Coalition trails 45-55% and Turnbull’s ratings sink in Newspoll


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

A disastrous Newspoll showing the Coalition trailing Labor 45-55%, One Nation gaining ground and Malcolm Turnbull’s ratings falling will fuel the alarm and anger in the Coalition as it returns to parliament in the wake of Tony Abbott’s outburst. The Conversation

Abbott will cop much blame for the result. But the worsening in Turnbull’s personal numbers also suggests his recent more aggressive performance hasn’t impressed the public as much as it did his colleagues.

The poll, in Monday’s Australian, showed a further deterioration from the 46-54% two-party vote of three weeks ago, which had been the worst result of Turnbull’s prime ministership. One Nation has increased its support from 8% to 10% over the three weeks.

The poll was taken Thursday to Sunday, so Abbott’s provocative Thursday evening speech and TV interview – warning of the risk of a “drift to defeat” and setting out his alternative agenda including a call for lower immigration – would have fed straight into it.

Turnbull’s net satisfaction has plummeted by nine points, from minus 21 to minus 30; Shorten’s net satisfaction has dipped by four points, from minus 22 to minus 26. Turnbull has also lost ground in his lead over Shorten as better prime minister – 40% (down two points) to 33% (up three points).

The Coalition’s primary vote has fallen one point to 34%, with Labor increasing one point to 37%. The Greens are on 10% and “others” are on 9%.

Parliament resumes not only with the government’s division on display but with Labor having ammunition after last week’s decision by the Fair Work Commission cutting Sunday penalty rates for the hospitality, retail, fast-food and pharmacy sectors.

Abbott’s intervention has been condemned by colleagues, but his former chief-of-staff Peta Credlin defended him at the weekend.

She said that as a former prime minister he had every right to make a speech “outlining what he thinks the Coalition needs to do to win back its supporters and govern in Australia’s national interest”, although she was critical of his also doing a media interview.

“Of course, it would have been easier for everyone if he’d given his counsel in private, but the PM has made it clear he doesn’t want Abbott’s advice so it is hard to criticise him for speaking publicly,” she wrote in the Sunday Telegraph.

She said Abbott had come back from a large number of marginal seat visits “so he has no illusions about the anger among Coalition supporters and party members”.

Credlin wrote that despite what Turnbull said, Coalition supporters didn’t believe he “has a conservative bone in his body”.

“Regardless of his promises, Turnbull’s problem has always been a lack of authenticity,” she wrote.

“It comes down to this: Malcolm Turnbull is desperate to hold on to power and Tony Abbott is desperate to hold the Liberal Party together. It’s not necessarily the same thing.”

On Sky Credlin said “there is absolutely no relationship” between Abbott and Turnbull: “it was manufactured to get everybody through the campaign so no one could accuse Abbott of being a wrecker”.

Credlin also said she did not believe Abbott wanted the prime ministerial job again: “I think he would have a hard time reconciling around that cabinet table with people like Christopher Pyne and Julie Bishop and others who would very likely stay in the senior ranks.”

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann, an Abbott loyalist to the end of his prime ministership, who on Friday strongly criticised Thursday’s intervention, told Sky he had “thought it was important to send a very clear message … to essentially signal that enough is enough”. He said that “obviously private messages hadn’t been heeded”.

His Friday criticism of Abbott was not co-ordinated with Turnbull’s office, Cormann said. “It was off my own bat … I made the judgement it was necessary and appropriate to say what I said.”

Shorten on Monday will give notice of a private member’s bill to protect penalty rates. The bill would prevent the decision of the Fair Work Commission from taking effect. It would also ensure that penalty rates could not be cut in future if that resulted in a cut in take-home pay.

In a letter to Turnbull on Sunday, Shorten said at least 600,000 people would be hurt by this pay cut and the brunt of the decision would be borne by low income earners.

Calling for the government to intervene to head off the cuts, Shorten wrote that “a decision not to intervene is a decision to endorse the proposed cuts to pay. There is no doubt that this decision will cause genuine financial hardship. It is simply unacceptable to reduce penalty rates without compensation.

“You have a window to act before the commission issues its determination and the opposition would work with you to ensure this devastating cut to low paid workers’ income never occurs,” Shorten wrote.

The government, aware the pay cut is likely to rebound on it, is stressing it is the decision of the “independent umpire” rather than a government decision.

It also points out that when workplace relations minister, Shorten brought in an amendment that referred to penalty rates being included in the review of awards.

But Shorten said in his letter that his 2013 amendments were intended to ensure the commission took into account “the need to provide additional remuneration for employees working outside normal hours”.

“It was clearly the parliament’s intent that the award review process would not ever result in a cut to worker’s pay.”

On Friday the Greens flagged a private member’s bill to prevent the commission’s decision from coming into effect.

https://www.podbean.com/media/player/j795u-67fef0?from=yiiadmin

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

Labor leads 55-45 in Newspoll as Turnbull’s ratings tank


Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

This week’s Newspoll, conducted Thursday to Sunday from a sample of 1680, gave Labor a 55-45 lead, a 1 point gain for Labor since the previous Newspoll, three weeks ago. Primary votes were 37% for Labor (up 1), 34% for the Coalition (down 1), 10% for the Greens (steady) and 10% for One Nation (up 2). It appears that One Nation is now in Newspoll’s party readout, so their support should not be underestimated. The Conversation

29% were satisfied with Turnbull’s performance (down 5), and 59% were dissatisfied (up 4), for a net approval of -30, down 9 points. This is a record low net approval for Turnbull; his previous low was -28. Shorten’s net approval also slumped four points to -26.

According to Kevin Bonham, Turnbull and Shorten are now at a combined low net approval of -56, though they are still five points above Abbott and Shorten’s record low of -61. Paul Keating and John Hewson hold the record low net approval with a combined score of -76.

While Turnbull’s parliamentary performance in the first two weeks of sittings won plaudits from the political press, Newspoll suggests it did not impress the general public. Essential’s findings below show that the public is strongly in favour of renewable energy, undermining the pro-coal and anti-renewables rhetoric of the Coalition and their right wing media cheerleaders.

Three weeks ago, I wrote that there was no evidence from the polling under Abbott or Turnbull that Australians want a hard right government. When Turnbull adopts Abbott-type policies and rhetoric, his ratings and the Coalition’s come to resemble those under Abbott. To some extent, Abbott was protected by reluctance to return to Labor after one term, but the Coalition is now into its second term.

An additional Newspoll question finds that 17% would be willing to pay an extra $300 or more per year for renewable energy, 26% would pay an extra $100 and 45% nothing more. These figures are little changed from October 2016.

Essential at 53-47 to Labor

Primary votes in this week’s Essential are 37% Coalition, 37% Labor, 9% Greens, 9% One Nation and 3% Nick Xenophon Team. Voting intentions are based on a two-week sample of 1800, with other questions using one week’s sample.

Since September last year, positive attributes of Turnbull fell slightly and negative attributes rose slightly; the biggest change is for visionary (down 5). Shorten’s attributes moved in the same direction as Turnbull’s, though to a lesser extent. The three biggest attribute differences between the two leaders are on out of touch (Turnbull by 18), intelligent (Turnbull by 12) and arrogant (Turnbull by 12).

44% approved of negative gearing (up 1 since May 2016), and 35% disapproved (down 1). 41% disapproved of investors receiving a capital gains tax deduction on profits made selling properties, and 37% approved. Asked what would be the effect of limiting negative gearing and reducing the capital gains tax concession, 32% said house prices would rise at a slower rate, 19% said house prices would fall and 17% said house prices would rise at the same rate.

46% thought housing affordability was more important for the government to address, while 44% selected rising energy prices. 64% would support a royal commission into banking, with just 16% opposed.

In last week’s Essential, 60% (up 6 since December) thought climate change is happening, and is caused by human activity, while 25% (down 2) thought we are witnessing a normal fluctuation. This is a record high for human caused climate change in Essential’s polling, and probably reflects the effects of the recent heatwave across eastern Australia.

65% supported Labor’s 50% renewable energy target by 2030, with only 18% opposed. 45% blamed the recent SA power blackouts on failures of the energy market, 19% blamed it on privatisation of the energy market, and only 16% blamed renewables. 64% thought renewable energy was the solution to our future energy needs, and only 14% thought it a threat to our energy supply. 45% opposed building new coal-fired power stations, with 31% in favour.

29% approved of the Liberals directing preferences to One Nation in the WA election, and 38% disapproved. 82% thought people required to work outside normal hours should receive a higher hourly pay rate, and only 12% disagreed.

Victorian Galaxy: Labor holds narrow lead, but Andrews has negative rating

A Victorian Galaxy poll had Labor holding a 51-49 lead, a one point gain for the Coalition since a November Galaxy. Primary votes were 41% for the Coalition (down 1), 37% for Labor (steady), 10% for the Greens (down 2) and 8% for One Nation. 35% approved of Premier Daniel Andrews, and 52% disapproved, for a net rating of -17; this question was not asked in November. 52% thought Victoria had become less safe under Labor, with just 15% for more safe. This poll was conducted 16-17 February from a sample of 1090.

A separate Galaxy poll of the Labor-held seat of Werribee, conducted 16 February with a sample of 550, had Labor crashing, probably due to concerns about a proposed youth prison in Werribee. The Liberals held a 51-49 lead, a massive swing of 17 points since the 2014 election. Primary votes were Liberals 35% (up 6), Labor 29% (down 28!), One Nation 21% and Greens 7% (down 2). 85% disapproved of the youth prison, with only 12% in favour.

These two Galaxy polls were taken before the Speaker and deputy Speaker of Victoria’s lower house resigned owing to abuse of parliamentary entitlements.

Queensland redistribution

Last year, the Liberal National Party (LNP) combined with crossbenchers to expand the unicameral Queensland Parliament from 89 to 93 seats, despite the objections of the Labor government. The LNP thought they would lose seats under a redistribution had the old 89 seats been retained.

On Friday, the Queensland Electoral Commission published draft boundaries for the redistribution. Antony Green has calculated the new margins in all seats. He finds that Labor would win 47 of the 93 seats based on votes at the 2015 election. The LNP would win 44, the Katter Party one, and one Independent. The 2015 election result was 44 Labor, 42 LNP, 2 Katter and 1 Independent.

These calculations ignore two defections from Labor and one from the LNP since the last election. They assume standard two party contests, so the surge in support for One Nation could throw them out.

UK Labour suffers disastrous by-election loss

On Thursday, UK by-elections occurred in the Labour-held seats of Stoke Central and Copeland. Labour retained Stoke Central with a small swing against them, but in Copeland the Conservatives won by 44.3% (up 8.5 points since the 2015 election), to 37.3% for Labour (down 4.9). At the 2015 election, Labour won Copeland by 6.5 points.

This is the first time a government has gained a seat at a UK by-election since 1982. In that case, and in several other cases, the opposition’s vote was split at the by-election by sitting members contesting for another party. The last time a UK government won an opposition-held seat at a by-election without vote splitting was 1960, but that seat had only been won by 47 votes at the previous general election. According to Number Cruncher Politics, 1878 was the last time a truly comparable event occurred.

Current polls have the Conservatives in the low 40’s and Labour in the mid 20’s. The Copeland by-election adds to the evidence that Labour faces an utter shellacking at the next general election with Jeremy Corbyn as its leader.

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

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

Turnbull turns shock-and-awe on Abbott


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Malcolm Turnbull has unleashed massive retaliation against Tony Abbott as appalled Liberals, who can only fear where it will all end, watch the former prime minister tear at the leadership of the man who overthrew him. The Conversation

Abbott will never be prime minister again – at least that’s as certain as anything can be in the volatile world of politics. What’s unknown is how much damage he can do his successor. At a guess, quite a lot.

Abbott’s latest assault on Turnbull comes at a further cost to Abbott’s own reputation among Liberals. Many on the right, let alone others in the party, are increasingly angry at his destructiveness.

But while Abbott’s attacks might rally the troops around Turnbull, they reinforce the message that the government is divided, feed into criticisms coming from conservatives about its performance, and provide yet another free kick for Labor.

“I am not distracted by political outbursts,” Turnbull tried to claim during a news conference completely distracted by the affair.

Abbott’s Thursday onslaught was swingeing and calculated. Launching a book of conservative essays, he outlined his alternative policy agenda, helpfully dubbed a “manifesto” in media reports, which included lower immigration and torpedoing the Renewable Energy Target.

He threw in a broadside against Turnbull’s latest pet and ill-founded idea of subsidising so-called “clean coal”. As he put it succinctly: “We subsidise wind to make coal uneconomic so now we are proposing to subsidise coal to keep the lights on. Go figure.”

In his accompanying performance on the Bolt Report, Abbott declared that: “the risk is that we will drift to defeat if we don’t lift our game”. In his speech he said the election was “winnable” (on his agenda, that is) – the government’s “challenge is to be worth voting for … to win back the people who are giving up on us”.

There are three ways for a leader to try to deal with a predecessor forcibly removed who has turned feral. Appease him by inviting him into the tent. Grit teeth and suggest a little freelancing is really OK – just what an “ex” does. Or hit back hard.

On Friday there was no pretence, let alone compromise: Turnbull let fly with barely repressed fury, first on Melbourne’s 3AW and at a news conference.

His message about substance was that Abbott had talked about doing things – such as abolishing the gold pass, restoring law to the building sector, cutting taxes – but he, Turnbull, did them.

Gone is the old line that there was some continuity, among the differences, between the Abbott and Turnbull governments. Now ministers, presumably following talking points, are falling over themselves to say, in effect, that the Abbott government, of which they were senior members, wasn’t much good.

As for Abbott the tormenter: “Tony Abbott is a very experienced politician … He knows exactly what he’s doing and so do his colleagues,” Turnbull said.

So exactly what is Abbott doing?

Obviously, he’s indulging himself, finding therapy and purpose by letting his pain and fury come in a sort of primal scream.

If Turnbull won’t put him in cabinet, as he thinks his due as a former leader and experienced minister, well, he’ll do just what he wants. He’ll make himself a centre of attention, an alternative voice, a critiquer of a floundering government. He will find comfort in the emails from people in “the base” who thought he was treated badly.

What he is not doing by this week’s behaviour is gathering internal support. Surely he must know this.

He must have winced to hear on Friday morning Finance Minister Mathias Cormann, who described the TV interview as “deliberately destructive. It was completely unhelpful. It was not designed to be helpful. He was not trying to help our cause or help our country. It was quite self-indulgent”.

Cormann is a senior conservative. As he pointed out, he’d been “loyal and supportive and reliable” for Abbott until the very end of his leadership. On the night of the ballot that Abbott was clearly going to lose, Cormann went out to publicly back him.

In recent times Turnbull, as he’s become frustrated with Treasurer Scott Morrison, has grown closer to Cormann. So his intervention, which was powerful, was still met with some cynicism. “Have you dispatched Mathias Cormann … to blow up Tony Abbott because you’re concerned he’s going to blow up your party?” one journalist asked Turnbull.

In terms of leadership, it does seem Abbott has harboured the unlikely thought that lightning can strike twice. In 2009 he became leader against the odds – sometimes strange things happen in ballots.

It’s said he’d hoped to get allies to stir party support on his behalf but that’s not happened. Sky News reported he told Cory Bernardi late last year that he would not challenge Turnbull, but left the door open for a second coming if Turnbull quit before the election.

Maybe he now thinks that, if he can’t wrest the leadership back, he can influence who might get it if Turnbull collapsed. He’d push conservative Immigration Minister Peter Dutton, and be particularly anxious to hold off Liberal deputy Julie Bishop and Morrison, both of whom he believes were disloyal to him.

As tends to happen after one of Abbott’s guerrilla attacks, on Friday he struck a sort of “who me?” attitude.

But his declaration of loyalty to Turnbull was formulaic. “He’s the person that the party chose to lead the government and obviously I support the leader of the government.”

And there was this, which can only be described as breathtaking: “My duty as a former party leader is to try to ensure the party and the government stays on the right track.”

One Liberal backbencher summed up the whole 24 hours: “Tony was right about one thing, they are drifting towards losing – except it’s no longer a drift.”

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

Tony Abbott says government’s challenge is ‘to be worth voting for’


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Tony Abbott has laid out his policy alternatives to make the next election “winnable” for the Coalition, in a provocative speech that again highlights his differences with Malcolm Turnbull. The Conversation

The former prime minister said the government should say to the people of Australia that it would cut the renewable energy target, reduce immigration, scrap the Human Rights Commission, stop all new spending, and reform the Senate via a referendum held with the next election.

Launching Making Australia Right, a book of essays by conservatives edited by James Allan, Abbott brought together several proposals he has previously argued for.

He took aim at the government’s current signals about the future direction of its energy policy, and attacked its preservation of the 23% Renewable Energy Target (RET), which was negotiated in his time as prime minister.

“The government is now talking about using the Clean Energy Finance Corporation to subsidise a new coal-fired power station – creating, if you like, a base-load target to supplement the renewable target,” he said.

“We subsidise wind to make coal uneconomic so now we are proposing to subsidise coal to keep the lights on. Go figure.”

“Wouldn’t it be better to abolish subsidies for new renewable generation and let ordinary market forces do the rest?”

“Of course that would trigger the mother of all brawls in the Senate, but what better way to let voters know that the Coalition wants your power bill down, while Labor wants it up?”

Abbott said the government’s challenge was “to be worth voting for” and to “win back the people who are giving up on us”.

“In or out of government, political parties need a purpose. Our politics can’t be just a contest of toxic egos or someone’s vanity project.”

The next election was “winnable”, he said, outlining the pitches he saw as needed to secure that win.

“If we stop pandering to climate change theology and freeze the RET, we can take the pressure off power prices.”

“If we end the ‘big is best’ thinking of the federal Treasury, and scaled
back immigration – at least until housing starts and infrastructure have caught up – we can take the pressure off home prices.”

“If we can take our own rhetoric about budget repair seriously and avoid all new spending and cut out all frivolous spending, we will start to get the deficit down.”

“If we refuse to be the ATM for the states, there might finally be some microeconomic reform of our public education and public health systems.”

“If we stopped funding the Human Rights Commission and leave protecting our liberties to the parliament, the courts and a free press where they belong, we might start to look like the defenders of western civilisation that we aspire to be.”

Speaking on Sky, Abbott said that “plainly there are lots of people concerned about our direction” and warned “the risk is we will drift to defeat if we don’t lift our game”.

He also criticised Turnbull’s decision to stay in his own home in Sydney.

“I think it would be a better look if the prime minister did live in Kirribilli House,” he said. He understood Turnbull not wanting to be a burden on the taxpayer but “by trying to avoid being a burden to the taxpayer, in the end, you end up costing the taxpayer more”.

When he was prime minister Abbott was reluctant to move from his own home to Kirribilli but was persuaded to do so.

https://www.podbean.com/media/player/j795u-67fef0?from=yiiadmin

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

Grattan on Friday: Penalty rates – Shorten’s own goal becomes Turnbull’s political problem


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

The latest reflection on just how appalling things are in federal politics came this week from former Treasury head Ken Henry, who’s now chairman of NAB. The Conversation

“Our politicians have dug themselves into deep trenches from which they fire insults designed merely to cause political embarrassment. Populism supplies the munitions,” Henry told a conference in Canberra. “The country that Australians want cannot even be imagined from these trenches,” he said.

A senior player in reforms under Hawke-Keating Labor and the Howard government, Henry contrasted the current dysfunction “to earlier periods of policy success – where politics was adversarial, every bit as partisan – but when the tribal tensions within parties were generally well-managed and the political contest appeared to energise policy, not kill it”.

Henry may be slightly romanticising the past, as often happens when people look back to that period of policy-rich achievement. There were more than a few unedifying times in the fights of those years. But his general point is right.

He and his fellow heavyweights in the banking industry have just had a close-up view of the Coalition’s ugly tribalism with Treasurer Scott Morrison’s tantrum over former Labor premier Anna Bligh’s appointment to the Australian Bankers Association. It was short-sighted, counter-productive behaviour.

The fact that some in the Coalition saw Bligh’s appointment as the banks writing off the government was revealing. Given the volatility of politics, the bankers would hardly be predicting the next election’s outcome now – the interpretation suggests more about the mindset of alarm in Liberal circles.

When governments are flagging there is always talk of a “reset”. We’ve been hearing it this year, just as we did in the Gillard days.

But looking to a “reset” is more often than not to be staring at a mirage. It’s true that in 2001 the Howard government had a spectacular “reset”. It changed some decisions and crafted a canny budget, but the biggest factors in cementing its turnaround were Tampa’s arrival and September 11.

Some Coalition MPs believe Malcolm Turnbull’s burst of aggression – over Bill-and-the-billionaires and Labor and renewables – will give the government its “reset”. It’s doubtful. People don’t like abuse. And in the energy debate, this week’s Essential poll suggested the government is struggling.

So, looking ahead, there are no quick fixes, or answers based in a superficial change of style. The government faces the toughest slog, as it contemplates a budget that’s difficult to put together and the challenge of delivering an energy policy.

There will be pressure to spend in the budget to gain credibility on health, which cost the Coalition votes last July. Stories are already appearing about ending the freeze on the Medicare rebate. But where will offsetting cuts be found?

And, given the Senate gridlock on savings, can the government produce a budget that doesn’t alienate voters but keeps the ratings agencies at bay and Australia’s AAA rating intact?

As for energy security, the government’s “clean coal” frolic is genuinely hard to understand – beyond fears about regional seats and pressure from the Nationals – given that the word from the sector is that investors won’t go there. Eventually hyper rhetoric will have to give way to concrete measures that can fly.

High electricity prices are a politically sensitive cost-of-living issue and the government is trying to pin the blame for them, and for blackouts, on Labor’s commitment to renewables.

But suddenly there is a new cost-of-living issue, with the Fair Work Commission decision on Thursday to cut Sunday and public holiday penalty rates for those working under the hospitality, fast-food, retail and pharmacy awards.

This is not the government’s decision – the commission is independent and the government didn’t even put a submission to its inquiry.

And, in an ironic twist, Bill Shorten when workplace relations minister paved the way for this decision, with amendments requiring the review of industrial awards to cover the area of “additional remuneration” for employees working on weekends, public holidays, shifts and the like.

The Gillard government thought it was writing protection of penalty rates into the award system. Julia Gillard, addressing an Australian Council of Trade Unions summit, said: “We will make it clear in law that there needs to be additional renumeration for employees who work shift work, unsocial, irregular, unpredictable hours or on weekends and public holidays.”

Labor says it never envisaged the commission would reduce rates. Let alone when the bench members are overwhelmingly ALP appointees.

Although it did not make it, the decision is in line with general government thinking for industrial relations reform. But the government finds itself caught between its base, that will applaud the cut, and many voters whose hip pockets will be hit.

It argues the decision will boost employment, as the commission says. However, the job increases – which neither the commission nor employers can quantify – are likely to be longer in coming and less visible than the pay losses.

Shorten has potential to make hay with the decision, helped by the unions. Those facing smaller pay packets are unlikely to be diverted by the government highlighting his role in getting the review of penalties rolling.

Labor says it will intervene when the commission on March 24 considers transition arrangements; it also is looking to some parliamentary initiative. If (as seems likely) these paths come to dead ends, it is promising legislation if it wins the next election to clip the wings of the commission.

The government faces a dilemma as to whether it intervenes to put a view on how long the transition should be.

There is a parallel here with the problem the government is facing with its omnibus bill which reforms child care while shaving family tax benefits. In each case, people stand to lose something.

The big difference is that with the penalty rates the government isn’t the body making the decision and can say the judgement of the independent umpire should prevail. But if Labor can make the Coalition wear some of the odium for low-paid workers losing dollars, this will be another burden for Turnbull.

https://www.podbean.com/media/player/j795u-67fef0?from=yiiadmin

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

Dutton blows Turnbull’s credibility – for now and perhaps for later


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton’s explicit linking of the arrangements to send Australia’s offshore refugees to the US and to accept some from Costa Rica presents not just an immediate credibility problem for Malcolm Turnbull but, potentially, a more serious longer-term one. The Conversation

It contradicts the prime minister’s flat – if unconvincing – denial of such a link. It also raises the question, why would people believe Turnbull on anything remotely related to this issue in the future?

And that could be important if the Trump administration were to ask Australia to boost its military commitment in the Middle East.

Turnbull says any such request would be considered on its merits.

If there was a request and Australia were to agree, he would deny that the acquiescence had anything to do with his managing to twist Donald Trump’s arm to accept the deal Australia did with the Obama administration to take people from Nauru and Manus Island.

But that denial – always likely to be questioned – would be an even harder sell now.

In September, after the Costa Rica arrangement was announced, Turnbull was asked whether it had any material impact on the government’s ability to find homes for people on Nauru and Manus Island.

“It is not linked to any other resettlement discussions,” he said. “The announcement today is not connected to any other arrangements.”

This became the mantra, including after the deal about Nauru and Manus Island was announced following the presidential election. Dutton said on November 14: “The Costa Rica arrangement had nothing to do with this deal and it’s not a people swap.”

On Tuesday’s Bolt program on Sky, Dutton predicted the first offshore refugees would move in the next couple of months. Asked then when the first people from Costa Rica would arrive, Dutton said: “Well, we wouldn’t take anyone until we had assurances that people were going to go off Nauru and Manus … We want an outcome in relation to Nauru and Manus.”

“One of the lessons we’ve learnt from past arrangements, say the Malaysian deal for example that Julia Gillard entered into, we accepted all the people from Malaysia, not one person went from Australia. So we’re not going to be sucked into that sort of silly outcome.”

It should be said this is more than a bit rich. The people didn’t go because the Coalition opposition blocked the “swap”.

Bolt pressed Dutton on the arrangements with the US. “So it was a deal? It was, we’ll take yours if you take ours.”

Dutton said it wasn’t a “people-swap deal” but added: “I don’t have any problem with that characterisation if people want to put that”.

It’s always defied common sense to think there was no link between the Costa Rica and Nauru/Manus Island deals, and the government was taking the public for mugs to try to argue that. Now it is paying the price.

It remains unclear what the Americans honouring the deal will amount to, given it is up to them how many of the people they finally accept after Trump’s “extreme vetting” process.

Dutton’s proposition that the refugees from Costa Rica can’t come until he’s sure some of the offshore people are going suggests he feels the need to take out insurance.

Fairfax’s Michael Gordon has suggested Dutton could have handed Trump an excuse to junk the Manus/Nauru deal if he was so minded.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, in Washington for wide-ranging talks with the Trump administration, said on Wednesday: “The agreement is progressing and our officials are working together with United States officials to vet the applicants for settlement in the United States.” She wouldn’t be drawn on detail.

Asked whether she would characterise it as a swap deal, Bishop said: “That’s not the way I would categorise it.”

The government continues to fall victim of its own spin.

https://www.podbean.com/media/player/tm592-67b71d?from=yiiadmin

https://www.podbean.com/media/player/e2my3-67bf00?from=yiiadmin

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

After all the talk, what is the Turnbull government actually doing for small business?


Martie-Louise Verreynne, The University of Queensland and Thea Voogt, The University of Queensland

Treasurer Scott Morrison continues to warn about the decline of Australia’s global competitiveness if the centrepiece of the 2016–17 federal budget – a company tax rate cut – is not passed.

However, such tax cuts are not necessarily the best approach for the government to support small business. They need other – more immediate – forms of support, our research shows.

What’s being proposed?

The 2016-17 budget reflected the Turnbull government’s catchphrase of “jobs and growth”. From a small-business perspective, the budget wanted to:

… boost new investment, create and support jobs and increase real wages, starting with tax cuts for small and medium-sized enterprises, that will permanently increase the size of the economy by just over 1% in the long term.

In 2014, Australia had the fifth-highest company tax rate among OECD countries, albeit average in the Asia-Pacific region. Local investors benefit from lower taxes on dividends through Australia’s dividend imputation system, which passes credits onto them for corporate taxes already paid.

The Abbott government later succeeded in lowering the tax rate for small businesses with a turnover of less than A$2 million from 30% to 28.5%. The Turnbull government’s plan would eventually reduce the rate for all companies to 25% by 2026-27. It’s a phased implementation over the next ten years, starting with an immediate cut for small companies to 27.5%.

However, 70% of small businesses are unincorporated. This means their owners add profits to their personal income for tax purposes. While the government has promised an increase in their tax offset percentage, it plans to retain the cap of A$1,000.

All small businesses will benefit from the simplification of tax rules for stock, GST and depreciation. But the government’s plan introduces three levels of concessions for small businesses. This complicates the definition of what these small businesses are.

Definition disputes

Defining small business goes beyond an academic debate.

With little consensus on typical turnover numbers – these range from A$2 million to A$25 million – a better indicator could be the Australian Bureau of Statistics definition of small businesses as those with fewer than 20 employees. And 97% of the 2.1 million businesses trading in Australia fit this definition.

It is risky, though, to simplify the definition into one blunt instrument that ignores differences in industry, life cycle and high-volume versus high-worth sales. A more nuanced approach is needed to ensure relief for the businesses that need it most.

However, the major political parties seemingly remain focused on turnover as a measure of what is and isn’t a small business. The government’s plan extends the upper limit for the turnover of small businesses to A$10 million by 2016–17, which covers some of the 3% of Australia’s non-small businesses.

Meanwhile, Labor has argued for immediate support for tax cuts to small businesses with a turnover of less than A$2 million.

Lifting the turnover threshold for all small businesses from A$2 million to A$10 million in the short term will increase the number of businesses that can access some tax concessions by 90,000. And it may improve economic growth as larger firms receive some relief.

What small businesses actually need

Small businesses need immediate and certain tax relief in the short term. They struggle with an uncertain business environment.

But, in the longer term, our research shows increased competition, a lack of market demand and red tape are but a few of the issues small businesses deal with. They highlighted statutory and regulatory compliance, as well as tax planning and compliance, as major issues for them.

More than tax rates, complex tax requirements and regulations are issues causing small businesses substantial distress. The Australian Tax Office’s research supports this: more than 70% of surveyed clients viewed their tax affairs as complex. And the World Bank’s ease of doing business index ranks Australia 25th in terms of ease of paying taxes.

The immediate tax relief for small businesses is tied up in proposed legislation surrounding the government’s ten-year tax plan, which is unlikely to find enough support to pass the parliament in its current form. The uncertainty and complexity that have ensued from the political conflict over tax have negative effects on the small business landscape.

Innovation is likely to suffer under such uncertain conditions. The government’s plan recognises that:

Small businesses are the home of Australian enterprise and opportunity and they are where many big ideas begin.

In addition to ideas and passion, small businesses need resource availability, appropriate capabilities and market access to innovate. The plan proposes measures that satisfy some of these criteria, but more focus on finding ways to minimise bureaucracy to provide time to focus on innovation is needed.

The role of government is undeniable in such initiatives. Even if one argues that tax relief is a temporary reprieve, this cash injection can jump-start small business innovation and growth.

Should the two major parties fail to find common ground on the government’s company tax cut, the stalemate will continue – and leave small businesses in the lurch.

The Conversation

Martie-Louise Verreynne, Associate Professor in Innovation, The University of Queensland and Thea Voogt, Lecturer in Tax Law, The University of Queensland

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

WA state election: Liberals’ deal with One Nation may come back to bite them


Narelle Miragliotta, Monash University

Elections are colourful affairs, and the March 11 state election in Western Australia is no exception. What is bringing particular clamour to this election is the resurgence of One Nation.

Pauline Hanson’s party has certainly made its presence felt. The party is contesting 35 of the state’s 59 Legislative Assembly seats, and fielding 17 candidates across the six upper house regions. According to the polls, it is also the third-largest party in electoral terms. The most recent Newspoll has One Nation’s primary vote at 13%, well ahead of the Nationals (5%) and the Greens (9%).

It is little wonder, then, that the Liberals finally ended speculation by announcing a preference deal with One Nation. The Liberals will direct preferences to One Nation upper house candidates in regional seats. In exchange, One Nation will direct lower house preferences to Liberal candidates ahead of Labor candidates.

While the Liberals’ preference deal with One Nation is the first of its kind since John Howard took the decision as prime minister to place One Nation last on the Liberal how-to-vote card at the 2001 federal election, it is not likely to be the last. Over the past six months or so, the Liberals’ anti-One Nation resolve has been fraying.

In spite of catastrophising in some quarters, the preference deal is important for the Liberal-led government’s chances of re-election. The party’s first preference vote is at 30% and its two party preferred vote is 46%. ABC election analyst Antony Green estimates that “a swing of between 2.2% and 10% against the Liberals would produce a minority government”. In the face of a resurgent Labor Party, such a swing is possible.

The Liberals’ partners in government, the WA Nationals, are the most grievously affected by this deal. Some commentators estimate it could cost them their five upper house seats.

But the Nationals can hardly be surprised by the Liberals’ decision. Although the relationship between the two parties is often civilised, it also has a long history of strife.

In recent years, tensions between the parties were re-ignited when, prior to the 2008 WA election, the Nationals declared they would not be seeking a coalition but a partnership with the Liberals.

The Nationals leveraged the fact that neither major party had attained a parliamentary majority to negotiate a deal that provided for 25% of all state royalty payments to be set aside for re-investment into a royalties for the regions program. While the Nationals eventually agreed to support the Liberals, there was no doubt that the Nationals were seriously entertaining the prospects of doing a parliamentary deal with Labor.

A more traditional coalition arrangement was resumed following the 2013 state election, but the relationship between the two parties showed signs of strain by August 2016. The return of Brendan Grylls – the architect of the 2008 parliamentary agreement – to the Nationals’ leadership, and the unpopularity of the Barnett government, marked the return of a more assertive Nationals party.

Under Grylls’ leadership, the Nationals have been less than willing to commit to a new alliance with the Liberals. Grylls has indicated that support for any minority government would be contingent on the Liberals agreeing to support an increase in the lease rental fee on BHP and Rio Tinto from 25c to $5 a tonne on Pilbara iron ore production. The Liberals oppose this.

Consequences of the deal for the Liberals

The preference agreement carries some risk for the Liberals.

It is not entirely clear whether One Nation preferences will flow in a manner consistent with the party’s how-to-vote card. In part this is a question of whether One Nation has the infrastructure to deliver on the agreement.

A successful how-to-vote card strategy requires a party presence at polling booths on election day. The major parties struggle to cover all of their polling booths, so One Nation is likely to struggle too.

There is also a question mark over whether One Nation supporters will actually follow the party’s how-to-vote card recommendations, even if given one.

If the party’s voter base is anything like some of One Nation’s candidates, there is no reason to think that the preference deal will be widely supported. Already one of the party’s highest-profile candidates, Margaret Dodds, has rejected the deal on the basis of policy differences with the Liberals and concerns about the lack of consultation over the agreement.

Even if a significant proportion of One Nation preferences help to secure the Liberals’ return to government, the deal will cost the Liberals when the incoming upper house members take their seats in May.

While lower house preference deals are difficult for parties to impose on their supporters, there is greater certainty on preference flows for the upper house. Proportional representation, combined with above-the-line voting, makes it highly likely that most of the Liberal surplus preferences will find their way to One Nation’s upper house candidates.

This greatly increases One Nation’s prospects of holding the balance of power in the Legislative Council. Should this happen, the Liberals’ plans to partially privatise the state’s electricity utility in order to pay down soaring debt will not be realised. One Nation is staunchly opposed to the privatisation.

So while the Liberals’ decision is “pragmatic and sensible” in the short term, it might seriously compromise the party’s legislative agenda should it be returned to office.

The Conversation

Narelle Miragliotta, Senior Lecturer in Australian Politics, Monash University

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

One Nation has now been ‘normalised’ in the Liberals’ firmament of political players


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

The decision by the Western Australian Liberals to do a preference deal with One Nation will bring some ripples for Malcolm Turnbull.

The WA Liberals have their backs against the wall – for them it’s a matter of the Barnett government desperately trying to survive against the Labor tide.

The embattled premier, Colin Barnett, said the move was “unusual, but it is a practical, pragmatic decision by the Liberal Party, because what we’re out to do is to retain government”.

And as Liberal senator Linda Reynolds told Sky: “One Nation has got a lot of support here in Western Australia”.

But inevitably, not just because of One Nation’s policies but because of the history of the Liberals’ attitude to the controversial party, the WA embrace will be challenging for Turnbull to handle. When he campaigns in the state poll, he’ll have to deal with questions about it.

The deal harms the WA Nationals who, though a different beast to their eastern cousins, and in an alliance rather than a coalition with the state Liberals, are nevertheless definitely part of the Nationals’ “family”.

Under the deal, as reported by the WA Sunday Times, the Liberals would preference One Nation above the Nationals in the upper house regional seats, in return for One Nation preferencing against Labor in the lower house. This could cost the Nationals seats and help One Nation to win the balance of power in the upper house.

Deputy Prime Minister and Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce observed cryptically on Sunday that: “Always as times grow cold … new friends are silver but old friends are gold”. It’s a fair bet it won’t be his last word on the subject. In response to earlier talk of the plan he predicted it would bring “another blue in WA”.

The WA deal will only be the start of the story. In Queensland the latest Galaxy poll has One Nation on 23% at state level, with an election likely later this year.

Federally, the Liberals are running the line that Hanson and her party are different these days.

Cabinet minister Arthur Sinodinos told the ABC on Sunday: “They are a lot more sophisticated; they have clearly resonated with a lot of people. Our job is to treat them as any other party.

“That doesn’t mean we have to agree with their policies. When it comes to preferencing, we have to make decisions – in this case a state decision, not a federal decision – based on the local circumstances.”

Compare the tone to Turnbull’s attitude before the federal election when he was asked whether he’d agree Pauline Hanson was a “known quantity in Australian politics” and “can you rule out negotiating or horse-trading with her”.

“Pauline Hanson is, as far as we are concerned, not a welcome presence on the Australian political scene. You’ve got to remember she was chucked out of the Liberal Party,” he said.

As soon as Hanson arrived in parliament with her Senate team Turnbull changed his tune. They had talks. Hanson was chuffed. When Turnbull was recently asked about the mooted WA preference deal he dodged the questioning but did note that federally: “We respect every single member and senator”.

One also has to remember that thanks to Turnbull running a double dissolution, Hanson won four Senate seats and a significant slice of the upper house balance of power.

In an ordinary Senate election she would have ended up with just her own seat. Turnbull would argue the double dissolution has made it easier to get legislation through – even though it is a tortuous process that will bring its failures – but in terms of boosting Hanson’s clout and profile the cost has been significant.

Even if she had had only one Senate seat One Nation might have surged in WA and Queensland, but her federal weight has helped – regardless of the antics of her now ex-WA senator Rod Culleton, who has been tossed out of the parliament.

One Nation, because of its power, has now been “normalised” in the Liberals’ firmament of political players, something likely to stick in the craw of their more “small-l” supporters. The Liberals are afraid of the populist party, but the days of denouncing it holus-bolus are gone.

https://www.podbean.com/media/player/zf38q-677342?from=yiiadmin

https://www.podbean.com/media/player/zf38q-677342?from=yiiadmin

The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

Queensland Galaxy: One Nation surges to 23%<


Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

A Queensland Galaxy poll has One Nation surging to 23%, up 7 points since early November. One Nation’s gains have come at the expense of both major parties, with the Liberal National Party (LNP) on 33% (down 4), Labor on 31% (down 4), and the Greens steady on 8%.

While Labor maintains a steady 51-49 two party lead, the high non-major party vote makes this result a guesstimate. No fieldwork dates or sample size are given, but this poll was presumably taken between Tuesday and Thursday with a sample of 800-1000.

Of the three established parties, the Greens have been least affected by One Nation’s rise, indicating that demographics that vote Green are the least likely to swing to One Nation.

At the 1998 Queensland state election, One Nation won 11 of the 89 seats on 22.7% of the vote. If their vote in this poll were replicated at the next election, due by early 2018, One Nation would probably win a similar number of seats, and be likely to hold the balance of power.

Despite One Nation’s surge, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk’s ratings are still positive, with 41% approval (down 3) and 37% disapproval (down 2), for a net rating of +4. However, Opposition Leader Tim Nicholls’ ratings have slumped a net 8 points to -12.

Federally and in other states, One Nation’s polling has met or exceeded their previous peaks from 1998-2001. It is no surprise that Queensland, which had the highest One Nation vote in 1998, is better for them than other states.

Whether One Nation and similar international parties continue to surge probably depends on President Trump. As I wrote here, if Trump succeeds in revitalising the industrial midwest, far right parties are likely to thrive. On the other hand, if working class people eventually decide that Trump is opposed to their economic interests, far right parties will probably decline.

The Conversation

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

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