Making sense of the polls

Making sense of the polls

WA Newspoll: 54-46 to Labor with One Nation at 13%

The West Australian election will be held in five weeks, on 11 March. A WA Newspoll, conducted Monday to Wednesday from a sample of 1130, gives Labor a 54-46 lead, a 2 point gain for Labor since the August to October 2016 Newspoll. Primary votes are 38% for Labor (down 3), 35% for the combined Liberals and Nationals (down 5), 13% for One Nation and 9% for the Greens (steady).

In NSW, a recent ReachTEL poll had One Nation gaining mainly at Labor’s expense. In WA, polling implies that One Nation’s gains have come at the expense of both major parties.

There has been some speculation that the Liberals could agree to swap preferences with One Nation. However, One Nation voters dislike both major parties, and their party’s How-to-Vote recommendations may not sway many One Nation voters. A preference deal could cost the Liberals in the better-educated areas of Perth.

32% (up 4) were satisfied with Premier Colin Barnett, and 57% (down 4) were dissatisfied, for a net approval of -25. While Barnett’s ratings improved, they are still very poor. Opposition leader Mark McGowan’s net approval was +12, down one point. By 61-26, voters opposed the Barnett government’s proposal to privatise Western Power.

The WA Liberals have held power since late 2008, and longevity is a factor in their current poor polling. An unpopular Federal Coalition government is probably also a factor.

High Court declares Culleton invalidly elected

Today the High Court, sitting as the Court of Disputed Returns, ruled that former One Nation Senator Rod Culleton was invalidly elected. At the time of the election, Culleton had been convicted of a crime with a maximum sentence of over a year. Even though this conviction was annulled later, the High Court ruled that Culleton was not constitutionally eligible to be elected.

Culleton’s seat had already been declared vacant, as he is an undischarged bankrupt. If the High Court had ruled in Culleton’s favour, his replacement would have been selected by One Nation. The actual ruling means that the seat will be filled by recounting the votes from the July election assuming that Culleton is excluded.

Culleton easily won his seat, being elected 11 out of 12, with the Greens taking the last seat. All votes that were “1” One Nation above the line, or that went to One Nation on above the line preferences, will now go to One Nation’s No. 2 candidate, Peter Georgiou. As a result, Georgiou will be elected to fill Culleton’s remaining term. Georgiou is Culleton’s brother-in-law.

The High Court is still considering the case of former Family First Senator Bob Day. As with Culleton, Day may also be ineligible to have been elected. In Day’s case, there was a close contest between Day and Labor’s Anne McEwen. Labor has been arguing that Day’s personal vote influenced that outcome, in the hope that if Day is disqualified, McEwen can win, rather than Family First’s No. 2.