EMRS: Liberal 41, Labor 31, Greens 12 in Tasmania

A regular Tasmanian state polling series records a narrowing after a long period of Liberal dominance.

EMRS has published its quarterly-or-so poll of state voting intention in Tasmania, which records a sharp downturn for the Liberals after a long period of overwhelming dominance. The party is down eight points on the primary vote since December to 41%, with Labor up five to 31%, the Greens down one to 12% and “others” up four to 16%. Peter Gutwein’s lead over Labor’s Rebecca White as preferred premier has likewise narrowed, from 59-28 to 52-33. The poll was conducted by phone on Monday and Tuesday last week from a sample of 1000.

While on Tasmanian affairs, it’s worth repeating here that Lara Alexander was sworn in last week as one of the three Liberal members for Bass, having won the recount to succeed Sarah Courtney after her resignation last month. This involved counting the ballots that elected Courtney at the election last May, which found Alexander prevailing over rival Liberal candidate Simon Wood by 5671 votes (52.9%) to 5051 (47.1%).

Ends and odds

Recent matters to report that aren’t state poll results.

It’s been a big couple of days for state opinion polls: a shock Newspoll from South Australia three weeks out from the election, a YouGov poll showing Labor still in front in Queensland, and a Resolve Strategic finding that Labor is back in the game in New South Wales. As well as all that, I can offer the following summary of miscellaneous developments to hang a new open thread off:

• The Age/Herald has related that the small sample of 170 Western Australian respondents from the recent Resolve Strategic poll had 64% supporting Mark McGowan’s decision to scrap the originally proposed date of February 5 for reopening the state’s border, with only 32% opposed. This compares with 39% and 47% respectively from the national sample of 1604.

• The Liberal National Party candidate for the Labor-held marginal seat of Lilley in Brisbane, Ryan Shaw, has announced his withdrawal. Shaw is an army veteran who served in East Timor and Afghanistan, and said he had made the decision to focus on his mental health.

• Lara Alexander will become one of the three Liberal members for Bass in the Tasmanian state parliament after winning the recount to succeed Sarah Courtney. This involved counting the ballots that elected Courtney at the election last May, which found Alexander prevailing over rival Liberal candidate Simon Wood by 5671 votes (52.9%) to 5051 (47.1%).

• The Poll Bludger, individually and collectively, was greatly saddened to hear of the death of Zoe Wilson, a.k.a. Lizzie, an unfailingly civil contributor to the forum of long standing, as was related yesterday in comments by Zoomster.

Yuletide polling detritus

A Tasmanian state poll, issue salience and COVID management polling, and a voting intention data dump from Essential Research.

Unless Roy Morgan is feeling ambitious, we’re unlikely to see new polling until mid-to-late January, although The Australian should have Newspoll’s quarterly breakdowns immediately after Christmas. If breakdowns are your game, Essential Research now provides a mother lode of them for all its polling going back the start of 2020, with voting intention broken down by (mainland) state, gender, age cohort, work status and region (categorised as inner metro, outer metro, provincial and rural). With the availability of this data, it will become worth my while to again provide state-level polling trends in BludgerTrack, as was done before the 2019 election. So stay tuned for that. For the time being, Essential’s state and gender results are now included in my poll data archive.

A few other polling morsels to report:

• The latest EMRS poll of state voting intention in Tasmania snuck out last week without me noticing. It found little change on the last poll in August, with the Liberals steady on 49%, Labor down two to 26% and the Greens steady on 13%, which in turn differed little from the March election result of Liberal 48.7%, Labor 28.2% and Greens 12.4%. Peter Gutwein’s 59-28 lead over Rebecca White as preferred premier is likewise hardly changed from 59-29 last time. The poll was conducted November 28 to December 5 from a sample of 1000.

• JWS Research has released its latest True Issues survey on issue salience. Ratings for the government’s performance across a range of 20 issues are down across the board by zero to five points since July, with defence, security and terrorism and immigration remaining its strongest suits and cost of living and environment/climate change its weakest. Among many findings about COVID-19, the federal government is deemed to have performed well by 40% and poorly by 28%, while state and territory governments in aggregate are on 60% and 12% respectively, with both maintaining downward trends from a peak late last year. Cost of living and health are rated effectively equal as the issue the government should be most focused on, with 59% and 58% respectively including them among five choices out of a list of 20. The survey was conducted November 22 to November 24 from a sample of 1000.

• Recommended reading: Kevin Bonham on “the overrated impact of party preferencing decisions” and Alan Kohler on the Australian Electoral Commission.

Morgan: 54.5-45.5 to Labor

Labor maintains its strong lead in the latest Roy Morgan federal poll, while EMRS finds the state Liberals still well on top in Tasmania.

Roy Morgan published its regular fortnightly (for so it now seems) federal voting intention poll on Wednesday, which recorded an incremental improvement for Labor on their already strong previous result. Labor was credited with a lead of 54.5-45.5 on two-party preferred, out from 54-46 last time, from primary votes of Coalition 37.5% (steady), Labor 38.5% (up one), Greens 11.5% (down one) and One Nation 3% (down half).

Two-party state breakdowns are included as usual, showing Labor leading in New South Wales with 53% (a swing of about 5% compared with the 2019 election, and a gain of one point since the previous poll), in Victoria with 59.5% (a swing of about 6.5%, and a loss of half a point), in Western Australia with 51% (a swing of about 6.5%, and a loss of three-and-a-half points), in South Australia with 57.5% (a swing of about 9%, and a gain of three points) and in Tasmania with 63.5% (a swing of about 7.5%, and a gain of six-and-a-half points. The Coalition’s only lead is in Queensland with 53.5%, a gain of 1.5% since the previous poll but a swing to Labor of around 5% compared with 2019.

The poll was conducted over the past two weekends from a sample of 2735. Assuming this was divided between the states in proportion to population, sub-samples would have ranged from nearly 900 in New South Wales to less than 100 in Tasmania.

Speaking of Tasmania, the first EMRS poll of voting intention in that state since the May election was published yesterday, although it does not capture the impact of the latest developments in the David O’Byrne saga, having been conducted from August 7 to 9. The result is almost identical to that of the election, with the Liberals on 49% (48.7% at the election), Labor on 28% (28.2%) and the Greens on 13% (12.4%). Newly restored Labor leader Rebecca White trails Peter Gutwein 59-29 as preferred premier, compared with 61-26 in the pre-election poll in February. The poll was conducted by phone from a sample of 1000.

Liberals by any other name

Electoral law changes rammed through parliament, New South Wales state boundaries finalised, and some by-election news.

Significant electoral developments of the past few days:

• The federal government’s package of four electoral bills, which were explained in this earlier post, whizzed through parliament this week with the support of Labor (UPDATE: It’s been pointed out to me that one of the four, dealing with the threshold for registering as a political campaigner, was in fact not considered). Most contentiously, this will give the Liberal Party exclusive rights to the word “liberal” in their registered party name, with the effect that the Liberal Democrats and the New Liberals will have to change names before the next election. It is unclear what the former plans to do, but Victor Kline, leader and registered officer of the New Liberals, says the party will simply identify itself as TNL.

• The new laws also mean that parties will need to have 1500 members to maintain their registration unless they have a sitting member of parliament, which by the reckoning of Kevin Bonham could affect as many of 24 out of the 45 currently registered parties. Those privy to the sitting member exemption include Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party, thanks to former Liberal MP Craig Kelly’s decision join, along with the Centre Alliance, Jacqui Lambie Network, Katter’s Australian Party and Rex Patrick Team.

• The state redistribution for New South Wales has been finalised, without much change to the draft boundaries that were published last November. Antony Green has a pendulum with estimated margins for the final boundaries.

Two minor by-elections coming up:

• For the Northern Territory parliament: a by-election will be held on September 11 for the Darwin hinterland seat of Daly, where Country Liberal Party member Ian Sloan has retired due to ill health a year after an election at which Labor was returned to power. Sloan held out against Labor by 1.2% at the election, at which he succeeded retiring CLP member Gary Higgins. The CLP’s candidate is Kris Civitarese, a Barkly councillor; Labor’s is Dheran Young, a former advisor to Chief Minister Michael Gunner.

• For the Tasmanian Legislative Council: a by-election will be required for a yet-to-be determined date early next year for the seat of Huon, encompassing the southern edge of Hobart and its hinterland, after Labor member Bastian Seidel announced he would quit parliament at the final sitting for the year in December. Seidel has complained of a “toxic environment” and “obvious problems” in the party, which would appear to refer to the sexual harassment allegations against David O’Byrne, who was compelled to resign as party leader in July after just three weeks in the job and is now facing calls from within the party, including leader Rebecca White, to quit parliament.

Spillover effects

Another Nationals leadership spill may be brewing, amid growing discontent with low-key incumbent Michael McCormack.

A big but not necessarily good weekend for former and current Nationals leaders:

• Moves to topple Michael McCormack as Nationals leader could come to a boil at today’s party room meeting, which The Australian reports could see a spill or no-confidence motion being moved against him. Barnaby Joyce, David Littleproud and Keith Pitt are all identified as potential successors, though presumably the latter is a long shot. The Australian reports Littleproud will not challenge McCormack directly, meaning he will only nominate if the motion passed is one of no confidence, which would exclude McCormack from contention. Samantha Maiden of News Corp says she “can count to ten votes” for Joyce, which is one fewer than he needs. A spill motion moved by Joyce’s backers in February last year was unsuccessful.

Andrew Clennell of Sky News reports former Nationals leader John Anderson has failed in his bid to return to politics, having lost a preselection vote for the New South Wales Senate ticket to former state party director Ross Cadell by a margin of 42 to 39.

On the other side of the fence:

• Labor’s national executive has endorsed former state party secretary Sam Rae as its candidate for the new seat of Hawke on Melbourne’s north-western fringe, after a process which had been delayed by a Supreme Court injunction and may yet be overruled should the court strike down the national executive takeover of the state party’s preselection process. The Herald-Sun reports that Rae won 18 votes against three for rival candidate Sarah Carter, a former mayor of Maribyrnong.

• Labor’s leadership selection process in Tasmania, which was determined half by party members and half by state conference delegates, has been won by David O’Byrne, a powerful figure in the Left faction. Adam Langenberg of the ABC reports O’Byrne easily defeated rival candidate Shane Broad with 72% of the votes from the ballot of more than 1200 party members and 75% of the state conference votes. A similar process in New South Wales did not proceed after Michael Daley withdrew from contention, leaving Chris Minns to be elected unopposed.

Old, new, borrowed and blue

The AEC contentiously green-lights a party called the New Liberals, plus the resolution of the Tasmanian state election and Upper Hunter by-election.

Four entirely unrelated items of electoral news after a week without new poll results:

• The Australian Electoral Commission has approved the registration of a party called the New Liberals. In doing so it rejected a 55-page Liberal Party submission that included CT Group polling to support its argument that voters would confuse the new party with the old. The judgement cited the similarly unsuccessful bid to deny Liberals for Forests in 2001, in which it was determined that a ban on words as generic as “liberal” and “labour” demanded “clear language” from the Electoral Act – although it conceded the name New Liberals landed “much closer to the line”. The Howard government’s dissatisfaction with the 2001 ruling resulted in a new clause targeting names implying a “connection or relationship” with an existing party, but the AEC has ruled this doesn’t catch the New Liberals. The judgement also expressed reservations about the CT Group survey, in terms implying a dubious attitude to much of the modern practice of opinion polling. The Liberals can now apply for an internal review, followed by an appeal to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.

• The count for the Upper Hunter by-election has been finalised, confirming a 5.8% winning margin for Nationals candidate David Layzell and a two-party swing to the Nationals of 3.3%. Antony Green crunches the ballot paper data (a welcome feature of NSW election counts) to determine how each candidate’s preferences divided between Nationals and Labor, which in aggregate was very similar to the 2019 election.

• Resolution also for the Tasmanian state election, which had a post-script after elected Adam Brooks was charged with firearms offences the day after his election was declared, prompting him to decline his seat. This was resolved through Tasmania’s recount procedure for lower house vacancies using the ballots that elected the outgoing member, which naturally went overwhelmingly to other Liberals. The result was a win for Felix Ellis, a member of the previous parliament who initially failed to win re-election, finishing the distribution with 5881 votes (53.4%) to Stacey Sheehan’s 5132 (46.6%). The party numbers remain Liberal 13, Labor nine and Greens two, with one independent.

• I had a paywalled piece in Crikey yesterday on the recently launched Australian Polling Council’s new code of conduct. Both council and code draw inspiration from the British Polling Council, though to my own disappointment it does not follow the British example in requiring members to publish full breakdowns and weighting bases for each poll. However, pollsters will be required to publish a range of other detail that is often absent from media outlets’ reporting of polls they commission, including margin of error calculations that account for demographic imbalances in the sample. The nine pollsters who are members of the council include most of the familiar names, but not Resolve Strategic and Roy Morgan.

Month of May miscellany

A number of Queensland preselections fall into place as both parties jack up preparations for a federal election that may be held as soon as October.

In addition to Saturday’s Upper Hunter by-election in New South Wales, the results and aftermath of which you can discuss here, I have the following electoral news to relate, much of it involving federal preselections in Queensland:

James Massola of the Age/Herald reports that “Liberal MPs believe an early election is increasingly likely after Josh Frydenberg’s well-received third federal budget”, although “much will depend on Australia’s COVID-19 vaccination rollout”. An early election may still mean next year rather than this: according to an unnamed Liberal MP quoted in the report, “the thinking was it would be May 2022, now it’s February-March or maybe even October-November”.

• The Liberal National Party’s candidate for the Brisbane seat of Lilley is Ryan Shaw, an army veteran who served in East Timor and Afghanistan, and the unsuccessful LNP candidate for the corresponding seat of Nudgee at last year’s state election. The Prime Minister visited the seat with Shaw in two last week to promote the government’s HomeBuilder program. Phillip Coorey of the Financial Review reported the seat was one of two in Queensland that the LNP was “making a play for” – notwithstanding that “the Coalition is acutely aware that the huge swing towards it in Queensland at the last election could easily go the other way next time … without the red hot issue of the Adani coal mine, the Bob Brown convoy and an unpopular leader in Bill Shorten”.

• The second of the two Queensland seats the Coalition hopes to add to its pile is Blair, which Shayne Neumann has held for Labor since 2007. This is one of two seats which have been the subject of speculation surrounding former state Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington, whose state seat of Nanango largely corresponds with it. The other is the rather more attractive prospect of Flynn, which will be vacated with the retirement of LNP incumbent Ken O’Dowd. Michael McKenna of The Australian reports Frecklington has “denied she had considered running for Flynn, but has not responded to questions about a possible preselection bid in Blair”. Another nominee for the LNP’s Flynn preselection is Colin Boyce, who has held the state seat of Callide since 2017. Labor announced last week that its candidate for the seat would be Gladstone mayor Matt Burnett.

• In Capricornia, another theoretically winnable seat for Labor in regional Queensland that inflicted a blowout swing on the party in 2019, Labor has endorsed Russell Robertson, who works at the Goonyella coal mine.

• Labor in Tasmania will conduct a ballot of party members as part of its process to choose a successor to Rebecca White, who resigned as leader after last month’s election defeat. The contestants for the position are David O’Byrne, a figure of considerable influence in the Left faction, and Shane Broad, whose profile is rather a bit lower. The membership vote will constitute 50% of the total, with the other half consisting of a ballot of the party’s state conference. I believe this will be the third such party membership vote for a parliamentary leader in Australia, after the contest between Bill Shorten and Anthony Albanese after the 2013 federal election, and that between Jodi McKay and Chris Minns after the 2019 state election in New South Wales (readers may correct me in comments if I’ve missed something).