Morrison should apologise to Christine Holgate and Australia Post chair should resign: Senate report


Michelle Grattan, University of CanberraThe Senate inquiry into the Christine Holgate affair has declared Scott Morrison, shareholder ministers and the Australia Post board should apologise to the former CEO “for denying her the legal principles of procedural fairness and natural justice”.

The Labor-Greens dominated committee said in scathing findings that Morrison’s “improper threat” in parliament’s question time suggested “a lack of respect for due process”, as well as a “double standard” when contrasted with the procedural principles applied to cabinet members.

Holgate told the ABC on Wednesday night she was “absolutely delighted” by the report and would “graciously accept” a Morrison apology.

But none will be forthcoming.

A government spokesperson said it had “no intention of responding to a politicised report published by a committee controlled by the Labor and Green parties”. The inquiry was chaired by Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young.

Morrison reacted furiously on October 22 last year, after Holgate revealed to a Senate committee Australia Post had rewarded with Cartier watches four employees who had concluded a highly lucrative 2018 deal. The watches were worth in total nearly $20,000.

Morrison told parliament Holgate had been instructed to stand aside – if she did not want to do that “she can go”.

Holgate resisted standing aside but had little choice but to do so. Soon after, she left Australia Post. She has since been appointed CEO of Global Express, which competes with it.

The government minority on the committee, in a dissenting report, said the inquiry had been a highly politicised exercise. The Coalition senators said they did “not support aspects of the analysis of evidence and many of the recommendations of the majority report”.

They said the claim Holgate was denied procedural fairness and natural justice was contested, with evidence showing different recollections snd interpretations.

The majority report lambasted Australia Post’s chair, Lucio Di Bartolomeo, saying he should resign, and accept responsibility for the organisation’s failings over Holgate. It criticised “the veracity of his evidence provided to the committee, his capacity to defend the independence of Australia Post and the lack of effective robust policies and financial oversight processes in place throughout his tenure”.

But government senators said evidence had highlighted that the chair had sought to work constructively with Holgate when events were moving fast in the media spotlight.

The majority report said evidence suggested “there is a culture operating outside the legislated framework that results in so‐called ‘independent’ government agencies being controlled by ministers and their advisers through informal directions in a completely unaccountable manner.”

Holgate’s treatment also was “indicative of a wider pattern of behaviour towards women in workplaces, including Parliament. As both an employer and legislator of workplace laws, the Australian Government must set an example.”

The Australia Post board, notably for being heavy with political appointments, also came in for strong rebukes.

The board, “apparently acting on informal instructions from the Minister for Communications [Paul Fletcher], decided that Ms Holgate should be stood aside without being accorded procedural fairness and an opportunity to defend her actions,” the report said.

“The Prime Minister and Shareholder Ministers [Fletcher and then finance minister Mathias Cormann] created a very public expectation that Ms Holgate would be stood aside, to which the board dutifully acquiesced.

“This pressure appears to have led the Board to breach its duties under the Act, standing Ms Holgate aside without any evidence that she had acted improperly.”

The process by which board members are appointed has compromised the board’s independence from government, the report said.

The Holgate matter “has focused attention on the sheer magnitude of bonuses and incentives paid to executives, senior managers and other highly paid staff across the Commonwealth.

“If the purchase of $20,000 worth of watches for senior executives fails the ‘pub test’, what does the Australian public think of the tens of millions of dollars that are given in bonuses each year to highly paid staff at Australia Post, in government departments, and at other GBEs [government businesss enterprises]?” the report said.

It said “a comparison of other events during that period puts in stark perspective the inconsistent treatment of public officials by this government when faced with a scandal.

“On one hand, the high performing CEO of Australia Post was effectively forced to resign over the purchase of $20 000 worth of watches for securing a deal worth more than $200 million in revenue to the organisation.

“On the other hand, there appears to have been no action taken against the responsible public servants involved in the purchase of the ‘Leppington Triangle’ for $30 million of public funds, ten times more than the land’s market value.”

Among its 25 recommendations, the majority report said the Australia Post board should be restructured and include nominees of the parliament, employees and unions, and licensees. Appropriate board independence should be restored.

The Solicitor-General should investigate the legality of the October 22 instruction from shareholder ministers to the board that it should stand aside Holgate during an investigation into the watches’ purchase.

The government should rule out privatising Australia Post or divesting any of its services including parcel delivery. The Senate should oppose any extension of the current temporary regulations, which were put in place for the pandemic.

Pauline Hanson, who pressed for the inquiry and was a participating member (rather than a member of the committee) said in additional comments in the report that the chair should be removed and Morrison, Fletcher and Simon Birmingham (the current finance minister) should “each offer an unqualified apology” to Holgate.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.

Great approach, weak execution. Economists decline to give budget top marks


Wes Mountain/The Conversation, CC BY-ND

Peter Martin, Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National UniversityDespite overwhelmingly endorsing the general stance of the 2021 budget, only a few of the 56 leading economists surveyed by the Economic Society of Australia and The Conversation are prepared to give it top marks.

Asked to grade the budget on a scale of A to F given Treasurer Josh Frydenberg’s objective of securing Australia’s economic recovery and building for the future, only three of the 56 economists surveyed gave it an ‘A’.

But a very large 41% awarded it either an A or a B, up from 37% in last year’s October COVID budget.

The economists chosen to take part in the Economic Society of Australia survey have been recognised by their peers as Australia’s leaders in fields including macroeconomics, economic modelling, housing and budget policy.

Among them are a former head of Australia’s prime minister’s department, a former member of the Reserve Bank board, a former OECD director and two former frontbenchers, one from Labor and one from the Coalition.

Of the panel members who commented on the historic stance of the budget — expanding the size of the deficit beyond what it would have been in order to drive down unemployment — all but three offered enthusiastic endorsement.

Emeritus Professor Sue Richardson of the University of Adelaide commended the government for at last turning its back on a “debt and deficit” mantra, that was “never justified”.




Read more:
Exclusive. Top economists back budget push for an unemployment rate beginning with ‘4’


Professor Richard Holden praised the “watershed”. In due course there should be increased attention paid to the structure and quality of spending, but for now we should applaud the “Frydenberg Pivot”.

Saul Eslake said the strategy of providing further stimulus to push unemployment down to levels not seen consistently since the first half of the 1970s was the right one. It meant the Reserve Bank and the treasury would no longer be working at “cross purposes” as they had been for most of the past two decades.



The Conversation, CC BY-ND

But Eslake said the budget fell short in the A$20 billion it devoted to tax concessions for small business in the mistaken and unfounded belief it is “the engine room of the economy” and in housing measures that failed to heed warnings from history about the risks of ultra-high loan-to-valuation ratios.

Rebecca Cassells of the Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre said the claim that 60,000 jobs would flow from extending the temporary loss carry back and full expensing tax concessions was “a stretch,” with the connection quite tenuous.

Bucks, but not the biggest bang

Consultant Nicki Hutley said a bigger boost to the JobSeeker unemployment payment would have achieved much more than the $7.8 billion one-year extension of the “lamington” low and middle income tax offset.

Economic modeller Janine Dixon said while spending more to get more people into work was the “right setting for the times,” Australia had to ensure its workforce was ready to supply the extra aged care and child care and disability services it had funded by delivering the right training, especially in the absence of migration, which has traditionally been used to address workforce shortages.

Labour market specialist Elisabetta Magnani said measures to boost wages in the caring occupations could have achieved the double bonus of drawing more workers into those occupations and shrinking the gender pay gap, given that more than 80% of the workers in residential aged care are female.

Little for net-zero

Michael Keating, a former head of the prime minister’s department, said restoring high wage growth would require big investments in education and training, which sits oddly with the cuts in funding for universities. The extra funding for apprentices and trainees only makes up for past cuts.

Professor Gigi Foster said the $1.7 billion spent on childcare subsidies was only “surface-level fiddling with the sticker price”.

“Where is the supply-side intervention required to make childcare services sustainably accessible and of high quality?” she asked. “Childcare should be viewed as social infrastructure. Instead, when we heard infrastructure, it was mainly code for transportation.”




Read more:
Fewer hard hats, more soft hearts: budget pivots to women and care


Margaret Nowak of Curtin University said a budget that really “built for the future” would not have focused on the “infrastructure of the past”. Professor Richardson lamented that most of the infrastructure spending was on traditional “roads and ports” when the future was net-zero emissions.

“There is little in the budget that supports this transformation,” she said. “It is an extraordinary lost opportunity.

Nicki Hutley said retooling the economy for zero emissions would have brought forth “more jobs, higher wages, more growth and private sector co-investment”.

Some concern about debt

Former OECD director Adrian Blundell-Wignall said a much-greater investment in vaccinations would have helped “get the economy back to work and the borders opened sooner which, in turn, would have saved unemployment benefits, tourism, aviation support and the need for the extension of temporary measures”.

And he was concerned that a jump in US inflation might cause international interest rates to rise faster than expected, forcing Australia to cut its projected budget deficits in order to stabilise net debt.




Read more:
Frydenberg spends the bounty to drive unemployment to new lows


Former International Monetary Fund economist Tony Makin, a critic of government spending during the global financial crisis,
described the budget spending as a “knee-jerk primitive Keynesian reaction” to the COVID recession.

Unease about going into debt to keep and create jobs aside (and very few of the economists surveyed shared Makin’s unease) the criticisms of the economists surveyed relate to execution and details. If Frydenberg had been judged on his approach, most would have given him an A.


The Conversation

Peter Martin, Visiting Fellow, Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University

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

Little change in post-budget Newspoll; Liberals win Tasmanian majority


AAP/Mick Tsikas

Adrian Beaumont, The University of MelbourneThis week’s Newspoll, conducted May 13-16 from a sample of 1,506, gave Labor a 51-49 lead, unchanged from the last Newspoll published three weeks ago. Primary votes were 41% Coalition (steady), 36% Labor (down two), 12% Greens (up two) and 2% One Nation (down one). Figures are from The Poll Bludger.

58% were satisfied with Scott Morrison’s performance (down one), and 38% were dissatisfied (up one), for a net approval of +20. Anthony Albanese’s net approval was down four points to -7, his worst ever net approval. Morrison led Albanese as better PM by 55-30 (56-30 three weeks ago).

Newspoll has asked three questions after every budget: whether the budget was good for the economy, good for you personally, and whether the opposition would have delivered a better budget. Results for this last question are yet to appear, and it would be disappointing if that question has been cancelled.

44% thought last Tuesday’s budget was good for the economy and 15% bad, for a net rating of +29. On personal finances, 19% thought it would be good and 19% bad, for a net zero rating. Voters have consistently been better disposed to budgets on the economy than the personal.

The Poll Bludger says this budget is the eighth best on personal finance and the sixth best on the economy since Newspoll started asking these questions, which I believe was in 1988. Analyst Kevin Bonham says this budget has the best net score on the economy since 2007’s +48. However, the Coalition under John Howard lost the 2007 election after that budget.

Most budgets have little impact on voting intentions, and this is confirmed by voting intentions remaining unchanged on two party preferred in this Newspoll. Exceptions were the very unpopular 1993 and 2014 budgets. After both those budgets, the government lost much support.

The drop in Labor’s support, and the rise for the Greens, is probably due to left-wing voters who are unhappy with Albanese. Morrison’s consistently big lead over Albanese as better PM likely encourages some voters to perceive Labor would do better if led by someone more left-wing than Albanese. I posted about the flaws in this logic in my last Newspoll report.

In an additional Newspoll question, 73% thought Australia’s borders should remain closed until at least mid-2022, or the pandemic is under control globally. Just 21% thought borders should open as soon as all Australians who want to be are vaccinated.

In last week’s Essential poll, taken before the budget, Morrison’s net approval surged to +26 from +17 in mid-April. With women, his net approval rose 17 points to +21; with men, it was up two points to +31. While there is still a gender gap, many women appear to have forgotten or forgiven the sexual misbehaviour in March.

Liberals win Tasmanian majority as sex-compromised Liberal wins, then resigns

At the May 1 Tasmanian election, the Liberals won 13 of the 25 lower house seats (steady since the 2018 election), Labor nine (down one), the Greens two (steady) and Independent Kristie Johnston won the last seat. Vote shares were 48.7% Liberal (down 1.5%), 28.2% Labor (down 4.5%), 12.4% Greens (up 2.1%) and 6.2% for independents.

In party terms, there were two electorates where the result appeared uncertain in my post-election article: Clark and Bass. With five seats per electorate, a quota is one-sixth of the vote, or 16.7%. In the Hare-Clark system, candidates compete against other candidates in the same party, as well as other parties’ candidates.

In Clark, there was some doubt on election night as to whether the Liberals would win a second seat. But former Labor MP Madeleine Ogilvie, who had sat as an independent in the last parliament, and joined the Liberals at this election, won the second Liberal seat in Clark.

Ogilvie was 342 votes or 0.03 quotas ahead of fellow Liberal Simon Behrakis at the second last count. At Behrakis’ exclusion, final standings were Ogilvie 0.95 quotas, Johnston 0.93 and Independent Sue Hickey 0.82. Ogilvie and Johnston were elected to the final two seats.

In Bass, Labor benefited from leakage of Premier Peter Gutwein’s surplus and preferences from other sources. Labor easily defeated the Greens and Liberals for the final seat for a three Liberal, two Labor result.

The day before the election, Liberal Braddon candidate Adam Brooks was accused of impersonating to enter a sexual relationship using a fake driver’s license. Tasmania still requires early voters to complete a declaration that they cannot vote on election day, so most votes were cast on election day.

Brooks was still elected after a close race with two other Liberals in Braddon. With the final two seats to be filled, Jaensch finished on 0.934 quotas, Brooks 0.931 and Ellis 0.904, with Ellis missing out. Brooks had been 0.046 quotas ahead of Ellis after Liberal exclusions and surpluses, with his lead reduced by sources outside the Liberals.




Read more:
Has a backlash against political correctness made sexual misbehaviour more acceptable?


The Braddon result was finalised Thursday. On Friday, Brooks resigned his seat after Queensland police charged him with firearms offences. Brooks’ seat will definitely go to a Liberal on a countback (not a byelection), likely Ellis. The Liberals will be relieved at not requiring Brooks’ vote to maintain a majority.

In the upper house, the Liberals gained Windermere from a retiring conservative independent, while Labor held Derwent. In Windermere, the Liberals defeated Labor by 54.1-45.9, from primary votes of 37.8% Liberal, 27.0% Labor and 21.3% for an independent. In Derwent, Labor defeated the Liberals by 55.7-44.3, from primary votes of 49.1% Labor, 40.9% Liberal and 10.0% Animal Justice.

The Tasmanian upper house has 15 single-member electorates with two or three up for election every May for six-year terms. Current standings are five Labor, four Liberals, four left independents and two centre-right independents.

Poll gives Nationals 51-49 lead for Saturday’s Upper Hunter (NSW) byelection

A byelection will occur in the NSW Nationals-held state seat of Upper Hunter this Saturday. This seat has been Nationals-held since 1932, but at the 2019 NSW election, the Nationals had their lowest primary vote of 34.0%. Labor had 28.7%, the Shooters 22.0% and the Greens 4.8%.

Excluding exhausting preferences, the Nationals defeated Labor by 52.6-47.4, with 24.2% of total votes exhausting under NSW’s optional preferential system.

A YouGov poll for The Daily Telegraph gave the Nationals a 51-49 lead over Labor in Upper Hunter based on respondent preferences. Primary votes were 25% Nationals, 23% Labor, 16% Shooters, 11% One Nation, 6% Greens and 10% combined for two independents. The poll was conducted May 11-13 from a sample of just 400.The Conversation

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

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

No ‘bounce’ for government from big-spend budget: Newspoll


Michelle Grattan, University of CanberraThe government has failed to get any electoral “bounce” from last week’s budget, despite it being widely seen as good for the economy, according to Newspoll.

Labor retains a two-party lead of 51-49%, although there was a 2 point fall in its primary vote, to 36%. The fall was matched by a 2 point rise in support for the Greens, to 12%.

The Coalition was stable on 41% primary vote.

Publishing the results, The Australian reported it was the most well-received budget since the Howard-Costello days, with 44% saying it would be good for the economy, and only 15% believing it would be bad. This was the largest margin since 2007.

But voters found it harder to get a clear fix on what it would mean for them personally. They were evenly divided, with 19% each side, on whether they would be personally better or worse off financially from the budget.

A record 62% could not say whether they would be better or worse off.

While the budget contained tax cuts for low and middle income earners and a child care package, much of the big spending was directed to particular areas, such as aged care and mental health, rather than affecting the financial position of people more widely.

Both leaders’ personal approval ratings worsened somewhat in the poll, although Anthony Albanese took more of a hit than Scott Morrison.

Dissatisfaction with Albanese increased 3 points to 46%, while his satisfaction rating decreased a point to 39%. His net rating is minus 7.

Satisfaction with Morrison fell a point to 58%, and dissatisfaction increased a point to 38% His net approval is plus 20.

Morrison led Albanese as better prime minister 55% (down a point) to 30% (stable).

In Queensland selling the budget, Morrison said on Sunday: “The recovery cannot be taken for granted. The recovery can be lost. The hard won gains of Australians, particularly over these last 18 months, can be lost unless we keep doing what’s working. And this is working.”

Also in Queensland, Albanese said: “Quite clearly, Scott Morrison has a plan to just get through the next election and then we’ll see cuts, because we know from this government, just like we saw in 2014 when it first came to office, that they will make cuts, they will return to type.”The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

Australia: Budget 2021


View from The Hill: a budget for a pandemic, with next year’s election in mind


Michelle Grattan, University of CanberraTreasurer Josh Frydenberg calls this a “pandemic budget” – one to sustain the economy in times that are still uncertain – but it also has a substantial element of an election budget.

That’s not to suggest Prime Minister Scott Morrison will rush to the polls this year. But given the election has to be held by May 21, 2022, this is likely to be the last budget of the cycle. Another could be squeezed in, as in 2019, but it would have to be brought forward from the normal time.

Last year the treasurer said budget repair and debt repayment – otherwise known as the hard and unpleasant decisions – wouldn’t be undertaken before unemployment was “comfortably” below 6%.




Read more:
Vital Signs. The RBA wants to cut unemployment, and nothing — not even soaring home prices — will stand in its way


Now unemployment is 5.6% (the March figure) but Frydenberg has shifted the goal posts, so the emphasis remains on recovery, with more difficult reckonings a way off – beyond the election.

Given a grim COVID picture internationally and a long way to go with the vaccine program locally, that is sound – and also politically convenient.

In this budget, the government’s policy approach is firmly aligned with that of the Reserve Bank, with Frydenberg embracing the bank’s objective of pushing unemployment well below pre-pandemic levels, which means to a rate with a 4 in front of it.

Two central spending areas in the budget have been, in effect, imposed on the government.

It had to respond to the damning findings of the aged care royal commission. The fact most Australian COVID deaths occurred in aged care underlined how unfit for purpose the system is. Frydenberg told the ABC there will be more than $10 billion spending on aged care over the forward estimates.

The budget’s “women’s” focus — a sharp contrast to last year — has drivers that go beyond the urgent need to do more to combat violence against women, and other imperatives.

Morrison’s “women problem”, which exploded with the demonstrations following the high-profile allegations of rape, most obviously increased the attention on women in this budget, which will include a women’s statement with initiatives on health, safety, and economic security.

Also, Labor’s decision to make childcare one of its main policy pitches, promising a big spend, reinforced economic considerations pushing the government to produce its own childcare policy (which doesn’t start until July 2022).

Even in the middle of the pandemic last year, few would have thought that by now we’d still have no firm idea when our international borders will re-open.

Morrison is cautious about it, and judges that’s in line with the thinking of the Australians public at the moment. He can read those state electoral results as well as anyone — he knows people put health safety above all else.

“International borders will only open when it is safe to do so”, he said on Facebook at the weekend. “Australians are living like in few countries around the world today.”

On the other hand, the pressure for students to come, migration to resume and people to be allowed to travel must build sooner or later.

The budget’s assumptions will put the reopening in 2022, Frydenberg told the ABC at the weekend.




Read more:
Frydenberg promises housing breaks in ‘pandemic budget’


Economist Saul Eslake says while keeping the country closed to the outside world is obviously not sustainable in the long run, it has, in a perverse way, some short run plusses for the government’s economic objectives.

“It’s very easy to get unemployment down when the border is closed. You only need to create 5000 new jobs a month to prevent unemployment rising.

“Previously [with migrants coming] you needed 16,000 new jobs a month. Currently we’re creating 60,000 a month,” Eslake says.

Migrants stimulate growth. But so does having Australians unable to travel overseas, Eslake says. They can only spend domestically – or save – the $55 billion they would normally be spending abroad. They appear to be spending quite a deal of it on things like home equipment, furnishings, renovations, cars, and even clothing.

While fiscal repair is formally delayed, the budget will show it is gradually, to a degree, repairing itself.

The quicker-than-expected bounce back of the labour market, which reduces welfare costs and boosts tax revenue, and the similar rebound in corporate profits, help the bottom line. Frydenberg says that, despite JobKeeper coming to an end, 105,000 people came off income support in April. High iron ore prices are also a godsend to revenue.

Chris Richardson, from Deloitte Access Economics, has forecast a deficit for this financial year of about $167 billion, compared with the December budget update figure of $198 billion. For 2021-22 , the Deloitte forecast is a deficit of about $87 billion compared with the update’s forecast of $108 billion.

Still, a balanced budget will be some years off, Richardson says.

He gives four reasons: substantial structural spending on aged care, mental health, childcare, disability and the like; low wage and price inflation (inflation helps budgets); missing migrants; and interest payments on debt (helped by low interest rates but still significant).

On what we know, the budget will be safe rather than adventurous. And while budgets can always unexpectedly trip over their own feet, and inevitably have plenty of critics, this will be the sort of benign one that doesn’t go out of its way to hurt or offend voters.

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.

Coalition and Morrison gain in Newspoll, and the new Resolve poll


AAP/Mick Tsikas

Adrian Beaumont, The University of MelbourneThis week’s Newspoll, conducted April 21-24 from a sample of 1,510, gave Labor a 51-49 lead, a one-point gain for the Coalition since the previous Newspoll, four weeks ago. Primary votes were 41% Coalition (up one), 38% Labor (steady), 10% Greens (down one) and 3% One Nation (up one). Figures are from The Poll Bludger.

59% (up four) were satisfied with Scott Morrison’s performance, and 37% (down three) were dissatisfied, for a net approval of +22, up seven points. Anthony Albanese’s net approval fell five points to -3. Morrison led as better PM by 56-30 (52-32 four weeks ago).

In my article last fortnight, I suggested a backlash against political correctness was making sexual misbehaviour more acceptable. The Coalition and Morrison’s recovery in this poll appears to validate that argument.




Read more:
Has a backlash against political correctness made sexual misbehaviour more acceptable?


The adverse publicity regarding vaccination problems may have been expected to damage the government. But as long as there are very few local COVID cases, it appears the general public will forgive the rollout issues.

There is likely to be a strong economic recovery from COVID, and this is a problem for Labor. The new Resolve poll had the Coalition and Morrison ahead of Labor and Albanese by over 20 points on both the economy and COVID. In March, the unemployment rate was 5.6%, well down from the peak of 7.5% last July.

Many on the left want Albanese to resign in favour of a more left-wing candidate like Tanya Plibersek. But the polling indicates Labor’s leadership is not the problem, Morrison’s popularity is. In fact, given Morrison’s ratings, the Coalition would normally be expected to lead by a substantial margin.

Outside election campaigns, most voters pay little attention to the opposition. So it’s what the government does that drives voting intentions and the PM’s popularity.

New pollster for Nine newspapers

The Resolve Strategic poll will be conducted monthly for Nine newspapers from a normal sample of 1,600 interviewed by online methods. The first sample included an additional 400 live phone interviews. Fieldwork will be conducted during the month.

Every two months, state polls of Victoria and NSW will be released. Since Newspoll stopped doing regular state polling in 2015, there have been virtually no polls of either state outside election periods.

No two party vote is given, but primary votes in the first Resolve poll, with fieldwork up to April 16, were 38% Coalition, 33% Labor, 12% Greens and 6% One Nation.

One Nation’s vote is far higher than in Newspoll, but analyst Kevin Bonham says Newspoll is only asking for One Nation in seats they contested at the last election. Bonham estimates the two party vote from these primaries as a 50-50 tie.

Respondents were asked to rate the party leaders’ performance in recent weeks. Morrison had a 50% good, 38% poor rating (net +12), while Albanese was at 35% good, 41% poor (net -6). Morrison led Albanese as preferred PM by 47-25.

Voters were asked which party and leader would be better at various issues. However, offering “someone else” as an option disadvantages Labor, particularly on environmental issues where the Greens do best. The Coalition and Morrison led Labor and Albanese by 43-21 on economic management and by 42-20 on handling COVID.

Essential and Morgan polls

In last fortnight’s Essential poll, Morrison had a 54-37 approval rating; his +17 net approval dropped five points from the late March poll.

The large gender gap in Morrison’s ratings that I discussed last fortnight remained: his approval with men was 61%, but 46% with women. This gap was 16 points in late March.

Albanese’s net approval was down four points from mid-March to +5, and Morrison led as better PM by 47-28 (52-26 in mid-March).

The federal government had a 62-17 good rating on its response to COVID (70-12 in mid-March). This reverts to about where its COVID response was before a spike in November. State governments also saw falls in their COVID ratings. If Labor had been in power federally, by 44-37 voters were confident that they would have dealt well with COVID.

While Essential continues to give the federal government strong COVID ratings, a Morgan SMS poll, conducted April 9-10 – after Morrison announced the AstraZeneca vaccine would not be recommended for those under 50 – had voters disapproving of Morrison’s handling of COVID by 51-49.

Less than a week before Tasmanian election, poll has Liberals at just 41%

The Tasmanian election will be held on Saturday. A uComms poll for the left-wing Australia Institute, conducted April 21 from a sample of 1,023, gave the Liberals 41.4%, Labor 32.1%, the Greens 12.4%, Independents 11.0% and Others 3.1%.

This poll is in marked contrast to the last publicly available Tasmanian poll: an EMRS poll in February that gave the Liberals 52%, Labor 27%, Greens 14% and 7% for all Others. I will have more details of the Tasmanian election in a post on Wednesday.

WA election upper house final results

At the March 13 Western Australian election, Labor won 22 of the 36 upper house seats (up eight since 2017), the Liberals seven (down two), the Nationals three (down one), Legalise Cannabis two (up two), the Greens one (down three) and Daylight Saving one (up one). One Nation (three seats in 2017), the Shooters (one) and the Liberal Democrats (one) all failed to return to parliament.

This is the first time Labor has won a majority of seats in the WA upper house. They won 60.3% of the vote in the upper house, slightly higher than their 59.9% in the lower house. Labor won 21 of their 22 seats on raw quotas, and needed very slight help for their fourth seat in Mining and Pastoral region.




Read more:
Labor obliterates Liberals in historic WA election; will win control of upper house for first time


Labor lost two seats they should have won to Legalise Cannabis under the Group Ticket Voting (GTV) system. That gave Legalise Cannabis double the seats of the Greens despite less than one-third of the Greens’ statewide vote (2.0% vs 6.4%).

The most ridiculous result occurred in the Mining and Pastoral region, where Daylight Saving were able to win a seat on just 98 first preference votes and 0.2% of the statewide vote. This occurred owing to both GTV and malapportionment. Every one of WA’s six regions elects six members, even though the Agricultural region has just 6% of enrolled voters and the Mining and Pastoral region 4%.

ABC election analyst Antony Green’s final lower house two party estimate is that Labor won by an Australian record for any state or territory of 69.7% to 30.3%, a 14.1% swing to Labor from what was already a thumping 2017 victory.The Conversation

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

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

Morrison government quashes Victoria’s Belt and Road deal with China


Michelle Grattan, University of CanberraThe Morrison government has cancelled the Belt and Road agreements Victoria has with China.

In the first decisions under the government’s new law allowing it to quash arrangements states, territories and public universities have, or propose to have, with foreign governments, Foreign Minister Marise Payne announced four Victorian agreements would end.

Two are with China, and the others are with Iran and Syria.

The agreements with China are the memorandum of understanding on the Belt and Road initiative signed in October 2018, and a subsequent more detailed framework agreement signed in October 2019.

The agreement with Iran related to student exchanges and dates from 2004. The protocol with Syria was for scientific co-operation, and goes back to 1999.

Payne, who makes the determinations under the foreign arrangements scheme, said the agreements were “inconsistent with Australia’s foreign policy or adverse to our foreign relations” under the scheme’s test.

The action is likely to elicit another sharp response from China, which is extensively targeting Australian trade and regularly delivers rhetorical attacks.

The Victorian buy-in to the Belt and Road network – China’s global infrastructure and development strategy – was seen as the prime target when the government first announced its plan to review the agreements with foreign governments and their entities.

Scott Morrison said last year about Belt and Road that it was a program Australia’s foreign policy did not recognise “because we don’t believe it is consistent with Australia’s national interest”.

The foreign arrangements scheme, operating since December, was driven substantially by concern about foreign interference in Australia, in particular from China.

It also reflects the broader principle that foreign relations are a national matter and agreements by states and territories with foreign governments should not be at odds with the federal government’s policies.

Federal sources say the Victorian agreements with China have not yielded any tangible outcomes for the state.

The other two agreements have been overtaken by major changes in relations with those countries.

Payne said under the audits of existing and proposed foreign arrangements required by the new law, she had been notified of more than 1000 arrangements.

“States and territories have now completed their initial audit of existing arrangements with foreign national governments.

“The more than 1,000 notified so far reflect the richness and breadth of Australia’s international interests and demonstrate the important role played by Australia’s states, territories, universities and local governments in advancing Australia’s interests abroad.”

Payne has approved a proposed Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation on Human Resources Development in Energy and Mineral Resources Sector between the Western Australian and Indonesian governments.

A spokesperson for the Victorian government said the law was “entirely a matter for the Commonwealth government”.

UPDATE: Chinese embassy attacks cancellation of BRI agreements as ‘provocative’ and harmful to bilateral relations

The Chinese government has condemned the cancellation of the Belt and Road agreements as “provocative”.

A statement from a Chinese embassy spokesperson expressed “strong displeasure and resolute opposition” to Payne’s announcement.

“The BRI is an initiative for economic cooperation, which follows the principle of extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits, and upholds the spirit of openness, inclusiveness and transparency.

“It has brought tangible benefits to the participating parties. The BRI cooperation between China and the Victoria state is conducive to deepening economic and trade relations between the two sides, and will promote economic growth and the well-being of the people of Victoria.”

The statement said this was “another unreasonable and provocative move taken by the Australian side against China.

“It further shows that the Australian government has no sincerity in improving China-Australia relations. It is bound to bring further damage to bilateral relations, and will only end up hurting itself.”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.

To abandon vaccination targets is to abandon the mantle of leadership


Peter Gahan, The University of Melbourne and Jesse E. Olsen, The University of MelbourneThe Australian government has abandoned its ambitious targets to have the adult population vaccinated by the end of October. It has, in fact, abandoned having any target.

We all sometimes find ourselves in tough positions and just want to call it a day. But this decision is not what we should expect from the nation’s leaders when so much is at stake. It also goes against decades of research and evidence on the importance of goal-setting.

In January Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the plan was to have four million Australians vaccinated by the end of March, and the entire adult population by the end of October. At the start of April, however, the actual number was less than 842,000. (As of April 15 the number was just over 1.4 million doses.)

Then, on April 11, in a video posted to his Facebook page at 11:35pm, Morrison announced there would be no more targets. “We are just getting on with it,” he said.

But without any target, what is the “it” we should be “getting on with”?


Australia's vaccination score card as of April 4 2021.
Australia’s vaccination score card as of April 4 2021. Don’t expect to see any more of these.
Australian Government/Department of Health, CC BY-SA

Imagine if at your next work meeting the boss echoed the prime minister’s words that “one of the things about COVID is it writes its own rules” and said something like:

This quarter, rather than set targets that can get knocked about by every to and fro, we are just getting on with it.

Will these words inspire your team to succeed?

According to leadership research, good management necessarily entails influencing others to achieve goals or objectives. This is a point made even in introductory undergraduate management textbooks.

To abandon goals or targets is, by definition, to abandon the mantle of leadership.




Read more:
As Australia’s vaccination bungle becomes clear, Morrison’s political pain is only just beginning


When goals work

Study after study has demonstrated why setting ambitious targets is important for virtually any activity — from turning a couch potato into a marathon runner, to putting an astronaut on the Moon, to building a driverless car.

Of course, just setting an ambitious goal is not enough. Done poorly, they can be discouraging and undermine performance, and even lead people to behave unethically. To work, people and organisations need to have the capabilities and resources to address unexpected twists and turns, as well as strategy to manage risks and overcome any barriers that crop up.

But so long as goals are set with these things in mind, they help achieve results, driving creativity, innovation and performance.

We already see evidence of this in COVID vaccinations overseas.

The US government’s Operation Warp Speed, the private-public partnership to develop and distribute multiple vaccines in record time, started with this goal:

to deliver tens of millions of doses of a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine — with demonstrated safety and efficacy, and approved or authorised by the US Food and Drug administration for use in the US population by the end of 2020, and to have as many as 300 million doses deployed by mid-2021.

The goal was both ambitious and specific, defining the “it” that everyone should “get on with”. It formed the basis for planning that has started paying dividends after a year of death and economic destruction.

Goal setting and effective leadership

The federal government’s decision to abandon goals goes against research the Commonwealth itself commissioned just a few years ago.

In 2015, the federal Department of Employment and Workplace Relations funded the University of Melbourne’s Centre for Workplace Leadership to survey more than 3,500 Australian workplaces about how the quality of management and leadership affects productivity and innovation.

The Study of Australian Leadership, which surveyed both private and public sector organisations, found very basic management practices to be among the most important drivers of organisational performance and innovation. These basic practices include setting clear and ambitious targets, communicating them, and regularly monitoring progress.

Scott Morrison communicates via a Facebook video on April 11 that the Australian government has abandoned vaccination uptake targets.
Scott Morrison communicates via a Facebook video on April 11 that the Australian government has abandoned vaccination uptake targets.
Facebook

Leading rapid implementation

Given the evidence, any government with claims to having competent leadership should be setting and communicating a clear and ambitious goal for its vaccination roll-out.

Successful roll-outs in other countries show this should be done in consultation with local and regional governments, health professionals and key players in the public and private sectors (who must also be involved in the design and implementation of strategies and processes).

Given the federal government’s own limited capacities at the local level (public hospitals, for example, are run by the state and territory governments), its engagement with other stakeholders must be meaningful — not just lip service. It must also resist the urge to control everything.

Let there be goals

When faced with complex problems, getting agreement on ambitious goals can be extremely powerful. Nor does it need to take forever, as is often claimed. Australia’s response to the pandemic in 2020 largely shows this.

There will be challenges with meeting targets. Vaccine supplies are limited. There will be hiccups. But abandoning any sense of ambition is not the answer.

Because COVID “writes its own rules”, as Morrison has rightly pointed out, the federal government should pursue multiple alternative paths to achieving its goals. In other words, it should not put all it eggs in one basket, as it did with its plan to rely on local GPs to deliver vaccines, rather than use “vaccination hubs” as other nations have done.




Read more:
Australian vaccine rollout needs all hands on deck after the latest AstraZeneca news, mass vaccination hubs included


Abandoning vaccination targets now undermines all that has been sacrificed to be in the relatively good position the nation is now in. The economic and social costs, as well as the potential further loss of life, will mount unless the Morrison government reconsiders its misguided decision.

It must put aside concerns about the political fallout of missing targets. We cannot “get on with it” without leadership that defines the “it” to be gotten on with.The Conversation

Peter Gahan, Professor of Management, Faculty of Business and Economics, The University of Melbourne and Jesse E. Olsen, Senior Lecturer, Dept of Management & Marketing, Faculty of Business & Economics, The University of Melbourne

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