Australians continue to strongly oppose privatisation, and don’t share the view of business and welfare experts that unemployment benefits are too low, new data from Essential Research has found.

Privatisation is regarded as a bad idea by 59% of voters, and while Labor and Greens voters more strongly oppose it, it’s a fairly universal sentiment: only 31% of Liberal voters think it’s a good idea.

For specific organisations, the dislike is even stronger. The sale of Australia Post is opposed by 69% of voters; the sale of the ABC and SBS 64%; Snowy Hydro (jointly owned by the federal, New South Wales and Victorian governments) opposed by 53%. The sale of Medibank Private, which the government committed to before the election and which is now in preparation, is opposed by 54% and supported by 29% — and much of the opposition is of the “strongly opposed” variety. Even the sale of the Australian Rail Track Corporation, which the majority of voters wouldn’t have heard of (it owns or manages access to the interstate rail infrastructure) is opposed by 58% of people.

Voters have more mixed views on the level of welfare payments, but plainly believe there is good and bad welfare. Twenty-four per cent of voters believe we spend too much on welfare while 41% say we don’t spend enough and 27% say it’s about right; Liberal voters are much more likely to believe we spend too much on welfare. But most voters — 64% — believe the age pension is too low, while only 27% believe unemployment benefits are too low — the same number who think it is too high.

The view that Newstart — now so low even business lobby groups have urged it be increased — is too high reduces somewhat when voters were told how much it actually is: 25% say it’s too high, but the number who believe it is too low increases to 35%. The number of voters who think the parenting payment is too low increases significantly when they actually know the figure — belief that it’s too high falls from 31% to 26%, and the number who believe it’s too low increases from 23% to 34%. Sixty-five per cent of voters also want to make eligibility for unemployment benefits tougher, while only 17% want eligibility for the age pension made tougher.

Voters have also bought the media line about alcohol and violence: 78% of voters believe alcohol-related violence is getting worse, which flies in the face of the actual experience of NSW. And there is strong support for the O’Farrell government’s package of alcohol-related measures: 87% support harsher mandatory sentences for alcohol-related assaults; over 60% support earlier closing times for bottle shops, pubs and clubs; 76% support lockouts and 59% support lifting the age at which you can buy alcohol (the Australia Medical Association has floated lifting the legal to drinking age to 25). In each case, support among NSW voters is a little stronger than support from Queensland and Victoria voters. The only nanny state measure that voters don’t approve of is lifting taxes on alcohol — that’s opposed by 55% of voters, and supported by only 38%.

On voting intention, the Coalition has slipped a point and is now on a 42% primary vote; Labor has also lost a point and is on 36%. The Greens remain on 9% and Clive Palmer’s party remains on 4%. The two-party preferred outcome is 50:50, from 51:49 in the Coalition’s favour last week.

Get Crikey for $1 a week.

Lockdowns are over and BBQs are back! At last, we get to talk to people in real life. But conversation topics outside COVID are so thin on the ground.

Join Crikey and we’ll give you something to talk about. Get your first 12 weeks for $12 to get stories, analysis and BBQ stoppers you won’t see anywhere else.

Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
12 weeks for just $12.