The final quarterly Newspoll of South Australian state voting intention concurs with last month’s Advertiser poll in showing a honeymoon bounce for Labor under new leader Jay Weatherill, but the Liberals still retaining a slight lead on two-party preferred. However, the Liberals’ 52 per cent on two-party preferred (compared with 54-46 last time) is not measurably better than the 51.6 per cent they recorded at the 2010 election without managing to win. Labor is on 34 per cent of the primary vote, up four points on the previous quarter, with the Liberals steady on 40 per cent and the Greens down fully 5 per cent to 9 per cent. The latter result was also reflected by The Advertiser’s poll, and would be consistent with Labor recovering support from their base without landing a significant hit on the Liberals.
Weatherill has scored a handsome 51 per cent approval rating on his debut, which would make him by far the most popular Labor leader in the country, with only 14 per cent disapproval. This compares with Mike Rann’s final figures of 31 per cent and 59 per cent. Liberal leader Isobel Redmond’s healthy numbers are little changed, at 49 per cent approval (down two) and 30 per cent disapproval (up one), but Weatherill scores a big 45-27 lead as preferred premier which compares with Redmond’s 45-34 lead in the last poll under Rann. The sample size for the poll is 871, which by my reckoning puts the margin of error a bit higher than the 3 per cent familiar from Newspoll federally and in the larger states. Numbers as always from GhostWhoVotes.
• With the by-election for outgoing former Deputy Premier Kevin Foley’s seat of Port Adelaide set for February 11, the Liberals have announced they will spare themselves the expense of fielding a candidate – a little timidly in my view, given that Labor’s 12.8 per cent margin is dwarfed by the swings the NSW Liberals were getting in by-elections last year, and is in the ballpark of the 12.3 per cent swing the Victorian Liberals achieved in the similarly safe Labor seat of Altona last February. The Liberal candidate from the 2010 election, Sue Lawrie, has announced she will run as an independent. Labor’s main threat is still reckoned to be Port Adelaide-Enfield mayor Gary Johanson, whom Daniel Wills of The Advertiser tells us is a “former Liberal”.
• The government has announced it will half fund a $7.2 million “town square-style project” to revitalise central Port Adelaide, provided Johanson and his council come good with the other half. Daniel Wills of The Advertiser reports this is “widely seen as an attempt to wedge Mr Johanson, allowing Labor to take credit for the proposal if it goes ahead and blame the council if it fails”.
• If Mike Rann is planning to quit parliament so a by-election for his seat of Ramsay can be held on the same day, as had long been assumed, he’s taking his time about it. After The Advertiser ran a headline last week which read “pressure on Rann to quit for by-election”, Rann wrote on Twitter that he had had “no pressure whatsoever to step down”. I’m not sure of the exact date, but to allow for a February 11 by-election Rann would have to submit his resignation by fairly early next month.
• Michael Owen of The Australian reports the Liberal member for Finniss, Michael Pengilly, faces a stiff preselection challenge from Joshua Teague, an Adelaide barrister and son of former Senator Baden Teague. Pengilly embarrassed his party in late November when he tweeted that the Prime Minister was a “real dog”, in reference to Harry Jenkins’ replacement as Speaker by Peter Slipper. His career has been said by local observers to have been on a downward career trajectory since he was dumped from the front bench after last year’s state election.