Poll wrap: Labor’s lead narrows to just 51-49 in Ipsos, but is it an outlier?



File 20190217 56240 1toyo4n.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
The latest Ipsos poll has the gap between Labor and the Coalition narrowing to 51-49, but it may be an outlier.
AAP/James Ross/Grant Wells

Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

An Ipsos poll conducted for Nine newspapers – previously Fairfax papers – gave Labor just a 51-49 lead, a three-point gain for the Coalition since the last Ipsos poll in mid-December. Primary votes were 38% Coalition (up two), 33% Labor (down four), 13% Greens (steady) and 16% for all Others (up two). The poll was conducted February 12-15 from a sample of 1,200.

This is the narrowest lead for Labor in any national poll since Scott Morrison replaced Malcolm Turnbull. The movement towards the Coalition will be attributed to Labor’s support for the Medevac bill, which saw the Coalition defeated in the House of Representatives on February 12.

Ipsos has a reputation for being volatile, and it always has the Greens too high. Both the volatility and the high Greens vote may be explained by Ipsos being the only live phone pollster in Australia – Newspoll, Essential and ReachTEL use either robopolling, online methods or a combination.

49% approved of Morrison’s performance (up two), and 40% disapproved (up one), for a net approval of +9. Bill Shorten’s net approval was down three points to -12. Morrison led Shorten by 48-38 as better PM (46-37 in December). Ipsos gives incumbent PMs far better ratings than Newspoll.

Labor’s Chris Bowen was preferred as Treasurer over incumbent Josh Frydenberg by a narrow 31-30 margin – a strong result for Bowen on an issue that is usually perceived to favour the Coalition. Voters trusted Labor by a 49-34 margin over the Liberals to respond to the banking royal commission. Labor’s proposal to abolish franking credit cash refunds was opposed by 43-40; last week’s Newspoll had opposition at 44-35.




Read more:
Poll wrap: Labor maintains Newspoll lead but Morrison’s ratings up, and Abbott behind in Warringah


While the Medevac bill could have assisted the Coalition, a Queensland YouGov Galaxy poll, conducted February 13-14 – at about the same time as Ipsos – gave federal Labor a 52-48 lead.

At the 2016 election, the Coalition’s Queensland two party vote was 3.7% higher than its national vote, and in 2013 the difference was 3.5%. Even in 2007, when Queenslander Kevin Rudd was very popular, the Coalition still performed 2.3% better in Queensland than nationally.

If the Queensland Galaxy result is correct, Labor is very likely ahead nationally by at least 55-45, in contrast to Ipsos. YouGov Galaxy is the pollster that conducts Newspoll.

While the Queensland Galaxy suggests that Ipsos is an outlier, we cannot know until we get more polls. Next Sunday night’s Newspoll release will be keenly anticipated.

Queensland Galaxy: 52-48 to federal Labor

A Queensland Galaxy poll for The Courier Mail, conducted February 13-14 from a sample of 810, gave federal Labor a 52-48 lead, a two-point gain for Labor since November. Primary votes were 35% LNP (down three), 34% Labor (steady), 10% Greens (up one), 8% One Nation (down one) and 5% for Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party (up four).

The Coalition holds eight Queensland seats by margins of 4% or less. This poll implies a 6% swing to Labor in Queensland since the 2016 election.

The Coalition led Labor by 44-29 on best plan for border security and asylum seekers. This question did not ask about the medevac bill. It is a general question on an issue where the Coalition is perceived to have an advantage.

In the state politics part of this poll, primary votes were 35% Labor (down one since November), 35% LNP (up one), 11% Greens (steady), 8% One Nation (down two) and 4% Katter’s Australian Party (steady). No two party estimate was given, but Labor was ahead by 52-48 or 53-47.

48% approved of Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk’s performance (steady) and 38% disapproved (up one), for a net approval of +10. Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington’s net approval fell ten points to -4. Palasczuk had a 47-27 lead as better Premier (43-26 in November).

At the November 2017 Queensland election, One Nation contested 61 of the 93 seats and won 13.7% of the statewide vote – their vote would probably have been about 18% had they contested every seat.




Read more:
Labor wins a majority in Queensland as polling in Victoria shows a tie


In both the state and federal polls, One Nation is down to 8% in Queensland. I believe One Nation has been identified as a right-wing party, not a populist party. Under Turnbull, there was space to the Coalition’s right, but with Morrison that space has been reduced.

National Essential: 55-45 to Labor

Last week’s national Essential poll, conducted February 6-11 from a sample of 1,067, gave Labor a 55-45 lead, a three-point gain for Labor since Essential’s late January poll. Primary votes were 38% Labor (up two), 34% Coalition (down four), 10% Greens (steady), 7% One Nation (steady) and 11% for all Others (up two). This poll was taken before the medevac bill passed the House.

28% thought the banking royal commission would lead to significant changes in the way banks operate, 47% thought it would lead to minor changes and 25% no real difference.

Showing disillusion with both sides of politics, 27% trusted Labor to implement the royal commission’s recommendations, 23% the Liberals and 35% thought there was no difference, with another 15% undecided.

By 59-11, voters agreed that Morrison should not end parliament before it deals with the royal commission’s recommendations. By 55-15, they agreed that the banks have more power than politicians, and will find a way to block meaningful reform.

Newspoll economy questions

In additional questions from last week’s Newspoll, Morrison led Shorten by 48-33 on more capable of handling the economy (50-32 in October). In general, incumbents benefit from this type of question, and the economy is perceived as a strength for the Coalition. The 15-point gap is narrower than any Turnbull lead over Shorten on this question in the six times it was polled while Turnbull was PM.

33% thought the government should prioritise increased funding of government services, 30% paying down government debt and 27% cuts to personal income tax.

The Westpac February consumer confidence rebounded to 103.8, up from 99.6 in January – the first month since late 2017 the index had fallen below 100. While Australian economic data for December has been weak, stocks have continued to rise.

NSW Essential: 51-49 to Labor

The New South Wales election will be held on March 23. An Essential poll, conducted February 6-11 from a small sample of 544, gave Labor a 51-49 lead. Primary votes were 39% Coalition, 36% Labor, 9% Greens and 8% One Nation. Premier Gladys Berejiklian had a 35% positive rating, 25% negative. Opposition Leader Michael Daley had a 27% positive rating, 20% negative.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.

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Labor’s lead cut to 51-49% in latest Ipsos poll


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

The government has substantially narrowed the two-party gap in the
Ipsos poll – it now trails Labor by just 49-51%, compared with 46-54% in December.

The poll, reported in the Australian Financial Review and other Nine newspapers, was taken between Wednesday and Friday, with the debate about the legislation to facilitate medical transfers running hot.

The result will be a major fillip to government MPs, who are hoping the revival of the boats issue will swing public opinion in the Coalition’s direction. It will reinforce the concerns in Labor about the political risk brought by supporting the bill.

In the poll, Labor’s primary vote was 33%, down 4 points; the
Coalition was on 38%, up 2 points. The Greens were unchanged on 13%. Scott Morrison leads Bill Shorten at 48-38 as preferred prime minister.

Meanwhile security staff have arrived at Christmas Island detention centre following Morrison’s announcement that it would be reopened in the wake of the legislation’s passage.

A video has also been released in which Morrison warns asylum seekers not to try to get on boats. It will be translated into multiple languages and used in the region.

Morrison at the weekend stressed the reopening of Christmas Island was on the advice of the Department of Home Affairs. “That will cost us, in the next couple of years, we estimate, half a billion dollars and $1.4 billion over the next four years.




Read more:
Morrison may reopen the Christmas Island detention centre


“Now, I can’t describe to you the fury that is within me that I have to now go spend money on opening a centre that I didn’t need to open a week ago, when the farmers and communities of North Queensland are crying out for our support”, Morrison said.

Officials will face questions at Senate estimates on Monday about the implications of the legislation.

Also under scrutiny will be Home Affairs’ decision-making in relation to the $423 million contract awarded to Paladin for security for refugees and asylum seekers at Lorengau in Papua New Guinea. Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has said he had “no sight’ of the process.

The Australian Financial Review, which broke the story of a limited tender, has reported that Paladin was “thinly capitalised … with little experience and a poor reputation”.

The issue of a royal commission on the abuse of the disabled will also be to the forefront early this week.

The government won’t obstruct a Senate motion supporting a royal commission when it comes to the House on Monday but has left open how it will respond to it – although it appears to be moving towards an inquiry.

Morrison said on Sunday: “The government will do the proper work of consultation, liaising with the states and territories as appropriate, liaising with those advocates in the disability sector by working with those who work in that sector and rely on services in that, to ensure that we get the right way forward as to how we can address the issues that will support people with disability.

“I will do [that work] in a bipartisan way just as I have on the other royal commissions … and ensure that people with disability can get the support they need”.

After its defeat on the Medevac bill last week – and its filibuster on Thursday when it feared Labor had an ambush in preparation – the government is anxious at all costs to avoid another defeat in the House, where it is in a minority.




Read more:
Morrison government defeated on medical bill, despite constitution play


Manager of opposition business Tony Burke said on Sunday: “There are at least three issues returning to the House of Representatives on Monday: a royal commission into violence, abuse and neglect of people with a disability, small business access to justice measures, and stronger penalties for corporate misconduct.

“Last Thursday, the government was opposed to all three. Four days
later, the government is preparing to backflip on all three.

“Labor would welcome each of these policy reversals. But … the
government isn’t changing its mind because it’s listened to the
arguments. These backflips are from a Prime Minister who will say and do anything to stay in office, even if that means clinging to power by his fingernails,” Burke 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.

Grattan on Friday: What does “reopening” Christmas Island actually mean and why do it?


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

The Morrison government, politically-speaking, is trying to do a
loaves-and-fishes exercise with the medevac legislation, over which the parliament defied the executive this week.

It is attempting to inflate Labor’s support for a modest measure to facilitate medical transfers from Manus and Nauru into a mini “Tampa” crisis.

Will this succeed? The short answer is surely “no”; the longer one is that this issue could take a deal of skin off Labor. The point is no one is yet sure how it will play out – both sides are operating on gut feelings until the polls and focus groups speak.

The Liberals think anything to do with “boats” is lethal for Labor; the ALP believes community attitudes have changed but is very apprehensive about how the debate would go if boats showed up.

No question, this is rocky for Bill Shorten. The government attack is ferocious, full of exaggeration and scaremongering.

But the Coalition’s tactics are also risky in a policy sense. Scott Morrison is running two lines. He claims that by supporting the medevac legislation Shorten has undermined offshore processing – sending a signal the borders are porous.

He goes on to say that the government, and he in particular, are ready to protect Australia against the danger of a new wave. Whatever the intelligence advisers want done will be done. The borders will stay strong.

Morrison rejects the argument that the detail of the legislation
limits the incentive to people smugglers, insisting they don’t bother with “nuance”.

Indeed. So which un-nuanced Morrison message will the smugglers hear? That the policy has been trashed – or that the borders are being fortified?

There is also the danger, which some critics have highlighted, that in its rhetoric about numerous alleged criminals on Nauru and Manus, the government could make the US more reluctant to take people (it has only accepted 456 so far – the deal was up to 1,250).




Read more:
Explainer: how will the ‘medevac’ bill actually affect ill asylum seekers?


What the government is actually doing is hard to pin down. Take the reopening of the Christmas Island detention facility – or to be more precise “a series of compounds” there – which attracted big headlines, and attention overseas.

What does “reopening” mean? Going in with the vacuum cleaners and the mops so that the centre could function if required? Or setting up some of it immediately on a serious day-to-day operating basis?

And how convincing is the rationale for this reopening, which Morrison described as for dealing “with the prospect of transfers”?

The government says that with the closing of many detention centres, space is somewhat tight. But if people are transferred because they are sick, Christmas Island is hardly the best place for access to medical practitioners.

Maybe some people currently in detention elsewhere would be moved to Christmas Island to make room for newcomers. But wouldn’t it be a lot cheaper and easier – if less dramatic and headline-grabbing – just to lease some more accommodation near currently-operating facilities?

Anyway, while some of the transferees would be kept in detention,
what’s happened previously suggests a lot could be let into the
community.

It’s true that the advice from the Home Affairs department envisaged a scenario “likely necessitating the stand-up of the Christmas Island facility”, but it had the flavour of a worst-case one. (With an election and the prospect of a change of government raising questions about the future of Home Affairs secretary Mike Pezzullo, one wonders what he thinks about the department’s advice being used publicly by the government as a battering ram against Labor.)

If the government really intends to “reopen” Christmas Island in any major way, it could find itself spending a lot of money there on few if any people. If it is a faux reopening, it’s just a bit of spin that should be called out.




Read more:
A refugee law expert on a week of ‘reckless’ rhetoric and a new way to process asylum seeker claims


The medevac bill was passed despite the best efforts of the minority government to stop it, including a Senate filibuster on the final sitting day of last year, to delay the bill reaching the lower house then.

On Thursday a rather panicked government did a rerun of that December day.

This time, the Senate had passed a motion – opposed by the Coalition – calling for a royal commission “into violence, abuse and neglect of people with disability.” Labor, expecting the motion to reach the House on Thursday afternoon, prepared to push it through with crossbench support.

The government says it knew the message from the Senate hadn’t arrived as question time was nearing its normal end. But it was spooked by the opposition’s tactics, and fearful of what Labor might be up to. So it just kept question time running for some 150 minutes, a record.

Earlier in the day, it had to pull its legislation for applying a “big stick” to errant energy companies, because the House appeared set to amend it to prevent the government underwriting coal projects.

The government says it will take the “big stick” plan to the election. But its inability to have it bedded down before then is another failure in a long line in the energy area.

The vote on the disability motion will happen on Monday and the
Coalition will not oppose it – despite its stand in the Senate. The government says it will then consider what action it should take.

Abuse of disabled people is surely as important an issue as the
ill-treatment of the elderly. With the public increasingly demanding the facts and culprits be revealed where there is evidence of misconduct, a royal commission in parallel with the aged care one would have merit, in both policy and political terms.

The parliamentary week has been rugged for both sides – the government hasn’t been in control of the House but Labor hasn’t been in control of the debate, which it wanted to be all about banks not boats.

Then again, nothing could match One Nation’s tribulation, with its
leader Pauline Hanson accused of sexual harassment by a bitter
ex-colleague, senator Brian Burston, and her right-hand man, James
Ashby, publicly scuffling with her accuser. This is a party beyond
embarrassment.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.

The government was defeated on the ‘medevac’ bill, but that does not mean the end of the government



File 20190212 174851 1azgk58.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Cross-benchers Kerryn Phelps, Julia Banks and Rebekah Sharkie celebrate the passing of the Medevac bill.
AAP/Lukas Coch

Anne Twomey, University of Sydney

The Morrison government has been defeated in the House of Representatives by the passage of a government bill containing amendments made against its wishes that allow for the medical evacuation of asylum-seekers from Manus Island and Nauru.

At the last minute, the Speaker tabled, against the wishes of the government, advice from the Solicitor-General raising a constitutional problem with the Senate amendments. In short, those amendments provided for an “independent health advice panel”, of which six members would have to be paid. Their remuneration would come automatically under an existing appropriation in the Remuneration Tribunal Act 1973 for the payment of persons who hold public offices. The effect of the amendments in the bill would therefore have increased the amount payable under that existing appropriation.

This is important, because section 53 of the Constitution says that the “Senate may not amend any proposed law so as to increase any proposed charge or burden on the people”. The argument was that even though the Senate amendments to the bill did not contain an appropriation, they would increase a burden on the people by increasing the amount automatically appropriated under the Remuneration Tribunal Act.




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Whether this is enough to trigger section 53 is a matter of dispute between the houses. Understandably, the House of Representatives has long considered that Senate amendments of that kind do breach section 53, while the Senate takes a different view.

The issue cannot be decided by a court, because the courts have held that section 53 is an internal matter for the houses, and not one to be determined judicially. This was made clear in the recent case on the same-sex marriage postal survey. So even if the houses chose to ignore section 53 and pass a bill that breached its terms, and the validity of the law was challenged, a court would not find it to be invalid.

The consequence was that this was a battlefield for the two houses. In the absence of any judicial precedents, all we have to guide us is parliamentary practice and the competing views of parliamentary committees. These do not provide clear answers. While the houses are under a moral and political obligation to obey the Constitution, this is difficult when the Constitution itself is unclear and its interpretation is disputed.

The government’s action in seeking to declare the bill to be a money bill also raised the political stakes. In order to govern, a government must retain control over government finance. Defeat on a money bill in the House of Representatives is regarded as a loss of confidence, which by convention requires the government to resign or seek an election. For example, the Fadden Government resigned in 1941 when its budget was reduced by the nominal sum of £1. So if the bill was treated as a money bill by the government, its passage against the wishes of the government would have raised a serious issue of whether it could continue governing.

However, the Labor Party moved an amendment to remove any right to payment of officers of the panel. This should mean that it is not a money bill, with the consequence that the constitutional issues about s53 should go away (although there would still be a precedent of the House of Representatives dealing with the Senate amendments, rather than rejecting their validity outright).

The bill still has to pass the Senate. If it does so, it will then be presented to the governor-general for royal assent. I have previously discussed why it would not be wise for the government to advise the governor-general to refuse royal assent. Assuming that royal assent is given, then the medevac amendments will take effect the day after the bill receives royal assent.




Read more:
Why a government would be mad to advise the refusal of royal assent to a bill passed against its will


Can the Morrison government continue to govern after its defeat on this bill? Yes. As the bill is no longer a money bill and is not one that the government has declared to be a matter of confidence, the government can continue to govern.

If the House of Representatives has truly lost confidence in the government, it can always move a vote of no confidence to make this clear. Unless that happens, the Morrison government can continue governing until the election is held.The Conversation

Anne Twomey, Professor of Constitutional Law, University of Sydney

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

View from the Hill: Shorten’s victory will bring dangerous counter strikes from a desperate government


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

An extraordinary amount of hype and some confected hysteria preceded Tuesday’s vote on the medical transfer legislation.

The government threw everything at trying to avoid a defeat. In a last stand, it fell back on a constitutional argument – backed by
Solicitor-General advice – that carried no practical weight and was simply circumvented by the majority that passed the bill in the House of Representatives.




Read more:
Crossbenchers must decide between something or nothing on medical transfers bill


While the government frantically attempted to thwart Labor and the crossbench, Scott Morrison also ran the line that he wasn’t that fussed. Afterwards he told a news conference: “Votes will come and votes will go, they do not trouble me.” That claim wouldn’t pass a fact check.

This was a big vote, and everyone knew it. Morrison operates a
minority government and Tuesday’s loss underscored that he can’t
automatically get his way. (Ironically, in the last days of Turnbull’s majority government, the threat of losing a House vote came from internal dissidents.)




Read more:
The government was defeated on the ‘medevac’ bill, but that does not mean the end of the government


The next test for Morrison will be on whether the House agrees to
extra sitting days to discuss the measures from the banking royal
commission. For procedural reasons, this needs 76 votes, one more than the 75 required on the medical transfer bill. The government has been leaning heavily on Bob Katter, the crossbencher who will be the key.

While the government looked rattled as the votes on the medical
transfer bill proceeded, Labor was calm and steely.

For all the talk about Labor’s misjudgement on the issue, this week it has moved cautiously and methodically.

Originally pushed by the crossbench into taking a stand on
humanitarian grounds – the bill is based on a proposal from
independent Kerryn Phelps – Labor has sought to display compassion but contain the political risk.

Bill Shorten, knowing the danger, decided the version of the bill
coming from the Senate (which Labor had supported there) left the ALP too exposed. He flagged last week he’d like a “middle” course.

So the opposition came up with amendments to give the minister wider discretion and more time in making decisions, and to limit the application of the legislation to those on Nauru and Manus now. The latter change was to minimise the “pull” factor – the extent to which the new arrangement would encourage the people smugglers.

Then it was a matter of persuading the required six crossbenchers.
They accepted in the negotiations that a modified bill was better than nothing (though there was some Greens cavilling).

In the House, the ALP troops were kept carefully in check; the emotion was turned down; the speeches from the bill’s supporters were few and brief. Labor just wanted one thing in the chamber – a win. This wasn’t the time to grandstand.

The government, wounded and worried, is seeing this as one (albeit
major) battle in the long war to the election. Its spruikers will say that in defeat it has had a victory – that Labor has given the
Coalition ammunition for the campaign.

It’s true the bill has breathed new life into the border security
debate, but whether this will be enough to do Labor serious harm is an open question. `

The ALP is always vulnerable on boats. On the other hand, boats are lower in voters’ minds than they used to be.

The government will turn up the dial by announcing “contingency plans” against fresh arrivals. Morrison, having accused Shorten of
undermining offshore processing, is already moving on to the claim that he couldn’t be trusted to be strong on turnbacks.

Goodness knows how the politics would play out if a boat appeared on the horizon in the next few weeks. You can be sure, however, that the government would be quick to tell us about it, and point the finger at Shorten.

In all this, the bill itself (which has to go back to the Senate for a tick off on the amendments) should be kept in perspective.

The minister has a veto on “security” grounds, including being able to exclude anyone who has committed a major crime. The composition of the medical panel which would have the final say on other transfers is broad and balanced.

Probably, over a period, there would be a lot of transfers out of the 1000 people offshore. But there have already been nearly 900 (some after legal action). These transfers have amounted to a backdoor route into Australia.

If the legislation in the longer term opens that door a little wider, it will also be a way of “settling” people in Australia without acknowledging that is being done.

More of the same? Or a radical change? It depends how you look at it.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 may reopen the Christmas Island detention centre


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Scott Morrison has foreshadowed the re-opening of the Christmas Island detention facility, announcing his government would be stepping up border security after the medical transfer bill passed the Senate on Wednesday.

The legislation was carried 36-34, with the support of Labor, Greens, Centre Alliance, Tim Storer, and Derryn Hinch – who delayed revealing his position until after he was briefed on security issues.

Morrison told a news conference cabinet’s national security committee had met early Wednesday to discuss the contingency planning already in train in anticipation of the bill’s passage.

“A range of strengthenings” had been put in place in the border operations.

He hinted at an advertising campaign in Indonesia and elsewhere.

“I’ll be engaging in direct messaging as part of Operation Sovereign Borders with people smugglers and with those who might be thinking of getting on boats,” he said.

“I’m going to be engaged in very clear and direct messaging to anyone who thinks they should get on a boat, I’m here. And I will stop you.”

He would be sending the very clear message “that my government is in control of the borders. As long as my government is here you can expect strong border protection and resolve to be in place.

“Under a Labor government you can expect them to see fold like a pack of cards, like Bill Shorten did yesterday”.

Morrison stressed all the government’s actions and decisions were
implementing the recommendations of the security agencies and
officials presented to the cabinet committee on Wednesday morning.

Declining to go into detail about the measures he said: “This
parliament has already tipped its hand enough to the people
smugglers”.

He said the government had approved “putting in place the reopening of the Christmas Island detention facilities, both to deal with the prospect of arrivals as well as dealing with the prospect of transfers”.

The government at the weekend released a costing of reopening
Christmas Island at more than $1 billion over several years.

People transferred from Nauru and Manus for medical care can be kept in detention or released into the community.

Labor Senate leader Penny Wong told the Senate the government was telling lies about the bill.

“They are doing it because they are desperate. They are desperate.
They are led by a desperate prime minister, who is leading a bitterly divided government. He is clearly only concerned about one thing: clinging on to his job, she said.

“Rather than running these lies, why don’t you just call an election?”

Hinch said he had been swayed by the amendment specifying the
legislation would apply only to the present cohort on Manus and Nauru.

“It is not an encouragement, I believe, to people smugglers who are despicable and should be despised, because it will only apply to people who are there.”The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

Morrison government defeated on medical bill, despite constitution play


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

The government has suffered a historic defeat in the House of Representatives, with Labor and crossbenchers passing the legislation facilitating medical transfers from Manus and Nauru by 75-74.

This came after a dramatic last-minute government ploy to try to head off the bill by declaring it was unconstitutional and so should not be considered by the House.

But Labor and the crossbench pressed on, with six of the seven crossbenchers backing the ALP amendment to the bill that had come from the Senate.

They were Kerryn Phelps, on whose proposal the legislation is based, Andrew Wilkie, Cathy McGowan, Rebekha Sharkie, Julia Banks and the Greens Adam Bandt. The other crossbencher Bob Katter voted with the government.

The last times governments were defeated on major substantive votes were the Fadden government in 1941 (on a budget vote) and the Bruce government on legislation in 1929.

Before the bill was considered Speaker Tony Smith tabled correspondence from Attorney-General Christian Porter saying the bill, passed by the Senate last year, contravened the constitution’s Section 53.

This provides that the Senate “may not amend any proposed law so as to increase any proposed charge or burden on the people”.

The Solicitor-General, Stephen Donaghue, said in an opinion that the bill breached Section 53 because the medical panel it would set up would be paid.

But the opinion also said it was “ultimately for the House of Representatives to decide whether it considers the Senate amendments to be consistent” with Section 53, and the matter was not justiciable.

In his letter to Smith, Porter asked the Speaker to keep the Solicitor-General’s opinion confidential but Smith said the House should have it and tabled it with Porter’s letter.

The vote culminated a day of drama as Labor negotiated its amendments to the bill as passed by the Senate with its support.




Read more:
Why a government would be mad to advise the refusal of royal assent to a bill passed against its will


These widen the grounds on which a minister could refuse a transfer to cover those with a substantial criminal record, allow the minister up to 72 hours (instead of 24) for making a decision on transfers, and confine the application of the legislation to the present cohort of refugees and asylum seekers.

Labor moved to circumvent the Section 53 issue by adding a further amendment providing that members of the medical panel not be paid.

Leader of the House Christopher Pyne declared Labor and the crossbenchers “don’t care about the Australian constitution”.
“The English fought a civil war over this matter,” he said.

Bill Shorten said: “This bill and our amendments are about Australia’s character.
It’s about how we treat sick people in our care.”




Read more:
View from the Hill: Shorten’s victory will bring dangerous counter strikes from a desperate government


Scott Morrison said Labor was “failing the test of mettle … failing the test of duty to the Australian people. This is now on your head, Leader of the Opposition.”

The final vote came after the government lost procedural votes by the same margin.

The bill has to go back to the Senate to approve the amendments passed in the House.

Morrison told a Tuesday night news conference that the vote had not been unexpected and the government had already been working on contingency plans.

He would have “more announcements to make about the actions and decisions the government will be taking to address now the risk and the threat that Labor and Bill Shorten have created”.

He indicated the government would not frustrate the bill getting royal assent once it passed the Senate. Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton told the ABC the government would abide by the law.

Morrison dismissed any suggestion that the defeat amounted to a no confidence motion in the government, referring back to what Phelps had said. Phelps has consistently emphasised the bill should not be viewed as a confidence matter.

The Prime Minister also played down the historic nature of the defeat, pointing to the Labor government losing a vote on superannuation in 2013.

The government will use the Labor success to ramp up its attack on the opposition. In the run up to the vote Morrison has turned up the rhetoric, accusing Labor of undermining offshore processing.

At his press conference Morrison said that Shorten would also be weak on turning back boats. Shorten “can’t be trusted to do that either,” he 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.

Poll wrap: Labor maintains Newspoll lead but Morrison’s ratings up, and Abbott behind in Warringah


File 20190211 174890 j1yv7p.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
While Scott Morrison remains preferred PM, Labor maintains an election-winning two-party preferred lead in the latest Newspoll.
AAP/Ellen Smith

Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

This week’s Newspoll, conducted February 7-10 from a sample of 1,570, gave Labor a 53-47 lead, unchanged from last fortnight. Primary votes were 39% Labor (up one), 37% Coalition (steady), 9% Greens (steady) and 5% One Nation (down one) – One Nation’s lowest Newspoll vote since February 2018.

43% were satisfied with Scott Morrison (up three), and 45% were dissatisfied (down two), for a net approval of -2, up five points. Bill Shorten’s net approval was down two points to -15. Morrison led Shorten by 44-35 as better PM (43-36 last fortnight).

There has been much debate in the last fortnight about Labor’s proposal to abolish franking credit cash refunds. Voters were opposed by 44-35, but this is down from 48-30 opposition in December. Opposition was strongest among those aged over 65 (59-28 opposed).




Read more:
Words that matter. What’s a franking credit? What’s dividend imputation? And what’s ‘retiree tax’?


Voters supported reducing investor tax breaks, such as negative gearing and capital gains tax deductions, by a 51-32 margin (47-33 in November).

It has been over five months since Morrison replaced Malcolm Turnbull as PM in late August 2018. In nine Newspolls, his net approval has been in the single digits, positive or negative.

The last three Newspolls of 2018 were all 55-45 to Labor, while the first two of 2019 have been 53-47. I believe the Coalition has been assisted by Morrison’s relative popularity and a greater distance from the events of last August.

In Turnbull’s last four Newspolls as PM, the Coalition trailed by just 51-49, but Turnbull’s ratings were weaker than Morrison’s, with a peak net approval of -6. However, Turnbull’s ratings would have been better if not for the hard right’s hatred of him; it is plausible that 10% of the electorate disliked him from the right. Morrison has no problem with his right flank.

The Coalition is perceived as too close to big business (see Essential below), and Greg Jericho wrote in The Guardian that the latest data are not good for the Australian economy. A key question is whether Morrison’s ratings eventually fall due to the unpopularity of most Coalition policies. Economic credibility is likely to be important if the economy slows.

Essential poll: 52-48 to Labor

Last week’s Essential poll, conducted January 23-31 from a sample of 1,650, gave Labor a 52-48 lead, a one-point gain for the Coalition since Essential’s mid-January poll. Primary votes were 38% Coalition (steady), 36% Labor (down two), 10% Greens (steady) and 7% One Nation (steady).

The fieldwork period and the sample size were both larger than usual for Essential – normally Essential is conducted over four days with a sample a bit over 1,000.

By 47-41, voters agreed that one of the reasons why there are relatively few female MPs is that women choose not to get involved with politics. By 46-39, they disagreed with the proposition that voters preferred to elect men, rather than women. By 72-20, they disagreed with women being less capable politicians. Gender quotas were supported 46-40, but Coalition voters were opposed 50-37.

37% supported a separate national day to recognise Indigenous Australians alongside Australia Day, 15% thought Australia Day should be replaced, and 40% did not support a separate day.

At least 50% thought that private health insurance companies, big banks, mining companies and big business wanted the Coalition to win the next election. Labor had a lead on this question with pensioners and people with a disability, and at least 50% with families with young children and the unemployed.

Seat polls of Warringah, Stirling and Pearce

A ReachTEL poll of the NSW seat of Warringah for GetUp, from a sample of 622, gave independent Zali Steggall a 54-46 lead over incumbent Tony Abbott. Primary votes and fieldwork dates were not included in the media report. In 2016, Abbott won Warringah by 61.6-38.4 against the Greens, and 61.1-38.9 against Labor.

60% thought Abbott’s performance as a local member poor, and 60% said they were more likely to vote for a candidate who would tackle climate change – 78% among those who had defected from Abbott.

A Labor internal poll of the WA seat of Stirling, conducted after Michael Keenan announced his retirement from a sample of 950, gave Labor a 1.5% lead after preferences. In 2016, Keenan won Stirling by a 6.1% margin. Labor and the Liberals were tied at 36% each on primary votes with 6.8% undecided.

A GetUp ReachTEL poll of the WA seat of Pearce, conducted January 16 from a sample of 674, gave the Liberals a 52-48 lead over Labor (53.6-46.4 at the 2016 election).

Seat polls are very unreliable, but Stirling and Warringah are inner metropolitan seats, while Pearce is outer metropolitan. I believe the Coalition will struggle most in better-educated inner metropolitan seats.

The three seat polls were commissioned by left-aligned groups. However, ReachTEL asks for voting intentions first. Media-commissioned polls are superior to polls from political interest groups, but seat polls are unreliable in any case.

SA byelections and NSW pill testing Newspoll

Byelections occurred on Saturday in the South Australian state seats of Cheltenham and Enfield, following the resignations of Labor’s Jay Weatherill and John Rau respectively. Labor retained both seats easily, with primary vote swings to Labor of 6.6% in both Cheltenham and Enfield since the March 2018 election. The Liberals did not contest either seat.

In an additional question conducted with last fortnight’s NSW Newspoll that had a 50-50 tie, voters were in favour of the NSW government providing a pill testing service at music festivals by a 56-35 margin. Over 70% of Labor and Greens voters supported pill testing, while Coalition voters were narrowly opposed 49-45.




Read more:
Poll wrap: Coalition gains in first Newspoll of 2019, but big swings to Labor in Victorian seats; NSW is tied


US government shutdown aftermath

On January 25, the US government shutdown ended when President Donald Trump accepted a bill that would reopen the government until February 15 without funding for the southern border wall he had demanded. The 35-day shutdown was the longest, beating the previous record of 21 days from 1995-96. Trump has suggested declaring a national emergency if Congress cannot agree to fund the wall by February 15.

In the FiveThirtyEight poll aggregate, Trump’s ratings fell to 39.3% approve, 56.0% disapprove on January 26. Since then, his ratings have recovered to 40.2% approve, 55.1% disapprove. However, Trump’s ratings among Republicans are well over 80% approve.




Read more:
Record US government shutdown harms Trump’s ratings, plus Brexit chaos and Australian Essential poll


A second shutdown could occur after talks between Democratic and Republican members of Congress broke down. To avert a shutdown, new funding must be passed by Friday (Saturday Melbourne time).

Given strong opposition to Trump in the polls, he needs the US economy to stay strong to have a reasonable chance of re-election in 2020. Despite the January shutdown, the economy added 304,000 jobs in that month.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.

Labor leads 53-47% in Newspoll as Shorten struggles with medical transfer bill


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

The government goes into the resumption of parliament this week
trailing Labor 47-53% on the two-party vote in Newspoll, unchanged
from a fortnight ago.

The poll comes as Labor’s stand on the legislation to facilitate
medical evacuations hangs in the balance, with Bill Shorten having
indicated he would like to find a compromise and speculation about a Labor retreat from its earlier support.

Shorten receives a briefing on the implications of the bill from the secretary of the Home Affairs Department, Mike Pezzullo on Monday. Shadow cabinet and caucus will discuss Labor’s position.

The opposition has been under concerted attack from the government
over its backing for the legislation, which passed the Senate last
year with ALP support.

Shorten is worried about Labor being wedged, because border protection is always a politically vulnerable area for the ALP.

Scott Morrison says the government will not shift from outright
opposition to the bill, which is based on a proposal originally coming from independent Kerryn Phelps but subsequently refined.

Newspoll, published in The Australian, has Labor’s primary vote up a point to 39%; the Coalition’s vote remains on 37%. The Greens are on 9%; One Nation is polling 5%, down a point.

Morrison has increased his lead over Shorten as better prime minister by 2 points to 44-35%.

Morrison’s satisfaction rating is up 3 points to 43%; his
dissatisfaction rating has fallen 2 points to 45%. Shorten has a net approval rating of minus 15, a worsening by 2 points.

The tactical battle over the medical transfer amendments will dominate the run up to Tuesday’s first day of the sitting. On another front, the opposition is trying to muster the numbers for extra sitting days to consider measures from the banking royal commission.

In comments on the medical transfer bill Opposition spokesman Shayne Neumann said on Sunday: “Labor has always had two clear objectives – making sure sick people can get medical care, and making sure the minister has final discretion over medical transfers.”

The bill provides that where there a dispute between the two doctors recommending a transfer and the minister, the final say on medical grounds would be in the hands of a medical panel.

The minister could override medical decisions only on security grounds (“security” is as defined in the ASIO act).

Passage of the legislation, which would require support from Labor and all but one of the crossbench, would be a big rebuff for the
Coalition.

But the government has managed to turn the heat onto Labor, claiming the legislation would undermine Australia’s border protection.

The briefing Shorten will receive will put more pressure on the
opposition, because Home Affairs will presumably reinforce the
argument it advanced in advice to the government.

The government has now declassified this advice – which last week it provided more informally to The Australian.

The advice, which has some sections blacked out, says: “The
effect of the Bill will undermine the Australian Government’s regional processing arrangements.

“Conduct which would come within the security exception to transfer
based on the minister’s reasonable belief that the transfer would be prejudicial to security, does not include all criminal conduct”.

“Ultimately, the amendments provide that the approximate 1000
transferees currently located in Papua New Guinea (PNG) and Nauru
could have access to a transfer to Australia within weeks of any Royal Assent,” the advice says.

“It is not expected that the Minister’s ability to refuse transfer on security grounds will significantly reduce the number of potential transfers”.

Neumann said on Sunday: “Labor has great respect for our national
security agencies and we’ve always worked cooperatively with them.”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.

Could Tony Abbott lose to an independent? If the zeitgeist is any guide, he’s on thin ice


Mark Kenny, Australian National University

Strangely enough, there’s a link between “Kevin07” as an electoral phenomenon and the recent successes of independents such as Kerryn Phelps (Wentworth), Cathy McGowan (Indi), and Rebekha Sharkie (Mayo). All three now hold once safe Coalition seats.

And the link is one that may prove influential in 2019, particularly for Zali Steggall, who is challenging Tony Abbott in Warringah.

As in the case of Kevin07, the formerly Coalition-friendly independents, which is also how Steggall positions herself, found a way of giving life-long centre-right voters permission to break ranks without feeling like they were being disloyal.

The aim is to present as essentially similar to the incumbent conservative, but better. Modernised. Updated.

The implicit message to voters was that it was their party that had left them, not the other way around.

Such a sentiment may be ripe for expression in Warringah which, while economically conservative, has emerged as demonstrably more progressive than its long-time MP, Abbott. The blue-ribbon jewel was among the most pro-equality electorates in the country in the 2017 postal survey.

Beaten only by Wentworth, the two inner-Sydney electorates were the leading Liberal-held “yes” seats in NSW.

And it is to these voters that new and fresh quasi-independent candidates like Steggall seek to speak – voters whose Liberal loyalties have been tested by Abbott’s blunt antipathy for social reform and particularly his denial of tough Australian action against global warming.




Read more:
Liberals trounced in huge Wentworth swing, bringing a hung parliament


Labor’s unusual ‘07 campaign

The trick is to be close, but not the same, and it has a record of working in conservative-minded electorates.

Underpinning Kevin Rudd’s defeat of John Howard in 2007 was a carefully calibrated reassurance that Howard’s Australia – in which political correctness had been demonised and social reform moved at a glacial pace – would continue even with a change to a Labor government.

Labor’s plan was to strip the election of the usual contrast between parties, reducing the choice before voters to John Howard or a kind of John Howard 2.0.

In a number of ways, Rudd presented as a prime ministerial simulacrum, updated but only where required to: prioritise “working families”, take faster action on climate change, and offer an exciting public investment bridge to the digital future (the NBN).

So successful was this unusual proposition, it tended to minimise other policy differences between the parties and neutralise the usual fear of change itself among cautious voters.

From a marketing perspective, it was daring given Rudd was in fact the leader of the opposing Labor Party.




Read more:
Democracy is dead, long live political marketing


Crucially, it sought simultaneously to share in the government’s credit for economic stewardship – moderate inflation, strong employment, and a healthy budget surplus again – while outflanking Howard on his right.

Of course there was more to the 2007 changeover than mere campaigning, not least being Howard’s odious industrial relations laws (WorkChoices), an inconvenient mid-campaign cash rate hike (to 6.75%), and simple fatigue after a dozen years of Coalition rule.

Even so, there’s no denying that with his lay-preacher persona, non-union background, and claim to be fiscally conservative, Rudd deftly positioned himself as the safe choice for those voters considering change but still concerned with budget discipline and creeping permissiveness.

Similar to Labor’s 2007 strategy, Phelps, McGowan and Sharkie have offered the tribally conservative voter a reduced-risk alternative to the status quo. Or, as some have coined it, “continuity through change”.




Read more:
Politics Podcast: Cathy McGowan and Rebekha Sharkie on the role of community candidates


But there are also key differences. While Rudd promised measured economic modernisation in a socially-conservative manifesto – opposing same-sex marriage, for example – the new breed of once-were-Liberals flip that around.

They tend to emphasise the low tax, pro-business instincts of conservatives, but are more left-leaning on social policy and the environment. This turns out to reflect much of the electorate also – including many Liberal voters.

Can Steggall do the same in Warringah?

It’s a formula with a particular piquancy now given 2019 marks ten years since Tony Abbott rolled Malcolm Turnbull for the Liberal leadership over emissions trading.

An acrimonious decade on, and with no government climate or energy policy to speak of, voters’ patience has been strained to breaking point. The endless point-scoring and division has nudged moderately inclined Liberals within the grasp of new independents.

Fittingly, these events are coming to a head most threateningly for the government in Abbott’s own stronghold of Warringah.

Abbott’s vulnerability turns on three things: the standing of the Morrison government come polling day (which may or may not have improved), the campaign prowess of the Steggall operation (unknown), and the extent of declining loyalty by once solid supporters in his electorate. All are in flux.

Steggall’s threshold objective must be to drive Abbott’s primary vote south of 45%. That will not be easy. In 2016, his primary vote tanked by some 9% but he still managed to hold the seat without need for second preferences at 51.65%.

Still, if the zeitgeist is any guide, Steggall’s presentation as “the Liberal for the future against the Liberal for the past” will be appealing to those voters peeved at Abbott’s undermining of Turnbull and specifically the right-wing insurgency against the government’s National Energy Guarantee.

It could also resonate strongly with Liberal backers who were appalled at Abbott’s starring, if roundly ineffective, campaign against marriage equality.

Despite its unwavering support for Abbott through nine elections, Warringah voted “yes” to legalising same-sex marriage at the rate of 75% compared to the national rate of 62%. It even exceeded support in the most progressive jurisdiction – the ACT.

Steggall’s backers believe Abbott’s famous resistance to a reform his constituents found uncontroversial will prove it is his failure to move with the times that will force them to move their votes.The Conversation

Mark Kenny, Senior Fellow, Australian Studies Institute, Australian National University

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