Labor improves lead in Newspoll, as cabinet looks at carbon targets

Opposition leader Bill Shorten has levelled with Tony Abbott as preferred prime minister, according to Newspoll. Tracey Nearmy/AAP

The opposition has widened its two-party lead over the Coalition in Newspoll to 54-46% – the government’s worst result since March – as MPs return for a new parliamentary session rocked by voters’ anger over parliamentary entitlements.

It is the third successive Newspoll in which the government’s position has worsened in two-party terms. Three weeks ago, Labor was ahead 53-47%. This is the 28th consecutive Newspoll in which Labor has led on the two-party vote.

The Coalition primary vote has fallen a point to 39% – the first time it has been below 40% since the budget. Labor is steady on 39%, and the Greens are up one point to 13%.

Satisfaction with Prime Minister Tony Abbott remained on 33%; his dissatisfaction rating was up a point to 61%. Opposition Leader Bill Shorten’s satisfaction level rose two points to 29%.

The unpopularity of both leaders is shown by the fact that each is on a net satisfaction level of minus 28. They are also level on 38% each on who would make the better prime minister, with Abbott down a point and Shorten up two points.

A ReachTEL poll at the weekend had Shorten leading Abbott as preferred prime minister 58.5% to 41.5%. Labor was ahead 53-47% in two party terms in ReachTEL. Nearly half said the Bronwyn Bishop controversy had made them less likely to support Abbott.

Government MPs are critical that the Bishop affair was poorly handled. But both sides are now anxious to calm the entitlement issue as it hits more leading figures. Disclosures have shown Labor’s Tony Burke and the Liberals’ Christopher Pyne and Joe Hockey all flew their families – within the rules – on what look like extravagant excursions.

Abbott, who has set up an inquiry to recommend new entitlement arrangements, said on Sunday that things that would be inappropriate for businesspeople should likewise be inappropriate for politicians.

The House of Representatives on Monday will install a replacement for Bishop as Speaker. The choice will be made by Liberal members of the House. Candidates are Tony Smith, Russell Broadbent, Andrew Southcott, and Ross Vasta, with Philip Ruddock declaring an interest if his colleagues want him but lacking support.

The president of the Victorian Liberal Party, Michael Kroger, said on Sunday he hoped one of the Victorians, Smith or Broadbent, would be elected. He said there was no reason why, if Smith became Speaker, he could not later serve as a minister. The speakership is normally seen as the last office of the incumbent. Abbott refused to be drawn on whether the Speaker should withdraw from attending party meetings, nor did he indicate his preferred candidate.

At a policy level, the week is expected to be dominated by debate over the government’s climate targets for this year’s Paris climate conference.

Cabinet on Monday is due to consider a joint submission from Environment Minister Greg Hunt and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop for Australia’s post-2020 targets, as evidence continues to mount that climate is once again becoming more of an issue in the public’s mind.

Galaxy polling done for the Climate Institute and released on Monday has found that nearly two-thirds (63%) of Australians believed the Abbott government should take climate change more seriously. This was up six points since last year.

More than half (51%) thought that Australia’s post-2020 pollution reduction target should be based on science, not on what other nations are doing. Only 11% said it should be based on what a similar resource country such as Canada does; 5% said it should be based on what European countries like Germany and the UK do; 3% said on what China does and 2% said on what the United States does.

The Climate of the Nation 2015 survey found that 67% agreed governments needed to regulate carbon pollution. More than three-quarters agreed that Australia’s pollution reduction policy should shift responsibility to the polluters, not the taxpayers.

Asked to rank energy sources for Australia to use according to their preference, 84% put solar among their top preferred three energy sources (up two points from last year), followed by wind (69%, up five points). Gas and nuclear each fell seven points to 21% and 13% respectively, with nuclear and coal now tied as least preferred.

Nearly two-thirds think that reducing investment in wind farms and household solar power is the opposite of what is needed, while more than seven in ten people agree that “it is inevitable that Australia’s current coal fired generation will need to be replaced”. Some 72% agree that “governments need to implement a plan to ensure the orderly closure of old coal plants and their replacement with clean energy”.

The online poll taken in late July of 1016 people found that 47% believe the ALP carbon policies will “just increase electricity prices and not do much about pollution”, while more than one-third say they won’t vote for the ALP because it will bring back the carbon tax.

The ALP has yet to release a climate policy although it has committed to the ambition of having 50% of energy coming from renewables by 2030 and says it will introduce an emissions trading scheme.