Dreadful though the headline figures are for Labor, the latest monthly Nielsen poll might have offered them cause for relief, with no change to the Coalition’s two-party lead of 58-42. Labor is down a point on the primary vote to 27 per cent, with the Coalition steady on 48 per cent and the Greens up one to 13 per cent. However, the poll offers new torment for Julia Gillard by finding Labor would be ahead 52-48 if it were led by Kevin Rudd. The primary votes, we are told, would be 42 per cent to Labor, 43 per cent to the Coalition and 9 per cent to the Greens. Rudd has 44 per cent support as preferred Labor leader, against 19 per cent for Gillard, 10 per cent for Stephen Smith, 8 per cent for Simon Crean, 5 per cent for Bill Shorten and 4 per cent for Greg Combet. There has also been a sharp drop in Julia Gillard’s already miserable personal ratings: approval down six to 32 per cent, disapproval up five to 62 per cent. Tony Abbott is steady on both approval (43 per cent) and disapproval (52 per cent), and now leads as preferred prime minister 48-40, out from 47-44. I should have full tables complete with state breakdowns tomorrow, along with the regular Monday Essential Research results.

UPDATE: Phillip Coorey in the Sydney Morning Herald:

The latest Herald/Nielsen poll finds 54 per cent of voters believe asylum seekers arriving by boat should be allowed to land in Australia to be assessed. Just 25 per cent say they should be sent to another country to be assessed while 16 per cent believe the boats should be “sent back” and 4 per cent don’t know … When the question was asked a month ago, 28 per cent favoured offshore processing and 53 per cent onshore processing.

UPDATE 2: Essential Research. Another poll showing Labor’s position has not actually worsened since the High Court’s ruling on the Malaysia solution: indeed, the Coalition’s two-party lead has narrowed slightly, from 57-43 to 56-44. Labor is up two points on the primary vote to 32 per cent, with the Coalition steady on 49 per cent and the Greens down a point to 10 per cent. Unfortunately for Gillard, this survey features Essential’s monthly personal ratings, which show Gillard beating her previous worst result from July with 28 per cent approval (down seven from August and one from July) and 64 per cent disapproval (up nine from August and two from July). Tony Abbott is up two on approval to 39 per cent and steady on disapproval at 50 per cent, and leads 40-36 as preferred prime minister after trailing 38-36 in August. A question on processing of asylum seekers is bewilderingly at odds with the Nielsen results (see above), with 36 per cent rather than 54 per cent favouring processing in Australia. “Sent to another country” has 53 per cent – here the difference with Nielsen can partly be accounted for by the absence of a “sent back” option. You wouldn’t know it from the media coverage, but Andrew Wilkie’s pokies reforms have overwhelming support: 67 per cent (up two from April) in favour against 25 per cent opposed. Forty per cent support changes to industrial relations laws when it is put to respondents that doing so will increase productivity, but 42 per cent remain opposed.

Full tables from the Nielsen poll can be viewed here. With results for September, we can now construct Newspoll-style state-level results for the third quarter with reasonable sample sizes by combining the last three monthly polls. For the Nielsen figures, samples and margins of error are about 1300 and 2.7 per cent for New South Wales; 1000 and 3.1 per cent for Victoria; 750 and 3.6 per cent for Queensland; 390 and 5.0 per cent for Western Australia; 330 and 5.4 per cent for South Australia.

  Apr-Jun Jul-Sep
  Newspoll Nielsen Nielsen Swing
Total 46 43 41 9.1
NSW 45 41 41 7.5
Vic 52 47 48 7.0
Qld 42 40 35 9.9
WA 42 44 39 4.6
SA 50 47 40 13.2

Some more preselection snippets to add to the ones from Friday, with Tasmania being a bit of a theme:

• Brigadier Andrew Nikolic won Liberal preselection for Bass without opposition in July. Nikolic had most recently run the Defence Department’s international policy division, after previous service in the army including postings in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was rated a favourite for the preselection ahead of the 2010 election, but withdrew citing work and family reasons.

• The Launceston Examiner reported in late July that Brett Whiteley, who lost his seat in Braddon at the state election, had been sounded out as a candidate for the federal seat of Braddon by Senator Eric Abetz and state party president Richard Chugg. However, Whiteley was quoted saying he would prefer a return to state politics. Whiteley is now chief executive of council-owned Burnie Sports and Events.

• The Liberals have again endorsed wool marketer Eric Hutchinson to run against Dick Adams, Labor’s member of 18 years in the central Tasmanian seat of Lyons. There was earlier talk that former Senator Guy Barnett might be interested in running for the seat.

• The retirement announcement of Labor’s Bendigo MP Steve Gibbons excited some speculation that recently ousted Victorian Premier John Brumby, who held the seat from 1983 until his defeat in 1990, might seize the opportunity for a federal comeback. However, the Ballarat Courier reports that Brumby has ruled himself out. The report also said former Bendigo Health and Ambulance Victoria chairwoman and lawyer Marika McMahon had long been touted as Gibbons’ possible successor.

• Rick Wilson, Katanning farmer, divisional branch president and Pastoralists and Graziers committee chairman, will be the Liberal candidate in the WA seat of O’Connor, where the Nationals’ Tony Crook unseated Liberal veteran Wilson Tuckey in 2010. Wilson won an April preselection over Cranbrook Shire president Doug Forrest and Kalgoorlie consultant Ross Wood.

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