Coalition position worsens in Newspoll to trail 46-54%


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

The government has lost further ground in Newspoll, now trailing Labor 46-54% in two-party terms, in the wake of the crisis over citizenship.

This is the 18th consecutive Newspoll in which the government has been behind. The two-party fall comes after several polls in which the Coalition trailed 47-53%.

The early part of the poll fortnight was dominated by the issue of the postal vote on same-sex marriage. Then the declaration of Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce that he had been informed he was a New Zealand citizen began a horror week for the government which ended with Fiona Nash, the deputy Nationals leader, announcing she had British citizenship.

Labor increased its primary vote by two points to 38%, while the Coalition fell one point to 35%. One Nation rose one point to 9%, equal with the Greens, who lost two points over the fortnight.

Malcolm Turnbull’s net satisfaction rating has plunged from minus 12 to minus 20 in the poll, published in Monday’s Australian. Bill Shorten’s net satisfaction also took a hit, deteriorating from minus 15 to minus 20.

Turnbull still has a significant lead as better prime minister – 43-33% – although the gap narrowed from the previous 46-31%.

The poll contains encouraging news for the “yes” case in the postal ballot, with 63% saying they would vote yes to the plebiscite question, compared with 30% who would vote no. More than two-thirds of people (67%) said they definitely intended to vote; another 15% said they probably would.

Nearly half (49%) said they were in favour of the postal plebiscite while 43% were opposed.

Asked whether parliament should provide guarantees in law for freedom of conscience, belief and religion if it legislated for same-sex marriage, 62% said yes and 18% said no.

The support for same sex marriage is strongest among younger voters, with 70% of those aged 18-34 in favour. It is lowest among those aged over 65, with only 49% supporting it.

The ConversationThe poll was of 1,675 people and taken between Thursday and Sunday.

https://www.podbean.com/media/player/8ppnw-6fcd65?from=site&skin=1&share=1&fonts=Helvetica&auto=0&download=0

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Newspoll 53-47 to Labor, but Turnbull’s ratings jump


Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

This week’s Newspoll, conducted 3-6 August from a sample of 1640, gave Labor its sixth consecutive 53-47 lead. Primary votes were 36% Coalition (steady since last fortnight), 36% Labor (down 1), 11% Greens (up 2) and 8% One Nation (down 1). This is the Coalition’s 17th consecutive Newspoll loss under Turnbull; Abbott lost 30 in a row before he was ousted.

38% were satisfied with Turnbull’s performance (up 4) and 50% were dissatisfied (down 4), for a net approval of -12, up eight points. According to Kevin Bonham, this is Turnbull’s best net approval since the 2016 election. Shorten’s net approval was up five points to -15, his best since November 2016.

Turnbull’s ratings jump is likely to be related to the recent terrorist incident where an attempted bombing of an aeroplane was thwarted. If Turnbull’s ratings improvement is a polling blip, Labor should not worry. However, a sustained rise in Turnbull’s ratings would probably lead to better voting intentions for the Coalition.

It appears that the Greens have had 9-10% support in all Newspolls since May 2016. This Newspoll is the first time since then that the Greens have broken out of that range, despite a shocking July. This Newspoll has One Nation’s lowest vote since February.

Some people who support One Nation and similar global parties do so from the left, in an attempt to shake up the established order. As the appeal of populist right parties has faded closer to the election, left-wing parties have surprisingly benefited. At the March WA election, the Greens and Labor overperformed and One Nation underperformed final polls. At the June UK election, Labour overperformed and the UK Independence Party underperformed.

Despite being told that high-income earners paid 50% of all income taxes, voters thought by 61-29 that the tax burden did not fall too heavily on high-income earners. By 57-29, voters thought there were not enough incentives in the tax system for those who want to work hard to earn more. 43% both favoured and opposed Labor’s policy to increase the top marginal tax rate from 47.5% to 49.5%.

Essential at 54-46 to Labor, plus Federal Queensland Galaxy and YouGov

In this week’s Essential, Labor held a 54-46 lead, a two point gain for Labor since last week and a one point gain since last fortnight. Primary votes were 39% Labor, 37% Coalition, 9% Greens, 8% One Nation and 3% Nick Xenophon Team. Labor’s primary vote is up three since last week, and its highest in Essential since April 2016.

Essential uses a two-week rolling average, with a total sample of 1805. The Poll Bludger has said that the one-week sample last fortnight was pro-Coalition, and this has been replaced by a pro-Labor sample, causing the big shift. Additional questions are based on one week’s sample.

In agreement with Newspoll, both leaders gained on net approval since July, with Turnbull up four points to -8 and Shorten up one point to -7.

On resolving same sex marriage, voters favoured a voluntary postal plebiscite followed by a parliamentary vote 43-38. A parliamentary vote with attempts to persuade Liberal members to cross the floor was favoured 43-31. A plebiscite held with the next election was favoured 46-34. Delaying a decision until after the next election was opposed 55-22.

39% thought current industrial laws favoured employers, 12% employees and 29% thought they balanced the interests of both. By 41-30, voters approved of Labor’s proposal to tax family trusts at a 30% rate. 28% thought the Coalition government had increased school funding, 22% decreased and 22% thought school funding had not been changed much.

From the same sample that produced Sunday’s 51-49 result to state Queensland Labor, the Federal Queensland Galaxy poll is 51-49 to the Coalition, a one point gain for the Coalition since late April. Primary votes are 37% Coalition (up 2), 32% Labor (down 1), 12% One Nation (down 3), 7% Greens (steady) and a surprisingly strong 6% for Cory Bernardi’s Conservatives. By 48-35, Queenslanders opposed an Australian republic.

The fortnightly Australian YouGov, conducted 3-7 August from a sample of 1005, had a 50-50 tie by respondent allocated preferences, unchanged on last fortnight. Primary votes were 34% Coalition (down 2), 32% Labor (down 1), 11% Greens (up 1) and 9% One Nation (up 1). Primary votes are very different from Essential and Newspoll, with YouGov’s lean to the Coalition continuing.

Section 44 potential disqualifications

Since two Greens were disqualified in late July, questions have been raised about the Constitutional eligibility of LNP Senator Matt Canavan, One Nation Senator Malcolm Roberts, Labor House member Justine Keay, Greens Senator Nick McKim and Liberal House member Julia Banks.

These eligibility questions are covered in detail by Kevin Bonham. It appears that Canavan and Roberts are in the most trouble. Canavan’s story that his mother took out Italian citizenship on his behalf in 2005 when Canavan was 25, and that he never knew, is difficult to believe, especially as Italian voting forms were sent to his mother’s address.

Roberts has claimed he emailed the British consulate on 6 June 2016, three days before nominations for the 2 July election closed, advising that if he was a British citizen, he renounced it. After further correspondence, his citizenship was renounced in December 2016. As Roberts is an extreme climate change denier who demands empirical evidence, what he says may not be credible. Even if what he says is true, the High Court may not think he took “reasonable steps” to renounce before the election.

Less than two months before election, NZ Labour leader resigns

The next New Zealand election will be held on 23 September. NZ elects its 120 members effectively using proportional representation with a 5% threshold. The current conservative National government has held office since 2008. Labour was soundly beaten in 2008, and their vote declined further at the 2011 and 2014 elections; they won just 25.1% in 2014.

The ConversationOn 1 August, following the release of two dreadful polls that gave Labour just 24%, Labour leader Andrew Little resigned, and was replaced by Jacinda Ardern, who was unanimously elected by the Labour caucus. Ardern appears to be a genuine progressive, and she will appeal to the Greens.

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

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Government calls for release of costings as Labor unveils trusts crackdown



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Bill Shorten says Labor’s targeting of trusts is about delivering a level playing field in tax.
AAP/Sam Mooy

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Labor has taken another step to put tax and fairness at the centre of its policy agenda by proposing a crackdown on discretionary trusts, which it claims would raise A$4.1 billion over the forward estimates and $17.2 billion over a decade.

A Labor government would apply a minimum 30% rate of tax on discretionary tax distributions to beneficiaries over 18 years old. According to the Parliamentary Budget Office, the change will affect 318,000 discretionary trusts.

The policy would not apply to farm, charitable and philanthropic trusts. Also unaffected would be non-discretionary special disability trusts, deceased estates trusts, fixed trusts, cash management unit trusts, fixed unit trusts, and listed and unlisted public unit trusts.

Announcing the crackdown, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said it was about delivering a level playing field in tax, “so high-income earners can’t opt out of paying income tax”.

“Tradies and retail workers and mechanics and cleaners don’t get to choose how much tax they pay – and neither should anyone else,” he said.

With the government claiming the change would hit small business, Labor insists “small business will continue to enjoy asset protections”.

The trusts policy comes on top of Labor’s commitment to tighten negative gearing and capital gains tax concessions and to reimpose the deficit levy on high-income earners, among other measures.

The opposition has yet to announce what it will do about the already-legislated tax relief – being phased in – for businesses with turnovers of up to $50 million. It is expected a Labor government would want to retain that only for smaller businesses.

The ALP policy document points out that wealthy people are much more likely to have a trust than those with lesser incomes. The average amount in private trusts by the wealthiest 20% of households is more than $123,000, compared with $4,000 for the next quintile.

Discretionary trusts are used by individuals and businesses to reduce their tax by shifting income to those in a lower tax bracket. “This practice of ‘income splitting’ through discretionary trusts is used frequently by wealthy Australians to minimise their tax,” the policy says.

“Income splitting allows high-income Australians to avoid paying the marginal tax rate that should apply to their income level – something ordinary PAYG taxpayers can’t do,” it says.

The policy gives the example of a surgeon, “Sam”, with a non-working wife “Melissa”, and two non-working adult children. The surgeon earns $500,000 from his work income, and pays PAYG tax at the top marginal rate.

In the example, the couple has a discretionary trust which produces $54,000 from their investments. They attribute $18,000 each to the wife and children, who all pay no tax because their incomes are under the tax-free threshold. “This represents a tax saving of $14,460 had the investment income been attributed to just Sam and Melissa in equal proportions, and a tax saving of $25,380 had the investment income instead been part of Sam’s normal PAYG salary.”

The number of discretionary trusts has nearly doubled since the late 1990s to more than 642,000. The increase in non-discretionary trusts – without the same tax minimisation opportunities – has been much lower. In 2014-15, more than $590 billion of assets were in discretionary trusts.

13% of individuals in the lowest-income tax bracket receive distribution from a discretionary trust. This is much greater than for those on higher incomes.

“This indicates that a significant amount of income is being shifted from the wealthiest individuals to those earning little or no other incomes (for example, non-working members of the family such as spouses and young adults in full-time study) to reduce the amount of tax paid,” the policy says.

Labor says the proposed 30% rate “strikes the right balance between ensuring a fair amount of tax is paid on all trust distributions, while also aligning it with the rate for passive investment companies which also face a 30% rate of tax”.

Labor stresses the reforms “will not affect 98% of all individual taxpayers in Australia, with virtually all the revenue raised from people receiving trust distributions who have little or no other work income”.

Asked why farmers were being exempted, Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen said they had “issues when it comes to lumpy income and various issues relating to agriculture”.

Michael Sukkar, the assistant minister to the treasurer, called for Shorten to release the full Parliamentary Budget Office costing, including the assumptions Labor had used to come up with the revenue being claimed.

The Conversation“Australians know that Bill Shorten cannot be trusted. This also goes for his latest $17 billion tax-grab that will once again hit small business and their families,” Sukkar said.

https://www.podbean.com/media/player/axx2w-6d8662?from=site&skin=1&share=1&fonts=Helvetica&auto=0&download=0

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Shorten pledges republic vote in first term



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Bill Shorten will seek to elevate the issue of a republic by pledging.
a policy for quick action.
Julian Smith/AAP

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

A Shorten government would ask voters in its first term whether they supported Australia becoming a republic.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, addressing the Australian Republic Movement’s dinner on Saturday, will seek to elevate the issue by pledging
that “by the end of our first term, we will put a simple, straightforward question to the people of Australia: Do you support an Australian republic with an Australian head of state?

“If the yes vote prevails – and I’m optimistic it will – then we can consider how that head of state is chosen.”

He will say that in a Labor government a minister would be given direct responsibility for advancing the debate.

The Shorten policy for quick action on a republic contrasts with Malcolm Turnbull’s position, which is that the public will not want the issue back on the agenda until after the Queen’s reign ends.

Labor’s two-stage process – with the first stage a general plebiscite question about wanting a republic, followed by a referendum which would incorporate a model – is designed to maximise the chances of support.

But the issue of the model and the requirements of a referendum – which needs an overall majority and a majority of states to pass – would still remain the difficult hurdle.

The 1999 unsuccessful referendum proposed the president of the republic be chosen by parliament, but it is likely that these days people would want a directly elected president – a model that raises more issues.

Shorten will say in his speech: “We cannot risk being caught in a referendum like the last one, where Australians were given one vote to settle two questions. When a lot of people voted ‘no’ because of the model, not because of the republic.

“The first, clear question we ask the people should be whether we want an Australian head of state. And the debate should be about why. About our sense of Australia, our history and above all, our future.”

In London recently Malcolm Turnbull declared himself an “Elizabethan”. In contrast, Shorten will say: “I have tremendous regard for the Queen and her service. But I am not an Elizabethan. I’m a Victorian. I’m an Australian.”

He will say he is confident that if Australia became a republic, “Queen Elizabeth would farewell us with the same affection and good grace she has shown every time a Commonwealth nation has made the decision to cut its ties with the monarchy.

“We can vote for a republic and still respect Queen Elizabeth.”

Shorten will acknowledge that the republic issue “isn’t front of mind of everyone, but I don’t buy the argument that we can’t have this debate until every other problem in the nation has been solved.

“In these fractious times, governments age quickly and lead short lives.

The Conversation“It’s no good hoping for a popular groundswell – we must set a direction and bring people with us, and we have to do it early.”

https://www.podbean.com/media/player/axx2w-6d8662?from=site&skin=1&share=1&fonts=Helvetica&auto=0&download=0

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

There’s far more to the fair go than just economics


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We need to consider whether values are the basis of beliefs about inequality.
Shutterstock

Eva Cox, University of Technology Sydney

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has often argued that inequality in Australia is the worst it has been in 75 years.

Leaving aside whether that is or isn’t correct, there is a bigger, more pertinent political question: is it inequality itself, or the perception of inequality, that fuels so much of the contemporary mistrust of politicians and political systems?

The growing legitimacy of inequality is a serious problem, even among market advocates like the IMF and World Bank, which seek to confine the fix to more equitable distributions of wealth. They fail to recognise the strong possibility that the push on inequality comes from wider perceptions that the system is so unfair it creates distrust of those in power and their main alternatives, so the damage is social rather than material.

Commentator Ross Gittins has argued that the collapse of the “neoliberal consensus” is as apparent in Australia as it is in Donald Trump’s America and Brexit-ing Britain. Yet the data here do not reveal the serious poverty it brings with it.

The local focus on inequality has very much been more on tax rorts and the presumed sins of the rich than on the poor, either on or off welfare. This looks to be the basis of Shorten’s next policy bid for power, which he promises to release via inequality policies at the New South Wales ALP conference this weekend.

Shorten’s targeting of the voters’ desire for the “fair go” by claiming inequality in Australia creates a “sense of powerlessness that drives people away from the mainstream so creating a fault line in politics”.

His emphasis on the wider effects of inequality suggests he recognises it as a symptom of wider issues, rather than a single economic cause of problems. However, if his proposals are primarily focused on increasing tax takes, he is not tackling the wider damage, such as system distrust, that is widely evident.

He is not alone in this limitation; it dominated the debates on his proposals. The immediate responses from Treasurer Scott Morrison and several economic commentators disputed whether the Gini coefficient (a measure of how wealth is distributed in a society) supported the claims of rising inequalities. They ignored the many other indicators, such as that workers’ share of income is at its lowest level in a half-a-century.

The complex data shown in The Conversation’s factcheck come down mainly on Shorten’s side. These varied sources show the problem of defining what counts as inequality. Are voters very aware of income differentials? Or do most judge inequality by tightening budgets and everyday hardships such as rising utility bills?

It is in fact these perceptions of wider inequality as unfairness that affects how we relate to those in power. These are toxic effects that need to be fixed, not just through adjusting tax or individual payments.

There is considerable evidence that inequality is increasing and, importantly, that it is affecting the views of possible voters. The long-running Australian Election Study in 2016 found voters showed both increased distrust of politicians, and income concerns. More than half – 55% – supported incomes being redistributed versus 19% who did not. There have been other recent polls that show the lack of trust of the mainstream parties.

Who do you trust? Increasingly the answer seems to be: nobody.

After a year when voters worldwide thumbed their noses at mainstream politics and the elite, a landmark annual survey has found trust in major institutions is eroding at a rapid rate. And the effect is particularly pronounced in Australia.

The 2017 Trust Barometer by Edelman, the world’s largest PR outfit, has documented an “implosion of trust”. It found that Australians believe their entire political system is failing and they harbour deep fears of immigration, globalisation and changing values.

We need to consider whether values are the basis of beliefs about inequality. My thesaurus offers eight synonyms of the word: four simply describe it, while four signal negative feelings and perceptions: discrimination, unfairness, inequity, disproportion. None expresses inequality as a material or monetary difference. This indicates how often inequality connects with growing distrust of mainstream parties.

So is inequality a significant but limited indicator of wider issues that need attentions? The current special issue of Australian Quarterly features articles on this topic. The journal’s opening remarks state:

Inequality is arguably the catch-cry of our times, but, when you pick it apart, what does it actually look like in the Australian context? Is it economic, is it political; is it tax breaks for big business, or the everyday homelessness of our capital cities; is it the rot crumbling the sanctified pillar of the ‘fair go’, or has it become a convenient catch-all so broad as to be meaningless?

The ConversationIf this is so, the question will be whether Shorten’s policy options stay within the narrow confines of fairer taxes. If they do, it may be too simply economic to interest voters – unless he creates a broader vision of a trustworthy (fairer) Australia.

Eva Cox, Professorial Fellow, Jumbunna IHL, University of Technology Sydney

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Newspoll 53-47 to Labor, but respondent preferences better for Coalition


Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

This week’s Newspoll, conducted Thursday to Sunday from a sample of 1680, gave Labor its fifth consecutive 53-47 lead. Primary votes were 37% Labor (up 1 since last fortnight’s Newspoll), 36% Coalition (up 1), 9% Greens (down 1) and 9% One Nation (down 2). This is the Coalition’s 16th consecutive Newspoll loss with Turnbull as PM.

34% were satisfied with Turnbull’s performance (up 2) and 54% were dissatisfied (down 2), for a net approval of -20, up four points. Shorten’s net approval was unchanged at -20.

The biggest political news last week was Peter Dutton’s appointment to head the new home affairs “super ministry”. Turnbull’s ratings and the Coalition’s primary vote may have improved as a result of the hard right’s approval of Dutton. Progressives detest Dutton, but people who do not follow politics are unlikely to have formed an opinion of Dutton yet. Turnbull has already lost politically engaged progressives.

Essential this week found strong approval of the new super ministry, but concern that Dutton was responsible for the various security services.

The Greens have lost one point, but can consider themselves fortunate not to have lost more after a shocking five days in which Scott Ludlam and Larissa Waters resigned from the Senate after finding they had unwittingly violated Section 44 of the Constitution.

Resources minister Matt Canavan today became the latest victim of the dual citizenship fiasco. He has resigned from Cabinet, but not yet from the Senate, after finding he has Italian citizenship. If the courts rule him out, Canavan will be replaced by Joanna Lindgren, the No. 6 on the Queensland LNP ticket.

While Labor has comfortably led in all Newspolls since the beginning of the year, Newspoll uses the previous election method to distribute preferences. Respondent allocated polling from ReachTEL shows a reduction in Labor’s lead. It is likely that most hard right voters who have deserted the Coalition will return after preferences.

At the 2016 election, One Nation preferences split nearly 50-50 between the major parties. As some of the hard right has defected to One Nation, its preferences will probably be more favourable to the Coalition at the next election, provided that Turnbull is still PM.

This week’s additional Newspoll questions concerned Tony Abbott. By 58-23, voters thought Turnbull had the best leadership credentials compared with Abbott. Coalition voters backed Turnbull by 69-23, with Abbott ahead 44-34 only with One Nation voters.

48% thought Abbott should remain a backbencher and shut up, 23% thought he should be given a senior Cabinet position, and 17% thought Abbott should remain a backbencher but not shut up.

ReachTEL: 51-49 to Labor

A Sky News ReachTEL poll, conducted 19 July from a sample presumably about 2300, gave Labor a narrow 51-49 lead, a one point gain for the Coalition since the previous Sky News ReachTEL, in late June.

The primary vote figures included 9% “undecided”, but ReachTEL asks these people which way they are leaning. However, the preferences of these leaners were not included. If these 9% undecided are excluded, primary votes are 37% Labor, 36% Coalition, 12% One Nation and 9% Greens. Applying 2016 preference flows would give a 53-47 Labor lead. The Coalition is benefiting from respondent allocated preferences, hence the narrower headline Labor lead.

Turnbull led Shorten by 54.5-45.5 as preferred PM, up from 54-46. Better PM polling without a forced choice favours incumbents, and a forced choice usually gives opposition leaders a better result.

In other findings, 75% favoured renewable energy over coal. 56% nominated power and gas prices as the biggest cost of living expenses, with other expenses at 16% or below. 47% supported a Constitutional change to create an indigenous advisory body, with 29% opposed.

Essential: 53-47 to Labor

This week’s Essential had the Coalition regaining the point they lost a fortnight ago, for a 53-47 Labor lead. Primary votes were 38% Coalition, 37% Labor, 10% Greens, 7% One Nation and 4% Nick Xenophon Team; the Coalition has gained two points since last fortnight. Essential used a two-week sample of 1800; additional questions are based on one week’s sample.

56% approved of the new national security ministry, and just 18% disapproved. 45% thought it would strengthen Australia’s national security, 28% thought it would make little difference and just 8% thought our national security would be weakened. 45% were concerned that Dutton would have responsibility for the various security services, and 35% were not concerned.

By 64-10, voters supported a clean energy target, requiring a set percentage of energy to be generated from clean sources. By 54-15, voters supported an emissions intensity scheme, where pollution over a certain level is taxed.

40% said they were connected to the National Broadband Network either at home or work. Of those who had an NBN connection, 48% thought it was better than their previous Internet service, and 22% thought it was worse.

Tasmanian ReachTEL: 43.0% Liberal, 32.9% Labor, 13.4% Greens

A Taxmanian ReachTEL poll, conducted 21 July from a sample of 2820, gave the Liberals 43.0% (down 8.2 points since the 2014 election), Labor 32.9% (up 5.6) and the Greens 13.4% (down 0.4). The next Tasmanian election is likely to be held in March 2018.

Tasmania uses the Hare Clark system with five 5-member electorates. In 2014 the Liberals won 15 of the 25 seats, to 7 for Labor and 3 for the Greens. The Liberals won 4 seats in Braddon, 2 in Denison and 3 in Bass, Franklin and Lyons. On current polling, the Liberals are likely to lose a seat in both Braddon and Franklin, and the final seat in Lyons will decide whether the Liberals cling to a majority.

After adjustment for bias towards the Greens and against Labor, Kevin Bonham interprets this poll as 43.0% Liberal, 36.7% Labor and 10.7% Greens. If the adjusted figures are replicated in Lyons, there would be a three-way race between the Liberals, Greens and Labor for the final seat.

The ConversationOverall, Bonham thinks the most likely outcome using this poll is 12 Liberals, 10 Labor, 3 Greens, but his Tasmanian poll aggregate has the Liberals ahead in Lyons, and thus more likely to win a majority.

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

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Abbott scores big win on party reform as Coalition continues to trail in Newspoll


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Tony Abbott’s ‘Warringah motion’ for party reform was passed by 748 votes to 476.
Daniel Munoz/AAP

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

The Abbott forces are seeking to drive home their sweeping Sunday victory in winning rank-and-file endorsement for reforming the New South Wales Liberal Party by putting a three-month deadline on the changes being ratified.

A special convention of party members voted overwhelmingly for motions from the former prime minister’s Warringah federal electorate conference (FEC) backing plebiscites for preselecting all candidates and direct election by the party members of those who run the party organisation.

This comes as the latest Newspoll, published in The Australian, shows the Coalition continuing to trail Labor 47-53% in two-party terms. This is the 16th consecutive Newspoll in which the government has been behind.

The Coalition’s primary vote rose one point to 36%, while Labor also rose one point, to 37%. One Nation slipped from 11% to 9%; the Greens fell from 10% to 9% since the last poll a fortnight ago.

Malcolm Turnbull’s net satisfaction improved four points to minus 20; Bill Shorten’s net satisfaction was static on minus 20. Turnbull widened his lead as better prime minister from eight points to 11 points.

At the convention of NSW Liberal Party members, the plebiscite motion was passed by 748 votes to 476, and the accompanying motion by a two-to-one margin.

The endorsement of the “Warringah” model is a huge challenge to the factional grip of the state division held by the moderates and soft right.

The changes would likely see the division move to the right, in line with the political colour of its rank-and-file, and make it harder for moderates to win preselections.

But the reforms have to be approved by the state council before they take effect. Given the majorities on the key votes were so decisive, and backing crossed factional lines, it would be hard for the current powerbrokers to resist the general thrust. But there could be a struggle ahead over timing and detail.

Walter Villatora, president of the Warringah FEC, said after the two-day meeting: “These reforms now need to be ratified, which I expect will happen within three months.”

“Somewhere up above in Liberal Party heaven Robert Menzies is looking down and smiling. The party membership have clearly spoken. The era of brutal factionalism is over,” he said. “The NSW Liberal Party is now the most democratic division in Australia.”

But a statement by state president Kent Johns suggested there would not be any rush. “The convention result reflected the members’ desire to reform some of our organisation’s internal processes, and serves as a clear demonstration of participation by our membership,” he said.

“Members showed their support for introducing a plebiscite model to ensure that the NSW Liberal Party continues to preselect the best candidates …

“Discussions at the convention will inform the development of the party’s modernisation plan, which will be prepared by me and the state director, Chris Stone. Constitutional amendments will be prepared over the coming months by our constitutional committee, and proceed to the party’s governing body – state council.”

Turnbull positioned himself carefully in his address to the convention on Saturday so as not to be caught in the firing line if the Abbott push won.

He stressed his support for plebiscites, saying every member should have a say in selecting candidates. It was widely believed, however, that he would have preferred a more circumscribed model.

But the convention voted down or didn’t reach motions attempting to impose some restrictions. These included having a longer eligibility period and an “activity test” before members could vote, and the grandfathering of electorates with sitting members.

In the Warringah model the only condition on party members voting in the plebiscites would be that they must have been a member for two years.

The present preselection system has candidates chosen by panels comprising local delegates and non-local members.

Neither Turnbull nor premier Gladys Berejiklian were at the convention when the vote was taken.

Later a spokeswoman for Turnbull said that as the prime minister had said at the convention: “He has long supported that all Liberal Party members have a direct say in preselections. The PM wants to ensure that every member of the party knows that their voice is heard and respected.

“The PM made it clear yesterday that plebiscites for preselections are a good idea, but hardly a new one. Every other Liberal party division has adopted them,” she said.

Abbott emailed members in his electorate: “This is a great advance for our party – and it would not have happened without the hard work of the Warringah conference led by our president, Walter Villatora.

“There’s more to do, of course. Democratisation now has to run the gauntlet of state council; but this is potentially a wonderful new start for our party. A revitalised, less factionalised party will be really important to winning the next election.

The Conversation“This is a big ‘thank you’ to all Warringah Liberals. Let’s now do our best to build on this success.”

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Shorten and Turnbull to talk on four-year terms



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The prime minister’s office denied suggestions that Malcolm Turnbull had given support to Bill Shorten’s proposal for four-year terms.
Paul Miller/AAP

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has called for a pre-election agreement between government and opposition that whichever side wins will hold a referendum for fixed four-year terms.

Soon after Shorten, interviewed on the ABC’s Insiders, put up his proposal on Sunday morning, Malcolm Turnbull rang him on various matters.

The prime minister’s office said that Turnbull had said he was interested in talking with Shorten about four-year terms, while noting there were a lot of complications.

But it denied suggestions Turnbull had given to bipartisan support to Shorten’s proposal. Labor insists it did not suggest that Turnbull had given bipartisan support.

To pass, a referendum would have to get majority support, plus a majority in four of six states.

History shows the difficulty of passing referendums; the prospects are considered hopeless without bipartisan support. Currently there is bipartisan backing for a referendum on Indigenous recognition but this has been delayed and derailed.

The present federal term is three years, with the prime minister having discretion on when to call the election. Shorten said the federal political system seemed “out of whack in that everything is so short term”, with the average term being two-and-a-half years rather than three.

“We need both Labor and Liberal to co-operate on four-year terms,” Shorten said. “Governments can be more daring and more determined if they’re not constantly thinking about the next election,” he said. “What this country needs is long-term policymaking.”

He would be prepared to come to an agreement with Turnbull that whoever won the election, the government and opposition would put an agreed change to the Constitution for four-year terms to the people.

On the tricky question of the Senate terms, which are six years at present, he said that could be worked out if there was agreement on four-year terms.

“It shouldn’t be a deal-killer in my opinion,” he said.

While four-year terms have substantial backing in the business community and elsewhere and operate at state level – Queensland last year passed a referendum for a four-year term – dealing with Senate terms is a central problem in winning support.

Eight-year Senate terms would not be publicly acceptable, and a move to four-year Senate terms, with all senators facing the people at each election, would be unlikely to be embraced by the Coalition.

The ConversationIn 2002, Turnbull backed longer terms while saying the real issue was getting bipartisan support. When opposition leader in 2008, he said the then NSW Labor premier, Nathan Rees, was “exhibit A in the case against fixed four-year terms”.

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Turnbull loses 15th successive Newspoll, 53-47. UK Labour doubles support in YouGov since April


Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

This week’s Newspoll, conducted 6-9 July from a sample of 1600, gave Labor its fourth consecutive 53-47 lead. Primary votes were 36% Labor (down 1 from three weeks ago), 35% Coalition (down 1), 11% One Nation (steady) and 10% Greens (up 1). Primary vote shifts suggests some movement to Labor after preferences, but not enough to change the headline figure.

32% were satisfied with Turnbull’s performance (steady) and 56% were dissatisfied (up 1), for a net approval of -24. Shorten’s net approval was -20, up three points.

Over the last three months, Turnbull has been more centrist, alienating the right wing of his party. Since Newspoll uses the previous election’s results for its preference flows, it may be overstating Labor’s lead. As I wrote here, respondent allocated polling from ReachTEL and YouGov implies that the hard right voters who have left the Coalition will return after preferences.

This is the 15th consecutive Newspoll loss for the Coalition under Turnbull, so he is halfway to Tony Abbott’s 30 successive losses when he was dumped. If the string of Newspoll losses continues, Turnbull is likely to be dumped before the end of the year.

If Turnbull is replaced by a more right-wing Liberal leader before the next election, hard right voters would return to the Coalition, but they would lose some centrist voters, and preferences would probably be more favourable to Labor.

Since the dispute between NSW Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon and the rest of her parliamentary party, the Greens have gained a point in both Newspoll and Essential. The Greens could be attracting some Labor voters who would prefer a genuine socialist.

In an additional Newspoll question, 46% favoured a plebiscite to resolve the same sex marriage issue, and 39% favoured a parliamentary vote. The results have been compared with a September 2016 poll (48-39 in favour of the parliamentary vote). However, this comparison is misleading since the previous poll asked about a plebiscite in February 2017, which some might object to even if they supported a plebiscite.

Kevin Bonham has written about the large differences between the pollsters on whether same sex marriage should be decided by a plebiscite or a parliamentary vote. He concludes that all polling on this issue has problems.

According to Kevin Bonham, this year there have been six 3-week breaks between Newspolls, and two 2-week breaks. In previous years that did not have an election, Newspoll was usually published once a fortnight. In general, there has been a pullback in media-commissioned polling this year, with just two Fairfax Ipsos polls and one Channel 7 ReachTEL, although two Sky News ReachTELs have been released.

Essential at 54-46 to Labor

In this week’s Essential, Labor led by 54-46, a one point gain for Labor since last week and a two point gain since last fortnight. Primary votes were 36% Labor, 36% Coalition, 11% Greens, 7% One Nation and 3% Nick Xenophon Team; the Coalition has lost three points since last fortnight. Essential used a two-week sample of 1830, with additional questions based on one week.

Turnbull’s net approval was -12, down three points since June. Shorten’s net approval was -8, up one point.

64% had at least some trust in security agencies to store personal data, while 32% had little or no trust. For the government, this was 52-43 in favour of little trust, and for telecommunications companies 67-29.

ReachTEL polls of ministers’ seats

The left-wing Australia Institute commissioned ReachTEL polls of seven Federal ministers’ seats on 8 June, with samples of 620-700 per seat. Results and swings from the last election can be seen on GhostWhoVotes’ Twitter feed.

Overall, these are good results for Labor with 2-7 point swings against the government in five of the seven seats. The exceptions are Christopher Pyne’s Sturt (no swing) and Peter Dutton’s Dickson (a four point swing to the Coalition). Individual seat polling has been far less accurate than national or state polling at recent elections.

In seats where One Nation had a high vote, respondent allocated preferences favoured the Coalition. In Scott Morrison’s Cook (One Nation at 18%), minor party preferences favoured Morrison 64-36. In Dickson, One Nation had 15.7% and minor party preferences favoured Labor by just 52-48 despite the Greens holding 10.5%.

In April, UK Labour had 23%, now they have 46% according to YouGov

In mid-April, just before PM Theresa May called the 8 June election, the Conservatives led Labour by 44-23 in YouGov. After the election was announced, the Conservative lead stretched to 48-24.

A YouGov poll taken last week gave Labour a 46-38 lead, representing a doubling of Labour’s vote share since April. Labour’s 46% share is its highest in YouGov’s history, which started its voting intention surveys in 2003.

The ConversationOther polls are not so strong for Labour as YouGov, but Labour has led in most polls conducted since the election. By being reduced to a minority government, the Conservatives have lost much authority, and their deal with the Democratic Unionist Party will not go down well with the UK outside Northern Ireland. Divisions within the Conservatives over austerity and Brexit are unlikely to help.

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

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Explainer: is a High Court challenge about to bring down the Turnbull government?



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Labor will argue David Gillespie ineligible to be an MP based on Section 44(v) of the Constitution.
AAP/Mick Tsikas

Lorraine Finlay, Murdoch University

Labor is set to launch a High Court challenge over the eligibility of Assistant Health Minister David Gillespie to sit in federal parliament. The case has been brought by Peter Alley, the ALP candidate who ran against Gillespie in Lyne at the 2016 federal election.

The action is based on Gillespie, a Nationals MP, owning a small shopping centre in Port Macquarie that contains an Australian Post outlet. As Australia Post is a government-owned corporation, Labor claims this results in Gillespie having an indirect pecuniary interest contrary to Section 44(v) of the Constitution.

If the High Court agrees, Gillespie would be ineligible to sit as an MP.

What does the Constitution say?

Section 44 of the Constitution sets out several grounds of disqualification from holding parliamentary office.

Under Section 44(v), someone “shall be incapable of being chosen or of sitting as a senator or a member of the House of Representatives” if they have:

… any direct or indirect pecuniary interest in any agreement with the Public Service of the Commonwealth otherwise than as a member and in common with the other members of an incorporated company consisting of more than 25 persons.

Before this year, the High Court had only considered this section on one occasion, in 1975.

In that case, Chief Justice Garfield Barwick took an extremely narrow interpretation of the provision, based on a finding that its historic purpose was to protect parliament’s freedom and independence from the influence of the Crown.

An “indirect pecuniary influence” would only be disqualifying where it involved a legal or equitable interest in a contract with ongoing obligations, and where the possibility of financial gain by the agreement’s existence or performance could conceivably allow the Crown to influence an MP in relation to parliamentary affairs.

Under this narrow interpretation – which had been subject to considerable criticism – Gillespie would not be considered ineligible based on his interest in the shopping centre.

The Bob Day case

The High Court revisited the meaning of “indirect pecuniary interest” in April this year. It unanimously held that former Family First Senator Bob Day had an “indirect pecuniary interest” at the time of the 2016 federal election, and was therefore ineligible to be a senator.

Day had already resigned from the Senate before this ruling. But the High Court’s decision was significant for two key reasons.

  • The first was its immediate importance in deciding how a replacement senator was to be selected.

  • The second, which will now be critical when considering Gillespie’s future, was its reconsideration of what constitutes an “indirect pecuniary interest” under Section 44(v).

The Day case concerned a lease agreement between the Commonwealth and Fullarton Investments Pty Ltd for premises Day used as his electorate office. There were a variety of ways in which Day was connected to both the company and property. However, a fact the court found to be particularly significant was that in February 2016, Fullarton Investments directed that rental payments be made into a Day-owned bank account.

The High Court declined to follow the 1975 precedent and adopted a broader interpretation of Section 44(v). Importantly, it found the section had a wider purpose than solely protecting parliament’s independence from executive influence. It was also intended as an anti-corruption provision, designed to protect against potential conflicts of interest by ensuring the public duties of MPs are kept separate from their personal interests.

Under this broader view, an individual would be disqualified where there was an expectation of financial gain if the agreement in question was performed. The court would look at the agreement’s practical effect when making this assessment.

High Court justice Patrick Keane observed:

It is enough that the person’s pockets were or might be affected.

However, it was noted there will be no relevant interest:

… if the agreement in question is one ordinarily made between government and a citizen.

The case against Gillespie

So, is Gillespie ineligible based upon this new, broader interpretation of Section 44(v)?

There is no question of a direct financial interest in this case. Rather, the information currently available suggest that a company owned by Gillespie and his wife leases space in a shopping centre it owns to an Australia Post licensee.

The possible financial interest in this case certainly seems to be more remote than in Day’s case. However, there is still sufficient uncertainty surrounding the outer limits of section 44(v) for this case to be of real concern to the Turnbull government.

What happens now?

If the High Court finds Gillespie is incapable of sitting as an MP under Section 44(v) there would necessarily be a by-election in Lyne.

Given the Turnbull government only has a one-seat majority, the immediate stakes are as high as they could possibly be.

There is also a broader issue worth considering. Gillespie is the third member of the 45th parliament – after Day and Rod Culleton – to have their constitutional eligibility challenged before the courts. In Day’s case, High Court Justice Stephen Gageler emphasised the importance of certainty in this area, so candidates and MPs know where they stand.

The ConversationGiven recent controversies, it would seem an opportune time to review Section 44 to make sure the disqualification provisions in our Constitution are clear, fair, and reflect voters’ real concerns.

Lorraine Finlay, Lecturer in Law, Murdoch University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.