View from The Hill: Barilaro keeps Nationals in the tent; koalas stay in limbo


Dean Lewins/AAP

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Several premiers presently find themselves at war with the federal government. NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian, by contrast, suddenly found herself locked in battle with her deputy premier, John Barilaro, and his bolshie band of Nationals.

The junior partner in the NSW coalition chose this week to pull on a stoush over a new regime the state government launched months ago to protect koalas, which have been devastated and displaced by fires and drought.

That a row over koalas could shake the Berejiklian government to its core during a pandemic is startling, at the least. The Nationals justify this by saying they’d long been told their concerns would be considered, and they hadn’t been.

They insist they’re not anti-koala — they’d like to see the population doubled, they say — but claim the new regime is too burdensome, including by extending the definition of core koala habitat and increasing the number of koala tree species.




Read more:
The NSW koala wars showed one thing: the Nationals appear ill-equipped to help rural Australia


The Nationals are under pressure from farmers and, at a political level, from the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers party, which is always nipping at their heels.

Within the Nationals, pressure built with first one, then two, and several more MPs in revolt — and quickly the whole party. Efforts to get a special meeting to deal with the koala issue were unsuccessful – the premier had other things on her plate.

By Thursday, the Nationals had resolved that until the koala row was addressed they’d no longer attend joint party room or parliamentary leadership meetings and would abstain from voting on government bills. (They reserved the right to support bills and motions important to regional areas.)

“This effectively puts the entire party on the crossbench,” the party said in a statement.

Barilaro insisted the Nationals could take this stand while their ministers remained in cabinet.

This would have made them sort of “virtual” crossbenchers – a very strange notion indeed under the Westminster system.

A frustrated Berejiklian issued an ultimatum. “It is not possible to be the deputy premier or a minister of the Crown and sit on the crossbench,” she said in a statement.

She said she’d told Barilaro that he and his Nationals cabinet colleagues had until 9am Friday “to indicate to me whether they wish to remain in my Cabinet or else sit on the crossbench”.

By Friday morning, Barilaro had stepped his party back from the brink. After a meeting with Berejiklian, the two leaders said in the briefest of statements the coalition remained “in place”, as did “cabinet conventions and processes”.




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Meanwhile, koalas were to be dealt with at a coming cabinet meeting. The extraordinary upheaval may be over for now, but it leaves scars, questions, uncertainty and tension.

Most obviously, the substantive issue is still unresolved. If the Nationals don’t get their way on changes to the koala regime, there could easily be another explosion. If they do, many Liberals will be angry.

The Nationals’ constituency will be behind the party’s stand. But for numerous Liberal supporters, compromise on as emotive an issue as koalas will be an electoral no-no.

This week’s events have again brought into question Barilaro’s judgement.

He was caught between the strong feelings within his party and the need to maintain the coalition. He laid himself open to criticism of firstly overreaching and then failing to carry through his threat.

This is against the background of his behaviour before the Eden-Monaro byelection, when he as good as said he would run for the seat and then said he wouldn’t.




Read more:
Eden-Monaro opens wounds in Nationals, with Barilaro attack on McCormack


Even some Nationals shake their heads, while the Liberals resent what Berejiklian has to put up with.

At one stage on Thursday, Barilaro asked his parliamentary party if they thought someone else would be better to lead them. The idea was dismissed. Nevertheless, the past few days have fanned doubts about his style of leadership.

Most serious in the immediate term, the trust between Berejiklian and Barilaro has been further eroded, after taking a knock from his conduct over Eden-Monaro. The NSW coalition remains intact, but no one can miss the crack that has been repaired by superglue. It is not as robust as it once was.

And Berejiklian has less patience with her volatile partner than she used to have.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 NSW koala wars showed one thing: the Nationals appear ill-equipped to help rural Australia



JoelCarrett/AAP

Tanya M Howard, University of New England

This morning, NSW Nationals leader John Barilaro capitulated on a threat to tear apart the state government over new koala protections. For now, the government remains intact. However the Nats’ campaign to loosen environmental protections that affect farmers will continue to destabilise the Coalition in the longer term.

The dramatic events of the past 24 hours have cast doubt on whether such a blustering, short-sighted political party has what it takes to lead rural Australia. The NSW Nationals have been entrusted with seven ministerial portfolios – from agriculture to trade and early childhood. But they were willing to throw it away over the fine print of a single planning policy.

There’s no doubt many people in the bush, including farmers, are doing it tough. And many farmers feel environmental protections are hurting their livelihood.

But it’s in everyone’s interests – including farmers’ – to ensure our environment stays healthy. And the extreme summer bushfires shone new light on how close we are to losing vulnerable species such as koalas. It’s hard to understand what the National Party thought it had to gain from this damaging display of brinkmanship.

A koala in a tree
The Nationals objected to changes to koala protections that curtail their land management.
Joel Carrett/AAP

A long history of tension

Nationals MPs had been demanding the government change a state environmental planning policy that aims to make it easier to identify and protect koala habitat. The policy changed the way koala habitat is identified by increasing the number of protected tree species from ten to 65.

Barilaro branded the change a “land lockup policy”. He described the number of protected tree species as “excessive” and said farmers would be forced to conduct time-consuming and expensive surveys before any new development or farming on their land.




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NSW Liberal Planning Minister Rob Stokes rejected Barilaro’s claims that farmers can’t build a feed shed or a driveway without a koala study, and that noxious weeds are listed as core koala habitat.

Development pressures on the NSW north coast have likely fuelled this latest stoush. There, a move to different, more lucrative crops such as blueberries and the demand by “sea-changers” for residential real estate is prompting agricultural land to be sub-divided and sold. The new koala rules might slow this down.

Murdered compliance officer Glen Turner.
Supplied by family

Land clearing policy has always been a flashpoint for conflict in regional and rural NSW. Tensions tragically came to a head in 2014 when environment compliance officer Glen Turner was murdered by a disgruntled landholder found guilty of breaking native vegetation laws. In the days afterwards, rural politicians said Turner’s death was “brought about by bad legislation” on land clearing.

Since then the NSW government has relaxed native vegetation laws. As a result, land clearing in the state has risen almost 60%, according to government data.

And in August last year the government announced it would no longer investigate or prosecute those who cleared land illegally under the old laws.

A chain used for land clearing is dragged over a pile of burning wood on a rural property.
Dan Peled/AAP

The city-bush divide

The issue of environmental protection plays into a historical city-country divide that has long been an easy wedge for rural politicians.

This tension came to the fore over the koalas issue. Clarence MP Chris Gulaptis said this week:

I was elected to Parliament to represent my community and I get really annoyed when city-centric people preach to us, especially when people in Sydney have done nothing for their koalas.

But it’s worth remembering northwest NSW has some of the highest land clearing rates in the world. It has been identified as a deforestation hotspot, on par with Brazil and the palm oil plantations of Indonesia.

And environmental degradation is not just a concern for city people. Biodiversity underpins our agricultural systems; insects, birds and soil microbes all contribute to food security and regional prosperity.

Separately and just as importantly, in all this talk of what regional communities want, the National Party is virtually silent on the views of Indigenous Australians.

A tractor plowing a field.
Biodiversity underpins farming systems.
Shutterstock

Farmers have bigger problems than koalas

Barilaro and his MPs suggested the amendment was the final “nail in the coffin” of rural and regional Australia. But the fact is, the rapidly dwindling NSW koala population already has one foot in the grave.

A recent NSW inquiry predicted the extinction of the species by 2050 unless protections and rehabilitation efforts were radically ramped up. And a World Wildlife Fund report this week found a 71% decline in koala numbers across bushfire-affected areas of northern NSW.

Koala protections are far from being the biggest threats to rural prosperity. Escalating tensions with China have led to recent bans on barley and beef. The rural community has been hit hard by the extreme drought, and there is growing discontent with the mismanagement of water in the Murray Darling Basin.




Read more:
Australia’s farmers want more climate action – and they’re starting in their own (huge) backyards


What’s more, recent expansion of gas exploration and development in the state’s northwest has left locals worried about water contamination and over-extraction.

There is no doubt life in regional and rural Australia is different to the life lived in the city. In some areas there are poor internet connections, worse roads and great distances to travel for basic health services.

But these problems, like land clearing, are complex. And it seems the NSW Nationals are ill-equipped to deal with these challenges. This week’s display suggests the party only deals in wedge politics and blunt solutions – and with that approach, we all stand to lose.The Conversation

Tanya M Howard, Senior Research Fellow, University of New England

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

NSW Coalition scrapes back in as minor parties surge – but delivering on promises will not be easy



File 20190324 36252 j4x2lh.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Having been returned to power, the Berejiklian now has to deliver on its big promises.
AAP/Lukas Coch

Andy Marks, Western Sydney University

“It’s not a game of SimCity,” NSW treasurer, Dominic Perrottet assured viewers on the ABC’s NSW election night coverage. “Sydney’s under construction”, he added, acknowledging the Coalition government’s unfinished infrastructure projects are causing grief, but noting, “I don’t sense any baseball bats”. He was right.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s Liberal-National government was returned to office on Saturday night, albeit on a slender margin. With the victory came some wreckage, and largely unexpected beneficiaries. This poll was predicted to be decided in the bush, and that’s where the movement occurred.




Read more:
Low-key NSW election likely to reveal a city-country divide


The Nationals lost the long held seats of Murray and Barwon on swings of around 27% and 21% respectively. And it was the Shooters, Farmers and Fishers that swept the field, capitalising on internal Nationals strife and pledging to act on the fish kill, water security and the drought.

The Shooters also consolidated the slender claim they had on Orange after the 2017 byelection, securing a 37% swing to make the central west firmly their own. A possible tempering of the Shooters vote in light of events in Christchurch didn’t eventuate, with victorious Orange candidate, Phil Donato, telling Channel Seven, “there wasn’t a real lot of talk about it”, adding, “it’s unfortunate it was politicised by the government.”

NSW Nationals leader John Barilaro remarked that his was “not a party of ideology” but a “party of geography”. He wasn’t wrong. While they incurred considerable drops in support in parts of the central, southern and outer west of the state, the Nationals actually attracted a swing of, on average, 5.6% across the seats of Clarence, Cootamundra, Monaro, Northern Tablelands and Oxley. Nevertheless, their Coalition partners were clearly concerned at the federal implications. Progressive Liberal Trent Zimmerman reserved particular scorn for Barnaby Joyce, arguing the NSW result confirmed, “he should spend more time in Tamworth and less time on TV”.

For the Nationals, under leader John Barilaro, the election result was a poor one.
AAP/Dan Himbrechts

Newly-minted independent, Joe McGirr, has made Wagga Wagga his own, retaining the seat he won from the Liberals at last year’s byelection and building his buffer to over 15%. Long-standing Lake Macquarie independent, Greg Piper has put the one-time Labor stronghold squarely out of reach, picking up a 12% swing in the process. Depending on the flow of votes in the lower house, there is talk Piper will be approached for the speakership.

Affirming this election’s broad trend away from the major parties, Alex Greenwich retained Sydney with a roughly 3% swing in his favour. While still in doubt, independent Mathew Dickerson is making a very close run affair of Dubbo, nudging the high profile Nationals’ candidate, Dugald Saunders, a former ABC radio host.

Unlike the independents and the Shooters, One Nation was never going to secure lower house representation. But it did make notable inroads in urban areas. At last count, the NSW arm of Pauline Hanson’s party was odds on to usurp the Greens as the third force in Sydney metropolitan seats like Camden, Holsworthy, Penrith and Wollondilly.

Despite their recent internal turmoil, the Greens made a strong showing in lower house voting. Jamie Parker (Balmain) and Jenny Leong (Newtown) substantially grew their base, securing swings of 6.4 and 5.1% respectively. While in the north, Tamara Smith expanded her two-party preferred vote to over 57%.

The struggle to take neighbouring Lismore is going down to the wire, with former federal Labor MP, Janelle Saffin a chance to pull ahead of the Greens and Nationals in a complex three-way preference contest.




Read more:
Coalition wins a third term in NSW with few seats changing hands


The outcome for the Greens and the Coalition in the upper house won’t be determined for some time. The trend towards minor parties and independents in the lower house, however, suggests that they will feature substantially in the 21 Legislative Council spots in play.

One Nation’s Mark Latham looks to have secured the required 4.55% vote share, with his party a chance for a second. At last count, the Coalition had just over seven spots, Labor six the Greens two and the Shooters one. The eventual upper house composition will almost certainly see the Coalition required to deal with a significantly expanded and unwieldy crossbench; a change from their current, more predictable arrangements, usually with the Christian Democrats.

This election will be remembered as a contest of clear delineations for the Coalition. While their partners, the Nationals, took substantial hits in the bush, the Liberals managed to hold the line in the city, losing Coogee, but retaining marginal East Hills, against the odds.

Labor leader Michael Daley’s “schools and hospitals before stadiums” message may have found traction in pre-election polling and with parts of the electorate, but it wasn’t sufficient for a relatively untested leader to take down a government pledging to “get it done” on infrastructure programs worth over A$80 billion.

Getting it done is the task now for the Berejiklian government, who will be looking to deliver on the large scale but delay-plagued infrastructure projects it has undertaken. Pressing ahead with that agenda won’t be easy for a government skirting a possible minority in the lower house and an unknown quantity in the upper house.

As for Labor, Daley is seeking to stick it out. Barring the stumbles of the last week of his campaign, he has performed remarkably well for a leader in the job only four months, fronting a party that only eight years ago suffered one of the worst electoral defeats in Australian political history. That might not matter to those seeking a new leadership direction after Saturday’s result.The Conversation

Andy Marks, Assistant Vice-Chancellor, Strategy and Policy, Western Sydney University

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

View from The Hill: NSW result gives federal Liberals a boost in the mind games


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Scott Morrison couldn’t wait for NSW opposition leader Michael Daley’s concession speech on Saturday night. Morrison leapt to the stage at the Liberals’ function, speaking ahead of Gladys Berejiklian, to hail the victory of her government.

For the federal Liberals, the night was a vital morale booster, though the result had been determined mostly on state factors.

Consider what could have happened. Months ago all the talk was how the NSW government feared that going to the people ahead of its federal counterpart meant it would take a serious knock from voters wanting to protest against the Morrison government.

That knock (and attendant backbiting) didn’t come. The polls suggest it is in the pipeline, but if it had been delivered prematurely it would have blown away Morrison’s messages.

The Liberals would delude themselves if they took too much heart from NSW. But at a psychological level it will lift the spirits of their MPs and campaign workers, and provide a better climate in which to launch the April 2 budget than if Labor had won or done significantly better.

Some in Labor are concerned the NSW result breaks the momentum for the federal opposition – that feeling of total inevitability about a Bill Shorten win. If, on the back of this result, the next Newspoll saw a tightening, there’d be a sharp intake of breath in ALP circles.




Read more:
NSW Coalition scrapes back in as minor parties surge – but delivering on promises will not be easy


Both the NSW and federal Liberals have had change at the top since their previous elections. But the difference is dramatic. The federal Liberals tore down a leader in a coup driven by ideology and revenge. The NSW Liberals saw Mike Baird exit and a smooth handover to Berejiklian. The nature of the succession helped set her up for this election.

The Liberals are making much of the fact Berejiklian becomes the first woman to be elected as NSW premier. But that piece of history doesn’t offset the reality that women are thin on the ground in the federal parliamentary party and will remain so after the election.

The failure of NSW Labor has reinforced the message that the actual campaign matters.

Perhaps the ALP wouldn’t have come close even with a better final week. But until then the commentary judged the Berejiklian campaign as poor. Then the video emerged of Daley saying Asians were taking local jobs. He had another own goal when, questioned at a people’s forum, he couldn’t recall the detail of his own policies.

The contrast was stark: a premier who knew what she was doing, and an opposition leader who wasn’t sure what he was promising.

Federally, the 2016 election showed the importance of the last few weeks before voters make their choice. Malcolm Turnbull performed poorly on the hustings and nearly lost.

Indeed, campaigns may matter increasingly. The contemporary electorate is very volatile. And are some voters so disgusted with politics they refuse to listen to the noise until close to election day?

The NSW results also underlined that local campaigns are pivotal. The performance of individual MPs and the quality of candidates can be critical when voters are often focused as much or more on what is happening in their own backyard as on the central messages coming through the media.

The Nationals have been big losers out of the NSW poll, with huge swings in some areas. Two of their seats have gone – Barwon and Murray, won by the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers – and a third, Lismore, is in the balance but likely to be lost to Labor.

In the first two, water was a crucial issue. More generally, the Nationals are having trouble convincing their constituencies they can deliver for them; they’ve become hostage to regional voters’ belief they get a worse deal in services than city people. The siren call of protest parties is potent.

The federal Nationals – who are taking a little comfort from modest positive swings in some other areas – don’t have to worry about the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers winning seats in May.

But, coming against the background of destabilisation in their ranks, the state losses will further unnerve them as they face their test with weak leadership and doubtful prospects.




Read more:
Coalition wins a third term in NSW with few seats changing hands


Michael McCormack is safe until the election but he struggles to manage an unsettled bunch. It seemed very deliberate that Liberal senator Arthur Sinodinos on Sunday went out of his way to give a shout-out to McCormack.

“Let me make it very clear: Scott Morrison, Josh Frydenberg, Arthur Sinodinos for what it’s worth, and all the other members of the Liberal-National coalition back Michael McCormack as the leader to go into the election,” Sinodinos said on the ABC.

The Nationals have several lower house seats vulnerable in May. They’ll need to differentiate themselves from the Liberals – as they did in 2016 – but how effectively McCormack can execute this is another matter.

Former leader Barnaby Joyce, a campaigning asset for the Nationals – and by extension the government – in 2016, now runs off the leash, often sounding quite wild. His aggressive performance on Seven was the talk of the election-night TV coverage.

In a clear signal to Joyce, Sinodinos said his campaigning ability should be “used to the greater good of the Coalition”. NSW federal Liberal MP Trent Zimmerman put it more bluntly – Joyce should “spend more time in Tamworth and less time on TV”. But the man who declared on Saturday night “we’ve got to stop taking our political advice from the ABC” is unlikely to be tuning into those who want him to turn his volume down.

The NSW outcome probably puts even more eggs in the budget basket.

Sinodinos highlighted its tax cuts as a campaigning counter to Labor’s line on wages.

“When the ACTU and others are out there talking about ‘we need a wage increase of X’, that’s a pre-tax wage increase. You can get an equivalent effect through a proper tax cut for low and middle income earners,” he said. “So we’ll be saying that until our policies kick in to help lift wages even further, the way to do this is through tax cuts focussed on low and middle income earners”.

As is so often observed, people distinguish between their state and federal votes. For the federal battle, this NSW poll has not thrown any switch – it has just made some readjustment to the temperature.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.

Australia: 2019 NSW Election


Coalition wins a third term in NSW with few seats changing hands



File 20190323 36256 hjnx5d.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Gladys Berejiklian is set to be returned as New South Wales premier.
AAP/Lukas Coch

Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

With 54% of the vote counted at the New South Wales election held today, the ABC is currently projecting 45 of the 93 lower house seats for the Coalition, 35 for Labor, three Greens, three independents and two Shooters, Fishers and Farmers. Five seats remain undecided. Coogee is the only current clear Labor gain from the Coalition.

Forty-seven seats are needed for a majority, but the Coalition is in a strong position to form a minority government if it falls short. This will be the Coalition’s third term in NSW. It is the first time the Coalition has won a third term in NSW since 1971; the last time the Coalition won a third term in state government in Australia was in 1980.

All crossbenchers in the current parliament retained their seats. The Greens won Newtown, Balmain and Ballina. The Shooters retained Orange, which they had won at a byelection, and gained Murray from the Nationals. Independents retained Sydney, Lake Macquarie and Wagga Wagga (also won at a byelection).

The ABC’s projection of final primary votes are currently 41.7% Coalition (down 3.9% since the 2015 election), 33.4% Labor (down 0.7%), 9.9% Greens (down 0.4%) and 3.1% Shooters. If the projection is accurate, it is an indictment on Labor that their primary vote fell. The two party statewide result will not be available for a long time, but the Coalition probably won by about 53-47, a swing of about 1.5% to Labor.

Late campaign mishaps probably cost Labor in NSW. On March 18, Labor leader Michael Daley was revealed to have made comments in September 2018, before he became leader, that could be perceived as anti-Asian. On March 20, during a leaders’ debate, Daley could not recall details of funding for his party’s policies.

The final NSW Newspoll gave the Coalition a 51-49 lead, a one-point gain for the Coalition since eleven days ago. Primary votes were 41% Coalition (up one), 35% Labor (down one) and 10% Greens (steady). Reflecting his bad final week, Daley’s net approval plunged 14 points to -15, while Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s net approval dropped five points to +1. That Newspoll was taken March 19-21, and the momentum towards the Coalition appears to have carried over into the election results.

Two days before the 2015 Queensland election, Labor leader Annastacia Palaszczuk was unable to name the GST rate in an interview. Yet Labor ousted the LNP at that election on a massive swing.

I believe the difference between Queensland 2015 and NSW 2019 is that voters are more inclined to forgive politicians who make a mistake that is perceived to be out of character. Daley has only been the NSW Labor leader since November, and his anti-Asian video revealed something that voters did not like. It is probably more dangerous for a left-wing leader to be perceived as racist than a right-wing leader.

I will update this article tomorrow with more complete details of the lower house and a look at the upper house.

MORE TO COMEThe 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.

NSW election neck and neck as voters face a 1950s-style ‘I’ll see you and raise you’ campaign


David Clune, University of Sydney

On Saturday, March 23, the people of New South Wales will head to the ballot boxes for a state election. It is looking increasingly close, with polls showing government and opposition neck and neck on about 50% of the two-party preferred vote. This is a decline in the Coalition vote of 4% compared to the 2015 election.

The current campaign is reminiscent of a 1950s “I’ll see you and raise you” one. Government and opposition are engaged in an auction to outbid each other in the amounts committed to schools, hospitals, transport and other basic services. The campaign is one of the quietest in a long time, with little excitement about the respective leaders and no major clash of visions for the future.




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Mike Baird’s victory in 2015 laid the foundation for this. The then Coalition leader won a mandate to privatise the state’s electricity network, although sacrificing seats his successor would be glad to have in reserve. The mountains of money produced by this and other privatisations have allowed Premier Gladys Berejiklian to go to the election with a massive war chest.

In addition, the NSW economy is in good shape, performing well compared to most other states. The budget is in surplus and predicted to remain there. Net debt is negative. Unemployment is at a record low.

The Coalition government has a large array of infrastructure projects in progress, including the Westconnex and Northconnex motorways, Sydney Metro – the largest public transport project in Australia – and the CBD and South East light rail. The amount committed for infrastructure over the next four years is just under A$90 billion.

Berejiklian’s pitch is: don’t jeopardise all this by electing Labor. She is keen to remind the electorate of the factional bloodletting, policy paralysis and corruption that marked the final years of the last ALP government in NSW. The release during the campaign of Ian Macdonald, another ex-ALP minister, after his conviction was quashed, assisted the government by putting their misdeeds back on the front pages.

The Coalition also has some significant problems. Overdevelopment is devastating many Sydney suburbs. Residents angry at the disruption to their lives are likely to turn against the Liberals. The premier will not be presiding at many opening ceremonies for infrastructure projects before the election. More apparent are cost over-runs, delays and short-term inconvenience.

The general unpopularity of the federal Coalition government is a handicap for its NSW counterpart. In rural NSW, a belief that the Nationals have neglected voters’ interests could cost the government seats.




Read more:
Low-key NSW election likely to reveal a city-country divide


Opposition Leader Michael Daley struggled at first to gain momentum and attention. His campaign ignited three weeks out from polling day when he took on influential radio commentator Alan Jones over the Sydney stadiums issue. This has been a festering sore for the government since November 2017, when Berejiklian announced that both Allianz Stadium at Moore Park and ANZ Stadium at Homebush would be simultaneously demolished and rebuilt at an estimated cost of A$2.5 billion.

The public outcry at what was seen as wasteful expense was so great that she quickly backed off. The rebuilding of Allianz would proceed, but ANZ would now be renovated, saving A$1 billion.

Labor quickly seized on the issue, opposing the demolition of Allianz and coining the effective slogan of “schools and hospitals before Sydney stadiums”.

Jones is a member of the prestigious Sydney Cricket Ground Trust, which controls Allianz and has lobbied strongly for its rebuilding. Daley attacked Jones and promised to sack him and most members of the trust.

Daley instantly became the people’s politician, unafraid to stand up to a powerful broadcaster and an elite board. He put the stadium issue back at the centre of the campaign. It crystallised the perception that the government is more concerned about developers and big business than the community.

But does Daley have anything more positive to offer? There is some policy differentiation.

Labor has promised there will be no more privatisations and will re-regulate the electricity industry. Labor also has stronger policies on the environment and climate change than the Coalition. It will be more generous to the public sector. But the main thrust of Daley’s campaign is: we will give you more of the same but do it better.

The government has 52 of the 93 seats in the Legislative Assembly. The opposition holds 34. A uniform swing of nearly 9%, just under what it achieved at the last election, would be needed for Labor to gain a majority in its own right.

A feature of this poll is the difference between Sydney and the bush. In 2015, Labor picked up most of the low-hanging fruit in Sydney and only a handful of seats are in play this time. In rural and regional NSW, the Nationals face a strong challenge from independents and minor parties.

If the government loses six seats, it will be in a minority. After appointing a speaker, its numbers would drop to 45. The crossbench would be in a crucial position.

Currently, there are seven crossbench MPs in the lower house: three Greens, a Shooter and three independents (Alex Greenwich, Joe McGirr and Greg Piper). The Greens have already indicated they would support the Coalition. Greenwich is on the left and has close links with his predecessor, Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore. The other three are more conservatively inclined. The election of additional crossbenchers would add to the unpredictability.

Daley is hoping the electorate has forgotten about Obeid and that accumulated dissatisfaction with the government will translate into a victory for him. The result hinges on whether voters have lost faith in the Coalition to the extent that they are prepared to trust Labor again.The Conversation

David Clune, Honorary Associate, Government and International Relations, University of Sydney

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

Poll wrap: Labor gains in Newspoll after weak economic report; Labor barely ahead in NSW



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The Coalition government has had another rocky fortnight, and the polls show it is behind on a two-party preferred basis.
AAP/Dean Lewins

Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

About two months from the expected May election date, this week’s Newspoll, conducted March 7-10 from a sample of 1,610, gave Labor a 54-46 lead, a one-point gain for Labor since last fortnight. Primary votes were 39% Labor (steady), 36% Coalition (down one), 9% Greens (steady) and 7% One Nation (up two).

This Newspoll is the Coalition’s 50th successive Newspoll loss. The closest they have come to breaking that losing streak was a run of four consecutive 51-49 results from July to early August 2018 before Malcolm Turnbull was dumped. This Newspoll reverses the gains the Coalition had made to close the gap to 53-47 from 55-45 in November and December.

Despite the Coalition’s woes on voting intentions, Scott Morrison remains relatively popular. 43% were satisfied with his performance (up one), and 45% were dissatisfied (down three), for a net approval of -2. Bill Shorten’s net approval was up three points to -15. Morrison led Shorten as better PM by 43-36 (44-35 last fortnight).

I believe Morrison’s relative popularity is because he has not yet proposed something that would make him unpopular, in the way Tony Abbott did with the May 2014 budget, and his January 2015 knighting of Prince Philip. Turnbull was very unpopular with the hard right, and their hatred of him damaged his overall ratings.

During the election campaign, Labor will attempt to tie Morrison to unpopular Coalition policies, and this could impact his ratings.

The last fortnight has not been good for the Coalition with the retirements of Christopher Pyne and Steve Ciobo, infighting within the Nationals, and Turnbull and Julie Bishop saying they could have beaten Shorten if they were the leader.

While these events may have had an impact, I believe the Coalition’s biggest problem is weak economic data. On March 6, the ABS reported that Australia’s GDP grew 0.2% in the December quarter after the September quarter GDP was up 0.3%. In per capita terms, GDP growth was negative in both the September and December quarters, meaning Australia has had its first per capita GDP recession since 2006.

In the December quarter, wages grew by 0.5%, matching the rate of inflation in that quarter. The Coalition already has a problem with well-educated voters owing to their perceived lack of climate change policies and the removal of Turnbull – see my personal website for where I thought Morrison could have problems. With good wages growth and a strong economy, the Coalition may have been able to compensate with less educated voters.




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With neither a strong economy nor good wages growth, I believe the Coalition’s only realistic chance of re-election is a massive scare campaign against Labor’s economic policies, such as the proposal to abolish franking credit cash refunds.

Essential: 53-47 to Labor

This week’s Essential poll, conducted March 6-11 from a sample of 1,080, gave Labor a 53-47 lead, a one-point gain for Labor that validates Newspoll’s movement. Primary votes were 38% Labor (up one), 37% Coalition (down one), 8% Greens (down one) and 7% One Nation (up one). According to The Poll Bludger, this is the worst result for the Greens from any pollster since September 2016.

Morrison’s net approval was +2, down two points since January. Shorten’s net approval was -6, up six points. Morrison led Shorten by 44-31 as better PM (42-30 in January).

62% thought climate change is happening and is caused by human activity (down one since October). 51% thought Australia is not doing enough to address climate change (down two since December). By 52-48, voters thought the reopening of Christmas Island reflected genuine concern about boats arriving, rather than a political ploy; there was no undecided option in this question.

On issue questions, the Liberals led Labor by 19 points on border protection, 16 points on national security and 15 points on economic management. Labor was 18 points ahead on the important issue of safeguarding fair wages and conditions, and had 7-9 point leads on climate change, the environment, health, education and housing affordability.

NSW Newspoll: 50-50 tie, ReachTEL: 51-49 to Labor, plus seat polls

The New South Wales election will be held on March 23. A Newspoll, conducted March 8-11 from a sample of 1,003, had a 50-50 tie, unchanged since late January. A uComms/ReachTEL poll for The Sun-Herald, conducted March 7 from a sample of 1,019, gave Labor a 51-49 lead, unchanged since the last NSW ReachTEL poll in late November.

Primary votes in ReachTEL were 28.7% Liberals (down 3.4%), 7.0% Nationals (up 2.6%), 34.1% Labor (steady), 9.6% Greens (steady), 5.6% One Nation (down 1.9%), 4.6% Shooters, Fishers and Farmers (up 1.3%), 5.8% for all Others (steady) and 4.7% undecided (up 1.6%). After excluding undecided, The Poll Bludger has primary votes of 37.5% Coalition, 35.8% Labor, 10.1% Greens, 5.9% One Nation and 4.8% Shooters.

The drop for the Liberals but gain for the Nationals suggests that the Coalition could perform relatively badly in Sydney, but better in the country. According to the ABC’s Antony Green, the Shooters will be contesting 25 of the 93 lower house seats, and One Nation just 12, so both parties’ support will be overstated in this statewide poll.

In Newspoll, primary votes were 40% Coalition (up one), 36% Labor (steady) and 10% Greens (steady). In the January NSW Newspoll, One Nation had 6%, but they have been excluded from the current poll as they are not contesting many seats. The exclusion of One Nation probably assisted the Coalition.




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44% were satisfied with Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s performance in Newspoll (up three), and 38% were dissatisfied (down five), for a net approval of +6. Opposition Leader Michael Daley’s net approval improved seven points to -1. Berejiklian led Daley by 41-34 as better Premier (44-31 in January).

Daley led Berejiklian as better Premier in ReachTEL by 53.3-46.7 (54.2-45.8 in November). ReachTEL’s forced choice better PM/Premier questions are usually better for opposition leaders than other polls. Voters opposed the government’s plans for Sydney sports stadiums by 52-37. By 48-43, voters thought that Labor was not ready to govern.

There were two YouGov Galaxy seat polls for The Daily Telegraph conducted February 28. East Hills was tied at 50-50 (50.4-49.6 to Liberal in 2015). Ryde had a 53-47 Liberal lead (61.5-38.5 to Liberal in 2015). Last week, there was also a national Greenpeace ReachTEL poll that gave Labor a 53-47 lead by respondent preferences. You can read more about these polls on my personal website.

The Daily Telegraph has seat polls of Lismore and Barwon conducted last week from samples of 500-600 by YouGov Galaxy. In Barwon, the Nationals lead the Shooters by just 51-49; the Nationals won 62.9% vs Labor in 2015.

In Lismore, Labor leads the Nationals by 51-49 (50.2-49.8 to Nationals in 2015). Primary votes were 35% Nationals (42.5% in 2015), 28% Greens (26.4%) and 27% Labor (25.6%). Even though NSW uses optional preferential voting, primary votes changes suggest an easier win for one of the left parties than 51-49. Seat polls have been very unreliable at past elections.

Key Brexit Commons votes this week

From March 12-14, the UK House of Commons will vote on PM Theresa May’s Brexit deal, whether the UK should leave without a deal, on delaying Brexit beyond the scheduled March 29 exit date, and on an amendment that would lead to a second referednum. Votes will occur in the early morning March 13-15 Melbourne time.

You can read my preview of these votes on The Poll Bludger. On February 28, I had a more general article about Brexit published by The Poll Bludger, which explained Labour’s recent slump in the UK polls.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.

Low-key NSW election likely to reveal a city-country divide


Gregory Melleuish, University of Wollongong

It may come as news to many people living in New South Wales, but there is a state election to be held on March 23. There has been little of the hullabaloo associated with elections, although I have noticed the occasional election poster in the front yards of houses as I walk along the street.

This may have something to do with the fact I live in a safe Labor electorate, or it may reflect the somewhat low key approach to politics taken by Premier Gladys Berejiklian, and the low profile of her rival, Labor leader Michael Daley.

Plus federal politics has been far more exciting, especially as high-level Liberals choose to leave in advance of the upcoming federal election.

This may give the impression the NSW state election is a somewhat mundane affair. Given the relatively robust state of the NSW economy, one might expect the Liberal-National Coalition will be re-elected.

Yes, they have been in office for eight years but, on the surface at least, they appear to have done little to arouse the ire of voters, especially voters in Sydney.

However, there is a good chance that, after the election, NSW will have some sort of minority government, with an outside chance of a Labor government.

This would have enormous ramifications for both the Liberal and the National parties. If, as seems very likely, they lose office in Canberra after the federal election, they could find themselves out of office not only federally but also in Australia’s three largest states.

In the 2016 federal election, it was the Liberal Party that was battered and lost seats while the National Party held its ground. Similarly, at the 2015 NSW state election, the Liberals lost 14 seats while the Nationals lost only one.




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Since 2015, the Coalition has lost two further seats at byelections: Orange (National) to Shooters, Fishers and Farmers and Wagga (Liberal) to an independent.

The current situation in the NSW Legislative Assembly (lower house) is that the Liberals hold 35 seats, the Nationals 16, the ALP 34, the Greens 3, Shooters, Fishers and Farmers 1, and Independents 3. The seat of Wollondilly is currently vacant but the Liberal Party faces a high profile independent.

In 2019, the expectation is that it will be the National Party that primarily will lose seats, thereby putting the NSW Coalition government majority at risk. Should the Coalition lose five seats, the current government will be reduced to minority status (a majority requires 47 seats). The Coalition holds seven seats with a margin of less than 3.5%, five of which are held by the Nationals, while Labor has four such seats.




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ABC election analyst Antony Green has emphasised, however, it is almost impossible to predict the results of this election on the basis of a uniform swing. This is because electorates and their interests vary widely with regard to age, income, ethnic origin and interests.

The state is far from homogenous, and this is reflected in what policies find favour and where. It’s been reported that in Barwon, in the state’s far west, polls show the primary vote for the National Party has dropped from 49% in 2015 to 35%.

The Coalition government under Mike Baird attempted to implement two extremely unpopular policies in many rural areas: the amalgamation of small councils and the attempt to close down greyhound racing. Both policies may have seemed sensible to city dwellers, but they didn’t resonate with the bush.

In recent days, two issues have come to the fore. The Sydney Cricket Ground Trust and the demolition of Allianz Stadium. Fascinating as such matters may be to Sydney-siders, they are hardly issues of great import to the inhabitants of Dubbo or Grafton.

There has always been a tension between Sydney and the bush but it appears this tension has increased considerably since the 2015 election.

There are a number of reasons for this. In the case of Barwon, there is the impact of the drought and water issues, including the mass death of fish in the Darling River. The provision of health services is a perennial issue in rural NSW – what is just down the road in Sydney can often be a long drive if one lives in a small country town.

There appears to be a growing discontent in the bush, one that can be seen in by-elections over the past few years, including Orange, Murray, Cootamundra and Wagga. The Nationals lost Orange and experienced substantial swings against them in Cootamundra and Murray, while the Liberals lost Wagga to an independent. In 2019, the Nationals will be contesting Wagga on behalf of the Coalition.




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It’s difficult to pin down this discontent in terms of specific policies – rather, it’s a matter of attitude. Gabrielle Chan’s book Rusted Off provides the best analysis of that attitude. At its root is a feeling of being taken for granted.

Chan, who lives near the town of Harden-Murrumburrah, believes the issue for many country people is that they know that the Nationals will always be the junior partner in a coalition with the Liberal Party.

Country voters are attached to the Nationals by a bond rooted in their identity. Where are they to go if the Nationals fail to deliver and become too subservient to their senior urban partners? By instinct they will not vote Labor.

Country people are, so to speak, caught in a bind. Chan puts it eloquently: “‘make it marginal’ should be the catch-cry of country electorates”.

If country voters are to “make it marginal”, then it will not be by supporting Labor because it goes against the grain. They also value independence. This means they look to independents and parties such as Fishers, Shooters and Farmers.

If Chan is correct, then what might very well determine the outcome of this election will not be disputes over particular policies but a desire to punish the National Party for what is perceived to be its neglect of the bush. It is simply a matter of respect.The Conversation

Gregory Melleuish, Professor, School of Humanities and Social Inquiry, University of Wollongong

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