Voters believe some people should have their rights and freedoms curbed for the security of other Australians, and support detention without prosecution, according to today’s Essential poll. However, recent terror raids have yet to translate into a polling bounce for the government.

With the Prime Minister recently calling for “more restrictions on some so that there can be more protections for others” and a shift in the balance between freedom and security, the poll shows 50% of voters agree that “there should be more restrictions on rights and freedom for some people” (unspecified, but you know who), while 34% believe the current laws strike the right balance. Coalition voters split 66%-21%, while Labor voters split 48%-38%; Greens voters split the other way, 14%-72%. Support for further restrictions is highest among over-55s (68%) and people who haven’t completed secondary education (66%), while younger voters (43%), men (41%) and tertiary-educated voters (43%) were more likely to believe the current balance is right.

There’s even stronger support for detention without charge, with nearly 60% of voters supporting it in relation to terrorism, as the government moves to extend draconian Howard-era laws relating to preventive detention and control orders. Coalition voters, older voters and voters who haven’t completed secondary education much more strongly support detention than university-educated voters and Greens voters.


However, the relentless focus on national security has yet to deliver the government a noticeable polling bounce: the Coalition’s primary vote is up a point to 40% but Labor remains on 39%, the Greens on 10%, and PUP on 4%. The two-party preferred result has shifted down a point to 52%-48% in Labor’s favour, the same level as four weeks ago, despite the media focus on the Sydney raids of the week before last and the shooting of an 18-year-old man by police in Melbourne. This might suggest that because national security plays more to the fears of older voters who already back the Coalition, it may only serve to lock in the government’s core support rather than expand it.

The poll also shows that the recent trend against climate denialism is continuing; 56% of voters agree that “climate change is happening and is caused by human activity”, the equal-highest result ever recorded by Essential (it was 56% in April as well). Only 30% believe “we are just witnessing a normal fluctuation in the earth’s climate”, the lowest level Essential has recorded and down from 35% earlier this year (and as high as 39% in 2012). However, a majority of Coalition voters (51%) continue to deny climate science. Fifty-two per cent of voters say they have become more concerned about climate change in the last two years; 35% say “about the same”; even 34% of Coalition voters say they have become more concerned.

Incentives for renewable energy continue to be the most popular option for climate action, with 50% of voters backing them (with surprisingly little difference between voters – 52% for Labor voters, 45% for Liberal voters). And emissions trading scheme is backed by just 12% of voters, but that’s more than the 10% who support Environment Minister Greg Hunt’s “Direct Action” scheme (including just 12% of Liberal voters). Indeed, more voters (11%) prefer to do nothing at all about climate change rather than see Hunt’s policy adopted. The government’s war on the Renewable Energy Target appears to contradict an electoral preference even among the government’s own supporters.

Peter Fray

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