It’s been Morris Iemma’s worst week for a long time, with the NSW premier forced to sack his police minister and one-time leadership rival, Carl Scully, for apparently misleading parliament over a report on the Cronulla riots. Interesting timing, then, for a Newspoll on state voting intentions.

As Imre Salusinszky explains in The Australian, the poll was completed before Scully’s resignation, and “only about a quarter of respondents would have been aware of the first phase of the Scully affair”. Nonetheless, good news is still good news, and Labor can be pleased with its 54% to 46% two-party-preferred lead.

Although that’s down very slightly from the previous poll, it’s better than it might look because Labor is in a particularly strong position on the pendulum: the Coalition probably needs about 52% to win a majority (Antony Green’s analysis is here). A 2-3% uniform swing would not win them any seats at all.

A similar lack of movement in the approval ratings and preferred-premier numbers suggests that NSW voters had pretty much made up their minds about next March’s election. The question is whether the Scully affair will be enough to shift them.

With almost five months to go, my guess is that it will have faded from consciousness by then – which presumably is why Iemma chose to bite the bullet and let Scully go quickly rather than try to tough it out.

An opposition that was more on the ball might be able to turn the affair into a big vote winner, but the NSW Liberals have problems of their own, with the recent very public resignation of Steven Pringle after he was dumped in a preselection ballot.

This weekend another left-winger, North Shore’s Jillian Skinner, is under challenge. Although it would be a good opportunity to bring in some new blood, the risk of another MP spitting the dummy will probably help Peter Debnam to keep his troops in line.

Peter Fray

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