ReachTEL polls: Labor trailing in Longman and Braddon, and how Senate changes helped the Coalition


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Bill Shorten and the ALP will need to work hard to win July byelections in Longman and Braddon.
AAP/Tracey Nearmy

Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

Sky News ReachTEL polls, conducted last week in the seats of Longman and Braddon from samples of over 800, gave the LNP a 52-48 lead in Longman and the Liberals a 54-46 lead in Braddon.

These polls represent a three-point swing against Labor in Longman, and a six-point swing in Braddon since the 2016 election. Longman and Braddon are two of the five seats that will be contested at byelections on July 28.

Primary votes in ReachTEL polls do not exclude undecided voters, and thus understate major party vote shares. In Braddon, primary votes provided were 47% Liberals, 33% Labor and 6% Greens. In Longman, primary votes were 38% LNP, 35% Labor, 2% Greens and 14% Others. Strangely, One Nation, which won 9.4% in 2016, does not appear to have been listed.

ReachTEL uses respondent allocated preferences, and this is helping the LNP in Longman. The major party primary votes appear to be about the same as in the 2016 election, but the LNP is benefiting from a stronger flow of preferences.

While the Longman poll is bad for Labor, it is a one-point gain for Labor since a ReachTEL poll for The Australia Institute conducted after the May budget. Individual seat polls have not been accurate in the past. With more than seven weeks left until the election, Labor can reasonably hope to hold Longman.

The March 3 Tasmanian election was a disaster for Labor, and this appears to have flowed into federal Tasmanian polling. Tasmania uses the same electorates for its state elections as the federal Tasmanian electorates. In Braddon, the Liberals won 56% at the state election, to just 27% for Labor and 4% for the Greens.




Read more:
Liberals romp to emphatic victory in Tasmanian election


Analyst Kevin Bonham says that the Tasmanian federal election results have been closer to the state election if the federal election came soon after the state election. In this case, the scheduling of the byelections for July 28 has helped Labor by putting more distance between the state election and the federal byelection for Braddon.

Another problem for Labor in Braddon is that the Liberal candidate is the former MP Brett Whiteley. As Whiteley is well-known in that electorate, Labor’s Justine Keay will not benefit as much from a “sophomore surge” effect.




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National ReachTEL: 52-48 to Labor

Sky News also released a national ReachTEL poll, conducted last week from a sample of over 2,000. Labor had a 52-48 lead in this poll, unchanged from early May. Primary votes were 35% Coalition (down one), 34% Labor (down one), 11% Greens (up one) and 9% One Nation (up three).

This poll was probably taken before Pauline Hanson and Brian Burston had a falling-out. Bonham estimated this poll was 53-47 to Labor by 2016 election preferences.

By 49-43, voters supported reducing the company tax rate to 25% for “all” businesses, a similar result to an Ipsos poll in early April (49-40 support). However, a late March ReachTEL that asked about tax cuts for “big” companies had voters opposed 56-29.




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Voters were more favourable to the company tax cuts in Braddon (56-38 support) and Longman (58-33 support) than nationally.

By a narrow 47-45 margin, voters nationally opposed refugees on Nauru and Manus Island being allowed to settle in Australia. Opposition was far stronger in Braddon (60-31) and Longman (66-28). By 59-27, voters nationally agreed that there should be a 90-day limit on refugee detention.

National Essential: 54-46 to Labor

This week’s Essential poll, conducted May 31 to June 3 from a sample of 1,025, gave Labor a 54-46 lead, a three-point gain for Labor since last fortnight. Primary votes were 37% Labor (up one), 36% Coalition (down four), 10% Greens (steady) and 8% One Nation (steady).

Essential still uses the 2016 election preference flows, so this poll would be 53-47 by Newspoll’s new methods. Labor’s position in the national polls has improved since late May, when Parliament resumed its sitting.

Turnbull’s net approval was up two points since early May to a net zero. Shorten’s net approval was down nine points to -13. Turnbull led Shorten by 41-27 as better PM (40-26 in May).

37% both approved and disapproved of cutting the “tax rate for businesses from 30% to 25%, estimated to cost $65 billion over the next 10 years”.

50% thought the Newstart payment of $270 per week for a single person with no children was too low, 26% about right and 9% too high. At least 64% agreed with five statements about Newstart that implied it should be increased.

How the Senate has changed since the 2016 election

At the 2016 election, the Coalition won 30 of the 76 senators, Labor 26, the Greens nine, One Nation four, the Nick Xenophon Team (NXT) three and Others four. The four Others were Bob Day, David Leyonhjelm, Derryn Hinch and Jacqui Lambie. 39 votes are required to pass legislation through the Senate.

On a right vs left count, the Coalition, One Nation, Day and Leyonhjelm were right-wing senators, and Labor and the Greens left. If all of the right-wing senators voted for Coalition legislation, they needed three of the five centrists on bills opposed by Labor and the Greens. As the NXT controlled three senators, the Coalition needed to work with them.

Since the election, there have been several changes to party composition.

  • In February 2017, Cory Bernardi resigned from the Liberals to start his own Australian Conservatives party.
  • In April 2017, the High Court disqualified Bob Day, and he was replaced by Lucy Gichuhi, the second candidate on Family First’s South Australian Senate ticket. Gichuhi joined the Liberals in February 2018.
  • In October 2017, the High Court disqualified One Nation’s Malcolm Roberts, and he was replaced by Fraser Anning, who promptly resigned from One Nation. On Monday, Anning joined Katter’s Australian Party.
  • In November 2017, Lambie resigned owing to the citizenship fiasco, and she was replaced by Steve Martin. Martin joined the Nationals in May 2018.
  • In November 2017, NXT Senator Skye Kakoschke-Moore resigned over the citizenship fiasco, and was replaced in February 2018 by Tim Storer, who had been expelled from the NXT.
  • Last week, One Nation leader Pauline Hanson and Brian Burston had a falling-out after Burston said he would vote for the company tax cuts, in opposition to current One Nation policy.

As a result of these changes, the Coalition has gained one net seat to have 31 senators, Labor and the Greens are unchanged, One Nation is down two to two, the Centre Alliance (formerly NXT) is down one to two, and Others are up two to six. Others now include Bernardi, Anning, Storer and Burston, but not Day or Lambie.

Bernardi, Anning and Burston are right-wing senators. Including One Nation and Leyonhjelm, there are now 37 right senators. If they all vote the same way, the Coalition requires either the two Centre Alliance senators, or Hinch and Storer, to pass legislation opposed by Labor and the Greens.

The changes to the Senate have improved the Coalition’s position, as they now have two options rather than one if Labor and the Greens oppose legislation.

In brief: Spanish conservative government falls, Italian populist government formed, Ontario election June 7

On June 1, the Spanish conservative government lost a confidence vote, and was replaced by a Socialist government. Three months after the March 4 Italian election, a government of two populist parties has been formed. You can read more at my personal website.




Read more:
Newspoll round-up: Labor leading in Victoria and tied in New South Wales; populists dominate in Italy


Canada’s most populous province of Ontario holds an election on June 7, with polls closing at 11am on Friday Melbourne time. Ontario uses First Past the Post. After 15 years of government by the centre-left Liberals, the Conservatives looked likely to win this election in a landslide.

The ConversationHowever, the NDP, the most left-wing major party, surged, and is currently tied with the Conservatives in CBC analyst Éric Grenier’s Poll Tracker, but the Conservatives are shown as winning a majority of seats. The Conservative leader, Doug Ford, has been compared to Donald Trump.

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

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

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Remember Turnbull’s 2015 ‘ideas boom’? We’re still only part way there


File 20180531 69517 i1g2ba.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Freelancing and hot-desking are already common in work places – and will continue to rise.
from http://www.shutterstock.com

Sean Gallagher, Swinburne University of Technology; Beth Webster, Swinburne University of Technology, and Sarah Maddison, Swinburne University of Technology

In 2015, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull welcomed us to the “ideas boom”, launching a National Innovation and Science Agenda to

drive smart ideas that create business growth, local jobs and global success.

In January 2018 the specially-created independent statutory board Innovation and Science Australia (ISA) released its report Australia 2030: Prosperity through Innovation. It’s a document that has been described not as a roadmap for action, but “more of a sketch with detours, dead ends, and red lights which should be green.”

The federal government’s May 2018 response to this report adds further disappointment. The response fails to seize the opportunity to deliver a properly funded and connected education, research and innovation system.

Australia is left with a series of well-meaning but disparate programs that only get us part way to ensuing that Australia thrives in the global innovation race.




Read more:
No clear target in Australia’s 2030 national innovation report


Action is required

Today, we sit at the dawn of the fourth industrial revolution where virtual, physical and biological worlds are merging. Sophisticated cognitive and automation technologies will transform our world in ways difficult to imagine. These technologies are increasingly able to perform human tasks better, faster, and more cheaply.

A snapshot of Australia’s STEM workforce CLICK ON IMAGE TO ZOOM
Office of the Chief Scientist

But it is the emergence of vast, expanding digital platforms and the ecosystems they support that will have a more profound impact on the future of work. Their ever-increasing complexity and accelerating change means constant disruption is the new business as usual.

If we are to respond to the changing nature of future work, we need to build a world-beating national innovation ecosystem, especially by equipping Australians with skills and experience relevant to 2030. As we transition into the digital economy, that means technical, digital and STEM skills are vital. (STEM refers to science, technology, engineering and maths.)

Growth in STEM jobs is 1.5 times that of non-STEM since 2005, yet we continue to produce non-STEM graduates at higher rates than those in STEM. The performance of our kids at school – particularly in maths and science – has declined against international benchmarks.

Clearly, strategic intervention is needed: this is where ISA should come in.




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Nothing new on education

The ISA report recommendations on education cover:

  • better training for teachers, particularly STEM teachers
  • preparing students for STEM degrees and jobs
  • improving student achievement in literacy and numeracy
  • interventions to reduce educational inequality
  • improving our vocational education and training (VET) system.

Yet none of these education recommendations were directly supported by the government: only “in principle” or “noted” support was offered in the response document.

While school education in Australia is the constitutional responsibility of the states and territories, the Australian government never shies away from using the funding carrot to leverage school policy outcomes for the betterment of the country.

For instance, full marks go to the federal government supporting STEM education through the Education Council’s National STEM School Education Strategy 2016-2026, and for funding several excellent STEM education projects and initiatives. So why not fund increased numbers and quality of STEM teachers?

Likewise, the urgent need to support the Vocational Education and Training (VET) sector to help it drive innovation, automation and new technologies, and provide businesses with requisite skills training is absent. The Skilling Australians Fund – the government’s main VET policy instrument and a welcome apprenticeship initiative – does little to transition the existing workforce through VET.

Funding for R&D is unclear

Turning to research and development (R&D), the government supports the ISA recommendation to enhance AI and machine learning capabilities – absolutely essential in the digital economy. However, there was no additional funding in the 2018 federal budget beyond existing digital technologies program.

At face value, the raft of funding commitments in the budget for R&D looks promising. But are the funds in addition to existing commitments, or a re-labelling of existing funds?

A persistent criticism from industry of government support is the continual chopping and changing of policies and programs, both in name and content.

ISA recommended extending export support programs, which is sensible given the solid evidence that they work. However, in its response the government merely said they are supported in principle, with no further funds forthcoming.




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What about the future of work?

Agile approaches, exponential organisations, freelance economy, and Industry 4.0 are rewriting the rules of how economic value is created.

The ISA report aims to provide comfort about how to create employment opportunities towards 2030, but it speaks more to the past than to the future. Knowledge work – a main focus of the report – will increasingly be performed less by people and more by machines, creating vast workforce transformation challenges for industry.

The closer we get to 2030, the less the ISA view of the future will be true. Emerging evidence already contraindicates this view.

For work done by people, data from the United States and Australia already show enormous growth of freelancers, including operating from co-working spaces. Modelling suggests this trend will continue.

In parallel, business are becoming more agile. ANZ is completely restructuring itself to look more like 150 start-ups, and downsizing in the process. NAB is sacking 6,000 staff – including many knowledge workers – and replacing them with 2,000 technology specialists and digital workers. All large companies are expected to follow.

Dissociating ‘work’ from ‘jobs’

In the emerging freelance economy, work is increasingly being dissociated from jobs on digital platforms like Upwork. And as more companies go agile, they will have fewer employees but have a larger workforce, leveraging the freelance economy through these platforms.

The upshot? People will increasingly need to create their own work opportunities rather than expect to get a traditional job.

Developing digital skills is essential, and the ISA report rightly focuses on them. But in the highly disruptive and dynamic environment of digital platforms, the core worker skill set will be competent risk taking. Diversity of experience combined with continuous learning are essential ingredients.

Alongside investments in teaching, we should be investing in opportunities where students – from secondary to tertiary education – can “learn-by-doing” in emerging futures of work.

It is for others to discuss the merits of whether these disruptive changes to the economy and employment should be allowed happen or not. But New York Times columnist Tom Friedman sums up the certainty of the approaching tech disruption perfectly:

Whatever can be done, will be done. The only question is, “Will it be done by you or to you?” but it will be done.

The inexorable and exponential rise of sophisticated technologies in the digital economy – the Australian economy – will impact all work and change all jobs. We need to be investing in this future for our children.

The ConversationAnd we need the government to support and fund a well-integrated innovation ecosystem to incorporates education, research, industry and government.

Sean Gallagher, Director, Centre for the New Workforce, Swinburne University of Technology; Beth Webster, Director, Centre for Transformative Innovation, Swinburne University of Technology, and Sarah Maddison, Pro-Vice Chancellor (Academic Innovation & Change), Professor of Astrophysics, Swinburne University of Technology

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

Joyce admits he knew as soon as Campion was pregnant that he’d lose his job


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Barnaby Joyce has said he knew as soon as Vikki Campion found she was pregnant that he would lose his job as deputy prime minister, in a tell-all interview sure to further infuriate colleagues already angry at the damage he has caused the government.

In the couple’s much-anticipated appearance on the Seven Network Joyce, asked his reaction when Campion had a positive pregnancy test, said he didn’t believe in abortion “so I just knew straight away that … I was going to lose my job as the deputy prime minister”.

But it was only in February – after he was re-elected at the December 2 New England byelection and following the baby story breaking in the media as well as allegations against him of sexual harassment – that Joyce finally quit the Nationals leadership.

“I knew that the day would come that I had to step down – I wasn’t going to have Seb as the deputy prime minister of Australia. … I suppose towards the end I was fighting more out of spite than logic and just thinking, I’m not going to let these people beat us,” Joyce said.

In the pre-recorded interview aired on Sunday night, during which Joyce and Campion sometimes disagreed and she was often emotional, Campion accused conservatives “within the parliament” of pressing her to have an abortion.

She didn’t identify anyone but said these people had told her she had to get an abortion because “if you don’t they’re going to come after you”.

Pushed to be more specific she said “can I just say conservatives, you know, people who are supposed to be conservatives.” When it was put to her, “god fearing conservatives”, she said, “Yeah I wouldn’t want to tar the brush of everyone in the National party as like that at all”.

Campion, Joyce’s former staffer and now partner, said she thought a woman had the right to choose an abortion up until the baby had a heartbeat, and she disclosed had considered one. She had bought medicine online, but decided she could not do it. She then thought she might be having the baby on her own.

The Seven Network paid a reported $150,000 for the interview which Joyce and Campion are putting into a trust fund for Sebastian, who was born in April.

Joyce sought to stop Campion answering questions about a confrontation in Tamworth between his wife Natalie and her. “You don’t have to answer it darl”, he told her, saying he wanted to make certain they weren’t putting someone else in the interview who mightn’t wish to be part of it. “Natalie has every right to be left alone”.

Campion did however say “I can’t repeat the words on television” that had been said.

She also said she was “deeply hurt” when Joyce had publicly said the child’s paternity was a “grey” area. Joyce told the program they had made the decision together for him to say something but Campion said, “I didn’t say use the words grey area”. Joyce sought to explain the comment by referring to the media pressure they were under at the time.

With some speculation that he might not seek re-election, Joyce gave no hint about his plans for the future. He is currently on leave, with a medical certificate, until mid June. The leave followed a backlash last week, including from some colleagues, at the paid interview.




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Campion said of the whole saga, that she “never intended for any of this to happen. I never intended for anyone to be hurt and I am sorry”.

But Joyce said the “fault doesn’t revolve around Vikki, it resides with me”.

“I don’t like them looking at you and saying ‘the Scarlet woman’ That’s bullshit, you know. It takes two to tango and I was part of that”.

Campion took a swipe at Malcolm Turnbull over his attack on Joyce over his “shocking error of judgement”.

The Conversation“It’s like you can chew out your vice captain in the locker room but not on the field”, she said.

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

The Coalition’s income tax cuts will help the rich more, but in a decade everyone pays more anyway


Ben Phillips, Australian National University and Matthew Gray, Australian National University

Does the Coalition’s tax plan favour high earners over those with lower incomes?

Depending whom you listen to, the tax cuts, unveiled in last month’s federal budget, lead to either a flatter, more regressive tax system under which low-income earners will be even worse off relative to high earners, or the opposite, with a progressive outcome. It can’t be both.




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Most of the benefits from the budget tax cuts will help the rich get richer


While there are tax cuts proposed from July this year, the most substantial cuts are planned for 2022-23 and then 2024-25. As this is several years away, it becomes tricky to analyse their likely impact.

The main issue is wage inflation, which in turn leads to “bracket creep”. We tend to think about the change in terms of what it means for today’s incomes, but that’s not realistic. An annual income today of A$80,000 will be around A$110,000 by 2027-28 if the government’s wage projections prove to be accurate.

Using our model of the Australian tax and welfare system, PolicyMod, we projected the incomes of each person in the 20,000 families in the underlying model survey data (the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ Survey of Income and Housing 2015-16).

We did this for each year until 2028-29, using the federal budget’s wage assumptions. We then used this to forecast the outcome of the proposed tax cuts, and compared it with the effects of maintaining current tax rates.

Our results are remarkably similar to the forecasts of Treasurer Scott Morrison. He has projected a total tax cut between 2018-19 and 2028-29 of A$143 billion, whereas our model puts this figure at A$140 billion.

Whose tax is being cut?

Who will actually receive these tax cuts, and will they really benefit? Our modelling shows around 50% of the adult population pays income tax in a given year. So clearly the benefit goes to the top half of the taxable income distribution.

What’s more, if the tax cuts are only returning bracket creep for many taxpayers, then they are not really tax “benefits”, because they will not make those people better off in real terms.

This is clearly shown in the chart below, where the bottom 50% of taxable income individuals will have a negligible share of tax savings. Around 33% of total savings between 2018-19 and 2028-29 go to people in the top 5% of incomes. In 2028-29 it is 38%.


Author provided

If this were the end of the story, we might conclude that the tax cuts are grossly unfair. But it’s not quite as simple as that, because people with the highest taxable incomes are not necessarily the “wealthiest” people.

A more reasonable test considers whether the income tax cuts are real or “imagined”. If they are real, average tax rates should be lower. The fairness of the tax cuts can then be judged by the share of the tax burden across the income distribution.

If high earners are paying a larger share of tax than low and middle earners, then we have a more progressive tax system. A less progressive system, in contrast, is a flatter system – although not necessarily a totally flat income tax rate.

But determining whether the proposals are progressive or regressive still doesn’t fully answer the question of whether they are “fair”.

Fair tax hikes for all?

The chart below shows that tax rates will increase for all income groups, although they will rise more slowly if the Coalition’s tax plan is delivered. Crucially, higher earners will feel this difference most keenly. By 2027-28, the top 5% of earners average tax rate will be 2.1 percentage points lower than under the current regime, whereas for the bottom 50% the difference is just 0.2%.


Author provided

Another way of looking at progressivity is to consider the share of tax paid. The chart below shows that under the current policy trajectory, higher-income groups pay a lower share of tax in future years compared with 2017-18. This occurs naturally due to bracket creep, which tends to impact low- and middle-income people more than those with very high incomes.

In the current financial year the top 10% of earners pay 58% of personal income tax. By 2027-28 this is projected to fall to 54.8% if the tax regime remains unchanged. Under the Coalition’s tax plan it is only marginally lower still, at 54.3%.


Author provided

Anyway, it is purely hypothetical to extrapolate the current tax regime as far ahead as 2027-28. It is highly likely that future governments will change the tax code for a range of reasons, including overcoming bracket creep.

Note also that some “low-income” people may live in high-income households. However, our earlier analysis looking at households rather than individual earners also suggests that the Coalition’s tax proposal is marginally less progressive than the current system.

The chart below shows that the Coalition’s tax policy will have only a limited impact on the tax shares at different income levels by 2027-28. Perhaps a more relevant comparison is with the current tax shares for 2017-18, where a clearer pattern emerges of low- and middle-income earners paying a larger share of taxation.


Author provided

The upshot is that the Coalition’s policy only partly overcomes bracket creep, with taxes still set to increase overall in the long term. The proposed policy does slightly more to overcome bracket creep for higher-income individuals. But it also locks in a higher tax share for those on low and middle incomes, and a lower share of the tax burden for higher earners.

The ConversationOn that basis, the proposals will lead to a slightly less progressive income tax regime than the one we currently have. But it will still be a long way short of a flat tax, and pretty much everyone looks set to be paying more income tax a decade from now.

Ben Phillips, Associate Professor, Centre for Social Research and Methods, Australian National University and Matthew Gray, Director, ANU Centre for Social Research and Methods, Australian National University

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

Grattan on Friday: Winners and losers on the tests of judgement, temperament and character


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

It’s obvious, but easily underestimated, that in politics judgement and temperament are key. Together with character, with which they’re often entwined, they are probably more important than high intelligence, or low cunning.

We just need to look at the federal scene today.

Barnaby Joyce provides the current case study about the importance of judgement or in his instance, lack or it. Here is a career, so carefully built, dramatically torn down by his own hand.

And as for temperament, we have the contrasting examples of Mathias Cormann and Greg Hunt, of whom more later.

Joyce burst onto the political scene in 2005 as a larger-than-life high profile Nationals senator. Because of tight numbers, he started with disproportionate power; for his Coalition peers and betters, he was a headache.

But he had charisma out in the bush, and ambition, and he set his sights on becoming Nationals leader, eventually adopting (mostly) the discipline needed to get there. When he reached the deputy prime ministership he began well, and his party outperformed the Liberals at the 2016 election.

But soon after, his private life became complicated, with his staffer Vikki Campion the new woman in his life.

Campion says in Sunday’s interview on Seven, “you can’t help who you fall in love with.”

That may or may not be true, but you can manage the implications. A public figure can separate the work and private parts of their lives. Joyce let the two merge messily, as Campion shifted to colleagues’ offices. With this failure of judgment, his fall began.

Now we have the paid interview. You only need political instinct, not even judgement, to know it’s unacceptable.

Then, when things became hot, Joyce this week took leave. Leader of the House Christopher Pyne said Joyce had a doctor’s sick- leave certificate, “and any other person in a workplace who produced such a certificate would get the same kind of leave.”

Give us all a break! The guy gets a reported $150,000 for the couple’s “tell all” interview, and when people are critical, he goes on stress leave.




Read more:
Barnaby Joyce takes personal leave after horror day


To people away from politics, coping with serious stresses often not of their own making, this saga just comes across as self-indulgence.

Now there is speculation about Joyce’s future – will he, should he, stay on in his seat of New England?

This ought to be resolved quickly, for Joyce’s own sake, and that of the Nationals, who don’t want to risk the emergence of a new strong independent, remembering that Tony Windsor grabbed and held this electorate for many years.

If Joyce wants to stay, he’ll have a big rebuilding job, locally and in Canberra. If – and it would probably be the more sensible course – he feels it would be better to strike out into another career, he should announce that decision without delay (while of course remaining in place until the election).




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Probably no one would be surprised to hear of a few expletives from Joyce, but this week’s News Corp story that Greg Hunt had sworn at the mayor of the Northern Territory town of Katherine, Fay Miller, in a private meeting last year, telling her she needed to “f…ing get over” herself, would have raised eyebrows among those who see the very reasonable-sounding Health minister on TV. Hunt only apologised to Miller – who’d been leading a delegation from the town to discuss a health package following contamination from RAAF Base Tindal – when the story was about to break.

Hunt’s temperament is of the “street-angel, house-devil” type; he is known for private outbursts of temper, and has now been rather dramatically “outed”.

In question time on Thursday, pursued by the Opposition, he also admitted that he’d been subject of a complaint after what he described as a “strong discussion” with a former health department secretary (Martin Bowles).

He told Parliament: “The Prime Minister himself raised it and asked that I speak with the secretary of Prime Minister and Cabinet.” The nature of Hunt’s behaviour can be judged by the fact that departmental secretaries – robust characters, for the most part – don’t usually complain upwards, to the head of the Prime Minister’s department, when their ministers have “strong discussions” with them.

Colleagues might recall such incidents, if Hunt in years to come eyes his party’s deputy leadership – a position that ideally requires an even temperament.

Fortunately for the government, Hunt isn’t in the sort of position occupied by Senate leader Mathias Cormann, who has to manage relationships and negotiate in perennially-testing circumstances.

Cormann has a few heated clashes with opponents, especially recently with Labor’s Senate leader Penny Wong, but he manages political conflict in a civilised, quite respectful way. In dealing with a Senate crossbench packed with volatile and unpredictable characters surfing atop inflated egos, Cormann displays inexhaustible patience and general good humour.

Beyond judgement and temperament, there is another quality that is crucial in politics: character.

The voters are like sniffer dogs when it comes to character – if that hadn’t been the case Mark Latham might have won the 2004 election.

For years, the government has been on a constant mission to fan doubts about Bill Shorten’s character. It knows that if such an attack is effective, it can be lethal for a leader’s chances.

That was in part behind the Abbott government establishing the royal commission into trade unions. And it’s why Michaelia Cash set the Registered Organisations Commission onto the 2005 $100,000 Australian Workers Union donation to GetUp, when Shorten was union secretary. But as we saw this week, the donation affair has so far inflicted more pain on the government than on Shorten.




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The ConversationWe know from the polls the public don’t warm to the opposition leader. So far, however, Labor’s two-party lead indicates people haven’t concluded that he is not fit to rule. Shorten hasn’t failed the character test, but he hasn’t entirely passed it yet, either.

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

Barnaby Joyce’s decision to sell his story is a breach of professional ethics


File 20180530 80620 13eyei0.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Barnaby Joyce blames his latest troubles on the absence of a general right to sue for breach of privacy.
AAP/Lukas Coch

Denis Muller, University of Melbourne

Barnaby Joyce’s decision to accept money – reportedly $150,000 – from Channel Seven in return for giving an interview about his relationship with his former staffer Vikki Campion, calls into question his fitness for public office.

It betrays a complete lack of understanding of the convention that in democratic political systems, public officials are accountable through the media to the people. That responsibility to be accountable comes with public office. It is not a marketable commodity.

To treat it as such is a fundamental breach of the professional ethics of a public officeholder.




Read more:
Barnaby Joyce takes personal leave after horror day


So far, his fellow Coalition MPs have failed to come to grips with this central problem. While none of those who have spoken publicly have tried to defend Joyce’s decision, most have either equivocated or contented themselves with general statements of disapproval.

Michael McCormack, Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the National Party, which Joyce represents in the seat of New England, told ABC radio he would “have a yarn” to Joyce, as if it were some casual matter of no particular importance.

Malcolm Turnbull, who previously got himself in hot water by preaching morals to Barnaby Joyce about marital fidelity, this time is saying he will be “circumspect” and speak to him in private.

To date, only the Financial Services Minister, Kelly O’Dwyer, has spoken her mind publicly, saying she believed most Australians would be “disgusted” by Joyce’s behaviour.

As if it couldn’t get any worse, has Joyce now hung Vikki Campion out to dry, saying it was she who made the decision to accept the money.

From a professional ethics perspective, it makes no difference which of them made the decision. The fact is their relationship became a matter of legitimate public interest once it was revealed it led to the expenditure of public money in finding Campion a government job outside Joyce’s office, given her presence inside it had become untenable because of their affair.

Several other factors added to the legitimate public interest in the matter, because in the end they brought about his resignation as deputy prime minister:

  • his poor judgement in allowing the relationship with Campion to develop as it did while she remained on his staff;

  • his prevarication on the question of whether she was actually his partner at various relevant times;

  • his deplorable public airing of doubt about the child’s paternity, and

  • his determination to cling to office in the face of sustained pressure from his colleagues that he should go.

In a democratic society, public officials are held to account for mistakes like these. The media are the primary means by which this is done: that is what is meant by the term the “fourth estate”. It does not rest on formal legal power but on a convention that has its roots in 18th century English constitutional arrangements.

When a convention that is so central to the working of democracy is flouted, as it has been here, both parties – Joyce and Channel Seven – are seriously at fault.

To reduce these abstractions to everyday language, if someone says: “I was paid to say that” the ordinary reasonable person is entitled to disbelieve what was paid for.




Read more:
The Barnaby Joyce affair highlights Australia’s weak regulation of ministerial staffers


When that happens in an exchange between a public official and a media outlet, the accountability required by convention is subverted.

As for Channel Seven, it is subject to the television industry code of practice. It is a limited document, silent on the ethical issues raised here.

Now, the code needs to be amended to make this kind of arrangement a breach punishable by the imposition of a condition on the broadcaster’s licence.

This makes it a matter for the broadcasting regulator, the Australian Communications and Media Authority, which is required to approve the code and is empowered to have it reviewed.

Meanwhile, we may sit back and marvel at the hypocrisy involved, as Campion complains to the Australian Press Council about the newspapers’ breach of privacy in reporting her pregnancy, while she and Joyce take money from a television channel to tell even more about it.

And Joyce blames it all on the absence of a general right to sue for breach of privacy. If there had been such a law, he says, then he and Campion would not have been subject to invasive drones and paparazzi stakeouts at their home. If they had not been persecuted like that, they would not have felt the need to be compensated by selling their story.

The ConversationThe logic is not persuasive, but if he survives in office, perhaps Joyce could bring forward a private member’s bill introducing a tort of privacy.

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

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

Government ‘dares’ the Senate on its corporate and income tax packages


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

The government will put both its company tax legislation and its income tax package to the Senate before parliament rises in late June, Finance Minister Mathias Cormann has confirmed.

Cormann also sought to scotch suggestions that the tax cuts for big businesses might be dropped if they were defeated then, saying “we are totally committed to the reform”.

He told reporters on Monday the corporate tax cuts were “even more important and more urgent now” than when the government took its package to the election as its central policy in 2016.

Within Coalition ranks there are doubts about persisting with the company tax measure if it can’t be legislated. The chances of the legislation passing the Senate plummeted last week when Pauline Hanson went back on her commitment to back it. But on Monday she appeared to be sounding a little less adamantly opposed, and invited people to contact her office with their views.

With three Senate votes Hanson has a veto.

Cormann committed the government to take the plan to the Super Saturday July 28 byelections if it was defeated in parliament.

He again ruled out a compromise that set a $500 million annual turnover threshold, which would give the package a greater chance of success. That would exclude the highly unpopular banks, as well as other big companies, from the cut.

Cormann said such a threshold “would be a barrier to growth. If you put an artificial ceiling on the growth that a business can aim for by essentially providing a disincentive to further growth beyond that threshold, you are putting a brake on jobs growth”.

The government has already legislated for tax cuts for firms of up to $50 million turnover. That limit was a deal with Senate crossbenchers.

The company tax cuts as well as the competing government and opposition income tax packages are set to be core battlegrounds in the byelections.

The government is also holding firm on not dividing up its three-stage income tax legislation. “We will not split the package”, Cormann said.
“Bill Shorten has to make a decision whether he wants to stand in the way of personal income tax relief for low and middle income earners.

“He has to make a decision whether his anti-aspiration, politics of envy vendetta is more important to him than providing cost-of-living pressure relief to low and middle income earners.”

Stage three of the government’s income tax package is the most controversial part because it flattens the tax scale. The benefits for low and middle incomes earners are in stage one, which the opposition supports. Labor, while highly critical of the third stage, has not said what it would do in the Senate if the government refuses to have at least that stage split off.

The government this week will continue talking with crossbenchers over the two tax packages.

Campaigning in Braddon, one of the byelection seats, Shorten said Malcolm Turnbull’s “corporate tax cuts are dead, buried and cremated – he is just too silly and arrogant to realise that.”

“‘Every extra dollar that goes to the Commonwealth Bank, or Westpac or ANZ or NAB, is a dollar less we have got in our in our kids’ schools, it’s a dollar less we’ve got to help the pensioners with their power bills, it’s a dollar less to help people when they are sick,” the opposition leader said.

Newspoll, published in Monday’s Australian, asked people whether the proposed changes to company tax rates should come into effect as soon as possible, in stages over the next 10 years, or not at all. More than a third (36%) said as soon as possible, 27% said in stages and 29% said not at all.

The poll had Labor back with a 52-48% two-party lead, compared with 51-49% in the last two polls.

The ConversationIt also saw Anthony Albanese heading Shorten as better Labor leader, 26% to 23%. Tanya Plibersek was also on 23%. The prospect of the byelection has stirred some leadership muttering in the ALP.

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

Barnaby Joyce takes personal leave after horror day


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Former deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce has abruptly gone on personal leave until the end of June, after a horror day in which he shifted the onus to partner Vikki Campion for the widely-criticised sale of their TV interview.

Facing a mounting public backlash from colleagues, Joyce blamed media intrusion and said Campion had felt “screwed over” by it.

A clip of the interview, for which Channel 7 reportedly paid $150,000, was shown on Tuesday night, with a emotional Campion saying “I couldn’t help it. You can’t help who you fall in love with.”

The full interview, which features the couple and their new baby Sebastian, will be aired on Sunday. They say the money will be put in a trust fund for Sebastian.

Joyce looked visibly under strain during the day and sources said he was not in a good head space.

He sought leave from the Nationals whip, Michelle Landry, and he has been granted a parliamentary pair by Labor – which means the numbers in the House of Representatives will not be affected.

He will miss the June sittings, not returning to parliament until it resumes in August, after the winter recess. Government sources said his actual leave from work was until the end of June.

He immediately drove from Canberra on Tuesday evening.

Joyce said that he would not charge for an interview if it was just with him as a politician.

But “they wanted an interview obviously to get Vikki’s side of the story and like most mothers she said, ‘seeing as I am being screwed over and there are drones and everything over my house in the last fortnight, paparazzi waiting for me, if everybody else is making money then [I am] going to make money out of it’,” he told the Australian.

He said they had “tried just burning this out and that didn’t work,” and argued privacy protections were inadequate.

“If we had a proper tort of privacy we would never have had to do this.”

Senior Coalition figures, picking up the public reaction, have come out in open criticism of the deal. Prime Minister Turnbull, speaking on Tasmanian radio station LAFM, said the paid interview was “not a course of action that I would’ve encouraged him to take”. Turnbull said he would leave the matter for a “private discussion” with Joyce. But in the event, the two did not talk on Tuesday.

Revenue Minister Kelly O’Dwyer told the ABC “most Australians are pretty disgusted” by Joyce’s action.

Nationals leader Michael McCormack said “I wouldn’t do it”, telling Fairfax Media: “At the end of the day all politicians are judged by the court of public opinion and that is what people think of them at the ballot box on election day.”

The ConversationMcCormack had particular reason to be angry at Joyce – the controversy took attention from the recruitment of crossbench senator Steve Martin to the Nationals, which was announced on Monday.

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

Poll wrap: Newspoll asks skewed company tax cut question as Labor gains



File 20180528 80650 1dwicoa.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has notched up his 33rd consecutive twp party preferred Newspoll loss as leader.
AAP/Dean Lewins

Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

This week’s Newspoll, conducted May 24-27 from a sample of 1,590, gave Labor a 52-48 lead, a one-point gain since last fortnight. Primary votes were 38% Coalition (down one), 38% Labor (steady), 9% Greens (steady) and 8% One Nation (up two).

This is Malcolm Turnbull’s 33rd consecutive Newspoll loss as PM, three more than Tony Abbott. While Turnbull’s last two losses were both by a narrow 51-49 margin, Labor extended its lead in this poll.

The total vote for Labor and the Greens was steady at 47%, while the total vote for the Coalition and One Nation was up one to 46%. One Nation’s two-point gain is probably due to its reversal on the company tax cuts.

By 49-39, voters were dissatisfied with Turnbull’s performance (50-39 last fortnight). Turnbull’s net approval of -10 is a new high for this term. Bill Shorten’s net approval was -21, up one point. Turnbull led Shorten by 47-30 as better PM (46-32 last fortnight); this is Turnbull’s best better PM lead since September 2017.




Read more:
Turnbull and the Coalition begin the year on a positive polling note – but it’s still all about the economy


26% (up three since early April) preferred Anthony Albanese as Labor leader, with 23% for both Shorten (down one) and Tanya Plibersek (steady). Albanese is benefiting from stronger support from Coalition and One Nation voters, who are unlikely to vote Labor. He is in third place with Labor and Greens voters.

By 39-37, voters thought Shorten and Labor would be better at maintaining energy supply and keeping power prices lower than Turnbull and the Coalition.

Last week there was a parliamentary sitting. The Coalition tends to do better when Parliament is not sitting. During parliamentary sittings, there is more focus on the Coalition’s policies, and these policies have been attacked by Labor.

In previous cases where Turnbull’s ratings have spiked, they have fallen back quickly. This time, Turnbull’s net approval increased by one point following a post-budget spike. If these ratings are sustained, they are likely to assist the Coalition.

On May 16, the ABS reported that wages grew at just a 0.5% pace in the March quarter, and 2.1% in the year to March. As I said in my first Newspoll article this year, wage growth is likely to be crucial at the next election.

Newspoll’s skewed company tax cuts question

The full wording of Newspoll’s company tax cut question can be seen here. Rather than asking a simple support/oppose type question, Newspoll asked whether voters wanted the company tax cuts as soon as possible, over the next ten years, or not at all. This is a skewed question, as two of the possible responses were favourable to the tax cuts, with only one unfavourable.

The question also suggested a “when”, not an “if”. That is, voters were asked when the tax cuts should be introduced, rather than if they are a good idea.

In addition, the current debate is not over whether “all” Australian businesses receive a tax cut. Companies with a turnover of up to $50 million received a tax cut in March 2017. The debate is whether larger companies should receive the tax cut. The only pollster that has asked explicitly about big companies, ReachTEL in late March, showed voters were opposed by an emphatic 56-29.




Read more:
Poll wrap: Newspoll not all bad news for Turnbull as Coalition’s position improves


In last week’s Essential, not providing company tax cuts for large business was the most popular option when voters were asked to assess measures to cut government spending (60-22 support).

According to this Newspoll question, 36% wanted company tax cuts as soon as possible, 27% over the next ten years, and 29% not at all. The Australian’s Simon Benson claimed that the 63% who supported the company tax cuts is higher than for the same-sex marriage plebiscite (61.6%) – a very dubious claim.

Essential: 51-49 to Labor

Last week’s Essential poll, conducted May 17-20 from a sample of 1,025, gave Labor a 51-49 lead, a one-point gain for the Coalition since the post-budget Essential. Primary votes were 40% Coalition (up two), 36% Labor (steady), 10% Greens (steady) and 8% One Nation (up one).

With a Coalition primary vote at 40%, this poll would have been a 50-50 tie using Newspoll’s new methods. Essential continues to use the 2016 preference flows for its two party results. This poll was taken before Parliament resumed.

After a detailed question, 45% supported Labor’s tax plan proposal, while 33% supported the government’s. Most voters are not familiar with this much detail on policies. Similarly, voters supported Labor’s plan for the economy by 44-38 after much detail on Labor and Coalition proposals.

32% (up six since March) would trust Labor to manage a fair tax system, while 32% (up four) would trust the Coalition, and 22% (down nine) say there would be no difference between the major parties.

Just 34% correctly named the Queen of Great Britain as Australia’s Head of State, with 30% selecting the Governor-General and 24% the PM. By 48-30, voters would support Australia becoming a republic with its own Head of State (44-29 in January). 65% thought an Australian Head of State should be directly elected, 12% appointed by a two-thirds parliamentary majority, and 9% appointed by the PM.

Tasmanian Senator Steve Martin joins the Nationals

As a result of the citizenship fiasco, Jacqui Lambie resigned from the Senate, and her place was taken by the second candidate on her ticket, Steve Martin. Martin refused to resign, which would have allowed Lambie to retake her seat, and was expelled from the Lambie Network.

On Monday, Martin joined the Nationals. While Lambie was conservative on immigration issues, she was a reliable vote for the left on economic issues. Martin’s replacement of Lambie is a clear loss for the left. The Coalition will have a slightly easier path for its legislation, with 31 seats, up from 30. 39 votes are required for legislation to pass the Senate.

Super Saturday: July 28

Last week, the Speaker of the House announced that the byelections for the five lower house seats of Braddon, Longman, Mayo, Perth and Fremantle would not be held until July 28. Labor’s conference had been scheduled for that weekend, and has had to be postponed.

While Labor is very unhappy with the byelection timing, it may be a favour. The rights of asylum seekers are important to Labor’s left, but not to the general public. Public division within Labor over the treatment of asylum seekers could damage them. Policy on asylum seekers is an issue where the public backs the right.




Read more:
Centre Alliance’s Rebekha Sharkie most vulnerable at byelections forced by dual citizenship saga


In brief: Tasmanian polling, Ireland abortion repeal referendum

An early May Tasmanian EMRS poll gave the Liberals 47%, Labor 30% and the Greens 14%. The upper house seat of Prosser held an election on May 5, and the Liberals won it on May 15 after preferences were distributed. You can read more about this at my personal website.

The ConversationOn Friday, Ireland repealed the eighth constitutional amendment by an unexpectedly large 66.4-33.6 margin. The eighth amendment, passed in 1983, had greatly restricted abortion rights. The effect of repeal is that Parliament can legislate on abortion. You can read my preview for The Poll Bludger here, and my results report here.

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

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

Independent crossbencher Steve Martin joins Nationals, giving the party a Tasmanian presence


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

The government has picked up another Senate crossbencher to add to its numbers, with Tasmanian independent Steve Martin announcing he has joined the Nationals.

It is the first time the party has had representation in that state since the early 1920s, when William McWilliams was briefly leader of the Country Party.

Although it is to the Coalition’s advantage to have an additional senator locked in, and one less independent with whom to negotiate, in practice the change does not affect things significantly.

Martin’s move takes the Coalition to 31 in the Senate, out of a 76-member chamber. It means the government has to get eight of ten crossbenchers to pass legislation opposed by Labor and the Greens. Previously it was nine of 11. Martin has mostly voted with the Coalition and was already committed to supporting the government’s company tax cuts for big business.

He was elevated to Parliament on a countback, following the resignation of Jacqui Lambie in the citizenship crisis, but he never sat as a representative of the Jacqui Lambie Network, becoming an independent.

Earlier, Senator Lucy Gichuhi moved from the crossbench to the Liberals. She has come under threat for a winnable place on the South Australian Liberal ticket.

Martin said on Monday that what drew him to the Nationals was “their focus on key issues such as natural resources, teamwork and, of course, people”. He said the Nationals had a record of looking after rural and regional communities and Tasmania was rural and regional.

Nationals leader and Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack said Martin’s joining was “reinvigorating the National Party in Tasmania”.

Recalling the long period since the party had had representation there – before the Tasmanian tiger was last seen in the 1930s – McCormack said: “I liken Steve a bit to the Tasmanian tiger, inasmuch as he will be a tiger for regional development, an absolute tiger in there fighting for the interests of Tasmanians.”

Martin said he had no “deal” with the Nationals although “I hope I get the number one on their election paper”.

It is not clear how Martin, who is up for election at the next poll, would fit with the Liberals’ ticket. Although only Liberal Richard Colbeck is up for re-election next time, sources say Martin’s joining the Nationals does not mean there would necessarily be a joint Coalition ticket. There could be separate tickets.

Lambie, meanwhile, responded to the news with her own tweet on Monday: “I will be running to return the Senate seat to the people of Tasmania who want a truly independent voice in Canberra. Trust me, I am biting at the bit, looking forward to taking the Nats out!”

CORRECTION

The ConversationMalcolm Farnsworth on his blog, AustralianPolitics.com has corrected Michael McCormack, and The Conversation. McCormack (and we) said that before new recruit Steve Martin, the last federal representative of his party from Tasmania was William McWilliams. Farnsworth says it was Llewellyn Atkinson, who was the Country Party member for Wilmot from 1921 until 1928.

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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