As a final kick to Joe Hockey as he departed politics this week, fully half of Australian voters think Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison will be better managers of the economy than Tony Abbott and Hockey were, according to this week’s Essential Report. Just 10% think the new team will be worse.

Hockey doesn’t even have the support of voters of his own party, with 67% of Coalition voters saying they expect Morrison and Turnbull to be better managers of the Australian economy. Some 30% of Coalition voters say Morrison and Turnbull will be “a lot better”, and 37% say “a little better”. A quarter of all of those polled think the new team will be much the same in terms of the economy.

Q. Compared to Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey, do you think the new Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Treasurer Scott Morrison will be better or worse managers of Australia’s economy or will they be much the same?

Australians are also much keener on unions than they used to be, with 62% of all voters saying that unions are “important for Australian working people today”. This is up from 52% who said that in September 2012. Unsurprisingly, unions are most popular with Labor voters, with a full 83% of them saying unions are important. Of these, 46% say they are “very important”, and 37% say “quite important”. Greens voters love unions almost as much, with 74% of Greens voters rating them as important. Even 60% of “other” voters say unions are important. Unions have least traction with Coalition voters, who are about split (47%-49%) on whether unions are important to Australian workers today. Interestingly, people who work part time rated unions much more highly (71%) than those who work full time (59%).

Almost twice as many Australians think workers would be better off if unions were stronger than think workers would be worse off. Essential found 45% thought Australians would be better off with stronger unions, as compared to 26% who thought they would be worse (15% said it made no difference, and 15% said they did not know). This is the same as when the question was asked in February of last year, but up six points from when the question was asked during the Gillard government in September 2012. Only Coalition voters thought workers would be worse off with stronger unions (41%, as compared to 28% who thought workers would be better off). Part-time workers were more in favour of stronger unions (51%) than those in full-time employment (45%).

Q. Overall, would workers be better off or worse off if unions in Australia were stronger?

But despite the love for unions (at least in theory), many more respondents saw the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption as a “legitimate investigation of union practices” than saw it as “a political attack on Labor and the unions”. A full 42% saw it as legitimate, while 27% saw it as a political attack. Fewer than half of Labor voters (48%) saw it as a political attack on their party and unions, and that was the group most likely to see it that way. Coalition voters were most likely to see it as a legitimate investigation, with 69% viewing it that way.

Essential also asked about same-sex marriage and found 59% of all voters, including 50% of Coalition voters, said people of the same sex should be allowed to marry. This is little changed from the responses Essential has received to this question in the last three years. Support for same-sex marriage is highest among Greens voters, at 84%, with 67% of Labor voters also supporting marriage equality. Less than a third (30%) of respondents say same-sex couples should not be allowed to marry.

On voting intention, the Coalition gained a point last week, to 45%, while Labor lost a point, to 36%. The Greens remained steady, for a two-party preferred result of 52%-48% in favour of the Coalition.

Peter Fray

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