Treasurer Joe Hockey is the government’s most poorly regarded minister, while Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has surged into the lead as voters’ pick for best performer in the Abbott government, today’s Essential Report shows.

Just 31% of voters approve of Joe Hockey’s performance, while 48% disapprove, including a remarkable 24% of Liberal voters — the highest level of Liberal disapproval of any minister. Hockey’s net disapproval rating even beats that of junior industry minister Greg Hunt, who has the lowest approval rating of any minister, with just 27% of voters approving of his performance. Liberal voters also can’t abide Hunt, with just 47% saying they approve of his performance, well below Hockey’s 61%.

However, 56% of voters approve of Foreign Minister Julie Bishop’s performance and just 22% disapprove of her performance, the lowest of any minister. Her net approval rating is easily higher than Malcolm Turnbull’s, whom voters rate 47%/24%. Bishop has very strong numbers among Liberal voters (76%/8%), much higher than Turnbull’s (64%/13%), and she has dramatically lifted her approval rating since just over a year ago, when she had a net approval rating of just 3 points. Turnbull’s rating has improved as well, as has Christopher Pyne’s net disapproval level, while George Brandis and Scott Morrison have gone backwards slightly.

And in the wake of the announcement of the government’s emission reductions targets, 53% of voters believe Australia is not doing enough on climate change: 69% of Labor voters, 35% of Liberal voters, 91% of Greens voters and even 61% of “other” voters say we’re not doing enough.

Essential also asked voters about what entitlements politicians should be allowed. There was only majority support for funding travel “directly related to their electoral or parliamentary work” and printing of electoral information material, and little support for any other entitlements — just 16% of voters support funding for politicians’ families to join them; only 15% support funding for partners to accompany them on overseas trips. Voters were almost indistinguishable on the issue, although Greens voters were more sympathetic to the idea of funding travel for families to join politicians, and a quarter of Liberal voters supported taxpayer funding for “social events for networking purposes”.

On voting intention, there’s a small shift back to the Coalition: it’s up a point on primary vote to 41%, while Labor is back down a point to its recent level of 38%; the Greens have also dropped a point to 10% for a two-party preferred outcome of 52%-48% in Labor’s favour, down from 53%-47% of recent weeks.

Perceptions of corruption were also put to voters by Essential. Thirty-nine per cent of voters believe there is “widespread corruption” within government (government generally, not any specific level of government); 34% said there was widespread corruption in the construction industry; 27% said the media had widespread corruption — the same level as the finance sector and just ahead of mining (25%). The least corrupt industries, according to voters, are science and technology and education (both 6%); agriculture (7%) and health (10%).

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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