Courtesy of The Australian comes the quarterly Newspoll breakdowns for July-September, providing big-sample results state-by-state and my gender and metropolitan/non-metropolitan. This suggests Labor’s recent Newspoll recovery has been driven entirely by Queensland, where the Coalition’s lead shrunk to 58-42 from 65-35 in April-June. Elsewhere, the position is stable at 56-44 in New South Wales, Labor is up a point in both Victoria and South Australia to respectively lead 52-48 and trail 52-48, and they have actually gone backwards in Western Australia to 58-42, from what was probably an overly generous 55-45 last time. In aggregate, the result shows the Coalition’s lead down to 54-46 from 56-44 in the previous quarter, with little change in the leaders’ personal ratings, the survey period having mostly preceded the recent improvement in Julia Gillard’s ratings and decline in Tony Abbott’s. The results show the standing of each essentially stable across all demographics.

UPDATE (8/10/12): Cathy Alexander at Crikey reports Essential Research has Labor gaining a further point on the primary vote to 37%, with the Coalition steady at 47%. Essential has shown Labor gaining five points on the primary vote over six weeks, to reach a level not seen since March last year. The Coalition’s two-party preferred lead is unchanged at 53-47. Essential has smartly chosen this week to repeat an exercise from a year ago concerning trust in media personalities, finding Alan Jones among the most famous but least trusted (22% trust against 67% do not trust). The others best recognised were Laurie Oakes and George Negus, with the former slightly edging out the latter on trust (72% compared with 69%). Only 17% registered support for funding cuts to the ABC, with around a third each wanting funding maintained or increased. Opinion on government regulation of the media was fairly evenly spread between wanting more, less and the same.

UPDATE (6/10/12): The table below compares quarterly state-level figures for both Newspoll and Nielsen for both the July-September and April-June quarters. In the case of Newspoll, sample sizes range from 700 for South Australia to 1700 for NSW, while Nielsen’s range from about 1300 for NSW to fewer than 400 for Western Australia and South Australia/Northern Territory. The two pollsters agree in showing Labor recovering by six or seven points in Queensland, which is corroborated by Galaxy – their polls conducted in Queensland roughly in the middle of the two polling periods had the Coalition lead shrinking from 64-36 to 57-43. Both Newspoll and Nielsen have produced steady results of around 50-50 in Victoria, but a disparity emerges in the case of NSW, where Labor shot from 40% to 46% in Nielsen while remaining steady on 44% in Newspoll. Caution should be taken in comparing the smaller states given Nielsen’s small samples.

		Newspoll	Nielsen		Newspoll	Nielsen
		Jul-Sep		Jul-Sep		Apr-Jun		Apr-Jun
Total		   46		  46 		   44		   42
NSW		   44		  46   		   44		   40
Victoria	            52		  49		   51		   50
Queensland	   42		  40		   35		   34
SA/NT		   48		  50		   47		   47
WA		   42	  	  42		   45		   39

UPDATE 2 (7/10/12): Not forgetting …

Seat of the week: O’Connor

Covering rural and remote areas in the south of Western Australia, O’Connor delivered the WA Nationals a House of Representatives seat at the last election for the first time since 1974, with their candidate Tony Crook unseating Liberal veteran Wilson Tuckey. Crook’s win followed a redistribution which fundamentally rearranged the state’s remote areas, abolishing the vast seat of Kalgoorlie and dividing its territory between O’Connor and the new seat of Durack. This saw O’Connor absorb a vast swathe of the state’s south-east, including Esperance and the Goldfields. Whereas the whole of the state’s “Wheatbelt” had previously been in O’Connor, a transfer of 38,000 voters in its northern half (including Merredin) to Durack was required to balance its gains elsewhere. O’Connor continued to encompass Albany, the southern Wheatbelt towns of Narrogin, Wagin and Katanning, and the South West region forestry towns of Bridgetown and Manjimup.

O’Connor was created at the 1980 election, its territory having previously been covered by Moore and Canning. It was gained for the Liberals in 1980 by parliamentary newcomer Wilson Tuckey, who owed his “Ironbar” nickname to an assault conviction over a 1967 incident involving a length of steel cable and an Aboriginal patron of his Carnarvon hotel. Tuckey’s win was assisted by a schism in the state National Party, which resulted in two separate organisations fielding rival candidates. Emnity with the Nationals was to emerge as a theme of Tuckey’s career, with the Nationals repeatedly placing him behind various minor candidates in their preference recommendations. The Nationals caused Tuckey little trouble electorally over the years, consistently finishing third behind Labor on occasions when they fielded a candidate. That nearly changed in 2007, but Tuckey’s primary vote remained strong enough that he would have comfortably prevailed even if the Nationals had managed to edge ahead of Labor and absorb their preferences.

Tuckey was 75 at the time of the 2010 election, and regarded in Canberra as an increasingly erratic presence. While the redistribution had in one sense done him a good turn by dividing the Nationals heartland between two electorates, this was largely negated by the Nationals’ successful 2008 state election strategy of appealing more broadly to regional areas. Among the areas where inroads were made for for the first time was the Goldfields, which Tuckey had never represented. It was in the Goldfields that Tuckey suffered the most damage, the Kalgoorlie-Boulder booths collectively going against him 63-37. However, he was also outpolled in Albany, and the split elsewhere was roughly even. Crook had no trouble overtaking the Labor candidate, with the Nationals vote up 19.7% to 28.9% and Labor down 9.2% to 17.1%. Tuckey easily led on the primary vote with 38.4%, down 10.4% on 2007, but an 80% share of Labor and Greens preferences saw Crook prevail at the final count with a margin of 3.6%.

Tuckey reacted to his defeat by saying he did “not intend to be gracious at all”, and proclaimed Crook to be a “nobody”. Crook had in fact been the chairman of the Royal Flying Doctor Service, and was the state election candidate for Kalgoorlie in 2008. His status as a nobody was addressed soon enough by the circumstances of the election result, which placed him as a non-aligned member in a hung parliament, the WA Nationals having campaigned as an independent party that would not “report, answer and take direction from Warren Truss”. However, few were surprised when Crook, after a fortnight of prevarication, announced he would support a Coalition government on confidence and supply. He nonetheless sat on the cross-benches until May 2012, when he joined the Nationals party room while remaining absent from joint Coalition meetings.

The complexities of rural politics in Western Australia have come to the fore recently as a result of the federal government’s move to wind up the Wheat Export Authority, the culmination of a process of wheat exporting deregulation which began after the Cole Royal Commission into wheat sales to Iraq. The more protectionist eastern states Nationals, who had split from the Liberals to vote against deregulation of the industry in 2006, persuaded Tony Abbott to back an amendment to sustain the authority for a further two years, incurring the intense displeasure of agricultural interests in Western Australia. The state party organisation was very keen that its members should cross the floor over the issue, and it took the exercise of Julie Bishop’s authority to determine their support for Abbott’s position. As the Liberal members had feared, they were duly snookered when Crook announced that he would split from his party colleagues to vote down any such amendment.

There had been hope in the Liberal camp that Crook might be tarred at the next election by the brush of Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott, but this has presumably been negated by the wheat export issue. Their candidate is Katanning farmer Rick Wilson, who won an April 2011 preselection vote over Cranbrook Shire president Doug Forrest and Kalgoorlie pastoralist Ross Wood.

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