Politicians’ poll plunge

(Transcript from SBS World News Radio)

Public support for independents and micro-parties has climbed to a record high and Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Opposition leader Bill Shorten are now more unpopular than they were before the budget.


Those are the indications from the latest Newspoll, which also returns Mr Abbott a dissatisfaction rate of 61 per cent, his worst since becoming prime minister.

Mr Shorten’s rating of 45 per cent is his worst since taking over the Labor leadership.

However just weeks before the new Senate takes its place, the poll shows support for independents and micro-parties has increased to a record 17 per cent.

Amanda Cavill reports.

(Click on the audio tab above to hear the full report)

Every politician will say that polls come and polls go, but the most recent Newspoll may just be sending a message to the major parties that the voters are not happy.

Newspoll’s Martin O’Shannessy says that message is loud and clear.

“I think there’s a clue in that. And that is we have the Others and Independents up, both leaders with increasing dissatisfaction. So Tony Abbott on his record of 61 dissatisfied to 30 satisfied, and Bill Shorten on 45 dissatisfied and that’s a record for him and he’s therefore deep in negative territory as well. So neither leader is thrilling anybody.”

And while it is unlikely that Australia will ever be governed by an alliance of Independents, it appears voters are losing faith in the major parties’ ability to deliver on their promises to govern for all Australians.

On a two-party preferred basis, the Coalition trails Labor 47 per cent to 53 per cent.

The Abbott government’s primary vote remains lower than before the Budget, but increased by one point to 37 per cent in the past fortnight.

Labor fell one point to 36 per cent but the Greens dropped two points to 10 per cent, failing to capitalise on the voter dissatisfaction with the major parties.

But Mr O’Shannessy says he thinks the latest figures simply follow voter trends seen in previous periods of tough economic times.

“We see a cycle of growth and decline in minor parties. Two years ago people, I think, would have said that (Bob) Katter was where all the change was going to come from. Now we see it’s Palmer United. I can still remember the Democrats and Pauline Hanson. So voting systems, especially in the Senate level, tend to favor minor parties: I am not entirely sure that’s going to be the case forever. So there’s always a floating vote when you are in times of tough economic management of course neither party looks attractive.”

Opposition frontbencher Bernie Ripoll agrees the poll reflects concerns over the federal budget.

“What we are seeing is people that are scared, they’re actually really worried. We’ve seen it in consumer confidence, we’ve seen it in business confidence. We’ve not seen the kind of normal reaction you get to budgets every single year. People are very worried about what this budget actually means, the long-term effects.”

But Coalition backbencher Andrew Laming says, in time, Australians will realise the budget is not going to have a massive impact on everyday life.

“It means it’s a longer period for us to convince Australians that its a decision that we had to make. And obviously we’re cleaning up a mess that’s not of our own making. I know that there may well have been shocks to people initially, particularly with the publicity around elements of the budget. But it’s not the seismic budget that opponents have made it out to be.”

Yet another poll, the Readers Digest Trust rankings for 2014, shows it’s a bad year for politicians generally.

They remain rooted to the bottom of the trust rankings, along with salespeople, sex workers and call-centre staff

The 2014 rankings show Tony Abbott 79th out of 100 well-known trusted Australians – ten spots behind Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who sparked leadership speculation in early June after being spotted dining out with Senate powerbroker Clive Palmer.

The Trust rankings have worse news for opposition leader Bill Shorten, who finished joint 81st with Nationals MP Barnaby Joyce.