This morning the latest Newspoll was released. Instead of showing the ALP vote continuing to fall, as had been predicated by all and sundry in the news ltd stable of the media, it showed the ALP increasing its lead in two party preferred from 51-49 to 52-48. In essence this means nothing – a 1 percent change is statistical noise; but nonetheless it was an increase. The ALP Primary vote had not changed, but the Liberal’s Primary had gone down 2 percent. The Nationals increased 1%, the Greens’ vote fell 1% to 15% and “others” went up 2% to 10%.
So how did The Australian run the story given they had keyed up everyone to expect this could be Kevin Rudd’s last poll?
Tony Abbott narrows gap on Kevin Rudd
Over at the ABC, they decided to do (as they have often been doing of late) and followed The Australian almost to the letter:
Abbott closing gap on Rudd
As Stephen Spencer on twitter noted, Denis Shanahan should sue the ABC for plagiarism.
This is called burying the lead. As the two party preferred result didn’t do what they wanted it to do, The Oz and the ABC decided to focus on the preferred PM rating. On this Rudd went from leading 49-33 to leading 46-37. It’s true is was a nice little jump for Abbott, yet it is odd that such a jump occurred while the Liberal Party vote actually declined. It hardly signals any great desire to change.
Back in 2007, Shanahan got lambasted whenever he put the focus on Howard’s preferred PM rating (which was better than the Liberal’s 2PP). As often happens, he got very snippy about bloggers (mostly on Poll Bludger) calling him a Liberal shill who couldn’t understand a Newspoll if it came up and slapped him about the his statistical orifice. The Australian even fought back with a rather precious and condescending editorial where it famously said:
Unlike Crikey, we understand Newspoll because we own it.
It was a very dumb thing to write given it only served to make one distrust the Newspoll results. But the editorial also said the following bit of polling analysis, and I think it bears repeating here, and I leave it to you to judge whether or not you think The Oz has kept to this standard:
According to The Australian's political editor, Dennis Shanahan, no Opposition since World War II has won government without two key indicators 12 months out from the election. These are that the Opposition Leader has a lead over the incumbent of at least five points on the question of who would make a better Prime Minister and the party has a nine point lead on a two party preferred basis.
So has the Liberal Party ever had a nine point lead over the Government on the two party preferred? Err no. It has ONCE had a 2 point lead. And has Tony Abbott ever had a five point lead over Rudd? Nope, in fact the best he has even been is now, where he trails by 9 points (and that is after a fortnight where Abbott disappeared out of view – something he won’t be able to do for much longer). Interesting don’t you think?…
The real interesting thing for me about the Newspoll remains the Greens vote on 15 percent. Who are these people? Back on the April 12 when the ALP was still going strong and leading 54-46, the LNP Primary was the same as today – 40%. The ALP Primary was 43%. Today it is 35% – it has lost 8%, none of which has gone to the LNP. The Greens votes has jumped in that time from 10% to 15%, and “others” has increased from 7% to 10%.
I think from that view, you can make a strong case that most of the Greens increase is disaffected left leaning ALP voters, and that the increase in “others” is true centre types who don’t trust the Greens, but wish with all their might that Malcolm Turnbull was leading the Libs and not Tony Abbott. In other words that the Greens preferences will flow to the ALP as they normally do – about 75-80%, and the others vote will flow the the LNP by the usual 55%.
Whether or not this is true is up for conjecture – it’s just my reading of the poll. My only support is today’s Essential Media poll which also has the ALP up 52-48 (up from 51-49). The Essential Poll showed an increase in the ALP Primary from 35% to 38%, and a fall in the Greens vote from 14% to 11%. This is a pretty good example of some ALP vote going to the Greens as a bit of a “geez Kevin, you’re giving us the shits”, but which will come back in time. And given Essential records its vote from a two week average, this also suggests that the ALP vote has increased a bit more than 3% in the past week.
Oddly, given all the stories run in The Oz about Julia Gillard (who had a striking new hair colour in QT today) being ready to take over as PM, the Newspoll did not ask who out of Kev or Julia was preferred as PM (or even Julia vs Abbott). Thankfully Essential did this work for us, and showed that while Rudd leads Abbott as preferred PM by 47 to 30, Julia leads Abbott by 50 to 32. In the Julia-Kevin head to head stakes though, Rudd leads by 36% to 31 (31% undecided). All of which suggests that changing from Rudd to Gillard would be incredibly dumb – it would hardly change the vote, and may actually hurt the ALP’s vote (especially when you factor in it would be preceded by an incredibly destabilising leadership spill). I said a couple weeks back that “for Julia to seriously be considered, the ALP would need to be down around 44-45% in Newspoll”. They are a loooong way from that. The media really needs to settle down.
And on to Question Time.
Today the theme from the Government was the deal done with Telstra yesterday on the NBN. Rudd was pretty chipper about the whole thing, but oddly for the second Dorothy Dixer, Anthony Albanese was the one who got stuck into Abbott – quoting new member for Bradfield, former Optus exec, Paul Fletcher, and describing the Libs’ broadband policy as one of “trading in your iphone for a walkie-talkie”.
The opposition meanwhile continued the “real people” theme of last week when asking about the RSPT. Rudd had no problems with the questions, and I have to say if there is one thing Abbott wished had never happened it would be bloody Peter Dutton buying those BHP shares. Every Question Time Rudd announces to the house how much money Dutton has made, and the Liberal Party absolutely hates it. Rudd also enjoyed mentioning the deal signed today for China to “build mines, railways and port facilities in Australia”. The multi-billion dollar deal certainly doesn’t suggest the death of the Australian mining industry (or as BHP told me on Friday – an example of investors thinking twice about investing in Australia”).
Incidentally, late this afternoon Western Australia announced it was going to increase the royalties on iron ore from 3.75% to 5.25% – a 50% increase. Oddly the article in The Australian made absolutely no comments about sovereign risk of retrospectivity…
Julie Bishop asked Rudd about the impact of the RSPT on the employment of indigenous Australians. Rudd quite rightly slammed her for the gall of the Liberal Party who campaigned so absurdly against the supposed impact of the Native Title legislation back in the 1990s to come out as though they were some supporters of Indigenous people. Rudd also pointed out that the mining industry shed 15,000 jobs as soon as the GFC hit, so it’s not like they were some brave defenders of Australia's interests when times were tough. The Libs didn’t like hearing this at all, and there were three points of order (all to do with Rued citing Dutton’s shares).
Joe Hockey didn't see much humour in the whole proceedings, for when he got up to ask his dumb question to Wayne Swan about the possible costs of possible negotiations with the gravel industry (as if Swan would talk about the costs of something that haven’t even been agreed to), Joe got very shirty at something Rudd said. Hockey asked Rudd “have you got something to say Prime Minister?!”. And then quickly moving into angry-Joe mode he referred to Rudd’s comments as “psychobabble”.
The next issue the opposition tried was the home insulation programme and reports that insulation under the scheme had been responsible for 147 fires. Rudd’s response gave a very good indicator of why things are not great for the Government in the polls. Instead of going on the attack and pointing out the reality of the statistics on the incidence of fires (namely that it is massively reduced under the scheme), he meekly read out some brief that was dull and limp. Sometimes the best defence is a good offence, and on this issue Rudd has long needed to take up the attack. There is no doubt Gillard would have were she in his shoes – so too would have Keating and Hawke – you never given the opposition anything, and if the facts are actually on your side then you bloody well argue them!
The other issue for debate was the story on the weekend of the Government's Mental Health advisor, Professor Mendoza, resigning. Dutton asked Rudd about it – making his appearance for the first time in a while (greeted by the Government front bench yelling “Sell! Sell! Sell!”) . Rudd’s response again was not strong, and the opposition was loud and abusive. Speaker, Harry Jenkins got pretty bloody angry at the house, at one point reducing the House to silence and then stating:
“The failure to listen, the failure of lack of respect is becoming a hall mark of this chamber", which we are all judged by…”
True that. Did it make any difference? Of course not.
Abbott followed up Dutton’s question with another on mental health. Rudd’s response on this was much better (though it completely avoided the question – and focussed on things done by the Government on Mental Health). Abbott claimed to be appalled by Rudd’s attitude – saying he has “airbrushed Professor Mendoza” out of the question.
Interestingly Tony Abbott today in the media completely airbrushed any reference to Wilson Tuckey. Tuckey this morning linked the RSPT to the plane crash on the weekend in the Congo containing 11 people, among them mining executives from WA. Tuckey said this morning:
"Not in anyway trying to infer that there was any fault of the Government or anyone else - where were they? They were in Africa. And why where they there? They were looking for iron ore - already…. We have a tragic example of where the mining industry is now focusing its attention. We have a stark and tragic example, apparently, telling us what's going on."
What a complete and utter political bottom-feeder. The media should be demanding Abbott rebuke him.
They won’t of course. God knows we don’t want to do anything to interfere with a good narrative.