How much influence will independents and minor parties have this election? Please explain


Chris Salisbury, The University of Queensland

For some time now, Australian voters have rattled the cage of the political establishment. Frustrated with prime ministerial “coups”, political scandals and policy inertia, growing numbers have turned away from the major parties.

Does this mean minor parties and independent candidates will have a significant impact on the coming federal election?

Anti-major party sentiment doesn’t usually disrupt the numbers in parliament by much. Only five of 150 seats weren’t won by the major parties at the 2016 federal election, despite a national minor party/independent vote of over 23%. But a nationwide minor party Senate vote of over 35% in 2016 resulted in a record 20 crossbenchers – helped by a lower quota bar at a double dissolution election.

Familiar groups and faces are well placed to capitalise on this sentiment during the current election campaign.




Read more:
A matter of (mis)trust: why this election is posing problems for the media


Chasing the protest vote

Despite internal instability rocking its New South Wales branch, the Greens will hope to capitalise on growing progressive support (in Victoria especially) and an expected anti-Coalition swing to secure Senate influence.

Yet with recent Senate voting rule changes being tested for the first time at a normal half-Senate election, the Greens may in fact struggle to retain, let alone build on, their current nine Senate spots. Final Senate seats in most states will be fought over by a slew of (mainly right-wing) minor parties.

Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party (UAP), Pauline Hanson’s One Nation (PHON), and – unlikely as it seems – Fraser Anning’s new Conservative National Party will chase the “protest vote” in all states and (apart from PHON) territories.

But intense competition for the conservative vote means they and other minor parties stand only an outside chance of winning lower house seats. One exception is Bob Katter likely holding Kennedy in north Queensland for his eponymous Australian Party.

Still, an expected high minor party vote will keep the major parties – and the media – focused on preferencing arrangements throughout the campaign. These preferences will likely play a key role in electing minor party candidates to the Senate, potentially returning familiar faces like One Nation’s Malcolm Roberts from Queensland.

Deference to preferences

Recent opinion poll results have unexpectedly placed Palmer’s party ahead of the field of minor parties on the right. Months of saturation advertising, it seems, have imprinted the billionaire’s messaging on voters’ minds. Yet this sudden poll prominence, like Palmer’s billboard pledge to “make Australia great”, is largely illusory.

Nevertheless, both major parties have responded to this seeming upsurge in UAP support. The Coalition has hurriedly concluded a preferencing arrangement that sees Palmer and Prime Minister Scott Morrison somewhat “reconciled”. The deal might deliver much-needed preferences to Coalition MPs in marginal seats, particularly in Queensland. It also increases the chances of Palmer candidates – and the man himself – winning a Senate seat.

But these are big “maybes”. Minor party voters are renowned for following their own preference choices. In 2013, voters’ preferences from Palmer’s United Party candidates split only 54% the Coalition’s way.

Clearly stung by the attention being shown to Palmer, Hanson has announced PHON will preference Labor last in some key marginal seats held by Liberal incumbents. That includes Peter Dutton, whose seat of Dickson is under siege. In 2016, PHON took a different approach when it preferenced against sitting MPs, costing the Coalition its hold on Queensland seats like Herbert and Longman.

As part of the same deal, PHON will exchange preferences with the Nationals – whose leader Michael McCormack claimed “it just made sense” – lifting the Nationals’ hopes in marginal and at-risk regional seats.

Labor has also sealed a deal to boost its chances in marginal Victorian seats, concluding an arrangement with Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party. This will see Labor how-to-vote cards in tightly contested seats like Dunkley and Corangamite suggest second preferences go to Hinch’s Senate candidates ahead of the Greens (repeating Labor’s approach at the 2016 election).




Read more:
View from The Hill: Shorten had the content, Morrison had the energy in first debate


The reputational risks of preference deals

But doing preference deals with minor parties carries reputational risks, as former Western Australia Premier Colin Barnett has warned. As has often been the case with personality-driven outfits, choosing suitable or qualified candidates easily brings minor parties undone.

Anning’s party has already stumbled badly. A pair of candidates in Victoria and the ACT has been called into question, and a party supporter allegedly assaulted journalists in Sydney.

Hanson’s party, no stranger to this pitfall, is still hosing down the controversy of the Al Jazeera taped conversations with party insiders, which has likely cost the party some support. Freshly released video footage has now forced Queensland Senate candidate, Steve Dickson, to resign in disgrace, in another blow to the often shambolic party’s standing.

Palmer’s candidates are similarly coming under scrutiny with doubts raised over citizenship qualifications, putting legitimate doubts into voters’ minds just as pre-polling has commenced.

Familiarity is key for independents

The best chances for independents are in lower house seats, yet there’s been only a dozen elected to parliament in the last several decades. Those who’ve broken through in election campaigns, like Kerryn Phelps at last year’s Wentworth byelection, typically benefit when there’s some controversy or ill-feeling towards an incumbent or their party.

But in the absence of full-on media glare of a high-profile by-election contest, Phelps might struggle to hold her seat – assuming the angst of local voters over Malcolm Turnbull’s deposing has dissipated.

Personal profile and high media interest puts Zali Steggall in with a chance to unseat Tony Abbott in Warringah. Likewise, a well-organised local campaign structure such as “Voices for Indi” behind Cathy McGowan’s hopeful successor, Helen Haines, can make the difference – though transition of support from one independent to another isn’t assured.

Newcomers on the ballot paper generally find the odds against them. Candidates with an established record and voter recognition, such as Andrew Wilkie in Tasmania’s Clark (like the Greens’ Adam Bandt in Melbourne and Centre Alliance’s Rebekha Sharkie in South Australia’s Mayo), enjoy an easier path to reelection.

Similarly, Rob Oakeshott is given a good chance of winning the New South Wales seat of Cowper from retiring Nationals MP, Luke Hartsuyker. He carries strong name recognition from his time as Independent MP for the neighbouring seat of Lyne.

But recognition alone mightn’t be enough for Julia Banks, the former Liberal MP for Chisholm in Victoria who is now challenging in Greg Hunt’s seat of Flinders. Her decision to preference Labor’s candidate above Hunt might turn away potential support from Liberal-leaning voters, yet could put the seat within Labor’s grasp.




Read more:
More grey tsunami than youthquake: despite record youth enrolments, Australia’s voter base is ageing


Minors and independents cloud the outcome

The chances of an “independent tide” sweeping several seats this election is unlikely, in part due to the ability of major parties to drown out the competition. And counter to long speculation about the “march of the minors”, there could in fact be a reduced crossbench in both the lower house and Senate.

But voter dissatisfaction with the major parties persists, and minor party preferences are likely to play a critical role in many seats.

The prominence of minor parties will maintain an air of unpredictability for the remainder of the campaign, clouding an election outcome many saw not long ago as a foregone conclusion.The Conversation

Chris Salisbury, Research Associate, The University of Queensland

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

Advertisements

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



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

Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

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

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

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

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




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


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

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

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

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

How this applies to Anning

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

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

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

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




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


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

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




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


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

Can the major parties prevent the election of extreme candidates?

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

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

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

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




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


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

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

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

Coalition wins majority at NSW election

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

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

Brexit delayed until at least April 12

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

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

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

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

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

Can a senator be expelled from the federal parliament for offensive statements?


Anne Twomey, University of Sydney

In the wake of comments about the Christchurch massacre, members of the public have raised the question of whether a senator can be expelled from the Senate for making offensive statements.

It is now well known that members of parliament can have their seat vacated in the parliament due to their disqualification under section 44 of the Constitution for reasons including dual citizenship, bankruptcy, holding certain government offices or being convicted of offences punishable by imprisonment for one year or longer.

But there is no ground of disqualification for behaviour that brings a House of Parliament into disrepute. This was something left to the house to deal with by way of expulsion.




Read more:
Dual citizenship debacle claims five more MPs – and sounds a stern warning for future parliamentarians


What powers do the houses have to expel?

Section 49 of the Commonwealth Constitution provides that until the Commonwealth parliament declares the powers, privileges and immunities of its houses, they shall be those the British House of Commons had at the time of federation (1901).

The House of Commons then had, and continues to have, the power to expel its members. The power was rarely exercised, but was most commonly used when a member was found to have committed a criminal offence or contempt of parliament. Because of the application of section 49 of the Constitution, such a power was also initially conferred upon both houses of the Australian parliament.

The House of Representatives exercised that power in 1920 when it expelled a member of the Labor opposition, Hugh Mahon. He had given a speech at a public meeting that criticised the actions of the British in Ireland and expressed support for an Australian republic.

Prime Minister Billy Hughes (whom Mahon had previously voted to expel from the Labor Party over conscription in 1916), moved to expel Mahon from the House of Representatives on November 11 – a dangerous date for dismissals. He accused Mahon of having made “seditious and disloyal utterances” that were “inconsistent with his oath of allegiance”. The opposition objected, arguing that no action should be taken unless Mahon was tried and convicted by the courts. Mahon was expelled by a vote taken on party lines.

In 2016, a private member’s motion was moved to recognise that his expulsion was unjust and a misuse of the power then invested in the house.

The power of the houses to expel members, as granted by section 49, was subject to the Commonwealth parliament declaring what the powers, privileges and immunities of the houses shall be. This occurred with the enactment of the Parliamentary Privileges Act 1987.

It was enacted as a result of an inquiry by a parliamentary committee, which pointed out the potential for this power to be abused and that as a matter of democratic principle, it was up to voters to decide the composition of the parliament. This is reinforced by sections seven and 24 of the Constitution, which say that the houses of parliament are to be “directly chosen by the people”.

As a consequence, the power to expel was removed from the houses. Section 8 of the Parliamentary Privileges Act 1987 says:

A House does not have power to expel a member from membership of a House.

This means that currently neither house of the Commonwealth parliament has the power to expel one of its members.

Could the position be changed?

Just as the parliament had the legislative power to limit the powers and privileges of its houses, it could legislate to amend or repeal section eight so that a house could, in future, expel one of its members, either on any ground or for limited reasons.

Whether or not this is wise remains doubtful. The reasons given by the parliamentary committee for the removal of this power remain strong. The power to expel is vulnerable to misuse when one political party holds a majority in the house. Equally, there is a good democratic argument that such matters should be left to the voters at election time.

However, expulsion is still an option in other Australian parliaments, such as the NSW parliament. It’s used in circumstances where the member is judged guilty of conduct unworthy of a member of parliament and where the continuing service of the member is likely to bring the house into disrepute.




Read more:
Why a government would be mad to advise the refusal of royal assent to a bill passed against its will


It is commonly the case, though, that a finding of illegality, dishonesty or corruption is first made by a court, a royal commission or the Independent Commission Against Corruption before action to expel is taken. The prospect of expulsion is almost always enough to cause the member to resign without expulsion formally occurring. So, actual cases of expulsion remain extremely rare.

Are there any other remedies to deal with objectionable behaviour?

The houses retain powers to suspend members for offences against the house, such as disorderly conduct. But it is doubtful that a house retains powers of suspension in relation to conduct that does not amount to a breach of standing orders or an “offence against the house”. Suspension may therefore not be available in relation to statements made outside the house that do not affect its proceedings.

Instead, the house may choose to censure such comments by way of a formal motion. Such motions are more commonly moved against ministers in relation to government failings. A censure motion is regarded as a serious form of rebuke, but it does not give rise to any further kind of punishment such as a fine or suspension.

The primary remedy for dealing with unacceptable behaviour remains at the ballot box. This is a pertinent reminder to all voters of the importance of being vigilant in the casting of their vote to ensure the people they elect to high office are worthy of fulfilling it.The Conversation

Anne Twomey, Professor of Constitutional Law, University of Sydney

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

View from The Hill: Tony Abbott tries some climate adaptation for the winds of Warringah



File 20190308 150683 rfeju5.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Tony Abbott is being challenged in Warringah by Zali Steggall, who has climate policy at the centre of her platform.
AAP/Peter Rae

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Tony Abbott pulled the panic lever on Friday, and Malcolm Turnbull pushed the revenge button.

The gainers from these spectacular plays were Zali Steggall, the independent candidate who is trying to oust Abbott in Warringah, and Bill Shorten, who is handed another break in his campaign to defeat the government.

Years ago, in a much earlier round of the climate and emissions wars, Abbott referred to himself as a “weather vane.” That accurate self-assessment invited ridicule, but his latest change of direction is beyond absurd.

For months, Abbott was calling for Australia to exit Paris, like the Americans. It was part of his unremitting campaign against Turnbull, and the then PM’s drive for a national energy guarantee.

But Abbott’s new view is that leaving Paris is unnecessary.“I’m not calling for us to pull out now,” he told a Warringah candidates’ debate on Friday.

“We had an emissions obsession that needed to be broken and it’s now changed”, with a new prime minister and a new energy minister, he said.

“We can meet our Paris targets without substantial policy change and without significant additional costs on the economy.”

Abbott’s beef with the Paris agreement – for which his government set Australia’s targets – was tied to his jihad against his successor.

What’s mostly changed, though, is Abbott’s own circumstances. He faces what’s for him an existential threat – the risk of being driven out of parliamentary life. Steggall has climate change at the centre of her campaign.

But can Abbott really think his local voters are so naïve that they’ll be convinced by such an obviously expedient shift of position? They know him too well for that.

University of Canberra research has shown they are critical of him, especially over his opposition to same-sex marriage and his wrecking behaviour.

Isn’t his risk that they could simply become more cynical, concluding he’s taking them for mugs, and he could worsen rather than improve his position?

And apart from how Warringah will read his latest shift, what about his vocal right-wing supporters? You’d expect they would be shocked by this backflip.

Abbott didn’t do a full conversion, however – he remains a coal advocate, suggesting the Snowy Hydro Corporation could invest in it.

“Coal-fired power remains the cheapest form of baseload power,” he declared.

That was enough to bring in Turnbull, who slapped down his nemesis from afar. Oceans and time zones mean nothing when your anger burns hot and Twitter’s at hand.

“But it isn’t, ” Turnbull tweeted from London in response to Abbott’s
claim about cheapness. “Today the cheapest form of new dispatchable or
base load energy is renewables plus storage.

“We are now able to have lower emissions and lower prices but we need
to plan it using engineering & economics rather than ideology and
innumerate idiocy”.

In another tweet Turnbull continued, “The reason the fossil fuel lobby and their apologists rail against Snowy Hydro 2.0, and have tried to stop it, is because it delivers the massive storage which does make renewables reliable and this enable our progress to lower emissions and lower energy prices”.

Turnbull was already fired up, having in a BBC interview (recorded on Wednesday London time) once again canvassed the circumstances of his political demise in that “peculiarly Australian form of madness” of last August. Unloading on those who’d brought him down, he contended that “you could argue, that their concern was not that I would lose the election but rather that I would win it”.

If it isn’t enough for a government, weeks out from the announcement of the election, to have two former PMs refighting the climate/energy wars, the Nationals are parading their own obsessions and divisions.

A letter this week from half a dozen Queensland Nationals called for the government to underwrite a new power generation project in regional Queensland (they refrained from specifying coal but that’s what they were thinking). They also said the government should put its “big stick” legislation to discipline power companies to a parliamentary vote – despite the fact it would be amended unacceptably
and so get nowhere.

This was followed on Friday by a Courier Mail report that some Nationals, discontented with Michael McCormack’s leadership, were pushing to have him replaced by Barnaby Joyce before the election.

The agitation is driven particularly by the situation in Queensland, where several Nationals’ seats are at risk – notably Capricornia, Flynn and Dawson.

Joyce did nothing to calm things on Friday when he told the Northern Daily Leader he was “not driving the process”, but if a spill were called “of course I would stand”.

McCormack is not cutting through electorally and critics are unhappy he does not stand up enough to the Liberals.

He’s considered certain to lose his leadership post-election, assuming the loss of Nationals seats.

But any attempt at moving him before the election would be madness – and most Nationals do appear to accept that.

Consider how it would look, in budget week (the only time the parliamentary party is scheduled to be in town before the election) if the Nationals were to roll the Deputy Prime Minister, or make a move to do so.

Anyway, Joyce is now a highly controversial figure within and outside the party. He might win some votes in Queensland, but he might well lose some for the government elsewhere.

With a battle for the “women’s vote” so live at this election, and Labor going all out to exploit Coalition weaknesses in this area, it would be lunacy to think of bringing back someone whose exit from the leadership was partly triggered by allegations (denied) of sexual harassment.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: Warringah Votes – Abbott’s challenger has yet to ‘penetrate the streets’


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Zali Steggall is a poster person for a batch of high-profile
centre-right independents contesting seats in the May election.

Her bid to oust Tony Abbott from his Liberal heartland Sydney seat of Warringah is receiving national attention and the former prime minister is clearly feeling under pressure.

But, according to qualitative research in the seat this week, Steggall – former Olympian, lawyer, local – is yet to embed herself in the minds of those voters who are potentially willing to turn against Abbott.

The focus groups, sponsored by the University of Canberra’s Democracy 2025 project and conducted by Landscape Research, found mixed feelings about Abbott, who has held the northern beaches seat since 1994, but uncertainty about alternatives.

The four groups, each of seven to nine “soft” voters (who haven’t made up their minds) drawn from across the electorate, were held on Monday and Tuesday. This research is not predictive but taps into general attitudes.

Federal politics isn’t top of mind for these Warringah residents, many of whom display conservative views on economics while being socially progressive (for example, disdaining the use of border security as a political weapon).




Read more:
Politics with Michelle Grattan: Tony Abbott and Zali Steggall on Warringah votes


Their concerns focus more on infrastructure, particularly roads and traffic congestion, population growth, environmental concerns on the northern beaches and housing affordability for their children.

Older voters are more engaged, more readily able to discuss current issues in federal politics and more concerned with the impact on their area. Younger voters have largely tuned out, feeling powerless.

Interestingly, in view of Steggall’s very strong pitch on climate change, that issue barely rates a mention, with people’s environmental concerns more on the loss of farmland to mining, the decline of the Murray Darling Basin, and the impact on the local beaches of population growth in the longer term.

Older Warringah voters trust Scott Morrison more than Bill Shorten to run the country. But for quite a few this is grudging. Morrison is the “least worst” option – they don’t trust him that much, but they trust Shorten less.

Younger people are divided as to which leader they trust more. Shorten is regarded as having the more progressive and inclusive policy agenda. Those younger voters who trust Morrison more see him as more likeable and sympathetic and a “straight shooter” as well as having stronger economic credentials.

But there is some concern among both older and younger voters about Morrison’s religious beliefs, and their possible influence on policy and pushing the Liberal Party to the right. “Morrison’s too much of a radical Christian, a bit of a loose cannon,” an older woman says.

Some voters see Shorten’s leadership position as more stable than
Morrison’s (suggesting they haven’t tuned into the Liberals’ new rule that a Liberal PM winning an election would see out the term).




Read more:
Event: your Q&A with Michelle Grattan in Melbourne


A positive for the prime minister is the Liberals’ historical
reputation as better economic managers. Shorten’s union background and character are cited as negatives for him.

While a few younger voters support Labor’s policies on capital gains tax, negative gearing and franking credits as being more equitable, many older voters are highly critical of the policies. A 66-year-old woman admin officer laments: “I will be a self-funded retiree when I retire, and my whole life is stuffed up, because everything I’ve worked for is about to go arse-up.”

Stability – or lack of it – is a recurring theme among Warringah soft voters. They see politicians from both sides as focussed on themselves, and the leadership coups as evidence they are more preoccupied with power than “doing the right thing by the people”.

For his critics in these groups, Abbott’s trenchant stand against
same-sex marriage is clear evidence of being out of touch. Three
quarters of Warringah electors voted yes in the 2017 plebiscite.

A younger female says Abbott “has lost a lot of trust over his whole attitude towards women, and the same sex marriage issue”. A female nurse from Curl Curl declares he’s “past it and hasn’t got his finger on the pulse. He’s very old school, very set in his ways, bit of a misogynist. He’s very 1950s in his thinking”.

On the other hand, for some participants Abbott’s sticking to his
beliefs has been a plus, a sign of strength of character and
convictions.

There was passing reference to Abbott as a climate change sceptic, but his stance on same-sex marriage, which people cite repeatedly to illustrate his being out of touch with the electorate, aggravates them far more than his views on climate change.

Some voters who might disagree with him on issues see him as tenacious and committed to a life of public service. “He’s one of the most principled politicians I’ve ever seen,” says a 59-year old male musician from Dee Why.

Running in Abbott’s favour is his local activism. His lifesaving,
firefighting and general community engagement are well known. But his long tenure of itself can work against him. A 47-year old mother of two from Allambie Heights says: “I don’t dislike Tony Abbott. I just think he’s been in the job too long”.

Others regard him as untrustworthy and bitter. A female retiree from Mosman says it is clear he “has spent a lot of time in the parliament getting revenge and caused the most enormous amount of damage to the party”.

But the challenge for Steggall is to turn discontent with the incumbent into support for her.

As the researcher’s summary of the findings puts it: “What might appear to be a high-profile candidature to those looking in from outside the peninsula, does not yet appear to have penetrated the streets of Warringah.

“Some participants had never heard of Steggall. Some had only heard her name and knew nothing else about her, while a few knew she was an Olympian and/or a lawyer, and that she has children and has been married twice; certainly their knowledge of her at this time is not enough to make her an obvious alternative vote choice to Abbott.

“The dilemma for Steggall’s campaign is that neither the former
Liberal-voting Abbott defectors nor the ‘anyone-but-Abbott’ voters are automatically falling her way,” the report says.

“The very fact of deciding (definitely or probably) not to vote for Abbott causes these Warringah electors to consider their vote more carefully, to ponder the issues and weigh up their options on candidates (seriously for the first time in more than two decades).

“Some are aware that there is a ‘strong Indigenous female candidate’ (Susan Moylan-Coombs) and while her name is not top of mind for them, ‘she looks interesting’. The Labor candidate did not rate a mention across all four groups. Minor parties such as the Greens and the Liberal Democrats, as well as potential other independent candidates, are also under consideration by some”.

Older voters are more aware of Steggall, her legal career and her
father’s local legal practice. The fact she’s been an Olympian is a plus for some, indicating discipline; they see her legal qualification as indicating intelligence. A couple of the participants have received direct marketing information from her, making them feel more positive towards her. A 40-year old male from Freshwater who’s been getting “a lot” of Steggall material says: “She’s an independent, she’s moderate. Perfect.”

The assessment from a male business development manager from Balgowlah reflects the ambivalence in some voters’ minds: “There is something exciting about her, and she’s different, but you can’t have that trust in her because there’s no track record there, so you’re really just taking a leap of faith”.

As the researcher sums up from the group discussions, at this stage Steggall “is a local by geography but has yet to prove her mettle as a worthy community advocate.”

But this contest has a long way to run.

Postcript: Listen to interviews with Abbott and Steggall on The Conversation’s Politics with Michelle Grattan podcastThe 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: Shorten’s victory will bring dangerous counter strikes from a desperate government


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

An extraordinary amount of hype and some confected hysteria preceded Tuesday’s vote on the medical transfer legislation.

The government threw everything at trying to avoid a defeat. In a last stand, it fell back on a constitutional argument – backed by
Solicitor-General advice – that carried no practical weight and was simply circumvented by the majority that passed the bill in the House of Representatives.




Read more:
Crossbenchers must decide between something or nothing on medical transfers bill


While the government frantically attempted to thwart Labor and the crossbench, Scott Morrison also ran the line that he wasn’t that fussed. Afterwards he told a news conference: “Votes will come and votes will go, they do not trouble me.” That claim wouldn’t pass a fact check.

This was a big vote, and everyone knew it. Morrison operates a
minority government and Tuesday’s loss underscored that he can’t
automatically get his way. (Ironically, in the last days of Turnbull’s majority government, the threat of losing a House vote came from internal dissidents.)




Read more:
The government was defeated on the ‘medevac’ bill, but that does not mean the end of the government


The next test for Morrison will be on whether the House agrees to
extra sitting days to discuss the measures from the banking royal
commission. For procedural reasons, this needs 76 votes, one more than the 75 required on the medical transfer bill. The government has been leaning heavily on Bob Katter, the crossbencher who will be the key.

While the government looked rattled as the votes on the medical
transfer bill proceeded, Labor was calm and steely.

For all the talk about Labor’s misjudgement on the issue, this week it has moved cautiously and methodically.

Originally pushed by the crossbench into taking a stand on
humanitarian grounds – the bill is based on a proposal from
independent Kerryn Phelps – Labor has sought to display compassion but contain the political risk.

Bill Shorten, knowing the danger, decided the version of the bill
coming from the Senate (which Labor had supported there) left the ALP too exposed. He flagged last week he’d like a “middle” course.

So the opposition came up with amendments to give the minister wider discretion and more time in making decisions, and to limit the application of the legislation to those on Nauru and Manus now. The latter change was to minimise the “pull” factor – the extent to which the new arrangement would encourage the people smugglers.

Then it was a matter of persuading the required six crossbenchers.
They accepted in the negotiations that a modified bill was better than nothing (though there was some Greens cavilling).

In the House, the ALP troops were kept carefully in check; the emotion was turned down; the speeches from the bill’s supporters were few and brief. Labor just wanted one thing in the chamber – a win. This wasn’t the time to grandstand.

The government, wounded and worried, is seeing this as one (albeit
major) battle in the long war to the election. Its spruikers will say that in defeat it has had a victory – that Labor has given the
Coalition ammunition for the campaign.

It’s true the bill has breathed new life into the border security
debate, but whether this will be enough to do Labor serious harm is an open question. `

The ALP is always vulnerable on boats. On the other hand, boats are lower in voters’ minds than they used to be.

The government will turn up the dial by announcing “contingency plans” against fresh arrivals. Morrison, having accused Shorten of
undermining offshore processing, is already moving on to the claim that he couldn’t be trusted to be strong on turnbacks.

Goodness knows how the politics would play out if a boat appeared on the horizon in the next few weeks. You can be sure, however, that the government would be quick to tell us about it, and point the finger at Shorten.

In all this, the bill itself (which has to go back to the Senate for a tick off on the amendments) should be kept in perspective.

The minister has a veto on “security” grounds, including being able to exclude anyone who has committed a major crime. The composition of the medical panel which would have the final say on other transfers is broad and balanced.

Probably, over a period, there would be a lot of transfers out of the 1000 people offshore. But there have already been nearly 900 (some after legal action). These transfers have amounted to a backdoor route into Australia.

If the legislation in the longer term opens that door a little wider, it will also be a way of “settling” people in Australia without acknowledging that is being done.

More of the same? Or a radical change? It depends how you look at it.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.

Poll wrap: Labor maintains Newspoll lead but Morrison’s ratings up, and Abbott behind in Warringah


File 20190211 174890 j1yv7p.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
While Scott Morrison remains preferred PM, Labor maintains an election-winning two-party preferred lead in the latest Newspoll.
AAP/Ellen Smith

Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

This week’s Newspoll, conducted February 7-10 from a sample of 1,570, gave Labor a 53-47 lead, unchanged from last fortnight. Primary votes were 39% Labor (up one), 37% Coalition (steady), 9% Greens (steady) and 5% One Nation (down one) – One Nation’s lowest Newspoll vote since February 2018.

43% were satisfied with Scott Morrison (up three), and 45% were dissatisfied (down two), for a net approval of -2, up five points. Bill Shorten’s net approval was down two points to -15. Morrison led Shorten by 44-35 as better PM (43-36 last fortnight).

There has been much debate in the last fortnight about Labor’s proposal to abolish franking credit cash refunds. Voters were opposed by 44-35, but this is down from 48-30 opposition in December. Opposition was strongest among those aged over 65 (59-28 opposed).




Read more:
Words that matter. What’s a franking credit? What’s dividend imputation? And what’s ‘retiree tax’?


Voters supported reducing investor tax breaks, such as negative gearing and capital gains tax deductions, by a 51-32 margin (47-33 in November).

It has been over five months since Morrison replaced Malcolm Turnbull as PM in late August 2018. In nine Newspolls, his net approval has been in the single digits, positive or negative.

The last three Newspolls of 2018 were all 55-45 to Labor, while the first two of 2019 have been 53-47. I believe the Coalition has been assisted by Morrison’s relative popularity and a greater distance from the events of last August.

In Turnbull’s last four Newspolls as PM, the Coalition trailed by just 51-49, but Turnbull’s ratings were weaker than Morrison’s, with a peak net approval of -6. However, Turnbull’s ratings would have been better if not for the hard right’s hatred of him; it is plausible that 10% of the electorate disliked him from the right. Morrison has no problem with his right flank.

The Coalition is perceived as too close to big business (see Essential below), and Greg Jericho wrote in The Guardian that the latest data are not good for the Australian economy. A key question is whether Morrison’s ratings eventually fall due to the unpopularity of most Coalition policies. Economic credibility is likely to be important if the economy slows.

Essential poll: 52-48 to Labor

Last week’s Essential poll, conducted January 23-31 from a sample of 1,650, gave Labor a 52-48 lead, a one-point gain for the Coalition since Essential’s mid-January poll. Primary votes were 38% Coalition (steady), 36% Labor (down two), 10% Greens (steady) and 7% One Nation (steady).

The fieldwork period and the sample size were both larger than usual for Essential – normally Essential is conducted over four days with a sample a bit over 1,000.

By 47-41, voters agreed that one of the reasons why there are relatively few female MPs is that women choose not to get involved with politics. By 46-39, they disagreed with the proposition that voters preferred to elect men, rather than women. By 72-20, they disagreed with women being less capable politicians. Gender quotas were supported 46-40, but Coalition voters were opposed 50-37.

37% supported a separate national day to recognise Indigenous Australians alongside Australia Day, 15% thought Australia Day should be replaced, and 40% did not support a separate day.

At least 50% thought that private health insurance companies, big banks, mining companies and big business wanted the Coalition to win the next election. Labor had a lead on this question with pensioners and people with a disability, and at least 50% with families with young children and the unemployed.

Seat polls of Warringah, Stirling and Pearce

A ReachTEL poll of the NSW seat of Warringah for GetUp, from a sample of 622, gave independent Zali Steggall a 54-46 lead over incumbent Tony Abbott. Primary votes and fieldwork dates were not included in the media report. In 2016, Abbott won Warringah by 61.6-38.4 against the Greens, and 61.1-38.9 against Labor.

60% thought Abbott’s performance as a local member poor, and 60% said they were more likely to vote for a candidate who would tackle climate change – 78% among those who had defected from Abbott.

A Labor internal poll of the WA seat of Stirling, conducted after Michael Keenan announced his retirement from a sample of 950, gave Labor a 1.5% lead after preferences. In 2016, Keenan won Stirling by a 6.1% margin. Labor and the Liberals were tied at 36% each on primary votes with 6.8% undecided.

A GetUp ReachTEL poll of the WA seat of Pearce, conducted January 16 from a sample of 674, gave the Liberals a 52-48 lead over Labor (53.6-46.4 at the 2016 election).

Seat polls are very unreliable, but Stirling and Warringah are inner metropolitan seats, while Pearce is outer metropolitan. I believe the Coalition will struggle most in better-educated inner metropolitan seats.

The three seat polls were commissioned by left-aligned groups. However, ReachTEL asks for voting intentions first. Media-commissioned polls are superior to polls from political interest groups, but seat polls are unreliable in any case.

SA byelections and NSW pill testing Newspoll

Byelections occurred on Saturday in the South Australian state seats of Cheltenham and Enfield, following the resignations of Labor’s Jay Weatherill and John Rau respectively. Labor retained both seats easily, with primary vote swings to Labor of 6.6% in both Cheltenham and Enfield since the March 2018 election. The Liberals did not contest either seat.

In an additional question conducted with last fortnight’s NSW Newspoll that had a 50-50 tie, voters were in favour of the NSW government providing a pill testing service at music festivals by a 56-35 margin. Over 70% of Labor and Greens voters supported pill testing, while Coalition voters were narrowly opposed 49-45.




Read more:
Poll wrap: Coalition gains in first Newspoll of 2019, but big swings to Labor in Victorian seats; NSW is tied


US government shutdown aftermath

On January 25, the US government shutdown ended when President Donald Trump accepted a bill that would reopen the government until February 15 without funding for the southern border wall he had demanded. The 35-day shutdown was the longest, beating the previous record of 21 days from 1995-96. Trump has suggested declaring a national emergency if Congress cannot agree to fund the wall by February 15.

In the FiveThirtyEight poll aggregate, Trump’s ratings fell to 39.3% approve, 56.0% disapprove on January 26. Since then, his ratings have recovered to 40.2% approve, 55.1% disapprove. However, Trump’s ratings among Republicans are well over 80% approve.




Read more:
Record US government shutdown harms Trump’s ratings, plus Brexit chaos and Australian Essential poll


A second shutdown could occur after talks between Democratic and Republican members of Congress broke down. To avert a shutdown, new funding must be passed by Friday (Saturday Melbourne time).

Given strong opposition to Trump in the polls, he needs the US economy to stay strong to have a reasonable chance of re-election in 2020. Despite the January shutdown, the economy added 304,000 jobs in that month.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.

Could Tony Abbott lose to an independent? If the zeitgeist is any guide, he’s on thin ice


Mark Kenny, Australian National University

Strangely enough, there’s a link between “Kevin07” as an electoral phenomenon and the recent successes of independents such as Kerryn Phelps (Wentworth), Cathy McGowan (Indi), and Rebekha Sharkie (Mayo). All three now hold once safe Coalition seats.

And the link is one that may prove influential in 2019, particularly for Zali Steggall, who is challenging Tony Abbott in Warringah.

As in the case of Kevin07, the formerly Coalition-friendly independents, which is also how Steggall positions herself, found a way of giving life-long centre-right voters permission to break ranks without feeling like they were being disloyal.

The aim is to present as essentially similar to the incumbent conservative, but better. Modernised. Updated.

The implicit message to voters was that it was their party that had left them, not the other way around.

Such a sentiment may be ripe for expression in Warringah which, while economically conservative, has emerged as demonstrably more progressive than its long-time MP, Abbott. The blue-ribbon jewel was among the most pro-equality electorates in the country in the 2017 postal survey.

Beaten only by Wentworth, the two inner-Sydney electorates were the leading Liberal-held “yes” seats in NSW.

And it is to these voters that new and fresh quasi-independent candidates like Steggall seek to speak – voters whose Liberal loyalties have been tested by Abbott’s blunt antipathy for social reform and particularly his denial of tough Australian action against global warming.




Read more:
Liberals trounced in huge Wentworth swing, bringing a hung parliament


Labor’s unusual ‘07 campaign

The trick is to be close, but not the same, and it has a record of working in conservative-minded electorates.

Underpinning Kevin Rudd’s defeat of John Howard in 2007 was a carefully calibrated reassurance that Howard’s Australia – in which political correctness had been demonised and social reform moved at a glacial pace – would continue even with a change to a Labor government.

Labor’s plan was to strip the election of the usual contrast between parties, reducing the choice before voters to John Howard or a kind of John Howard 2.0.

In a number of ways, Rudd presented as a prime ministerial simulacrum, updated but only where required to: prioritise “working families”, take faster action on climate change, and offer an exciting public investment bridge to the digital future (the NBN).

So successful was this unusual proposition, it tended to minimise other policy differences between the parties and neutralise the usual fear of change itself among cautious voters.

From a marketing perspective, it was daring given Rudd was in fact the leader of the opposing Labor Party.




Read more:
Democracy is dead, long live political marketing


Crucially, it sought simultaneously to share in the government’s credit for economic stewardship – moderate inflation, strong employment, and a healthy budget surplus again – while outflanking Howard on his right.

Of course there was more to the 2007 changeover than mere campaigning, not least being Howard’s odious industrial relations laws (WorkChoices), an inconvenient mid-campaign cash rate hike (to 6.75%), and simple fatigue after a dozen years of Coalition rule.

Even so, there’s no denying that with his lay-preacher persona, non-union background, and claim to be fiscally conservative, Rudd deftly positioned himself as the safe choice for those voters considering change but still concerned with budget discipline and creeping permissiveness.

Similar to Labor’s 2007 strategy, Phelps, McGowan and Sharkie have offered the tribally conservative voter a reduced-risk alternative to the status quo. Or, as some have coined it, “continuity through change”.




Read more:
Politics Podcast: Cathy McGowan and Rebekha Sharkie on the role of community candidates


But there are also key differences. While Rudd promised measured economic modernisation in a socially-conservative manifesto – opposing same-sex marriage, for example – the new breed of once-were-Liberals flip that around.

They tend to emphasise the low tax, pro-business instincts of conservatives, but are more left-leaning on social policy and the environment. This turns out to reflect much of the electorate also – including many Liberal voters.

Can Steggall do the same in Warringah?

It’s a formula with a particular piquancy now given 2019 marks ten years since Tony Abbott rolled Malcolm Turnbull for the Liberal leadership over emissions trading.

An acrimonious decade on, and with no government climate or energy policy to speak of, voters’ patience has been strained to breaking point. The endless point-scoring and division has nudged moderately inclined Liberals within the grasp of new independents.

Fittingly, these events are coming to a head most threateningly for the government in Abbott’s own stronghold of Warringah.

Abbott’s vulnerability turns on three things: the standing of the Morrison government come polling day (which may or may not have improved), the campaign prowess of the Steggall operation (unknown), and the extent of declining loyalty by once solid supporters in his electorate. All are in flux.

Steggall’s threshold objective must be to drive Abbott’s primary vote south of 45%. That will not be easy. In 2016, his primary vote tanked by some 9% but he still managed to hold the seat without need for second preferences at 51.65%.

Still, if the zeitgeist is any guide, Steggall’s presentation as “the Liberal for the future against the Liberal for the past” will be appealing to those voters peeved at Abbott’s undermining of Turnbull and specifically the right-wing insurgency against the government’s National Energy Guarantee.

It could also resonate strongly with Liberal backers who were appalled at Abbott’s starring, if roundly ineffective, campaign against marriage equality.

Despite its unwavering support for Abbott through nine elections, Warringah voted “yes” to legalising same-sex marriage at the rate of 75% compared to the national rate of 62%. It even exceeded support in the most progressive jurisdiction – the ACT.

Steggall’s backers believe Abbott’s famous resistance to a reform his constituents found uncontroversial will prove it is his failure to move with the times that will force them to move their votes.The Conversation

Mark Kenny, Senior Fellow, Australian Studies Institute, Australian National University

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

McGowan remains tight-lipped about refugee legislation despite removal of children


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

The government has finalised the removal of the last children from
Nauru, as it battles to head off a parliamentary defeat on legislation
to facilitate medical transfers from offshore.

Scott Morrison and Immigration Minister David Coleman said on Sunday:
“There are now only four asylum seeker children on Nauru and they have
all been approved for departure to the United States of America with
their families”.

When parliament rose for its summer break a government filibuster had
prevented amendments reaching the House of Representatives that would
put medical transfers into the hands of doctors, though with the
minister having some oversight on security grounds. The amendments –
based on a proposal originally coming from independent Kerryn Phelps
and supported by Labor – had been passed by the Senate.

At that time the legislation potentially had enough crossbench backing
in the House to pass, but it is not clear whether that will hold when
it is put to the test this month. The government is pulling out all
stops to peel away crossbench support.

Passage of the measure would be a major blow to the Coalition,
although it would not amount to a vote of no confidence. Asked about major defeats in the past, House of Representatives clerks last year had to go as far back as 1929 (which led to an election) and on the 1941 budget
(which brought down the Fadden government).

The government has been hopeful that it can persuade independent Cathy
McGowan to break ranks with other crossbench supporters of the bill.

McGowan said on Sunday it was good news about the children but she
would reserve her position on the legislation until it came before the
House, after parliament resumes on Tuesday of next week.

“Indefinite detention needs to be addressed,” she said.

Phelps said the news about the remaining children was “absolutely
fantastic” but it was “nowhere near enough”.

Hundreds of people were still languishing on Manus and Nauru and there
were “dire reports” about mental health issues, Phelps said.

The proposed change, which would see medical transfers on the basis of
the advice of two doctors, would “take medical decisions out of the
hands of bureaucrats and politicians – with appropriate ministerial
oversight on national security grounds”.

Phelps said she hadn’t seen any evidence of a weakening of crossbench
support while parliament has been in recess.

The government on Sunday declined to explain how it has been able
arrange for the removal of all the children from Nauru when Home
Affairs Minister Peter Dutton last year suggested security issues were a
barrier to removing some of them.

Dutton told parliament in October there were 13 children at that time
in family groups where there were adults, mostly males “that are the
subject of adverse security assessments from the United States.”

At his news conference on Sunday Coleman refused to clarify how these
security concerns had been resolved or where the people in question
were.

“I can’t go into specific cases but I will say that in each case issues have been worked through to the satisfaction of the Department,” he said.

Asked whether some of the children who had been brought to Australia
still had parents on Nauru because of a negative security assessment,
Coleman said: “There have been a number of issues that have been
worked through – but, no, the family groups are together”.

UPDATE

In a fresh effort to persuade the crossbenchers not to inflict a
damaging parliamentary defeat on the government, Scott Morrison has
said the government will set up a medical panel to review transfers
from Manus and Nauru.

The Medical Transfer Clinical Assurance Panel would be chaired by a
nominee of the Commonwealth Chief Medical Officer, and include
representatives from Foundation House (which provides services to
refugees) and the Australian Medical Association, and two nominees
from the Home Affairs department’s Chief Medical Officer.

If a transfer was rejected, the panel would look at the case, and make
a recommendation to the minister.

The structure would still leave the ultimate authority at ministerial level.

Phelps told the ABC on Monday the new panel would not solve the
problem because bureaucrats would still be making the decisions on
transfers, with the review coming later. The process needed to be
fast-tracked, she said, maintaining support for the bill that will
come to the House.

Coleman said if the bill were passed this would “effectively lead to
the end of offshore processing”.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: Independent push against Frydenberg


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

A high profile independent candidate, Oliver Yates, is expected to run against Treasurer Josh Frydenberg in the heartland Liberal seat of Kooyong in Melbourne.

Yates, who lives in the electorate, is a member of the Liberal party
and a former international banker and former CEO of the Clean
Energy Finance Corporation. At present he works for several firms on
renewable energy projects.

Son of Bill Yates, a colourful character who held the Victorian seat
of Holt in 1975-80 and was earlier a member of the House of Commons,
Yates has made swingeing attacks on the Liberals, saying in a recent
Guardian article that the “party is in need of desperate cultural
reform”.

Challenger Oliver Yates.
Clean Energy Finance Corporation

On climate change, which would be central to his campaign, he wrote in
an earlier Guardian piece: “Refusing to reduce emissions as cheaply as
possible is irrational, immoral and economically reckless.”

Frydenberg had a very solid 58% of the primary vote in 2016, and would
not be at risk unless his primary vote was pushed well under 50%. But
Liberals were shocked when at the Victorian election the seat of Hawthorn, which is within Kooyong,
was lost to Labor.

Yates’ expected challenge and an anticipated announcement by former Liberal Julia Banks that she will run against Health Minister Greg Hunt in
Flinders follow the unveiling of Zali Steggall’s bid to oust
former prime minister Tony Abbott in Warringah.

The political crows have been circling Abbott, but until the appearance
of Steggall – a Liberal-leaning born-and-bred local – the political
odds were on him.

Now the Liberal disruptor is himself target of a major disruption,
with the outcome uncertain.

The House of Representatives voting system makes it hard for
independents to break through, so they are still a relatively rare
breed in the lower house. However they are more common than previously
and now the times are more auspicious for them than ever before.

Once established, they are hard to shift. So we can expect
independents Rebekha Sharkie in Mayo and Andrew Wilkie in Denison to be
back after the May election.

Banks’ prospects in Flinders would not seem high, although union-commissioned polling has been bad for Hunt, who backed Peter Dutton’s challenge to Malcolm Turnbull.

Banks presently holds the seat of Chisholm. Last year she deserted the
Liberals to go to the crossbench citing the leadership change and
bullying.

Hunt had 51.6% of the primary vote last election; ABC election analyst
Antony Green says that post-redistribution he is on about 50.5%. But
the ALP vote is around 27% and Hunt seems in more danger from Labor
than from an independent.

Two of the most interesting contests involving independents will Indi
in north eastern Victoria, and Wentworth in Sydney.

Cathy McGowan famously tipped out Liberal frontbencher Sophie
Mirabella from Indi in 2013. McGowan, with a long background in the
area, and backed by the grassroots “Voices For Indi” forum, was
completely dug in by 2016. She would have won again this year.

But she had set in place a process for a community selection for a
successor and earlier this month that produced Helen Haines, 57, from
Wangaratta , a public health researcher. McGowan then confirmed she would not stand.

Indi will test whether can one independent can pass on the “community
candidate” heritage to another.

All the McGowan infrastructure is in place for Haines. On the other
hand, by definition an independent candidate must establish themselves
as an individual.

Haines will have to demonstrate her personal credentials, and convince
voters that the local area will have a stronger “voice” in the next
parliament if it has an independent than if its member comes from the
Coalition (Labor can’t win the seat).

McGowan’s “voice” has been enhanced in this parliament because of the
tight numbers. The crossbench has the crucial balance of power in
these last months because the parliament is now “hung”.

The numbers in the next parliament are unlikely to be as close which
would reduce the clout of a crossbencher.

In Wentworth, Kerryn Phelps was greatly helped to her 2018 byelection
win by voters anger at the treatment of the seat’s former member Malcolm
Turnbull. She was also assisted by the Liberal candidate Dave Sharma,
a former diplomat, not being a local.

By the time the election comes in May Phelps – who won by just 1850
votes – will enjoy the advantage of incumbency but have had less than
a year to establish herself as member.

In this contest there are two interesting questions. Will a sizeable
number of the locals have got over their rage about Turnbull, and
reassess their vote? And will some people, in a seat where voters like
to have a high flier, decide to switch to a candidate with prospects
of rising through the Liberal ranks in the next few years?

Some might say the Wentworth contest as one in which the voters are
spoilt for choice.

Wentworth voters reacted against the loss of a former prime minister –
in Warringah, many voters just want their ex-PM to shuffle off.
Steggall, an former Olympian (in winter sports) and a barrister, will run hard on climate change, and attack Abbott’s views in general as out of touch with his constituents. She says Warringah is conservative economically and financially but progressive socially (as shown by a 75% yes vote on same-sex marriage).

As with Indi – although in a much less developed form – there is a
community group backing Steggall – and she says she wants to give
people in Warringah “a real choice for a voice”.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.