Grattan on Friday: Hokey-pokey politics as the government is shaken all about


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

In the topsy turvy Liberal universe, just when the right is trying to
tighten its grip on the throat of the party, the government is haring
off to the left, with this week’s legislation to allow it to break up
recalcitrant energy companies.

As former deputy Liberal leader Julie Bishop – who as a backbencher
has become very forthright – said in the Coalition party room on
Tuesday, “this is not orthodox Liberal policy”. Bishop canvassed the
danger of sovereign risk.

To find a rationale for a frolic into what in other circumstances the
Liberals would no doubt denounce as “socialism”, one might see it as
driven by the veto of the so-called conservatives.

Those on the right (led by Tony Abbott and his band) have long stopped
the government putting forward a sound energy policy, despite the
strong pleas from stakeholders across the board.

Instead, trying to respond to the pressing electoral issue of high
electricity prices, the government has reached for its “big stick”
including the threat of divestiture – a policy that’s being attacked
by Labor as well as business.

Shadow treasurer Chris Bowen was correct on Thursday when he said:
“this is what we see when a government’s policy agenda falls apart”.

Having to defend this draconian policy, first from critical Coalition
backbenchers (who won some changes) and then in parliament, the
government found itself tied in knots.

Given this is such a radical proposal, it was also in an enormous rush with the legislation, introducing it on Wednesday and wanting the House of Representatives to pass it by Thursday.

But that timetable was stymied by Labor. Passage through the House
will have to wait until February.

Meanwhile there will be a Senate inquiry, reporting in March. This
puts off a Senate vote until budget week in April – ensuring a lot
of noise about this controversial measure just when the government
will want all the attention on a budget crafted to appeal to voters
for a May election.

Even if the divestiture legislation gets through the Senate next year,
a likely Labor election victory would mean we’ll probably never see
this particular “big stick” wielded. It’s highly doubtful the threat
will have been worth the angst, or the trashing of Liberal principles.

The final parliamentary fortnight of 2018 coincided with the first
fortnight of the hung parliament.

For Scott Morrison, it has been an excruciating two weeks, with the
backlash from the Liberals’ trouncing in Victoria, Julia Banks’
defection to the crossbench, Malcolm Turnbull’s provocative
interventions, and an impasse with Labor over the plan to protect LGBT
students.

The government’s stress culminated in Thursday’s extraordinary battle
to prevent a defeat on the floor of the House.

This test of strength was over amendments, based on a proposal
originally coming from new Wentworth member Kerryn Phelps, that would
make it easier to transfer people needing medical treatment from Nauru
and Manus to Australia.

As both sides played the tactics, a remarkable thing happened in the
House of Representatives. Behaviour improved one hundred percent, with
none of the usual screaming and exchanges of insults. This pleasing
development was, unsurprisingly, driven by self-interest – neither
government nor opposition could afford to have anyone thrown out ahead
of the possible crucial vote.

Earlier, Morrison had shown anything but restraint when at his news
conference he described Bill Shorten as “a clear and present threat to
Australia’s safety”. Once that would have been taken as a serious
claim, which a prime minister would have been called on to justify. In
these days, it’s seen as a passing comment.

In what was a highly aggressive performance, Morrison gave us another
foretaste of what he’ll be like on the hustings.

In the end, by its delaying tactics in the Senate, the government
prevented the amendments reaching the House before it adjourned, and
so avoided a test of the numbers.

Defeat in the House would not have equalled a no confidence vote, but
it would have been a serious blow for Morrison. Looking for a
precedent, the House of Representatives’ clerks office went back to
votes lost in 1929 (which led to an election) and on the 1941 budget
(which brought down the Fadden government).

But the government may have just put off, rather than prevented, the
reckoning. Phelps said on Sky, “I am sad that we didn’t get this
through today … because I believe it would have gone through on the numbers … But you know if we have to wait until February, at least I believe that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.”

Dodging this vote meant that legislation to give authorities better
access to encrypted messages to help in the fight against terrorism
looked like it would be delayed. Once the House had adjourned, any
Labor amendments the Senate might pass couldn’t go back there until
February.

The government had declared the encryption measure was urgent, and the
blame game started in anticipation of a hold up. Then, mid-debate in
the Senate, Labor abandoned its attempt to amend the bill, which
glided through. In an agreement which may mean something or nothing,
the government undertook to consider the ALP amendments in the new
year.

Shorten didn’t want to be open to the government’s accusations of impeding legislation the security agencies said would help prevent terrorist
acts. “I couldn’t go home and leave Australians over Christmas without
some of the protections which we all agree are necessary,” he said.

The events of this week show why the government decided to have
the minimum of sitting days before the election next year.

The new parliamentary session will open with a deadlock on the
protection of gay students, the divestiture plan up in the air, and
the Nauru-Manus vote hanging over the government.

And by that time Scott Morrison will have had his first and probably
his last Christmas at Kirribilli.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.

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Historical fall of Liberal seats in Victoria; micros likely to win ten seats in upper house; Labor leads in NSW


File 20181205 186055 3ycxa8.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Victorian Liberal leadership hopeful John Pesutto has lost his blue-ribbon seat of Hawthorn.
AAP/David Crosling

Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

While it is possible that two seats could change, Labor appears to have won 56 of the 88 seats in the Victorian lower house, up nine seats since the 2014 election, the Coalition won 26 seats (down 12), the Greens three seats (up one) and independents three seats (up two).

These results reflect changes since the 2014 election, and do not account for Labor’s loss of Northcote to the Greens at a byelection, which Labor regained at the general. Party defections are also ignored.

Labor’s unexpectedly crushing victory was capped by triumphs in Hawthorn (50.4-49.6) and Nepean (50.9-49.1). Labor had not won Hawthorn since 1952, and Nepean (formerly known as Dromana) since 1982. It also came close to winning Caulfield (a 50.3-49.7 loss), which has never been Labor-held since its creation in 1927.

The 8-10 point swings to Labor in Hawthorn, Nepean and other affluent Liberal heartland seats such as Brighton and Malvern appear to demonstrate well-educated voters’ anger with the Liberals’ law and order campaign, and the federal Liberals’ ousting of Malcolm Turnbull.




Read more:
Labor has landslide win in Victoria


Labor was assisted in Victoria by a strong state economy, and an unpopular federal Coalition government. The national economy is currently good, and this could assist the federal government if they could stop fighting among themselves.

While Labor had massive wins in Melbourne and its outskirts, and increased its margins in regional cities, it did not perform well by comparison in country areas. Labor only gained one country seat, Ripon, and that was by just 31 votes on a swing under 1%; there could be a recount in Ripon.

The Greens held Melbourne and Prahran, and gained Brunswick from Labor. In Prahran, Green Sam Hibbins was third on primaries, trailing Labor by 0.8%. On preferences of left-wing micros, he overtook Labor by 0.7%, and easily defeated the Liberals on Labor preferences. This is the second consecutive election in which Hibbins has come from third on primary votes to win Prahran.

Russell Northe, who defected from the Nationals in the last parliament, retained Morwell as an independent. Ali Cupper, who had contested Mildura in 2010 as a Labor candidate, gained it as an independent from the Nationals. Independent Suzanna Sheed retained Shepparton, a seat she gained from the Nationals in 2014.

Near-final statewide primary votes were 42.8% Labor (up 4.7% since the 2014 election), 35.2% Coalition (down 6.7%) and 10.7% Greens (down 0.8%). It is unlikely we will have an official Labor vs Coalition statewide two party count until next week, but The Poll Bludger estimates Labor won this count by 57.4-42.6, a 5.5% swing to Labor.

Final pre-election polls greatly overstated the Coalition and understated Labor, as shown by the table below. The only poll that came close to the result was a ReachTEL poll for a left-wing organisation, taken 11 days before the election, that gave Labor a 56-44 lead.

Victorian election’s poor polls.

Bold numbers in the table indicate a poll estimate that was within 1% of the results. All polls had the Greens right, but missed on Labor and the Coalition.

Micro parties still likely to win ten upper house seats

The ABC calculator currently gives Labor 18 of the 40 upper house seats, the Coalition 11, the Greens just one, and ten for all others. Others include four Derryn Hinch Justice, two Transport Matters, one Animal Justice, one Liberal Democrat, one Aussie Battler and one Sustainable Australia.




Read more:
Coalition pares back losses in late counting, as predicted chaos eventuates in upper house


The upper house has eight regions that each elect five members. The three country regions are very close to completion of their counts, while the city regions lag. In Northern Victoria, Labor will win two seats, the Coalition one, Hinch Justice one and Liberal Democrats one. In Western Victoria, Labor will win two, the Coalition one, Animal Justice one and Hinch Justice one.

In Eastern Victoria, the calculator has Labor and the Coalition each winning two seats with one for Aussie Battler. However, Kevin Bonham says that Aussie Battler is ahead of Hinch Justice at a critical point by just 0.11%, and this lead will be overturned with below-the-line votes. The Shooters will win the final Eastern Victoria seat.

In Eastern Metro, with the count at 87.2%, there will be two Labor, two Liberals and Transport Matters wins the final seat from just 0.6% (0.04 quotas). In Southern Metro, two Labor and two Liberals win. The Greens, with 0.79 of a quota, are easily beaten to the last seat by Sustainable Australia, with just 1.3% or 0.08 quotas.

While the figure used by the ABC is the rechecked percentage counted, the electoral commission has been providing actual primary counts in Word files, which are ahead of the rechecked count in Metro regions.

In South-Eastern Metro, Labor will win three seats and the Liberals one. Bonham says Transport Matters could be excluded at a critical point, and fail to take the final seat, in which case it goes to the Liberal Democrats, who had an even lower vote than Transport Matters in that region (1.2% vs 0.8%).

In Western Metro, Labor will win three seats and the Liberals one. The last seat is likely to go to Hinch Justice, which won 6.9% in that region. However, the Shooters, with just 1.9%, could win the final seat.

In Northern Metro, two Labor and one Green are certain winners. In Bonham’s more up-to-date figures, the Liberals win one seat, and the final seat is probably a contest between Hinch Justice and Fiona Patten.

Labor and the Coalition are likely to win the 18 and 11 seats respectively that the calculator currently gives them. The ten micros could be a little different from the ABC’s current projection.

The group voting tickets are excessively complex, and it would be far easier to call these seats with a more sensible system.

NSW Galaxy: 52-48 to Labor, ReachTEL: 51-49

The New South Wales election will be held on March 23, 2019. A YouGov Galaxy poll for The Daily Telegraph, conducted November 29-30 from a sample of 903, gave Labor a 52-48 lead; this is the first NSW Galaxy poll since the 2015 election. A ReachTEL poll for The Sydney Morning Herald, conducted November 29 from a sample of 1,560, gave Labor a 51-49 lead, a one-point gain for Labor since a September ReachTEL poll.

Primary votes in the Galaxy poll were 39% Labor, 37% Coalition, 9% Greens and 8% One Nation. In ReachTEL, primary votes, after excluding 3.1% undecided, were 37.7% Coalition, 35.2% Labor, 9.9% Greens and 7.7% One Nation. Labor’s primary vote is four points lower in ReachTEL than Galaxy.

After replacing Luke Foley as Labor leader, Michael Daley appears to be benefiting from a honeymoon. He trails incumbent Gladys Berejiklian 33-31 in Galaxy, and leads her 54.2-45.8 in ReachTEL as better Premier. ReachTEL’s forced choice better PM/Premier questions usually benefit opposition leaders.

State parties tend to do better when the opposite party is in power federally, and the current federal government is unpopular. It appears that the federal election will be held in May 2019, and this is bad news for the NSW Coalition, which has to face voters first. In ReachTEL, voters said by 50-36 that federal politics would play a role in their state election decision.

By 58-36, voters in ReachTEL opposed the NSW government’s stadium policy, which includes knocking down and rebuilding stadiums.

Newspoll: 55-45 to federal Labor, but Morrison’s ratings recover

Last week’s federal Newspoll, conducted November 22-25 – the same weekend as the Victorian election – from a sample of 1,720, gave Labor a 55-45 lead, unchanged since three weeks ago. Primary votes were 40% Labor (steady), 34% Coalition (down one), 9% Greens (steady) and 8% One Nation (up two).

43% were satisfied with Scott Morrison’s performance (up four), and 42% were dissatisfied (down five), for a net approval of +1, up nine points. Bill Shorten’s net approval was up two points to -13. Morrison led Shorten by 46-34 as better PM (42-36 three weeks ago).

By 40-34, voters opposed moving the Australian embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. After being told that Indonesia and Malaysia had raised concerns about the embassy move, voters thought by 46-34 that Morrison should announce the move will not take place, rather than ignore those countries’ concerns.

Newspoll was three points better for Labor than two polls last fortnight, which both had Labor leading by just 52-48. The PM’s ratings are usually a good guide to voting intentions, so the hope for the Coalition is that Morrison’s lift could soon lift the Coalition. This poll was taken before last week’s parliamentary session.

UK Brexit deal vote on December 11

The UK House of Commons will decide whether to reject or approve PM Theresa May’s Brexit deal with the European Union on December 11.

Indications are that the deal will be rejected by a large margin, with about 100 Conservative MPs set to vote against the deal. You can read my article on the probable consequences of a “no-deal” Brexit on my personal website.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.

Turnbull versus Morrison in Liberal crisis over Craig Kelly


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Scott Morrison faces a major Liberal party crisis after Malcolm
Turnbull moved to torpedo the Prime Minister’s plan to protect the
preselection of controversial rightwing backbencher Craig Kelly.

Morrison wants the NSW Liberal executive to re-endorse sitting NSW
federal members so Kelly does not have to face a ballot in which he would be defeated.

Kelly has threatened to run as an independent if he loses preselection
and also at times has left the way open to go to the crossbench.

The Coalition is already in minority government after the loss of
Wentworth and last week’s defection of Julia Banks.

Kelly has lost the support of his local branch members, and the
moderates have the numbers to remove him. His preselection opponent,
Kent Johns, has been under pressure to pull out of the race – as he
was persuaded to do before the last election to save Kelly.

Kelly was one of those who scuppered the National Energy Guarantee, in
the party meltdown that ended Turnbull’s leadership. He is a constant
presence in Sky and used his appearances to undermine the Turnbull
position on energy.

After hearing of the save-Kelly plan Turnbull immediately began
lobbying moderate executive members not to agree to the
cross-factional deal. When his lobbying reached the media, he took to
Twitter.

In a series of Sunday night tweets he said: “Today I learned there was a move to
persuade the State Executive to re-endorse Craig Kelly as Liberal
candidate for Hughes in order to avoid a preselection – in other words
to deny Liberal Party members in Hughes the opportunity to have their
say.”

He said he had spoken with “several State Executive members to express
my strong view that the Party’s democratic processes should operate in
the normal way especially after such a long debate in the NSW Liberal
Party about the importance of grass roots membership involvement.”

“It is time for the Liberal Party members in Hughes to have their say
about their local member and decide who they want to represent them.”

“It has been put to me that Mr Kelly has threatened to go to the cross
bench and “bring down the Government”. If indeed he has made that
threat, it is not one that should result in a capitulation. Indeed it
would be the worst and weakest response to such a threat.“

Turnbull said he was “strongly of the view that the normal democratic process should proceed.”

The Australian reports that Turnbull told one executive member, NSW Minister Matt Kean, that if Kelly moved to the crossbench it would “force Morrison to an early election and that will save the Berejiklian government”.

Turnbull had said that when he was PM he and Morrison had agreed to a
March 2 election – before the state poll later in March – but Morrison
was reneging.

The Liberals believe that whichever government faces the people first
in NSW will get a double whack from angry voters. Morrison indicated
last week that the election would be in May after an April 2 budget.

Another NSW rightwinger, senator Jim Molan is arcing up over his
dumping to an unwinnable position on the Senate ticket. Molan is also
looking to Morrison to do something about his position.

“Let’s see what he does, but I’m not here to be taken for granted,”
Molan told 6PR on Sunday.

“I would make the arrogant statement that the Liberal Party needs me
more than I need the Liberal Party.”

UPDATE Kelly survives after Morrison appeal

The NSW Liberal executive has voted to save the preselection of rebel
MP Craig Kelly after Scott Morrison personally lobbied key executive
members.

Morrison, who only landed in Canberra on Monday morning after his trip
to the G20, rang several executive members to appeal to them not to
follow Malcolm Turnbull’s strong urging to veto a deal to endorse Kelly.

The key four executive members to be persuaded to abstain were moderates Wayne
Brown, Harry Stutchbury, Chris Rath, and Sally Betts.

It is understood that Morrison said that while he wanted them to
support the motion for re-endorsement, if they couldn’t do so they should abstain for the good of the government.

The government feared that Kelly – who was among those who destroyed
Turnbull’s energy policy and his prime ministership – would run as an
independent at the election and go to the crossbench in the meantime
if disendorsed.

He had left the way open to do so.

Kelly, who would have lost an ordinary preselection because he did not
have local support, was part of a job lot of federal members endorsed
by the executive after Morrison’s efforts on Monday.

In a statement, a spokesman for the NSW Liberal party said it had “re-endorsed John Alexander OAM MP as our candidate for Bennelong, Jason Falinski MP as our candidate for Mackellar, Craig Kelly MP as our candidate for Hughes, and Lucy Wicks MP as our candidate for Robertson.” It did not mention Craig Laundy who is still making up
his mind whether he wants to recontest. All other NSW MPs have been re-endorsed.

Earlier Turnbull, after intensive private and public lobbying on
Sunday, said on Monday it would be “the antithesis of good government”
to give into Kelly’s threats – if he had made them.

But assuming he had made threats “that is the worst and the weakest
reason not to have a preselection process”.

He said even if Kelly went to crossbench the numbers would not be
there for a successful motion of no confidence against the government.

Turnbull said he had planned to have an election on March 2, ahead of
the NSW election later in March.

Many NSW Liberals believed “it would be in the party’s interest for the federal government to go to an election before the NSW government’s set election date of 23 March. “He described the Berejiklian government as “outstanding”.

If the Morrison government faced the people first Berejiklian could
“go to the polls and be judged on her record rather than being hit by
the brand damage that arose from the very destructive, pointless,
shameful leadership change in Canberra”.

“I know there’s been this proposition put around that no one’s really
interested in the leadership change or the internal machinations of
the Liberal party. The fact is they are and it has done a lot of brand
damage to the Liberal party.

“That’s something the party is going to have to work through. But
there’s no point being mealy mouth about it or pretending that that
damage hasn’t been done”.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.

Why Tony Abbott’s appointment as Indigenous envoy was a diplomatic blunder and policy failure



File 20181119 44280 1l39pmj.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Abbott’s previous policies on Indigenous issues were characterised by funding cuts, exclusions and silencing – all of which makes his role as envoy highly questionable to Indigenous communities.
Mick Tsikas/AAP

Alison Holland, Macquarie University

This piece is part of a series on race and racism in Australia. The series examines this complex and incendiary topic, and the role it plays in contemporary Australia. You can read the rest of the series here


When Indigenous Referendum Council member Megan Davis stood on the red sands close to Uluru and read the Uluru Statement from the Heart in May 2017, she was enacting a tradition steeped in Indigenous cultural and political significance.

It was not just a response to politicians’ requests to consult the Indigenous community on constitutional recognition, it was a powerful political act, enshrined in a message carried by elders and subsequently inscribed in art.

Following substantial months-long consultations, Davis, as envoy of the people, delivered a message to the nation concerning the resetting of “inter-tribal” relations between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Australia. The Uluru Statement from the Heart was an act of Indigenous diplomacy solemnised in song, dance and ceremony.

Megan Davis has called the government’s rejection of constitutional recognition ‘gutting’.
Peter Eve/Yothu Yindi Foundation handout

The history of Indigenous envoys

Historically, such ambassadorial moments were the glue of politics and negotiations between Indigenous peoples. They built cohesion and peace, facilitated inter-community exchanges and allowed for the settling of disputes.

As messengers, envoys were critical to this diplomatic mesh. Carefully selected, they were highly respected members of their tribes. They often possessed the ability to speak different dialects and were skilled negotiators. They were the bearers of important information, such as the deaths of leaders, appointments of successors and important gatherings and ceremonies like marriages, burials, corroborrees and initiations.




Read more:
Indigenous recognition in our Constitution matters – and will need greater political will to achieve


Given their significance, it is little wonder that many Indigenous peoples described former Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s recent appointment as special envoy in Indigenous affairs as deeply disrespectful.

On every level this was an act of egregious political misjudgement, as many Indigenous people have been quick to note.

Why Abbott’s appointment was controversial

Not only was Abbott’s appointment hasty, ill-planned and unsolicited, it lacked a key requirement for the role – the wider support of his own community.

Beyond lacking all merit, Abbott’s previous policies on Indigenous issues had been characterised by funding cuts, exclusions and silencing. His Indigenous Advancement Strategy was criticised for its destructive consequences to governance within Indigenous communities. Someone who had caused such injury and grief in the past, stripped communities of their capacity for self-determination and seemed so lacking of respect in their own community was largely unwelcome.

There were some, however, who were willing to give Abbott the benefit of the doubt and saw an opportunity in his role.

For them, his task was clear. In accordance with tradition, he needed to come with models and messages of agreement-making and considered responses to the Indigenous peoples’ own message, as conveyed by the Uluru Statement. He needed to bring news of progress on constitutional recognition and the Makaratta Commission – the Indigenous-inspired body to facilitate agreement-making and help reset relations.




Read more:
A new way to recognise an Indigenous nation in Australia


He needed to engage in dialogue, be open to consultations, and most importantly, listen.

As Dennis Walker, the Ngarrindjeri Regional Authority chair, believed, Abbott would come to listen to Ngarrindjeri about their concerns: economic development, stable governance and developing better relationships with non-Indigenous political leaders. For Jeffrey Newchurch, the Kaurna Nation Cultural Heritage chair, Abbott’s visit presented an opportunity to discuss important issues affecting them, like burials, social cohesion and how to build good intergovernmental relationships.

Yet, this is not how Abbott saw his job. Disregarding cultural protocols, he arrived with dictates and outsider rules, and a specific agenda aimed at improving school attendance and performance in remote communities.

Even in this, his apparent lack of knowledge, a critical trait of the position, was apparent.

Over a decade’s worth of reports into remote schooling have overwhelmingly stressed the connection between education, language and culture, and the importance of family and community involvement for children. Education programs succeed when Aboriginal people are the architects of their own policies and services. Partnerships between the people and governments must be based on local priorities, and these must be mutually understood.

The proposals Abbott arrived with – more police in the communities and learning in English – only demonstrated his ignorance.

Abbott’s ignorance was compounded by the impropriety of another white elder of his tribe. Earlier this month, news broke of Indigenous Affairs minister Nigel Scullion’s approval of grants to a fishing industry lobby group from a fund intended to address disadvantage in Indigenous communities.

Scullion transferred significant sums to the Northern Territory Amateur Fisherman’s Association to pay their legal fees in disputes over Aboriginal land claims.

As the former Indigenous affairs minister, Dr Jak Ah Kit, said, this was totally against the rules. Aboriginal elders are skilled negotiators of their resources, particularly their fisheries. There had been no consultations or efforts to negotiate with them.

Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion has defended his dispersal of grant money to a fishing lobbying group.
Chloe Erlich/AAP

Diplomatic blunder and policy failure

Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s appointment of Abbott as special envoy was more than a diplomatic faux pas. It was a diplomatic blunder and a policy failure.

In foreign policy parlance, a diplomatic blunder results from a judgement blinded by bias and ignorance, while a policy failure is caused by behaviour that is both costly and has undesirable and unanticipated consequences.




Read more:
Abbott is quietly failing on his ‘PM for Aboriginal affairs’ promise


Abbott’s bias and ignorance are palpable and demonstrable. And the policies he pushed — more police in the communities and learning in English — would be costly in the human and economic sense. Investing in policies that aren’t wanted and don’t work will do nothing to reset intergovernmental relations.

Abbott and the federal government would do well to learn from the examples of deliberative and democratic governance demonstrated by the Indigenous political negotiations leading up to the Uluru Statement.

These negotiations demonstrated how politically astute Indigenous elders are. The network of regional dialogues were not about political platitudes of the sort Abbott said to the Anangu – “thanks for putting up with the invasion” — but a recipe for action.

Abbott could also learn from the likes of Megan Davis, whose diplomatic credentials, by contrast, are impeccable.The Conversation

Alison Holland, Senior Lecturer in Australian History, Macquarie University

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

Grattan on Friday: Crossbench women give Morrison a break after week from hell


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Many voters mightn’t thank Scott Morrison for confirming he plans to
run the election date out to May. Given Canberra politics is so
dysfunctional, it feels like prolonging the agony.

With the widespread assumption that the Coalition can’t recover, the
early months of 2019 will be something of a hiatus – various
stakeholders will put decisions on hold because they expect a change of
government.

Morrison’s strategy is clear. Play on the best thing he has going for
him – a strong economy, which is flowing through to government
revenue. Release a budget update on December 17 that shows a healthy
bottom line, and probably contains some substantive decisions. Then
the April 2 budget can be loaded with voter bait, and contain the long-awaited surplus, opening the way for the poll on May 11 or 18.

The budget update will come out during the ALP’s national conference.
Usually the Coalition would have avoided a clash, expecting that
conference, which determines a supposedly-binding platform, would see
Labor divisions on display.

But while issues like refugees, Palestine, industrial relations and
trade may stir vigorous debate, the Liberals know they won’t get much
grist for their purposes. As one Labor man says, the “government”
faction at the conference will be large – those with eyes firmly on
seeing Bill Shorten reach The Lodge.

By setting out his timetable this week, Morrison has given away the
option of a March poll. Unwise to abandon the flexibility, one might say. But March had always been unpopular with the Feds because they didn’t want to be the first government on whom NSW voters vent their rage (the
state election is late March).

Morrison is no doubt also operating on the basis that the longer he
waits the greater the possibility of something turning up.

The government hopes that with maximum time it can turn the political
debate onto the economic argument, as well as looking to its fear
campaign against Labor to have more impact.

But governments can’t rely on being rewarded for favourable numbers. Voters expect them to deliver on the economy. Even with a bright macro
picture, they are out of sorts because of low wage growth, cost of
living pressures and the general disgruntlement that permeates the
modern electorate.

Making the budget the election launch pad has its risks. The 2016
precedent is not encouraging, even if Turnbull’s bad campaigning has
to take a good deal of blame. A budget can contain unanticipated land
mines, and it is awkward if they explode during the campaign – which
of course next time will be much shorter than Turnbull’s marathon.




Read more:
Liberal Julia Banks defects to crossbench as Scott Morrison confirms election in May


Now in minority government, the Coalition is minimising its
parliamentary exposure, proposing only some 10 days of sitting next year
before the election. When the houses aren’t in session the Senate
can’t cause trouble and the newly-empowered lower house crossbenchers
lose their clout.

But the Senate this week made sure that it will have time for estimate
committees to scrutinise (albeit briefly) budget measures, by voting
to alter the sitting timetable. Labor recalls that just before the
2016 election it extracted, via the estimates process, the long term costing for the government’s company tax cut plan.

With the arrival of Kerryn Phelps in parliament on Monday, and then
Tuesday’s defection of Julia Banks, the House of Representatives crossbench has become the centre of attention. We’re yet to see just what tangible results this will produce for Labor or for the crossbenchers themselves.

Labor is trying to muster the numbers to refer Home Affairs Minister
Peter Dutton’s eligibility to the High Court but hasn’t locked them in
so far. Tasmanian independent Andrew Wilkie on Thursday suggested he’d
like to see several referrals together.

The crossbenchers have agendas, including the push for an
anti-corruption body and Phelps’ bill facilitating medical transfers
from Nauru and Manus Island. It’s a matter of what they can “land”
with the opportunities and time available.




Read more:
View from The Hill: Day One of minority government sees battle over national integrity commission


Government legislation such as that giving itself the power to break
up recalcitrant energy companies (to be introduced next week) will
both test the House crossbenchers and give them openings to pursue
their issues.

When on Thursday Labor tried to suspend standing orders to move a
motion condemning the government on multiple fronts, the crossbenchers
went in all directions.

Wilkie and the Greens’ Adam Bandt supported Labor; Bob Katter voted
with the government; the women – Cathy McGowan, Rebekha Sharkie,
Phelps and Banks – abstained. The vote was lost 66-68.

Within the expanded crossbench, the four women have formed a defacto
mutually-supportive subgroup. Phelps has confirmed she counselled
Banks before she defected. “Julia reached out to me for some consultation about what that process might look and feel like, and I indicated that I would be there to support her in that transition,” Phelps said.

While the Liberals are losing out politically because of their low female representation and their inability to properly address that problem, on the House crossbench the women are now standouts (and a majority).

On Thursday they came to Morrison’s rescue. If three of the four had
voted with the opposition, the Labor motion would have received a
simple majority.

It would not have achieved the absolute majority needed to suspend
standing orders, but losing on the straight numbers would have been
very embarrassing for the Prime Minister, a symbol of his government’s
new, diminished status.

Sharkie later explained that “we abstain on what we see as party
political games”, though adding that she wasn’t disputing there were
facts in some of the points in the motion.

Labor believed the four had missed an opportunity to deliver a soft
blow to the government. Looked at another way, the women may have
banked some credit with the government for other things.

As he left for his weekend at the G20 in Argentina, the action – or
inaction – of the four female crossbenchers gave Morrison a small
salve to apply to the black eye he received earlier in the week from
one of their number.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’s authority deficit on show at home and abroad


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

When a prime minister has diminished authority, people don’t bother so
much with the niceties.

Scott Morrison admitted on Wednesday that Julia Banks had not given
him notice of her intention to announce in parliament at midday on
Tuesday that she was jumping ship. Asked by Alan Jones, “Did
she tell you?” Morrison said, “No she didn’t and of course that’s
disappointing”.

This was surprising in itself – it would have been normal courtesy to
inform the PM.

In other circumstances, however, it mightn’t have mattered – and
Morrison has a thick skin.

But to have his 11:45am news conference – which was called to put out
the date of next year’s budget – hijacked by word filtering through of
Banks’ bombshell was highly embarrassing.

It said everything about a prime minister not in touch with what was
going on in his own ranks.

Then on Wednesday it was revealed that Morrison does not have a bilateral meeting with President Trump scheduled when they’re at the G20, for which he departs on Thursday.

The official explanation from the Prime Minister’s Office was lame. A
spokesman said: “The PM will no doubt have the opportunity to touch
base [with Trump] during the G20 meetings. Given we have no pressing
bilateral issues at the moment and the PM had an extensive opportunity
with VP Pence at APEC, there is no pressing need for a formal
bilateral at this stage. The relationship is being well managed.”

There is speculation of a so-called “pull aside” – an informal meeting on the fly, but the impression is that the Americans are treating the Morrison government somewhat dismissively. It seems rather galling after all the recent talk of the government’s pivot to the Pacific and co-operation with the US in the Manus naval base.

A meeting with the Vice-President is no substitute for one with the President.

The seeming brush off can be put down to what might be expected from a
capricious president. But it was quickly seen by some as a judgement by the Americans that Morrison won’t be in office very long.

Meanwhile the Liberal party meltdown has caused Treasurer Josh
Frydenberg, who is deputy Liberal leader, to drop plans to accompany
Morrison to the G20. His place will be taken by Finance Minister
Mathias Cormann.

Pressed in Parliament about his change of plans Frydenberg could only dodge.

When Frydenberg won the deputy leadership (by an overwhelming vote,
defeating Greg Hunt and Steve Ciobo) in the August mayhem, he was
regarded as a consensus figure who commands considerable respect
across the party. He will need to draw on all that respect in the next
few months.

As if he didn’t have a big enough job getting on top of his Treasury
portfolio in the run up to the December budget update and
then an early budget, Frydenberg is finding himself strongly tested
in the deputy role, which becomes especially important in an unsettled
and fractious party.

The Liberals this week are shell-shocked and unnerved after the
Victorian rout and both the fact and implications of Banks’ desertion.

The parliamentary party is flakey on many fronts. Turnbull supporters seem to have become angrier as time has gone on. Continued talk about the Liberals’ “women problem” is undermining the government’s efforts to appeal to female voters. High profile former Liberal deputy Julie Bishop is off the leash, with provocative comments on subjects ranging from energy policy to Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton’s parliamentary eligibility.

The Dutton issue hangs menacingly over the government. If the
opposition can muster the numbers to have him referred to the High
Court, it would be seriously destabilising.

Dutton would not have to resign from parliament while the case was
heard but to have him remain on the frontbench (as Barnaby Joyce did)
would see the government distracted by a fresh crisis.

Despite the Coalition falling further into minority government with
the loss of Banks, the opposition hasn’t this week moved against
Dutton.

He is absent from parliament after injuring his arm and Labor
would prefer, for the sake of appearances, not to act in his absence.
More to the point, however, it does not yet have the numbers locked
in.

It needs six of the now seven crossbenchers, and whether they can be
corralled appears to be a day-to-day proposition. Banks and Kerryn
Phelps, sworn in on Monday, on Tuesday discussed Dutton’s eligibility
in a meeting with Attorney-General Christian Porter.

The government has five more sitting days to struggle through before
parliament finishes for the year. It has produced a parliamentary
calendar for next year, with its April 2 budget, that provides for
only some 10 sitting days before the election is called for May 11 or
18. There are no sittings at all in March.

The minimal sittings speak volumes about a government that lacks the
numbers in the House (its position could even worsen, if rightwinger
Craig Kelly, who faces losing preselection, defected to the crossbench) and usually is at its chaotic worst when parliament is in
session.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.

Malcolm Turnbull accuses his critics of “paranoia”


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Malcolm Turnbull has struck back angrily at a report that he has been helping independent Kerryn Phelps, his successor in Wentworth, as chaos continues to fracture the Liberals.

Responding to a front page-lead story in The Australian headed
“Turnbull plays invisible hand”, the former prime minister tweeted,
“Attribution bias – blaming others for the consequences of your own
actions is a common symptom of paranoia.

“Imagining “invisible” people are out to get you is also a classic
symptom. Not often on the front page of course…“

The report said Turnbull had been in regular contact with Phelps and had had a former electorate office staffer work for the new member for three days to help in the transition.

It quoted a senior Liberal source saying they believed Turnbull was advising Phelps on strategy and that his hands were “all over” the defection of Liberal MP Julia Banks to the crossbench this weel.

The report also said that Phelps had counselled Banks before her defection.

The story was another manifestion of the deep bitterness still
consuming the Liberals from the leadership coup, which has been
reactivated by the Banks’ defection. Banks made a stinging attack on
those who ousted Turnbull in her speech to parliament.

Phelps said on Thursday that Turnbull had had no contact with her
during the Wentworth campaign. Afterwards he had offered assistance
for a smooth transition. She said she and Turnbull had not discussed
Banks.

She told Sky that Turnbull “was very kind in being able to allow a couple of his former staff members to come in to do a handover to my staff members to make sure that they understood which grant programs needed to be progressed and which organisations we needed to be in contact with.”

Phelps confirmed that Banks had approached her before defecting.

“Julia reached out to me for some consultation about what that process
might look and feel like, and I indicated that I would be there to
support her in that transition and the three female crossbenchers were
there to support her when she gave her statement,” she said.

Meanwhile embattled right wing Liberal Craig Kelly, who faces losing
preselection, has changed tactics in his fight to survive.

After earlier repeatedly refusing to rule out defecting to the
crossbench, Kelly – wearing a T-shirt with the face of Robert Menzies
on it – told the ABC he would not do so.

He said he had a contract with the people of his Hughes electorate to
serve through the term as a Liberal member.

He did not rule out running as an independent if he lost preselection,
saying “I haven’t considered that”. He claimed to be confident of being
re-endorsed – although the numbers are against him.

Posing with the T-shirt wearing Kelly, Tony Abbott tweeted, “Always
good to be with a real Liberal!”.

The Senate on Thursday voted to alter the government’s sitting
timetable for next year to ensure Senate estimates hearings will he
held on the April 2 budget before the election is called. The
timetable released earlier this week would not have had estimates
hearing before the poll.

Labor is also introducing in the Senate its own bill to protect LGBTI
students against discrimination, after negotiations between the
government and the opposition on a bill reached an impasse.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.

Liberal Julia Banks defects to crossbench as Scott Morrison confirms election in May


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

The government has been delivered a fresh major blow with the defection of Victorian backbencher Julia Banks to the crossbench, delivering a swingeing attack on the right of the Liberal party.

In an emotional speech, Banks told parliament she had had time to reflect on “the brutal blow against the leadership, led by members of the reactionary right wing.”

While she pledged to give the government confidence and supply, her defection has highlighted again the deep divisions within the government, and reopened wounds over the August leadership coup that ousted Malcolm Turnbull and saw then-deputy leader and foreign minister Julie Bishop go to the backbench.

It will give even more muscle to the newly-empowered crossbench. It has also increased the chances of Labor mustering the numbers to refer Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton to the High Court to determine whether he is sitting in parliament in breach of section 44 of the Constitution.

Banks, who spoke at midday, did not inform the party room beforehand, government sources said.

As she was delivering her speech to the House of Representatives, Scott Morrison was holding a news conference at which he announced the budget will be on April 2, and confirmed the election will be in May, the latest the government can run.

In a further sign of disunity, Bishop has undermined the government on the crucial area of energy policy, saying it should do a deal with Labor on a National Energy Guarantee.

The defection of Banks, who at the time of the leadership coup called out bullying within the Liberal party, comes a day after the Coalition formally went into minority government in the House, with the swearing in of independent Kerryn Phelps.




Read more:
View from The Hill: Day One of minority government sees battle over national integrity commission


With the loss of Banks the government has 73 on the floor of the House. This excludes the Speaker, Tony Smith, who has a casting vote. A simple majority is 75, but 76 votes are needed to suspend standing orders. Labor has 69. There will now be seven crossbenchers.

Ever since the coup, it has been thought Banks might jump ship to the crossbench.

Banks, who won the marginal Melbourne seat of Chisholm for the Liberals from Labor in 2016, did not rule out running as an independent at the election, saying she would look at her options in the new year.

Praising Turnbull and Bishop as “visionary inspiring leaders of sensible centrist liberal values with integrity and intellect”, she told the House: “The gift of time in reflection has provided some clarity regarding the brutal blow against the leadership. Led by members of the reactionary right wing, the coup was aided by many MPs trading their vote for a leadership change in exchange for the individual promotion, preselection endorsements or silence.

“Their actions were undeniably for themselves, for their position in the party, their power, their personal ambition, not for the Australian people who we represent, not for what people voted for in the 2016 election, not for stability, and disregarding that teamwork and unity delivers success,” she said.

“The aftermath of those dark days in August then acutely laid bare the major parties’ obstructionist and competitive actions and internal games, or political point-scoring, rather than for timely, practical, sensible decisions on matters which Australians care about.”

Banks said equal representation of men and women in parliament was “an urgent imperative, which will create a culture change.” She called the Liberals’ rejection of quotas “blinkered”.

She said an independent whistleblower system to enable the reporting of misconduct was clearly needed. “Often, when good women call out or are subjected to bad behaviour, the reprisals, backlash and commentary portrays them as the bad ones.”

Banks said her “sensible centrist values, belief in economic responsibility and focus on always putting the people first and acting in the nation’s interest have not changed.

“The Liberal Party has changed. Largely due to the actions of the reactionary and regressive right wing who talk about and to themselves rather than listening to the people.”

Banks said the three female independents, Phelps, Cathy McGowan and Rebekha Sharkie, “are at the core of what I stand for”.

Her attack comes a day after Senate president Scott Ryan also lashed out at the right, saying Liberal voters who had deserted the party in the Victorian election had sent the party a message. “They don’t want views rammed down their throat, and they don’t want to ram their views down other people’s throat.”




Read more:
Senate president Scott Ryan launches grenade against the right


Bishop has told the Australian Financial Review: “The government needs to consider energy policy through the prism of securing bipartisan agreement with Labor, to establish a long-term, stable regulatory framework that will support private-sector investment in generating capacity.”

Only the NEG could achieve “elusive” bipartisanship, she said.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: Day One of minority government sees battle over national integrity commission


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Whatever it does, the Morrison government seems to find itself caught
on the sticky fly paper. As if it didn’t have trouble enough with
trying to decide about the embassy in Israel and the religious freedom
report, on Monday it became messily entangled in the issue of a
national integrity commission.

On the first day of formal minority government, the crossbench flexed
its muscle and the government bowed to the new reality.

Well, not quite bowed – but bought time by taking a line of least resistance.

After the independent member for Indi, Cathy McGowan, introduced her
private member’s bill for a national integrity commission, the House
of Representatives considered a motion from the Senate which called on
“the federal government to establish a national anti-corruption
commission”.

The government didn’t oppose the motion, which went through on the voices.

It was claimed that Attorney-General Christian Porter wanted to set out
the government’s objections to the McGowan bill, which he couldn’t do
in private members’ time.

The real reason was the government didn’t want to test its numbers on
the floor when there could be a defector or two from its own ranks.

Porter embarked on something of a lawyer’s frolic as he pointed to
dangers in the bill.

He warned that any public official who, it could be argued, had
breached public trust or impaired confidence in public administration
“would be liable to a finding of corruption”, even for a trivial
matter.

The ABC would come under the proposed body. So Porter conjured up the
scenario of ABC political editor Andrew Probyn (who, it will be
recalled, former ABC chairman Justin Milne wanted shot) being caught
under the bill.

On Porter’s account, that would be because Probyn was found in breach
of the ABC code of practice’s provision on impartiality for saying
Tony Abbott was the “most destructive politician of his generation”.

“Under this bill before the House—no ifs, ands or buts—Andrew Probyn
would be found to have committed corruption,” Porter declared.

He didn’t sound as if he were joking but maybe the Attorney has a very
dry sense of humour.

Not that McGowan is claiming her bill has the detail right. What she
and other crossbenchers are trying to do is force the government’s
hand.

How far they’ll succeed is not clear – they’ll get something but not
the full monty.

The government’s preference would be to do nothing. But that’s no
longer politically viable. Labor is committed to a new anti-corruption
body (once it didn’t believe in one), and the level of public distrust
of the political system makes this an issue that resonates in the
community.

The government now finds itself in the rather bizarre situation of
having voted for a “national anti-corruption commission” without
committing itself to one.

In fact, such a commission is the least likely to get a tick of the
three options before the government. Porter has all but written it
off.

The other options, according to Porter, are expanding one of the
existing 13 bodies that presently deal with integrity and corruption
(probably the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity),
or merging some of them to eliminate overlap.

Ideally the way forward would be by a bipartisan approach. The issues
are indeed complex and state experience suggests the need for careful
balances and protections. But bipartisanship not the way of things
before an election.

Attacking Shorten, Scott Morrison accused him of being preoccupied
with a “fringe issue”.

Morrison said the matter would be dealt with “through a normal Cabinet
process”. Porter says this process is well underway. Indeed a lot of
it happened under Malcolm Turnbull – Porter says he has been working
on it since he became attorney-general nearly a year ago.

Both the embassy question and the religious freedom report are in
“processes” at the moment.

The government received another prod on the latter when on Monday a
Labor-chaired Senate committee recommended in its majority report that
a ban on religious schools discriminating against gay teachers should
be considered.

This goes much further than the government’s plan – bogged down in
negotiations with Labor – for legislation to prevent discrimination
against gay students. The opposition is expected on Tuesday to push the
government to act immediately on its promise to protect students.

As the Liberals took in the devastating Victorian result, there was
the feeling that the Morrison government was just holding things
together.




Read more:
View from The Hill: Labor’s 55-45% Newspoll lead adds to Liberals’ weekend of woe


Senate president and Victorian Liberal Scott Ryan, who rarely enters controversies given his position as a presiding officer, unleashed a restrained but pointed assault against the right of the party (and rightwing commentators).




Read more:
Senate president Scott Ryan launches grenade against the right


Victorian Liberal backbencher Tim Wilson delivered a sharp message to the coal lovers. “If anybody thinks that there’s this great public sentiment out there that people really deep down hate renewables and they’re hugging something like coal, I say again — get real”.

That immediately encouraged a rerun of Morrison’s coal hugging in parliament.

In question time the Prime Minister was decidedly shouty and aggressive.

And, despite the crossbenchers now looming large in his world, he
didn’t make time to sit in the chamber for Kerryn Phelps’ maiden
speech. He had other engagements, his office said.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.