View from The Hill: Peter Dutton – Labor’s not-so-secret weapon against Hunt and Sukkar

File 20190415 147511 1dwwsvk.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Screenshot from Labor Party advertisement linking Peter Dutton to Liberal candidates.
Australian Labor Party, Author provided

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

While Peter Dutton is fighting for his political life in his marginal Brisbane seat of Dickson, he is being “weaponised” by Labor in its efforts to defeat two of his strongest Victorian supporters, Greg Hunt and Michael Sukkar, despite their relatively solid margins.

Last August, a clutch of Victorian Liberals including Hunt and Sukkar thought the government collectively, and in some cases they individually, would be better off with the rightwinger from Queensland as prime minister.

Greg Hunt aspired to be Dutton’s deputy. If he and Dutton had won their respective ballots Hunt, rather than Josh Frydenberg, would now be treasurer.

Instead, he remains health minister and is facing a tough contest in Flinders, made more difficult by crossbencher Julia Banks running there as an independent. Banks, the Liberal defector who formerly occupied Chisholm, was particularly angered by the overthrow of Malcolm Turnbull and has made a feature of Hunt’s disloyalty.

Sukkar, the member for Deakin, a hard line conservative who was an assistant minister before the coup and a backbencher after it, did numbers for Dutton.

On Monday Labor launched a social media campaign weaponising Peter Dutton in the fight to unseat Hunt and Sukkar in Flinders and Deakin.

The targeting is based on internal tracking research showing Dutton is especially toxic in those two seats.

Quotes from the Labor focus groups included:

Even though I normally vote Liberal I’d love to see Peter Dutton and Tony Abbott stitched up

I am a Liberal voter but this time I can’t because of what Peter Dutton did to Malcolm Turnbull

In usual circumstances Deakin (on 6.4%) and Flinders (7%) should be safe. But after the November state rout of the Liberals – when the overthrow of Turnbull was a major factor and Dutton’s face had been on billboards – nothing is certain.

The Liberals think some of this anger has abated but the Victorian situation remains grim, with a number of seats at risk in a state John Howard has called the Massachusetts of Australia.

Labor has around ten seats on its “target” list for attention. While Dutton may be featured in other seats, there is less of a “hook” for him than in those of Hunt and Sukkar.

When Scott Morrison announced the election last Thursday, Bill Shorten delivered his speech later from a suburban home in Deakin.

On Monday Morrison was campaigning with Sukkar – who was anxious to leave most of the talking to the Prime Minister.

Asked how much Sukkar’s support for Dutton had contributed to the problems the government was facing in Deakin and Victoria, Morrison stonewalled: “That is such a bubble question, I’m just going to leave that one in the bubble”.

One of the Labor posters that will appear in the Victorian seats of Deakin and Flinders.

In the video Labor targets Dutton over a broad range of issues, including his support, as health minister under Tony Abbott, for a proposed $7 Medicare co-payment, which was later dumped.

His co-payment history is expected to get a wider outing in a campaign in which Labor is running heavily on health.

The video asks

How much will Peter Dutton and the Liberals stand up for Victoria? Let’s check. He tried to give a $17 billion tax cut to the banks, cut $14 billion from Australian public schools

It says

Peter Dutton was the health minister who tried to cut more than $50 billion from public hospitals and also tried to introduce the $7 GP tax. He made fun of climate change victims and voted against the banking royal commission 24 times.

And with the other right-wing Liberals he plotted to dump Malcolm Turnbull and voted to make himself prime minister, twice.Right-winger Peter Dutton for the top end of town and himself.“

There are also customised posters in Victoria featuring Dutton, especially for Deakin and Flinders.

Dutton has played into Labor’s hands in the early days of the campaign, with his remark last week attacking his opponent, amputee Ali France, for not moving into Dickson, accusing her of using her disability as an excuse.

“A lot of people have raised this with me. I think they are quite angry that Ms France is using her disability as an excuse for not moving into our electorate,” he said.

“Ali has been telling people that even if she won the election she won’t move into our electorate. She has now changed that position, but I don’t think it is credible.”

Read more:
View from The Hill: Dutton suffers reflux after tasty Chinese meal

Morrison initially defended Dutton, claiming he was taken out of context and was just reflecting what his constituents had said to him.

Subsequently Dutton apologised.
On Monday Morrison too had changed his tune. “Peter has made his apology appropriately. What I don’t want to see happen in this election campaign is, I don’t want to see people playing politics with disabilities. I have very strong personal views about this topic”.

Nationally, Peter Dutton will have a big footprint in the campaign. It won’t be a helpful one for Morrison.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: Newspoll steady at 53-47 despite boats, and Abbott and Dutton trailing in their seats

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A fierce battle over the medevac legislation has not affected the polls, which continue to show Labor with an election-winning lead.
AAP/Mick Tsikas

Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

This week’s Newspoll, conducted February 21-24 from a sample of 1,590, gave Labor a 53-47 lead, unchanged on last fortnight. Primary votes were also unchanged, with Labor on 39%, the Coalition 37%, the Greens 9% and One Nation 5%.

This Newspoll contradicts last week’s Ipsos, which had the gap closing to just 51-49. The better news for the Coalition is that this is the third Newspoll in a row with Labor’s lead at 53-47; the last three Newspolls of 2018 all had a 55-45 Labor lead.

The Ipsos poll last week will be regarded as an outlier, but another explanation is that the Coalition undid its effective boats campaign with revelations of scandals regarding Helloworld.

I wrote last Friday that the September 11 terrorist attacks had far more impact on the 2001 election than the Tampa incident, implying that the new boats campaign is unlikely to damage Labor.

Read more:
2001 polls in review: September 11 influenced election outcome far more than Tampa incident

In the latest Newspoll, 42% were satisfied with Scott Morrison’s performance (down one), and 48% were dissatisfied (up three), for a net approval of -6. Bill Shorten’s net approval fell three points to -18, his worst since September. Morrison’s better PM lead was unchanged at 44-35.

The electorate was more polarised on best leader to handle issue questions, and this assisted Morrison. Morrison led Shorten by 52-34 on the economy (48-33 last fortnight). He led by 50-28 on national security (47-27 in October). He led by 51-31 on asylum seekers (47-29 in October).

Newspoll used to ask for party best able to handle issues, rather than leader, but have not done so for a long time. I believe Labor would be more competitive on these issues than Shorten, as Morrison’s incumbency advantage would have less impact on such a question. The issues asked about are also strong for the Coalition. Shorten would do better on the environment, health and education.

I wrote last fortnight that the Coalition’s better polling this year is probably due to a greater distance from the events of last August and the relative popularity of Morrison. While Morrison’s ratings slipped this week, his net approval is still in the negative single digits rather than double digits. The difficulty for Morrison is that his party’s policies are generally disliked.

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

In economic data news, the ABS reported on February 20 that wages grew 0.5% in the December quarter. Inflation in that quarter was also 0.5%, so there was no real wage growth. In the full year 2018, wages grew 2.3% and inflation 1.8%, so real wages improved 0.5%. I believe the continued slow wage growth will be of crucial importance at the election, and is likely to assist Labor.

In better economic news for the government, the ABS reported on February 21 that more than 39,000 jobs were added in January, with the unemployment rate steady at 5.0%. While other data has suggested a weakening economy, the jobs figures remain strong. Economists say the jobs figures are a lagging indicator of economic performance.

Essential: 52-48 to Labor

This week’s Essential poll, conducted February 20-25 from a sample of 1,085, gave Labor a 52-48 lead, a three-point gain for the Coalition since last fortnight. Primary votes were 38% Coalition (up four), 37% Labor (down one), 9% Greens (down one) and 6% One Nation (down one).

Labor’s two party vote in the four Essential polls this year has been 53-52-55-52, strongly implying that last fortnight’s 55-45 poll was an outlier. Since Morrison became PM, Essential has tended to be worse for Labor than Newspoll.

On the medevac bill, 38% thought it struck a balance between strong borders and humane treatment of asylum seekers, 30% thought it would weaken Australia’s borders, and 15% thought it did not go far enough towards humane treatment. 27% said this bill would have a strong influence on their vote, including 57% of those who said it would weaken our borders.

On tax policy, 53% supported closing tax concessions and loopholes, and inserting the money into schools, hospitals, etc, while 27% supported cutting corporate taxes and maintaining concessions for investors and retirees.

By double digit margins, Labor was regarded as having the better tax policy for first-time home buyers, pensioners and workers earning under $150,000 per year. By even wider margins, the Coalition was regarded as having better tax policies for those earning over $150,000 per year, self-funded retirees and property investors.

Seat polls of Dickson, Warringah and Flinders

The Guardian has reported GetUp ReachTEL seat polls of the NSW seat of Warringah and the Queensland seat of Dickson, both conducted February 21. In Warringah, Tony Abbott trailed independent Zali Steggall 57-43, a three-point gain for Steggall since last fortnight. In Dickson, incumbent Peter Dutton trailed Labor’s Ali France 52-48. After a redistribution, Dutton holds Dickson by a 52.0-48.0 margin.

In the Victorian seat of Flinders, a GetUp ReachTEL poll, conducted February 13 from a sample of 622, gave Labor a 52-48 lead over incumbent Liberal Greg Hunt, a one-point gain for Labor since a January ReachTEL. Primary votes were 40.7% Hunt, 31.1% Labor, 17.0% for independent Julia Banks and 5.8% Greens. A Banks vs Hunt two candidate result was also provided, with Banks leading 56-44, but on primary votes Labor is a clear second.

As analyst Kevin Bonham has written, seat polls are often reported without important details like primary votes, fieldwork dates or sample size. It would be good if the commissioning source released full details of all seat polls. Seat polls have been very unreliable at previous elections.The Conversation

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

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

Grattan on Friday: Winners and losers on the tests of judgement, temperament and character

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

It’s obvious, but easily underestimated, that in politics judgement and temperament are key. Together with character, with which they’re often entwined, they are probably more important than high intelligence, or low cunning.

We just need to look at the federal scene today.

Barnaby Joyce provides the current case study about the importance of judgement or in his instance, lack or it. Here is a career, so carefully built, dramatically torn down by his own hand.

And as for temperament, we have the contrasting examples of Mathias Cormann and Greg Hunt, of whom more later.

Joyce burst onto the political scene in 2005 as a larger-than-life high profile Nationals senator. Because of tight numbers, he started with disproportionate power; for his Coalition peers and betters, he was a headache.

But he had charisma out in the bush, and ambition, and he set his sights on becoming Nationals leader, eventually adopting (mostly) the discipline needed to get there. When he reached the deputy prime ministership he began well, and his party outperformed the Liberals at the 2016 election.

But soon after, his private life became complicated, with his staffer Vikki Campion the new woman in his life.

Campion says in Sunday’s interview on Seven, “you can’t help who you fall in love with.”

That may or may not be true, but you can manage the implications. A public figure can separate the work and private parts of their lives. Joyce let the two merge messily, as Campion shifted to colleagues’ offices. With this failure of judgment, his fall began.

Now we have the paid interview. You only need political instinct, not even judgement, to know it’s unacceptable.

Then, when things became hot, Joyce this week took leave. Leader of the House Christopher Pyne said Joyce had a doctor’s sick- leave certificate, “and any other person in a workplace who produced such a certificate would get the same kind of leave.”

Give us all a break! The guy gets a reported $150,000 for the couple’s “tell all” interview, and when people are critical, he goes on stress leave.

Read more:
Barnaby Joyce takes personal leave after horror day

To people away from politics, coping with serious stresses often not of their own making, this saga just comes across as self-indulgence.

Now there is speculation about Joyce’s future – will he, should he, stay on in his seat of New England?

This ought to be resolved quickly, for Joyce’s own sake, and that of the Nationals, who don’t want to risk the emergence of a new strong independent, remembering that Tony Windsor grabbed and held this electorate for many years.

If Joyce wants to stay, he’ll have a big rebuilding job, locally and in Canberra. If – and it would probably be the more sensible course – he feels it would be better to strike out into another career, he should announce that decision without delay (while of course remaining in place until the election).

Read more:
Politics podcast: Michael McCormack on Barnaby’s future, latte sippers and other matters

Probably no one would be surprised to hear of a few expletives from Joyce, but this week’s News Corp story that Greg Hunt had sworn at the mayor of the Northern Territory town of Katherine, Fay Miller, in a private meeting last year, telling her she needed to “f…ing get over” herself, would have raised eyebrows among those who see the very reasonable-sounding Health minister on TV. Hunt only apologised to Miller – who’d been leading a delegation from the town to discuss a health package following contamination from RAAF Base Tindal – when the story was about to break.

Hunt’s temperament is of the “street-angel, house-devil” type; he is known for private outbursts of temper, and has now been rather dramatically “outed”.

In question time on Thursday, pursued by the Opposition, he also admitted that he’d been subject of a complaint after what he described as a “strong discussion” with a former health department secretary (Martin Bowles).

He told Parliament: “The Prime Minister himself raised it and asked that I speak with the secretary of Prime Minister and Cabinet.” The nature of Hunt’s behaviour can be judged by the fact that departmental secretaries – robust characters, for the most part – don’t usually complain upwards, to the head of the Prime Minister’s department, when their ministers have “strong discussions” with them.

Colleagues might recall such incidents, if Hunt in years to come eyes his party’s deputy leadership – a position that ideally requires an even temperament.

Fortunately for the government, Hunt isn’t in the sort of position occupied by Senate leader Mathias Cormann, who has to manage relationships and negotiate in perennially-testing circumstances.

Cormann has a few heated clashes with opponents, especially recently with Labor’s Senate leader Penny Wong, but he manages political conflict in a civilised, quite respectful way. In dealing with a Senate crossbench packed with volatile and unpredictable characters surfing atop inflated egos, Cormann displays inexhaustible patience and general good humour.

Beyond judgement and temperament, there is another quality that is crucial in politics: character.

The voters are like sniffer dogs when it comes to character – if that hadn’t been the case Mark Latham might have won the 2004 election.

For years, the government has been on a constant mission to fan doubts about Bill Shorten’s character. It knows that if such an attack is effective, it can be lethal for a leader’s chances.

That was in part behind the Abbott government establishing the royal commission into trade unions. And it’s why Michaelia Cash set the Registered Organisations Commission onto the 2005 $100,000 Australian Workers Union donation to GetUp, when Shorten was union secretary. But as we saw this week, the donation affair has so far inflicted more pain on the government than on Shorten.

Read more:
Jobs Minister Michaelia Cash resists call to give evidence in AWU court case

The ConversationWe know from the polls the public don’t warm to the opposition leader. So far, however, Labor’s two-party lead indicates people haven’t concluded that he is not fit to rule. Shorten hasn’t failed the character test, but he hasn’t entirely passed it yet, either.

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.