ABCC likely to go through, but Turnbull on notice

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
    1. 89% of Coalition and 58% of minor party voters think unions have too much power; and
    2. 92% of Coalition and 57% of minor party voters support the ABCC Bill
  3. There is general concern about the CFMEU
    1. 70% of all voters are concerned about criminal convictions of CFMEU officers (including 55% Greens and 46% ALP)
    2. 58% are concerned about CFMEU strikes and go slows (although substantial pluralities of Labor 47% and Greens 46% voters are not concerned)
    3. 54% are concerned about the increase in housing costs (although with a lack of concern from ALP and Greens voters)
    4. 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.

    1. Most Australians support trade unions (75% v 15%)
    2. There is an arguable case for reform. 44% think unions have too much power versus 22% who think they have too little.
    3. 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
    4. 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)
    5. 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.

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0 #1 DrRosemary Stanton 2016-11-30 15:15

In your next poll, I am wondering if you could tell us how you choose the 'verbatim' comments. I realise it's possible that not everyone comments and perhaps there are more comments from one side of the political spectrum than the other. Or do you choose numbers to represent the proportion of voters in each of your 4 categories? Or something else?
0 #2 RE: ABCC likely to go through, but Turnbull on noticeChristos Papadopoulo 2016-12-01 11:05
The way a number of questions about the power of unions were phrased appeared to be emotively based to create a push against unions. Another failing in my view was that the questionnaire did not canvas the views of a national style ICAC which had been offered as an alternative.

Generally speaking this questionnaire appeared to mirror some of the very faults of the US polls that did not reflect the voting public there
0 #3 RE: ABCC likely to go through, but Turnbull on noticeGraham Young 2016-12-02 07:37
Hi Rosemary. Leximancer chooses various comments as being more representative than others of the content. There might be 20 or so of those.

I then manually select ones that are representative of the various points of views. There are 1020 comments roughly for each question, so I'm not going to put all of those up or it would make the report completely unreadable.

I'm happy to make the data available to political parties and academics, so anyone who wants to check can do so.
+1 #4 RE: ABCC likely to go through, but Turnbull on noticeGraham Young 2016-12-02 07:41
Hi Christos, I'd be interested in you pointing me to questions that were "emotively" based. You can download the survey from

I'm professional, so I take that sort of criticism seriously, but it has to be based on fact.

The proposal for an ICAC was not being voted on, so I don't think it was relevant enough to ask about. You only get to ask so many questions, and to somehow illegitimise a whole survey because it didn't ask a question you thought it should is not legitimate criticism in itself.
0 #5 RE: ABCC likely to go through, but Turnbull on noticenormalozperson 2016-12-08 17:44
the ABCC like this Govt is a waste of time and money,is it just to keep a couple of Liberal party right wing conservatives in the manner to which they have become accustomed?
Some what like the put up Royal commission into Gillard & Shorten with the Unions thrown in as a sop,can these fools get anything right at all.
I very much doubt it,I don't think the CMFEU will be overly worried by either this Govt or the ABCC who will have enough problems bringing back protectionism and taking us back to the 50s.
But this week has been a classic,gawd I miss Gillard at least she got things done,she had a carbon tax which was to be turned into a cap and trade scheme,Turnbull s minister mutters carbon trading scheme and the Liberal Right those utter geniuses Abbott,Dutton, Bernardi and hangers on who have not had an original thought since they read the bible.