Our latest survey of 1020 Australians demonstrates broad support for the government’s ABCC Bill, but no support for an anti-union campaign. This is particularly relevant given the bill is likely to be voted on this week.
The poll also shows a deterioriation in the standing of Malcolm Turnbull for the job he is doing as PM, and against Bill Shorten, as preferred PM.
On our sample, only 17% approve of the job Malcolm Turnbull is doing versus 66% who disapprove. For Shorten the figures are 33% and 48%.
When it comes to preferred Prime Minister Shorten is ahead by 45% to 43%. While Bill Shorten has experienced a small improvement in his standing, there has been a much larger deterioration in the standing of Malcolm Turnbull.
Both the Coalition and minor party constituencies are in favour of the ABCC Bill, and doing something about unions that behave like the CFMEU.
However, this should not be read as support for anti-union legislation with 75% of Australians (including 53% of Coalition voters and 65% of minority party voters) generally supportive the proposition that unionism is necessary.
Many voters do not use the union issue to distinguish between the government and the opposition as they see Labor having a strong relationship with the union movement that is mirrored by the Coalition having a strong relationship with big business.
While acknowledging problems with the union movement, including in some cases lawlessness and corruption, they see business also having a lot of the same problems. As a means of differentiating between the two parties, the Trade Union Royal Commission is neutralised by Labor’s calls for a Royal Commission into banks.
Overall the research shows that there would be a strong constituency for reform of the union movement, as long as voters thought it was genuine reform.
Other points of interest:
- Support for the Coalition has declined, and while in the election Malcolm Turnbull had the edge over Bill Shorten in personal terms that has disappeared. Seems to be a result of Shorten having a clear purpose and a more disciplined team than Turnbull, combined with a sense that Turnbull has no sense of direction and is blown around by either the Opposition, or right wing elements in his own party.
- The dynamics of support for trade unions, the CFMEU, and the ABCC Bill specifically, mean the government should be able to get it through if the minor parties are listening to their voters.
- 89% of Coalition and 58% of minor party voters think unions have too much power; and
- 92% of Coalition and 57% of minor party voters support the ABCC Bill
- There is general concern about the CFMEU
- 70% of all voters are concerned about criminal convictions of CFMEU officers (including 55% Greens and 46% ALP)
- 58% are concerned about CFMEU strikes and go slows (although substantial pluralities of Labor 47% and Greens 46% voters are not concerned)
- 54% are concerned about the increase in housing costs (although with a lack of concern from ALP and Greens voters)
- 51% (versus 33%) are concerned with the donations that the CFMEU has made to various political parties and organisations (although a substantial majority of ALP voters (62%) aren’t, along with a bare majority of Greens (53%).
There are messages here for all parties.
- Most Australians support trade unions (75% v 15%)
- There is an arguable case for reform. 44% think unions have too much power versus 22% who think they have too little.
- Personal rights and freedom of association play a big part in assessments of trade unionism with an overwhelming majority (76%) believing it should never be compulsory, including a majority in every bloc. This is however modified by a belief amongst Greens and Labor voters that it is OK for companies to do deals with unions where membership becomes de facto
- There is also a significant degree of tolerance of arrangements where companies pay unions fees for services, such as training (47% thought this wrong, but 32% approved, including 40% of Greens and 44% ALP voters)
- From the qualitative responses it appears that many voters believe that the coalition is picking on unions while protecting corrupt businesses. So there is an equivalence between union and corporate misbehaviour, particularly in the minds of those justifying leaving unions alone, or to the existing laws.
To read the full report, please click here. To download the survey instrument, please click here.