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.

Advertisements

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


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

The fallout from the extraordinary revelations about Peter Dutton’s contact with Chinese Communist Party-aligned billionaire Huang Xiangmo is a potent brew, its ingredients the issue of foreign interference and the legacy of last year’s leadership challenge.

A tale full of spooky overtones, mates, ironies, and payback.

Monday’s Four Corners-Age-Sydney Morning Herald investigation reported that Dutton, immigration minister at the time, in 2015 approved a private citizenship ceremony for Huang’s family, who were due to travel overseas.

Dutton justifies the special treatment as being in response to a request from then-Labor senator Sam Dastyari.

That would be the same Dastyari who in December in 2017 announced he would resign from the Senate after revelations that he had promoted Chinese interests, including at a notorious news conference where he stood beside Huang.

(Dutton is generous in responding to personal representations – he, it will be remembered, was the minister who provided a quick rescue service for a couple of stranded au pairs).

Four Corners reported that in 2016 – when Huang was anxious to get his own citizenship – lobbyist Santo Santoro, a former Howard government minister and close to Dutton, arranged a lunch between the businessman and the minister at Master Ken’s (upmarket) restaurant in Sydney’s Chinatown.

Dutton denies the lunch was about Huang’s citizenship bid. “He didn’t make representations to me in relation to these matters,” Dutton said on Tuesday, also stressing he’d received no donation (Huang over several years donated, to both sides of politics, between $2 million and $3 million).

Huang didn’t get his citizenship and last year his permanent residency was cancelled. The officials charged with examining his background and activities judged him unsuitable to be one of us.

The Australian Financial Review reported that, in relation to the cancellation of his residency, ASIO had found he was “amenable to conducting acts of foreign interference”. Cancellation of a permanent resident’s visa is a decision taken by the immigration minister or a senior official within the Home Affairs department, which is responsible for immigration and citizenship matters. By this time, David Coleman had oversight of immigration.

Scott Morrison, desperate to smother what is on most criteria a damaging story coming almost on the eve of the election being called, insists there is nothing to see in Dutton’s conduct.

“I’ve spoken with Peter Dutton about this and there are no issues here that trouble me at all. I mean there’s no suggestion that Peter, in any way, shape or form, has sought or been provided with any benefit here.

“The individual we’re talking about had his visa cancelled while he was out of the country, by Peter Dutton’s department. So if the object was foreign interference, well, the exact opposite is what has occurred.”

But the issue is not whether Dutton himself got a benefit.

The issues are that Huang’s family received favourable treatment via the minister’s office, and that Huang, in hiring Santoro, “bought” himself valuable access to a minister. That Huang came to grief later is not the point.

“The suggestion that somehow I’ve provided anything to this individual is just a nonsense,” Dutton says. He’d met with him “because he was a significant leader within the Chinese community”.

Duton underestimates himself. He notes that Huang “was interested obviously in politics and other issues of the day”. Of course he was – and access to a minister over a relaxed and tasty Chinese meal yields information and insights.

Malcolm Turnbull had emerged early on Tuesday declaring Dutton had “a lot to explain” and setting up the challenge for Morrison. “Scott Morrison is the Prime Minister and you can’t wave this off and say it is all part of gossip and the bubble.

“This is the national security of Australia. Remember the furore that arose against Sam Dastyari?

“All the same issues have arisen again and this has to be addressed at the highest level of security, priority, urgency by the Prime Minister,” Turnbull said.

“The buck stops with him. I know what it is like to be Prime Minister and, ultimately, you are responsible. So Scott Morrison has to deal with this Peter Dutton issue”.

Predictably, Turnbull didn’t influence Morrison but he did ensure a bad day became even worse for the government.

Turnbull is not an objective voice when it comes to Dutton, who instigated the events that ended in the political demise of the former PM.

But Turnbull’s credentials on combatting foreign interference are beyond question. His government introduced the legislation to counter what has become a very serious problem.

On Monday Duncan Lewis, head of ASIO, told a Senate estimates hearing “the threat from foreign interference and foreign espionage in Australia is running at […] an unprecedented level.”

No doubt if he knew then what he learned later, Dutton would not have given Huang the benefits of valuable face time.

But by 2016 politicians, and especially a minister, should have been alert to foreign interference.

In 2015 Lewis briefed the top officials of the main parties about the risks from foreign donations, and reportedly named donors ASIO believed were acting on the Chinese government’s behalf.

Did Dutton make any effort to check Huang out with ASIO before agreeing to lunch?

Most pertinently, the lunch highlights the insidious power of the lobbying industry in today’s Canberra.

Four Corners had Santoro on tape saying (to unidentified people, not Huang): “One of my best friends is Peter Dutton. He is the most honest politician that I have ever come across, but he tries to be helpful.[…] I can go to somebody in the minister’s office and say ‘can you have a close look at this’”.

According to Four Corners, Santoro charges at least $20,000 for access to Dutton’s office.

Dutton says: “There are lobbyists who are registered on both sides of parliament, people that operate as lobbyists. Their transactions and how they conduct their business is an issue for them”.

Actually, how they conduct themselves and how ministers respond are matters for the democratic system.

That you can write Santoro a cheque and expect to be fast-tracked to the minister’s office (whether that ends in a successful outcome or not) isn’t the way the system should desirably work.

We do have a federal register of lobbyists. But we don’t have enough information about their operations – until they find themselves in the spotlight.

Journalist Primrose Riordan tweeted on Tuesday that Santoro had “just updated his listing on the foreign influence register to include a heap of Chinese companies”.

At the very least, the Dutton affair suggests we need a lot more transparency about what in recent years has become a sunrise industry of politics, and a lucrative occupation for spent politicians.The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

Grattan on Friday: The Coalition is trapped in its coal minefield


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Sydney shock jock Ray Hadley was apoplectic. Home Affairs Minister
Peter Dutton, one of Hadley’s favourites, who has a regular spot on his 2GB program, had just committed blasphemy.

Dutton said he didn’t believe in the government building a new
coal-fired power station. Hadley couldn’t credit what he was hearing. “You’re toeing the [Morrison] company line”, he said accusingly.

It’s another story with Dutton’s cabinet colleague and fellow
Queenslander, Resources Minister Matt Canavan, who is part of the
Queensland Nationals’ push for support for a new power station in that state.

“Studies have come back always saying that a HELE [high-efficiency, low-emissions] or a new coal-fired power station would make a lot of sense in North Queensland,” Canavan said this week.

The two ministers’ divergent views are not surprising on the basis of where they come from. In Brisbane voters tend to share similar opinions on climate change and coal to those in the southern capitals – it’s the regions where support for coal is stronger.

What’s surprising is how the rifts at the government’s highest levels are being exposed. In these desperate days, it is every minister, every government backbencher, and each part, or sub-part, of the Coalition for themselves.

Never mind cabinet solidarity, or Coalition unity.

The most spectacular outbreak came this week from Barnaby Joyce,
declaring himself the “elected deputy prime minister” and pressing the government for a strongly pro-coal stand.

It was a slap at besieged Nationals leader Michael McCormack, after rumourmongering that McCormack might be replaced even before the election. Predictably, the NSW Nationals, fighting a difficult state election, were furious.

The Joyce outbreak was further evidence that the federal Nationals are a mess, over leadership and electorally. They have a party room of 22 – there are fears they could lose up to four House of Representatives seats as well as going down two in the Senate.




Read more:
View from The Hill: Coal turns lumpy for Scott Morrison and the Nationals


(However it’s not all gloom in the Nationals – at the election they will gain three new women, two in the Senate – Susan McDonald from Queensland and Sam McMahon from the Northern Territory – and Anne Webster in the Victorian seat of Mallee. Whatever happens to the party’s numbers overall, the women will go from two to four or five, depending on the fate of Michelle Landry, who holds the marginal seat of Capricornia. The Nationals’ NSW Senate candidate is also a woman but is unlikely to be elected.)

By mid week Joyce was back in his box, stressing that McCormack would take the party to the election. But he was still in the coal advocacy vanguard.

The coal debate and the assertiveness of the Queensland Nationals
smoked out a clutch of Liberal moderates, who question spending
government money on coal projects (although there is some confusion between building power stations and underwriting ventures).




Read more:
Queensland Nationals Barry O’Sullivan challenges Morrison over coal


The government’s policy is for underwriting “firm power” projects, on a technology-neutral basis, if they stack up commercially.

The marauding Nationals were derisive of moderate Liberals trying to protect their seats. “Trendy inner-city Liberals who want to oppose coal and the jobs it creates should consider joining the Greens,” Queensland National George Christensen said tartly on Facebook.

It was a rare appearance by the moderates, who have made a poor
showing over the last few years, True, some were crucial in achieving the same-sex marriage reform. But in general they’ve failed to push back against the right’s tightening ideological grip on the Liberal party, and the government has suffered as a result.

The week highlighted, yet again, that instead of a credible energy
policy, the government has only confusion and black holes.

With his recent announcements, Morrison has been trying to show he’s heard the electorate on climate change. But actually, these were mostly extensions of what had been done or proposed.

The Abbott government’s emissions reduction fund (renamed) is getting an injection, given it would soon be close to exhausted. And the Snowy pumped hydro scheme, announced by Malcolm Turnbull, has received the go-ahead. Didn’t we expect that? There was also modest support for a new inter-connector to transmit Tasmanian hydro power to Victoria.

The government can’t get its “big stick” legislation – aimed at
recalcitrant power companies – through parliament. It will take it to the election. But who knows what its future would be in the unlikely event of a re-elected Coalition government? It would face Senate hurdles and anyway “free market” Liberals don’t like it.

And then we come to the underwriting initiative. The government has 66 submissions seeking support, 10 of which have “identified coal as a source of generation”.

Sources say it is hoped to announce backing for some projects before the election. But this will be fraught, internally and externally, for the government.

One source hinted one project might involve coal. Even if this is
true, it won’t satisfy the Coalition’s coal spruikers, deeply unhappy that Morrison has flagged there won’t be support for a Queensland coal-fired power station. (The Queenslanders liken Morrison’s cooling on coal to Kevin Rudd’s 2010 back off from his emissions trading scheme.)

On the other hand, underwriting of any coal project would alarm
Liberals in the so-called “leafy-suburbs” electorates.

Given the proximity to the election, the government could do little more than give promises to particular projects. There is also the risk of blow back from those whose bids are unsuccessful.

There would be no obligation on a Labor government to honour any
commitments, because formal agreements would not have been finalised.

Meanwhile the government is trying to promote a scare against Labor’s climate policy, still to be fully outlined, which includes reducing emissions by an ambitious 45% by 2030 (compared with the government’s pledge of 26-28%).

But unlike, for example, the scare over the ALP’s franking credits
policy (dubbed by the government a “retirement tax”), this scare is much harder to run, except in specific regional areas.

The zeitgeist is in Labor’s favour on the climate issue, not least
after sweltering summer days and bushfires.

The public have a great deal of faith in renewables – in focus groups people don’t just like them, they romanticise them.

It seems the government can’t take a trick on climate and energy
policy – even the school children are reminding it of that.




Read more:
Students striking for climate action are showing the exact skills employers look for


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



File 20190226 150712 e0grr4.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
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.

Media power: why the full story of Murdoch, Stokes and the Liberal leadership spill needs to be told



File 20180920 107692 j03jv5.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Media mogul Rupert Murdoch is notorious for meddling in politics.
AAP/Dan Himbrechts

Denis Muller, University of Melbourne

The first German chancellor, Otto von Bismarck, said there were two sights the public should not see: the making of laws and the making of sausages. To this list of enduringly nauseating spectacles we should add one more: the political machinations of media moguls.

ABC political editor Andrew Probyn has skilfully violated this standard of public taste by laying out what look like very plausible entrails of the evident involvement of Rupert Murdoch and Kerry Stokes in the recent Liberal Party leadership spill.




Read more:
How the right-wing media have given a megaphone to reactionary forces in the Liberal Party


It is impossible to independently verify Probyn’s account because he has been careful to mask his sources. But it is plausible partly because some elements are corroborated by separate reports in the Australian Financial Review and Sydney Morning Herald, partly because Probyn worked for both Murdoch and Stokes for lengthy periods and may be assumed to have good contacts in those places, and partly because there is circumstantial evidence to support some of what he says.

The Australian reports that Stokes has denied having communicated with Murdoch over Turnbull’s leadership. Interestingly, however, the newspaper does not quote its own proprietor on the matter, which is the obvious way to corroborate Stokes’s claim.

Murdoch, of course, is notorious for meddling in politics. In Australia, it can be traced back to his endorsement of Gough Whitlam at the 1972 election, his campaign against Whitlam in 1975, which was so virulent even his own journalists held a strike in protest, his support for John Howard in 1996, his somewhat ambivalent support for Kevin Rudd in 2007 and his full-frontal support for Tony Abbott in 2013.

Front page of the The Sun newspaper, April 11 1992.
Wikicommons

These campaigns were all in support of the winning side, and much the same has been true of his equivalent campaigns in the UK and the US. After John Major led the British Conservative Party to victory in 1992, Murdoch’s London Sun newspaper proclaimed in a front-page banner headline: “It’s the Sun wot won it”.

All this has created a perception of Murdoch as political kingmaker, a perception that frightens the life out of politicians and thus confers great power on Murdoch.

But as two Australian scholars, Rodney Tiffen and David McKnight, have persuasively argued in their separate studies of Murdoch, while his media outlets routinely shred and humiliate their political targets, the evidence is that Murdoch observes which way the wind is blowing and then finds a rationale for endorsing the likely winner.

The Economist’s Bagehot column was on to this 15 years ago, as Tiffen records. Referring to the London Sun’s boasting of its political power, the column observed:

[T]hat probably says more about Mr Murdoch’s readiness to jump ship at the right time than about the Sun’s ability to influence the votes of its readers.

Even so, perceptions can swiftly harden into political reality.

According to Probyn, when Murdoch was seen to turn against Turnbull over the past couple of months, the alarm went off in the prime minister’s office.

This is where Stokes, chairman of Seven West Media, is said to have entered the picture.

He is a friend of Turnbull’s and they are said to have discussed the apparent campaign by the Murdoch media to oust the prime minister.

Stokes and Murdoch have a chequered history, to put it mildly. They have fought long, bitter and costly legal battles, but as Margaret Simons says in her biography of Stokes:

In the cosy club of media, neither love nor hate lasts forever. The only constants are power, money and self-interest.

So, according to accounts by Probyn and the Financial Review, Stokes rang Murdoch to ask what was going on and Murdoch is said to have told him: “Malcolm has got to go.”

But on the question of who should replace him, the moguls were all over the shop.

Murdoch’s Daily Telegraph was touting Peter Dutton. Three days later, when Turnbull spilled the leadership positions, Dutton nominated, lost, but lit the fuse for the ultimate detonation of the Turnbull prime ministership.

Stokes was opposed to Dutton for complex reasons, but didn’t seem to know who to go for instead. On the day before the leadership spill, his newspaper, The West Australian, was promoting Scott Morrison. The next day it was promoting Julie Bishop, a West Australian.

This shambolic confusion among the moguls is comforting in a perverse kind of way, because in the end neither of them was able to dictate the outcome.

Murdoch achieved one objective – the ousting of Turnbull – but Dutton, his preferred pick to replace him, is now clinging to political life by a single vote in the House of Representatives thanks to the hovering spectre of the Constitution’s section 44 (v), not to mention trouble with au pairs.

Stokes? Well, he is new to this kingmaking caper. He clearly did not want his friend Turnbull out, but when that became inevitable, he didn’t know where to turn. As my old editor at The Age, Creighton Burns, was fond of saying, he was caught between a shit and a shiver.

The net effect of their efforts has been to bring the Liberal-National government to the brink of disintegration within months of a general election.

This time, Murdoch may have indeed created a winner – Labor leader Bill Shorten – not by the traditional means of showering support on him, but by destroying his opponents, even though they happen to be Murdoch’s own ideological allies.

It is the latest chapter in a long and discreditable history of media proprietors using their power to advance their political ends, usually for commercial rather than ideological purposes.

Sir Frank and Kerry Packer did it; so did successive generations of Fairfaxes. In 1961 the Fairfaxes went so far as to virtually run Arthur Calwell’s campaign out of the company’s executive offices on the 14th floor of its newspaper mausoleum in Sydney’s Broadway. The Sydney Morning Herald’s journalists renamed it the Labor ward in honour of the exercise.

In Britain, the mould for the politically meddling modern newspaper proprietor was set by Alfred Harmsworth (Lord Northcliffe) in the early 20th century.

He and the other mighty British press baron of the time, Max Aitken (Lord Beaverbrook), were the inspiration, if that is the word, for Rudyard Kipling’s celebrated condemnation:

[The press exercises] power without responsibility: the prerogative of the harlot throughout the ages.

So Probyn has done Australian democracy a service by exposing the entrails of what looks like another abuse of media power, even if it makes for a nauseating public spectacle.

It also raises serious questions about media accountability.

Australia has never had a publicly trusted or effective system of media accountability. All attempts to create one have been howled down, the loudest and crudest voices belonging to Murdoch’s lieutenants.




Read more:
Australian media are playing a dangerous game using racism as currency


There is already a crisis in people’s faith in democratic institutions. A new report by the Australian Museum of Democracy and the University of Canberra shows only 41% of Australians are satisfied with the way democracy is working. That is a dramatic plunge from the 86% recorded in 2007.

In this climate of disenchantment, it is not surprising there are now calls for a public inquiry into the way Murdoch and Stokes have evidently played a manipulative role in changing the prime minister.The Conversation

Denis Muller, Senior Research Fellow in the Centre for Advancing Journalism, University of Melbourne

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

Peter Dutton’s decisions on the au pairs are legal – but there are other considerations



File 20180831 195298 ut5dev.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
During his time as Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Peter Dutton granted tourist visas to four foreign au pairs who were denied entry at the Australian border and detained, awaiting deportation.
AAP/Lukas Coch

Sangeetha Pillai, UNSW

Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton has come under scrutiny for exercising his personal powers during his time as Minister for Immigration and Border Protection to grant tourist visas to four foreign au pairs who were denied entry at the Australian border and detained, awaiting deportation.

Dutton made the decision to grant these visas at short notice and, in at least some cases, contrary to the advice of senior Border Force officials. Here I explain the scope of the minister’s legal power to grant visas in such instances, and the issues at play.




Read more:
Leaks target Peter Dutton over decisions on au pairs


Did Dutton have legal power to grant the visas?

In a nutshell, yes. Under section 195A of the Migration Act, the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection has the power to grant a visa to a person in detention if “the minister thinks that it is in the public interest to do so”. The minister has no obligation to grant a visa in this manner, but may do so at his or her discretion. A decision to intervene may only be made by the minister personally. This means the minister cannot delegate the power under section 195A to other Border Force personnel, although Border Force officials may provide advice and briefing information.

The minister’s power under section 195A is extremely broad. While the requirement that the power must be exercised in the “public interest” appears to impose some constraint on the minister, this is largely illusory. Courts have said that in migration matters, “public interest” is largely a matter of ministerial discretion. Section 195A drives this home by making it clear that it is up to the minister to decide whether granting a visa would be in the public interest.

Whenever the minister exercises the power under section 195, he or she must supply each House of Parliament with a statement that sets out the reasons for granting the visa. This includes the reasons for thinking that the grant is in the public interest.

The purpose of this is for transparency only: parliament has no power to overturn the minister’s decision. The transparency that can be achieved in this manner is limited by the fact that, to secure the privacy of individuals who are granted visas, identifying information must be excluded when a statement is laid before parliament. Visa decisions, including decisions under section 195A, are also excluded from administrative review.

Documents obtained via Freedom of Information request reveal that Dutton’s stated reasons for thinking that one of the visa grants was in the public interest were:

In the circumstances, I have decided that as a discretionary and humanitarian act to an individual with ongoing needs, it is in the interests of Australia as a humane and generous society to grant this person a Tourist visa.

If Dutton acted within the law, what’s the controversy?

There are two broad reasons why Dutton’s decisions to grant the au pair visas are controversial, despite falling within the scope of his ministerial power.

The first is that the breadth of ministerial discretion granted to the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection under the Migration Act is itself a subject of controversy. A 2017 Liberty Victoria report reveals that the minister for immigration has 47 personal national or public interest powers – many more than any other minister. Many of these powers – including the power in section 195A – are “non-delegable, non-compellable and non-reviewable”.

In 2008, the then immigration minister Chris Evans expressed discomfort with the scope of his own power:

In a general sense I have formed the view that I have too much power. The [Migration Act] is unlike any Act I have seen in terms of the power given to the Minister to make decisions about individual cases. I am uncomfortable with that not just because of a concern about playing God but also because of the lack of transparency and accountability for those ministerial decisions, the lack in some cases of any appeal rights against those decisions and the fact that what I thought was to be a power that was to be used in rare cases has become very much the norm.




Read more:
How the hard right terminated Turnbull, only to see Scott Morrison become PM


The second reason is that Dutton’s decision to intervene swiftly to grant visas to the au pairs on public interest grounds contrasts with the manner in which other migration-related decisions have been made. For example, the department has denied medical transfers to Australia to numerous asylum seekers detained offshore, including children at risk of death.

Recent reports state that an Afghan interpreter who claims his life is in danger after helping Australian troops has been denied a protection visa, and requests to meet with Dutton have gone unanswered. Departmental statistics indicate that, historically speaking, ministerial intervention to grant a tourist visa has been very rare.

Ultimately, the legal framework provided by the Migration Act allows for these variances. However Dutton, like all Ministers, is accountable to the parliament under the principle of responsible government. The Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs is currently holding an inquiry into the appropriateness of Dutton’s decision to grant visas to two of the au pairs. It is due to report by September 11.The Conversation

Sangeetha Pillai, Senior Research Associate, Andrew & Renata Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law, UNSW Law School, UNSW

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

Leaks target Peter Dutton over decisions on au pairs



File 20180830 195313 xdnw06.jpeg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Dutton told 2GB on Thursday he had made a judgement based on the case’s merit, not his knowledge of the person who had referred it.

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

A week after his humiliating defeat in his bid for the prime ministership, Peter Dutton is facing an ever-widening row over his use of his ministerial discretion in granting visas to au pairs.

The Senate has already set up an inquiry into his decisions. Now more detailed information is emerging.

A whistleblower has leaked to Labor an email trail of correspondence showing how Dutton rejected advice from Australian Border Force, granting a visa in 2015 to French au pair Alexandra Deuwel.

Deuwel had admitted to Border Force that she planned to work on a voluntary basis, minding children and cooking, for South Australian pastoralists Callum and Skye MacLachlan. In return she would get free accommodation.

Callum MacLachlan – whose father Hugh has been a big donor to the Liberals – is related to AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan (although their named are spelled differently).

Gillon McLachlan made representations to Dutton’s chief of staff.

An email from Callum and Skye MacLachlan said there had been a “misunderstanding” that the woman planned to work for them. “She is here to spend time with our family, as we consider her to be family.”

Deuwel had in previous years worked as an au pair for the family. Border Force told Dutton that earlier in 2015 she had been warned about breaching her visa conditions.

But Dutton granted the visa, which carried the proviso she could not do in-kind work.

Dutton told 2GB on Thursday he had made a judgement based on the case’s merit, not his knowledge of the person who had referred it. He had thought the intention to deport her was “a bit rough, there’s no criminal history, she’s agreed that she wouldn’t work while she was here.”

“I am a person of integrity. I have never been compromised. I never will. People can say lots of things about me, but they won’t say that I act inappropriately. I make decisions on the merits of these cases. That’s exactly what I’ve done and I stand by the decision,” Dutton said.

On Thursday further information emerged about one of the two au pair cases earlier referred to the Senate inquiry.

Fairfax Media reported that in this case, also in 2015, a request for Dutton to override a Border Force decision had come from a one-time Queensland police service colleague of Dutton’s. Dutton granted the woman a visa.

The Guardian reported that the Italian au pair had come to work for the family.

Opposition leader Bill Shorten said Prime Minister Scott Morrison needed to explain his view on Dutton’s actions.

“I think there are a lot of Australians who might have had someone who they wanted to stay slightly longer on a visa, but they obviously don’t have the sort of access to Mr Dutton that some people have, ” Shorten said.

Former immigration department officer Sandi Logan‏ said on Twitter:

“Tweeted a few days ago there was some “stuff” coming down the pipe. Trust me: there’s more! Niagara Falls gonna look like a trickle by the time this has run its course.“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.

Australian politics and the psychology of revenge


Lloyd Cox, Macquarie University

It’s hard to read the recent felling of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull as anything other than an act of revenge by Tony Abbott and his closest supporters.

This is indeed the judgement of former foreign minister and opposition leader Alexander Downer and former Liberal Party treasurer Michael Yabsley, as revealed in ABC’s Four Corners.

This judgement fits with everything we know about the humiliation and embitterment Abbott and his conservative allies felt after Turnbull toppled Abbott in a leadership spill in 2015.




Read more:
If the Liberals have any hope of rebuilding, they might take lessons from Robert Menzies


It also accords with what modern psychology and social science would lead us to expect in circumstances where a person or group experiences what they perceive to be unjust treatment at the hands of an adversary. The feelings of grievance and damage to the ego can often only be ameliorated by revenge against those who inflicted the harm.

Such feelings, and the aggression they cause, apply no less to politicians such as Abbott and his conservative colleagues than they do to anyone else.

How then, can revenge become a force that controls us?

The emotional basis of revenge

The predisposition to harm those who are perceived to have harmed us – the essence of revenge – is a fundamental human desire.

Cultural and legal deterrents against “taking the law into your own hands” might mitigate the destructive potential of vengeful behaviour, but it can never fully remove it.

That’s why we observe revenge in all societies and walks of life, including politics. It’s what Francis Bacon, writing nearly 400 years ago, warned of as a kind of “wild justice” that can destroy both the avenger and their victim.

While revenge often involves planning and cool calculation (the proverbial “dish best served cold”), psychologists and social scientists have long recognised it’s always premised on particular emotions.

Shame and humiliation, typically caused by the perceived erosion of respect and esteem in the eyes of others, are particularly important instigators of vengeful thoughts and actions. When others undermine our feelings of self worth, this often triggers resentment and rage and the desire to strike back against one’s tormentors.

Doing so constitutes a form of emotionally gratifying communication. The avenger “teaches” the object of revenge a lesson. They make the victim of revenge feel what they once felt, communicating a psychologically satisfying message of righteous redress to the victim, third parties and, most importantly, themselves.

The substance of this message varies, but typically includes assertions about the resolve of the avenger to uphold rights that have been violated, to preserve respect that has been threatened, and to shore up social and personal honour that has been besmirched. The avenger demonstrates to themselves and the world they are somebody not to be crossed.

Psychologically, this helps the avenger restore an ego deflated by their previous humiliations. Revenge, to put it bluntly, helps the humiliated person feel better about themselves. It helps them cope. They take satisfaction in the knowledge the source of previous harms is now being punished, and that they deserve their punishment. This is why revenge has often been described as “sweet”.

Modern neuroscience and psychology affirms that revenge is indeed sweet. Inflicting harm on those who have previously harmed us arouses feelings of pleasure in those parts of the brain regulating emotion. Even thinking about or planning revenge – the so called “revenge fantasy” – releases feel-good chemicals in our brains.

This is why we can become so preoccupied and even obsessed with vengeful thoughts. The more we think about revenge, the more we reinforce neural pathways that trigger those thoughts and release those chemicals. We can become addicted to the feeling of revenge, which can lend a certain vindictive cast to a person’s character.

Such a character trait typically manifests itself when the person feels themselves, or persons and groups with whom they identify, to be the victim of an injustice. Revenge fulfils what justice demands. Revenge erases unjust humiliations. It turns the world right side up again. Vengeful acts are thus always redemptive acts – or at least, that is the hope. More often than not, they end up being hugely destructive acts.

The destructiveness of revenge – a common literary theme from the ancient Greeks, through Shakespeare to contemporary writers – can be understood in two senses.

On the one hand, the victim and perpetrator of revenge can both be damaged. The reasons are obvious in the case of the victim. For the perpetrator, the destructiveness arises from being consumed by vengeance. This can overtake all rational judgement about what is in the avenger’s interests, and what is a proportional response to a perceived harm. Sometimes, no price seems too high to pay to realise revenge.

On the other hand, revenge can be hugely destructive because it unleashes cycles of further revenge and counter revenge. Anthropologists confirm instances of tribal warfare in the New Guinea Highlands, and blood feuds in Mediterranean peasant societies, where cycles of revenge have lasted for generations, long after the source of the original conflict has been forgotten.

Today’s political parties are not immune to such human failings. In fact, where towering personal ambitions meet huge but often fragile egos, vengeful behaviour is inevitable.

While all of this “madness”, as Turnbull called it, was not just the product of vengeance – deep ideological fractures within the Liberal Party and Australia more generally were just as important – it was nonetheless a key ingredient.




Read more:
Grattan on Friday: The high costs of our destructive coup culture


Conservatives harnessed vengeful motives to their broader efforts to re-capture the Liberal Party. In so doing, they became slaves to their emotions, animosities and personal ambitions. They will now pay the electoral price.

When they do, we can expect further vengeful recriminations. Such is the logic of “wild justice.”The Conversation

Lloyd Cox, Lecturer, Department of Modern History, Politics and International Relations, Macquarie University

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

Grattan on Friday: The high costs of our destructive coup culture


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Australia’s “coup culture” has become so entrenched that it now holds serious dangers for our democracy. Not that the politicians seem to give a damn. For all the talk of “listening” and being “on your side” the voters have once again been treated as little more than a gullible audience for a low-grade reality show.

A decade or two ago, many commentators advocated four-year federal terms, to encourage better policymaking. Now we can’t even count on a prime minister lasting through the three-year parliamentary term after the election they win.

In less than a decade, we’ve had four prime ministerial coups: from Rudd to Gillard (2010); from Gillard to Rudd (2013); from Abbott to Turnbull (2015); and, last week, from Turnbull to Morrison.

A couple of these seemed politically savvy. I admit to thinking them so. In 2013, Kevin Rudd was reinstated to “save the furniture”, and he did. In 2015, Tony Abbott’s government appeared headed for certain oblivion. Malcolm Turnbull was installed as a better prospect; in the event, he won in 2016 by the skin of his teeth.

The Gillard coup, driven by a panic attack and colleagues’ frustration with Rudd’s style, was ill-conceived. The botched assault by Peter Dutton, that elevated Scott Morrison, was fuelled by a cocktail of revenge against Turnbull and a policy push to the right. We’ll see how it ends, but likely it won’t be well.

While a particular coup may have its justifications, when you look at a clutch of them, they’re bad for the country and for the political system.

Some will point to history for precedent – Paul Keating overthrew Bob Hawke in 1991. But we didn’t in those days have a “coup culture”.

We may chuckle on hearing Australia referred to abroad as the “coup capital” of the world. But it’s not a joke. Although this country will continue to be seen as a safe place to invest, a rolling prime ministership must eventually test the faith of outsiders.

The coup culture works against the sort of decision-making that requires serious policy bravery. Time frames shorten – ironically, just when governments fancifully cast programs as stretching over ten years.

Thinking for the future is difficult enough with continuous polling and the shrill media cycle. But if a prime minister can’t rely on their troops guaranteeing their leadership through tough patches, or standing up against guerrilla insurgencies, public policy is reduced to the lowest common denominator or falls victim to the worst of internal power struggles.

Ditching opposition leaders is different from tossing out prime ministers. It has its own problems, but doesn’t undermine the system the way assassinating a PM does. Voters feel (and are entitled to feel) they elect the prime minister; it’s not technically true but it is effectively so, as campaigns are so leader-focused.

Fundamental in this revolving door is the cost to trust. As in other democracies, Australians’ trust in their system and its players has been eroding over decades.

Research from the University of Canberra’s Institute for Governance and Policy Analysis found fewer than 41% of Australians are currently satisfied with the way our democracy works. This compared with 78% in 1996.

Generation X is least satisfied (31%); the baby boomers most satisfied (50%). Women are generally less satisfied with democracy and more distrustful of politicians and political institutions.

According to this data – which preceded the leadership crisis – only 21% trust politicians and 28% trust journalists.

The yet-to-be-released research concludes: “Politicians, government ministers and political parties are deeply distrusted and media of all kinds and how they report Canberra politics are viewed as a key part of the problem.”

The research also found strong public support for reforms to ensure greater political accountability of MPs and to stimulate more public participation.

The coup culture further alienates an already disillusioned public, unable to comprehend the appalling behaviour they often witness from their politicians.

Recently I spoke to members of a community leadership program who’d come to Canberra for a couple of days of briefings from politicians and others. They’d been to Question Time a few hours before I met them.

To journalists, it was a pretty standard QT. For these people, what they witnessed was shocking. They had trouble getting their heads around how the goings on – the shouting, the insults – could be so dreadful. They’d looked over at the schoolchildren in another part of the public gallery and wondered what those youngsters were thinking.

They asked: why do our politicians act like this and what can be done? All 72 decided to write to their MPs to say this wasn’t the type of conduct they wanted to see from them.

My hunch is that this group of ordinary, well-educated, interested citizens would probably be even more put off by subsequent events.

One thing I suspect would have particularly disturbed them is the way the players in last week’s coup expect the public to just move right on. Everyone was back to work, they said.

Gillard in 2010 tried to explain and justify her deposing of Rudd by saying “I believed that a good government was losing its way”. It didn’t wash.

We know for ourselves the reasons for the latest coup – hatred of Turnbull and a desire to force a sharp turn to the right. But have the main coup-makers and their allies (as distinct from their noisy backers in the media), and the windfall beneficiaries, felt the need to properly account for their actions?

This hit-and-run attitude is contemptuous of the public.

The coup culture, especially in this instance, is also accompanied by an “anything goes” view of tactics. Again, it is a matter of degree – the extent to which the hardball, which we always see at such times, crosses a line.

For some of the Liberal women, it undoubtedly did last week.

Julia Banks, announcing on Wednesday that she’ll resign her Melbourne seat of Chisholm at the election, has cited bullying. Western Australian senator Linda Reynolds went to the lengths of telling the Senate: “I just hope that … the behaviours we have seen and the bullying and intimidation, which I do not recognise as Liberal in any way, shape or form, are brought to account.”

But Victorian Liberal president Michael Kroger saw it as par for the course, saying, in response to Banks: “This is politics. People do speak strongly to each other. You just need to look at Question Time. If you think Question Time is not full of bullying and intimidation then you’ve got another thing coming.”

Well, anyone who bullied or was fine with such conduct should do this: go to your local high school and explain to the kids why bullying shouldn’t be in their tool kit but is needed in yours.

Some Liberals flirt with the idea of rules to curb the coup culture, a path Labor has gone down.

It depends on the model: as with so much in politics, what looks good at first sight may hold dangers. Giving a party’s rank and file a say in electing the leader, as the ALP does, might eventually advantage those harder to sell to voters, because party memberships are small and unrepresentative.

A higher-than-50% threshold for a spill, which Labor also has embraced and Reynolds suggests, holds some merit. But when Anthony Albanese was stalking Bill Shorten before the Super Saturday byelections, Albanese’s supporters insisted the rule could be circumvented.

What’s really critical is the culture – in a party and in the political system generally. Once that’s been corroded, it’s a devil of a job to scrape the rust off.

There are no easy ways to rid ourselves of the coup culture, or to force tin-eared politicians to lift their game. But it wouldn’t hurt for more people to follow the example of those in the community leadership program and remind their MPs of their KPIs.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: Worst reaction to midterm PM change in Newspoll history; contrary polls in Dutton’s Dickson



File 20180828 75999 et3ypa.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Most Australians did not want Malcolm Turnbull to be deposed as prime minister.
AAP/Lukas Coch

Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

This week’s Newspoll, conducted August 24-26 – the days following the leadership spill – from a sample of 1,780, gave Labor a massive 56-44 lead, a five point gain for Labor since last fortnight. Primary votes were 41% Labor (up six), 33% Coalition (down four), 10% Greens (steady) and 7% One Nation (down two).

This is Labor’s biggest lead and highest primary vote in Newspoll since Tony Abbott knighted Prince Philip in January 2015. It is also the Coalition’s 39th successive Newspoll loss, and their lowest primary vote since 2008, when Kevin Rudd was dominant. Since July 2015, Newspoll has been a very stable poll, so a five-point swing is remarkable.




Read more:
Labor Seizes Double Digit Poll Lead


There have been four previous midterm changes of PM in Newspoll’s history. In December 1991, Paul Keating ousted Bob Hawke. In June 2010, Julia Gillard deposed Rudd. In June 2013, Rudd returned Gillard’s favour. In September 2015, Malcolm Turnbull replaced Abbott.

According to analyst Kevin Bonham, in the poll following the change of PM, the governing party gained two points after preferences in 1991, one point in 2010, six points in 2013 and five points in 2015. The five-point drop in 2018 is by far the worst reaction to a midterm change of PM.

Turnbull and Rudd were both far more popular than the incumbents when they won leadership spills; the public wanted them to be PM. Keating and Gillard were both very well-known, and the incumbent PM had lost his popularity when toppled.

Just four weeks ago, in the Newspoll taken over the weekend of the July 28 byelections, Turnbull’s net approval was -6, his equal best this term. Polls taken in the week of the spill showed Turnbull leading as best Liberal leader with all voters and Liberal voters. The public did not want to replace Turnbull.

The public’s choice for a replacement would have been Julie Bishop, but she won just 11 votes in the spill. Bishop’s resignation as foreign affairs minister on Sunday damages the Coalition by depriving it of a popular figure.

Turnbull was forced out by the hard right’s hatred of him, not due to public opprobrium. Peter Dutton, who led the challenge, did not become PM, and Scott Morrison, who barely registered in Liberal leadership polls, is now PM owing to his ability to win the numbers in the party room.




Read more:
How the hard right terminated Turnbull, only to see Scott Morrison become PM


I believe the public see Turnbull’s downfall as being the result of a right-wing coup, and this has greatly damaged the Coalition’s standing. On Sunday, Dutton was reappointed as home affairs minister. I think this was a mistake by Morrison, as the public would like to see Dutton punished.

This Newspoll was taken in the immediate aftermath of a week of vicious internal politics. But memories of that week will fade, helping the Coalition. Morrison starts with low expectations. If he exceeds those expectations, the Coalition is likely to benefit. A big question is whether Morrison can appeal to moderates without angering the hard right MPs and media commentators who destroyed Turnbull.

In other results from Newspoll, Bill Shorten had a 39-33 better PM lead over Morrison (44-32 to Turnbull last fortnight). This broke Shorten’s run of losses under Turnbull; the last time he won a better PM poll was under Abbott. Morrison has had no time to establish himself. The usual approval ratings questions were not asked this week.

Morrison led Shorten by 44-34 as best economic manager (48-31 under Turnbull in May). The economy is regarded as a Coalition strength, and Morrison was the former treasurer.

On best Liberal leader, Bishop had 29%, Morrison 25%, Turnbull 14%, Abbott 11% and Dutton just 6%. Morrison has benefited from a victory bounce, while the opposite has happened to Turnbull.

Essential: 55-45 to Labor; huge increase in Liberals’ divided perception

This week’s Essential poll, conducted August 24-26 from a sample of 1,035, gave Labor a 55-45 lead, a three point gain for Labor since last fortnight. Primary votes were 39% Labor (up two), 35% Coalition (down four), 10% Greens (steady) and 7% One Nation (up one). Essential continues to use 2016 election preference flows, and this poll would probably be 54-46 by Newspoll’s methods.

Since late July, there has been a 23-point increase in perception that the Liberals are divided, a 14-point decrease in “has a good team of leaders”, a 12-point decrease in “clear about what they stand for”, and an eight-point decrease in moderate. The only large change for Labor is a ten-point decrease in divided.

The Liberals now lead Labor by 33 points on divided (tied in late July), by 31 points on “too close to big corporate interests” and by 18 points on “out of touch”. Labor leads by 23 points on working people’s interests and by 14 points on “clear about what they stand for”.

By 40-35, voters disapproved of Morrison replacing Turnbull as PM. By 57-27, voters agreed that the Liberals are divided and no longer fit to govern. Voters thought Morrison the better PM against Shorten by a 39-29 margin (41-27 to Turnbull last fortnight).

23% (up seven since July) thought Bishop the best Liberal leader, 15% Turnbull (down 13), 10% Morrison (up eight), 9% Abbott (down one) and just 4% Dutton (down one). Bishop had 25% with Coalition voters, Morrison 22% and Turnbull 18%.

By 46-32, voters opposed withdrawing from the Paris agreement on carbon emissions, and there was a 41-41 tie on funding more coal-fired power stations. Cutting tax rates for big businesses and people earning over $200,000 per year had over 62% opposed. Cutting immigration numbers was supported 62-27. Over 60% supported seven proposed measures to reduce gambling.

Contrary polls in Dickson; 9% swing to Labor in Deakin

Dutton holds the Queensland seat of Dickson by a 2.0% margin. A Newspoll, conducted August 22-23 – Turnbull’s last two days as PM – from a sample of 1,850, gave Labor a 52-48 lead. Primary votes were 37% LNP, 37% Labor, 10% One Nation and 9% Greens. If Dutton were PM, there would be a 50-50 tie in Dickson, owing to a five-point gain for the LNP at One Nation’s expense.

ReachTEL has conducted polls for Fairfax media in Dickson, Reid in NSW and Deakin in Victoria, on August 25-26, each with samples of 1,050. In Dickson, Dutton had a 54-46 lead. In Reid, the Liberals led by 52-48, a 3% swing to Labor since the 2016 election. In Deakin, Labor led by 53-47, a 9% swing to Labor.

These seat polls indicate that the Coalition’s problems with the transition are particularly severe in Victoria, as One Nation does not do well there and there are many moderates. Queensland is One Nation’s strongest state, and a switch to a more right-wing PM may help the Coalition gain One Nation votes.

Seat polls are unreliable, and it is better to use the latest national and state polling as a guide to seats. Given the national swing in Newspoll of over 6% to Labor, I think the Newspoll Dickson poll is more likely to be accurate.

Morrison led Shorten as better PM by 52-48 in Deakin, 55-45 in Reid and 59-41 in Dickson. ReachTEL’s forced choice better PM question is assisting Morrison; most people do not know enough about him for an opinion, and are giving him the benefit of the doubt over the still-unpopular Shorten.

In the three seats polled by ReachTEL, over 53% disagreed with the removal of Turnbull and less than 38% agreed. Over 61% thought Abbott should remain on the backbench, while under 33% thought he should return to Cabinet. Over 51% thought Australia should not withdraw from the Paris agreement on reducing emissions, and under 40% thought Australia should withdraw.

Wentworth byelection in October

Malcolm Turnbull will resign as the Member for Wentworth on Friday, and a byelection is likely to be held in October. While Turnbull holds Wentworth by a 17.7% margin, the tweet below from the ABC’s Antony Green shows he massively increased his vote from 2007 to 2013. Without Turnbull’s personal vote, Wentworth may be vulnerable, but it is still a big ask for a non-Liberal to win.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.