Morgan phone poll: 51-49 to Coalition; Seat of the week: Perth
A small-sample Morgan phone survey features the first published polling data on the AWU slush fund affair.
Morgan has published results from a phone poll of 523 respondents conducted between Tuesday and Thursday, which have Labor on 36.5% of the primary vote, the Coalition on 44.5% and the Greens on 8.5%. Morgan’s headline two-party result is 51-49, but this comes from the dubious respondent-allocated preferences measure: the more reliable measure using preferences from the previous election has the Coalition’s lead at 52.5-47.5. This being a phone poll, it should not have the Labor bias associated with Morgan’s face-to-face polling. It also reverses the consistent trend of the face-to-face series in giving Labor the better result on respondent-allocated preferences (I have consistently had grave doubts about the face-to-face polling on this score). However, the poll shows no gap in voting intention between men and women, which perhaps illustrates the difficulties you can get with small samples. The margin of error on the poll is about 4.3%.
Morgan has also taken on the tricky job of framing questions appropriate to the knotty AWU matter. The most useful of these asks if respondents approve or disapprove of Gillard’s response, coming in at 37% and 28% respectively. A question on whether the Prime Minister should resign if “scandal allegations are true” has 43% saying she should against 27% saying she shouldn’t, but this rather overlooks the enormous range of the allegations that might be levelled (had they started a few days later they could simply have asked if respondents agreed with Christopher Pyne). Another question asks whether Gillard “was aware that the AWU ‘slush-fund’ was illegal when she resigned from Slater & Gordon in 1995”, which seems simplistic at best. Thirty-three per cent answered in the affirmative (including 10% of Labor voters and 20% of a tiny sample of Greens voters) against 26% negative, 17% couldn’t say and 24% not aware of the scandal.
There is also an entertaining plethora of questions on preferred party leaders, the chief head-to-head scorelines being Gillard 49 Abbott 36, Turnbull 59 Gillard 31, Gillard 46 Hockey 44, and Turnbull 54 Rudd 38. Not featured: Gillard versus Rudd or Abbott versus Turnbull.
Seat of the week: Perth
The electorate of Perth extends north-eastwards from the city centre to accommodate an area bounded to the south by the Swan River, extending from Mount Lawley and Maylands to Morley and Bassendean. An electorate bearing the name has existed since federation, with the entirety of the metropolitan area having been divided between it and Fremantle until the expansion of parliament in 1949. It then assumed more familiar dimensions, with Swan being drawn into the metropolitan area and Curtin created to accommodate the western suburbs.
Perth was held from its creation until 1922 by James Fowler, first as a Labor member and then as a Liberal and Nationalist following his defection in 1909. It thereafter remained in conservative hands until the Labor landslide of 1943, when it was won by Tom Burke (father of Brian). Burke held the seat until defeated in 1955 by Liberal candidate Fred Chaney Senior, whose son Fred Chaney Junior was a Fraser government minister, Senator and member for Pearce. Chaney was in turn unseated in 1969 by Joe Berinson, who became a junior minister in the Whitlam government and later a state Attorney-General. When the 1975 debacle cost Labor all its WA seats except for Fremantle, Berinson suffered a narrow defeat at the hands of Liberal candidate Ross McLean.
Redistributions in 1977 and 1990 respectively reoriented the seat westwards to the advantage of the Liberals and eastwards to the advantage of Labor. Australian hockey captain Ric Charlesworth was able to gain and hold the seat for Labor in the more difficult conditions after 1983, and Stephen Smith came to a seat with a solid Labor margin when he succeeded Charlesworth in 1993. It continued to trend in Labor’s favour thereafter, remarkably producing a slight positive swing amid the 1996 landslide, and surpassed Fremantle as Labor’s safest WA seat at the 2010 election. However, such has been the party’s progressive malaise in WA over the past decade that the margin has worn down to 5.9%.
Stephen Smith had been an adviser to Paul Keating and a state party secretary before entering parliament, emerging as a senior figure in the Right faction. He was elevated to the front bench after the 1996 defeat, and became Foreign Minister when the Rudd government came to power in 2007. He relinquished this role with displeasure when it was given to Kevin Rudd after the 2010 election, instead being assigned to defence. His desire to return to the foreign ministry was thwarted when Bob Carr was drafted after Kevin Rudd’s failed leadership challenge in February 2012. Smith also served as Trade Minister from Julia Gillard’s ascension to the prime ministership in June 2010 until the reshuffle which followed the subsequent election.
A Liberal preselection in June 2012 was won by Darryl Moore, a former mining engineer now involved in “investing in and managing the family’s commercial and industrial real estate portfolio”, ahead of Geoff Hourn, a former lieutenant-colonel in the Australian Intelligence Corps.