Geoff Chambers, Canberra Bureau Chief and Joe Kelly Political Reporter
27 December 2018
Older Australians have delivered an early blow to Scott Morrison’s pitch to win back
their support before next year’s federal election, with 45 per cent of voters aged 50
and older declaring they are dissatisfied with the Prime Minister’s performance.
Despite achieving an initial boost in support from older voters, who had never strongly
endorsed Malcolm Turnbull as prime minister, Mr Morrison suffered a decline in
satisfaction ratings in the latest quarterly Newspoll analysis.
Josh Frydenberg is trying to fight a rearguard action on Labor’s “retiree tax” and
negative gearing policies, but the government’s efforts did not result in a polling boost
before the summer break.
The inability of the federal government to lock in the votes of baby boomers — who
have become disillusioned with both major parties, prompting some to shift their
support to minor parties — will be the most concerning revelation for Liberal and Nationals strategists in the latest Newspoll data.
The quarterly analysis, covering late October to this month and conducted exclusively
for The Australian, shows that almost one in two voters older than 50 would vote for
the Coalition or Pauline Hanson’s One Nation, with only 37 per cent locking in behind
The shift of support to One Nation, which had a 9 per cent primary vote among those
50 and older, compared with 1.8 per cent immediately before the 2016 election, could
put at risk the Liberal National Party’s hold on seats in the battleground state of
Queensland. This would toughen Mr Morrison’s job of clawing back Labor’s lead in
the polls before the likely May election.
Bill Shorten also faces a damning report card from older Australians, with only 31 per
cent satisfied with his performance and 59 per cent issuing a negative appraisal of his
tenure as Opposition Leader. However, this is Mr Shorten’s best satisfaction rating
from voters aged 50 and older in the past 12 months.
On the primary vote, the Coalition edges Labor 40 to 37 in the 50 and older voter
Off the back of early childhood and education policies aimed at younger families, Mr
Shorten’s Labor continues to dominate the 18-34 and 35-49 age categories, amassing a
sizeable lead in the primary vote over the Coalition.
There has been a significant spike in dissatisfaction with Mr Morrison in the 35-49 age
segment, with 48 per cent saying they were unhappy with his performance, up from 42
per cent in the August-to-October analysis.
The same voter group rated 50 per cent dissatisfied and only 36 per cent satisfied with Mr Shorten’s job as Opposition Leader.
On gender breakdown, 43 per cent of men declared they were satisfied with Mr
Morrison’s performance as Prime Minister, compared with 39 per cent of women.
There were 46 per cent of men and 44 per cent women who were dissatisfied with his
Mr Shorten continues to struggle with female voters, 49 per cent of whom are
dissatisfied with his performance compared with 34 per cent who are satisfied. Fiftytwo
per cent of male voters rated Mr Shorten’s performance as dissatisfactory, while
38 per cent were satisfied with him.
Asked to compare the two leaders directly, Mr Morrison holds a large lead over Mr
Shorten on the question of who would be the better prime minister among those aged
50 and over, 50 per cent to 32 per cent, and a narrow lead, 42-36, with 35-to-49-yearolds.
Men and women both rate Mr Morrison the better prime minister. Mr Morrison had a
10-point lead with women, 43-33, and an eight-point lead with men, 45-37.
After losing support from older Australians over superannuation changes, the Coalition has attempted to heap pressure on Mr Shorten over what it describes as a
“retiree tax”, a major revenue-raising measure announced by Labor to scrap the
refundable tax credits on shares.
The system of cash refunds, implemented in the 2001 budget, allows super funds and
individuals to receive payments from the Australian Taxation Office if their dividend
imputation credits exceed their total tax liabilities. Labor’s plan to scrap the refunds
would raise $55.7 billion over a decade from next July but was initially estimated to
raise $59bn before Mr Shorten was forced to carve out pensioners from the crackdown
following a backlash from seniors groups.
Mr Shorten’s so-called pensioner guarantee means that government pensioners and
allowance recipients will be protected from the abolition of cash refunds for excess
dividend imputation credits if he wins the next election.
The biggest target of the Labor policy is self-funded retirees. Estimates suggest that
about 33 per cent of cash refunds go to individuals, 60 per cent to self-managed super
funds and about 7 per cent to APRA-regulated funds.
The Coalition has tried to garner support off the back of its campaign against the
dividend imputations reform, targeting key electorates with older voters.
Another major revenue-raiser that has unsettled older voters is Labor’s negative
gearing policy, which will see Mr Shorten limit the concession to new housing stock if
he wins office — a move estimated to raise $20bn over the decade.
The plan to halve the capital gains discount is also thought to raise about $13bn over
the same period, with the measures fuelling concerns they will exacerbate an already
softening housing market.