Groom at the top

Eight LNP candidates nominate to fill John McVeigh’s vacancy in the Queensland seat of Groom; and the federal government says it will act to retain the Northern Territory’s two seats in the House of Representatives.

Miscellaneous developments from the past week:

• The Toowoomba Chronicle reports eight candidates have nominated for Liberal National Party preselection for the Groom by-election, of whom the front-runners are Rebecca Vonhoff, a Toowoomba councillor; Garth Hamilton, a businessman; Sara Hales, former general manager of Wellcamp Airport; and Shane Charles, former Toowoomba and Surat Basin Enterprise chief executive. Also in the field are “Elders Rural Services’ Andrew Meara … race car driver Daniel Cassidy, Australian Lot Feeders president Bryce Camm and Doctor David van Gend”, the latter being a firebrand social conservative whom the outgoing member, John McVeigh, defeated for preselection when he succeeded Ian Macfarlane in 2016. Notably absent from the list is Senator Matt Canavan, despite a decision by the state executive to leave it to the branch membership whether the seat should go to a Liberal, as it has since 1988, or a National. The date of the by-election is yet to be confirmed.

• Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack said on Thursday that the government would introduce a bill that will ensure the Northern Territory retains its two seats in the House of Representatives, though by what mechanism is unclear. A Labor-sponsored bill currently before the Senate provides a crude guarantee of a second Northern Territory seat (without extending the courtesy to the Australian Capital Territory, albeit that its population is such that the question does not arise), but when the same issue emerged before the 2004 election, it was dealt with through a technical tweak to the population statistics used to determine seat entitlements. The bottom line is that the Labor-held seats of Solomon and Lingiari, created when the territory first became entitled to a second seat in 2001 and respectively covering Darwin and the rest of the territory, will continue to exist despite enrolments of less than two-thirds the national norm. It also means the House of Representatives

• The Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters is conducting an inquiry into the “future conduct of elections operating during times of emergency situations”, encompassing “restrictions arising from a health pandemic”, “access to polling places during times of natural disasters”, “other potential drivers of social restrictions, such as future civil unrest, or international conflict” and “alternative voting methods including early, remote and postal voting”.

• The West Australian has a Painted Dog Research poll of 932 respondents in WA showing 64% want the state’s hard border maintained beyond December, with 36% favouring a resumption of travel with the eastern states.Hou

Essential Research budget expectations polling

Mixed messages on the imminent federal budget, plus polling from WA on border closures and secession.

The most interesting poll of the day is YouGov’s Queensland state poll, which you can read about here, but we do also have some results from the fortnightly Essential Research poll courtesy of The Guardian, focusing on expectations for the budget. Fifty-one per cent of respondents expected it would benefit the well off and 30% expected it would benefit those on low incomes, but only 25% thought it would benefit them personally. Thirty-five per cent expected it would be good for the economy compared with 31% for bad.

More interestingly, 78% signed on to the proposition that now was a good time to “explore new ways to run the economy”, with only 22% opposed. Sixty-nine per cent favoured “direct investment by government in job creation and in projects with the objective of improving living standards” when it was offered as an alternative to “deregulation to encourage employment and tax cuts for wealthy Australians”, which some may consider a false binary. The full report should be out later today.

In other poll news, The West Australian has been dealing out further results from the poll of 3500 respondents that recorded a 16% swing on state voting intention to Labor – remembering that this was a poll of five selected marginal seats, and not of the entire state. The poll found support for Western Australia’s hard border at 77% with 14% opposed, and support for secession at 28% and opposition at 55%, with 17% somehow unclear of their opinion.

UPDATE: Full results from Essential Research poll are available on the website, although there isn’t the usual PDF file at this point. Regular questions on COVID-19 suggest a softening of concern over the past fortnight, with very concerned down six to 30%, quite concerned up seven to 52%, not that concerned steady on 15% and not at all concerned down one to 4%. Perceptions of government performance in response are little changed, with the federal government on 60% good (down one) and 18% poor (steady), and good ratings for state governments on 65% in New South Wales (down two), 45% in Victoria (down two) 69% in Queensland (up one), 83% in Western Australia (down one) and 81% in South Australia (steady), with due regard to the small sub-sample sizes here.

UPDATE 2: PDF file here.

Victorian COVID-19 polling, etc.

A new poll suggests Victorians remain sympathetic to Daniel Andrews, despite waning patience with COVID-19 restrictions.

It’s time for a new general discussion thread, but do take note of the other important new posts below this one before diving in:

• New state polling from Western Australia suggests there will be little left of the parliamentary Liberal Party after the election there in March;

• Guest contributor Adrian Beaumont offers his weekly situation report on the ever-eventful US election campaign;

• I launch my Queensland election guide, and in doing so provide a thread for discussion of that state’s October 31 election;

• I humbly plead for donations, as I do every two months.

Other than that, there is one further poll to report on in the shape of a Roy Morgan SMS poll from Victoria, following on from a similar efforts two and three weeks ago. This finds the Labor state government’s two-party lead unchanged at 51.5-48.5, but Daniel Andrews is down nine on approval to 61% and up nine on disapproval to 39%. There has also been movement in sentiment against existing COVID-19 restrictions, with a 61-39 split in favour of lifting the five kilometre rule (50-50 last time), 59-41 in favour of visits to immediate family members (55-45 in favour last time) and 56-44 in favour of a resumption of table service (63-37 against last time). The poll was conducted Monday and Tuesday from a sample of 2223.

Preselections: Groom and WA Liberal Senate

Early manoeuvres for a Liberal vacancy in a looming federal by-election, and a preselection to fill Mathias Cormann’s Senate seat set for November 7.

With Newspoll and Essential Research both having said their piece this week, there is likely to be a fortnight gap between federal polls. Not counting state and territory election action, which you can be assured you will be hearing more about shortly, there are two important preselections on the boil on the conservative side of politics:

• A situation is vacant for the Liberals in the Toowoomba-based federal seat of Groom following last week’s resignation announcement from John McVeigh, the member since 2016. In a column for the Brisbane Times, former Newman government minister and current 4BC presenter Scott Emerson says the vacancy presents an opportunity to head off a stoush over the order of the next Senate ticket between James McGrath and Amanda Stoker. The winner of this fight will get top position while the loser must settle for third, second being reserved for the Nationals. Emerson reports that this amounts to a battle between moderates and the Christian Right, of which McGrath is apparently one of the former. The suggestion is that Groom might give McGrath an opening, but in this he could face opposition from locals who support the claim of Toowoomba councillor Rebecca Vonhoff. Suggestions the seat might be of interest to another Senator, Matt Canavan, are complicated by the fact that he is a National, the sensitivity of which was illustrated when the LNP organisation blocked an attempt by the seat’s previous member, Ian Macfarlane, to jump ship from Liberal to the Nationals in 2015.

Nathan Hondros of WAToday reports the Liberals will hold their preselection to fill Mathias Cormann’s Western Australian Senate vacancy on November 7, with the winner to take third position on the party’s ticket at the next election behind Michaelia Cash and Dean Smith. There would appear to be three nominees: Julian Ambrose, stepson of the late Perth construction billionaire Len Buckeridge; Sherry Sufi, an arch-conservative party activist; and Albert Jacob, former state Environment Minister and current mayor of Joondalup, who emerged as a “last-minute nomination”. Jacob held the coastal northern suburbs seat of Ocean Reef from 2008 to 2017, when he was defeated in the landslide the tipped the Barnett government from office. Cormann is reportedly lobbying for Ambrose, and his backers are pressuring Sufi to withdraw.

Newspoll and Essential Research coronavirus polling

Among many other findings relating to COVID-19, the strongest evidence yet that Victorians are unswayed by news media narratives concerning their state government.

The Australian today reports Newspoll findings on COVID-19 and leadership approval from Victoria and Queensland, which were targeted with expanded samples (608 and 603 respectively) in the poll whose main results were published yesterday:

• Daniel Andrews is up five points on approval from late July to 62% and down two on approval to 35%, whereas Scott Morrison is down six on approval to 62% and up seven on disapproval to 33%. Andrews is reckoned to be doing very well in handling COVID-19 by 31% (up four), fairly well by 31% (down three), fairly badly by 13% (down five) and very badly by 22% (up four), while Morrison is on 26% for very well (down five), 45% for fairly well (down one), 15% for fairly badly (up three) and 10% for very badly (up one).

• Annastacia Palaszczuk’s ratings are only modestly changed, with approval down one to 63% and disapproval up four to 33% as compared with the poll in late July, while Scott Morrison is down five to 67% and up four to 28% as compared with the poll in late June. Both leaders’ COVID-19 ratings are a little weaker than they were in late July: Palaszczuk records 32% for very well (down five), 36% for fairly well (down eight), 16% for fairly badly (up eight) and 13% for very badly (up seven), while Morrison has 34% for very well (down six), 43% for fairly well (up three), 13% for fairly badly (up two) and 7% for very badly (up one).

• The national sample was asked about the restrictions in Victoria and Queensland, which naturally required lengthy explanation (the framing of which seems reasonable enough). For Victoria, the results were 25% too strict, 61% about right and 10% too lenient; for Queensland, 37% too strict, 53% about right and 7% too lenient.

• The balance of concern is nonetheless moving away from “moving too quickly to relax restrictions”, down 20 points since mid-July to 56%, to “moving too slowly to relax restrictions and harming economy, jobs and mental wellbeing”, up 19 points to 39%.

Today also brings the fortnightly Essential Research poll, as related by The Guardian with the full report to follow later today:

• Respondents were in favour of both Scott Morrison’s handling of COVID-19 (a 61% approval rating, up two on a fortnight ago) and Queensland state border closures he wants lifted (66% support, including 70% among Queensland respondents). Forty-seven per cent of Victorian respondents approved of the state government’s COVID-19 management, unchanged from a fortnight ago, while the rating for the New South Wales government was up seven to 67%.

• Thirty-three per cent of respondents felt tax cuts for high income earners should be brought forward from 2022, as the government has signalled it will do, while 38% believe they should be scrapped and 29% believe the government should stick to the original timetable. Twenty-one per cent believe they would be an effective economic stimulus, compared with 41% for moderately effective and 38% for not effective.

• Asked which technology they preferred for future energy generation, 70% favoured renewables and 15% gas and coal.

The poll was conducted Wednesday to Sunday from a sample of 1081.

UPDATE: Full Essential Research poll here.

Newspoll: 51-49 to Coalition

Primary vote movement from Newspoll in favour of the Coalition and against Labor, as the government sneaks back into the lead on the two-party headline.

Courtesy of The Australian, the latest Newspoll finds the Coalition sneaking back into a two-party lead of 51-49, after a 50-50 result three weeks ago. The primary votes are Coalition 43% (up two), Labor 34% (down two), Greens 12% (up one) and One Nation 3% (steady). Scott Morrison’s personal ratings are little changed, up one on approval to 65% and down one on disapproval to 31%, while Anthony Albanese is respectively down four to 39% and down one to 40%, and Morrison’s lead as preferred prime minister is out from 58-29 to 59-27.

The poll was conducted Wednesday to Saturday from a larger-than-usual sample of 2068, which suggests we will be seeing state breakdowns in the coming days showing leadership and COVID-19 performance ratings for the state governments and Premiers.