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Source: The Conversation (Au and NZ) – By Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

Labor’s two-party lead has been cut back slightly, to 54-46%, and its primary vote has fallen in the post-budget Newspoll. But Anthony Albanese would have a strong win if the latest poll were reproduced at the election.

A second poll, done by Ipsos, in the Australian Financial Review, also shows Labor in a good position as Scott Morrison prepares to call the May election.

Newspoll, published in Monday’s Australian newspaper, has Labor’s primary vote on 38%, a drop of 3 points, while the Coalition is on 36%, up a point since the last poll three weeks ago. The Greens have risen 2 points to 10%

Labor’s lead of 54-46% on a two-party basis compares with 55-45% in the previous poll.

The much-awaited Newspoll, in which the government hoped to see a budget bounce, comes as Scott Morrison battles with another controversy about his character – with claims, which he totally denies, that he used the race issue against his opponent in his 2007 preselection.

The Newspoll showed little change in the leaders’ personal ratings.

Satisfaction with Morrison was up a point to 42%; dissatisfaction was down a point to 54%, giving a net rating of minus 12. Albanese’s satisfaction rating was down a point to 43%; dissatisfaction with him increased 2 points to 44%.

On who would be the better PM, Morrison inched a nose back in front from the previous poll’s dead heat. He rose a point to 43%; Albanese was unchanged at 42%. The national poll of 1531 was done Thursday to Sunday. Albanese’s budget reply, in which he announced his aged care policy was Thursday night.

The AFR Ipsos poll of 2563 voters, conducted Wednesday to Saturday, showed only 31% Coalition primary vote, with Labor on 35%, and the Greens on 10%.

When people stated their preferences, this gave a two-party result of Labor 48%, Coalition 37% and 15% undecided.

If the 2019 election preference flow are used, with undecided votes distributed, Labor has a two-party lead of 55-45%.

In the Ipsos poll, Morrison has an approval rating of 33%, with 48% disapproving and 19% uncommitted. Albanese is approved by 30%, disapproved by 32%, with a huge 38% uncommitted, indicating the opposition leader has yet to define himself in the minds of many voters.

Morrison’s has a higher disapproval rating among women than among men -– 51-45%.

As preferred PM, Albanese is a point ahead of Morrison, 38-37%, with a large 25% uncommitted.

The AFR poll found 29% thought they would be better off from Tuesday’s budget, 23% judged they would be worse off and 39% believed it would make no difference to them.

Meanwhile Morrison is waiting for a NSW court decision, expected on Monday, on a challenge brought by a NSW party member to the endorsement of three MPs by a committee appointed by the Liberal party’s federal executive, after the faction-riven NSW Liberal division was at an impasse.

Read more:
Grattan on Friday: Anthony Albanese treads cautious path in navigating around giveaway budget

The decision relates to ministers Sussan Ley and Alex Hawke and backbencher Trent Zimmerman, but an adverse judgement would also affect a raft of candidates for other seats, including some key marginals, announced at the weekend. The candidates were chosen by the committee, compromising Morrison, NSW premier Dominic Perrottet and former Liberal president Chris McDiven.

At the weekend Morrison was fighting off allegations – which he flatly denies – that he used a racist slur against his opponent in his 2007 preselection for his seat of Cook.

The Saturday Paper reported statutory declarations signed in 2016 that claimed Morrison had warned certain preselectors against choosing Michael Towke as the candidate because his Lebanese background would cause a swing against the Liberals in Cook. The Cronulla race riots had occurred less than two years before. Morrison was also accused of spreading a rumour that Towke – a Catholic – was Muslim.

Towke made one of the statutory declarations; the other was from a preselector, Scott Chapman, who was named in Nine’s Saturday report on the statutory declarations.

Towke won the preselection against Morrison and other candidates, but then lost a second ballot that the party ordered.

Speaking to Nine newspapers, Towke at the weekend said: “I stand by the declarations I asserted in my statutory declaration.”

“Amongst many unedifying tactics used to unseat me from my preselection victory for Morrison, racial vilification was front and centre and he was directly involved.”

Morrison on Sunday described the allegations as “quite malicious and bitter slurs”.

“My record of my relationship with the Lebanese Maronite community, in particular, as well as the Lebanese Muslim community, is one that I think stands out amongst any other member of parliament and certainly above any other prime minister of this country,” Morrison said.

Asked at a news conference whether he would be willing to sign a statutory declaration rejecting the claims Morrison said he would. But he went on, “Well no one’s asking for one and I’m not going to court over these matters”.

Pressed on the wide ranging attacks that have been made on his character Morrison blamed individuals who “haven’t liked the answer they’ve got, and so rather than accept that, they have decided to cast all sorts of slings and arrows”.

He said as prime minister “you’ve got to have broad shoulders. People will throw all sorts of mud at you, particularly when you get up close to an election, and they’ll make all sorts of things up because they have other motivations.”

The resurrection of Morrison’s preselection was triggered by the furious denunciation of him in parliament on budget night by Liberal backbench senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, who was involved in the Cook dispute at the time, and has just lost her own preselection battle for a winnable spot on the NSW Senate ticket.

She told the Senate:“I am advised that there are several statutory declarations to attest to racial comments made by Morrison at the time that we can’t have a Lebanese person in Cook”.

She also claimed that “having lost the [first] ballot Morrison and his cronies went to [then Labor official] Sam Dastyari to get dirt on Towke, who had been in the Labor party for a period of time whilst at university”.

Further Labor aged care announcement

In an additional policy announcement on aged care, Labor on Sunday said it would place a cap on what users could be charged in home care administration and management fees. It would also require monthly reporting to users about where their fees were going.

The measures would “stop the rorting of home care fees”.
Albanese said: “Labor will restore integrity and transparency to our aged care system. Whether you are in residential care or home care, Australians should have confidence the money they are paying is going where it should – towards their care.”

Read more:
Anthony Albanese offers $2.5 billion plan to ‘fix crisis in aged care’

Last week Albanese announced a $2.5 billion aged care policy, on top of which a Labor government would fund whatever wage rise the Fair Work Commission brings down for workers in the sector.

In another instance of its determination to be a small target, shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers was firm on Sunday that Labor would not change the tax arrangements for trusts. Its plans to do so gave the Coalition grounds for attack in 2019. “We’re not taking that policy to this election,” Chalmers told Sky.

The Conversation

Michelle Grattan does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

ref. Labor ahead 54-46% in post-budget Newspoll, as Morrison rejects claims of racist tactics in his preselection fight –