Government needs to slow down on changes to spying and foreign interference laws


File 20180608 137315 1qkiuu4.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Attorney-General Christian Porter wants the legislation passed before the “Super Saturday” byelections on July 28.
AAP/Lukas Coch

Tony Walker, La Trobe University

What’s the rush? If you believe Federal Attorney-General Christian Porter, unless two pieces of security legislation are in place in the remaining two weeks of parliament before the winter recess, the country will be in peril.

This was the line Porter was taking yesterday on the release of the Advisory Report on the National Security Legislation Amendment (Espionage and Foreign Interference) Bill.

His argument is nonsense. Labor should also be taken to task for being party to a hasty process that appears on the face of it to be expedient. Labor’s persistent concern is to avoid being wedged on security issues.

Under the proposed legislation, bodies such as Amnesty International that have been critical of Australian government policies may be vulnerable.

Porter wants two separate tranches of legislation – the Espionage and Foreign Interference Bill and a Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme Bill – to be passed before the Super Saturday byelections on July 28.




Read more:
Grattan on Friday: Government and Labor unite to erect the barriers against foreign interference


Porter’s argument appears to be that unless the legislation passes in the concluding two weeks of the midyear session of parliament, those byelections will be conducted in a perilous atmosphere. He said:

There’s an unprecedented level of foreign intelligence activity in Australia and that means more foreign agents and more foreign power using more tradecraft and more technologies to engage in espionage and foreign interference and the attempted foreign influence of our democratic processes.

And that increase in volume is detectable even in the period of time that this piece of legislation has been under consideration by the committee.

No reasonable person would argue against the need for beefed-up legislation to deal with challenges to democratic processes such as those witnessed during the recent US election.

Russian cyber interference in the US political process is hardly in question, nor attempts by Russian agents of influence to suborn the system. The question is to what degree?

What is proposed in Australian legislation foreshadowed by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull late last year is a new and far-reaching suite of laws aimed at limiting foreign interference.

An initial version of the bill was poorly drafted. It represented an unreasonable threat to individual liberties and freedom of expression.

It was particularly antagonistic to journalists operating in the security space. Long jail terms for publication of unauthorised security material were incorporated.

The insertion of a public interest amendment has somewhat alleviated that risk.

Fairfax Media’s publication overnight of leaked documents dealing with alleged war crimes by members of the Special Air Service might have fallen foul of such provisions, and may still do so.

Media coverage of the draft amendments to the Espionage and Foreign Interference Bill has been relatively favourable. However, this might have less to do with the merits of the legislation than with relief the bill is less threatening to legitimate inquiry than an earlier draft.

In all, parliament’s Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security made 60 recommended amendments to the Espionage and Foreign Interference Bill.

Most of these recommendations are cosmetic, except those relating to journalistic inquiry. They include the need for security certifications to be validated before proceedings could be initiated for an espionage or secrecy offence, and a review of the legislation by the National Security Legislation Monitor after three years.

Urging quick action on the Espionage and Foreign Interference Bill, Porter argued that a second bill, the Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme Bill, was required to complement the main piece of legislation.

This refers to legislation that sought to proscribe involvement in Australian political processes not just by foreign governments and their agents, but by entities like GetUp, which has drawn part of its funding from foreign sources.

The scope of this proposed legislation – which is yet to be agreed by the JCOIS – has now been limited to foreign governments, foreign-related entities, foreign political organisation and foreign government-directed individuals.

Foreign companies would be excluded from this provision unless it could be demonstrated they were closely connected to a foreign government or political organisation.

In such cases, government-dominated companies, even those associated with friendly nations, would be required to register under the proposed law.

In efforts to guard against interference by individuals or companies who might be connected with a foreign government, the Attorney-General’s Department would be empowered to issue “transparency notices” to identify such individuals or companies.




Read more:
New foreign interference laws will compound risks to whistleblowers and journalists


An appeals process against these findings would be available through the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. Porter said:

It’s vital that our national security legislation and framework reflects the modern challenges that we face … that framework remains dangerously incomplete while these two remaining and critical bills remain unlegislated.

As interested parties digest the provisions of the proposed amendments, it’s likely more objections will be raised, such as those by Claire O’Rourke, one of Amnesty’s Australian representatives.

O’Rourke told The Guardian that under the Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme Bill charities like Amnesty that hold the Australian government to account on its human rights record could face criminal charges. She said:

This is clear government overreach and a cynical exercise by both sides of politics to shield themselves from the scrutiny of Australian society, including charities.

The ConversationThe upshot of all this? Quite simply, more time is needed to review proposed amendments.

Tony Walker, Adjunct Professor, School of Communications, La Trobe University

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

Advertisements

Turnbull government shrinks Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme register


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Attorney-General Christian Porter has put forward compromise amendments to the government’s proposed register of foreign agents that will limit its reach.

The changes are designed to meet criticisms from charities, universities and others, and to get a quick agreement with Labor on the legislation.

The bill for the register is still being considered by the parliamentary joint committee on intelligence and security, which on Thursday released a bipartisan report agreeing on 60 amendments to the legislation to counter the threat of foreign interference.

Porter wants to get both bills passed by the end of this month. “Most critically this would allow for Australia’s new legal framework designed to address espionage, interference and foreign influence in Australia’s democratic processes to be passed before the conduct of five key Australian byelections and be fully operational before the next scheduled general election,” he said.




Read more:
Grattan on Friday: Government and Labor unite to erect the barriers against foreign interference


There have been widespread concerns that the scope of the transparency scheme is too wide, and notably the breadth of the definitions in it, including that of “foreign principal”.

Arguments have been put by lawyers, the media, the arts, charities, not-for-profit organisations and the academic sector that these definitions will adversely affect them.

Porter said that the government had now given the committee a range of amendments “that address the most substantive stakeholder issues”.

The bill currently provides that people be required to register if undertaking certain activities on behalf of a foreign government, public enterprise, political organisation, business or individual.

The change would limit the “foreign principals” to foreign governments, foreign government-related entities, foreign political organisations and foreign government-related individuals.

“This ensures that only organisations or individuals ultimately working at the direction of a foreign government or political party are required to register,” Porter said.

The amendment would thus exclude “the vast majority of private international companies”, except where “they are closely related to a foreign government or political organisation”.

To stop some companies or individuals with opaque links to a foreign government falling through the cracks, the secretary of the Attorney-General’s department would have a power to issue notices stating a person or organisation was considered a foreign government-related entity or individual.

“This would allow the government to investigate and declare where it considers companies or individuals are hiding their connections to foreign governments,” Porter said.

Another change would mean broadcasters, carriage service providers and publishers would not have to register “where they are undertaking their ordinary business”.

The definition of “activity for the purpose of political or government influence” would also be changed “so that a substantial purpose of the activity has to be political influence, rather than just ‘a’ purpose of it”.

The ConversationPorter said that responding to the university sector and charities, the definition of “undertaking activity on behalf of a foreign principal” would be amended “so a person isn’t deemed to be undertaking an activity merely because they are supervised by, receive funding from or collaborate with a foreign principal”.

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

Twenty years on, One Nation is still chaotic, controversial and influential



File 20180607 137288 1ckhs5x.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
With, for now, three Senate votes as her bargaining chips, Hanson’s impact – on government policy or on the major parties’ electoral strategy – is still being felt.
AAP/Peter Mathew

Chris Salisbury, The University of Queensland

Twenty years since its spectacular electoral debut in Queensland, Pauline Hanson’s One Nation remains a potent, if enigmatic, political force. Despite the party’s internal volatility and public displays of disunity, it’s still poised to play a significant role in the next federal election, especially in key marginal seats in Queensland.

The weeks approaching the winter parliamentary break have witnessed almost daily revelations of One Nation’s in-fighting, keeping Pauline Hanson in the headlines.

Recent ineligibility rulings, resignations and demotions have enveloped the party in a seeming storm of self-implosion.

Its stocks in the federal senate, where it had four senators elected in 2016, are now diminished. Depending on out-of-favour senator Brian Burston’s decision concerning his future with the party, there may be further attrition to come.




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


Many observers have noted how these public rows between Hanson and party colleagues, and the loss of numbers in parliament through bad blood or bad management, recall events in the party’s shambolic formative years. Some predict that history is set to repeat, and One Nation is again on a rapid path to self-destruction.

But such assumptions might underestimate the stubborn persistence of Hanson and, importantly, her party’s supporters.

June 13 marks the 20th anniversary of the 1998 Queensland state election, when Peter Beattie was first elected Premier amid One Nation’s storming onto the electoral scene. The election returned the ALP to office in Queensland, beginning a 14-year period of Labor hegemony in that state, but also created a legacy of a different kind for One Nation and its controversial figurehead.

That same election set a benchmark for minor party disruption of the status quo that others (including, lately, the revived One Nation) have aimed for but fallen well short of ever since.

Fifteen months after the party’s formation in March 1997, One Nation won 22.7% of the primary vote and 11 seats in Queensland’s parliament, delivering a shock to the political “establishment”.

But within the space of eight months, punctuated by its MPs’ ill-discipline and organisational turmoil, the party disintegrated into a handful of independents and the newly-formed (and short-lived) City Country Alliance party. With the exception of two of these independents, all other former One Nation MPs lost their seats at the next state election, in Peter Beattie’s landslide 2001 victory.

One Nation’s barnstorming debut at that 1998 election was subsequently thought to be a “flash in the pan”. But this perhaps overlooks that One Nation retained seats in Queensland’s parliament until the party’s last remaining MP, Rosa Lee Long, lost her seat of Tablelands in 2009.

More recently, Hanson very nearly won the state seat of Lockyer for One Nation at Queensland’s 2015 election. The “unschooled” behaviour of the party’s elected MPs and officials was not enough to turn all its supporters away from the maverick fringes of politics and back toward the mainstream parties.

The intervening years haven’t seen the major parties entirely recoup earlier losses of support. In the absence of One Nation, voters abandoning the established parties have been attracted to the likes of Katter’s Australian Party, the Palmer United Party, and other eponymous state and federal groupings.

Recent elections at state and federal levels have seen diminishing primary vote support for the major parties and a surge in popularity (if not exactly translated to electoral success) of smaller parties.

Since re-emerging in recent years, One Nation has attracted 5-15% of the primary vote at state elections in Western Australia and Queensland – despite falling well short of expectations. In the electorates it actually contested, the proportion is much higher, climbing into the 20s and low 30s.

It seems the “protest vote” element in the electorate hasn’t really gone away since One Nation first departed the scene, and is now at record levels. As witnessed in Queensland’s recent state election, almost 31% of primary votes were cast for non-major parties, exceeding the 30% non-major primary vote at the 1998 election.

In this atmosphere of volatile voter sentiment, Hanson – in addition to a slew of other, newer minor party identities – has well and truly established herself on the political scene again.




Read more:
Despite the election hype, some of the media attention on One Nation was justified


Polling undertaken in the federal seat of Longman, due to go to a by-election in late July, has shown increased support for One Nation. This is at the potential cost of the former Labor incumbent, Susan Lamb – who narrowly won the seat from the government in 2016 in part due to One Nation preferences.

This underlines the extent to which Hanson’s party is likely to influence the outcome in several Queensland seats at the next federal election, making the state again a key electoral battleground.

One Nation has now been on the political scene almost as long as the DLP or the Australian Democrats – perhaps its period in the political wilderness extended the party’s shelf-life and appeal to a new swathe of “disaffected” voters.

The ConversationDespite its dysfunction – frequently laid at Hanson’s feet – and often inconsistent policy positions, the party has cemented an influential place in the federal arena, albeit a status that’s on the verge of diminishing drastically.

Chris Salisbury, Research Associate, The University of Queensland

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

Grattan on Friday: Government and Labor unite to erect the barriers against foreign interference


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

The government couldn’t have had a more appropriate week for the release of the report from the parliamentary joint committee on intelligence and security which has examined its legislation to counter foreign interference.

Bipartisan agreement in the report, tabled Thursday, on the 60 recommendations, covering minor and more substantive amendments, has paved the way for the bill – that has infuriated Chinese authorities – to clear parliament within weeks.

A couple of current instances have highlighted how China engages in unsubtle pressure.

Qantas confirmed it would bow to China over how the carrier refers to Taiwan in its advertising and on its website. This followed a demand to three dozen airlines that they make clear that Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau are part of China.

The government was understanding of Qantas’s position, accepting it had little choice.

On a very different front, former foreign minister Bob Carr, an outspoken friend of China, who heads the Australia China Relations Institute at the University of Technology Sydney, was unable to get visas for journalists (including from Fairfax and News Corp) to go on one of the sponsored visits to China he hosts. Carr says “the assumption is that [this] is part of the freeze China is applying to bilateral visits” – a freeze that has hit ministers.

Then there is the much-publicised controversy about Facebook sharing user-data with, among many companies, several Chinese ones including Huawei, a telecommunications-equipment giant that the Australian government has not permitted to tender for National Broadband Network contracts.

We’re well past the optimistic days when we believed it could be all upside in our relationship with China, which has over the years delivered an economic bonanza for Australia.

Trade Minister Steve Ciobo tries to shrug off problems as minor irritants, but presumably that’s just his job. Others in the government have become more forthright.

It’s notable that of recent prime ministers Kevin Rudd and Malcolm Turnbull, both very knowledgable about China, have been the most openly tough-minded towards it. Before becoming PM, each was regarded as China-friendly.

Of the various causes of current tensions in the relationship, the legislation against foreign interference is on the top shelf (together with Australia’s stand on the South China Sea).

The purpose of the legislation, unveiled late last year, is to “comprehensively reform key offences dealing with threats to national security, particularly those posed by foreign principals”.

Among its provisions, it “introduces new foreign interference offences targeting covert, deceptive or threatening actions by foreign actors who intend to influence Australia’s democratic or government processes or to harm Australia”.

At its core, what this legislation does is to criminalise foreign interference that is one step below espionage. ASIO has always been able to investigate such interference, but it hasn’t actually been a criminal offence.

While the government goes out of its way to say the legislation is not aimed at any individual country, everyone knows China is in its sights. As is Russia, after the experience in the United States and elsewhere.

Duncan Lewis, head of ASIO, emphasised the foreign threat in evidence to Senate estimates last month, describing the current scale of foreign intelligence activity against Australian interests as “unprecedented”.

“Foreign actors covertly attempt to influence and shape the views of members of the Australian public, the Australian media, officials in the Australian government and members of the diaspora communities here in Australia,” he told the hearing.

“Foreign states maintain an enduring interest in a range of strategically important commercial, political, economic, defence, security, foreign policy and diaspora issues,” he said.

Critics of the legislation seized on sloppy drafting as well raising substantive issues. The Law Council of Australia warned that “many of the offence provisions are broadly drafted to capture a range of benign conduct that may not necessarily amount to harm or prejudice Australia’s interests”.

Some with concerns were within officialdom. The Commonwealth Ombudsman pointed out that “the current drafting of the amendments appears to produce several unintended consequences for my office,” and the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security had some worries.

The media feared being caught by too wide a net.

Where possible, Opposition leader Bill Shorten tries to stick like glue to the government on national security issues, for reasons of politics as well as substance. Given this, and the usual bipartisan functioning of the intelligence and security committee, it is not surprising that agreement has been reached on a refined version of the bill.

Many of the changes, as Attorney-General Christian Porter noted, are to definitions and drafting – which doesn’t make them unimportant.

These include clarifying that “prejudice to national security” has to involve an element of harm, not just embarrassment. There’ll be clarification of “espionage”, “sabotage”, “political violence” and “foreign interference”.

Changes will reduce the maximum penalties for the new secrecy offences, and require the attorney-general’s consent for a prosecution under them.

An amendment will ensure the staff of the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security are properly protected.

The changes will give greater protection to the media, expanding the public interest defence for journalists, and making it clear that editors, legal advisers and administrative staff will all be covered by the journalism defence.

Before a journalist can be prosecuted over reporting classified documents, the head of the relevant agency will have to certify that they were properly classified, and the attorney-general must consent to the legal action.

The government, accepting some criticisms of the legislation, itself put forward certain amendments.

The committee – which is still examining an accompanying bill to set up a register of those working on behalf of foreign governments and other interests – said that after three years there should be a review of the operation of key parts of the foreign influence legislation.

The agreed changes haven’t satisfied critics such as the Law Council and Amnesty International. But the political deal is now in place.

Meanwhile Porter explicitly cast an eye to coming elections. “Activity which is designed to interfere or influence our democratic processes is at its most acute when democratic processes are taking place and that means five by-elections in late July and then the full general election”.

The ConversationThe government, saying it wants the legislation passed before the parliament rises at the end of June for the winter recess, is preparing for more angry reaction from Beijing.

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

Despite strong words, the US has few options left to reverse China’s gains in the South China Sea


Adam Ni, Australian National University

At a top regional security forum on Saturday, US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis said China’s recent militarisation efforts in the disputed South China Sea were intended to intimidate and coerce regional countries.

Mattis told the Shangri-La Dialogue that China’s actions stood in “stark contrast with the openness of [the US] strategy,” and warned of “much larger consequences” if China continued its current approach.

As an “initial response”, China’s navy has been disinvited by the US from the upcoming 2018 Rim of the Pacific Exercise, the world’s largest international naval exercise.

It is important to understand the context of the current tensions, and the strategic stakes for both China and the US.




Read more:
Is China playing a long game in the South China Sea?


In recent years, China has sought to bolster its control over the South China Sea, where a number of claimants have overlapping territorial claims with China, including Vietnam, the Philippines and Taiwan.

China’s efforts have continued unabated, despite rising tensions and international protests. Just recently, China landed a long-range heavy bomber for the first time on an island in the disputed Paracels, and deployed anti-ship and anti-air missile systems to its outposts in the Spratly Islands.

China’s air force has also stepped up its drills and patrols in the skies over the South China Sea.

While China is not the only claimant militarising the disputed region, no one else comes remotely close to the ambition, scale and speed of China’s efforts.

China’s strategy

The South China Sea has long been coveted by China (and others) due to its strategic importance for trade and military power, as well as its abundant resources. According to one estimate, US$3.4 trillion in trade passed through the South China Sea in 2016, representing 21% of the global total.

China’s goal in the South China Sea can be summarised with one word: control.

In order to achieve this, China is undertaking a coordinated, long-term effort to assert its dominance in the region, including the building of artificial islands, civil and military infrastructure, and the deployment of military ships and aircraft to the region.




Read more:
Explainer: what are the legal implications of the South China Sea ruling?


While politicians of other countries such as the US, Philippines and Australia espouse fiery rhetoric to protest China’s actions, Beijing is focusing on actively transforming the physical and power geography of the South China Sea.

In fact, according to the new commander of the US Indo-Pacific Command, Admiral Philip Davidson, China’s efforts have been so successful that it “is now capable of controlling the South China Sea in all scenarios short of war with the US”.

America’s declining relevance

China’s efforts are hard to counter because it has employed an incremental approach to cementing its control in the South China Sea. None of its actions would individually justify a US military response that could escalate to war. In any case, the human and economic cost of such a conflict would be immense.

The inability of the US to respond effectively to China’s moves has eroded its credibility in the region. It has also fed a narrative that the US is not “here to stay” in Asia. If the US is serious about countering China, then Mattis’ rhetoric must be followed by action.

First, the US should clearly articulate its red lines to China and others on the kinds of activities that are unacceptable in the South China Sea. Then it must be willing to enforce such red lines, while being mindful of the risks.

Second, the US needs to renew its efforts to cooperate with allies in the region to build capacity and demonstrate a coordinated commitment to stand in the face of China’s challenge.

Third, the US needs to deploy military capabilities in the Indo-Pacific region, such as advanced missile systems, which would reduce the military advantages gained by China through the militarisation of the South China Sea features.

Long-term consequences

China’s tightening control over the South China Sea is worrying for a number of regional countries. For many, the shipping routes that run through the South China Sea are the bloodlines of their economies.

Moreover, the shifting balance of power will enable Beijing to settle its territorial disputes in the region for good. Without a doubt, China is willing to use its new-found power to change the status quo in its favour, even at the expense of its weaker neighbours.

Control of the South China Sea also allows Beijing to better project its military power across South-East Asia, the western Pacific and parts of Oceania. This would make it more costly for the US and its allies to take action against China, for example, in scenarios involving Taiwan.

On a higher level, China’s assertive approach to the South China Sea demonstrates Beijing’s increasing confidence and its willingness to flaunt international norms that it considers inconvenient or contrary to its interests.

There is little doubt China is becoming the new dominant power in Asia. Its rise has benefited millions in the region and should be welcomed. But we should also be wary of Beijing’s approach to territorial disputes and grievances if it employs military and economic intimidation and coercion.




Read more:
China’s quest for techno-military supremacy


If we want to live in a “world where big fish neither eat nor intimidate the small”, then there must be consequences for countries, including China, when they flaunt international norms and seek to settle disagreements with force.

It may be too late to turn the tide in the South China Sea and reverse China’s gains. No one would run such a risk. But it is not too late to impose penalties on China for further destabilising the region through its actions in the South China Sea.

The ConversationThe challenge is to figure out how to do that, and what we would be willing to risk to achieve it.

Adam Ni, Researcher, Strategic and Defense Studies Centre, Australian National University

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

Greens release annual figures for income tax package


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

The Greens have released year-by-year costings of the budget’s income tax cuts, which the government has previously declined to produce publicly.

The estimates have been prepared by the independent Parliamentary Budget Office, at the request of the Greens. The opposition has repeatedly sought annual figures, but the government resisted the demands.

Treasurer Scott Morrison said after the budget: “It is not the practice of any government to provide itemised year by year costs over the medium term, because they’re not reliable.”

Treasury secretary John Fraser told a Senate estimates hearing: “Our confidence in specific years is not such that we feel comfortable providing those figures.”

The government initially released only the cost over the forward estimates ($13.4 billion), and a total decade-long figure (2018-19 – 2028-29) of $140 billion.

Subsequent Treasury estimates were produced for the various stages of the plan: $16 billion for first stage, rising to $102 billion when the second stage is included, with the final figure for all three stages being $144 billion.

The PBO annual estimates are in the table below.

Personal Income Tax Plan budget analysis by Parliamentary Budget Office

https://www.scribd.com/embeds/381032653/content?start_page=1&view_mode=scroll&access_key=key-xCv8nXnigTA927vSL9G7&show_recommendations=true

The PBO numbers will go to the Senate Economics Legislation Committee hearing on Wednesday. Labor also asked for PBO calculations.

The Greens said the PBO costings showed that stage 2 of the plan would lose $80 billion in revenue over the next ten years while stage 3 would lose $41.6 billion.

The party called on Bill Shorten and Labor to join the Greens “in ruling out support for Turnbull’s personal income tax cuts”.

Labor has said it supports stage one, is making up its mind about stage 2, and does not like stage 3. But it has not clarified what its position would be if the government sticks to its position that it won’t split the bill.

Greens leader Richard Di Natale: “It is beyond belief that the Labor Party is even considering supporting the second stage of Turnbull’s personal income tax cuts that will turbocharge economic inequality in Australia and lead to the loss of $80 billion in revenue for our schools, hospitals and essential services.

“Nearly $40 billion of this second stage will go to the wealthiest one-third of income earners.”

Di Natale said Labor was also floating the idea of passing the whole package through the Senate. “This would see Labor also support the third stage of the plan, which is worth $41.6 billion over five years, with the amount going to the wealthiest Australians compounding by an extra billion dollars each year.

The Conversation“In the final year of the Turnbull’s tax cuts, almost 70% of the entire benefits flow to people earning over $90,000,” he said.

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

Turnbull wants Joyce to have continuing ‘prominent role’ in public life


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Malcolm Turnbull has strongly backed Barnaby Joyce running for another parliamentary term, in contrast to Nationals leader Michael McCormack’s much more lukewarm attitude.

As the Joyce saga continued to suck political oxygen in the wake of Sunday’s TV interview on Seven with Joyce and partner Vikki Campion, the former deputy prime minister rejected speculation that he might not contest his New England seat.

“I am disappointed to hear some people speaking about me not contesting the next election,” he said in a statement. “I will certainly be contesting and have been humbled by the support I have received so far from around the New England electorate.”

Turnbull, on a “listening” tour of drought-affected areas, told reporters in Blackall, “Barnaby has been a great advocate for regional Australia … and I look forward to him running again in New England.

“I look forward to him continuing to play a role, a prominent role in Australian public life.”

At a later news conference in Charleville, Turnbull was as enthusiastic when asked if he would be happy for Joyce to run again: “Yes absolutely, absolutely.”

Turnbull’s comment came despite their huge public spat earlier this year over Joyce’s affair with Campion, his former staffer, and the criticism both Joyce and Campion made of Turnbull in the Seven interview.

Joyce said in the interview that Turnbull’s doing a doorstop on the matter, rather than following the usual course of admonishing privately and giving support publicly, had been “wrong”. Campion said, “It’s like you can chew out your vice-captain in the locker room but not on the field.”

When McCormack, standing with Turnbull at the Charleville news conference, was asked whether he echoed the Prime Minister’s comments on Joyce’s running again, he gave a less-than-full endorsement.

“Yes. At the end of the day it’s a matter for the local branch in New England and a matter for the National Party members of the federal electoral council there … they do the preselection, just like they do the preselections right across Australia in the Liberal National parties.

“It’s democracy at work. So you put your hand up, anyone can get challenged, anybody can win so long as they’ve got the support of their local branch and their local federal electorate council and that’s the way it works.”

McCormack was similarly qualified in comments last week in a podcast with The Conversation.




Read more:
Politics podcast: Michael McCormack on Barnaby’s future, latte sippers and other matters


The Seven interview has intensified suggestions in the Nationals and elsewhere that Joyce should quit parliament at the election.

But the chair of the Nationals’ Tamworth branch, Ian Coxhead, told The Conversation it supported Joyce running again.

Coxhead said the branch had given a vote of support to Joyce in February, before he resigned as leader. The motion was carried unanimously, with applause, he said. The Tamworth branch is the biggest of some eight branches in the New England electorate.

Coxhead said he had spoken to Joyce on Tuesday. “He said that as chair of the Tamworth branch I’d be the first to know if he was not recontesting. But he said ‘I have no thought along those lines,’” Coxhead said.

The ConversationJoyce has a book coming out later this year, which is likely to generate more controversy around him.

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

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


File 20180605 175451 c2xlbw.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
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.




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


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.




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


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.

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.




Read more:
PISA results don’t look good, but before we panic let’s look at what we can learn from the latest test


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.




Read more:
What was missing in Australia’s $1.9 billion infrastructure announcement


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.




Read more:
Politics podcast: Michael McCormack on Barnaby’s future, latte sippers and other matters


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.