After three successive 55-45 results, the latest fortnightly Newspoll returns the Coalition to its lowest ebb, with Labor leading 58-42. This hasn’t been matched by any seismic shift on the preferred prime minister rating: Kevin Rudd is up two points to 67 per cent, but Malcolm Turnbull is also up one to 18 per cent. If you’re feeling creative, you might interpret the results as a vote of no confidence in the Coalition party room’s hostility to the emissions trading scheme. More details to follow. UPDATE: Labor’s primary vote is up three points to 46 per cent, the Coalition’s is down three to 35 per cent, and Turnbull’s disapproval is down two to a four-month low of 48 per cent. Graphic here; more from Dennis Shanahan.

Meanwhile, the latest weekly Essential Research survey has Labor’s lead up from 59-41 to 60-40. Further questions cover Kevin Rudd’s performance at the G20 summit (good if not great), confidence in his representation of Australia at such events (high), whether respondents agree with Bill Clinton’s kind words about him (they do), confidence in economic conditions over the next 12 months (sharply higher), concern over personal job security (correspondingly lower) and employees’ perception of how their employer is travelling (mixed).

Some big news on the preselection front, as you’re probably aware:

• Peter Dutton appears to have failed in his bid to move from Dickson to McPherson, having lost Saturday’s preselection vote to Karen Andrews. The state executive of Queensland’s Liberal National Party can refuse to ratify the result, but senior figures in the party have reportedly ruled this out. Dutton is said to have come within a handful of votes of victory on the first round, but was defeated on the third after the excluded Minna Knight’s supporters moved en masse to Karen Andrews (although the ABC records Andrews’ win on the final round being a reasonably comfortable 75 to 59). Liberals are telling the media of a “bloc of up to 40 Nationals” accounting for both local branch and state executive delegates voted against Dutton, but Barnaby Joyce (who supported Dutton) gives this the status of “scratching on the back of a public lavatory door”. Jamie Walker of The Australian reports the outcome was influenced by a “boots and all” attack on Dutton at the preselection meeting by Judy Gamin, former Nationals member for the local seat of Burleigh; the role of Currumbin MP Jann Stuckey in shifting Knight’s votes to Andrews; and the absence of the seat’s Dutton-supporting sitting member, Margaret May, who “opted to continue with a scheduled parliamentary visit to Britain”.

• Dutton’s defeat has led to speculation he might instead be accommodated by a retirement announcement from Fisher MP Peter Slipper or Fairfax MP Alex Somlyay, but neither seems to be biting. Scott Prasser of the Australian Catholic University observes: “The trouble is when you are in opposition both federally and state, you can’t offer any existing MPs any positions overseas or posts so it is very hard to sort of lean on someone say could you please go for the good of the party because we’ve got nothing to offer you.” Many have noted there’s a vacant seat next door in newly created Wright, but as Andrew Landeryou of VexNews notes, this is designated Nationals turf under the merger arrangement.

Stephanie Peatling of the Sydney Morning Herald reports high-profile constitutional lawyer George Williams might challenge Bob McMullan for preselection in his northern Canberra seat of Fraser.

• The ABC reports Tamworth councillor and Winton district farmer Russell Webb will seek preselection for the Nationals in the state seat of Tamworth. The seat has been held by independents for all but two years since 1991: by Tony Windsor until his entry into federal parliament as member for New England in 2001, and by present incumbent Peter Draper since 2003.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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