Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has inherited his predecessor's tough stance on China. Photo: Screengrab / BBC / Getty

The Labor Party has maintained its solid two-party leads in both Newspoll and the Australian Financial Review’s Ipsos poll in the lead-up to the election.

In Newspoll, published in The Australian, Labor is ahead of the Coalition 53-47% for the third consecutive poll. In Ipsos, it is leading 55-45%, the same as three weeks before. These results would win the election if reproduced on uniform swings on May 21.

The polls come as the national security debate escalates with the government under attack from Labor for being unable to head off the Solomon Islands-China security agreement. For its part, the government is trying to paint Labor as weak on China and is talking up a threatening international environment.

Labor on Tuesday will announce a range of initiatives aimed at making Australia “the first partner of choice” for its Pacific neighbors.

Labor will be relieved it has held its two-party position as it copes with recalibrating its campaign to deal with leader Anthony Albanese’s absence, who is in isolation with Covid-19.

In Newspoll, Scott Morrison has widened his lead over Albanese as a better PM for the second consecutive week. He heads Albanese 46% (up 2) to 37% (unchanged).

But net satisfaction with Morrison is down 3 points compared with the previous week. His satisfaction rating declined a point to 42%, while dissatisfaction with him increased 2 points to 54%.

Satisfaction with Albanese was up a point to 38%; his dissatisfaction rating fell a point to 50%.

Both leaders are on a net negative satisfaction level of minus 12.

The primary vote of the Coalition rose a point to 36%, while Labor also increased a point, to 37%. The Greens declined a point to 11%.

The Newspoll was done April 20-23, with 1,538 voters.

The Ipsos poll also shows only slight movements. Labor’s primary vote was down a point to 34%, compared to three weeks before; the Coalition was up a point to 32%; the Greens rose 2 points to 12%.

Labor Party leader Anthony Albanese. Photo: WikiCommons

Labor holds lead

On a two-party basis, when the undecideds are removed, Labor leads 55-45%.

Morrison’s approval lifted a point to 34%; his disapproval was steady at 48%. Albanese’s approval rose a point to 31%, while his disapproval increased 3 points to 35%,

Notably, many more people haven’t made up their minds about Albanese than about Morrison. Some 34% were in the “uncommitted” category on Albanese’s performance, but only 18% were uncommitted about Morrison.

Women are particularly unimpressed with Morrison. Only 31% approve of his performance, while 50% disapprove. In contrast, 36% of men approve and 47% disapprove.

Albanese increased 2 points on the preferred-PM measure to lead Morrison, who rose a point, by 40-38%.

More than 4 in 10 (42%) think Labor will win the election; 34% believe the Coalition will be the victor.

The poll found low trust in Morrison, Albanese rating low on economic management and both doing badly on competence.

The Ipsos Poll was conducted April 20-23 of 2,302 respondents.

With the Easter and Anzac holidays over, the tempo of the campaign, now in its third week, will increase.

Australian Defense Minister Peter Dutton has been stoking fears. Photo: AFP / Mandel Ngan

National security issues

Ramping up the national security issue on Monday, Defence Minister Peter Dutton said: “The only way that you can preserve peace is to prepare for war and to be strong as a country, not to cower, not to be on bended knee and be weak.

“We’re in a period very similar to the 1930s now, and I think there were a lot of people in the 1930s that wish they had spoken up much earlier in the decade than they had to at the end of the decade. I think that’s the sobering reality of where we are. It’s a sobering reality of the intelligence that we receive,” he told Nine.

This followed Morrison’s declaration at the weekend, in the context of the Chinese-Solomons agreement, that “working together with our partners in New Zealand and of course the United States, I share the same red line that the United States has when it comes to these issues”.

“We won’t be having Chinese military naval bases in our region on our doorstep.”

Labor’s deputy leader Richard Marles said Australia’s current strategic circumstances “are as complex as any point since the end of the Second World War.

“And we certainly need to prepare. But we have not seen the preparation under this government. And words are one thing, action is another.

“This is a government which beats its chest, but when it comes to actually delivering and doing what needs to be done, this is a government which repeatedly fails.”

The government has said there have been clear statements from the Solomons prime minister that there would not be a Chinese military base built there. But based on Chinese conduct previously, the Australian government is skeptical about such assurances.

Both Morrison and Marles were in Darwin for Anzac Day.

Labor’s seven-point Pacific plan will include a boost to development aid, support on climate infrastructure, improvements to Pacific labor arrangements both to help address economic challenges in the Pacific and ease Australia’s agricultural worker shortages, and a restoration of bipartisan parliamentary engagement.

Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison says he has pushed back hard against Chinese economic pressures. Photo: AFP / Thomas Samson

Pacific focus

In other initiatives, a Labor government would

  • set up an Australia-Pacific Defence School which would train people from Pacific countries’ defense and security forces. Labor says this would give the region practical support and build stronger institutional links between Australian and regional defense forces
  • double Australia’s funding for the Pacific Maritime Security Program. This provides aerial surveillance of Pacific island countries’ large exclusive economic zones, where they lose annually an estimated US$150 million in revenue due to illegal and unregulated fishing
  • deliver an Indo-Pacific broadcasting strategy to boost Australian public and commercial media content to the region, increase training for Pacific journalists and enhance partnerships with broadcasters in the region. Labor would increase funding to ABC International to expand ABC transmission and deliver Australian television, radio and online content to more audiences in the Pacific and southeast and south Asia

Shadow foreign minister Penny Wong said: “Scott Morrison has dropped the ball in the Pacific, and as a result Australia is less secure.” The resulting vacuum “is being filled by others – who do not share our interests and values.”

Michelle Grattan is Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.