Julie Bishop is the choice of Liberal voters to lead the Liberal Party, according to this week’s Essential poll, while Malcolm Turnbull is the overall choice of voters. Both hold big leads over the politically crippled incumbent, Tony Abbott.

Just 11% of voters believe the Prime Minister is the best leader of the Liberal Party, behind Turnbull (24%), Bishop (21%) and someone else (13%). But Bishop edges out Turnbull among Coalition voters, 26% to 24%. Bishop’s rise is a dramatic shift from June last year, when she barely featured at all in leadership calculations; while Tony Abbott’s Prime Ministership has collapsed into recrimination and debacle, Bishop has emerged as seriously competitive with Turnbull.

Social Services Minister Scott Morrison, much touted as a potential candidate for the leadership from the Right of the party, is barely above asterisk level, and behind even Joe Hockey, whose fortunes have evaporated in a series of gaffes and a disastrous 2014-15 budget. Turnbull is men’s pick for leader, while Bishop just edges him among women.

On voting intention, Labor remains on 41% while the Coalition has slipped to 38%; the Greens remain on 9% and the PUP has surged a point to 3%, for an unchanged 2PP outcome of 54%-46% in Labor’s favour.

As expected, there’s a crushing majority of disapproval for Tony Abbott’s decision to knight the husband of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth, the decision that ushered in the chaos that now surrounds him. Some 69% oppose the knighting of Prince Philip, while 14% approve of it, with even Liberal voters opposing it by a factor of more than two to one, 59% to 24%. Abbott’s entire knights and dames system is opposed 46% to 26%, with Liberal voters the only ones broadly in favour of it, 43% to 32%.

And in the space of two months, Tony Abbott’s attributes in the eyes of voters have deteriorated further, and significantly so, after falling over the course of 2014. Essential found that 72% of voters believe he is “out of touch with ordinary people”, up six points since December. Just 34% believe he is a capable leader, down nine points. A whopping 65% say he is arrogant, 63% “narrow-minded”, 60% “erratic”, all up since December. Just 27% believe he is trustworthy, down 3 points. Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, who has mostly marked time or drifted slightly lower on most attributes, leads Abbott on every positive attribute and trails him on every negative attribute, with the solitary exception of “more honest than most politicians”, where Abbott scores 30% and Shorten 29%.

The Opposition Leader’s biggest gaps over Abbott are in relation to “erratic” (Abbott 60% to Shorten 31%), “out of touch with ordinary people” (72% to 45%), “arrogant”, “narrow-minded” and “intolerant” (26 point gap, 25 points and 24 points, respectively).

And as the Productivity Commission launches its inquiry into industrial relations, the minimum wage and penalty rates, 61% of voters believe the current minimum wage is too low, while just 6% believe it is too high. Even Coalition voters believe the minimum wage is too low, 43% to 12%.

Peter Fray

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