Voters are strongly opposed to bringing in foreign workers, new polling from Essential Research finds, and believe mining companies’ only motivation is cheap labour.

Around 60% of voters disapprove of bringing in overseas workers compared to only 16% who approve. Some 35% say they strongly disapprove, and the feeling is strong across all voting groups — Labor, Liberal and Greens voters all feel about the same.

Almost 60% believe mining companies bring in foreign labour simply because it is cheaper; only 18% believe Australia doesn’t have enough skilled workers and 17% that Australians don’t want to work in the industry.

Half (49%) of voters also believe mining companies will continue to develop projects here, compared to 32% who believe labour costs and taxes might drive them away, although that is primarily Liberal voters.

Meanwhile, Julia Gillard’s personal approval has improved slightly, with a one-point rise in approval to 32% and a four-point drop in disapproval to 56%. However, Tony Abbott has hit his lowest approval ratings, with approval down four points to 32%, while disapproval has remained about the same: from 53% to 54%. Gillard has dropped a point in the preferred PM stakes, leaving the leaders tied at 37% each.

On voting intention, there’s been little change, with Coalition and Labor primary votes both down one point to 49% and 32% respectively and the Greens unchanged on 10%. The 2PP outcome washes out at 56-44, the same as last week.

Essential polling also shows the Craig Thomson and Peter Slipper affairs have inflicted serious damage on parliament’s reputation. Trust in parliament has fallen from 55% in September last year to 22%, and trade unions have also taken a hammering, falling from 39% to 22%. The Reserve Bank has also declined in standing, from 67% to 49%; religious organisation are down two points to 27%; environment groups down 13% to 32% and business groups down 38% to 22%.

The only organisation that has picked up trust is the ABC, up from 46% to 54% — second only to the High Court on 60%.

Peter Fray

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