James J reports Newspoll has the Coalition’s two-party lead back up from 53-47 to 55-45, from primary votes of 33% for Labor (down two), 46% for the Coalition (up one), 8% for the Greens (down three, which as Poliquant notes in comments is their worst result since March 2009) and 13% for others (up four). Julia Gillard has the nonetheless opened the narrowest of leads as preferred prime minister, moving from 38-38 to 39-38. Personal ratings are more in line with the media narrative of the last few weeks, with Julia Gillard recording a 7% improvement on net approval and Tony Abbott recording an 8% decline. Gillard is up four on approval to 31% and down three on disapproval to 57%, while Abbott is down three to 31% and up five to 59%.

UPDATE: The Morgan face-to-face poll covering last weekend’s polling (for some reason the August 26-27 weekend seems to have been dispensed with) has Labor further improving on the previous result, which was its best since March. Labor is steady on the primary vote at 34.5%, but the Coalition is down 2.5% to 41.5% and the Greens are up 1.5% to 11.5%. On respondent-allocated preferences, the two-party preferred gap has narrowed slightly from 54-46 to 53.5-46.5. However, the move on the previous election measure of two-party preferred is more substantial: from 53-47 to 51.5-48.5.

The weekly Essential Research report has fallen into line with other pollsters in giving Labor its best result since March – up two on the primary vote to 34% and one on two-party preferred to 55-45. The Coalition’s primary vote is down a point to 48% after no fewer than 12 consecutive weeks at 49%, its lowest since April. The poll finds 52% believing female politicians receive more criticism than men against only 4% for less and 40% for the same, and very similar results (51%, 6% and 38%) when the subject is narrowed to Julia Gillard specifically. A question on which groups would be better off under Labor or Liberal governments find traditional perceptions of the parties are as strong as ever, with wide gaps according to whether the group could be perceived as disadvantaged (pensioners, unemployed, disabled) or advantaged (high incomes, large corporations, families of private school children). Respondents continue to think it likely that a Coalition government would bring back laws similar to WorkChoices (51% likely against 25% unlikely).

Other news:

• The Victorian Liberals have preselected candidates for three Labor-held federal seats. Ben Collier, managing director of Sunbury-based information technology consultancy Collier Pereira Services, won preselection last weekend to contest McEwen, where redistribution has boosted Labor member Rob Mitchell’s margin from 5.3% to 9.2% by adding the area around Sunbury. In Bendigo, transport business owner Greg Bickley has been chosen to run against Lisa Chesters, who will defend Labor’s 9.4% margin after the retirement of sitting member Steve Gibbons. In Bruce, Emanuele Cicchiello, school teacher, Knox councillor and candidate for Holt in 2007, will run against Labor member Alan Griffin, whose margin is 7.7%.

AAP reports the Liberal National Party in Queensland has attracted seven candidates for preselection in Kevin Rudd’s seat of Griffith, five in Kirsten Livermore’s seat of Capricornia and four in Bob Katter’s seat of Kennedy, although the names of the candidates have not been published. However, it is known that former Australian Medical Association president Bill Glasson is among the starters in Griffith. Meanwhile, Clive Palmer has finally put an end to his over-reported pretend bid for preselection, on the pretext that he “can’t support Coalition policy on refugees and political lobbyists”.

• The ABC reports former Australian rugby union coach John Connolly is “expected to announce soon” that he will contest the LNP preselection to succeed retiring Alex Somlyay in Fairfax, having failed in his bid for the Labor-held Brisbane seat of Petrie. “Local solicitor Swain Roberts and businessman Terry O’Brien” are also expected to nominate. Former LNP director James McGrath, who appeared to have the numbers sewn up before deciding to take on Mal Brough in Fisher, now seems to have his eyes elsewhere.

• Alex Arnold of the Illawarra Mercury reports Neil Reilly, who also ran in 2007 and 2010, has emerged as the only nominee for Labor preselection in the south coast New South Wales seat of Gilmore, which will be vacated by the retirement of Liberal incumbent Joanna Gash. Reilly was initially rebuffed before the 2010 election when the party’s national executive installed former South Sydney rugby league player David Boyle, who later withdrew after widespread local criticism over the imposition of a non-local (though he is now a Shoalhaven councillor).

• Counting has been finalised for the Northern Territory election of the Saturday before last. Two remote seats thought to be in doubt fell the CLP’s way, Arafura by 1.0% and Stuart by a surprisingly easy 3.5% (larger than the 3.1% in the never-in-doubt Darwin seat of Sanderson). That makes for five CLP gains from Labor (Arafura, Stuart, Arnhem, Daly and, if we use the 2008 election result as the baseline, Namatjira) and a total of 16 seats for the CLP, eight for Labor and one independent. The CLP scored 55.8% of the two-party vote, which is a 5.1% swing compared with the raw 2008 result – remembering that two Labor-held seats were uncontested last time, both of which were won by the CLP this time.

Seats Votes % Swing 2PP Swing
Country Liberal 16 (+5) 46,653 50.5% +5.1% 55.8% +5.1%
Labor 8 (-5) 33,862 36.6% -6.5% 44.2% -5.1%
Independent (11) 1 (-) 6,092 6.6% -0.5%
Greens (10) 3,039 3.3% -1.0%
First Nations (8) 2,048 2.2%
Sex Party (5) 717 0.8%
.
Formal 92,411 96.8% +0.9%
Informal 3,072 3.2% -0.9%
Enrolment/Turnout 123,815 77.1% +2.1%

• Also finalised is the count for the New South Wales state by-election for Heffron, also held last Saturday, where Labor’s Ron Hoenig will succeed Kristina Keneally after scoring an easy victory. Even allowing for the absence of a Liberal candidate, the 17.7% hike in the Labor primary vote looks fairly encouraging for them, although taking into account the plunge in turnout the result on raw votes was more modest (an increase of 1631). It was a less happy result for the Greens, whose share of the vote was up only slightly in the absence of strong competition, and down 559 votes in absolute terms.

Votes % Swing 2PP %
Ron Hoenig (Labor) 20,501 58.9% +17.7% 21,863 70.0%
Mehreen Faruqi (Greens) 8,122 23.3% +4.4% 9,366 30.0%
Drew Simmons (Democrats) 3,749 10.8%
Robyn Peebles (Christian Democrats) 2,442 7.0% +5.1%
Liberal -33.3%
Independents -4.6%
.
Formal 34,814 94.8% -1.9%
Informal 1,910 5.2% +1.9%
Enrolment/Turnout 55,712 65.9% -22.8%
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