Calm before the storm

A Seinfeld-ian post about nothing, as pollsters hold their fire ahead of tonight’s budget.

There seems to be a hardening view that Scott Morrison will take advantage of what he hopes will be a positive response to tonight’s budget by calling the election later this week, for either May 11 or May 18. Whenever the election may be called, its proximity makes this an awkward time for us to go a week without new poll results. Newspoll is set for a highly unusual four-week gap, having held off last week due to the New South Wales election and this week due to the budget, while Essential Research is in an off week in its fortnightly cycle. The dam is set to burst next week, with Ipsos joining the two aforementioned with post-budget poll results.

For now, all I can do for you in the way of poll news is to relate what James Campbell of the Herald Sun offered on Liberal internal polling last Thursday: that Pauline Hanson scores net approval ratings of minus 62% and minus 63% in the Melbourne seats of Deakin and Chisholm – and, incidentally, that Peter Dutton has been known to record minus 50% in Melbourne. Beyond that, there is one item of important preselection news to relate, in that the New South Wales Liberals are set to endorse child psychologist Fiona Martin as their successor to the retiring Craig Laundy in Reid. The Australian reports Martin has been chosen ahead of Tanveer Ahmed, a psychiatrist, and Scott Yung, candidate for Kogarah at last week’s state election.

Federal election minus two months

No new federal poll, but preselection latest from Curtin, Moncrieff and Sturt in the House, and the Northern Territory in the Senate.

In an off week in the fortnightly cycle of Newspoll and Essential Research, and no Ipsos poll overnight in Nine Newspapers, it looks like poll junkies will have to make do with New South Wales this week. We do have a poll of Senate voting intention from The Australia Institute, encompassing by Dynata from 2019 voters through February and March, which has Labor on 33%, the Coalition on 28%, the Greens on 12% and One Nation on 8%, from which a post-election outcome is projected of 30 to 32 seats for the Coalition, 28 to 29 seats for Labor, eight to nine seats for the Greens, four to five seats for the One Nation, two to three for the Centre Alliance, one for Australian Conservatives, and possibly one for Derryn Hinch, Jacqui Lambie or Tasmanian independent Craig Garland. The poll was the subject of a paywalled report in the Financial Review, and a full report featuring detailed breakdowns will shortly be available on The Australia Institute’s website.

Other than that, some recent preselection developments to relate:

• Last week’s Liberal preselection to choose a successor to Julie Bishop in Curtin was won by Celia Hammond, former University of Notre Dame vice-chancellor, who secured victory in the first round with 51 votes out of 82. The only other competitive contender was Anna Dartnell, an executive for resources company Aurizon, who received 28 votes. Erin Watson-Lynn, who was said to have been favoured by Bishop, received only one vote, after receiving substantial unhelpful publicity for past social media comments critical of the Liberal Party. It has been widely suggested that Hammond’s socially conservative views make her an ill fit for the electorate, which recorded a 72% yes vote in the same-sex marriage referendum – hoping to take advantage of the situation is Louise Stewart, who established a chain of health care clinics, and identifies as a moderate and “independent Liberal”.

Andrew Potts of the Gold Coast Bulletin reports eight candidates have nominated for the preselection to succeed Steve Ciobo as the Liberal National Party candidate in Moncrieff, which is expected to be held in a few weeks. Gold Coast councillor Cameron Caldwell is reckoned to be the frontrunner, with other candidates including Karly Abbott, a staffer to Ciobo, and Fran Ward, a “local businesswoman”.

• Labor has preselected Cressida O’Hanlon, a family dispute resolution practitioner, as its candidate for the Adelaide seat of Sturt, which will be vacated with the retirement of Christopher Pyne. The Liberal preselection will be held on Saturday – the presumed front-runner, James Stevens, is backed by Pyne and other factional moderates, and faces opposition from two conservatives, Joanna Andrew and Deepa Mathew.

• The Country Liberal Party in the Northern Territory has preselected Sam McMahon, a Katherine-based veterinarian, out of a field of 12 to succeed the retiring Nigel Scullion as its Senate candidate.

BludgerTrack: 53.2-46.8 to Labor (still)

No new grist for the BludgerTrack mill this week, but there’s a Greenpeace-sponsored federal poll and some preselection news to relate.

There haven’t been any new polls this week, so the headline to this post isn’t news as such – the point is that a new thread is needed, and this is it. Developments worth noting:

• We do have one new poll, but it was privately conducted and so doesn’t count as canonical so far as BludgerTrack is concerned. The poll in question was conducted by uComms/ReachTEL for Greenpeace last Wednesday from a sample of 2134, and has primary votes of Coalition 38.8%, Labor 36.7%, Greens 9.7% and One Nation 6.1%. A 53-47 two-party split is reported based on respondent-allocated preferences, but it would actually have been around 51.5-48.5 based on preferences from 2016. The poll also features attitudinal questions on carbon emissions and government priorities, which you can read all about here.

• The Greens have landed a high-profile candidate in Julian Burnside, human rights lawyer and refugee advocate, to run against Josh Frydenberg in the normally blue-ribbon Melbourne seat of Kooyong. This further complicates a contest that already featured independent hopeful Oliver Yates, former Liberal Party member and chief executive of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation.

• The Liberal preselection to choose a successor to Julie Bishop in Curtin will be determined by a vote of 60 delegates on Sunday. Initial reports suggested the front-runners were Celia Hammond, former vice-chancellor of Notre Dame University, and Erin Watson-Lynn, director of Asialink Diplomacy at the University of Melbourne, which some interpreted as a proxy battle between bitter rivals Mathias Cormann and Julie Bishop. However, both have hit heavy weather over the past week, with concerns raised over Hammond’s social conservatism and Watson-Lynn’s past tweets critical of the Liberal Party. Andrew Tillett of the Financial Review reports that some within the party believe a third nominee, Aurizon manager Anna Dartnell, could skate through the middle.

Tom Richardson of InDaily reports moderate faction efforts to install a male candidate – James Stevens, chief-of-staff to Premier Steve Marshall – in Christopher Pyne’s seat of Sturt are prompting a slew of conservative-aligned women to nominate against him. These include Deepa Mathew, a manager at the Commonwealth Bank and state candidate for Enfield last year; Joanna Andrew, a partner with law firm Mellor Olsson; and Jocelyn Sutcliffe, a lawyer with Tindall Gask Bentley. However, Stevens remains the “overwhelming favourite”.

BludgerTrack: 53.2-46.8 to Labor

The BludgerTrack poll aggregate again records little change this week. Also featured: updates on important preselections for the Liberal Party, who are persistently butting their heads against gender issues.

The BludgerTrack poll aggregate, updated with this week’s results from Newspoll and Essential Research, remains unimpressed with much of the recent opinion poll commentary, maintaining a slow trend back to the Coalition that appears to go back to December. The movement since last week on two-party preferred is negligible, with a weak result for the Coalition cancelling out a somewhat stronger one from Essential Research, converting into a one-seat gain for the Coalition on the seat projection. Newspoll provides new numbers for the leadership ratings trends, which are all but unchanged. Full details on the link below.

Other news:

The Guardian reports uComms/ReachTEL polls for GetUp! conducted on Thursday found independent Zali Steggall leading Tony Abbott 57-43 in Warringah, while Labor’s Ali France led Peter Dutton 52-48 in Dickson. The poll also found majority support for the medical evacuations bill in both electorates.

• Following Julie Bishop’s retirement announcement, Andrew Burrell of The Australian reports Bishop’s hope of anointing her own successor in Curtin is likely to be scotched by her opponents, most notably Mathias Cormann. Bishop has reportedly been pushing for Erin Watson-Lynn, 33-year-old director of Asialink Diplomacy at the University of Melbourne. However, a highly fancied rival has emerged this week in Celia Hammond, who resigned on Monday as vice-chancellor at Notre Dame University. Hammond’s social conservatism is noted in a further report in The Australian today, relating a speech from 2013 in which she “railed against sex before marriage and contraception, while arguing against ‘militant feminism’”.

• A Liberal preselection vote on Saturday to choose Michael Keenan’s successor in the Perth northern suburbs seat of Stirling was won by Vince Connelly, risk management adviser at Woodside and former army officer. This was despite the wish of local party heavyweights Mathias Cormann and Peter Collier, along with Keenan himself, for the seat to go to a woman – specifically Joanne Quinn, legal counsel at Edith Cowan University. Quinn was in fact knocked out in the early rounds, together with Georgina Fraser, business development manager with a subsidiary of Kleenheat Gas, and Taryn Houghton, manager with a mental health support not-for-profit. Connelly prevailed in the final round over Michelle Sutherland, high school teacher, Bayswater councillor and wife of former state MP Michael Sutherland. His win out of an otherwise all-female field of five excited much commentary about the Liberal Party’s deficiencies in preselecting women, including my own analysis in Crikey on Monday.

• Sighs of relief could be heard from the Liberal hierarchy the following day when the preselection to replace Kelly O’Dwyer in Higgins was won by Katie Allen, paediatrician and unsuccessful candidate for Prahran at the state election in November. Allen prevailed in the final round with 158 votes to 116 for a male rival, Greg Hannan, former state party vice-president and factional moderate who ran against Michael Kroger for the presidency. Excluded after the penultimate round was Zoe McKenzie, “a non-executive director of the NBN board and former chief of staff to Abbott/Turnbull government trade minister Andrew Robb”.

BludgerTrack: 53.8-46.2 to Labor

A lurch back to Labor in the BludgerTrack poll aggregate, plus further polling tidbits and preselection news aplenty.

The addition of this week’s Newspoll and Essential Research polls have ended a period of improvement for the Coalition in BludgerTrack, which records a solid shift to Labor this week. Labor’s two-party lead is now 53.8-46.2, out from 53.1-46.9 last week, and they have made two gains on the seat projection, one in New South Wales and one in Queensland. Despite that, the Newspoll leadership numbers have resulted in an improvement in Scott Morrison’s reading on the net approval trend. Full results are available through the link below – if you can’t get the state breakdown tabs to work, try doing a hard refresh.

National polling news:

• A poll result from Roy Morgan circulated earlier this week, although there’s no mention of it on the company’s website. The primary votes are Labor 36%, Coalition 34.5% and Greens 12.5%, which pans out to a Labor lead of 54-46 using past preference flows (thanks Steve777). Morgan continues to conduct weekly face-to-face polling, but the results are only made public when Gary Morgan has a point to make – which on this occasion is that Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party is on all of 1%. One Nation doesn’t do great in the poll either, recording 3%. The poll was conducted over two weekends from a sample of 1673.

• The Australian had supplementary questions from this week’s Newspoll on Tuesday, which had Scott Morrison favoured over Bill Shorten by 48-33 on the question of best leader handle the economy – little different from his 50-32 lead in October, or the size of the lead consistently held by Malcolm Turnbull. It also found 33% saying the government should prioritise funding of services, compared with 27% for cutting personal income tax and 30% for paying down debt.

• The Australian also confused me by publishing, together with the Newspoll voting intention numbers on Monday, results on franking credits and “reducing tax breaks for investors” – derived not from last weekend’s poll, but earlier surveys in December and November (UPDATE: Silly me – the next column along is the total from the latest poll). The former found 48% opposed to Labor’s franking credits policy and 30% in support, compared with 50% and 33% when it was first floated in March (UPDATE: So the latest poll actually has support back up five to 35% and opposition down two to 38%). Respondents were instructed that the policy was “expected to raise $5.5 billion a year from around 900,000 Australians that receive income from investments in shares”, which I tend to think is friendlier to Labor than a question that made no effort to explain the policy would have been. The tax breaks produced a stronger result for Labor, with 47% in favour and 33% opposed, although this was down on 54% and 28% in April (UPDATE: Make that even better results for Labor – support up four to 51%, opposition down one to 32%).

With due recognition of Kevin Bonham’s campaign against sketchy reports of seat polling, let the record note the following:

Ben Packham of The Australian reports Nationals polling shows them in danger of losing Page to Labor and Cowper to Rob Oakeshott. Part of the problem, it seems, is a minuscule recognition rating for the party’s leader, one Michael McCormack.

• There’s a uComms/ReachTEL poll of Flinders for GetUp! doing the rounds, conducted on Wednesday from a sample of 634, which has Liberal member Greg Hunt on 40.7%, an unspecified Labor candidate on 29.4% and ex-Liberal independent Julia Banks on 16.1%. That would seem to put the result down to the wild card of Banks’ preference flows. There was apparently a respondent-allocated two-party figure with the result, but I haven’t seen it. UPDATE: Turns out it was 54-46 in favour of Greg Hunt, which seems a bit much.

• The West Australian reported last weekend that a uComms/ReachTel poll for GetUp! had Christian Porter leading 52-48 in Pearce, which is above market expectations for him.

• Another week before, The West Australian reported Labor internal polling had it with a 51.5-48.5 lead in Stirling.

Preselection news:

• Following Nigel Scullion’s retirement announcement last month, the Northern Territory News reports a field of eight nominees for his Country Liberal Party Senate seat: Joshua Burgoyne, an Alice Springs electrician, who was earlier preselected for the second position on the ticket behind Scullion; Bess Price, who held the remote seat of Stuart in the territory parliament from 2012 to 2016, and whose high-profile daughter Jacinta Price is the party’s candidate for Lingiari; Tony Schelling, a financial adviser; Tim Cross, former general manager of NT Correctional Industries; Gary Haslett, a Darwin councillor; Kris Civitarese, deputy mayor of Tennant Creek; Linda Fazldeen, from the Northern Territory’s Department of Trade, Business and Innovation; and Bill Yan, general manager at the Alice Springs Correctional Centre.

Andrew Burrell of The Australian reports Liberal nominees to succeed Michael Keenan in Stirling include Vince Connelly, Woodside Petroleum risk management adviser and former army officer; Joanne Quinn, a lawyer for Edith Cowan University; Michelle Sutherland, a teacher and the wife of Michael Sutherland, former state member for Mount Lawley; Georgina Fraser, a 28-year-old “oil and gas executive”; and Taryn Houghton, “head of community engagement at a mental health service, HelpingMinds”. No further mention of Tom White, general manager of Uber in Japan and a former adviser to state MP and local factional powerbroker Peter Collier, who was spruiked earlier. The paper earlier reported that Karen Caddy, a former Rio Tinto engineer, had her application rejected after state council refused to give her the waiver required for those who were not party members of one year’s standing.

• The Nationals candidate for Indi is Mark Byatt, a Wodonga-based manager for Regional Development Victoria.

Newspoll and ReachTEL: 51-49 to Labor in Herbert and Flinders

Seat polls show Labor with their nose in front in one seat where they won by a whisker in 2016, and another where they haven’t won in since 1983.

Two new seat polls today, with due caution for the fact that seat polls tend not to perform very well:

• The Australian has a small-sample Newspoll from the Townsville-based seat of Herbert, which Labor won by the barest of margins in 2016 for the first time since the Hawke-Keating era. The reason this seat in particular has been targeted appears to relate to Clive Palmer’s expensive bid to re-establish his political career, to which Townsville is relevant given the failure of his nickel operation there. The poll has the 50-50 result from 2016 turning into a Labor lead of 51-49, which I’m guessing is based on respondent-allocated preferences, as the primary votes look a little more favourable for Labor than that. Labor’s Cathy O’Toole is on 32%, up from 30.5% in 2016; the Liberal National Party is on 32%, down from 35.5%; One Nation is on 9%, down from 13.5%; Katter’s Australian Party is on 9%, up from 6.9%; the Greens are on 7%, up from 6.3%; and Palmer’s United Australia Party is on 8%. The poll was conducted Thursday from a sample of 509.

• The other poll is a uComms/ReachTEL poll for the CFMMEU, which targets Greg Hunt’s Melbourne fringe seat of Flinders, which he holds on a post-redistribution margin of 7.1%. As related by the Herald Sun, the poll credits Labor with a lead of 51-49, with the Liberal primary vote at 36.8%, compared with 51.6% in 2016 – although this is probably complicated by an undecided element. Hunt’s primary vote is only 32.7% among women, compared with 41.2% among men. I hope to be able to obtain full results over the next few days. The poll finds 47.8% less likely to vote for Hunt due to his role in the move against Malcolm Turnbull, compared with 34.4% for no difference and just 17.8% for more likely. The poll was conducted Thursday from a sample of 627. The Herald Sun report also reveals that Julia Banks, the Liberal-turned-independent member for Chisholm, is considering running against Hunt.