Scott Morrison’s message to China: Don’t pigeonhole us




Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Australia’s actions should not be seen just through the lens of the strategic competition between China and the United States, Scott Morrison has said in a speech rejecting “binary choices”.

With China casting Australia as an extension of America, disrupting trade, and citing multiple grievances, Morrison reaffirmed the importance Australia put on wanting a positive bilateral relationship.

“Australia desires an open, transparent and mutually beneficial relationship with China as our largest trading partner, where there are strong people-to-people ties, complementary economies and a shared interest in regional development and wellbeing, especially in the emerging economies of Southeast Asia,” he said.

Equally, Australia was “absolutely committed” to its alliance with the United States, based on a shared world view, liberal democratic values and market-based economics.

“And at all times we must be true to our values and the protection of our own sovereignty.”

He acknowledged the global competition between China and the US “presents new challenges, especially for nation states in the Indo-Pacific”. Like other countries in the region “our preference is not to be forced into binary choices”.

Addressing the British Policy Exchange on Monday night, Morrison warned that “our present challenge in the Indo-Pacific is the foretaste for so many others around the world, including the United Kingdom and Europe.”

Australia’s pursuit of its interests in the midst of the China-US strategic competition was made more complex by the assumptions made about its actions, he said.

“Our actions are wrongly seen and interpreted by some only through the lens of the strategic competition between China and the United States.

“It’s as if Australia does not have its own unique interests or views as an independent sovereign state. This is false and needlessly deteriorates relationships.

“If we are to avoid a new era of polarisation, then in the decades ahead, there must be a more nuanced appreciation of individual states’ interests in how they deal with the major powers. Stark choices are in no-one’s interests.

“Greater latitude will be required from the world’s largest powers to accommodate the individual interests of their partners and allies. We all need a bit more room to move,” Morrison said.

He said international institutions also had an important role as circuit breakers. “To provide the space and frameworks for meaningful and positive interaction to be maintained, as a bulwark against any emerging divide.”

Morrison talked up the role the OECD had to play “in support of open trade and market-based principles”. The Australian government is currently running a strong campaign to try to have former finance minister Mathias Cormann elected secretary-general of the OECD.

Morrison also noted the importance of the World Trade Organisation in promoting shared interests, as well as the G7-plus, and the Five-Eyes arrangement, where co-operation had extended beyond traditional security to the economic realm.

He lamented that “two of the most important economies in the region – the United States and India” had decided not to joint the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the recently-concluded Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership respectively.

“Of course, we respect those decisions. But they both remain welcome to join. Our response is straightforward.

“Working with our partners, we plan to make the TPP such a powerful force for open trade and investment that the US and, in the future, India and others will join without reservation. And that includes the UK.

“Interestingly, [China’s] President Xi Jinping has also now expressed interest in possible participation in the TPP,” Morrison said.

“The critical thing about the TPP is that it developed WTO-plus disciplines in key areas of intellectual property, digital commerce and state-owned enterprises.

“These are some of the areas where the WTO has fallen short.”The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

Morrison government commits $1 billion over 12 years for new vaccine manufacturing supply



PMO, Author provided

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

The federal government has concluded a $1 billion agreement, funded over 12 years, with Seqirus to secure supply from a new high-tech manufacturing facility in Melbourne which would produce pandemic influenza vaccines as well as antivenoms.

This would boost Australia’s sovereignty when the country was faced with a future pandemic, and make for quick responses.

Seqirus, a subsidiary of CSL Ltd, will invest $800 million in the facility, which will be built at Tullamarine, near Melbourne airport. It will replace Seqirus’ facility in the inner Melbourne suburb of Parkville which is more than 60 years old. The Victorian government has supported the procurement of the land for the new operation.

Seqirus says the complex will be the only cell-based influenza vaccine manufacturing facility in the southern hemisphere, producing seasonal and pandemic flu vaccines, Seqirus’ proprietary adjuvant MF59 ®, Australian antivenoms and Q-Fever vaccine.

Work on construction will begin next year; the project will provide some 520 construction jobs. The facility is due to be fully operating by 2026, with the contract for supply of its products running to 2036.

The present agreement between the federal government and Seqirus is due to end in 2024-25.

Seqirus is presently the only company making influenza and Q fever vaccine in Australia, and the only one in the world making life-saving antivenom products against 11 poisonous Australian creatures, including snakes, marine creatures and spiders.

Scott Morrison said that “while we are rightly focused on both the health and economic challenges of COVID-19, we must also guard against future threats.

“This agreement cements Australia’s long-term sovereign medical capabilities, giving us the ability to develop vaccines when we need them.

“Just as major defence equipment must be ordered well in advance, this is an investment in our national health security against future pandemics,” he said.

Stressing the importance of domestic production capability, the government says when there is a global pandemic, countries with onshore capabilities have priority access to vaccines.

Health minister Greg Hunt said: “This new facility will guarantee Australian health security against pandemic influenza for the next two decades”.

Seqirus General Manager Stephen Marlow said: “While the facility is located in Australia, it will have a truly global role. Demand for flu vaccines continues to grow each year, in recognition of the importance of influenza vaccination programs. This investment will boost our capacity to ensure as many people as possible – right across the world – can access flu vaccines in the future.”

To deal with the present pandemic, the government has earlier announced $3.2 billion to secure access to over 134.8 million doses of potential COVID-19 vaccine candidates developed by the University of Oxford-Astra Zeneca and the University of Queensland, Pfizer-BioNTech and Novavax.The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

Scott Morrison prepares Australians for shocking news out of report on misconduct in Afghanistan


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

The government is setting up a special investigator office to examine the findings of the Inspector-General of the Australian Defence Force’s inquiry into alleged misconduct by Australian special forces in Afghanistan between 2005 and 2016.

The office will assist and coordinate Australia Federal Police criminal investigations into matters raised by the inquiry, gather evidence and where appropriate refer briefs to the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Ahead of next week’s release of the redacted report, prepared by Justice Paul Brereton, Scott Morrison warned it would be “difficult and hard news” for Australians to hear.

He said the Australian Defence Force had served in Afghanistan “with great sacrifice, while dealing with significant challenges”, and more generally, he was extremely thankful “to every Australian who chooses to put on our uniform”.

But “we need to ensure justice is truly served by illuminating the conduct of those who may have acted in ways that do not accord with the high standards expected of our ADF and those expectations held by the serving men and women of our ADF and their veterans community, past and present.”

Morrison said the conduct covered the time-span of three governments. “Our responsibility is to ensure now that we deal with this in a way that accords with our Australian standards of justice, that respects the rule of law, that provides the relevant checks and balances through this process, that upholds our values and standards and the respect that we have for our Defence Forces that they have earned and deserve”.

He stressed the need to “protect the vulnerable whether serving currently or who are in our veterans community who have no part in this ”.

While those accused of misconduct must be held accountable within the justice system and the Australian rule of law “responsibility must also be taken by leadership to ensure the lessons are learned and these events are never repeated”.

The inquiry has examined a raft of alleged breaches of the laws of armed conflict, including claims of murder and mistreatment, involving non-combatants and those being held prisoner.

The report covers not just specific allegations, but also the culture that allowed misbehaviour.

The government is also establishing a panel to oversee Defence’s broader response to the inquiry, covering cultural, organisational and leadership change. It will report to the defence minister.

Its members will be Vivienne Thom, a former inspector-general of intelligence and security, Robert Cornall, a former secretary of the attorney-general’s department, and Rufus Black, an ethicist and vice-chancellor of the University of Tasmania.

The special investigator will be a senior counsel or retired judge. The office will sit in the Home Affairs portfolio. It will have investigative staff from within the Australian Federal Police, state police experts and legal counsel.

The investigations would normally be handled by the AFP but the volume and complexity of the task is too great.

Morrison said it would operate as long as necessary.

Ben Roberts-Smith, a VC recipient in Afghanistan, who has been subject to allegations in the media, issued a statement on Thursday night.The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

What’s in the ‘public interest’? Why the ABC is right to cover allegations of inappropriate ministerial conduct



Mick Tsikas/AAP

Alexandra Wake, RMIT University

Immediately after ABC’s Four Corners aired allegations about the conduct of government ministers Alan Tudge and Christian Porter, questions were raised about whether the report was in the “public interest”.

The Australian’s editor-at-large, Paul Kelly, said on Q&A that Porter was “trashed” by the program, adding

What the ABC has done tonight is that it’s crashed through some media barriers and created new media barriers. How far do we go in terms of our definition of the public interest?

We need to be very careful about the damage we do to people’s reputations here and ask ourselves is that an accurate portrait or was it a caricature?

Asked about the story in a Senate committee before the story aired, ABC managing director David Anderson defended it as “absolutely” being in the public interest.

It goes to conduct of ministers, ministers of the Crown, to be held to the highest standard in society. That’s the nature of the story.

Porter has denied the claims made against against him. He had earlier discussed considering legal options against the ABC, but played that down in an interview yesterday.




Read more:
Why a code of conduct may not be enough to change the boys’ club culture in the Liberal Party


Even tawdry stories are in the public interest

Despite Porter’s protestations, the ABC clearly had an obligation to air a story that contained allegations of ministerial misconduct (however tawdry).

News reports about politicians, sex and booze are as old as time and have brought shame to many a politician, from the former Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce to Deputy Labor Leader Gareth Evans and the UK Secretary of War John Profumo.

The one clear duty of journalism is to hold those in power to account, and that appears to have been lost on those members of government as they reportedly attempted to pressure the ABC, its managers and journalists, over the broadcast.

Barnaby Joyce became embroiled in a scandal over his affair with his former media adviser.
Lukas Coch/AAP

Standards for those in government

Many ethical issues arise from the broadcast, the attempt to pressure the ABC and the legal threats that have followed.

Even before the program had made it to air, the ABC’s management found themselves under attack, with an excruciating Senate Estimates Committee hearing a couple of hours before the broadcast.

But it certainly wasn’t a quick piece of “gotcha” journalism with a blurry photo at its centre. The Four Corners team have an exacting process to their work. For this story, the ABC said they interviewed 200 people over several months. They also contextualised the story beyond the two central politicians to raise real concerns about the place and safety of women who work in Parliament House.

Anderson also said the allegations had been thoroughly sourced and checked legally. Those named in the story were given “ample” opportunity to respond.

Moreover, while the so-called “bonk ban” on ministers having sexual relations with their staff was only introduced by Prime Minister Malcolom Turnbull in 2018, Cabinet ministers have had rules governing their behaviour since John Howard first established a public ministerial code in 1996.

Turnbull says he warned Porter about ‘unacceptable’ behaviour with a young female staffer.
Mick Tsikas/AAP

Members of the Morrison Cabinet now sign up to a code of conduct which says they will “act with integrity” and be “open to public scrutiny and explanation”.

Specifically, there is no grey area in these ministerial standards on the point of sexual relationships with staff:

2.24. Ministers must not engage in sexual relations with their staff. Doing so will constitute a breach of this code.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison pointedly said this week that neither Porter nor Tudge were in breach of his code of conduct.

But allegations of sexual misconduct and power imbalances, even historic ones, are still clearly a cause for community concern, and cannot not be ignored by journalists or political leaders. Such matters are no longer private affairs between consenting adults.

Just ask the complainants at AMP, the former CEO of Seven in WA, or even former US president Bill Clinton.




Read more:
AMP doesn’t just have a women problem. It has an everyone problem


Action should be taken

Regardless of the salacious allegations made on the Four Corners program, there is also a point to be made about the hypocrisy of politicians who market themselves as having “family values” and demand others follow “Australian values”.

Certainly, it is not edifying to watch details of alleged impropriety by politicians broadcast on television, and it’s uncomfortable that such stories inevitably impact those who are innocently caught up in the furore (particularly partners and children).

Tudge did issue a statement saying he regretted his actions “and the hurt it has caused my family”.




Read more:
Is Canberra having a #metoo moment? It will take more than reports of MPs behaving badly for parliament to change


But with this story, Four Corners has not only produced a program that has interest from the public, it is also in the public’s interest.

There are many questions to be answered from the ministers named in the story and also those who knew about the allegations and did nothing (or even worse, promoted them).

The real outcome of this program should not be a defamation case, but rather action from Morrison. Questions over ministerial conduct are important. This is certainly a matter of public interest.The Conversation

Alexandra Wake, Program Manager, Journalism, RMIT University

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

Is Canberra having a #metoo moment? It will take more than reports of MPs behaving badly for parliament to change



Lukas Coch/AAP

Marija Taflaga, Australian National University

Sex and politics is a well-established theme of political life.

Often the debate comes back to whether or not politicians deserve private lives. The short answer is yes, of course. But this question is also misleading.

Too often the scandals arise out of political workplaces. While it might be Liberal Party ministers in the spotlight this time, this is not a problem exclusive to the Coalition. It is pervasive across political systems in Australia and worldwide.

Amid fresh allegations of MPs behaving badly, we need to look past the personal drama of each individual story and consider what they tell us about the wider structures in which politicians and their staff operate.

Minister-staff dynamics

Political staff are not public servants. They are employed under separate legislation and are hired and fired at the discretion of their boss — the minister, shadow minister or MP.

Staffers’ duties are poorly defined, and can range from emotional support to high level policy work. Their employment can be terminated with no notice (although this is currently under review in the latest enterprise bargaining agreement).




Read more:
Porter rejects allegations of inappropriate sexual behaviour and threatens legal action after Four Corners investigation


There is little oversight over who MPs appoint, with involvement from party leaders typically viewed as interference. Indeed, there is little oversight of the work of political advisers generally — they cannot be summoned to appear before parliamentary committees.

Theoretically, ministers are responsible for their staff, but as we increasingly see, advisers can also be shields for their ministers, resigning when things go wrong.

While it may not be illegal or even immoral, the issue at stake here is a power imbalance. It is hard to argue sexual relations within this work environment could meet our modern standard of a mutually consensual relationship. Even if things start well, what happens if they end badly?

Political advisers turn into politicians

What happens in political offices matters for many reasons. Beyond creating safe workplaces, it also has an impact on who rises through the political ranks.

Evidence from across Westminster systems shows politicians increasingly have a background in political advising before they are elected.

Young businesswoman looking out window.
Many MPs do time as political advisers before they are elected.
http://www.shutterstock.com

Emerging evidence also suggests a stint as an adviser is increasingly associated with the probability of selection to safe seats and, later, ministerial office.

Why? Because politics is a networks game. And as politics has become more professionalised, the skills political staff obtain are seen as more important than skills gained via community organising or pathways through party membership.

We already know this has a disproportionate impact on women. Women were less likely to gain experience via their party machines and are less likely to be promoted to the most senior ranks of political offices.




Read more:
Why a code of conduct may not be enough to change the boys’ club culture in the Liberal Party


The type of work they do in political offices tends to be of a lower status, less strategic and with less access to ministers. Put another way, they are less likely to get the valuable experience they require to move forward in their careers and less likely to have seniority and power in the office.

Adding any unwanted sexual advances, or relationships which fail, place yet another barrier for young female staff. This was reflected in the case of two Liberal staffers who came forward with claims of sexual assault in 2019.

Parliament House is a workplace

It is true federal parliament is an atypical work environment: it is more intense than most and is more likely to breed a dimension of co-dependence with support staff than most other professions.

But parliament’s status as the seat of government does not make it “special” and therefore, beyond community standards.

House of Representatives chamber
Parliament House is an atypical work environment, but it still needs to meet community standards.
Mick Tsikas/AAP

If anything, public expectations suggest politicians are held to a higher standard than most managers. This is because there is a recognition politicians are disproportionately powerful and influential. MPs regularly affirm their legitimacy by claiming to represent everyday Australians. This means they need to reflect community standards.

This trade-off between ministers’ privileges and responsibilities are reflected in the Statement of Ministerial Standards which begins with two principles:

The ethical standards required of Ministers in Australia’s system of government reflect the fact that, as holders of public office, Ministers are entrusted with considerable privilege and wide discretionary power.

In recognition that public office is a public trust, therefore, the people of Australia are entitled to expect that, as a matter of principle, Ministers will act with due regard for integrity, fairness, accountability, responsibility, and the public interest, as required by these Standards.

Importantly, the same dynamics that may result in sexual harassment for some staff, may also result in bullying for others. This is because the core issue is the asymmetry of power in the ministerial-staffing relationship, compounded by the intensity of the work environment and complicated by gender relations. All staff deserve better.

Currently, an inadequate complaints process, run by the Department of Finance, makes it difficult for staff to come forward if they feel they have been mistreated at work. It has only recently added sexual harassment and the complaints procedures are opaque.

There needs to be clearer and more effective mechanisms for all staff to seek support and redress.

What could we learn from around the world?

Both the United Kingdom and Canada have introduced new complaints mechanisms. The Canadian parliament has adopted a code of conduct and a complaints procedure. The UK Parliament has a behaviour code and complaints hotline.

However, both schemes have come in for criticism, ultimately because they do not fully address the imbalance between MPs and complainants.

This points to the fact that too much of the emphasis is on women (and junior staff) to cope, adapt or seek out resolutions after something has already happened.

Really, what is required is a deeper cultural change that sees parliament treated like any other workplace.

What happens now?

Is this Canberra’s #metoo moment? We should not get our hopes up.




Read more:
#MeToo has changed the media landscape, but in Australia there is still much to be done


Without effective enforcement of the current ministerial code of conduct, which prohibits relationships with their staff, an adequate complaints process that does not disadvantage complainants and clear leadership that signals the need to shift the culture within parliament, it may not be.

After all, can Australians trust their politicians if there appears to be one rule for some and a different rule for others? Everyone needs to abide by, and be seen to abide by, the same rules and standards.The Conversation

Marija Taflaga, Lecturer, School of Political Science and International Relations, Australian National University

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

View from The Hill: When Australia’s first law officer is in the dock of public opinion


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

It’s quite a moment, when the country’s first law officer is asked on his home town radio station, “So you don’t think you’re a sleazebag or womaniser or someone who’s drunk in public too much now?”

Overnight, Christian Porter had been reduced from high-flying attorney-general to a man forced to publicly confront a nightmare episode of “This is Your Life” delivered by Monday’s Four Corners.

“No, it’s definitely not indicative of who I am now,” he told interviewer Gareth Parker.

Parker did not resile from going to some of the worst of the confronting claims in the program. “Did you ever say you wouldn’t date a woman who weighed over 50 kilograms and preferred that they had big breasts?‘

“Absolutely not. I mean, like, give me a break.”

But Porter – who’s having to turn up on the House of Representatives frontbench all week under the eye of colleagues and opponents – was given no breaks in this long-distance grilling. His regular Perth 6PR spot became akin to a courtroom, with him in the dock.

First up: had he ever had an intimate relationship with a staffer?

Well, certainly not the staffer he’d been seen drinking with at Canberra’s Public Bar in December 2017, in the (details disputed) incident that led to then-PM Malcolm Turnbull telling him to watch his ways.

Indeed, Porter said, the woman in question had categorically denied to Four Corners (which said she worked for another cabinet minister) the slant put on the story or that it indicated any relationship. But (unfortunately for him) her denial had been “off the record,” he said. It was not reported.

Porter was lawyerly when quizzed about whether he’d ever had a relationship with any other staffer. He wasn’t going to be pushed down byways. “Is there another allegation?” he countered.

With the nose of the experienced prosecutor he once was, Porter smells political payback.

The program’s biggest punch was delivered by Turnbull, with whom Porter had a major falling out just before the former PM lost the leadership.

In a heated dispute Turnbull argued the governor-general should refuse to commission Peter Dutton, if he won the leadership, because he might be constitutionally ineligible to sit in parliament. But Porter insisted Turnbull’s suggested course would be “wrong in law” and threatened to repudiate his position if he advanced it publicly.

“I often suspected that there would be some consequences for that,” Porter said in the 6PR interview.

“I don’t think that Malcolm is a great fan of mine, I’d say that much,” he told Parker, when asked whether he was suggesting Turnbull was motivated by revenge.

Porter’s strategy is to own and regret his distant past – “I’m no orphan in looking back on things that I wrote and did 25-30 years ago that make me cringe” – but strongly contest the construction put on his more recent life.

He’s threatened legal action, but his Tuesday tone suggested he’s more likely to suck up the damage rather than take the distracting, expensive and risky course of going to a real court.

He and fellow cabinet minister Alan Tudge – whose affair with his then staffer the program exposed – retain the support of Scott Morrison.

Morrison relies on the “BBB” defence. That is, these incidents were Before the Bonk Ban – specifying no sex allowed between ministers and their staff – imposed by Turnbull early 2018 in response to the Barnaby Joyce affair.

Morrison was at the time, and is now, an enthusiastic supporter of the prohibition. He’d like to see it embraced by Labor, who’d “mocked” it when it was announced. (One of the government’s many gripes about the Four Corner’s program is that it didn’t poke around to find Labor’s dirty washing.)

“I take that code very seriously and my ministers are in no doubt about what my expectations are of them,” Morrison told a news conference.

But please, can people keep the language more delicate? Terms matter to this PM, who once lectured the media against using “lockdown”.

When minister Anne Ruston was asked (at their joint news conference on another matter) to reflect as a woman on whether the parliament house culture had become better or worse since the “bonk ban”, Morrison interrupted her.

“How this ban is referred to I think is quite dismissive of the seriousness of the issue,” he said.

“I would ask media to stop referring to it in that way. We took it very seriously and I think constantly referring to it in that way dismisses the seriousness of this issue, it’s a very serious issue.”

We can’t know whether the Porter story will fade or there’ll be some fresh spark.

Porter was asked if he could “go to bed tonight, comfortable in the knowledge that there isn’t a woman out there who’s going to come forward and give a truthful account of her interactions with Christian Porter that would further embarrass you or damage the government”.

Porter said: “I haven’t conducted myself in a way that I think would lead people to provide that sort of complaint about me”.

Whether the story goes somewhere or nowhere, one thing seems clear. The hopes of 50-year old Porter – who switched to federal politics after an impressive state career – of ever reaching prime minister are in the mud.

In under an hour on Monday night, a red line was likely struck through his name on the list of future Liberal leadership prospects.The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

View from The Hill: Morrison urges Biden to visit in 2021, as US result injects new force into Australia’s climate debate


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Scott Morrison has lost no time pivoting to the incoming US administration, declaring on Sunday he hopes Joe Biden and his wife Jill will visit Australia for next year’s 70th anniversary of ANZUS.

“This is a profound time, not just for the United States, but for our partnership and the world more broadly,” Morrison told a news conference.

“And I look forward to forging a great partnership in the spirit of the relationships that has always existed between prime ministers of Australia and presidents of the United States.”

Those around Morrison say the government is already familiar with many figures in the Biden firmament, who were players in the Obama years.

Morrison also thanked Donald Trump and his cabinet “with whom we have had a very, very good working relationship over the years of the Trump administration and, of course, that will continue through the transition period.”

Meanwhile, Anthony Albanese retrospectively sought to put a less controversial gloss on his Friday comment, when he said Morrison should contact Trump and convey “Australia’s strong view that democratic processes must be respected”.

On Sunday Albanese said: “What I suggested was that Scott Morrison needed to stand up for democracy. He’s done that in acknowledging the election of President-elect Biden”.

Within Australia political attention is quickly turning to what a Biden administration will mean for the Morrison government’s climate change policies, and how Biden will handle China.

With an activist climate policy a central feature of Biden’s agenda, including a commitment to net zero emissions by 2050 (which Australia has refused to embrace), Australia faces an increased risk of becoming isolated internationally on the issue.

That could have trade and investment implications, something of concern to the business community.

Morrison sought to highlight a common Australian-US commitment to technology.

He said he particularly welcomed campaign comments Biden made “when he showed a lot of similarity to Australia’s views on how technology can be used to address the lower emissions challenge.

“We want to see global emissions fall and it’s not enough for us to meet our commitments,” Morrison said.

“We need to have the transformational technologies that are scalable and affordable for the developing world as well, because that is where all the emissions increases are coming from … in the next 20 years,” he said.

“I believe we will have a very positive discussion about partnerships we can have with the United States about furthering those technological developments that will see a lower emissions future for the world but a stronger economy as well where we don’t say goodbye to jobs,” Morrison said.

Labor will use the Biden win as a springboard to ramp up its attack on the government over climate policy, including in parliament this week.

Albanese said Biden would reject “accounting tricks” like the government’s argument to be allowed to use carryover credits to reach emission reduction targets.

Former Liberal prime minister Malcolm Turnbull told the ABC the US result gave Morrison the opportunity to pivot on climate policy. Now was the time for him to say, “I don’t have to go on with all of the BS about a gas-led recovery, which is political piffle,” Turnbull said.

Chief of the Australian Industry Group Innes Willox said the Biden administration would place much more emphasis on climate change and energy policy.

“The commitment to net zero emissions by 2050 will encourage other economies to move down this path. We are already seeing significant steps in recent times from other major trading partners such as Japan, South Korea, the UK and the European Union.

“Australia, led by industry and investor action, is already headed this way without making a formal target commitment,” Willox said.




Read more:
Grattan on Friday: A Biden presidency would put pressure on Scott Morrison over climate change


Willox said independent Zali Steggall’s climate change bill – with a pathway to a 2050 target – provided an immediate opportunity to move the debate forward. The bill will be introduced on Monday.

“The Bill is non-partisan. 2050 is many changes of government away, but for some industries it’s just a couple of investment cycles,” Willox said. The Steggall bill is receiving considerable business support.

Willox said the other shift of importance for Australian industry from a Biden administration would be “the opportunity for the US to re-engage with China on trade and broader economic issues.

“Efforts to take the heat out of differences on global trade through a change in tone will be welcomed but there should be no illusion that a Biden administration would seek to markedly soften the US’s stance on key issues,” Willox said.

“The risk for Australia until now has been that we have been caught up as collateral damage in the US-China trade dispute.

“The future risk is that China may seek to substitute Australian exports in key sectors with goods from the US in an effort to reset their economic relationship,” Willox said.

Asked about the prospect of the US rejoining the Trans-Pacific Partnership, Morrison said, “I think it would be very early days to speculate on those matters. I would simply say to the United States, the door has always remained open on the TPP. It is open now. It will be open in the future and you are welcome any time.”The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

Grattan on Friday: A Biden presidency would put pressure on Scott Morrison over climate change


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Joe Hockey, former Australian ambassador to the United States who’s now in business there, came under sharp attack for some ill-informed comments about the high Democrat vote in Washington, DC.

Despite this faux pas, Hockey’s description of the American system as a dog’s breakfast – with states, counties and even some cities having responsibility for running presidential elections – is actually not far off the mark.

“In Australia you have the Australian Electoral Commission, thank god,” Hockey said.

Indeed, let’s give thanks not just for the AEC, but also for a few other features of our system, not least compulsory voting.

On a pure view of people’s rights in a democracy, they shouldn’t be forced to vote. But for the overall health of the polity, compulsory voting is a boon, on two levels.

It prevents attempts to game or defraud the system by using tactics that are dubious, or worse, to get out the vote or to discourage participation.

Compulsory voting also works to contain the extremes in the political debate, because contests are won or lost in the centre (broadly defined).

All the legal action we’re hearing about in the US is not the way of things in Australia. Challenges are rare, although there is one big recent exception.

The dual citizenship crisis embroiling a swathe of federal parliamentarians hugely disrupted the last parliament; even so, this was handled in an orderly manner via the High Court and byelections.

A strong political system has a calming effect.

Even allowing that Donald Trump is a one-off phenomenon, can anyone imagine an Australian leader giving the sort of speech he did in the early hours after election day?

In Australia, people were tut-tutting when Malcolm Turnbull was a touch graceless on election night in 2016.

Which goes, in part, to political culture. Australia is a more bound-together society than the US, economically and socially.

But we should beware. As in other countries, there’s been an increasing loss of trust in political institutions (although trust here has been boosted, at least temporarily, during COVID).

To keep our democracy in good shape, we must nurture and increase trust, ensure the economy works for the population generally, and maintain a strong social safety net. There is a significant relationship between economic security and a well-functioning political system.

We also need to do what’s possible to keep the political debate civil. Social media and polarisation in the mainstream media have already coarsened the conversation. That hasn’t undermined our democracy yet, but there are risks.

Without being complacent – and recognising there are many faults in government and elsewhere that should be vigorously called out – this is a week in which to celebrate what we have in this country.

After conquering the second wave of COVID, we’re in an enviable position on the virus – nearly at elimination, although that isn’t government policy. Looking at the deterioration in Britain and Europe, and the American situation, the contrast is dramatic.

The big challenge for Australia is, and will remain, the path out of recession. Many people will have a rotten Christmas, unemployed or with their businesses having failed or collapsing.

But we are continuing to see an official commitment to do what can be done to get the economy moving.

In the package it unveiled this week, the Reserve Bank pulled out all stops available to it to stimulate the economy, although its firepower is limited. It’s taking this action even as it revises its forecasts on growth and unemployment to be more optimistic.

Reserve Bank Governor Philip Lowe said on Tuesday: “Unemployment is a major economic and social problem that damages the fabric of our society. So, it is important that it is addressed.




Read more:
5 ways the Reserve Bank is going to bat for Australia like never before


“The Board recognises that, in the context of the pandemic, the responsibility for job creation falls mainly on the shoulders of business and government. But the Reserve Bank can, and will, make a contribution too.”

In the months ahead, the pressure will be on the Morrison government to ensure Australians are, in economic terms, best protected in these bad times.

One very significant decision the government will have to soon make is the longer-term level of JobSeeker, currently bolstered by the Coronavirus Supplement.

The government also must assess whether more stimulus is needed to get those unemployment numbers down as far and fast as possible.

How the Australian economy fares will depend on the responses of business and consumers, which goes to confidence, as well on the performance of the world economy, which is highly uncertain, affected by the course of the virus and countries’ economic decisions.

As the count stands, a Biden presidency is the most probable outcome in the US but it would be one constrained by a likely Republican Senate, making it harder for Biden to deliver the level of stimulus he has promised.

From Australia’s standpoint, what Joe Biden did on China would be vitally important. He might seek to dial down tensions somewhat – although it would be a matter of degree – and that would have implications for Australia’s policy.

A Biden presidency would put Australia on the spot over climate change. This is expected increasingly to become a major issue for the Morrison government internationally in 2021.

Already British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has pointedly stressed to Morrison, in a recent telephone conversation, “that we need bold action to address climate change”.

Johnson noted “the UK’s experience demonstrates that driving economic growth and reducing emissions can go hand-in-hand”, according to the official Downing Street read-out of the call.

“Looking ahead to the Climate Ambition Summit on 12 December and COP26 in Glasgow next year, [Johnson] emphasised the importance of setting ambitious targets to cut emissions and reach Net Zero.”

The read-out from Morrison’s office omitted the zero target reference.

Morrison developed a functional relationship with Donald Trump and was feted at the White House by a president who didn’t have many friends among international leaders.

Assuming things go Biden’s way, Morrison would pivot to what would be a more conventional presidency, although one that would bring its own challenges for him, especially on climate policy.

If he were wise, Morrison would make a beeline for a Biden White House as quickly as he could get a time slot in early 2021.The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

‘Three-peat Palaszczuk’: why Queenslanders swung behind Labor in historic election



Darren England/AAP

Chris Salisbury, The University of Queensland

Queensland’s state election was always going to deliver an outcome for the record books.

This was Australia’s first poll at state or federal level contested by two female leaders. It was also the first state general election conducted during the COVID-19 pandemic.




Read more:
Labor wins Queensland election, as Greens could win up to four seats


Counting continues after record numbers of pre-poll and postal votes, and a handful of seats remain in doubt. Regardless, the Labor government has been returned with what looks like an increased majority in a history-making third term for Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk.

This shores up her political stocks in the continued battle with federal and state governments over border closures.

A tick of approval for Palaszczuk

The election campaign was run of the mill in many ways. It wasn’t so much dominated by the pandemic as framed by aspects of it, such as borders and plans for economic recovery.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk waving, claiming victory
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk is back for a third term.
Darren England/AAP

But Queenslanders, by and large, appear to have given Palaszczuk’s government a tick of approval for its health and economic responses to coronavirus. Swings to the government were recorded in most parts of the state, with some surprising shifts towards Labor in areas like the Sunshine Coast.

The result reinforces the theory pandemic conditions favour incumbents and, similarly, the major parties. Western Australia’s Mark McGowan, who like Palaszczuk was a target of Coalition criticism over closed borders, will take heart ahead of a state election early next year.

However, this was not a straightforward repeat of recent election outcomes in the Northern Territory, ACT and New Zealand. Rather, this election panned out in ways particular to Queensland’s regional diversity, but still with ramifications for outside the state.

One Nation, Palmer barely register

The expected battleground over government-held marginal seats around Townsville and Cairns didn’t eventuate, with these seats holding firm against a concerted effort to get rid of Labor incumbents.

The LNP opposition’s pitch for a “crime crackdown” in the state’s north and plans for a youth curfew didn’t resonate, as at the last state election in 2017.




Read more:
Queensland’s LNP wants a curfew for kids, but evidence suggests this won’t reduce crime


The headline story of the election was a dramatic collapse in the One Nation vote. The party nominated an unprecedented 90 candidates, yet leader Pauline Hanson was barely sighted during the campaign. What messages did emerge from Hanson’s camp — largely criticisms of COVID-19 measures — didn’t wash with an electorate seeking leadership and protection through the crisis.

Notably, Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party hardly registered, with about 0.6% of the popular vote. This follows another big spend on often misleading advertising. The electorate may have woken up to Palmer’s “spoiler” agenda, with his investment perhaps only resulting in a push for stricter truth in political advertising rules.

There are now realistic doubts over the ability of either Palmer or Hanson to recover electorally from these setbacks. For its efforts, One Nation did hold on to its sole seat in north Queensland. Katter’s Australian Party, likewise, retained its three northern seats.

Clive Palmer walks away from a press conference.
Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party failed to pick up a single seat.
Darren England/AAP

The single biggest upset result — although widely expected —– came in South Brisbane, where Labor’s former Deputy Premier Jackie Trad lost the seat she’s held since 2012. A rise in Greens support in inner-Brisbane suburbs, as seen in other capital cities, was long viewed as a threat to Trad’s grip on the former Labor stronghold.

This result shows there are subtexts to this election result, and it is not all about the pandemic. For 30 years, Labor has often won state elections on its ability to hold onto “fortress Brisbane”. However, the party can’t take that position for granted now.

Even with the LNP’s continuing inability to bridge the Brisbane bulkhead, Labor can’t rest on its laurels after this win. Inner-Brisbane electorates like Cooper and McConnel will be next targets for the Greens, whose support at this election was concentrated in the capital where they now hold two seats.

On track to beat Beattie

Palaszczuk is now the most successful female leader in Australian history, as the first to win three elections. If she serves the full four-year term, she’ll be Labor’s second-longest serving premier in this state, surpassing Peter Beattie. Labor by then will have governed Queensland for 30 of the past 35 years.




Read more:
Why this Queensland election is different — states are back at the forefront of political attention


This win cements the premier’s authority in her party, which is particularly important when it comes to relations between her administration and the federal government. Discussions over states border closures and other pandemic responses at the National Cabinet will be watched with renewed interest.

At the same time, the election result raises pressing questions for defeated Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington and the LNP. After recent inner-party turmoil agitating against Frecklington’s leadership, it’s expected there will be jostling for new party leadership.

Queensland LNP leader Deb Frecklington.
Deb Frecklington has signalled she wants to stay on as LNP leader, but may not get that chance.
Glenn Hunt/AAP

As now seems ritual after state elections, calls are expected for the unsuccessful LNP to de-merge. The often uneasy marriage of Queensland’s Liberals and Nationals — apparently at risk of a lurch to the arch-conservative right — appears incapable of broadening its support in both the state’s capital and the far north simultaneously.

As the final results come in, they will continue to provide important lessons for both the federal Coalition, as well as federal Labor, in how best to appeal to Queensland’s varied constituency.The Conversation

Chris Salisbury, Research Assistant, School of Political Science & International Studies, The University of Queensland

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

Labor wins Queensland election, as Greens could win up to four seats



AAP/Darren England

Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

With 48% of enrolled voters counted in Saturday’s Queensland election, the ABC is giving Labor 47 of the 93 seats (a bare majority), the LNP 33, all Others seven and six seats remain in doubt.

Statewide vote shares are currently 39.6% Labor (up 5.3% since the 2017 election), 35.2% LNP (up 1.2%), 9.7% Greens (up 0.1%), 7.8% One Nation (down 6.7%) and 2.3% Katter’s Australian Party (KAP) (down 0.1%). Other seats are three KAP, two Greens, one One Nation and one independent.

There are many more votes still to be counted from pre-polls and postal votes. It is clear the LNP has no viable path to a majority (47 seats). Labor is likely to win a small majority, as occurred in 2017. They have gained Pumicestone and Caloundra from the LNP, and all current doubtful LNP vs Labor contests are LNP-held.

The Greens have retained Maiwar and defeated Labor’s Jackie Trad in South Brisbane. They are third, just behind the LNP in Cooper, and in a close third in McConnel. The LNP recommended its voters preference against Labor in all seats. If the LNP finishes third in Cooper and McConnel, the Greens are likely to win on LNP preferences.

Labor had been behind in Queensland polls until early October, when a YouGov poll gave them a 52-48 lead. The swing back to Labor was likely attributable to the state’s handling of coronavirus, with Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk recording strong personal ratings.

The final Newspoll gave Labor 37%, the LNP 36%, the Greens 11% and One Nation 10%. Currently, this is understating Labor’s advantage over the LNP, but Newspoll will be relieved it did not have a Queensland failure like at the 2019 federal election.

At federal level, state election victories tend to assist the opposite party. So the federal Coalition is likely to do a little better in Queensland at the next federal election than it would had the LNP won this election.

Ipsos state polls: NSW and Victoria

Ipsos last week conducted polls of NSW and Victoria for Nine newspapers, each with samples of about 860. The Victorian poll was taken before Premier Daniel Andrews announced the state would reopen on Monday. Figures are from The Poll Bludger.

In NSW, Liberal Premier Gladys Berejiklian had a 64-16 approval rating, while Opposition Leader Jodi McKay was at 25% disapprove, 22% approve. Berejiklian led McKay by 58-19 as better premier. Nationals leader John Barilaro was at 35% disapprove, 18% approve. Berejiklian’s personal relationship with Daryl Maguire has had no negative impact for her.

In Victoria, Andrews had a 52-33 approval rating, while Opposition Leader Michael O’Brien was at a dismal 39% disapprove, 15% approve. Andrews led as better premier by 53-18. By 49-40, voters were satisfied with the state government’s handling of coronavirus, but they were dissatisfied by 44-16 with the opposition. The chief health officer, Brett Sutton, had a 57-20 approval rating.

Greens won six of 25 seats at ACT election

At the October 17 ACT election, Labor won ten of the 25 seats (down two since the 2016 election), the Liberals nine (down two) and the Greens six (up four). Vote shares were 37.8% Labor (down 0.6%), 33.8% Liberal (down 2.9%) and 13.5% Greens (up 3.2%).

The ACT uses the Hare-Clark system with five five-member electorates. The Greens won two seats in Kurrajong after overtaking the Liberals’ primary vote lead, and one seat in each of the other electorates. Analyst Kevin Bonham has more details of how the Greens won 24% of the seats on 13.5% of the vote.

US election update

The US election results will come through next Wednesday from 10am AEDT. You can read my wrap of when polls close in the key states and results are expected for The Poll Bludger. A key early results state is Florida; most polls close at 11am AEDT, but the very right-wing Panhandle closes an hour later.

In the FiveThirtyEight national poll aggregate, Joe Biden continues to lead Donald Trump by 8.8% (52.1% to 43.2%). Biden leads by 8.8% in Michigan, 8.6% in Wisconsin, 5.2% in Pennsylvania, 3.2% in Arizona and 2.2% in Florida.

The Pennsylvania figure gives Trump some hope. Pennsylvania is currently the “tipping-point” state that could potentially give either Trump or Biden the magic 270 Electoral Votes needed to win. It is currently almost four points better for Trump than the national polls.

Owing to the potential for a popular vote/Electoral College split, the FiveThirtyEight forecast gives Trump a 10% chance to win the Electoral College, but just a 3% chance to win the popular vote.The Conversation

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

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