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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Thanks to coronavirus, Scott Morrison will become a significant prime minister

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.

Read more:
JobKeeper payment: how will it work, who will miss out and how to get it?

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.

Read more:
Vital Signs: Australia’s nation-building opportunity held hostage by the deficit daleks

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.

‘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.

Morrison’s approval ratings crash over bushfires in first 2020 Newspoll; Sanders has narrow Iowa lead

Anthony Albanese led Scott Morrison 43-39 as preferred prime minister in the first Newspoll of the new year.
Marc Tewksbury/AAP

Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

In the first Newspoll of the new year, Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s ratings have tanked as a result of his handling of the bushfire crisis.

The Newspoll, conducted January 8-11 from a sample of 1,500 people, gave Labor a 51-49 lead on a two-party preferred basis, a three point gain for Labor since the last Newspoll in early December.

Primary votes were 40% Coalition (down two points), 36% Labor (up three), 12% Greens (up one) and 4% One Nation (down one).

Morrison also suffered a drop in his job performance rating, with 37% saying they were satisfied, down eight points from early December, and 59% saying they were dissatisfied, up 11 points.

His net approval was -22, down 19 points since December. Labor leader Anthony Albanese’s net approval, meanwhile, improved ten points to +9.

Albanese also led Morrison 43-39 as preferred PM, a reversal of Morrison’s 48-34 lead in December. Apart from Morrison’s first Newspoll as PM following the ousting of Malcolm Turnbull in August 2018, this is the first time an opposition leader has led the incumbent PM on this measure since Tony Abbott was in office.

The bushfire crisis almost certainly explains the crash in Morrison’s ratings, but will this be sustained? As memories of a key event fade, people tend to move back to their previous positions.

US Democratic primary polls: Sanders has narrow Iowa lead

As the US Democratic primaries and caucuses are about to begin, here are the latest polls from the US.

Three weeks before the February 3 Iowa caucus, the highly regarded Selzer Iowa poll, conducted for CNN and the Des Moines Register, has shown Bernie Sanders with a slight lead in the state.

Sanders was at 20% in the poll (up five points from November), Elizabeth Warren 17% (up one), Pete Buttigieg 16% (down nine), Joe Biden 15% (steady), Amy Klobuchar 6% (steady) and Andrew Yang 5% (up two).

No other candidate had more than 3%. The poll was conducted January 2-8 from 701 likely caucus attendees.

Read more:
Buttigieg surges to clear lead in Iowa poll, as Democrats win four of five US state elections

The last Selzer Iowa poll had Buttigieg ahead at 25%, but he is down to third place in the new poll. After the last poll, there was much media attention on the former South Bend, Indiana, mayor, but he failed to catch on nationally. This failure has probably contributed to loss of enthusiasm in Iowa.

There are four early state primary contests: Iowa, New Hampshire (February 11), Nevada (February 22) and South Carolina (February 29). Fifteen states and territories then vote on March 3, otherwise known as Super Tuesday, when 36% of the total delegates will be awarded. This date could be decisive to determining who will be the nominee.

As I have written previously, the two states at the top of the calendar, Iowa and New Hampshire, are largely comprised of white voters. As such, they do not represent the diversity of the Democratic electorate.

Biden is doing far better with black voters, who made up 61% of the South Carolina Democratic primary electorate in 2016.

A recent poll of black voters nationally gave a Biden a huge lead with 48%, with Sanders on 20% and nobody else in double digits.

Sanders and Warren, the two most left-wing candidates, are leading in the latest Iowa poll. One explanation is that Iowa is a caucus, not a primary. Caucuses are conducted by the parties and are time-consuming affairs that require voters to attend meetings where supporters make their case for candidates.

Read more:
US Democratic presidential primaries: Biden leading, followed by Sanders, Warren, Harris; and will Trump be beaten?

Primaries, meanwhile, are managed by the state’s electoral authority and operate like normal elections. As a result, caucuses have far lower turnout rates than primaries, and are more likely to be influenced by party activists.

In the 2016 Democratic presidential primary, Sanders performed far better than Hillary Clinton in caucus states, while Clinton performed better in most primary states.

The bad news for Sanders and Warren is that Democrats strongly encouraged states to use primaries this year. After Iowa and Nevada (February 22), only one state uses a true caucus, while four others have a party-run primary.

According to New York Times analyst Nate Cohn, 14% of pledged delegates were awarded by caucuses in 2016; this year only 3% will be. Left-wing candidates are most likely to be hurt by this change.

National Democratic polls and polls of other early states

The most recent RealClearPolitics national Democratic poll average has Biden leading with 29.3%, with Sanders at 20.3%, Warren 14.8%, Buttigieg 7.5%, Michael Bloomberg 5.8% and Yang 3.5%.

In New Hampshire, the RCP polling average has Sanders leading with 21.5%, followed by Biden at 18.8%, Buttigieg 18.3% and Warren 14.8%.

In Nevada, the only poll conducted in January has Biden at 23%, Sanders 17% and Warren and Tom Steyer both at 12%. And in South Carolina, the only January poll conducted had Biden in the lead at 36%, with Steyer in a surprise second at 15%.

The last Democratic presidential debate before voting begins will be held on Tuesday night at Drake University in Iowa. Six candidates have qualified. There will be three more debates in February.

US jobs still good, but wage growth down

In December, the US economy added 145,000 jobs. While this is down from 256,000 in November, it is still a good performance.

However, hourly wages grew only by three cents in December, and the annual hourly wage growth increased by just 2.9% – the first time it has been below 3% since July 2018.

We do not yet have the inflation report for December, but inflation increased 0.7% in October and November. Higher inflation undermines wage growth.

The US uses two surveys for its jobs reports. The number of jobs gained and wage growth are based on an establishment survey, while other statistics are based on a household survey. In December, the household survey was steady for the three most important indicators: unemployment at 3.5%, labour participation rate at 63.2% and employment population ratio at 61.0%.

The strong jobs reports and the fact the Dow Jones surged to near 29,000 are good news for President Donald Trump. The economy represents Trump’s best chance of re-election in November.

Trump’s ratings and head-to-head polls

With all polls, the FiveThirtyEight aggregate has Trump’s ratings at 41.8% approve, 53.5% disapprove, for a net approval of -11.7%. With polls of likely or registered voters, Trump’s ratings are 42.9% approve, 53.0% disapprove (net -10.1%).

In mid-December, Trump’s ratings rose to their highest since the very early days of his presidency. His ratings have since fallen by two to three net points since then, perhaps owing to the conflict with Iran.

In the most recent national head-to-head election polls, Biden led Trump by 4.5% in the RealClearPolitics average, Sanders led Trump by 2.6%, Trump led Warren by 0.2% and Trump led Buttigieg by 1.2%.

These polls were taken in early to mid-December, when Trump’s ratings were at their peak.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.

Labor’s reset on climate and jobs is a political mirage

Labor leader Anthony Albanese, pictured at a cabinet meeting this month, says coal has a future under the renewables expansion.
Richard Wainwright/AAP

Peter Christoff, University of Melbourne

Anthony Albanese’s “Jobs and the Future of Work” speech delivered on Tuesday was, in some ways, a beacon in a dark landscape short on policy ambition. It illuminates the right issues. Technological change and artificial intelligence. The potential for smart manufacturing and domestic economic development. New directions for Australia’s resource sector. A clean energy economy. But the torch shines unevenly.

As an agenda-setting speech coming early in the new electoral cycle, it is weak on ideas, facts and proposals. It spins on about technology and innovation, a hollow chant reminiscent of former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull’s mantra “jobs and growth, jobs and growth”. Maybe Labor is keeping its powder dry. Or it has been scarred and silenced by its election loss, blamed by some on a big target, policy-heavy campaign.

Read more:
Low carbon economy can spur Australian “manufacturing boom”: Albanese

The “vision statement” nevertheless opens impressively by looking at clean energy technology and the Australian possibilities for a new manufacturing boom in a decarbonising world. About the Morrison government, Albanese says its policy settings barely acknowledge climate change, yet “in the century before us, the nations that will transform into manufacturing powerhouses are those that can harness the cheapest renewable energy resources”.

Workers at AGL’s Liddell coal-fired power station.

Albanese pumps up the potential for Australia’s cheap wind, wave and solar power to grow domestic manufacturing jobs and energy-intensive industries. He sings about clean energy jobs based around mineral resources such as lithium.

And as another round of state and federal parliamentary inquiries probe the feasibility of nuclear power in Australia, Albanese slams the door on this tired debate, declaring: “we don’t need nuclear power when every day we can harness the power (of the sun)”.

Read more:
Coal miners and urban greenies have one thing in common, and Labor must use it

But for all its talk of the need to “innovate, adapt and adjust”, the speech is blind to the harder questions of decarbonisation. On this issue, Albanese tried to walk both sides of the highway by wandering down the middle.

Australia is a major domestic producer of greenhouse gas emissions, making it about the world’s 14th biggest emitter. In recent years our domestic emissions have risen, largely thanks to fugitive emissions released as we extract increasing volumes of coal and natural gas for export.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese in Melbourne this year.

Australia is among the world’s largest fossil fuel exporters. These exported fossil fuels are responsible for an estimated 3.6% of the global emissions total. If we add these emissions – for which we are morally responsible and from which we benefit financially – to our domestic pollutant load, this places Australia among the planet’s worst emitters.

While bickering about domestic emissions targets, neither Labor nor the Coalition have tackled Australia’s parallel carbon economy – our growing exported contribution to global warming. It’s a big, dirty, lucrative, open secret. It involves jobs in marginal seats. It can determine the fate of governments.

And so Albanese’s vision statement, while extolling the virtues of a hydrogen export sector, also pumps up our fossil fuel trade. He nods at jobs from liquified natural gas exports from northern Australia, and at how traditional industries might benefit from a low-carbon future, such as by providing metallurgical coal to produce wind turbines. (Metallurgical coal is used in steel production. But environmental advocates argue Australia’s continued expansion of these exports is preventing the global uptake of cleaner steel-making alternatives).

Coal being loaded onto ships at a Newcastle port.

One wonders who his intended audience is. Labor fools no-one by supporting both a clean energy revolution and a business-as-usual future for fossil fuels. It’s akin to the party’s evasive and self-harming position on Adani, which left workers in regional Queensland feeling patronised, dispensable, anxious, hostile and disaffected — and the growing majority of Australians who are deeply concerned about climate change, furious.

Read more:
How to transition from coal: 4 lessons for Australia from around the world

Those who have been following the climate issue closely – resource sector workers, unionists, parents, children and activists alike – know what is required now are tough but fair policies, and a strong commitment to future jobs that are not dependent on the whims of export markets in a decarbonising world, or on policy shocks at home when weak emissions targets suddenly have to be toughened dramatically.

A truck hauling coal at a West Australian mine.

To achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement — to hold global average warming to well below 2℃ and as close as possible to 1.5℃ — requires “negative emissions” – removing existing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. To propose a low-carbon future with continued fossil fuel exports is fakery in the extreme.

Many researchers and others, here and overseas, are working with regional communities on ways to generate investment and enduring jobs, enabling a rapid transition from economic dependence on coal and gas. It is slow and sometimes hard work. In this vision statement, Labor fails to recognise the need for a concerted, innovative national program along these lines. It is here that fresh policy is needed, and trust and consensus must be built, carefully, over the coming years.

Clarification: this article has been amended to clarify the author’s view that Australia is morally, if not legally, responsible for emissions created by its fossil fuel exports.

Update: following publication, Labor’s shadow minister for climate change, Pat Conroy contacted The Conversation with the following statement:

The moral and legal responsibility for carbon emissions lies with the nation that burns the coal, not the nation that digs it up.

This principle was enshrined in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Paris climate treaty and previous international agreements for reducing global emissions.

Holding Australia responsible for burning Australian coal overseas is equivalent to holding Japan responsible for pollution emitted by Japanese cars in Australia.

Activists who want to hold Australia responsible for emissions from coal burned overseas are arguing for the destruction of global climate conventions established 27 years ago, and the only practical approach to addressing climate change as a global challenge.

Under the approach argued in the article, responsibility for transport emissions in Australia would shift to Japan, Germany and Thailand, because the cars are made there, and to Singapore which exports the fuel.

Not only is this completely impractical and unimplementable globally – it gives the Morrison Government leave to do even less. It distracts from the main game – meeting our legal obligations and transitioning Australia to a clean economy – and it says Labor is no different from the Liberals.

In campaigning on coal exports, activists are acting as if we have already secured strong emissions reduction mechanisms in Australia, and making it harder to do the real work to build community support needed to achieve real action.The Conversation

Peter Christoff, Associate Professor, School of Geography, University of Melbourne

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

Albanese slams Morrison for using a “loud hailer” to talk to China from US

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Anthony Albanese has attacked Scott Morrison for sending a message to Beijing while in the United States, and also split with him over the economic status of China.

Albanese accused Morrison of using “a loud hailer” to talk to China during a visit in which he was seen to be very close to the American President, including “being a partner in what would appear to be some of Donald Trump’s re-election campaign there in Ohio”. This was a reference to their joint appearance at billionaire Anthony Pratt’s new paper recycling factory.

The opposition leader’s comments open a partisan rift at a time when Australia-China relations are at a low point.

In his address on foreign policy in Chicago, Morrison described China “as a newly developed economy”, and said it needed to reflect this new status in its trade arrangements and meeting environmental challenges.

But Albanese told the ABC China quite clearly was “still developing”.

“It is still an emerging economy”, he said, pointing to the disparity between China’s per capita income and that of advanced economies such as the US and Australia.

Albanese, who made a series of comments, suggested it was not constructive “to send a message to China from the US in the way that it has occurred”.

Read more:
Highly touted UN climate summit failed to deliver – and Scott Morrison failed to show up

While there was a legitimate debate around the World Trade Organisation system, “the conflict between China and the United States [over trade] is one that is not in Australia’s interests. We want that to be resolved rather than be overly partisan about it,” he said.

“Of course our alliance with the United States is our most important relationship. That won’t change. But we need to, I think, be very measured in our comments particularly comments from the United States in the context in which they’ve been given.”

If Morrison was sending a message to China “it would have been better sent from Australia so that there was no confusion that the Prime Minister was advancing Australia’s national interests.”

Morrison had changed “the characterisation of the entire Chinese economy from Chicago,” Albanese said. “Does he think that will be well received and will reduce tension between China and the United States over trade?”

In fact, while Morrison’s language on China’s economic status went further than before, he had gone a considerable way down this path previously. In a major address in June he said: “China’s rise has now reached a threshold level of economic maturity”, with its most successful provinces sometimes exceeding the economic sophistication of global competitors. Yet they enjoyed concessions on trade and environmental obligations not available to other developed economies, he said.

In his Chicago speech Morrison said there was a need to reduce trade tensions that had developed in recent years.

“China’s economic growth is welcomed by Australia and we recognise the economic maturity that it has now realised as a newly developed economy,” he said.

It was important this was reflected in its trade arrangements, participation in addressing important global environmental challenges, transparency in its partnerships and support for developing nations.

“All of this needs to reflect this new status and the responsibilities that go with it as a very major world power,” Morrison said.

He also said: “The world’s global institutions must adjust their settings for China, in recognition of this new status. That means more will be expected of course, as has always been the case for nations like the United States who’ve always had this standing.”

Asked at a news conference what he wanted China to do that it was not doing now, Morrison said the objective was that “similar rules will apply to countries of similar capabilities”.

Read more:
Yes, the US-Australia alliance is important, but Scott Morrison needs to take a careful approach with Donald Trump

Meanwhile in a speech in Beijing this week Richard Marles, Labor’s deputy leader and defence spokesman, urged a deepening of Australia’s relations with China, including even at the defence level.

“I firmly believe it is possible for Australia to maintain our strong alliance with the United States while also deepening our engagement with China. In fact, not only is this possible, it is vital,” Marles said.

“And that must be obvious. Because from the perspective of Australia, the world looks a lot safer when the United States and China are talking to each other and improving their relations.

“And if this is our view, then it stands to reason that Australia’s interest lies in having the best possible relations we can with both the United States and China.

“And from the perspective of Australia the world also looks a lot more prosperous when China and the United States trade with each other.”

“Our starting point has to be that we respect China and deeply value our relationship with China. We must seek to build it. And not just in economic terms, but also through exploring political co-operation and even defence co-operation.

“To define China as an enemy is a profound mistake. To talk of a new Cold War is silly and ignorant,” Marles said.

Asked about the defence reference, Albanese played it down.

Read more:
View from The Hill: To go to China you have to be invited: Morrison

In a Tuesday speech in Jakarta, Labor’s shadow minister on foreign affairs Penny Wong said: “It is clear that the United States and China now treat each other as strategic competitors.

“The strategic competition in our region means we need to think carefully and engage actively to avoid becoming collateral. Great powers will do what great powers do – assert their interests. But the rest of us are not without our own agency,” she said.

“What our region is looking for is less a contest about who should be or will be number one, than how we foster partnerships of enduring connection and relevance”.

Wong said the US should “present a positive narrative and vision about the future, by articulating and presenting what it offers not only what it is against.”

“A greater focus on the likely settling point will enable the United States to recognise – and embrace – the fact that multi-polarity in the region is likely to get stronger.

“And in the context of Beijing’s ambitions, this growing multi-polarity – with countries like Indonesia, India and Japan playing increasingly important leadership roles in the region – is beneficial to Washington’s interests.

“Defining a realistic settling point will also help the United States recognise and accept that decisions relating to China will vary depending on the issues and interests at stake.”

Albanese also criticised Morrison for not attending the United Nations leaders summit on climate.

Morrison said that when he addresses the UN General Assembly this week: “I’ll be focusing very much on Australia’s response to the global environmental challenges. Which isn’t just climate change … it’s about plastics, it’s about oceans, it’s about recycling”.The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

Albanese says Voice must be in the Constitution

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Opposition leader Anthony Albanese says an Indigenous “Voice” to parliament must be enshrined in the Constitution.

His position, spelled out in a speech to be given on Saturday to the Garma Festival, makes it difficult to see how he and Prime Minister Scott Morrison will be able to agree on a referendum question.

Albanese says in his address, released ahead of delivery:

With a Voice in place, there can be truth-telling, and there can be Makaratta. […] It is clear to me that enshrining that Voice in the Constitution is what must come first.

Read more:
Politics with Michelle Grattan: Anthony Albanese on Labor’s hard times

Morrison has been adamant there should be no reference to a Voice in what is inserted in the Constitution to recognise Australia’s First Peoples.

Without bipartisan support, a referendum would not have a chance of success and, indeed, would not be put.

Indigenous leaders in the Uluru Statement from the Heart called for “the establishment of a First Nations Voice enshrined in the Constitution”.

Albanese says:

I want a Voice and Truth then Treaty to be part of our nation’s journey, part of our national life. It’s not just about respect and redress. It’s about progress and change. It’s about moving out of the darkness

Although there is a gulf between Albanese and Morrison over what should go into the constitution, Albanese says he still hopes for bipartisanship.

“We have not yet had true reconciliation, and a country that is not truly reconciled is not truly whole. And until we are whole, we will never reach our truest potential as a nation – and we have so very much potential,” he says.

But how can we have reconciliation when one side has no voice?

The Voice is the bedrock upon which we must build.

I will take the fight to the government on so many things; never have any doubt about that. But on this we must work together. We must be together. My hope we can have bipartisanship on this remains alive.

Read more:
Politics with Michelle Grattan: Ken Wyatt on constitutional recognition for Indigenous Australians

Albanese says he is encouraged by “the tentative moves towards constitutional change” by the Minister for Indigenous Australians, Ken Wyatt. “I hope he gets the support he needs and deserves from his colleagues.”

He says he is also encouraged by “the epiphany experienced by Barnaby Joyce.

“After being part of the chorus pushing the myth that a Voice would amount to a third chamber in parliament, Mr Joyce did something unusual. He stopped. He listened. He asked questions from people with knowledge. […]

“Mr Joyce then went on television to own up to his mistake, and to explain why he’d been wrong. And he encouraged others who’d made the same mistake to follow his example.”

At Tuesday’s caucus meeting Pat Dodson, the opposition spokesman on Indigenous recognition, said constitutional recognition had now been decoupled from everything that was in the Uluru statement. Uluru had now shifted to “co-design with select individuals”, he said.

Dodson said there was no structure for formal consultations with First Nations. “Apparently the minister has a plan for consultation with the Coalition backbench and apparently with Pauline Hanson”, he said.

The challenge now was to “assist the minister without walking away with all the fleas and ticks that would undermine a principled position”, Dodson said.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.

Grattan on Friday: Labor battles to keep warm in a cold climate

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese’s approach is for Labor to pick carefully which issues it takes to the wire.
AAP/Mick Tsikas

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Although his circumstances are vastly different, Anthony Albanese is in sync with Scott Morrison in using the authority of leadership to the maximum.

In Albanese’s case, this has ranged from his determination to expel rogue union official John Setka from the ALP (a work still in progress) to new question time tactics and the opposition’s handling of the government’s wedge politics on legislation.

As Labor continues to absorb the consequences of its defeat, this week Albanese gave his caucus a sharp lecture about the harsh realities of this parliament.

Highlighting that the post-election Senate crossbench is much less pliable for Labor, he said the situation was effectively akin to when the Howard government won control of the upper house.

Unable to secure amendments to legislation, “we will often be confronted with circumstances where we have to vote on an issue which involves measures we agree with and measures we disagree with”, Albanese said. “The government is wanting to focus on us, with claiming every piece of legislation is a test for Labor”.

Caucus earlier had been debating a bill combining child protection and mandatory sentencing. It agreed to back it, despite ALP policy being against mandatory sentencing.

Albanese’s tough talk was timely. In the just concluded parliamentary fortnight, the Coalition has used every opportunity to corner Labor, and it will go on doing so. On Thursday, it foreshadowed bringing back after the winter break legislation from last term for a drug-testing trial for some Newstart and Youth Allowance recipients.

It tries to maximise the pressure on Labor with its endlessly repeated challenge, “whose side are you on?” Eventually, this prompted a detailed listing by Albanese of who and what Labor sided with.

Given the situation in which it finds itself, Labor can’t win – it can only try to cope as best it can.

When it attacks government measures, and then votes for them, its critics denounce it as inconsistent. If it turned everything into a last-ditch fight, it would be cast as the perennial naysayer, and mostly it would lose anyway.

Albanese’s approach is for Labor to pick carefully which issues it takes to the wire.

Labor will oppose the bill to repeal the medevac legislation, the outcome of which will depend on Jacqui Lambie. It will also maintain its stand against the legislation to toughen the rules against bad behaviour by unions and their officials. But it has been voting with the government on security measures, albeit with some concerns.

Despite the opposition’s general impotence, Albanese’s revised question time tactic – precise questions trying to force answers rather than get TV grabs – is an improvement, and scored some hits on Energy Minister Angus Taylor.

So far, Albanese has managed to keep a demoralised team united, when it wouldn’t have been surprising to have seen massive bloodletting after an election that Labor should have won.

But it is very early days and there’ll be lots of arguments ahead as Labor digs into the reasons for its defeat and looks to refashion its policies. That debate will start to crystallise when the party’s election review is finished later in the year and as the deep dives begin on whether particular policies should be filleted or scrapped entirely.

Kim Carr, Senate veteran and former minister, writing in the July edition of The Tocsin (put out by the John Curtin Research Centre), has rejected the “just wipe the slate clean and start again” prescription, warning against simply concluding Labor’s “redistribution agenda, paid for by reform of the taxation system, was a fundamental mistake”. Rather, Carr argues, there was “a massive failure of messaging”.

“Labor failed because its messaging essentially appealed to affluent voters rather than to the blue-collar voters who provide – though not as strongly as was once the case – its core support, and who typically decide federal election outcomes,” Carr says.

“We paid insufficient attention to the anxieties and insecurities that working-class families have about the future,” he writes. “We lost the trust of too many of our own people, while paradoxically winning the trust of many voters in seats that have long been Liberal heartland.”

Finding ways to re-engage with these voters will be harder than identifying their loss. It can lead to some strange contortions.

Take the issue of coal, which cost Labor dearly in Queensland. When Liberal backbencher Craig Kelly (one of the anti-NEG cabal that helped bring down Malcolm Turnbull) last week challenged Labor’s resources spokesman, Joel Fitzgibbon, to co-chair his new Parliamentary Friends of Australian Coal Exports group, set up “to acknowledge and celebrate the invaluable contribution that Australian coal exports make to our nation”, Fitzgibbon immediately agreed.

From the vantage point of Fitzgibbon, who holds the coal seat of Hunter in NSW, this sends a signal, on high volume, about his commitment, as well as saying something more generally about the ALP’s post-election position. Nevertheless, while participation doesn’t contradict Labor policy on climate change and coal, the Kelly-Fitzgibbon alliance does seem an odd coupling.

As the Labor team shakes down, Bill Shorten – still deeply bruised – emerged briefly in question time this week. But he and last term’s frontliners Chris Bowen and Tanya Plibersek remain near invisible.

In contrast, one player coming strongly into focus in the new Labor firmament is former NSW premier Kristina Keneally.

After the election, Keneally crashed through the internal party processes to become Labor’s deputy leader in the Senate. She shadows Peter Dutton in home affairs, and seems to be everywhere. This week she was in the headlines calling for controversial British right-wing activist Raheem Kassam to be banned from coming to Australia to speak at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Sydney next week.

Keneally even attracted an attack from Donald Trump’s son, Donald junior, who tweeted his condemnation.

It is difficult to judge how Albanese will fare this term but you can bet Keneally will be making plenty of splashes.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.

Politics with Michelle Grattan: Anthony Albanese on Labor’s hard times

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Anthony Albanese has a blunt message for critics who are accusing Labor of attacking government measures but then voting for them. They should “examine the world as it is rather than as they would like it to be,” he says.

In the post-election reality the Senate will mostly support the government. This severely limits the opposition’s capacity to alter legislation.

In this podcast episode, Albanese defends Labor’s backing for the government’s $158 billion tax package, supports an increase in Newstart, and strongly argues the need to take the superannuation guarantee to 12%.

He remains confident in his ability to force the expulsion from the party of maverick unionist John Setka, regardless of the outcome of the court action Setka has brought. “That will happen. His values don’t fit the values of the ALP. It’s as simple as that,” he says. But he stays implacably opposed to the government’s Ensuring Integrity legislation to enable tougher action against erring union officials, saying Labor will vote against it.

Despite its problems at the election, Albanese believes Labor can successfully appeal to both working class aspirational voters and its progressive supporters, maintaining they have common interests in an ALP government.

Transcript (edited for clarity)

MICHELLE GRATTAN: Anthony Albanese has taken over the leadership of Labor at a particularly difficult time – after an unexpected election defeat that’s left the party shellshocked and demoralised. He has to drive a major re-evaluation of policy and in the meantime navigate the party’s way through the legislative wedges set up by a confident government. Amid the challenges he needs to keep his troops united. Anthony Albanese joins us today during a busy parliamentary week.

Anthony Albanese, you’ve been a senior minister, you’ve been deputy prime minister, but it’s often said that the job of opposition leader is the toughest in politics. What do you already see as the main challenges?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well the main challenge is of course overcoming the significant disappointment that’s there from May 18, when there was an expectation that we’d be sitting on the government benches. So, properly examining why it is that we’re still the opposition and then moving forward in a positive way.

MG: In caucus today you likened the [present] situation to when the Howard government won a Senate majority [at the 2004 election]. Now this government doesn’t have a majority in the upper house, but are you saying that Labor can’t expect to get much support from the non-Green crossbenchers?

AA: Well quite clearly [the government has] an absolute majority in the House of Representatives. And in the Senate what we’ve seen so far is the Centre Alliance senators explicitly say that they want to negotiate with the government, because in their view if the Senate passes amendments and it goes back to the House and the House rejects it, then it won’t become practice – it won’t become law. So that’s the explicit view that they’ve put.

Then you get to the One Nation senators who are obviously closer to the Coalition than they are to Labor. And then you have Jacqui Lambie who I think is a genuine person who’ll make judgments. But on a range of issues won’t vote with Labor either. And then of course there’s Cory Bernardi who’s not really an independent – who has basically folded up his own party and is voting with the government so far 100% of the time.

So given that we have to get four senators to make a positive difference and three senators to block[…]it won’t happen very often, I don’t think. We’ll put out our cases but we can expect that the government will have a working majority in the Senate on most occasions. 

MG: It will probably lose though, or it may well lose depending on Jacqui Lambie, in its effort to repeal the Medevac bill, won’t it?

AA: Well I hope so. But on that case we only need three. It’s clear from Centre Alliance that they’ll vote with Labor but we will need Jacqui Lambie. But that’s an example. Yeah.

The best case scenario for Labor is essentially rely upon Jacqui Lambie in order to block or defeat legislation, which is different of course from a positive initiative where it needs Jacqui Lambie and effectively, it needs One Nation and Centre Alliance because you need four. So Jacqui Lambie plus either the other combinations doesn’t get you there.

MG: You also told caucus the government will often be wedging Labor so you’ll have to choose whether to support a measure when you agree with part of it but can’t amend the part that you disagree with. The tax package was an obvious example. How do you answer those – including in your own party – who will be critical when you attack legislation but then vote for it? 

AA: Well that they have to examine the world as it is rather than as they would like it to be. We’ve been delivered a Senate where there is one Labor senator from Queensland got elected out of six. So five non-Labor senators out of six to put it another way.

Now the consequences of that are that the government is close to a working majority. As a result of that, take the tax package. We went to the election supporting stage one of the tax cuts – they’re the only part that take effect during this term of parliament. It provides for tax relief through offsets for low and middle income earners. So for every nurse, every council worker, every child care worker, every person working in retail or hospitality, up to $1080.

Now today I noticed in Question Time that the Treasurer said that there were something like 32,000 was the figure he used in one electorate alone were receiving the full $1080 dollars. Now the idea that we could say to a nurse: yes we told you we would do this if we’re elected to government but we voted against you getting this money – money that you need, money also that the economy needs you to get and spend to boost consumer demand and to boost economic activity, is quite frankly untenable.

So we were faced with the reality of either voting for what we’re in favour of – Stage 1 and indeed Stage 2 of the tax cuts we said we’d support as well – or being defined by what we were against which is stage 3 of the tax cuts that go to higher income earners but don’t come in until 2024-2025.

MG: Now you have reserved the right to try to repeal those if and when you are in government. But isn’t that unrealistic?
AA: Well what we’ve said is we’ll have our own tax policy that will take to the election that will determine prior to the election in 2022. And we reserve the right to certainly do that.

But again that was to make the point that to say to someone we tried to block your $1080 that you’re going to get today because we’re concerned about something that might happen in six years time, in my view would have been an incorrect decision.

And that was reinforced to me by the fact that as of last week some 750,000 more taxpayers have put in their tax return this year than had at the same time last year. What that is, is 750,000 people at least additional who have noticed that they’re eligible for this up to $1080, have gone about organising their affairs so that they put in their tax returns to get this money, because they’re desperate to get it. And that’s the reality that we were confronted with. And it’s a decision that I believe was absolutely the right one to make.

MG: Let’s turn to national security. It’s long been Labor’s position to act in lockstep with the government in this area – after in some cases winning concessions. Now that we’ve seen excesses like the raids on the media do you think the ALP has just taken bipartisanship too far?

AA: Well I’ve said way back in 2014 about some of the national security laws, and it was reported, that we needed to examine the measures on their merits. And I thought that some of the statements I made at the time[…]indeed in an article I was quoted in a breakfast television interview as saying that that we’ve gone too far in supporting the Abbott government’s national security agenda and I expressed my concern that what would happen in particular to journalists is that the rights of the media would be constrained. Now I’ve been consistent about that the whole way through.

I’m very concerned about press freedom. When the raids occurred on Annika Smethurst and the ABC, the Prime Minister dismissed concerns frankly was his first response and quite clearly we need to value freedom of the press as an essential component of our democracy. 

MG: So are you going to give less bipartisan support than we’ve seen over the last half a dozen years?

AA: Well we’ll examine things on their merits.

MG: But you’ll be tougher?

AA: So yes we’ll certainly examine things on their merits and we’re prepared to take stances. On the issue of foreign fighter legislation that we’re dealing with now, we had amendments. We weren’t prepared though – if our amendments aren’t successful — to uphold the joint parliamentary committee’s recommendations, that it was essentially to give the power to a judge rather than to the minister to determine these issues.

If that wasn’t successful we weren’t prepared to vote against that legislation because quite frankly the idea that we would be responsible for someone coming back to Australia who wants to cause Australians harm overrode our concern about giving the minister more power.

MG: But are you prepared to be tougher on other areas?

AA: Yes. Yes we are. We will make judgments based upon the merits of legislation that been put forward. But I have expressed the issue of media freedom I think is something that the legislation does need re-examination. And we need to make sure that journalists and indeed whistleblowers, which is the second part of it, are given the protections that they need to ensure that a functioning democracy can occur.

And I think that the real question behind these issues is, what in the information that was published by journalists [Smethurst, ABC] was not in the national interest? What should have been kept secret? And my view is that all of the information published is in the national interest, particularly plans to eavesdrop on Australian citizens without their knowledge.

MG: So are you saying that you would want a wide review of current national security laws to see whether they need to be modified? And what precisely are you saying about changes that are needed relevant to the media?

AA: Well look I think in terms of national security we live in times that are uncertain. We live in a world where people do want to give us harm. So I’m not talking about opening up the full range of issues, and we need to ensure that the government’s responsibility to keep us safe is an important one.

But it’s the government that’s broken with bipartisanship here. Previously all of the recommendations from the [parliamentary] joint national security committee, the PJCIS, have been adopted. It’s the government that have walked away from that because that model is important because that committee can get in the intelligence services, get the information in camera confidentially if need be, and then act in accordance with their knowledge of that information which is brought forward.

Now I’m concerned that the government has broken with that bipartisanship. I certainly want to be bipartisan on these issues because I don’t want them to be the subject of political wrangling. I want them to be the subject of what do we need to do to keep Australians safe.

When it comes to the media, quite clearly I think that the issues raised by the journalists concerned are in the national interest – that that be public and the fact that we’ve seen such quite draconian action really with these raids is of real concern. And if we need to examine legislation quite frankly we can’t do that from opposition.

MG: No but there is an inquiry now going on into this question of confidentiality following the raids by that very committee you referred to. So will Labor take a robust stance into that inquiry?
AA: Oh look we’ve made it very clear that we’re concerned about media freedom and we’ll take action consistent with the views we’ve put forward.

MG: You’ve been very critical of Peter Dutton for having essentially too much power. Isn’t the logic of that criticism that the home affairs portfolio should be broken up to an extent?

AA: Well this was a government decision to form this portfolio but the question is how much of it was driven by what was good governance and how much was driven by Malcolm Turnbull’s desperation to keep Peter Dutton happy? Now that didn’t work out so well for either Peter Dutton or for Malcolm Turnbull.

So what we need is appropriate government arrangements. I was of the view, for example, that having the transport security issues in home affairs has removed some of the expertise which is there relating to the people who actually run airports and run airlines. But I don’t seek to make those issues partisan. I hope that the government considers good outcomes should be what we’re concerned about here.

MG: But Labor does not regard the present structure of home affairs as immutable forever?

AA: No and the truth is that that would be the case for the government as well but it shouldn’t be about the individual, who the individual minister is. It should be about how do we get the best outcomes.

MG: Let’s turn to Newstart. Labor’s now supporting an increase in Newstart. Does it matter that this would reduce the projected surplus? Is it more important than the quantum of the surplus?

AA: Well with respect, that’s not the right question in my view. The question is because governments aren’t just about Newstart and everything else remained static for example which is the assumption behind that question. Should Newstart be increased? The question is, is it too low? Is it keeping people in poverty? Is it restricting people’s capacity to get off Newstart because they don’t have enough money to be able to search for jobs?

MG: So you’re saying yes is the answer to those questions?

AA: The answer is clearly yes. And we asked the Prime Minister in parliament, could he survive on $40 a day. And essentially he didn’t answer the question.

MG: Could you?

AA: No no. Quite clearly it’s too low and it’s too low for the people who are Newstart recipients to survive on it. And that’s what they’re telling us so missing out on meals. They’re missing out on being able to afford to catch transport and to get to job interviews. They’re missing out on being able to dress appropriately to get to job interviews. It’s having an impact on their health.

And what’s more, an important factor here is that an increase in Newstart wouldn’t be a zero sum game. The Newstart recipients spend every cent that they get. That creates economic activity. That creates jobs. That means less people on Newstart as well. So there’s a boost to the economy and that’s why you have everyone from the Reserve Bank to the Business Council of Australia, the trade union movement, John Howard, Barnaby Joyce, the National Party – everyone except for Scott Morrison – saying that we need to do something about this.

MG: Now in another area of incomes, there’s debate now about whether the superannuation guarantee should go up from 9.5% to 12%, be phased up. It’s already legislated but some in the government want that changed – some on their backbench. Lots of young families would in fact prefer any extra money being available to them in the form of a wage rise that they can use now when they need the money rather than being put away in superannuation. Yet your policy is to go to the 12%. What’s your response to those families?

AA: My response is that the whole concept of compulsory superannuation relies upon the first word, “compulsory”.

It’s about a national savings scheme that has served over the long term, served individuals and families, exceptionally well and is the envy of the world. It’s a great reform by the Hawke-Keating government.

And lifting it up to 12% is a practical reform that will make an enormous difference to people’s lives and once you start fiddling around with that concept then you undermine the whole superannuation agenda that’s so important for individuals.

But I’ll make this point too. It’s important for the national interest because of the amount of money that is in funds that could then be used to promote economic activity and growth through investing that in infrastructure projects and other activity.

MG: I want to ask you a couple of questions about Indigenous affairs. On Indigenous recognition, the government and opposition seem to me to be miles apart on the crucial detail. You back a reference to an Indigenous “Voice to parliament” being inserted into the Constitution. Scott Morrison won’t have a bar of that. This referendum is simply not going to fly, is it?

AA: Well I hope that you’re wrong and I believe it is possible that you are. That will be up to the government. But quite clearly you can’t have recognition of First Nations people in our Constitution – that’s so important for the unity of our nation going forward – without taking into account what Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people themselves say they want.

MG: And that’s a reference to the Voice in the Constitution. And you support that?

AA: They had that commitment. I do support that. I do support that because they supported it. I’m not seeking to impose it on them. They had a process and came up with the unanimous Statement from the Heart at Uluru and it doesn’t represent a third chamber.

The other thing is is that it’s a reference to it in the Constitution. The outline of how the voice would work is a legislative one and legislated by the parliament that is elected and indigenous people I think have been very modest in what they have put forward.

It’s a practical idea which is pretty simple that they should be consulted – they don’t get a final determination, just consulted about matters that affect First Nations people. And I think that is a very reasonable proposition. I hope that the government can support it over a period of time we have seen, including in the last week, people like Barnaby Joyce changing his position.

MG: Now you’re going to the Garma Festival at the weekend. What will be your message there?

AA: Look I’m going to listen and to pay respect to First Nations people. It’s an important forum as well as a celebration of Indigenous culture.

We are very very privileged to live in the land with the oldest continuous civilisation on the planet and I’m looking forward to engaging while I’m there with whoever wants to have a chat. I’ll be giving a speech there as well reaffirming our support for constitutional recognition and a Voice. And I’ll be proud to be going there as well with Pat Dodson who has played such a critical role in reconciliation, and with Linda Burney and with Malarndirri McCarthy.

I hope Ken Wyatt is going as well, I hope and I think it’s a very good thing that there has been substantial progress.

The truth is you’re right in terms of constitutional recognition can only occur with bipartisanship. And I was given some hope by the fact that when I met with the Prime Minister we agreed that Ken Wyatt and Linda Burney would work together to see if there can be a common position going forward.

MG: Now on the vexed question about coal. Labor’s ambivalence about coal caused it a great deal of grief at the election. The Adani issue in particular. Now we hear that a parliamentary friends group for coal exports has been formed with Liberal backbencher Craig Kelly and your resources spokesman Joel Fitzgibbon as co-chairs. Are you comfortable with this and won’t many of your supporters believe it looks very odd?

AA: Well it’s not surprising that the Member for Hunter with such a very large electorate of coal miners supports the economic interests of the people that he’s elected to represent.

MG: It’s an odd couple though you must admit.

AA: Well I will admit that Craig Kelly is an odd fellow on most issues, but Labor’s view is very clear which is that climate change is real, that we need to act, that we need to transition to a clean energy economy, that we need to be engaged with the global community to take global action through processes like the UNFCCC that will take a proactive role.

The last Labor government of course the first thing that we did was to ratify the Kyoto Protocol. We then tried to have an emissions trading scheme that was comprehensive that would have applied by the way to fugitive emissions and therefore would have had an impact on mining, it would have applied to transport across the board and of course the Greens and the coalition got together to scuttle that not once but twice and had that not happened, I think we might never have seen Prime Minister Abbott but it did.

And then of course what we’ve seen after the change of government in 2013 is a government that doesn’t have an energy policy at all.
So renewables will play an increasingly important part. We had a strong policy going to the election on climate change. We’ll have a strong policy again. It will reflect the circumstances that we find ourselves in in 2022.

But Labor’s position is very clear which is that climate change is real. We need to listen to the science and we need to respond.

MG: Now on an internal problem that’s causing you a bit of difficulty. You’re committed to expelling maverick union official John Setka from the ALP. Are you still sure you can actually do this regardless of whether he wins or loses the court action he’s undertaken to try and stop you doing it?

AA: Well he’s been suspended …

MG: But can you get rid of him?

AA: Absolutely. And that will happen. His values don’t fit the values of the ALP. It’s as simple as that.

MG: Are there any amendments that would persuade Labor to support the Government’s legislation that’s aimed at toughening the law against bad behaviour by union officials like Setka?

AA: Well there are laws in place right now.

MG: But now the parliament is considering a law for tougher action.

AA: And we’ll be voting against it because there are laws there right now.

What this what this government is obsessed about is attacking the trade union movement, attacking its very existence. They don’t seem to care about occupational health and safety at work sites, they don’t care about the fact that wages are stagnant, they don’t care about stolen wages and we’ve seen some very significant cases particularly in the hospitality industry with very prominent people involved.

They don’t care about the fact that the wage stagnation is a real constraint on the economy that’s been identified by every economist. They don’t care about the fact that enterprise bargaining system isn’t really working properly in terms of wages being allowed to grow, and they are just obsessed by attacking trade unions.
I’d say to the government, what you should be bringing into parliament is legislation that will assist in growing wages and improving living standards. Legislation that treats people the same way whether they’re workers or employers.

This [Ensuring Integrity] legislation doesn’t provide any consistency with the behaviour of corporations or corporate executives with what is proposed for ordinary workers. The majority of people who would be impacted by this legislation aren’t people who are trade union officials – they’re volunteers who give up their time to participate to assist their fellow workers.

MG: Now just finally, you’ve been highly critical of Labor’s failure to appeal to aspirational voters at the election. What is your message now to your two key, but sometimes separate, constituencies – working class aspirationals and progressive voters?

AA: Well that there’s those common interests in having a Labor government. A Labor government’s all about creating opportunity, in lifting people up and making sure that what they want, regardless of whether there are blue collar workers or whether they’re lawyers or tertiary educated people.

To my mind they have a common theme to their life which is they want their kids to have more opportunities and better living standards than they ensured themselves.

They also want to have an environment that’s at least as pristine as the one that they got to enjoy.

So I don’t buy the the argument that there’s these two completely distinct constituencies of Labor. I think that as I go around the country I think that they have much more in common.

People who have an outlook which is one of caring about their community. And when I talk about aspiration as well people want to aspire to better living standards, to better jobs for themselves. But they want something more than that. They want better living standards and a better quality of life for their family, for their neighbours, for their community, and indeed for their country.

MG: Anthony Albanese thank you for talking with us today. And that’s all from this podcast. We’ll have another interview soon. Thank you to my producer Rashna Farrukh. Goodbye for now.

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Additional audio

A List of Ways to Die, Lee Rosevere, from Free Music Archive.


AAP/LUKAS COCHThe Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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