The first Newspoll survey after the end-of-year break shows the Coalition recovering to 54-46 after the shock 59-41 result of December 9. The Australian spruiks this as the Coalition clawing back support, but a more likely explanation is that the previous poll was a rogue. Kevin Rudd’s lead as preferred prime minister is down from 66-19 to 60-22.

UPDATE: Graphic here. Rudd’s approval is down seven points to 63 per cent; Turnbull’s is down two to 45 per cent, his weakest result to date.

Elsewhere:

• Essential Research’s weekly survey has produced a status quo 59-41 result, along with a 56-20 preferred prime minister lead for Kevin Rudd that marks little shift from the previous time the question was asked in late November. Also featured are questions on expectations of the year ahead economically and for the Barack Obama presidency. Most interestingly, respondents were also asked to name their favourite prime minister since World War II, which produced a win for John Howard on 28 per cent. This is largely because those supporting Liberals (45 per cent of the total) showed no interest for contenders other than Howard and Bob Menzies (11 per cent), whereas the Labor loyalist vote was split between Kevin Rudd (20 per cent), Bob Hawke (12 per cent), Gough Whitlam (9 per cent) and Paul Keating (8 per cent).

• Former Tasmanian Tourism Minister Paula Wreidt has retired from politics, creating a vacancy in the electorate of Franklin that will be filled by a countback on February 2. This provides a clear entry to parliament for Daniel Hulme, the only remaining unelected Labor candidate from the 2006 election. My election guide entry tells me Hulme was an “Australian Taxation Office worker and former Young Labor president described by Sue Neales of The Mercury as a ‘right-wing pro-development campaigner’”. Hulme was the last man standing after Paul Lennon’s exit in the middle of last year resulted in the election of Ross Butler – who, according to Peter Tucker at Tasmanian Politics, has raised eyebrows with his performance. If Hulme declines to nominate, or if any further Labor vacancies arise in Franklin before the next election, we might see the unprecedented activation of the clause which would allow Labor to initiate a by-election rather than have the seat go to another party. Still more from Peter Tucker.

• More casual vacancy news: the last remaining Australian Democrats MP, South Australia’s Sandra Kanck, has been replaced following her retirement from her upper house seat by David Winderlich. More from Andrew Bartlett.

• The NSW Nationals have intriguingly announced they will preselect a candidate for a yet-to-be-determined winnable seat at the 2011 state election by conducting an American-style primary, open to all voters enrolled in the electorate. Peter van Onselen notes in The Australian that “parties in countries such as Britain and Italy have increasingly embraced primary contests, more often than not with electoral success to follow”. The most likely electorates for the trial are said to be Dubbo, Port Macquarie and Tamworth, each traditionally Nationals seats currently held by independents.

• Counting continues in South Australia’s Frome by-election, on which I have written an overview in today’s Crikey. Read about and comment on the progress of the count in the post below.

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