Turnbull, and his party, on the slide

824063-malcolm-turnbull_cropped_225The honeymoon is over, the shine has come off, the political capital accruing to a new leader has been dissipated. Now it’s not just a matter of how many seats Turnbull will lose, Labor has a real chance.

That’s been the reaction to the latest Newspoll result (paywalled), which has Labor ahead 51-49 for the first time since Turnbull became PM. Labor winning 30 Newspolls in a row was one of the reasons Turnbull said that Abbott had to go.

Michelle Grattan summarises the results:

    A fortnight ago the Coalition had a narrow 51-49% two-party lead in Newspoll.

    The Coalition’s primary vote has fallen two points to 41%; it is down five points since the start of the year. Labor’s primary vote is up two points to a six-month high of 36%. The Greens have dropped one point to 11%.

    Turnbull’s satisfaction rating was one point down to 38%; his dissatisfaction level was up four points to 48%. His net satisfaction has dropped to minus ten points. Last November it was plus 38 points.

    Opposition Leader Bill Shorten’s satisfaction rating rose four points to 32% – just six points behind Turnbull’s – while his dissatisfaction level was up one point to 53%. His net satisfaction rating is minus 21.

    While Turnbull still has a substantial lead over Shorten as better prime minister, the gap has narrowed markedly, from 31 to 21 points. Turnbull is preferred by 48%, a fall of four points in a fortnight and 16 points below his November rating. Shorten is up six points in a fortnight to 27% on the measure of better prime minister.

A cautionary note

Antony Green makes three points about the poll.

Firstly, Newspoll in its present incarnation is a new poll, with Galaxy now doing the research. It seems to favour Labor, but we don’t know. Until it has been tested in elections we can’t be sure it deserves the respect accorded to the old Newspoll.

Secondly, it does not identify and differentiate the 12% “others”. In 2013 “others” included 5.5% for the Palmer United Party and 1.0% for Katter’s Australian Party.

PUP has pretty much disappeared, so in Newspoll we don’t know who these voters are and who they would preference.

Thirdly, this raises the question of how the preference flow is calculated. Newspoll divides them according to the 2013 election. The Greens vote is now 11% compared to 8.7% in 2013. Greens may now preference Turnbull more than they did Abbott.

Other polls

Essential Poll has had the major parties at 50-50 for four weeks in a row.

Roy Morgan has the LNP ahead 52.5-47.5, with the LNP up 3% on the last poll.

Roy Morgan asks voters how they would allocate their preferences. They say that if they used the Newspoll methodology the result would be 51.5-48.5.

Roy Morgan has Nick Xenephon Team at 4.5% (22% in South Australia), PUP at 0% and Katter at 0.5%. They still have 9% for “independents/others”.

The poll was taken over two weekends, so half the sample came before Turnbull’s state income tax stunt.


No matter how accurately they are derived ( the margin of error is said to be 2.3% for Newspoll and 1.8% for Morgan), numbers have power and in the main to politicians and commentators they matter.

Peter Brent says that attributing shifts in polls to particular events is a mugs game, but Turnbull’s tax stunt may have made a difference. He says:

    Abbott did dumb things, but they usually involved drawing succour from the party base, with collateral damage in the mainstream. Turnbull’s misjudgement, by contrast, was truly Gillardesque in its provocation of the economic anxieties of the electorate.

    The biggest take-out from last week’s fiasco is not its repercussions, but what the event itself says about Turnbull’s political judgement. We now know he is capable of gratuitous, spectacular error.

Personally, I think that’s a bit unfair to Gillard. Also she was clearly a better negotiator then Turnbull.

Sean Kelly in Shorten could actually win this thing says the turning point was further back, when Turnbull gave up on the GST and Shorten released his negative gearing plan. Kelly was on the Gillard campaign in 2010, and thinks Labor’s policy work will make a difference.

Dennis Shanahan in the Oz says it’s “about a Prime Minister and a government ceding the advantage through over-confidence, confusion and a lack of action.”

With credible policies on climate change, health and education Labor just might be a show. Chris Bowen, the only person with an economics degree to hold the job, is making detailed calculations on where the money comes from and goes to. Also I think he’s basically honest, with a minimum of political spin, whereas the LNP deals in blatant lies. If Labor can build some credibility in this area they may finally persuade some people that they can be trusted with the keys to treasury.

13 thoughts on “Turnbull, and his party, on the slide”

  1. Jeez Brian, best tone down the rah rah and pom pom waiving lest Mark Scott bombard you unsolicited job offers.

    Or is that the point ?

  2. Jumpy, When Turnbull knocked off Abbott I was in Europe with my elder brother who is true blue National Party. He said, you can forget about your bloke. My bro knows what it’s like to be in the political wilderness.

    Well the political landscape has changed. Incredibly Turnbull has pissed his political adevantage up against the wall.

    Labor is energised, so are the media and the commentariat. The ruling LNP have the wobbles.

    I’ve sought to convey some of the colour and movement as well as be realistic about what the polls mean. In the last paragraph I may have seemed to go over the top, but I have thought for quite a while that Bowen has had a credible budget position sorted which he’s been letting out in bits. I do think he’s straightforward and honest by inclination and I do think the LNP trades in lies. This year he’s started with Abbott’s sloganeering and scare tactics, beginning with Labor’s negative gearing policy crashing the housing price market.

    Shorten deserves some recognition for his policy work, whereas Turnbull, so far, has been policy lite, or just continuing the Abbott line.

    Then there’s your usual slur on the ABC. If their policy was ‘truth seeking’ like the BBC instead of ‘balance’ your mob would get a harder time.

  3. Brian: I think the preferences of Green voters may be changing since the last election. In our patch most of our gains appeared to come from LNP voters switching to the Greens. Suspect they could not stomach switching to the ALP and probably didn’t give their second preference to the ALP. Working out 2PP on the basis of last election may be biasing towards Labor but, given the Green vote has risen by only a few % what I have said above would not have made much difference.

  4. Shorten was the driving force behind the NDIS and what he did was textbook making things happen.
    My impression is that the ALP has been building up serious policy initiatives during its build-up for the election and this will have an important effect on how Labor does. We only have to look at the jump in ALP support that occurred after the negative gearing release to see the potential for Labor to do very well in this election.
    The discipline of the ALP during the surge in Turnbull support suggests that the ALP thinks it has a real chance of winning on the basis of supporting true Labor policies.

  5. John, last year Shorten was carrying on bravely, and Bowen too to some extent, but there was a feeling that the rest were going through the motions. Now there is a real spring in their step. But it’s true, they retained discipline throughout.

    On Green preferences, it makes a lot of difference if you take 2% away from Labor and give it to the LNP.

    I think Roy Morgan is the only poll that asks how people will distribute their preferences. It seems a bit erratic to me, but maybe it’s actually close to the mark.

    There is a theory around that the polling game has become harder in recent times, with people harder to access, then not wanting to participate, or not being entirely honest when they do.

    But pollies and others still take notice of them, so they play into the political game.

  6. Brian,

    Then there’s your usual slur on the ABC.

    And well deserved.

    If their policy was ‘truth seeking’ like the BBC instead of ‘balance’ your mob would get a harder time.

    Me thinks your impression of my good self is skewiff. I don’t have a ” mob “. I have voted for ALP candidates in the past and have never voted for a Liberal Party Candidate ( other than in preferences ).

    Have you ever not voted ALP or is my impression of you misjudged ?

  7. Have you ever not voted ALP or is my impression of you misjudged ?

    Actually I have voted for candidates other than the ALP, but not often, other than in the senate, where for the last few decades I’ve regularly voted for one Democrat or Green, below the line along with the ALP.

  8. Thanks for the cautions on the voter market polls, Brian.

    Whilst the Two-Party-Preferred swindle is an effective method of dumbing down and controlling the electorate, it is not without its downside. Not knowing well who the voters are who voted for PUP, Katter, etc. last time and not knowing well their likely intentions in the next federal farce is a neglect that will not go unpunished.

    Me? Sack the lot of the born losers and unconvicted scoundrels currently infesting the Parliament and just have a colossal raffle with the winners picked from the electoral rolls – that way we would have a much higher quality of representative government.

    The tougher alternative would be to have actual embassies from the major transnational corporations (that would save them the bother of corrupting our political wallahs and our senior public servants and military “leaders”) and also to start afresh with political parties: one for small business operators and professionals, one for wage-earners, one for ALL the people living in The Other Australia (call it a Country Party if you like), another for artists and intellectuals and yet another for everyone capable of seeing past the next financial year (call that the Future Party, it would have the smallest membership of all). Who knows but doing that may even raise Australian political life from the dead?


  9. Interesting idea, Graham, but we don’t start with a clean sheet of paper. Unfortunately if we want to achieve a better future, here is not a good place to start.

    I picked up Mark from the airport last night, he’s here for a week. He says that Labor has been doing a lot of reflection ‘down south’ about what it is and what it’s here for. And they’ve been doing a lot of policy work in the past two years.

    There’s a study that Jenny Macklin has spent a couple of years on looking in depth at Australian society, and what needs to be done to make it more just and fair. I’ve been aware of it, but haven’t had time to look. He says it’s good stuff, but it’s a starting point for further policy development rather than a series of answers.

    He met Bill Shorten, and was impressed. Reckons he listens and is thoughtful in his responses. Also surprisingly, has ‘presence’ in a room. Just needs to be himself, rather than fire off zingers thought off by his staff. That seems to have stopped this year.

    Richard DN was there too and did not impress so much. A nice guy, but…

  10. Holy mackerel! The A.L.P. actually looking at policy instead of playing blame shuttlecock and “Ringside with the Wrestlers” (for you younger ones: that was an American black&white TV show in the early days of TV here; all thump and grunt and outlandish insults – if the holds and falls had been real, an opponent would have been killed in the first round. The show bore an uncanny resemblance to 2016 political grandstanding).

    The A.L.P. had better hurry up with serving its constituents, instead of serving transnational corporations and personal vanities, if it wants to survive. The L.N.P. has lost Capricornia despite the hard work and teamworker obedience of their member, Michelle Landry; Pauline Hanson is introducing the One Nation candidate for Capricornia tonight (no, I’m not going to drive all the way there just for that); opinions on the loose around here are that only obsessional Joh and Howard supporters will be voting L.N.P. this time around; L.N.P. is seen as anti-farmer, anti-family; A.L.P. is seen as a bunch of money-wasters. In Flynn, next door to Capricornia, too many people have been seriously hurt by the mining downturn and wouldn’t vote L.N.P. again in a blue fit. Can’t speak about Dawson but feel it just might be the same there, despite having a fairly active L.N.P. member. Jumpy?

  11. Graham
    Federally, Dawson has been Nat ( except for this Rudd nong ) for 40 years, yet in State representation Mackay has been ALP for over a Century.

    Run your expert predictive analysis over that and tell me.

  12. What I do know is that if the most penetrative media organisation up here continue to run constant anti LNP/ pro ALP we may see a repeat of 2007. Or perhaps voter will see through it.
    Time will tell.

  13. Jumpy: Don’t know why the Nationals didn’t look after Ray Braithwaite when he was Member for Dawson; low on charisma and showing-off, very high on competency and representation of the voters. Maybe the Nationals preferred it the other way around.

    Any of the Casey family standing?

    One Nation candidate for Capricornia is Ms Keren Armstrong, first-time candidate but newspaper report suggests plenty of life experience. We’re not likely to hear all the scandals about her (“pulled another girl’s pigtails in the schoolground”; “torrid affair with Kim Jong-Un”; “caused the Great Fire of London and the Boxing Day Tsunami”) until Monday or Tuesday when the Sydney commentariat recover from their weekend recreational chemicals binge. Haven’t a clue how she’ll go as a candidate but apparently Pauline Hanson will be here all weekend boosting her chances.

    Hot hatred in last night’s conversations, out here in The Other Australia, against Hawke, Howard, Rudd, Gillard, Abbott, Shorten, (Turnbull didn’t ever get a mention), 457 visas, HECS debts for useless degrees and the sell-off of productive rural land to non-Australian corporations. I was prudent enough to avoid getting my dental records amended by not asking the obvious question, “Yes but would you take the money and run if somebody offered to buy your farm at twice its real value?”; I shall leave that question to someone braver and faster than me. 🙂

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