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.

Essential Research: protests, union power and coronavirus policies

Support for anti-racism protests, though perhaps not right now; a mixed bag of outlooks on the trade union movement; and concern that coronavirus support is being withdrawn too early.

As reported by The Guardian, this week’s Essential Research survey focuses on black lives matter protests, union power and the government’s coronavirus policies, producing a mixed bag of results on each:

• Sixty-two per cent felt protesters were “justified in their demands for authorities to address the issue of Indigenous deaths in custody”, but 61% felt “the situation in America is very different to Australia and has no relevance”, and 84% felt protests amid the pandemic put the community at risk.

• Sixty per cent rated unions as very important or quite important for working people, and 74% felt they provided essential services, but 62% thought them too politically biased and 58% agreed that “union protection makes it difficult for employers to discipline, terminate or even promote employees”.

• Sixty-four per cent expressed concern about how the withdrawal of Jobkeeper subsidies “would sit with any second wave of the pandemic”, 53% considered the government had broken a promise by withdrawing payments for childcare workers, 55% thought it too soon to remove support and 43% supported extending free childcare (up seven points on a month ago), but 57% thought the government needed to withdraw help from “some industries”.

The poll was conducted Thursday to Sunday from a sample of 1087; a full report will be published later today.

UPDATE: Full report here.

Eden-Monaro by-election minus three weeks

Good news and bad news for the Liberals in Eden-Monaro, respectively courtesy of a mystery internal poll and the order of candidates on the ballot paper.

News Corp journalist Andrew Clennell reported on Sky News yesterday that an internal party poll — which party was not disclosed — suggested the Liberals are the front-runners for the Eden-Monaro by-election, now three weeks away. After exclusion of the 11% undecided, the primary votes as reported round to Liberal 43%, Labor 35%, Nationals 7%, Greens 7%, Shooters and Fishers 6% and One Nation 3%. Since One Nation aren’t actually running, the poll may not exactly be hot off the press. Clennell reported that the Liberals do not consider their position to be quite as rosy as the poll suggests. Beyond that, the only detail on the poll was that it was a robo-poll with a sample of 600.

There was less happy news for the Liberals from Wednesday’s ballot paper draw, at which their candidate Fiona Kotvojs drew the fourteenth and final position. Donkey vote effects tend to be over-hyped, and since Labor also drew a higher spot on the ballot paper last time, they should in theory be no more advantaged by voters numbering straight down the ticket than they were when they very nearly lost the seat at the election. However, Peter Brent has rustled together some numbers that suggest being last on the ticket is more harmful than being first is beneficial, the average impact on the primary vote over the past six federal elections being -2.0% and +0.7% respectively.

Essential Research: robodebt, protests and coronavirus latest

The weekly Essential poll finds considerable displeasure at the government’s handling of the robodebt affair, even as Newspoll finds the electoral damage to be limited at best.

Together with the usual suite of questions on coronavirus, the latest weekly Essential Research survey offers findings on the government’s robodebt the recent disturbances in the United States. The former make grim reading for the government, or might do if Newspoll hadn’t suggested the debacle had made no difference on voting intention: 74% say the government should apologise to those negatively impacted, with only 11% disagreeing; 66% support interest and damages for those who wrongly repaid money, with 13% disagreeing; 55% supported a royal commission, with 23% disagreeing; and only 32% agreed the automated notifications were a good idea “even if it was poorly implemented”, with 43% disagreeing.

Regarding the protests in the United States, the propositions that “protesters are right to demand better protection and treatment of African Americans in society” and that “the protesters want to loot and cause property damage, more than they want social change” both received majority support, though far more emphatically in the former case, with 80% agreeing and 11% disagreeing, compared with 54% and 33% for the latter. There were likewise large majorities in favour of the notions that “authorities in America have been unwilling to deal with institutional racism” (78% to 10%) and that the death of George Floyd pointed to “wider discrimination against minority cultures in society” (72% to 16%), while only 33% considered Floyd’s death isolated and not illustrative of institutional police racism, compared with 54% who disagreed.

As for coronavirus, the number who are “very concerned” maintains a steady decline, down five to 27%, with quite concerned down one to 48%, not that concerned up six to 21% and not at all concerned up one to 5%. Approval of the government’s handling of the matter is little changed, with 70% rating it good (up two) and 12% poor (steady). Small-sample state breakdowns provide a further increment of support for the notion that the Western Australian government has done best out of the crisis, with the good rating at 84% and poor at 6%, with other states ranging from 67% to 79% on good and 8% to 13% on poor. Queensland respondents were most likely to say their government was moving too slowly in easing restrictions, although even here the result was only 23% compared with 63% for “about the right speed”. The poll was conducted online from Thursday to Sunday from a sample of 1073.

Elsewhere, yesterday’s declaration of candidates and ballot paper draw for the July 4 Eden-Monaro by-election revealed a field of 14 candidates. Along with Labor candidate Kristy McBain and Liberal candidate Fiona Kotvojs, there are starters for the Nationals (Trevor Hicks, who won a preselection vote on Saturday), the Greens, Shooters Fishers and Farmers, the Liberal Democrats, the Christian Democrats, Help End Marijuana Prohibition, the Science Party, Sustainable Australia, something called the Australian Federation Party and three independents.

Newspoll: 51-49 to Coalition

The latest Newspoll records little change on three weeks ago, with Scott Morrison dominating on personal ratings but the Coalition enjoying only a slender lead on voting intention.

The Australian reports the latest Newspoll has the Coalition’s two-party lead unchanged at 51-49, with both major parties down a point on the primary vote, the Coalition to 42% and Labor to 34%. The Greens are up two to 12% and One Nation are down one to 4%. Scott Morrison’s approval is unchanged at 66%, and his disapproval is down one to 29%; Anthony Albanese is respectively down three to 41% and up one to 38%. Morrison’s lead as preferred prime minister is now 56-26, out from 56-29. The BludgerTrack leadership trends (see also on the sidebar) have been updated with these numbers. The poll was conducted online from Wednesday to Saturday, from a sample of 1512.

UPDATE: The Australian has helpfully published a PDF display of all the poll results, including for a suite of questions on coronavirus and its foreign policy implications. Opinion was divided as to whether the World Health Organisation (34% positive, 32% negative) and United Nations (23% positive, 21% negative) had had a beneficial impact on the crisis, but quite a lot clearer in relation to “Xi Jinping and the Chinese government” (6% positive, 72% negative) and “Donald Trump and the United States government” (9% positive, 79% negative). Further results are available through the link.

Darwinian selection

Labor moves to save the Northern Territory’s second House of Representatives seat ahead of next month’s determination of state and territory seat entitlements.

The post below this one features Adrian Beaumont’s latest updates on the polling situation in the United States, the United Kingdom and New Zealand. Back on home turf, I have two updates to relate.

The first involves the calculation of the states’ and territories’ House of Representatives seat entitlements for the next parliament, which will be determined next month on the basis of yet-to-be published quarterly population figures from December. Barring a sudden change in population trends in the last quarter of last year, this will cause Victoria to gain a seat for the second term in a row, boosting it to 39 seats — a return to where it was when the parliament was enlarged in 1984, before a lean period for the state reduced it to 37 in 1996. It is even more clear that Western Australia will lose the sixteenth seat it has had for the past two terms, reflecting the waxing and waning of the mining and resources boom.

Relatedly — and to get to my main point — the Northern Territory is also set to lose a seat, unless something comes of Labor Senator Malarndirri McCarthy’s announcement last week that she will introduce a bill to guarantee the territory its existing two seats. The territory just scraped over the line with 1.502 population quotas at the last determination in 2017, rounding up to an entitlement of two seats, and has since experienced a continuation of relative decline since the resource boom halcyon days of 2009 — and even then its population only amounted to 1.54 quotas.

The Northern Territory was first divided into its current two seats of Solomon and Lingiari in 2001, but its claim to a second seat has been consistently precarious. It would have reverted to one seat in 2004 if not for a legislative fix to change definitions in a way that put it over the threshold, which received bipartisan support partly because both major parties imagined at that time that they could win both seats. This proved a forlorn hope in the Coalition’s case, with Lingiari having remained with Labor at all times and Solomon having fallen their way in both 2016 and 2019.

As a result, Solomon and Lingiari have consistently had the lowest enrolments in the country, at a shade below 70,000 at the time of the 2019 federal election, compared with an average of 110,755 in the mainland states, 98,644 in the Australian Capital Territory (which gained a third seat last year) and 77,215 in Tasmania (which maintains the constitutionally mandated minimum of five seats for the six original states). Conversely, a single Northern Territory seat would have an enrolment far greater than any other, with the unfortunate effect of under-representing its indigenous population, which accounts for more than a quarter of the total.

My other update relates to the July 4 Eden-Monaro by-election, for which nominations close on Tuesday. The Daily Telegraph ($) reports four candidates have nominated for the Nationals’ Eden-Monaro preselection, to be held on Sunday: Trevor Hicks, deputy mayor of Queanbeyan-Palerang; Fleur Flanery, owner of Australian Landscape Conference; Mareeta Grundy, a dietician; and Michael Green, a farmer from Nimmitabel. The Greens announced on the weekend that their candidate will be Cathy Griff, a Bega Valley Shire councillor.