Premiums up, rebates down, and a new tiered system – what the private health insurance changes mean



File 20190327 139377 12fjpz7.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
This year’s premium increase is small in comparison to previous years – but it still outweighs wage inflation.
From shutterstock.com

Peter Sivey, RMIT University and Terence Cheng, University of Adelaide

If you have private health insurance, or are considering getting it, a series of changes coming into effect on April 1 are worth knowing about.

These include the annual premium increase, a small decrease in rebates, the introduction of a new tiered system designed to simplify things for consumers, and some premium discounts for young people.

This year’s premium increase is quite small compared to recent years, and the reforms are generally sensible. But cost pressures and confusion in private health insurance cannot be fixed overnight.




Read more:
Is it time to ditch the private health insurance rebate? It’s a question Labor can’t ignore


A modest increase in premiums

Private health insurance premiums will increase by an average of 3.25% in 2019. These increases are relatively modest, as premiums have been rising at between 4% and 6% per annum for more than 10 years.

However, compared to consumer price index inflation of 1.8% and wage inflation of 2.3%, premiums are still rising substantially in real terms for Australians.

But in the current environment, above-inflation premium rises are not unexpected.

For comparison, consider the public health system, where spending increased at nearly 7% per year in the decade to 2017.

Out-of-pocket spending by patients also had an above-inflation trend of 5.1% per year over the past decade.

So both public and private expenditure on health are increasing substantially. Driving this is the increased usage and price of health care. Hospital visits are growing at 4% a year, and health price inflation is a further 2% per year.

Many hospital procedures such as cardiothoracic surgery, colonoscopies, hip and knee replacements, are increasing in volume by over 5% a year. So as patients use their health insurance more, it’s reasonable for the price to rise.




Read more:
Here’s what’s actually driving up health insurance premiums (hint: it’s not young people dropping off)


Rebates continue to decrease slowly

Most Australians with private health insurance receive a rebate from the Australian government to help cover the cost of premiums.

Means testing of rebates along income tiers was introduced in 2012. This sees individuals and households with higher incomes receive lower subsidies.

From 2014, the government began indexing rebates every year, using a formula that is calculated as a difference between the consumer price index, and the industry weighted average increase in premiums.

As a result of indexation, rebate entitlements have been gradually falling.

Government rebates for private health insurance go down a small amount each year.
From shutterstock.com

For example, this means in 2013/14, a person aged 65 or below earning less than $88,000 (base tier) would have received a 30% rebate. Today, a person of the same age in the base tier would receive a rebate of just over 25%.

From April 1, rebates will decrease between 0.1% to 0.5% from their levels in 2018/19, depending on the income tiers that people fall into.

For a typical family policy that covers both hospital and extras (with premiums approximately A$140 a fortnight), the decrease in the rebate translates to a very small rise in premiums of A$1 a fortnight.

Basic, bronze, silver or gold?

One key initiative starting on April 1 is the introduction of four tiers of private health insurance coverage: basic, bronze, silver, and gold. This is distinct to the income tiers we talked about above.

In this case, each tier mandates the minimum set of treatments (defined by clinical categories) that insurers must cover.




Read more:
If you’ve got private health insurance, the choice to use it in a public hospital is your own


For instance, policies in the “basic” tier are required to cover rehabilitation services, hospital psychiatric services, and palliative care.

Insurers can include other types of treatments which are not mandatory under the basic tier, if they choose to do so. Each additional tier covers a wider range of treatments, in addition to services mandated in lower tiers.



The Conversation/Australian Government, CC BY-ND

This simplified categorisation of policies is designed to help consumers understand how comprehensive their cover is, and enable them to more easily compare products offered by different health funds.

While this initiative provides consumers with greater clarity on the types of services covered by each type of health insurance product, it still does not standardise care completely.




Read more:
Private health insurance premium increases explained in 14 charts


Health funds can offer to cover, in lower tier products, treatments that are mandated only in higher tiered policies (such as providing coverage for pregnancy in a basic policy).

This may confuse patients if they assume their policy covering pregnancy will also cover other costly private procedures such as joint reconstructions (bronze), or back, neck and spinal surgery (silver).

Young people

From April 1, health funds will be able to offer discounts on premiums of 2% for each year a person is under the age of 30 when he or she takes up private health insurance. Premium discounts are capped at a maximum of 10%. The discount is retained until the person reaches the age of 41, after which it will be gradually phased out.

This initiative is being introduced to encourage young Australians to purchase private health cover and to stem the decline in private health insurance ownership among younger people. From September to December 2018, the largest net decrease in insured persons was recorded in people aged 25 to 29.

These discounts on premiums for young people complement the Lifetime Health Cover policy introduced in 2000, which was designed to encourage Australians to take up private hospital insurance earlier, and also to maintain cover.

Under the Lifetime Health Cover policy, which is still in force, people above the age of 30 without private cover are required to pay a 2% loading on premiums for each year they are over 30, if they choose to take up private cover later on.

Other changes

Another key change is that health funds are permitted to offer private hospital policies with a higher excess, in return for lower premiums. The maximum permitted excess is increasing from A$500 to A$750 for singles, and A$1,000 to A$1,500 for families.

Travel and accommodation benefits will be allowed to be included in hospital insurance plans for customers living in regional and rural parts of Australia. This will assist patients and their carers to meet the additional costs of having to travel to urban centres or capital cities to receive specialised treatment.

Natural therapies such as yoga, naturopathy, pilates and reflexology will no longer be covered under a general treatment policy. A total of 16 natural therapies are excluded. A review undertaken by the National Health and Medical Research Council concluded there is no clear evidence of the efficacy of these therapies.

Finally, to strengthen consumer protection, the role of the private health insurance ombudsman will be expanded, giving the agency new powers and greater capabilities to address issues and complaints.The Conversation

Peter Sivey, Associate Professor, School of Economics, Finance and Marketing, RMIT University and Terence Cheng, Senior Lecturer, School of Economics, University of Adelaide

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

Advertisements

The false hope offered by talk of a living wage



File 20190328 139377 1qgqh0p.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Supporters outside the offices of the Fair Work Commission in Melbourne on Friday, June 1, 2018 after it lifted the minimum wage by 3.5%
JOE CASTRO/AAP

John Freebairn, University of Melbourne

Labor is promising a “living wage” rather than a “minimum wage” if elected.

It will ask the Fair Work Commission to first determine what wage would offer a “decent standard of living for families”, and then to determine the time frame over which it should be phased in, taking into account the capacity of businesses to pay, and the potential impact on employment, inflation and the broader economy.

It is selling the idea of what would be a very big increase on the present minimum wage as “good for workers and good for the economy”.

“Consumer spending makes up 60% of the Australian economy,” its employment spokesperson Brendan O’Connor said. “When low-paid workers get a pay rise, they spend it in the local shops and help small businesses. It’s good for everyone.”

The idea harks back to the 1907 Harvester judgement, in which an arbitration court judge decreed that wages at a Melbourne factory should be based on the cost of living “for a worker and his family”.




Read more:
Budget explainer: why is Australia’s wage growth so sluggish?


To get there from the current bare minimum wage of A$18.93 per hour would almost certainly require increases bigger than the sum of productivity growth and inflation, which are running at a combined annual rate of around 3%.

Unacknowledged by Labor in spruiking the policy this week was the fallacy of its consumer spending argument, the cost of the proposal to jobs, and the likelihood that it won’t much help many of the people who need it.

The false increased spending argument

One of the claimed benefits of a living wage is that employees will spend most of their extra income, resulting in large increases in national spending, national income, and even the tax take.

An implicit assumption is that the extra money comes “as manna from heaven” with no second-round effects.

But given that other labour costs won’t come down (it is hard to see executive pay being cut), the labour cost for each affected business will climb, pushing down returns to the providers of capital, including the returns to shareholders and small business owners.

With lower returns, less capital will be put up to invest.

Where businesses can, they will pass on the increased costs not matched by increased productivity by increasing prices.

They will get away with it unless they face competition from imports or other exporters.




Read more:
‘Once upon a time, when Australia had a steel industry …’


Where import competitors and exporters face international competition, they will reduce output. In turn, the greater amount of money sent out of the country will eventually push down the Australian dollar, pushing up the Australian dollar price of import and export products.

In the short term, the increases in prices of goods and services will cut the purchasing power of the wage increase. In the longer term, it might create a vicious cycle of wage and price hikes, with adverse economic consequences.

The bad news on jobs

It is well established that wage increases above the rate of productivity growth plus inflation lead to less employment than there would otherwise be, in both the number of employees and the hours worked per employee.

Labour costs are a major expense for most businesses.

In response to higher labour costs, many employers will choose less labour-intensive ways of making their products. The large and rapid wage increases in the mid-1970s and early 1980s resulted in sharp reductions in employment. In contrast, the recent low rates of labour cost increases have helped drive significant increases in employment and a fall in unemployment.

With the Australian economy facing a likely slowdown over the next year or two, a large increase in wages might be particularly poorly timed.

The false hope for those most in need

Universal education and health care, and the redistribution of income via social security payments funded by a progressive income tax, are the most direct and effective ways to fight household poverty.

The world today is very different to the world of the Harvester case in 1907. Then, most workers were in full-time employment and needed a living wage to support a family. Now, about a third are employed part-time. Redistribution via the tax and payments system is how we support families who need it.




Read more:
A national living wage is on the table. Now let’s talk about a global living wage


A higher minimum or “living wage” would provide minimal assistance to some on low incomes, and would lift the incomes of many others not generally considered in need of support.

Many of those below the poverty line who are only employed part-time or not at all would not be lifted out of poverty. A higher living wage would provide more to those already in full-time jobs than it would to part-time workers.

And it would provide more to low-wage employees who are members of high-income families, who probably shouldn’t be our first concern.

We can do more more directly to alleviate poverty by reforming the income tax and social security systems. They are specifically designed to redistribute income according to need.

We should start by reducing income tax on low earnings, automatically indexing tax brackets, and increasing Newstart.The Conversation

John Freebairn, Professor, Department of Economics, University of Melbourne

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

A national living wage is on the table. Now let’s talk about a global living wage



File 20190326 36279 1a7ma0a.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Australia’s Harvester Judgement of 1907 defined a living wage as ‘fair and reasonable’ payment sufficient for an unskilled worker to support a family in reasonable comfort.
http://www.shutterstock.com

Shelley Marshall, RMIT University

The idea of the living wage is back on the political agenda. In the United States the Democrats are proposing to double the federal minimum wage. In Australia the federal Labor Party has promised to deliver a living wage.

“A living wage should make sure people earn enough to make ends meet, and be informed by what it costs to live in Australia today – to pay for housing, for food, for utilities, to pay for a basic phone and data plan,” Opposition leader Bill Shorten said this week.

The principle of the living wage is the subject of my book published in January. To write the book I spent five years researching working conditions in countries including Australia, Bulgaria, Cambodia, India and Thailand.

What my research underlines is that there are limits to thinking about a living wage for Australian workers without also making the principle global.

A ‘reasonable’ standard

Australia first embraced the living wage more than a century ago in what is arguably the nation’s most famous labour law case. The Harvester Judgement of 1907 defined a living wage as “fair and reasonable” payment sufficient for an unskilled worker to support a family in reasonable comfort.

In deciding exactly how much income was needed to assure this, Australia’s Conciliation and Arbitration Court examined 11 households to determine the cost of typical living expenses. These included lighting, clothes, boots, furniture, insurance, union membership, sickness, books, newspapers, alcohol and tobacco.




Read more:
Explainer: what exactly is a living wage?


Twelve years later the principle was enshrined in international labour law, when the International Labour Organisation was established in 1919. It defined a living wage as one “adequate to maintain a reasonable standard of life as this is understood in their time and country”.

A century on, Australia’s industrial relations system has long abandoned the central premise of the living wage. Around the world being paid enough to live on remains elusive. We are all intimately connected to many of these workers. They have assembled the phones we handle. They have sewn our clothes.

Women in Bangladesh who make clothes for brands such as Big W, Kmart, Target and Cotton On earn as little as 51 cents an hour, according to an Oxfam report published last month.

The report is based on interview with 470 garment workers in Bangladesh and Vietnam. Three-quarters of the Vietnam workers and all of the Bangladeshi workers earned less than a living wage (as calculated by the Global Living Wage Coalition).




Read more:
It would cost you 20 cents more per T-shirt to pay an Indian worker a living wage


Fear of capital flight

It is very hard for workers to mobilise for higher wages in many countries around the world. In January 5,000 garment workers in Bangladesh were sacked after going on strike for higher wages. During protests, police shot dead one worker. More than 50 others were injured.
Striking garment workers in Cambodia have also been shot dead by police during protests.

Especially in price-sensitive industries, globalisation exerts strong pressure on governments to keep minimum wages low, lest any increase lead to “capital flight”. This competition pits countries in a race to the bottom.

Should labour costs go up in Bangladesh, for example, its government fears garment brands moving production to, say, Ethiopia. It’s a legitimate fear; in my 15 years of research I’ve seen whole garment factories dismantled and trucked across borders to countries where the labour is cheaper.

Cooperation is the answer

The obvious solution would be for countries to cooperate and raise minimum wages collectively and incrementally (at an agreed percentage every year). This approach would help overcome “first mover risk”. Business would have less incentive to look for cheaper labour elsewhere.

For this to occur would, of course, require huge amounts of international political good will. Nation states would need to put aside the tendency to think in terms of immediate self-interest and work cooperatively for mutual benefit.

Here we face a problem with the architecture of international law in general, and labour law in particular.

Though the principle of a living wage was enshrined in the treaty that formed the International Labour Organisation, it is not codified in any of the eight fundamental international labour conventions. These cover forced labour, child labour, workplace discrimination and the right to unionise.

But even if it was, that wouldn’t necessarily make much difference. International law isn’t the same as national law. Most international treaties, conventions and agreements are not enforceable. There is no real penalty for any country that refuses to sign, nor for any signatory failing to meet its obligations. The ILO cannot enforce targets in the way needed to address a problem this big.

Emulating trade law

However, there is one area of international law that comes close to what we usually think of as law: international trade and investment law.

In addressing goals like reducing tariffs, countries faced similar coordination problems. Beginning with the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, which came into effect in 1948, half a dozen major multilateral trade deals were negotiated before the agreement in 1994 to establish the World Trade Organisation.

The WTO has since adjudicated hundreds of disputes in which one nation has accused another of failing to meet its WTO commitments. Investors can also take states to tribunals to seek compensation for unfair behaviour. States take these tribunals very seriously.

Why not emulate this architecture of international trade law for living wages?

Concrete targets for raising wages could be set through multilateral agreements. Countries would increase wages incrementally, by a certain percent each year, in a coordinated fashion, until they reached a living wage level.

An international tribunal would hear claims against states accused of failing to raise or enforce minimum wages as agreed. National tribunals would adjudicate cases involving corporations.

Cambodian garment workers, for example, would be able to take their government to the international tribunal for failing to raise wages or enforce minimum wage laws. A state held liable to pay compensation for wage breaches could pursue factory owners or their international buyers through national tribunals. This would be an incentive for states to police their own labour laws.

Instead of having separate national conversations about living wages, now is a good time to start the conversation at a global scale.The Conversation

Shelley Marshall, Vice Chancellor’s Senior Research Fellow, expert in corporate accountability, RMIT University

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

How Fraser Anning was elected to the Senate – and what the major parties can do to keep extremists out



File 20190327 139349 wnv7pl.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
The Senate voting system is complicated, as demonstrated by Fraser Anning being elected on just 19 votes.
AAP/Dan Peled

Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

In the wake of the far-right terrorist atrocity in Christchurch on March 15, there has been much condemnation of independent senator Fraser Anning’s anti-Muslim comments. Anning won just 19 personal votes below the line, so how was he fairly elected?

In the Senate, voters can either vote “above the line” or “below the line”. Above the line votes will go to the party’s candidates in the order they are placed on the ballot paper. Below the line votes are personal votes for a candidate.

At normal federal elections, six senators per state are elected, and a quota is one-seventh of the vote, or 14.3%. As the 2016 election was a “double dissolution”, where all senators were up for election, 12 senators per state were elected, and the quota was reduced to one-thirteenth of the vote, or 7.7%.

Electoral reforms were implemented at the 2016 election. Voters were asked to number at least six boxes above the line, though a “1” only vote would still be accepted. The effect was that voters would direct their own preferences once their most preferred party was excluded from the count. Previously, parties controlled their voters’ preferences, and still do in Victoria and WA, leading to bizarre results.




Read more:
Victorian upper house greatly distorted by group voting tickets; federal Labor still dominant in Newspoll


Voting below the line was also made easier. Voters were asked to number at least 12 boxes, though only six numbers were required for a formal vote. Previously, every box below the line needed to be numbered.

In the Senate system, any candidate who has a quota is immediately elected, and their surplus is distributed. Major parties elect multiple senators by this method, as almost all of the top candidate’s surplus goes to the second candidate, and so on.

When there are no more surpluses to distribute, candidates are excluded from the count starting with the candidate with the smallest number of votes, and their preferences distributed. During this process, candidates that reach quota are elected, and their surpluses distributed.

With the current Senate system’s semi-optional preferential voting, there will often be two or more candidates short of a quota with all preferences finished. In this case, the candidates further ahead are elected.

How this applies to Anning

The whole One Nation ticket had over 250,000 votes (9.2% or 1.19 quotas) in the Queensland Senate. Over 229,000 of these votes were above the line ticket votes, and virtually all the rest were personal votes for lead candidate Pauline Hanson.

Hanson was immediately elected, and her surplus was passed on to One Nation’s second candidate, Malcolm Roberts, who had just 77 below the line votes. In the race for the last seat, the Liberal Democrats started the preference phase of the count with 0.37 quotas, and Roberts (0.19 quotas) was also behind Nick Xenophon Team (0.27 quotas), Family First (0.25 quotas), Katter’s Australian Party (0.23 quotas) and Glenn Lazarus Team (0.22 quotas).

With nine candidates left, two of whom were certain to be elected (Labor’s Chris Ketter and the LNP’s Barry O’Sullivan), Roberts already had 0.45 quotas, thanks to voter-directed preferences from Australian Liberty Alliance (0.14 quotas) and the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers (0.14 quotas). At this point, Roberts was tied for the lead with Family First from the seven contenders for the last seat, and ahead of everyone else.

With assistance from Glenn Lazarus Team and Katter’s Australian Party preferences, Roberts defeated Family First for the last seat by 0.78 quotas to 0.69.




Read more:
Final Senate results: 30 Coalition, 26 Labor, 9 Greens, 4 One Nation, 3 NXT, 4 Others


When Roberts was disqualified by the High Court in October 2017 over Section 44 issues, he was effectively replaced in the count by Fraser Anning, One Nation’s third candidate. That is how Anning won his seat despite earning just 19 personal below the line votes.

Although the new Senate system makes it easier to vote below the line, above the line votes were still over 90% of all formal Senate votes in all jurisdictions except Tasmania and the ACT at the 2016 election, according to analyst Kevin Bonham. Only one candidate was elected against the party ordering of candidates on personal below the line votes: Labor’s Lisa Singh in Tasmania.




Read more:
Tasmanian Senate result: 5 Labor, 4 Liberals, 2 Greens, 1 Lambie


Anning’s 19 personal votes and Roberts’ 77 are far fewer than those received by any other winning candidate in Queensland. The other 11 winners (five LNP, four Labor, one Green and Pauline Hanson) all received at least 1,000 personal votes. Prior to the election, there was no interest in any One Nation candidate other than Hanson.

Can the major parties prevent the election of extreme candidates?

In Queensland 2016, the major parties were not responsible for Roberts’ election. Both Labor’s fourth candidate, Ketter, and the LNP’s fifth candidate, O’Sullivan, started the preference phase of the count well short of a quota. O’Sullivan eventually made quota, but Ketter was elected with 0.97 quotas. O’Sullivan’s tiny surplus assisted Family First rather than Roberts.

In general, the total vote for the major parties has been declining in the past two decades, and as a result, their influence on who wins has been reduced. The combined share for the two major parties in the Queensland 2016 Senate was just 61.7%. By contrast, the last time One Nation was strong, gaining 10.0% of the Queensland Senate vote in 2001, the total major party vote was 75.1%.

In the lower house, Labor will put One Nation behind the Coalition on its how to vote cards, but there has been some infighting within the Coalition over whether to return this favour.

On March 28, Scott Morrison announced that the Liberals would preference Labor ahead of One Nation in all seats; this applies only to the Liberals, not the Nationals, and it is not clear what the Queensland LNP will do. There had been pressure on the Liberals following revelations that One Nation solicited donations from the US National Rifle Association.




Read more:
View from The Hill: James Ashby rocks a few boats, including his own


One Nation won one seat at the 2017 Queensland election because the LNP preferenced it above Labor, so putting One Nation below Labor will assist Labor in any seats where One Nation is ahead of the Liberals.

In the Senate, neither major party is likely to put the other major party in its top six preferences for above the line voters. It is likely that, as far as vote recommendations go, both major parties will treat the other major party the same as One Nation in the Senate.

Even if the major parties placed the other major party in the top six preferences on their how to vote material, the follow the card rate was low in 2016. According to Bonham, about 30% of Coalition voters in the mainland states followed the card, 14% of Labor voters and 10% of Greens voters. No other party had a follow the card rate above 10%.

Coalition wins majority at NSW election

The ABC has called all 93 lower house seats for the March 23 New South Wales election. The Coalition won 48 of the 93 seats (down six since the 2015 election), Labor won 36 seats (up two), the Greens three (steady), the Shooters three (up three) and independents three (up one). The Coalition will have a three-seat majority.

Seat changes are compared with the 2015 election results, and do not include Coalition losses in the Wagga Wagga and Orange byelections. If measured against the pre-election parliament, the Coalition lost four seats.

Brexit delayed until at least April 12

On March 21, a European leaders’ summit was held. Leaders of the 27 EU nations, not including the UK, agreed to delay the date of Brexit until April 12 (originally March 29). If UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s deal passes the House of Commons, Brexit would be delayed until May 22 to allow necessary legislation to pass.

European parliament elections will be held from May 23-26. If the UK were to participate in these elections, a longer extension could be given, but the UK must inform the European Commission of its intent to participate by April 12, hence the new deadline.

I wrote for The Poll Bludger about Brexit on March 22. House of Commons Speaker John Bercow has ruled that May’s deal cannot be brought back to the House, but there is a workaround – if May had the votes. May’s deal was defeated by 149 votes on March 12, after a record 230-vote loss on January 15.The Conversation

Adrian Beaumont, Honorary Associate, School of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Melbourne

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

State of the states: Adani, economics and personality politics



File 20190416 147487 eiivbr.png?ixlib=rb 1.1
The Adani coal mine has become a key issue for voters.
Wes Mountain/The Conversation, CC BY-ND

Nick Economou, Monash University; Chris Aulich, University of Canberra; Ian Cook, Murdoch University; Maxine Newlands, James Cook University; Richard Eccleston, University of Tasmania, and Rob Manwaring, Flinders University

Our “state of the states” series takes stock of the key issues, seats and policies affecting the vote in each of Australia’s states.

We’ll check in with our expert political analysts around the country every week of the campaign for updates on how it is playing out.


Victoria

Nick Economou, Senior Lecturer in the School of Political and Social Inquiry at Monash University

The first week of the 2019 election campaign is complete. So far the contest is looking like a dour football match between two defensive teams. Both Opposition Leader Bill Shorten and Prime Minister Scott Morrison have campaigned in marginal seats in the famed “western Sydney”, where – according to legend – national elections are won or lost.

By midweek, both leaders had made it to Victoria, where there might not be many genuinely marginal seats, but the Victorian Liberal party is really anxious about the number of mid-range seats like Deakin, Flinders and even Higgins, which might be lost if an anti-Liberal swing commensurate with the state election should be repeated on May 18.

The two major party leaders have sought to reinforce the themes that underpinned the budget and budget-in-reply. The government hopes swinging voters will be enticed to vote Liberal with promises of tax cuts and warnings about Labor’s fiscal profligacy. Labor seeks to appeal to voters on health policy with grand commitments to addressing the challenges of cancer. These policy espousals occur against a backdrop of visits to marginal electorates where traps await for even the most experienced politicians.

In the seat of Reid, with its significant Chinese community, Morrison greets someone in Mandarin only to discover they are Korean. Shorten, meanwhile, meets someone suffering from cancer and who wants to know (for the benefit of the television crews, no doubt) why state Labor has done so little after promising to boost health funding at the last two state elections.




Read more:
New research reveals how young Australians will decide who gets their vote


The early loss of some major party candidates has been the only really interesting thing to happen so far. Labor has lost its candidate for Curtin, Melissa Parke, following revelations that she had criticised Israel in a speech she had previously made on Middle Eastern politics. Criticising Israel is hardly the thing Labor wants to be known for when it is seeking to defend marginal seats such as Macnamara in Victoria.

The Liberal party has lost two candidates as well. In a reminder of the ongoing section 44 debacle, Liberal candidates for the Labor-held seats of Lalor and Wills, Kate Oski and Vaishali Gosch, have had to withdraw. Apparently doubts about their citizenship status arose from questionnaires they filled in for the Australian Electoral Commission as part of the nomination process.

Given that the parliamentary Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters figured that up to 50% of Australians have been potentially disqualified from being candidates thanks to the High Court, something like this was bound to happen.

New South Wales

Chris Aulich, Adjunct Professor at the University of Canberra

At this stage of the campaign, Labor appears likely to hold about the same number of NSW seats as it did in 2016. A possible Labor loss in the city seat of Lindsay, where Labor’s Emma Husar isn’t recontesting, could be offset by wins in Gilmore or Reid, where sitting Liberal members Ann Sudmalis and Craig Laundy aren’t recontesting either. A small swing of less than 2.5% against the Coalition is needed for Labor to win Robertson, Banks and Page, but currently, the swing isn’t anticipated to be enough for the seats to change hands.

The Coalition has the advantage of the recent strong win at state level in NSW, although its win was marred by a backlash against the Nationals in many regional seats. The Coalition now faces the risk of losing regional seats to several strong independent candidates, such as Rob Oakeshott in Cowper and, less likely, Kevin Mack in Farrer.

In the city seat of Warringah, Liberal Party polling reveals a swing of about 12% against Tony Abbott, who is facing a serious challenge from independent Zali Steggall. If that swing were realised at the election, Steggall would win the seat from Abbott. While Steggall will gain some advantage from GetUp’s targeting of Abbott, the former prime minister has support from the Advance Australia lobby, which has already claimed that Steggall is a “fake” independent.

The battlelines are drawn between traditional and modern conservatives in this seat, with the focus on issues like climate change adaptation, refugee policy and foreign aid. After a feisty first candidates’ debate last month, and recent complaints by Steggall that Advance Australia has “sexualised” her advertising hoardings, this seat promises a close and bare-knuckle contest.

The loss of any of these seats would make Scott Morrison’s task of winning government more difficult. With redistributions since the 2016 elections, the Coalition notionally holds 73 seats in the new 151-member house and cannot afford to lose any seats.

This week we also include seats in the ACT. Redistribution has added a third seat to the ACT, and all seats now have new boundaries. The notional swings needed by the Coalition vary from 9% to 13%, suggesting comfortable wins to Labor. But the Greens are hopeful their candidate in central Canberra, environmentalist and musician Tim Hollo, may be able to capture sufficient votes from the young, urban dwellers in the electorate to win.

In the Senate, the status quo of one seat for Labor and one for the Coalition is likely to remain with Labor’s Katy Gallagher, who is expected to be returned after losing her seat over dual citizenship. Liberal Zed Seselja only needs 33% of the two-party preferred vote to secure a quota and hold his seat.

Queensland

Maxine Newlands, Senior Lecturer in Political Science at James Cook University

The federal government’s final go-ahead for Adani’s groundwater management plan has sparked a large scale grassroots campaign pushing back against the two major parties in Herbert.

The LNP, ALP, and Katter’s Australia Party all support the mega mine. Herbert incumbent ALP’s Cathy O’Toole is on record saying:

If this project has gone through the processes and the regulatory requirements and it’s passed, as it appears it has, it will go ahead, and it will be good for jobs in this city.

The Greens are running on a Stop Adani ticket. Millennials and the undecided voters will play an important role in this election as climate change and mining jobs become key election issues.

An Australia Institute report this week shows that 68% of Queenslanders want strong government action on climate change, 50% want no new coal mines, and 64% are looking for a rapid transition to 100% renewable energy. Leichhardt in far north Queensland, one of the eight LNP electorates on a majority of less than 4%, sees climate change as a major issue.

Last federal election, preference votes from minor parties – mainly One Nation – helped get Labor over the line in Herbert. With One Nation yet to declare a candidate in Herbert, Labor’s early seeming rejection of a preference deal with Palmer’s United Australia Party (UAP) could backfire.

Labor assumed that Palmer would still owe A$70 million dollars to the Herbert community. That all changed on Monday with Palmer’s announcement he will repay wages owed to Queensland Nickel workers.

Palmer has announced he will run for the Senate, and he has nominated local rugby league star Greg Dowling as his candidate for Herbert. With no sign of a One Nation putting up candidates in Herbert, it could come down to a tight race between LNP, ALP, the Greens and the minor parties of UAP and Katter’s Australia Party. Rejecting a preference deal with UAP could be harmful to Labor, if Palmer’s payback bounce and recruiting of local sports star wins him votes come May 18.

Down south and Liberal incumbent Peter Dutton is facing a different challenge. Dutton’s role in Malcolm Turnbull’s undoing is still fresh in the minds of Dickson voters. As Michelle Grattan has pointed out:

Nationally, Peter Dutton will have a big footprint in the campaign. It won’t be a helpful one for Morrison.

Dickson is one of the eight marginal LNP seats with a majority of less than 4%. The campaigning there is already getting down to personality politics. Labor has taken the lead with a social media campaign weaponising Dutton’s role in the spill. Comments Dutton made about Labor candidate’s Ali France’s disability will not help shore up support.




Read more:
The myth of ‘the Queensland voter’, Australia’s trust deficit, and the path to Indigenous recognition


Western Australia

Ian Cook, Senior Lecturer of Australian Politics at Murdoch University

Scott Morrison has his work cut out for him when it comes to convincing West Australians to accept his core message to voters: that they should reelect the Liberal-National Coalition government because they’re better economic managers than Labor.

He has two main problems. First, voters in Western Australia threw Colin Barnett’s Liberal-National Coalition government out in 2017, in part, because of its economic record. Second, many West Australians felt that their quality of life declined during the mining boom, so they know that lots of good economic data doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone’s lives will improve.

Economic management wasn’t the only issue that resulted in the Barnett government’s loss. Tension between the Coalition parties and the preference deal with One Nation didn’t help. But Labor focused part of their campaign on the Coalition government’s economic mismanagement during that election. And voters responded.

The evidence that conservative governments are just naturally better at managing an economy is thin, and there is just as much evidence that the reverse it true, as economics professor James Morley has pointed out. But the idea won’t go away as long as the economic orthodoxy is that governments shouldn’t interfere in the economy. And Australians believes that Coalition governments don’t interfere. Both views are open to question.

While other Australians may not question these assumptions about economic management, their recent experience with a Coalition government means that many West Australians will question them, and they’ll need convincing that they shouldn’t.

On the second problem, many West Australians recall a time when the economy was booming. Mining booming. And few of us felt better off, and many felt worse off. Of course it didn’t help that state governments, of both parties, increased utilities charges during this period. But the boom meant that the price of housing became ridiculous (and destined to crash), rentals were very hard to come by and, applying the definitive cappuccino test, we were paying more for our coffees than anyone else in Australia.

We had a two-speed economy shoved in our faces and one takeaway from this was that everyone doing well is not just about the economy doing well. The prime minister will get a chance to explain how I’ve gotten things terribly wrong when he appears in the first of the Leaders’ Debate in Perth on April 29.

South Australia

Rob Manwaring, Senior Lecturer in Politics and Public Policy at Flinders University

Political memories can be short. At the last federal election, perhaps the single biggest factor shaping voting patterns was the impact of Nick Xenophon’s Centre Alliance. For many years, Xenophon was a mainstay of South Australian politics, with a canny knack for finding appeal. The ubiquitous politician was both a longstanding member of the SA parliament, first elected in 1997, and then a federal senator from 2008 to 2017. Xenophon, at one stage touted as a future premier for South Australia, left Canberra to try and make a splash at the 2018 state election.




Read more:
No matter who wins the election, many Australians think real leadership will be lacking


Three years ago, at the national level, the Centre Alliance were poised to become a third force in South Australian politics, and a key disruptor to the major parties. In 2013, Xenophon’s team picked up a remarkable 24.9% of the vote, and in 2016 this was a still an impressive 21.3% of the vote. Last time out, the Centre Alliance had one member of the House of Representatives – Rebekha Sharkie picking off Liberal Jamie Briggs in Mayo, and three Senate positions. In terms of vote share, just over 250,000 South Australians voted for the the Centre Alliance.

But what now? With the charismatic Xenophon off the stage, it remains unclear what will happen to their vote share. While Sharkie is likely to hold off the challenge from Georgina Downer again, and it’s unclear how much impact the Centre Alliance will have. They are running three candidates, including Sharkie, for the lower house. Skye Kakoschke-Moore will be their lead Senate candidate.

At best, they seem to be angling to play a key kingmaker role in the Senate, making noises about limiting a potential Labor government’s franking credits and negative gearing policies. Yet, this seems a reactive campaign, and lacks Xenophon’s ability to pick key outlier issues. Moreover, where will moderate liberal and conservative voters find their voice?

Tasmania

Richard Eccleston, Professor of Political Science and Director of the Institute for the Study of Social Change at the University of Tasmania

Labor now holds four of the five House of Representatives seats on the Apple Isle. With popular independent Andrew Wilkie’s vice-like grip on Tasmania’s fifth seat, the recently renamed electorate of Clark (formerly Denison), the chance of a Coalition upset next month seems remote.

But Tasmanian voters have ignored national trends, and delivered more than their fair share of upsets in recent elections, so there must be an outside chance that the Coalition could claw back a seat against the national tide.

Labor’s Ross Hart holds Bass, which takes in Launceston and much of North East Tasmania, by a reasonably comfortable 5.4%. But history suggests Labor shouldn’t be complacent given the electorate has been a graveyard for political careers in recent years. The last time a sitting member was returned for a second term was back in 2001, with the last five elections delivering big swings and unprecedented volatility.

The Liberals will be pinning their hopes on Bridget Archer, the mayor of the working class town of George Town, near Launceston. Archer may be the circuit breaker the Liberals need. She has a high profile in a community traditionally dominated by Labor, and, unlike the vocal conservative Andrew Nikolic who lost the seat in 2016, she won’t have to run the gauntlet of a national GetUp! campaign.

Scott Morrison has visited Bass twice in recent weeks, and a new poll commissioned by a forest industry group put the Liberals in front on a two-party preferred basis. But this result may have been skewed by the design of the poll and its focus on the future of forestry, an industry long championed by the Liberals in Tasmania.

On the other side of the ledger, Labor’s commitment to more funding for health and education, and greater tax relief for lower income households, is more likely to resonate with the electors of Bass than the Coalition’s emphasis on smaller government, and retaining concessions for property investors and self-funded retirees.

While the smart money is on Labor’s Ross Hart holding Bass, history suggests that we shouldn’t rule out an upset on election night.The Conversation

Nick Economou, Senior Lecturer, School of Political and Social Inquiry, Monash University; Chris Aulich, Adjunct Professor at the University of Canberra, University of Canberra; Ian Cook, Senior Lecturer of Australian Politics, Murdoch University; Maxine Newlands, Senior Lecturer in Political Science: Research Fellow at the Cairns Institute, James Cook University; Richard Eccleston, Professor of Political Science; Director, Institute for the Study of Social Change, University of Tasmania, and Rob Manwaring, Senior Lecturer, Politics and Public Policy, Flinders University

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

View from The Hill: Those tax cuts should follow proper process, officials tell government


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Once again, the public servants are trying to force the politicians to do things by the book. But the government would prefer to cut the inconvenient corner.

The heads of the Treasury and Finance departments on Wednesday warned the government that the first round of its tax cuts – due to be paid within weeks of the election – must be legislated before they can go out.

The edict is in the Pre-election Economic and Fiscal Outlook (PEFO), the official update prepared in the first stage of the election campaign.

PEFO is presented by Treasury secretary Phil Gaetjens and Finance secretary Rosemary Huxtable and doesn’t have any political input. It’s a rare dose of spin-less numbers in the campaign.

Morrison argues the Australian Taxation Office can act before the tax legislation passes. He said on Wednesday that “what happens traditionally with the Tax Office, is where there is a bipartisan commitment to matters, they can often go ahead and administer the tax arrangements on that basis”.

But in PEFO the officials said that while many of the budget’s tax measures can be legislated later without affecting the estimates, “the immediate relief […] requires the relevant legislation to be passed before the increase to the low and middle income tax offset (LMITO) can be provided for the 2018-19 financial year.

“If not legislated prior to 1 July 2019 the revenue cost of this measure would need to be reassessed,” PEFO says.

Officials have been clear about how they see things since immediately after the budget, when the Australian Taxation Office told The New Daily: “The ATO requires law in order to deliver the measure as announced, and, as such, it cannot be delivered administratively”.

It isn’t the first time this issue over the process of implementing tax cuts has arisen. Morrison would remember that well – he was treasurer when it happened in 2016.

That year saw a prolonged face-off between the Turnbull government and the ATO, as the government pressed for income tax cuts to be delivered ahead of parliament passing them.

It was the same story. The measure (for those earning $80,000 to $87,000) was in the May budget, to come in July 1. There was no time to legislate before the July 2 election.

Turnbull said the tax cuts would be delivered “administratively”. But the PEFO of that year said “the [Taxation] Commissioner has indicated that the […] targeted personal income tax relief measure requires the relevant legislation to be passed before the change will be incorporated into the income tax withholding schedules”.

In the end, delivery was delayed, but it came before the legislation’s passage, when the Tax Office was (sort of) persuaded the cuts had bipartisan support.

The first round of the 2019 tax relief does have bipartisan support in the broad, but there are a couple of twists. Labor proposes more relief for low income earners, and the government’s tax plan is a long term package, with Labor rejecting the later stages.

It is more likely than not the 2019 tax cuts will end up delivered on time. “It’s certainly our intention to legislate them,” Morrison said. Whichever side wins, parliament is expected to sit at the end of June to deal with them. The PEFO stand is just making sure of that.

Unsurprisingly, the PEFO validated the numbers in the budget brought down early this month, including the forecast $7.1 billion surplus next financial year.

A minor adjustment was made in this year’s forecast deficit, from $4.2 billion to $4.3 billion, because of the extension immediately after the budget of the energy payment to those on Newstart and a number of other payments.

In what was in general a groundhog day in the campaign, Bill Shorten on Wednesday said he had used the wrong words when on Tuesday he claimed Labor would not increase tax on superannuation – overlooking the $34 billion of proposed changes the opposition has announced.

His gaffe, leapt on by the government, received wide coverage, marring his first week in the campaign.

“I thought I was being asked, have we got any unannounced changes to superannuation,” Shorten said.

“But obviously we have changes which we outlined three years ago, and of course I should have picked the words better, no question. We have no proposals other than what we’ve already announced previously.”

He also argued that ALP policies closing down concessions and loopholes in superannuation “is not some massive increase in taxation”.

Meanwhile the treasurers of Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia, the ACT and the Northern Territory have written to Treasurer Josh Frydenberg asking him “to confirm that there will be no further funding cuts to hospitals, schools, infrastructure and other essential services.”

This follows analysis undertaken by the Grattan Institute arguing the government’s budget projections would need a cut to spending of about $40 billion a year by 2029-30.

“As we are in the process of finalising our respective budgets, it is imperative that you are transparent about any planned cuts in payments to states and territories,” the Treasurers say.

“States and territories should not be forced to fill funding gaps created by cuts by the Commonwealth Government across our respective hospitals, schools and transport networks.”The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

Election campaign lesson #1: don’t mess with Medicare


Jim Gillespie, University of Sydney

Labor’s 2016 “Mediscare” has entered political memory as a campaign tactic that almost changed the game in that election. Using robocalls and text messages purporting to come from Medicare, government proposals to outsource management of back-office business became inflated into an all-out “privatisation” of Medicare.

The hyperbole cut through because of a long history of Coalition hostility to Medicare as a universal health scheme. The then Turnbull government didn’t lose the election, but it became accepted wisdom that the Mediscare campaign contributed to the loss of some seats.

Health has taken centre stage once again this election, with both sides trying to use “Mediscare” tactics to drive fear about cuts or shortfalls in the health system.




Read more:
As Mediscare 2.0 takes centre stage, here’s what you need to know about hospital ‘cuts’ and cancer funding


Coalition hostility

Both the Whitlam government’s Medibank and Hawke’s Medicare faced withering hostility from Australian conservatives.

Australia became one of the only nations to introduce universal health coverage in 1975. This aimed to ensure all Australians had access to a wide range of health services at little or no cost, no matter where you lived or how much money you earned.

But the Fraser Coalition government abolished the system in 1981.

After three years of debate about the role of private health insurance, and indivuals’ responsibility to pay for their own health care, universal health care was re-established in 1984 by the Hawke Labor government, under the new name: Medicare.

In 1987, then opposition leader John Howard promised to return to a user-pays system based on private health insurance. He wanted to “take a scalpel, without punning too much, to Medicare”.

But rather than backing Howard’s plan, voters delivered a string of Coalition electoral losses. In 1990, the Liberal shadow minister for health confessed to the press, just before resigning:

I want to say with all the frankness I can muster, the Liberal and National Parties do not have a particularly good track record in health, and you don’t need me to remind you of our last period in government.




Read more:
Labor’s ‘Mediscare’ campaign capitalised on Coalition history of hostility towards Medicare


Howard’s 1996 electoral success relied on defusing the Medicare issue. He assured voters that “Medicare will remain totally in place under a Coalition government”.

However, he retained some of his ambivalence. Howard supported Medicare’s role as a “safety net” to support people with few financial resources. But the Coalition believed those who could afford it should pay their own way, through private health insurance.

The Abbott government’s 2014 Commission of Audit report restated this call for a two-tier health system:

Higher-income earners should be required to insure for basic health services in place of Medicare.

The incoming Turnbull government rejected this advice. But the debate reinforced an image of a reluctant and half-hearted convert.

When the Coalition extended the Medicare benefit freeze, which was originally introduced by Gillard’s Labor government, the extension hurt the Coalition far more than it had Labor.




Read more:
What is the Medicare rebate freeze and what does it mean for you?


Embracing Medicare or avoiding a Mediscare?

The Coalition has been determined to avoid this trap again. The Turnbull and Morrison governments have underlined support for Medicare. The 2019-20 Budget documents are punctuated with statements about “guaranteeing” and “strengthening” Medicare. It also declares: “The government’s commitment to Medicare is rock solid.”

The Medicare Guarantee Fund was established in 2017 to emphasise this commitment. Tax dollars generated by the Medicare levy (minus the portion set aside for the National Disability Insurance Scheme), go into the fund. These are topped up with enough personal income tax receipts to meet the combined cost of the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) and Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).

But the fund has been criticised as mere rebadging and an “accounting trick”. It offered no new funding or new policies; it simply changed the name of existing policies, and extended the definition of “Medicare” from payments of medical benefits to include pharmaceuticals.

But the “Medicare guarantee” wasn’t extended to guarantee adequate federal funding for public hospitals, which remains a problem.




Read more:
Don’t be fooled, the Medicare Guarantee Fund provides no real guarantee


When it comes to embracing Medicare and health funding, Labor has been called out for some of its own lapses.

In 2011 the Gillard government, during its struggles for control of spending, delayed implementation of some expensive pharmaceuticals, causing outrage among health provider and patient groups.

Labor has had to add its own guarantee this election campaign that all PBS drugs approved by the nation’s expert advisory panel will be approved immediately.

Mediscare 2.0

Labor’s new attempt at scare tactics over Medicare uses well established themes. It will test how far the Coalition has been able to inoculate itself.

The attack has again focused on the out-of-pocket costs from declining bulk-billing levels, especially in cancer treatment.

Despite the Gillard government’s Medicare rebate freeze, Labor has held the high ground in this cost debate. Its cancer package focuses on extending bulk billing to minimise out-of-pocket payments.

In the field of hospital funding, Labor’s “Mediscare 2.0” focuses on a A$2.8 billion “cut” in funding to the states to pay for public hospitals.

In 2011, the Rudd/Gillard government pledged to share the cost of public hospital funding growth with the states with a 50-50 split to end the “blame game”. The Abbott government abandoned this policy in the 2014 budget.




Read more:
Budget takes hospital funding arrangement back to the future


The Coalition, under Turnbull, offered to return to funding 45% of the cost of public hospitals. The Labor-held states rejected this, and Shorten has now promised to restore this to 50%. Labor has made traction with these attacks, though much of the detail has been lost or confused in media soundbites.

Election campaigning in health has forced the Coalition to accept how much Australians value Medicare and the principle of universal health coverage. As the common ground between Labor and the Coalition expands, we may be able to have a more rational debate over Medicare’s virtues and deficiencies. But not in the partisan heat of an election.The Conversation

Jim Gillespie, Deputy Director, Menzies Centre for Health Policy & Associate Professor in Health Policy, University of Sydney

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

No matter who wins the election, many Australians think real leadership will be lacking


Samuel Wilson, Swinburne University of Technology; Jason Pallant, Swinburne University of Technology, and Timothy Colin Bednall, Swinburne University of Technology

With the federal election a little over a month away, it appears many Australians have little faith the winners will be able to provide the type of leadership that can change the country in a meaningful way.

According to our recent research, nearly a third (29.8%) of respondents believe that the Coalition shows no “leadership for the public good”, compared to just 5% who believe the Coalition shows such leadership to an extremely large extent.

Labor fared only slightly better – 24.9% of respondents believe it shows no “leadership for the public good”, compared to 7.3% who said it shows it to an extremely large extent.

Our findings revealed that minor parties, the Greens and One Nation, didn’t inspire confidence, either. About a third (32.9%) of respondents believe the Greens show no “leadership for the public good”, while just over half (50.3%) believe the same of One Nation.

Equally concerning is the collapse of Australians’ trust and confidence in their democratic institutions of government.

Just over a quarter (26.3%) of respondents believe that the federal government, as an institution, shows no “leadership for the public good”. This score is somewhat worse than perceptions of state governments (24.6%) and significantly worse than perceptions of local governments (16.2%).




Read more:
What can governments and leaders do when trust evaporates?


The findings come from the initial results of the Australian Leadership Index, a new quarterly survey from the Swinburne Business School that measures and tracks community perceptions and expectations of leadership across 12 institutions in the government, public, private and not-for-profit sectors.

These results were drawn from two nationally representative surveys of 1,000 Australians we conducted in March.

Taken together, the results provide more bad news for the Coalition in the lead-up to the federal election on May 18.

Accountability and ethics are key

We hasten to add that the disillusionment with the federal government does not extend to voters’ perceptions of the public sector. On balance, voters think the public health and education sectors show leadership for the public good.

This indicates that public disillusionment lies squarely with the people who make the policy, rather than those who implement it.

Consistent with other studies, our findings confirm the importance of transparency, accountability and ethics to perceptions of trust and confidence in leadership.




Read more:
Reforming our political system is not a quick fix. Here’s a step-by-step guide to how to do it


From a community perspective, political leadership for the public good occurs when leaders demonstrate high ethical standards, prioritise transparency and accountability even when it could have a negative impact on their administrations, and are alive and responsive to the needs of the people they serve.

In other words, leadership for the greater good is reflected in what value leaders create, how they create this value, and for whom they create it.

Political leaders in Australia are currently lacking on all counts.

For whom is value created?

Our survey results shed light on where the public thinks the federal government is failing to create value and what the community expects of political leaders to serve the greater good.

Notably, creating economic value has no bearing on perceptions of politicians’ leadership for the public good. As former Liberal Party leader John Hewson recently observed, voters now take effective economic management for granted from governments.



The same could be said for the creation of social value through, for example, the provision of social services and the enactment of policies that enable people to flourish.

From the public’s perspective, the creation of social and economic value is essentially “core business” for the federal government.

In order to be seen as showing leadership for the public good, the federal government needs to go beyond business as usual.

What looms largest in the public mind when thinking about leadership for the greater good is how political leaders create value and for whom they create value.

Specifically, politicians need to behave ethically and demonstrate accountability for their actions. Australians have had enough of the opportunistic, short-term game of point-scoring and blame-shifting.




Read more:
Australians’ trust in politicians and democracy hits an all-time low: new research


Moreover, political leaders need to be seen as responsive to the people they serve, in addition to balancing the needs of different groups of stakeholders. Concern about the use of donations to gain access to, and exert influence over, politicians looms large in the public mind.

In the lead-up to the federal election, and in the wake of recent Royal Commissions into banking and religious institutions, it’s the ideal time for Australians to consider the kind of leadership we need for the Australia we want.The Conversation

Samuel Wilson, Senior Lecturer in Management, Swinburne University of Technology; Jason Pallant, Lecturer of Marketing, Swinburne University of Technology, and Timothy Colin Bednall, Senior Lecturer in Management, Fellow of the APS College of Organisational Psychologists, Swinburne University of Technology

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

One Nation, guns and the Queensland question: what does it all mean for the 2019 federal election?



File 20190328 139371 1uycvcc.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Pauline Hanson claims the Al Jazeera undercover “sting”, which has grabbed international headlines, was a media “stitch-up”.
AAP/Dan Peled

Chris Salisbury, The University of Queensland

Of all the controversies to conceivably bring Pauline Hanson undone, private discussions about gun law amendments wasn’t an obvious candidate.

Yet her recorded comments about the 1996 Port Arthur massacre and subsequent gun law reforms are potentially destructive for her One Nation party. Only potentially, though; Hanson’s supporters have long shown a propensity to forgive or shrug off her party’s outlandish or shocking assertions.




Read more:
Grattan on Friday: Scott Morrison struggles to straddle the south-north divide


Already, Hanson and party colleagues have shifted blame for the Al Jazeera “sting” to a media “stitch-up” and, they claimed, foreign political interference by an “Islamist media organisation”.

Presumably some Hanson adherents will find that plausible – the party has made anti-Muslim rhetoric part of its regular platform. Other One Nation supporters might now question the principles the party claims to stand for.

Why guns policy?

Why would One Nation seemingly risk whatever political capital it possesses by flirting with changes to gun controls and seeking assistance (if not funding) from gun lobby groups?

The party’s nativist policy positions on refugees, immigration and foreign investment are well known and readily detailed on its website. Until now, gun law amendment has sat well behind these. One Nation’s listed policies on firearms regulations include increasing penalties for gun-related crime and “streamlining” weapon licensing requirements. Not exactly controversial stuff.

But it is important to remember that the party first emerged in the wake of the Port Arthur shootings and rural resistance to the Howard government’s gun ownership reforms. Hanson and her candidates campaigned in the party’s early years on relaxing John Howard’s laws. They also benefited politically from a mainly regional backlash against these – and against Howard’s National Party partners.




Read more:
How Fraser Anning was elected to the Senate – and what the major parties can do to keep extremists out


Recently highlighted connections between Australian gun lobby groups and minor parties, including One Nation and Katter’s Australian Party, bring the backdrop to this policy agenda into sharper relief.

One Nation’s original and more recent platform caters to disaffected, largely non-metropolitan constituents who feel the party’s anti-immigration, anti-foreign business and anti-government intervention policies “speak for them”.

In its recent incarnation, One Nation has tried – and found ready accomplices in sections of the media – to “mainstream” its appeal and some of its positions. It’s been observed that the party’s Senate members have regularly supported the Coalition government’s legislative agenda during this term, on matters ranging from the reintroduction of the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) to reduced welfare spending.

The party’s suite of published policies covers matters of concern to many Australians, such as power prices, transport infrastructure, water supply and jobs creation.

In this respect, it was perhaps not so surprising that Liberal MPs should describe the party as “more responsible” than its earlier manifestation. Even former prime minister Tony Abbott, Hanson’s one-time political nemesis, endorsed One Nation owing to its “constructive” relationship with the government in parliament.

But this normalisation fails to mask the party’s extreme stances or inconsistent policy positions – even between its own members. One Nation adheres to curious policies decrying United Nations infringement on our sovereignty, as well as questionable claims about evidence-based climate policy.

Then there is the attention-seeking behaviour: Hanson wearing a burqa in the Senate chamber; or Queensland Senate candidate Steve Dickson suggesting the Safe Schools program involved teachers instructing students in masturbation techniques; or New South Wales upper house candidate Mark Latham proposing Indigenous welfare recipients undergo DNA testing. Stunts like these place One Nation firmly on the political fringe – though not without fellow dwellers. Notoriously, Coalition senators scrambled to backtrack on supporting Hanson’s Senate motion decreeing that “it’s OK to be white”.

Stunts such as Pauline Hanson wearing a burqa in the Senate place One Nation on the political fringe.
AAP/Mick Tsikas

This latest party engagement in seeking out overseas gun lobby assistance highlights another inconsistency, given Hanson’s vote in the Senate supporting new restrictions on foreign donations.

The Queensland question

Considering this, why do One Nation’s policies seemingly still appeal to significant numbers of voters, particularly in Queensland? Traces of an entrenched conservative political culture thumbing its nose at “the establishment” partly explain the party’s appeal in Queensland (and perhaps some of Peter Dutton’s ill-judged, racially charged comments as immigration minister).

It’s a culture underpinned by a history of less diverse migrant influence than other parts of the country and arguably a more wary, paternalistic past regarding Indigenous and minority communities.

Another reason is the accentuated city-country divide in Australia’s most decentralised mainland state. Here, some agrarian-themed party policies – such as for dam building or vegetation management – directly pander to regional voters. As a minor party not in government, though, One Nation has limited opportunity to carry these through, beyond aiming to wield balance-of-power influence in the Senate.

More telling is One Nation’s claimed inheritance of an old National Party constituency. It is one that feels “left behind” – a sentiment the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party successfully tapped into in the NSW election.

As in the past, the Nationals will seek to differentiate themselves from their Coalition partners and marginalise One Nation and other far-right parties ahead of the 2019 federal election.

But that’s no easy feat in Queensland. Since the Liberal and National parties merged in the state to form the LNP in 2008, there has been no distinct outward National Party. Some rural and regional voters in Queensland have felt unrepresented to a certain extent, and their grievances have placed many in a resurgent One Nation camp.

The party’s identification with aggrieved outer-urban and regional conservative interests keeps its voters’ preferences an issue. Again, this is especially so in Queensland, where several LNP MPs hold seats in such areas on tight margins.

But following this week’s revelations, and particularly in the wake of the Christchurch shootings, the preference issue will bedevil the Coalition in this state and elsewhere.




Read more:
Guns, politics and policy: what can we learn from Al Jazeera’s undercover NRA sting?


The prime minister’s latest announcement directing the Liberal Party’s state branches to preference Labor ahead of One Nation sends a needed message, but not unequivocally. It apparently leaves Liberals free to place One Nation ahead of the Greens or others, and is ambiguous on how this will apply to all LNP MPs in Queensland, or possibly influence Nationals MPs elsewhere.

But the clamouring of Queensland’s Nationals-aligned MPs for new coal-fired power stations – mirroring One Nation policy – indicates their likely preference leanings in favour of the minor party (and presumably leaves the Greens last of all).

The recorded actions and comments of Hanson and her party colleagues could bring a political reckoning for One Nation at the coming federal election. Voters will soon judge if the party warrants their electoral support and decide if this new controversy is a bridge too far.

For its part, the Coalition is treading a line between getting its hands burned over preference “deals”, as happened at Western Australia’s last election, or doing as John Howard (ultimately) did and jettisoning One Nation preferences altogether.The Conversation

Chris Salisbury, Research Associate, The University of Queensland

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

Guns, politics and policy: what can we learn from Al Jazeera’s undercover NRA sting?


Samara McPhedran, Griffith University

Al Jazeera’s undercover investigation into the US National Rifle Association (NRA) has gained international headlines, partly because of One Nation political wannabes drunkenly bragging about how important they could be if only they had the money.

None of this should come as a surprise. You would have to be living under a rock to not know that the NRA has money, lobbies with it, and uses a standard set of PR tactics. Likewise, nobody has ever accused One Nation of being sophisticated or lacking grandiose delusions.




Read more:
View from The Hill: James Ashby rocks a few boats, including his own


However, in a carefully timed release to the ABC, a report commissioned by Gun Control Australia and Getup! claims gun control in Australia is being eroded because of the gun lobby.

In reality, Australia’s gun laws remain virtually the same as when each state and territory introduced them more than 20 years ago. The last major change was in 2017, when all jurisdictions agreed to ban lever-action shotguns with a magazine capacity of more than five rounds of ammunition. Hardly “watering down”.

What is really going on?

Simple: when all we hear is guns, guns, guns, it means an election is on the horizon. It is not about guns, but politics.

Over the past few years, regular as clockwork, we have seen both major parties wheel out campaigns around gun laws, aided and abetted by the Greens. This occurred most recently in New South Wales, with the Liberal-Nationals running attack ads against the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party.

The campaigns involve one or more of: releasing data obtained under Freedom of Information about how many guns are legally owned; claiming gun laws are being (or have been, or will be) dangerously watered down if an opposing major party or rising minor party gains power; and making scary statements about a well-funded gun lobby (which is somehow all-powerful despite having changed little in over two decades).

The goal is to create fear, in the expectation this will translate to voting patterns. Politicians also like to have an “enemy” to rally against, to display their own virtues. At times, this tactic has worked. It is a fair bet that politicians’ reactions to One Nation’s buffoonery reflect the hope that it will work again.

Based on past voting patterns, it is likely both major parties anticipate One Nation robbing them of votes in the upcoming federal election and are looking for ways to blunt that. The mudslinging over preferences makes this clear.

If the recent New South Wales state election is anything to go by, though, voters seem to be ignoring gun campaigns and making their own decisions based on much bigger issues.

However, there is a genuine danger arising from the Al Jazeera report. Unfortunately, we can now expect that anybody who suggests that effective firearm policy takes time and careful thought – and that it might not be as simple as it looks – will be denounced as an NRA shill. This is a silencing tactic that does absolutely nothing to improve the impoverished and tribalised nature of public debate in this country.

As New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern recently observed, firearm policy and legislation is a complex area. In addition to the technical aspects, evidence about what does and does not work to reduce gun violence is nowhere near as clear-cut as it is sometimes made out to be. Well-intentioned measures can have unintended consequences, which we should learn from and attempt to avoid.

It is not far-right madness to say that if a policy gains appeal primarily because of the emotions surrounding it, rather than on its merits, then it might not be an effective policy. It is not dangerous extremism to suggest that sound legislation comes from careful reflection and robust debate. It is not irrational to raise concerns about the negative outcomes that can arise when reacting is turned into a virtue and thinking into a vice.




Read more:
Did Al Jazeera’s undercover investigation into One Nation overstep the mark?


In fact, a rational and careful approach, based on rigorous evaluation and calm, measured discussion, is the very foundation of evidence-based policy – a much-touted model of how to approach decision-making.

Political failure to adopt evidence-based policy – despite politicians paying it lip service – is the subject of much scholarly teeth-gnashing, and for good reason. Some of the most ill-fated, costly and objectionable policies we have seen in Australia in recent years – in areas including immigration, Indigenous affairs, and youth violence, to give just three examples – have come as a result of ignoring evidence-based policy. We are quick to call these out, and rightly so. Why behave differently about guns?

If we are serious about wanting thoughtful and well-considered decisions, we cannot pick and choose the issues to which we apply reflection and analysis. And if we do want to pick and choose, then we cannot complain when politicians do the same with the issues we really want them to do better on.The Conversation

Samara McPhedran, Director, Homicide Research Unit/Deputy Director, Violence Research and Prevention Program, Griffith University

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