News National By-election warning as Liberal support plunges in Malcolm Turnbull’s ‘safe’ seat

By-election warning as Liberal support plunges in Malcolm Turnbull’s ‘safe’ seat

malcolm turnbull wentworth
Goodbye for now ... Mr Turnbull, with granddaughter Alice, says goodbye to the prime ministership Photo: AAP
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The Coalition’s hold on its slim parliamentary majority could be more tenuous than previously thought, with support for the Liberals plunging in a new poll of former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull’s seat of Wentworth.

The Scott Morrison-led government faces the prospect of a by-election in Wentworth after Mr Turnbull revealed plans to resign on Monday night after losing the top job in a chaotic leadership spill on Friday.

A ReachTel poll of 886 voters in the “safe” conservative seat on Monday night showed the Liberal’s primary vote had plummeted from 62 per cent to 39 per cent since the party’s coup. 

The poll, commissioned by The Australia Institute, indicated the two-party-preferred vote would be 50-50 – a sign Wentworth could fall from the Liberal Party’s hands for the first time in more than 60 years.

The survey suggested Labor’s primary vote was at 20 per cent, with the Greens’ at 15 per cent.

Meanwhile, the Opposition said yesterday it would not grant Mr Turnbull a pair for parliamentary absences during the looming by-election. (Parliamentary pairing occurs when MPs are unable to attend a vote. An equal number of opposing MPs will abstain to level the numbers again.)

The Wentworth poll follows a horror result for the Coalition in the latest Newspoll, which found its primary vote had slipped to 33 per cent, the worst figure in a decade.

On a two-party preferred basis, Labor holds a commanding 56 per cent to the government’s 44 per cent, according to the poll released Sunday night.

Three Liberals have signalled interest in running in Wentworth: the former Business Council of Australia executive director Andrew Bragg, who quit his job on Tuesday night; a former Australian ambassador to Israel, Dave Sharma; and City of Sydney councillor Christine Forster (the sister of former prime minister Tony Abbott).

The ReachTel poll suggested Mr Sharma was leading the race, polling 34.6 per cent.

Undecided voters were almost as inclined to vote for an independent in the looming contest as for a Liberal candidate, with 36.5 per cent of undecided voters leaned towards supporting a Liberal and 32.7 per cent considering an independent.

Australia Institute executive director Ben Oquist told News Corp the two-party preferred figure showed that “a strong independent, even with a slightly lower primary vote than the Liberals, would have a good chance of winning”.

“The 50-50 two party-preferred figure shows overall that the Liberals are in ­trouble but a good community independent could have a better chance than Labor of winning the seat,” he was quoted as saying.

While Mr Morrison is under internal pressure from his party room to scrap the national energy guarantee (NEG), withdraw from the Paris agreement on climate change and pursue coal-friendly policies, the ReachTel poll suggested this strategy would be punished in urban seats like Wentworth.

Some 66.6 per cent of the voters polled believed the NEG should include an emissions reduction target, with almost 60 per cent saying the Paris target of a 26 per cent to 28 per cent reduction in emissions should be increased.

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