Newspoll state leadership polling and Essential Research coronavirus latest

State-level polling finds the coronavirus tide lifting all boats — but none so far as Mark McGowan in WA, whose numbers may be without precedent.

The Australian ($) today provides Newspoll findings on state leaders’ handling of the coronavirus, from samples of around 520 for each mainland state plus 309 for Tasmania. The poll finds all concerned riding high, including three who strongly outperformed Scott Morrison’s ballyhooed 68% approval and 28% disapproval on the weekend. These are WA Labor Premier Mark McGowan, at 89% approval and 6% disapproval; Tasmanian Liberal Premier Peter Gutwein, at 84% approval and 11% disapproval after three months in the job; and Victorian Labor Premier Daniel Andrews, at 75% approval and 17% disapproval.

Morrison was also matched on approval and bettered on net approval by NSW Liberal Premier Gladys Berejiklian (69% approval and 23% disapproval) and SA Liberal Premier Steven Marshall (68% approval and 21% disapproval). Only Queensland Labor Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, who faces an election in October, was below the prime ministerial par (55% approval and 39% disapproval). With due allowance for small samples, I believe McGowan’s ratings may be a record for Newspoll, or indeed for any other Australian pollster, and that Gutwein’s might have been too if not for McGowan’s.

The leaders record even stronger ratings on the specific question of handling the coronavirus outbreak: 77% rate Berejiklian as having done well, compared with 18% for badly; Andrews is at 85% and 11%; Palaszczuk is at 72% and 23%; McGowan is at 94% and 4%; Marshall is at 82% and 11%; and Gutwein is at 89% and 8%. Equivalent results are also provided for the Prime Minister, and here too Western Australians are most positive, at 73% approval and 23% disapproval, with 85% rating Morrison had handled coronavirus well compared with 14% for badly. In New South Wales, Morrison scored 67% approval and 30% disapproval, and 82% well and 16% badly for coronavirus; in Victoria, 72% approval and 26% disapproval, 83% well and 14% badly; in Queensland, 67% approval and 28% disapproval, 81% well and 17% badly; in South Australia, 70% approval and 27% disapproval, 83% well and 15% badly; and in Tasmania, 64% approval and 31% disapproval, 81% well and 18% badly.

As reported in The Guardian, the weekly Essential Research coronavirus poll provides us with a third set of small-sample findings on mainland state governments’ handling of the crisis, ranging from about 80 respondents in South Australia to 320 in New South Wales. The latest results produce combined very good and good ratings of 77% for the Victorian and South Australian governments, 76% for Western Australia, 67% for Queensland and 63% for New South Wales. The table below records the progress of this series over its three weeks, together with an averaged result which again shows Western Australia highest at 77%, followed by 74% for Victoria, 72% for South Australia, 61% for Queensland and 60% for New South Wales.

Essential Research also finds confidence in the federal government’s handling of the crisis continuing to rise, with 70% rating it good or very good, a measure that earlier progressed from 45% in late March to 65% last week. Seventy-three per cent now say they consider themselves unlikely to catch the virus, compared with 57% at the peak of concern at the end of March. In response to a list of options for budget repair, 64% supported preventing companies in offshore tax havens from receiving goverment support, but only 32% favoured removing franking credits and negative gearing, and 18% supported death duties.

On the COVIDSafe app, the weekend’s Newspoll found 21% saying they would definitely take it up, 33% that they would probably do so, 21% that they would probably not, and 18% that they would definitely not. Apart from the lower uncommitted rating, this is broadly in line with an Australia Institute poll of 1011 respondents on Thursday and Friday which had 45% saying they would and 28% that they wouldn’t. Essential Research also weighed in on the question, and found 53% saying it would limit the spread of the virus, and 46% that it would speed removal of distancing restrictions. A full set of results from Essential Research should be with us later today.

UPDATE: Full Essential Research report here.

Three things

The major parties in Victoria get fiddling to nobble the Greens in local government; candidates confirmed for Queensland’s Bundamba by-election; and Barrie Cassidy’s moustache strikes back.

Three things:

• The Victorian parliament has passed contentious legislation to change the process by which boundaries are drawn for local government elections, the effect of which will be an end to proportional representation in many councils and a return to single-member wards. This was passed through the upper house with the support of both major parties, and fairly obviously targets the Greens, whose local government footprint expanded considerably in 2016. The legislation is covered in greater detail by Ben Raue at The Tally Room. Relatedly, The Age reports Labor plans to endorse candidates across metropolitan councils at the elections in October, after doing so in only three councils in 2016. The Liberals in Victoria have never endorsed candidates.

• The closure of nominations for Queensland’s March 28 by-election for Bundamba on Tuesday revealed a field of four candidates representing the Labor, the LNP, the Greens in One Nation, just as there will be in Currumbin on the same day. You can read all about it in my election guides for the two seats, which are linked to on the sidebar.

• For those who have forgotten what a Labor election win looks like, Malcolm Farnsworth has posted four hours of ABC election night coverage from 1983 in two parts, here and here. The broadcast predates results at polling booth level and indicative two-party preference counts, which would have to wait until the 1990s, and without which it was difficult for analysts to read the breeze from partial counts in any but the most homogenous seats.

Bundambarama

A second by-election now looms in Queensland, in which One Nation may cause trouble in a traditionally Labor-voting working class seat. Elsewhere, Josh Frydenberg faces a contentious Section 44 challenge, and a Victorian Liberal aspirant regrets not paying his train fare.

At the top of the sidebar are links to guides I have up for three by-election campaigns currently in progress, including yesterday’s new addition:

• Queensland’s festival of democracy on March 28 looks set to receive a new attraction after Jo-Ann Miller’s announcement to parliament yesterday that she is resigning as member of the eastern Ipswich seat of Bundamba, effective immediately. After two decades as Labor member, Miller has grown increasingly estranged from her party over time, a particularly interesting manifestation of which was an appearance alongside Pauline Hanson on the campaign trail two days before the December 2017 state election. One Nation did not field a candidate against Miller in 2017, but has been quick to announce it has a candidate ready to go for the by-election, who will be announced on the weekend. Since Ipswich was the birthplace of the Hanson phenomenon, this could yet make the by-election more interesting than the 21.6% two-party margin suggests. Tony Moore of the Brisbane Times reports Steve Axe, Miller’s electorate officer, will contest the preselection, but Sarah Elks of The Australian reports the front runners are two candidates of the Left: Nick Thompson and Lance McCallum, who are respectively aligned with the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union and the Electrical Trades Union. I have a provisional by-election guide up and running which takes it for granted it will be held on March 28, though this is yet to be officially confirmed. Also on that day will be the Currumbin by-election and council elections, including for the big prizes of the Brisbane city council and lord mayoralty.

• Further on the by-election front, I had a paywalled piece in Crikey yesterday on the Greens preferences imbroglio in Johnston.

Legal matters:

• The Federal Court is hearing a Section 44 challenge against Josh Frydenberg relating to his Hungarian-born mother, which complainant Michael Staindl argues makes him a dual citizen. Frydenberg’s mother and her family fled the country in 1949 as its post-war communist regime tightened its grip on power, describing themselves as stateless on arrival in Australia. Staindl maintains that the whole family’s Hungarian citizenship rights were restored with the collapse of communism in 1949. Staindl is also pursuing defamation action against Scott Morrison over the latter’s claim that his action was motivated by anti-Semitism. The Australian ($) reports a decision is expected “within weeks”.

• In further legal obscurantism news, Emanuele Cicchiello has withdrawn from the race to fill Mary Wooldridge’s vacancy in the Victorian Legislative Council on the grounds that he once pleaded guilty to an offence carrying a prison term of more than five years – for improperly claiming a concessional train fare when he was 19. The Australian ($) reports that those remaining in the field are Asher Judah, former Property Council deputy director and Master Builders policy manager, and Matthew Bach, deputy director of Ivanhoe Girls Grammar.

Empty chairs

Victoria’s Greens gear up for a party vote to fill Richard Di Natale’s Senate vacancy, plus similar developments for the state Liberals in Tasmania and Victoria.

As you can see in the post below this one, the Courier-Mail yesterday had a YouGov Galaxy state poll for Queensland that found both major parties stranded in the mid-thirties on the primary vote. State results from this series are usually followed a day or two later by federal ones, but no sign of that to this point. If it’s Queensland state politics reading you’re after, I can offer my guide to the Currumbin by-election, to be held on March 29. Other than that, there’s the following news on how various parliamentary vacancies around the place will be or might be filled:

Noel Towell of The Age reports two former state MPs who fell victim to the Greens’ weak showing at the November 2018 state election are “potentially strong contenders” to take Richard Di Natale’s Senate seat when he leaves parliament, which will be determined by a vote of party members. These are Lidia Thorpe, who won the Northcote by-election from Labor in June 2018, and Huong Truong, who filled Colleen Hartland’s vacancy in the Western Metropolitan upper house seat in February 2018. The party’s four current state MPs have all ruled themselves out. Others said to be potential starters include Brian Walters, a barrister and former Liberty Victoria president, and Dinesh Mathew, a television actor who ran in the state seat of Caulfield in 2018.

• Former Tasmanian Premier Will Hodgman’s seat in parliament will be filled by Nic Street, following a preference countback of the votes Hodgman received in the seat of Franklin at the March 2018 election. This essentially amounted to a race between Street and the other Liberal who nominated for the recount, Simon Duffy. Given Street was only very narrowly unsuccessful when he ran as an incumbent at the election, being squeezed out for the last of the five seats by the Greens, it was little surprise that he easily won the countback with 8219 out of 11,863 (70.5%). This is the second time Street has made it to parliament on a countback, the first being in February 2016 on the retirement of Paul Harriss.

The Age reports Mary Wooldridge’s vacancy in the Victorian Legislative Council is likely to be filled either by Emanuele Cicchiello, former Knox mayor and deputy principal at Lighthouse Christian College, or Asher Judah, who ran unsuccessfully in Bentleigh in 2018. Party sources are quoted expressing surprise that only four people have nominated, with the only woman being Maroondah councillor Nora Lamont, reportedly a long shot. Also in the field is Maxwell Gratton, chief executive of the Melbourne Queer Film Festival.

So much trouble in the world

Upheaval in conservative politics in New South Wales over abortion law; a pickle for Labor in Tasmania over a vacancy in state parliament; and suggestions of a looming state by-election in Victoria.

In New South Wales:

A row over a bill to decriminalise abortion is prompting murmurings about Gladys Berejiklian’s leadership just five months after she led the Coalition to an impressive election victory, with tremors that are being felt federally. The bill was introduced by independent MP Alex Greenwich, but its sponsors included the Berejiklian government’s Health Minister, Brad Hazzard. It was headed last week for passage through both houses of parliament, before Berejiklian bowed to conservative outrage by pushing back the final vote in the upper house by nearly a month. Claiming credit for this concession is Barnaby Joyce, whose high-profile interventions have angered his state Nationals colleagues, most of whom support the bill (prompting Mark Latham, who now holds a crucial upper house vote as a member of One Nation, to tar the party with the cultural Marxist brush). Following suggestions the party room had discussed expelling him from the party, Joyce said he would go of his own accord if four of them publicly called for him to do so. It doesn’t appear that is going to happen, but if it did, the government would be reduced from 77 seats in the House of Representatives out of 151, costing it its absolute majority on the floor.

In Tasmania:

Labor MP Scott Bacon’s decision to end his state parliamentary career, citing family reasons, represents an unwelcome turn of events for an already understaffed state opposition, owing to the manner in which parliamentary vacancies are filled under Hare-Clark. This will involve a “recount” (as officially known, though “countback” is the generally preferred term for such procedures) of the votes that got Bacon elected to his seat in Denison (which is now called Clark), either as first or subsequent preferences. The procedure is open to any unsuccessful candidates from the previous election who care to nominate, among whom is Madeleine Ogilvie, a former incumbent who was defeated in 2018 – possibly because progressive sentiment had been alienated by her social conservatism.

The problem for Labor is that Ogilvie has since parted company with the party, to the extent of running as an independent for an upper house seat in May. If she wins the recount, and no reconciliation with the party is forthcoming, there will be nothing to stop her sitting as an independent, reducing Labor from ten seats to nine in a chamber of 25. As explained by Kevin Bonham, we can see from the 2018 results that this will produce a “first preference” count in which 33.1% of the vote goes to Madeleine Ogilvie and 28.4% to Tim Cox, a former ABC Radio presenter who ran unsuccessfully, and has confirmed he will nominate for the recount. More than half the remainder went to candidates who are not in contention because they’re already in parliament, so it will assuredly be one or the other.

In Victoria:

John Ferguson of The Australian reports the Liberals have been conducting internal polling for former party leader Matthew Guy’s seat of Bulleen, prompting speculation he will shortly quit parliament. The Liberals retained the seat with a 5.8% margin even amid the debacle of last November’s election, and the polling is “believed to show the Liberal brand holding up”.

Preferences and preselections

More data on One Nation voters’ newly acquired and surprisingly forceful enthusiasm for preferencing the Coalition.

The Australian Electoral Commission quietly published the full distributions of lower house preferences earlier this week, shedding light on the election’s remaining known unknown: how close One Nation came to maybe pulling off a miracle in Hunter. Joel Fitzgibbon retained the seat for Labor with a margin of 2.98% over the Nationals, landing him on the wrong end of a 9.48% swing – the third biggest of the election after the central Queensland seats of Capricornia and Dawson, the politics of coal mining being the common thread between all three seats.

The wild card in the deck was that Hunter was also the seat where One Nation polled strongest, in what a dare say was a first for a non-Queensland seat – 21.59%, compared with 23.47% for the Nationals and 35.57% for Labor. That raised the question of how One Nation might have done in the final count if they emerged ahead of the Nationals on preferences. The answer is assuredly not-quite-well-enough, but we’ll never know for sure. As preferences from mostly left-leaning minor candidates were distributed, the gap between Nationals and One Nation barely moved, the Nationals gaining 4.81% to reach 28.28% at the final distribution, and One Nation gaining 4.79% to fall short with 26.38%. One Nation preferences then proceeded to flow to the Nationals with noteworthy force, with the final exclusion sending 19,120 votes (71.03%) to the Nationals and 28.97% to Labor.

Speaking of, the flow of minor party preferences between the Coalition and Labor is the one detail of the election result on which the AEC is still holding out. However, as a sequel to last week’s offering on Senate preferences, I offer the following comparison of flows in Queensland in 2016 and 2019. This is based on Senate ballot paper data, observing the number that placed one major party ahead of the either, or included neither major party in their preference order. In the case of the 2016 election, this is based on a sampling of one ballot paper in 50; the 2019 data is from the full set of results.

It has been widely noted that the Coalition enjoyed a greatly improved flow of One Nation preferences in the lower house, but the Senate results offer the interesting twist that Labor’s share hardly changed – evidently many One Nation voters who numbered neither major party in 2016 jumped off the fence and preferenced the Coalition this time. Also notable is that Labor received an even stronger share of Greens preferences than in 2016. If this was reflected nationally, it’s a phenomenon that has passed unnoticed, since the flow of One Nation and United Australia Party preferences was the larger and more telling story.

Other electorally relevant developments of the past week or so:

Laura Jayes of Sky News raises the prospect of the Nationals asserting a claim to the Liberal Senate vacancy created by Arthur Sinodinos’s appointment to Washington. The Nationals lost one of their two New South Wales seats when Fiona Nash fell foul of Section 44 in late 2017, resulting in a recount that delivered to the Liberals a seat that would otherwise have been held by the Nationals until 2022. Since that is also when Sinodinos’s term expires, giving the Nationals the seat would restore an order in which the Nationals held two out of the five Coalition seats.

• Fresh from her win over Tony Abbott in Warringah, The Australian reported on Tuesday that Zali Steggall was refusing to deny suggestions she might be persuaded to join the Liberal Party, although she subsequently complained the paper had twisted her words. A report in The Age today notes both “allies and opponents” believe Steggall will struggle to win re-election as an independent with Abbott out of the picture, and gives cause to doubt she would survive a preselection challenge as a Liberal.

• Labor is undergoing a personnel change in the Victorian Legislative Council after the resignation of Philip Dalidakis, who led the party’s ticket for Southern Metropolitan region at both the 2014 and 2018 elections. Preserving the claim of the Right faction Shop Distributive and Allied Employees Association, the national executive is set to anoint Enver Erdogan, a workplace lawyer for Maurice Blackburn, former Moreland councillor and member of the Kurdish community. The Australian reports former Melbourne Ports MP Michael Danby has joined the party’s Prahran and Brighton branches in registering displeasure that the national executive is circumventing a rank-and-file plebiscite. Particularly contentious is Erdogan’s record of criticism of Israel, a sore point in a region that encompasses Melbourne’s Jewish stronghold around Caulfield.