|Power to the people|
The latest Newspoll saw the federal government gain 5 percentage points on its first preference vote. It may have been due to the prime minister being on holidays, as some cynics suggest, but it also might be due to the fact that she won the argument with the premiers over the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
That may be why Julia Gillard came back to have a swipe at the states over electricity pricing. It's an area where they are potentially threatened by voters who are particularly sensitive to price increases. Our research suggests that in Queensland it is not a good issue for Labor.
From a politician's point of view the most important thing about an issue is whether it actually changes votes. Asked whether "the current price of electricity make(s) you more or less likely to vote for the present state government?" slightly more voters said they were more likely to vote for the LNP than said they were less likely. This reflects the fact that the LNP has a large majority and that Labor voters are not particularly prone to blame the current state government for the prices. The thing to note about this issue is that around two-thirds of voters are neutral on it.
We provided a list of four items which could contribute to the price of electricity and asked respondents to rank them. We provided an "other" option, and a number of other causes were nominated as well, including privatisation, profiteering by power companies and excessive executive salaries. I can't rank them because they weren't on the table.
The following tables are for what respondents ranked as one or two. The options given to respondents were that the costs related to subidies of alternative energies, the carbon tax, catching up for underinvestment in previous years and gold plating of the infrastructure. The stand out is that as a group they see the increased cost of electricity as being a catch-up. Gold plating is second and the Carbon Tax is near the bottom along with alternative energies.
The graph below gives some idea why Labor voters aren't inclined to blame the new government for electricity prices as it shows that they are the group most likely to blame the previous (Labor) government for not investing enough in electricity generation in previous years.
Greens and Katter voters are most likely to accept gold plating as the issue, but again shared with other issues.
On the basis of this both Abbott and Gillard have weaknesses in their arguments which are carbon tax and gold plating respectively, but Newman appears to have the easiest case to argue as almost 100% of Labor voters accept that the state has underinvested.
We also asked about demand management as a way of curbing the pressure put on the system by domestic air-conditioning.
Most of the so-called "gold plating" is to do with having sufficient resilience in the system to deal with the power demands on just a few hot days a year caused by the now widespread use of air-conditioning. This means that people without air-conditioners are subsidising those with. This was not explained to respondents, as it would have biased results.
There is small net support for demand management which is strongest with Greens and Labor voters. Least supportive were LNP voters.
Perhaps unsurprisingly it would also be supported by those without air-conditioners, but not those with it.
Does this mean that LNP voters are more likely to be air-condition owners?
Not really. They're statistically indistinguishable from Labor voters, although both are ahead of Greens and behind Katter voters.