South China Sea: US says China's sovereignty claims over waters have no basis under international law
Morrison slumps in Newspoll but Coalition gains, as lockdown shows vaccination is essential
This week’s Newspoll had Labor and the Coalition tied at 50-50 on a two-party-preferred basis. This is a one point gain for the Coalition since the last Newspoll, three weeks ago. Primary votes were 41% Coalition (steady), 36% Labor (steady), 11% Greens (down one) and 3% One Nation (up one).
The poll was conducted June 2-5 from a sample of 1,516 people. It breaks a sequence of four Newspolls in which Labor had a two-party lead. Figures are from The Poll Bludger.
While the major party primary votes were unchanged, the Coalition gains on preferences from a lower Greens vote and a higher One Nation vote.
However, Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s ratings took a hit. Of those surveyed, 54% were satisfied with his performance (down four percentage points) and 43% were dissatisfied (up five), for a net approval of +11. That’s Morrison’s lowest net approval since the COVID situation started in March 2020.
Labor leader Anthony Albanese’s net approval was -9, down two points. This is a record low since he became opposition leader. Morrison led Albanese as better PM by 53-32% (the margin was 55-30% previously).
Are voting intentions and approval ratings moving back into line?
Voting intentions and the prime minister’s net approval usually move together. But during COVID, voting intentions were far worse for the Coalition than what would be expected from Morrison’s ratings. Voting intentions and the PM’s net approval may be moving back into alignment.
A possible explanation for the contradictory movements is that voters who supported Morrison for his COVID response — but never intended to vote Coalition — are now blaming him for the slow vaccination rollout and the quarantine problems that have led to Victoria’s current lockdown.
However, voters who swing between the parties could be giving the Coalition credit for a strong economy, and the government may also be seeing a delayed bounce from the May 11 budget.
Last week, the Australian Bureau of Statistics reported that GDP was up 1.8% in the March quarter — and up 1.1% compared to March 2020, before COVID reached Australia. The Australian stock market has been on a bull run for about a year.
Provided the current Victorian outbreak is brought under control soon, and there are no further major outbreaks of COVID, the economy is likely to do well. That makes the Coalition clear favourites at the next election.
As I’ve written previously, people without a university education appear to be acting contrary to elite opinion, so any recent scorn of Morrison will probably help him.
In last fortnight’s Essential poll, conducted before the recent Victorian outbreak from a sample of 1,100 people, 63% thought it was the federal government’s responsibility to build and manage quarantine facilities, while 37% thought state governments were responsible.
More than half (58%) thought the federal government’s response to COVID was good and 18% poor, down from a 62-17% score in April and 70-12% in March.
Vaccinations are essential
The current Melbourne lockdown is already the longest since the almost four-month Victorian lockdown last year. It demonstrates that Australia cannot keep COVID out of the community indefinitely. Once it enters the community, it is difficult for governments to avoid imposing an economically and socially damaging lockdown to prevent spiralling cases and eventually deaths.
Vaccinations are the only way out. But Australia probably needs to vaccinate a greater share of its population than in countries that have been badly hit. People who have recovered from COVID have some short-term immunity, but Australia’s containment has been so successful that just 0.1% of the population have had COVID.
Only 17% of Australia’s population has received at least one COVID vaccination dose, compared with 40-60% in comparable countries like France, Germany, the US, the UK and Israel. This percentage includes children, who are not yet eligible in many countries.
All the countries above were hit hard by COVID, and a sizeable number have recovered and have short-term immunity. Australia’s vaccinations are way below where they need to be to insure against a COVID outbreak.
Vaccinations greatly reduce the chance of catching COVID or dying from it. Cases and deaths in the UK and US have been massively reduced by the vaccination program.
Minns becomes NSW Labor leader, contested leadership in Tasmania
Last month, Jodi McKay resigned as NSW Labor leader after the party’s disappointing result at the Upper Hunter byelection.
Chris Minns and Michael Daley, who was Labor leader at the 2019 election, were expected to contest the leadership. But Daley withdrew last Friday, so Minns — who has been an MP since 2015 — was elected unopposed.
In other state leadership news, Rebecca White resigned as Tasmanian Labor leader in mid-May after the recent state election at which the Liberals held their majority. The contest to replace her will be between former champion rower Shane Broad and former minister David O’Byrne. The result will be announced on June 15.
In a final addendum to the Tasmanian election, Liberal Adam Brooks had resigned on May 14 owing to firearms charges. Last week, a countback saw Liberal Felix Ellis elected, defeating a fellow Liberal 53.4–46.6%. Party standings remain 13 Liberal, nine Labor, two Greens and one independent.
US Democrats perform strongly in New Mexico special election
At a special election for New Mexico’s first Congressional District on June 1, the Democrat defeated the Republican by a 60.3-35.7% margin. The almost 25-point Democratic victory is two points better for Democrats than US President Joe Biden’s margin over Donald Trump in the same district in 2020, and eight points better than the Democratic incumbent in 2020.
While this election was good news for Democrats, they had a dreadful result in a Texan federal special election on May 1. In a “jungle primary” where all Republican and Democratic candidates run together, Democrats failed to make the top two, so the runoff will be Republican versus Republican.
That was because Republicans overall crushed the Democrats 62-37% in a district Trump won by just three points over Biden.
In the FiveThirtyEight aggregate, Biden’s current ratings are 53.4% approve, 40.4% disapprove (net +13.0%). With polls of likely or registered voters, his ratings are 54.4% approve, 40.5% disapprove (net +13.9%).
Biden’s initial ratings had high disapprovals by the standards of past presidents, and he was ahead of only Trump on net approval. But his approval has since been very steady, and he has now overtaken Bill Clinton and Gerald Ford at the same point of their presidencies.