GhostWhoVotes reports another 56-44 federal opinion poll, this time from Nielsen, which at least has Labor improving from 58-42 at its poll a month ago. The primary votes are 30% for Labor (up two), 47% for the Coalition (down one) and 12% for the Greens (steady). Tony Abbott has slightly increased his lead over Julia Gillard as preferred prime minister, up from 46-42 to 48-43. A question on carbon price compensation has 5% rating themselves better off and 38% worse off, with 52% opting for no change. Bad as that may seem superficially, it contains the germ of a good headline for the government, as Nielsen’s poll conducted immediately before the introduction of the scheme had 51% expecting to be worse off and 37% expecting no difference. The 5% better off figure is unchanged. Full tables courtesy of GhostWhoVotes.

UPDATE: Essential Research has Labor recovering a point on two-party preferred for the second week running, now trailing 55-45, although primary votes are unchanged: Labor on 33%, the Coalition on 49% and the Greens on 10%. Also featured are rank ordering of most important election issues (political leadership up seven points since December to 25%, while controlling interest rates has steadily declined from 15% to 9% since the start of 2010), productivity (Australian workers generally seen as “quite productive”), industrial relations (believed on balance to slightly favour workers over employers), the Gonski report recommendations (65% support, 14% oppose), and respondents’ experiences of workplace bullying.

UPDATE 2: Nielsen further finds 52% backing a leadership change from Julia Gillard to Kevin Rudd against 42% opposed, and Kevin Rudd leading Tony Abbott as preferred prime minister 57-36.

House preselection news:

Fisher (Qld, LNP 4.1%): Howard government minister and former Longman MP Mal Brough had a clear win in yesterday’s long-awaited LNP preselection ballot, scoring the support of more than half of the 350 preselectors in the first round. According to Michael McKenna of The Australian, Brough’s much-touted rival James McGrath, who went into the vote with endorsement from Malcolm Turnbull, Joe Hockey and Julie Bishop, came third behind local employment agency director Peta Simpson. The also-rans were Richard Bruinsma, Andrew Wallace, Graeme Mickelberg, Daniel Purdie and Stephen Ainscough.

Lilley (Qld, Labor 3.2%): As anticipated, the LNP has preselected Rod McGarvie to run against Wayne Swan. McGarvie is a former soldier and United Nations peacekeeper, and was also the candidate in 2010. Also in the field were John Cotter, Bill Gollan and Karryn Fletcher

Scullin (Vic, Labor 20.6%): Twenty-six years after he succeeded his father Harry Jenkins Sr as member, Harry Jenkins Jr has announced he will not contest the next election. Andrew Crook of Crikey reports that Andrew Giles, a Slater & Gordon lawyer, former adviser to state MPs Gavin Jennings and Lily D’Ambrosio and factional secretary of the Socialist Left, is his likely successor as Labor candidate.

Denison (Tas, Independent 1.2% versus Labor): The Greens have preselected Anne Reynolds, an adviser to Christine Milne, to run against Andrew Wilkie.

Senate preselection news:

• Labor’s member for the state seat of Bassendean, Martin Whitely, has announced he will seek preselection for the WA Labor Senate ticket in a pre-emptive bid to thwart the presumed designs of Joe Bullock, powerful state secretary of the Right faction Shop Distributive and Allied Employees Union. At this stage Bullock will merely say that he is “interested” in running, and that Whitely – whose decision not to re-contest his state seat was seen to reflect the certainty that LHMWU state secretary Dave Kelly would defeat him for preselection – would get “zero” votes if he nominated. The two Labor Senators up for re-election are noted Kevin Rudd backer Mark Bishop, another former SDA secretary who would presumably be making way for Bullock, and Louise Pratt of the Left. Labor is thought to be doing so badly in WA that it is at risk of winning only one Senate seat at the next election.

• The South Australian Liberals have preselected moderate candidate Anne Ruston to fill Mary Jo Fisher’s casual Senate vacancy. Ben Hyde of The Advertiser reports Ruston won with “more than 50% of the vote”, from a field that also included Kate Raggatt, state party director Bev Barker, farmer Gary Burgess and Campbelltown councillor Marijka Ryan. A moderate source quoted by Daniel Wills of The Australian before the event said Ruston could be in trouble if she failed to achieve 50% in the first round, as Right support would then have consolidated behind whoever performed better out of Barker and Raggatt.