Newspoll: 53-47 to Labor

The first Newspoll of the year records an improvement in the Coalition’s position after a particularly bad result in the final poll last year.

The Australian reports the first Newspoll of the year has Labor leading 53-47, compared with 55-45 in the final poll of last year. On the primary vote, the Coalition is up two to 37%, Labor is down three to 38%, the Greens are steady on 9% and One Nation are down one to 6%. Scott Morrison leads 43-36 on preferred prime minister, down from 44-36, and is down two on approval to 40% and up two on disapproval to 47%. Bill Shorten’s net rating is reported at minus 13%, compared with minus 15% in the last poll – we will have to wait for later to see his exact approval and disapproval ratings. The poll was conducted Thursday to Sunday from a sample of 1634.

UPDATE: Shorten is up a point on approval to 37% and down one on disapproval to 50%.

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.

Departure lounge

The retirement of another senior Liberal in a loseable seat, and a poll suggesting Labor could pull off a boilover in Higgins.

The West Australian today reports that Human Services Minister Michael Keenan will be joining the exodus at the election, creating a vacancy in his northern suburbs Perth seat of Stirling. The seat was long highly marginal, but Keenan has held it on mostly comfortable margins since he gained the seat from Labor in 2004.

There is also a uComms/ReachTEL poll in The Australian from the scene of the week’s other big retirement announcements, the Melbourne seat of Higgins. Conducted on Thursday from a sample of 860 for interests who wish to bring about the return of Peter Costello, the poll finds Labor with a two-party lead of 52-48. This compares with a 10.7% margin for retiring Liberal member Kelly O’Dwyer in Liberals-versus-Labor terms, although it’s perfectly in line with how the electorate voted at the election. It was in fact the Greens who finished second in 2016, but the poll suggests that is unlikely to be repeated this time: after exclusion of the 8.4% undecided, the primary votes are Liberal 40.3%, Labor 27.1% and Greens 19.3%.

Midweek mélange

New fronts open in the Liberal Party’s internal warfare as it scrambles to prepare for an election looking increasingly to be in May.

As we wait for the 2019 polling machine to get cranking, a review of recent happenings:

• Indigenous leader Warren Mundine is to be installed as the new Liberal candidate for the marginal seat of Gilmore in southern New South Wales, supplanting the existing candidate, Grant Schultz, by decree of the party’s state executive acting at the behest of the Prime Minister. Schultz promptly quit the Liberal Party when the news broke yesterday and announced he would run as an independent. Schultz’s dumping was also blasted by Shelley Hancock, member for the corresponding state seat of South Coast, who spoke of “one of the darkest days of the Liberal Party”. A local real estate agent and son of the late Alby Schultz, former member for Hume, Schultz was preparing a challenge to the preselection of incumbent Ann Sudmalis last year, and was the only remaining nominee after she announced her retirement in September. Mundine was national president of the ALP in 2006 and 2007, but quit the party in 2012 and moved ever further into the conservative orbit thereafter. It is expected the seat will be contested for the Nationals by Katrina Hodgkinson, former state member for Burrinjuck and Cootamundra.

• Following Kelly O’Dwyer’s retirement announcement on the weekend, it appears accepted within the Liberal Party that it needs to pick a woman to succeed her. Katie Allen, a paediatrician and medical researcher who ran unsuccessfully in Prahran at the November state election, has confirmed she will nominate. Michael Koziol of The Age reports other names being discussed include Caroline Elliott, state party vice-president and daughter of businessman John Elliott, and Margaret Fitzherbert, who lost her upper house seat for Southern Metropolitan region at the state election. Senator Jane Hume has reportedly encouraged to put her name forward, but announced yesterday she would not do so.

• Anne Webster, founder of young mother support organisation Zoe Support, was chosen as the Nationals candidate for Mallee at a local preselection vote on Saturday. Webster will succeed one-term member Andrew Broad, who announced his impending retirement last month after he became embroiled in the “sugar baby” affair. Rachel Baxendale of The Australian reports Webster won in the second round of voting over Birchip accountant and farmer Bernadette Hogan and Mildura police domestic violence taskforce head Paul Matheson, with three other candidates excluded in the first round.

• Nationals Senator Bridget McKenzie has announced she will not contest the lower house seat of Indi, contrary to expectations she would do so if independent incumbent Cathy McGowan announced her retirement, which she did last weekend.

• Two notable independents have emerged to challenge Tony Abbott in Warringah: Alice Thompson, a KPMG manager who worked in the Prime Minister’s Office under Malcolm Turnbull, and Susan Moylan-Coombs, founder and director of indigenous advocacy organisation the Gaimaragal Group.

BludgerTrack: 53.7-46.3 to Labor

BludgerTrack returns from hibernation, albeit with only one new poll result to play with.

The return of Essential Research provided the BludgerTrack mill with its first grist for the new year, but the model is at its least robust when it only has one data point to play with after a long gap. This means BludgerTrack strongly follows the lead of a poll that was less bad for the Coalition than their usual form, resulting in a substantial reduction in Labor’s still commanding lead on two-party preferred. Labor is also down six on the seat projection – one in each mainland state and two in Queensland. The Essential poll also included a new set of numbers for the leadership ratings, and these produced a weak result for Bill Shorten that has blunted his recent improving trend. Full results through the link below.

Essential Research: 53-47 to Labor

In the first new poll of the year, both major parties are up on the primary vote, yet their leaders’ disapproval ratings have shot upwards.

Essential Research is back in business, its first poll for the new year no change on Labor’s 53-47 lead in the final poll last year. Both major parties are on 38% on the primary votes, which is a two-point improvement for Labor and a one-point improvement for the Coalition. Minor party primary votes will have to wait for the publication of the full report later today. In a spirit of seasonal goodwill, monthly leadership ratings find both leaders well up on disapproval – by five points in Morrison’s case to 39%, and four in Shorten’s case to 47% – while Morrison is up one on approval to 42% and Shorten is unchanged on 35%.

As related by The Guardian, further questions mostly focused on the recent far right rally in St Kilda, the most interesting finding being that 48% thought Scott Morrison “demonstrated poor leadership by not immediately condemning the rally, and those who attended it, in stronger terms”, compared with 36% who disagreed. Only 22% thought it appropriate for Senator Fraser Anning to “use taxpayer money to attend the rally”, with 66% saying it was appropriate; 74% felt there was ”no place in Australian society for the use of racist and fascist symbols used by participants in the rally”, whereas 17% were apparently all in favour of them; and that 73% nonetheless felt that “Australians have the right to peacefully protest, no matter how extreme their views”, while 19% didn’t.

The poll also find 63% support for pill testing, although the question was very particular about the specifics, specifying circumstances in which “trained counsellors provide risk-reduction advice informed by on-site laboratory analysis of people’s drugs”.

UPDATE: Full report here. The Greens are down a point to 10%, and One Nation are steady on 7%.