• John McDonnell

Poll respondents punish PM

People locked down in three states are fed up and angry and have decided to blame the prime minister for it.

In the latest Newspoll, released on Monday, the government trails the Labor opposition 53-47 on a two-party preferred basis and the prime minister’s approval rating is in negative territory.

According to ‘The Conversation’ 49 per cent were dissatisfied with Scott Morrison’s performance (up four), and 47 per cent were satisfied (down four), for a net approval of -2, down eight points. This is Morrison’s first negative rating since the start of the COVID pandemic in April 2020. Analysts say Morrison had the fourth-longest streak of positive Newspoll ratings for a PM.

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese’s net approval was steady at -8. Morrison’s better Prime Minister lead narrowed from 51-33 to 49-36.

Newspoll’s COVID questions continued to show declines for Morrison. On overall handling of COVID, he has a 49-48 poor rating (52-45 good three weeks ago and 70-27 good in April). The vaccine rollout had a 59-38 disapproval rating (57-40 three weeks ago, 53-43 approval in April).

Of course, the Morison government has no responsibility for the lockdowns, which are decisions of the premiers, and are driven by state political agendas.

Gladys Berejiklian is basing her approach on the findings of Mark Textor of Crosby/Textor who is conducting focus groups on NSW lockdown policy. Textor is advising the NSW premier to use the words ‘safe but open’ to appeal to NSW voters.

Premier Berejiklian has taken to hinting that she will open up Sydney when 6 million jabs have been administered (a vaccination rate of 50 per cent).In the meantime, she is blaming the Morrison government for the slow vaccination rate.

On the other hand, the federal government is frustrated by NSW citizens non-compliance and vaccine reluctance. Large numbers of people are defying stay-at-home orders while they await test results and others are playing fast and loose with exemptions for shopping or exercise. The Commonwealth Chief Health Officer, Professor Paul Kelly, has said NSW needs a “circuit breaker”.

The non-compliance even extends to politicians. Zali Stegall was happy to engage in a photoshoot with her friend Laine Beachley, on the Corso at Manly, while not wearing a mask.

There is also an element of vaccine rebellion in NSW and other states. 47 per cent of people who are unvaccinated say they will only accept Pfizer. This could put the kybosh on the Berejiklian plan to have 6 million vaccinations rolled out by the end of August.

Scott Morrison has no option but to stick to his four-stage plan and the requirement for states to have 70 per cent vaccination coverage before they move to the next stage of reducing restrictions.

The states are starting to get more supplies of Pfizer vaccine and some have opened vaccinations up to everyone over 18. From September they will be receiving Moderna as well. From October, they will be getting 5 million Pfizer and Moderna doses a month, which should more than meet demand.

If he holds his nerve, then Morrison should see a recovery in the polls around Christmas, despite a concerted campaign by the premiers, the Labor party and the media.