After two weeks on the campaign trail, the Prime Minister has failed to pull back the election-winning lead enjoyed by Labor, according to the latest Newspoll.
The polling also showed that Opposition Leader Bill Shorten was becoming more popular among voters, while Malcolm Turnbull’s approval ratings had plummeted since enjoying strong support in the electorate after taking the top job from Tony Abbott.
Published in The Australian late on Sunday, the polling data, if repeated at the July 2 election, would see a swing of 4.5 per cent to Labor and the removal of the Turnbull government. Support for the Greens remained steady.
But when asked who they thought would win the election, voters still believed the current government would be voted back into power on polling day.
The survey showed that Mr Turnbull remained the preferred prime minister by 46 per cent to Mr Shorten on 31 per cent.
Calling all young people
With Australian Electoral Commission electoral rolls closing at 8pm Monday there has been a last-minute scramble to urge young people to enrol to vote.
Having lost a High Court constitutional challenge to extend the AEC’s arbitrary cut-off deadline which is a long six weeks from polling day, the online activist website GetUp! has crowd-funded an advertising campaign directed mainly at young people.
It is estimated that half of Australia’s 18 to 24 year olds are not yet on the electoral roll, while nearly half of all 18-year-olds, and a total of nearly 350,000 young people, are not enrolled to vote. (Enrol online to vote here.)
Domiciled across city electorates the youth vote could be decisive in many marginal contests and to the composition of a ‘hung’ Senate where minor party senators are expected to hold the balance of power on the cross benches.
One ad depicts a disengaged young voter having an exchange with concerned and pleading parents. The young character finally agrees to enrol before 8pm Monday.
The campaign is a test of the influence and impact of social media. The AEC is expected to publish enrolment figures when its compilation is completed from its website and state and territory offices.
Leo Fieldgrass, from the Australian Youth Affairs Coalition, said young people were politically involved.
“The real question then becomes what has failed with our democratic system so that we have so many missing voters?
“The interesting thing is that there are enough young people out there, enough young voters out there that if they were all enrolled then they could swing an election,” Mr Fieldgrass told the ABC.
“So I find it incredible that political parties aren’t more focused on trying to win over the youth vote.”
Polls still show tight race
The last-minute enrolment rush comes as the latest Fairfax-Ipsos poll shows the Coalition ahead of Labor 51 to 49 two-party preferred.
But when the 1497 telephoned respondents were asked who would receive their second preference, the vote was re-adjusted to 50-50.
The Coalition’s primary vote is at a commanding 43 per cent compared to Labor’s 34 per cent.
Faifax-Ipsos also recorded a continuing decline in Mr Turnbull’s ‘preferred prime minister’ approval rating from 51 to 47, while Mr Shorten has gradually improved fortnight to fortnight, now hitting 30 per cent.
Mr Turnbull’s popularity (with 22 per cent undecided), although declining, remains the Coalition’s greatest political asset as voters are forced to engage with the electoral process closer to July 2.
Tim Costello’s despair
While the Coalition and Labor have the same stop-the-boats policy, World Vision chief Tim Costello has denounced offshore detention at Nauru and Manus Island as ‘psychological torture’.
With doctors reporting that conditions at the offshore detention centres can produce severe depressive illness leading in some cases to self harm, Mr Costello told Sky News on Sunday: “There’s no question that the psychological torture of not being able to actually resettle, and you can’t go back home, is torture.”
Mr Costello has welcomed a Labor Party commitment to begin restoring Australia’s foreign aid budget if it is elected on July 2.
But answering questions about Australia’s asylum-seeker or border protection policy Mr Costello revealed his continuing despair over the human consequences of prohibiting a pathway for settlement in Australia to asylum seekers who had engaged the services of people smugglers in Indonesia.
While the remarks were directed at both political parties,Mr Shorten responded that Mr Costello had a point.
“The best answer is to defeat the people smugglers and make sure that the people in our care, directly or indirectly, get proper resettlement,” Mr Shorten said.
But he made it clear that any resettlement would be within the region, and not Australia. Mr Turnbull agreed.
“It is absolutely critical that we maintain a secure border protection policy.
That is why it is absolutely critical that people who seek to come to Australia through the services of people smugglers are not able to settle in Australia”.
Quentin Dempster is political editor of The New Daily. He has more than 40 years’ experience in print and television (The Sun Herald,The Sydney Morning Herald, ABC TV) and is the author of three critically acclaimed books and a documentary on institutionalised corruption. He also has a Walkley Award and an Order of Australia for an ‘outstanding contribution to journalism’.