Newspoll: 51-49 to Labor

Improvement for Bill Shorten on preferred prime minister, but otherwise a steady result from Newspoll – which also offers seat polls supporting talk of tight races in Herbert, Corangamite, Bass and Lindsay.

Courtesy of The Australian, what I presume will be the second last Newspoll for the campaign records Labor’s two-party lead unchanged at 51-49, with both major parties up a point on the primary vote, the Coalition to 39% and Labor to 37%. The Greens are steady on 9%, One Nation down one to 4%, and the United Australia Party steady on 4%.

Talk of a good week for Bill Shorten last week may not have made much different on voting intention, but his personal ratings are significantly improved, with a four point lift on approval to 39% and a four point drop on disapproval to 49%. He now trails Scott Morrison as preferred prime minister by 45-38, down from 46-35. Morrison’s own ratings are little changed, with approval steady on 44% and disapproval down one to 44%. The poll was slightly unusual in its field work period in being conducted from Thursday to Saturday, where usually it continues to Sunday, and its 1644 sample is consistent with Newspoll’s normal form, but not with its earlier campaign polls, which ran to around 2000.

Also from Newspoll today, the following seat polls:

Herbert (Labor 0.0%) The LNP leads 52-48, a swing in their favour of 2.0%. Primary votes are LNP 35% (up four on an earlier poll on April 20, and compared with 35.5% at the 2016 election), Labor 30% (up one, 30.5% in 2016), Greens 7% (up two, 6.3% in 2016), Katter’s Australian Party 13% (up three, 6.9% in 2016), One Nation 7% (down two, 13.5% in 2016), and the United Australia Party 14% (down seven, interestingly enough). Sample: 550.

Lindsay (Labor 1.1%) Liberals lead 52-48, a swing in their favour of 3.1%. Primary votes are Liberal 44% (up three on an earlier poll on April 20, and compared with 39.3% at the 2016 election), Labor 39% (up one, 41.1% in 2016), Greens 4% (steady, 3.6% in 2016), United Australia Party 6% (down one). Sample: 577.

Corangamite (notional Labor 0.0%): Labor leads 51-48, a swing in its favour of 1.0%. Primary votes are Liberal 42% (43.7% in 2016), Labor 37% (34.1%), Greens 10% (12.1%) and United Australia Party 4%. Sample: 573.

Bass (Labor 5.4%): Labor leads 52-48, a swing to the Liberals of 3.4%. Primary votes are Liberal 40% (39.2% in 2016), Labor 39% (39.7%), Greens 10% (11.1%), United Australia Party 4% and Nationals 2%. Sample: 503.

There should also be a YouGov Galaxy seat poll from Boothby coming through around noon, courtesy of The Advertiser, so stay tuned for that. And as usual there is below this one Seat du jour, today dealing with the Brisbane seat of Petrie.

I also had two paywalled pieces for Crikey last week. From Friday:

As psephological blogger Mark the Ballot points out, the chances of at least a mild outlier failing to emerge reduces to just about zero once you reach the sixth or seventh poll — never mind the ten we actually have seen during the campaign so far, plus a couple of others that preceded it if you want to stretch the point even further. One possibility is that we are witnessing the natural tendency in us all to seek safety in numbers, which in the polling game is known as herding.

From Wednesday:

In the United States, debates about early voting occur against a broader backdrop of partisan warfare over voter suppression. Democrats favour longer periods to facilitate ease of voting and Republicans oppose them, reflecting the fact that conservative voters are on balance wealthier and have greater flexibility with their time. In Australia though, Crikey’s own Bernard Keane was almost a lone wolf last week in arguing against the notion that democracy loses something if voters are not appraised of the full gamut of parties’ campaign pitches before making their choice.

UPDATE: The Advertiser has just unloaded its promised YouGov Galaxy poll from Boothby, which shows Liberal incumbent Nicolle Flint with a lead of 53-47, essentially unchanged on her current margin of 2.7%. With the disappearance of the Nick Xenophon Team, both major parties are well up on the primary vote – Liberal from 41.7% (on YouGov Galaxy’s post-redistribution reckoning) to 47%, Labor from 26.9% to 37% – with the Greens on 9% (8.2% at the previous election) and the United Australia Party on 3%. The poll was conducted on Thursday from a sample of 520.

The poll also finds Scott Morrison leading Bill Shorten 49-36 as preferred prime minister; 29% saying replacing Malcolm Turnbull with Scott Morrison had made them more likely to vote Liberal, 34% less likely and 33% no difference; and 37% saying they were less likely to vote Labor because of franking credits and capital gains tax, compared with 24% for more likely and 32% for no difference.

Seat du jour: Petrie

Northern Brisbane seat that typifies what makes Queensland so strategically important, having gone the way of the winning part at every election since 1987.

Welcome to episode 13 of Seat du jour, an opportunity for you to read about and (hopefully) discuss the individual contests that will determine the May 18 election. So far the series has taken us to Herbert, Banks, Corangamite, Chisholm, Reid, Bass, Pearce, Lindsay, Gilmore, Dickson and La Trobe. Today’s episode takes us to the northern Brisbane seat of Petrie, one of Queensland’s bumper crop of finely balanced seats. The Poll Bludger election guide entry for the seat can be found here.

Petrie covers a narrow strip of Brisbane’s northern coastal suburbs from Carseldine north to Burpengary, accounting for three distinct areas: in the centre, the Redcliffe Peninsula; further north along the coast, Deception Bay and the developing suburb of North Lakes; and, on the southern side of the Pine River which separates the Moreton Bay local government area from Brisbane, the suburbs of Bracken Ridge, Fitzgibbon and Carseldine.

The electorate has changed hands along with government in 1996, 2007 and 2013, but its status as a highly marginal seats is recently acquired. The Liberals held it for all but one term from its creation in 1949 through to 1983, the exception being with the Menzies government’s near defeat in 1961. Labor gained the seat with the election of the Hawke government in 1983, lost it again in 1984, then recovered it in 1987, after which it was held for Labor for three terms by Gary Johns, who would later associate himself with conservative causes as a senior fellow of the Institute of Public Affairs and columnist for The Australian. Johns was unseated along with all but two of his Queensland Labor colleagues in 1996, in his case by a swing of 9.8%.

Petrie was held for the Liberals through the Howard years by Teresa Gambaro, who returned to parliament after her defeat in 2007 as the member for Brisbane from 2010 to 2016. Her Labor successor, Yvette D’Ath, did well to retain the seat in 2010 against a swing of 1.7%, well below the statewide result of 5.6%, but her remaining margin was insufficient to save her from a further 3.0% swing in 2013. D’Ath too would later make a political comeback, becoming the state member for Redcliffe at a by-election in February 2014, and serving as Attorney-General in the Palaszczuk government since its election in 2015.

The Liberal National Party member since 2013 has been Luke Howarth, a former managing director of Sandgate Pest Control. Accounts of the September 2015 leadership ballot in which Malcolm Turnbull deposed Tony Abbott listed his loyalties as uncertain, but he became an agitator for Peter Dutton to depose Turnbull after the party’s poor result in the July 2018 by-election for Longman, which neighbours Petrie to the north. Labor’s candidate is Corinne Mulholland, an executive officer at Moreton Bay Regional Council and former staffer to Brisbane MP Arch Bevis.

No published seat polling has emerged in the campaign from Petrie specifically, but reports of Labor optimism at the start of the campaign gave way to talk of a close race by the end. In today’s Sunday Mail, Matthew Killoran reported that Labor strategists believed there was “a fine line between Labor winning one seat in Queensland or five”, having Petrie in mind as one of those that could go either way.

Happy trails: episode three

The Coalition continues to profess confidence about its prospects, but Scott Morrison’s recent campaign movements suggest a campaign on the defensive.

While Coalition sources are still making semi-confident noises in their briefings to the press gallery, Scott Morrison seems to have spent most of past week-and-a-bit sandbagging second-tier seats rather than carving out a pathway to victory, while Bill Shorten has remained on the offensive. In the first three weeks of the campaign, Morrison spent roughly as much time in Labor as in Coalition-held electorates, but going back to last weekend, the only prime ministerial visit that seemed in any way targeted at a Labor-held seat was in the New South Wales Central Coast seat of Dobell last Sunday – and that might equally have been pitched at its marginal Liberal-held neighbour, Robertson.

Morrison’s efforts yesterday were devoted to the Melbourne seat of Deakin, which the Liberals believed they had nailed down in more optimistic times earlier in the campaign. Similarly, Friday brought him to Capricornia, one of a number of regional Queensland seats the Coalition was supposedly feeling relaxed about due to the Adani issue. The visit was to Rockhampton, but the announcement of a new CQUniversity mines and manufacturing school equally applied to Gladstone, located in the similarly placed neighbouring seat of Flynn.

Morrison has also spent a lot of time on seats where the Liberals are under pressure from independents. Tuesday was spent straddling the Murray, where Cathy McGowan’s support group hopes to bequeath Indi to Helen Haines on the Victorian side, and Albury mayor Kevin Mack is taking on Liberal member Sussan Ley in the New South Wales seat of Farrer. On Thursday he went to Cowper, which it is feared the Nationals will lose to Rob Oakeshott.

Most remarkably, Morrison also spent the entirety of a trip to Melbourne last Friday in Kooyong, where he made pronouncements on themes not normally considered staples of the Liberal campaign, namely recycling and protection of threatened species (insert Josh Frydenberg joke). The danger there is that the seat will lose the blue-ribbon seat to ex-Liberal independent Oliver Yates. Still more striking is the fact that Bill Shorten felt the seat worth a visit yesterday, if only to be photographed with puppies at Guide Dogs Victoria.

You can find my accounting of the leaders’ movements in spreadsheet form here.

In other news, the last Sunday newspapers of the campaign are typically the first to bring editorial endorsements, although both the Fairfax titles have squibbed it today, as has Perth’s Sunday Times. The four News Corp papers that have taken a stand have all gone as you would expect. The online headline in the Sunday Telegraph says it is “time to end the worst period of political instability and cynicism since federation” – which you should do, naturally, by returning the government. Granted that this makes more sense if you read the whole thing, though very few will of course. In Victoria, the Coalition gets the endorsement of the Sunday Herald Sun, as it did before the state election in November, for all the good it did them. The Brisbane Sunday Mail’s effort is headlined “Australians can’t afford a reckless pursuit of utopia”; the Adelaide Sunday Mail says it’s “time for a steady hand”, i.e. not Bill Shorten’s.

Also today: the latest episode of Seat du jour, tackling the Perth seat of Hasluck.

Seat du jour: Hasluck

A look at a seat in Perth’s eastern suburbs that for a long period changed hands at every election — a habit Labor is hoping it will resume, as Liberal member Ken Wyatt eyes a fourth term.

Welcome to episode 11 of Seat du jour, an opportunity for you to read about and (hopefully) discuss the individual contests that will determine the May 18 election. So far the series has taken us to Herbert, Banks, Corangamite, Chisholm, Reid, Bass, Pearce, Lindsay, Gilmore, Dickson and La Trobe. Today we take our second journey to Western Australia, where the low base Labor is starting from presents it with a number of opportunities. Based on margins alone, the most golden of these is Hasluck, for which the Poll Bludger election guide entry can be found here.

Hasluck encompasses the eastern suburbs centres of Midland, Kalamunda and Forrestfield, and semi-rural territory beyond Perth’s metropolitan limits. Labor’s strongest areas are around Midland and the north and Kenwick in the south, both of which are marked by low median incomes, although the latter is less established and contains a large share of mortgage-paying young families. These areas are balanced by Liberal support around Kalamunda and in the semi-rural areas, which have an older age profile and are singularly lacking in ethnic diversity.

The seat changed hands at every election from its creation in 2001 through to 2013, when Liberal member Ken Wyatt broke the jinx after taking the seat from Labor in 2010. Wyatt added 4.3% to his margin amid the national swing against Labor in 2013, then had a 1.1% boost with the creation of the new seat of Burt, to which Hasluck ceded strong territory for Labor around Thornlie, Gosnells and Southern River. The seat was then brought well back inside the marginal zone by a 4.0% swing to Labor in 2016.

Ken Wyatt is a former director of the Office of Aboriginal Health, and became the first ever self-identifying indigenous member of the House of Representatives with his election in 2010. He has since progressed to parliamentary secretary rank in September 2015, and to the outer ministry as Aged Care and Indigenous Health Minister in December 2017. Wyatt is believed to have supported Malcolm Turnbull in the leadership votes against Tony Abbott in 2015 and Peter Dutton in 2018, and to have moved to the Morrison rather the Dutton camp for the second vote last August, in contrast to a number of his miscalculating WA colleagues. He is an uncle of Ben Wyatt, the Treasurer in the state Labor government. Labor’s candidate is James Martin, Mundaring Shire councillor and director of Marketech Ltd, a firm that develops stock market trading software.

Intelligence about Hasluck has been thin on the ground during the campaign, with no polling having come to light, either public or private. However, media reportage has tended to suggest the Liberals have gone from pessimistic to hopeful, reflecting the impression for the election more broadly.

YouGov Galaxy: 51-49 to federal Coalition in Queensland

A new poll records a 3% swing to Labor in the target-rich environment of Queensland, as the weekend papers report contrasting assessments of the state of play.

The Courier-Mail has results from a Queensland-only YouGov Galaxy poll of 848 respondents, conducted on Wednesday and Thursday, which shows the Coalition with a lead in the state of 51-49. This represents a 3% swing to Labor off the 2016 election result, but is an improvement for the Coalition from the 50-50 result at the last such poll in February. On the primary vote, the Coalition are up three to 38%, Labor is down one to 33%, the Greens and One Nation are both up a point to 9%, and the United Australia Party is on an anaemic 4%.

Also featured are gender breakdowns that have excited the Courier-Mail, but to my eye look rather implausible in having the Coalition primary vote six points higher among women than men. Among men, the result is 50-50, from primary votes of Coalition 35%, Labor 32%, Greens 10%, One Nation 9% and United Australia Party 6%; among women, the Coalition leads 52-48, from primary votes of Coalition 41%, Labor 34%, Greens 8%, One Nation 8% and United Australia Party 4%.

Latest calling of the horse race:

• In her column in today’s Weekend AFR, Laura Tingle says there has been “the sound of something snapping in the federal election this week”. Apparently drawing on Liberal sources in New South Wales, Tingle relates a feeling that “Tony Abbott is gone in Warringah”; that Gilmore and Reid “seem lost”, that Lindsay is no longer looking quite so flash either; that Cowper and Farrer might go independent; and that “senior cabinet ministers are panicking and drawing in resources to protect their own seats”.

• However, no such snapping noise has reached the collective ear of News Corp, whose papers today offer a flurry of bullish assessments for the Coalition. According to Sharri Markson in the Daily Telegraph, the Liberals are likely to gain Wentworth, Lindsay, Indi and Herbert; Labor-held Dobell, Solomon, Cowan, Bass and Braddon are “in contention”; and Corangamite and Gilmore are, “at this point”, likely to stay with the Liberals. Only Chisholm and Dunkley are conceded, although there is some prospect of Labor winning La Trobe, Swan and Reid, and independents winning Cowper and Warringah. However, this appears to be entirely based on an assessment related to Markson by Scott Morrison, who might well be suspected of gilding the lily.

Dennis Shanahan in The Australian also discerns “an almost Trumpian path, difficult and unacknowledged, for Morrison to be re-elected if everything falls his way”. Prospective Labor gains in Queensland “are slipping away and giving Morrison a chance of a net gain”; there is a “likelihood” Labor will lose Solomon; “senior Liberals believe they will hold and even add to the Coalition total” in Western Australia; there is “obviously a big chance for the Coalition to win back Bass and Braddon”, and Labor even fears ousted Liberal candidate Jessica Whelan could pull off a Pauline Hanson in Lyons; while in New South Wales, “expected Labor gains may not materialise” (though it is acknowledged independents may win Cowper and Farrer). That leaves Labor heavily reliant on a brace of gains in Victoria, of which only Chisholm and Dunkley are bolted down, and where they are threatened in Macnamara by the Liberals as well as the Greens.

The Australian also reports today that, contra Laura Tingle, “Tony Abbott’s prospects of surviving a challenge from independent candidate Zali Steggall appear to have improved, according to internal Liberal Party polling that shows him level at 50-50”.

• In the commentary accompanying the YouGov Galaxy poll, Renee Veillaris of the Courier-Mail reports that “LNP insiders believe they may lose just one seat – Flynn – but pick up Herbert”; that Labor is “retreating from key Queensland marginal seats that they believed they could win just weeks ago” (although Bill Shorten did visit Leichhardt yesterday and Petrie the day before, and Scott Morrison was in Capricornia yesterday); and that incumbency effects are likely to cancel out the advantage to Labor recorded by the poll.

• The last of these viewpoints, at least, is not restricted to News Corp, with Amy Remeikis of The Guardian assessing that Queensland is “looking like a zero-sum game for both major parties”. Labor-held Herbert and Liberal-held Leichhardt are rated as even money, and while Flynn and Brisbane are acknowledged as further possibilities for Labor, the Liberals are thought to have their nose in front in Petrie.

Further reading for today is, as ever, provided by the Seat du jour post below this one, relating to the key Queensland seat of Herbert.

Seat du jour: Herbert

Won for Labor by 37 votes in 2016, the Townsville-based seat of Herbert is one the Liberals need to win back – and by all accounts they expect to do so, thanks to the politics of the Adani coal mine.

Welcome to episode ten of Seat du jour, an opportunity for you to read about and (hopefully) discuss the individual contests that will determine the May 18 election. So far the series has taken us to Banks, Corangamite, Chisholm, Reid, Bass, Pearce, Lindsay, Gilmore, Dickson and La Trobe.

Today we look at the Queensland seat of Herbert, which the Coalition is desperately hoping to recover after Labor snared it by 37 votes in 2016. Herbert accounts for most of Townsville, a city noted for defence facilities including Lavarack Barracks and an RAAF base, which accordingly ranks third in the country for number of persons working in defence. Relatedly, a concentration of people in their twenties gives the electorate the country’s third youngest median age. Labor’s win in 2016 was the its first since the Hawke-Keating years, the party having fallen just short at earlier high points in 1998 and 2007.

The seat has existed since federation, although it encompassed Cape York and extended south to Mackay on its creation, and did not become entirely dominated by Townsville until 1984. Labor held it more often than not until 1966, which began a period of Liberal control that lasted through the Whitlam years but ended when the Hawke government came to power in 1983. Ted Lindsay held the seat for Labor throughout the Hawke-Keating period before falling victim to Labor’s statewide rout in 1996, then came within 160 votes of making a comeback in 1998. It was then held for the Liberals until 2010 by Peter Lindsay (no relation to his predecessor), who survived by 343 votes in 2007 and bequeathed the seat in 2010 to Evan Jones.

Jones maintained the seat for another two terms through to 2016, when Labor achieved exactly the 6.2% swing needed to account for the LNP margin after the blowout of 2013. Their successful candidate was Cathy O’Toole, a Left-aligned former chief executive of a regional Queensland mental health not-for-profit. The new LNP candidate is Phillip Thompson, a 30-year-old Afghanistan veteran who has been awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia and Queensland Young Australian of the Year. It was earlier anticipated the field would also include Clive Palmer, but he instead opted to run for the Senate. He had perhaps been dissuaded by portents of his candidacy’s uncompetitiveness, such as a Newspoll finding in January that credited him with 8% of the primary. The party has instead endorsed Greg Dowling, famous as an Australian international and Queensland state-of-origin rugby league player.

A more recent Newspoll survey, conducted on April 20 from a sample of 529, showed Palmer’s United Australia Party on 14%, and a dead heat on two-party preferred. The other primary votes from the poll were Labor 29% (30.5% in 2016), LNP 31.1% (35.5%), One Nation 9% (13.5%) and Katter’s Australian Party 6.9% (10%). Media accounts of the Liberals’ strategic thinking have consistently reported they are confident of regaining the seat, as indeed they must to balance expected losses elsewhere. The issue driving the Liberals’ hopes is the proposed Adani coal mine, the difficulty of which for Labor was illustrated when Cathy O’Toole signed a pledge to support the project early in the campaign. Shorten would only offer that Labor had “no plans“ to review the environmental approvals recently provided by the federal government.