The Australian offers geographic and demographic breakdowns of the last two Newspoll surveys, achieving reasonable samples from each subset due to the unusually large samples (around 1700) Newspoll uses during the election period. Age breakdowns offer the interesting finding that Labor has bounced back under Gillard in the 35-49 bracket, but if anything gone backwards among the young and old – or rather, remained stable on the primary vote while the Coalition has picked up a few points. The gender gap is four points on voting intention, seven on Gillard’s approval rating and ten on preferred prime minister, and appears to have widened steadily through the year on Tony Abbott’s approval.

The state breakdowns give us a useful opportunity to confirm their findings with Nielsen, the Fairfax papers having conducted a similar exercise from the three most recent polls (extending it to four for South Australia and Western Australia to boost the sample). I also offer a third measure of what the betting markets think, which involves a rough estimate of the statewide swings suggested by the odds SportingBet and SportsBet are offering on individual seats (more on this subject from occasional Poll Bludger commenter Dr Good). The table shows Labor’s two-party preferred vote:

2007 Newspoll Nielsen Bookies
NSW 53.7% 49% 51% 53%
Vic 54.3% 59% 54% 54%
Qld 50.4% 46% 47% 47%
WA 46.7% 46% 46% 46%
SA 52.4% 56% 51% 53%

Some further (alleged) intelligence courtesy of internal polling:

Phillip Coorey of the Sydney Morning Herald reports Liberal polling in NSW has them doing “well” in “about five Labor-held marginal seats”, which include Macquarie and Robertson and to a lesser extent Dobell. The other two presumably include Gilmore, with a fifth harder to identify: the pendulum suggests Bennelong, Eden-Monaro and Page, where in each case the markets favour Labor. However, they Liberals were also said to be in trouble in Hughes and Macarthur. In Queensland, Leichardt and Dawson are said to be at risk, but Labor looks set to hold Longman and Flynn.

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• The West Australian reports Nationals polling has Wilson Tuckey leading them in O’Connor by just 51-49, from primary votes of 38 per cent for Tuckey, 23 per cent for Nationals candidate Tony Crook, 21 per cent for Labor and 8 per cent for the Greens, with 10 per cent undecided.

• Markus Mannheim of the Canberra Times reports Liberal polling in the ACT shows the Greens vote actually falling since the 2007 election, which if accurate would put their dream of a Senate seat well beyond reach, if the Democrats’ decision to direct preferences to the Liberals hadn’t done it already.

We’ve had conflicting reports in recent days on party finances and campaign spending:

Richard Gluyas of The Australian today reports the Liberals are struggling to raise funds. A media-buying source is quoted saying Labor ad spending has been especially conspicuous in the past week, with $19 million in advertising commitments for the length of the campaign splitting “55:45 in favour of Labor”.

• The Sydney Morning Herald, by contrast, reports Liberal television advertising has been 51 per cent more active than Labor’s, “as measured by audience exposure”:

Labor officials wondered aloud where a cash-strapped Liberal Party had managed to find the money, an answer which will not be disclosed officially for a year and a half. And the Liberals were struck by the fact that Labor had all but withdrawn from the advertising market in the second week of the campaign. After an active first week, Labor advertising airtime fell to zero in Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth, and near zero in Sydney, in week two. Labor continued normal campaign-level advertising only in Brisbane, presumably reflecting the high concentration of at-risk seats in Queensland. In a week in which Labor was taking a hiding in the news media and in the polls, the party decided to stop trying to reach voters with paid advertising as it husbanded its resources. “Labor have obviously come off for a reason,” Mr Durrant said. “I can’t see that it would be because they have run out of money but more likely it is a strategic decision to perhaps blitz the market in the final stretches when people are closer to making a decision, which could be quite smart given how much coverage and PR is being generated by them both.”

I can only say that the the Liberal Party doesn’t seem starved for funds in Western Australia. As well as running highly visible campaigns even in Labor’s safest seats, there is talk the state branch has found $1 million to spare for the national campaign.

So much for what they’re doing with their own money – here’s some of what they have planned for ours.

Petrie (Labor 2.3%): Last week Labor promised to spend $742 million building a fabled rail line from Petrie to Kippa-Ring. The Liberals responded by bringing forward their own planned announcement that $750 million would be put into the project. This evidently came as news to LNP Petrie candidate Dean Teasdale, whose initial reaction to Labor’s announcement was that this was not the time for such an expensive project. Tony Koch of The Australian notes the rail link has been the subject of fruitless election promises for 40 years, and it was first proposed as far back as the 1890s. The state government dropped plans to build the link six years ago after a study suggested it would be unviable, but last year was reported to be pushing to get the project “shovel ready” so it could be considered for federal funds. It emerged as an issue in the state election last March when Shadow Transport Minister Fiona Simpson flew solo with a promise it would be built by 2016, causing great embarrassment to her party.

Leichhardt (Labor 4.1%), Dawson (Labor 2.4%), Flynn (Labor 2.3%), Herbert (notional Labor 0.4%) and Hinkler (Nationals 1.5%): Queensland’s regional coastal seats were clearly the target of Tony Abbott’s announcement last week that they would limit the future expansion of marine parks, by requiring “peer-reviewed scientific evidence of a threat to marine diversity”. The announcement was made at Mackay in Dawson. Mackay has also been the scene of a bidding war over the construction of a new ring road: Wayne Swan promised $10 million for a feasibility study into a new ring road one week into the campaign, and Tony Abbott trumped him two days later by promising $30 million for design and engineering work.

Hasluck (Labor 1.0%) and Swan (notional Labor 0.3%): Labor last week promised to provide $480 million of $600 million sought by the Western Australian government to improve roads around Perth Airport, which will include widening Tonkin Highway to a six-lane freeway. There was also an as yet uncosted promise to provide funding to an upgrade of 4 kilometres of Great Eastern Highway.

Bass (Labor 1.0%): Last week Labor promised $11.5 million in finding for Launceston’s flood levees as part of the Natural Disaster Resilience Program.

Sturt (Liberal 0.9%) and Makin (Labor 7.7%): The Prime Minister last week announced $100 million in funding for stormwater harvesting and reuse, the first cab off the rank being a $10 million contribution to a pitch for $33 million by councils in eastern Adelaide. With the councils to fund half the cost, this left a $6 million hole which Labor wanted filled by a previously reluctant state government. The next day Tony Abbott trumped Labor by promising to put up the full $16.5 million. The Coalition has also promised $7.5 million to improve Fosters and Gorge roads in Sturt.

Gilmore (notional Labor 0.2%): Late last week Tony Abbott promised $20 million to upgrade a notorious section of the Princes Highway between Ulladulla and Batemans Bay.

Legal action:

• The GetUp!-sponsored legal challenge against the law requiring the electoral roll to close on the day the writs are issued will be heard in the High Court tomorrow. According to the Australin Financial Review, GetUp! will be supported by most of the legal team that acted for Vickie Roach in the 2007 action that overturned a Howard government law prohibiting prisoners from voting.

• A “Tasmanian antique dealer” has launched a legal challenge against Eric Abetz’s right to sit in parliament, arguing he remains a citizen of Germany, from which he emigrated in 1961 at the age of three. Constitutional expert and Labor preselection aspirant George Williams tells The Hobart Mercury there are “numerous pitfalls for any politician born overseas, or whose parents or even grandparents had been born overseas, to fall into, unawares and without intent, which could make them ineligible to sit in Parliament”.

Finally, there has as always been some interesting wash-up from the unveiling of Senate group voting tickets on Sunday, which I have summarised for an article in Crikey. Note the launch of the new awareness-raising website Below the Line, on which voters are encouraged to order and then print out their own Senate “how to vote” card.

As a Crikey subscriber and someone who began working as a journalist in 1957, I am passionate about the importance of independent media like Crikey. I met a lot of Australians from many walks of life during my career and did my best to share their stories honestly and fairly with their fellow citizens.

And I never forgot how important it is to hold politicians to account. Crikey does that – something that is more important now than ever before in Australia.

North Stradbroke Island, QLD

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