Newspoll: 56-44 to Labor in South Australia

I’ve been umm-ing and ah-ing over whether to give this its own thread, as Newspoll have for some reason been sitting on it for the better part of two months. It first appeared in Newspoll’s results archive the other day, has only now been the subject of a normal Newspoll release, and I gather it’s only been reported in the local edition of The Australian. The survey period was January to March, so it does not cover the aftermath of Opposition Leader Martin Hamilton-Smith’s claims of secret donations to Labor from the Church of Scientology using what proved to be forged evidence. It will be fascinating to see how this plays out when we do get an up-to-date poll, because Mike Rann’s pursuit of defamation action against Hamilton-Smith after multiple grovelling apologies had me thinking he was over-playing his hand.

Anyway, what we have is Labor’s lead on 56-44, up from 54-46 in the previous quarter. Labor’s primary vote is up three points to 42 per cent while the Liberals are down one to 34 per cent. The Greens are down three to 10 per cent. Mike Rann’s approval rating is up a healthy seven points to 51 per cent, and his disapproval is down two to 37 per cent. Martin Hamilton Smith was evidently in trouble even before the Scientology allegations, his approval down four to 43 per cent and his disapproval up eight to 34 per cent. Rann’s lead as preferred premier is up from 50-26 to 53-24.

Essential Research: 61-39

The latest weekly Essential Research survey shows Labor’s lead moderating slightly to 61-39 from 63-37 in the previous two surveys. In other findings, 54 per cent approve of the government’s national broadband network, while 62 per cent think Australia’s economy “better than most countries” in the current global financial crisis. For this, equal credit is given to “the actions of the Rudd government – including the stimulus packages” and a well-regulated finance and banking sector. “The Howard government’s handling of the economy” ranks somewhat lower. Also featured are questions on potential budget measures, the role of human rights in international trade, and China’s human rights record.

What’s more:

George Megalogenis of The Australian charts the rise of the centre left with reference to long-term Newspoll trends.

Glenn Milne of The Australian has written a skeptically received article which speaks of plotting against Julie Bishop partly motivated by Senator Mathias Cormann’s designs on her blue-ribbon seat of Curtin. Andrew Bolt has published Cormann’s denial.

• Electoral Commissioner Ed Killesteyn advises the government to get hip by allowing voters to enrol online.

Rick Wallace of The Australian notes the Victorian ALP is struggling to meet its affirmative action quota of 35 per cent female candidates in winnable seats, making it “almost imperative that a woman replaces a retiring woman, and that at least one in two of all retiring men are replaced by women”. While little action is expected ahead of the next federal election, speculation is said to surround the state seats of Craig Langdon (Ivanhoe), Peter Batchelor (Thomastown), Lynne Kosky (Altona) and John Pandazopoulos (Dandenong). More substantially, “former speaker Judy Maddigan has confirmed she will retire and she is expected to support former Labor staffer Natalie Sykes-Hutchins to replace her in the seat of Essendon”.

• Adelaide’s Independent Weekly reports on Malcolm Mackerras’s tip for next year’s state election: Labor to be comfortably returned, with the loss of only Norwood, Mawson and Light. The report notes something I had neglected to relate previously: SA Murray Irrigators Association chair Tim Whetstone was preselected in November as the Liberal candidate for Nationals MP Karlene Maywald’s seat of Chaffey, ahead of Citrus Growers of SA president Mark Chown and businessman Brian Barnett. Mackerras tips Whetstone to win.

Ben Raue at The Tally Room has a post on whether the federal parliament should be enlarged, with reference to international practice.

Possum notes the cubic polynomial distribution of two-party electorate results, and its implications for interpreting marginal seat exit polls.

Courtesy of the April edition of the invaluable Democratic Audit Update:

• The Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters will hold a “roundtable public hearing” on submissions to the green paper on campaign finance at Parliament House on Thursday, from 9.30am to 1pm.

• The Greens’ “parliamentary contract” with Labor’s minority government in the Australian Capital Territory is reviewed by Jenny Stewart in the Canberra Times.

• Brian Costar examines Electoral Commissioner Ed Killesteyn’s demolition of the spurious justifications for the Howard government’s 2005 electoral “reforms” at Inside Story.

• The Australian Parliamentary Library has published a research paper on the electoral demise of the Australian Democrats by Cathy Madden.

Advertiser: 56-44 to Labor in SA

The Adelaide Advertiser has published a poll on South Australian state voting intention from a sample of 522, showing Labor leading the Liberals 56-44 on two-party preferred. After distribution of the 12 per cent undecided, Labor leads 43 per cent to 37 per cent on the primary vote. Breakdowns between city and country show Labor leading 57-43 outside Adelaide. However, the previous Advertiser poll published last September had the Liberals leading in the country 58-42, pointing to a scarcely credible 15 point turn-around – although the earlier poll had a total sample of just 365. Martin Hamilton-Smith is far ahead of his party rivals as preferred Liberal leader.

Morgan: 57-43

The latest weekly Morgan face-to-face survey of 883 voters shows Labor’s two-party lead down from 60.5-39.5 to 57-43. Labor’s primary vote is down two points to 48.5 per cent, the Coalition’s is up substantially from 34.5 per cent to 39 per cent, and the Greens are down two to 6 per cent. Between Morgan, Newspoll and Essential Research, there is now significant evidence that some of the gloss has come off the extraordinary spike Labor enjoyed from its response to the global financial crisis.

Elsewhere:

• The Geelong Advertiser reports on the federal Liberal preselection for Corangamite. Prospective nominees: former Kennett government minister Ian Smith, “considering his position”; Graham Harris, head of the party’s Corangamite electorate council; Victorian Farmers Federation president Simon Ramsay; “Moriac district resident” Rod Nockles; Simon Price, unsuccessful Colac Otway Shire Council candidate and former electorate officer Stewart McArthur who lost the seat in 2007.

• Mark Kenny of The Advertiser reports that “pressure is mounting inside the Liberal Party to dump its candidate for the state seat of Newland, Trish Draper”. Draper was federal member for Makin from 1996 to 2007, when she forestalled what seemed to be very likely defeat by retiring. Draper is seen to have been damaged by reports an ex-boyfriend has been identified as a suspect in a murder investigation, which is currently the subject of a defamation case. A Liberal source quoted by Kenny says Right faction powerbroker Senator Nick Minchin has told Opposition Leader Martin Hamilton-Smith to dump her.

• The ABC reports “speculation” that Premier David Bartlett is “planning to visit Tasmania’s Governor on Monday and send Tasmania to the polls as early as April 18”, resulting from the government’s failure to table long-promised legislation to enact fixed four-year terms. Bartlett denies this, and he would have to be pretty silly to ignore the still-accumulating evidence that unnecessary early elections are a bad idea.

• The ABC reports that Labor is courting Beaconsfield mine disaster survivor Brant Webb as a possible state election candidate for Bass.

• An interim report by the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters recommends an end to trials of electronic voting for the vision-impaired and overseas defence personnel on the grounds it is too expensive. The report said the 850 votes cast electronically in 2007 cost $2597 each, compared with $8.36 for each non-electronic vote. A dissenting report by Bob Brown argues the government should pursue electronic voting to assist disadvantaged voters, and investigate its use in the Australian Capital Territory and overseas.

• The Australian Parliamentary Library has published papers on women parliamentarians in Australia and the possibility of dedicated indigenous representation, a la the Maori seats in New Zealand.

Morgan: 60.5-39.5

Morgan’s latest polling release covers 955 respondents from last weekend’s face-to-face surveys, and shows Labor’s two-party lead down from 61.5-38.5 to 60.5-39.5. Labor’s primary vote is down a point to 50.5 per cent, and the Coalition’s is up 1.5 per cent to 34.5 per cent. On top of which:

• Silly Steve Fielding joined with the Coalition on Wednesday to vote down government electoral reforms that would tie public funding for election candidates to their electoral expenditure, lower the threshold for disclosure of donations to $1000 from $10,000 (which the Howard government used its Senate majority to jack it up to), ban foreign donations and anonymous donations of over $50, and require parties to disclose donations every six months rather than annually. The sticking point is Fielding’s insistence that the government also arbitrarily cap public funding to political parties at $10 million. The bill was reintroduced to the House yesterday.

Submissions have been published in response to the federal government’s green paper on donations, funding and expenditure.

• Responding to mounting speculation she will take on Don Randall in Canning at the next federal election, senior Gallop/Carpenter government minister Alannah MacTiernan tells The West Australian: “It’s something that I’d consider but it’s far too early. The election is a long way away and it’s not something a decision can be made on until early next year.”

• The South Australian Liberals have picked a new candidate for the state seat of Mawson to replace former Kingston MHR Kym Richardson, who was charged in December with attempting to pervert the course of justice by impersonating a police officer. Matthew Donovan, described by the local Southern Times Messenger newspaper as a “self-employed importer and property developer”, won preselection ahead of Heidi Harris, adviser to Shadow Transport Minister Duncan McFetridge and unsuccessful candidate for federal preselection in Mayo; Heidi Greaves, public servant, former Onkaparinga councillor and unsuccessful candidate for Elder; and Alana Sparrow, Housing Industry Association lawyer and former media adviser to Richardson.

• The Daily Telegraph reports that NSW Opposition Leader Barry O’Farrell “will hire a team of constitutional lawyers to explore recall provisions to end fixed four-year terms for incompetent governments”. This would involve provisions for the Governor to “sack a corrupt or useless government” if called on to do so by public petitions, presumably in a fashion similar to that which brought Arnold Schwarzenegger to power in California. UPDATE: More from a skeptical Imre Salusinszky at The Australian.

• Chris Back this week took his place in the Senate, filling the vacancy created by the departure of Western Australian Liberal Chris Ellison.

Morgan: 59.5-40.5

Not exactly hot off the presses with this one, but Friday’s poll from Roy Morgan (who seem to have returned to their weekly polling habits of old) has Labor’s two-party lead at 59.5-40.5 compared with 60-40 the previous week. The primary vote movements are bigger than you would expect from this: Labor is down 2.5 per cent to 49 per cent, and the Coalition is up 1 per cent to 36.5 per cent. The slack is taken up by “independent/others”, up from 3.5 per cent to 6 per cent. Perhaps South Australians are telling survey takers they’ll vote for Nick Xenophon. Elsewhere:

• Speculation continues to mount that former WA Health Minister and Attorney-General Jim McGinty (left) will shortly be calling it a day, initiating a by-election in Fremantle to coincide with the state’s May 16 daylight saving referendum. On ABC television news, Peter Kennedy reported that rumoured preselection contender Peter Tagliaferri (right) met with McGinty and ALP state secretary Simon Mead to “discuss the possible vacancy”. However, Alan Carpenter is offering point-blank denials to speculation he might also vacate his seat of Willagee, which puts the prospect of a dangerous preselection stoush between Tagliaferri and LHMWU state secretary Dave Kelly back on the agenda. Steve Grant of the Fremantle Herald reports:

Alan Carpenter says he will remain in state parliament till the next election. He ruled out the possibility of a by-election for his safe Labor seat of Willagee … He shrugged off speculation that he and Fremantle MP Jim McGinty were contemplating mid-term retirement to make way for new Labor blood, “you might not believe me, but often I’m the last person to hear about these things”. It seems Jandakot Liberal MP Joe Francis could be more tuned in to Labor machinations than the former premier, becoming the third person to tell the Herald that LHMWU secretary Dave Kelly was being groomed to take over a Labor seat.

• What’s more, Robert Taylor of The West Australian has mused on the possibility of star Gallop/Carpenter government minister Alannah MacTiernan moving to federal politics by taking on Don Randall in Canning, where redistribution has shaved the Liberal margin from 5.6 per cent to 4.3 per cent.

• Staying in WA, the Liberal Party is having an interesting time dealing with jockeying ahead of preselection for the safe southern suburbs seat of Tangney. Sitting member Dennis Jensen (left) lost the preselection vote ahead of the last election to Matt Brown, former chief-of-staff to Defence Minister Robert Hill, but the result was overturned by prime ministerial fiat. As Robert Taylor puts it, “this time there’s no John Howard and Dr Jensen looks decidedly shaky”. Against this backdrop, local Liberal branches have been inundated with membership applications from “Muslim men”, who are believed – certainly by the Brown camp – to be enthusiasts for the incumbent. A compromise reached at the state executive saw admission granted to half the applicants, who can apparently thank Julie Bishop for arguing that “many of her east coast colleagues with big Muslim populations in their electorates were nervous about the outcome”. Taylor says a Brown supporter told him “the new members were associated with ‘strident anti-Israel statements’ from the Australian National Imams Council”.

• With independent MP Rory McEwen to call it a day, the Liberals would be pencilling in his seat of Mount Gambier as a soft target at next year’s state election. However, the Border Watch reports Liberal candidate Steve Perryman, the mayor of Mount Gambier, might face an independent challenge from Don Pegler, the mayor of Grant District Council, who has perhaps been inspired by Geoff Brock’s boilover in Frome. Grant covers the electorate’s extensive rural areas outside of the City of Mount Gambier, although the latter accounts for three times as many voters.

Andrew Landeryou at VexNews offers a colourful and detailed account of the gruelling Liberal preselection jockeying in Kooyong.

• Landeryou also notes conflicting reports on the prospect of a Right-backed preselection challenge by Noel McCoy against Phillip Ruddock in Berowra.

• Andrew Leigh and Mark McLeish have published a paper at Australian Policy Online which asks a most timely question: Are State Elections Affected by the National Economy? Using data from 191 state elections, they find a positive correlation between low unemployment and success for the incumbent, “with each additional percentage point of unemployment (or each percentage point increase over the cycle) reducing the incumbent’s re-election probability by 3-5 percentage points”. Furthermore, “what matters most is not the performance of the state economy relative to the national economy, but the state economy itself”. That being so, it seems voters “systematically commit attribution errors – giving state leaders too much blame when their economy is in recession, and too much credit when it is booming”.

• The Parliamentary Library has published a note on the redistribution of WA’s federal electorates.