The Turnbull government trails Labor 45-55% on the two-party vote in the Fairfax Ipsos poll, as the Senate prepares to drastically restrict the proposed company tax cuts and reject changes to Section 18C in parliament’s last week before the pre-budget break.
The Ipsos poll has found 44% support the government’s ten-year plan to reduce the company tax rate to 25%, while 39% oppose.
But the Senate is set to back the cuts only for smaller businesses. Malcolm Turnbull on Friday flagged the government would continue to push the full plan, even after a Senate defeat.
The Nick Xenophon Team has indicated it will shoot down the government’s proposed changes to the wording of 18C, which is being rushed to a vote.
Meanwhile, the government is stepping up its moves on energy policy by directing the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to review retail energy prices.
Announcing the review, Turnbull and Treasurer Scott Morrison said it would examine electricity retailer behaviour, as well as contracts offered to residential and business customers, to ensure consumers benefit from competition in the National Electricity Market.
The government is behind in the polls generally, with some differences in the degree. In Newspoll last week, the Coalition trailed Labor 48-52%, while Essential had the two-party vote at 45-55%.
Taken between Wednesday and Saturday, the Ipsos poll found Labor’s primary vote on 34% and the Coalition’s at 33%. The Greens were on 16%, and the “other” vote was 17%. The two-party vote is on the basis of preferences at the 2016 election.
Turnbull’s approval is 40%; his disapproval is 48%. Bill Shorten’s approval is 35%, while 53% disapprove of his performance. Turnbull leads 45-33% as preferred prime minister. Fairfax has not polled since November, when Labor had a 51-49% two-party lead.
The latest move on energy policy follows Turnbull recently seeking guarantees of domestic supply from the gas producers and announcing the government will expand the Snowy Hydro. There is an inquiry into the future security of the national energy market underway chaired by the chief scientist, Alan Finkel.
In their statement Turnbull and Morrison said that competition in retail energy markets should mean lower prices for householders and businesses. But “retail electricity markets don’t appear to be operating as effectively as they could”. The government was “determined to ensure Australians get a better deal for their energy”.
They said that recent work, including by the Australian Energy Market Commission, Energy Consumers Australia and the Grattan Institute, had highlighted significant concern about the causes of recent electricity price increases on the east coast. Submissions to the Finkel review had also raised concerns.
The ACCC inquiry would identify cost components of electricity retail pricing and how they affect the retail offers made to customers. It would look at whether electricity retailers’ margins and profitability are in line with their costs and risks, as well as considering impediments to consumer choice, such as the clarity of contracts.
It would also examine the competitiveness of offers available to larger business customers, taking into account the conduct of the wholesale electricity market.
The inquiry will have until June 30 next year to report, with the ACCC producing a paper on its “preliminary insights” within six months.
This week’s Newspoll, conducted 16-19 March from a sample of 1820, has Labor leading 52-48, but this is a 3 point gain for the Coalition since the previous Newspoll, three weeks ago. Primary votes are 37% for the Coalition (up 3), 35% for Labor (down 2), 10% for One Nation (steady) and 9% for the Greens (down 1).
Despite the relatively strong result for the Coalition, Turnbull’s ratings only improved slightly: 30% (up 1) were satisfied, and 57% (down 2) were dissatisfied, for a net approval of -27. Shorten’s net approval was -28, down two points.
On Thursday, the first day of Newspoll’s fieldwork, Turnbull announced an extension of the Snowy River hydro-electric plan, and it appears that this announcement has given the Coalition at least a temporary boost. The public likes infrastructure policies that appear to offer solutions to Australia’s energy crisis.
Labor may also have been damaged by the furore over new ACTU secretary Sally McManus’ comments that workers could break “unjust” laws.
An additional Newspoll question found 47% in favour of a proposed change to Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, while 39% were opposed. Kevin Bonham thinks the long preamble to this question is skewed towards supporting the proposed change.
Essential at 55-45 to Labor
This week’s Essential, conducted over the last two weeks from a sample of 1800, had Labor gaining two points to lead 55-45. Primary votes were Labor 37%, Coalition 34%, One Nation 10%, Greens 9% and Nick Xenophon Team 3%.
Newspoll and Essential disagree markedly this week, but Newspoll has performed well when measured against election results, so I trust it more than Essential.
Additional Essential questions are based on one week’s sample. On attributes of the political parties, Labor was up since June 2016 on positive attributes and down on negative ones, with the exception of being too close to the big corporate and financial interests (up 5). For the Liberals, the perception that they are divided was up 16 points, and “has a good team of leaders” down 9 points. Labor led on all positive attributes and trailed on all negative ones, with some differences of well over 10 points.
77% thought their gas and electricity costs had increased over the last few years, with only 2% thinking prices had decreased. 75% would approve of a reservation policy where a percentage of gas is reserved for domestic use, and only 6% would disapprove. 68% approved of the SA government’s energy plan, and only 11% disapproved. 31% thought coal seam gas mining on farming land should be restricted, 25% thought it should be banned altogether, and only 14% thought there was already sufficient regulation of coal seam gas mining.
In last week’s Essential, Turnbull’s net approval was -17, down two points since February. Shorten’s net approval was -19, also down two points.
Proposed tax increases that were aimed at the wealthy and multinational corporations polled strongly, but removing GST exemptions or increasing the GST rate did not have much support. 46% disapproved of the $50 billion in tax cuts for medium and large businesses, while 24% approved. 43% thought the company tax cuts would deliver business bigger profits, and that this money should be used for schools, hospitals, etc. 25% thought the company tax cuts would bring our tax into line with other countries, and deliver more jobs through greater business investment.
Trust in various media has taken an across the board hit since February 2016, but the ABC and SBS are the most trusted media.
Essential’s polling on penalty rates from two weeks ago found 56% disapproving of the Fair Work Commission’s decision to reduce Sunday penalty rates, with 32% approving. 34% strongly disapproved with just 9% strongly approving. 57% thought the penalty rate reduction would result in business making bigger profits, while 24% thought business would employ more workers. 51% thought the government should legislate to protect penalty rates, while 31% thought the government should accept the decision.
WA election late counting: Labor wins 41 of 59 lower house seats
At the WA election held 11 March, Labor won a massive landslide in the lower house, winning 41 of the 59 seats (up 20 since the 2013 election), to 13 for the Liberals (down 18) and 5 for the Nationals (down 2). According to Antony Green, Labor’s percentage of lower house seats (69.5%) is the highest it has ever won at WA lower house elections.
In the upper house, Labor and the Greens are likely to win a combined 18 of the 36 seats. Below the line votes have not yet been added to the count. The Greens and micro parties tend to perform well on below the line votes at the expense of the major parties. The Greens will be hoping that a below the line surge allows them to defeat the Liberals for the final seat in South Metro region. Below the line votes in that region may also give the Daylight Saving party a seat at the expense of the Liberal Democrats.
If Labor and the Greens combined win 18 of the 36 upper house seats, Labor could attempt to persuade a non-Labor/Greens member to be the upper house President. The President of the WA upper house can only vote when the votes are tied, so such a manoeuvre would give Labor and the Greens 18 of the 35 floor votes.
Dutch election: far right flops again
The Dutch election was held last Wednesday. The 150 members of the Dutch Parliament are elected by proportional representation. Geert Wilders’ far right Party of Freedom had a large lead in the polls in December, but that lead fell as the election approached, and they ended the campaign predicted to win a few seats less than the conservative/liberal VVD.
In the event, the VVD won 33 seats, to 20 for the Party of Freedom. It is likely that the VVD will head the new Dutch government, after negotiations with other parties are completed.
The WA and Dutch elections have both featured far right parties slumping as election day approached. Many supporters of such parties are against established parties, but not in favour of the far right’s policies. As these policies receive more exposure closer to the election, these supporters can desert.
The main reason Donald Trump won the US Presidency is that he won the Republican party’s nomination. Had Trump run a third party campaign, he would not have come close to winning. The US Republican party is already very right wing, and most Republicans utterly detest the Democrats and Hillary Clinton. Many Republicans probably had reservations about voting for Trump, but hated the alternative more.
French Presidential election: 23 April and 7 May
The French Presidential election will be held in two rounds, with the top two vote winners from the first round on 23 April proceeding to a runoff on 7 May, barring a very unlikely majority vote victory for one candidate in the first round.
Current polls have the far right Marine Le Pen leading the first round with 26%, followed by centrist Emmanuel Macron on 25%, conservative Francois Fillon on 18%, Socialist Benoit Hamon on 13% and the hard left Jean-Luc Melenchon on 12%. Other candidates have negligible vote shares.
While Le Pen is narrowly ahead in the first round, second round polling has Macron trouncing her by over 60-40, while Fillon defeats Le Pen by about 56-44.
With the Socialists discredited by Francois Hollande’s ineffectual Presidency (he did not run for re-election), a conservative was the clear favourite to win this election. However, Fillon has been dogged by allegations that he paid his wife and children government money for fake jobs, causing his poll ratings to slide. Last Tuesday, Fillon was placed under formal investigation over these allegations, the closest French equivalent to being charged.
Despite the allegations, Fillon has refused to quit. He won his party’s US style primary in November 2016, and his party has had no legal means to replace him. Nominations closed on Friday, so it is now too late to replace a candidate.
With 67% of enrolled voters counted in yesterday’s Western Australian election, the ABC’s election computer was giving Labor 36 of the 59 lower house seats, to 11 Liberals and 5 Nationals. Of the seven doubtful seats, I expect the Liberals to overtake narrow current Labor leads in two seats on late counting. If that happens, Labor will win 38 seats to 21 for the Liberals and Nationals, a reversal of the 2013 result (38 Liberal/Nationals, 21 Labor).
Primary vote shares were 42.8% for Labor (up 9.7 points since the 2013 election), 31.4% for the Liberals (down a massive 15.7 points), 5.4% for the Nationals (down 0.7), 8.5% for the Greens (up 0.1), a disappointing 4.7% for One Nation and 7.2% for all Others (up 1.9). As post-election day votes are processed, I expect Labor’s share to drop slightly, and the Liberals and Greens to slightly improve.
No statewide two party result has been provided by the Electoral Commission, and this will not be known until after all other results are finalised.
At the time of One Nation’s last peak from 1998-2001, they won 9.6% at the 2001 WA election. After polling in the 12-13% range early in the campaign, One Nation’s vote slumped to 7-9% in the final polls. Polls may have overestimated One Nation as they were only standing in 35 of 59 lower house seats.
There were two reasons for One Nation’s loss of support late in the campaign. First, the preference deal with the Liberals damaged their brand: it is hard to be an anti-establishment party if you deal with an established major party. Second, One Nation’s policies received more exposure in the closing days, causing some One Nation supporters who disagreed with the party’s far right agenda to desert.
The preference deal with One Nation also had dire consequences for the Liberals. While the Liberals were behind prior to the deal, it did not appear that Labor would win a landslide before the deal was announced. The fallout from this deal will mean that the Coalition parties and One Nation, in other states and federally, will be more reluctant to trade preferences.
Barnett was deeply unpopular, WA’s economy was weak, and the unpopular Federal government was a drag. These factors made a Labor win probable, but the deal with One Nation probably exacerbated the Liberals’ losses.
This will be Labor’s first true landslide in any state or federally since 2006, when Labor had landslide wins in Victoria, Queensland and Tasmania. By “landslide”, I mean not just defeating the opposition, but thrashing them in both seat and vote terms. That Labor won a big victory in the most conservative state at Federal level will make it even sweeter for them.
Polling appears to have underestimated the Greens and Labor’s primary votes a little, and overestimated One Nation. Galaxy and Newspoll had the Liberals and Nationals about right, but ReachTEL overestimated their vote.
Fluoride Free could win a seat in WA upper house
While 67% of enrolled voters for the lower house have been tallied, only 47% has been counted in the upper house. The WA upper house is severely malapportioned, and still uses the group voting ticket system that was abolished in the Senate.
Using the group voting tickets, the ABC is currently predicting Labor to win 15 of 36 upper house seats (up 4 since 2013), the Liberals 9 (down 8), the Nationals 4 (down 1), the Greens 3 (up 1), Shooters 2 (up 1) and One Nation, Liberal Democrats and Fluoride Free are currently predicted to win one seat each.
The ABC currently gives one seat to Daylight Saving, but Kevin Bonham spotted an error. The Daylight Saving candidate in Mining and Pastoral region is actually the Shooters candidate.
With the upper house count well behind the lower house count, these results may change. However, currently Fluoride Free is winning a seat in East Metro region on just 0.35%. A quota is 1/7 of the vote, or 14.3%.
The past four years have not been kind to Western Australia. Coming off a once-in-a-lifetime boom, the bust, which for some reason the state always forgets to anticipate, is cutting deep, and it’s proving a problem for the Barnett-led Coalition government.
It’s worse in some remote parts of the state, where property prices have dropped by up to 75% over the last three years.
For those who have maintained their jobs, many are still in a worse financial position as bonuses and other financial incentives from the boom dry up. Others managing to find employment now have reduced salaries.
The public education system has increased its share of the students in each of the last five years. Part of this rise has been attributed to the downturn in the economy, as people divert money from school fees to the mortgage and other essentials. This in turn adds costs to the state budget.
Who’s responsible for this situation?
During his two terms, Premier Colin Barnett has projected the image of a leader in control. Treasurers have come and gone, and most ministers have minimal presence in the media. Barnett is the face of the government, and he bares the brunt of a scared and angry population, wondering what happened to his 2009 promise of a 20-year boom with growth of 5-7% a year.
During the recent leaders’ debate on February 22, Barnett pointed to his government’s investment in schools and health, with construction of the Fiona Stanley and new Perth Children’s hospitals. The latter has yet to open and is now more than a year behind schedule.
Labor leader Mark McGowan is running an old-fashioned scare campaign claiming prices will rise if the monopoly is sold. Energy prices have long been contentious in Western Australia, with the Barnett government overseeing a 67% price increase for households since 2009, admittedly off an artificially low base. McGowan is arguing the state should not sell off a revenue-generating monopoly to deal with the debt.
The second issue is public transport. The Barnett government has broken promises to deliver improved services to the outer suburbs of Perth, in places such as Ellenbrook.
The government’s key 2013 election transport promise of Max light-rail was abandoned as the state’s economic situation deteriorated.
Labor has resurrected its highly popular Metronet rail plan from the last election. Federal leader Bill Shorten is promising to help fund the plan should Labor return to government at the national level.
The costs of Metronet appear rubbery at the moment, but WA Labor is also planning to divert federal funding from the controversial Roe 8 highway.
While Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has stated the Commonwealth will not allow the diversion of funds, McGowan is pointing to the success of the Victorian Labor government in cancelling the East-West Link and using the funding for other projects.
WA is also seeing an increase in crime, some of which is linked to the so-called ice epidemic. Both parties are promising to be tough on crime. The Liberals are promising mandatory sentencing and Labor is advocating a maximum sentence of life for meth dealers.
During his blink-and-you-miss-it trip west, Turnbull disappointed Liberals with his lack of a plan to provide WA with its fair share of GST. Barnett has been campaigning on this issue for years, and the claimed A$4.7 billion annual shortfall in funds would help with the budget deficit.
Just how big is the swing to Labor?
There are 59 seats in the Legislative Assembly. The Liberals go into the election holding 30 seats and the Nationals seven, for a total of 37. Labor holds 21 seats. There’s one independent, former Liberal minister Rob Johnson.
Polling has been somewhat inconsistent. A ReachTEL poll for The West Australian on February 19 showed a two-party-preferred (TPP) result of 50-50. The two previous polls had Labor at 52-48 on TPP.
On February 23, The West published a private poll of marginal seats funded by advocacy group, The Parenthood, again conducted by ReachTEL. The West noted a surge to Labor, with all six seats polled (Southern River, Perth, Mt Lawley, Wanneroo, Joondalup and Bicton) predicted to fall with an average TPP swing of 15%.
Fairfax commissioned a ReachTEL poll published on March 3, in which Labor had a 52-48 lead on the TPP vote. The swing of 9% suggests Labor could fall one seat short in its bid to gain government.
How important are One Nation Preferences?
From a purely pragmatic viewpoint, Barnett’s preference deal with One Nation is a legitimate gamble. His unpopular government is facing electoral defeat and with One Nation’s fortunes on the rise again in WA, shoring up the two party preferred vote is essential.
There are risks in the deal. The first question put to the premier by the panel at the leaders’ debate focused on how a man with integrity could engage in a “dirty preference deal”. While One Nation may have become more politically savvy, the party’s distasteful views remain and trying to suggest the party reflects mainstream opinion is disingenuous.
Barnett risks losing preferences from Nationals who are outraged at being placed behind One Nation in the Legislative Council, Greens who won’t direct their preferences on principle, and moderate Liberals protesting the deal.
The flow of preferences from One Nation supporters isn’t guaranteed either. Despite Pauline Hanson’s “it’s my party, I am the leader and I make the deals” position, a number of WA One Nation candidates are unhappy. Two were disendorsed — although it is unclear how large a role their position on the preference deal played.
A week out, the bookmakers have Labor at A$1.30 and the Coalition at A$3.40. The betting would suggest that WA is about to have a change of government.
The West Australian election will be held in eight days, on 11 March. A Fairfax ReachTEL poll, conducted Monday night from a sample of 1660, has Labor leading 52-48, a 2 point gain for Labor since a ReachTEL poll for The West Australian, two weeks ago.
ReachTEL asked a main voting intentions question with an undecided option, then further queried the 5.1% undecided as to which way they were leaning. Combining responses for these questions gives primary votes of Liberals 34.6% (down 0.8), Nationals 6.8% (down 1.6), Labor 35.2% (up 0.2), Greens 10.7% (up 4.7) and One Nation 8.5% (down 3.2).
The surge for the Greens is likely a correction from previous low Green votes in ReachTEL’s polls. At the 2016 Federal election, the Greens won 12.1% in WA, above their national vote share of 10.2%. In WA, the Greens tend to do relatively well and Labor relatively badly compared to the national vote at Federal elections.
The drop for One Nation may be due to discontent at One Nation doing a preference deal with one of the big parties that its voters despise. Research reported by Possum (Scott Steel) also indicates that many people voting for One Nation are doing so as a protest against the major parties, but they do not agree with One Nation’s policies, and dislike Donald Trump.
If this is the case, some people who currently say they will vote One Nation may desert as the election approaches and they become more aware of One Nation’s policies. This is also happening in the Netherlands; December polls had Geert Wilders’ Party for Freedom easily winning more seats than any other party, but a dramatic slump in their support now has them second. The Dutch election will be held on 15 March.
At the 2013 WA election, the Liberals thrashed Labor 57.3-42.7 after preferences, and the Liberal/National alliance won 38 of 59 lower house seats, to 21 for Labor. Labor notionally lost a seat following a redistribution, so they need to gain 10 seats to win majority government.
On paper, Labor requires a uniform swing of 10.0 points to gain their 10th seat (Bicton). Labor would thus need 52.7% of the vote after preferences to win the election. However, marginal seat polling suggests that Labor is winning the required swing where it counts, though seat polls have not been accurate in the past.
Galaxy poll update Sunday morning: 54-46 to Labor
A Galaxy poll, conducted Wednesday to Friday from a sample of 1115, has Labor leading by 54-46, from primary votes of Labor 40%, Liberals 31%, Nationals 5%, One Nation 9% and Greens 8%.
A Newspoll in late January and this Galaxy poll have both bad Labor well ahead of the combined Liberal/National vote on primaries, while ReachTEL’s polling has been more favourable for the Liberals. It will be interesting to see which pollster is correct next Saturday.
A disastrous Newspoll showing the Coalition trailing Labor 45-55%, One Nation gaining ground and Malcolm Turnbull’s ratings falling will fuel the alarm and anger in the Coalition as it returns to parliament in the wake of Tony Abbott’s outburst.
Abbott will cop much blame for the result. But the worsening in Turnbull’s personal numbers also suggests his recent more aggressive performance hasn’t impressed the public as much as it did his colleagues.
The poll, in Monday’s Australian, showed a further deterioration from the 46-54% two-party vote of three weeks ago, which had been the worst result of Turnbull’s prime ministership. One Nation has increased its support from 8% to 10% over the three weeks.
The poll was taken Thursday to Sunday, so Abbott’s provocative Thursday evening speech and TV interview – warning of the risk of a “drift to defeat” and setting out his alternative agenda including a call for lower immigration – would have fed straight into it.
Turnbull’s net satisfaction has plummeted by nine points, from minus 21 to minus 30; Shorten’s net satisfaction has dipped by four points, from minus 22 to minus 26. Turnbull has also lost ground in his lead over Shorten as better prime minister – 40% (down two points) to 33% (up three points).
The Coalition’s primary vote has fallen one point to 34%, with Labor increasing one point to 37%. The Greens are on 10% and “others” are on 9%.
Parliament resumes not only with the government’s division on display but with Labor having ammunition after last week’s decision by the Fair Work Commission cutting Sunday penalty rates for the hospitality, retail, fast-food and pharmacy sectors.
Abbott’s intervention has been condemned by colleagues, but his former chief-of-staff Peta Credlin defended him at the weekend.
She said that as a former prime minister he had every right to make a speech “outlining what he thinks the Coalition needs to do to win back its supporters and govern in Australia’s national interest”, although she was critical of his also doing a media interview.
“Of course, it would have been easier for everyone if he’d given his counsel in private, but the PM has made it clear he doesn’t want Abbott’s advice so it is hard to criticise him for speaking publicly,” she wrote in the Sunday Telegraph.
She said Abbott had come back from a large number of marginal seat visits “so he has no illusions about the anger among Coalition supporters and party members”.
Credlin wrote that despite what Turnbull said, Coalition supporters didn’t believe he “has a conservative bone in his body”.
“Regardless of his promises, Turnbull’s problem has always been a lack of authenticity,” she wrote.
“It comes down to this: Malcolm Turnbull is desperate to hold on to power and Tony Abbott is desperate to hold the Liberal Party together. It’s not necessarily the same thing.”
On Sky Credlin said “there is absolutely no relationship” between Abbott and Turnbull: “it was manufactured to get everybody through the campaign so no one could accuse Abbott of being a wrecker”.
Credlin also said she did not believe Abbott wanted the prime ministerial job again: “I think he would have a hard time reconciling around that cabinet table with people like Christopher Pyne and Julie Bishop and others who would very likely stay in the senior ranks.”
Finance Minister Mathias Cormann, an Abbott loyalist to the end of his prime ministership, who on Friday strongly criticised Thursday’s intervention, told Sky he had “thought it was important to send a very clear message … to essentially signal that enough is enough”. He said that “obviously private messages hadn’t been heeded”.
His Friday criticism of Abbott was not co-ordinated with Turnbull’s office, Cormann said. “It was off my own bat … I made the judgement it was necessary and appropriate to say what I said.”
Shorten on Monday will give notice of a private member’s bill to protect penalty rates. The bill would prevent the decision of the Fair Work Commission from taking effect. It would also ensure that penalty rates could not be cut in future if that resulted in a cut in take-home pay.
In a letter to Turnbull on Sunday, Shorten said at least 600,000 people would be hurt by this pay cut and the brunt of the decision would be borne by low income earners.
Calling for the government to intervene to head off the cuts, Shorten wrote that “a decision not to intervene is a decision to endorse the proposed cuts to pay. There is no doubt that this decision will cause genuine financial hardship. It is simply unacceptable to reduce penalty rates without compensation.
“You have a window to act before the commission issues its determination and the opposition would work with you to ensure this devastating cut to low paid workers’ income never occurs,” Shorten wrote.
The government, aware the pay cut is likely to rebound on it, is stressing it is the decision of the “independent umpire” rather than a government decision.
It also points out that when workplace relations minister, Shorten brought in an amendment that referred to penalty rates being included in the review of awards.
But Shorten said in his letter that his 2013 amendments were intended to ensure the commission took into account “the need to provide additional remuneration for employees working outside normal hours”.
“It was clearly the parliament’s intent that the award review process would not ever result in a cut to worker’s pay.”
On Friday the Greens flagged a private member’s bill to prevent the commission’s decision from coming into effect.
This week’s Newspoll, conducted Thursday to Sunday from a sample of 1680, gave Labor a 55-45 lead, a 1 point gain for Labor since the previous Newspoll, three weeks ago. Primary votes were 37% for Labor (up 1), 34% for the Coalition (down 1), 10% for the Greens (steady) and 10% for One Nation (up 2). It appears that One Nation is now in Newspoll’s party readout, so their support should not be underestimated.
29% were satisfied with Turnbull’s performance (down 5), and 59% were dissatisfied (up 4), for a net approval of -30, down 9 points. This is a record low net approval for Turnbull; his previous low was -28. Shorten’s net approval also slumped four points to -26.
According to Kevin Bonham, Turnbull and Shorten are now at a combined low net approval of -56, though they are still five points above Abbott and Shorten’s record low of -61. Paul Keating and John Hewson hold the record low net approval with a combined score of -76.
While Turnbull’s parliamentary performance in the first two weeks of sittings won plaudits from the political press, Newspoll suggests it did not impress the general public. Essential’s findings below show that the public is strongly in favour of renewable energy, undermining the pro-coal and anti-renewables rhetoric of the Coalition and their right wing media cheerleaders.
Three weeks ago, I wrote that there was no evidence from the polling under Abbott or Turnbull that Australians want a hard right government. When Turnbull adopts Abbott-type policies and rhetoric, his ratings and the Coalition’s come to resemble those under Abbott. To some extent, Abbott was protected by reluctance to return to Labor after one term, but the Coalition is now into its second term.
An additional Newspoll question finds that 17% would be willing to pay an extra $300 or more per year for renewable energy, 26% would pay an extra $100 and 45% nothing more. These figures are little changed from October 2016.
Essential at 53-47 to Labor
Primary votes in this week’s Essential are 37% Coalition, 37% Labor, 9% Greens, 9% One Nation and 3% Nick Xenophon Team. Voting intentions are based on a two-week sample of 1800, with other questions using one week’s sample.
Since September last year, positive attributes of Turnbull fell slightly and negative attributes rose slightly; the biggest change is for visionary (down 5). Shorten’s attributes moved in the same direction as Turnbull’s, though to a lesser extent. The three biggest attribute differences between the two leaders are on out of touch (Turnbull by 18), intelligent (Turnbull by 12) and arrogant (Turnbull by 12).
44% approved of negative gearing (up 1 since May 2016), and 35% disapproved (down 1). 41% disapproved of investors receiving a capital gains tax deduction on profits made selling properties, and 37% approved. Asked what would be the effect of limiting negative gearing and reducing the capital gains tax concession, 32% said house prices would rise at a slower rate, 19% said house prices would fall and 17% said house prices would rise at the same rate.
46% thought housing affordability was more important for the government to address, while 44% selected rising energy prices. 64% would support a royal commission into banking, with just 16% opposed.
In last week’s Essential, 60% (up 6 since December) thought climate change is happening, and is caused by human activity, while 25% (down 2) thought we are witnessing a normal fluctuation. This is a record high for human caused climate change in Essential’s polling, and probably reflects the effects of the recent heatwave across eastern Australia.
65% supported Labor’s 50% renewable energy target by 2030, with only 18% opposed. 45% blamed the recent SA power blackouts on failures of the energy market, 19% blamed it on privatisation of the energy market, and only 16% blamed renewables. 64% thought renewable energy was the solution to our future energy needs, and only 14% thought it a threat to our energy supply. 45% opposed building new coal-fired power stations, with 31% in favour.
29% approved of the Liberals directing preferences to One Nation in the WA election, and 38% disapproved. 82% thought people required to work outside normal hours should receive a higher hourly pay rate, and only 12% disagreed.
Victorian Galaxy: Labor holds narrow lead, but Andrews has negative rating
A Victorian Galaxy poll had Labor holding a 51-49 lead, a one point gain for the Coalition since a November Galaxy. Primary votes were 41% for the Coalition (down 1), 37% for Labor (steady), 10% for the Greens (down 2) and 8% for One Nation. 35% approved of Premier Daniel Andrews, and 52% disapproved, for a net rating of -17; this question was not asked in November. 52% thought Victoria had become less safe under Labor, with just 15% for more safe. This poll was conducted 16-17 February from a sample of 1090.
A separate Galaxy poll of the Labor-held seat of Werribee, conducted 16 February with a sample of 550, had Labor crashing, probably due to concerns about a proposed youth prison in Werribee. The Liberals held a 51-49 lead, a massive swing of 17 points since the 2014 election. Primary votes were Liberals 35% (up 6), Labor 29% (down 28!), One Nation 21% and Greens 7% (down 2). 85% disapproved of the youth prison, with only 12% in favour.
These two Galaxy polls were taken before the Speaker and deputy Speaker of Victoria’s lower house resigned owing to abuse of parliamentary entitlements.
Last year, the Liberal National Party (LNP) combined with crossbenchers to expand the unicameral Queensland Parliament from 89 to 93 seats, despite the objections of the Labor government. The LNP thought they would lose seats under a redistribution had the old 89 seats been retained.
On Friday, the Queensland Electoral Commission published draft boundaries for the redistribution. Antony Green has calculated the new margins in all seats. He finds that Labor would win 47 of the 93 seats based on votes at the 2015 election. The LNP would win 44, the Katter Party one, and one Independent. The 2015 election result was 44 Labor, 42 LNP, 2 Katter and 1 Independent.
These calculations ignore two defections from Labor and one from the LNP since the last election. They assume standard two party contests, so the surge in support for One Nation could throw them out.
UK Labour suffers disastrous by-election loss
On Thursday, UK by-elections occurred in the Labour-held seats of Stoke Central and Copeland. Labour retained Stoke Central with a small swing against them, but in Copeland the Conservatives won by 44.3% (up 8.5 points since the 2015 election), to 37.3% for Labour (down 4.9). At the 2015 election, Labour won Copeland by 6.5 points.
This is the first time a government has gained a seat at a UK by-election since 1982. In that case, and in several other cases, the opposition’s vote was split at the by-election by sitting members contesting for another party. The last time a UK government won an opposition-held seat at a by-election without vote splitting was 1960, but that seat had only been won by 47 votes at the previous general election. According to Number Cruncher Politics, 1878 was the last time a truly comparable event occurred.
Current polls have the Conservatives in the low 40’s and Labour in the mid 20’s. The Copeland by-election adds to the evidence that Labour faces an utter shellacking at the next general election with Jeremy Corbyn as its leader.
Elections are colourful affairs, and the March 11 state election in Western Australia is no exception. What is bringing particular clamour to this election is the resurgence of One Nation.
Pauline Hanson’s party has certainly made its presence felt. The party is contesting 35 of the state’s 59 Legislative Assembly seats, and fielding 17 candidates across the six upper house regions. According to the polls, it is also the third-largest party in electoral terms. The most recent Newspoll has One Nation’s primary vote at 13%, well ahead of the Nationals (5%) and the Greens (9%).
It is little wonder, then, that the Liberals finally ended speculation by announcing a preference deal with One Nation. The Liberals will direct preferences to One Nation upper house candidates in regional seats. In exchange, One Nation will direct lower house preferences to Liberal candidates ahead of Labor candidates.
While the Liberals’ preference deal with One Nation is the first of its kind since John Howard took the decision as prime minister to place One Nation last on the Liberal how-to-vote card at the 2001 federal election, it is not likely to be the last. Over the past six months or so, the Liberals’ anti-One Nation resolve has been fraying.
In spite of catastrophising in some quarters, the preference deal is important for the Liberal-led government’s chances of re-election. The party’s first preference vote is at 30% and its two party preferred vote is 46%. ABC election analyst Antony Green estimates that “a swing of between 2.2% and 10% against the Liberals would produce a minority government”. In the face of a resurgent Labor Party, such a swing is possible.
The Liberals’ partners in government, the WA Nationals, are the most grievously affected by this deal. Some commentators estimate it could cost them their five upper house seats.
But the Nationals can hardly be surprised by the Liberals’ decision. Although the relationship between the two parties is often civilised, it also has a long history of strife.
In recent years, tensions between the parties were re-ignited when, prior to the 2008 WA election, the Nationals declared they would not be seeking a coalition but a partnership with the Liberals.
The Nationals leveraged the fact that neither major party had attained a parliamentary majority to negotiate a deal that provided for 25% of all state royalty payments to be set aside for re-investment into a royalties for the regions program. While the Nationals eventually agreed to support the Liberals, there was no doubt that the Nationals were seriously entertaining the prospects of doing a parliamentary deal with Labor.
A more traditional coalition arrangement was resumed following the 2013 state election, but the relationship between the two parties showed signs of strain by August 2016. The return of Brendan Grylls – the architect of the 2008 parliamentary agreement – to the Nationals’ leadership, and the unpopularity of the Barnett government, marked the return of a more assertive Nationals party.
Under Grylls’ leadership, the Nationals have been less than willing to commit to a new alliance with the Liberals. Grylls has indicated that support for any minority government would be contingent on the Liberals agreeing to support an increase in the lease rental fee on BHP and Rio Tinto from 25c to $5 a tonne on Pilbara iron ore production. The Liberals oppose this.
Consequences of the deal for the Liberals
The preference agreement carries some risk for the Liberals.
It is not entirely clear whether One Nation preferences will flow in a manner consistent with the party’s how-to-vote card. In part this is a question of whether One Nation has the infrastructure to deliver on the agreement.
A successful how-to-vote card strategy requires a party presence at polling booths on election day. The major parties struggle to cover all of their polling booths, so One Nation is likely to struggle too.
There is also a question mark over whether One Nation supporters will actually follow the party’s how-to-vote card recommendations, even if given one.
If the party’s voter base is anything like some of One Nation’s candidates, there is no reason to think that the preference deal will be widely supported. Already one of the party’s highest-profile candidates, Margaret Dodds, has rejected the deal on the basis of policy differences with the Liberals and concerns about the lack of consultation over the agreement.
Even if a significant proportion of One Nation preferences help to secure the Liberals’ return to government, the deal will cost the Liberals when the incoming upper house members take their seats in May.
While lower house preference deals are difficult for parties to impose on their supporters, there is greater certainty on preference flows for the upper house. Proportional representation, combined with above-the-line voting, makes it highly likely that most of the Liberal surplus preferences will find their way to One Nation’s upper house candidates.
This greatly increases One Nation’s prospects of holding the balance of power in the Legislative Council. Should this happen, the Liberals’ plans to partially privatise the state’s electricity utility in order to pay down soaring debt will not be realised. One Nation is staunchly opposed to the privatisation.
So while the Liberals’ decision is “pragmatic and sensible” in the short term, it might seriously compromise the party’s legislative agenda should it be returned to office.
The first Newspoll of 2017 has Labor leading by 54-46, a 2 point gain for Labor since the final 2016 Newspoll, conducted in early December. Primary votes are 36% for Labor (steady), 35% for the Coalition (down 4), 10% for the Greens (steady) and a high 19% for all Others (up 4). It is Labor’s first primary vote Newspoll lead since Abbott was PM. This poll was conducted Thursday to Sunday from a sample of 1730.
We are told that One Nation had 8%, but this is not reported in the tables. Newspoll is still asking for voter choice between Coalition, Labor, Greens and Others, and then questioning Other voters further. In the past, this method has underestimated the support of significant minor parties, and One Nation is probably in at least the double digits.
Last Friday’s WA Newspoll, on the other hand, asked about One Nation support in the initial readout, finding 13% support for One Nation.
Turnbull’s satisfied rating was up one point to 33%, and his dissatisfied rating down one point to 54%, for a net approval of -21. Shorten’s net approval was -22, down 5 points.
An additional Newspoll question asked whether Australia should adopt a similar policy to the US in “making it harder” for those in 7 Muslim countries to immigrate, finding 44% in favour and 45% opposed. This question wording is somewhat deceptive, as Trump is not “making it harder”, he is outright banning.
In the months after Turnbull deposed Abbott, the Coalition had a large lead over Labor. As Turnbull’s policies became more right wing, the Coalition’s lead diminished, and they only barely won last year’s election. Since the election, Turnbull, at the urging of the hard right of his party, has abandoned positions that once made him appealing to mainstream voters. There is no evidence from the polling under either Turnbull or Abbott that Australians want a hard right government.
Essential at 53-47 to Labor
In this week’s Essential, primary votes were 37% Labor, 36% Coalition, 10% One Nation, 8% Greens and 3% Nick Xenophon Team. Voting intentions used a two-week sample of 1785, with other questions using one week’s sample.
49% disapproved of Trump’s immigrant ban, with 36% approving; the strongest support came from Other voters (mainly One Nation), who approved 66-25. When asked whether Australia should institute a similar ban to the US, 46% were opposed, and 41% in favour. 53% agreed with Turnbull’s response to the US ban, while 36% disagreed.
50% thought technological change was making people’s lives better, and 25% thought it was making people’s lives worse; in November 2015, it was 56-22 in favour of better.
Bernardi resigns from Liberals
Cory Bernardi has left the Liberals, and will form an Australian Conservative party. Bernardi was No. 2 on the Liberals’ SA Senate ticket, and thus received a six year term. His term will not expire until June 2022, barring a double dissolution.
Bernardi’s exit will not change the Senate situation much, as he will seldom vote with Labor against the Coalition. I do not expect Bernardi to perform well, as he does not have a high profile with the general public, and will be competing in much the same ideological space as One Nation.
Trump’s US ratings, and why impeachment is very unlikely
According to the Gallup daily tracking poll, 42% of Americans approve of Donald Trump’s performance as President, and 52% disapprove. Trump has made no effect to be bipartisan, and so those who voted against him disapprove, while the 46% who voted for him are satisfied with his performance.
Those who voted for Trump mostly did so because they approved of his efforts to shake up the system, including his 90-day ban on immigrants from seven Middle Eastern countries. Unless Trump does something that angers his support base, his ratings are likely to remain roughly where they are. Much will depend on whether Trump’s economic policies displease the white working class voters.
Impeachment of a President requires a majority of the House and a 2/3 majority of the Senate. The Republicans hold a 241-194 majority in the House, and a 52-48 Senate majority. Assuming all Democrats voted for impeachment, 24 House Republicans and 19 Republican Senators would need to vote for impeachment.
Most of Trump’s policies, such as anti-abortion measures and removing regulations on big business, are strongly supported by establishment Republicans. Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, satisfies the conservative base of his party. The Senate confirmed Trump’s controversial Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, by a 56-43 margin, indicating that Republicans are in no mood to impeach Trump.
Impeachment is a drawn-out process where the Senate effectively tries the President with the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court presiding. Trump would rally his fervent supporters against any serious move to impeach him, putting pressure on Republicans that supported impeachment.
Midterm elections will be held in November 2018, and these give the Democrats a chance to take control of the House and Senate. However, the Democrats are defending 25 Senate seats in 2018, while Republicans defend just 8, so the Democrats appear likely to go backwards.
Section 4 of the 25th Amendment to the US Constitution allows a majority of the Cabinet and the Vice President to remove the President. If the President protests, a 2/3 majority in both the House and Senate is required to remove him. This runs into the same problem as impeachment: Republicans generally will not remove Trump, and his hand-picked Cabinet is even less likely to remove him.
If Trump does something so dreadful that even Republicans rush to impeach him, it may already be too late.
With parliament resuming this week, the first Newspoll of 2017 has the government trailing Labor 46-54% on the two-party vote and the Coalition’s primary vote falling four points to 35%.
This is the seventh consecutive Newspoll with the ALP ahead and the worst for the Coalition under Malcolm Turnbull’s prime ministership.
In results that will send fresh tremors through Coalition members who had hoped to start the new year on a better footing, the government’s primary vote is seven points lower than at the election, which the government only just won. It last was this low when the first move was made against Tony Abbott’s leadership, two years ago.
The poll, published in Monday’s Australian, reflects the general trend of disillusioned voters looking for avenues to reflect their protests. It shows a surge in support for independents and minor parties, which have gone from 15% to 19%.
Pauline Hanson’s One Nation, soon to be tested at the Western Australian election, is polling 8% nationally.
Labor remains on 36% primary vote, unchanged since early December; the Greens remain on 10%.
Turnbull’s net satisfaction has marginally improved from minus 23 to minus 21, while Opposition Leader Bill Shorten’s has worsened, from minus 17 to minus 22. Turnbull leads Shorten as better prime minister – 42% (up one) to 30% (down two points).
The government, beset with an expense scandal and the loss of a minister, anger over pension changes and other problems, got no clear air over the summer break. Now parliament resumes amid the fallout from the Trump-Turnbull contretemps over the refugee deal, a push from some Liberal MPs to have same-sex marriage determined by a free vote in parliament, and the prospect of South Australian Liberal senator Cory Bernardi defecting to lead his own conservative party.
Even Turnbull’s own issue of choice for the start of the year – energy policy – is not going as well as he hoped because of a lack of enthusiasm from energy companies and the financial sector for his advocacy of new “clean coal” power stations to be constructed.
In an interview with Network Nine on Sunday, Turnbull repeated he had “stood up for Australia” in dealing with Donald Trump, and said Trump had “absolutely not” asked for anything in return for saying he would honour the Obama administration’s deal to take refugees from Nauru and Manus Island.
Asked about any future military request that might be made, Turnbull said: “We assess all requests for military assistance on their merits, and there is no linkage, no linkage at all, between an arrangement relating to refugee settlement and any other matters.”
Turnbull was again cautious about the telephone call in which Trump was very aggressive.
“I’ve only said three things about the phone call with the president: firstly that it was frank and forthright; secondly that he gave a commitment that he would honour the refugee resettlement deal entered into by President Obama and thirdly that he did not hang up. The call ended courteously.
“Now I’ve got nothing more to say about the content of the phone call than that. It’s very important for me to be disciplined, to be calm and to pursue – in a very focused way – Australia’s national interests, and that’s what I do as Australia’s prime minister.”
On same-sex marriage Turnbull slapped down the new push for a free vote. “I’ve got no doubt that all of these matters will be discussed in the party room but I’m the prime minister, the government’s position is that which we took to the election, which is that this issue should be determined by a vote of every Australian in a plebiscite.”
A serious renewal of the same-sex marriage debate within the Liberal Party would be dangerous for Turnbull because it is a signature battle for the conservatives.
Former prime minister Tony Abbott at the weekend cast it in terms of Turnbull keeping his word. He told Fairfax Media: “Malcolm Turnbull made a clear election commitment that the marriage law would only change by way of people’s plebiscite, not free vote of the parliament. I’m sure he’ll honour that commitment. This isn’t about same-sex marriage, it’s about keeping faith with the people.”
Cabinet minister Christopher Pyne said on Sunday that there was no bill before the parliament to address marriage equality at this stage. “What happens down the track is a matter for the prime minister, for the cabinet, for the party room.”
In the Nine interview Turnbull, who gave the Liberals A$1.75 million for the campaign, made the startling revelation that when Tony Nutt became Liberal federal director at the end of 2015, “the party had so little money he had to work for several months without pay”.