The Australian Defence Force (ADF) is to be given a bigger role and greater powers in combating terrorism, under changes announced by the government on Monday.
The measures – including specialised training by special forces for law enforcement teams – will provide more Commonwealth support to state police forces, which are still acknowledged as the appropriate “first responders”.
The changes are designed to assist in preparing for incidents, enabling a more comprehensive ADF response if needed, and improving the flow of information between the ADF and police during an incident.
In their announcement, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Defence Minister Marise Payne said state and territory police forces remained the best first response immediately after an attack commenced. “But Defence can offer more support to states and territories to enhance their capabilities and increase their understanding of Defence’s unique capabilities to ensure a comprehensive response to potential terrorist attacks.”
Defence will offer to place officers within state law enforcement agencies to help with liaison and engagement. This will assist with “pre-positioning” defence personnel in response to a possible incident.
The Defence Act will be strengthened to remove some constraints governing the “call-out” of the ADF in terrorist situations. This includes removing the current limit on states and territories asking for defence force support and specialist military skills until their capability or capacity has been exceeded.
The government will also strengthen the act to make it easier for Defence personnel to support the police response, such as clarifying their power to “stop and seize” suspects to prevent them leaving the scene of an incident.
“These measures will improve the nation’s ability to respond to terrorism as well as improve the effectiveness of Defence’s contribution to domestic counter-terrorism arrangements,” Turnbull and Payne said. The changes would be made in partnership with state and territory governments, they said.
The government initiated the review of Defence’s support to the national counter-terrorism effort last year in response to the changing nature of the terrorist threat, as shown by attacks overseas. It is the first time the ADF’s domestic contribution has been reviewed since 2005.
The package addresses some of the coroner’s recommendations in the report on the 2014 Lindt cafe siege, in which two victims and the attacker, Man Haron Monis, died. That incident produced calls for a bigger role for the military.
Turnbull and Payne stressed that responses to the terrorism threat must be constantly updated.
The government is currently considering whether there should be a consolidation of the security agencies under a home-office-type ministry that would be headed by Immigration Minister Peter Dutton. There are sharply divided views within government about going down such a route.
Later this week, a version of the review of the Australian intelligence community done by former officials Michael L’Estrange and Stephen Merchant will be released.
The Finkel Review was a valiant attempt to find a path towards a 21st century energy market model for Australia. But political infighting and powerful interests have blocked one of its core proposals, a Clean Energy Target (CET). Despite the creation of a new Energy Security Board to try to hold regulators and policy makers to account, the ability of the present structure to deliver is uncertain.
State energy ministers, who have gathered today for the COAG Energy Council meeting, are now threatening to go it alone if the Commonwealth government does not commit to a CET. But the problem and opportunity is much broader. It’s time to step back and rethink energy policy.
The national model is failing
The National Electricity Market (NEM) was established in a context of an energy system comprised of large generators and large energy utilities, with energy flowing in one direction: from power station to consumer. Things have moved on. Most of the activity now is behind the meter, local, or within regions, although interstate energy flows are still very important.
State governments now recognise that their voters will blame or reward them for “keeping the lights on”, and are not prepared to suffer to help supply other states. Forward-thinking politicians also know they will win votes, and create jobs, by driving clean energy solutions.
The NEM has failed. Its very narrow economic objective was to provide low prices, reliable and safe energy, and to act in the long term interests of consumers. Many would score it zero out of three.
Despite the government’s acceptance of 49 recommendations of the Finkel Review that aim to fix many of the problems, few observers are confident that the deep cultural problems and powerful vested interests can be overcome – let alone the impact of a small number of conservative politicians within the Commonwealth government, who are holding energy policy hostage.
The COAG Energy Council is unworkable. It requires consensus to act, but differing state-level agendas block this on key issues. Indeed, the government has just proposed to go over the heads of the Council, and COAG, to remove the right of energy businesses to appeal against regulatory decisions after years of internal disagreement. Overriding the COAG Energy Council is an extreme tactic that cannot work for many other problematic issues.
The “top-down” nature of the NEM is out of date. Repeated criticisms of the lack of discipline of state governments by federal energy minister Josh Frydenberg merely confirm that this model won’t work.
Importantly, a large proportion of the real energy industry is not acknowledged as a formal part of the NEM structure. The NEM framework defines the electricity industry as licensed generators, network operators and retailers. While NEM reports talk about consumer choice and rights, they ignore the emerging industries such as renewable energy, storage, demand management, energy efficiency, businesses with new financial models, and so on. These businesses simply do not have a seat at the table.
The scale of change needed to make the present NEM model work is simply beyond our political system. In any case, there is an emerging alternative that can evolve in parallel with the NEM.
A real 21st century energy model
In practice, the NEM has functioned in parallel with several other mechanisms for years.
The Renewable Energy Target has operated since 2001. It was introduced to address the failure of the NEM to support renewable energy development. This market is quite separate, and operates on an annual basis, using trading of certificates and obligations on energy retailers.
Several states and the ACT now operate energy efficiency obligation schemes. These also operate through obligations on energy retailers, and most use tradable certificates. These schemes drive the installation of a range of energy efficiency measures.
At the industrial level, increasing numbers of businesses are investing in large renewable energy systems “behind the meter”, so they can insulate themselves from the chaos of the NEM. They need the price stability and reliability the NEM can’t deliver.
Several states and the ACT now have aggressive renewable energy targets – which have repeatedly been criticised by Frydenberg. The ACT has demonstrated that these schemes can work very well. They can reduce electricity prices, create local jobs, reinvigorate rural and regional economies – and win votes.
Because they involve long term contracts, their output is predictable. Other states (and consortia of councils, businesses, universities and others) are copying this model.
State governments also still have significant powers to regulate network operators and retailers.
The future is distributed
If we look to the future, we see enormous growth in a diverse range of distributed energy solutions. These have many advantages over centralised solutions. Further, we see astounding diversity emerging in the energy system.
These trends cannot be managed by “command and control”, top-down mechanisms. Although national standards and coordination can be useful, they are not essential, and can easily block innovation.
A practical energy model involves states and territories working with businesses, councils and communities. They would use existing powers over network operators and energy retailers, and would implement their own strategies for security and emissions reduction.
In this scenario, AEMO would monitor their policies and rates of implementation of demand-side and supply side energy services, and use its modelling capabilities to identify emerging imbalances. It would warn states where issues such as gaps between supply and demand and grid instability were emerging. Where states failed to act, AEMO would have power to intervene.
The NEM would continue to operate as a wholesale market for the “big guys” – large generators, industrial sites and transmission line operators. It would also provide performance information and advice to AEMO to inform its modelling and analysis.
The national RET effectively finishes in 2020: it can easily be replaced by state level strategies.
Thanks Dr Finkel. The reactions to your Review have demonstrated conclusively that we need a real 21st century energy system, and that a national approach based on the existing NEM simply won’t work.
The Greens are in shock after their co-deputy leader, Scott Ludlam, discovered he is ineligible to sit in federal parliament because he has dual New Zealand citizenship.
Ludlam, 47, who entered the Senate for Western Australia in 2008 after being elected at the 2007 poll, said he had not thought of the possibility he was a NZ citizen. He left the country with his family when he was three, settled in Australia shortly before his ninth birthday, and was naturalised in his mid-teens.
He had “assumed that was the end of my New Zealand citizenship”, but he accepted that it was his error and apologised “unreservedly”. He was “personally devastated” that an avoidable error was forcing him to leave parliament.
He was quitting immediately. “I have no wish to draw out the uncertainty or create a lengthy legal dispute.” The Constitution bans anyone holding dual citizenship being eligible for election to federal parliament. People holding dual citizenship must take active steps to renounce their other allegiance before standing.
The Senate will refer the matter to the Court of Disputed Returns. Fellow Greens senator from Western Australia Rachel Siewert anticipated there would be a recount and the next candidate on the 2016 Greens ticket, Jordon Steele-John, would be elected to replace Ludlam.
But the party faces further uncertainty, with Steele-John indicating on Facebook on Friday that he may then quit, creating a casual vacancy, to allow the party to pick another candidate.
Ludlam said his dual citizenship was brought to his attention only about a week ago. The Greens said their understanding was that the person who raised it was a “very interested member of the community” but neither a journalist nor an opponent. It is believed the person was a barrister.
The government is considered certain to confirm there will be no attempt to reclaim Ludlam’s back salary. It recently announced that Bob Day and Rod Culleton, who were both found ineligible, would not be pursued over back pay.
Greens leader Richard Di Natale said Ludlam’s decision to deal with the issue directly and immediately showed “his absolute integrity and character”.
Ludlam did not entirely rule out seeking a later return to parliament but said it was way too soon to think about that. “This is a departure, not an announcement of a potential candidacy some time into the future.”
He pointed to the irony of the constitutional situation. “What it is telling us is that I am owning allegiance to a foreign power, which is the sovereign of New Zealand – which is also the same Queen’s crest that flies over this parliament. It is a bit on the silly side. It is also black-letter law. You can’t wriggle away from that.”
Steele-John, 22, who has mild cerebral palsy, is very active as an advocate on disability issues. He posted on Facebook: “If it comes down to it, I’d be happier putting the choice of candidate back into the hands of our party membership.
“But like everyone else in the party I’m going to be spending the next week in sad shock and/or swearing loudly into a pillow. We can worry about who, and how the hell we try to substitute someone else in for Scott later.”
Among his achievements Ludlam pointed to his work on preventing an internet filter, and in getting “the threat of a radioactive waste dump off the shoulders of some old Aboriginal women in the Northern Territory”. Last week he was at the United Nations, making a speech before the sign-off on a global nuclear weapons ban that was endorsed by 122 countries though not the nuclear powers (and Australia), which boycotted the negotiations.
“It’s been quite a ride. I will miss that, absolutely,” he said of his time in parliament.
Population growth has profound impacts on Australian life, and sorting myths from facts can be difficult. This article is part of our series, Is Australia Full?, which aims to help inform a wide-ranging and often emotive debate.
Western Sydney is one of the fastest-growing regions in Australia. It’s also one of the most culturally and linguistically diverse, as a key arrival point for refugees and new migrants when they first settle in Australia.
Various publicfigures and media outlets have connected asylum-seeker intake and immigration to traffic congestion and queues at hospitals in Western Sydney.
However, this kind of reaction can pin the blame for infrastructure and affordability problems on culturally diverse populations who may have already lived in Australia for many years, if not several generations.
Growth from international and domestic migration
Greater Western Sydney includes Blacktown, the Blue Mountains, Camden,
Campbelltown, Canterbury-Bankstown, Cumberland, Fairfield
Hawkesbury, Liverpool, Parramatta, Penrith, the Hills Shire and Wollondilly.
We examined census data compiled by WESTIR Ltd, a non-profit research organisation based in Western Sydney, partly funded by the NSW Department of Family and Community Services. These data show that Greater Western Sydney’s population increased by 9.8% between 2011 and 2016. Over the decade from 2006 to 2016, it grew by 16%.
About 55% of those living there were born in Australia, and about 39% where born elsewhere (the remainder did not state their place of birth). Most put English or Australian as their first response when asked about their ancestry.
New births are slightly down in the region, meaning growth is coming from other sources. This includes new international migration arrivals, but also incoming residents from other parts of New South Wales and interstate.
Greater Western Sydney has long-established cultural and linguistic diversity. The percentage of residents born overseas has increased from 34.1% in 2006 to 38.7% in 2016. Overall, the west accounts for 50.2% of the overseas-born population for the whole of metropolitan Sydney.
Reasoned debates on sustainable migration intake levels are a crucial part of discussions of urban and regional growth. There are valid criticisms of “Big Australia” policies, based on resource and environmental sustainability.
But while the number of new arrivals settling in Western Sydney has increased steadily since the second world war, with a significant jump over the last decade reflecting accelerated skilled migration policies to fill labour shortages, the majority of overseas-born living in the region are long-term settlers who have been in Australia for ten years or more.
Increasing diversity does not always mean more new migrant settlers
The data show that 64% of Western Sydney residents have at least one parent born overseas. This is greater than the number of those born overseas. This correlates with national data indicating that Australian-born second-generation migrant residents outnumber those born outside of Australia.
So while critics may look at non-white Western Sydney residents and assume they are recent migrants, what they’re often really seeing is multiple generations of multiculturalism. Most of these people are long-term local residents, not necessarily a sudden influx of new arrivals.
In addition, not all overseas-born residents are permanent settlers. Australia takes far larger numbers of temporary entrants than it has in the past. Most of these temporary visa holders, such as international students and temporary skilled workers, live in major metropolitan areas and their surrounds, like Western Sydney.
While some portion of these populations do stay on longer-term, they are not all permanent settlers who will add to long-term population growth. Net migration figures, which take into account people who depart Australia every year as well as arrive, and exclude short-term visitors, have generally been decreasing over the past six years.
Who do we define as ‘migrants’?
New Zealand citizens moving under Trans-Tasman agreements and migrants from the United Kingdom are still among the largest migrant groups in Greater Western Sydney.
In many local government areas in Western Sydney – such as Wollondilly, the Hills Shire, Penrith, Hawkesbury and Campbelltown – England and/or New Zealand feature in the top five countries of birth of overseas-born residents.
If anxieties about migration and population in Western Sydney are based on genuine sustainability concerns and not xenophobia, why target mostly refugees and non-white migrants? Why focus only on areas with large non-white and non-English-speaking background populations?
Migrants do use infrastructure, but also drive economic and jobs growth
It’s never as simple as one new arrival “using up” an allocation of limited resources, whether jobs, housing, or seats on trains. In fact, new arrivals fill the gaps of an ageing workforce, and current migration policies are targeted to favour younger migrants and specific skills shortages.
Western Sydney, like many regions in Australia, has an ageing population. Residents aged 65-74 years increased from 6.2% in 2011 to 7.2% in 2016.
Infrastructure problems are also problems of policy, planning and funding, rather than just population numbers. Problems in transport and health infrastructure in Western Sydney cannot be easily solved by reactive anti-immigration attitudes or policies.
Cuts to programs like the humanitarian program or skilled temporary work visas, where the intake numbers remain relatively small as a proportion of the overall population, will not solve those infrastructure problems.
Western Sydney is growing, and with growth comes growing pains. But equating the region’s rich cultural diversity with a population crisis is the wrong message to send.
You can read other articles in the Is Australia Full? series here.
Now that the Liberals and commentators have overdosed on a debate about where the party’s founder stood on the centre-right spectrum, could someone go to a shopping centre and ask a dozen people under 40 who Robert Menzies was?
How many would know? And if the mall happened to be in multicultural western Sydney, what chance “Ming” would have any recognition?
This week’s argument may have meaning for the Liberal tribe, and in the context of Malcolm Turnbull’s fightback against the conservatives who are making his life hell. But to many families in the suburbs and the regions, it would likely come across as just irrelevant “insider” stuff.
While a lot of people just shrug impatiently at insider politics, a substantial number have turned to “outsider” players. The challenge to the Coalition vote from the confronting “outsider” Pauline Hanson brand was clear in polls out this week.
Newspoll had Pauline Hanson’s One Nation on 11% for the second poll running. This was ahead of the Greens, who were at 10% in the latest poll, and 9% in the previous one.
ReachTEL polling commissioned by The Australia Institute, a progressive think-tank, and done on June 8 in the seats of six ministers and the prime minister, shows very diverse but some substantial results for One Nation. The figures are: Cook (Scott Morrison) 16.7%; Curtin (Julie Bishop) 4.3%; Dickson (Peter Dutton) 14.1%; Flinders (Greg Hunt) 8.9%; Kooyong (Josh Frydenberg) 3.6%; Sturt (Christopher Pyne) 3.8%; and Wentworth (Turnbull) 8.1%. If the “undecideds” were distributed, the figures would be higher.
According to polling analyst John Stirton: “In 27 separate polls this year (from Newspoll, ReachTEL, Essential and YouGov 50 Acres) One Nation has averaged 9% of the primary vote, although there is some polarisation with Newspoll and ReachTEL tending to be above average (10-11%) while Essential and YouGov have been below average (7-8%).”
Although it’s unclear how much of the One Nation vote would hold at an election, the Newspoll level should be of concern to the Coalition, especially as the minor party has had a lot of bad publicity recently from internal scandals.
It’s a national figure for a party whose support is lumpy. We know it is particularly strong in regional Queensland. How strong will be tested in the coming state election, when the Liberal National Party (LNP) will be looking to harvest One Nation preferences, formally or informally.
Unlike the situation with the Greens and Labor, where the ALP can rely on receiving the overwhelming bulk of Green preferences, the One Nation flow on to the LNP will be less disciplined. Some One Nation voters would be former Labor supporters.
The test major parties face from “outsider” players is explored in a new book by respected British political commentator Steve Richards, The Rise of the Outsiders: How Mainstream Politics Lost its Way. He looks at the phenomenon across national boundaries, including a modest reference to Hanson and the Australian experience.
In an era of globalisation and rapid change, the answer to the question “who rules?” can be unclear. Richards notes that insiders’ power is less than it looks. “Elections, opinion polls, the media, constitutional checks and balances and the near-impossibility of managing a party’s internal tensions mean that elected power is fragile and often fleeting,” he writes.
“Most leaders or governments in democracies rule precariously, partly because they pay so much attention to the voters.
“Yet voters regard the democratically elected as out of touch, part of a lofty, arrogant elite. The opposite is closer to the truth.
”… Elected leaders rule in an era of extreme mistrust. If they do not do x, y or z, the instinct of some voters is to assume that those they elected are liars … At the very least some voters feel ignored and overlooked … The instinct to mistrust elected leaders is fuelled by some media outlets …”
The outsiders offer simplicity and clarity, albeit their messages are simplistic. They are fancy-free and so can be self-contradictory in the positions they take – although things become more complicated if, as with Donald Trump, they win power and become the new insiders. (Hanson has a lot of Senate power, but it doesn’t seem to have affected the view of her as an outsider.)
Richards argues that one inadvertently positive contribution the outsiders have made “is to trigger constructive questions from mainstream parties about what form the centre ground takes, and tentative questions about the role of government in a globalised economy”.
In the Australian context, this week Turnbull has reasserted that the Liberal Party needs to be in the “sensible centre”. We have recently also had the Coalition embrace a more active role for government than the Liberals would have advocated three or four years ago – such as a stated willingness to invest in a coal-fired power station, and the use of export controls to ensure a bigger supply of gas for the local market.
It seems obvious that the best place for the Coalition to pitch its tent is the “sensible centre”. That, we know – or believe – is where elections are decided. Turnbull is competing for swinging votes that could go to either him or Bill Shorten.
Many of these voters are pragmatic, uninterested in ideological wars, or in what Menzies might say if he were alive now. They just want things done – about power prices, health, education, whatever.
But that 11% is a different kettle of fish, or maybe it contains several kettles. They are deeply cynical about today’s political process and major parties; the siren call of Hanson, and some in the media, picks up on that.
These people, like some in the Liberal base – and they are overlapping cohorts – will be more drawn to Tony Abbott’s manifesto than Turnbull’s sensible centre.
The Turnbull government has genuflected to them by playing gesture politics in immigration, revamping foreign worker arrangements, and proposing the English test for potential citizens be ridiculously tough. It will have a careful eye to the demands of the coal lobby as it tries to land its clean energy target.
But those attracted to “outsider” politics would prefer the Abbott-style bald negativity toward immigrants and renewables.
The Liberals enjoy pointing to the two core constituencies Labor has to juggle – lower- and middle-income workers, and affluent inner-city progressives. But the Coalition has its own dual constituencies – the mainstreamers, and the punishers on the right whose power is a protest vote.
Population growth has profound impacts on Australian life, and sorting myths from facts can be difficult. This article is part of our series, Is Australia Full?, which aims to help inform a wide-ranging and often emotive debate.
Australia feeds a lot of people. As a big country with a relatively small population, we have just over two arable hectares per person, one of the highest ratios in the world. Our diverse soils and climate provide a wide variety of fresh food all year round.
Historically we produce far more than we consume domestically. We sell around 65% of farm production overseas, making Australia a leading food-exporting nation. We therefore contribute to the food security not just of Australia, but of many other nations.
However, despite being a net food exporter, Australia also imports foods such as coffee, chocolate, processed fruit and vegetables, and key ingredients used in baking our daily bread. We are part of a global food system.
How will a swelling population, projected to reach between 36.8 million and 48.3 million by 2061, affect our food security? Are we set up to weather the storm of climate change, the degradation of our natural resources, and competition for land and water use from mining and urban expansion?
By the numbers
Current Australian government policy is to increase agricultural production and food exports, with a specific focus on developing Australia’s north.
In addition to providing food and nutrition security, the Australian food sector is a key driver of public health, environment, the economy and employment. The gross value of production from Australia’s 135,000 farmers varies between A$55 billion and A$64 billion a year, with exports accounting for between A$45 billion and A$48 billion.
Horticultural production (fruit, nuts and vegetables) will swell as Australian growers move to satisfy growing Asian demand.
Australian food processing companies add a further A$32 billion of value from 150 large food processors. We exported $A26 billion worth of processed food and beverages in 2015-16 and imported A$16.8 billion, resulting in a trade surplus of A$9.1 billion (rounded to one decimal place).
The food retail sector has an annual turnover around A$126 billion, with about 70% of Australians shopping at Woolworths or Coles. It’s also worth noting that considerable land and water resources are devoted to non-food commodities such as forestry, cotton and wool, and to environmental outcomes such as carbon sequestration or biodiversity plantings.
For the sake of this exercise, let’s leave aside food we import, and assume that Australia will continue to export 65% of the food we produce.
Currently, our exports feed (at least in part) 36.6 million people outside Australia. If we add that to our domestic population, 61 million people will eat Australian food in 2017.
If we apply the same assumptions to projected high and low Australian populations for 2061, we arrive at a total (domestic plus export) population fed by Australian production of 92 million to 121 million, or an increase of 51-98%.
Could Australia double the number of people we feed by 2061? The answer is yes, but not simply by doubling the amount of food we produce. Three broad strategies will need to be integrated to reach this target:
Increase food productivity. We need to aim for 2% growth in annual food production by increasing investment research and development for food and agriculture. For comparison, between 1949 and 2012 we have averaged 2.1% annual growth, although from 2000-12 that slumped to 0.6%. Achieving this productivity target will be difficult, given the challenge of climate change and other constraining factors.
Reduce food waste. We currently waste around 30% of the food we produce. Reducing food waste benefits the environment and the economy. This strategy requires ongoing improvements in supply chain efficiency, changes in marketing, and consumer education.
Change our eating patterns. Moving towards sustainable diets will improve public health and environment outcomes. Reducing overconsumption (a contributor to obesity), eating more vegetables and less discretionary “junk” foods represent initial steps in this direction.
The next few decades will present unprecedented challenges and opportunities for the Australian food sector. Placing the consumer at the centre of healthy, sustainable and ethical food systems will be increasingly important, whether that consumer lives in Brisbane or Beijing. New ways of connecting consumers to producers will become commonplace, creating more informed and empowered consumers, and rewarding innovation.
It’s easy to conclude that Australia can feed many more people than we currently do, but the real issue is to do this while ensuring our food system is healthy, sustainable and fair. Ultimately, exporting the research, technology and education that underpin our future food system will benefit far more people than those directly consuming food produced in Australia.
You can read other articles in the Is Australia Full? series here.
It is a sign of how serious the divisions have become in the Liberal Party that speaking the truth about Robert Menzies is now depicted as making a provocative attack on the Liberal right.
Yet that is the situation in which Malcolm Turnbull found himself after giving his Disraeli Prize speech in London. As Turnbull pointed out in that speech, Menzies intentionally avoided calling the new party “conservative” in case that gave rise to misconceptions. Rather, Turnbull cites Menzies’ statement that they:
… took the name “Liberal” because we were determined to be a progressive party, willing to make experiments, in no sense reactionary but believing in the individual, his right and his enterprise, and rejecting the socialist panacea.
As the leading academic expert on Robert Menzies, Judith Brett, has pointed out, Menzies recognised when the party was founded in 1944 that there was a strong public sentiment in favour of building a progressive, new post-war society that was far better than the old.
In other words, it was a party that pledged to reject socialism, but wouldn’t necessarily stand in the path of social progress.
In short, Turnbull is attempting to reclaim both Menzies and the Liberal Party he played a key role in founding, for a centrist rather than reactionary position. He is gently taking issue with Tony Abbott and those conservatives in the party who have focused on undermining, rather than working with him, regardless of the damage this might do to the party’s electoral prospects.
I say gently because, as even the arch-conservative Eric Abetz acknowledges, Turnbull also cites Tony Abbott’s earlier phrase that the “sensible centre” is the place to be. Nonetheless, Turnbull is reminding such conservatives that he has not stolen the party, and his leadership is legitimately Liberal.
There is a long tradition of attempting to appeal to the centre in Australian politics, not least in the hope that centrist politicians will be able to harvest votes from both major parties. Turnbull can legitimately argue that many of the “small-l” liberal positions he is associated with (despite his more recent concessions to the right) are in line with popular opinion. Same-sex marriage is an obvious case in point.
There was also a vibrant small-l liberal tradition on issues such as homosexuality in the party in the 1970s, prior to John Howard’s conservative ascendancy.
Nonetheless, there were some elephants in the room in London when Turnbull gave his speech.
It is open to debate what a modern “Menzian” position would be in regard to issues such as same-sex marriage or racial equality. After all, Menzies, like Labor prime ministers John Curtin and Ben Chifley before him, continued to support the White Australia Policy. Male homosexuality was illegal under state law for all of Menzies’ prime ministership.
Turnbull refers to Menzies’ “forgotten people”. However, the famous speech in which Menzies articulated that concept assumed (as Curtin and Chifley also did) that employees would continue to be predominantly male, and women would largely be in the home.
Turnbull clearly assumes that a modern “sensible centre” position would have kept pace with changing social attitudes. But at least on some issues, other Liberals will disagree.
The bigger elephant in the room is the issue of Menzies’ economic beliefs at the time the Liberal Party was founded, and what a modern day centrist position on economic policy would be. After all, contemporary Australian voters seem to be concerned about their economic futures, the power of big business, and cuts to social services.
Turnbull does briefly acknowledge in his speech that, by modern standards, Menzies:
… was hardly an economic liberal. He believed in a highly regulated economy with high tariffs, a fixed exchange rate, centralised wage fixing and generally much more Government involvement in the economy than we would be comfortable with.
Indeed, Menzies was more of a Keynesian economically, not a market liberal like Turnbull.
Furthermore, Menzies characterised the middle class as the “forgotten people” partly because he believed that unskilled workers were not forgotten but were already well-protected by unions and had “their wages and conditions safeguarded by popular law”. Meanwhile, the rich were “able to protect themselves”.
While strongly supporting individual endeavour, he argued that the new politics should not “return to the old and selfish notions of laissez-faire”. Rather, “our social and industrial laws will be increased. There will be more law, not less; more control, not less.”
Menzies was strongly anti-communist and anti-socialist, but he was not a neoliberal.
Voters could be forgiven for thinking that at least some of Menzies’ words sound more like those of the contemporary Labor Party than the modern-day Liberal Party. The Liberal Party itself acknowledges that a belief in “social equality” was one of the principles on which the party was founded.
However, despite some concessions in this year’s budget, Turnbull may have his work cut out trying to convince centrist voters that his economic liberalism can adequately address today’s scourge of rising inequality. Keynesian-influenced solutions are on the rise again in the wake of the global financial crisis.
Turnbull argued in his speech that the terms “left” and “right” had begun to lose all meaning. However, there is another, more unpalatable truth that he may need to face. It may be more that “left” and “right” are moving conceptually, because the “centre” has shifted too.
It is clear that trade protectionism is alive and well in the G20, whose countries account for 78% of global trade. But this protectionism isn’t in the form of tariffs, which are duties placed on imports, making imported goods and services more expensive than they would be otherwise. Instead, trade protectionism is being pursued through “non-tariff barriers” such as import quotas, restrictive product standards, and subsidies for domestic goods and services.
This shows that while countries are reducing the obvious barriers to trade, like tariffs, they are still pursuing stealth forms of trade protectionism through non-tariff barriers.
Our research on trade protectionism in the services sector shows that the lower the barriers to trade, the greater company profits. Lower trade barriers create a larger market for Australian goods and services.
We also found that increased domestic regulation leads to higher profits as standards improve across the sector. For Australia this is very significant because the services sector employs four out of five Australians and accounts for 20% of Australia’s total exports.
Eliminating trade protectionism is also good for consumers, as it means a larger market for goods and services. This leads to lower prices and more choice of goods and services.
The World Trade Organisation uses the term “trade restrictive activity” for measures like the imposition of a tariff. “Trade facilitation” refers to the simplification of export and import processes, making it easier to trade across countries. “Trade remedies” refers to actions taken by states against certain imports that are hurting domestic industries.
The data show that tariffs have been declining in the G20 over the past few years, while countries have been easing the processes of exporting and importing. However there have been a lot of trade remedies, as countries try to protect their domestic industries.
Until 2015 there was a huge increase in non-tariff measures, which then sharply declined. Since then not many measures have been removed. This shows that non-tariff barriers are currently the major mechanism for trade restrictions in the most developed economies.
As in the case of technical standards and regulations, non-tariff barriers can be used as a form of covert trade protectionism.
According to the Australian Productivity Commission, trade restrictions directly raise the cost of both foreign and domestic goods and services, negatively impacting both Australian consumers and businesses.
Where to from here?
President Donald Trump’s trade agenda aims to distance the United States from the World Trade Organisation, which was setup to remove barriers to international trade.
In response, companies in the United States are now filing a huge number of anti-dumping cases against foreign goods and services.
This week’s Newspoll, conducted 6-9 July from a sample of 1600, gave Labor its fourth consecutive 53-47 lead. Primary votes were 36% Labor (down 1 from three weeks ago), 35% Coalition (down 1), 11% One Nation (steady) and 10% Greens (up 1). Primary vote shifts suggests some movement to Labor after preferences, but not enough to change the headline figure.
32% were satisfied with Turnbull’s performance (steady) and 56% were dissatisfied (up 1), for a net approval of -24. Shorten’s net approval was -20, up three points.
Over the last three months, Turnbull has been more centrist, alienating the right wing of his party. Since Newspoll uses the previous election’s results for its preference flows, it may be overstating Labor’s lead. As I wrote here, respondent allocated polling from ReachTEL and YouGov implies that the hard right voters who have left the Coalition will return after preferences.
This is the 15th consecutive Newspoll loss for the Coalition under Turnbull, so he is halfway to Tony Abbott’s 30 successive losses when he was dumped. If the string of Newspoll losses continues, Turnbull is likely to be dumped before the end of the year.
If Turnbull is replaced by a more right-wing Liberal leader before the next election, hard right voters would return to the Coalition, but they would lose some centrist voters, and preferences would probably be more favourable to Labor.
Since the dispute between NSW Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon and the rest of her parliamentary party, the Greens have gained a point in both Newspoll and Essential. The Greens could be attracting some Labor voters who would prefer a genuine socialist.
In an additional Newspoll question, 46% favoured a plebiscite to resolve the same sex marriage issue, and 39% favoured a parliamentary vote. The results have been compared with a September 2016 poll (48-39 in favour of the parliamentary vote). However, this comparison is misleading since the previous poll asked about a plebiscite in February 2017, which some might object to even if they supported a plebiscite.
Kevin Bonham has written about the large differences between the pollsters on whether same sex marriage should be decided by a plebiscite or a parliamentary vote. He concludes that all polling on this issue has problems.
According to Kevin Bonham, this year there have been six 3-week breaks between Newspolls, and two 2-week breaks. In previous years that did not have an election, Newspoll was usually published once a fortnight. In general, there has been a pullback in media-commissioned polling this year, with just two Fairfax Ipsos polls and one Channel 7 ReachTEL, although two Sky News ReachTELs have been released.
Essential at 54-46 to Labor
In this week’s Essential, Labor led by 54-46, a one point gain for Labor since last week and a two point gain since last fortnight. Primary votes were 36% Labor, 36% Coalition, 11% Greens, 7% One Nation and 3% Nick Xenophon Team; the Coalition has lost three points since last fortnight. Essential used a two-week sample of 1830, with additional questions based on one week.
Turnbull’s net approval was -12, down three points since June. Shorten’s net approval was -8, up one point.
64% had at least some trust in security agencies to store personal data, while 32% had little or no trust. For the government, this was 52-43 in favour of little trust, and for telecommunications companies 67-29.
Overall, these are good results for Labor with 2-7 point swings against the government in five of the seven seats. The exceptions are Christopher Pyne’s Sturt (no swing) and Peter Dutton’s Dickson (a four point swing to the Coalition). Individual seat polling has been far less accurate than national or state polling at recent elections.
In seats where One Nation had a high vote, respondent allocated preferences favoured the Coalition. In Scott Morrison’s Cook (One Nation at 18%), minor party preferences favoured Morrison 64-36. In Dickson, One Nation had 15.7% and minor party preferences favoured Labor by just 52-48 despite the Greens holding 10.5%.
In April, UK Labour had 23%, now they have 46% according to YouGov
Other polls are not so strong for Labour as YouGov, but Labour has led in most polls conducted since the election. By being reduced to a minority government, the Conservatives have lost much authority, and their deal with the Democratic Unionist Party will not go down well with the UK outside Northern Ireland. Divisions within the Conservatives over austerity and Brexit are unlikely to help.
It’s passing strange when Eric Abetz, the navy-blue conservative sacked from the ministry by Malcolm Turnbull, is out defending a prime ministerial speech on the Liberal Party’s history and positioning.
But, then again, these are indeed the strangest of times on the non-left side of federal politics.
Turnbull’s Monday address in London to the centre-right Policy Exchange think-tank presented a fairly conventional set of references to Robert Menzies’ founding of the Liberal Party, most of which you’d find in the standard texts on the party’s past.
He noted that Menzies: “went to great pains not to call his new political party, consolidating the centre right of Australian politics, ‘conservative’ – but rather the Liberal Party which he firmly anchored in the centre of Australian politics.
“He wanted to stand apart from the big money, business establishment politics of traditional ‘conservative’ parties of the right, as well as from the socialist tradition of the Australian Labor Party, the political wing of the union movement.”
He quoted Menzies’ words: “We took the name ‘Liberal’ because we were determined to be a progressive party, willing to make experiments, in no sense reactionary but believing in the individual, his right and his enterprise, and rejecting the socialist panacea.”
Turnbull declared: “The sensible centre, to use my predecessor Tony Abbott’s phrase, was the place to be and it remains the place to be now.”
Talk of the two streams in the Liberal Party (John Howard’s “broad church”) is familiar. Wars over Menzies’ philosophical legacy have long been waged among the faithful. Menzies is an icon that both conservatives and liberals in the party try to claim for their own. And every Liberal leader wants, indeed needs, to link to Menzies.
In fact they can all find succour from the Menzies well – he was prime minister for a long time, a pragmatist, and dealt with and responded to varying circumstances.
If Turnbull on Monday was having a calculated slap at conservatives in the party, it was a pretty mild one. If he was emphasising he’s a centrist, that is hardly a surprise, although when he translates it into policy it annoys the hell out of those on the right.
Turnbull had made the same point in his April 1 speech to the Victorian Liberal council, when he told it that Menzies knew the future “was in the sensible centre”. “Menzies was proudly liberal and conservative and he understood that you build on the continuity of the great institutions which gave our democracy birth … but above all, you build from the centre, bringing people together and that is our commitment.”
The reference to Abbott in his London speech gave Turnbull some body armour.
It was actually a latish insert. It was in the speech Turnbull delivered, and in the version sent out at 3:32am EST. But the excerpts handed out very much earlier to the travelling media and reported in Tuesday morning’s papers in Australia did not contain it.
As it turned out, it was a judicious addition.
Abetz picked up on the Abbott reference to dispute a media report that said Turnbull’s remarks were likely to inflame the internal party battle. “I’m not sure how Prime Minister Turnbull quoting Prime Minister Abbott approvingly could be inflammatory.”
Of course everything Turnbull now says is taken as inflammatory. Being ready to combust is the default position of Turnbull’s party enemies (though not Abetz or some other notables on this occasion), the right in general, and a good section of the media.
Former Victorian Liberal premier Jeff Kennett was scathing, questioning why “Malcolm has chosen to actually have a brawl with his own from overseas”, showing “an appalling lack of political judgment”. Shock-jock Alan Jones described the speech as “rather indecipherable”. Former Liberal senator Cory Bernardi claimed: “I have no doubt that Sir Robert Menzies would be joining the Australian Conservatives.”
While what he said in the London speech was perfectly reasonable, as well as being previously walked territory, whether he should have said it is open to argument.
The cautious approach would have been for Turnbull, when making an address overseas, to avoid anything that could lead to trouble in the ranks. Until the speech, his trip had given him a respite from the wrangling.
On the other hand, if Turnbull can’t say a few obvious – indeed can we say sensible – things, he will have forfeited his leadership in everything but the title.