to December, this finds the Coalition down two among women to 39%, with Labor up two to 38%, the Greens down one to 11% and One Nation steady on 3%; while among men, the Coalition is down two to 42%, Labor is up three to 37%, the Greens are down one to 9% and One Nation are steady on 4%.

Not the WA election thread

New draft boundaries for Victoria and WA to be unveiled next Friday, plus other matters from the federal sphere.

To keep a general discussion post somewhere near the top of the page, I offer the following:

Paul Osborne of AAP reports the Australian Electoral Commission has confirmed that the draft federal redistributions for Victoria and Western Australia will be published next Friday. The latter has been the subject of particular media attention over the past week, owing to the potential for Christian Porter’s seat of Pearce to be abolished.

• John Anderson, who served in the House of Representatives from 1989 to 2007 and as Nationals leader and Deputy Prime Minister from 1999 to 2005, has announced he will seek preselection for the Nationals-designated number two position on the New South Wales Senate ticket. The position is available as a hangover from the Section 44 debacle, which caused the party to lose a seat to the Liberals in the recount that followed Fiona Nash’s disqualification. It was reported last month that state Nationals leader John Barilaro might also seek the position, though this would seem to be rather optimistic of him.

Kevin Bonham offers a long-range big-picture account of historical opinion polling, which concludes it would be highly unusual for a federal opposition polling only as well as Labor is right now to actually win an election.

The big issue

Issue polling, Tasmanian polling, election timing and preselection latest.

Note posts below this on latest developments in the Western Australian campaign and a new state poll from South Australia. In other polling news, we have the latest from a regular series on issue salience and a state poll from Tasmania that I don’t quite feel warrants a post of its own:

• The latest True Issues survey of issue salience from JWS Research records a slight moderation of the coronavirus-driven peculiarities of the mid-year results, in that 42% now rate health among the top three issues (down from 47% in June, but still well up on 24% in February) and 19% do so for environment (up three on last time, but still well down on 26% in February. However, a spike in concern about the economy (steady at 32%, compared with 18% in February) and employment and wages (up two to 30%, compared with 21% in February) has not abated. Nineteen per cent rate the federal government’s response to COVID-19 as very good and 37% as good, but state governments collectively fare better at 29% and 35%. Positive ratings are markedly lower in Victoria for both the federal and state governments. Plenty more detail here from the poll, which was conducted from February 18 to 22 from a sample of 1000.

• The latest quarterly EMRS poll of state voting intention in Tasmania is little changed on the previous result in November, with the incumbent Liberals steady on 52%, Labor up two to 27% and the Greens up one to 14%, with the only complication to a static picture being a four point drop for “others” to 7%. Peter Gutwein’s lead over Labor’s Rebecca White as preferred premier is unchanged at 52-27. The poll was conducted by phone from Monday, February 15 to Tuesday, February 23, from a sample of 1000. Much analysis as always from Kevin Bonham.

Other relevant developments:

• The conventional wisdom that the election would be held in the second half of this year, most likely around September, was disturbed by an Age/Herald report last week that the Prime Minister had “told colleagues to plan for two federal budgets before the Coalition government heads to the polls”.

Sarah Elks of The Australian reports Warren Entsch, who has held the far north Queensland seat of Leichhardt for the Liberals and the Liberal National Party outside of a one-term time-out from 2007 to 2010, has gone back on his decision to retire. The 70-year-old announced this term would be his last on the night of the 2019 election, but now feels it “incumbent on me during these uncertain times to continue to support our community and its residents”.

The Advertiser reports the Prime Minister has told South Australian factional leaders they are expected to preselect a woman to succeed Nicolle Flint in Boothby. This presumably reduces the chances of the position going to state Environment Minister David Speirs, who said last week he was “pondering” a run. The Advertiser suggests the front runners are Rachel Swift, a factional moderate and infectious diseases expert who currently has the unwinnable fourth position on the Senate ticket, and Leah Blyth, a conservative and head of student services at Adelaide University. Another woman mentioned as a possibility by Tom Richardson of InDaily was Marion Themeliotis, Onkaparinga councillor and staffer to state Davenport MP Steve Murray.