On the beach

The Poll Bludger, along with a number of others (Peter Coleman and Alan Jones spring to mind), could yet be made to eat his words on the folly of Peter King’s plan to run as an independent in Wentworth if Labor polling leaked to The Australian yesterday is accurate. The results were Malcolm Turnbull 30 per cent, Labor’s David Patch 27 per cent, Peter King 25 per cent and the Greens 10 per cent, a substantially better result for King than in May’s Sun-Herald Taverner poll. However King’s challenge is still to get his nose in front of Labor so he can ride over Turnbull on their preferences, which is why he is so furiously courting the Greens. However, all the evidence suggests that most Greens voters make up their own mind where to deliver their preferences and at least 70 per cent of them favour Labor over the Coalition. Where they will rank an independent Peter King in this scheme of things is an open question, but it is likely the majority will consider him a Liberal. So even on the figures quoted, King will need to have generated a substantial boost from Friday’s announcement and will have to maintain that through four weeks of fierce Liberal campaigning. Expect scare campaigning over a hung parliament to feature prominently.

Another point of interest here is the temptation for Labor to run dead and encourage "tactical voting" by their supporters, a concept familiar to voters in Britain but one rendered largely irrelevant in Australia by preferential voting. Where British Labour and Liberal Democrats supporters would often back each others candidates on the basis of who had a realistic chance of defeating the Conservatives, Labor supporters in Wentworth could face a choice between Peter King overcoming the Labor candidate and riding home on his preferences, or Labor holding firm in second place and Peter King’s preferences sealing victory for Turnbull. But to do that they would have to let go of the idea that David Patch might actually win, and with all the rancour consuming the conservative camp, he too might have enjoyed a boost of sorts from Peter King’s decision to run.

UPDATE: Malcolm Farr reported in yesterday’s Daily Telegraph (apparently not available online) that "party figures determined to see Mr Turnbull lose have urged Labor supporters to vote for Peter King, the Liberal turned independent … Mr Patch is determined to fight the poll rather than take a dive but the electorate might cotton on to the plan".

UPDATE (9/9/04): It did occur to the Poll Bludger that Labor might have suspect motives in conducting and releasing polling from a seat that would not normally be on its hit list of marginals. Prominent blog-botherer Homer Paxton has dropped a line to add support to this idea: "why on earth would the ALP waste money on polling in Wentworth? I have a fair idea of how much it would cost and they wouldn’t waste the money. I suspect this is a plant for the Libs to pour more money and more importantly people into Wentworth and less into some close-by marginals … the ALP very rarely polls only one electorate".

And another one still

For crying out loud, enough freaking opinion polls already. An ACNielsen poll appears in today’s Fairfax papers (with a sample of 1415, larger than Newspoll’s) and it’s gratifying to note that its results are all but identical to those of Newspoll and Galaxy – Coalition 46 per cent, Labor 40 per cent and an even split on two-party preferred. There is also a state-by-state breakdown which I will think about a bit harder later on.

And another one

The polls conducted for the Daily Telegraph by Galaxy Research over the past two months have consistently painted an unusually sunny picture for the Coalition, and today’s is no exception. However it’s interesting how it mirrors Newspoll, putting the Coalition one point higher on 46 per cent and Labor one point lower on 39. Somehow this two-point primary vote difference transfers to four on two-party preferred, which is to say that Galaxy has the Coalition ahead 52-48.

Newspoll and Westpoll

Newspoll appears to have moved to regular weekly polling for the campaign period, this week recording the Coalition picking up another 2 per cent to even the ledger on two-party preferred. This was revealed on tonight’s edition of The Gallery, Sky News’ weekly election gabfest featuring various News Limited hacks. Full results will appear in tomorrow’s Australian, so more details in the not very distant future. The West Australian today released polls for two Perth marginal seats, Canning (Liberal 0.4%) and Swan (Labor 2.1%). They have not distributed the undecided vote, so the Poll Bludger has done it for them: in Canning, where former state minister Kay Hallahan has been drafted as a last-minute replacement for a floundering Labor candidate, the Liberals were on 54 per cent, Labor 30 per cent and the Greens 10 per cent; in Swan, where Liberal candidate Andrew Murfin has endured an avalanche of horrendous publicity, the Liberals were on 48 per cent, Labor 36 per cent and the Greens 10 per cent. While such an outcome would be catastrophic for Labor, they do have the consolation that polls with samples of 200 are not worth much, especially with around 18 per cent of those voters undecided. But it’s another increment of evidence suggesting that Labor is drifting dangerously and needs to do well out of the release of its tax policy, whenever that may be.

UPDATE (7/9/04): The Australian’s Newspoll coverage is now up – Coalition up two points to 45 per cent, Labor steady on 40 per cent, Greens up two to 8 per cent (interestingly, after a week of bad press). Those who have gained have done so at the expense of "others", down from 10 to 6 per cent.

Tables turned

The table below features results from the TNS poll of three Queensland marginal seats published in yesterday’s Courier Mail, not to be confused with Newspoll’s effort in The Australian, along with those of a similar poll TNS conducted in June. Results in bold are two-party preferred figures, the rest are primary vote figures I have arrived at by crudely distributing the undecided vote.

Dickson Hinkler Longman
Labor 44 54 43 49 46 46
Coalition 56 46 57 51 54 54
Labor 37 47 36 39 37 39
Coalition 50 42 51 40 45 47
Greens 7 4 3 6 7 6
Democrats 1 3 1 * 1 1
One Nation 2 1 4 6 4 3
Others 3 3 5 9 6 4

At the risk of appearing fickle, the bad news for Labor here and in Newspoll has demanded a dramatic revision of predicted outcomes for that state in the federal election guide, with Labor stripped of five out of seven projected gains. That limits Labor’s haul to the Townsville seat of Herbert and the inner southern Brisbane seat of Moreton. This is a very conservative reading of the results and the Herbert and Moreton judgements are stated without confidence. I have also changed my mind again about the outer eastern Melbourne seat of La Trobe, partly swayed by Mark Latham’s loss-cutting decision to pull the plug on federal funding for the Scoresby Freeway, and it is now back in the Coalition column. The combined effect is to turn the tables on the Election Projection scoreboard, which now shows a narrow majority for the Coalition.

Laboring in Queensland: part two

Not much co-ordination going on between the various tentacles of the Murdoch octopus, as the Courier Mail today carried entirely different polling of Queensland marginals to that in today’s Australian. Conducted by Courier Mail favourites TNS, the poll sampled about 300 voters each from Dickson, Hinkler and Longman and credited the Coalition with stunning double-digit leads in the first two and a narrow 2 per cent lead in the latter, the seat whose member most deserves to be returned. No hard copy available unfortunately, but if any Queensland readers have page eight of today’s Courier Mail handy, the Poll Bludger will be most grateful if they can pass on any primary vote figures that might be featured in the full table. Failing that, more details tomorrow.

What’s on in Queensland and Victoria (mostly)

No intentional theme here, Queensland and Victoria just happened to be where the action was in the second half of the opening week. With one notable exception:

Wentworth (NSW, Liberal 7.9%): Peter King revealed yesterday that he would indeed be standing against Malcolm Turnbull as an independent in the seat he has held for one term as a Liberal. King did well to make a big media event out of his announcement at Bondi Beach and spent the rest of the day hosing down talk that his decision could make the seat for winnable for Labor. At one point he said "the Labor Party knows it cannot win Wentworth and my independent polling shows it can’t win Wentworth – it’s simply scaremongering to suggest otherwise"; later, he said Labor would win Wentworth if he didn’t intervene and save it from them. King claimed on both occasions that his own polling backed him up, but did not provide details. If he was right the first time, expect Labor to run dead in the hope that King can overtake their candidate David Patch and ride over Turnbull on his preferences. However it’s more likely that Labor, and their candidate in particular, are rubbing their hands at the prospect of preference leakage from King combining with burgeoning support for the Greens and widespread anti-war sentiment in the fashionable beachside suburbs to wear down the Liberals’ substantial but by no means insurmountable margin.

Deakin (Vic, Liberal 1.6%) and La Trobe (Vic, Liberal 3.7%): The Bracks Government’s broken promise on tolls for the Mitcham-Frankston Freeway has been an unwelcome complication for Labor in an area described by the Australian Financial Review as "home to about a million people and a fair slab of Melbourne’s industry", not to mention a string of marginal seats. On Thursday, Mark Latham announced that the $420 million the Federal Government was withholding from the Mitcham-Frankston Freeway project due to the Victorian Government’s plan for tolls would instead be allocated to other road projects around Victoria. Michael Harvey of the Herald Sun argued that with federal Labor’s acceptance that the Bracks Government had made tolls inevitable, "any chance Labor had of winning the Ringwood-based seat of Deakin has all but gone", and "La Trobe, stretching from Lilydale to Berwick, moved that much further out of the frame". But it does allow Labor to argue that a Latham government would at least spend the federal money on Victorian roads. Expect eastern Victoria, home to the state’s only other concentration of marginal seats, to do well out of the allocation.

Ryan (Qld, Liberal 9.4%): Liberal member Michael Johnson maintained his habit of causing the Prime Minister trouble, vouching for the "character and integrity" of the man who claimed Senator George Brandis had called him a "lying rodent" whose "arse" needed "covering" over the children overboard affair. That man was Russell Galt, Johnson’s campaign treasurer for the 2001 election who had contentiously authorised repayment to Johnson of $10,000 for a campaign "loan" which others in the branch had understood to be a donation. Galt had received Johnson’s backing for preselection in the unloseable state Liberal seat of Moggill (all loseable state Liberal seats having been lost) and for his subsequent efforts to have his defeat overturned, first internally and then in the courts. It appears Johnson was subsequently persuaded that Galt wasn’t such a good chap after all, as he later said "I completely reject Mr Galt’s actions" and "I am very concerned about his motivation in making these allegations". Galt now faces explusion from the Liberal Party.

Dickson (Qld, Liberal 6.0%): This Brisbane seat looms higher on Labor’s hit list than the margin suggests, the 6 per cent swing from 2001 having been boosted by the unpopularity of defeated Labor member Cheryl Kernot. However, Scott Emerson of The Australian reported on Wednesday that "Liberal Party polling is understood to show Mr Dutton in a good position to hold the seat".

McMillan (Vic, notional Liberal 2.9%): Two days into the campaign the Government "raised the prospect" of using federal environment laws to block the controversial Bald Hills wind farm development on the Gippsland coast, approved by the Bracks Government against the wishes of the local council.

The place to be

Better news for Labor in Victoria with a McNair Ingenuity poll carried in today’s Herald Sun, although it’s from a low sample of 406 voters. It has Labor leading 46 to 40 per cent on the primary vote and 55 to 45 on two-party preferred, marking a 2.9 per cent swing to Labor from the 2001 election. Herald Sun reporter Michael Harvey reports that such a swing "would see the Coalition lose the seats of Deakin (1.6 per cent), McEwen (2.2), Gippsland (2.6) and La Trobe (3.7)". Mathematics experts will no doubt be puzzled by the latter of these judgements – Harvey is presumably factoring in the personal vote of retiring Liberal member Bob Charles, which is fair enough. By contrast Thursday’s Newspoll geographic analysis survey showed an improvement in the Coalition’s performance in Victoria during July and August, with the Coalition gaining four points directly at Labor’s expense to lead 44 to 41 per cent on the primary vote while still trailing 47-53 on two-party preferred. The results from their earlier survey, covering April to June, were almost identical to those from today’s McNair poll.