Can Rebekha Sharkie hold the Mayo? A new poll suggests as much. Also featured: the latest on the many preselection challenges besetting an increasingly fractious Liberal Party.
UPDATE: Now a YouGov Galaxy poll for The Advertiser finds Rebekha Sharkie leading 58-42, with Sharkie leading 44% to 37% on the primary vote, Labor on 11% and the Greens on 6%. Sharkie has a 62% positive rating, 20% neutral and 10% negative; Downer, 31% positive, 21% neutral and 41% negative. The poll was conducted last night from a sample of 515.
After providing the Liberals with encouraging results for Braddon and Longman in its Sky News poll last week, ReachTEL now delivers them a rude shock in a new poll from Mayo, this time for the progressive think tank the Australian Institute. After allocating results from the forced response follow-up for the undecided, the primary votes are 41.4% for Rebekha Sharkie, 35.5% for Georgina Downer, 11.1% for Greens candidate Major “Moogy” Sumner, 8.2% for a wrongly identified Labor candidate (more on that below), and 4.2% for unspecified alternatives. With respondent-allocated preferences going 68.2% to 31.8% in favour of Sharkie’s favour, this translates to a blowout 58-42 on two-party preferred, although my own calculation only gets it to 57-43. Sharkie received 55.0% of preferences at the 2016 election, but the presence of Family First and Liberal Democrats candidates meant there was a higher right-of-centre minor party component than in the poll result. The poll was conducted on Tuesday from a sample of 1031.
A peculiarity of the result is a low primary vote for Labor, who polled 13.5% at the election, well clear of the Greens on 8.1%. The poll identified as the party’s candidate Glen Dallimore, who ran in 2016, but it was today announced that the candidate will be Reg Coutts, owner of a communications consultancy and a former telecommunications professor at the University of Adelaide and member of a panel that advised the Labor government on the National Broadband Network. Coutts won preselection ahead of Alice Dawkins, the 23-year-old daughter of Keating government Treasurer John Dawkins and a recent recipient of a Schwarzman scholarship. Dawkins was earlier rated the front-runner, but Tom Richardson of InDaily notes her pedigree would have blunted Labor attacks on the dynastic pretensions of Georgina Downer.
The ReachTEL poll also features a company tax question that differs from earlier polls in specifying that yet-to-be-legislated cuts relate to large businesses (“like banks, mining companies and supermarkets”), and making the question about the direction the rate should head in, rather than whether it should proceed. Even in this conservative seat, this finds support for increasing the rate at basically the same level as reducing it (25.4% to 24.8%), with 44.9% opting to keep it as is. Given who commissioned the poll, this was presumably intended as a riposte to Newspoll’s qeuestion asking when cuts should be implemented, which left opponents holding out for the last of three listed options (and offered nothing specific to advocates of an increase). Notably, both gave respondents three options, but in ReachTEL’s case the middle course amounted to opposition, while for Newspoll it meant support. Thus did one poll find 25% support for company tax cuts, and another 63%. The Braddon and Longman polls also had questions on company tax cuts, but these specified cuts for all business, and found support at 56.0% in Braddon and 58.1% in Longman.
Another result from the Mayo poll helpful to the Australia Insitute’s agenda is a finding that 42.4% believe tax cuts are most warranted for those on $60,000 or less, progressively diminishing to 28.9% from $60,000 to $120,000, 8.9% from $120,000 to $180,000, 6.6% for $180,000 plus, and 9.0% for “all income brackets”. Conversely, 60.2% were opposed to allowing those on Manus Island and Nauru to settle in Australia, with only 30.8% on support, although a 90-day limit for mandatory detention was strongly supported (62.9% to 25.5%).
On other news, there is quite a bit of preselection action to relate, all of it from the Liberal Party, and with a recurring theme of conflict between conservatives and moderates:
• Reports have indicated that moderate challenger Kent Johns has the numbers to prevail over Craig Kelly, arch-conservative and ally of Tony Abbott, in his preselection challenge for the Sydney seat of Hughes. However, a report from Greg Brown of The Australian suggests conservatives may have succeeding in tipping the scales back in Kelly’s favour by threatening to challenge Nick Greiner for the party presidency at next weekend’s federal council meeting. Tony Abbott has called on Malcolm Turnbull to “involve himself” in support of Kelly, complaining he has gone further to help Ann Sudmalis in her preselection challenge in Gilmore (see below).
• A number of other challengers are unfolding to Liberal incumbents in New South Wales, but press reports suggest none of them are in real trouble. These include Gilmore MP Ann Sudmalis, whose challenger Grant Schultz has not been deterred by endorsements for Sudmalis from Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison; Mackellar MP Jason Falinski, a factional moderate who faces a seemingly quixotic tilt from conservative Frits Mare; and Bennelong MP John Alexander, whose challenger is Ryde councillor Trenton Brown.
• David Crowe of Fairfax reports the Victorian Liberal Party’s administrative committee is set to deprive branch members of a preselection vote by intervening to protect all incumbents. Conservatives Michael Sukkar and Marcus Bastiaan are said to be backing the idea partly to protect Kevin Andrews, who has local barrister and former army officer Keith Wolahan circling in his safe seat of Menzies. Other subjects of speculation about preselection challenges are Kevin Andrews in Menzies, Julia Banks in Chisholm, Russell Broadbent in McMillan (shortly to become Monash), Kelly O’Dwyer in Higgins and Tim Wilson in Goldstein.
• The enforced peace in the Victorian Liberal Party does not extend to Senate preselection, where Jane Hume and James Paterson face competition from Karina Okotel, the party’s federal vice-president, and Bev McArthur, wife of former Corangamite MP Stewart McArthur.
• Alex Antic, an Adelaide City councillor, is hoping to take the second position on the party’s South Australian Senate ticket with conservative backing. This would come at the expense of fellow conservatives David Fawcett and Lucy Gichuhi, who have moderate backing for the second and third positions, which are respectively safe and extremely difficult.