Morgan: 54-46 to Labor

The latest Morgan face-to-face poll, conducted last week from a sample of 931, has failed to replicate the convulsion of Newspoll. Labor holds a two-party lead of 54-46, down from 54.5-45.5 last weekend and 56-44 a fortnight previous. Labor’s primary vote has remained stable through the period: from 43 per cent to 44 per cent to 43.5 per cent, while the Coalition have gone from 37.5 per cent to 40.5 per cent to 40 per cent. Like Newspoll, the result suggests the ETS issue has not benefited the Greens, who have gone from 12 per cent to 8 per cent to 9 per cent. However, there is no evidence of the starting rise in Newspoll’s “others” vote. While a heartening result for Labor in some respects, this is still their worst result in a Morgan two-party poll since November 2006.

It also follows yesterday’s Morgan phone poll of 555 respondents which had the parties locked on 50-50. The principal concern of the poll was to gauge opinion on the tax package: among other things, it found 43 per cent believing the package would make them better off against 25 per cent worse off, while 47 per cent thought it would be good for Australia against 34 per cent bad.

Furthermore:

• Labor sources are feeding The West Australian details of serious concerns about the party’s federal prospects in Western Australia in the wake of the mining tax policy announcement. On Wednesday, The West’s Andrew Probyn cited talk of “disastrous” internal polling in the seat of Hasluck, held by Sharryn Jackson on a post-redistribution margin of 1.0 per cent, which could only have been conducted before the announcement was made. Today the paper goes so far as to report “party strategists” believe Stephen Smith and Gary Gray might be imperilled in Perth and Brand, respectively said to be home to “up to 15,000 mostly city-based mining sector workers” and “up to 20,000 fly-in fly-out mining workers” (which I have to say sounds a bit much). The Liberal-held marginal of Swan, which the redistribution has nudged over to the other side of the pendulum, is “expected to remain in the hands of hard-working Liberal Steve Irons”. It can presumably be inferred that Alannah MacTiernan is also unlikely to have much luck in Canning. The report further states the tax “may also see the Liberal Party hold a third Senate spot … at the expense of the Greens”. Confusingly, this appears to suggest the two scenarios on the table are three Labor/three Liberal and three Labor/two Liberal/one Greens, both rosier for Labor than the three Liberal/two Labor/one Greens result that has become the WA norm.

• The Illawarra Mercury has published a poll of voters in safe Labor Throsby and Cunningham. Thanks to DaveM in comments, we learn this has Labor’s primary vote at 49 per cent (down 10 per cent on 2007), the Liberals on 29 per cent (up 4 per cent), the Greens on 12 per cent (steady) and “others” on 11 per cent (up 7 per cent). The sample was a threadbare 304, which gives a margin of error of about 5.5 per cent. Respondents were also asked about the federal government health takeover, which had 72 per cent support; and priorities for the budget, with 30 per cent nominating income assistance for pensioners and the unemployed, 26 per cent avoiding debt, 22 per cent cutting taxes to stimulate the ecnomy, 11 per cent assisting business to stimulate the economy and 9 per cent increasing spending to stimulate the economy.

• Former South Sydney and state-of-origin rugby league player David Boyle has been installed as Labor candidate for Gilmore by the party’s national executive. Nicole Hasham of the Illawarra Mercury reports this went against the express wishes of the party’s Gilmore federal electorate council, which passed a unanimous motion calling for the non-local Boyle to withdraw – presumably out of pique that they were not being allowed a rank-and-file ballot. Two other candidates who hoped to contest such a ballot were Neil Reilly, who ran in 2007, and Glen Sims, a Culburra real estate agent.

James Massola of the Canberra Times reports David Gazard, acting director of the ACT Liberals, is seeking preselection for Eden-Monaro. It also reported that ACT Liberals are concerned that in pursuing this ambition he is neglecting the job of finalising federal candidates on his own bailiwick. The preselection process for Canberra and Fraser is said to have been “brought to a halt last year by party strategists including president Winifred Rosser and Tio Faulkner, an adviser to ACT opposition leader Zed Seselja, amid concerns about the lack of a stand-out candidate”.

Jennifer Bennett of the Wentworth Courier reports Woollahra mayor Andrew Petrie has entered the bewildering field for Liberal preselection in Vaucluse, and that Sydney councillor Shayne Mallard does not propose to contest as a second-best option now the return of Malcolm Turnbull has thwarted his hopes for Wentworth.

• Phillip Coorey of the Sydney Morning Herald reports the Turnbull comeback has Labor aspirants for Wentworth thinking again. One such is said to be Robin Margo, senior counsel and NSW Jewish Board of Deputies president, who was first touted a week ago. Labor’s preselection for the seat will be held on June 5.

• Labor’s Karen Overington has announced she will not seek another term in Ballarat West
at the Victorian state election in November, citing the death of her husband last October and health problems of her own. This could make life difficult for Labor in a seat it holds by a margin of 6.6 per cent. Kim Stephens of the Ballarat Courier reports the first preselection nominee to come forward is Sharon Knight, manager of Lifeline Ballarat and family counselling services at Uniting Care Ballarat, and a former electorate officer to federal Ballarat MP Catherine King. Andrew Eales of the Courier also reports Ballarat councillor Cheryl Bromfield would “consider” running. “Ballarat businessman” Craig Coltman has been endorsed as Liberal candidate.

• The Diamond Valley Leader reports the Victorian Liberals’ central committee has installed Andrew Hart as candidate for the state seat of Eltham. The preselection process was delayed after the presumed front-runner, Nillumbik mayor Bo Bendtsen, withdrew from both the race and his position on council earlier in the year. The Leader reports two other aspirants, Simon Marston and Maxwell Gratton, withdrew shortly before the rescheduled preselection date, in the former case because the party had told him that at 62 he was too old.

• Queensland’s opposition has suffered a serious setback with two members quitting from the Liberal National Party: Burnett MP Rob Messenger, best remembered for his pursuit of the Beattie government over the “Doctor Death” scandal at Bundaberg Hospital, and Beaudesert MP Aidan McLindon, who entered parliament at the age of 29 at the 2009 election and launched a quixotic challenge against Lawrence Springborg’s position as deputy leader in February. The pair’s publicly stated grievances, it has to be said seem rather vague. AAP reports both supported John-Paul Langbroek for the leadership, and that their loss might weaken his position. Langbroek however professes himself glad to see the back of them, complaining they were “more concerned with their personal agenda than that of our political party and the direction I and the leadership team are taking the party”.

• Another new addition to the ranks of Australia’s independent parliamentarians is Fremantle MP Adele Carles, whose decision to part company with the Greens on Thursday deprived the party of its only mainland lower house MP.

ABC New England North West identifies three candidates who will seek preselection under the NSW Nationals open primary experiment for the state seat of Tamworth, held by independent Peter Draper. They include local mayor James Treloar, who ran unsuccessfully as an independent in 2001 when the seat was vacated by Tony Windsor’s entry to federal politics in New England; Russell Webb, a Tamworth councillor; and Mark Rodda, a departmental officer with the Land and Property Management Authority.

• DaveM in comments tells us the Illawarra Mercury reports plans by the Nationals to run a candidate in Throsby, for what reason I cannot imagine. The paper also reports “business consultant” Michelle Blicavs has been the Liberals’ only nominee for the state seat of Wollongong, held safely for Labor by high-profile Noreen Hay.

• Note the the looming by-election for the NSW state seat of Penrith, expected to be held in six weeks, is the subject of its own post.

Penrith by-election: June 19

Saturday, June 19

Here is an 2007 booth results map for your enlightenment. Live coverage on this site will begin at 6pm.

penrith 2007 map

Sunday, May 30

Heath Aston of the Sydney Morning Herald reports Labor sources are putting it about that they are heading for a 27 per cent swing. I’m less suspicious of reports of internal polling than most, but this one doesn’t immediately pass the smell test. Nonetheless, the report tells quite a detailed story of a 350-sample UMR Research poll showing the Liberals on 55 per cent of the primary vote and Labor on 27 per cent, with 73 per cent of those intending to switch to the Liberals citing Karyn Paluzzano’s behaviour as a factor (which might be thought a bit convenient from Labor’s point of view). This follows a report by Imre Salusinszky in yesterday’s Australian in which “informed Labor sources” spoke of polling conducted in Penrith six months ago shownig a 15 per cent swing.

Thursday, May 27

The close of nomations and ballot paper draw has turned up only one candidate who wasn’t known of already: Andrew Green of the Christian Democratic Party. The ballot paper order is John Thain (Labor), Suzie Wright (Greens), Mick Saunders, Stuart Ayres (Liberal), David Leyonhjelm (Outdoor Recreation Party), Jose Sanz (Australian Democrats), Andrew Green (Christian Democratic Party), Noel Selby (Independent).

Tuesday, May 25

Ghost Who Votes notes in comments that the NSW Electoral Commission is recording candidates as the nominate, a practice which as far as I’m aware is peculiar to it. Joining Suzanne Wright and Stuart Ayres are Mick Saunders of the unregistered Australia First Party, Jose Sanz of the Australian Democrats and David Leyonhjelm of the Outdoor Recreation Party. John Thain will want to get his act together, as nominations close at noon on Thursday.

Sunday, May 16

Antony Green offers a typically comprehensive by-election overview, as does Ben Raue at The Tally Room. The Penrith Press reports on a local resident, Noel Selby, who will run as an independent.

Friday, May 14

Speaker Richard Torbay announced mid-week that the by-election would be held on June 19. Penrith mayor John Thain was preselected by Labor on Tuesday after emerging as the only candidate. The Western Weekender reports the Greens have nominated “well-known local environmental and social campaigner Suzie Wright”, who also ran at the 2007 election.

Sunday, May 9

The Sydney Morning Herald on potential Labor candidates:

Greg Davies, a Penrith councillor and aide to the MP for Mulgoa, Di Beamer, is likely to be asked to stand for the ALP at the byelection, although Mr Davies said yesterday he had not given it any consideration. Another potential ALP candidate is Linda Everingham, a local union organiser.

Friday, May 7

More disaster for the NSW government: a by-election now looms in the highly loseable seat of Penrith, with Karyn Paluzzano resigning after admitting lying to the Independent Commission Against Corruption about falsifying employee pay forms. Labor’s margin in the seat is 9.2 per cent: reasonably safe in normal terms, but well below half the swing recorded against Labor in by-elections last year. The Liberals have a candidate ready in Stuart Ayres, business development manager at the Australian College of Physical Education, who won preselection last month over Penrith councillor Ben Goldfinch. The following is from the entry I wrote for the seat in my 2007 state election guide. Labor picked up a 2.6 per cent swing at that election, which marked a correction following difficult circumstances in 2003.

The city of Penrith is located 50 kilometres due west of Sydney, with the electorate extending into the surrounding suburbs of Glenbrook, Lapstone and Kingswood. The north-to-south Nepean River marks a sharp divide in the electorate’s voting patterns; Labor’s vote to its east is 10 per cent higher than in the Blue Mountains foothills to its west. The latter area, perhaps being somewhat closer to nature, is also stronger for the Greens. The redistribution has added more than 2000 voters at Kingswood in the east from Mulgoa and removed around 1000 in the far west to Blue Mountains, thereby boosting the Labor margin by 0.5 per cent. The electorate was created in 1973 and has been won by Labor at every election except 1988, when Health Minister Peter Anderson was narrowly defeated by Liberal candidate Guy Matheson (Anderson re-emerged in Liverpool in 1991).

The Labor candidate who recovered the seat in 1991 was Penrith mayor Faye Lo Po’, who survived a small swing in 1995 before consolidating her hold with a 12.4 per cent boost in 1999. Lo Po’ served in the Carr government as Fair Trading Minister until 1997 and Community Services Minister from then until her retirement in 2003. She was then succeeded by Karyn Paluzzano, a Penrith councillor and teacher of children with learning difficulties, who was anointed for preselection by the state party’s hyperactive administrative committee. Labor suffered a sharp 10.6 per cent two-party swing on Paluzzano’s electoral debut, driven by a 7.3 per cent drop in the primary vote.

Newspoll: 51-49 to Coalition

The day has finally arrived when my headline must specify which party is in front. The latest Newspoll has the Coalition taking a 51-49 lead on the two-party preferred vote, which I do believe is the first time any pollster has had them in front since 2006. Certainly it is their first lead in Newspoll since August of that year. We are also told Kevin Rudd’s rating on preferred prime minister has fallen six points to 50 per cent, while Tony Abbott is up three points 32 per cent. More to follow.

UPDATE: Possum reports primary vote figures: ALP 35 (down eight), Liberal 38 (up one), Nationals 5 (up two), Greens 10 (steady), others 12 (up five). I’m more than ready to believe Labor would have suffered a solid hit in the period in question, but eight points seems a bit much, as does the huge hike in the others vote and the failure of the Greens to reap any ETS dividend.

UPDATE 2: Full tables here. Newspoll pointedly asked whether voters perceived the leaders as “decisive and strong”, but Kevin Rudd’s decline from the heights of early 2008 is probably not much different from most other attitudinal measures. However, it’s slightly bigger than on the other such question gauged, “understands the major issues”. The gender breakdowns here are interesting: Kevin Rudd performs much better among women on both measures, particularly “decisive and strong”. The figures also provide hard evidence, which has been elusive in the past, of Tony Abbott’s much touted problems with women voters. We are also told that Labor’s once huge lead as best party to handle climate change has vanished, whereas its lead on health and Medicare is mostly intact. Here the gender gap is that women are a lot more likely to be uncommitted.

UPDATE 3: And while I have you, here is today’s rather less exciting 53-47 Essential Research result. Note however that Essential Research is a rolling two-week average, so half the result was obtained from the same sample that made up half of last week’s 54-46 result. Furthermore, we get an inkling of how things might have changed from one week to the next from the fact that both samples were asked about leadership approval, and there was a sharp narrowing in Kevin Rudd’s ratings from one week to the next – from a net positive rating of 17 per cent in the first week to 4 per cent in the second.

Below is some number crunching I related in comments. It should first be noted that a contributor whose understanding of statistics I trust more of my own is not as impressed with the 0.47694 R squared as I was; that I wrote this before I saw Newspoll’s primary votes, which have made me a bit more skeptical about the poll; and perhaps also that Essential Research has been a bit less favourable for Labor lately.

As of the start of 2008, when Rudd government polling began in earnest, we have three frequent and regular series to play with: Newspoll, Essential and Morgan face-to-face. Their respective average 2PP for Labor has been 56.0, 58.4 and 59.1. I think there’s pretty solid evidence that Newspoll is broadly accurate as these things go, so the best way to interpret this is that Essential has a 2.4 per cent and Morgan a 3.1 per cent house bias to Labor. We can’t compare Essential against election results because they only started in 2008, but we know the final Morgan face-to-face polls at the past three elections overrated Labor by 5.5 per cent in 2001, 3.7 per cent in 2004 and 3.8 per cent in 2007 (significantly, that accurate late Morgan poll you recall from 2007 was a phone poll).

Plugging Newspoll data into a linear regression suggests every 1 per cent shift in Kevin Rudd’s net satisifaction rating should send the Labor vote either 0.118 per cent up or down, with what to my untrained eye looks like a pretty healthy R squared value of 0.47694. The 53-47 from Essential Research combines two weeks of polling conducted from Wednesdays to Sundays, so the more recent half of the survey coincided with the Friday to Sunday period of Newspoll. We know that the sample from the first week gave Rudd a net approval rating of +17 but from the second week’s sample it was only +4. If I’m doing this properly, that points to a 1.5 per cent difference in the two-party score from the first week to the second: so perhaps 53.8 per cent in the first week and 52.2 per cent in the second, assuming the 53-47 figure didn’t involve much rounding.

The former figure is a nice fit for the 54-46 we got from Essential last week, which also included this sample as one half of its survey. It’s also very similar to the 54.5-45.5 from the most recent Morgan survey, which was conducted during the weekend before last – also corresponding with the first half of the Essential survey. Matter of fact, the 0.7 per cent difference between the two figures is almost exactly the difference you’d expect to see between Morgan and Essential, if you look back to the last sentence of my first paragraph.

The 52.2 per cent figure I’m surmising from the more recent week’s Essential sample is 3.2 per cent different from Newspoll – somewhat higher than the 2.4 per cent we’d normally expect, but not off the chart. It leads me to suspect that maybe Newspoll is off by a point or so, but with rounding and sampling errors and whatever you really can’t say this with much confidence.

As I’ve noted, this has come after a two-week period of strategic deck-clearing that in a sense was almost designed to give it short-term hit in the polls. Once the government is again giving the impression of being back on the front foot, and it may have done that already with its tax reforms, I expect its poll ratings to return to more familiar territory. I don’t think there’s anything dubious about this poll, but it does precisely nothing to shake my conviction that the government will hold its ground at the election.

Tasmanian upper house (Elwick) election live

7.29pm. All booths now in: Taylor 48.5 per cent, Labor 38.3 per cent, Greens 13.2 per cent.

7.11pm. Three more booths have slightly increased the Greens vote to 12.9 per cent: Labor now unlikely to crack 40 per cent, Taylor unlikely to crack 50 per cent.

7.04pm. Kevin Bonham: “the bounce to (the Greens) operating in the 2010 state election is either no longer operating or else is being cancelled out by Taylor running as an independent and hence taking more of their votes than Martin did as a Labor candidate”.

7.01pm. Chigwell and Montrose booths leaves the situation unchanged: Taylor to probably come in a bit under 50 per cent, Labor around 40 per cent and remainder with the Greens. Whatever preferences from the latter do, Taylor will won comfortably.

6.52pm. Bonham confirms none of this is a surprise: last time Terry Martin as Labor candidate had exactly the same local strength that Labor does now as the sitting mayor.

6.48pm. Note that Kevin Bonham, who knows what’s going on much better than I do, is following the action in comments. He tells me Adriana Taylor who is “Terry Martin’s successor as Mayor of Glenorchy which more or less coincides with the Elwick boundaries”. So my presumption that this should be an easy recovery for Labor probably wasn’t the conventional wisdom.

6.47pm. Going off booth matching, Labor’s vote is down 16.9 per cent.

6.45pm. Seven booths out of 16 in now, and I don’t think there’s much doubt Taylor’s going to win. A shame I haven’t been following this, because this looks like a rebuff to the government.

6.40pm. Ooh! First figures are interesting. Independent Adriana Taylor wins both the Windermere and Collinsvale booths.

6.30pm. To my shame, I’d forgotten about the periodical election for the Tasmanian Legislative Council district of Elwick (located in northern Hobart) was this weekend. This post will be used for live reporting of the count, although I’m not sure how informative it will be. Here’s the quickest summary I can offer. There are 15 seats in the chamber: as of about two years ago Labor had five and the rest were independents. Then Labor’s member for Elwick, Terry Martin, quit the party and it became 4-11. Last year another Labor member, Allison Ritchie, quit parliament altogether, and the resulting by-election was won by Liberal candidate Vanessa Goodwin, who had previously been slated as the party’s challenger for a second seat in the lower house division of Franklin (which ended up going to Jacquie Petrusma). That made the numbers 3-1-11. Terry Martin meanwhile became embroiled in a very unpleasant scandal that has obliged him to not seek another term. Under the periodical election calendar the electorate of Aspley, covering the east coast and areas to the north-east of Hobart, was also due to be up for election, but nobody emerged to challenge sitting independent Tanya Rattray-Wagner and she has been elected unoppposed. Somewhat disappontingly given recent events, the Liberals have decided not to field a candidate, so the field is union organiser Tim Jacobson for Labor, “senior policy officer” Kartika Franks for the Greens, and “mayor” (of what I can’t say) Adriana Johnson as an independent. One would presume Jacobson will win very easily, putting the numbers at 4-1-10.

Morgan: 54.5-45.5

Morgan has published results from last weekend’s face-to-face polling from a sample of 915, and it shows Labor’s two-party lead at 54.5-45.5 – robust enough on the face of it, but the narrowest result produced by a Morgan face-to-face poll since January 2007. The Greens have suffered a four point hit on the primary vote, possibly a partial correction last time when they were up from 8.5 per cent to 12 per cent. Labor’s primary vote is up a point to 44 per cent, but the Coalition is up three to 40.5 per cent.