Coalition still well ahead in NSW poll, Newspoll premiers’ ratings, and WA upper house electoral reforms


AAP/Bianca de Marchi

Adrian Beaumont, The University of MelbourneA New South Wales state Resolve poll for The Sydney Morning Herald gave the Coalition 41% of the primary vote (down two since July), Labor 30% (up two), the Greens 11% (down one), the Shooters 2% (up one) and independents 10% (steady).

Resolve does not provide two party estimates, but analyst Kevin Bonham estimated 53-47 to the Coalition, a two-point gain for Labor since July. I previously covered issues with the independent vote in Resolve and the lack of two party estimates.




Read more:
Coalition gains in federal Resolve poll, but Labor increases lead in Victoria


Incumbent Liberal Gladys Berejiklian led Labor’s Chris Minns by 48-21 as preferred premier (55-16 in July). This poll would have been conducted concurrently with the August and September federal polls from a sample of about 1,100. The federal Resolve polls in those months have had a strong lean to the Coalition compared with other polls (see below).

By 65-17, voters supported “the plan to ease restrictions in mid-October with 70% vaccination rates”. The SMH article implies the Coalition’s position was stronger in September than August, as vaccination uptake makes reopening soon realistic.

The same situation applies to the federal government. Once lockdowns are over, the economy is likely to rebound quickly, and this will assist the Coalition in an election in the first half of next year.

Newspoll: Andrews has best approval out of Vic, Qld and NSW premiers

The Poll Bludger reported that Newspoll asked for premiers’ ratings in last weekend’s poll from a larger than usual national sample of 2,144.

The states considered were NSW, Victoria and Queensland. Victorian Labor premier Daniel Andrews had a 64-35 satisfied rating (net +29). Queensland Labor premier Annastacia Palaszczuk had a 57-38 satisfied rating (net +19). Berejiklian had a 56-40 satisfied rating (net +16).

On handling COVID, Palaszczuk scored far better than her overall rating at 67-31 good, while Andrews and Berejiklian scored nearly the same (63-35 good for Andrews, 56-41 good for Berejiklian).

Nationally, Scott Morrison had a -4 net approval in Newspoll; he was at +15 in Queensland, -3 in NSW and -16 in Victoria.

Nationally, Morrison had a 49-48 poor rating for his handling of COVID, unchanged from six weeks ago. By 53-42, voters expressed more concern with relaxing restrictions too fast than too slowly (62-34 in January).

WA upper house electoral reform: group ticket voting and malapportionment to be scrapped

The massive WA Labor landslide at the March state election gave them large majorities in both chambers of the WA parliament – the first ever Labor majority in the upper house.




Read more:
Coalition and Morrison gain in Newspoll, and the new Resolve poll


Labor set up a committee to look at reforming the upper house’s electoral system. There are two current major problems: malapportionment and group ticket voting (GTV). The Mining & Pastoral region and Agricultural region elect one-third of the upper house on just 10% of the state’s population. GTV allowed Daylight Saving to win a seat in March on just 98 primary votes.

Labor will adopt the committee’s proposals to change to a statewide election of 37 members, up from the current 36. GTV will be replaced by optional above-the-line voting, in which a single “1” above the line will stay within the party it is cast for. Voters can number “2”, “3”, etc, above the line to continue directing preferences after their original party is excluded.

This system is the same as is currently used in elections for the NSW and SA upper houses. However, these states elect half their upper house at each election (21 seats up each election in NSW and 11 in SA). The WA proposal is for all 37 seats to be elected at once, so the quota will be just 2.63%.

With optional preferential voting, parties will be able to win seats from much lower vote shares than 2.63%. It’s likely to lead to cluttered ballot papers at the next election.

ABC election analyst Antony Green has much more on the WA reforms. I hope the Victorian government scraps GTV before the 2022 state election – Victoria is now the last Australian jurisdiction with GTV.

Other state developments: NT, Victoria and Tasmania

The Labor Northern Territory government gained Daly at a September 11 byelection by a 56.0-44.0 margin over the CLP, a 7.2% swing to Labor. Bonham said this is the first time a government gained from an opposition at a byelection anywhere in Australia since Benalla (Victoria state) in 2000.

Matthew Guy ousted Michael O’Brien as Victorian Liberal leader at a leadership spill on September 7. Guy led the Liberals to a landslide defeat at the November 2018 state election.

A Tasmanian EMRS poll, conducted August 7-9 from a sample of 1,000, gave the Liberals 49% (steady since the May election), Labor 28% (steady) and the Greens 13% (up one). Incumbent Peter Gutwein led Labor’s Rebecca White as preferred premier by 59-29 (61-26 in EMRS’ last state poll in February).

Coalition leads on estimated preference flows in federal Resolve poll

A federal Resolve poll for Nine newapapers, conducted September 15-19 from a sample of 1,606, gave the Coalition 39% of the primary vote (down one since August), Labor 31% (down one), the Greens 10% (down two), One Nation 4% (up two), Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party 3% and independents 9% (down one).

No two-party estimate was given, but Bonham estimated 51-49 to the Coalition, a one-point gain for the Coalition.

There’s divergence in voting intentions between Resolve and Newspoll, which was 53-47 to Labor. But there’s been movement in all recent polls to the Coalition, which was up one in Newspoll and up two in Morgan to a 52.5-47.5 Labor lead.

49% gave Morrison a good rating for his performance in recent weeks, and 45% a poor rating, for a net +4 rating, up five since August. Albanese’s net approval was up three to -16. Morrison led as preferred PM by 45-26 (46-23 in August).

The Liberals and Morrison led Labor and Albanese by 42-24 on economic management (44-19 in August). On COVID, the Liberals led by 37-24 (37-22 last time).

Canadian election called two years early gives nearly status quo result

I live blogged the results of the Canadian election that PM Justin Trudeau called two years early for The Poll Bludger. At the 2019 election, Trudeau’s centre-left Liberals won 157 of the 338 seats and the Conservatives 121, despite a 1.2% lead for the Conservatives in vote shares. In 2021, the results are nearly the same.

The German election will be held Sunday, with polls closing at 2am Monday AEST. Parties need to either win at least 5% nationally or three of the 299 single-member seats to qualify for a proportional seat allocation. The Guardian’s poll aggregate
suggests the overall left parties have a narrow lead over the overall right. I will be live blogging for The Poll Bludger.The Conversation

Adrian Beaumont, Honorary Associate, School of Mathematics and Statistics, The University of Melbourne

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Coalition gains a point in Newspoll, but Morrison slides back into net negative ratings


AAP/Joel Carrett

Adrian Beaumont, The University of MelbourneThis week’s Newspoll, conducted September 15-18 from a sample a little over 1,500, gave Labor a 53-47 lead, a one-point gain for the Coalition since the last Newspoll, three weeks ago. Primary votes were 38% Labor (down two), 37% Coalition (up one), 10% Greens (steady) and 3% One Nation (steady).

50% (up three) were dissatisfied with Scott Morrison’s performance, and 46% (down three) were satisfied, for a net approval of -4. Morrison dropped into net negative ratings six weeks ago, but recovered to +2 in the last Newspoll. This is his worst net approval in Newspoll since the start of the pandemic.




Read more:
First negative Newspoll rating for Morrison since start of pandemic; 47% of unvaccinated would take Pfizer but not AstraZeneca


Labor leader Anthony Albanese’s ratings also slumped, with his net approval falling four points to -11, his worst since becoming opposition leader. Morrison led Albanese by 47-35 as better PM (50-34 previously). Newspoll figures are from The Poll Bludger.

The vote for all Others in this poll was 12% (up one). It’s plausible Clive Palmer and Craig Kelly’s campaign promoting United Australia Party has lured some anti-lockdown voters. At the 2019 election, UAP preferences split 65-35 to the Coalition.

If the proportion of the Others vote supporting UAP is higher than usual, this would explain why the Coalition’s two party figure in Newspoll was a point higher than would be expected from primary votes according to analyst Kevin Bonham.

There’s good news for the Coalition in other polling on voting intentions and COVID handling. The Morgan poll last week had the Coalition up two for a 52.5-47.5 Labor lead. The Essential poll had the federal government’s COVID rating up to 43-35 good from 39-36 in late August.

The Guardian’s datablog has 37.2% of the population (not 16+) fully vaccinated, up from 27.2% three weeks ago. We rank 33 of 38 OECD countries in share of population fully vaccinated (35th three weeks ago). The Age shows 46.7% of 16+ are fully vaccinated and 71.7% have received at least one dose.

Employment and GDP reports from the ABS suggest that the economy was in good shape before the Sydney and Melbourne lockdowns began. Once these cities reopen, the economy is likely to recover rapidly, boosting the Coalition’s chances.

It is too soon to know whether there has been any impact from the decision to enter into the so-called AUKUS pact with the US and UK. A snap Morgan poll found voters approved by 57-43, but Morgan’s SMS polls have not been reliable, and this poll was taken before more negative publicity about the deal.

Two Essential polls

In the mid-September Essential poll, the federal government’s rating on response to COVID rose to 43-35 good from 39-36 in late August and 41-35 in mid-August. The Victorian government’s “good” rating was up six to 50%, after falling 12 in late August, and the NSW government was up six to 46% after dropping two.

41% thought states with low or no COVID should be able to keep their borders closed for as long as they think it necessary, 37% until 80% of the 16+ population is fully vaccinated, and 23% until 80% of the total population is fully vaccinated.

39% thought restrictions for fully vaccinated people should be relaxed immediately, 44% thought they should be relaxed when everyone has the opportunity to be vaccinated and 17% thought vaccinated people should not be treated differently to unvaccinated.

In the late August Essential poll, 50% approved of Morrison’s performance (steady since early August) and 41% disapproved (up one), for a net approval of +9. Albanese’s net approval increased five points to +1. Morrison led as better PM by 47-26 (45-26 previously).

56% of NSW respondents thought the lockdown restrictions in their area were about right, 28% too strong and 16% too weak. In Victoria, these figures were 57% about right, 35% too strong and 8% too weak.

61% said fewer than 100 COVID deaths a year in Australia was acceptable to “live with”, 25% between 100 and 1,000 deaths a year and 19% between 1,000 and 3,000. Before COVID in 2019, there were over 169,000 deaths from all causes in Australia.

Coalition gains two points in mid-September Morgan poll

A Morgan poll, conducted September 4-5 and 11-12 from a sample of over 2,700, gave Labor a 52.5-47.5 lead, a 2% gain for the Coalition since late August. Primary votes were 38.5% Coalition (up 1%), 35% Labor (down 3.5%), 13% Greens (up 1.5%) and 3% One Nation (steady). The late August Morgan poll had Labor’s lead up 0.5% from mid-August.

A separate SMS Morgan poll, conducted last Thursday from a sample of over 1,700, had voters approving 57-43 of the government entering the AUKUS pact.

Late August YouGov COVID poll

A YouGov poll for the News Corp papers, conducted August 20-25 from a sample of over 3,000, was reported by The Poll Bludger. By 41-37, respondents thought lockdowns should be ended when “everyone has the opportunity to be fully vaccinated”. WA respondents were most pro-lockdown, while NSW and Victorian respondents were least so.

66% supported proof of vaccination being required to participate in a range of public activities, 63% supported only opening state borders for the vaccinated, and 68% the same for international borders. Just 23% were opposed to employers being able to demand their staff be vaccinated, with 69% support for this in public facing jobs and 45% support in all industries.

Given a choice between “lockdowns should be ended immediately”, “lockdowns must be part of Australia’s future until COVID is eliminated” and “vaccination is the pathway to ending lockdowns”, 64% selected the third option, 22% the second and 14% the first.

Participation down in August jobs report

The ABS reported last Thursday that the unemployment rate in August dropped 0.1% from July to 4.5%. However, this was because the participation rate fell 0.8% to 65.2%. The employment population ratio – the percentage of eligible Australians employed – fell 0.7% to 62.2%.

The ABS reported on September 1 that GDP in the June quarter increased 0.7% from the March quarter, and a massive 9.6% since June 2020 as the economy rapidly rebounded from the 7.0% COVID-caused crash in the June 2020 quarter.

With Sydney and Melbourne in lockdown for most of the September quarter period, it is very likely GDP will contract. But once restrictions are eased, economic activity is likely to rebound quickly, and this will assist the Coalition.

Canadian and German elections

The Canadian election is Tuesday AEST, with most polls closing at 11:30am AEST. Canadian PM Justin Trudeau called this election two years early, hoping to win a majority for his centre-left Liberals. But the Liberals’ position deteriorated quickly.

However, the rise for the right populist People’s Party has hurt the Conservatives. According to the CBC Poll Tracker, the Liberals are likely to again win the most seats, but be short of a majority under Canada’s first past the post system.

The German election is next Sunday September 26, with polls closing at 2am Monday AEST. In the Politico poll aggregate, the centre-left SPD leads the conservative CDU/CSU, which has been in government since 2005 under retiring chancellor Angela Merkel. Overall left parties hold a narrow lead over overall right parties.

I will be live blogging both these elections for The Poll Bludger. I live blogged last week’s California recall election, in which the Democratic governor easily defeated Recall.The Conversation

Adrian Beaumont, Honorary Associate, School of Mathematics and Statistics, The University of Melbourne

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

View from The Hill: Kristina Keneally’s house switch stops one row, starts another


Michelle Grattan, University of CanberraWhen Tanya Plibersek – who many believe would give Labor its best chance if she were leader now – was asked about the party parachuting Kristina Keneally into the safe seat of Fowler, she slid all around the place to avoid giving a direct answer to an awkward question.

What might be called the Keneally “Fowler solution” is the outcome of Labor’s dilemma over its Senate ticket. Its two NSW senators from the right faction, Keneally and Deb O’Neill, were battling over who would get the ticket’s number one spot. With the left in the second spot, the loser would be relegated to the third place, considered unwinnable.

Anthony Albanese claims Keneally, as Labor’s deputy leader in the Senate, would have been on the top of the ticket if she’d nominated. But O’Neill had strong union support.

Regardless, Keneally’s endorsement by the right faction for Fowler – being vacated at the election by the retirement of the popular Labor whip Chris Hayes – stopped a row. But it started another one.

When he announced he was retiring Hayes strongly promoted a young lawyer, Tu Le, daughter of Vietnamese refugees, to succeed him. She ticked boxes on gender, diversity and local grounds.

Keneally’s pushing her aside has caused outrage in some Labor circles.

Labor MP and Muslim Anne Aly told the ABC: “Diversity and equality and multiculturalism can’t just be a trope that Labor pulls out and parades while wearing a sari and eating some kung pao chicken to make ourselves look good”. She added, “I’m one of the few people of culturally, linguistically diverse backgrounds in the parliament – this matters to me”.

Appearing on the ABC on Sunday Plibersek was pressed about where she stood on the matter.

She tried a bluff: “I’m a glass half-full person. Aren’t we lucky in the Labor Party to have three fantastic women, all who want to be in parliament representing the Labor Party”.

Several follow ups, and several dodges, later, Plibersek was where she started: “I think Kristina is a fantastic candidate who’s made a great contribution. I also think Deb O’Neill has made a wonderful contribution in the Senate, and Tu Le has got a big future.”

While Keneally’s installation may be a snub to some locals, it should be noted it doesn’t deprive ALP branch members of a rank and file ballot they would otherwise have had.

Through a peculiar arrangement that goes back decades and has its origins in branch stacking, the preselection process for Fowler, a seat designated for the right, is very top down. The right faction selects its candidate, who is then rubber stamped by the party.

Keneally’s facilitated passage into Fowler is the latest break for the one-time NSW premier who lost the 2011 state election. She was a favourite of Bill Shorten and the candidate chosen to contest the 2017 Bennelong byelection. Then after Sam Dastyari quit the Senate as a result of revelations he’d promoted Chinese interests, Keneally took the casual vacancy.

After the 2019 election Keneally became the opposition’s deputy Senate leader, elbowing out right numbers man Don Farrell. This put her number four in Labor’s hierarchy. As home affairs spokeswoman she aggressively took the fight up to then home affairs minister Peter Dutton. They were well matched.

At Friday’s right faction meeting which endorsed her, Keneally described herself as the “accidental senator” and thought her “brawler” style better suited to the lower house.

Given her quick rise and her take-no-prisoners political approach, the question inevitably is: how high can Keneally hope to fly?

Those close to her say her move isn’t driven by leadership ambitions. Maybe not, but if her career up to now is any guide, it would be strange if she didn’t harbour them.

However she is not universally popular in the party and if Labor loses, it would be too early for her. The favourite to become opposition leader would probably be Plibersek who, while on the left, would overwhelmingly win a ballot among the rank and file, which gets a 50% say, with caucus having the other 50%.

UPDATE: JOEL FITZGIBBON TO QUIT PARLIAMENT AT THE ELECTION

Labor maverick Joel Fitzgibbon has announced he will not run at the next election.

Fitzgibbon, who holds the NSW coal seat of Hunter where there was a big swing against the ALP in 2019, quit the shadow cabinet last November, declaring himself on a mission to push Labor towards the centre on issue such as climate and coal, and put “the labour” back into the Labor party.

He said on Monday: “I feel I can now leave the parliament knowing Labor can win the next election under the leadership of Anthony Albanese”.

He said Labor would win “if it sells itself as a party of strong economic management and one with strong national security credentials. A party which encourages economic aspiration.

“A party committed to improving job security and lifting real wages. A party prepared to back our major export industries. A party committed to equality of opportunity for all, particularly our children”.

Fitzgibbon said climate change was an important issue for most Australians too but “should not be the subject of constant and shrill political debate”.

“Australia’s major political parties have a responsibility to build a community consensus on climate change policy,” he said, urging an end to the “climate wars”.

The Fitzgibbon announcement is not a surprise – Albanese had not expected him to stand again.

The Nationals have aspirations in Hunter, although polling done by the Australian Institute in June suggested Labor was in a reasonable position to hold the seat.The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Coalition gains in federal Resolve poll, but Labor increases lead in Victoria


AAP/Mick Tsikas

Adrian Beaumont, The University of MelbourneA Resolve poll for Nine newspapers, conducted August 17-21 from a sample of 1,607, gave the Coalition 40% of the primary vote (up two since August), Labor 32% (down three), the Greens 12% (steady), One Nation 2% (down two) and independents 10% (up three).

Resolve is not publishing a two party estimate, but analyst Kevin Bonham
estimated a 50-50 tie, a two-point gain for the Coalition since July. Given the continuing COVID lockdowns in NSW and Victoria, this poll is bad for Labor.

The last Newspoll in early August was 53-47 to Labor, and the last Morgan, in early to mid-August, was 54-46. Either there has been a shift back to the Coalition in the last week or so, or this poll is an outlier. There should be a Newspoll on Sunday night.

A plausible reason for a Coalition rebound is that the vaccination rollout pace has increased, particularly in NSW. In the UK, once there was some good news on vaccinations early this year, the Conservatives went from a near-tie to a high single digit lead that they have not yielded. The Coalition is also pushing for an end to the lockdowns once vaccination rates are above 70%.

Criticisms of Resolve poll

The Resolve poll can be criticised for only giving primary votes and not a two party estimate. While two party figures can be calculated from the primary votes by analysts, the media will focus on the primary votes. Australia uses preferential voting, not first past the post. Resolve should conform to our electoral system.

Another criticism is the very high vote for independents (10% in this poll). At the 2019 federal election, independents won 3.4% of the vote. With Resolve offering independent as an option in all seats, voters who are unsure who they will vote for are likely to park their votes with independents.




Read more:
Craig Kelly’s move to Palmer’s United Australia Party shows the need for urgent electoral law reform


Other results from this poll

46% thought Scott Morrison’s performance in recent weeks was good and 46% poor. After rounding, his net rating was -1, unchanged since July. Anthony Albanese’s net rating dropped three points to -19. Morrison led Albanese by 46-23 as preferred PM (45-24 in July).

The Liberals and Morrison led Labor and Albanese by 44-19 on economic management (41-25 in July). On COVID, the Liberals led by 37-22 (37-25 previously). This is the biggest Liberal lead on the economy since May.

By 62-24, voters wanted political leaders to stick to a national cabinet deal to ease COVID restrictions once vaccinations reach 70% and 80% targets of all Australians aged over 16. By 54-27, voters did not think we would be able to completely suppress the virus again. 12% (down nine since July and down 17 since May) said they were unlikely to get vaccinated.

Essential and Morgan polls

In last week’s Essential poll, 8% (down three since early August) said they’d never get vaccinated, and a further 24% (down one) said they’d get vaccinated, but not straight away. By 75-10, voters supported mandatory vaccination for workers in occupations with high COVID transmission risks, such as hospitals and education.

The federal government had a 41-35 good rating for its response to COVID, up from 38-35 good in early August, but down from 58-18 in late May, before any lockdowns.

The NSW government’s response was rated good by 42%, down five from early August and 27 since early June. Despite the current lockdown, the Victorian government’s good rating rose two points to 56%. Queensland and WA have been rewarded for keeping COVID out, with Queensland’s good rating up six to 66% and WA’s up five to 87%.

A Morgan poll, conducted August 7-8 and 14-15 from a sample of over 2,700, gave Labor a 54-46 lead, a 0.5% gain for Labor since late July. Primary votes were 37.5% Coalition (up 0.5%), 37.5% Labor (up 0.5%), 12.5% Greens (steady) and 3.5% One Nation (up 0.5%).

Victorian Labor increases lead in Resolve poll

In a Victorian state Resolve poll for The Age, Labor had 40% of the primary vote (up three since June), the Coalition 35% (down one), the Greens 10% (up one) and independents 9% (down three). Bonham estimated a 56-44 Labor lead after preferences, a two-point gain for Labor.

This poll would have been conducted with the federal July and August Resolve polls from a sample of 1,106. Incumbent Daniel Andrews led Opposition Leader Michael O’Brien by 50-24 as preferred premier (49-23 in June).

Labor’s increased lead in Victoria comes despite strict lockdowns that have still failed to contain the current Delta outbreak of COVID. It appears voters will support lockdowns until we reach the 70% fully vaccinated target.

However, the 62-24 national support for easing restrictions once vaccination targets are met indicates the federal government is on a winner with this strategy.




Read more:
View from The Hill: Achieving vaccine targets could be followed by a (pre-election) health ‘pinch point’


Biden’s ratings slump after Afghanistan withdrawal

I wrote for The Poll Bludger on Monday that US President Joe Biden’s ratings have slumped after the Afghanistan withdrawal. In the FiveThirtyEight aggregate, his ratings are now 47.6% approve, 46.9% disapprove (net just +0.7%). Biden had a +10 net rating in late July and +6 before Afghanistan.

Also covered: Canadian PM Justin Trudeau calls an election for September 20, two years early. And the Social Democrats surge in Germany, ahead of the September 26 election.The Conversation

Adrian Beaumont, Honorary Associate, School of Mathematics and Statistics, The University of Melbourne

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Grattan on Friday: As COVID’s third wave worsens, Scott Morrison pivots to the future


Michelle Grattan, University of CanberraJosh Frydenberg is Scott Morrison’s house guest at The Lodge – sharing, in Canberra’s lockdown, microwaved meals and watching “Yes, Prime Minister”.

As he recounted domestic life with Scott, the treasurer was inevitably asked whether he’d measured up the curtains.

Among the ministers, Frydenberg and Health Minister Greg Hunt have carried the frontline burdens during the pandemic. For Frydenberg – the biggest-spending federal treasurer in the nation’s history – the experience can be viewed as a test for future leadership.

Although there’ve been mistakes – JobKeeper had design flaws which led to serious waste – he has come through creditably in extraordinary circumstances.

Frydenberg, who is also deputy Liberal leader, has never hidden his ambition and is hungry for the top job. But he is also loyal. Morrison knows that, unlike prime ministerial predecessors Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull, he doesn’t have to look over his shoulder, even in the bad times. Morrison marked three years as PM this week, and there has been no white-anting.

There’s more than one path to the prime ministership for Frydenberg. If Morrison loses the election, Frydenberg would be favourite to become leader of the opposition. But that’s the start of a very rocky road; hard work and high hopes can be dashed, as Bill Shorten found.

An alternative path is to be well placed vis-a-vis your internal competitors and inherit the post when it becomes available, one way or another.

If the Coalition is re-elected next year, would Morrison serve a full term, or is it possible he might leave triumphant after a couple of years, not risking the gamble on a third election “miracle”? Frydenberg knows Morrison’s moving on in a smooth transition would be his best prospect.

The prime minister this week was in full campaign mode for the March or May election and we had a glimpse of the formidable fighter we saw in 2019.

In a week when the NSW government lost control of COVID, the state’s daily new cases rising above 1,000 and hospitals under severe strain, and with Victoria on the brink, Morrison made a dramatic pivot to focus on opening the country.




Read more:
View from The Hill: Achieving vaccine targets could be followed by a (pre-election) health ‘pinch point’


Embattled NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian was firmly in step, making it clear she’s determined to move when the 70% vaccine target is reached (meanwhile announcing some minor easings).

It seemed incongruous that as the third wave deepened and with only a third of eligible people fully vaccinated, Morrison simply left the bad news behind and headed for the ground on which he wants to stand. In his Thursday news conference, for example, he began by hailing “another day of hope”, based on the latest vaccination numbers.

Morrison, backed by research, judges most voters have had enough of lockdowns and blocked internal travel.

A poll published by Nine this week showed 54% believed Australia could not completely suppress COVID, and more than six in ten favoured opening up once the target vaccination thresholds were reached. In the second year of the pandemic, public opinion appears to have swung from preoccupation with the health response to a strong desire to return to more freedom.

While Morrison pivots when in political trouble, Anthony Albanese this week looked to be lumbering. With the PM accusing the opposition leader of undermining the national cabinet’s exit plan, Albanese knew he had to get himself out of that corner. He stressed support for the plan, but his demeanour was that of a man on the back foot.

The defiant premiers of Queensland and Western Australia are in an easier short-term position. WA’s Mark McGowan, in particular, with his stratospheric popularity, can tell Morrison to go jump, as in effect he did this week. After the PM invoked “The Croods” film to say we must emerge from the cave, McGowan played heavily to West Australians’ parochialism and angst towards the east.

“This morning the prime minister made a comment implying Western Australians were like cave people from a recent kids’ movie. It was an odd thing to say,” McGowan wrote on Facebook. “I think everyone would rather just see the Commonwealth look beyond New South Wales and actually appreciate what life is like here in WA.

“We currently have no restrictions within our State, a great quality of life, and a remarkably strong economy, which is funding the relief efforts in other parts of the country.

“West Aussies just want decisions that consider the circumstances of all States and Territories, not just Sydney.”

Regardless of the national plan to which they agreed, McGowan and Annastacia Pałaszczuk have the constitutional and political authority to handle their states’ transitions as they see fit. But they can’t get away from the fact they’ll have to make the journey, relaxing border restrictions, at some stage.




Read more:
Coalition gains in federal Resolve poll, but Labor increases lead in Victoria


As New Zealand is now finding, a zero-COVID position, however assiduously pursued, seems an impossible dream over the longer term.

Without the sharp motivators of big outbreaks, WA and Queensland have vaccination rates lower than the national average, and health systems that haven’t been stress-tested under maximum COVID pressure. WA, self-sheltered for so long, would be especially vulnerable if there were a big outbreak.

At the national level, one political unknown is what the public reaction will be in the difficult transition period ahead. Will sentiment change again when there are more hospitalisations and deaths as we reopen, albeit with some continuing safeguards?

With the length of the current extensive lockdowns unknown, it is not clear whether by election time we’ll have had, or have escaped, another recession. We know this September quarter will be negative but the December quarter could go either way.

Two consecutive quarters of negative economic growth (the economy shrinking) is taken in technical terms to be a recession. AMP economist Shane Oliver says there is a 45% chance of negative growth in the June-quarter figures, which will be released next Wednesday. If that happened a recession would be certain.

At the election the economy and fiscal policy will be central issues. If we are as “open” as the prime minister foreshadows, the government will need to have plans for when and how it would start fiscal repair.

For Morrison and Frydenberg, this will be another pivot point. Many will be watching carefully how much agility the treasurer can show.




Read more:
Politics with Michelle Grattan: Doherty’s Sharon Lewin on pivoting from chasing COVID zero


The Conversation


Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

First negative Newspoll rating for Morrison since start of pandemic; 47% of unvaccinated would take Pfizer but not AstraZeneca


AAP/Lukas Coch

Adrian Beaumont, The University of MelbourneThis week’s Newspoll, conducted August 4-7 from a sample of 1,527, gave Labor a 53-47 lead, unchanged from three weeks ago. Primary votes were 39% Coalition (steady), 39% Labor (steady), 11% Greens (up one) and 3% One Nation (steady). Figures are from The Poll Bludger.

49% were dissatisfied with Scott Morrison’s performance (up four), and 47% were satisfied (down four), for a net approval of -2, down eight points. This is Morrison’s first negative rating since the start of the COVID pandemic in April 2020. Analyst Kevin Bonham said Morrison had the fourth longest streak of positive Newspoll ratings for a PM.

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese’s net approval was steady at -8. Morrison’s better PM lead narrowed from 51-33 to 49-36.

Newspoll’s COVID questions continued to show declines for Morrison. On overall handling of COVID, he has a 49-48 poor rating (52-45 good three weeks ago and 70-27 good in April). The vaccine rollout had a 59-38 disapproval rating (57-40 three weeks ago, 53-43 approval in April).

With Sydney in an extended lockdown that is likely to last until vaccination rates are high, and current and recent lockdowns in Melbourne and south-east Queensland, people have become frustrated with the slow vaccination rollout.

But the next election is not required until May 2022. Vaccination levels will very likely be high enough by then to reopen. While the economy will be damaged by the lockdowns, past experience in Australia and overseas shows that the economy will recover quickly once the lockdowns end.




Read more:
Labor gains clear Newspoll lead during Sydney lockdown, but will the economy save the Coalition?


The Guardian’s datablog shows 17.8% of Australia’s population is fully vaccinated, while 17.5% has received just one dose (this means 35% have had either one or two doses). Among OECD countries, we currently rank 35 of 38 in our fully vaccinated share. We were last a month ago, but have overtaken South Korea, New Zealand and Costa Rica.

47% of unvaccinated in Essential would take Pfizer but not AstraZeneca

In last week’s Essential poll, 47% of those who have not yet been vaccinated said they would be willing to get the Pfizer vaccine, but not AstraZeneca.

About one in a million people who receive AstraZeneca die from a blood clot issue. Alarmism from the media and health authorities has tainted an effective COVID vaccine. Australians’ reluctance to get AstraZeneca has impaired the vaccination rollout.

ATAGI’s June recommendation that only those aged over 60 be vaccinated with AstraZeneca, and Queensland Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young’s attacks on AstraZeneca have been particularly unfortunate. It took until late July for ATAGI to change its advice on AstraZeneca, and then only for those in Sydney.

By contrast, the UK has vaccinated most of its adult population using AstraZeneca, and AstraZeneca creator, Sarah Gilbert, received a standing ovation at Wimbledon.

Other Essential questions and Morgan poll

In other Essential questions, 50% approved of Morrison’s performance (down one since July), and 40% disapproved (steady), for a net approval of +10. But Albanese’s net approval slumped ten points to -4. Morrison led Albanese by 45-26 as better PM (46-28 in July).

While Morrison’s ratings were stable, the federal government’s response to COVID was rated as good by just a 38-35 margin (46-31 good in mid-July, and 58-18 in late May, before the current lockdowns began).

The NSW government’s response to COVID was rated good by 47% (down seven), the Victorian government’s by 54% (up five), and South Australia’s by 73% (up five). This poll was taken before the new Victorian lockdown.

50% of NSW respondents thought NSW did not lock down hard enough, with 39% believing it to be about the right level and 11% too harsh. For Victoria, responses were 71% about right, 23% too harsh and 6% not hard enough.

By 66-11, voters supported the return of JobKeeper to assist people and businesses affected by lockdowns. By 67-18, voters opposed the recent anti-lockdown protests in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.

A Morgan federal poll, conducted July 24-25 and July 31-August 1 from a sample of over 2,700, gave Labor a 53.5-46.5 lead, a 1% gain for Labor since mid-July. Primary votes were 37% Coalition (down two), 37% Labor (steady), 12.5% Greens (up one) and 3% One Nation (steady).

Federal redistribution finalised

Draft federal electoral boundaries for Victoria and WA were released in March, with Victoria gaining a seat, while WA lost one. Final boundaries were gazetted by August 2, and will be used at the next election.




Read more:
Morrison’s ratings take a hit in Newspoll as Coalition notionally loses a seat in redistribution


The WA seat axed was Liberal-held Stirling, while the new Victorian seat of Hawke will be safe for Labor. No other seat changed its notional holder. Ignoring Craig Kelly’s defection, the Coalition notionally starts the next election with 76 of the 151 seats and Labor 69.

ABC election analyst Antony Green has published a post-redistribution pendulum. Labor lost the two party vote by 51.5-48.5 in 2019. For the Coalition to lose its majority, a net loss of one seat is required, a 0.4% swing to Labor under the uniform swing assumption.

For Labor to win more seats than the Coalition, they would need four more net seats for a 73-72 seat lead. That’s a 3.1% swing (51.6% two party to Labor). A Labor majority needs a net seven gains (3.3% swing or 51.8% two party).

Swings are never uniform, but the pendulum suggests that Labor will need a bit more than 50% two party to oust the Coalition. I wrote about Labor’s problems after the last election.




Read more:
Difficult for Labor to win in 2022 using new pendulum, plus Senate and House preference flows


UK COVID data two weeks after “Freedom Day”

July 19 was “Freedom Day” in England, when virtually all remaining COVID restrictions were relaxed. I had an article for The Poll Bludger on August 2, two weeks after Freedom Day. Almost 89% of UK adults have received at least one vaccine dose and over 74% are fully vaccinated. About 95% of English aged over 55 are fully vaccinated.

New UK COVID daily cases were over 54,000 on July 17, two days before Freedom Day, and were predicted to surge to over 100,000. But instead they declined to under 22,000 last Monday, though they have risen back to 27,400 Sunday. Average daily deaths are 86, way short of the horrific January peak of over 1,200.

German polling ahead of the September 26 federal election, and Biden’s ratings and US COVID data were also covered in the article.The Conversation

Adrian Beaumont, Honorary Associate, School of Mathematics and Statistics, The University of Melbourne

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

View from The Hill: Labor wouldn’t disturb tax cuts, negative gearing in ‘small target’ strategy


Michelle Grattan, University of CanberraAfter making itself a mega target in 2019, Labor has confirmed it will be a small one in 2022 by promising an Albanese government would keep the 2024 income tax cuts and not disturb negative gearing and capital gains tax.

This decision essentially completes the “de-Shortening” of Labor’s controversial policy pitch. The plan to scrap franking credit cash refunds, which saw a Coalition scare campaign at the last election, was ditched some time ago.

With the Coalition having limited scope to make big promises, and the opposition determined to confine itself to a fairly narrow agenda, the election seems likely to be centrally about the exit from COVID.

A special virtual caucus meeting was held on Monday to approve a shadow cabinet decision on the tax measures. Caucus members were only given a few minutes to read the material.

Some in Labor will be unhappy at the decision, especially as the opposition has consistently criticised the tax cuts as favouring people on higher incomes. The decision also means Labor has constrained the amount of money it will have to spend on promises.

But with polls showing Prime Minister Scott Morrison in a trough, Labor has become more optimistic about its election prospects and opposition leader Anthony Albanese is determined to ditch any baggage in pursuit of a win.




Read more:
Election surprise. Negative gearing isn’t a rort — but something else is


A focus on the PM’s COVID response

The government will counter with Labor’s past statements on the issues.

At the caucus meeting, shadow Treasurer Jim Chalmers, facing questioning about the likely attitude of Labor party members to the package of tax decisions, said parts of the political spectrum “would not applaud” it. He said it had been an “on balance” decision.

Albanese emphasised Labor’s unity, contrasting it with disunity in the Liberal party, mentioning Campbell Newman, a former Liberal National Party Queensland premier, quitting the party.

The opposition leader told his troops Labor was “cutting through” with its message that Morrison had two jobs – the vaccine rollout and putting in place an effective quarantine system.

Albanese and Chalmers said in a statement that with its decisions, Labor was providing certainty to working families.

When it comes to the economy, the next election will be about the prime minister’s dangerous and costly failures to manage the pandemic.

His failures on vaccines and quarantines have caused lockdowns 18 months into this pandemic, and those lockdowns are causing billions of dollars in damage to the economy.

The cost of the stage three tax cuts is about $17 billion in their first year, and $130 billion over ten years. They come in from mid-2024.

Under the changes, the 32.5% tax rate goes down to 30%, and the 37% rate is scrapped. From July 1, 2024, people earning between $45,000 and $200,000 will face a marginal tax rate of 30%.

Chalmers told a news conference:

an Albanese Labor government will deliver the same legislated tax relief for more than nine million Australians who earn $45,000 a year or more as the Morrison government.

As the tax cuts are already legislated, a Labor government would not necessarily have been able to get their repeal through the Senate anyway.




Read more:
Other Australians earn nothing like what you think. If you’re on $59,538, you’re typical


HIA welcomes Labor stance on negative gearing

At the last election, Labor proposed removing negative gearing for people who bought existing properties and cutting the capital gains discount from 50% to 25%.

Assistant Treasurer Michael Sukkar said Labor couldn’t be trusted on negative gearing.

In a cynical move that is unashamedly motivated by the pursuit of power, Anthony Albanese is now trying to convince voters that Labor doesn’t want to abolish negative gearing or raise taxes on capital gains.

However, if we are to take the Labor Party at their word, ending negative gearing is an issue that senior Labor figures are deeply committed to.

Sukkar backed up his argument with a bunch of quotes from Labor figures, including Albanese and Chalmers, supporting the old policy.

But the Housing Industry Association welcomed the Labor announcement on negative gearing and capital gains tax, saying it “will provide certainty for the housing industry and for Australians that are looking to invest or rent”.

Albanese also announced Labor would introduce a bill into the Senate “to improve the transparency and accountability of ministerial decisions with grant programs”.

This is to highlight the revelations about the political rorting in the government’s car park program at the last election.The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Barnaby Joyce scores dismal ratings in Resolve poll, while Berejiklian government easily in front despite NSW lockdown


Mick Tsikas/AAP

Adrian Beaumont, The University of MelbourneIn the latest Resolve poll for Nine newspapers, the Coalition had 38% of the primary vote (down two since June), Labor 35% (down one), the Greens 12% (up two) and One Nation 4% (up one).

This is based on a sample of 1,607, conducted from July 13 to July 17.

Two party estimates are not provided by Resolve, but The Poll Bludger estimates 51.5-48.5 to Labor from these primary votes, which is a one-point gain for Labor.

Negative ratings for Joyce, Morrison and Albanese

Of those surveyed, 45% said they had a negative view of Nationals leader and Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce. Just 16% had a positive view, for a net likeability of -29. Former Nationals leader Michael McCormack had a 17% negative, 11% positive rating for a net -6 in June.

This poll suggests the ousting of McCormack in favour of Joyce could hurt the Coalition, as I wrote about last month.




Read more:
Labor regains Newspoll lead as COVID crisis escalates; is Barnaby Joyce an electoral asset?


Also in the Resolve poll, 46% (up six) gave Prime Minister Scott Morrison a poor rating for his performance in recent weeks and 45% (down three) a good rating. Morrison’s net -1 rating is his first negative rating from any pollster since the COVID pandemic began, though Resolve’s ratings are harsher than other pollsters.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese’s net rating fell three points to -16. Morrison continued to lead Albanese by 45-24 as preferred prime minister (46-23 in June).

On COVID, voters thought lockdowns and border restrictions should be gradually eased over the coming months as more people are vaccinated by a margin of 54-19%. By 54-19%, they thought fully vaccinated people should be given more freedom, though they believed (45-34%) this should not occur until everyone has had an opportunity to be vaccinated.

On economic management, the Liberals and Morrison led Labor and Albanese by 41-25% in July (43-20% in June). On COVID management, the Liberals led by 37-25% (40-20% previously).

Essential voting intentions, and anti-vaxxer sentiment

The Essential poll no longer publishes voting intentions with each poll. Instead they release them every few months for all polls they conducted during that period. Essential’s voting intentions numbers include undecided voters.

Last week’s Essential report gave Labor a 47-45% lead with 8% undecided. If undecided voters are removed (as other pollsters do), Labor led by 51-49.




Read more:
Labor gains clear Newspoll lead during Sydney lockdown, but will the economy save the Coalition?


This is a slightly different result from early July when Labor led by 48-44 (52-48 without undecided). They have led by two or four points since April. The Poll Bludger said applying last election preferences instead of respondent preferences to the current poll gives Labor above a 52-48 lead,

With the Sydney and Melbourne lockdowns, anti-vaxxer sentiment has dropped. In Essential, 11% (down five from early July) said they’d never get vaccinated, and 27% (down six) said they’d get vaccinated but not straight away. In Resolve, 21% (down eight since May) said they were unlikely to get vaccinated.

The federal government had a 46-31 good rating for response to COVID in Essential, slightly better than 44-30 in early July, but a long way below the 58-18 rating in late May, before the Victorian and NSW outbreaks. 54% (down three) gave the NSW government a good rating.

Morgan poll and BludgerTrack poll aggregate

A Morgan poll, conducted over July 10-11 and 17-18 from a sample of over 2,700, gave Labor a 52.5-47.5 lead, a 2% gain for Labor since mid-June. Primary votes were 39% Coalition (down 2.5%), 37% Labor (up 2.5%), 11.5% Greens (down 0.5%) and 3% One Nation (down 0.5%).

With polls from Newspoll, Resolve, Essential and Morgan, the Poll Bludger’s BludgerTrack aggregate of recent polls has Labor ahead by 52.0-48.0, from primary votes of Coalition 39.8%, Labor 37.3%, Greens 10.7% and One Nation 2.9%. Labor has been gaining during this year.

NSW Coalition retains large lead in Resolve state poll

In a Resolve NSW poll for The Sydney Morning Herald, Berejiklian’s Coalition had 43% of the primary vote (down just one point since May), Labor 28% (steady), the Greens 12% (steady) and the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers 1% (down three).

This poll was conducted at the same time as the federal June and July Resolve polls from a sample of 1,100. While the July poll was conducted during Sydney’s lockdown, the June poll
occurred after Jodi McKay was ousted in favour of Chris Minns as Labor leader, owing to a disappointing result in the May 22 Upper Hunter byelection.




Read more:
Coalition has large lead in NSW as Nats easily hold Upper Hunter at byelection


The Sydney Morning Herald’s poll article says the Coalition’s position was worse in July than in June. With NSW’s optional preferential voting, the Coalition would lead by around 55-45 from these primary votes. Incumbent Gladys Berejiklian led Minns as preferred premier by 55-16 (compared to 57-17 vs McKay in May).

In questions on the outbreak (only asked of the July sample), 56% thought Sydney was too slow to go into lockdown and 52% said the government should have been more proactive in urging people to get vaccinated. Almost half (46% agreed) the state has handled the outbreak well.

In Essential, 44% of NSW respondents (down seven since early July) thought NSW had moved at about the right speed to enforce lockdown restrictions. But 44% (up five) thought NSW was too slow, and 12% (up two) too quick.

Other states were unsympathetic to NSW, bringing the national figure to 56% for too slow, 34% for about right and 10% for too quick.

Labor easily holds Stretton at byelection

A state byelection for the Queensland Labor-held seat of Stretton occurred on Saturday. It was caused by the death of the previous member, Duncan Pegg.

With 73% of enrolled voters counted, the ABC’s results currently give Labor a 63.8-36.2 win over the LNP, a mere 1.0% swing to the LNP from the 2020 election. Primary votes are 56.6% Labor (no change), 32.7% LNP (up 2.5%) and 6.5% Greens (down 2.2%). The anti-vaxxer Informed Medical Options Party won just 2.5%.

Parties defending seats at byelections normally suffer from the loss of the previous MP’s personal vote. State Labor has held government since 2015, so this is a good result for them. 62% of Queensland respondents in Essential gave their government a good rating on dealing with COVID.The Conversation

Adrian Beaumont, Honorary Associate, School of Mathematics and Statistics, The University of Melbourne

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

View from The Hill: Morrison and Coalition sink in Newspoll on the back of rollout shambles


Michelle Grattan, University of CanberraSupport for Scott Morrison and the government have slumped in Newspoll, in a major backlash against the botched vaccine rollout.

Labor has surged to a two-party lead of 53-47%, compared with 51-49% in the previous poll in late June.

The Australian reports the latest result is the worse for the Coalition this term, and if replicated at an election would deliver the government a clear loss.

Satisfaction with Morrison’s handling of the pandemic – which now sees lockdowns in the nation’s two largest states – plunged nine points in the last three weeks to 52%.

As the brought-forward Pfizer supplies start to arrive, confidence in the government’s management of the rollout is negative for the first time, with only 40% believing it being handled satisfactorily.

Morrison’s net approval in Newspoll – plus 6 – is at its lowest since the bushfire crisis, with an eight point overall shift. Anthony Albanese’s position worsened a little – he is on net minus 8. Despite a small drop, Morrison retains a solid lead over Albanese as better PM – 51-33%

Both Labor and the Coalition are polling 39% on primary votes – a two point fall for the Coalition and an equal rise for Labor.

The poll saw an 18 point drop in satisfaction with Morrison’s handling of COVID since April.

Satisfaction with the government’s handling of the rollout was 53% in April and 50% in late June – in this poll 40% are satisfied with the handling and 57% are not.

Sky News at the weekend reported Morrison had urged NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian to strengthen the Sydney lockdown. She did so soon after.

The prime ministerial intervention was likely superfluous because it was already clear harsher measures were needed. But it was notable on a couple of grounds.

In the past Morrison strongly leaned to lockdown scepticism, praising Berejiklian as a woman after his own heart and pointing to the NSW gold standard of limiting restrictions.

The much more infectious Delta variant has forced a change in the positions of both leaders.

Also, the Morrison intervention looked like the prime minister playing himself into the sharp end of the current COVID action, which is concentrated at the state level.

As both the NSW and Victorian governments struggle with serious outbreaks and the detail of their lockdowns, Morrison must be frustrated with his lack of direct power – apart from repeatedly restocking the ATM.

That’s of course leaving aside the vaccine rollout, a federal responsibility, the mishandling of which Newspoll shows is dramatically burning the PM’s voter support.

Late last week, Morrison finally spoke with Pfizer chairman and CEO Albert Bouria. This call, federal sources say, had been scheduled some while ago. It is not clear whether that was before or after the PM heard of Kevin Rudd’s contact with Bouria.

The federal government insists the Pfizer bring-forward was entirely due to its efforts and nothing to do with Rudd. Even so, it was a bad look to be talking direct to Bouria so late in the piece, and after Rudd. It had all the appearance of catch up.

As things stand, Berejiklian, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews and Morrison are simultaneously under a great deal of heat.

In dealing with COVID, as Berejiklian will attest, you can go from hero to villain very rapidly; hailed in May as “the woman who saved Australia”, she’s pilloried in July for stuffing things up.

Morrison is suffering the same shift in public judgement. And things are not likely to change in the near future – despite the brought-forward Pfizer supplies, there will be shortages for some time yet.

Of the two premiers fighting outbreaks, Berejiklian is under the greater pressure. She and Andrews took different approaches: Andrews locking down immediately and Berejiklian starting with a soft lockdown that had to be toughened (then going further on shutting construction than Andrews ever has).

Even if the five-day Victorian lockdown has to be extended, the situation there appears more manageable than in NSW. On Sunday, Victoria reported 16 locally acquired new cases, while in NSW there were 105.

Berejiklian is under siege simultaneously for not acting fast and strongly enough, and for abandoning her basic less restrictive approach.

The concentration of the NSW infection in south west Sydney has also complicated the situation, because (as Victoria knows) a heavily multicultural area needs particularly good communications and sensitive handling.

This new COVID crisis has seen another round of inter-governmental bickering.

Victoria seethes with retrospective resentment about how Coalition figures (federal and NSW) blamed it last year over its second wave that resulted in hundreds of deaths, mostly aged care residents.

Melbourne then and Sydney currently both had their crises triggered by lapses in quarantine arrangements. NSW is in a much better position to cope than Victoria was – but now the virus is more virulent, and there’s little confidence the Sydney lockdown won’t extend into August.

Last week the Andrews government labelled Morrison the “prime minister of NSW”, declaring that state had been treated more generously than Victoria was in its earlier lockdown this year. Treasurer Josh Frydenberg accused Andrews of “whingeing”. Andrews had a dig at NSW.

Andrews is always a tough operator – probably why he and Morrison have a grudging mutual respect. Last week Andrews made it clear he expected Victorian workers to get the latest full federal financial help, even though, if the lockdown were only five days, they’d fall short of fully meeting the federal conditions. Morrison complied.

The latest lockdowns come as polling just released by the Australia Institute, a progressive think tank, shows people’s faith in state governments’ handling of COVID at an all-time high.

The Australia Institute has been regularly polling the question “which level of government do you think is doing a better job of handling the COVID-19 crisis?”. Respondents were asked to choose between their state or territory, the federal government, both equally, or say they didn’t know.


The Australia Institute

In August last year, 31% chose their state/territory, 25% the federal government, and 32% rated the performances of both levels of government equally.

By April, 39% nominated their state or territory; 18% the federal government; 28% both.

Early this month (just as the NSW lockdown was starting) 42% rated their state or territory as the government doing better, 16% the federal government, and 24% both equally.

In NSW in July, 39% said the state government was doing the better job, 13% nominated the federal government; and 28% put both equally. The Victorian figures were 34%, 25% and 21%.

The Australia Institute interprets the response to COVID representing “a potential realignment of state-federal relations”.

Certainly the second year of the pandemic, like the first, is seeing the states showing little deference to the federal government when they perceive their core interests are at stake. They determine the lockdowns and, now JobKeeper has gone, NSW and Victoria have shown they are willing to play hardball to extract the best financial support for their citizens. And the Morrison government knows it will pay a political price if it is seen as a skinflint.The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Grattan on Friday: COVID boxes Morrison in while Albanese hits the road


Michelle Grattan, University of CanberraAs the Delta strain escalated our COVID experience to a new stage of national disruption, Scott Morrison has been under a form of political house arrest, driven by circumstances and choice.

The prime minister arrived back from his G7 excursion – which seems an age ago – on June 17. He spent a fortnight in quarantine at The Lodge (including joining the House of Representatives remotely) before going home to Sydney – already in lockdown – on July 2.

Since then, after several days absent from view, it’s been COVID-dominated Kirribilli news conferences, media interviews, and no doubt an encouraging word to Jen about the coming test of home schooling. Next week Morrison moves to Canberra – to quarantine for the parliamentary sitting that starts August 3.

Anthony Albanese took a different course. He hasn’t returned to Sydney since parliament rose. He hung around Canberra initially, then headed north for a swing through Queensland. He might be missing his son and his dog but he has covered a lot of kilometres.

On Monday of last week he was in Toowoomba, in the electorate of Groom.

The following days saw him at Redcliffe (Petrie), Cairns (Leichhardt), Mackay (Dawson), and Gladstone (Flynn). He visited the seat of Griffith in Brisbane before going to Moranbah (Capricornia), where he went to a coal mine.

Returning to Brisbane, he took in Lilley on the way to the airport and a flight to Canberra this week – to avoid Sydney and so retain flexibility (although the country is now so closed, he’s running out of places to go).

Being confined during this winter parliamentary recess obviously doesn’t make any decisive difference for Morrison’s electoral fortunes. Nevertheless, it is an interference to his campaigning.

The government makes the counterpoints that the opposition leader has nothing else to do but campaign, and anyway it’s a bad look to be away from your home city in its hour of need.

Normally, Morrison would have used some of the winter break to be on the road, seen in several parts of the country, getting to out-of-the-way seats.

Instead, that work will have to be crunched into later. It all takes time, and Morrison will be even more time-poor if he makes any of several possible trips overseas between now and Christmas – to the US, the East Asia summit, the G20, Glasgow. Also eating into time are the parliamentary weeks between now and year’s end.

Maximum seat-by-seat campaigning is especially important when the chaotic vaccine program and the Sydney lockdown – and now a short one in Victoria – are throwing curveballs into the political outlook.

Until relatively recently it appeared most likely Morrison, like state and territory leaders, would have the strong advantage of “COVID incumbency” when facing the voters, probably in March or May.

Even with a slow rollout, there seemed enough time to get the job done and for things to settle. Although the Coalition has been trailing or level in the polls, the government could feel reasonably confident.

But at the moment lockdown upheavals, rollout confusion, and community anger make any assumptions courageous.

An analysis published this week of Newspolls taken between April 21 and June 26 found two-party swings against the Coalition in every state except Victoria, with the biggest swings in Queensland and Western Australia.

The analysis concluded that if this were replicated at an election, the ALP could win majority government with 78 seats (in a 151 seat House).

This should be treated cautiously, even apart from any scepticism about polls. The election isn’t imminent. And translating general swings to particular seats is hazardous. For instance, on these figures Peter Dutton would lose his Queensland seat of Dickson. Yet all we know from the past suggests Dutton is well dug in there.

On the other hand, the Coalition’s seat numbers are at a high point in Queensland and Western Australia, making it difficult for it to look for any significant gains.

It’s no wonder Morrison, dubbed by his critics the “prime minister for NSW”, is pinning hope on gaining seats in his home state. Throughout the pandemic he has heaped praise on the Berejiklian government. In the Sydney lockdown, now extended for at least an extra fortnight, the federal government’s package for the state drew accusations from Victoria of “double standards”.

Anyway, NSW can no longer be celebrated for its model handling of COVID, and the state government is under criticism for the timing (too late) and nature (too soft) of the lockdown.

People might not be enthusiastic about Albanese’s Labor, but if the opposition picked off a few seats (in net terms), it would not take much to change the map. Think a hung parliament.

The chances of that might be statistically unlikely. But it wouldn’t be a total surprise – given the government is on a razor’s edge (current House numbers are Coalition 76 and Labor plus crossbench 75), and an unfavourable redistribution has scrapped a Liberal seat in Western Australia and created a Labor one in Victoria.

The election is unlikely to see any significant influx of independents (that’s not to preclude one turning up) but on present indications we could expect most of the current House crossbenchers to be returned (excepting Liberal defector Craig Kelly).

Politically, these crossbenchers are a mixed bunch and it would be fascinating to see how Morrison and Albanese matched off as negotiators, if they were in a 2010 situation.

A small event this week triggered a comparison between how Morrison’s political persona came across in the run up to the “miracle” election and his image now.

It was announced the charges against a woman alleged to have put needles into strawberries in 2018 had been dropped. Morrison turned the Great Strawberry Crisis into a dramatic national event, rushing legislation through at breakneck speed. This was more stunt than substance but it was all about portraying him as a man of action.

The action-man image was punctured before the vaccine debacle but the failures in this stage of a real crisis (after the earlier successes) are dealing him a serious blow.

In 2019 many voters actively disliked Bill Shorten; they found Morrison a more neutral figure, the man next door, not a world-beater but okay. Since then opinions have sharpened. Women look at Morrison differently from back then. The coating of teflon has many scratches. Albanese is now the inoffensive man next door.

With the rollout a battle, this week reinforced that Morrison is hostage to events beyond his control, struggling to respond to them, a leader forced to repeatedly change tack and lines, find excuses, slap on sticking plaster, spend more money. The package for NSW, announced on Tuesday, was followed on Thursday by a proposed “more simple and streamlined” set of arrangements.

The health challenge in trying to get in front of COVID’s Delta strain is formidable. Morrison finds the politics as hard.The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.