Australians have given strong support to Tony Abbott’s national security push in today’s Essential poll, though it has failed to result in a polling boost for the government.

Some 46% of voters approve of the Prime Minister’s handling of the threat of terrorism, although the response is strongly split along partisan lines. Nonetheless, 24% of both Labor and Greens voters approve, along with 81% of Coalition voters. Some 39% of voters want to see more spending on national security, while 33% believe the current level is about right. Just 12% want to see less spending. That’s a substantial shift since August, when 28% wanted more spending and 19% thought it was about right.

Voters also support further restrictions on freedoms for some people to improve security.


Only Greens voters weren’t supportive of giving up freedoms for security; the support for more restrictions has increased in September.

However, voters don’t endorse Abbott’s claim that the president of the Human Rights Commission, Gillian Triggs, has “lost the confidence of the Australian people”. In response to a question that specifically mentioned Triggs and the report on children in detention, 34% of voters, including a quarter of Coalition voters, approve of the performance of the Human Rights Commission, compared to 22% who do not approve.

On voting intention, there’s been no shift either way despite perceptions Tony Abbott’s stocks have improved. The Coalition remains on 40%, Labor on 41% and the Greens on 9% for a two-party preferred outcome of 53%-47% in Labor’s favour.

Essential also asked about different forms of discrimination. Some 67% of voters thought racism was a large or moderate problem in Australia (up 3 points since February last year); 61% thought religious intolerance was a problem (up 10 points); 47% (down 4) thought sexism was a problem (including 68% of women); 45% thought ageism and homophobia were a problem (both down a little). However, personal experience of each form of discrimination in the last 12 months had actually fallen, each by around 2 to 3 points. Racism remained the most commonly experienced form of discrimination, with 33% reporting experiencing it.

And in the aftermath of that shocking Four Corners expose of the corruption of the greyhound industry, voters also back a complete ban on greyhound racing, 48% to 26%.

Peter Fray

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