Major rebuff to Malcolm Turnbull as poll result hovers on knife edge

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

The federal election result is on a knife-edge, with the outcome between a majority Turnbull government and a hung parliament.

Malcolm Turnbull has been delivered a major rebuff and left potentially embattled, with bitter recriminations breaking out in conservative ranks. Even if the Coalition ends up with a majority, Turnbull will have an uphill struggle to manage a party that includes many who are his enemies.

There were immediate calls for a review of the superannuation policy that the government took to the election, which cut back concessions for high-income earners and deeply angered the Liberals’ base.

Liberal ministers blamed Labor’s Medicare scare campaign for turning voters against the Coalition.

Late in the night the swing against the government was 3.6%. The election has seen a high vote for small parties.

Turnbull waited until after midnight to address his supporters, declaring: “I can report that based on the advice I have from the party officials, we can have every confidence that we will form a Coalition majority government in the next parliament”. In his speech, he did not accept any blame for the bad result or suggest he would make any changes as a result.

Treasurer Scott Morrison said the Coalition was “on the cusp” of being able to claim the 76 seats needed to form majority government.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, who spoke to supporters around 11:30PM, said the outcome might not be known for days but whatever happened one thing was sure: “the Labor Party is back”. He said the Liberals had “lost their mandate”.

Labor’s Senate leader, Penny Wong, said there was “too much on the table to call it tonight”.

The ABC said that with more than 70% of votes counted, the Coalition was on track to win 72 seats, and Labor set to claim 66, with five crossbenchers including one Green, and seven seats in doubt.

An unanticipated big swing in Tasmania has cost the Liberals Bass, Braddon and Lyons. Labor has won Eden-Monaro (NSW), Macarthur (NSW), and the notional Liberal seat of Burt in Western Australia.

In Queensland, Assistant Innovation Minister Wyatt Roy appears to have lost Longman and the Liberals may lose Herbert. The Sydney seat of Lindsay is likely to fall, as is Macquarie. In the Northern Territory, Solomon is set to fall.

Nick Xenophon’s Nick Xenophon Team (NXT) candidate Rebekha Sharkie has taken Mayo from former minister Jamie Briggs, who had to quit the frontbench after an incident in a Hong Kong bar. Briggs tweeted “After a tough fight tonight hasn’t been our night”.

The Liberals could win the Victorian Labor seat of Chisholm. The Labor-Green contest in Batman is neck and neck.

Despite Turnbull calling the double dissolution to clear out small players in the Senate, the new Senate will contain a plethora of micro players. They will include three South Australian senators from NXT. Pauline Hanson has been elected to a Senate seat in Queensland. Broadcaster Derryn Hinch has claimed a Victorian Senate seat. Independent Jacqui Lambie has been returned in Tasmania.

In his speech Turnbull took on criticism, already being aired, that he should not have called a double dissolution, saying this had not been a political tactic but had been driven by the “need to restore the rule of law to the construction industry”.

Even if Turnbull wins majority government he may not have the numbers to get the industrial relations bills, which were the trigger for the double dissolution, through a joint sitting.

The backlash in conservative ranks erupted immediately.

Senator Cory Bernardi said in a tweet to Liberal pollster Mark Textor:


Broadcaster Alan Jones clashed with one of Turnbull’s numbers men, senator James McGrath, on the Network Seven panel. “There were a lot of bed-wetters in the Liberal Party and you seemed to be the captain of the bed-wetters,” Jones said. McGrath hit back, saying Jones was “not a friend” of the Coalition.

Tony Abbott’s former chief-of-staff Peta Credlin and Attorney-General George Brandis had a spat on the Sky panel over the government’s superannuation changes. Credlin said the changes would not go through the Coalition partyroom in their present form; Brandis retorted she was not in the partyroom.

Tasmanian senator Eric Abetz said there had been strident criticism in emails to his office of the superannuation changes. “I for one will be advocating we reconsider aspects of it.”

Victorian Liberal president Michael Kroger said the party’s base was “furious” with the superannuation policy. “I certainly hope the partyroom would look at this issue.”

Conservative commentator Andrew Bolt called for Turnbull to quit. “You have been a disaster. You betrayed Tony Abbott and then led the party to humiliation, stripped of both values and honour. Resign.”

Morrison, asked if Abbott could have won the election, replied “highly unlikely”.

Roy and Peter Hendy, member for Eden-Monaro, were both heavily involved in the Turnbull coup.

Deputy Liberal leader Julie Bishop said “undoubtedly” the Medicare scare campaign had been an important factor in the result. She said a number of people on election day had raised Medicare with her at polling booths.

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann said Labor’s Medicare’s scare was more effective than the government had thought during the campaign. “No doubt the absolute lie Labor was running on Medicare was effective.”

Turnbull lashed out over the Medicare scare, saying “the Labor Party ran some of the most systematic, well-funded lies ever peddled in Australia”.

He said that “no doubt” the police would investigate last minute text messages to voters that said they came from Medicare.

Abetz said the “three amigos” in Bass, Braddon and Lyons had been swamped by the Medicare campaign.

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce held New England from independent challenger Tony Windsor. Independent Cathy McGowan retained Indi. The Nationals have taken Murray from the Liberals, and headed off a challenge in Cowper from independent Rob Oakeshott.

The poll has seen the first Indigenous woman elected to the House of Representatives – Linda Burney in the NSW seat of Barton.

The pre-poll count continued to 2AM. There will be no more counting until Tuesday.

The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

Malcolm Turnbull sounded tone deaf to election message

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Malcolm Turnbull’s speech to deflated supporters in the early hours of Sunday morning was extraordinarily lacking in self-awareness.

Turnbull had just brought his party a devastatingly bad election result. That’s true even if he manages to reach majority government, which remains far from clear despite his assertions. In the early hours of Sunday things got closer as more votes were counted. With 77.6% of the vote counted, the ABC tally had the Coalition and Labor on 67 seats each, five crossbenchers, and 11 seats in doubt.

Yet Turnbull showed not a scintilla of humility. He made no gesture of contrition, no promise that he had heard the message the people had delivered.

Instead he denounced Labor’s scare campaign – as if the Liberals themselves have not at times been masters of that dark art. And he made an unconvincing attempt to justify a double dissolution that has ended up producing a Senate as potentially difficult as the last one, with the added negative of including Pauline Hanson, so giving her a national platform.

There is now a bizarre parallel between Labor and the Liberals in turning triumph into disaster. Kevin Rudd won convincingly in 2007. He was then removed by his party and successor Julia Gillard came out of the subsequent election with a hung parliament. Tony Abbott had a strong win in 2013, was replaced – and now the Coalition will have a tiny majority or there will be another hung parliament, with the outcome depending on the crossbenchers.

Turnbull and his supporters can argue that if Abbott had still been leader the loss would have been greater, and that’s probably correct. But it is unlikely to be an argument that will do Turnbull much good in the days ahead when there won’t be a lot of Liberal love around.

Turnbull complains about Labor’s lies about Medicare’s future, but they were made more credible to the public because of the Coalition’s previous lies and actions. Did it think people would not remember Abbott’s 2013 promise of no cuts to health? Or the attempt in the 2014 budget to bring in a co-payment, unsuccessful though it was? Or the various subsequent moves for cuts and user pays measures?

Labor’s campaign might have been exaggerated and dishonest, but the Coalition itself had effectively given the ALP the building blocks for it.

Turnbull’s argument that he called a double dissolution not to change the nature of the Senate but because the lawlessness in the construction industry had to be confronted is facile. He did not even make the industrial relations legislation a central talking point in the campaign.

And in his speech he overlooked the point that even if he reaches majority government it is doubtful he would have the overall parliamentary numbers to get the bills through a joint sitting (although at this stage it is impossible to be definite about what the new senators might do).

In the wash-up, everything from the Coalition’s strategy for the past eight weeks – running almost entirely on a “plan” based on company tax cuts – to the mechanics of getting the case across, will be under internal criticism. It will be remembered that Turnbull’s pitch for leadership included his ability as an economic salesman. That, as it turned out, he over-hyped.

The Liberal conservatives will try to unravel policy. They started on election night with their bugbear – the superannuation changes. Assuming the Coalition survives in government, how will the ructions in the Liberals now play out for the same-sex marriage plebiscite?

Turnbull was looking for a mandate to allow him to be his own man. Instead of getting that, his government has been left struggling to survive.

If it does, the conservative forces will now take one of two views of him: as someone who must be forced to follow their will on core policies, or as someone who at a future date should be replaced. Or maybe they will adopt both views.

Turnbull’s enemies within his party have played this election craftily. Abbott was mostly quiet during the campaign, although in the final week he made clear that he thought the issues of budget repair, national security and border protection had been underdone. His former chief-of-staff Peta Credlin used her role as TV commentator to run an at times sharp critique of the Turnbull campaign. Now the conservatives will be full-throated.

Turnbull talks about the need for stability and unity. The Australian public is faced with instability. Whatever the result ends up being, there is no clear mandate and an extremely difficult Senate.

Turnbull, if he is still prime minister, would be confronted by the prospect of internal disunity plus a chaotic upper house that could likely make it nearly impossible to do much that is meaningful.

As happened when he was opposition leader, Turnbull is again in a situation where he didn’t read the danger signals. He thought he was more persuasive than Bill Shorten; he and his strategists (apparently) believed that whatever the national polls said, the marginal seats would stick. They said the election would be close but appeared confident it was in the bag.

Turnbull will pay a high price for his misjudgements, though it is unclear exactly how high.

The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

Infographic: what we know so far about the results of Election 2016

Emil Jeyaratnam, The Conversation; Fron Jackson-Webb, The Conversation; Michael Courts, The Conversation, and Wes Mountain, The Conversation

Australians have voted, but with the result currently unclear, how are the numbers falling across the country? This post will be updated when we know more.

As at 11:45AM Sunday, July 3:



Key seats

The Conversation

Emil Jeyaratnam, Multimedia Editor, The Conversation; Fron Jackson-Webb, Health + Medicine Editor, The Conversation; Michael Courts, Editor, The Conversation, and Wes Mountain, Deputy Multimedia Editor, The Conversation

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

Australia: Election

The Australian national/federal election has been run and currently there is no clear result. Some have lost seats and others have been elected for the first time (or in some cases, won their seats back). It would seem that the Coalition government may be returned with a drastically reduced majority of less than a handful of seats at best, with the ALP still an outside chance of being able to seize government. It is more likely that there will be some form of hung parliament, with no side being able to form a majority.

Australia: Malcolm Turnbull on 7.30

It’s about time – indeed past time – that politicians were challenged and taken to task over their refusal to answer questions. My solution – don’t let them back on if they don’t answer the questions asked.

Turnbull needs to add a dose of humanity into tough asylum policy

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Malcolm Turnbull confronts a classic “wicked problem” in how to deal with the nearly 1600 asylum seekers who are stuck in terrible conditions on Nauru and Manus Island.

A “wicked problem” is one that is “highly resistant to resolution”. In this case, Turnbull has – if he chooses to take it up – the policy challenge of finding a humane outcome for the detainees while maintaining a convincing “tough on borders” stand vis-a-vis the people smugglers.

This would also involve a political challenge. Hardline conservatives in his party, still appalled by the leadership coup, will use the asylum-seeker issue as one marker by which to judge Turnbull. From the other perspective, so will some moderate Liberals in the party and small-l liberals in voterland.

The present unacceptable state of affairs has most recently been highlighted by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, François Crépeau. He announced he was postponing his September 27-October 9 visit to Australia “due to the lack of full co-operation from the government regarding protection concerns and access to detention centres”.

Crépeau said the new Border Force Act, which threatens detention centre staff who disclose protected information with two years in jail, “would have an impact on my visit as it serves to discourage people from fully disclosing information relevant to my mandate”.

He had asked the government for a written guarantee that no-one he met would be at risk of “any intimidation or sanctions” under that act. The government was not prepared to give the guarantee required by his official terms of reference.

Crépeau said that since March he had repeatedly requested that the Australian government facilitate his access to its offshore processing centres, without success.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton responded that the government had “accommodated to the fullest extent possible the requests of the office of the Special Rapporteur”. Access to centres in Papua New Guinea and Nauru “is the responsibility of these sovereign nations and needs to be addressed with their governments”, Dutton added.

The most recent numbers (late August) showed 936 males detained on Manus and 653 detainees in Nauru (446 men, 114 women and 93 children). Processing has been painfully slow.

Under the Abbott government it was thought acceptable to let these people languish, apparently indefinitely.

Hopefully Turnbull will take a different view. He hinted at this last week when asked by Sky’s David Speers about the people “stuck” offshore. “I have the same concerns about the situation of people on Manus and Nauru as you do, and as I would think almost all, all, Australians do,” he said.

When some saw this as a potential softening of policy, however, he quickly reiterated that these people would never come to Australia.

Turnbull should address several steps if he is going to deal with the plight of the people on Nauru and Manus.

First, the government should do whatever is required to give the Special Rapporteur proper access to people and places. Ensuring protection for those who speak with the Rapporteur and access to centres is the easiest part of dealing with the wicked problem.

Second, there should be more Australian oversight in the centres. Claims that the sovereignty of PNG and Nauru would be compromised do not hold water – Australia is paying the bills.

Third, the government should find a way of having the people in the detention centres processed more quickly. The processing is done by the Nauru and PNG authorities, so the Australian government says “ask them” in response to questions about delays – a convenient but not convincing answer.

Fourth, those determined to be refugees need to be resettled satisfactorily, bearing in mind that the government won’t allow them to come to Australia.

From the reporting we have seen – most recently at the weekend from The Age’s Michael Gordon, who visited Manus – the conditions of the small number whose refugee claims have been upheld and who are out of the detention centres are appalling.

The government promised large amounts of funding for Cambodia to take people. Only a handful of refugees went.

Other third-country destinations are needed. But what hope of finding them, when the world is awash with great human tides of asylum seekers? Are any countries interested in “people swap” deals?

Fifth, any attempt by people smugglers to take advantage of a more humane policy towards the Manus and Nauru people by trying to restart the trade would need to be stared down. Both sides of politics now endorse turnbacks and there is no reason to think this would not continue to be effective as a deterrent.

Sixth, the Border Force Act should be amended, to allow those working in detention centres proper rights to provide information publicly in appropriate circumstances. The Australian Medical Association has been campaigning against the legislation and its voice should be heeded – it has a professional not a commercial interest in the issue.

In his last days as prime minister, Tony Abbott had Australia make a generous gesture to 12,000 refugees from the Syrian conflict. That actually was easier than solving the problem of the people stranded in PNG and Nauru. But the fate of those close at hand and under our watch is equally important and increasingly urgent.

The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

Malcolm Turnbull ousts Tony Abbott in dramatic party coup

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Malcolm Turnbull has seized the prime ministership from Tony Abbott by 54 votes to 44 in a late-night vote that transforms the federal political landscape, presenting Bill Shorten with potentially a much more formidable opponent.

Turnbull’s victory culminated an extraordinary day, which saw him launch his challenge with a scathing public assault on Abbott’s failures, followed by bitter counter attacks from ministers backing Abbott as he fought a desperate rearguard action.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, who joined the Turnbull push and went to Abbott before question time to tell him he had lost his party’s support, was re-elected deputy leader, defeating Abbott backer Kevin Andrews 70 votes to 30. Bishop had indicated she would not serve as deputy if Abbott held his job.

Turnbull, with a big task to unite the party, will comprehensively reshuffle the ministry with Treasurer Joe Hockey a certain casualty and Social Services Minister Scott Morrison favourite to replace him.

Turnbull’s victory reverses the defeat that Abbott imposed on him in 2009 in opposition.

A moderate, Turnbull has consistently outpolled Abbott as preferred leader. His victory – which comes despite the suspicion of him by many Liberals in the right-leaning party – reflects the deep fears of an election loss under Abbott.

The day began with most Liberals believing that although a leadership contest was nearly inevitable, it probably would not come this week, which is the run-up to the Canning byelection.

Abbott, speaking in Adelaide on Monday morning, tried to shrug off talk of a leadership spill, saying he was not going to get caught up in “Canberra gossip”.

As the prime minister was on his way to Canberra, the Turnbull camp was plotting its strategy.

Turnbull met Abbott after Question Time to tell him he would challenge, and resign as communications minister.

He then went out to lambast Abbott’s failures when he announced his candidature at a news conference.


Turnbull said Abbott had not been capable of providing the economic leadership the nation needed and would not be able to win the election. A new style of leadership was needed, including “advocacy not slogans”. The trajectory was clear; the Coalition had lost 30 Newspolls in a row. “It is clear the people have made up their mind about Mr Abbott’s leadership.”

Announcing the party meeting, Abbott said the leadership should be earned by a vote of the Australian people and the Liberals should avoid “Labor’s revolving-door prime ministership”.

The leadership uncertainty has dogged the government all year, with an unsuccessful spill motion moved by backbenchers in February. Turnbull did not put up his hand because he did not have the numbers.

Morrison, a key figure on the right of the party, flagged before the ballot that he would vote for Abbott, but would not seek to be deputy leader.

The Abbott camp rolled out a string of ministers to try to discredit Turnbull before the party meeting, which started at 9.15pm.

Hockey denounced Turnbull’s claims about bad economic leadership, saying they were “completely unfounded. He has never said to me or to the cabinet that we are heading in the wrong direction.”

Hockey said that the “disloyalty of some has been outrageous”.

Senate leader Eric Abetz said it was a question of “core beliefs not personalities”. Like other Abbott backers, Abetz said the “flood of messages” to Liberal MPs was clear: “one, keep Tony Abbott as PM and, two, don’t behave like the Labor Party did”.

Andrews said office telephones had been in “meltdown” with messages of support for Tony Abbott. “The party base overwhelmingly supports the PM as do our Coalition partners the Nationals.”

Andrews said there was a clear choice. On the one hand, Abbott had shown he could fight and beat Labor in two elections. On the other hand, Turnbull had never fought an election as leader.

“He talks today about being behind in the Newspolls. Don’t forget that he never actually won a Newspoll when he was leader,” Andrews said.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton strongly defended Abbott. Finance Minister Mathias Cormann and Assistant Treasurer Josh Frydenberg also publicly backed Abbott.

National Party Leader and Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss confirmed before the meeting that while the leadership was a choice for the Liberals, any change would require a new Coalition agreement.

This is expected to be a formality.

Truss praised Abbott, saying he had been a “very inclusive leader” and “the progress and the processes of government have been very constructive and well organised”.

The Turnbull camp did not hit the airwaves with a bevy of public figures before the vote. But strong Turnbull supporter Senator Arthur Sinodinos, John Howard’s former chief of staff, said there needed to be a change of both style and substance in national leadership.

“I believe Malcolm Turnbull can bring real substance to the economic debate. He will lead from the front,” Sinodinos said.

Canning Liberal candidate Andrew Hastie, a former SAS officer, said in a statement: “People have called me today worried about this byelection, that somehow events in Canberra have made my job more difficult. And believe me, in my previous career I’ve experienced much worse.

“In fact, I’m going up a gear now for the people of Canning. This byelection is not about political games, it’s about the people of Canning and they’re losing faith in the political class.”

The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

Australian Politics: 5 December 2014 – The Great Reshuffle