Poll Position

Recent polls have all pointed to a strong Coalition victory on September 7.

If results from the most recent Newspoll are replicated on polling day, the Coalition stands to take 14 seats from Labor. It is also likely that the Coalition will win the seats vacated by retiring independents in Dobell, Fisher, Lyne and New England. This means that the Coalition could likely claim 90 of 150 seats in the House of Representatives; a commanding 15 seat majority.

The recent polls are in sharp contrast to those recorded after Kevin Rudd replaced Julia Gillard as Prime Minister in June.  Newspoll, Nielsen and Galaxy polls in July all placed Labor on 50% of the two-party preferred vote. The Morgan poll showed even stronger figures for Labor, with a two-party preferred result of up to 52.5% in early July.

Since Kevin Rudd called the election, however, all polls have placed the Coalition ahead in the two party preferred results, with Labor’s position steadily deteriorating. Prime Minister Kevin Rudd personal approval rating has followed a similar trend. When Kevin Rudd returned as Prime Minister his net approval rating rose to +7 the week before the election was called. It has since plummeted to -19, while Opposition Leader Tony Abbott’s rating has improved to -10. The two leaders have nearly drawn level in the preferred prime minister poll, with Prime Minister Rudd’s earlier lead of 22 points narrowing to just two in the latest Newspoll.

Marginal seat polls taken in the past week have also been heartening for the Coalition. In New South Wales, polls have shown the Coalition ahead in the key seats of Banks, Bennelong, Dobell, Kingsford Smith, Lindsay, McMahon and Robertson, with Greenway currently too close to call. One of the more impressive seat polls in Queensland is the seat of Forde, where incumbent LNP member Bert Van Manen leads ‘captain’s pick’ Peter Beattie 54% to 46%.

Paid Parental Leave

On Sunday the Leader of the Opposition, Tony Abbott, announced the Coalition’s Paid Parental Leave policy.

Under the Coalition’s scheme:

  • Mothers will be provided with 26 weeks of paid parental leave at their actual wage (capped at $150,000pa) or the national minimum wage, whichever is greater
  • Superannuation contributions will be paid as part of the paid leave
  • The father may take 2 out of the 26 weeks as paid paternity leave, concurrently or separately to the mother
  • The current test regarding eligibility to receive the payment is unchanged, whereby a person must have worked at least 10 out of the 13 months prior to birth/adoption and for least 330 hours
  • The policy is expected to cost approximately $10 billion in the first two years and $5.5 billion each year following
  • The scheme will be partly funded by a 1.5% levy on taxable company income of more than $5 million
  • Both the paid parental leave and the 1.5% levy will commence 1 July 2015.

The Coalition has sought to offset the cost of the scheme through the proposed 1.5% levy on the corporate tax rate will affect the largest 3,000 companies in Australia. In conjunction with the proposed reduction in the corporate tax rate under the Coalition, the tax rate will remain at 30% for large companies and reduce to 28.5% for small and medium businesses.

The Coalition’s scheme aims to drive productivity through workforce participation. There has been an acknowledgement of the potential of the scheme, with the Business Council of Australia noting paid parental leave is crucial for increasing workplace participation. It has, however, come under criticism from the business community and Labor for being a significant funding commitment in a strained economic environment and declining revenue.

Labor has responded to the launch of the policy by launching attacks claiming that the Coalition will make severe cuts in to pay for the scheme. Mr Abbott also faces potential resistance from within the Coalition, particularly from the National Party.

Both Queensland and New South Wales have put their support behind the policy, with Barry O’Farrell saying he looks forward to working with Mr Abbott on the scheme if elected. Although originally expressing some reservations about the Coalition’s scheme, Western Australian Premier, Colin Barnett, has now indicated that the WA Government would co-operate with the scheme after further discussions with his federal colleagues.

A link to the Coalition’s policy can be found here.

Preference Deals

All last week the major parties were vocal about their preferencing decisions in the House of Representatives, and on Friday the Australian Electoral Commission released the parties’ preferencing decisions for the Senate.

In the House of Representatives, the most notable preference decision has been the Liberal Party’s support for the ALP ahead of the Greens. This has significantly reduced the prospect of Adam Bandt holding Melbourne, and placed other inner-city seats beyond the Greens’ reach. In the seat of Denison in Tasmania Andrew Wilkie’s chances of retaining his seat have also been boosted by preferences from the Liberal Party.

The emergence of new minor parties, including the Katter’s Australia Party and the Palmer United Party, has generated additional interest in, and uncertainty about, the composition of the Senate after the 2013 election.

The most significant preference deal could be between Katter’s Australia Party and the ALP in Queensland. The ALP has secured Katter’s preferences in Prime Minister Rudd’s home state, despite the fact they have preferenced the Liberal Party in all other states.  The sixth Queensland Senate seat is highly unpredictable, with the deal setting up a potential contest between Katter’s Australia Party and the Greens.

In South Australia, the decision by Senator Nick Xenophon to split his preferences between the ALP and the Liberal Party has improved the chances of the latter to secure the third of the six Senate places in South Australia at the expense of the Greens’ Sarah Hanson-Young. The Greens have secured the preferences of Katter’s Australia Party and the Palmer United Party to bolster their changes in this state.

In New South Wales, there has been some speculation that byzantine preference flows between small right-wing parties and candidates have increased the chances of the final Senate seat going to Pauline Hanson of One Nation. Nonetheless, the most probable outcome is that the Greens win the final seat on the basis of Labor preferences.

In Western Australia, favourable preference flows have provided the National Party with an increased chance at a seat, though the likely outcome remains a status quo result with the return of the Greens’ Scott Ludlam.

Overall, the probable outcome of the Senate at this stage is that the balance of power will be held by the Greens on the back of Labor preferences. Support from the Democratic Labor Party’s John Madigan and Senator Xenophon will be insufficient to pass legislation for the major parties, unless Katter’s Australia Party gains a seat in Queensland and there is a poor result for the Greens nationally.

On a final note, the Wikileaks Party has claimed an “administrative error” led to it giving preferences against Greens Senator Scott Ludlam – a prominent defender of Julian Assange – as well as preference flows to various extreme right-wing parties.