James J reports Newspoll is back to 50-50 after inflating to 54-46 to the Coalition in the last poll three weeks ago. The primary votes are 36% for Labor (up three), 41% for the Coalition (down four) and 10% for the Greens (steady). Gillard’s lead as prime minister is up slightly, from 43-33 to 45-34, but her personal ratings are rather less good than in Nielsen: approval 35% (down one) and disapproval 51% (up one). Tony Abbott has again gone backwards, his approval down three to 30% and disapproval up three to 58%. The poll was conducted from Thursday to Saturday from a sample of 1176 with a margin of error of about 3%.

UPDATE: Essential Research puts a dampener on things for Labor by finding the Coalition up a point on two-party preferred to now lead 54-46. The primary votes are 48% for the Coalition (up one), 36% for Labor (steady) and 9% for the Greens (9%). Also featured: 45% expect the UN Security Council seat to be of benefit to Australia against 36% of little or no benefit; 28% support the export of uranium to India against 40% opposed; 39% support nuclear power for electricity generation (up four since the wake of Fukushima) against 41% opposed (down 12); 35% rate the economy in good shape against 29% poor; 37% approve of spending cuts to keep the budget in surplus against 43% disapproval.

UPDATE 2: GhostWhoVotes reports Newspoll also brings us a finding that only 26% expect the government to succeed in bringing the budget into surplus, against 59% who think it will not succeed (38-47 against among Labor voters, 14-78 amongst Coalition). On the question of how high a priority it should be, 35% said high, 35% said low and 21% said “not a priority”. Thirty-nine per cent agreed that Tony Abbott has been sexist towards Julia Gillard against 45% who disagreed. This breaks down, not too surprisingly, to 35-48 among men against 43-41 among women, and 66-21 among Labor supporters against 13-76 among Coalition supporters. Less expected is the concentration of support for the proposition among the 35-49 age cohort: 44-39 compared with 33-45 with younger and 40-49 with older voters. Those who agreed were further asked about the appropriateness of Gillard’s response, the upshot of which is that 2% of the overall sample felt she underreacted to Abbott’s sexism, 30% thought she got the reaction to Abbott’s sexism about right, 6% thought she overreacted to Abbott’s sexism, 45% thought there was no sexism to react to, and 16% were undecided, indifferent or ignorant of the matter.

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Federal preselection news:

• The South Australian ALP has made a poorly received decision to maintain the order at the top of its Senate ticket from 2007, with parliamentary secretary and Right powerbroker Don Farrell having seniority over Finance Minister Penny Wong, a member of the minority Left faction. Farrell won the ballot by 112 votes to 83 for Wong. Anthony Albanese, a powerbroker in the NSW Left, described the result as a “joke” and an “act of self-indulgence”, offering that Wong was “obviously our most talented senator from South Australia”. Third on the ticket is Simon Pisoni, an official for the Communications Electrical and Plumbing Union and the brother of a state Liberal MP, David Pisoni.

• Andrew Crook at Crikey reports that Labor will hold a preselection for Dobell in February or March next year. Craig Thomson is suspended from the party, and is thus likely to be ineligible to nominate. Mentioned as possible contenders are David Mehan, described by Crook as the “popular local LUCRF super fund manager”, who was the party’s unsuccessful candidate in 2004 and challenged Thomson for preselection in 2010, and David Harris, Point Clare Public School principal and former state member for Wyong who lost his seat at last year’s election. Emma McBride, daughter of former The Entrance MP Grant McBride, was previously mentioned, but is now said to be “out of the race”.

Mat Nott of the Fraser Coast Chronicle reports the candidates for Liberal National Party preselection to succeed retiring Paul Neville in the Bundaberg-based seat of Hinkler are believed to include Maryborough school principal Len Fehlhaber, Hervey Bay accountant Geoff Redpath, parole and probation officer Greg McMahon, Australian Safety and Training Alliance managing director Keith Pitt, and two political staffers – Chris McLoughlin, who works for state Bundaberg MP Jack Dempsey, and Cathy Heidrich, a former newspaper proprietor who works for Paul Neville and is “widely expected to receive at least his unofficial backing”. Michael McKenna of The Australian also mentioned former Isis mayor Bill Trevor.

• Queensland’s Liberal National Party will hold a preselection on November 24 to choose its Senate ticket, with incumbent Ian McDonald set to retain top spot and two vacancies created by the retirements of Ron Boswell and Sue Boyce. Most prominent among the 16 mooted nominees is James McGrath, the party’s campaign director for the state election this year who unsuccessfully ran against Mal Brough for the Fisher preselection after appearing to have the numbers sewn up in neighbouring Fairfax. Also mentioned are LNP vice-president Gary Spence, Toowoomba doctor and university lecturer David Van Gend, Senator Barnaby Joyce’s chief of staff Matthew Canavan, former Queensland Chamber of Commerce and Industry president David Goodwin, barrister Amanda Stoker and animal nutritionist Theresa Craig.

• A legal action that was delaying federal Liberal preselections in New South Wales has been resolved, with the state executive reluctantly agreeing to a allow a motion for rank-and-file preselections and a less interventionist state executive to be brought before the state council. The challenge in the Supreme Court arose from the David Clarke right faction, which was angered that factional rivals on the state executive, which is controlled by an alliance of moderates and the rival Alex Hawke right, had imposed candidates in the marginal Labor central coast seats of Dobell and Robertson. However, Sean Nicholls of the Sydney Morning Herald reports that “any change would require the support of 60 per cent of state council members, which many doubt it would receive”. Among the seats affected by the preselection delay was the crucial western Sydney seat of Greenway.

• Former GetUp! director Simon Sheikh has announced he will seek preselection to run as the Greens Senate candidate for the Australian Capital Territory. The Greens have been hopeful of winning the second ACT Senate seat from Liberal incumbent Gary Humphries at the past few elections, but have consistently fallen short.

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Peter Fray
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