Labour wins NZ election after backing from NZ First. Bankers’ SA Galaxy: 31% Lib, 30% SA Best, 26% Labor


Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

The New Zealand election was held on 23 September, with final results released on 7 October. The conservative National won 56 of the 120 seats, Labour 46, the anti-immigrant populist NZ First 9, the Greens 8 and the right-wing ACT 1. As a result, the right held 57 seats and the left 54, with NZ First’s 9 seats required for a majority (61 seats) for either the left or right.

26 days after the election, and 12 days after final results were published, NZ First leader Winston Peters today announced that his party would form a coalition government with Labour. With NZ First backing, the left bloc has 63 seats, a clear majority in the NZ Parliament. This outcome ends National’s nine successive years in power, in which Labour had utterly dismal results in the three elections from 2008-14.

While the time taken after the election to form a government may seem long, it is not by international standards. Following the Dutch election in March 2017, a coalition government was not formed for 208 days. The German election was held on 24 September, with final results known on 25 September, but government negotiations only began yesterday.

Bankers’ SA Galaxy: 31% Liberal, 30% SA Best, 26% Labor

The Australian reported today that a SA Galaxy poll, conducted for the Australian Bankers Association 10-12 October from a sample of 806, gave the Liberals 31% of the primary vote, SA Best (Nick Xenophon’s SA party) 30% and Labor 26%. The next SA election will be held in mid-March 2018.

This poll is not a media-commissioned poll. The ABA is an anti-Labor lobby group that wants to stop the proposed SA state bank tax. Polls such as these are prone to selective release; it is unlikely the ABA would have released a poll with Labor doing well.

The last media-commissioned SA Galaxy poll, in late June, had the Liberals leading Labor 34-28 on primary votes with SA Best on 21%, and a 50-50 tie between the major parties after preferences. If this ABA Galaxy poll is accurate, it implies that SA Best has surged 9 points since Xenophon announced his candidacy for the Liberal-held seat of Hartley.

In the better Premier question, Xenophon had 41%, with both incumbent Premier Jay Weatherill and opposition leader Steven Marshall at 21%.

If these primary votes were replicated at an election, SA Best would win many seats on Labor preferences, and could be the largest party in SA’s lower house. Such an outcome would break the two party duopoly for the first time in an Australian Parliament since the early 20th century.

However, there are still five months to go before the election. Even if this poll is accurate, it could represent SA Best’s high point. Both major parties will attack Xenophon during the election campaign, in an attempt to undermine his popularity. Labor will use Xenophon’s controversial Senate decisions against him.

Although Labor is third in this poll, they are not out of the running. If Labor can take a few percent from SA Best, they would be more likely to benefit on preferences than the Liberals. If Labor retains office at the next election, it will be a fifth consecutive term for them.

The ConversationAfter 14 years in office, Queensland Labor was demolished at the 2012 Queensland election, and NSW Labor had a similar fate after 16 years at the 2011 NSW election. A SA Labor victory after 16 years would be a remarkable achievement.

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

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

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Newspoll 54-46 to Labor as Turnbull’s ratings slump. Qld Newspoll 52-48 to Labor


Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

This week’s Newspoll, conducted 12-15 October from a sample of 1580, gave Labor a 54-46 lead, unchanged from three weeks ago. Primary votes were 37% Labor (down 1), 36% Coalition (steady), 10% Greens (up 1) and 9% One Nation (up 1). This is Turnbull’s 21st consecutive Newspoll loss as PM.

32% were satisfied with Turnbull’s performance (down 3) and 56% were dissatisfied (up 4), for a net approval of -24, down 7 points. Shorten’s net approval was -22, down two points. According to Kevin Bonham, this is Turnbull’s worst net approval since July, and Shorten’s worst since June.

By 63-23, voters favoured continuing renewable energy subsidies. However, 58% said they would pay nothing more for electricity or gas to implement a clean energy target. In a mid-September Essential poll, voters thought renewables better for electricity costs than fossil fuels by a 41-27 margin.

The general public would like more investment in renewables, and expects that renewable energy would not increase current power prices. However, the Coalition backbench is strongly opposed to renewable energy. By siding with the backbench, Turnbull is undermining his standing with the public.

Labor should ferociously attack the Coalition’s new energy policy that was announced today. In recent global elections, major left-wing parties have performed best when they have clearly distinguished themselves from conservatives. Where the left has become close to the conservatives, they have performed dismally, with Austria (see below) the latest example.

While Newspoll was good for Labor, Essential and YouGov below are not as good. All three polls this week agree that One Nation’s vote is up by 1-2 points.

Last week, The Australian published the July to September quarter Newspoll breakdowns by state, region, sex and age. Since the 2016 election, there has been an 8 point swing to Labor in Queensland, WA and outside the five capitals, but milder swings elsewhere.

SSM plebiscite turnout and polling

As at Friday 13 October, the ABS estimated it had received 10.8 million same sex marriage forms (67.5% of the electorate). The turnout is up from 62.5% on 6 October and 57.5% on 29 September. Weekly updates will be provided until 7 November, the final day for reception of SSM envelopes.

In this week’s YouGov poll, 67% of respondents had already voted, a very good match for the ABS. Among these, Yes led by 61-35. The remaining 33% favoured Yes 54-28, including 13% who were very likely to vote.

Wednesday morning update 18 October: In Newspoll, 65% said they have already voted and another 19% definitely will, implying an 84% turnout. Among those who have already voted, Yes led by 59-38, and by 49-37 among those who have not yet voted. For the whole sample, Yes led by 56-37 (57-34 three weeks ago). By 50-43, voters were opposed to the postal plebiscite (46-44 opposed three weeks ago).

Essential 52-48 to Labor

This week’s Essential, conducted over the last two weeks from a sample of 1850, gave Labor a 52-48 lead, a 2 point gain for the Coalition since last week. As Essential uses two week rolling averages, this implies that this week’s sample was close to 50-50. Primary votes were 37% Coalition (up 1), 36% Labor (down 2), 9% Greens (down 1), 8% One Nation (up 1) and 3% Nick Xenophon Team (up 1). Additional questions are based on one week’s sample.

Voters approved 65-15 of the Clean Energy Target, 74-10 of renewable energy subsidies and 62-18 of Labor’s 50% renewable energy target. These questions can be said to be “pony polls”, in that the voter is asked whether they approve of something that sounds nice, without considering cost or other issues.

61% (down 10 since February) thought the government was not doing enough to ensure affordable, reliable and clean energy, 15% thought it was doing enough (up 3) and 5% that it was doing too much (up 2).

42% thought Abbott should resign from Parliament (down 1 since April), 14% that he should be given a ministry (down 4), 16% remain a backbencher (up 2) and 9% challenge Turnbull (not asked in April).

In contrast to Newspoll, last week’s Essential gave Turnbull a net -1 rating, up from -5 in September. Shorten had a net -7 rating, up from -11.

Essential asked which people’s interests the major parties best represented, with expected results. Labor was seen as best for low-income working people (+33 vs the Liberals), people on welfare (+28) and students (+22). The Liberals were best for big business (+51) and high-income working people (+49).

By 55-36, voters thought it likely there would be a war between North Korea and the US. 33% said terrorism was the biggest concern for their personal safety, with 20% selecting a car accident and 13% nuclear warfare.

YouGov primary votes: 34% Coalition, 32% Labor, 11% Greens, 11% One Nation

YouGov continues to have Labor much lower than other polls. Primary votes in this week’s YouGov, conducted 12-16 October with a sample of 1067, were 34% Coalition (steady), 32% Labor (down 1), 11% Greens (steady), 11% One Nation (up 2), 3% Nick Xenophon Team (down 1) and 4% Christian parties (steady).

As usual, YouGov’s two party result, using respondent allocation, is skewed to the Coalition; they lead 51-49, though the previous election method would give Labor about a 52.5-47.5 lead according to the Poll Bludger.

56% thought Australia should have stricter gun laws, 34% thought they should remain about the same and just 7% thought they should be less strict. By 45-37, voters thought the Constitution should not be changed to allow dual citizens to run for office.

Qld Newspoll 52-48 to Labor

A Queensland Newspoll, conducted 10-12 October from a sample of 917, gave Labor a 52-48 lead, a one point gain for the LNP since the July to September Newspoll. Primary votes were 37% Labor (steady), 34% LNP (steady), 16% One Nation (up 1) and 8% Greens (steady). The next Queensland election must be held by early 2018.

42% were satisfied with Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk’s performance (up 1), and 45% were dissatisfied (down 1), for a net approval of -3. Opposition leader Tim Nicholls had a net approval of -11, up five points.

The narrowing in Labor’s two party lead is partly because Newspoll are now assuming that One Nation preferences flow to the LNP at a 60% rate, up from 55% previously. Unlike most state Newspolls, this poll was taken over three days last week, rather than a period of months.

Austria election: conservative/far-right coalition likely outcome

The Austrian election was held on 15 October. The conservative OVP won 31.5% of the vote (up 7.5 points since the 2013 election), the centre-left SPO 26.9% (steady) the far-right FPO 26.0% (up 5.5), the liberal NEOS 5.3% (up 0.3), the Greens breakaway party PILZ 4.4% and the Greens 3.8% (down 8.7). Turnout was 79.4%, up 4.5 points.

Seats are awarded roughly proportional to vote share with a 4% threshold. The OVP won 62 of the 183 seats (up 15), the SPO 52 (steady), the FPO 51 (up 11), the NEOS 10 (up 1) and PILZ 8. Thus the FPO holds the balance of power, and will probably join the OVP in a conservative/far-right coalition government. Although a few votes remain to be counted, the Greens appear to have missed the threshold, losing all 24 of their seats.

The centrist parties, the SPO and OVP, had been in coalition for the last two terms. According to this article in The Guardian, both parties became more right-wing in an attempt to appeal to FPO voters. From what we have seen in other countries, this strategy only helps the far-right.

In the December 2016 Austrian Presidential election, Greens candidate Alexander Van der Bellen defeated the far-right Norbert Hofer 53.8-46.2, showing that a left-wing candidate could win. However, the SPO did not embrace a left-wing agenda.

The ConversationThis election was an utter disaster for the Austrian Greens. The Greens won 12.4% in 2013. With the major parties becoming more right-wing, this should have been an opportunity for the Greens to increase their vote. However, the Greens split into the PILZ and Greens before the election, and only the PILZ made it back into Parliament.

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

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

Turnbull’s ratings fall in another bad Newspoll


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

The Coalition is trailing in its 21st consecutive Newspoll, with Labor maintaining its two-party lead of 54-46% and Malcolm Turnbull suffering a setback in his personal ratings.

As parliament resumes, with the energy issue preoccupying cabinet and the government nervously waiting on the High Court’s citizenship decisions, Turnbull’s lead over Bill Shorten as better prime minister narrowed to 41-33%, a margin of eight points, compared with 11 three weeks ago (42-31%).

Turnbull’s net satisfaction in the poll, published in Monday’s Australian, worsened from minus 17 points to minus 24 points. Shorten’s rating also worsened, from minus 20 to minus 22.

The run-up to the poll was marked by Tony Abbott’s controversial speech on climate change, delivered in London. It also saw further public uncertainty over the government’s yet-to-be-announced policy on energy, which cabinet is expected to consider on Monday.

Last week, the government effectively dumped any prospect of bringing in a clean energy target, which kills the chance of any bipartisanship. Opposition spokesman Mark Butler on Sunday told the ABC that if Turnbull walked away from a clean energy target “he won’t get the support of the Labor Party”.

When he challenged Abbott in 2015, Turnbull pointed to the Coalition being behind in 30 Newspolls in a row. His government is now more than two-thirds of the way to that benchmark.

Labor’s primary vote fell one point to 37%, while the Coalition was steady on 36%. One Nation rose one point to 9%; the Greens rose one point to 10%; and support for “others” fell from 9% to 8%.

The poll of 1,583 voters was done from Thursday to Sunday.

In parliament, the government this week will press its efforts to lower the company tax rate for larger enterprises. A deal with Nick Xenophon earlier this year saw the passage of the tax plan reductions for companies with a turnover of up to A$50 million annually. But the government has not been able to win support for the cuts proposed for big business. It is the cuts for the large companies which have the more significant economic impact.

Xenophon on Sunday night reiterated his Nick Xenophon Team (NXT) would not support the cuts. “We’ve ruled it out. Our position won’t change,” he said.

The ten-year tax plan was a centrepiece of the Coalition’s 2016 election policy.

The Business Council of Australia (BCA) has stepped up its lobbying for the cuts, with a booklet titled “Why Australia needs a competitive company tax rate”.

The BCA says Australia’s top company tax rate of 30% is the fifth-highest in the OECD and could soon be the third-highest. The average company rate across the OECD is 24%, while in Asia the average is 21%.

The UK has plans to cut its federal rate from 35% to 20% and the UK has legislated to go from 19% to 17%, the BCA points out.

BCA chief executive Jennifer Westacott said the “global action should be a wake up call for the Senate that Australia cannot afford to stand still, since every company tax reduction overseas is a de-facto tax increase on Australia”.

Westacott said parliament’s decision in March to restrict the tax cut to businesses with a turnover up to $50 million per year “leaves the job half done and our economy at risk as other countries become more competitive in the global race for investment.

“Those who attack the case for company tax cuts have no alternative credible plan to get investment growing strongly again,” she said.

The government is also battling to get the numbers to pass its higher education package. On this Xenophon said the NXT had serious reservations “but we’re still talking to the government”.

Xenophon is one of those MPs whose citizenship status is before the High Court, but he plans to leave federal politics even if the court decision goes in his favour (although he hasn’t said exactly when). He intends to lead his SA-BEST party at next year’s South Australian election.

The government has two ministers – Barnaby Joyce, the deputy prime minister, and Fiona Nash, the Nationals’ deputy – before the High Court, as well as former minister Matt Canavan, who quit the frontbench when the question of his constitutional eligibility for parliament arose.

The ConversationThe High Court is expected to make its decisions on the seven citizenship cases quickly.

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

NSW ReachTEL: Coalition leads 52-48 as One Nation slumps. Xenophon tied or ahead in SA’s Hartley


Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

A NSW ReachTEL poll for Fairfax media, conducted 5 October from a sample of 1650, gave the Coalition a 52-48 lead by preference flows at the 2015 election, a 3 point gain for Labor since a Channel 7 ReachTEL poll, conducted just after Mike Baird’s resignation as Premier in January. With 8.1% undecided excluded, primary votes in this ReachTEL were 40.9% Coalition (down 1.8), 33.7% Labor (up 5.7), 9.9% Greens (up 1.5), 8.9% One Nation (down 7.4) and 2.4% Shooters, Fishers and Farmers. NSW uses optional preferential voting.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian held a 52.1-47.9 lead over opposition leader Luke Foley in ReachTEL’s forced choice better Premier question, which tends to favour opposition leaders over polls that have an undecided option.

The January poll was taken when One Nation was at its peak, both nationally and in state polls, and that poll had One Nation at a record for any NSW poll. As One Nation’s right-wing economic views have become better known, it appears that much of their working-class support has returned to Labor.

In Queensland, One Nation’s support in a recent ReachTEL was 18.1% including undecided voters. Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk’s support for the Adani coal mine does not distinguish Labor from the LNP. If the two major parties are seen as similar, anti-establishment parties can thrive.

At the recent NZ and UK elections, the total major party vote increased substantially. I believe this increase occurred at least partly because the major NZ and UK parties had very different policies, and anti-establishment parties were denied the “this mob is the same as the other mob” line. In contrast, the major parties were in coalition before the German election, and both slumped badly, with the far-right AfD winning 12.6%.

NSW state by-elections: Nats hold seats despite big swings against

Yesterday, by-elections occurred in the NSW National-held seats of Murray and Cootamundra, and in Labor-held Blacktown; all three seats were easily won by the incumbent party at the 2015 election. The Liberals did not contest Blacktown.

In Murray, Shooters candidate Helen Dalton stood as an Independent at the 2015 state election. The Nationals won by 53.5-46.5, a 19.2 point swing to Dalton since 2015. Primary votes were 40.5% Nationals (down 15.0), 31.4% Dalton (up 13.2) and 21.0% Labor (up 4.8).

In Cootamundra, the Nationals won by 60.1-39.9 vs Labor, a 10.3 point swing to Labor. Primary votes were 46.0% Nationals (down 19.9), 24.2% Labor (down 1.8) and 23.5% Shooters, who did not stand in 2015.

With no Liberal in Blacktown, Labor romped to 68.9% of the primary vote (up 15.0). The Christian Democrats were a distant second with 17.7% and the Greens won 8.8%.

These results do not yet include postal votes, which are likely to favour the Nationals. Further pre-poll votes in Murray and Cootamundra also remain to be counted.

Galaxy poll in SA seat of Hartley: Xenophon leads Liberals 53-47, but ReachTEL has a 50-50 tie

Nick Xenophon has announced he will leave the Senate after the High Court’s ruling on whether current members are eligible has been delivered. Xenophon will contest the SA state Liberal-held seat of Hartley at the March 2018 election. A Galaxy robopoll in Hartley, from a sample of 516, had Xenophon leading the Liberals by 53-47, from primary votes of 38% Liberal, 35% Xenophon, 17% Labor, 6% Greens and 3% Conservatives.

However, a ReachTEL poll for Channel 7 had a 50-50 tie, from primary votes of 36.7% Liberal, 21.7% Xenophon and 19.7% Labor. The primary votes probably include an undecided component of a little under 10%; these people can be pushed to say who they lean to. It is likely leaners strongly favoured Xenophon, as the Liberals would lead on the primary votes provided.

The Galaxy poll is encouraging for Xenophon, but the ReachTEL poll is more sobering. Labor will target Xenophon during the campaign over votes he has taken in the Senate that have helped the Coalition pass its legislation. Currently, only those who follow politics closely are aware of these votes, but Labor’s campaign is likely to increase this awareness. Such a campaign could undermine Xenophon’s support among centre-left voters.

Essential state polling: July to September

Essential has released July to September quarterly polling for all mainland states, by month for the eastern seaboard states. In September, the Coalition led by 51-49 in NSW, unchanged on August. In Victoria, Labor led by 54-46, a 2 point gain for Labor since August. In WA, Labor led by 54-46 for July to September, a 1 point gain for the Coalition.

In Queensland, Labor led by 53-47 in September, a 2 point gain for the LNP since August. Primary votes were 35% Labor, 35% LNP, 13% One Nation and 10% Greens. By splitting One Nation and Others preferences evenly, Essential is likely to be overestimating Labor’s two party vote.

In SA, Labor led by an unchanged 52-48 in July to September. Primary votes were 37% Labor, 30% Liberal, 18% Nick Xenophon Team and 6% Greens. If these hard-to-believe primary votes are correct, Labor is far further ahead than 52-48. The NXT won 21.3% in SA at the 2016 Federal election.

The ConversationEssential’s state polling was not good at any of the Victorian 2014, Queensland 2015 or NSW 2015 state elections.

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

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

High stakes for Turnbull government as High Court hears MPs’ citizenship cases


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Barnaby Joyce is on tenterhooks. Despite Malcolm Turnbull’s confidence that the High Court will find for him, Joyce’s parliamentary eligibility is a key to how the government finishes the year.

From Tuesday to Thursday, the court will consider what is surely one of the most extraordinary set of cases to come before it – the constitutional position of seven current and former MPs who were dual citizens.

All but Joyce are or were senators, which means that the only potential byelection that could be caused is for Joyce’s seat of New England. Three are Nationals: Joyce, Fiona Nash and Matt Canavan. Canavan quit the ministry (but not the parliament) when his issue arose; Joyce and Nash remain on the frontbench.

The two Greens, Scott Ludlam and Larissa Waters, resigned from parliament when they discovered their dual nationality. It was Ludlam’s departure that started the dominoes falling, as others checked their positions. Both Greens argue they were ineligible to sit – although the Commonwealth is actually saying Waters was eligible.

The remaining two are One Nation’s Malcolm Roberts, and Nick Xenophon.

Roberts, Ludlam and Waters were born overseas. The rest had foreign citizenship by descent. Joyce and Ludlam were New Zealanders; Nash, Xenophon and Roberts had British citizenship; Waters found herself a Canadian because she was born there during her parents’ brief stay; Canavan was Italian.

There have been some bizarre twists. Canavan said initially his mother had signed him up to Italian citizenship without his knowledge; later it was found she hadn’t had to – he already had it.

This latter fact is important for the Commonwealth’s legal argument. It is contending the constitutional provision about citizenship was only intended to exclude those who acted positively to obtain foreign citizenship or knowingly kept it. If Canavan’s Italian citizenship was gained by positive action, he wouldn’t be protected by that argument, as he would be if he were Italian by descent.

Xenophon had a very weak form of British citizenship, via his father, who had emigrated from Cyprus, which was a British territory.

The court has already declared that Roberts, who sent questions about his status to defunct email addresses, was a British citizen when elected, although it has not yet ruled on his eligibility.

Section 44 (i) of the Constitution reads clearly enough, on the face of it.

A person cannot be chosen for or sit in federal parliament if he or she:

… is under any acknowledgement of allegiance, obedience, or adherence to a foreign power, or is a subject or a citizen or entitled to the rights or privileges of a subject or citizen of a foreign power.

To clear themselves of this potential problem, an aspiring parliamentarian has to take proper steps to renounce a foreign citizenship.

It’s notable the major parties, which have good vetting, aren’t caught up in this case, although there have been allegations against some of their MPs.

The government is arguing that if the MP was Australian at birth (whether born here, or abroad to Australian parents) and wasn’t aware of their dual citizenship, they should not be found ineligible – in other words, that ignorance is a defence.

But if the MP was born overseas and later naturalised, the government argues, they were on notice about potentially being a foreign citizen, regardless of what they thought was the case. In this instance, according to the government’s argument, ignorance is not a defence.

If the court clears most of the MPs, it would be an effective rewrite, through interpretation, of the literal wording of this section.

The potential implications of the court’s decisions are wide and varied.

With Ludlam and Waters already out of parliament, the issue is just how they are replaced. If the court agrees with their own assessments that they were ineligible, their replacements will be the next candidates on the Greens 2016 tickets in Western Australia and Queensland, respectively Jordon Steele-John and Andrew Bartlett (a one-time Australian Democrats senator and leader).

If the court upheld the eligibility of one or both, the replacement or replacements would be chosen by the party. Ludlam has indicated he would not seek nomination; Waters, anxious to return to parliament, would be expected to do so.

It’s always possible, incidentally, for someone elected via a countback to then resign, leaving the way for the party to choose the replacement.

If Roberts is knocked out, the next on the One Nation ticket is Fraser Anning, who recently avoided another constitutional impediment: bankruptcy.

Disqualification of Xenophon would see Tim Storer of the Nick Xenophon Team (NXT) installed. But if Xenophon’s eligibility is upheld, he will leave the Senate anyway, to contest the South Australian election. In that circumstance, his party would choose who followed him.

The disqualification of Nash and Canavan would lead to candidates down their respective 2016 New South Wales and Queensland tickets replacing them. That would create some internal complications regarding the numbers between the Coalition parties.

Professor Anne Twomey, from the University of Sydney Law School, noted that if Nash were disqualified and a recount held, she would most likely by replaced by the Liberal who was next on the joint ticket. She said:

Even if that Liberal then resigned in an effort to pass the seat back to the Nationals, the constitution requires that the person who fills the seat is a member of the same party as the senator who was ‘chosen by the people’.

This would not have been Nash, as she was disqualified, and therefore never validly chosen. It would be the Liberal who won the seat on the recount. This would mean that she would have to be replaced by a Liberal, upsetting the balance in the Coalition.

The loss of one or both National senators would also mean a reshuffle of portfolios. This would fit with Turnbull’s desire for an end-of-year reshuffle, but test the Nationals’ talent pool. (Canavan is out of the ministry but Joyce is acting in his roles.)

But it is the finding on Joyce that has the big implications. If he were forced to a byelection, it would rock the government – even though he would almost certainly retain his seat.

The first issue would be whether he stood down from the ministry.

Twomey noted that while the constitution allows a person to be a minister for three months without holding a seat, the problem would be that Joyce had not validly held a seat since July last year – “which suggests that his three-month grace period is well and truly over. On that basis he would have to stop acting as a minister immediately.”

With Joyce out of parliament, the government would lose its majority on the floor of the House of Representatives. The result of particular votes would depend on the issue, the crossbenchers and – if it came to that – the Speaker’s casting vote.

Fighting a byelection would be distracting and disruptive for a government struggling in the polls.

The former independent member for New England, Tony Windsor, who is maintaining in the High Court that Joyce should be disqualified, has not ruled out running in a byelection. One Nation could be in the field, as could the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party, whose support will be tested in the NSW byelections this weekend.

The Newspoll quarterly breakdown, published this week, has found the government under pressure in regional areas. But a ReachTEL poll done last month for the Australia Institute found the Nationals polling 44.6% in New England, Windsor 26.5% and One Nation 9.8%, Labor 8.4%, and the Greens 2.4%.

The Queensland election, expected to be announced very soon, would be another dynamic in a byelection situation.

If, on the other hand, Joyce’s eligibility is upheld, Turnbull’s end-of-year reshuffle becomes much easier, especially with a strong win for the “yes” case now expected in the marriage ballot.

That still leaves the challenge of energy policy. Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg on Monday signalled the government was turning its back on a clean energy target, a reflection of the strength of the conservative voices within Coalition ranks – a combination of right-wing Liberals and the Nationals.

On the present timetable, the government is likely to take the broad outlines of its energy policy to the Coalition partyroom when parliament resumes next week.

The ConversationBut the situation is fluid, with the outcome in the High Court the known unknown. While the timing isn’t precise, the court is expected to be quick with its decision. It is obviously not driven by politics, but it is alert to the need to provide political certainly as soon as possible.

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

Xenophon’s shock resignation from Senate to run for state seat



File 20171006 9753 1bd8dwa
Nick Xenophon will resign from the Senate to pursue a career in South Australian politics.
AAP/David Mariuz

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Key crossbencher Nick Xenophon, whose party commands three crucial Senate votes, has announced he will quit federal parliament to run for a state seat in the March South Australian election.

Xenophon’s shock announcement comes ahead of the High Court judging whether he is entitled to sit in parliament, because he is a dual Australian-British citizen by descent. The case will be in court next week, and a quick decision is expected after that.

His departure won’t change the numbers in the upper house. If he loses the court case, he will be replaced by the next candidate on the Nick Xenophon Team (NXT) ticket. If he wins, his party will fill the casual vacancy he creates. Either way, the NXT will have three senators. It also has a House of Representative member, Rebekha Sharkie.

But Xenophon’s exit could substantially affect the dynamics in negotiations with the government. He has been a tough, canny but pragmatic bargainer, extracting concessions in return for supporting legislation. The two other senators in the NXT, Stirling Griff and Skye Kakoschke-Moore, only entered parliament at the 2016 election.

Xenophon said he would remain in the Senate until the High Court handed down its decision. He denied his decision to quit had been made because of the threat to his position.

Xenophon, heading a team of state SA-BEST candidates, said he would run in the electorate of Hartley, where he lives. It is a marginal seat held by the Liberals.

He hopes the party can gain the balance of power, but ruled out serving as a minister in a SA government. “Once you do that, you’re in the tent”, and then “you can’t be a fearless watchdog,” he said.

“Unashamedly, we want the balance of power to drive deep and lasting reforms in our state’s political institutions and our processes because there is a lack of transparency and accountability,” he said.

“Having candidates that get elected to hold the balance of power will be a game changer for lasting reforms for the state. It is coming from the political centre, not the extreme right or left.”

He plans to keep a strong hand in with the federal party. “I will, of course, still have a very active and direct role in decisions made at a federal level with NXT,” he said.

“With SA-BEST and NXT holding the balance of power in both the state parliament and the federal Senate, we will work together as a united team under my leadership to drive real change to improve the lives of all South Australians.”

Xenophon started in state politics, elected on an anti-poker-machine platform and serving in state parliament between 1997 and 2007, before winning a Senate seat at the 2007 election.

He said SA politics was “broken, politically bankrupt”.

“I’ve decided that you can’t fix South Australia’s problems in Canberra without first fixing our broken political system back home.” He said since last year’s massive power blackout in SA and its record power prices, “I have concluded they are symptoms of a much bigger and deeper problem”.

The ConversationSA was at a crossroads, he said. The state had long been falling behind because it had been failed by its leaders, parties and institutions.

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

Nick Xenophon set to go back to where he came from



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Nick Xenophon is a tough dealmaker who demands concessions in return for his crucial numbers.
AAP/David Mariuz

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Nick Xenophon, the master of the stunt, is about to indulge in one more before he leaves the Senate for a run at ruling the South Australian roost from its crossbench.

After his shock announcement that he’s about to quit federal parliament, Xenophon is off to the US where, early on Monday morning Australian time, he’ll appear with Australian Ugg boot manufacturer Eddie Oygur to protest outside Deckers Outdoor Corporation headquarters in Santa Barbara.

The small business of “Aussie battler” Oygur is being sued for an alleged breach of trademark of the word “Ugg” and the boot’s patent design.

They’ll have with them, according to the pre-publicity screed from Xenophon’s office, “a flock of sheep”. It’s all about pulling wool over consumers’ eyes and fleecing Eddie, you see.

It’s typical Xenophon, an extraordinarily popular and populist politician who specialises in the corny as well as the canny.

Xenophon insists his resignation is not influenced by the cloud over his parliamentary eligibility – the High Court next week considers his, and other MPs’, dual citizenship. If that went badly for him, he’d be out of the Senate anyway.

We can accept his word. Not only do colleagues say he’s been chewing over the possible change for months – although the actual decision is recent – but a source within the government ruefully admits there were hints that weren’t picked up at the time.

Regardless of the court outcome, the Nick Xenophon Team (NXT) numbers are safe. If he loses the case, Xenophon’s Senate spot would be filled by the next person on the 2016 election ticket – Tim Storer, who runs a trade consultancy. If his position is upheld his party will choose his replacement.

At last year’s election Xenophon went from a one-man band to having a team of three senators and one lower house member. NXT Senate support is needed to pass government legislation that is opposed by Labor and the Greens.

With a government that wants to get measures through, the NXT – like Pauline Hanson’s One Nation, with four Senate votes – is in an enormously powerful position. The difference between Xenophon and Hanson is that he usually extracts a price.

He’s a tough dealmaker, who demands concessions in return for his crucial numbers.

Government negotiators sometimes can’t quite believe what they are having to give him. Most recently he received a package worth more than A$60 million for backing the media reform bill.

Earlier, as part of a deal to pass company tax cuts, he secured a one-off payment to help with high power prices for people on aged and disability pensions or the parenting payment, costing the budget some $260 million.

Leading his SA-BEST party for the March election, Xenophon wants to extend that power to state politics – where he started, elected in 1997 on an anti-pokies crusade.

“With SA-BEST and NXT holding the balance of power in both the state parliament and the federal Senate, we will work together as a united team under my leadership to drive real change to improve the lives of all South Australians,” he said in his statement announcing his resignation, which will wait until after the High Court decision.

All the signs are SA-BEST will do well, harvesting people’s discontent with the major parties. Xenophon himself will contest the marginal Liberal seat of Hartley, where he lives.

His personal entry into the SA contest will give much more heft to SA-BEST – already with a strong vote in private polls – and strike more alarm into both Liberals and Labor. He is keeping his counsel on which side he would support in a hung parliament, so maximising uncertainty. The party will not issue preferences.

ABC analyst Antony Green predicts Xenophon’s party “will poll well enough to finish first or second in enough seats to make it very unlikely either side can win a majority in its own right”.

There will be a dozen electorates in which SA-BEST will be very competitive, according to Green. He says Xenophon’s entry will be better for the Labor Party than the Liberal Party, because “he’ll be more of a challenge in Liberal seats”.

Xenophon’s departure leaves his Canberra team with considerable uncertainty. While its numbers are preserved, it has no experienced person to step into Xenophon’s shoes.

And from what Xenophon said on Friday, he wants to keep his own feet in those shoes a good deal. “I will still be heavily involved in federal decisions,” he said. “I won’t be micromanaging but I will have a good idea of what is going on and I will be part of key decisions, particularly insofar as they affect South Australia.”

That might sound all right in theory. In practice it would be complicated, especially when there is complex legislation and difficult negotiations.

Even over the last year, there have been a few suggestions of differences between Xenophon and members of his team. The more time passes, the greater the chance of Xenophon losing touch with the federal nitty-gritty and the federal team resenting input from afar.

The leadership within parliament would have to go to one of the two other current senators: Stirling Griff (most likely) or Skye Kakoschke-Moore.

There is some uncertainty about whether Xenophon would remain overall leader of the party, as well as the state leader. His comment, quoted above, referring to “under my leadership”, suggests he would. And Griff says “we still consider him the leader of the federal party” as well as of the state party.

Immediate future arrangements will be discussed when the NXT meets on parliament’s resumption the week after next.

The ConversationThe longer-term questions will remain. Among them will be the name of the party for the next federal election, and whether Xenophon – even if he stays overlord of the federal party – can retain as much of a national profile when his focus becomes South Australian politics.

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

High Court sets dual citizenship hearings for October



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Malcolm Roberts is one of several MPs currently before the High Court.
AAP/Mick Tsikas

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

The High Court has rejected the government’s request to have MPs’ dual citizenship cases heard in mid-September, instead setting hearing dates of October 10, 11 and 12.

This prolongs the uncertainty for the government, which has the eligibility of two Nationals ministers – Barnaby Joyce and Fiona Nash – and former minister Matt Canavan under consideration.

Labor has made it clear it will continue to challenge the presence on the frontbench of Joyce and Nash. Opposition Leader Bill Shorten on Thursday repeated his call for the two to stand down from the ministry.

“It is an untenable, unsustainable situation for government ministers with a cloud over their eligibility to sit in their portfolios, making decisions.” Shorten said if it were “subsequently found out they weren’t eligible to sit in the parliament, the decisions they made can be appealed”.

The court currently has five current and former MPs before it – apart from Joyce and Canavan, they are two former Greens senators, Scott Ludlam and Larissa Waters, and One Nation’s Malcolm Roberts. Nash and crossbench senator Nick Xenophon will be referred to it when parliament resumes early next month.

Canavan’s lawyer revealed Canavan was an Italian citizen by descent since he was two years old, due to a change in Italian law at that time that enabled citizenship to be passed down through a person’s mother, not just their father.

This means that Canavan already had citizenship when his mother – of Italian descent but born in Australia – obtained it for him when he was an adult. He has said he only became aware she had signed him up after the citizenship issue blew up.

Solicitor-General Stephen Donaghue told the court the eligibility of Canavan, Joyce and Waters should be upheld, because they had not known they were dual citizens.

In contrast, Ludlam and Roberts had in the past filled out forms acknowledging they were citizens of other countries. Ludlam should be disqualified, Donaghue said, while Roberts’ situation turns on the timing of his renunciation form.

Roberts’ barrister said he needed more time before the case was heard.

The court has given standing in the case to Tony Windsor, who ran unsuccessfully against Joyce in New England at the last election.

Windsor held the seat as an independent until retiring at the 2013 election. He has not ruled out contesting if Joyce were declared ineligible and there was a byelection.

Windsor’s lawyer argued in court that Section 44 (i) of the Constitution was clear, and it was the candidate’s responsibility to check whether they were a dual citizen.

The ConversationPrime Minister Malcolm Turnbull repeated on Thursday that: “We are very, very confident that our members who have been caught up in this will be held by the court to be eligible to sit in the parliament”.

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

Major rebuff to Malcolm Turnbull as poll result hovers on knife edge


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

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:

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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.

The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

Malcolm Turnbull sounded tone deaf to election message


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

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.

The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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