Nick Xenophon Team senator Skye Kakoschke-Moore has resigned from parliament after being advised she is a British citizen via her mother, in another blow to the party.
The NXT has three Senate spots, as well as one member in the House of Representatives, Rebekha Sharkie – whose future is under a cloud in the citizenship crisis.
A tearful Kakoschke-Moore said she was “heartbroken” by the news. She had previously not believed she had British citizenship and had only checked when preparing the declaration to be presented to parliament.
Her mother was born in Singapore to British parents, and migrated to Australia with her family.
“Usually where a parent is born outside of the UK they are unable to pass their citizenship on to their children where those children are also born outside of the UK. It was my understanding for my entire life that I was not eligible for British citizenship due to that rule.”
When she was living in Oman as a child her father had inquired whether she was eligible for a British passport and was told she was not because she wasn’t eligible for citizenship. “We had no reason to doubt that this advice was incorrect.”
But the British Home Office had now advised her that, through a complicated train of circumstances, her mother became a British citizen under British legislation of the early 1980s “and I am therefore a British citizen under … the British Nationality Act 1981”.
She said she would ask that her case be referred to the High Court.
The issue is particularly complicated for the NXT because the next candidate on its ticket, Tim Storer, is no longer in the party after falling out with it.
Storer had wanted to replace Nick Xenophon when he quit the Senate for state politics. But it was a casual vacancy and Xenophon was able to appoint his staffer, Rex Patrick.
Xenophon told a joint news conference with Kakoschke-Moore that preliminary legal advice was “that we’re in uncharted legal territory as to whether it would be a countback or some other mechanism of dealing with this” vacancy.
The NXT will argue that Storer should not get the spot because he is no longer in the party. But Anne Twomey, constitutional expert from Sydney University, said she very much doubted the argument would fly.
Xenophon said he hoped that Kakoschke-Moore would be back in the Senate soon, at least after the next Senate election.
He said Kakoschke-Moore’s circumstance was completely different from that of Sharkie – who didn’t receive her confirmation of renouncing her British citizenship until after her nomination went in.
The British Home Office had pocketed her money before the nomination, Xenophon said. He said the initial legal advice was that she was in very strong position.
“There may be a referral. I think that what we’ll expect to see in coming days is a whole stack of referrals to the High Court from people from the major parties and crossbench as well.”
Kakoschke-Moore is the ninth member of the federal parliament to have either resigned or been knocked out by the High Court over being a dual citizen at the time of nomination.
Malcom Turnbull has promised tax cuts for middle-income earners in the next budget or even earlier. The short-term political benefits of pre-election tax cuts are not in doubt. But unless the government is willing to increase taxes elsewhere to pay for these sweeteners, there will be longer-term costs for the budget and the economy. And younger Australians will wear these costs.
Young people will pay the price
If the government goes ahead with tax cuts and nothing else changes, we can look forward to the announcement in the 2021 budget of Australia’s 13th successive budget deficit. This is despite the fact Australia is in the midst of the longest period of uninterrupted economic growth anywhere in the developed world. And the unlucky recipients of this legacy of poor budget management are the young.
Grattan Institute research shows that each year the government runs a A$40 billion deficit, it increases the lifetime tax burden for households headed by a person aged 25 to 34 by A$10,000. This is based on the share of debt they would have to repay – with interest – over time. With each successive budget deficit, the tab grows for today’s young Australians.
And the government is magnifying the cost of future economic downturns. Australia was well placed to respond to the global financial crisis because of its healthy fiscal position. But with net debt now sitting at A$322 billion (18.4% of GDP), the government has less room to respond if there is another serious downturn.
Middle-income earners are hit by bracket creep
In the 2017-18 budget, the government was clear: if the senate won’t support spending cuts, then tax increases will have to do the “heavy lifting” on budget repair. And this heavy lifting is largely happening through bracket creep – growth in income taxes as a share of wages.
Middle-income earners are particularly hurt by bracket creep. Based on the wages growth projected in the 2017 budget, the average tax rates for people in middle-income groups will increase by between 1.9 and 2.9 percentage points by 2021. For example, a person earning A$50,000 a year will go from paying an average tax rate of 17.1% in 2017 to 19.5 % in 2021 – and that’s before the government’s proposed increase in the Medicare levy.
No government likes to go to an election with taxes going up, so the temptation to “give back” bracket creep was always going to prove irresistible in next year’s pre-election budget. And as the prime minister flagged, there is also an economic case for such tax cuts. High marginal tax rates for middle income earners can significantly affect incentives to participate in the workforce, particularly for for women with children in childcare.
Tax cuts will blow the surplus
But the kicker is the effect of the promised tax cuts on the budget bottom line. The Australian government has been running budget deficits since 2009. In the last budget, the treasurer promised a return to surplus in 2021.
That promised surplus always relied on optimistic assumptions: strong wages growth, healthy growth in profits, government spending restraint, and, importantly, no cuts to income taxes. The government’s proposal is light on details, but even modest cuts to tax rates could eliminate the forecast surplus.
For example, if the government was to reduce the tax rate only in the middle bracket (A$37,000-$80,000) from 32.5% to 30%, the cost to the budget bottom line would be about A$7.3 billion in 2021, almost wiping out the promised A$7.8 billion surplus.
If you were running a well-honed political strategy you’d surely have your prime minister announce his plan to give middle-income earners income tax relief in a major speech around Australia Day, forming a launchpad for 2018. You wouldn’t be tossing it out there at the fag end of a disastrous year, amid the general chaos.
But Malcolm Turnbull is operating on tactics rather than strategy.
Regardless of how long the tax aspiration had been in the pipeline, his Monday night speech to the Business Council of Australia did its job of securing a “look-over-here” effect, when Turnbull was under fire for cancelling next week’s House of Representatives sitting.
It achieved the front–page headlines despite being totally without detail.
Apart from general sentiments about the desirability of lower personal income tax, all Turnbull said in the way of specifics was: “In the personal income tax space, I am actively working with the treasurer and all my cabinet colleagues to ease the burden on middle-income Australians, while also meeting our commitment to return the budget to surplus”.
How much this will amount to in the end and when taxpayers would get something tangible remain to be seen. Asked on Tuesday when he thought he would deliver the tax cuts, Turnbull said: “Well, this is going to be our focus next year. Obviously we’ve got the budget coming up, as always, in May. But we are determined to make sure that there is more money in the pockets of hardworking Australians.”
If in the event the tax relief became an election promise, rather than pre-election money in the pocket, would voters be sceptical?
In the meantime, Labor – which proposes a higher tax regime – had plenty of ammunition, not only to assert that Turnbull was looking for a distraction but to remind people that this year’s budget actually flagged an increase in personal tax. This is in the form of a higher Medicare levy to help fund the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
From July 2019 the Medicare levy will rise from 2% to 2.5%. This will be a nice little revenue-earner, raising A$8.2 billion over the forward estimates.
As Deloitte’s Chris Richardson points out, after finding deep spending cuts too hard a road in trying to repair the budget, the government in May opted for higher taxes (although it had just passed some of its business tax cuts from the 2016 budget and was still pressing the rest).
Richardson dubs the May strategy Plan B, after Plan A, based on spending cuts and epitomised by the 2014 budget, had been abandoned.
“Surely they can give Plan B longer than six months,” Richardson says. It seems not.
Richardson says tax cuts are not needed to stimulate the economy, and are counter-productive for fiscal repair – which is dependent on projected revenue growth.
“The figures show that what gets us to [the projected] surplus in 2020-21 is higher taxes. The move from deficit to surplus between 2016-17 and 2020-21 is a swing of 3% of national income. Of that, 2.5% is from revenue and 0.5% from spending cuts,” Richardson says.
Personal income tax cuts would be costly. On Tuesday former minister Eric Abetz, speaking on Sky, suggested the priority should be on income tax cuts over the company tax cut for big business that’s stymied in parliament. Any retreat on the business tax cut would be a major backflip from the government.
A Parliamentary Budget Office paper released a few weeks ago notes that the average tax rate for individuals is estimated to increase by 2.3 percentage points from 2017-18 to 2021-22.
There are increases in every income quintile although they vary. The largest increase is expected in the middle quintile (taxable incomes from $37,000 to $56,000) where taxable income is expected to be an average $46,000 this financial year. These taxpayers are projected to see their average tax rate increase by 3.2 percentage points by 2021-22, the paper says.
As for the Medicare levy increase, it “has the greatest impact on individuals in the third, fourth [$56,000 to $85,000], and fifth [$85,000 and over] income quintiles. Medicare levy concessional arrangements eliminate this impact for the first income quintile and limit the impact for the second,” the paper says.
So we have the government simultaneously planning a tax rise while now talking about tax relief for middle-income earners.
And that takes us to the question of whether Turnbull can manage this new tax debate he has opened. This includes making sure he and his treasurer are on the same page, and the backbench doesn’t run off prematurely and in multiple directions. At an earlier stage of his prime ministership, a debate about tax directions didn’t go well. He can’t afford that sort of mess now that he has so little political capital.
An outbreak of plague has been occurring in Madagascar, with more than 2,000 cases and 170 deaths reported since August 2017.
This island nation is one of the few remaining hotspots for plague in the world, with cases usually reported between September and April each year.
But this outbreak has been unusual, as it has affected many different areas in Madagascar, including heavily populated cities.
What is plague, and how is it treated?
Plague is a serious disease caused by the bacteria Yersina pestis. It has a high death rate if untreated. There are several different clinical forms, including bubonic plague (affecting the lymph nodes), pneumonic plague (affecting the lungs) and septicaemic plague (involving the bloodstream).
Outside of outbreak situations, deaths from plague are usually due to delays in recognition and diagnosis, rather than a lack of treatment options. Although antibiotic resistant strains have been described, plague can generally be treated with a number of commonly available antibiotics.
Why does plague still exist?
Plague was responsible for hundreds of millions of deaths in three devastating pandemics, including the Plague of Justinian in the 6th century, the Black Death in the 14th century, and the Third Pandemic that originated in China in the 19th century.
In these pandemics, it’s generally thought plague was introduced by rats (often transported on ships) then transmitted to local rats in domestic settings. Fleas then transmit the bacterium between infected rats and humans. But there’s still some debate on the transmission pathways of plague in these pandemics. The classical cycle between an animal reservoir (rats) to humans through an insect vector (fleas) is common to many animal-associated infectious diseases, known as zoonoses.
The pattern of plague cases seems to have changed to a more complex ecology over the past 50 years. There has been a shift in cases from Asia to Africa and the re-emergence of disease in other areas such as the United States.
It’s now recognised there are many potential pathways of transmission from animals to humans in different settings. In the US, plague is thought to be transmitted from wild rodents in rural areas, such as prairie dogs and rock squirrels.
In recent years, there’s been interest in the impact of climate change on the potential for outbreaks. The prevalence of plague in animals in Kazakhstan is associated with higher temperatures in spring and rainfall in summer, as are outbreaks in the US. Tree ring studies also suggest similar climatic conditions may have triggered the Black Death and the Third Pandemic.
How can it be controlled?
Modern plague control includes finding cases and treating them, and where cases are detected, clearing homes of fleas using insecticides. Plague cases in hospitals need to be cared for safely to prevent spread to health care workers and other patients.
In affected communities, people should act to keep rats out of homes. This includes making sure food is stored and disposed of safely. Avoiding bites from fleas is also important, using insect repellents and ridding animals of fleas. Although rat control using poisons can also be used, this should only be done after fleas have been controlled, as fleas can leave dying rats and make things worse.
At a national and international level, systems to respond to outbreaks are required to make sure the public receives reliable information, to deploy logistics and resources to where they are required, and co-ordinate the various national and international organisations involved in the response.
How easily can it spread between countries?
Although the concept of quarantine arose from efforts to control plague spread, travel and trade restrictions are not often warranted given their potential economic impact. The wider fallout from outbreaks can be severe. For example, a relatively small outbreak, mostly localised to the city of Surat in India in 1994, provoked widespread panic. This resulted in a national collapse in tourism and trade that was estimated to cost up to US$2 billion.
In this current outbreak, only the Seychelles has implemented travel bans, and it’s thought the risk of transmission is low. Few confirmed cases have been reported in travellers from Madagascar during the current outbreak.
The World Health Organisation has been working with neighbouring countries to improve preparedness efforts. This includes improving surveillance at airports and sea ports, developing contingency plans and pre-positioning of antibiotics and protective equipment.
What is the future for plague?
It’s not possible to eradicate plague, as it is widespread in wildlife rodents outside the sphere of human influence. Outbreaks generally are managed reactively by “firefighting teams” deployed to clear houses of fleas, identify and treat cases and give pre-emptive treatment to contacts at risk.
A more preventative approach, such as the identification of areas at risk using climate models and animal surveys to focus flea and rat control efforts would be better. But this requires a better understanding of transmission pathways in each region where disease persists.
Malcolm Turnbull has raised the prospect of personal income tax relief to help middle-income earners, saying he is “actively working” on it.
As the government is still trying without success to get the remaining part of its company tax plan through parliament, which would deliver lower tax to big companies, Turnbull has moved to hold out the prospect of relief for individuals.
Speaking to the Business Council of Australia on Monday night, he noted the government had already lifted the second-highest income tax bracket threshold from A$80,000 to A$87,000, keeping some half-a-million people from moving into a higher bracket. It had also spared people facing a permanent top marginal rate of 49.5% by not making the temporary deficit levy permanent.
“You know our plans on corporate tax,” he said. “In the personal income tax space, I am actively working with the treasurer and all my cabinet colleagues to ease the burden on middle-income Australians, while also meeting our commitment to return the budget to surplus.”
He said his commitment to all Australians was: “Whether you are starting out in your first job, a worker providing for their family, or a business hiring staff, our goal is always to leave more money in your pocket, not in ours.
“Higher taxes penalise people who are trying to get ahead. But when you reward hard work and enterprise, you encourage hard work and enterprise.
“It’s pretty simple – more investment, more jobs. That’s the key.”
He recalled that his earliest foray into the personal income tax debate in 2005 as a fairly new MP was not uniformly welcomed. He did not spell out that then-treasurer Peter Costello was furious.
But the concerns that underpinned a report he released then still existed: “The tax system remains complex and compliance is a burden, our marginal tax rates are high, bracket creep is a constant challenge that needs to be addressed”.
Turnbull said that “just because we’re in challenging fiscal times doesn’t mean we should raise the white flag on making the tax system work better”.
A Treasury analysis showed Australia risked being left behind by the rest of the world in the competitiveness of its business tax, he said, citing in particular the US and the UK.
“If we don’t reduce our corporate rate to 25% as planned – in our Enterprise Tax Plan – over the coming decade, the only advanced nations that will exceed Australia’s tax rate are Japan and Malta.”
Malcolm Turnbull’s tactic of cancelling the House of Representatives’ sitting next week – because his numbers are depleted and the government is nervous – is a short-sighted decision that smacks of lack of nerve.
Undoubtedly it would have been a rough week in the lower house. But refusing to face it looks panicky, just when Turnbull is trying to convince people that he and the government are in control.
The government is desperate to keep the lower house agenda narrow and as tightly managed as its unfortunate circumstances permit. It declares the rest of the parliamentary year will be confined to legislating for same-sex marriage and considering which citizenship cases should be referred to the High Court.
Monday’s cancellation wasn’t Turnbull’s only ploy to avoid being embarrassed in the lower house’s final sitting days of 2017. When he recently met Bill Shorten to discuss citizenship disclosure, he tried to win agreement to confine the coming period to non-controversial legislation. Labor naturally wouldn’t play ball.
The cancellation has nothing logically to do with the timetable for the same-sex marriage bill. Consideration of that legislation was always to continue in the Senate next week, moving to the House of Representatives for debate the week after. Meanwhile, the lower house next week would have dealt with other legislation.
Nor is Leader of the House Christopher Pyne convincing when he claims this is just a routine change, and that there was no need for the lower house to meet next week because there was nothing urgent for it to do.
In truth, the government fears what trouble Labor games and rebels in its own ranks might cause, and is desperate to limit the time available to them. The latter, spearheaded by Nationals Barry O’Sullivan in the Senate and George Christensen in the lower house, are planning to try to force the issue of a commission of inquiry into the banks and other financial institutions.
O’Sullivan is preparing a bill for the banking commission and claims up to four lower house members could cross the floor. The O’Sullivan commission would report to the parliament; it would be distinct from a royal commission, which only the government can set up.
This bill was never going to get to the lower house next week; it’s not even clear whether it will be debated there when the lower house does sit the week starting December 4. But Christensen says he will vote for a commission or the like “in whatever guise it comes up and I definitely expect it’s going to come up”. Something will certainly “come up” if Labor can make it do so.
One big question is why the government has let this bank issue fester. It has been very critical of the banks, slapped a hefty tax on them, and moved to impose a tough regimen on their executives. But it has fought trenchantly against the royal commission that Labor advocates.
Given the strength of anti-bank feeling in the community, and within some of its own ranks – based on the banks’ bad behaviour – the government should have long ago cut its losses and set up a broad-ranging inquiry.
An important aspect of the rebel Nationals’ push is that they are referencing the precedent of the Liberals rebels’ success on same-sex marriage.
O’Sullivan told the ABC the government’s facilitating Liberal backbencher Dean Smith’s private member’s bill (now a crossbench bill) provided “a new pathway for backbenchers to be able to pursue matters of importance to them, and I’m just simply following along in his footsteps”.
The Nationals remain deeply out of sorts about the marriage debate sucking oxygen, as they see it, from other issues for months.
Beyond that, the rebels have taken from the marriage story the lesson that what’s good for the goose should be good for the gander. If a group of Liberal rebels – the “famous five” who put same sex-marriage back on the government agenda – can break ranks and end up getting what they want, why not a group of Nationals, with their issues?
And the win – and praise – scored by the Liberal rebels has meant the Nationals leadership and whips have reduced authority to keep their own rebels in line.
On Monday night Labor was seeking crossbench support for a proposed joint letter to put pressure on Turnbull to reverse his decision to cancel next week’s lower house sittings, but there’s no chance of his doing that.
Turnbull had raised the possibility of deferring the start of the House sitting at his meeting with Shorten. Shorten gave it short shrift at the time, and said so publicly, but Turnbull has rashly chosen to have the last word.
Turnbull told a business audience on Monday night: “In times of uncertainty, the nation needs calm and measured leadership, a steady hand at the helm”. His earlier action suggested a touch of the tremble.
The Queensland election will be held in five days, on November 25. There has been no statewide polling from either Galaxy or Newspoll since an early November Galaxy. These two pollsters have given Labor higher primary votes than ReachTEL, and assume One Nation preferences will not favour the LNP as strongly as ReachTEL, which uses respondent-allocated preferences. As a result, Labor has led by about 52-48 in Galaxy and Newspoll, while they have been behind 52-48 in ReachTEL.
A Queensland ReachTEL poll for the parent advocacy group The Parenthood, which was conducted on November 13 from a sample of 1,130, gave the LNP a 52-48 lead by respondent preferences. This is unchanged from a late September media-commissioned ReachTEL. Primary votes were 32.7% Labor (down 2.1), 32.2% LNP (down 1.0), 17.7% One Nation (down 1.9) and 9.5% Greens (up 1.4).
A second ReachTEL poll, for the left-wing Australia Institute, which was also conducted on November 13 from a sample of almost 2,200, gave the LNP a 52-48 lead from primary votes of 34.0% Labor, 32.3% LNP, 17.9% One Nation and 8.3% Greens.
These two polls show One Nation in decline since the September ReachTEL, but this decline has gone to “Others” instead of the major parties.
Despite being a little behind Labor on primary votes, the LNP leads by 52-48 in both polls. Respondent preferences from non-major party voters flowed to the LNP over Labor at a 56-59% rate. If Greens preferences are going to Labor at a 75% rate, preferences of One Nation and Other voters are favouring the LNP at a near 70% rate.
At the March Western Australian election, One Nation preferences flowed to the Liberals at a 60% rate, according to the ABC’s Antony Green. In that case, there was a preference deal between One Nation and the Liberals, whereas in Queensland One Nation is putting most sitting members second last ahead of the Greens, irrespective of party.
If ReachTEL’s strong preferences from One Nation to the LNP occur at the Queensland election, it would be bad news not just for state Labor, but also federal Labor. Most federal polls assume One Nation preferences split evenly, as they did in 2016.
In an additional poll question released November 18, presumably from the early November Galaxy, voters opposed the proposed A$1 billion Commonwealth loan for Adani by a 55-28 margin.
Newspoll conducted six seat polls on November 15-16 from samples of 500-700 per seat. The seats surveyed were Mansfield, Whitsunday, Gaven, Ipswich West, Bundaberg and Thuringowa. There was a large swing against Labor in Thuringowa, with One Nation leading 54-46. In Bundaberg, the LNP led by 53-47, after Labor won by 0.5% in 2015.
In the other seats, Labor’s vote was holding up better, with small swings to Labor in Whitsunday, Mansfield and Gaven. A ReachTEL poll in Maiwar for GetUp! had a 50-50 tie, a three-point swing to Labor.
According to Kevin Bonham, the average of 11 Galaxy/Newspoll seat polls in Labor vs LNP contests is a 0.9 point swing to the LNP. However, seat polling has not been accurate in past elections.
Where the election will be won or lost
After being reduced to just seven seats at the 2012 election, Labor won 44 of the 89 seats at the 2015 election, forming government with the support of independent Peter Wellington. For most of the last term, Labor relied on the support of Labor defector Billy Gordon, who had won Cook. Labor’s Cairns MP Rob Pyne also defected in 2016.
After a redistribution, there will be 93 seats at this election. From the ABC’s pendulum, Labor would win 47 seats on 2015 results, the LNP 41, the Katter party 2 and there would be three defectors – two from Labor and one LNP. If the defectors are assigned to the party that would win the seat on 2015 results, Labor has 48 seats and the LNP 43. Labor can afford to lose one net seat without losing its majority.
At this election, One Nation’s vote is likely to be in the high teens, and they will do better in regional Queensland than in south-east Queensland. Galaxy seat polling indicates that regional Queensland is swinging against Labor, but polls of Glass House and Bonney, both in southeast Queensland, recorded small swings to Labor.
Labor is likely to have trouble holding regional seats such as Bundaberg (Labor by 0.5%), Maryborough (1.1%), Burdekin (1.4%) and Mundingburra (1.8%). The question is whether they can make up for any losses in regional Queensland by winning south-east Queensland seats such as Everton (LNP by 2.0%), Bonney (2.2%), Maiwar (3.0%) and Aspley (3.2%).
Labor could gain these LNP-held southeastern seats on a backlash against the LNP’s preference recommendations favouring One Nation in 50 of the 61 seats it is contesting. The last time One Nation was a force was at the 1998 and 2001 elections, before the LNP was formed. In 1998, the Liberals lost five seats, all to Labor, to fall to nine. In 2001, the Liberals were reduced to just three seats.
Galaxy and Newspoll seat polls have only shown One Nation winning Thuringowa, and in contention to win Logan, but the LNP’s how-to-vote cards are favouring Labor in Logan. Pauline Hanson almost won Lockyer at the 2015 election, so it is a prime target for One Nation. In 1998, One Nation won 11 seats on 22.7% of the statewide vote, but current polling has them well short of 1998, and they are unlikely to win more than a few seats.
Greens gain Vic seat of Northcote from Labor at byelection
A byelection in the Victorian seat of Northcote was held on the weekend, due to the death of Labor incumbent Fiona Richardson. The Greens’ Lidia Thorpe defeated Labor’s Clare Burns by a thumping 55.6-44.4 margin, a swing of 11.7 points to the Greens since the 2014 state election. Primary votes were 45.3% Greens (up 9.0) and 35.4% Labor (down 5.6). The Liberals did not contest, and the Liberal Democrats won only 4.1%, well below the 16.5% the Liberals had won in 2014.
Labor put in a strong effort to retain Northcote, yet they were still thrashed, losing a seat they had held at every election since it was created in 1927. The inner-Melbourne seats are trending towards the Greens, and Labor should probably focus their resources on the conservative parties, rather than spend money in seats that are likely to be lost anyway.
A ReachTEL poll, conducted for the CFMEU on November 9, had a 54-46 Labor lead – a large miss. This is not the first time ReachTEL has grossly underestimated the Greens in an inner city seat. At the 2015 NSW state election, ReachTEL gave Labor a 56.5-43.5 lead in Newtown, which the Greens won by a crushing 59.3-40.7.
The Bennelong byelection will be held in four weeks, on December 16. With Barnaby Joyce almost certain to retain New England, Bennelong will decide whether the Coalition regains its parliamentary majority. Labor’s candidate is former NSW premier Kristina Keneally, while John Alexander will recontest for the Liberals after the possibility that he held British citizenship was renounced yesterday.
A Galaxy poll, conducted on November 15 from a sample of 579, had a 50-50 tie, a ten-point swing to Labor from the 2016 result. The only primary votes released so far are 42% for Alexander and 39% for Keneally. 42% thought Keneally had done a bad job as premier, while 37% thought she had done a good job. As Keneally led a government that was smashed in 2011, this negative assessment is to be expected.
A ReachTEL poll, conducted 16 November from a sample of 864, gave Alexander a 53-47 lead, a seven-point swing to Labor since 2016. Primary votes were 41.6% Alexander, 34.5% Keneally, 5.9% Greens, 5.4% One Nation and 8.3% undecided. Undecided voters in ReachTEL polls can be pushed into saying which way they lean, but this information is usually omitted by media sources.
Alexander had a 51% favourable, 15% unfavourable rating, and Keneally a 42% favourable, 28% unfavourable rating. In the last ReachTEL national poll, in late October, Malcolm Turnbull had a 51-49 better prime minister lead over Bill Shorten. In Bennelong, Turnbull had a much larger 60-40 lead.
These polls vindicate Labor’s selection of Keneally. Although Keneally has a somewhat controversial past, she has a high profile. A lower-profile candidate would have had difficulty overcoming Alexander’s advantage as the sitting member. With Turnbull’s big lead over Shorten, Keneally is performing well to be six points behind in ReachTEL.
In past elections, individual seat polls have performed much worse in predicting results than using statewide or national polls. The ReachTEL One Nation vote of 5.4% in Bennelong appears too high, as One Nation won just 1.4% for Bennelong in the NSW Senate in 2016, compared with 4.1% for the whole state.
The national swing to Labor is currently about 4.5 percentage points since the last election. An average of ReachTEL and Galaxy would have Alexander ahead by 51.5-48.5, an eight-point swing to Labor, so the swing is larger in Bennelong than nationally. Swings against governments are usually larger at by-elections than general elections.
Given the inaccuracy of single seat polls, Labor could be ahead, or Alexander could have a larger lead than in ReachTEL.
Liberal senator-designate Hollie Hughes disqualified by High Court
Nationals Senator Fiona Nash was disqualified on October 27, as she was a British citizen. Liberal Hollie Hughes, next on the joint Coalition ticket in NSW, took up public service work following her failure at the 2016 election, and was disqualified on 15 November under Section 44(iv) of the Constitution. With Hughes disqualified, Liberal Jim Molan is next on the Coalition ticket. The High Court could also declare this seat a casual vacancy, to be filled by the party that previously held the seat.
Hughes had missed out in 2016, and the High Court could have shown leniency as she did not knowingly hold a public service job while contesting an election. This decision is a clear warning that the High Court will not tolerate any breach of Section 44.
Right now there are around 21,000 artificial objects being tracked in Earth orbit (and many millions too small to be tracked). Only about 1,750 of these are functional satellites.
If we don’t adequately manage the traffic of objects in outer space, many services on which we depend will no longer be available.
I argue that Australia should step up and fill this role. “Space traffic management” could be an enduring, national beacon project to inspire and galvanise the Australian space industry. This will be particularly important as the prospective Australian space agency builds momentum in 2018.
Right now, the US Air Force is trying to divest itself of the space traffic management role – a responsibility that it has previously assumed for the world by default. The US Federal Aviation Administration has said that it is willing to take this on, but there are many issues to resolve, including control over assets, finances and human resources.
The Australian space industry, facilitated by the prospective Australian space agency, can seize this opportunity. We are well suited to play a role that will be valuable from a commercial perspective, and that will place us in a strong strategic position in the future global space industry and its governance.
where orbiting objects are, in as near to real-time as possible
whether they pose any risk of damage, such as a future conjunction between two objects, or interference, such as between the frequencies on which they transmit.
It could also encompass an advisory, or even directive, service to satellite operators to avoid collisions and avoid contributing to the existing space debris population. That implies that space “rules of the road” may be established.
Of course, satellites cannot physically stop at “intersections”, like we see in traffic management on Earth. But we could see development of means to actively prevent collisions, for example, by changing the orbit of space debris. That might be by another space object capturing and physically moving the space debris, or it could be done remotely, such as by a ground-based laser using photon pressure.
Australia is qualified
While Australia already has an active space industry, it is thinly spread. Government departments and agencies, universities, contracted aerospace companies (mostly large and foreign), local start-ups (mostly small) and some established Australian companies, all currently make up Australia’s participation in the space industry.
The Space Industry Association of Australia presented a case for an Australian space agency in its March 2017 White Paper. From the current 0.8% share of a US$340 billion global space industry, the Australian space industry is forecast to grow to 4% within 20 years. That calculation assumes that the efforts of the Australian space industry can be coordinated and facilitated by an Australian space agency.
In respect of managing space traffic from Australia, here are some capabilities we already have.
Tracking sensors. Australia has a growing number of sensors for tracking objects in space, including C-Band radar, Space Surveillance Telescope and space object laser tracking. Australian companies such as Saber Astronautics have been developing the means to “mine” the enormous amount of space-related data from radio astronomy sensors, notwithstanding that these were not originally designed with space traffic management in mind.
Moving debris. The Space Environment Research Centre is exploring how lasers for space object tracking based in Australia could be used for moving space debris at risk of colliding with active satellites. It also conducts other research to improve the quality of orbital predictions.
Historical and positive role in space. Australia has been active in the Committee on Peaceful Uses of Outer Space since its inception in 1959. Australian initiatives are given serious consideration by the international community, without the political polarisation that our superpower ally, the USA, can draw.
Australia is therefore not only well suited to contribute to space traffic management in a physical sense, but also in a regulatory sense – including facilitating the establishment of an appropriate regulatory regime.
Australia can benefit
Both myself and others have advocated for the global strategic importance of normalising the space environment. This involves establishing regular and predictable patterns of behaviour through legal rules and less formal practices and procedures. It is also a matter of national strategic significance.
An international space regulator is almost certainly going to emerge in the next decade and is likely to have some sort of gatekeeper function, including ensuring safety and sustainability in space through effective space traffic management.
Whichever nations play an active part in this role stand to gain significant international influence, and also significant commercial opportunities. This is particularly important with the impending launches of mega-constellations whose operating satellites must be protected.
Australia can and should have a key part in global space traffic management.