Scott Morrison set to slow the arrival home of Australians amid coronavirus fears


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Scott Morrison will take a proposal to Friday’s national cabinet to slow arrivals of Australians returning from overseas.

Morrison’s proposal followed this week’s request from Western Australian Premier Mark McGowan for a cap on international flights landing in Perth to relieve pressure on resources, and the earlier diversion of flights from landing in Melbourne because of the new outbreak.

There is already a cap applying to NSW, and the WA government has said the federal government has responded favourably to its representation. Queensland also wants limits.

The prime minister told a news conference his proposal would be to contain the flow rather than pause it. He said the numbers coming in were very low “but at this time, we don’t want to put any more pressure on the system than is absolutely necessary”.

New Zealand has moved to slow the flow of returnees.

Morrison also said the federal government would support state governments charging travellers returning from abroad for their quarantine.

It was up to the states but “if they wish to do that, then the Commonwealth would have no objection to that”.

“I think that would be a completely understandable proposition for people who have been away for some time.”

There had been “many opportunities for people to return. If they’re choosing to do so now, they have obviously delayed that decision for a period,” he told a news conference.

Queensland is already charging – $2,800 for one adult, $3,710 for two adults, and $4,620 for two adults and two children, with some provision for waivers. The Northern Territory also charges.

As Victoria announced 134 new cases, Morrison’s message to Melburnians facing the six-week lockdown was: “It’s tough. And it will test you and it will strain, but you have done it once before and you will be able to do it again because you have proven that”.

“We’re all Melburnians now when it comes to the challenges we face. We’re all Victorians now because we’re all Australians.”

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said the cost to the economy of the Victorian re-imposed lockdown would now be factored into the government’s July 23 economic statement. It would affect forecasts for growth and unemployment. “Victoria is a big part of the national economy” and “the cost to Victoria is up to a billion dollars a week and that will fall heavily on businesses”.

“This is a major challenge to the economic recovery. This is going to have an impact well beyond the Victorian border. It’s already starting to play out in consumer confidence numbers that have been down in the last two weeks, ” Frydenberg said.

“We have been there with JobKeeper and the cash flow boost, which together have provided more than $10 billion into the Victorian economy,” he said.

“We’re ready to do what is required to support Victoria, and Daniel Andrews himself has said whenever he’s asked the Prime Minister for support the answer has been an unequivocal yes.”

Frydenberg confirmed there will be another phase of income support for the period beyond September when JobKeeper is due to finish. The future support would be temporary and targeted, he said. The higher JobSeeker payment is also scheduled to snap back at the end of September, although it is not expected to return to the old rate.

Frydenberg also indicated the government was considering bringing forward the next round of the legislated tax cuts. “We are looking at that issue, and the timing of those tax cuts, because we do want to boost aggregate demand, boost consumption, put more money in people’s pockets, and that is one way to do it”.

NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian told people in communities along the NSW-Victorian border not to move outside their “bubble”; nor should people go into these areas. She warned “the probability of contagion in NSW given what’s happening in Victoria is extremely high”.

The ACT has three new cases, the first in more than a month. Two arrived from a Melbourne hot spot and the third is a household contact.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 government accepts Victorian closure but won’t budge on High Court border challenges


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Scott Morrison has repeatedly and vociferously championed keeping state borders open.

But on Monday, Morrison was forced to change course, agreeing, in a hook up with premiers Daniel Andrews and Gladys Berejiklian that the Victorian-NSW border should be closed.

In a somewhat Jesuitical distinction, Morrison said they had agreed “now is the time for Victoria to isolate itself from the rest of the country. What’s different here [is] this isn’t other states closing their borders to Victoria”.

Deputy Chief Medical Officer Michael Kidd said later “the Commonwealth accepts the need for this action in response to containing spread of the virus”.

But, Kidd said, the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee – the federal-state health advisory body so often invoked by Morrison – “was not involved in that decision”.

“The AHPCC does not provide advice on border closures,” Kidd added.

Borders have always been a strictly state matter.




Read more:
Here’s how the Victoria-NSW border closure will work – and how residents might be affected


Even during the high stage of the pandemic, NSW and Victoria kept their border open, unlike Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania.

Monday’s decision to close the border from Tuesday night underlines that we are staring at a dangerous new phase in the evolution of the COVID crisis.

The latest Victorian tally of 127 new cases was a record for the state. Kidd said: “The situation in Melbourne has come as a jolt, not just for the people of Melbourne but people right across Australia who may have thought that this was all behind us. It is not.

“The outbreak in Victoria is a national issue. We are all at risk from a resurgence of COVID-19.”

If the Victorian situation can’t be brought under control quickly – and conditions in Melbourne are complicated, even chaotic – the country could face a new bleak outlook on the health front, with a substantial risk of the virus ticking up elsewhere, regardless of other states keeping out Victorians, and an even deeper than anticipated recession.

Borders have been a source of division among governments from early on.

In particular Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk – now reopening her state’s borders from this Friday though excluding Victorians – found herself under attack from the federal government and also from NSW.




Read more:
Victoria is undeniably in a second wave of COVID-19. It’s time to plan for another statewide lockdown


As well, both Queensland and WA face challenges from Clive Palmer in the High Court over the constitutionality of their border closures. There’s also another case being brought by Queensland tourism operators.

The High Court has sent the three cases to the federal court to look at certain aspects. The WA matter will be before that court on July 13 and 14.

The constitution provides for free trade and intercourse between the states. The key issue is “proportionality” – whether keeping a border closed is reasonable on health grounds at a particular point of time.

The Morrison government, consistent with the Prime Minister’s argument from the get go, is intervening in the cases to argue the borders should have been opened.

WA premier Mark McGowan on Monday was quick to use the Victorian development to call on Morrison to pull out, saying that in light of the Victoria-NSW closure “I’ve asked the Prime Minister to formally withdraw [federal government] support from Clive Palmer’s High Court challenge.

“It does not make sense for the federal government to be supporting a border closure between NSW and Victoria but on the other hand challenging Western Australia’s border in the High Court.

“Quite frankly, the legal challenge, and especially the Commonwealth involvement in it, has now become completely ridiculous.”

But the federal government is refusing to take a step back.




Read more:
Nine Melbourne tower blocks put into ‘hard lockdown’ – what does it mean, and will it work?


Attorney-General Christian Porter noted the challenges were not being brought by the Commonwealth, and said it was the right of any citizen to take legal action if they believed “their basic rights of freedom of interstate movement are being disproportionately taken from them”.

“The Commonwealth has intervened to put evidence and views on the situation … the Court would normally expect the Commonwealth to be involved, given the importance of the issues raised.”

Porter said the Commonwealth’s intervention was to provide its view on whether, constitutionally, border closures were permitted in certain circumstances and not others.

“Clearly the courts will be required to consider whether, in determining these specific cases, border restrictions were proportionate to the health crisis at specific points in time as Australia dealt with the immediate and longer-term impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The Court would expect to hear from the Commonwealth on those types of significant constitutional questions.”

Whatever the legal logic, to be endorsing the Victorian closure but arguing against other states’ abundant caution may be a complicated proposition to defend in the court of public opinion.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.

Labor likely to win Eden-Monaro; Andrews’s ratings fall in Victoria



Labor’s Kristy McBain Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese.
AAP/Lukas Coch

Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

At Saturday’s Eden-Monaro byelection, Labor’s Kristy McBain currently leads the Liberals’ Fiona Kotvojs by a 50.7-49.3 projected margin in The Poll Bludger’s Eden-Monaro election page. This page has all the numbers, including booth by booth results. The projected margin is an estimate of the margin once all votes are counted, not the current margin. McBain is given a 74% win probability.

Primary vote projections are currently 38.5% Liberal, 35.3% Labor, 6% National, 6% Greens and 14.2% for all Others. Had preference flows at the byelection been similar to the 2019 federal election, the Liberals would have won. But Labor currently has 50% of all preferences, a 10% swing on preference flows to Labor.

While the Greens lost vote share, much of it went to Help End Marijuana Prohibition (HEMP), which won 2.5%. Labor also benefited from the “donkey vote” coming from the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers. The Shooters were first on the ballot paper, with Labor ahead of the Liberals.

If Labor holds on in Eden-Monaro, it will be a huge relief for Anthony Albanese. Analyst Peter Brent wrote in Inside Story that, while no government has gained an opposition-held seat at a byelection in almost a century, the lack of a personal vote for the sitting MP in opposition-held seats means they are far more likely to swing to the government at a byelection than in a government-held seat.

In 2013, the Abbott government achieved a 1.2% two party swing in former PM Kevin Rudd’s seat of Griffith at a byelection. Had that swing occurred Saturday, the Liberals would have gained Eden-Monaro.




Read more:
Grattan on Friday: Saturday is crucial for Albanese but July 23 is more important for Morrison


Premiers still have high ratings, but Andrews falls in Victoria

In late April, Newspoll polled the ratings of the six premiers, and this exercise was repeated last week. Samples were 500-550 for the mainland states, and 311 in Tasmania.

Tasmanian Liberal Premier Peter Gutwein had the best ratings in the June premiers’ Newspoll, at 90% satisfied, 8% dissatisfied (net +82). His satisfaction rating overtook WA Labor Premier Mark McGowan in April (89%) as the best ever for a premier or PM in Australian polling history.

Gutwein’s net approval was up nine points from April, while McGowan slid four points to a still very high 88% satisfied, 9% dissatisfied (net +79).

The biggest change in net approval was Victorian Labor Premier Daniel Andrews. His net approval fell 18 points to +40, with 67% satisfied and 27% dissatisfied. Andrews’s fall appears to be related to the recent spike in Victorian coronavirus cases, not the Adem Somyurek branch stacking affair. His net ratings on handling coronavirus fell sharply from +74 to +47.

NSW Liberal Premier Gladys Berejiklian had a +42 net approval, down from +46, with 68% satisfied and 26% dissatisfied. SA Liberal Premier Steven Marshall had a +52 net approval, up from +47, with 72% satisfied and 20% dissatisfied.

Queensland Labor Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk continued to trail with a +24 net approval, though that was up eight points. 59% were satisfied and 35% dissatisfied. The Queensland election will be held in late October.

Scott Morrison had a +41 net approval in last Monday’s federal Newspoll. Palaszczuk trails Morrison, Andrews and Berejiklian are about level, Marshall is above him, and McGowan and Gutwein are far ahead.

A good US jobs report, but there’s a long way to go

The June US jobs report was released Thursday. 4.8 million jobs were created and the unemployment rate dropped 2.2% to 11.1%. While the unemployment rate is far better than the 14.7% in April, it is far worse than during a normal economy.

The employment population ratio – the percentage of eligible Americans that are employed – rose 1.8% in June to 54.6%. But at the lowest point of the recovery from the global financial crisis, the employment ratio was 58.2%.

The surveys used for the jobs report were conducted in mid-June, before the recent spike in US coronavirus cases, which peaked at over 57,000 on Thursday. This new spike may derail an economic recovery.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.

Eden-Monaro focus groups: Voters want government to cushion pandemic recovery path


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Eden-Monaro voters are calling for a compassionate and empathetic recovery process as Australia emerges from the pandemic.

In focus group research conducted this week, ahead of Saturday’s byelection, the vast majority of participants favoured increasing the JobSeeker payment above the pre-COVID level, extending the JobKeeper wage subsidy scheme, and providing targeted help for areas hit hard by the summer fires and the impact of the coronavirus.

More surprising, almost all participants were willing to pay more tax to assist the economic and social recovery effort. Many were concerned about leaving debt for future generations.

This was the second round of online research by the University of Canberra’s Mark Evans and Max Halupka. Two groups, with 10 and nine participants respectively, were held on Monday and Tuesday. All but three participants had taken part in the research’s first round. Drawn widely from the diverse electorate, participants included aligned and swinging voters.

Focus group research taps into voters’ attitudes rather than being predictive of the outcome.

Both Scott Morrison and Anthony Albanese have been very active in the seat as voting day nears, although over the campaign as a whole Albanese has been on the ground much more than the PM. But the Liberals have invested heavily in an effort to wrest the seat – which is on a margin of under 1% – from Labor and increase the government’s parliamentary majority.

There was only marginal change in participants’ views on the key issues.

Top issues are: action on climate change, the federal government’s response to the bushfire crisis, job creation, better access to public health care, and addressing the high cost of living.

Climate change action continued to receive the greatest support when people were asked to nominate the one most important issue to them. Most participants saw a link between the bushfire crisis and the need for climate action.

People continued to be aggrieved at the Morrison government’s handling of the fire crisis, which they thought suffered from poor federal leadership, inadequate preparation and insufficient collaboration between federal and state government.

In the second round discussion, there was greater concern over economic recovery issues. “The economy looks weak so we will need good economic management and that tends to come from the Coalition,” a retired Coalition voter noted.

But there was some cynicism over the extra support the government has promised.

People saw Morrison’s announcement in Bega of a $86 million package for the forestry industry, wine producers and apple growers hit by the bushfires as “guilt money”. “It’s an obvious bribe – which might well work,” said a middle-aged hard Coalition supporter, while a female Greens voter described it as “a shameful example of logrolling”.

Most participants thought there would still be a bushfire backlash against the Coalition, despite Morrison’s announcement.

The government is hoping Morrison’s performance on the pandemic negates criticism of his handling of the fires.

Since their first discussion, people have cooled in their views of leaders’ management of the virus crisis. Morrison is now seen as the best performer, followed by NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian, a reversal from the first round.

Berejiklian’s poorer performance is attributed to general annoyance with the states and the perception they are acting “selfishly”. The vast majority of participants think Morrison “is handling the coronavirus outbreak competently and efficiently.” But people are worried by a second wave and cautious about re-opening too quickly.

Albanese is a distant third (the question about him was whether he was doing a good job holding the PM to account); his performance was rated more poorly in the second discussion compared with the first. He wasn’t impacting on the core political agenda: “he hasn’t got a plan,” said one participant.

The vast majority of participants, however, did not believe any party was offering a clear COVID-19 recovery plan and were surprised there hadn’t been a national conversation on the issue.

COVID-19 has constrained the usual forms of campaigning, and has led to a very high demand for postal votes. Participants perceived the Coalition had run a very traditional campaign using “old media”, while they thought Labor had run a “new media” campaign with more emphasis on social media platforms.

Both the major candidates are seen positively. Fiona Kotvojs (Liberal) was considered an “excellent” candidate even by Labor supporters. But several people suggested the intervention of senior Coalition figures in the campaign (Morrison and Payne) may have “reduced her community standing”. Labor’s Kristy McBain was considered a “really hard working” and a “very well liked” candidate by Coalition supporters.

But McBain was regarded as having run the better campaign.

When people were asked who they would vote for, the responses suggested a Labor victory and strong support for McBain. However there had been some attitudinal changes over the campaign.

There appeared to be a marginal increase in support for Cathy Griff (Greens) as the campaign neared its end and two independent candidates emerged from the woodwork – Narelle Storey (Christian Democratic Party) and Matthew Stadtmiller (Shooters, Fishers and Farmers) – during the discussion. That suggested the possibility certain soft Coalition voters might be exercising a protest vote against the government.

Some soft Coalition and Green voters might have moved to Labor and some soft Coalition voters to the Greens, but hard Coalition, Green and Labor voters looked to be remaining loyal.

Kotvojs’s well-resourced campaign appeared to be losing some momentum. But the participants continued to think the election – a straight Labor-Liberal battle despite a field of 14 candidates – would be very close.

This is a byelection where even seasoned watchers are wary of chancing their arm in advance of Saturday 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.

Morrison’s $1.3 billion for more ‘cyber spies’ is an incremental response to a radical problem



Mick Tsikas/AAP

Greg Austin, UNSW

The federal government has announced it will spend more than a billion dollars over the next ten years to boost Australia’s cyber defences.

This comes barely a week after Prime Minister Scott Morrison warned the country was in the grip of a “sophisticated” cyber attack by a “state-based” actor, widely reported to be China.




Read more:
Morrison announces repurposing of defence money to fight increasing cyber threats


The announcement can be seen as a mix of the right stuff and political window dressing – deflecting attention away from Australia’s underlying weaknesses when it comes to cyber security.

What is the funding for?

Morrison’s cyber announcement includes a package of measures totalling $1.35 billion over ten years.

This includes funding to disrupt offshore cyber crime, intelligence sharing between government and industry, new research labs and more than 500 “cyber spy” jobs.

As Morrison explained

This … will mean that we can identify more cyber threats, disrupt more foreign cyber criminals, build more partnerships with industry and government and protect more Australians.

They key aim is to help the country’s cyber intelligence agency, the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD), to know as soon as possible who is attacking Australia, with what, and how the attack can best be stopped.

Australia’s cyber deficiencies

Australia certainly needs to do more to defend itself against cyber attacks.

Intelligence specialists like top public servant Nick Warner have been advocating for more attention for cyber threats for years.

Concerns about Australia’s cyber defences have been raised for years.
http://www.shutterstock.com

The government is also acknowledging publicly that the threats are increasing.

Earlier this month, Morrison held an unusual press conference to announce that Australia was under cyber attack.

While he did not specify who by, government statements made plain it was the same malicious actor (a foreign government) using the same tools as an attack reported in May this year.

Related attacks on Australia using similar malware were also identified in May 2019.

This type of threat is called an “advanced persistent threat” because it is hard to get it out of a system, even if you know it is there.




Read more:
Australia is under sustained cyber attack, warns the government. What’s going on, and what should businesses do?


All countries face enormous difficulties in cyber defence, and Australia is arguably among the top states in cyber security world-wide. Yet after a decade of incremental reforms, the government has been unable to organise all of its own departments to implement more than basic mitigation strategies.

New jobs in cyber security

The biggest slice of the $1.35 billion is a “$470 million investment to expand our cyber security workforce”.

This is by any measure an essential underpinning and is to be applauded.

The Morrison government wants to recruit more than 500 new ASD employees.
http://www.shutterstock.com

But it is not yet clear how “new” these new jobs are.

The 2016 Defence White Paper announced a ten year workforce expansion of 1,700 jobs in intelligence and cyber security. This included a 900-person joint cyber unit in the Australian Defence Force, announced in 2017.

The newly mooted expansion for ASD will also need to be undertaken gradually. It will be impossible to find hundreds of additional staff with the right skills straight away.

The skills needed cut across many sub-disciplines of cyber operations, and must be fine-tuned across various roles. ASD has identified four career streams (analysis, systems architecture, operations and testing) but these do not reflect the diversity of talents needed.

It’s clear Australian universities do not currently train people at the advanced levels needed by ASD, so advanced on-the-job training is essential.

Political window dressing

The government is promoting its announcement as the “nation’s largest ever investment in cyber security”. But the seemingly generous $1.35 billion cyber initiative does not involve new money.

The package is also a pre-announcement of part of the government’s upcoming 2020 Cyber Security Strategy, expected within weeks.

This will update the 2016 strategy released under former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull and cyber elements of the 2016 Defence White Paper.




Read more:
Australia is facing a looming cyber emergency, and we don’t have the high-tech workforce to counter it


The new cyber strategy has been the subject of country-wide consultations through 2019, but few observers expect significant new funding injections.

The main exceptions which may receive a funding boost compared with 2016 are likely to be in education funding (as opposed to research), and community awareness.

With the release of the new cyber strategy understood to be imminent, it is unclear why the government chose this particular week to make the pre-announcement. It obviously will have kept some big news for the strategy release when it happens.

The federal government is expected to release a new cyber security strategy within weeks.
http://www.shutterstock.com

The government’s claim that an additional $135 million per year is the “largest ever investment in cyber security” is true in a sense. But this is the case in many areas of government expenditure.

The government has obviously cut pre-planned expenses in some unrevealed areas of Defence.

Meanwhile, the issues this funding is supposed to address are so complex, that $1.35 billion over ten years can best be seen as an incremental response to a radical threat.

Australia needs to do much more

According to authoritative sources, including the federal government-funded AustCyber in 2019, there are a number of underlying deficiencies in Australia’s industrial and economic response to cyber security.

These can only be improved if federal government departments adopt stricter approaches, if state governments follow suit, and if the private sector makes appropriate adjustments.

Above all, the leading players need to shift their planning to better accommodate the organisational and management aspects of cyber security delivery.




Read more:
Australia is vulnerable to a catastrophic cyber attack, but the Coalition has a poor cyber security track record


Yes, we need to up our technical game, but our social response is also essential.

CEOs and departmental secretaries should be legally obliged to attest every year that they have sound cyber security practices and their entire organisations are properly trained.

Without better corporate management, Australia’s cyber defences will remain fragmented and inadequate.The Conversation

Greg Austin, Professor UNSW Canberra Cyber, UNSW

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

Defence update: in an increasingly dangerous neighbourhood, Australia needs a stronger security system



Glenn Hunt/AAP

John Blaxland, Australian National University

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced a new 2020 Defence Strategic Update and Force Structure Plan that marks a considerable departure from the past.

The update boosts defence spending from A$195-$270 billion over the next decade, with a commitment to see it through, regardless of the proportion of GDP it may reflect in the economically challenging months ahead.

The update promises increases for the three services (navy, army, air force), a satellite constellation, a bolstered cyber capability and plans for increased engagement with the neighbourhood. The intention is to bolster the ADF’s reach, precision, speed, agility and resilience.




Read more:
Australia’s latest military commitment should spark assessment of how well we use our defence forces


The extended reach and more robust capabilities are intended to catch up with recent upgrades in the militaries in our region (notably in the Chinese armed forces).

This update is also intended to complicate the plans of any adversary seeking to cause us harm. Diversifying our capabilities is key to avoiding being limited by a shortage of force options.

China’s military has been undergoing dramatic reforms in recent years.
XINHUA NEWS AGENCY HANDOUT/EPA

China is the main motivator – but not the only one

China didn’t feature explicitly in the prime minister’s launch speech, but the dramatic growth in its military capabilities, coupled with an aggressive approach to cyber intrusions and its “wolf warrior diplomacy ”, is clearly a significant motivator for this surge in defence spending.

The plan makes clear, though, that other issues beyond great power rivalries are also contributing to the world’s sense of uncertainty, including threats to human security, pandemics and natural disasters.

Also implicit in the plan is the concern over heightened US introspection and waning relative influence, particularly in our region.

It is sometimes helpful to think of defence as being like a signposted home insurance policy and alarm system, designed to deter intruders and provide for potential calamity. The ADF capability, to date, has offered insufficient deterrence at a time when the prospect of (literal and metaphoric) fires and intrusions is growing.

The plan doubles down on regional engagement initiatives (a “neighbourhood watch” program, if you like). Key priorities here include better cooperation with maritime Southeast Asian states and the South Pacific, as well as other security partners further afield.




Read more:
With China-US tensions on the rise, does Australia need a new defence strategy?


This will complement the work being undertaken as part of Australia’s Pacific “Step Up” policy and reflects the investment in regional military partnerships, such as the Indo-Pacific Endeavour. However, it does not yet go as far as a more comprehensive proposal for a grand compact for the Pacific.

There is an underlying purpose to the ADF update: to ensure what Australia does is seen as being in the shared interests of the region, helping to bolster regional stability and security in these uncertain times.

It also may demonstrate a heartening increase in resolve to confront challenges in our region and stand with our neighbours as we have done in the past, instead of being focused on security challenges in the far corners of the globe, where our influence is commensurately less.

Greater resilience and preparedness

The update’s workforce plan projects incremental personnel growth in the hundreds, not thousands. And the service chiefs appear content. With unemployment spiking due to the coronavirus and related economic downturn, their recruitment and retention problems have faded for now.

The plan acknowledges the prospect of further “black swan” events, such as bushfires and pandemics. The ADF, however, is only a boutique force and while its utility and adaptability is impressive, there is little spare capacity in the event of a spike in crises – even with more soldiers and other staff.

As such, there may still be scope for a voluntary but incentivised national and community service scheme.

Resilience featured prominently in the update, as well, reflecting growing awareness of Australia’s vulnerability arising from an overdependence on supply lines from abroad, notably refined petroleum products.

Morrison said Australia needs to prepare for a world that is ‘poorer, more dangerous and more disorderly’.
Lukas Coch/AAP

Deterrence is critically important

Critics may argue this update is a mistake and our words and actions may antagonise China – our largest trading partner.

But China is itself antagonising many countries, all of which have extensive trade ties with it. Even the Philippines, which has made concessions and reached out to China under President Rodrigo Duterte, has seen these efforts spurned. As a result, it has retained its ties with the United States.

It is not just us. We are not the ones being pushy or rude. In fact, looking around to the United Kingdom, Canada, Japan, South Korea, Europe, Southeast Asia and beyond, the pattern of assertive Chinese actions suggests we may have been a bit too polite so far.




Read more:
Is it time for a ‘new way of war?’ What China’s army reforms mean for the rest of the world


It also points to the need to double down on consulting and collaborating with neighbours who are equally disconcerted by China’s belligerence and America’s evident retreat from global leadership. That seems to have been the point of much of the policy prescriptions in the Foreign Policy White Paper of 2017 – or what I call our Foreign Policy “Plan B”.

Meanwhile, China has built its robust, lethal and rapidly expanding military capability, structured to confront its very own trading partners.

Australia’s actions are not happening in a vacuum. Rather, Australia is appropriately and commensurately responding in an effort to bolster its own resilience and deterrence. After all, wars start when one side calculates the other’s ability to deter is insufficient and they feel confident of victory. Deterrence is critically important.The Conversation

John Blaxland, Professor, Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, Australian National University

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

Scott Morrison pivots Australian Defence Force to meet more threatening regional outlook



Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Scott Morrison will deliver a stark warning that Australia faces an increasingly threatening regional outlook and announce a pivot in its defence posture, when he releases the government’s 2020 Defence Strategic Update on Wednesday.

The Prime Minister will declare: “Even as we stare down the COVID pandemic at home, we need to also prepare for a post COVID world that is poorer, more dangerous and more disorderly”.

He will say the Indo-Pacific is the “epicentre” of increasing strategic competition, highlight “fractious” United States-China relations, and point to rising regional tensions over territorial claims, notably in the South China Sea and on the India-China border.

Australia’s defence policy is being adjusted to concentrate on our immediate region, and to equip the Australian Defence Force (ADF) with greater capability for deterring threats, including by significant new investment in longer-range strike capabilities across air, sea and land.

Morrison will announce the government will buy the AGM-158C Long Range Anti-Ship Missile from the US Navy, costing about $800 million. This missile has a range of more than 370 kilometres and is a significant upgrade from the current Harpoon anti-ship missile.

The very blunt language and unvarnished tone of Morrison’s speech, released ahead of delivery, reflect the heightening regional uncertainty, as China’s power and assertiveness increase, and American policy is unpredictable.

The update comes as relations between Australia and China continue to deteriorate, with Australia pointing to cyber attacks from “a state-based” actor and China accusing Australia of spying on it.

In his speech Morrison says the 2016 Defence White Paper gave equal weighting across three areas: Australia and its northern approaches, Southeast Asia and the Pacific, and operations in support of the rules-based global order.

“In this update, the government has directed Defence to prioritise the ADF’s geographical focus on our immediate region – the area ranging from the north-east Indian Ocean, through maritime and mainland Southeast Asia to Papua New Guinea and the South West Pacific,” he says.

“With the Indo-Pacific experiencing fundamental shifts and increased threats, our commitment will deepen.

“Our defence forces will need to be prepared for any future, no matter how unlikely,” Morrison says.

“The government has set three new strategic objectives to guide all defence planning, including force structure, force generation, international engagement and operations,” he says. These are to

  • shape Australia’s strategic environment

  • deter actions against Australia’s interests

  • respond with credible military force, when required.

Morrison says maintaining a “largely defensive force” won’t be adequate to deter attacks against Australia or its interests in the challenging strategic environment the country faces.

The ADF’s deterrence capabilities must be strengthened.

It needs “capabilities that can hold potential adversaries’ forces and critical infrastructure at risk from a distance, thereby deterring an attack on Australia and helping to prevent war,” he says.

To meet the new circumstances, “Australia will invest in longer range strike weapons, cyber capabilities and area denial”.

“We will increase the Australian Defence Force’s ability to influence and deny operations directed against our interests — ones below the threshold of traditional armed conflict, in what experts call the ‘grey-zone’.

“This will involve boosting Defence’s special operations, intelligence and offensive cyber capabilities, as well as its presence operations, capacity-building efforts, and engagement activities.”

Outlining the worsening risks, Morrison says: “We have moved into a new and less benign strategic era – one in which the institutions and patterns of cooperation that have benefited our prosperity and security for decades are under increasing strain.

“The Indo-Pacific is the epicentre of rising strategic competition.

“Our region will not only shape our future – increasingly it is the focus of the dominant global contest of our age.

“Tensions over territorial claims are rising across the Indo-Pacific region – as we have seen recently on the disputed border between India and China, in the South China Sea, and in the East China Sea.

“The risk of miscalculation – and even conflict – is heightening.

“Regional military modernisation is occurring at an unprecedented rate.

“Capabilities and reach are expanding.

“Previous assumptions of enduring advantage and technological edge are no longer constants.

“Coercive activities are rife.

“Disinformation and foreign interference have been enabled by new and emerging technologies.

“Terrorism and the evil ideologies that underpin it remain a tenacious threat.

“And state sovereignty is under pressure — as are rules and norms, and the stability these help provide.

“Relations between China and the United States are fractious as they compete for political, economic and technological supremacy,” Morrison says.

He says “the largely benign security environment Australia has enjoyed – roughly from the fall of the Berlin Wall to the Global Financial Crisis – is gone.”

The government’s updated defence funding will see investment in capability grow to $270 billion over the next decade. This compares with the $195 billion decade-long commitment in the 2016 White Paper.

Australia’s sharpened regional focus would have the ADF forming even deeper links with regional armed forces.

“Our new strategic settings will also make us a better, more effective ally.”

However, in a message that Australia no longer is as keen to be drawn into situations further afield, Morrison says, “We remain prepared to make military contributions outside of our immediate region where it is in our national interest to do so, including in support of US-led coalitions.

“But we cannot allow consideration of such contingencies to drive our force structure to the detriment of ensuring we have credible capability to respond to any challenge in our immediate region.

“It is in our region that we must be most capable in the military contributions we make to partnerships, and to our ever-closer alliance with the United States.”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 approval ratings reach highest level for PM in 10 years; Trump falls further behind Biden



Joel Carratt/AAP

Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s approval ratings continue to soar thanks to his handling of the coronavirus crisis, reaching the highest level for any prime minister since the early years of the Rudd government in this week’s Newspoll.

Morrison’s approval rating was at 68%, up two points from the last Newspoll, while 27% of respondents were dissatisfied. His net approval rating was +41.

This is Morrison’s highest net approval, topping the +40 he achieved in a late April Newspoll. It is also the best net approval for any PM since Kevin Rudd had +43 in October 2009.

This week’s Newspoll, conducted June 24-27 from a sample of 1,520 people, gave the Coalition a 51-49% lead, unchanged on three weeks ago.

Primary votes were 42% Coalition (steady), 35% Labor (up one), 11% Greens (down one) and 3% One Nation (down one).




Read more:
Why good leaders need to hold the hose: how history might read Morrison’s coronavirus leadership


Opposition leader Anthony Albanese had a net approval of +2, down one point. Morrison led Albanese as better PM by 58-26%.

Given Morrison’s stratospheric ratings, it is surprising the Coalition is not further ahead on voting intentions. This could be due to the fact the national cabinet has been in charge of coronavirus policy-making, and these decisions are seen as more bipartisan and do not boost the Coalition.

Labor leading in Eden-Monaro byelection polls

The Eden-Monaro byelection will be held on Saturday following the April resignation of Labor MP Mike Kelly. Labor won the seat by just a 50.9-49.1% margin at the 2019 election.

The Poll Bludger reported on two Eden-Monaro polls last week by the robo-pollster uComms, one for The Australia Institute and the other for the Australian Forest Products Association.




Read more:
Eden-Monaro byelection will be ‘very close’, according to participants in focus group research


The Australian Institute poll gave Labor a 53-47% lead by 2019 election preference flows, and a 54-46% lead by respondent allocated preferences. The AFPA poll gave Labor a 52-48% lead.

These two polls are much better for Labor than an internal party poll, reported on June 13, which showed the Liberals clearly positioned on primary votes to gain the seat.

Labor’s Kristy McBain has a slight edge over the Liberals’ Fiona Kotvojs in recent polling.
Mick Tsikas/AAP

Biden further extends lead over Trump

US President Donald Trump’s approval ratings are at their worst since the US government shutdown in January 2019.

In the latest FiveThirtyEight poll aggregate, Trump’s ratings with all polls are 40.6% approve, 56.1% disapprove (net -15.5%). With polls of registered or likely voters, his ratings are 40.9% approve, 55.5% disapprove (net -14.6%).

With the presidential election now just over four months away, FiveThirtyEight has started tracking the presidential general election polls.

As there are far more national polls than state polls, the website adjusts state polls for the national trend. So, as former Vice President Joe Biden widens his national lead, FiveThirtyEight will adjust states in Biden’s favour where there hasn’t been recent polling.




Read more:
Trump is struggling against two invisible enemies: the coronavirus and Joe Biden


The latest national poll aggregate gives Biden a 50.7% to 41.4% lead over Trump. US polls usually include an undecided option, so the remaining voters are mostly undecided, not third party. Three weeks ago, Biden’s lead was 6.6 percentage points.

In 2016, four states – Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Florida – voted for Trump over Hillary Clinton by 1.2% or less. In the latest FiveThirtyEight aggregate, Biden leads in Florida by 7.2%, Pennsylvania by 8.0%, Wisconsin by 8.1% and Michigan by 10.6%.

Biden also leads in several states Trump won comfortably in 2016, such as Arizona (a 4.7% lead over Trump), Georgia (1.4% lead), North Carolina (2.9% lead) and Ohio (2.6% lead). Trump maintains an extremely narrow lead in Iowa (0.1%) and Texas (0.3%).

Trump is looking shaky in states he carried comfortably in the 2016 election.
Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA

If the election were being held next week, there is little doubt Biden would win both the national popular vote and the Electoral College easily.

Can Trump recover before November 3? If Biden’s national lead is reduced to fewer than five points, the Electoral College could save Trump, as the Democrat’s lead is narrower in the pivotal battleground states.

Trump’s approval ratings have taken a hit due to his responses to the pandemic and the protests after the police killing of George Floyd.

Earlier this month, US coronavirus cases and deaths had fallen from their peaks in April, but there has been a surge in the last week. Over 45,000 new cases were recorded Friday, the highest single-day total since the pandemic began.

Political analyst Nate Silver says this increase is not caused by greater testing (as Trump claims), noting the positive test rate rose to 7.7% on June 24, from 4.9% a week earlier.

A genuine economic recovery is unlikely while coronavirus cases are still surging. Trump’s best chance of re-election is for the pandemic to have faded by November and the US to have made a strong economic recovery.

The US jobs report for May was much better than in April, but April was so terrible that a recovery still has a long way to go.

Can the Democrats retake Congress?

As well as the presidency, all 435 House of Representatives seats and one-third of the 100 senators are up for election in November.

Democrats gained control of the House in November 2018 and are very likely to retain control. They have a 7.9% lead in the FiveThirtyEight generic ballot tracker.

The Republicans currently have a 53-47 seat majority in the Senate, making it difficult for the Democrats to take control. The RealClearPolitics Senate map gives Democrats some chance of winning the Senate, projecting 48 Republican seats, 48 Democrats and four toss-ups.

In deeply conservative Alabama, Democrat Doug Jones unexpectedly won a December 2017 special election, but is unlikely to repeat his success.

House seats are allocated to each state on a population basis, but in the Senate, each state is guaranteed two seats regardless of population. As low-population states in the Midwest and West tend to be conservative, this makes it harder for Democrats to win the Senate.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.

Grattan on Friday: Scott Morrison undeterred on COVID re-opening despite rise in toilet paper index


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Excess buying of toilet paper has become a leading indicator of public alarm about COVID-19. This week in Victoria, people were heading for the shelves again.

Just when Australians’ march out of our dark months was accelerating, Victorian numbers of new cases started ticking up. The state government reimposed some restrictions and declared dangerous hotspots.

Daniel Andrews asked the military to help on both the logistical and medical fronts. Other states were ready to assist. More negatively, the Berejiklian government, which has been insisting Queensland should lift its border restrictions, suddenly wasn’t too keen on traffic across the open NSW-Victorian border.

“Please reassess where you’re going in the next few weeks,” Gladys Berejiklian said on Thursday. “If you have a planned trip to Melbourne, please don’t go. Please do not welcome your friends, who may be intending to visit from Victoria, in the next few weeks, into your home.”

Australia remains balkanised.

Scott Morrison’s frustration is obvious. After reluctantly but wisely initially accepting more of a shutdown than he wanted, Morrison has his eye firmly on the exit sign. With the government announcing $250 million for the creative arts sector, he is asking national cabinet to give the entertainment industry a timetable for venues reopening.




Read more:
Government unveils $250 million for ‘creative economy’


Even chief medical officer Brendan Murphy, a fixture at prime ministerial news conferences for months, is vacating his role for a much-delayed start on Monday in his new job as secretary of the federal health department.

When the reopening of the economy began some weeks ago, Morrison and Murphy warned there would be fresh COVID outbreaks that would have to be managed. Now they’ve arrived, and how effectively they can be contained is yet to be seen.

Victoria’s daily tallies of new cases this week were: Monday 16; Tuesday 17; Wednesday 20; Thursday 33. Numbers are expected to rise with wider testing. The question for coming weeks is, when do selective outbreaks turn into a new “wave”?

Unless the health situation deteriorates dramatically, Morrison is determined not to take a step backward.

He sees Australia having the chance to emerge more strongly and rapidly from the crisis than most countries, a prospect reinforced by the latest figures from the International Monetary Fund. It revised its forecast for the Australian economy’s contraction in 2020 from 6.7% to 4.5%. But the broader picture became grimmer: the world recession is likely to be deeper and more prolonged than earlier thought.

Morrison believes in Australia we have reached the point where, with an adequately-reinforced health system and arrangements for dealing with limited outbreaks, we need to accept “that we live alongside the virus”. Speaking at the launch of the arts aid, he said with some force, “We can’t go, stop, go, stop, go. We can’t flick the light on and off, and on and off, and on and off, and on and off.”

But ultimately, it is the states that have the whip hands and in general the premiers, and not just Andrews, are a lot more risk-averse than the prime minister.

Andrews announced he was dispatching 1000 door-knockers to canvass a slew of suburbs, telling people to get tested at vans and ambulances stationed at the end of streets. “We again find ourselves on a knife’s edge,” he said on Thursday. “What we do now will determine what comes next.”

The Victorian outbreaks have stirred a blame game. Critics claim Victoria fell down on testing, didn’t spread the health messages effectively to ethnic communities, and failed to act strongly enough against the black lives protest.

Although only several protesters have tested positive and there’s no evidence the demonstrators in Victoria and other states spread the virus, the condemnation has become that they set a bad example, resulting in other people flouting restrictions and social distancing.

Morrison, who’s been outspoken about various states maintaining closed borders and censorious about the protests, is in general keeping himself in check. This is both to ensure his national cabinet works as smoothly as possible despite internal differences, and because he knows the public wants co-operation at this time, not political sniping.

In just-conducted University of Canberra focus group research ahead of the July 4 Eden-Monaro byelection, participants were in furious agreement with the proposition that in a post-virus world politicians needed to be more collaborative and less adversarial.




Read more:
Eden-Monaro byelection will be ‘very close’, according to participants in focus group research


Most participants felt Morrison had gone through a learning process and this was reflected in the creation of the national cabinet. But there were some fears the old, more negative politics would return.

Labor’s research in this seat it holds on a margin of less than 1% would no doubt be hearing the same messages, which fit with Anthony Albanese’s point, expressed when he became leader, that the public has conflict fatigue.

With an eye to Eden-Monaro, Albanese this week proposed his lets-get-together-and-talk initiative – that he and Morrison should negotiate a bipartisan “framework” for energy policy.

Albanese stressed he wasn’t seeking the impossible – bipartisan agreement on the detail. Rather, this was a quest for broad brush strokes to give investors the certainty they crave.

The Albanese move could be read several ways.

Some regarded it as a policy pivot by Labor, especially as its reference to support for carbon capture and storage meant – though it was not spelled out in the letter he wrote to Morrison – there was provision for the coal and gas industries.

And here was Albanese trying to juggle Labor’s strains over climate policy, where there’s pressure from some in caucus, notably resources spokesman Joel Fitzgibbon, to have the opposition’s 2019 position softened.

But primarily, Albanese was trying to put Morrison on the spot, given climate is an important issue in Eden-Monaro and voters are demanding a co-operative approach to politics.

In his letter, Albanese made no significant policy concessions. This was about a public political vibe.

For the opposition leader, there seemed little to lose. The push for bipartisanship echoes what business groups as well as the public desire.

Assuming it goes nowhere with Morrison, the proposal provides Labor with a serviceable line to run out in the last days of the byelection.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.