Tony Abbott’s forceful handling of the MH17 tragedy has sparked the first substantial recovery in the government’s polling for months, according to today’s Essential poll.

While Essential’s rolling two-week voting intention average has Labor still leading 52-48 (Coalition up one point to 39, Labor down a point to 39, others level), its numbers from last week, from responses mostly in the aftermath of the shooting down of MH17, show the government moving to trail Labor by just two points, 51-49 (with the Coalition on 40% and Labor on 36%). The results reflect the media consensus that Abbott has handled the tragedy, which claimed the lives of 37 Australians and Australian residents, well. The government has struggled for months to recover its standing with voters, after a politically disastrous budget that left both the Prime Minister and Treasurer Joe Hockey damaged.

After the first parliamentary sitting of the Senate elected in the last election, voters are ambivalent about the role played by the Palmer United Party. Twenty seven per cent of voters say they have more confidence in Parliament with the Greens holding the balance of power, compared to 22% who have more confidence with PUP holding the balance of power. However, 36% say the election of micro-parties to the Senate is good for democracy, the same figure as October 2013, with 28% saying it’s bad for democracy. Unsurprisingly, Coalition voters are more inclined to view it negatively, while Greens and Labor voters see it as a positive.

And despite the recent focus on financial planning scandals and the government’s repeal of consumer financial advice protections, Australians are still disengaged on their retirement incomes: 45% say they pay “not much” or no attention at all to their retirement income (compared to 42% in March). Women are particularly disengaged, with 48% saying they pay little or no attention, compared to 43% of men. Under 35s are also, predictably, uninterested (59%) but even 43% of 35-54s profess little or no interest.

Industry funds are the most common form of superannuation fund, with 39% of voters saying they were in an industry fund, compared to 19% who were in a retail fund and 9% who were in a self-managed fund (15% said they didn’t know). Men are slightly more likely to be in retail or self-managed funds. Self-managed fund holders professed the highest satisfaction with their fund performance: 92% of SMSF holders said they were satisfied with the performance of their fund, compared to 80% of industry fund clients and 77% of retail fund clients. Twenty eight per cent of retail fund clients said they had no idea how much they were paying in fees to their funds, compared to 41% of industry super clients; women were more likely than men to not know, 44% to 36%, and over half of under 35s said they didn’t know.