Weekend miscellany: Voice and Queensland polls, Liberal Senate preselections (open thread)

Bad news for the Indigenous Voice and Queensland Labor from RedBridge Group, and three doses of Liberal Senate preselection news, including Marise Payne’s looming casual vacancy.

We should be due for the monthly Resolve Strategic poll next week, followed shortly by a New South Wales state result, and there’s no telling when something might pop up on the Indigenous Voice front. For the time being, there is the following news to relate:

• Two reports on RedBridge Group polls in the News Corp papers today, one showing the Indigenous Voice headed for a 61-39 defeat nationally after the exclusion of 15% persistently undecided, the other putting the LNP ahead 55-45 on state voting intention in Queensland. Primary votes in the latter case were LNP 41%, Labor 26% and Greens 14% (UPDATE: Further detail from the ABC). The former poll was conducted at some point following Anthony Albanese’s announcement of the October 14 date the Thursday before last, the latter was conducted August 26 to September 6 from a sample of 2012.

• New South Wales Liberal Senator Marise Payne has announced she will retire from parliament on September 30. Two names are dominating speculation about the vacancy: Nyunggai Warren Mundine, presently enjoying an elevated profile as a public face of the Indigenous Voice no campaign, and Andrew Constance, former state government minister and narrowly unsuccessful candidate for Gilmore at the May 2022 election. Liberal sources said Mundine would enjoy strong support from conservatives and Alex Hawke’s centre right, and would “even peel off moderate voices”. The Australian further reports Catholic Schools NSW chief executive Dallas McInerney could again be in a preselection mix, although some doubted he was “a realistic candidate, particularly given his affiliation to the ‘imploded’ Perrottet/Tudehope right faction”. Further possibilities named by the Sydney Morning Herald are “former RSL head James Brown and Jess Collins”.

• Liberal sources cited by Alexi Demetriadi of The Australian say it is now considered unlikely that Scott Morrison will vacate his seat of Cook before the next election. Cook is a notable exclusion from the list of seats where the New South Wales Liberals are proceeding to preselection, together with Mackellar, where it is speculated that the way is being left open for an attempted comeback by Jason Falinski. An imminent preselection would present an obstacle to Falinksi given his present role as state party president.

Matthew Denholm of The Australian reports Clarence mayor Brendan Blomeley and Hobart alderman Simon Behrakis will seek preselection for the two winnable positions on the Tasmanian Liberal Senate ticket. This involves challenging incumbents Richard Colbeck and Claire Chandler, though Behrakis “is understood to be content with the No. 3 spot, should party preselectors prefer to favour the two incumbents”. Both prospective challengers are conservatives, but Behrakis is associated with Senator Jonathan Duniam and Blomeley with rival powerbroker Eric Abetz. The issue will be decided by the party’s 67-member preselection committee on November 25.

Shane Wright of the Age/Herald made the case last week for an enlarged parliament, a subject that appears likely to be addressed when the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters completes its two-stage inquiry into the 2022 election. A motion carried at Labor’s recent national conference calling for the Australian Capital Territory and Northern Territory to go from two Senators to six prompted opposition Senate leader Simon Birmingham to call for the government to rule out changes to the parliament or electoral system before the next election.

Essential Research 2PP+: Labor 51, Coalition 43 (open thread)

Three new federal voting intention results together with Newspoll produce Labor leads of around 53-47 to 54-46.

Federal voting intention numbers from the latest fortnightly Essential Research poll find both parties down on the primary vote, Labor by two points to 31% and the Coalition down one to 32%, with the Greens up one to 15%, One Nation up two to 7% and undecided steady at 6%. Labor’s lead on the 2PP+ measure is unchanged at 51% to 43%, with the remaining 6% undecided. The poll also features monthly leadership ratings which give Anthony Albanese his weakest numbers since the election, down two on approval to 46% and up two on disapproval to 43%, while Peter Dutton is up one on approval to 38% and steady on disapproval at 43%.

The poll records the no lead on the Indigenous Voice out from 47-43 to 48-42, which is at least a slower rate of decline for yes than other polls of late. Yes includes 30% for hard yes and 12% for soft, with no respectively at 41% and 7%. Small-sample state breakdowns have yes leading 45-44 in New South Wales, and trailing 44-43 in Victoria, 58-35 in Queensland, 58-34 in Western Australia and 45-37 in South Australia. The poll was conducted Wednesday to Sunday from a sample of 1151.

Two further sets of voting intention were released yesterday, one being the weekly Roy Morgan, which has Labor leading 53-47 on two-party preferred, in from 53.5-46.5 last week. Labor must have done quite a bit better on respondent-allocated preferences than last week, as they are down one-and-a-half on the primary vote 33.5% with the Coalition up two-and-a-half to 37.5% and the Greens down half to 13%. The poll was conducted Monday to Sunday from a sample of 1404.

The other is from RedBridge Group, which had Labor leading 54.1-45.9 on two-party preferred from primary votes of Labor 37%, Coalition 36% and Greens 13%. There is no indication of sample size of field work period that I’m aware, but an accompanying graphic offers breakdowns by gender, age, AEC location category, education, income and language (English or non-English). (UPDATE: Full report here. The poll was conducted Sunday and Monday from a sample of 1001.)

Newspoll: 53-47 to Labor (open thread)

The first Newspoll conducted by Pyxis Polling & Insights provides the government with bad news on multiple fronts, despite still being ahead on voting intention.

The Australian reports the first Newspoll conducted by Pyxis Polling & Insights gives Labor its weakest result since the election, with a two-party preferred lead of 53-47 comparing with 55-45 in the final YouGov-conducted Newspoll six weeks ago. The Coalition also leads for the first time on the primary vote, up three to 37% with Labor down one to 35%. The Greens are up a point to 13%, their equal best result for the term, with One Nation steady on 7% and all others down three to 8%.

Anthony Albanese also records net negative personal ratings for the first time as Prime Minister, with approval down six to 46% and disapproval up six to 47%. Peter Dutton is respectively up two to 38% and steady at 49%, with Albanese’s lead as preferred prime minister narrowing from 54-29 to 50-31. The news for the government is particularly bleak with respect to the Indigenous Voice, on which no records a lead of 53-38.

There is a further report in The Australian on the new polling arrangements, which says “Newspoll will continue to use the same set of questions it has asked since 1985, and the same methodology Dr (Campbell) White and Mr (Simon) Levy designed after the 2019 election while at YouGov”. However, there would seem to be differences in that the field work period is Monday to Friday and the sample size 1200, whereas previously surveys were conducted from Wednesday to Saturday and the sample was typically 1500 to 1600.

UPDATE: The Australian Polling Council-mandated methodology statement for the new poll is here. It shows a smaller gap than previously between the actual and effective sample size (the final YouGov Newspoll having been fairly typical in this respect), such that the latter is much the same as before and the effective margin of error little changed (indeed slightly lower) at a bit over 3%. Casey Briggs of the ABC notes this may reflect a simpler weighting frame than the one used previously, which encompassed income and AEC region (inner metropolitan, outer metropolitan, provincial and rural) as well as age, gender, education and location (the specifics of the latter are undisclosed).

Indigenous Voice referendum: October 14

A mixed bag of new poll results as the starter’s gun fires on the Indigenous Voice referendum.

To the surprise of nobody, the Prime Minister announced yesterday that the Indigenous Voice referendum would be held on October 14. The Australian Electoral Commission has a referendum timetable which, owing to the writ not having yet been issued, is incomplete, but it lays out that early voting will begin on October 2 in jurisdictions that will not mark my birthday with a public holiday and on October 3 in those that will. The Guardian has a poll tracker of such quality as to preclude any need for me to follow suit – but not so good that it yet includes any of the following, each of which have emerged over the past few days:

• SECNewgate’s latest Mood of the Nation survey finds no leading 54% to 46% nationally. However, when asked to rate their likelihood of voting on a ten-point scale, yes voters came in at an average of 8.3 compared with only 5.4 for no voters. Small-sample state breakdowns had yes ahead 51-49 in Victoria, and trailing 52-48 in New South Wales, 63-37 in both Queensland and Western Australia and 54-46 in South Australia.

• Mediaweek reports a poll of 1000 respondents conducted earlier this month by research consultancy Pollinate finds 31% intending to vote yes and 39% for no, leaving 30% unsure. Sixty-eight per cent expected the proposal to be defeated.

• The Australia Institute has a poll of 605 South Australian respondents, which it conducted between August 1 and 7 through Dynata’s survey panel with results weighted by age and gender, which credited yes with a lead of 52-48. However, the breakdown of only 49-36 in favour of no among Coalition voters looks rather optimistic from a yes campaign perspective.

Ticked off and very cross

A hitherto little-noticed detail of referendum ballot paper formality finds the no campaign for the Indigenous Voice in a lather.

As Anthony Albanese prepares for a referendum date announcement on Wednesday, universally expected to be for October 14, the no campaign has been on the rampage over the Australian Electoral Commission’s long-established practice of counting ticks on referendum ballots as formal yes votes while treating crosses as informal. The AEC explained in a media release yesterday that its determinations on formality are guided by “legal advice from the Australian Government Solicitor, provided on multiple occasions during the previous three decades”. Such advice must split the difference between two provisions of the Referendum (Machinery Provisions) Act: section 24, which has been on the books since 1965 and requires that voting be conducted by writing yes or no in the box provided, and section 93(8), a creation of the Hawke government in 1984 providing that “effect shall be given to a ballot paper of a voter according to the voter’s intention, so far as that intention is clear” (UPDATE: Someone who would know notes in comments that the provision had actually existed since 1906) (historian Andre Brett offers a useful summation of the evolution of the act).

The closest the finer points of the matter have come to being tested in court was in the case of Benwell v Gray, in which monarchists sought a Federal Court injunction to block the AEC’s guidance to those at the coal face a few days out from the 1999 republic referendum. This was dismissed on the grounds that the issue at hand lacked an urgency commensurate with the relief sought. However, the judge explicitly rejected the applicant’s contention that section 24 demanded that section 93(8) be limited to “an incompletely realised intention to write the words ‘YES’ or ‘NO’”. This being so, it is plainly appropriate for the AEC to allow markings other than yes or no, and to be guided beyond that point by its legal advice. Even so, Electoral Commissioner Tom Rogers undoubtedly regrets not having batted the issue of savings provisions away when posed a seemingly innocent question on the subject on Thursday.

Whatever the merits of arguments about savings provisions, this has prompted some irresponsible nonsense from the rightward end of the media, and doubtless much worse on social media. Peter Dutton has joined in to the extent of telling 2GB that the infinitesimal number of votes involved amounts to a “very, very strong advantage to the Yes case”, while Liberal deputy Sussan Ley deflected a question about the Coalition’s past failure to act on the matter by charging the current government with responsibility for leaning on the AEC.

Resolve Strategic: Labor 37, Coalition 33, Greens 11 (open thread)

A narrowing in Labor’s lead from Resolve Strategic, plus an ongoing decline in Indigenous Voice support.

The Age/Herald fills the Newspoll void with a Resolve Strategic poll on federal politics and the Indigenous Voice, and while it continues to record Labor well ahead, the margin is easily narrowest from this pollster since the election. Labor is down two from last month’s poll on the primary vote to 37%, with the Coalition up three to 33%. Labor’s previous narrowest lead out of twelve polls was seven points in two polls from September and October last year. The Greens are steady on 11% with One Nation down one to 5%. I make this out to be about 56-44 to Labor based on last election preferences, compared with around 58.5-41.5 in the last poll.

The narrowing is reflected in Anthony Albanese’s personal ratings, with approval down seven to 44% and disapproval up seven to 42%, comparing with his previous weakest numbers of 39% and 32% in September last year. Peter Dutton is steady on 31% and down three to 47%, and Albanese’s lead as preferred prime minister is in from 51-21 to 46-25. The poll was conducted Wednesday to Saturday from a sample of 1603.

The poll records no respite in the decline in support for the Indigenous Voice, with the no lead out from 52-48 to 54-46 nationally. State breakdowns that combine this poll with the previous one to produce presentable sample sizes have yes leading 51-49 in Victoria and 55-45 in Tasmania, and trailing 54-46 in New South Wales, 59-41 in Queensland, 56-44 in Western Australia and 54-46 in South Australia.

UPDATE: Further results from the poll published today find 33% rating housing policy important enough to call a double dissolution over, with 35% opposed. Given a choice between the government serving out a full term and an election being held early next year, 54% favoured the former and 20% the latter. I expect we will also have Victorian state voting intention results from Resolve Strategic fairly shortly.

Indigenous voice polling: Essential, Newspoll and Redbridge (open thread)

Three polls record mixed signals on the Indigenous Voice from Victoria, and negative ones everywhere else.

Three polling items on the Indigenous Voice have emerged in the past few days, none of which offer encouragement for the yes campaign:

The Guardian reports the fortnightly Essential Research has no leading yes by 47% to 43%, with small-sample breakdowns showing yes trailing in all mainland states but Victoria, where it leads 47-46. No leads 47-41 in New South Wales, 51-40 in Queensland, 48-39 in Western Australia and 48-45 in South Australia. The poll was conducted Wednesday to Sunday from a sample of 1150 – its voting intention results should be along later today.

The Australian yesterday had state breakdowns of Indigenous Voice voting intention aggregated from Newspoll from late May through to mid-July, which find yes leading by 45% to 42% in New South Wales and 48% to 42% in South Australia, tied at 44% apiece in Victoria, and trailing by 54% to 39% in Queensland, 52% to 39% in Western Australia and 48% to 43% in Tasmania. The overall national results across the period in question had no leading 46% to 43%, from a sample of 5417. Support was highest among high income earners, young people, those with university degrees, non-English speakers and women.

• A Redbridge Group poll, which has been published in very great detail has no leading 56-44, with leads of 56-44 in New South Wales, 55-45 in Victoria and 63-37 in Queensland. The poll was conducted July 21 to 27 from a sample of 1022.

UPDATE (Essential Research): The primary votes from the Essential Research poll have Labor up two to 33%, the Coalition down two to 30%, the Greens down two to 12% and One Nation up one to 8%, with Labor up two points on the 2PP+ measure to 52%, the Coalition down three to 42% and undecided steady on 6%. However, further findings from the poll find the government performing badly on a range of issues, doing best on international relations with 24% positive, 47% neutral and 29% negative, but floundering on the Indigenous Voice and climate change and doing particularly badly on cost of living (9% positive, 21% average, 70% negative) and housing affordability (8% positive, 25% neutral, 67% negative).

A regular question on the national mood finds a two point decrease for the proposition that Australia is on the “right track” to 32% with wrong track steady on 48%. Fifty per cent believed marijuana should be “regulated and taxed by the government in a similar way to tobacco or alcohol”, with 26% opposed, but results were far less favourable in relation to other illegal drugs.

Monday miscellany: seat entitlements, Voice and China polling, by-election latest (open thread)

Confirmation that New South Wales and Victoria will each lose a lower house seat, with Western Australia to gain one.

I don’t believe there will be any voting intention polling this week, apart from the usual Roy Morgan – and if you’re really desperate, Kevin Bonham has discovered a trove of its federal polling in a dark corner of its website. Other than that, there’s the following:

• The regular mid-term calculation of population-based state and territory seat entitlements for the House of Representatives was conducted last week, and it confirmed what anyone with a calculator could have worked out in advance, namely that New South Wales and Victoria will each lose a seat, Western Australia will gain one, and the size of the chamber will go from 151 to 150 (assuming the government doesn’t go the nuclear option of seeking to increase the size of parliament, which is under active consideration by the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters). Antony Green has detailed blog posts on the looming redistributions for New South Wales, suggesting Sydney’s North Shore as the area most likely to have a seat abolished), Victoria, which is harder to call. Western Australia’s existing fifteen seats all have similar current enrolments, making it difficult to identify exactly where the sixteenth will be created, except that it is likely to be in an outer suburban growth area.

Michael McKenna of The Australian reports that Queensland Senator Gerard Rennick, who is appealing his recent Liberal National Party preselection defeat, has offered legal advice that Peter Dutton was wrongly told by party headquarters that he could not vote unless he attended the ballot, where other party notables were allowed to cast votes in absentia. Rennick lost the final round of the ballot to party treasurer Stuart Fraser by 131 votes to 128. The party’s disputes committee is likely to make a recommendation this week as to whether the preselection should be held again, which a party source is quoted describing as a “real possibility”.

Phillip Coorey of the Financial Review reports that a comprehensive internal poll conducted by Labor earlier this month from a sample of 14,300 found 48% in favour of an Indigenous Voice and 47% opposed, with yes leading in Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania. Further, yes voters were more likely to be firmly resolved in their choice, with 40% saying they would definitely vote yes compared with 30% for a definite no.

• A survey encompassing 24 countries by the Pew Research Centre found Australia tying with Japan for having the least favourable attitudes towards China, with 87% expressing an unfavourable view.

• Labor has formally decided against fielding a candidate in Victoria’s Warrandyte by-election on August 26. The three official nominees thus far are Liberal candidate Nicole Werner, Greg Cheesman of the Freedom Party and Cary De Wit of the Democratic Labour Party. Endorsed Greens candidate Tomas Lightbody’s paperwork is evidently still on its way.

• In other by-election news, I can offer the following contribution to the debate as to how Labor in Western Australia should feel about the result in Rockingham on Saturday: they scored 67.6% of the two-party preferred vote in ordinary election day booths, which was hardly different from their 68.8% in the corresponding booths at last year’s federal election. This means Labor almost matched a result it achieved in the context of an election where the statewide two-party result was 55-45 in its favour.

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