The Renewable Energy Target is strongly supported by voters, today’s Essential Report has found, with 39% of voters believing the current target of 20% renewable energy by 2020 is about right, and 25% believing it is too low. Just 13% of voters believe the target is too high.

The results come in the wake of the government’s appointment of climate sceptic business figure Dick Warburton to “review” the target, with the expectation the government is preparing to reduce or abandon it altogether. Voter support for the current target is bipartisan, with 41% of Liberal voters and 40% of Labor voters saying the RET is about right.

Voters are also uniformly growing more hostile toward Qantas, with 25% saying they feel more negatively about the airline than 12 months ago, up from 18% who said the same in April last year. Just 11% of voters say they feel more positively about the national carrier. The views are relatively consistent among voters of all persuasions, and even consistent whether people are regular fliers or not. However, this hasn’t translated into behaviour: around one in five voters say they try to avoid flying Qantas, the same as in April, while 35% say they try to fly Qantas, compared to 34% last year.

Voters are still strongly opposed to allowing increased foreign ownership of the airline, with 31% of voters approving of greater foreign ownership (which could result if the government amends the Qantas Sale Act) compared to 52% who oppose it. The most popular preference for assistance for the airline is the government buying a share, backed by 49% of those surveyed, compared with 30% who were against it; guaranteeing Qantas loans (expected to be part of the government’s handout package in coming weeks) is backed 45% to 32%. But only 36% want full nationalisation, with 42% opposing; direct handouts are backed by 35% with 42% opposed.

Voters are also, on balance, opposed to schemes to encourage internet service providers to monitor their customers and stop them from illegally file sharing; Attorney-General George Brandis has flagged he wants to compel ISPs to co-operate with the copyright industry in cracking down on file sharing . Forty-two per cent of voters oppose the government pressuring ISPs to use mechanisms like “graduated responses”, which can lead to customers losing their internet connection, while 38% support it, although 26% of voters say they “strongly oppose” such schemes. Liberal voters are more supportive than Labor and Greens voters, and younger voters in particular are strongly opposed, 58%-28%.

On voting intention, Labor has retained its two-party preferred lead, 51-49%, although the Coalition picked up a point on its primary vote to 42% and Labor lost 1 to 39%; the Greens gained 1 point (9%). Today’s Newspoll, inexplicably played down by The Australian, has Labor with a remarkable 54-46% two-party preferred lead off the back of the same Labor primary vote. The difference is a softer Coalition vote — 39% — and a stronger Greens vote; for whatever reason, Newspoll persistently gives the Greens higher numbers than Essential.

Perhaps more telling is the results from an Essential question about how voters rate the government’s handling of issues. Out of 11 issues, voters rate the government negatively on nine; the only positive ones were managing the economy, where the government was rated “good” by 34% and “poor” by 31%, and treatment of asylum seekers, 37% to 26%. The Coalition had a net rating of -19 points on “supporting Australian jobs”, -15 on climate change and -13 on health. For a government only six months old, it’s an unusually poor outcome.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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