Essential Research: gender equality and Australian history

Not the Eden-Monaro by-election news: an Essential Research poll, electoral reform in South Australia and election day roll management potentially to go digital.

Three entirely unrelated bits of information that don’t involve the Eden-Monaro by-election, for which another dedicated post is assuredly not far away (the most recent, and its attendant discussion thread, is here):

• This week’s Essential Research poll looks at indigenous issues and gender equality, finding broadly liberal viewpoints prevailing in each case. On the former count, most agreed that indigenous Australians and Pacific islanders had been “forced to work in Australia in conditions that amounted to slavery”, but 42% agreed that “many of the new cases of Covid-19 in Victoria have been from people who attended the Black Lives Matter protest” compared with 37% who believed it to be false. On gender equality, majorities somehow managed to agree both that there was “still a long way to go” and that it had “already been mostly achieved”, though a lot more emphatically in the former case. Respondents were also asked who got paid too much (bankers and lawyers) and too little (nurses and teachers).

Tom Richardson of InDaily reports on an imminent package of electoral reform in South Australia, which may include the introduction of optional preferential voting. Labor leader Peter Malinauskas has accused Premier Steven Marshall of a move to “rig the next election”, and invoked the bogey of “the polarisation of our democracy in the way we have seen in the United States”. Malinauskas’s real concern is more likely to do with Greens preferences, the system having raised no such concerns for the Labor governments that introduced them in New South Wales and Queensland, back when its main impact was to weaken intra-Coalition preference flows in three-cornerned contests. The Greens have also declared their opposition, which would leave its upper house fate in the hands of the three survivors of the Nick Xenophon disturbance. The government’s reforms may also include crackdowns on corflutes (which seem to be particularly popular in South Australia) and dissemination of how-to-vote cards at polling booths.

Justin Hendry of IT News reports the Australian Electoral Commission is looking into a full rollout of the electronic certified list system for marking off voters, which operated at around 10% of polling places at last year’s election. This replaces the more familiar method of paper lists marked off by pencil, which offer no guarantee the prospective voter has not already voted somewhere else beyond the requisite verbal assurance. As such, it can genuinely help prevent multiple voting, unlike a lot of other supposed electoral reforms that are invoked in its name. However, it may also constitute a point of vulnerability to nefarious actors.

Eden-Monaro by-election minus four days

More reports of alleged party internal polling, plus other developments on the by-election front.

As the campaign enters its final week, I have given my Eden-Monaro by-election guide an overdue overhaul, such that it now offers a thorough account of the Coalition’s preselection tangles and full detail on the various reports of opinion polling that have emerged, along with the usual charts, results map and historical detail. Other news worth noting:

The Australian ($) reports the Nationals are hawking internal polling showing a surge in their own support potentially great enough to push the Liberals over the line. Their candidate, Trevor Hicks, was said to have risen from 6% a fortnight ago to 11.5%, clipping Liberal candidate Fiona Kotvojs from 36% to 34.3% and Shooters Fishers and Farmers from 7% to 4.6%. Labor’s Kristy McBain was said to have slumped from 36% to 29.3%, with the Greens up slightly from 7% to 8.7%. The more recent poll was conducted on Thursday from a sample of 630; the sample for the earlier poll was said to be rather larger.

• A borderline comical spam email attacking Labor candidate Kristy McBain is the subject of an Australian Federal Police investigation. Purporting to be from McBain’s campaign manager, the email claimed she had withdrawn as a candidate after being hospitalised with COVID-19, before holding her largely responsible for fabricating the Catholic Church sex abuse scandal. Complaints under the “misleading or deceptive publications” provision under the Electoral Act are ten a penny, and invariably fall foul of the limitation that the falsehood must be “in relation to the casting of a vote”, (which the Australian Electoral Commission contentiously determined did not apply to Chinese language Liberal Party advertising in Melbourne at last year’s election). In this case though, the material clearly crosses the line in asserting that votes for McBain will be invalid.

• The Australian Electoral Commission has so far processed 16,098 postal vote applications, compared with a total of 7426 at the 2019 election. The thirteen pre-poll voting centres now in operation have already received more than 21,000 votes; last time a total of 35,114 votes were cast at eight locations.

Newspoll state leaders and coronavirus polling

Persistent high ratings all round for state Premiers and the Prime Minister amid the coronavirus crisis, but signs the current Victorian outbreak may have cost Daniel Andrews some shine.

Courtesy of The Australian, Newspoll offers a repeat of an exercise conducted two months ago in which a large national sample is polled to produce state-level results on the popularity of premiers as well as the Prime Minister, both generally and in their dealings with the coronavirus. While the results are positive all round, they find Daniel Andrews falling from a top tier that continues to include Peter Gutwein, Mark McGowan and Steven Marshall, bringing him about level with Gladys Berejiklian but still clear of Annastacia Palaszczuk.

Andrews was down eight on approval to 67% and up ten on disapproval to 27%, while Berejiklian was down one to 68% and up three to 26%. Allowing for small sample sizes in the smaller states, Peter Gutwein took the lead (up six on approval to 90% and down three on disapproval to 8%) from Mark McGowan (down one to 88% and up three on 9%). Despite continuing to trail the pack, Palaszczuk recorded the best improvement with a four point increase in approval to 59% and a four point drop on disapproval to 35%.

However, Palaszczuk remains the only Premier with a weaker net approval rating in their state than Scott Morrison, who according to the poll has strengthened in Queensland (by five on approval to 72%, and down four on disapproval to 24%) but weakened everywhere else (approval down six to 61% and disapproval up five to 35% in New South Wales; down seven to 65% and up four to 30% in Victoria; down three to 67% and up two to 29% in South Australia; down three to 70% and up three to 26% in Western Australia; down four to 60% and up six to 37% in Tasmania).

Andrews’ deterioration on approval is more than matched on the question of handling of coronavirus, on which he now trails out of the Premiers with 72% for well (down 13 points) and 25% for badly (up 14). This pushes him behind Berejiklian (up two to 79% and down two to 16%), Palaszczuk (up four to 76% and down one to 22%) and Marshall (up five to 87% and down two to 9%). Still clear of the field are McGowan and Gutwein, who are tied at 93% well (down one for McGowan, up four for Gutwein) and 5% badly (up one and down three). Scott Morrison’s ratings on this score are little changed, and remarkably consistent from state to state — Queensland and South Australia are his best with 84% well and 14% poorly apiece, but his weakest result, in New South Wales, is still 79% well and 18% badly.

The poll was conducted from a national sample of 2949, ranging from 526 in Victoria to 309 in Tasmania.

Newspoll: 51-49 to Coalition

Scott Morrison records another personal best approval rating, as Newspoll maintains its stable-to-a-fault record on voting intention.

The Australian reports the latest Newspoll has the Coalition’s lead at 51-49, unchanged on three weeks ago. On the primary vote, the Coalition is steady at 42%, Labor up a point to 35%, the Greens down one to 11% and One Nation down one to 3%. Scott Morrison records another personal best on leader ratings, his approval up two to 68% and disapproval down two to 27%, while Anthony Albanese is now at 42% on both approval and disapproval, which are respectively up by one and two. Morrison’s lead as preferred prime minister is at 58-26, out from 56-26. The poll was conducted Wednesday to Saturday from a sample of 1521.

Weekend miscellany: Morgan, Victorian Labor and latest New Zealand poll

Polls show a tight race in Australia and a rather less tight one in New Zealand; meanwhile, Victorian Labor’s factional players wonder what to do next.

Assorted developments from here and the near abroad:

• Roy Morgan has made one of its arbitrarily timed drops of its federal voting intention polling, which it conducts weekly but usually keeps to itself. This one has the Coalition with a 50.5-49.5 two-party lead, which based on the accompanying chart would appear to be its lowest point since the government’s coronavirus bounce. The primary votes are Coalition 42.5%, Labor 34.5%, Greens 10.5% and One Nation 4%. The poll was conducted online and by phone over the last two weekends from a sample of 2593.

Greg Brown of The Australian ($) reports the alliance in Victorian Labor between the Industrial Left and much of the Right is set to survive the demise of Adem Somyurek, who was generally credited with welding it together. This is due to a shared concern to prevent the Socialist Left gaining advantage from the present disarray, and the Industrial Left’s determination to secure the new federal seat shortly to be created in Victoria. However, the report quotes an unidentified Labor skeptic saying such manoeuvres are redundant since the national executive’s three-year takeover of the state branch means they are “not going to have a vote in anything”.

• In a review of Victorian Labor’s increasingly complicated factional terrain, Aaron Patrick of the Financial Review ($) notes party convention dictates that the national executive allocates seats to each faction after disruptive redistributions, to whom it then falls to fill them through internal ballots. However, a less messy option under the circumstances would simply be to guarantee the preselections of all sitting members. The most likely beneficiary would be Senator Kim Carr, who at 64 and after nearly three decades in the Senate would otherwise have to reckon with “a younger generation of left-wing faction operators who want to replace him”.

• With New Zealand’s election less than three months, I will henceforth be making note here of poll results from that country, which come by at a rate of one or two a month. The latest is from Colmar Brunton for 1 News, one of three poll series that reports with any regularity, together with Reid Research for Newshub and Roy Morgan for reasons of its own. After all three showed an astonishing blowout in favour of Jacinda Ardern’s Labour government last month, the latest result finds a substantial correction with Labour down nine to 50% and National down up by the same amount to 38%. Between the two polls, the National Party ditched its leader and Health Minister David Clark blotted the government’s coronavirus copybook by humiliating the country’s chief medical officer at a press conference. With minor parties needing to either clear a 5% national vote threshold or win a constituency seat to qualify for a share of seats proportionate to their vote, the poll finds the Greens up one to 6%, ACT New Zealand up a point to 3% and New Zealand First down one to 2%. ACT New Zealand should be safe thanks to party leader David Seymour’s hold on the seat of Epsom, but New Zealand First would rely on the long shot of one-time Labour MP Shane Jones poaching the seat of Northland, which party leader Winston Peters failed to carry in 2017.

Essential Research: coronavirus and bushfires

A new poll registers fears of a second coronavirus wave and prolonged economic slowdown, and finds concern about climate change still at a high pitch.

The Guardian reports this week’s Essential Research poll has still more results on coronavirus, together with some findings on climate change. On the former count, the poll found 63% rating a second wave of coronavirus as restrictions are eased as very likely or quite likely, with only 13% rating it very unlikely; more than 60% expected international travel restrictions to remain for between one and two years; 70% thought it would take between one and two years for employment to recover; 60% expected a prolonged impact on the housing market; more than 60% expected a vaccine would be developed “over the next few years”; and 58% that the population would build resistance through exposure over that time. Despite it all, 45% said they felt very or somewhat positive about the next 12 months compared with 33% for very or somewhat negative.

On climate change, 52% now think Australia is not doing enough, down eight on November, with 25% holding the contrary view, up three. Forty-two per cent said they were now more concerned about climate change than they were a year ago, with a further 46% saying they were no more or less concerned. Full results from the poll will be published later today. (UPDATE: Full report here).

The week that was

Party turmoil in Victoria and Queensland, state and territory seat entitlements for the next federal parliament determined, and more polling on attitudes to demonstrations in the United States.

After a particularly eventful week, a whole bunch of electorally relevant news to report:

• The last official population updates have confirmed next month’s official determination of how many seats each state and territory will be entitled to in the next parliament will cause the abolition of seats in Western Australia and the Northern Territory, and the creation of a new one in Victoria for the second consecutive term. Antony Green offers detailed consideration of how the redistributions might look, suggesting Victoria’s will most likely result in the creation of another safe Labor seat in Melbourne’s outer north-west, while Western Australia’s could either mash together Hasluck and Burt in eastern Perth, or abolish the safe Liberal south-of-the-river seat of Tangney, with knock-on effects that would weaken Labor’s position in Fremantle and/or Burt.

• In the wake of the 60 Minutes/The Age expose on Adem Somyurek’s branch stacking activities on Sunday, Labor’s national executive has taken control of all the Victorian branch’s federal and state preselections for the next three years. Steve Bracks and Jenny Macklin have been brought in to serve as administrators until January, and an audit of the branch’s 16,000 members will be conducted to ensure that are genuine consenting members and paid their own fees.

• Ipsos has published polling on the recent demonstrations in the United States from fifteen countries, which found Australians to be supportive of what were specified as “peaceful protests in the US” and disapproving of Donald Trump’s handling of them, although perhaps in slightly lesser degree than other more liberal democracies. Two outliers were India and Russia, which produced some seemingly anomalous results: the former had a strangely high rating for Trump and the latter relatively low support for the protests, yet both were uniquely favourable towards the notion that “more violent protests are an appropriate response”.

• The Tasmanian government has announced the periodical Legislative Council elections for the seats of Huon and Rosevears will be held on August 1, having been delayed from their normally allotted time of the first Tuesday in May.

In Queensland, where the next election is a little over four months away:

• After floating the possibility of an election conducted entirely by post, the Queensland government announced this week that the October 31 state election will be conducted in a more-or-less normal fashion. However, pre-poll voting is being all but actively encouraged, to the extent that Attorney-General Yvette D’Ath says there will be an “election period” rather than an election day. This will mean “more pre-poll locations, longer pre-poll hours, and more pre-poll voting days in the two weeks prior to the election”.

• The Liberal National Party opposition was thrown into turmoil last week after the Courier-Mail ($) received internal polling showing Labor leading 51-49 in Redlands, 52-48 in Gaven, 55-45 in Mansfield and 58-42 in inner urban Mount Ommaney. The parties were tied in the Sunshine Coast hinterland seat of Glass House, while the LNP led by 52-48 in the Gold Coast seat of Currumbin, which it recently retained by a similar margin at a by-election. Frecklington’s supporters pointed the finger at the state branch president, Dave Hutchinson, who was reportedly told by Frecklington that his position was untenable after Clive Palmer hired him as a property consultant in January. The party room unanimously affirmed its support for Frecklington on Monday, as mooted rival David Crisafulli ruled out a challenge ahead of the election.

• The Queensland parliament this week passed an array of electoral law changes including campaign spending caps of $92,000 per candidate and limitations on signage at polling places. The changes have been criticised ($) by the Liberal National Party and Katter’s Australian Party, who complain that union advertising will now dominate at polling booths, and that the laws was pushed through with indecent haste on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Eden-Monaro: more private polling

Two more privately conducted polls lean the other way from the party polling circulated last week, showing Labor leading in an apparently tight race.

The Australian reports on two private polls of Eden-Monaro with contrary results to last week’s mystery internal polling related on Sky News, which showed the Liberals with a comfortable lead. A poll conducted by the Australia Institute reportedly has Labor leading 53-47, with reported primary votes of Labor 36.5%, Liberal 29.9%, Nationals 6.1%, Greens 8.1% and Shooters 6.5% – it’s unclear if the 12.9% balance includes an undecided component. The sample size was 643, with no field work dates provided. Labor was also credited with a 52-48 lead in a uComms robopoll the Australian Forest Products Association, but the only primary votes provided are for the smaller parties (Nationals 6.7%, Greens 6.3%, Shooters 3.6%). The poll was conducted Tuesday from a sample of 816.

UPDATE: The poll was conducted bu uComms, like the one discussed below – the undecided rate was 8.1%. The 53-47 result was based on 2019 preferneces; a separate respondent-allocated result had it at 54-46. Full results here.

The report in The Australian leans hard on the notion that Shooters Fishers and Farmers’ decision to put Labor ahead of the Coalition on its how-to-vote card is set to hand the seat to Labor, but last year’s federal election results suggests this overstates their impact. The party run eight lower house candidates across three states, whose branches jumped different ways on preferences. In the one seat the party contested in New South Wales, Calare, preferences went to Labor ahead of the Coalition, maintaining a habit the state branch first acquired at the March state election. However, less than half of the party’s voters took the advice, with preferences splitting 55.0-45.0 in favour of the Nationals.

In Western Australia, where Shooters directed voters to put Coalition candidates ahead of Labor, the split in favour of the Liberals was actually even weaker in the suburban seats of Burt (54.4-45.6) and Cowan (52.3-47.7), and only moderately stronger in Forrest (62.3-37.7), Pearce (59.6-40.4) and Hasluck (63.3-36.7). Two of the strongest flows to the Coalition were in the Victorian seats the party contested (67.6-32.4 in Mallee, 62.8-37.2 in Gippsland), where voters were advised to make up their own minds — probably reflecting the fact that these were rural seats traditionlly dominated by the Nationals. On even the most generous reading, Shooters preferences might make one point of difference to the 53-47 headline from the Australia Institute, and not even that much from the uComms poll, which recorded only weak primary vote support for the party.