George Brandis

Australians believe racial and religious abuse and violence is on the rise — though some voters are more likely to see it than others, this week’s Essential Report shows.

More than half of voters — 52% — believe racial abuse or violence has increased in recent years; another 27% believe it has stayed the same; just 12% say it has decreased. And 59% of voters believe abuse or violence based on religion has grown worse, with 9% saying it has lessened and 21% believing it remains unchanged. In contrast, 33% of voters believe homophobic abuse or violence has grown worse while 29% believe it has lessened.

But voters apparently see different worlds depending on how they vote. Labor voters are significantly more likely to believe violence or abuse has increased. According to Essential, 64% of Labor voters think racial violence and abuse had increased, but only 45% of Coalition voters think so; 68% of Labor voters think religious abuse or violence has worsened compared to 50% of Coalition voters, and 41% of Labor voters think homophobic abuse and violence has worsened, compared to 28% of Coalition voters.

And as the terms of reference for the government’s review of climate policy — planned by Tony Abbott when he was prime minister — set Coalition MPs at each others’ throats, many Australians continue to believe we’re not doing enough to address climate change: 49% of voters think we’re not doing enough (down from 52% in August), while 22% believe we are doing enough. However, when climate denialists are filtered out, 76% of voters think we’re not doing enough. Coalition voters are the most likely to think we’re doing enough (35%) while Greens voters are most likely to think we’re not doing enough (88%). Overall, 54% of Australians believe anthropogenic climate change is real, down from 57% in August but higher than in the period 2010-13.

And support for the right to voluntary euthanasia remains strong, with 69% of voters supporting the right to assisted suicide if terminally ill and just 14% saying it should not be allowed — about the levels consistently shown in the same question since 2010.


Disaster-prone Attorney-General George Brandis has the worst ratings of any government minister: just 26% approve of his performance while 34% disapprove. Brandis, whose most recent scandals include an unresolved role in a mysterious deal with the Western Australian government over $300 million in tax revenue and misleading Parliament over an abandoned effort to muzzle the solicitor-general, also performs worst with Coalition voters. Julie Bishop is by far the best rated minister, with a net approval of 29 points (52% to 23%), and 66 points among Coalition voters. Scott Morrison and Peter Dutton are, like Brandis, in negative territory, while Industry Minister Greg Hunt — who has just had his signature Green Army policy shut down — scores the highest “don’t know” rating.


On voting intention, the Coalition is down a point to 38%; Labor remains on 36% and the Greens on 9%; One Nation is up a point to 8% — just one behind the Greens — while NXT remains on 3%, for a two-party preferred outcome of 52%-48% in favour of Labor.

Finally, 32% of voters think that death is the end — that there’s nothing after we die; 27% believe in an afterlife of some kind, 9% believe we’re reincarnated and 7% believe we go “somewhere else”. Voting intention has little impact on belief, except for Greens voters, who are far more likely to think there’s nothing. But men (38%) are more likely than women (26%) to think there’s nothing, and 40% of over-55s think there’s nothing either.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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