The Coalition’s vote has surged in today’s Essential Report poll, carrying it to its highest ever 2PP lead over Labor, of 53-47. Its primary vote has hit a new high of 47%, with Labor dropping a point to 36% and the Greens on 10%.

There is also strong opposition to the government’s carbon pricing announcement, with 48% of voters opposed compared to 35% in support. Twenty-five percent of Labor voters oppose the oppose the scheme, but opposition is most trenchant in the ranks of Liberal voters, who oppose it 72-18%. The issue of the Prime Minister’s pre-election “no carbon tax” promise also elicited a strong response. Fifty-nine percent of voters agreed with the statement “the Prime Minister has broken an election promise and should wait until after the next election before introducing a carbon pollution tax”, and only 27% agreed she was showing strong leadership. Thirty-three percent of Labor voters believe she has broken her promise and even 26% of Greens voters.

Despite the opposition to the government’s announcement, there remains strong support for immediate action on climate change, with 47% of voters wanting action “as soon as possible”, 19% opposing any action and 24% favouring action “in a few years”. Even Liberal voters were evenly split, 33-33%, between taking action ASAP or waiting.

On the specifics of a carbon pricing scheme, there is also strong opposition to compensation for polluting industries. Asked who should receive compensation, 84% agree that low-income households should get it, 74% farmers, 70% all households and small business. But for trade-exposed industries, 44% believe they should not receive compensation, compared to 28% in favour. For manufacturing industries, 51% are opposed to compensation and 26% in favour, and the aluminium industry attracts 56-18% opposition. The sector that voters least want to see compensated are power companies, with only 15% supporting compensation and 68% opposed.

There’s no particular contradiction between strong support for climate change action and opposition to the government’s announcement. Voters have long indicated they want to see action on climate change — one of the reasons why Kevin Rudd’s support vanished so quickly when he walked away from his CPRS. What voters are reacting to is Labor’s extraordinary cynicism in reversing itself not once but twice on this key issue. But Labor now has no alternative but to wear that reaction and try to convince voters it is determined to achieve good policy even at the expense of support. It is stuck with a carbon price now for good.

The problem is, Labor is now so tarnished that it will be hard to recover anything much. Not even the NSW Labor trick of dumping leaders is going to address this. The Labor brand is taking a battering and the damage is all self-inflicted.

Peter Fray

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