By Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra
THE continuing bitter fight over the budget has seen Labor maintain a strong two-party lead and Tony Abbott regarded as trustworthy by only just over one third of voters, in the latest Nielsen poll in Fairfax Media.
After his broken election commitments Abbott is seen as trustworthy by 35%, which is fewer than Julia Gillard’s 36% in April 2013 after she broke her carbon tax promise, and compares with 45% who regard Bill Shorten as trustworthy.
The poll also contains bad news for Treasurer Joe Hockey, who leads his opposite number Chris Bowen by only a whisker as preferred treasurer – 43%, down 8 points since March, to 42%, up 8 points.
Labor’s primary vote has risen 3 points in a month to 40%, the same as immediately after the budget, and the Coalition’s is steady on 39%, in the poll of 1400 taken between Thursday and Saturday. The Greens are down a point to 12%, while Palmer United Party is on 5% and others are 5%.
The government trails Labor 46% (down a point) to 54% (up one) on a two-party basis.
There is a swing of 7.5% against the government since the election.
Last week saw the repeal of the carbon tax on Thursday, after some chaos about the process in parliament the previous week. Also last week Hockey threatened to seek more spending cuts if the Senate did not play ball with budget items.
Despite the fall in the Coalition’s vote, Abbott’s approval rose 3 points to 38%, while his disapproval fell 4 points to 56%. Shorten’s approval was down a point to 41%; his disapproval increased by 3 points to 44%.
Shorten leads as preferred PM for the third month running: 46% (down a point) to Abbott’s 41%, up a point.
PUP leader Clive Palmer gets an approval rating of 37% but 51% disapprove of the job he’s doing.
When people were asked about the leaders’ attributes the results were mixed.
Apart from on trustworthiness, Abbott also trailed Shorten on being competent (52-57%), open to ideas (38-58%), and having a firm grasp on social policy (34-58%).
Despite the Coalition’s constant attacks on Labor over its “debt and deficit” legacy, Abbott and Shorten were rated equally as having a firm grasp of economic policy.
Abbott was ahead of Shorten in being seen as a strong leader (47-40%), having the confidence of his party (64-63%), having a clear vision for Australia’s future (54-38%), having a firm grip on foreign policy (43-38%), and having the ability to make things happen (58-36%).
Abbott was much less likely to be seen as influenced by minority groups than Shorten (28-42%).
The continued bad results federally for the Coalition coincide with the Newman government in Queensland losing its second byelection this year with a two-party swing of around 18.5% against it in the seat of Stafford. The Queensland LNP government faces the people in the first half of next year.
Hockey’s rating fall comes as he is quoted in a biography of him out this week saying he had thought when Abbott became leader in 2009 he wouldn’t last long and he, Hockey, would then get the job.
Hockey thought he had an agreement that then leader Malcolm Turnbull would not re-contest if there were a spill but this was not Turnbull’s understanding. When Turnbull did stand, Hockey was knocked out on the first ballot.
The book, Not Your Average Joe by Madonna King, quotes Hockey: “I was filthy. But I was a bit relieved, too. I thought, ‘We are going through all these people. We’re clearing the decks. Abbott won’t last long and at least that gives me a free run. I’m next, and if I’m next, I’m not going to have all these people undermining me.’”
Asked whether he had learned to trust Turnbull again, Hockey said, “I’m still going through that process, but I won’t write anyone off forever”. His wife Melissa Babbage said: “There will always be distrust there”.
The book also reports that when Hockey, a supporter of an emissions trading scheme, asked John Howard at the time of the leadership contest what stance he should take, Howard told him they had to have an ETS because that was what the Coalition had promised. Hockey proposed a conscience vote on the issue, which was seen within the Liberal party as unacceptable and cost him support.
Michelle Grattan does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.
[Photo by Troy. Attribution Licence]