There’s no real surprise in the voting intention or preferred prime minister figures in the first Newspoll for the year. Indeed, they are academic. Still, opposition leader Brendan Nelson can draw heart from his approval rating.

Dr Brendan has started strongly with 36% satisfaction. It’s better than many other opposition leaders have scored in honeymoon Newspolls.

William Bowe unpacks the full figures over at The Poll Bludger, but Dr Brendan comes out better than John Hewson after the 1990 election (33%) and Simon Crean in the wake of 2001 (30%). He scores lower, though, than Kim Beazley in his two stints as opposition leader after 1996 (39%) and 2004 (40%).

His 19% disapproval rating comes in mid range. The relatively unknown Hewson was on just 15% in 1990, along with Beazley in 1996. Crean never had much luck, scoring 25% in 2001 and Beazley’s disapproval was higher the second time round, 22%.

Then again, polling figures might not be the best indicator here. Since World War II, no first term leader of the opposition after their party has been tipped out of office has had any luck. Chifley and Whitlam never made it back into the top job, while Snedden, Peacock and Beazley never got there in the first place.

Across the country, the Libs face a hard row. Yesterday’s Melbourne meeting of the state and territory Liberal leaders had only one memorable outcome – a picture of the unhappy band in The Age with the caption “Can you name more than one person in the shot?”