Voters think Qantas management is mainly to blame for its ongoing dispute with its workforce but don’t support government intervention to resolve it, new Essential Research polling finds. And views on a republic haven’t budged in nearly two years.

Last week Essential asked several questions about voter views of Qantas and its dispute. Around 36% of voters believed Qantas management was to blame for the dispute, compared to 13% who blamed Qantas staff and 37% who said both were equally to blame. Even more Liberal voters blamed Qantas management, 25%, than staff, 22%. Only 24% supported government intervention in the dispute, with 62% supporting Qantas and the unions negotiating a settlement, a view that was remarkably consistent across different voters.

Asked to respond to a series of statements about Qantas, only 21% agreed moving operations to Asia was necessary for Qantas’s future and 61% disagreed; 30% strongly. Almost 90% agreed Qantas should keep jobs in Australia (51% strongly); 73% agreed much-loathed CEO Alan Joyce is overpaid (compared to 20% who thought Qantas staff were overpaid), and 67% agreed Qantas staff had genuine concerns that management should address.

The only positive for Qantas management was that 54% agreed that industrial action was “irresponsible and disruptive”, compared to 31% who disagreed. But on what caused more damage to Qantas’s reputation, industrial action or moving jobs offshore, 62% agreed the latter and only 27% the former.

Support for a republic remains steady at 41%, the same level as in January 2010, with opposition at 33%, compared to 32% last year. Liberal voters are the least enthused, opposing a republic 45% to 35%, while more than half of Labor and Green voters supporting a move away from a foreign head of state. However, there is strong support for the removal of the UK’s misogynist law of succession, that favours male children. Sixty one per cent support changes to allow primogeniture without male preference, compared to only 13% for the status quo — similar figures to a British survey earlier this year.

Essential also asked about support for the major economic reforms of the past three decades. The once deeply unpopular GST is regarded as good for Australia by more voters than think it has been bad, 39% to 30%. Floating the dollar is well regarded (46% to 11%), as are free trade agreements (41% to 21%) and Medicare (76% to 6%). The most highly regarded reform of all is compulsory superannuation, which 79% of voters believed had been good for Australia.

However, privatisation still upsets voters — there was little support for the privatisations of Qantas, Telstra and the Commonwealth Bank and more voters supported buying them back than not, while abolishing the GST or regulating the dollar drew more opposition than support and making super voluntary and privatising Medicare were strongly opposed. But voters strongly supported “increasing trade protection”, by 59% to 20%.

On voting intention, Labor has dropped a point to 32% but otherwise the numbers are unchanged with the Coalition on 48% and the Greens on 11% for a 55-45% two-party preferred outcome.

Peter Fray

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