Yesterday we published the results of a Morgan Poll of federal voting intention.

The Government’s primary vote was up 1% to 41.5% while Labor support had fallen 1% to 40.5%. The two party preferred vote split 52.5 to 47.5% in Labor’s favour. The polling predated last week’s interest rate rise – but also beat the sleaze storm that has ensnared Labor governments in NSW, Queensland and the West.

Today’s Newspoll – taken between Friday and Sunday – shows a collapse in Labor’s primary vote over the past fortnight from 41 to 37%. The two party preferred vote has the parties tied on 50%. Two weeks ago Labor led 52 points to 48.

The Australian’s front page reads “State sleaze hits Beazley’s chances”. Yet in his analysis, Dennis Shanahan says the states shouldn’t carry all of the blame:

There is little doubt that an epidemic of amazing corruption allegations and criminal charges against state ALP MPs has damaged the “Labor brand”.

Equally there is little doubt that John Howard expected a political hit on interest rates in the public polling.

To Kim Beazley’s consternation, the first has cancelled the second…

[F]or all the validity of pointing the finger at state Labor, the federal MPs should not hide from some ugly truths emerging. Federal Labor’s support is soft: at the first sense of trouble it collapses…

Perhaps. But perhaps there are some perception issues at play here.

The state Liberal oppositions are generally regarded as useless. The perceived strength of the Howard Government contributes to this. They fail to measure up to the standards set by their federal colleagues.

Labor appears to be a much more monolithic party. So much reporting of the ALP centres on the various factional machines that wield power in the states and in Canberra.

Because it is in opposition, federal Labor also relies on a close association with the state governments to demonstrate its management credentials.

When disaster strikes them, the federal party immediately suffers guilt by association. And, as an opposition, it is harder for federal Labor to take stands, change the topic and assert its independence.

Peter Fray

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