As Scott Morrison’s negotiations with the Nationals over climate policy reach a crunch point, the latest Guardian Essential poll suggests a majority of Australians want the Coalition to set a higher emissions reduction target for 2030 and a net zero target for 2050.
Senior Liberal and Nationals ministers met virtually with Scott Morrison, Barnaby Joyce and senior departmental officials on Monday afternoon to consider potential landing points ahead of the Cop26 talks in Glasgow. The strategy session, which included the leadership group and two other ministers, Angus Taylor and Keith Pitt, followed a meeting of the fractious Nationals party room earlier in the day.
The deliberation ahead of the United Nations-led climate conference in November comes as the latest Guardian Essential survey of 1,097 respondents suggests 68% of the voters sampled support a more ambitious target for 2030 and net zero by 2050, while 13% of the sample did not favour targets and 19% were unsure.
The latest poll indicates that 65% of respondents identifying themselves as Coalition voters in the sample would support more ambition for 2030 or net zero, compared with 77% of respondents self-identifying as Labor supporters. A higher proportion of Coalition voters are either hostile to targets or unsure about them (35% of the sample compared with 23% of Labor voters).
With Australia under pressure from key allies, and metropolitan Liberals preparing for challenges from climate-focussed independents in heartland seats at an election over the coming months, Morrison has been signalling his support for a net zero target for many months.
There has also been persistent speculation the government may increase Australia’s current 2030 emissions reduction target of a 26-28% cut on 2005 levels during the current deliberations.
But with some Nationals hostile, and some MPs demanding high price tags before any agreement on targets, the Coalition is more likely to trumpet a projected over-achievement on the current 2030 commitment than increase ambition.
The latest poll says 59% of respondents agree that climate change is happening and is caused by human activity, while 30% believe we are just witnessing a normal fluctuation in the earth’s climate. In June, the ratios on human-induced warming versus cyclical variations were 56% to 27%.
A majority rates climate action as either their most important issue, or a very important issue alongside other issues “that equally concern me” (67% of total respondents – with 22% rating climate as their most important concern and 45% saying climate is important alongside other policy challenges).
The sample is divided about whether Australia is currently doing enough to combat the threat of runaway global heating – with 42% saying not enough is being done (down from 45% in June), 31% saying we are doing enough (down from 30% in June), 15% saying we are doing too much (up from 12% in June), and 11% saying they don’t know (down from 13% in June).
These movements are inside the poll’s margin of error, which is plus or minus 3%.
Clear majorities in the sample agree with both positive and negative statements about risks and opportunities associated with climate action, with 57% of respondents agreeing with the statements: “Australia cannot afford to be locked out of the European Union or other trade markets for failing to adopt a net zero emissions by 2050 target” and “Australia needs to follow other countries’ lead and make climate change a priority, or risk being left behind”.
On positive statements, 64% agrees with the proposition: “Australian businesses have the opportunity to develop expertise in renewable energy and innovative technologies that other countries will demand” and 63% agrees with “Australian manufacturing could benefit from cheap electricity if more solar and wind farms were built”.
The poll indicates Morrison has recorded a boost in his approval rating as the Covid-19 vaccine rollout intensifies and the lockdown states move towards reopening.
Approval for Morrison sits at 54% (up from 50% a month ago) and his disapproval is on 37% (down from 41%). Approval for Morrison has increased among respondents from New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland.
The Labor leader, Anthony Albanese’s, approval has also ticked upwards, rising from 37% to 41% during the month, and disapproval is down from 36% to 34%. Morrison remains ahead of the opposition leader as preferred prime minister (45% to 29%), but the gap between the combatants has narrowed (last month Morrison was ahead 47% to 26%).
Apart from climate change, and the gradual reopening in the lockdown states, the other contested political issue over the past fortnight has been the role of integrity commissions – a national conversation reignited by the abrupt resignation of the NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian.
Berejiklian announced at the beginning of October she would resign as premier and quit the parliament after the state’s anti-corruption watchdog revealed it was investigating whether she broke the law by failing to report the conduct of her ex-lover, the former Wagga Wagga MP Daryl Maguire.
A number of federal ministers used the ensuing controversy to criticise the NSW Icac and argue that a long telegraphed, but yet-to-be legislated federal integrity commission should not replicate the state model.
But a strong majority of Guardian Essential respondents (78%) say they would support the creation of an independent federal anti-corruption body to monitor the behaviour of our politicians and public servants. Only 11% of the sample is opposed.
The catalyst for Berejiklian’s resignation has divided the sample, with 47% of respondents saying her sudden departure as NSW premier makes them more supportive of an independent federal anti-corruption body, and 21% saying that event erodes their support for a federal body (32% of respondents were unsure).