Coalition gains Newspoll lead as Labor ahead in Eden-Monaro; Trump’s ratings recover



AAP/Mick Tsikas

Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

The latest Newspoll, conducted May 13-16 from a sample of 1,500, gave the Coalition a 51-49 lead, a one-point gain for the Coalition since the previous Newspoll, three weeks ago. Primary votes were 43% Coalition (up two), 35% Labor (down one), 10% Greens (down two) and 3% One Nation (down one). Newspoll figures are from The Australian.

Scott Morrison fell slightly from the best net approval for a PM since Kevin Rudd in 2009: 66% (down two) were satisfied with his performance, and 30% (up two) were dissatisfied, for a net approval of +36, down four points.

Anthony Albanese had a net approval of +7, down four points. Morrison led Albanese as better PM by 56-29 (56-28 previously).

In my previous Newspoll article, I wrote that it was abnormal to show a two party tie while the PM had a +40 net approval. While these measures are now in better agreement, there is still a large gap between the Coalition’s two party vote and what would be expected based on Morrison’s ratings.




Read more:
Labor gains in Newspoll despite Morrison’s continued approval surge; Trump’s ratings slide


A plausible explanation is that decisions on the coronavirus crisis are being made by the “national cabinet” that involves the premiers, three of which are Labor. As the section below shows, five of the six premiers beat Morrison’s +40 Newspoll net approval three weeks ago.

Involving the premiers in decision-making has made the decisions appear more bipartisan, and probably inhibited the Coalition’s voting intention gains.

In additional Newspoll questions, 72% were more concerned with moving too quickly to relax coronavirus restrictions, and just 24% were more concerned with moving too slowly.

Newspoll repeated coronavirus questions last asked six weeks ago. 78% were worried and 19% confident about the economic impact (84-14 worried previously). On preparedness of the public health system, it was 69-29 confident (57-41 worried previously). On public information, 80-18 confident (67-32 confident).

On these three issues, there was a solid rise in approval of federal and state governments’ management. On the economy, 60% were satisfied and 24% dissatisfied (47-33 satisfied previously). On the health system, 78-15 satisfied (59-28 satisfied previously). On public information, 82-13 satisfied (75-20 previously).

Premiers’ sky-high Newspoll ratings

The day after the April 27 federal Newspoll, approval ratings of the premiers were released. WA Labor Premier Mark McGowan had the highest ratings, with 89% satisfied and just 6% dissatisfied for a net approval of +83. This is likely a record high in any poll for any Australian prime minister or premier.

Tasmanian Liberal Premier Peter Gutwein was at 84% satisfied, 11% dissatisfied (net +73). Victorian Labor Premier Daniel Andrews was at 75% satisfied, 17% dissatisfied (net +58). NSW Liberal Premier Gladys Berejiklian had 69% satisfied and 23% dissatisfied (net +46). SA Liberal Premier Steven Marshall had 68% satisfied and 21% dissatisfied (net +47).

Queensland Labor Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, who faces an election in October, performed worst of the premiers with 55% satisfied and 39% dissatisfied (net +16).

Samples for these state Newspolls were about 520 for each mainland state, plus 309 in Tasmania. Figures from The Poll Bludger.

Eden-Monaro seat poll: 51-49 to Labor

After Labor member Mike Kelly’s resignation, a byelection will be required in Eden-Monaro on a date to be advised. In 2019, Kelly held Eden-Monaro by just a 50.9-49.1 margin. That narrow margin and Kelly’s absent personal vote gives the Liberals some chance of gaining Eden-Monaro at the by-election.

As reported by The Poll Bludger, a uComms robopoll of Eden-Monaro, conducted for the left-wing Australia Institute, gave Labor a 51.1-48.9 lead. Primary votes were 39.8% Labor, 34.3% Liberal, 7.3% National, 6.7% Greens and 6.5% One Nation. The poll did not give candidate names, just parties.

Seat polls are unreliable, and there is a long time to go until the byelection.

Trump’s ratings recover despite terrible jobs report

This section is an updated version of an article I wrote for The Poll Bludger, published on Friday.

In the FiveThirtyEight poll aggregate, Donald Trump’s ratings with all polls are 44.0% approve, 51.7% disapprove (net -7.7%). With polls of registered or likely voters, Trump’s ratings are 44.2% approve, 52.1% disapprove (net -7.9%). Since his lowest point of the coronavirus crisis, Trump has recovered about two points on net approval.

In the RealClearPolitics average of national polls, Joe Biden’s lead over Trump has fallen to 4.5%, down from 5.9% three weeks ago. There have been two recent polls of key swing states. Biden leads Trump by three points in a Wisconsin Marquette poll. The previous Marquette poll, in March, also had Biden leading by three. Biden leads Trump by six points in a recent Florida poll.

On May 12, byelections occurred in two federal House of Representatives seats. While the Republicans won by 57-43 in Wisconsin’s Seventh, this was positive for Democrats, as Trump won this district by over 20 points in 2016.

The Republicans’ win by a big 55-45 in California’s 25th is much worse for Democrats as the district voted for Hillary Clinton by almost seven points. This was the first gain of a Californian seat for Republicans since 1998. The 2016 presidential figures are from a Daily Kos downloadable spreadsheet.

During the 2016 campaign, whichever candidate drew the most attention would generally suffer in the polls. Clinton’s lead widened after Trump’s “grab em by the pussy”, but narrowed after her own “deplorables”, and when the FBI reopened its investigation into her emails.

Until recently, Trump was conducting daily coronavirus briefings. The media focus on these briefings may have contributed to his ratings slide. Recent media attention on Tara Reade’s sexual assault allegation against Biden from 1993 could have damaged him.

In the 2016 exit poll, those who disliked both Clinton and Trump voted for Trump by 17 points. CNN analyst Harry Enten says that in 2020, Biden is crushing with “double haters”, but Trump is crushing with those who do not dislike either candidate. In 2016, double haters were a larger portion of the electorate than now, while those who dislike neither candidate has grown.

There has been a recent decline in US coronavirus cases and deaths. If much of the economy can be reopened without a renewed surge in cases, that would be good news for Trump, enabling him to brag about a strong recovery before the November election. I cannot see Trump winning if the current terrible economic situation continues until the election.

A terrible US jobs report

The April jobs report was released on May 8. 20.5 million jobs were lost and the unemployment rate jumped 10.3% to 14.7%. That is the highest unemployment rate and the biggest one-month change in the history of this series. This data goes back to January 1948, so it does not include the Great Depression. The previous highs for unemployment were 10.8% in November 1982, and 10.0% in October 2009.

The employment population ratio – the percentage of eligible Americans that are employed – crashed 8.7% in April to just 51.3%, far lower than in the global financial crisis, during which the lowest employment ratio was 58.2% in June 2011. As the unemployment rate excludes those not participating in the workforce, I prefer the employment ratio as a summary statistic. In Australia’s April jobs report, the employment ratio was 59.6%, much higher than the US.

In January, before the current crisis, the US employment ratio was at 61.2%, the highest since November 2008.

The one positive in this jobs report was that hourly wages rose $US 1.34 to $US 30.01. But this was the result of so many low-income jobs being shed. The aggregate weekly payrolls (weekly wages times number employed) fell 10.9% in April.The Conversation

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

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

Let’s “SnapBack” to better society with more secure jobs: Anthony Albanese


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Anthony Albanese says Australia must use the pandemic experience to move to a more resilient society, creating more permanent jobs and revitalising high value manufacturing.

In his fifth “vision statement”, delivered against the background of the government foreshadowing an extensive post-crisis reform agenda, Albanese is giving a broad outline of Labor’s priorities for change.

The Monday speech, issued ahead of delivery, comes a day before parliament resumes for a three-day sitting expected to be more combative than the previous two one-day sittings. It also precedes Josh Frydenberg’s economic update on Tuesday – the day the treasurer was, pre-pandemic, due to deliver the budget, now delayed until October.




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Referring to the government’s “SnapBack” terminology, Albanese says: “Let’s not SnapBack to insecure work, to jobseekers stuck in poverty, to scientists being ignored.”

“It’s no time for a ‘SnapBack’ to the Liberal agenda of cutting services, suppressing wages and undermining job security.

“This pandemic has shown that Labor’s values of fairness and security and our belief in the power of government to shape change to the advantage of working people are the right ones.

“A constrained fiscal position does mean difficult choices. But a reform agenda that doesn’t work for all Australians isn’t one we should pursue”.

Albanese says Labor has been constructive during the crisis, not allowing “the perfect to be the enemy of the good”; he contrasts its approach with the Coalition’s negativity against the Labor government during the global financial crisis.

While Australians have been getting through the crisis together, it has been tougher for some than others, including those who have lost jobs and businesses, he says.

“Sharing the sacrifice to get through the crisis together has to mean working to secure a recovery in which no one is left behind.

“We have to be clear in recognising that those with the least, have suffered the most through this crisis – something that must change.

“It’s critical that we are still saying , ‘we’re all in this together’, after the lockdown has come to an end,” Albanese says.

“We must move forward to having not just survived the pandemic, but having learned from it.

“To secure a more resilient society, given just how quickly things can change, through no fault of anyone.

“To better recognise the contributions of unsung heroes, like our cleaners, supermarket workers and delivery workers. To honour our health and aged care workers.

“To recognise that young people have done more than their share.

“Young people deserve better than an economy and society that consigns them to a lifetime of low wages, job insecurity, and unaffordable housing.

“We must ensure that what emerges is a society that no longer seems stacked against them, or denies them the opportunity and economic security of older generations”.

Albanese says this is a once-in-a-political lifetime event that “creates once-in-a-century opportunity to renew and revitalise the federation” and “a once-in-a-generation chance to shape our economy so it works for people and deepens the meaning of a fair go”.

“We must build more permanent jobs, an industrial relations system that promotes co-operation, productivity improvements and shared benefits,” he says.

“We must revitalise high value Australian manufacturing using our clean energy resources.”

He also urges nation building infrastructure including high speed rail and the local construction of trains; a decentralisation strategy including restoring public service jobs in agencies such as Centrelink that deliver services to regional areas; a conservation program to boost regional employment; and governments working with the private sector and superannuation funds to deliver investment in social and affordable housing.

“A housing construction package should include funding to make it easier for essential workers to find affordable rental accommodation closer to work.”

Albanese says that “too much of the risk in our economy has been shifted onto those with the least capacity to manage in tougher times.

“The broadest burden has been put on the narrowest shoulders.

“Our economy has become riskier, and we need to think through what that means for us all.

“We need to realise that a good society can’t thrive when the balance between risk and security falls out of step.”

Albanese says there needs to be an emphasis on growth, “because only inclusive economic growth can raise our living standards.

“We need to put more emphasis on secure employment – especially for the next generation of younger workers who nowadays have little idea of the meaning of reliable income or holiday pay”.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.

View from The Hill: Albanese would have no excuse for an Eden-Monaro loss after Coalition high flyers implode


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Anthony Albanese, who will campaign in Eden-Monaro on Thursday, has lost any possible claim to “underdog” status in the coming byelection.

The idea of Labor as underdog was always dubious in light of history, despite former member Mike Kelly’s personal vote. But the prospect of one or other of two NSW government high flyers having a tilt at the seat gave it some credibility.

Now, thanks to a rolling implosion within the Coalition parties, Labor starts as favourite to retain the seat, which it holds on a margin of less than 1%.

There’s a sting, however. If the favourite lost, defeat would carry even more serious implications for Albanese than a loss to a star candidate.

NSW Transport Minister Andrew Constance’s Wednesday withdrawal as a contender for Liberal preselection, a day after throwing his hat in the ring, took the Coalition parties’ shenanigans to an even higher level of farce.

The last several days have seen a political shootout between NSW Deputy Premier and Nationals leader John Barilaro and Constance. Both are damaged as well as a big blow having been dealt to the Morrison government’s aspiration to defy history (no federal government has taken a seat from an opposition at a byelection for a century).

It started with Barilaro’s plan to run for the seat, which includes his state electorate where he had a very strong vote last year.

Barilaro wanted the Liberal party to step aside for him, but that was not a goer. Then Constance, whom he hoped would support him, stayed in the frame as a potential Liberal candidate, even though it was clear the two NSW ministers couldn’t both run, especially given the state government’s narrow majority.

The Nationals put out research favouring Barilaro; the Liberals had competing research.

By Monday Barilaro had hoisted the white flag – of course citing the family.

He was furious – at federal Nationals leader Michael McCormack, for not helping him, and at Constance for impeding him.

A blistering text went to McCormack, leaked to Sky on Tuesday. On Wednesday the Daily Telegraph reported “Barilaro told a parliamentary colleague Mr Constance was a ‘c…’”.

Constance cited the story in his withdrawal.

He told a news conference: “Stuff that — I hadn’t signed up to contest federally to be called that type of smear.”

“Why would I sit here for the next five weeks defending that type of front page? You can’t.”

But he also said: “I don’t believe John means it. I had that discussion with him. We’ve cleared it up. I forgive him”.

In short, Constance was all over the place, and likely a mix of reasons caused his meltdown.

Despite a touch of wild speculation that Barilaro might rethink, he quickly dispelled any such suggestion, saying: “My decision not to seek preselection for the Eden-Monaro byelection has not changed”.

The other name on the government side who’d been mentioned, Liberal senator Jim Molan, also ruled himself out on Wednesday.

Molan never seemed likely to contest. But he issued a statement saying “no one has tried to force me to not nominate, nor was I ever intimidated by the prospect of competing in a preselection or in a campaign”.

The Liberals will be well behind Labor – which is running Bega mayor Kristy McBain – in beginning their campaigning.

Nominations for Liberal preselection close Friday and then they have to organise a rank and file ballot.

Fiona Kotvojs, who pushed Kelly close at last year’s election, is seeking endorsement.

Pru Gordon, from the National Farmers Federation, a former adviser to two trade ministers and a former official with the department of foreign affairs and trade, is also in the field. A third contender is Jerry Nockles, now at World Vision, who formerly worked for federal Liberals.

The Liberal candidate, whoever they may be, will inherit the legacy of a Coalition display of bad behaviour and self-absorption, which is not a good start when you are asking for votes in an electorate that’s faced drought and fire and now struggles to recover amid economic devastation.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.

View from The Hill: Yes Prime Minister… Dan Tehan withdraws his attack on Daniel Andrews’ leadership


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Scott Morrison was on the ball – and quickly on the phone. Hardly had education minister Dan Tehan finished giving Victorian premier Daniel Andrews a bollocking on the ABC’s Insiders than he received a call from the PM.

The Conversation understands that in his exchange with his leader, the minister’s tone was apologetic.

Not too long afterwards came a mea culpa from Tehan, the like of which we rarely see in politics.

Morrison might have wanted Tehan to deliver Andrews a touch-up, but not to go at him with a sledge hammer.

The federal government has been frustrated from the get-go with Andrews, who (with NSW’s Gladys Berejiklian) early on insisted on very tough measures generally, not just on schools.

Morrison would have liked schools fully open all through. As the weeks have passed he’s become increasingly annoyed with the slow progress back to normal. It’s a national patchwork, but the Victorian government is the most conservative, with online learning set to be maintained through term two, and classrooms available only for children for whom other arrangements can’t be made or who are vulnerable.

The federal government has direct control only over non-government schools and it has been using a mixture of threats and bribes – with Tehan the wielder of the (funding) whip and giver of (funding) sugar – to bend them to its will.

It’s against this background that Tehan gave his ill-judged interview on Sunday.

He was caught in knots from the start.

Parents should listen to the medical expert panel – made up of federal and state health officers – which said it was safe for schools to be open, he said.

But he struggled when confronted with Morrison’s April 16 advice that they should listen to their premiers. “If you live in Victoria, listen to the Victorian premier,” the PM said then.

David Speers put to Tehan that Victoria’s chief health officer’s advice had been not to re-open schools because keeping children at home could help suppress community transmission (it’s important to note the Victorian health advice is directed specifically to this issue of limiting wider community spread).

Speers asked: “coming back to what the Prime Minister said, should parents listen to their premier or not?” “This is a question for Dan Andrews,” Tehan replied, in a futile attempt to evade.

After more toing and froing, Tehan lashed out. “If the national medical expert advice is saying that it’s safe for children to be back in the classroom – then why wouldn’t they be?

“This is a failure of leadership by Dan Andrews, let’s be clear about that”.

Andrews was “jeopardising the national consensus”, Tehan said; unlike other states, Victoria had no plan. The children, especially the most disadvantaged, were suffering “and I think it’s time that we seriously call Dan Andrews out on this”.

It was actually Tehan who found himself called out – or called up.

Morrison has been biting his tongue over Andrews – a premier who is Labor, popular, and can’t be bullied – because the PM knows the benefit of the national cabinet and has learned, on occasion painfully, that the way to operate it effectively is to avoid over-reacting to differences within it.

In unfortunate timing, immediately after the Tehan outburst came a report that a Melbourne primary school will close from Monday to Wednesday after a music teacher has tested positive for COVID-19.

Tehan’s statement amounted to an abject admission he’d exceeded his brief.

Praising the co-operation of leaders at the national cabinet, he said it was “important to note that this will not always result in all states and territories and the federal government agreeing on all points.”

The consistent advice from the expert medical panel had been that schools could be fully open, he said.

“Notwithstanding this position, the Victorian Chief Health Officer has provided more cautious advice to the Victorian Premier, who has been acting on this advice in relation to Victorian state schools.”

Tehan said he, and many other politicians, had heard countless stories of parents struggling with home schooling, and he referenced the problems of children missing out on their education.

The minister maintained he’d been thinking of these things “when I expressed my personal frustration that more schools weren’t starting more in-class learning in my home state.

“It was this frustration that led me to overstep the mark in questioning Premier Andrews’ leadership on this matter and I withdraw”.

He promised to “continue working constructively with my state counterparts as they run their state school systems to support them with the best medical and education expert advice the federal government can offer”.

Once again, the Morrison government has had to bow to state opinion, and this time it’s been particularly embarrassing.

Whether Andrews’ stand on the substance of the issue will ultimately be seen by parents as the correct one is another matter.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.

Labor gains in Newspoll despite Morrison’s continued approval surge; Trump’s ratings slide



AAP/Mick Tsikas

Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

This week’s Newspoll, conducted April 22-25 from a sample of 1,519, had a 50-50 tie between the major parties, a one-point gain for Labor since the last Newspoll, three weeks ago. Primary votes were 41% Coalition (down one), 36% Labor (up two), 12% Greens (down one) and 4% One Nation (down one). Figures are from The Poll Bludger.

Despite Labor’s voting intentions gain, Scott Morrison’s ratings jumped again, following a record 38-point gain in net approval last time. 68% (up seven) were satisfied with his performance and 28% (down seven) were dissatisfied. That’s a net approval of +40, up 14 points. Morrison’s net approval is the best for a PM since Kevin Rudd in October 2009.




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Morrison sees massive ratings surge in Newspoll over coronavirus crisis; Trump also improves


Anthony Albanese also improved his ratings, with his net approval up two points to +11 after a nine-point gain last time. Morrison led as better PM by 56-28 (53-29 three weeks ago).

Ratings for the PM are correlated strongly with voting intentions, so having the PM’s net approval at +40 while voting intentions are tied is abnormal. Analyst Kevin Bonham tweeted this chart showing that this Newspoll is a major outlier.

The most likely explanation for the discrepancy between voting intentions and the PM’s ratings is that Labor and Greens voters approve of Morrison’s performance on the coronavirus crisis, but they distrust the Coalition in general.

Australia’s performance on coronavirus has been strong by international standards. I expect Morrison’s ratings to stay high if Australia continues to perform well, as long as the public thinks there is a crisis. Once the crisis is perceived to be over, Morrison’s ratings are likely to drop over normal partisan conflict.

South Korea is another country that has performed well on coronavirus. The left-wing Democratic party of the incumbent president was rewarded for this performance at April 15 parliamentary elections. They won 180 of the 300 seats (up 57 since 2016), to 103 for conservative parties (down 19).

In an additional Newspoll question, 54% said they would be prepared to install the government’s voluntary coronavirus tracking app, while 39% said they would not install it.

Trump’s ratings slide and Biden leads in key states

This section is an updated version of an article I wrote for The Poll Bludger, published on Friday.

In the FiveThirtyEight poll aggregate, Donald Trump’s ratings with all polls are 43.4% approve, 52.4% disapprove (net -9.0%). With polls of registered or likely voters, Trump’s ratings are 43.8% approve, 52.5% disapprove (net -8.7%). Since my article three weeks ago, Trump has lost five points on net approval, returning his ratings to about their early March levels, before the coronavirus crisis began.

As the US coronavirus death toll increases to over 50,000, there has been far more criticism of Trump’s early response, and this appears to have punctured the “rally round the flag” effect.

Furthermore, there has been a massive economic impact from the virus and related shutdowns: in the past five weeks, over 26 million filed for unemployment benefits. In the latest week, over 4.4 million filed. While this is a slowdown, it is far ahead of the previous record of 695,000 weekly jobless claims. The April jobs report, to be released in early May, will be grim.

The RealClearPolitics average of national polls gives Joe Biden a 5.9% lead over Trump, little changed from 6.1% three weeks ago. However, most of the polls in the average were taken in early April, when Trump’s ratings were better.

As we know from 2016, the US does not use the popular vote to elect presidents; instead, each state is allocated Electoral Votes (EVs). A state’s EVs are the sum of its House seats (population dependent) and senators (always two). There are 538 total EVs, so it takes 270 to win. With two minor exceptions, states award their EVs winner-takes-all.

In 2016, Trump won 306 EVs to Hillary Clinton’s 232, ignoring “faithless” electors, despite losing the popular vote by 2.1%. Trump won Florida, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan by 1.2% or less.

The three most recent Florida polls give Biden an average two-point lead. In Michigan, he has an eight-point lead in the only April poll. In Pennsylvania, Biden averages a seven-point lead in two April polls. In Arizona, which has trended Democratic at recent elections, Biden leads Trump by 9% in an April poll.

Despite noisy protests in Michigan and other states advocating an end to social distancing, polls show the vast majority of Americans want social distancing to continue. In an AP-NORC poll, just 12% thought distancing measures went too far, 26% said they didn’t go far enough and 61% said they are about right.

To have a realistic chance of winning the next election, Trump needs the US economy to be perceived as improving by November. While his base is loyal, lower-educated voters in general want a good economy, and Trump needs their support to offset losses among higher educated voters owing to his behaviour.

Despite the continued economic and coronavirus woe, the Dow Jones has rebounded from a low below 18,600 on March 23 to be currently above 23,700. Stock traders anticipate a V-shaped recovery, which would assist Trump. But since March 31, there have been 25,000 to 39,000 new US coronavirus cases every day. I am sceptical that the US can reduce the caseload to a point where economic activity can safely resume anytime soon.The Conversation

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

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

Morrison sees massive ratings surge in Newspoll over coronavirus crisis; Trump also improves



Lukas Coch/AAP

Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

This week’s Newspoll, conducted April 1-3 from a sample of 1,508 people, showed a huge boost in Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s approval rating based on his leadership thus far in the coronavirus crisis.

Nearly two-thirds of people (61%) were satisfied with Morrison’s performance (up a massive 20 points) and 35% were dissatisfied (down 18), for a net approval of +26, up 38 points.

Anthony Albanese also improved his net approval by nine points to +9. Morrison led Albanese as better PM by 53-29%, another large improvement from the last Newspoll, which was a closer 42-38%.

Analyst Kevin Bonham says these are the biggest poll-to-poll jumps for a PM in Newspoll history on both net approval and better PM. His tweet shows the largest net approval rises for PMs, and when they occurred.

The Newspoll also gave the Coalition a 51-49% lead over Labor in the two-party preferred question, a two-point gain for the Coalition since the last Newspoll three weeks ago.

Primary votes were 42% Coalition (up two points), 34% Labor (down two), 13% Greens (up one) and 5% One Nation (up one).

Major crises tend to produce a “rally round the flag” effect for incumbents, though it doesn’t always last.

An example of a major crisis that produced an initial rally-round-the-flag effect, but nothing else, is the Queensland floods in December 2010 to January 2011, which affected over three-quarters of the state.

From October to December 2010, the Labor state government was trailing the opposition LNP by a landslide 59-41% margin. Based on Premier Anna Bligh’s handling of the floods, Labor surged ahead by 52-48% in the January to March 2011 polling, but then fell back immediately to a 60-40% deficit in April to June 2011.

Labor never recovered and was reduced to just seven of 89 seats at the March 2012 state election.




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There are currently far fewer coronavirus cases and deaths in Australia than in European countries and the US. If the crisis is resolved relatively painlessly in Australia, I believe Morrison’s ratings will stay high during the crisis, but then drop back after it ends.

In other Newspoll questions, 84% of respondents were worried and 14% confident about the economic impact of coronavirus (76-20% previously). On the preparedness of the health system, 57% were worried, compared to 41% confident.

An overwhelming majority (86%) supported the JobKeeper scheme. While 64% thought the $1,500-per-fortnight payment for qualifying workers was about right, 16% thought it was too much and 14% not enough.

Some 67% were worried about catching the virus, 38% about higher government debt, 36% about losing their jobs and 35% about their superannuation balance.

Is Trump’s modest ratings boost sustainable?

In the FiveThirtyEight polling aggregate, US President Donald Trump’s current ratings across all polls are 45.8% approve, 50.0% disapprove (net -4.2%).

In polls of registered or likely voters, Trump’s ratings are 45.6% approve, 50.9% disapprove (net -5.3%). Trump’s net approval has improved five to six points in the last three weeks and is at its highest since early in his term.

Despite the rise in Trump’s approval, the RealClearPolitics average of national polls gave virtually certain Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden a 5.9% lead over Trump in the November 2020 election, down modestly from 8.5% three weeks ago.

A recent Fox News national poll gave Trump a 51-48% disapproval rating. However, 53% thought a quicker response from the federal government could have slowed the spread of coronavirus, while 34% said it was so contagious nothing could stop it spreading.




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Despite the higher rating for Trump, the same poll gave Biden a 49-40% lead in the presidential election.

Trump’s gains so far are dwarfed by then US President George W. Bush’s gains in approval of over 30 points after the terrorist attacks of September 11 2001.

Other current leaders and governing parties have had far bigger bounces in their ratings than Trump, including Morrison.

In Britain, two recent polls gave the Conservatives 54%, up from the mid-to-high 40s. In Germany, the conservative Union parties are in the mid-30s, up from the mid-20s before the crisis. A recent French poll gave President Emmanuel Macron a -8 net approval, up 26 points.

Even in the US, Trump’s bounce is far less than the bounce for New York’s Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo. Cuomo’s net favourable rating improved from -6 to +48 in a New York Siena College poll. New York has the most coronavirus cases in the US so far.

If the coronavirus crisis is resolved relatively quickly, people will likely be more focused on other factors by the November presidential election. In that case, how much damage the economy takes and whether it is clearly recovering are likely to be the most important factors.

The more likely scenario is that coronavirus will damage the US both economically and in health terms for a long time. The US already has far more cases than any other country. I do not believe Trump’s ratings gains will be sustained if the US falls into a massive health and economic crisis.

The crisis has already had an economic impact: in the week ending March 21, almost 3.3 million new jobless claims were submitted, far exceeding the previous record of 695,000. In the week ending March 28, jobless claims jumped massively again to over 6.6 million. Weekly jobless claims are published every Thursday.

In March, the US unemployment rate rose 0.9% to 4.4%. The survey period was in mid-March, before the massive late-March losses.

In the household survey, employment was down almost 3 million people, compared to a mere 701,000 in the headline establishment survey. While average hourly wages rose 11 cents, this probably reflects the shedding of lower-paying jobs.
As average weekly working hours fell, average weekly wages dropped almost US$2 from February.The Conversation

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

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

Vital Signs: Scott Morrison is steering in the right direction, but we’re going to need a bigger boat


Richard Holden, UNSW

The Australian government’s JobKeeper wage subsidy, estimated to cost A$130 billion, is a crucial measure to help keep the economy from completely cratering.

But, even if COVID-19 is sufficiently under control for the economy to return to semi-normality in six months, the plan is unlikely to be sufficient and will need to be increased. To paraphrase the famous line in Jaws, we’re going to need a bigger boat.

Perhaps even more importantly, the Australian narrative around “debt and deficits” will have to change.

A welcome change of direction

First, let’s give the Morrison-Frydenberg government credit for discarding its core political narrative about balancing budgets and enacting a plan that blows a massive hole in the budget. This, granted, was the only responsible course of action, but it still shows a willingness to put the national interest above tribal politics. That’s something we haven’t seen in this country for a long time.

The A$130 billion JobKeeper program, paying up to A$1,500-per-fortnight to six million Australians for six month, is by far the costliest of the Australian government’s spending measures in response to the coronavirus crisis. By comparison, the extra payments to welfare recipients, including doubling of the new Jobseeker payment, will cost a mere A$24 billion.




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On the plus side, the JobKeeper program covers full-time and part-time workers, sole traders, and not-for-profits. It’s good that it encourages employers to retain workers. It minimises both the economic and social disruption that would deepen the crisis and slow recovery. The delivery of payments, via employer payrolls, is likely to be vastly more efficient than Centrelink processes.

On the minus side, the fact it is a flat subsidy – every worker gets $1,500 a fortnight regardless of what they had been earning – overcompensates some workers and undercompensates others. This creates employer incentives to retain the lowest-paid workers at the expense of better-paid workers. An employer could, for example, keep on workers paid less than A$1,500 a fortnight, because now that labour is effectively free, while retrenching higher skilled workers they would have to pay partially out of their own pockets.




Read more:
Australia’s $130 billion JobKeeper payment: what the experts think


Undercompensation of some workers will come back to bite. People have financial commitments – mortgages and rents being the most significant – based on what they earn. Undercompensation means some workers won’t be able to ride out the economic crisis without being forced to sell assets, going into significant personal debt or defaulting on rent or mortgage payments.

That will reverberate throughout the rest of the economy. It will put pressure on landlords and banks, among other parties to whom these workers have made financial commitments.

So quibbles can be made about the details of the JobKeeker payment. It would have been far better to do a 100% wage replacement up to some cap (perhaps double the current A$1,500 a fortnight).

That would cost more, but it would be better targeted and have fewer adverse flow-on effects.

A new narrative on debt and deficits

But at least the government is prepared to spend more.

“The first revolution,” said jazz poet Gil Scott Heron, “is when you change your mind about how you look at things.”

It is good see the Morrison government change its mind on the concept of a budget deficit. We now need a bigger revolution in our national thinking about debt and deficits.

Even now the overwhelming narrative among many commentators across the political spectrum is along the lines of “we need to do this and the debt will take a long time to pay back”. We must stop thinking like that.

Australia entered this crisis with a projected net debt of about A$361 billion – 18% of GDP. As a thought experiement – although it might end up a grim reality – imagine the economy operates at two-thirds capacity for 18 months (the likely time before a vaccine becomes widely avaiable, according Australia’s deputy-chief medical officer).

And suppose the government completely compensates for that lost GDP with stimulus payments of one kind or another. That would leave us with net debt of about 70% of GDP post-crisis.

That compares to the 107% the United States had entering the crisis.

Setting aside the important practical matters of how we issue government bonds and implement that debt level, let’s focus on the servicing cost.

Right now the ten-year government bond rate is 0.78%. That moves up and down, so let’s make it 1% for simplicity. With a A$2 trillion economy and 70% net debt to GDP, that would mean A$14 billion a year in interest payments.

That’s seems a lot when compared with the roughly A$60 billion the nation spends on primary and secondary education.




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But it’s not that big a price to get through a once-in-a-century event. It’s smaller than the A$17 billion collected from the tobacco excise. It’s about $560 a year for each Australian.

We need to start thinking about a national debt that gets shrunk away as a percentage of GDP rather than gets paid back. That’s what happened after World War II.

The idea we should have zero net-debt to GDP has to change. If we continue to think of fiscal responses to this crisis as loans that need to be paid back on a short clock, we will do too little on the fiscal front. We will damage the ability of the economy to come out this crisis healthy enough to grow away the debt.The Conversation

Richard Holden, Professor of Economics, UNSW

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

The coronavirus stimulus program is Labor’s in disguise, as it should be


John Quiggin, The University of Queensland

The spread of the coronavirus has brought us all face to face with the remorseless logic of exponential growth. A handful of cases has turned into dozens, then hundreds, then thousands.

If current attempts at containment fail, we can expect many millions of cases around the world.




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The government’s economic policy response reflects this dawning reality. The exponential growth of the virus has been matched by growth in the magnitude and scope of the required response.

While the virus was developing in China, and even in the midst of the bushfire crisis, the government was insisting that its wafer-thin surplus would be delivered as promised.

Denial for a while…

Even after it became evident that the budget would be in deficit and the economy close to recession (at least in terms of the widely-used “two quarters of negative growth” criterion), the government’s primary concern was to avoid validating the Rudd government’s response to the global financial crisis.

Estimates of a package of A$2 to $5 billion were leaked, with a strong emphasis on a modest and targeted response, confined to specific sectors such as tourism. The universities, seen as tribal enemies by many in the government, got no sympathy.




Read more:
Morrison’s coronavirus package is a good start, but he’ll probably have to spend more


Rather than being treated an export earner in trouble, universities were blamed for relying too much on the Chinese market. The idea of boosting Newstart and other welfare payments was dismissed out of hand.

As the package developed, the power of the “go hard, go early, go household” logic that drove the 2008 response of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Treasury Secretary Ken Henry became evident.

…then a focus on what might work

The figure being bandied about rose to $10 billion, and the government’s attempts at product differentiation became ever feebler.

This stimulus, it was claimed, would rely on existing programs (an attempt to keep faith with the spurious attacks on Rudd programs like the school-hall focused Building the Education Revolution).

It would be wound down as soon as the crisis was over (something Rudd’s treasurer Wayne Swan spent years trying and failing to do).

Now we have the announcement of a nearly $18 billion package which is virtually a repeat of Labor’s response to the global financial crisis.

The central elements are a cash handout aimed at sustaining consumer demand, and broad measures to stimulate investment.

Allowing for inflation and population growth, the almost $18 billion cost of this package is very similar to the $10 billion cost of the Rudd government’s first stimulus. It’s highly likely that, as in the GFC, more will be needed in future.

Those numbers doesn’t take account of the impact of the crisis on tax revenues and unemployment benefits.

It is highly likely that the economic aftershocks will be felt for years to come, and to me, it seems possible the impact on the budget may be well over $100 billion by the time Australia recovers.

There’ll be lessons when this is over

The remaining targeted measures to assist specific sectors like tourism have their parallel in the Rudd government’s rescue of the car finance industry through the Ozcar scheme, which gave rise to the (then) infamous “Utegate” scandal.

Looking ahead, the crisis response should kill off not only the idea that a surplus is the hallmark of responsible economic management, but also the absurdity of extending the standard four-year forward estimates period to ten-year projections, which formed the basis of tax cuts legislated years ahead of time.




Read more:
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As the current crisis and the global financial crisis have shown, even an annual budget can be derailed by an unforeseen shock. Attempting to fix policies ten years in advance is a fools’ errand.

More broadly, this is yet another instance in which policies influenced by the market ideology that took hold in the 1970s has damaged us.

The economic impacts of coronavirus will be made worse by the casualisation of the workforce and the decades-long freeze on Newstart and other welfare payments.

A modern society can only function properly with a strong government and a commitment to looking after everybody. Perhaps the enforced isolation we are likely to face in the coming months will give us time to rethink.The Conversation

John Quiggin, Professor, School of Economics, The University of Queensland

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

‘You can have both higher super and higher wages’: Albanese


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

An “unholy coalition” is attacking the planned increase in the superannuation guarantee, Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese says in his latest “vision statement”, pledging to resist any attempt to stop the legislated rise to 12% going ahead.

In a speech on older Australians – released ahead of Wednesday’s delivery in Brisbane – Albanese says critics “want to see super wound back or abolished. They say that the pension should be enough, or that it reduces wages.

“I absolutely reject this binary approach. With economic growth and productivity you can have both higher super and higher wages.”

The rise in the guarantee, at present 9.5%, would take it in increments to 12% by 2025. The increase has strong critics within government ranks (where some would favour making superannuation voluntary) and outside, among them the Grattan Institute. The government has an inquiry into retirement incomes running.

The Australian Council of Social Service has argued that “any increase in compulsory retirement saving above 10% of wages should be based on a careful assessment of the needs of low and middle-income workers before and after retirement”.

ACOSS also says the guarantee should not rise above 10% until tax breaks for super contributions are reformed to make them fair.

Interviewed on Sky on Tuesday, government senator Gerard Rennick, from Queensland, agreed there was a growing push among Liberals to stop the increase.

Albanese says the prescriptions of ACOSS and others play into the government’s hands.

Supporting the guarantee going to 12%, he says: “Having established the superannuation system we will not stand by and see it chipped away. We want to make it better.”

In his speech Albanese also says a Labor government would charge its proposed body Jobs and Skills Australia with strengthening the workforce for the aged care sector.

This is one of “the workforces of the future”, and needs proper pay and training to be able “to provide culturally and linguistically appropriate care”.

Albanese attacks the government’s plan to privatise aged care assessments. “The first interaction the elderly and their families have with the aged care system is through an aged care assessment or ACAT. It is the first step to getting a home care package or entering a residential aged care facility.

“Our aged care system is broken – and this government wants to make it worse by subjecting ACAT to the indifference of the market. There is a role for the market. But markets have no conscience.”

Albanese also endorses the concept of “intergenerational care”.

“The ABC program ‘Old People’s Home for 4 Year Olds’ made me laugh and made me cry – but it also made me imagine a future where intergenerational care is the answer to our aged care crisis.

“Imagine a future where we co-locate aged care facilities including day respites with kinders and preschools.

“Day respite for our elderly is a missing piece of the puzzle. For many families, they want mum or dad to stay at home or live with them, but they worry about the long days when they are at work.

“Imagine being able to drop your child and grandmother off to the same location.

“Imagine knowing their day would be enjoyable and safe, with activities led by well-paid staff.

“The benefits of intergenerational care are immense. It can help our elderly re-engage with the world, minimise their isolation and the effects of their health issues.”

On the issue of older workers who have trouble getting jobs, Albanese says the answer for some is “to upgrade their skills, which underscores the urgency of rebuilding our TAFEs in particular and our VET system in general”.

But cultural change is also needed, he says, and employers must play their part.

“According to Deloitte Access Economics, a 3% increase in workforce participation by Australians aged over 55 would generate a A$33 billion boost to the economy each year.

“Volunteering is great. But to build a stronger economy we must harness the talents of everybody – and that includes older Australians who are sources of wisdom and experience for their employers and co-workers.”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.

How big money influenced the 2019 federal election – and what we can do to fix the system


Kate Griffiths, Grattan Institute; Danielle Wood, Grattan Institute, and Tony Chen, Grattan Institute

Amid the ongoing bushfire and coronavirus crises – and the political kerfuffle surrounding the Nationals and Greens – you’d be forgiven for missing the annual release of the federal political donations data this week.

Nine months after the 2019 federal election, voters finally get a look at who funded the political parties’ campaigns.

The data reveals that big money matters in Australian elections more than ever, and donations are highly concentrated among a small number of powerful individuals, businesses and unions.

These are significant vulnerabilities in Australia’s democracy and reinforce why substantial reforms are needed to prevent wealthy interests from exercising too much influence in Australian politics.

Largest donations in Australian political history

The big story of the 2019 election was Clive Palmer, who donated A$84 million via his mining company Mineralogy to his own campaign – a figure that dwarfs all other donations as far back as the records go. The previous record – also held by Palmer – was A$15 million at the 2013 election.

While Palmer failed to win any seats last year, he ran a substantial anti-Labor advertising campaign, and claimed credit for the Coalition’s victory.




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There are obviously many factors in an election win, but this raises a serious question: how much influence should we allow any single interest to hold over the national debate, especially during the critically important election period?


Grattan Institute

Several other large donors also emerged at this election. A A$4 million donation to the Liberal Party from the company Sugolena, owned by a private investor and philanthropist, takes the prize for the largest-ever non-Palmer donation.

Businessman Anthony Pratt donated about A$1.5 million to each of the major parties through his paper and packaging company Pratt Holdings. The hotels lobby, which has been influential in preventing pokies reforms in past state and federal elections, also donated about A$500,000 to the Coalition and A$800,000 to Labor.

Money buys access and sometimes influence

A 2018 Grattan Institute report, Who’s in the room? Access and influence in Australian politics, showed how money can buy relationships and political connections. The political parties rely heavily on major donors, and as a result, major donors get significant access to ministers.

While explicit quid pro quo is probably rare, the risk is in more subtle influences – that donors get more access to policymakers and their views are given more weight. These risks are exacerbated by a lack of transparency in dealings between policymakers and special interests.

Big money improves the chances of influence. But it also matters to election outcomes.




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Looking back at the past five federal elections, an interesting correlation is evident: the party with the biggest war chest tends to form government.

It’s only a sample of five, and it’s unclear whether higher spending drives the election result or donors simply get behind the party most likely to win.

But in 2019, Labor was widely expected to win, so its smaller war chest supports the proposition that money assists in delivering power.



Grattan Institute

What policymakers should do to protect Australia’s democracy

Money in politics needs to be better regulated to reduce the risk of interest groups “buying” influence – and elections.

Real transparency is the first step. Half of private funding remains hidden from public view due to Australia’s high disclosure threshold and loopholes in the federal donations rules.

Only donations of more than A$14,000 need to be on the public record, and political parties don’t have to aggregate multiple donations below the threshold from the same donor – meaning major donors can simply split their donations to hide their identity.



Grattan Institute

Parliament should improve the transparency of political donations by

  • lowering the federal donations disclosure threshold to A$5,000, so all donations big enough to matter are on the public record;

  • requiring political parties to aggregate multiple donations from the same donor, so big donors can’t hide

  • requiring quicker release of donations data, so voters have information on who funds elections during the campaign – not nine months later.

These simple rule changes would bring Australia’s federal political donations regime in line with most states and OECD nations. The current regime leaves voters in the dark.

But the donations data shows transparency is not enough to protect Australia’s democracy from the influence of a handful of wealthy individuals. Ultimately, to reduce the influence of money in politics, parliament should introduce an expenditure cap during election campaigns.




Read more:
Eight ways to clean up money in Australian politics


Parties and candidates can currently spend as much money as they can raise, so big money means greater capacity to sell your message to voters.

Capping political expenditure by political parties – and third parties – would reduce the influence of wealthy individuals. And it would reduce the donations “arms race” between the major parties, giving senior politicians more time to do their job instead of chasing dollars.The Conversation

Kate Griffiths, Fellow, Grattan Institute; Danielle Wood, Program Director, Budget Policy and Institutional Reform, Grattan Institute, and Tony Chen, Researcher, Grattan Institute

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