On the day independent Kerryn Phelps was officially declared the winner in Wentworth, a shot was fired across Scott Morrison’s bows to remind him of the challenge of managing a now-hung parliament.
It came not from Phelps but from a longstanding crossbencher, the maverick Bob Katter, who holds the north Queensland seat of Kennedy.
Katter is a politician who creates a fuss in search of a reaction. And
what better time than when Morrison is heading north, in his bus, on a
campaign journey through Queensland, making announcements as he goes?
“Don’t think you have my vote,” Katter declared in the headline of Monday’s press release.
He said he would “not rule out” voting to refer Chris Crewther, Liberal member for the Melbourne seat of Dunkley, to the High Court to determine whether section 44 of the constitution catches him. Dunkley is a marginal Liberal seat that becomes notionally marginal Labor at next year’s election, under the redistribution.
Crewther’s issue is a shareholding in a biotech company, Gretals
Australia, that is said to have received a benefit from the
Commonwealth via grants. The now notorious section 44, which has
caught a plethora of federal parliamentarians over citizenship issues,
also says someone shall be incapable of being chosen for or sitting in
parliament if they have “any direct or indirect pecuniary interest in
any agreement with the Public Service of the Commonwealth …”
The eligibility of Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has also been
questioned under this provision, in relation to issues around a family
Katter said he was “considering” his position, declaring he thought the
Crewther situation was “a lot different” from that of Dutton.
But the giveaway was Katter’s segue. “I’m not impressed with the government in their three months in office running around pork barrelling”. In particular, the government was not dealing with North Queensland issues, he said.
“It seems that there is little point in working with a government that has had three months to do something for the north when all they are interested in is pork barrelling to secure votes. Clearly this indicates they have no interest in really helping North Queensland.”
It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that Katter is thinking less about
the Crewther situation and more about what he might extract for North
Queensland. After all, only on Friday he dismissed backing sending either Crewther or Dutton to the High Court, declaring “politics is not about this sort of rubbish.”
Phelps earlier on Monday told the ABC she wanted to get more information on the Crewther and Dutton cases.
On her own position Phelps, a doctor, said that she had “high level legal advice” that she didn’t have a problem in relation to Medicare, because the rebate went to the patient not the practice.
Labor says both Crewther and Dutton should go to the High Court. The
opposition would have to round up the votes of all six crossbenchers
to have the numbers for referrals.
But a referral doesn’t mean the person has to resign while the case is on.
Given the closeness to the election, even if there were a referral
followed by an adverse decision, it would not trigger a byelection.
In any event, Sydney University constitutional expert Anne Twomey doubts Crewther has a problem.
Twomey says that, on what we know, it appears Gretals Australia doesn’t have an agreement with the Commonwealth – any connection appears relatively remote.
“While Gretals may be a participant in an Australian Research Council
linkage grant, it is the University of Melbourne which has the agreement with the Commonwealth and receives the funding, not Gretals,” she says.
Immigration has become one of the most divisive issues in Australian politics. It has created open fractures within government ranks and sparked dog whistling; it’s being exploited to nefarious political ends by fringe and not-so-fringe players.
But an appallingly racist diatribe, by a senator who not one in a thousand Australians would have heard of, on Wednesday brought almost all the parliament together to reassert some core values of Australia’s policy.
Delivering his maiden speech on Tuesday, Fraser Anning called for a ban on all further Muslim immigration and invoked the words “final solution” – the term referring to the Nazi extermination of millions of Jews – when calling for a popular vote on immigration.
Anning arrived in parliament by chance, replacing the equally controversial Malcolm Roberts from One Nation, who fell foul of the citizenship crisis. But Anning immediately parted ways with One Nation, and has recently joined Katter’s Australian Party.
Among much else, the Queensland senator told parliament on Tuesday that “the one immigrant group here and in other Western nations that has consistently shown itself to be the least able to assimilate and integrate is Muslims”.
“The first terrorist act on Australian soil occurred in 1915 – when two Muslim immigrants opened fire on a picnic train of innocent women and children in Broken Hill – and Muslim immigrants have been a problem ever since.”
Such are the rituals of first speeches that many Coalition senators and even crossbencher Derryn Hinch (who has been beating up on himself publicly ever since) went over to pay Anning the traditional congratulations afterwards.
But after that reactions were quick, and by Wednesday morning condemnation was raining down on Anning from almost everywhere.
Labor with the support of the government moved a motion in the Senate and the House; the leaders in both houses spoke.
The motion, which did not mention Anning by name, acknowledged “the historic action of the Holt Government, with bipartisan support from the Australian Labor Party, in initiating the dismantling of the White Australia Policy”.
It gave “unambiguous and unqualified commitment to the principle that, whatever criteria are applied by Australian Governments in exercising their sovereign right to determine the composition of the immigration intake, race, faith or ethnic origin shall never, explicitly or implicitly, be among them”.
The motion was the same (except for the addition of the word “faith”) as the one prime minister Bob Hawke moved in 1988 after opposition leader John Howard had suggested a slowing of Asian immigration. Then, the Liberals voted against the motion, though with three defections.
In our frequently depressing and often toxic political climate, Wednesday’s bipartisanship was a small but significant and encouraging moment of unity on what we stand for as a nation.
Mathias Cormann, an immigrant from Belgium, said: “This chamber in many ways is a true reflection of what a great migrant nation we are.”
“We have … representatives of our Indigenous community. We have in this chamber representatives of Australians whose families have been here for generations, who are the descendants of migrants to Australia of more than 100 years ago.
“We have in this chamber first-generation migrants from Kenya, Malaysia, Belgium, Germany and Scotland. What a great country we are. Where first-generation Australians can join First Australians and those Australians whose families have lived here for more than 100 years and all work together to make our great country an even better country.”
While the mainstream had its act together, on the fringe it was a wild ride.
Hanson denounced Anning’s speech. “I have always advocated you do not have to be white to be Australian,” she said. And “to actually hear people say now that, as Senator Hinch said, it is like hearing Pauline Hanson on steroids – I take offence to that”.
Never mind that in her own maiden speech as a senator Hanson had declared that further Muslim immigration should be stopped and the burqa banned. “Now we are in danger of being swamped by Muslims who bear a culture and ideology that is incompatible with our own,” she said in September 2016.
Later on Wednesday Hanson introduced her private member’s bill “to give voters a say on whether Australia’s immigration levels are too high by casting a vote at the next general election”.
Then there was that force of nature, Bob Katter, who said he supported his new recruit “1000% … I support everything he said”.
It is never easy to navigate one’s way through Katter speak – on Wednesday it was at times close to impossible.
“Fraser is dead right – we do not want people coming in from the Middle East or North Africa unless they’re the persecuted minorities. Why aren’t you bringing in the Sikhs? Why aren’t you bringing in the Jews?” he told a news conference in Cairns – he could not fly to Canberra and parliament because of a sinus procedure.
As for the “final solution” reference: “Fraser is a knockabout bloke, he’s owned pubs and he’s not stupid – he built his own aeroplane. But he hasn’t read all the history books.
“He didn’t go to university, he was out working building pipelines for the coal and the gas and the oil with a hard hat on. He’s a member of the hard left, not the lily pad left. He didn’t go to university to know the significance of all these words.
“Fraser would have no idea about what that meant. For those of us, like myself that are fascinated by history and have read the history books – it is one of the worst statements in all of human history.”
“He like myself, has had constant meetings and addressed Jewish groups around Australia. We are strongly behind the Jewish people.”
Hanson wasn’t the only one complaining of being insulted. Katter turned on a journalist who referred to his Lebanese grandfather.
“He’s not. He’s an Australian. I resent, strongly, you describing him as Lebanese. That is racist comment and you should take it back and should be ashamed … No prouder Australian than my grandfather.”
At the Queensland election, held on November 25, the size of parliament was increased from 89 seats to 93. Comparing this result with 2015, Labor officially won 48 of the 93 seats (up four), the Liberal National Party 39 (down three), Katter’s Australian Party (KAP) three (up one), and One Nation, the Greens and an independent won one seat each.
With 45 seats held by parties other than Labor, Labor has won a three-seat majority.
Adjusted for the new boundaries and excluding defections, the 2015 results gave Labor 48 seats and the LNP 43. Using this interpretation, there was no net change for Labor, while the LNP lost four seats.
Labor gains from the LNP in Gaven, Aspley and Redlands were countered by losses in Bundaberg, Burdekin and Mirani (to One Nation). The LNP also lost Maiwar (to the Greens), Hinchinbrook (to KAP) and Noosa (to an independent). This is the first Greens elected MP in Queensland.
Townsville was expected to be very close, but Labor won it by 214 votes (50.4-49.6), clinching its 48th seat.
The LNP’s decision to recommend preferences to One Nation in 50 of the 61 seats it contested gave One Nation a win in Mirani, but cost independent candidate Margaret Strelow in Rockhampton. Had LNP preferences in Rockhampton flowed to Strelow instead of One Nation, Labor would have very probably lost, instead of retaining it 55-45 against One Nation.
Final primary votes were 35.4% Labor (down 2.1 since 2015), 33.7% LNP (down 7.6), 13.7% One Nation (up 12.8), 10.0% Greens (up 1.6), and 2.3% KAP. This is the Greens’ highest primary vote in a Queensland election.
One Nation contested 61 of the 93 seats, and won 13.7% of the statewide vote. Had it contested all seats, it would probably have won about 18%. Only the single member system stopped One Nation from winning much more than its one seat.
If the Queensland result were replicated at a half-Senate federal election, in which six senators are up for election, Labor would win two seats, the LNP two, One Nation one, and the last seat would probably go to the Greens.
Pauline Hanson received a long Senate term, which does not expire until June 2022. If Malcolm Roberts is the top One Nation candidate on its Queensland Senate ticket at the next federal election, he will probably win a six-year term starting July 2019.
Turnout was 87.5%, down 2.4 points since 2015. Automatic electoral enrolment has increased the size of the electoral roll, but many of those who are now enrolled do not vote, so the turnout falls.
The informal rate was 4.3%, up from 2.1% in 2015, owing to the change to compulsory preferential voting from optional preferential. The informal rate was below Queensland’s informal rate (4.7%) at the 2016 federal election.
Victorian Galaxy: 50-50 tie
A Victorian Galaxy poll for the Herald Sun (paywalled link), conducted on December 6 from a sample of 828, had a 50-50 tie, a three-point gain for Labor since a Galaxy in June for an unidentified source.
Primary votes were 41% Coalition (down three), 36% Labor (up three), 10% Greens (up two) and 6% One Nation (up one).
Premier Daniel Andrews had a 49% dissatisfied, 35% satisfied rating. Opposition Leader Matthew Guy had a 48% dissatisfied rating, with no satisfied rating given. Andrews led Guy 41-25 as better premier (41-29 in June).
By 58-20, voters favoured building the East West Link, and by 57-30, they thought the decision to cancel it was bad rather than good. The Liberals were thought better to manage the economy by 48-33 over Labor – an area of perceived Coalition strength.
77% of regional voters believed they are being dudded in favour of Melbourne on government spending.
A Tasmanian EMRS poll, conducted between December 1 and December 5 from a sample of 1,000, gave the Liberals 34% (down three since August), Labor 34% (steady), the Greens 17% (up one) and the Jacqui Lambie Network (JLN) 8% (up three). The next Tasmanian election is likely to be held in March 2018.
As EMRS is skewed to the Greens and against Labor, Kevin Bonham interprets this poll as 37.5% Labor, 35.5% Liberal, 14% Greens and 8% JLN. The most likely seat outcome under Tasmania’s Hare-Clark system would be ten Labor, ten Liberals, four Greens and one JLN, out of 25 total seats.
Labor’s Rebecca White led incumbent Will Hodgman as better premier 48-35 in this poll (48-37 in August). White had a net +40 favourable rating, Hodgman a net +13, and Greens leader Casey O’Connor a net negative five.
Essential 55-45 to federal Labor
This week’s Essential moved a point to Labor, in contrast to Newspoll. Labor led 55-45, from primary votes of 38% Labor, 35% Coalition, 9% Greens, 8% One Nation and 2% Nick Xenophon Team. Essential uses a two-week sample of about 1,800, with additional questions based on one week.
64% thought there was a lot or some sexism in the media, 60% in both politics and advertising, 57% in workplaces, 56% in sport, and 48% in schools. Since January 2016, there have been one-to-four point falls in perception of sexism in politics, advertising, workplaces and sport, but a six-to-eight point increase in media and schools.
By 51-24, voters thought that MPs who defect from the party they were elected to represent should be forced to resign from parliament. By 54-25, voters preferred a government where one party has an overall majority to a coalition arrangement.
By 38-34, voters thought the Liberal and National parties should continue in coalition, rather than separate and become more independent; however, Coalition voters preferred the Coalition arrangement 73-13.
Essential’s Liberal leadership question had six choices: Malcolm Turnbull, Tony Abbott, Julie Bishop, Christopher Pyne, Scott Morrison and Peter Dutton. Turnbull had 21% (down four since August), Bishop 19% (down one), Abbott 10% (steady), Dutton 4% (up one) and Pyne and Morrison each had 2%.
Among Coalition voters Turnbull led Bishop 40-20, with 13% for Abbott.
Alabama Senate byelection next Wednesday (Melbourne time)
In February, Jeff Sessions resigned from the US Senate to become Donald Trump’s attorney-general, and the Alabama governor appointed Luther Strange to the Senate until the election was held. The election will be held on December 12, with results from 12 noon on December 13 Melbourne time.
I previously wrote about Republican candidate Roy Moore’s alleged sexual encounter with a 14 year-old girl when he was 32.
After this and other similar allegations were made, Democratic candidate Doug Jones took a poll lead. However, Moore appears to have recovered, and analyst Harry Enten says he leads by about three points. If the polls are overstating Moore by a modest margin, he could lose.
Alabama is a very conservative state that Trump won by 28 points at the 2016 election. That this contest appears competitive is surprising.
After going to the polls on November 25, Queenslanders finally have a state election result as Liberal National Party leader Tim Nicholls conceded defeat on Friday.
Following a four-week campaign, votes were counted for almost a fortnight until Annastacia Palaszczuk’s Labor Party was confirmed the victor. Palaszczuk is the first female premier to win back-to-back elections. In 2015, she’d become the first woman at state or federal level to lead her party to government from opposition.
But it’s not the clear-cut result Palaszczuk desired. Labor appears to have won 48 seats in the 93-member parliament to the LNP’s 39. This leaves Palaszczuk’s returned government with a slim majority and a diverse crossbench.
A complex contest
With a record field of candidates in an expanded number of electorates – many with redrawn boundaries – this shaped as a complicated election. Adding to its unpredictability was the reintroduction after 25 years of compulsory preferential voting.
While two-party-preferred swings were generally not as large as at the last two state elections, overall figures showed a fragmented statewide vote. More than 30% gave their first preferences to minor parties and independents. This exceeded the One Nation-driven protest vote in 1998.
This continues the trend of a declining primary vote for the major parties. Combined with compulsory preferencing, several electorate contests duly developed into three- or even four-horse races, extending the time needed to correctly distribute preferences and declare results. Some seats were decided only after the arrival of postal votes, up to ten days after the polling date.
Like the previous Queensland and federal elections, a close and protracted count left the government in extended caretaker mode. Voters in Queensland and the rest of Australia may need to accustom themselves to a new norm of tight, drawn-out contests, where party leaders’ election night speeches might be obsolete.
Winners and losers
Labor went into the election with a notional seat count of 48 following the redistribution. Despite a 2% decline in its statewide vote, it emerges with little change in its electoral stocks.
Gains in the state’s southeast corner at the LNP’s expense offset a few seat losses in central and north Queensland, where persistent unemployment has been a worry.
To the government’s relief, every cabinet member held their seat. Deputy Premier Jackie Trad survived one of the stronger challenges, a 10% two-party-preferred swing to the Greens in South Brisbane. Brisbane’s inner suburbs, as in other state capitals, are now highly vulnerable to a rising green tide.
The LNP suffered a negative swing of almost 8% – and even higher in parts of the southeast. High-profile casualties included shadow frontbenchers Scott Emerson, Ian Walker, Tracey Davis and Andrew Cripps in the north falling victim to erratic preference flows.
Emerson has the distinction of losing the newly created seat of Maiwar in inner Brisbane to Queensland’s first elected Greens MP, Michael Berkman.
In other firsts, Labor’s new member for Cook in far-north Queensland, Cynthia Liu, is the first Torres Strait Islander elected to any Australian parliament. Innovation Minister Leanne Enoch becomes the state’s first Indigenous MP to be returned at an election.
One Nation’s Stephen Andrew, who defeated veteran Labor MP Jim Pearce in Mirani in central Queensland, becomes the first descendent of South Sea Islander labourers to enter state parliament.
Besides bread-and-butter issues of job creation, power prices and transport infrastructure, neither Palaszczuk nor Nicholls could escape the dominant themes of this election. The proposed Adani coal mine project animated voters in different parts of the state for different reasons, as did the spoiler role that Pauline Hanson’s One Nation was presumed to play.
Together, these factors reinforced an impression of “two Queenslands” in contention during the campaign.
Protests against the Adani mine’s environmental impact – and questions over its long-term economic benefit to regional communities – featured regularly once the election was called. Palaszczuk succeeded in defusing the issue to some extent early in the campaign with an abrupt declaration that she would veto federal infrastructure funding for the mine’s construction.
A feared backlash in places of regional discontent and high youth unemployment, like Townsville, didn’t entirely materialise, with Labor incumbents holding seats against expectations. But these concerns, in tandem with uncertainty over the Adani project, saw Labor lose Bundaberg and nearly lose the traditionally Labor-voting Rockhampton to independent candidate and former mayor Margaret Strelow.
The LNP’s position on supporting the Adani mine with public funds, and Nicholls’ prevarication over dealing with One Nation, appear to have hurt the party in Brisbane especially. But so too did Labor reminding voters of Nicholls’ role as treasurer in the Newman government.
As the election neared, Nicholls was swamped by constant questioning about cosying up to One Nation.
While always difficult to quantify, the federal Coalition government’s woes amid the same-sex marriage debate and citizenship fiasco likely did the LNP few favours.
Role of the minor parties
The Greens and One Nation capitalised on the dip in major party support, gaining significant vote shares of 10% and almost 14% respectively. However, each party won only a single seat.
Critically, both parties stripped valuable primary votes from Labor and the LNP, especially the latter’s vote in the regions. This will furrow the brows of federal Coalition MPs through this term of government. For good measure, One Nation preferences likely helped unseat some LNP MPs in the southeast.
The party’s state leader, Steve Dickson, lost out to the LNP in Buderim, while Senate outcast Malcolm Roberts didn’t present a serious threat to Labor in Ipswich.
Despite its failings, One Nation attracted more than 20% in the seats it contested and finished runner-up in two dozen of them, perhaps largely down to Hanson’s constant presence throughout the campaign.
Katter’s Australian Party (KAP), though standing candidates in only ten seats and not making much impact on the campaign, might have done best of all the minor parties. Its primary vote improved to more than 2%, gaining it another seat in Hinchinbrook on Labor and One Nation preferences.
KAP’s targeted approach might prove unwelcome news for the federal Coalition, which can expect similar levels of focused disaffection from conservative regional voters elsewhere. But a fragmenting primary vote spells trouble for all the major parties.
What next for Queensland?
Queensland now enters its first fixed-term period of government. The next election is due on October 31, 2020, with four-year terms following that.
Labor holds only 13 of 51 seats outside the Greater Brisbane area. With all seats decided, factional negotiations will now unfold to determine the make-up of Palaszczuk’s new cabinet. It’s fair to assume it will be Brisbane-centric.
With such a concentration of government MPs in the capital, Palaszczuk’s team will presumably clock up many kilometres – and spend some political capital – reassuring the regions they’re not forgotten.
In the wake of an underwhelming result for the LNP, Nicholls announced he is stepping down as party leader and won’t contest a leadership ballot early next week. The likes of David Crisafulli or Tim Mander, or potentially Deb Frecklington, loom as Nicholls’ likely successors.
Party insiders have complained that the election result proves the marriage between the formerly separate Liberal and National parties in Queensland has failed and should be broken up.
After five days of counting since the Queensland election on November 25, it is likely that Labor will win 47 of the 93 seats, a bare majority. The ABC is currently calling 47 of 93 seats for Labor, 38 for the LNP, two for Katter’s Australian Party (KAP, one One Nation and one independent).
Two of the four uncalled seats are straightforward two-party contests. The LNP is very likely to win Burdekin, and Townsville is still lineball. Unless Labor loses a seat already called for it, they will have 47 of the 93 seats, a bare majority. The most likely such seat to be lost is Macallister.
A major break for Labor occurred in Rockhampton. On primary votes, Labor had 32%, independent Margaret Strelow 24%, One Nation 21% and the LNP 18%. Strelow had been expected to win on LNP and One Nation preferences, but LNP preferences flowed strongly to One Nation, putting it ahead of Strelow at the point where one was excluded. Labor has won on Strelow’s preferences by about 3,000 votes, according to the ABC’s Emilia Terzon.
In Macallister, Labor had 37% of the primary vote, the LNP 26.7%, and an independent, Hetty Johnston, 23.2%. Labor trounces the LNP after preferences, but Johnston could move ahead of the LNP on Greens and minor candidates’ preferences, especially as the Greens put her above Labor on their how-to-vote card.
However, according to the Courier-Mail as quoted by the Poll Bludger, Labor is “very confident” this scenario will not happen.
The Electoral Commission of Queensland frustratingly removed all its two-candidate results on Tuesday. The ABC’s two-candidate results are projections, not real votes. The Electoral Commission of Queensland conducted two-candidate counts on Monday in contested seats where the wrong candidates were selected on election night.
In Noosa, independent Sandy Bolton thrashed the LNP. In Cook, Labor convincingly defeated One Nation, but in Mirani One Nation defeated Labor. In Maiwar, Labor defeats the LNP on Greens preferences if it stays ahead of the Greens. In Burdekin, the LNP is slightly ahead of Labor after preferences.
The Greens are currently just 12 votes ahead of Labor in Maiwar on primary votes. Scrutineering information reported by Kevin Bonham suggests the Greens will gain on the preferences of a minor candidate. If they win the battle for second against Labor, they will easily defeat Shadow Treasurer Scott Emerson.
KAP is likely to gain Hinchinbrook from the LNP from third place, on first Labor then One Nation preferences.
Assigning the four uncalled seats to the likely winners, the final seat outcome is likely to be 47 Labor, 39 LNP, three KAP, one One Nation, one Green and one independent, with Townsville still in significant doubt.
Same-sex marriage plebiscite aftermath polling
The same-sex marriage legislation passed the Senate on November 29, 43 votes to 12. Additional protections for religious freedom were not included in the final bill. This legislation will go to the lower house next week.
While many commentators have focused on western Sydney’s large “no” vote in the plebiscite, I think the strong support for “yes” in rural and regional Australia is important.
Only two rural electorates – Maranoa and Kennedy in Queensland – voted “no”. In electorates based on the regional cities of Geelong, Ballarat, Bendigo, Newcastle and Townsville, “yes” won at least 62%. In Oxley, where Pauline Hanson was first elected in 1996, “yes” won 60%.
In last week’s Essential poll, 42% thought current laws already provided enough protection for religious freedoms, while 37% thought any same-sex marriage legislation passed should include more protection for religious freedoms.
By 63-27, voters supported allowing ministers of religion and celebrants to refuse to officiate at same-sex weddings. However, by 48-43, voters opposed allowing service providers to refuse service for same-sex weddings, and by 44-42, they opposed allowing parents to withdraw their children from classes which do not reflect the parents’ views on marriage.
In this week’s Essential poll, 47% thought religious protections should be addressed separately from the same-sex marriage legislation, while 32% thought the legislation should include these protections.
In YouGov, by 46-36, voters thought the same-sex marriage legislation should incorporate new religious protection laws.
Essential 54-46 to federal Labor
This week’s Essential poll gave Labor the same two-party lead as last fortnight. Primary votes were 38% Labor, 36% Coalition, 9% Greens, 8% One Nation and 2% Nick Xenophon Team. Essential uses a two-week sample of about 1,800 for its voting intentions, with additional questions based on one week’s sample.
88% were concerned about energy prices, 83% about food prices, and 80% about housing affordability. At the bottom, only 57% were concerned about cuts in penalty rates.
49% thought the government should provide subsidies to speed up the transition to renewable energy, 16% thought it should let the market decide, and 12% slow the transition down.
By 64-12, voters supported a royal commission into the banking industry. 33% thought the economy was good, and 24% poor (30-29 good in May). However, by 39-31, voters thought the economy was heading in the wrong direction (41-29 in May).
In last week’s Essential poll, voters thought the government should run full term by 47-32, rather than call an early election. 36% expected Labor to win the next election, 20% the Coalition and 18% thought there would be a hung parliament.
44% (steady since January 2017) thought the economic and political system is fundamentally sound but needs to be refined. 32% (down eight) thought the system needs fundamental change, and 10% (up four) thought it is working well as it is. By 35-32, voters were satisfied with the way democracy is working in Australia.
This week’s YouGov, conducted November 23-27 from a sample of 1,034, had primary votes of 32% Coalition (up one since last fortnight), 32% Labor (down two), 11% One Nation (steady) and 10% Greens (down one). Despite the primary vote shift to the Coalition, Labor’s two-party lead increased a point to 53-47 on more favourable respondent preferences.
This is the first time in YouGov’s polling that Labor’s respondent-allocated two-party vote has matched what Labor would have got using the previous election method. In previous YouGov polls, the respondent allocation has always skewed to the Coalition, sometimes by as much as four points.
41% thought Malcolm Turnbull a weak leader and just 21% thought he is a strong leader. By 43-30, voters disapproved of the cancellation of this lower house sitting week. By 55-36, voters thought the government has a responsibility for the safety of the Manus Island asylum seekers.
By 46-40, voters favoured changing the Constitution to allow dual citizens to run for office (45-37 opposed in October). However, voters were opposed by 47-31 to allowing those who work for the state to run for office.
The two major Bennelong byelection candidates were both favourably perceived nationally. The Liberals’ John Alexander had a 40-29 favourable rating, and Labor’s Kristina Keneally a 39-29 favourable rating.
New England byelection: December 2
While the Bennelong byelection on December 16 is receiving much attention, the New England byelection will be held tomorrow, with polls closing at 6pm Melbourne time.
As far as I know, there has been no polling for New England publicly released since the byelection campaign began. Any result other than a clear win for Barnaby Joyce would be a major surprise.
The Queensland election was decided overwhelmingly on state factors, as Malcolm Turnbull was quick to say on Sunday, but inevitably it has fallout for the prime minister.
Four implications are obvious in the result, which ABC election analyst Antony Green predicts will be a majority Labor government, while Inside Story’s Tim Colebatch suggests is more likely to be an ALP minority one.
First, it elevates even higher the importance of the December 16 byelection in Bennelong.
Second, it will further unsettle an already depressed and jittery federal backbench.
Third, the federal Queensland Coalition MPs will want greater attention from the government.
Finally, the Nationals – in particular the Queensland Nationals – will accelerate a trend that’s been obvious recently, which is to differentiate their brand.
Bennelong was always destined to be significant, from the moment Liberal MP John Alexander resigned (some government sources think prematurely) in the citizenship crisis. But now that things have gone badly for the Liberal National Party in a state that looms so large for the federal Coalition, the stakes rise.
Turnbull was campaigning in Bennelong on Sunday, falling back on the tried and trusted ground of border protection, claiming that “right now the people smugglers are using Kristina Keneally’s articles, her statements on this, as a marketing tool” (an assertion surely worthy of a factcheck).
He has to get deeply involved in this seat, which is on a 9.7% margin, but the flip side is that the more effort Turnbull puts in, the more he’d be personally identified with a big swing, let alone a loss. On the other hand, if the swing were contained, that would help him.
Psychologically, the Queensland result will send the Coalition’s federal members deeper into the funk caused by the unending run of bad polls and multiple problems engulfing the government. This will accentuate instability and ill discipline, although there is no tangible challenge to Turnbull’s leadership at this point.
The Queensland vote reinforces the now familiar message that people are turned off the major parties. The mid-30s primary votes for Labor (around 36%) and LNP (about 34%) scream disillusionment.
One Nation polled solidly in minor party terms (around 14%) and very strongly in its heartlands, but it couldn’t turn that into the swag of seats it had boasted about. Pauline Hanson’s party fell victim to the inflated expectations it had raised, while the LNP vote fell victim to One Nation.
The result shows the One Nation phenomenon, in terms of its ability to erode the conservative vote, remains a worry, but it does not look like a party on the move.
The Queensland result particularly resonates in Canberra because of how vital that state will be to the Coalition come the election. Federal government members from Queensland will be defensively assertive.
Even before the election, internal chatter had it that senior Queensland Liberal George Brandis would not move out of parliament in the coming reshuffle, as earlier predicted. Revamping cabinet without Brandis while preserving strong Queensland representation would be challenging – and Turnbull could not afford to have Queensland seen to be downgraded.
The federal Queensland Nationals are determined to strengthen their efforts to distinguish themselves from the Liberals and Turnbull.
Nationals cabinet minister Matt Canavan said on Sunday the state result was a “confirmation of how important it is to have a strong National Party at a federal level”.
Nationals MP George Christensen went so far as to issue an apology to One Nation voters. It won’t endear him to Turnbull, but he won’t care. One Nation is on track to win Mirani – from Labor – a seat that adjoins Christensen’s electorate with a small overlap.
Queensland Nationals senator Barry O’Sullivan believes the result shows One Nation is not a threat in terms of House of Representatives seats, but highlights the need for the Coalition to fill the vacuum that party has occupied.
“Malcolm can’t do it himself,” O’Sullivan says. Rather, he says, Turnbull has to allow the Nationals to do this.
O’Sullivan is not one who advocates the de-amalgamation of the LNP in Queensland – as some are doing – but a “divisionalisation”, reinforcing the message of the separate Liberal and Nationals strands within the one party.
This is already underway, with O’Sullivan’s bill for a broad-ranging commission of inquiry into banking and other financial institutions, on which he will have final consultations with sympathisers within the Coalition and other parties on Monday.
He then intends to move a motion in the Senate to have it dealt with immediately after the marriage bill is finished there, and debated until it is resolved. Christensen is ready to back it in the lower house.
Treasurer Scott Morrison is still trying to land initiatives to show the government is acting on the banks, short of a royal commission.
One wonders what Peter Dutton, Liberal holder of a marginal Brisbane seat, who last week was open to the government softening its opposition to a royal commission, is thinking right now.
With 70% of enrolled voters counted in yesterday’s Queensland election, the ABC is calling 43 of the 93 seats for Labor, 34 for the LNP and two for the Katter Party. 14 seats have not yet been called, and Labor needs four of these seats to win a majority (47 seats).
The LNP is well ahead in three of the seats the ABC currently has as doubtful (Glass House, Theodore and Whitsunday). As postals favour the LNP, these are very likely to be won by them. In Bonney, Labor currently leads by 10 votes, but 3,000 votes have had a primary count but not yet a two-candidate count. When included, the LNP will lead, and will probably win.
In Pumicestone, the LNP leads by 263 votes, and will very likely win. In Gaven, Labor leads the LNP by 462 votes, and should win, especially as many LNP-friendly postals have already been counted.
In Cook, Labor has 39% of the primary vote, with One Nation, the LNP and the Katter Party clustered just below 19%. Labor is likely to defeat whoever is second. In Macalister, Labor is thumping the LNP 60-40, but an Independent could beat the LNP into third and benefit from their preferences. However, Independents generally do badly on postals, and Labor should win.
In Thuringowa, Labor leads One Nation 56-44, but primary votes are 32% Labor, 21% LNP, 20% One Nation and 16% Katter Party. One Nation could move ahead of the LNP on Katter preferences, but we have no Labor vs LNP count. Based on other results, Labor should win even if the LNP is second.
In Burdekin, Maiwar, Mirani, Hinchinbrook, Noosa and Rockhampton, the ABC’s preference counts are guesses as the wrong candidates were selected on election night, and the electoral commission will need to re-do the preference count.
In Maiwar, shadow Treasurer Scott Emerson appears to have been defeated by the Greens. In Rockhampton, local mayor Margaret Strelow, who was backed as the Labor candidate by Palaszczuk but lost preselection, is likely to defeat the endorsed Labor candidate as an Independent.
Mirani is likely to be the only One Nation win, gained from Labor on LNP preferences. Noosa has been gained from the LNP by an Independent. The Katter Party is well placed to win Hinchinbrook from the LNP from third place on Labor then One Nation preferences. In Burdekin, Labor leads the LNP on primary votes, but the seat will be decided on One Nation preferences. One Nation put Labor ahead of the LNP on its how-to-vote card here.
If Gaven, Cook, Macalister and Thuringowa all go to Labor, and Labor holds the 43 seats the ABC is currently calling for it, Labor will win 47 seats, a bare majority. With Rockhampton and Maiwar likely to go to left-wing candidates, the result should be a clear left majority.
The most likely final seat outcome is Labor 47 of 93 seats, LNP 39, Katter Party 3, Independents 2, Greens 1 and One Nation 1. The pre-election pendulum gave Labor 48 seats and the LNP 43 after assigning defectors to the party that would win the seat in 2015. So if the seat result above occurs, Labor has lost one seat and the LNP four.
Statewide primary votes are currently 36.0% Labor (down 1.4 since 2015), 33.0% LNP (down 8.3), 13.9% One Nation (up 13.0) and 9.9% Greens (up 1.5). Labor will probably decline slightly on additional votes, with the LNP and Greens slightly up. On current figures, Newspoll was the most accurate poll.
Comparing seat numbers with primary votes highlights the disproportional nature of single-member systems. The Katter Party contested only 10 seats, and appear to have won three on just 2.1% of the vote. With far higher vote shares, the Greens and One Nation each appear to have won just one seat.
Kevin Bonham says Labor performed slightly worse in seat terms than expected given the statewide primary votes because south-east Queensland swings were uneven, and often occurred in seats Labor already held.
In seats the ABC has called as changing hands, Labor has gained Aspley and Redlands from the LNP, but lost Bundaberg. Labor gained Cairns from a defector, and the LNP gained Buderim from LNP defector Steve Dickson, who was One Nation’s state leader.
Labor crushed One Nation’s former Senator Malcolm Roberts in Ipswich, and deputy Premier Jackie Trad held off a Greens challenge in South Brisbane.
While Labor has probably won, this was an underwhelming performance, given it was a first-term government and the unpopularity of the federal Coalition. I think the defection of Cook MP Billy Gordon early in the last term damaged Labor, as they still needed his vote.
As I have argued before, Labor’s attempt to play both sides of the Adani issue was not good political strategy, and they would probably have performed better had they rejected Adani early in the last term. Rejecting the Commonwealth’s $1 billion loan to Adani just three weeks before the election would have been perceived by many as a cynical move.
While statewide polling was accurate, seat polls were as usual shocking. Newspoll had a large miss, with One Nation ahead 54-46 in Thuringowa; currently Labor leads One Nation 56-44.
The federal election result is on a knife-edge, with the outcome between a majority Turnbull government and a hung parliament.
Malcolm Turnbull has been delivered a major rebuff and left potentially embattled, with bitter recriminations breaking out in conservative ranks. Even if the Coalition ends up with a majority, Turnbull will have an uphill struggle to manage a party that includes many who are his enemies.
There were immediate calls for a review of the superannuation policy that the government took to the election, which cut back concessions for high-income earners and deeply angered the Liberals’ base.
Liberal ministers blamed Labor’s Medicare scare campaign for turning voters against the Coalition.
Late in the night the swing against the government was 3.6%. The election has seen a high vote for small parties.
Turnbull waited until after midnight to address his supporters, declaring: “I can report that based on the advice I have from the party officials, we can have every confidence that we will form a Coalition majority government in the next parliament”. In his speech, he did not accept any blame for the bad result or suggest he would make any changes as a result.
Treasurer Scott Morrison said the Coalition was “on the cusp” of being able to claim the 76 seats needed to form majority government.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, who spoke to supporters around 11:30PM, said the outcome might not be known for days but whatever happened one thing was sure: “the Labor Party is back”. He said the Liberals had “lost their mandate”.
Labor’s Senate leader, Penny Wong, said there was “too much on the table to call it tonight”.
The ABC said that with more than 70% of votes counted, the Coalition was on track to win 72 seats, and Labor set to claim 66, with five crossbenchers including one Green, and seven seats in doubt.
An unanticipated big swing in Tasmania has cost the Liberals Bass, Braddon and Lyons. Labor has won Eden-Monaro (NSW), Macarthur (NSW), and the notional Liberal seat of Burt in Western Australia.
In Queensland, Assistant Innovation Minister Wyatt Roy appears to have lost Longman and the Liberals may lose Herbert. The Sydney seat of Lindsay is likely to fall, as is Macquarie. In the Northern Territory, Solomon is set to fall.
Nick Xenophon’s Nick Xenophon Team (NXT) candidate Rebekha Sharkie has taken Mayo from former minister Jamie Briggs, who had to quit the frontbench after an incident in a Hong Kong bar. Briggs tweeted “After a tough fight tonight hasn’t been our night”.
The Liberals could win the Victorian Labor seat of Chisholm. The Labor-Green contest in Batman is neck and neck.
Despite Turnbull calling the double dissolution to clear out small players in the Senate, the new Senate will contain a plethora of micro players. They will include three South Australian senators from NXT. Pauline Hanson has been elected to a Senate seat in Queensland. Broadcaster Derryn Hinch has claimed a Victorian Senate seat. Independent Jacqui Lambie has been returned in Tasmania.
In his speech Turnbull took on criticism, already being aired, that he should not have called a double dissolution, saying this had not been a political tactic but had been driven by the “need to restore the rule of law to the construction industry”.
Even if Turnbull wins majority government he may not have the numbers to get the industrial relations bills, which were the trigger for the double dissolution, through a joint sitting.
The backlash in conservative ranks erupted immediately.
Senator Cory Bernardi said in a tweet to Liberal pollster Mark Textor:
Broadcaster Alan Jones clashed with one of Turnbull’s numbers men, senator James McGrath, on the Network Seven panel. “There were a lot of bed-wetters in the Liberal Party and you seemed to be the captain of the bed-wetters,” Jones said. McGrath hit back, saying Jones was “not a friend” of the Coalition.
Tony Abbott’s former chief-of-staff Peta Credlin and Attorney-General George Brandis had a spat on the Sky panel over the government’s superannuation changes. Credlin said the changes would not go through the Coalition partyroom in their present form; Brandis retorted she was not in the partyroom.
Tasmanian senator Eric Abetz said there had been strident criticism in emails to his office of the superannuation changes. “I for one will be advocating we reconsider aspects of it.”
Victorian Liberal president Michael Kroger said the party’s base was “furious” with the superannuation policy. “I certainly hope the partyroom would look at this issue.”
Conservative commentator Andrew Bolt called for Turnbull to quit. “You have been a disaster. You betrayed Tony Abbott and then led the party to humiliation, stripped of both values and honour. Resign.”
Morrison, asked if Abbott could have won the election, replied “highly unlikely”.
Roy and Peter Hendy, member for Eden-Monaro, were both heavily involved in the Turnbull coup.
Deputy Liberal leader Julie Bishop said “undoubtedly” the Medicare scare campaign had been an important factor in the result. She said a number of people on election day had raised Medicare with her at polling booths.
Finance Minister Mathias Cormann said Labor’s Medicare’s scare was more effective than the government had thought during the campaign. “No doubt the absolute lie Labor was running on Medicare was effective.”
Turnbull lashed out over the Medicare scare, saying “the Labor Party ran some of the most systematic, well-funded lies ever peddled in Australia”.
He said that “no doubt” the police would investigate last minute text messages to voters that said they came from Medicare.
Abetz said the “three amigos” in Bass, Braddon and Lyons had been swamped by the Medicare campaign.
Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce held New England from independent challenger Tony Windsor. Independent Cathy McGowan retained Indi. The Nationals have taken Murray from the Liberals, and headed off a challenge in Cowper from independent Rob Oakeshott.
The poll has seen the first Indigenous woman elected to the House of Representatives – Linda Burney in the NSW seat of Barton.
The pre-poll count continued to 2AM. There will be no more counting until Tuesday.
Malcolm Turnbull’s speech to deflated supporters in the early hours of Sunday morning was extraordinarily lacking in self-awareness.
Turnbull had just brought his party a devastatingly bad election result. That’s true even if he manages to reach majority government, which remains far from clear despite his assertions. In the early hours of Sunday things got closer as more votes were counted. With 77.6% of the vote counted, the ABC tally had the Coalition and Labor on 67 seats each, five crossbenchers, and 11 seats in doubt.
Yet Turnbull showed not a scintilla of humility. He made no gesture of contrition, no promise that he had heard the message the people had delivered.
Instead he denounced Labor’s scare campaign – as if the Liberals themselves have not at times been masters of that dark art. And he made an unconvincing attempt to justify a double dissolution that has ended up producing a Senate as potentially difficult as the last one, with the added negative of including Pauline Hanson, so giving her a national platform.
There is now a bizarre parallel between Labor and the Liberals in turning triumph into disaster. Kevin Rudd won convincingly in 2007. He was then removed by his party and successor Julia Gillard came out of the subsequent election with a hung parliament. Tony Abbott had a strong win in 2013, was replaced – and now the Coalition will have a tiny majority or there will be another hung parliament, with the outcome depending on the crossbenchers.
Turnbull and his supporters can argue that if Abbott had still been leader the loss would have been greater, and that’s probably correct. But it is unlikely to be an argument that will do Turnbull much good in the days ahead when there won’t be a lot of Liberal love around.
Turnbull complains about Labor’s lies about Medicare’s future, but they were made more credible to the public because of the Coalition’s previous lies and actions. Did it think people would not remember Abbott’s 2013 promise of no cuts to health? Or the attempt in the 2014 budget to bring in a co-payment, unsuccessful though it was? Or the various subsequent moves for cuts and user pays measures?
Labor’s campaign might have been exaggerated and dishonest, but the Coalition itself had effectively given the ALP the building blocks for it.
Turnbull’s argument that he called a double dissolution not to change the nature of the Senate but because the lawlessness in the construction industry had to be confronted is facile. He did not even make the industrial relations legislation a central talking point in the campaign.
And in his speech he overlooked the point that even if he reaches majority government it is doubtful he would have the overall parliamentary numbers to get the bills through a joint sitting (although at this stage it is impossible to be definite about what the new senators might do).
In the wash-up, everything from the Coalition’s strategy for the past eight weeks – running almost entirely on a “plan” based on company tax cuts – to the mechanics of getting the case across, will be under internal criticism. It will be remembered that Turnbull’s pitch for leadership included his ability as an economic salesman. That, as it turned out, he over-hyped.
The Liberal conservatives will try to unravel policy. They started on election night with their bugbear – the superannuation changes. Assuming the Coalition survives in government, how will the ructions in the Liberals now play out for the same-sex marriage plebiscite?
Turnbull was looking for a mandate to allow him to be his own man. Instead of getting that, his government has been left struggling to survive.
If it does, the conservative forces will now take one of two views of him: as someone who must be forced to follow their will on core policies, or as someone who at a future date should be replaced. Or maybe they will adopt both views.
Turnbull’s enemies within his party have played this election craftily. Abbott was mostly quiet during the campaign, although in the final week he made clear that he thought the issues of budget repair, national security and border protection had been underdone. His former chief-of-staff Peta Credlin used her role as TV commentator to run an at times sharp critique of the Turnbull campaign. Now the conservatives will be full-throated.
Turnbull talks about the need for stability and unity. The Australian public is faced with instability. Whatever the result ends up being, there is no clear mandate and an extremely difficult Senate.
Turnbull, if he is still prime minister, would be confronted by the prospect of internal disunity plus a chaotic upper house that could likely make it nearly impossible to do much that is meaningful.
As happened when he was opposition leader, Turnbull is again in a situation where he didn’t read the danger signals. He thought he was more persuasive than Bill Shorten; he and his strategists (apparently) believed that whatever the national polls said, the marginal seats would stick. They said the election would be close but appeared confident it was in the bag.
Turnbull will pay a high price for his misjudgements, though it is unclear exactly how high.
After counting into the early hours of Sunday morning, the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) currently has Labor leading in 72 of the 150 lower house seats, with the Coalition ahead in 66.
There are seven not-yet-determined seats, where the AEC selected the wrong candidates to count on a two-party-preferred basis and now has to realign the count. The Coalition will win five of those seven seats, and Labor one, bringing the totals to 73 for Labor and 71 for the Coalition.
However, late counting, particularly of postal votes, favours the Coalition. The AEC lists five seats as close, and in three of those Labor is narrowly ahead. If the Coalition wins these three on late counting, the Coalition would lead the seat count 74-70. Other seats where Labor currently leads could also be won by the Coalition on late counting.
Current sitting crossbenchers Bob Katter, Andrew Wilkie, Cathy McGowan and Adam Bandt easily retained office, and will be joined by the Nick Xenophon Team’s (NXT) Rebekha Sharkie, who crushed Liberal Jamie Briggs in Mayo.
The NXT could win a second seat in Grey, one of the seven seats where the AEC needs to realign the count.
However, Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott both lost their bids to return. The Greens are unlikely to win a second seat.
Labor gained all three Tasmanian seats that were previously held by the Coalition, and also gained Solomon in the Northern Territory. Labor gained seven seats in New South Wales, at least two in Queensland and at least one in Western Australia.
The current primary votes are 41.8% for the Coalition (down 3.7% on 2013 election figures), 35.3% for Labor (up 1.9%), and 10% for the Greens (up 1.3%). “Others” have a collective 12.9% (up 6%). In South Australia, the NXT won 21% of the vote. The Coalition and Greens are likely to gain a little at the expense of Labor in late counting.
Kevin Bonham says the current two-party swing against the Coalition in the 138 classic Coalition vs Labor seats is 3.3%, which will probably moderate to 3% when counting is finalised. The Coalition is thus likely to win the two-party count by about 50.5%-49.5%, but will lose many more seats than it should have based on sophomore effects. Perhaps Labor’s marginal seats campaign was strong enough to overcome sophomore effects.
Sitting members usually have small personal votes that are not associated with their parties. When one party wins a seat from another party’s sitting member, they should get an additional boost at the next election, but this didn’t appear to happen last night.
The final pre-election polls were very close to the overall primary and two-party figures, but single seat polls were poor. Yet again, national polls were much better than seat polls.
Though it is unlikely Labor will form the next government, this is a much better result for Labor and Bill Shorten than was expected, particularly when Malcolm Turnbull was riding high in the polls after deposing Tony Abbott.
For Turnbull and the Coalition, this was a bad result. However, it is clear that Turnbull’s popularity dropped between February and April as he abandoned his more “liberal” approaches to climate change, same-sex marriage and other issues. Had Turnbull been more progressive on some issues, it is likely he would have been comfortably re-elected.
Reformed system produces even messier Senate
Even if the Coalition scrapes out a lower house majority, it will have fewer senators than it currently has.
One of the newly elected senators will be Pauline Hanson. Here is the Senate table, based on results at the ABC. There are 76 total senators.
The three definite “Others” are Pauline Hanson in Queensland, Derryn Hinch in Victoria and Jacqui Lambie in Tasmania. Most of the undecided seats will be contested by micro parties, with One Nation in the race for other seats.
The Coalition had 33 seats in the old Senate, so this will be reduced. This will make it difficult to pass the industrial relations bills that were the reason a double-dissolution election was called, even with a joint sitting.
Normally only six senators for each state would be up for election, but as this election was a double dissolution all 12 were up. The quota for election was reduced from 14.3% to 7.7%, and this has benefited smaller parties.
Under the old Senate system, it would have been possible to calculate Senate seats using the group voting tickets. As preferences are now up to voters, it is unlikely we will know the outcome of some of the undecided Senate seats until the AEC has data entered all votes and pressed the “button” on its computer system, probably by late July or early August.