Upper Hunter byelection reveals the dangers that lurk for Albanese and federal Labor


Lukas Coch/AAP

Mark Kenny, Australian National UniversityHistory shows that Labor took too much heart when Labor leader Kim Beazley unexpectedly pushed John Howard to the edge of extinction in 1998.

Howard, a first-term prime minister, suffered a 4.6% swing, surrendering the popular vote but somehow retaining a parliamentary majority.

Labor strategists figured the next election would be that much easier for having come so close.

This was wrong.

Consistently underestimated as a reader of the middle-Australian voter, Howard served four terms leaving Beazley with the cold comfort of being regularly tagged as “the best prime minister Australia never had”.

Could this be Anthony Albanese’s trajectory also?

The Upper Hunter case study

Behind Labor’s initial grief of its federal election loss, there were hopes within the ALP that next time might be different, given Prime Minister Scott Morrison only scraped through with the barest of parliamentary majorities in 2019.

But if the pandemic incumbency factor had not since dented federal Labor’s confidence, the weekend’s state byelection in the seat of Upper Hunter must surely have done so.

Labor’s primary vote tanked.

As well as showing that blue-collar regional voters are happy with their state Coalition government — despite its sordid scandals — the result apparently vindicated the outspoken anti-green pro-coal stance taken by Labor’s federal MP Joel Fitzgibbon.




Read more:
Albanese throws a bone to Labor’s Right, but Joel Fitzgibbon remains off the leash


The Upper Hunter result also buoyed Morrison’s hopes of a strong Coalition victory at the next federal election, built on converting blue-collar Labor voters into hi-viz Coalition backers.

The Fitzgibbon factor

Fitzgibbon famously quit the Labor frontbench last November, while insisting the party’s climate spokesperson, the Left’s Mark Butler, be replaced for being too committed to his task.

Under Butler’s guidance, Labor had taken a target of a 45% cut to emissions by 2030 to the last election — a policy that has since come to look mild in the global context.

Labor MP Joel Fitzgibbon in the press gallery.
Rebel Labor MP Joel Fitzgibbon fronted cameras on Monday, to criticise his party’s approach to climate and coal.
Mick Tsikas/AAP

But Fitzgibbon and others in the Right blamed the pledge for Labor’s poor performance in regional Australia.

By January, Fitzgibbon had his wish with the NSW Right’s Chris Bowen installed in the climate portfolio in Butler’s place.

Now, in the wake of the politically disastrous result for Labor in the Upper Hunter, an emboldened Fitzgibbon has again hit the airwaves calling for federal Labor to heed the message from its heartland. He is urging Albanese to stop pandering to inner-city progressives on climate and get back to protecting regional jobs. Coal jobs.

It is a message that carries big risks for Labor, which holds more urban seats than regional ones and which is challenged by the Greens on its left flank.

Albanese’s three problems

For Albanese, there are no easy answers.

Some within Labor fear Fitzgibbon could yet run as an independent, although he scotched this idea in interviews on Monday. He has however hinted that he might not run at all, unless he sees a material change in Labor’s emphasis.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese
Albanese must deal with opponents both within and beyond the Labor Party.
Lukas Coch/AAP

Either way, it seems Fitzgibbon and Morrison are on a unity ticket over coal jobs and regional sensibilities generally, and that is very bad news for Albanese.

In an interview with The Australian conducted before the by-election result but published on Monday, Morrison criticised Labor for treating workers as “victims” and for suggesting the answer to their woes must always be government assistance.

He said workers no longer thought like that.

So much of what we are doing in our economic plan comes together in regions like the Hunter.

This was a reference presumably to his government’s commitment to build a gas-fired generator in the Hunter. The $600 million announcement had angered progressives, and mystified energy economists, but seems to have been viewed by Upper Hunter constituents as a vote of confidence in their future.

Albanese now finds himself battling against three countervailing forces: Morrison, Fitzgibbon, and pandemic incumbency.

Like Berejiklian, Morrison’s government has delivered its share of scandals. But in both cases, voters appear largely unfazed.

Instead, they seem inclined to credit their governments with addressing more material concerns such as keeping the pandemic at bay, and protecting their livelihoods.

The 2001 case study

In mid-2001, Howard was again trailing in the lead-up to a general election and faced a crucial byelection in the federal Victorian seat of Aston.

Governments tend to do badly in byelections and the electoral test loomed as the harbinger of a wider defeat.

Instead, it marked the government’s revival, with a triumphant Howard telling the first ever ABC Insiders program that his government was “well and truly back in the game”.

If there were an unstoppable momentum for Labor to win the federal election, they’d have rolled us over in Aston.

Just months later in the general election of November 2001 — the Tampa/ September 11 election — a sense of external threat merely reinforced voters’ tendencies to hold to the status quo.

Two decades on, the danger for Labor is people’s insecurity over health and wealth will again see voters preference the safety of a known quantity.

Meanwhile, Albanese has some way to go to emulate Beazley, let alone win the election. Before that he also has to get past Simon Crean’s unhappy distinction of being Labor’s only federal leader never to face an election.The Conversation

Mark Kenny, Professor, Australian Studies Institute, Australian National University

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

Coalition has large lead in NSW as Nats easily hold Upper Hunter at byelection


Darren Pateman/AAP

Adrian Beaumont, The University of MelbourneA recent Resolve poll of New South Wales voters for The Sydney Morning Herald has given the Coalition 44% of the primary vote, Labor 28%, the Greens 12% and the Shooters Fishers and Farmers 4%. This is the first nonpartisan poll of NSW state voting intentions since the last election.

At the March 2019 election, primary votes were Coalition 41.6%, Labor 33.3%, Greens 9.6% and Shooters 3.5%.

No two-party estimate was provided by Resolve, but analyst Kevin Bonham estimates this means 56-44 to the Coalition, compared with 52-48 at the election. The poll was conducted with two federal Resolve polls in mid-April and mid-May from a sample of 1,228.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian led Labor leader Jodi McKay as preferred premier by a massive 57-17 margin. Half of those polled thought Berejiklian likeable, while 17% were negative. Meanwhile, 13% thought McKay likeable, while 21% were negative (this includes don’t know and neutral responses).

Nationals easily win Upper Hunter byelection

There was a byelection in the state seat of Upper Hunter on Saturday. With 84% of enrolled voters counted, the Nationals defeated Labor by a 55.7-44.3 margin, a 3.1% swing to the Nationals from the 2019 election. Primary votes were 31.2% to the Nationals (down 2.8%), 21.3% to Labor (down 7.3%), 12.3% to One Nation, 12.0% to the Shooters (down 10.1%) and 12.9% for two independents combined.

The total vote for the major parties fell 10.1% to 52.5%, but with a large field of candidates, the National and Labor candidates were certain to finish in the top two after preferences, especially given NSW’s optional preferential voting system.

The Shooters won three seats at the last state election, but will need to come to an agreement with One Nation not to contest the other party’s target seats at the next election.




Read more:
Little change in post-budget Newspoll; Liberals win Tasmanian majority


This is the lowest primary vote for the Nationals in what was a safe Nationals seat before the rise of the Shooters and One Nation. For Labor, it is their second lowest primary vote, beating only the 17.9% at the 2011 Labor annihilation.

Overall preference flows from all third party candidates were 20.5% to Labor, 16.3% to the Nationals and 63.2% exhausted. Including exhausted ballots, two party vote shares were 39.0% Nationals (down 0.9% since 2019), 31.0% Labor (down 5.0%) and 30.0% exhausted (up 5.8%). That’s the lowest Nationals share by this measure.

The byelection was caused when former member Michael Johnsen was accused of sexually assaulting a sex worker — he denies any wrongdoing. Other factors that would normally be expected to drag the Nationals vote down are the loss of Johnsen’s personal vote, having a federal government of the same party, and the ten-year age of the current NSW Coalition government.




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Has a backlash against political correctness made sexual misbehaviour more acceptable?


The byelection result and the Coalition’s big lead in the state NSW poll are both dire for NSW Labor. And it’s another example of sex scandals not impacting actual votes.

At the last election, the Coalition won 48 of the 93 lower house seats, one more than the 47 needed for a majority. They have lost two members to the crossbench, so winning this byelection still puts them in minority government with 46 seats. The Coalition is in no danger of losing a confidence vote.

Federal Resolve poll

In the federal Resolve poll for the Nine newspapers, conducted April 12-16 from an online sample of 1,622, primary votes were 39% to the Coalition (up one since April), 35% for Labor (up two), 12% to the Greens (steady) and 2% to One Nation (down four). From these primary vote figures, Bonham estimates Labor is in front, 51-49, a one-point gain for Labor since April.

It is likely One Nation’s large drop reflects Resolve adopting Newspoll’s methods on the One Nation vote, and they are now only asking for One Nation in seats they contested at the 2019 election.




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Great approach, weak execution. Economists decline to give budget top marks


More than half (53%) gave Prime Minister Scott Morrison a good rating for his performance in recent weeks, and 38% a poor rating; his net +15 rating is up three from April. Labor leader Anthony Albanese was at 32% good, 45% poor, for a net of -13, down seven points. Morrison led Albanese by 48-25 (compared to 47-25 in April).

On economic management, the Coalition and Morrison led Labor and Albanese by 46-20 (43-21 in April). On handling COVID, the Coalition led by 46-20 (42-20 in April).

Resolve had far stronger approval for the budget than Newspoll. More than half (56%) rated it good for the country and just 10% poor (for a net +46). Meanwhile 35% rated it good for their personal finances and 17% poor (net +18). Treasurer Josh Frydenberg had a +31 net rating, while Shadow Treasurer Jim Chalmers was at -3.

Newspoll and the budget

In additional Newspoll questions, released last Tuesday, more voters trusted a Coalition government led by Morrison over a Labor government led by Albanese to guide Australia’s COVID recovery (52-33 voters, compared to 54-32 last October).

Of those surveyed, 60% of voters thought the government was right to stimulate the economy despite increased debt, while 30% said it should do more to rein in spending. During Labor’s last period in government, the Coalition ranted about debt and deficit, but now 71% of Coalition voters support increased debt.

The Newspoll also found many voters thought Labor would not have delivered a better budget (46-33). Bonham says the 13-point margin is typical by recent standards after the 49-33 result following the 2020 budget.The Conversation

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

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

Little change in post-budget Newspoll; Liberals win Tasmanian majority


AAP/Mick Tsikas

Adrian Beaumont, The University of MelbourneThis week’s Newspoll, conducted May 13-16 from a sample of 1,506, gave Labor a 51-49 lead, unchanged from the last Newspoll published three weeks ago. Primary votes were 41% Coalition (steady), 36% Labor (down two), 12% Greens (up two) and 2% One Nation (down one). Figures are from The Poll Bludger.

58% were satisfied with Scott Morrison’s performance (down one), and 38% were dissatisfied (up one), for a net approval of +20. Anthony Albanese’s net approval was down four points to -7, his worst ever net approval. Morrison led Albanese as better PM by 55-30 (56-30 three weeks ago).

Newspoll has asked three questions after every budget: whether the budget was good for the economy, good for you personally, and whether the opposition would have delivered a better budget. Results for this last question are yet to appear, and it would be disappointing if that question has been cancelled.

44% thought last Tuesday’s budget was good for the economy and 15% bad, for a net rating of +29. On personal finances, 19% thought it would be good and 19% bad, for a net zero rating. Voters have consistently been better disposed to budgets on the economy than the personal.

The Poll Bludger says this budget is the eighth best on personal finance and the sixth best on the economy since Newspoll started asking these questions, which I believe was in 1988. Analyst Kevin Bonham says this budget has the best net score on the economy since 2007’s +48. However, the Coalition under John Howard lost the 2007 election after that budget.

Most budgets have little impact on voting intentions, and this is confirmed by voting intentions remaining unchanged on two party preferred in this Newspoll. Exceptions were the very unpopular 1993 and 2014 budgets. After both those budgets, the government lost much support.

The drop in Labor’s support, and the rise for the Greens, is probably due to left-wing voters who are unhappy with Albanese. Morrison’s consistently big lead over Albanese as better PM likely encourages some voters to perceive Labor would do better if led by someone more left-wing than Albanese. I posted about the flaws in this logic in my last Newspoll report.

In an additional Newspoll question, 73% thought Australia’s borders should remain closed until at least mid-2022, or the pandemic is under control globally. Just 21% thought borders should open as soon as all Australians who want to be are vaccinated.

In last week’s Essential poll, taken before the budget, Morrison’s net approval surged to +26 from +17 in mid-April. With women, his net approval rose 17 points to +21; with men, it was up two points to +31. While there is still a gender gap, many women appear to have forgotten or forgiven the sexual misbehaviour in March.

Liberals win Tasmanian majority as sex-compromised Liberal wins, then resigns

At the May 1 Tasmanian election, the Liberals won 13 of the 25 lower house seats (steady since the 2018 election), Labor nine (down one), the Greens two (steady) and Independent Kristie Johnston won the last seat. Vote shares were 48.7% Liberal (down 1.5%), 28.2% Labor (down 4.5%), 12.4% Greens (up 2.1%) and 6.2% for independents.

In party terms, there were two electorates where the result appeared uncertain in my post-election article: Clark and Bass. With five seats per electorate, a quota is one-sixth of the vote, or 16.7%. In the Hare-Clark system, candidates compete against other candidates in the same party, as well as other parties’ candidates.

In Clark, there was some doubt on election night as to whether the Liberals would win a second seat. But former Labor MP Madeleine Ogilvie, who had sat as an independent in the last parliament, and joined the Liberals at this election, won the second Liberal seat in Clark.

Ogilvie was 342 votes or 0.03 quotas ahead of fellow Liberal Simon Behrakis at the second last count. At Behrakis’ exclusion, final standings were Ogilvie 0.95 quotas, Johnston 0.93 and Independent Sue Hickey 0.82. Ogilvie and Johnston were elected to the final two seats.

In Bass, Labor benefited from leakage of Premier Peter Gutwein’s surplus and preferences from other sources. Labor easily defeated the Greens and Liberals for the final seat for a three Liberal, two Labor result.

The day before the election, Liberal Braddon candidate Adam Brooks was accused of impersonating to enter a sexual relationship using a fake driver’s license. Tasmania still requires early voters to complete a declaration that they cannot vote on election day, so most votes were cast on election day.

Brooks was still elected after a close race with two other Liberals in Braddon. With the final two seats to be filled, Jaensch finished on 0.934 quotas, Brooks 0.931 and Ellis 0.904, with Ellis missing out. Brooks had been 0.046 quotas ahead of Ellis after Liberal exclusions and surpluses, with his lead reduced by sources outside the Liberals.




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Has a backlash against political correctness made sexual misbehaviour more acceptable?


The Braddon result was finalised Thursday. On Friday, Brooks resigned his seat after Queensland police charged him with firearms offences. Brooks’ seat will definitely go to a Liberal on a countback (not a byelection), likely Ellis. The Liberals will be relieved at not requiring Brooks’ vote to maintain a majority.

In the upper house, the Liberals gained Windermere from a retiring conservative independent, while Labor held Derwent. In Windermere, the Liberals defeated Labor by 54.1-45.9, from primary votes of 37.8% Liberal, 27.0% Labor and 21.3% for an independent. In Derwent, Labor defeated the Liberals by 55.7-44.3, from primary votes of 49.1% Labor, 40.9% Liberal and 10.0% Animal Justice.

The Tasmanian upper house has 15 single-member electorates with two or three up for election every May for six-year terms. Current standings are five Labor, four Liberals, four left independents and two centre-right independents.

Poll gives Nationals 51-49 lead for Saturday’s Upper Hunter (NSW) byelection

A byelection will occur in the NSW Nationals-held state seat of Upper Hunter this Saturday. This seat has been Nationals-held since 1932, but at the 2019 NSW election, the Nationals had their lowest primary vote of 34.0%. Labor had 28.7%, the Shooters 22.0% and the Greens 4.8%.

Excluding exhausting preferences, the Nationals defeated Labor by 52.6-47.4, with 24.2% of total votes exhausting under NSW’s optional preferential system.

A YouGov poll for The Daily Telegraph gave the Nationals a 51-49 lead over Labor in Upper Hunter based on respondent preferences. Primary votes were 25% Nationals, 23% Labor, 16% Shooters, 11% One Nation, 6% Greens and 10% combined for two independents. The poll was conducted May 11-13 from a sample of just 400.The Conversation

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

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

No ‘bounce’ for government from big-spend budget: Newspoll


Michelle Grattan, University of CanberraThe government has failed to get any electoral “bounce” from last week’s budget, despite it being widely seen as good for the economy, according to Newspoll.

Labor retains a two-party lead of 51-49%, although there was a 2 point fall in its primary vote, to 36%. The fall was matched by a 2 point rise in support for the Greens, to 12%.

The Coalition was stable on 41% primary vote.

Publishing the results, The Australian reported it was the most well-received budget since the Howard-Costello days, with 44% saying it would be good for the economy, and only 15% believing it would be bad. This was the largest margin since 2007.

But voters found it harder to get a clear fix on what it would mean for them personally. They were evenly divided, with 19% each side, on whether they would be personally better or worse off financially from the budget.

A record 62% could not say whether they would be better or worse off.

While the budget contained tax cuts for low and middle income earners and a child care package, much of the big spending was directed to particular areas, such as aged care and mental health, rather than affecting the financial position of people more widely.

Both leaders’ personal approval ratings worsened somewhat in the poll, although Anthony Albanese took more of a hit than Scott Morrison.

Dissatisfaction with Albanese increased 3 points to 46%, while his satisfaction rating decreased a point to 39%. His net rating is minus 7.

Satisfaction with Morrison fell a point to 58%, and dissatisfaction increased a point to 38% His net approval is plus 20.

Morrison led Albanese as better prime minister 55% (down a point) to 30% (stable).

In Queensland selling the budget, Morrison said on Sunday: “The recovery cannot be taken for granted. The recovery can be lost. The hard won gains of Australians, particularly over these last 18 months, can be lost unless we keep doing what’s working. And this is working.”

Also in Queensland, Albanese said: “Quite clearly, Scott Morrison has a plan to just get through the next election and then we’ll see cuts, because we know from this government, just like we saw in 2014 when it first came to office, that they will make cuts, they will return to type.”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.

Albanese’s $10bn pledge pushes housing needs back into the limelight


Hal Pawson, UNSWOpposition Leader Anthony Albanese’s budget reply speech last night highlighted Australia’s huge unnmet need for social and affordable housing. It’s once again shaping up as a major election issue. Labor is proposing a A$10 billion program to build 30,000 social and affordable homes over five years.

The immediate backdrop for the pledge is a post-COVID house price boom, and a continuing dearth of Commonwealth investment in new non-market housing. That is, rentals affordable to low-income Australians and provided by government agencies or non-profit community housing organisations.

Amid the many new spending plans revealed in Tuesday’s budget, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg maintained the government’s resistance to an ever-wider coalition of voices calling for social housing stimulus.




Read more:
Why more housing stimulus will be needed to sustain recovery



Conversation Economic Society of Australia survey, September 2020

Just how big is the problem?

With borders largely closed since March last year, it’s true that sharply reduced migration has temporarily dampened rental housing demand over the past 15 months. That in turn has generally subdued increases in rents. However, that national norm masks the rapidly rising rents seen in many regional markets during 2020-21.

And despite some local price reductions, Anglicare’s recent survey of 74,000 “lease ready” property listings identified only three (0.004%) affordable to a single person on the JobSeeker payment. More strikingly, for every household income type included in the survey, Anglicare found the availability of affordable lets even lower in early 2021 than a year earlier.

The broader and longer-term picture in the private rental market has been one of shrinking numbers of tenancies that low-income Australians can afford to rent. Specifically, we saw a 50% increase in the national deficit in private lets affordable to low-income renters (in the bottom 20% of incomes) in the decade to 2016.

A decade of negligible investment in social housing construction has only made this situation worse. The result has been a continued decline in availability as public and community housing has dwindled from 6% to only 4% of all housing since the 1990s. In fact, proportionate to population, social rental lettings have halved over this period.

A clear point of difference, but not a game-changer

Tuesday’s budget marked a continuation of the Morrison government’s near-exclusive housing focus on efforts to assist aspirational first-home buyers. Most significantly, this policy stance inspired the $2.1 billion HomeBuilder program as an economic recovery measure during 2020-21.




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Why the focus of stimulus plans has to be construction that puts social housing first


The ALP has pointedly backed both HomeBuilder and the smaller measures to assist first-home buyers announced on Tuesday. But Albanese’s new announcement seemingly extends Labor’s housing pitch beyond the Coalition’s comfort zone.

Anthony Albanese pledges $10 billion to build social housing in budget reply speech.

So is this the “major initiative” hailed by some headline writers? A “fix for house prices” it certainly is not. If unwisely attempted purely through public spending, the funding required to get into that territory would need to be many times as great.

Opposition housing spokesperson Jason Clare more defensibly describes the ALP pitch as “a significant start” in tackling Australia’s “housing crisis”.

The current national stock of social and affordable rental housing totals just over 400,000. In recent years annual additions have amounted to only 2,000-3,000. That’s barely enough even to offset continuing sales and demolitions. In these terms, Albanese’s pledge to expand the supply by 6,000 a year would indeed be significant.

At the same time, as our previous research has shown, a net increase of 15,000 units a year is needed just to keep pace with “normal” population growth – that is, to halt the decline in social rental as a share of all housing. Even under a post-pandemic scenario where migration rules are tightened as far as imaginable, that figure would not be substantially smaller.

So, like the Victorian government’s recently launched social housing stimulus, the ALP’s proposed national program would mark a promising break with the recent past, and a platform for further measures. But it would be hard to describe it as a game-changer.




Read more:
Victoria’s $5.4bn Big Housing Build: it is big, but the social housing challenge is even bigger


While greatly expanded social housing provision would be an essential part of any credible package to seriously address Australia’s housing affordability challenge, a far wider program of action is needed. Most importantly, such a program must also tackle our grossly unbalanced housing tax settings, boost renters’ rights and diversify the available choice of housing.

What the country needs above all is a Commonwealth commitment to assembling the national housing strategy that is so long overdue.




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Australia’s housing system needs a big shake-up: here’s how we can crack this


The Conversation


Hal Pawson, Professor of Housing Research and Policy, and Associate Director, City Futures Research Centre, UNSW

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

Australia: Budget 2021


View from The Hill: a budget for a pandemic, with next year’s election in mind


Michelle Grattan, University of CanberraTreasurer Josh Frydenberg calls this a “pandemic budget” – one to sustain the economy in times that are still uncertain – but it also has a substantial element of an election budget.

That’s not to suggest Prime Minister Scott Morrison will rush to the polls this year. But given the election has to be held by May 21, 2022, this is likely to be the last budget of the cycle. Another could be squeezed in, as in 2019, but it would have to be brought forward from the normal time.

Last year the treasurer said budget repair and debt repayment – otherwise known as the hard and unpleasant decisions – wouldn’t be undertaken before unemployment was “comfortably” below 6%.




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Vital Signs. The RBA wants to cut unemployment, and nothing — not even soaring home prices — will stand in its way


Now unemployment is 5.6% (the March figure) but Frydenberg has shifted the goal posts, so the emphasis remains on recovery, with more difficult reckonings a way off – beyond the election.

Given a grim COVID picture internationally and a long way to go with the vaccine program locally, that is sound – and also politically convenient.

In this budget, the government’s policy approach is firmly aligned with that of the Reserve Bank, with Frydenberg embracing the bank’s objective of pushing unemployment well below pre-pandemic levels, which means to a rate with a 4 in front of it.

Two central spending areas in the budget have been, in effect, imposed on the government.

It had to respond to the damning findings of the aged care royal commission. The fact most Australian COVID deaths occurred in aged care underlined how unfit for purpose the system is. Frydenberg told the ABC there will be more than $10 billion spending on aged care over the forward estimates.

The budget’s “women’s” focus — a sharp contrast to last year — has drivers that go beyond the urgent need to do more to combat violence against women, and other imperatives.

Morrison’s “women problem”, which exploded with the demonstrations following the high-profile allegations of rape, most obviously increased the attention on women in this budget, which will include a women’s statement with initiatives on health, safety, and economic security.

Also, Labor’s decision to make childcare one of its main policy pitches, promising a big spend, reinforced economic considerations pushing the government to produce its own childcare policy (which doesn’t start until July 2022).

Even in the middle of the pandemic last year, few would have thought that by now we’d still have no firm idea when our international borders will re-open.

Morrison is cautious about it, and judges that’s in line with the thinking of the Australians public at the moment. He can read those state electoral results as well as anyone — he knows people put health safety above all else.

“International borders will only open when it is safe to do so”, he said on Facebook at the weekend. “Australians are living like in few countries around the world today.”

On the other hand, the pressure for students to come, migration to resume and people to be allowed to travel must build sooner or later.

The budget’s assumptions will put the reopening in 2022, Frydenberg told the ABC at the weekend.




Read more:
Frydenberg promises housing breaks in ‘pandemic budget’


Economist Saul Eslake says while keeping the country closed to the outside world is obviously not sustainable in the long run, it has, in a perverse way, some short run plusses for the government’s economic objectives.

“It’s very easy to get unemployment down when the border is closed. You only need to create 5000 new jobs a month to prevent unemployment rising.

“Previously [with migrants coming] you needed 16,000 new jobs a month. Currently we’re creating 60,000 a month,” Eslake says.

Migrants stimulate growth. But so does having Australians unable to travel overseas, Eslake says. They can only spend domestically – or save – the $55 billion they would normally be spending abroad. They appear to be spending quite a deal of it on things like home equipment, furnishings, renovations, cars, and even clothing.

While fiscal repair is formally delayed, the budget will show it is gradually, to a degree, repairing itself.

The quicker-than-expected bounce back of the labour market, which reduces welfare costs and boosts tax revenue, and the similar rebound in corporate profits, help the bottom line. Frydenberg says that, despite JobKeeper coming to an end, 105,000 people came off income support in April. High iron ore prices are also a godsend to revenue.

Chris Richardson, from Deloitte Access Economics, has forecast a deficit for this financial year of about $167 billion, compared with the December budget update figure of $198 billion. For 2021-22 , the Deloitte forecast is a deficit of about $87 billion compared with the update’s forecast of $108 billion.

Still, a balanced budget will be some years off, Richardson says.

He gives four reasons: substantial structural spending on aged care, mental health, childcare, disability and the like; low wage and price inflation (inflation helps budgets); missing migrants; and interest payments on debt (helped by low interest rates but still significant).

On what we know, the budget will be safe rather than adventurous. And while budgets can always unexpectedly trip over their own feet, and inevitably have plenty of critics, this will be the sort of benign one that doesn’t go out of its way to hurt or offend voters.

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.

Liberals’ victory in Tasmanian election is more status quo than ringing endorsement


AAP/Sarah Rhodes

Michael Lester, University of TasmaniaThe Tasmanian Liberal government has been returned for a record third term, vindicating premier Peter Gutwein’s decision to go to an election a year early.

However, rather than the big swings to the incumbent governments seen in recent elections in Queensland and Western Australia due to their management of the pandemic, the result in Tasmania maintained the status quo.

While benefiting from Gutwein’s high personal popularity due to his management of the pandemic, the Liberal vote fell slightly from 50.3% at the 2018 election to 48.8% at the close of counting late on Saturday night. However, Labor’s vote fell 4.5% to just 28%.




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Liberals likely to retain majority in Tasmania; Biden’s ratings after 100 days


The Liberals are poised to win 13 seats in the 25-seat House of Assembly, Labor nine, the Greens two and one independent.

Under Tasmania’s Hare Clark proportional electoral system, five members are returned from five seats. These are Bass in the state’s north, Braddon in the north-west, Clark and Franklin in the greater Hobart area and southern region, and Lyons, which sprawls across the state’s centre and east coast.

To win a seat, each candidate needs to win 16.6% of the formal vote but, based on the percentage of vote for each party group, it is clear the Liberals will win three seats in each of Bass, Braddon and Lyons, two seats in Franklin and most likely two seats in Clark.

Labor’s nine seats include two in Bass, Braddon, Franklin and Lyons but only one in the party’s former stronghold of Clark. The main reason for this is the loss of votes to two high-profile independents – Glenorchy City Council mayor Kristie Johnston and the former Liberal speaker Sue Hickey – one of whom is predicted to win a seat on preferences.

The Greens vote is up 2% to 12.3% statewide, securing the two seats they held in the previous parliament in Clark and Franklin, but not enough to win further seats.

Labor leader Rebecca White conceded defeat on Saturday night, congratulating Gutwein on winning the election and for his high personal vote after securing almost half the available votes in his electorate of Bass. This is among the highest individual votes in the modern era.




Read more:
As Tasmanians head to the polls, Liberal Premier Peter Gutwein hopes to cash in on COVID management


Gutwein claimed victory but stopped short of declaring he had secured a majority, saying only it appeared “increasingly likely”.

The election outcome means a return to the one-seat majority his government held just prior to the election. He also made history by securing the Liberals a record third term in office in Tasmania.

While the balance of seats remains much the same, there will be a turnover of members with some new faces replacing former MPs.

In the government line-up, Hickey, who was ousted from the Liberal Party a few days before the election was called, looks likely to be replaced by former Labor MP turned independent Madeleine Ogilvie, who switched to the Liberals just days after Gutwein announced the election.

In Braddon, first-term MP Felix Ellis lifted his vote by 6.1% while scandal-prone former MP Adam Brooks has edged ahead of housing minister Roger Jaensch and may replace him in the Liberal team.

On the opposition benches, Kingborough Council mayor Dean Winter, who was the subject of a fierce factional battle to prevent him standing for Labor, will replace Labor frontbencher Alison Standen in Franklin.

In Bass, former Launceston mayor Janie Finlay is poised to replace Jennifer Houston in Labor’s line-up.

Tasmania also saw elections in two of the Legislative Council seats of Derwent in the state’s south and Windemere in the north. Labor MLC Craig Farrell defeated his Liberal rival, Derwent Valley mayor Ben Shaw. In Windemere, where the sitting independent retired, Liberal candidate and television presenter Nick Duigan is leading Labor’s Geoff Lyons and independent Will Smith. That seat will be decided by preferences.

It will be 10 days before the final distribution of preferences can commence in the House of Assembly election due to the need to wait until all postal votes are counted. But only in Clark is there potential for this process to affect the election result.

Either way, it is either a Liberal majority or a Liberal minority government.The Conversation

Michael Lester, PhD candidate, University of Tasmania

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

Liberals likely to retain majority in Tasmania; Biden’s ratings after 100 days


AAP/Chris Crerar

Adrian Beaumont, The University of MelbourneWith 79% counted in Saturday’s Tasmanian election, the ABC is calling 12 of the 25 Tasmanian lower house seats for the Liberals, eight for Labor, two Greens and three undecided. Vote shares were 48.7% Liberals (down 1.5% since the 2018 election), 28.4% Labor (down 4.3%), 12.2% Greens (up 1.9%) and 6.3% for independents.

Tasmania uses the Hare-Clark system, with five electorates each returning five members. A quota is one-sixth of the vote, or 16.7%.

In The Poll Bludger’s projections, the Liberals are on 3.6 quotas in Bass, Labor 1.6 and the Greens 0.6. The Liberals will win three, Labor one and the last is Labor vs Greens.

In Braddon, the Liberals have 3.4 quotas, Labor 1.6, the Greens 0.3 and an independent 0.4. The most likely result is three Liberals and two Labor.

In Lyons, the Liberals have 3.1 quotas, Labor 2.0 and the Greens 0.5. A clear three Liberals, two Labor.

In Franklin, the Liberals have 2.5 quotas, Labor 2.0 and the Greens 1.1. The Liberals will win two, Labor two and the Greens one.

Finally in Clark, the Liberals have 1.9 quotas, Labor 1.3, the Greens 1.2 and Independents Kristie Johnston and Sue Hickey 0.7 and 0.6 respectively. If this projection holds up, it is hard to see the Liberals not getting two Clark seats and a majority.

Adding it up, the most probable result of the Tasmanian election is 13 Liberals (steady since the 2018 election), eight Labor, two Greens, one Labor vs Greens in Bass and one independent in Clark (Hickey or Johnston).

Premier Peter Gutwein had called this election ten months earlier than scheduled, hoping to take advantage of high ratings attributable to COVID. A June 2020 Newspoll gave Gutwein an astonishing rating of 90-8 satisfied, almost certainly the best approval polled by any premier or PM in Australian polling history.

Gutwein gambled that his COVID popularity would get the Liberals to a majority while it remained an issue. It looks as if his gamble has succeeded. The Liberals are likely to retain government in Tasmania for a third term, while the same party is in power federally. This is a big achievement in a state that voted for Labor by 56.0-44.0 at the 2019 federal election.

The last publicly released poll, an EMRS February poll, gave the Liberals 52%, Labor 27% and the Greens 14%. In my election preview, a uComms poll for The Australia Institute gave the Liberals 41.4%, Labor 32.1%, the Greens 12.4%, Independents 11.0% and Others 3.1%.




Read more:
Tasmanian election preview: commissioned poll has Liberals likely short of majority


This commissioned poll was too low on the Liberals and too high on Labor and independents.

Liberals likely to gain Windermere in upper house, but Labor retains Derwent

Two of the 15 upper house seats were up for election for six-year terms. In Derwent, which Labor has held since 1979, they led the Liberals by 48.7% to 41.2%, with 10.0% for Animal Justice. In Windermere, held by a retiring conservative independent, the Liberals had 37.7% to Labor’s 26.8% with 21.2% for an independent.

Preferences have not yet been distributed for either seat, but Labor will clearly retain Derwent while the Liberals are likely to gain Windermere. The upper house will retain its 9-6 left-right split.

After first 100 days, Biden has 54% approval rating

It is 101 days since Joe Biden began his term as US president on January 20. In the FiveThirtyEight aggregate, his ratings with all polls are 53.9% approve, 41.4% disapprove (net +12.5%). With polls of likely or registered voters, Biden’s ratings are 53.8% approve, 42.0% disapprove (net +11.8%). For the duration of his presidency, Biden’s approval has been between 53% and 55%.

FiveThirtyEight has ratings of presidents since Harry Truman (president from 1945-53). At this stage of their presidencies, Biden’s net approval is only ahead of Donald Trump and Gerald Ford (who took over after Richard Nixon’s resignation in 1974).

The US economy, boosted by stimulus payments, appears to be recovering very well from COVID, but attempted illegal immigration has surged since Biden became president. The key question is how Biden’s ratings look at the November 2022 midterms, when the president’s party normally loses seats.The Conversation

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

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

Coalition and Morrison gain in Newspoll, and the new Resolve poll


AAP/Mick Tsikas

Adrian Beaumont, The University of MelbourneThis week’s Newspoll, conducted April 21-24 from a sample of 1,510, gave Labor a 51-49 lead, a one-point gain for the Coalition since the previous Newspoll, four weeks ago. Primary votes were 41% Coalition (up one), 38% Labor (steady), 10% Greens (down one) and 3% One Nation (up one). Figures are from The Poll Bludger.

59% (up four) were satisfied with Scott Morrison’s performance, and 37% (down three) were dissatisfied, for a net approval of +22, up seven points. Anthony Albanese’s net approval fell five points to -3. Morrison led as better PM by 56-30 (52-32 four weeks ago).

In my article last fortnight, I suggested a backlash against political correctness was making sexual misbehaviour more acceptable. The Coalition and Morrison’s recovery in this poll appears to validate that argument.




Read more:
Has a backlash against political correctness made sexual misbehaviour more acceptable?


The adverse publicity regarding vaccination problems may have been expected to damage the government. But as long as there are very few local COVID cases, it appears the general public will forgive the rollout issues.

There is likely to be a strong economic recovery from COVID, and this is a problem for Labor. The new Resolve poll had the Coalition and Morrison ahead of Labor and Albanese by over 20 points on both the economy and COVID. In March, the unemployment rate was 5.6%, well down from the peak of 7.5% last July.

Many on the left want Albanese to resign in favour of a more left-wing candidate like Tanya Plibersek. But the polling indicates Labor’s leadership is not the problem, Morrison’s popularity is. In fact, given Morrison’s ratings, the Coalition would normally be expected to lead by a substantial margin.

Outside election campaigns, most voters pay little attention to the opposition. So it’s what the government does that drives voting intentions and the PM’s popularity.

New pollster for Nine newspapers

The Resolve Strategic poll will be conducted monthly for Nine newspapers from a normal sample of 1,600 interviewed by online methods. The first sample included an additional 400 live phone interviews. Fieldwork will be conducted during the month.

Every two months, state polls of Victoria and NSW will be released. Since Newspoll stopped doing regular state polling in 2015, there have been virtually no polls of either state outside election periods.

No two party vote is given, but primary votes in the first Resolve poll, with fieldwork up to April 16, were 38% Coalition, 33% Labor, 12% Greens and 6% One Nation.

One Nation’s vote is far higher than in Newspoll, but analyst Kevin Bonham says Newspoll is only asking for One Nation in seats they contested at the last election. Bonham estimates the two party vote from these primaries as a 50-50 tie.

Respondents were asked to rate the party leaders’ performance in recent weeks. Morrison had a 50% good, 38% poor rating (net +12), while Albanese was at 35% good, 41% poor (net -6). Morrison led Albanese as preferred PM by 47-25.

Voters were asked which party and leader would be better at various issues. However, offering “someone else” as an option disadvantages Labor, particularly on environmental issues where the Greens do best. The Coalition and Morrison led Labor and Albanese by 43-21 on economic management and by 42-20 on handling COVID.

Essential and Morgan polls

In last fortnight’s Essential poll, Morrison had a 54-37 approval rating; his +17 net approval dropped five points from the late March poll.

The large gender gap in Morrison’s ratings that I discussed last fortnight remained: his approval with men was 61%, but 46% with women. This gap was 16 points in late March.

Albanese’s net approval was down four points from mid-March to +5, and Morrison led as better PM by 47-28 (52-26 in mid-March).

The federal government had a 62-17 good rating on its response to COVID (70-12 in mid-March). This reverts to about where its COVID response was before a spike in November. State governments also saw falls in their COVID ratings. If Labor had been in power federally, by 44-37 voters were confident that they would have dealt well with COVID.

While Essential continues to give the federal government strong COVID ratings, a Morgan SMS poll, conducted April 9-10 – after Morrison announced the AstraZeneca vaccine would not be recommended for those under 50 – had voters disapproving of Morrison’s handling of COVID by 51-49.

Less than a week before Tasmanian election, poll has Liberals at just 41%

The Tasmanian election will be held on Saturday. A uComms poll for the left-wing Australia Institute, conducted April 21 from a sample of 1,023, gave the Liberals 41.4%, Labor 32.1%, the Greens 12.4%, Independents 11.0% and Others 3.1%.

This poll is in marked contrast to the last publicly available Tasmanian poll: an EMRS poll in February that gave the Liberals 52%, Labor 27%, Greens 14% and 7% for all Others. I will have more details of the Tasmanian election in a post on Wednesday.

WA election upper house final results

At the March 13 Western Australian election, Labor won 22 of the 36 upper house seats (up eight since 2017), the Liberals seven (down two), the Nationals three (down one), Legalise Cannabis two (up two), the Greens one (down three) and Daylight Saving one (up one). One Nation (three seats in 2017), the Shooters (one) and the Liberal Democrats (one) all failed to return to parliament.

This is the first time Labor has won a majority of seats in the WA upper house. They won 60.3% of the vote in the upper house, slightly higher than their 59.9% in the lower house. Labor won 21 of their 22 seats on raw quotas, and needed very slight help for their fourth seat in Mining and Pastoral region.




Read more:
Labor obliterates Liberals in historic WA election; will win control of upper house for first time


Labor lost two seats they should have won to Legalise Cannabis under the Group Ticket Voting (GTV) system. That gave Legalise Cannabis double the seats of the Greens despite less than one-third of the Greens’ statewide vote (2.0% vs 6.4%).

The most ridiculous result occurred in the Mining and Pastoral region, where Daylight Saving were able to win a seat on just 98 first preference votes and 0.2% of the statewide vote. This occurred owing to both GTV and malapportionment. Every one of WA’s six regions elects six members, even though the Agricultural region has just 6% of enrolled voters and the Mining and Pastoral region 4%.

ABC election analyst Antony Green’s final lower house two party estimate is that Labor won by an Australian record for any state or territory of 69.7% to 30.3%, a 14.1% swing to Labor from what was already a thumping 2017 victory.The Conversation

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

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