Nationals on the rise

Member for New England Barnaby Joyce and Nationals candidate Trevor Hicks in Adelong in June.

Polling undertaken by the Nationals for the seat of Eden-Monaro has shown that the party’s vote has nearly doubled over the last fortnight, increasing the chances of the Liberals coming out on top in Saturday’s by-election.

Internal research published by The Australian shows that Nationals candidate Trevor Hicks has increased his vote from 6 per cent two weeks ago to 11.5 per cent, according to a poll of 630 residents on Thursday.

The poll includes a smaller sample than what was taken in the earlier survey a fortnight ago on June 12, however Nationals strategists say they are “confident in the trends” and suggest Mr Hicks’ increasing popularity is due to his push for a royal commission into the dairy industry.

According to the same poll, the Labor vote has fallen from 36 per cent to 29.3 per cent. The Liberal vote has also fallen from 36 per cent to 34.3 per cent, leaving them ahead of Labor and the Nationals.

Last year, Labor’s Mike Kelly won the federal election with a slim margin of 1,685 votes. His vote was 50.85 to the Liberals’ 49.15 on a two-candidate-preferred basis, with Fiona Kotvojs also running in 2019. There was a 2.08 per cent swing away from Labor towards the Liberals.

The new internal polling also shows the Nationals are out-polling the Greens, whose vote has also risen, from 7 per cent to 8.7 per cent.

At last year’s election, the Greens beat the Nationals with 8.78 per cent of the vote, compared to their 6.95 per cent. There was a 1.18 per cent swing towards the Greens. The 6.95 swing towards the Nationals seemed high because they did not run a candidate at the previous election.

If the polling proves accurate and the Nationals receive an increased vote on Saturday, it means more preferences would be distributed to Liberal candidate Fiona Kotvojs, with most other parties, including the Shooters, preferencing Labor before the Liberals.

A national poll released by Roy Morgan has the Coalition with a narrow two-party preferred lead.

The Coalition’s lead of 50.5 per cent has dropped by two points since last month poll by the same organisation. Labor is currently trailing closely behind at 49.5 per cent.

The new polling results are based on interviews conducted with around 2600 Australian electors in mid-June.

Despite Coalition support being down two points, the Government has now held the two-party preferred lead for three months since lockdowns were enforced around Australia in late March, due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

CEO of Roy Morgan, Michele Levine, has described this weekend’s by-election as “crucial”.

“A win would increase the LNP’s small majority in the House of Representatives to 78 of 151 seats,” she said.

“An LNP win at the Eden-Monaro by-election would also be the first time a Government has won a by-election from the Opposition for 100 years since 1920.”

The seat of Eden-Monaro has traditionally been regarded as a ‘bellwether’, being won by the party of Government at every federal election from 1972 through to 2013. This streak was broken in 2016 when departing Labor MP Mike Kelly won the seat at the same federal election the Coalition formed a majority under then-Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

“Playing on the minds of local electors will be the response of Prime Minister Scott Morrison and the L-NP Government to the twin crises of 2020 – devastating bushfires in the summer and shortly after the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic,” Ms Levine said.

“Both had had a huge impact on Eden-Monaro with large tracts of forests, and homes, destroyed during the summer and the economic lifeblood of the region – tourism – shut-down because of the dangers posed by the fires and the subsequent shut-down orders enforced across Australia.

“Scott Morrison was widely criticised for his handling of the bushfires but has redeemed himself and his Government in response to the Covid-19 pandemic and this is borne out by the huge surge in the Roy Morgan Government Confidence Rating.”

Roy Morgan’s Government Confidence Rating hit a record low of only 80 during the bushfires but staged a remarkable recovery as shutdowns were enforced in late March, according to Ms Levine.

“Government Confidence has been above 120 since early April and is now at 124 in mid-June. This is the longest run of high Government Confidence above 120 since the height of the mining boom a decade ago in 2010,” Ms Levine added.