Grattan on Friday: Discovery of the cabinet leaker would present bigger problem than the leak


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

What on earth was Julie Bishop thinking when she declared she’d support a “formal investigation” into this week’s damaging cabinet leak?

Bishop was defending herself as the questions swirled about who might be the leaker, saying it wasn’t her. But to have one of the most senior ministers – she’s deputy Liberal leader too – talking about a probe into cabinet members just underlines the serious breakdown not just in the government’s discipline but in its common sense as well.

The leaked story was by the Daily Telegraph’s Sharri Markson, reporting that a “despondent”: cabinet had discussed, in the context of the backbench revolt on banking, whether the government should capitulate and hold a royal commission.

Treasurer Scott Morrison said no; Peter Dutton, one of the conservatives who has had Malcolm Turnbull’s back, was reported to be “opposed in principle” but open to the idea on pragmatic grounds. But Turnbull remains against changing policy and has said this publicly.

For Bishop the affair is a rerun of an old movie. After a leak from the Abbott cabinet, Bishop denied being the source, saying that if the prime minister found the culprit he would “take some action”.

In retrospect, if not always at the time, it seems obvious the 2015 leaks were mostly inspired by those wanting a coup.

This time, the “who” and the “why” aren’t clear. There is no evidence of any organised push against Turnbull, like there was against Abbott, although leadership speculation has become media grist.

The leaks, of which there have been several, may be driven by the general angst around or reflect jostling by various players in uncertain times.

We’ve seen publicly the respective positioning by Morrison and Dutton on the marriage legislation, with Morrison putting himself at the forefront of the “safeguards” brigade and Dutton – on this issues as on others – looking for a compromise way through.

Anyway, there won’t be an investigation. The Australian Federal Police almost never finds the source of leaks to the media, but imagine if it had an unexpected success! That indeed would present a problem.

Bill Shorten described the situation as the government eating itself. Alternatively, think of an army in untidy retreat, sloshing through heavy mud, when it becomes every soldier for himself.

We’re back to the Gillard days or, for those with a sense of history, to the Liberal party of the late 1960s, as it lost its way in the post-Menzies years.

Despite cabinet’s now well-canvassed discussion, the government is still faced with the push from the Nationals’ rebels for parliament to set up a commission of inquiry (only marginally different from a royal commission) into the banks.

Turnbull has tried to minimise the scope for the rebels and Labor to make trouble by cancelling next week’s House of Representatives sitting, but the action just exposed his weakness.

The rebels are unbowed with Nationals senator Barry O’Sullivan on Thursday circulating his private senator’s bill for “a commission of inquiry into banking, insurance, superannuation, financial and related services”.

O’Sullivan confirms he is determined. “I’m not someone who blinks”, he said. He dismissed suggestions his absent leader, Barnaby Joyce, was trying to dissuade him. He’d spoken to Joyce early on – Joyce just “asked me to keep him posted”.

It should be remembered the Nationals generally have no problem in cracking down on the banks. In fact, if a proposal for a royal commission were put to the Nationals’ party room, it would likely get up. Nationals assistant minister Keith Pitt was blunt on Thursday: “Clearly the government’s position is not for a royal commission, however we do have a number of members in the Nats who think it’s something that they want”.

Amid the tumult, former prime minister John Howard has used the occasion of Friday’s tenth anniversary of being turfed out of office to buy into the contemporary debates on banking and taxation.

The latter debate was reignited after Turnbull held out the prospect of personal income tax relief in a major address on Monday, albeit devoid of detail. On Thursday Finance Minister Mathias Cormann was dealing with scepticism about its affordability, arguing “we have effectively already assumed future further tax cuts in our budget projections”.

Howard claimed a banking commission would be “rank socialism” – to which O’Sullivan says, “I don’t understand what he means”.

As for tax, Howard, who nearly lost office in his (successful) pursuit of a GST, told Sky it would benefit the government “if it were to embrace very significant further tax reform”. This should include the GST, which couldn’t be left “where it is indefinitely”.

The best of luck with that. Turnbull is tossing tax into the mix to try to show voters he has some sugar in his back pocket to put on their tables. But sweeping reform would see losers as well as winners. For a government perennially behind in the polls, with the slenderest majority before it fell into its current minority position, a major tax overhaul including the GST would take more bravery than presently in sight.

The tenth anniversary of the Howard government’s defeat is also the anniversary of the loss of his own seat of Bennelong. Now the Liberals are again fighting to hold Bennelong, after John Alexander became a victim of the citizenship crisis.

It is too early to get a real sense of how that December 16 byelection will go. On a 9.7 % margin, Alexander has a big buffer, as he faces Labor’s Kristina Keneally.

But this week the Liberal campaign, already looking lack lustre, was snagged by an embarrassing 1990s video of Alexander telling a crude Irish joke and another about “a black guy in Chicago” describing a rape.

Alexander wasn’t the only government byelection candidate who became an embarrassment. There was Joyce’s jaunt from his New England campaign to Canberra for “AgDay”, described as the “brainchild” of his good friend Gina Rinehart, who presented him with a $40,000 cheque, reward for being a “champion of our industry”. He only belatedly declined the money.

The ConversationIt was another example of the poor judgement that infects this government.

https://www.podbean.com/media/player/k3zus-7afe23?from=site&skin=1&share=1&fonts=Helvetica&auto=0&download=0

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

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Income tax relief on Turnbull’s agenda


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Malcolm Turnbull has raised the prospect of personal income tax relief to help middle-income earners, saying he is “actively working” on it.

As the government is still trying without success to get the remaining part of its company tax plan through parliament, which would deliver lower tax to big companies, Turnbull has moved to hold out the prospect of relief for individuals.

Speaking to the Business Council of Australia on Monday night, he noted the government had already lifted the second-highest income tax bracket threshold from A$80,000 to A$87,000, keeping some half-a-million people from moving into a higher bracket. It had also spared people facing a permanent top marginal rate of 49.5% by not making the temporary deficit levy permanent.

“You know our plans on corporate tax,” he said. “In the personal income tax space, I am actively working with the treasurer and all my cabinet colleagues to ease the burden on middle-income Australians, while also meeting our commitment to return the budget to surplus.”

He said his commitment to all Australians was: “Whether you are starting out in your first job, a worker providing for their family, or a business hiring staff, our goal is always to leave more money in your pocket, not in ours.

“Higher taxes penalise people who are trying to get ahead. But when you reward hard work and enterprise, you encourage hard work and enterprise.

“It’s pretty simple – more investment, more jobs. That’s the key.”

He recalled that his earliest foray into the personal income tax debate in 2005 as a fairly new MP was not uniformly welcomed. He did not spell out that then-treasurer Peter Costello was furious.

But the concerns that underpinned a report he released then still existed: “The tax system remains complex and compliance is a burden, our marginal tax rates are high, bracket creep is a constant challenge that needs to be addressed”.

Turnbull said that “just because we’re in challenging fiscal times doesn’t mean we should raise the white flag on making the tax system work better”.

A Treasury analysis showed Australia risked being left behind by the rest of the world in the competitiveness of its business tax, he said, citing in particular the US and the UK.

The Conversation“If we don’t reduce our corporate rate to 25% as planned – in our Enterprise Tax Plan – over the coming decade, the only advanced nations that will exceed Australia’s tax rate are Japan and Malta.”

https://www.podbean.com/media/player/nqtdd-7bf599?from=site&skin=1&share=1&fonts=Helvetica&auto=0&download=0

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

When you’re on the defensive, stepping backwards can send a bad signal


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Malcolm Turnbull’s tactic of cancelling the House of Representatives’ sitting next week – because his numbers are depleted and the government is nervous – is a short-sighted decision that smacks of lack of nerve.

Undoubtedly it would have been a rough week in the lower house. But refusing to face it looks panicky, just when Turnbull is trying to convince people that he and the government are in control.

The government is desperate to keep the lower house agenda narrow and as tightly managed as its unfortunate circumstances permit. It declares the rest of the parliamentary year will be confined to legislating for same-sex marriage and considering which citizenship cases should be referred to the High Court.

Monday’s cancellation wasn’t Turnbull’s only ploy to avoid being embarrassed in the lower house’s final sitting days of 2017. When he recently met Bill Shorten to discuss citizenship disclosure, he tried to win agreement to confine the coming period to non-controversial legislation. Labor naturally wouldn’t play ball.

The cancellation has nothing logically to do with the timetable for the same-sex marriage bill. Consideration of that legislation was always to continue in the Senate next week, moving to the House of Representatives for debate the week after. Meanwhile, the lower house next week would have dealt with other legislation.

Nor is Leader of the House Christopher Pyne convincing when he claims this is just a routine change, and that there was no need for the lower house to meet next week because there was nothing urgent for it to do.

In truth, the government fears what trouble Labor games and rebels in its own ranks might cause, and is desperate to limit the time available to them. The latter, spearheaded by Nationals Barry O’Sullivan in the Senate and George Christensen in the lower house, are planning to try to force the issue of a commission of inquiry into the banks and other financial institutions.

O’Sullivan is preparing a bill for the banking commission and claims up to four lower house members could cross the floor. The O’Sullivan commission would report to the parliament; it would be distinct from a royal commission, which only the government can set up.

This bill was never going to get to the lower house next week; it’s not even clear whether it will be debated there when the lower house does sit the week starting December 4. But Christensen says he will vote for a commission or the like “in whatever guise it comes up and I definitely expect it’s going to come up”. Something will certainly “come up” if Labor can make it do so.

One big question is why the government has let this bank issue fester. It has been very critical of the banks, slapped a hefty tax on them, and moved to impose a tough regimen on their executives. But it has fought trenchantly against the royal commission that Labor advocates.

Given the strength of anti-bank feeling in the community, and within some of its own ranks – based on the banks’ bad behaviour – the government should have long ago cut its losses and set up a broad-ranging inquiry.

An important aspect of the rebel Nationals’ push is that they are referencing the precedent of the Liberals rebels’ success on same-sex marriage.

O’Sullivan told the ABC the government’s facilitating Liberal backbencher Dean Smith’s private member’s bill (now a crossbench bill) provided “a new pathway for backbenchers to be able to pursue matters of importance to them, and I’m just simply following along in his footsteps”.

The Nationals remain deeply out of sorts about the marriage debate sucking oxygen, as they see it, from other issues for months.

Beyond that, the rebels have taken from the marriage story the lesson that what’s good for the goose should be good for the gander. If a group of Liberal rebels – the “famous five” who put same sex-marriage back on the government agenda – can break ranks and end up getting what they want, why not a group of Nationals, with their issues?

And the win – and praise – scored by the Liberal rebels has meant the Nationals leadership and whips have reduced authority to keep their own rebels in line.

On Monday night Labor was seeking crossbench support for a proposed joint letter to put pressure on Turnbull to reverse his decision to cancel next week’s lower house sittings, but there’s no chance of his doing that.

Turnbull had raised the possibility of deferring the start of the House sitting at his meeting with Shorten. Shorten gave it short shrift at the time, and said so publicly, but Turnbull has rashly chosen to have the last word.

The ConversationTurnbull told a business audience on Monday night: “In times of uncertainty, the nation needs calm and measured leadership, a steady hand at the helm”. His earlier action suggested a touch of the tremble.

https://www.podbean.com/media/player/nqtdd-7bf599?from=site&skin=1&share=1&fonts=Helvetica&auto=0&download=0

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

Newspoll 55-45 to Labor as Turnbull’s better PM lead falls to 2. Qld and Alabama polling


Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

This week’s Newspoll, conducted 9-12 November from a sample of 1630, gave Labor a 55-45 lead, a one point gain for Labor since last fortnight, and their largest Newspoll lead since February. Primary votes were 38% Labor (up 1), 34% Coalition (down 1), 10% One Nation (up 1) and 9% Greens (down 1). This is Turnbull’s 23rd consecutive Newspoll loss as PM, 7 short of Abbott.

29% were satisfied with Turnbull’s performance (down 2), and 58% were dissatisfied (down 1), for a net approval of -29. Shorten’s net approval was up five points to -19. The biggest story in the personal ratings was Turnbull’s lead as better PM over Shorten narrowing from 41-33 to 36-34, by far Turnbull’s lowest Newspoll lead over Shorten since he ousted Abbott to become PM.

This result will increase leadership speculation, and hard right commentators will say the Coalition should return to a proper conservative leader. However, while this is Turnbull’s worst better PM rating, Shorten often led Abbott while Abbott was PM. The better PM measure favours incumbents more than would be expected given voting intentions.

Newspoll asked a best Liberal leader question with three options: Turnbull, Julie Bishop and Peter Dutton. Bishop led Turnbull 40-27, with 11% for Dutton. Among Coalition voters, Turnbull was ahead 42-39 with 7% for Dutton. Dutton won 24% with One Nation voters.

If we count Labor/Greens as left, and Coalition/One Nation as right, there has been little change between the total left and right votes in the last six Newspolls. The total left vote has been 47% in all six, and the total right 44-45%. One Nation’s preference flow to the Coalition is likely to be stronger than the 50% at the 2016 election, which Newspoll uses, so Labor’s two party lead is probably overstated.

The fall in Turnbull’s better PM lead is likely due to the citizenship debacle, with voters thinking he has lost control of the situation. By 45-42, voters favoured changing the Constitution to allow dual citizens to run for Parliament.

The Bennelong by-election will be held on 16 December. Former NSW Premier Kristina Kenneally today announced she would contest the by-election for Labor. Kenneally has a high public profile. While Labor was smashed at the 2011 NSW election, the damage was done long before Kenneally became Premier, and she has not been blamed for that loss. Kenneally appears to be a very good choice for Labor.

With Essential and YouGov below confirming the trend in Newspoll, Kevin Bonham’s poll aggregate is now at 54.2% two party to Labor, a 1.0 point gain for Labor since last week, and Labor’s best for this term.

Lambie’s probable disqualification will un-un-elect McKim

Two weeks ago, I wrote that Tasmanian Liberal Senator Stephen Parry’s disqualification would see One Nation’s Kate McCulloch defeat Green Nick McKim for the 12th and final seat, reversing the 2016 election result.

Jacqui Lambie has revealed she has a Scottish father, and has resigned from the Senate. If both Parry and Lambie are disqualified, the Senate recount reverts to electing McKim instead of McCulloch. So it now appears that the High Court will not have to rule on whether an elected Senator who has done nothing wrong himself can be unelected.

SSM plebiscite polling

The result of the same sex marriage plebiscite will be declared at 10am Melbourne time tomorrow. In Newspoll, 79% said they had voted, up 3 since last fortnight. Of these 79%, Yes led 63-37 (62-35 from the 76% who had voted last fortnight).

In Essential, 45% thought the postal survey a bad process that should not be used in the future, 27% a good process that should be used in the future, and 19% a good process that should not be used.

If Yes wins, 58% in YouGov thought the government should pass a law legalising same sex marriage straight away, 18% ignore the result, and 14% wait before passing a law. By 46-42, voters thought MPs who personally oppose same sex marriage should vote for the bill.

Essential 54-46 to Labor

This week’s Essential, conducted over the last two weeks from a sample of 1820, gave Labor a 54-46 lead, a one point gain for Labor since last week. Primary votes were 38% Labor, 36% Coalition, 9% Greens, 8% One Nation and 3% Nick Xenophon Team. Additional questions use one week’s sample.

Turnbull’s net approval was down 11 points to -12 since October, and Shorten’s net approval was down six points to -13. Unlike Newspoll, Turnbull maintained a 40-28 lead as better PM (42-28 in October).

By 44-40, voters thought Turnbull’s proposal to resolve the dual citizenship crisis did not go far enough. By 49-30, they thought disqualified MPs should repay public funding of their election campaigns. By 44-31, voters disapproved of privatising the NBN when completed.

YouGov primary votes: 34% Labor, 31% Coalition, 11% Greens, 11% One Nation

This week’s YouGov poll, conducted 9-12 November from a sample of 1034, gave Labor a 52-48 lead by respondent preferences, a 3 point gain for Labor since last fortnight. Primary votes were 34% Labor (up 1), 31% Coalition (down 5), 11% Greens (up 1) and 11% One Nation (up 2). By previous election preferences, this poll would be about 55-45 to Labor.

Hanson had a 48-45 unfavourable rating (50-42 in early September). Greens leader Richard di Natale had a 33-29 unfavourable rating (39-26). Nick Xenophon had a 53-28 favourable rating (52-28). Abbott had a 56-36 unfavourable rating (57-34).

By 61-16, voters thought a full audit into all parliamentarians regarding dual citizenship a good idea. By 63-26, they thought it unacceptable to legally avoid paying tax. By 55-27, voters said they would not take part in a tax avoidance scheme, which is probably not an honest assessment.

Qld ReachTEL poll of One Nation voters, and more Galaxy seat polls

A ReachTEL poll of over 3400 voters was conducted for the Sunday Mail. From the Poll Bludger’s write-up and comments, it appears this poll was of just One Nation voters, not all voters. Sky News reported this poll as 52-48 to the LNP, but they appear to have extrapolated One Nation preferences in this poll (74.5% to LNP), and applied those preferences to other polls.

If 3 in 4 One Nation preferences are going to the LNP, Labor has shot itself in the foot by changing the electoral system from optional preferential to compulsory preferential voting last year. Labor can hope that this poll had self-selection issues, with hard right One Nation supporters more likely to participate than those who are simply disillusioned with both major parties.

In deputy Premier Jackie Trad’s South Brisbane, the Greens had a 51-49 lead over Trad according to a Galaxy poll taken last week. However, this poll assumes that LNP voters will assign their own preferences, rather than follow their party’s How-to-Vote card. In practice, over half of major party voters follow the card. With the LNP putting the Greens behind Labor on all its cards, Trad should retain South Brisbane easily.

In Burdekin, the LNP had a 51-49 lead over Labor, a 2 point swing to the LNP since the 2015 election.

Following Moore’s alleged sex encounter with 14-y/o, Alabama Senate race tightens

The Alabama Senate by-election will be held on 12 December. Last Thursday, the Washington Post reported that extreme right Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore had had a sexual encounter with a 14 year-old girl when he was 32.

The three polls taken since this revelation are between a 4-point lead for Democrat Doug Jones, and a 10-point lead for Moore, averaging at Moore by 2 points. There have been 12-point shifts in Jones’ favour from the previous editions of both JMC and Emerson, and a 5-point shift in Opinion Savvy.

The ConversationWhat happens next depends on whether voters quickly get over the scandal, or whether it festers, and continues to damage Moore. If the former happens, Moore should win comfortably, but the latter outcome would give Jones a real chance. An example of a scandal that festered in Australia was Bronwyn Bishop’s Choppergate affair.

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

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

Labor increases Newspoll lead to 55-45% as Shorten moves within striking distance as better PM


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Newspoll has delivered a sweeping new setback to Malcolm Turnbull, with a big cut in his “better prime minister” rating and Labor increasing its two-party lead to a massive 55-45%.

The blow comes as the government and opposition prepare for a byelection in the Sydney seat of Bennelong, expected to be on December 16, following Saturday’s resignation of Liberal backbencher John Alexander, who said he was a likely British citizen.

The Coalition will be particularly panicked by the fall in Turnbull’s rating as better prime minister, from 41% to 36%. Bill Shorten’s rating rose one point to 34%. Turnbull’s two-point lead over Shorten is the narrowest margin there has been between them.

The government has always looked to this measure to argue Turnbull’s strength against Shorten, even in the face of the bad two-party results.

In the 23rd consecutive Newspoll in which the Coalition has trailed, the ALP increased its two-party vote from 54-46% a fortnight ago, and its primary vote from 37% to 38%. The Coalition’s primary vote went down one point to 34%. The escalating citizenship crisis has dominated the two weeks.

Turnbull’s net satisfaction worsened slightly from minus 28 to minus 29, while Shorten’s improved from minus 24 to minus 19. Pauline Hanson’s One Nation rose one point to 10%; the Greens fell one point to 9%.

Bennelong, once held by John Howard, is on a margin of a little under 10%, making it safe in normal times but potentially vulnerable in the present chaotic climate.

Alexander said that although he had not received formal confirmation from the British that he was a UK citizen via his father, “the probability of evidence is that I most likely am”. He will recontest the seat.

With Barnaby Joyce and Alexander both out of parliament the government will be operating from a minority position when the House of Representatives returns on November 27. It has 74 of the 148 occupied seats, 73 on the floor when the Speaker, who only has a casting vote, is excluded.

Though the government is not at risk of a no-confidence motion, thanks to having sufficient crossbench support, Labor will make the lower house as difficult as possible.

Turnbull said the byelection date was “a matter for the Speaker” but the government wanted it “as soon as possible”. Labor started campaigning in the seat on Sunday.

Both sides became more shrill at the weekend in their claims about the alleged dual citizens among the ranks of their opponents.

The government is threatening to refer at least two ALP MPs, Justine Keay and Susan Lamb, to the High Court, and perhaps more. It could not do this on its own, with its present numbers.

In response, the opposition has issued a “hit list” of Liberals, including Julia Banks, Nola Marino, Alex Hawke, Tony Pasin and Ann Sudmalis.

A Labor source said that if Malcolm Turnbull “wants to fire this missile, we’ve got the ammo to go nuclear”. Turnbull was “locking and loading the gun at his own MPs”.

Several Labor MPs moved to renounce their dual citizenship before their nominations but did not get their confirmations until afterwards. The ALP claims they should not be referred to the court, because they took reasonable steps but given the High Court’s black-letter approach in its recent decisions, it is not clear how it would treat such cases.

Turnbull, who is trying to manage the unfolding crisis from a distance during his Asia trip, said: “Bill Shorten has got to stop running a protection racket for his own dual citizens”.

Turnbull said Labor had welcomed the court’s literalism. But “the worm has turned and now we see one Labor MP after another who could not pass that literal test.

“Now, if Labor says they’ve got counter-arguments, terrific. Let them make them in the court.

“There is no question that Labor has a number of members who not only were, but knew they were … foreign citizens at the time they nominated for parliament. That makes them ineligible.”

The manager of opposition business in the House of Representatives, Tony Burke, said the difference between the Labor and Liberal MPs was that “Those who are in the spotlight for the Labor party took reasonable steps before the nomination date. Those who are in the focus from the Liberal party took no steps at all before the nomination date.”

Burke on Sunday was campaigning in Bennelong, where Labor is homing in on the seat’s ethnic component.

Following the Queensland Liberal National Party preferencing One Nation in many seats for the November 25 state election, Burke said a petition was being launched “to demand that Malcolm Turnbull end the preference deals with One Nation”.

Labor will also make the government’s proposed toughening of the citizenship law an issue in Bennelong.

“A prime minister with any authority would be able to stop a preference deal with One Nation. John Howard would have been able to stop a preference deal with One Nation,” Burke said.

The Conversation“But Malcolm Turnbull, a prime minister with no authority and a government with no majority, has failed to stand up for the people who live here. Make no mistake, when you attack multicultural Australia, which is exactly what One Nation is all about, you attack the community that lives here in Bennelong.”

https://www.podbean.com/media/player/k3zus-7afe23?from=site&skin=1&share=1&fonts=Helvetica&auto=0&download=0

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

Coalition loses majority after Alexander resigns. Qld polling and preferences


Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

Liberal John Alexander today resigned as the Member for Bennelong, owing to concerns he had British citizenship by descent through his father. As Barnaby Joyce has also been ousted pending a 2 December by-election in New England, the Coalition now has 74 of the 148 occupied lower house seats, not quite a majority. Since the Speaker cannot vote except to break a tie, they have 73 of 147 votes on the floor. If all five cross-benchers vote with Labor, Labor would win divisions.

The Senate alone sits next week, with the full Parliament to hold a two-week sitting from 27 November. Joyce is likely to be absent for both these weeks. Even if he wins convincingly, the electoral commission will take some time to formally declare the New England result.

If the Coalition does not want to attempt minority government for these two weeks, Turnbull could ask the Governor-General to prorogue (suspend) Parliament until after the New England and Bennelong by-elections are held.

At the 2016 election, Alexander won Bennelong by 59.7-40.3 vs Labor, a 2 point swing to the Liberals. Alexander said he will re-contest Bennelong at the by-election, and this makes Labor’s task more difficult. In most by-elections, the incumbent party loses the personal vote of the sitting member, but not in either New England or Bennelong.

Labor’s Maxine McKew famously ousted incumbent PM John Howard from Bennelong at the 2007 election, but Alexander regained it for the Liberals in 2010, and has held it since.

17 candidates have nominated for the New England by-election, likely increasing the informal vote. Many of these candidates will forfeit the $1000 deposit for failing to win at least 4% of the vote. The most original candidate name was “MEOW-MEOW, Meow-Ludo Disco Gamma” from the Science Party. Joyce is the overwhelming favourite, with Independent Rob Taber and Labor’s David Ewings likely to contest second.

3 of 4 Senate vacancies filled, but questions over Hughes

Following recounts of Senate votes for four ousted Senators, yesterday the High Court declared Greens Andrew Bartlett elected to replace Larissa Waters, Greens Jordan Steele-John elected to replace Scott Ludlam and One Nation’s Fraser Anning elected to replace Malcolm Roberts. These Senators will be sworn in when the Senate resumes Monday.

Nationals Fiona Nash’s replacement has been complicated as Liberal Hollie Hughes, the next on the joint Coalition ticket in NSW, took up public service work following her failure at the 2016 election, and may be disqualified under Section 44(iv) of the Constitution. The full High Court will consider Hughes’ case next week. If Hughes is disqualified, Liberal Jim Molan is next on the Coalition ticket.

Qld Galaxy seat polling and preference recommendations

The Queensland election will be held in two weeks, on 25 November. Galaxy conducted seven electorate polls, presumably on 9 November from samples of about 550 per seat. The seats polled were Logan, Mundingburra, Hervey Bay, Rockhampton, Cairns, Bonney and Glass House.

In only one seat, Logan, was One Nation second on primary votes with 32%, but they were losing to Labor 52-48 after respondent-allocated preferences. In the other seats, One Nation’s vote was at most 25%.

Mundingburra was the only seat shown as changing hands on this polling, with the LNP leading 52-48, a 4 point swing to them. However, Glass House and Bonney were both tied 50-50, representing swings to Labor. Labor-turned-Independent candidates in Cairns and Rockhampton were not a threat.

Labor and the Greens will put One Nation last on their how-to-vote cards in all seats. One Nation will put sitting members second last ahead of the Greens, with a handful of exceptions, primarily for the two Katter party MPs. According to the ABC’s Chris O’Brien, the LNP will recommend its voters preference One Nation ahead of Labor in at least 50 of the 93 seats.

The ConversationI think the LNP’s preference decision is likely to be a negative in south-east Queensland, where well-educated conservative voters may be unhappy with their party preferencing a perceived racist party.

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

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

Grattan on Friday: Turnbull government reels from new twist in the Parry affair



File 20171102 26478 1506iye.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Malcolm Turnbull’s current mood about how all this is playing out can be easily imagined.
Dan Peled/AAP

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

The sudden exit from parliament of Senate president Stephen Parry has turned into a toxic blame game, in a further sign of a government crumbling into chaos.

Malcolm Turnbull and deputy Senate leader Mathias Cormann lashed out at Parry for not publicly revealing earlier his probable British dual citizenship, confirmed this week. Then – oops. It turns out Parry had shared his circumstances with some senior colleagues.

Unsettled by the odium now flowing in his direction, Parry has revealed that when the Nationals’ Fiona Nash in August announced she’d been informed she was a British citizen by descent, he realised he likely was as well.

He spoke to “various ministers”. Though he wasn’t ordered to shut up about his situation, the tone of the conversations suggested he say nothing until the High Court ruled in the “citizenship seven” cases, with the government believing that its two ministers, Barnaby Joyce and Nash, would be found eligible to sit in parliament.

Communications Minister Mitch Fifield has confirmed he was one of the ministers Parry consulted.

“Former senator Parry mentioned to me a few weeks ago that he was endeavouring to check his family’s records,” Fifield said in a statement late Thursday. “The onus is on all senators and members to satisfy themselves of their circumstances and I encouraged senator Parry to do so. He called me on Monday to say that he had sought advice from the British Home Office and had advised the attorney-general of this.”

It is believed Fifield did not discuss the timing of the court decision with Parry.

Turnbull was not among those Parry spoke to during those weeks. His current mood about how all this is playing out can be easily imagined.

Turnbull said at a Wednesday news conference in Jerusalem that he was disappointed that Parry “didn’t make public this issue … quite some time ago”.

“I learnt about it probably about the same time you did,” he told journalists.

He wasn’t the only one badly caught out. Brandis had declared he had “absolutely no reason to believe” there were any more Coalition MPs who were dual citizens. That was on Sunday television – just a day before Parry landed a grenade in his lap on Monday.

Brandis that day informed the Prime Minister’s Office, but the information was not passed on immediately to Turnbull. Why? It is said because of the lack of clarity at that stage about the facts.

What an incredible train of events. Instead of telling the Senate’s presiding officer that he should be transparent, for the sake of the integrity of both the government and the parliament, senior government members allegedly encouraged him to wait and see.

This can only reinforce the public’s deep distrust of politicians.

Richard Goyder, outgoing managing director of Wesfarmers, spoke for many when told the National Press Club (before the Parry blowback) that the affair was “almost the straw which broke the camel’s back” on trust.

“To have someone in a position of real authority in the country sit on information, and even sit on it from the prime minister, and then hope bad news went away … and not deal with it – I do think that has an impact,” he said.

And now what started out as Parry’s failure to disclose in timely fashion has morphed into something with hints of a cover up by ministers. The opposition has been given another break.

It hardly seemed possible this week could be as bad as last, which saw the Michaelia Cash-AWU debacle and the High Court blow that felled two ministers, triggering a byelection in Joyce’s New England seat. But it has been.

The Parry affair has turbo-charged the pressure for an audit of all MPs’ parliamentary eligibility, with some Liberal MPs jumping on the bandwagon, using it as leverage in the internal Liberal wars.

Kevin Andrews, a political enemy of Turnbull, said on Sky that “Australians are looking for strong and decisive leadership” – adding that if he were prime minister, he’d be asking the Australian Electoral Commission to do an audit.

Eric Abetz also backed an audit, declaring in an interview with the ABC “chances are” more dual citizens are in parliament. For good measure, Abetz, though defending Parry, said he’d have advised him to “have thrown his lot in with the other seven”.

The government has dug in against an audit, arguing it would be complex and that it’s up to individuals to check out their citizenship, or for others to bring forward allegations.

Turnbull was typically hyperbolic. “What is an audit?” he asked. “Does that mean that somebody is going to undertake extensive genealogical research on every member of parliament and senator? Undertake extensive research into foreign laws?”

Well, actually, the auditor would ask the questions that careful candidates now ask themselves and any experts to whom they may need to turn.

Obviously there’s a real fear in the government that an audit could find more MPs in breach and lead to further byelections, at worst threatening the government and at best causing a shambles. With its back against the wall, it’s been a mercy for the Coalition that Labor – probably also nervous despite having good checking processes – has been (so far) on a unity ticket in opposing an audit.

Adding to the government’s pain this week has been Liberal-National scuffling over who’ll get Parry’s lucrative post, and ugly Liberal in-fighting as conservative enemies of cabinet minister Christopher Pyne, a moderate who is a ferocious factional player, tossed out dirt about him.

The scrapping over the Senate presidency is likely to be resolved in favour of the Liberals, but it highlights the present unhelpful tensions between the Coalition partners. Equally unhelpful is the assault against Pyne, which has a further negative spin off for the South Australian Liberals, already struggling ahead of next year’s state election.

The ConversationThe Turnbull government has become like a plane with its engines stalled, hurtling groundwards, with hopes of repowering frustrated at every turn.

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

Parry’s exit triggers Liberal-National fight over Senate presidency


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Senate president Stephen Parry has announced he will resign immediately from parliament after the United Kingdom government advised that he was a British citizen.

Confirming the latest blow to the Turnbull government, Parry said he was quitting now that the court’s Friday ruling had “given absolute clarity to the meaning and application of Section 44(1)” of the constitution.

Parry’s British citizenship is via his late father who came to Australia as a child. He only checked out his situation with British authorities after the court ruling, indicating publicly on Tuesday that he was awaiting information.

Parry’s departure is feeding into the current’s tensions between the Nationals and the Liberals, with New South Wales National John “Wacka” Williams putting up his hand for the position of Senate president.

The post has never been held by a member of the Nationals or its predecessor the Country party, and the Liberals will want to keep it in their own hands.

Liberal frontrunners would include the chief government whip in the Senate, David Bushby, who is from Tasmania, and South Australia’s Liberal David Fawcett, who is deputy government whip in the Senate.

The government puts up a nominee who is then voted on by the Senate. The Liberal candidate is routinely chosen by Liberal senators but there might be pressure this time to include the Nationals in the decision.

Williams, the Nationals whip in the Senate, is a deputy president and so used to occupying the Senate chair. “I’d like to see more discipline in the chamber, especially at question time”, he said on Wednesday.

Williams pointed out he has only 20 months left in Parliament – he will retire at the end of this term. “For 20 months it would be good if the Liberal party supported the National party to do the job”.

The acting parliamentary leader of the Nationals, senator Nigel Scullion said that “Wacka would make a great president for the Senate.”

But Liberal senator Eric Abetz said: “This is a Liberal Party position, it always has been and always will be.”

There was tension between the Coalition partners last week when Malcolm Turnbull made deputy Liberal leader Julie Bishop acting prime minister while he is overseas, rather than Scullion.

Parry is set to be replaced as a Tasmanian senator on a countback by Richard Colbeck, a former minister who was next on the Liberal ticket, although the process will have to be formally decided by the High Court.

Calls continue to come for a full audit of the citizenship of parliamentarians, including from Liberals such as Craig Kelly, but this is being resisted by both the government and the opposition.

The ConversationIn his resignation statement Parry appealed to senators not to further burden by too many references an overloaded Senate committee system. “There are only so many hours that a senator can apply to this work. It is important that the fine reputation of our Senate committees continues to be well regarded here and internationally”.

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

Newspoll 54-46 to Labor as Turnbull’s ratings slide further. If Parry DQ’d, a Green may be unelected


Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

This week’s Newspoll, conducted 26-29 October from a sample of 1620, gave Labor its third successive 54-46 lead. Primary votes were 37% Labor (steady since last fortnight), 35% Coalition (down 1), 10% Greens (steady) and 9% One Nation (steady). This is Turnbull’s 22nd successive Newspoll loss as PM.

31% were satisfied with Turnbull’s performance (down 1) and 59% were dissatisfied (up 3), for a net approval of -28. In the last five weeks, Turnbull has lost 11 points on net approval, and Kevin Bonham says this is Turnbull’s worst net rating since early April. Shorten’s net approval was down two points to -24. The two leaders combined have a net approval of -52, which Bonham says is the third worst of this term.

According to Newspoll, the Michaelia Cash affair and the ousting of Barnaby Joyce by the High Court have had little impact on voting intentions. In Cash’s case, the general public is less concerned with political scandals than the political media and partisans.

If the Coalition were reduced to a minority government, there would probably be a public reaction. But the Coalition still holds 75 of the 149 occupied House seats, and Joyce is very likely to retain New England.

If pulling out of the Paris climate agreement “could result in lower electricity prices” (a dubious proposition), voters would favour pulling out 45-40.

Tasmanian Liberal Senator Stephen Parry’s possible dual citizenship could unelect Green Nick McKim

Tasmanian Liberal Senator Stephen Parry’s father may have been a British citzen, in which case Parry is probably a British citizen by descent. Update afternoon on 1 November: Parry is indeed a British citizen, and will resign from the Senate.

Given the High Court’s ruling on 27 October, Parry would be disqualified if he is a dual citizen, and his seat would be taken by Liberal Richard Colbeck. However, there were many more below the line votes in Tasmania than in other states at the last Federal election. If Parry is excluded from the count, slightly different preference flows flip the 12th and final seat from a 141 vote Greens win to a 227 vote One Nation win according to @angrygoat.

The question is whether the High Court will unelect a sitting Senator who has done nothing wrong himself. If they do, McKim will be replaced by One Nation’s Kate McCulloch, changing the Senate balance of power for the remainder of this term.

SSM plebiscite turnout and polling

As at Friday 27 October, the ABS estimated it had received 12.3 million same sex marriage plebiscite forms (77.0% of the electorate). Turnout increased from 74.5% on 20 October. This is the second last turnout report, with the final one to be released on 7 November, the last day for envelopes to be received. The result will be declared on 15 November.

Update Wednesday morning 1 November: In Newspoll, 76% of respondents have already voted, and another 10% say they will definitely vote. I am dubious that 10% are going to vote at this late stage. Of the 76% who have voted, Yes leads 62-35 (59-38 last fortnight from the 65% who had voted then). The remaining 24% support Yes 47-34. For the whole sample, Yes led by 59-35 (56-37 last fortnight).

Essential 54-46 to Labor

After a bad sample for Labor last fortnight, Essential has returned to 54-46 to Labor, a two point gain for Labor since last fortnight. Primary votes were 37% Labor (up 1), 36% Coalition (down 1), 10% Greens (up 1), 7% One Nation (down 1) and 3% Nick Xenophon Team (steady). This poll was conducted over the last two weeks from a sample of 1820. Additional questions are based on one week’s sample.

By 54-23, voters did not agree that the NBN would meet Australia’s future Internet needs (47-22 in October 2016). By 43-24, they supported the Labor NBN plan over the Liberal NBN (42-27 last year). By 39-19, voters blamed the Turnbull government over the previous Labor government for the NBN’s problems.

43% said their home was connected to the NBN, and 12% their workplace. Of those with an NBN connection, 52% said their service was better than the old one, and 17% worse.

By 50-30, voters disapproved of giving $50 billion in tax cuts to medium and large businesses. By 46-31, voters agreed with a negative vs a positive statement about these tax cuts.

YouGov primary votes: 36% Coalition, 33% Labor, 10% Greens, 9% One Nation

Update 1 November: According to the Poll Bludger, primary votes in YouGov were 36% Coalition (up 2 since last fortnight), 33% Labor (up 1), 10% Greens (down 1) and 9% One Nation (down 2). So once again Labor’s primary vote is much lower than in Newspoll or Essential. The two party result, from respondent allocated preferences, was an unchanged 51-49 to the Coalition.

Voters backed legalising voluntary euthanasia 69-10. By 58-33, they thought the gender pay gap a problem. By 64-27, they thought sexual harassment widespread. By 58-32, voters thought the government is not very serious about cutting carbon emissions.

Virginia and New Jersey gubernatorial elections: 7 November

US Federal elections are held every two years, and most states hold their elections concurrently with Federal elections. Two exceptions are Virginia and New Jersey, which hold their elections for state governor in the year following the Presidential election. These elections will be held on 7 November, with results from 11am 8 November Melbourne time.

In Virginia, there is a one-term limit, so incumbent Democrat governor Terry McAuliffe cannot seek re-election. The contest is between Democratic candidate Ralph Northam and Republican Ed Gillespie. There is wide variety in the polls: some have Gillespie barely ahead or tied, some show Northam leading by 7 points, and Quinnipiac gives Northam a 17-point lead.

In New Jersey, incumbent Republican governor Chris Christie cannot seek re-election as he has served two terms. Democrat Phil Murphy leads Republican Kim Guadagno by double digit margins in all polls.

There is also a US Congress by-election in Utah’s 3rd Congressional District on 7 November. Trump won this district 47-23 with third party candidates performing best in Utah. In 2012, Romney crushed Obama 78-20, so the Republican should win easily.

The ConversationAs well as gubernatorial elections, there will be legislative elections in Virginia and New Jersey. At the 2018 midterm elections, governors of many populous states will be up for election.

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

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

The Nationals will be battling to protect territory and clout amid Coalition angst


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

A northern New South Wales bookmaker has got it about right on the New England byelection. “Barnaby will be a shorter price than Winx,” he told a National. “And the only one who could beat Barnaby is Winx.”

Not only has Tony Windsor said he won’t contest, but now One Nation – with its focus on the Queensland election – and the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party are also no shows.

So, it’s all good for a relatively clear run in the seat for the man the High Court ousted from parliament last week. The only problem for the government is that on the way to victory Joyce will be spending more than a month roaming around his electorate in the glare of publicity when – at least at the moment – he is off the reservation, saying whatever comes into his head.

Such as his proposal for an omnibus referendum, which he said could be held with the next election. “You might have four or five things,” he told The Australian. He suggested it could deal with Section 44 of the Constitution, which brought him undone because of his dual citizenship, Indigenous recognition, and even the republic.

This can only be described as hare-brained. The chances of getting a referendum through to make things easier for politicians would be nearly nil. The Indigenous referendum process has stalled. As for the republic, well, maybe he was joking.

One can only assume the omnibus referendum was a thought-bubble driven by frustration or by liberation from cabinet discipline. Joyce’s colleague Matt Canavan, during his temporary spell on the backbench, also played on the wild side.

Tapping into something more serious is Joyce’s counterpunch against Liberal complaints about the Nationals causing all this trouble with their carelessness over dual citizenship. He pointed out sharply that the government’s survival in 2016 had been due to the Nationals’ good performance in holding seats and even gaining one.

The fallout from Friday’s High Court decision is putting considerable strains on Coalition relations, and that won’t end with the certain byelection win.

Apart from the Liberal blame game, there is angst in the minor Coalition partner about status, upset over losing the seat of senator Fiona Nash, who was also disqualified, and worry as to the consequences for the party’s frontbench representation.

Julie Bishop was appointed to act as prime minister while Malcolm Turnbull attends the Battle of Beersheba commemoration. Nationals muttered about their acting parliamentary leader Nigel Scullion not getting the gig, although in the end they agreed to Bishop – apparently for some (unknown) trade-off.

But what about when Turnbull is travelling in Asia for the November summit season? The Prime Minister’s Office on Monday night confirmed that Bishop will again be in place, “because there is no deputy prime minister” – that role hasn’t been filled in the temporary arrangement.

It will again be publicly embarrassing for the Nationals.

Then there is the shrinking of the Nationals partyroom and its implications. Nash’s Senate seat will go on a recount to the next candidate on the Coalition ticket in NSW: Hollie Hughes, a Liberal.

Earlier there were calls for Turnbull to intervene to persuade Hughes, once she got the seat, to resign so Nash could return. But even if the Liberals were willing to give up their windfall – never likely – such a course would not help Nash. Hughes could only be replaced by a Liberal under the constitutional provision that a casual vacancy is filled by someone from the same party.

Incidentally, questions have been raised about Hughes’ eligibility under another part of Section 44; the Liberals are confident she is fine but even if she wasn’t, the spot would go to another Liberal.

A further line of speculation suggested that NSW National senator John Williams might stand aside for Nash – not that that would help the party’s numbers. Williams said no chance. “I’m not leaving until June 30, 2019,” he says. He’s got a debt to pay off on his farm. If he pulled out early “I’d need a job, and if I left parliament for a job I would be leaving with a bad reputation – people would say ‘Wacka is as bad as the rest of them, with his snout in the trough’”.

The loss of a Nationals’ number translates into being one down on the frontbench. The Nationals have played tough in the past on what they are entitled to – now the boot is on the Liberal foot. They will be particularly anxious to try to retain five cabinet spots but it is hard to see how they will be able to justify this on the arithmetic.

The cooler heads in the Nationals are trying to keep the situation calm. They want to guard against the Liberals being able to take advantage of their weakened position, which includes their representation being two down in the cabinet during this limbo period.

The ConversationWith a reshuffle coming up some time after the byelection, the Nationals will be battling to protect territory and clout in the difficult circumstances they have brought on themselves.

https://www.podbean.com/media/player/czuhk-79b16b?from=site&skin=1&share=1&fonts=Helvetica&auto=0&download=0

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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