Voters really don’t want Qantas jobs to be sent offshore, even if the move would boost the airline’s long-term success, polling from Essential Research finds. Voters also think foreign ownership of Qantas would be bad for jobs and the economy.

Most voters disapprove of the government’s decision to try to remove foreign ownership restrictions on Qantas (48%, compared with 36% who approve), although Coalition voters support it 52%-35%. Nearly a quarter of voters strongly disapprove of removing foreign ownership rules.

Only 25% of voters support Qantas jobs being sent offshore if it improves the profitability of the airline, while 62% disapprove. And while Coalition voters are more supportive of offshoring than other voters, they too are overall opposed.

The results are noteworthy for the strong level of disapproval, with nearly a third of voters indicating strong opposition. And disapproval is strongest among the 10-12% of “other” voters — independent and Palmer United voters, who are also the strongest in opposition to the removal of foreign ownership limits. Fifty-nine per cent of voters think foreign ownership would be bad for Australian jobs, compared to 16% who agree with the government’s line that it would be good for Australian jobs; 46% think it would be bad for the Australian economy (24% don’t think so). But 48% to 19% believe it would be good for Qantas profits, and 30% to 25% think it would be good for air travellers.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has again narrowed the gap on Tony Abbott as preferred prime minister, which he has done every month except January since becoming ALP leader. Abbott leads Shorten 39%-33%, down from a 10-point lead in February. However, Shorten’s disapproval rating increased as well, with 32% of voters approving of his performance and 39% disapproving, up from a 4-point net disapproval rating in February. The Prime Minister is almost unchanged (40%-47% compared to 41%-47% last month), but he is currently on his worst approval figures as Prime Minister.

On voting intention, the Coalition has lost 2 points (42%); Labor (38%) and the Greens (8%) remain unchanged; PUP is up a point to 4%. The two-party preferred result is back to 50-50%.

For those who follow such things, today’s coverage of Newspoll in The Australian is an elegant example of how journalists retrofit the political narrative to explain random shifts in polling. A fortnight ago, Newspoll produced an implausible 54-46 result for Labor, forcing The Australian’s writers to reluctantly blame “tough budget talk” for Labor’s ascendancy, which in fact was most likely statistical noise. Today, Newspoll has delivered a far more realistic 51-49 result for Labor — exactly the same result (including the same primary numbers) as four weeks ago. That inevitably resulted in The Australian shrilling that Shorten and Labor had “gone backwards” while Dennis Shanahan declared that Shorten was “failing the pub test” and that Labor’s rhetoric on jobs had “worn thin”.

Perhaps just once before he enters that retirement he’s been mulling lately, Shanahan might cover a Newspoll by saying something like “we got some rough number a fortnight ago and now it’s back to the more plausible numbers of the previous poll”.

Peter Fray

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