GhostWhoVotes tweets that an imminent Nielsen poll has the Coalition with a 51-49 lead, their first in any poll since the election. Labor’s primary vote is 34 per cent (compared with 38.0 at the election), while the Coalition is on 43 per cent (43.6 per cent) and the Greens are on 14 per cent (11.8 per cent). More to follow.

UPDATE: In spite of everything, the poll has Julia Gillard’s approval up four points on Nielsen’s pre-election poll to 54 per cent, with her disapproval down two to 39 per cent and her lead as preferred prime minister opening from 51-40 to 53-39. Tony Abbott’s approval rating is down a point to 45 per cent and his disapproval is up one to 50 per cent. This is substantially better than his recent showings in Essential Research (39 per cent approval and 45 per cent disapproval last week) and Newspoll (39 per cent approval and 47 per cent disapproval the week before), perhaps suggesting Nielsen’s sample was skewed somewhat to the Coalition.

Other findings of the poll show it’s far from just voting intention on which the public is almost evenly split:

• Forty-nine per cent were opposed to Australian involvement in Afghanistan with 45 per cent in favour, marking little change on a year ago.

• Fify per cent were opposed to asylum seeker families and their children living in the community while their claims were processed, with 47 per cent in favour.

• Fifty-one per cent felt Murray Darling Basin policy should prioritise communities and farmers while 43 per cent would prefer it prioritise the environment – whatever that might mean. Seventy-nine per cent apparently profess themselves in favour of “a balanced outcome between community and farmer needs on the one hand and the environment on the other”, which I guess means as many as 21 per cent would prefer an unbalanced one.

• Forty-six per cent support a price on carbon, with 44 per cent opposed. As Michelle Grattan notes, “backing for an ETS before the election was between 56 and 60 per cent”.

The poll was conducted between Thursday and Saturday from Nielsen’s usual sample of 1400 and margin of error of a bit over 2.5 per cent.

A couple of other things:

• A Tasmanian trouble-maker will withdraw his High Court challenge against the validity of Liberal Senator Eric Abetz’s election on the basis of section 44 of the Constitution, which forbids dual citizens from running for parliament – Abetz having shown the poor taste to have been born in Germany, and renunciation of citizenship being something of a grey area. The complainant, described by the Hobart Mercury as “wealthy northern Tasmanian antiques dealer John Hawkins”, has agreed to drop the case after being provided with a document in which Abetz renounces his German citizenship. This was dated March 9, 2010, which according to Hawkins implies Abetz had indeed held dual citizenship when he filled a casual vacancy in 1994 and won re-election in 1998 and 2004. He could thus have faced problems if his position had been challenged in the 40-day post-election period in which challenges can be lodged – although he could always have resumed his position after getting his house in order if a compliant seat-warmer had held his vacancy in the interim.

• Labor turned in a poor show at Saturday’s by-election for the Brisbane City Council ward of Walter Taylor, which covers a strongly conservative area south-west of the city around Indooroopilly. At the close of counting Liberal National Party candidate Julian Simmonds had scored an easy victory with 57.1 per cent of the primary vote (down 6.5 per cent on the 2008 election), with Greens candidate Tim Dangerfield on 23.5 per cent (up 8.4 per cent) well ahead of Labor’s Louise Foley on 16.8 per cent (down 4.4 per cent). The by-election was necessitated by Jane Prentice’s election to the corresponding federal seat of Ryan in place of disendorsed LNP incumbent Michael Johnson.

• There was another minor electoral event a fortnight ago with a by-election in the Northern Territory electorate of Araluen, where Country Liberal Party member Jodeen Carney had called it a day due for health reasons. CLP candidate Robyn Lambley had no trouble winning a two-horse race with 1935 votes (68.0 per cent) against Labor candidate Adam Findlay’s 909 (32.0 per cent). This marked a swing to Labor of 6.7 per cent on the 2008 election, bearing in mind that candidate factors have an enormous impact in electoral districts of this size.

UPDATE 2: The latest Essential Research survey shows the two parties still locked together on 50-50, with Labor up a point on the primary vote to 41 per cent and the Coalition unchanged on 44 per cent, and the Greens down one to 8 per cent (an unusually low Greens vote having become an established feature of Essential Research polling). On Afghanistan, the poll concurs with Nielsen in having 47 per cent favouring a full withdrawal, against 10 per cent who want more troops and 30 per cent who believe the number should remain unchanged. Party best to handle Afghanistan produces yet another split decision, with Labor on 33 per cent and Liberal on 32 per cent. A question on the Murray-Darling Basin is framed in somewhat more sensible terms than Nielsen’s, with 49 per cent supporting the proposition that the amount of water taken from the system should be reduced against only 20 per cent who disagree. However, a question on detention centres elicits a harsher view, with 53 per cent disapproving of the government’s decision to move children and families into the community against only 33 per cent approving. Fully 63 per cent believe the government’s approach on asylum seekers is “too soft”, with only 18 per cent saying they are “taking the right approach” and 7 per cent believing their stance “too tough”. Only 25 per cent believe Labor the batter party to handle the issue against 37 per cent for the Liberals.

Get Crikey for $1 a week.

Lockdowns are over and BBQs are back! At last, we get to talk to people in real life. But conversation topics outside COVID are so thin on the ground.

Join Crikey and we’ll give you something to talk about. Get your first 12 weeks for $12 to get stories, analysis and BBQ stoppers you won’t see anywhere else.

Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
12 weeks for just $12.