BludgerTrack: 53.0-47.0 to Labor

A bit of a fillip for Labor in the latest reading of the BludgerTrack poll aggregate, and also for Bill Shorten whose net approval rating has edged ahead of Malcolm Turnbull’s.

There’s a fair bit going on under the hood in BludgerTrack this week, which is why it’s taken so long. The bias adjustments and weightings have been recalibrated, and I’ve brought the two results so far from YouGov into the model. I’m not sure which of these is responsible, or whether it’s just because of two strong results for Labor from Newspoll and Essential, but there’s been a fairly noticeable bump to Labor on two-party preferred along with a net gain of two on the seat projection, with one gain in apiece in New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia balanced by a loss in Western Australia. A drought on leadership ratings has also ended with two sets of results from Newspoll and Essential, the effect of which is that Bill Shorten has now poked ahead of Malcolm Turnbull on net approval, though not preferred prime minister.

Situations vacant

An attempted review of the legal can of worms opened by Scott Ludlam’s shock resignation.

The situation as I understand it. Scott Ludlam has vacated his Senate seat after it came to his attention that having lived here nearly all of his life and being naturalised as an Australian did not vacate his New Zealand citizenship. This caused him to fall foul of Section 44(i) of the Constitution, which disqualifies those who are “a subject or a citizen of a foreign power”. Those who drafted this would never have imagined it might apply in Ludlam’s case, since Australians and New Zealanders alike were then British subjects – Australian and New Zealand citizenship did not exist until shortly after World War II. In my view, the section could do with a redraft – or better yet, the matter of disqualification should be removed from the Constitution altogether and left to a normal act of parliament, which has worked happily enough in the states without triggering such unproductive disqualifications as those of Robert Wood, Phil Cleary, Jackie Kelly and Heather Hill.

There now arises the issue of who replaces him, covering ground familiar from the situations faced by Bob Day and Rod Culleton, respectively due to a pecuniary interest issue and a conviction for which Culleton was awaiting sentence at the time of the election (that the conviction had since been set aside did not avail him). In both cases, the Senate referred the matter to the High Court, which ruled that neither had been validly elected. This resulted in recounts being held for their respective Senate races in South Australia and Western Australia, and the election of the next candidates along on their party tickets, Lucy Gichuhi and Peter Georgiou.

If it plays out the same way this time, there seems little reason to doubt that a further Western Australian recount will deliver a seat to the Greens’ third candidate, Jordon Steele-John, a 22-year-old disability advocate with cerebral palsy. Steele-John wrote on Facebook today that “if it comes down to it, I’d be happier putting the choice of candidate back into the hands of our party membership”. I’ve heard it suggested that the High Court might not in any case be interested in having the matter referred to it, since Ludlam has resigned and there are no new points of law to be adjudicated on as there were in the case of Bob Day, who had likewise already resigned over the separate matter of his insolvency (UPDATE: Antony Green in comments demurs).

In either case, it seems likely the matter will eventually be determined by the Western Australian Greens as a casual vacancy, and it’s impossible to say how that will play out as there has been none of the usual jockeying for position, since the situation has arisen out of the blue. Antony Green has floated the idea that Ludlam could resolve his citizenship issue before the casual vacancy officially emerges, then simply take his own place. Failing that, the four Greens in state parliament might be thought obvious contenders, those with the most parliamentary experience being Robin Chapple and Alison Xamon. Chapple is 70, which might be thought discouraging, while the notoriously heavy demands of running a federal political career from Western Australia may not sound attractive to Xamon given her family responsibilities. Newly elected at the last election were Tim Clifford and Diane Evers. The position may also be of interest to Lynn MacLaren, whose eight year career ended in her narrow defeat in March.

Another issue relates to the question of the long-term and short-term Senate positions. After a double dissolution election, the Senate gets to decide which of its members serve six-year and which three-year terms, and last year they chose to do so on the basis of the order of their election. As the Greens’ top candidate, Ludlam was third elected and duly got a long term; twelfth elected was second placed Rachel Siewert, who got a short term. If a simple recount was conducted excluding Ludlam, Siewert would them be third elected instead, and would presumably have a claim to take the long-term position. Steele-John would then be elected ninth, and on declining to take the position, that would be the vacancy that would be filled. However, things get a bit murky around about here – can the Senate promote a Senator from a short to a long term in this fashion? Might the court evade this issue by ordering a different type of recount?

YouGov-Fifty Acres: L-NP 36, ALP 33, Greens 12, One Nation 7

The second federal poll from YouGov goes against the grain in recording an uptick in support for the Coalition, while also finding a big majority in favour of legalising same-sex marriage.

The second fortnightly federal voting intention poll by YouGov for Fifty Acres records a three point increase in the Coalition primary vote, now at 36%, with Labor down one to 33%, the Greens steady on 12% and One Nation steady on 7%. The combined vote for all other parties is down two to 12%, making it slightly less unusual than that score than Newspoll and Essential Research, who respectively have it at 8% and 10%. However, what’s very unusual is a respondent-allocated two-party preferred result that gives the Coalition a lead of 52-48, the reverse of what the result would be if 2016 preference flows were used, as per the other pollsters. I don’t quite have the confidence to lead a post with “52-48 to Coalition” based such an unorthodox reading, so I’ll be using primary votes for my YouGov headlines for the time being.

The poll also found 60% support for same-sex marriage, with 28% opposed; health and hospitals were rated the most important election issue by 45%, followed by pensions on 33% and job security and unemployment on 31%; 56% supportive of a tax on companies that used robots to fund support for those who lost jobs as a result; and 54% expressing concern at indigenous languages falling into disuse, but only 33% believing the government should do anything about it. The poll was conducted online from Thursday to Tuesday, with a sample of a little over 1000.

UPDATE: The Australia Institute has published results of a poll conducted in South Australia by ReachTEL, which shows (after allocating the forced response question from the 7.1% undecided) federal voting intention in the state at 34.3% for the Liberals (down 0.8% on last year’s election), 32.1% for Labor (up 0.6%), 14.9% for the Nick Xenophon Team (down 6.4%), 6.6% for the Greens (up 0.4%), 4.6% for One Nation (didn’t field lower house candidates) and 3.9% for Australian Conservatives (unchanged on the Family First vote). There’s also a separate question on Senate voting intention, and while I have my doubts about such an exercise, it has the Liberals on 30.1% (down 2.5%), Labor on 26.1% (down 1.2%), the Nick Xenophon Team on 21.7% (unchanged), the Greens on 8.2% (up 2.3%), One Nation on 4.8% (up 1.8%) and Australian Conservatives on 5.2% (up 2.3% on the Family First vote, for the most encouraging poll result the party has yet received).

The poll also records strong support for the ABC, with 40.4% wanting its funding increased, 33.4% kept as is and only 17.5% reduced; 64.8% opposed to the government cutting funding to the ABC to get support on relaxed media ownership laws from One Nation, with 16.5% supportive; and 56.3% supportive of a strong online presence for the ABC “even if it effects the commercial viability of commercial media outlets”, with 16.4% opposed (the anti-ABC numbers across the three questions being notably similar). The automated phone poll was conducted from 1589 respondents on June 29.

Essential Research: 54-46 to Labor

The Coalition cops a two-point hit on the primary vote from Essential, as new results elsewhere cover same-sex marriage and voting intention in cabinet ministers’ seats.

Essential Research’s fortnight rolling average records Labor improving a point on two-party preferred for the second week in a row, puttings its lead north of Newspoll at 54-46. The Coalition is down two on the primary vote to 36%, leaving it steady with an unchanged Labor, while the Greens and One Nation are steady at 11% and 7%. The poll features Essential’s monthly leadership ratings, which have Malcolm Turnbull up one on approval to 37% and up four on disapproval to 49%, while Bill Shorten is up two to 36% and up one to 44%. Turnbull’s lead as preferred prime minister remains about the same, at 41-27 compared with 39-26 a month ago. In other findings, it turns out you get a much stronger response on trust in secure storage of personal data if you say “security agencies such as the Australian Federal Police, local police and ASIO” (64% a lot of or some trust, 32% little or none) than you do if you say “the government” (43% and 52%), while telcos and private companies rate considerably worse again.

Also in polldom:

• The Australia Institute has also produced results of polls conducted in cabinet ministers’ seats to emphasise the point that the government is on the wrong side of public opinion in the blue belt on such matters as taxpayer subsidies for the Adani Carmichael coal mine project. More to the point, they also feature results on voting intention, with samples from 627 to 692. These suggest swings of 2.4% against Scott Morrison in Cook, 3.8% against Greg Hunt in Flinders, 5.7% against Julie Bishop in Curtin, 6.8% against Malcolm Turnbull in Wentworth and 7.3% swing against Josh Frydenberg in Kooyong, but better results for the government in the two most marginal of the seats covered, with no swing at all against Christopher Pyne in Sturt and a swing of 4.4% in favour of Peter Dutton in Dickson.

• A second tranche from Newspoll finds 46% in favour of a plebiscite on same-sex marriage versus 39% for “have the politicians decide”. This reverses a curious result on the same subject in September, which had the respective numbers at 39% and 48% – although then there was the presumably significant difference that the question stressed a plebiscite in February. Essential Research’s poll last week found 59% supporting a “national vote” and 29% the matter being “decided by parliament”, despite the wording of the latter option being less unappealing than Newspoll’s invocation of “politicians”.

UPDATE (YouGov/Fifty Acres): The second YouGov poll for Fifty Acres has strayed well away from the rest of the field, with the Coalition bouncing three points on the primary vote to 36% while Labor drops one to 33%, with the Greens and One Nation steady on 12% and 7%, and the remainder down two to 12%. Previous election preferences would place Labor’s lead slightly above 52-48, which isn’t too radically. But YouGov’s respondent allocation method, which presents those who complete the online survey with a mock ballot paper to fill out, continues to elicit extraordinary results: enough in this case to give the Coalition a lead of 52-48.

Newspoll: 53-47 to Labor

As Newspoll reports for the first time in three weeks, Labor’s 53-47 lead remains set in cement.

The Australian relates yet another 53-47 result from Newspoll, with both major parties down a point on the primary vote: the Coalition to 35% and Labor to 36%, with One Nation steady on 11% and the Greens, despite it all, up a point to 10%. Of personal ratings, only the following at this stage:

Mr Turnbull’s net satisfaction rating — the difference between those satisfied and those dissatisfied with his performance — deteriorated slightly from -23 points to -24 points over the past three weeks. In contrast, Mr Shorten improved his net satisfaction rating from -23 to -20 points in today’s poll, showing another improvement in his standing with voters since he slumped to -28 points in March.

UPDATE: GhostWhoVotes relates that Malcolm Turnbull is steady on 32% approval and up one on disapproval to 56%; Bill Shorten is respectively up one to 33% and down two to 53%; and Turnbull’s lead as preferred prime minister has narrowed from 44-31 to 41-33.

BludgerTrack: 52.3-47.7 to Labor

Another static reading of the BludgerTrack opinion poll aggregate, plus some preselection news.

This week’s reading of BludgerTrack, supplemented only by the usual weekly result from Essential Research, is another big load of nothing, the only movement being a gain for the Coalition on the seat projection in Western Australia, balanced by a loss in Victoria. One Nation has bumped downwards for the second week in a row, but this is very likely a statistical artefact. BludgerTrack is making no effort to bias adjust for One Nation, which is recording stronger numbers from Newspoll (11% in the last poll) than Essential Research (down to 6% this week). Since Newspoll hasn’t reported for three weeks, Essential’s numbers are presently carrying greater weight. If the Newspoll that will presumably be out tonight or tomorrow is true to form, expect One Nation to tick back upwards on BludgerTrack next week. Nothing new this week on leadership ratings.


Latika Bourke of Fairfax reveals that leaked nomination papers reveal the five contestants the Western Australian Liberal Senate vacancy of Chris Back, whose resignation took effect in the middle of last month. The front-runner out of an all male line-up is said to be Slade Brockman, a former staffer to local conservative heavyweight Mathias Cormann. Also on the list are David Barton, a physiotherapist; Gabi Ghasseb, a Lebanese-born and Bunbury-based businessman; and two entrants on the Liberals’ Battle of the Somme-length casualty list at the March state election: Michael Sutherland, former Speaker and member for the Mount Lawley, and Mark Lewis, former Agriculture Minister and upper house member for Mining and Pastoral region. Noting the absence of women, Bourke reports that Erin Watson-Lynn, a director of AsiaLink said to be aligned with Julie Bishop and the moderate tendency, was considering nominating but failed to find support.

• As the federal parliamentary term enters its second year, we’re beginning to hear the first murmurings about preselections for the next election. Tom McIlroy of The Canberra Times reports Liberal nominees for Eden-Monaro will include former Army combat engineer Nigel Catchlove, and that “international relations expert and Navy veteran Jerry Nockles is considering a tilt”. Nationals federal director Ben Hindmarsh says the party is considering fielding a candidate in the seat for the first time since 1993. State upper house MP Bronnie Taylor is mentioned as a possible contender, odd career move though that would be.

• With the retirement of Thomas George at the next state election, the Byron Shire Echo reports that the Nationals will conduct an open primary style “community preselection” to choose a new candidate in Lismore, which they very nearly lost to the Greens in 2015.

• The Australian Parliamentary Library brings us a review of last year’s election and a look at what would happen in the event that an early election required a mini-redistribution, both by Damon Muller.

• If you’ve ever been wondering what happened to content that used to be accessible on the website before the redesign removed the sidebar, you might find now an answer on my newly reupholstered personal website, At the very least you’ll be able to access the historical BludgerTrack charts, comment moderation guidelines and links to all my federal, state and territory election guides going back to 2004 (albeit that some of these have lost their formatting and are a bit of a dog’s breakfast). I hope to use this site a lot more in future for things the Crikey architecture can’t accommodate.