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.

Pollster’s progress (open thread)

A summary of the form of the four regular federal voting intention poll series since the last election.

Newspoll’s transition period from YouGov to Pyxis Polling is not yet complete, leaving us without a new set of numbers in over five weeks; we are in an off week for the fortnightly Essential Research series; the monthly Resolve Strategic was last with us a fortnight ago; and while Roy Morgan’s two-party numbers should be with us today, I don’t think we get the primary votes until later, and it’s past time for a new post already. So in the absence of new poll results, let’s reheat some old ones, in the shape of the following LOESS trends from the four regular pollsters since the last election, on two-party preferred and the Labor, Coalition and Greens primary vote. Note that the two-party preferred data is based on my own calculation using previous election preference flows, and not whatever the pollster uses for its headline.


• Resolve Strategic has been Labor’s best series throughout the term, and to the extent that it appears that may be starting to change, it’s largely down to their most recent result. The series has consistently been higher for Labor and lower for the Coalition than Newspoll, but tracked very closely for the Greens.

• Essential Research has been distinctive in its high ratings for the Greens, who have been tracking at about 14% throughout this year even before excluding the pollster’s undecided component of 5% to 6%.

• Roy Morgan’s Coalition vote took a dive late last year that didn’t register anywhere else, leading me to suspect a methodological change. It’s since been about equal with Newspoll and Essential on two-party (at least until very recently, which may prove an anomaly) and at the high end for all three on the primary vote, which is to say it’s been low for “others”. I can’t be entirely sure about that though, because the numbers in its primary votes table consistently sum to a few points north of 100% (UPDATE: It’s pointed out to me that the table is missing a column for One Nation, whose support you can estimate as the balance of the other columns, not counting the uncommitted one).

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.

Weekend miscellany: The case of the disappearing preselection challenges (open thread)

Sussan Ley off the hook in Farrer, and Jane Hume thinks better of a bid for promotion on the Victorian Liberal Senate ticket.

Aside from developments in the Indigenous Voice referendum, covered in the post above, there are two developments to relate on the federal preselection front:

Samantha Maiden at reports Liberal deputy leader Sussan Ley will be spared a preselection challenge in her seat of Farrer after her challenger, Jean Haynes, was rejected by the party’s nomination review committee and suspended from the party for 90 days. The reasons behind this are unclear, but it comes after “a tit for tat round of expulsion motions in the Deniliquin branch of the party” that “included attempts to expel a group of party veterans who are loyal supporters of Sussan Ley, some of whom are women in the 70s and 80s who have given up to 50 years of service to the party”. Christian Ellis, who sought to challenge Ley’s preselection before the last election, has been expelled for bringing the party into disrepute shortly after pleading guilty to a firearm charge, with no conviction recorded. Contrary to other reports, Maiden relates that Ley “was expected to trounce challenger Haynes with over 70 per cent of the vote”.

Rachel Baxendale of The Australian reports that Victorian Liberal Senator Jane Hume has abandoned a short-lived bid to elevate herself from second to first place on the Coalition ticket at the next election, amid conservative threats of retaliation by backing Greg Mirabella to take second position, potentially reducing Hume to third. Mirabella has recently relinquished his position as the party’s state president to pursue the third position, from which he unsuccessfully sought re-election last year. As Paul Sakkal of The Age described it, Hume’s move “pits her moderate wing against the Victorian Right faction led by figures including Paterson and lower house MP Michael Sukkar”. Hume owed her second position at the 2019 election to intervention by Scott Morrison that saw off conservative-backed challenger Karina Okotel.

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

Essential Research finds no sign of buyers’ remorse from the election of the Albanese government, and a strong appetite for government regulation of rents.

The voting intention numbers from the latest fortnightly Essential Research poll, which include a 6% undecided component, have Labor and the Coalition tied on 33% of the primary vote, with Labor steady and the Coalition up three. The Greens are up two to 14%, reversing a dip last time, while One Nation are down three to 5%. Labor’s lead on the 2PP+ measure is at 51-43, in from 52-42 last time.

Also included in the poll was a forced response question as to whether respondents were glad Labor had won the last election or if they felt it would have been better if the Coalition had been re-elected, with respective results of 57% and 43%. One of the pollster’s two leadership ratings, this one inviting respondents to rate Anthony Albanese and Peter Dutton on a scale from one to ten. This found 37% giving Albanese a rating of seven or higher, up a point on a month ago, with a new peak of 29% rating him a three or lower, up two. Peter Dutton was respectively steady at 27% and up one to 35%.

Respondents came down heavily in favour of regulation of rents, with 34% favouring a freeze until economic conditions improve out of four options on offer, another 44% favouring a once-yearly increase capped at the inflation rate, 11% favouring an uncapped once-yearly increase, and only 10% favouring no limits. The poll was conducted Wednesday to Sunday from a sample of 1151, and can be viewed in full here.

Elsewhere on the polling front, this week’s Roy Morgan result has Labor’s two-party lead in from 54.5-45.5 to 53-47, from primary votes of Labor 34% (down one-and-a-half), Coalition 36.5% (up two) and Greens 12.5% (up half), and the RedBridge Group result referred to in the previous post can be viewed in full here.

Weekend miscellany: Newspoll developments, climate polling, Labor national executive ballot (open thread)

Plus two federal voting intention polls, both strong for Labor, and an update on who might seek to recover Melbourne teal seats for the Liberals.

The Australian reports that Newspoll will henceforth be conducted by Pyxis Polling, the company Campbell White and Simon Levy have formed following their recent departure from YouGov Asia-Pacific’s public affairs and polling unit, which had conducted the poll hitherto. Exactly how soon the new arrangement will spring into action remains to be seen, but it’s now five weeks since we had a Newspoll-branded federal voting intention result. We do have the following:

• This week’s Roy Morgan result has Labor leading 54.5-45.5, out from 53.5-46.5 last week, from primary votes of Labor 35.5%, Coalition 34.5% and Greens 12%. James Campbell also reports in the Sunday News Corp papers that a Redbridge Group poll of 1000 respondents conducted last week had federal Labor leading 55.6-44.4 on two-party preferred, and by 38% to 32% on the primary vote.

• The Age/Herald today has further results from last week’s Resolve Strategic poll on attitudes to climate change. One question directed respondents to pick one of three attitudes to climate change that best described their position: a serious and urgent problem demanding significant costs and sacrifices (45%, down six from October 2021), a gradual process to be addressed with small steps at a time (29%, up two) and one to be addressed only with action bearing no significant costs “until we are sure climate change is a problem” (16%, up four). The poll also recorded 59% in favour of the the government’s target to reduce emissions by 43% by 2030, with 19% opposed.

Paul Sakkal of The Age reports Amelia Hamer, director of strategy at tech start-up Airwallex, former staffer to Senator Jane Hume and grand-niece of former Victorian Premier Dick Hamer, has been in discussions with party members about Liberal preselection for Kooyong. “Associates” of Josh Frydenberg are cited as believing he will run, but “some friends” say he is “more likely not to”. Other candidates might include Lucas Moon, who ran at the state election in Richmond. In Goldstein, “former MP Tim Wilson will probably run and will face a preselection challenge from Stephanie Hunt”.

Troy Bramston of The Australian reports the vote at Labor’s national conference for its national executive has maintained the factional balance of ten positions each for Left and Right, with Anthony Albanese wielding the casting vote. A rebel Left grouping that forced the matter to a vote by running its own ticket, headed by United Firefighters Union Victorian secretary Peter Marshall, failed to win a position. (UPDATE: David Marin-Guzman of the Financial Review reports Marshall received 17 votes, two short of the quota for election.)

• The Australian Electoral Commission has published final and complete results for the Fadden by-election, including the full preference distribution and two-candidate preferred preference flow figures by candidate.

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.

No news is no news (open thread)

Newspoll on hiatus, plus not much else to relate.

Four weeks now without a fresh Newspoll result from The Australian, making it clear that recent disruptions at YouGov have caused it to be suspended for the time being. This comes after Campbell White, head of YouGov Asia-Pacific’s public affairs and polling unit, and Simon Levy, its senior research manager, left the company to go it alone. It would thus seem that Newspoll will be on hiatus until either YouGov gets its house in order or The Australian finds someone else to conduct it. We are about due for a new Resolve Strategic poll from Nine Newspapers, which should probably be along tomorrow this so, likely to be followed one of its bi-monthly results on state voting intention in Victoria.