The latest weekly Essential Research survey has two-party preferred unchanged at 53-47, with Labor up a point to 37%, the Coalition steady on 47% and the Greens down one to 9%. Also featured are a refreshingly well-framed set of questions on the AWU affair, which find:

• Thirty-one per cent claim “a lot” of awareness about the issue, 29% “some”, 25% “a little” and 12% none (you can presumably boost the latter with the 3% “don’t know”).

• On perceptions of how the matter has been handled, Julia Gillard has a slight net positive rating (39% good and 35% poor), but the opposition (20% and 49%) and the media (20% and 37%) get the thumbs down. However, respondents who thought themselves better informed tended to view Gillard less favourably, which is interesting because there was no significant tendency for Coalition supporters to be more inclined to make such a claim for themselves.

• Thirty-eight per cent say the issue has given them a more negative impression of “Julia Gillard as Prime Minister” against 11% more positive and 59% no difference.

There were also questions on “leaders’ positions on asylum seekers”, the overwhelming point of difference concerning the matter of whether the leaders had been “too soft”, on which a 14% gap in Tony Abbott’s favour in October 2011 has grown to 23%.

UPDATE (4/12/12): Morgan has published a face-to-face poll from its last two weekends of surveying, which has the Coalition up two to 40.5%, Labor down half a point to 36% and the Greens down one to 10.5%. This pans out to 52.5-47.5 to the Coalition on the respondent-allocated preferences measure, which seems to have recovered its Coalition lean this survey. Morgan’s previous election preferences figure is still forthcoming, but it should come in at around 50.5-49.5 to the Coalition, after Labor led 51-49 last time. Morgan has also published further figures on leadership from last week’s small-sample phone poll, which had Kevin Rudd leading Julia Gillard 34-22 as preferred Labor leader, and Tony Abbott trailing not only the overwhelmingly favoured Malcolm Turnbull (50%) as preferred Liberal leader, but also Joe Hockey (18% to 15%).

Preselection mail:

• The long-awaited Liberal preselection has Greenway has been postponed into the new year, which is apparently down to the determination of factional moderates to thwart the bid of 2010 candidate Jayme Diaz, an associate of the David Clarke faction of the Right who is said to have decisive levels of support among local branches. Nick Soon of the Blacktown Sun quotes a source who dismisses the chances of both Diaz and high-profile entrant Gary “Angry” Anderson, instead identifying Brett Murray, Mark Taylor and Yvonne Keane as the front-runners. Murray is “a highly sought after speaker and an expert in cultural change and developing corporate workplace culture”, Taylor “a former police prosecuting officer”, and Keane a Hills Shire councillor. However, Imre Salusinszky counts Murray as one of two candidates associated with the Alex Hawke faction of the Right (the other being Ben Jackson) who do not have the numbers. It was earlier reported that Tony Abbott has approached former rugby league player Matt Adamson, whose plans to run in Lyne were thwarted by a coalition agreement which has reserved the seat for the Nationals, but this prospect is dismissed by Salusinszky’s sources.

• The Northern Territory Country Liberal Party’s preselection for Lingiari has proved a troublesome endeavour for Tony Abbott, following his unsuccessful attempt to recruit Alison Anderson, the Labor-turned-CLP member for the remote electorate of Namatjira. Nigel Adlam of the Northern Territory News reports that Anderson was “believed” to have accepted the offer, but was rebuffed by the party’s central council’s refusal to grant her a waiver to submit a nomination after deadline. Abbott’s approach to Anderson copped a rebuke from Chief Minister Terry Mills, who accused him of having “misread” Anderson and the party. The preselection was instead won by Tina MacFarlane, owner of a Mataranka cattle station, ahead of Lawson Broad, a staffer to Terry Mills. MacFarlane’s win, reportedly by a large margin, constituted a defeat for Mills, as MacFarlane is said to be close to his potential leadership rival David Tollner. Abbott also got into trouble for saying Anderson would provide parliament with “an authentic representative of the ancient cultures of central Australia” that was not provided by the “urban Aboriginal” Ken Wyatt, his party’s member for the Perth seat of Hasluck.

Peter van Onselen of The Australian reports that a Labor powerbroker who addresses him as “mate” has told of grim polling for Labor in suburban Sydney, but better results in regional NSW marginals such as Eden-Monaro and Robertson. Phillip Coorey of the Sydney Morning Herald says “Liberal Party research is picking up the same patterns and senior Liberals have been told to campaign in Labor seats held by margins of up to 10 per cent in the belief that they all are vulnerable”. George Hasanakos at Poliquant considers the ifs.

• Van Onselen also relates that Labor fears a wipeout in Tasmania, “which even the PM’s office admits to”.

Queensland Qorner:

• The Liberal National Party determined its Senate ticket last weekend, which required that successors be chosen for the retiring Sue Boyce and Ron Boswell. Incumbent Ian MacDonald has been confirmed in the number one position, with state election campaign director James McGrath in number two and Matt Canavan, former chief-of-staff to Barnaby Joyce, in number three. Former Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive David Goodwin takes the theoretically winnable but highly unlikely prospect of fourth place. Amy Remeikis of Fairfax reports unsuccessful candidates out of a field of 16 included party vice-president Gary Spence, who if successful would have sat as a National.

• Bundaberg businessman Keith Pitt has won LNP preselection for Hinkler, which will be vacated by the retirement of Paul Neville. Other nominees, at least in the preliminary stages, included “Len Fehlhaber, a primary school principal, Cathy Heidrich, a media/research officer, Chris McLoughlin, an electorate officer, Greg McMahon, a probation and parole officer, and Geoff Redpath, an accountant”, according to an AAP report.

Sarah Vogler of the Sunday Mail reports John Bjelke-Petersen, son of Sir Joh and twice-unsuccessful state election candidate, “is being lined up as a federal election candidate as the likelihood of billionaire businessman Clive Palmer launching his own political party gathers momentum”. A Galaxy poll of 350 respondents, conducted at the behest of a “consortium of businesses”, reportedly showed 43% of Maranoa voters saying they would vote be “likely” to support Bjelke-Petersen against Bruce Scott, whose determination to seek another term as LNP member deprived Barnaby Joyce of a hoped-for entry to the lower house. Kevin Bonham in comments harbours his doubts.

• Kirsten Livermore, Labor’s member for Capricornia since 1998, has announced she will bow out at the next election to spend more time with her family. The ABC reports her successor will be chosen through a new preselection process in which branch members will choose from a selection of nominees deemed appropriate by head office. Paul Milton Butler of the Morning Bulletin reports that Paul Hoolihan, who lost his local seat of Keppel at the state election, fancies himself as a starter, although being 65 may prove an obstacle.

• There has been talk around the place, including from Dennis Atkins of the Courier-Mail on Insiders, that Chris Trevor will again run for Labor in the Gladstone-region seat of Flynn, which he won upon its creation in 2007 before joining the party’s Queensland casualty list in 2010.

• The Newman government’s difficulties have encouraged talk of the federal election prospects for Katter’s Australian Party. The Financial Review reports the party is hopeful local businesswoman Bronwyn Walker can win the Townsville seat of Herbert from LNP incumbent Ewen Jones, and also rates its chances in Dawson and Capricornia.

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