View from The Hill: Labor holds 53-47% lead but Albanese takes a hit in Newspoll

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Labor has clung to its 53-47% two-party lead in the latest Newspoll, but Anthony Albanese’s ratings have taken a knock after his error-prone first week of the campaign.

While Labor would win on this vote, with a uniform swing, both government and opposition have low primary numbers, prompting speculation the chances of a hung parliament are increasing.

Labor was down a point on primaries to 36%, and the Coalition also fell a point, to 35%, since the poll last week.

The poll, published in Tuesday’s Australian, finds Albanese’s satisfaction has slumped to a record low of minus 14. This is the lowest for an opposition leader since Bill Shorten’s rating in May 2019, before the election. Albanese’s position has also worsened on the better PM measure.

The combined popular support for the Coalition and Labor is the lowest on record for an election campaign, reflecting the “pox on both houses” sentiment in the community.

Nearly three in ten (29%) voters are currently saying they would support a minor party or independent. The Greens vote rose 2 points to 12%. The Liberals are increasingly fearing the “teal” candidates challenging in some of their seats.

In his worst result since becoming leader, satisfaction with Albanese dropped 5 points to 37% and his dissatisfaction increased 6 points to 51%.

Satisfaction with Morrison rose one point to 43%; his dissatisfaction fell 2 points to 52% His net satisfaction went from last week’s minus 12 to minus 9.

Morrison widened his lead as better PM, thanks to a 2 point fall in Albanese’s support. Morrison is ahead 44-37%. The poll was conducted April 14-17.

The Newspoll comes after a Resolve poll, published in the Sydney Morning Herald and the Age on Monday, showed a 4 point fall in Labor’s primary vote to 34%, while the Coalition rose from 34% to 35%. The poll suggested a possible hung parliament. Morrison led as preferred PM 38-30%.

On Monday both sides had scare campaigns running, as the campaign’s second week got underway.

Labor wants voters to believe Anne Ruston, Scott Morrison’s designated heath minister if he is re-elected, would assault Medicare.

The Prime Minister is claiming Anthony Albanese would open the flood gates to boat people.

Never mind there’s not credible evidence to back either claim. Both sides are looking for advantages from negativity.

It was no surprise when Ruston, currently social services minister, was announced as Greg Hunt’s replacement if the Coalition holds power. Labor had the files ready.

“Medicare in its current form is not sustainable into the future without some change being made,” Ruston said in March 2015.

In the budget of the year before, the Abbott government had proposed a co-payment, from which ultimately it had to retreat. Ruston said that “the government recognised that Australia was not ready for this particular reform”.

The quotes were quickly in journalists hands at the weekend.

On the ABC on Monday morning Ruston faffed about a bit when pressed for guarantees of no cuts. Morrison later swept up, telling a news conference Ruston “said yesterday there wouldn’t be any cuts and I would repeat that today”.

Labor is fondly remembering its successful “Mediscare” campaign in the 2016 election, when the opposition claimed the Turnbull government planned to privatise Medicare.

This was based on that government considering privatising the delivery of various government payments.

Labor’s Mediscare was potent.

It’s unlikely Labor can get as far by mining Ruston’s historical quotes. In 2016 Labor was exploiting, albeit misrepresenting, something that was actually being considered. In 2022, it is recycling old statements.

On the other side, Morrison is being shameless as he seizes on Anthony Albanese’s looseness about Labor’s policy on borders, and the policy itself.

Albanese last week said he supported turnbacks, which meant offshore processing wouldn’t be necessary. He did the clean up quickly – Labor still supports offshore processing.

At the weekend he had another fluff, about Labor’s policy on temporary protection visas, saying first it supported them then clarifying that it didn’t. He said he had heard only half the question.

All this was grist for Morrison, who can chew on meagre bones.

“When Labor abolished temporary protection visas in 2008, the armada of people smugglers boats came to Australia,” Morrison told a news conference while campaigning in Perth.

On turnbacks, Morrison went back to 2015, coincidentally the same year as the Ruston quotes.

“Anthony Albanese said he couldn’t ask someone to do something he wouldn’t do himself. Now it’s fine for people to say they agree with it many years after the fact. But when it matters, when people were dying at sea, Anthony Albanese was one of the most vocal critics of the government’s border protection policies. He was wrong then, and he is still wrong.”

In 2015 the ALP national conference changed the party’s position so Bill Shorten could go to the next election with a policy for turnbacks.

Albanese, who opposed the switch, said at the time: “I couldn’t ask someone else to do something that I couldn’t see myself doing.

"If people were in a boat including families and children, I myself couldn’t turn that around.”

It’s true that Albanese has done a dramatic U-turn on turnbacks. It’s equally true that if Labor was in government his current position, not his former one, would be the policy his government implemented.

After Albanese’s major problem on numbers last week, there is a big “mistake monitor” on the campaign trail. On Monday, Morrison had to correct himself, after declaring the JobSeeker income support was $46 a week (instead of a day).

Meanwhile, the divisive row continues within the NSW Liberals over Morrison’s controversial pick for Warringah, Katherine Deves, who has a trail of offensive anti trans posts (for which she has apologised).

Many in the party want her to step down, fearing she will hurt the vote in Wentworth and North Sydney where Liberals face “teal” independents. Local Liberals have abandoned any hope of dislodging independent Zali Steggall in Warringah.

News.com.au reported Deves, in a letter to supporters, had dug in, saying “I have been bullied in the most vile way and received death threats. I’m not going anywhere, as the Prime Minister said yesterday.”

It also reports the president of the Neutral Bay branch in the electorate, Simon Moore, had emailed the party’s state president, saying he hoped Deves could be “persuaded to stand aside for the good of the party”.

This article is republished from The Conversation is the world's leading publisher of research-based news and analysis. A unique collaboration between academics and journalists. It was written by: Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra.

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Michelle Grattan does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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