Kelly’s zeroes

Mutterings about the security of Craig Kelly’s tenure, a federal LNP vacancy in regional Queensland, and some minor state poll findings from Western Australia.

News remains thin on the ground over the summer holiday period, although we may possibly hopefully see the polling cycle crank up again as of next week. Two pieces of federal preselection news to relate:

• A report in The Australian today raises further doubts about the security of Craig Kelly’s preselection in Hughes – not for the reasons you would hope, but because he has failed to raise any campaign funding for head office since July 2019, according to leaked party documents. He is not alone in this distinction, however, with Farrer MP Sussan Ley, Robertson MP Lucy Wicks and Lindsay MP Melissa McIntosh likewise having come up empty. Kelly was saved from preselection challenges by prime ministerial intervention before both the 2016 and 2019 elections, and a Liberal source cited in The Australian says “there’s no appetite in the party to save him a third time”.

• Ken O’Dowd, who has held the central Queensland seat of Flynn for the Nationals since 2010, announced on January 5 that he will retire at the next election. Queensland Country Life reports that Colin Boyce, who holds the partly corresponding seat of Callide in the state parliament, will contest the preselection. The report quotes Boyce complaining about the failure of David Crisafulli, who replaced Deb Frecklington as Liberal National Party leader after the October state election, to have promoted him to the front bench. It also suggests he may face competition in Flynn from Gladstone councillor Glenn Churchill, who was the party’s unsuccessful candidate for the seat in 2007 and challenged O’Dowd for preselection ahead of the 2019 election.

With the Western Australian election now two months away, two bits of data have emerged from a Painted Dog Research poll conducted for The West Australian in mid-December, which as always do not encompass voting intention:

• Three weeks after Zak Kirkup replaced Liza Harvey as Liberal leader in late November, the poll found him with a 19% approval and 14% disapproval rating. While this compares favourably with Harvey’s 10% and 37% from September, but is obviously remarkably mostly for the 67% uncommitted rating. The poll also found 36% saying Kirkup would be a better leader than Harvey and 11% saying otherwise, with 53% uncommitted.

• With Ben Wyatt to bow out at the election, the poll found 21% favouring Health Minister Roger Cook to succeed him as Treasurer, with Rita Saffioti on 9%, Bill Johnston on 8%, “someone else” on 13% and 49% uncommitted.

Opposites detract

As Peter Malinauskas puts the loyal back in loyal opposition, two contenders emerge for the thankless task of leading the WA Liberals to the March state election.

I had a paywalled article in Crikey yesterday that riffed off South Australian Opposition Leader Peter Malinauskas’s pointedly supportive approach to the state’s brief COVID-19 lockdown, and the explicit distinction he drew between his own approach and that of Michael O’Brien in Victoria. It was noted that Malinauskas clearly believes the general tenor of polling coming out of Victoria, even if the likes of Peta Credlin do not. This also afforded me the opportunity to highlight a clip from September in which Credlin and two Sky-after-dark colleagues brought their formidable perspicacity to bear on the likely impact of Queensland’s hard border policies on the looming state election.

Speaking of the which, both Antony Green and Kevin Bonham offer extremely detailed post-match reports on the Queensland election, in which both try their hand at estimating the statewide two-party preferred: Antony Green coming in at 53.2% for Labor, and Kevin Bonham making it 53.1%. This represents either a 1.8% or 1.9% swing to Labor compared with the 2017 election result of 51.3%, which was barely different from the 2015 result of 51.1%. Annastacia Palaszczuk can now claim the vanishingly rare distinction of having increased her party’s seat share at three successive elections. For further insights into how this came about, JWS Research has published full results of its post-election poll.

Elsewhere, Western Australia’s Liberal Party will today choose a new leader after the resignation on Sunday of Liza Harvey, who came to the job last June but has been politically crippled by COVID-19 — a no-win situation for the Liberals in the best of circumstances, but one made quite a lot worse than it needed to be by a response that was more Michael O’Brien than Peter Malinauskas. The two contenders are Zak Kirkup, 33-year-old member for the all too marginal seat of Dawesville in southern Mandurah, and Bateman MP Dean Nalder, who unsuccessfully challenged Colin Barnett’s leadership six months before the Liberals’ landslide defeat in March 2017. The West Australian reports that Zirkup has it all but stitched up, since he has the support of Harvey as well as key numbers men Peter Collier and Nick Goiran.

Essential Research budget expectations polling

Mixed messages on the imminent federal budget, plus polling from WA on border closures and secession.

The most interesting poll of the day is YouGov’s Queensland state poll, which you can read about here, but we do also have some results from the fortnightly Essential Research poll courtesy of The Guardian, focusing on expectations for the budget. Fifty-one per cent of respondents expected it would benefit the well off and 30% expected it would benefit those on low incomes, but only 25% thought it would benefit them personally. Thirty-five per cent expected it would be good for the economy compared with 31% for bad.

More interestingly, 78% signed on to the proposition that now was a good time to “explore new ways to run the economy”, with only 22% opposed. Sixty-nine per cent favoured “direct investment by government in job creation and in projects with the objective of improving living standards” when it was offered as an alternative to “deregulation to encourage employment and tax cuts for wealthy Australians”, which some may consider a false binary. The full report should be out later today.

In other poll news, The West Australian has been dealing out further results from the poll of 3500 respondents that recorded a 16% swing on state voting intention to Labor – remembering that this was a poll of five selected marginal seats, and not of the entire state. The poll found support for Western Australia’s hard border at 77% with 14% opposed, and support for secession at 28% and opposition at 55%, with 17% somehow unclear of their opinion.

UPDATE: Full results from Essential Research poll are available on the website, although there isn’t the usual PDF file at this point. Regular questions on COVID-19 suggest a softening of concern over the past fortnight, with very concerned down six to 30%, quite concerned up seven to 52%, not that concerned steady on 15% and not at all concerned down one to 4%. Perceptions of government performance in response are little changed, with the federal government on 60% good (down one) and 18% poor (steady), and good ratings for state governments on 65% in New South Wales (down two), 45% in Victoria (down two) 69% in Queensland (up one), 83% in Western Australia (down one) and 81% in South Australia (steady), with due regard to the small sub-sample sizes here.

UPDATE 2: PDF file here.

Utting Research: 16% swing to Labor in WA marginals

A rare public poll from Western Australia suggests the McGowan government is headed for an historic landslide at the March state election.

Five months out from the election, The West Australian has published what I believe is only the second media-commissioned poll of state voting intention since the McGowan goverment came to power in March 2017. The poll was conducted by Utting Research, which has been associated over the years with Labor internal polling, and targeted 700 voters apiece in five marginal seats (as is sadly typical for The West, no detail is provided on survey mode or field work dates, not to mention primary votes). The results are, by any measure, extraordinary:

• The poll finds Liberal leader Liza Harvey headed for a 66-34 drubbing in her seat of Scarborough, which she holds on a margin of 5.6%.

• Labor leads 59-41 in the Mandurah seat of Dawesville, where the Liberals’ young hope Zak Kirkup eked out a 0.7% winning margin in the face of Labor’s 2017 landslide.

• Labor holds a 67-33 lead in the northern suburb seat of Hillarys, where Liberal member Peter Katsambanis held out by 4.1% at the 2017 election in a race complicated by outgoing member Rob Johnson’s attempt to retain the seat as an independent after quitting the Liberal Party. The seat has never been held by Labor in a history going back to 1996, although the precedessor seat of Whitford was held by Labor through its time in office from 1983 to 1993.

• Labor leads 66-34 in the northern suburbs seat of Joondalup, which Emily Hamilton won for Labor in 2017 by a 0.6% margin off an 11.0% swing.

• Labor’s Jessica Stojkovski holds a 67-33 lead in the northern suburbs seat of Kingsley, which she won by 0.7% off a 14.7% swing in 2017, and which has been won by the Liberals at six of eight elections since its creation in 1989.

The collective swing to Labor across the four seat is 16%, which would leave the Liberals with nothing if reflected uniformly across the state, although the Nationals would survive in the three seats of their wheatbelt heartland. More realistically, the poll suggests that Labor has every chance of gaining an upper house majority and with it the opportunity to correct its heavy rural bias. The West Australian earlier reported that Utting Research polling conducted privately for a business group in May had Labor with a lead of 66-34, a swing of 10.5%.

Something for everybody

Great polling for Labor in Victoria, catastrophic polling for Labor in Victoria, and a mixed bag of federal seat polling — but seemingly a very clear picture in Western Australia.

Scattered accounts of opinion polling ahead of what looks like being a lean week for it, with both Newspoll and Essential Research entering an off-week in their respective cycles:

• Some seriously mixed signals coming out of Victoria, starting with Roy Morgan, who have published results of an SMS poll conducted on Tuesday and Wednesday from a sample of 2325 that records a 70-30 favourable split for Daniel Andrews’ performance as Premier. Respondents also split 63-37 against allowing restaurants, hotels and cafes to provide table service, 54-46 against ending the rule limiting travel to within 5 kilometres of a person’s home, 63-37 against an end to the 9pm curfew, although there is a 59-41 split in favour of allowing Melbourne residents to visit the homes of immediate family members, and a 76-24 split in favour of state government compensation for businesses forced to close.

• The contrast is provided by a Herald Sun report in Liberal internal polling by MediaReach of five marginal Victorian state seats, showing devastating swings against Labor. The Liberals are credited with leads of 70.6-29.4 in Bayswater (50.4-49.6 to Labor at the 2018 election), 68.0-32.0 in Hawthorn (50.4-49.6 to Labor), 54.5-45.5 in Monbulk (58.6-41.4), 54.9-45.1 in Mount Waverley (51.8-48.2) and 57.9-42.1 in South Barwon (54.6-45.4). Daniel Andrews is nonetheless said to have preferred premier leads over Michael O’Brien of 46-37 in South Barwon, 43-37 in Mount Waverley and 39-29 in Monbulk, with O’Brien leading 46-33 in Hawthorn and 37-33 in Bayswater. The polling was conducted on Tuesday from samples of between 523 and 694.

• Labor-linked firm Redbridge Group has published polling from three Labor-held federal seats, which collectively suggest Labor has gone backwards since last year’s election. Including results for a follow-up prompt for the initially undecided, and applying preference flows from the last election, I estimate the two-party results at 54-46 to the LNP in Lilley, where Labor’s margin is 0.6%; 54.7-45.3 to Liberal in Hunter, where the margin is 3.0%; but 53-47 to Labor in Corangamite, improving on their existing 1.1% margin. Whereas One Nation came close to making the final two-party preference count in Hunter last year, this poll has them a distant third with 9.5%. The poll also presented respondents in Hunter with Liberal as the Coalition response option, whereas the seat was contested by the Nationals at the election. The poll was conducted from August 20-22 from samples of 1000 to 1200 per electorate. Pollster Kos Samaras notes on Twitter that their state-level polling is “not reporting the same trends”, and suggests the firm will publish polling over the coming days casting doubt over the aforementioned MediaReach findings from Victoria.

The West Australian published further results on Monday from last week’s Painted Dog Research poll, which credited Mark McGowan with a 91% approval rating, this time on Liberal leader Liza Harvey. Harvey was found to have an approval rating of just 10%, down nine since June, with disapproval unchanged at 37%. The balance included 36% neither satisifed nor dissatisfied and 10% for don’t know – I’m not sure where that leaves the 7% balance. The poll was conducted last week from a sample of 837.

• I took part in a podcast this week with Ben Raue at The Tally Room, together with former Australian Electoral Commission official Michael Maley, in which a highly wonk-ish discussion was had about electoral redistributions.

More affairs of state

More evidence of a tight contest looming in Queensland while Mark McGowan reigns supreme in Western Australia; and a parliamentary committee in Victoria kicks the upper house electoral reform can down the road.

Not every state this time, but half:

Victoria

The Victorian parliament’s electoral matters committee has tabled the report of its inquiry into the 2018 state election, of which the greatest item of interest is a full chapter devoted to reform of the upper house electoral system. Together with Western Australia, Victoria is the last hold-out of the group voting ticket system that is electing ever-increasing numbers of preference-harvesting micro-party candidates. This reached a new height at the 2018 election, at which parties other than the Coalition, Labor and the Greens won 10 out of the 40 seats in the Legislative Council, including two elected with less than 1% of the vote. However, the report recommended only that a further parliamentary inquiry be held into the matter. The report also recommends no change to the two-week period for pre-polling, which the Liberals and Nationals called to be shortened.

Queensland

Polling of the marginal state seats of Currumbin, Mansfield and Aspley by YouGov for the Australian Conservation Foundation shows a combined two-party result of 52-48 for Labor, compared with an almost exact 50-50 for these three seats in 2017. The primary votes are Labor 37%, LNP 37%, Greens 10%, One Nation 4% and 10% don’t know, compared with 2017 election results of Labor 41.2%, LNP 38.4%, Greens 10.6% and One Nation 8.5%. The poll was conducted from August 17-19 and targeted 200 respondents in each of the three electorates.

Western Australia

A poll for The West Australian by Painted Dog Research showed Mark McGowan with an approval rating at 91%, up four from an already stratospheric result in June. Support for the state’s border closure was at 92%, up from 89% in May. The poll was conducted from a sample of 837, with field work dates not provided.

Northern Territory

As related in the dedicated post, the CLP sneaked home in an eighth seat in the Northern Territory election as the count concluded last night, producing a final result of Labor 14, CLP eight, Territory Alliance one and independents two.