Labo(u)r easily wins in both New Zealand and the ACT, and leads in Queensland



AAP/David Rowland

Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

At Saturday’s New Zealand election, Labour won 64 of the 120 seats (up 18 since the 2017 election). This means a Labour eight-seat majority. The opposition National won 35 seats (down 21), the right-wing ACT ten (up nine), the Greens ten (up two) and the Māori party one (up one).

Vote shares were 49.1% Labour (up 12.2%), 26.8% National (down 17.6%), 8.0% ACT (up 7.5%), 7.6% Greens (up 1.3%) and 1.0% Māori (down 0.2%).

Under New Zealand’s system, parties are entitled to a proportional allocation of seats if they either win at least 5% of the overall vote, or win a single-member seat. The Māori party entered parliament by winning one of the seven single-member seats reserved for those on the Māori roll. The Greens and ACT also won single-member seats.

Since the 2017 election, Labour has governed in coalition with the Greens and the populist NZ First. NZ First will not be returned to parliament, as their vote slumped to 2.7% (down 4.5%), and they failed to win a single-member seat.

This will be the first single-party New Zealand majority government since the adoption of proportional representation in 1996.

In February, two polls had National ahead of Labour. But Labour recorded massive poll leads in May owing to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s handling of coronavirus. Labour’s lead narrowed somewhat as the election approached, but final polls understated Labour’s lead; they won by 22 points, not the 15 in final polls.

Greens could win six of 25 ACT seats

With 78% of enrolled voters counted at Saturday’s ACT election, vote shares were 38.4% Labor (down 0.1% since 2016), 33.1% Liberals (down 3.6%) and 13.9% Greens (up 3.6%).

The ACT uses five five-member electorates, with candidates elected using the Hare-Clark system. A quota is one-sixth of the vote, or 16.7%. Preference distribution sheets have been released based on votes cast electronically. Paper ballots will be manually entered.

In Brindabella, Labor has 2.5 quotas, the Liberals 2.3 and the Greens 0.7. The Poll Bludger’s analysis of preferences has it very close between Labor and the Greens for the final seat.

In Ginninderra, Labor has 2.4 quotas, the Liberals 1.6 and the Greens 0.8. Labor leads the Liberals for the final seat, but it could be overturned on late counting.

In Kurrajong, Labor has 2.3 quotas, the Liberals 1.6 and the Greens 1.4. Preferences from Labor and minor parties give the Greens a solid lead over the Liberals in the race for the final seat. So Kurrajong is likely to split two Labor, two Greens and just one Liberal.

In Murrumbidgee, Labor has 2.2 quotas, the Liberals 2.1 and the Greens 0.7. This is a clear two Labor, two Liberals, one Green result.

In Yerrabi, the Liberals have 2.4 quotas, Labor 2.1 and the Greens 0.6. This will be two Liberals, two Labor and one Green.

In summary, Labor is likely to win ten of the 25 seats, the Liberals eight and the Greens five, with two in doubt, one Labor vs Greens and one Labor vs Liberal. In 2016, the result was 12 Labor, 11 Liberals, two Greens. The current Labor/Green coalition has easily retained power.

Queensland Newspoll: 52-48 to Labor

The Queensland election will be held on October 31. A Newspoll, conducted October 9-14 from a sample of 1,001, gave Labor a 52-48 lead, a three-point gain for Labor since a late July Newspoll. Labor’s lead is the same as in a YouGov poll that I covered in early October. YouGov conducts Newspoll, so it is effectively the same pollster.

Primary votes were virtually identical to that YouGov poll, at 37% Labor, 37% LNP, 11% Greens and 9% One Nation; the only difference a one-point drop for the Greens.

63% were satisfied with Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk’s performance and 33% were dissatisfied, for a net approval of +30. These figures are identical to a September Newspoll of the Victorian and Queensland premiers’ ratings.

Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington had a net approval of -7, up one point since the late July Newspoll. Palaszczuk led Frecklington as better premier by 57-32 (57-26 in July).

More state polls: NSW and Victoria

Channel 10 commissioned a uComms NSW poll after revelations of Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s affair with former Liberal MP Daryl Maguire. 63% said Berejiklian should not resign, and just 28% thought she should go.

The only information provided on voting intentions was that the Coalition led Labor by 38-30. William Bowe says that uComms includes undecided in the initial table, and that this implies little change from the 2019 election result.

A YouGov poll for The Sunday Telegraph gave Berejiklian a 68-26 approval rating. By 49-36, voters did not think she had done anything wrong. By 60-29, they wanted her to stay as premier.

A Victorian SMS Morgan poll, conducted October 12-13 from a sample of 899, gave Labor a 51.5-48.5 lead, unchanged since late September. Primary votes were 40% Labor (up one), 40% Coalition (up 0.5) and 9% Greens (down one). Premier Daniel Andrews had a 59-41 approval rating (61-39 previously).

Trump still down by double digits nationally

The FiveThirtyEight national polls aggregate currently gives Joe Biden a 10.6% lead over Donald Trump (52.4% to 41.8%). It’s somewhat closer in the key states with Biden leading by 7.9% in Michigan, 7.8% in Wisconsin, 6.8% in Pennsylvania, 4.0% in Florida and 3.9% in Arizona.

Pennsylvania has returned to being the “tipping-point” state, and is currently polling 3.8% better for Trump than nationally. But Trump needs to get within five points to make the Electoral College competitive.

There appears to be a new surge of coronavirus in the US: over 70,000 new cases were recorded Friday, the highest since late July. Trump is perceived to have handled coronavirus poorly, so the more it is in the headlines, the worse it will probably get for him.The Conversation

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

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

Meet North Queensland First, the party that wants to kill crocs and form a new state



http://www.shutterstock.com

Claire Brennan, James Cook University

Many of the minor parties vying for votes in the Queensland election will already be very familiar to Australians.

But Pauline Hanson, Clive Palmer and the Katters are not the only minor party players worth watching in the lead up to October 31.

A new party has recently emerged in northern Queensland, with crocodiles and the balance of power on its mind.

It is also a prime example of how issues in northern Queensland can vary wildly from those in the south.

North Queensland First

North Queensland First was set up in October 2019 by member for Whitsunday, Jason Costigan.

Jason Costigan speaking in the Queensland Parliament.
Jason Costigan has been the member for Whitsunday since 2012.
Glenn Hunt/ AAP

Costigan was expelled from the Liberal National Party earlier last year, following harassment allegations (the woman who made the complaint has since withdrawn it and apologised).

NQ First is aimed at appealing to voters disillusioned with the major parties. It lists establishing a separate state of “North Queensland” among its primary aims and is promoting itself as a possible balance of power holder.

North Queensland’s history of feeling separate

The north Queensland separatist movement has a long history and separation remains a popular cause in the region.




Read more:
Remember Quexit? 5 reasons you should not take your eyes off the Queensland election


Some north Queenslanders feel every inch of their distance from the state government in Brisbane: the notion of resources being extracted by a negligent, remote government has featured in northern politics for over a century.

Separatism was promoted by Palmer at the 2013 federal election and remains a Katter’s Australian Party policy.

Croc killing

That sense of remoteness also manifests itself in policies against crocodiles. Katter’s Australian Party and Bob Katter himself periodically make announcements about killing crocodiles.

Saltwater crocodile swimming in a river.
Anti-crocodile policies are common in north Queensland.
http://www.shutterstock.com

Last last month, NQ First sought to establish its northern credentials by announcing a “shoot to kill” policy.

This “croc culling” polling has a focus on “public safety”, according to Costigan.

If there is a crocodile on one of our beaches in a populated area, perhaps a tourist spot or in a swimming hole or where workers are at risk of being attacked, it’ll be shot by a licensed contractor whose job it will be to go in and deal with the problem as a matter of urgency.

Do Costigan’s crocodile proposals make sense?

Costigan’s policy was triggered by a September 23 crocodile attack on a snorkeler off Lizard Island.

By the time Costigan released his policy, that crocodile had already been euthanised by government wildlife officers. The current Queensland government crocodile management plan allows for the removal of crocodiles located near centres of population or that attack humans. So, further legislation, as proposed by Costigan, would not speed up that process.

In fact, NQ First’s enthusiasm for killing more large crocodiles might be counterproductive and increase the number of crocodile attacks.

Crocodiles are territorial and when large crocodiles are removed, other crocodiles move in. When the crocodile hierarchy is disturbed, it increases the risks to humans and livestock.

Why do politicians want to kill crocodiles?

Northern Australia is crocodile country, and saltwater crocodiles are capable of killing and eating humans. Australian crocodiles have been fully protected from hunting since 1974 and populations have recovered from heavy hunting after the second world war.

But living with crocodiles can be frightening. Costigan’s press release described crocodiles as “maneaters” and “monsters”, playing on primal human fears.




Read more:
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Politicians talking tough about crocodiles are speaking to residents of northern Australia’s suburban frontier, which is pressing into crocodile habitat as urban areas expand. Crocodile sightings and attacks are increasing as more humans spend time in regions where crocodiles have always lived.

Politicians also target crocodiles because hunting — of other animals, particularly pigs — is popular in the north and big game hunting is big business. Australia still has a safari hunting industry, which started by hunting crocodiles, but now targets other species.

Politicians promoting crocodile shooting appeal to a sense of rugged Australian individualism and environmental competence among their constituents.

However, the reality of legal crocodile hunting in Australia is very different. Safari hunting tends to be restricted to the wealthy.

Will being tough on crocodiles help Costigan?

Costigan has been elected to the seat of Whitsunday three times before, but all three times he was a member of the LNP and only won by slender margins (in 2017 he won by 372 votes). In 2020, he faces numerous challengers.

Both major parties are fielding candidates in Whitsunday, as are the Greens, One Nation, Katter’s Australian Party and the United Australia Party.

Palm trees and umbrellas on a beach in the Whitsunday Islands.
Costigan faces numerous challengers to be re-elected on October 31.
http://www.shutterstock.com

Those last three parties are all vying to occupy similar populist territory to Costigan.

Whether suggesting crocodiles should be shot will help Costigan retain his seat remains to be seen. One danger is NQ First’s policy may in fact alienate tourist operators and residents who live off the crocodile’s back.

However, promising even a limited ability to “shoot to kill” crocodiles will still resonate with some north Queenslanders.

Indeed, with a high profile as the sitting member and the LNP struggling with internal divisions and questions about donations, NQ First may well be part of the next Queensland parliament.




Read more:
Fundraising questions have interrupted the Queensland LNP’s election campaign. What does the law say?


The Conversation


Claire Brennan, Lecturer in History, James Cook University

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

Fundraising questions have interrupted the Queensland LNP’s election campaign. What does the law say?



Dan Peled/ AAP

Graeme Orr, The University of Queensland

The Liberal National Party has referred some of its own fundraising activities to the Electoral Commission of Queensland (ECQ).

As the ABC reported on Tuesday, this implicates its own parliamentary leader, Deb Frecklington.

Why would a party administration raise concerns with the electoral authorities? The timing of these revelations — in the midst of a tight election campaign — is a problem in itself.

To understand the law behind this, we need to think about two things. The first is the strict rules against electoral donations by property developers. The second is the investigatory power and processes that can be brought to bear.

Yet in many ways, the politics behind all this are at least as curious as any legal implications.

What is the story?

The ABC reported the LNP leader attended private events earlier this year, where property developers were also present.

Frecklington, for her part, denies any wrongdoing. And an LNP spokesperson said

the ABC’s allegation that the LNP has referred Deb Frecklington to the ECQ is false. It has not. The LNP regularly communicates with the ECQ to ensure that we comply with the act.

Inquiries, to date, have not exposed evidence of forbidden developer money in the mix, just of developers attending small gatherings at which Frecklington was a guest and which were treated by others as political fundraisers.

There is also an allegation that, behind the scenes, people may have considered trying to give money indirectly.

What is the ban on property developers?

Why would this be a problem?

Property developers are “prohibited donors” in Queensland. There is a ban on registered political parties, candidates and electoral groups receiving donations (whether gifts of money, or unpaid-for-resources) from any company that makes property development applications, their directors or close associates.




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Property industry organisations are also prohibited donors.

A developer who makes such a donation — directly or through a conduit — commits an offence, punishable by up to two years in jail. So too do party agents, if they solicit such donations. The party must disgorge twice the amount of the donation if they know the donor is prohibited.

Above all, if people connive to try to get around the ban on developer donations, each may be guilty of a serious crime, punishable by up to ten years in jail.

Why is there a ban?

In 2018, the Palaszczuk government introduced the ban on property developer donations. So these offences are not long established in Queensland. Nor did they originate in the state.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk in parliament.
The Palaszczuk Government introduced a ban on donations from developers in 2018.
Dan Peled/AAP

NSW has had such a ban on property developers donating since 2010. In 2014, an anti-corruption commission inquiry “Operation Spicer” brought down numerous state MPs over donations from developers.

The High Court has upheld such bans twice. It reasons the bans are compatible with freedom of political communication. It also argues they are a rational anti-corruption measure and developers are still free to join parties and to campaign in their own name.

Above all, liberty needs to be tempered by an idea of fairness, which the High Court calls the “equality of opportunity to participate politically”.

Wealth buys a lot of things, but it’s not meant to buy political influence, let alone power.

What happens if property developers donate anyway?

Political finance affairs often involve an intricate money trail and take many months to plumb.




Read more:
How big money influenced the 2019 federal election – and what we can do to fix the system


The Queensland Crime and Corruption Commission does not have a broad remit over electoral law. It may only lawfully investigate a matter if there is a suspicion of wrongdoing affecting public officials.

For its coercive powers, or public hearings, to be brought to bear, there has to be more than electoral donations at stake.

The Electoral Commission of Queensland, however, has wide new powers. These include entering premises with a warrant and the ability to demand records and to obtain statements. That said, it cannot require someone to give a statement incriminating themselves.

What’s the politics?

Beyond the law, what is the politics behind all this?

The macro politics is simple. The LNP strongly opposes bans on developer donations. They see them as illiberal and unfairly aimed at an industry that happens to be tight with the party and its ideology.




Read more:
Queensland’s unpredictable election begins. Expect a close campaign focused on 3 questions


Queensland Labor and the Greens support the law, pointing to a 2017 Crime and Corruption Commission report recommending such a ban for local government politics.

The Palaszczuk government extended that recommendation to all of state politics. Its rationale was development projects and Crown land use are often matters of state policy, just as zoning issues and particular development applications are matters for local government.

Internal politics also at play

What of the micro, or internal party, politics? Why would the administrative wing of a party refer its own messy linen to an electoral commission?

One explanation is due diligence. The LNP says the laws are complex and it relies on the commission for advice. Another aspect is parties have two sides to them, which generate different ethical pressures.

LNP leader Deb Frecklington
Queensland opposition leader Deb Frecklington has been in the job since 2017.
Dave Hunt/AAP

Current politicians want to build networks of support and to win the next election. Party machines have a longer-term view and concern for their own reputation.

In this case, the ABC reports the LNP’s administrative wing advised its MPs and leaders to avoid property developers including at “private” events. Frecklington either missed the memo, or didn’t care for that advice.

Shadowing all this is a history of tension between the LNP’s parliamentary leadership and its machine. Earlier this year, this erupted through public fissures, burning the administrative wing.

The conflict has been massaged and suppressed, in the lead up to the election. But as we have seen this week, it has not been fully resolved.The Conversation

Graeme Orr, Professor of Law, The University of Queensland

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

Biden increases lead after debate and Trump’s coronavirus; Labor gains Queensland lead



AAP/Ap/Julio Cortez

Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

With four weeks left until the November 3 election, the FiveThirtyEight aggregate of US national polls gives Joe Biden a 9.0% lead over Donald Trump (51.4% to 42.4%). Biden’s lead has increased 1.4% since an October 1 article I wrote for The Poll Bludger.

In the key states, Biden leads by 7.5% in Michigan, 7.0% in Wisconsin, 6.6% in Pennsylvania, 4.3% in Arizona and 3.4% in Florida. If Biden wins the states that voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016, plus Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, he wins the election with at least 278 of the 538 Electoral Votes.

Pennsylvania is still the “tipping-point” state that could potentially put either Trump or Biden over the 270 EVs required to win. But it is polling closer to Wisconsin and Michigan than in the recent past. The current difference between Pennsylvania and the national vote is 2.4% in favour of Trump.

There are five states where Biden is either just ahead or just behind: North Carolina, Georgia, Texas, Iowa and Ohio. If Biden won all of them, he would win a blowout victory with over 400 EVs.

In the FiveThirtyEight forecast, Trump still has a 17% chance to win, though only an 8% chance to win the popular vote. Trump’s chances have declined 4% since last week. Still, a 17% chance is the probability of rolling a six on a six-sided die.

Trump’s ratings with all polls in theFiveThirtyEight aggregateare 43.4% approve, 53.0% disapprove (net -9.6%). With polls of likely or registered voters, Trump’s ratings are 43.7% approve, 53.0% disapprove (net -9.3%). His net approval has declined about one point since last week.

The FiveThirtyEight Classic Senate forecast gives Democrats a 70% chance to win, up 2% since last week. The most likely outcome is a narrow 51 to 49 Democratic majority, unchanged from last week. The forecast gives Democrats an 80% chance of holding between 48 and 55 seats after the election.

Trump’s coronavirus

Perhaps there would have been some public sympathy for Trump had his coronavirus appeared to be bad luck. But it is likely Trump and other prominent Republicans’ coronavirus infections occurred at a September 26 event to announce Amy Coney Barrett as Trump’s nominee to replace the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court.

The footage shows people sitting close together, without face masks. This created an impression of reckless conduct by Trump and other Republicans in ignoring medical advice.

In a CNN poll taken after Trump’s coronavirus, 60% disapproved and 37% approved of Trump’s handling of coronavirus; his -23 net approval is a record low on that issue. 63% thought Trump had acted irresponsibly and just 33% thought he had been responsible.

An additional problem for Trump is that coronavirus is back in the headlines. As Trump is perceived to have been poor on this issue, that helps Biden. New US daily cases have plateaued between 30,000 and 50,000.

Biden wins first presidential debate

The first presidential debate between Biden and Trump occurred on September 29. A CBS News post-debate scientific poll gave Biden a narrow 48-41 victory, while a CNN poll gave him a far more emphatic 60-28 win. Trump needed a clear win to change the current polling. There will be two more presidential debates on October 15 and 22, and a vice presidential debate Thursday AEDT.

The major headlines from the debate were that it was a shouting match, and Trump’s refusal to denounce white supremacists. I have said before that the US economy’s fast recovery from the April coronavirus lows is Trump’s best asset for re-election, but he did nothing during the debate to tell a positive story about the economy.

Concerning the Supreme Court fight over Ginsburg’s replacement, a Morning Consult poll found a record 62% supported the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), while 24% were opposed. In March, this was 55-29 support. There is clear danger for Trump and Republicans in appointing a judge who may overturn Obamacare.

US employment growth slows

The September US jobs report was the last before the November 3 election. 661,000 jobs were created, and the unemployment rate dropped 0.5% to 7.9%. This was the first month with fewer than a million jobs added since the April nadir.

The unemployment rate has almost halved from April’s 14.7%. But the gain in September was mainly attributable to a 0.3% slide in the participation rate, to 61.4%. The employment population ratio – the percentage of eligible Americans who are employed – increased just 0.1% to 56.6%. It is 1.6% below where it was at the lowest point of the recovery from the global financial crisis (58.2%).

Trump may have undermined his relative advantage on the economy, compared to other issues, by withdrawing from negotiations with Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi over a new stimulus bill. An article by analyst Nate Silver says stimulus spending was very popular: in a September Siena poll for The New York Times, voters supported a $US 2 trillion stimulus by a 72-23 margin.

Queensland YouGov: 52-48 to Labor

The Queensland election will be held on October 31. A YouGov poll, conducted September 24 to October 1 from a sample of 2,000, gave Labor a 52-48 lead, a four-point gain for Labor since the last such poll in June. A Queensland Newspoll, which is conducted by YouGov, gave the LNP a 51-49 lead in late July.

Primary votes were 37% Labor (up five since the June YouGov), 37% LNP (down one), 12% Greens (steady) and 9% One Nation (down three). Figures are from The Poll Bludger.

The overall shift in this poll is a 1% swing to Labor since the 2017 election. Regional breakdowns gave Labor a 57-43 lead in Brisbane (1% swing to the LNP), the LNP a 54-46 lead on the Gold and Sunshine Coasts (3% swing to Labor) and the LNP a 53-47 lead in regional Queensland (1% swing to the LNP).

57% (up eight) approved of Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk’s performance and 27% (down six) disapproved, for a net approval of +30, up 14 points. Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington had a net approval of -3, up six points. Palaszczuk led as better premier by 48-22 (44-23 in June).

The movement to Labor is likely a result of Queensland’s handling of coronavirus. But polls greatly overstated Labor’s Queensland performance at the 2019 federal election, although they were accurate at the 2017 Queensland state election.

New Zealand: latest poll has Labour short of majority

Last week’s Colmar Brunton New Zealand poll had Labour on 47%, National 33%, ACT 8% and the Greens 7%. If repeated at the October 17 election, Labour would win 59 of the 120 seats, two short of a majority. You can read more at my personal website.The Conversation

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

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

Grattan on Friday: When grief meets politics, it is sad and ugly


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

It’s been welcome to see governments taking expert health advice during the pandemic. But on the issue of ultimate responsibility, situations can become tricky, as Annastacia Palaszczuk and Daniel Andrews found this week.

When an agitated Palaszczuk said on Thursday she had told Scott Morrison it was up to the chief health officer to rule on whether to allow a woman out of quarantine to attend her father’s funeral, it was a case of the adviser being “on top” rather than “on tap”.

Palaszczuk said she’d made it “very clear” to Morrison “it is not my decision. It is the chief health officer’s decision to make”.

CHO Jeannette Young later allowed Sarah Caisip to view her father’s body but not go to the funeral.

Young explained this by saying funerals – which can be attended by 100 people in Brisbane – are “very, very high risk for transmission of the virus”.

On a common sense view and the facts as we know them, it was an excessively cautious weighing of danger versus compassion.

Caisip – whose battle with the Queensland bureaucracy began before her father’s death – had travelled from Canberra.

The ACT hasn’t had any new cases for a couple of months and shouldn’t even be classified as a “hotspot”. It’s only so defined because it sits within NSW. The chance of Caisip being a COVID carrier appears minimal.

It was taking things to an extreme to refuse to allow her to be with her mother and 11-year-old sister at the funeral. Some requirement for distancing and subsequent testing of attendees surely would have been adequate.

Did the premier use the health guru as a convenient shield behind whom to hide? Or was she (rather than the prime minister) right about who had the power? And if so, is that how things should work?

Graeme Orr, professor of law at the University of Queensland, says it’s clear the law provides that only a public health officer can let someone out of quarantine to go to a funeral. “Also, under the crime and corruption law it would be highly inappropriate for a minister to intervene.”

Regardless of where the formal power rested, the affair has been damaging for the premier and the CHO, and showed that if Queensland is to keep its border closed, more flexibility is needed in the system to deal better with compassionate cases.

With the state election looming next month, it is a bad time to get constructive dealings between the Morrison and Palaszczuk governments.

After their phone conversation, Palaszczuk accused Morrison of trying to bully her, a claim rejected by his office.

Queensland government sources said the PM was belligerent, yelled and said “you will do this”; the premier had reminded him it was R U OK? day.

Prime Ministerial sources said Palaszczuk flew off the handle when the PM said “you can do this, you are the premier, it’s within your power”.

Whether or not Morrison adopted a bullying tone – or the premier heard it that way – is beside the point. Palaszczuk is a tough, experienced politician, quite able to stand up for herself.

Indeed there is not even much of a power imbalance between the PM and premier here – as premiers have been showing, the states hold many of the cards in this pandemic.

While Palaszczuk was deferring to her health official, Victorian premier Daniel Andrews was defending himself after the revelation Victoria’s curfew had not been driven by the advice of Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton.

Questioned on radio this week about the curfew, both Sutton and Police Chief Commissioner Shane Patton said recommendations for it hadn’t come from them.

Dealing with a barrage of questions Andrews, who has leaned heavily on the health advice throughout COVID, declared: “The chief health officer is not the government”. Who’d have thought?

Andrews couldn’t provide clarity on the precise origin of the curfew. But it is there, it seems, because it makes things simpler. If citizens are required to lock themselves in at night, the authorities have fewer people to chase up to determine whether they have a legitimate reason to be out. It’s a stretch.

Like Palaszczuk, Andrews is coming under mounting pressure for taking things to extremes.

Ironically, a Victorian roadmap based on expertise is being undermined by argument among experts.

Many of those with specialist knowledge are suggesting Victoria could move more quickly to ease restrictions.

Tony Blakely, an epidemiologist from Melbourne University who had a hand in the modelling, thinks Victoria could open “a bit faster” and “maybe the curfew could be dropped”.

Blakely gives the roadmap near full marks but believes it falls short on the proposed October transition by being too stringent.

A number of other experts have questioned aspects of the Andrews’ plan. Increasingly as the week went by, the state government started emphasising there was room for tweaking if the advice allowed it.

The pandemic has brought into focus the role of experts, but as it goes on we see a more complicated picture emerging than the initial “isn’t it great the politicians are following those who know what they’re talking about.”

The months have shown not just the value of experts but also how experts in a fast-moving crisis can know a lot less than they appear to. Some of the propositions the federal health advisers advanced at COVID’s start turned out to be wrong (people with COVID are not infectious when they don’t have symptoms). Experts can and do change their advice as they learn more or for other reasons (federal advisers’ views on masks evolved).

Those with credentials will differ (about “suppression” versus “elimination”, or the likely arrival or effectiveness of a vaccine).

Experts will be heroes to their admirers and villains to their critics (Sutton is the case study).

In some instances, the experts will have an eye to the politics as they give their advice.

The politicians draw on experts’ authority to fill the yawning gaps in their own, quoting them, parading them at news conferences. Then, on occasion, the decisions and comments of the experts, by now well known public figures, come back to bite the leaders.

But the longer this pandemic lasts, the harder it is becoming for politicians to just say “we’re doing what the experts tell us”, because the trade offs are increasingly so complex.The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

View from The Hill: COVID response helped NT Labor, encouraging Palaszczuk and McGowan to stick to their scripts


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Both those pressing for states to re-open borders, and defenders of their resistance to doing so, will look for arguments to support their cases in Saturday’s Northern Territory election results.

Chief Minister Michael Gunner has taken a tough line on the NT border. With the NT COVID-free, people can’t go to the territory from COVID “hotspots” without quarantining at their own expense.

Labor’s loss of seats – while retaining government whether in majority or minority – is seen by the “open borders” urgers as carrying lessons about putting all (or most) eggs in a keep-safe basket.

It’s accepted that if he hadn’t had COVID to run on, Gunner would have been much worse off, given the NT’s pre-COVID economic problems.

But if he had taken a softer approach to the border, and there’d been a major COVID outbreak, he would have worn serious blame. With indigenous people – who, like the elderly, form a high risk group for COVID – forming about 30% of the NT community, a big outbreak could have been catastrophic.

And while the NT economy remains in poor shape, especially the tourist sector, the state is open internally (they were all hugging at those party functions on Saturday night).

Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and Western Australian Premier Mark McGowan are unlikely to see the NT result as sending a signal their border policies will be a political handicap.

That doesn’t mean Palaszczuk and McGowan can afford to rely on their performances on COVID alone when they go to the polls in October and early next year respectively. Their voters will expect more. But as things stand, restrictive border policies are popular and the NT hasn’t said otherwise.

Scott Morrison’s relative powerlessness on the border issue was illustrated at Friday’s national cabinet.

Progress is being made on specific problems, such as the needs of agriculture in border areas, and health matters.

But on the basic question of opening or closing, the premiers remained firm. Only NSW is Morrison’s ally in this battle.

While commentators see the war over borders as a sign of the federation’s dysfunction, voters in particular states read it differently.

Morrison announced at his Friday news conference national cabinet had asked the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC), including state and federal health advisers, to define a “hotspot” and consider movement restrictions relating to these spots.

He hopes such a definition would put pressure on premiers and chief ministers to limit border closures.

It is apparently trodden and tricky territory. Acting Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly told the news conference: “It is a piece of work we have had an attempt at before. And we’ll continue to try to get consensus there in AHPPC about a definition of a hotspot.”

It remains to be seen whether this committee can agree. And if it does, whether that would make any difference to what leaders do.

But when parliament resumes on Monday, it won’t be borders that will be the front of mind issue – it will be aged care.

With a majority of COVID deaths being people who lived in aged care facilities, and an absolute shocker of a performance from Aged Care Minister Richard Colbeck on Friday, the opposition has a lot of ammunition.

Colbeck, appearing before the Senate COVID committee, was asked two simple questions. How many deaths had there been of residents of facilities, and how many COVID cases were there among residents at present. He could neither remember, nor find the numbers immediately. This was appalling preparation.

Forced to defend Colbeck, Morrison said, “on occasion, I can’t call every figure to mind”.

But the PM knew such a lapse has an impact beyond its strictly objective importance.

An example from long ago makes the point. Late in the Hawke government, then treasurer John Kerin at a news conference was unable to explain an economic term. It was hardly a hanging offence. But it damaged Kerin, and the government.

With the Colbeck clip shown over and over, it quickly becomes a symbol of both the minister’s failure, and the failure of the government to do enough to protect aged care residents.

The odds are short that Morrison will move Colbeck from aged care when he reshuffles his ministry following the departure of Mathias Cormann late this year.

But Colbeck is only one player in the aged care crisis, and not the most important. He’s the junior minister in the health portfolio. The Health Minister Greg Hunt, the prime minister, the government regulator of the industry (the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission), and advisers to government share responsibility. And it is important we don’t forget the private providers: did some of them not heed warnings?

Ultimate political responsibility belongs to the federal government.

Faced with questions about the Victorian aged care disaster, Morrison has tried to unload some of the blame onto the state government by saying the states have responsibility for public health.

That’s true and the Victorian government must be accountable, both for unleashing community transmission with the quarantine breach and for inadequacies in its health reaction. But the fact the federal government is responsible for the sector means Morrison, Colbeck and Hunt need to both admit the Commonwealth’s mistakes and also lay out a convincing roadmap for the future.

Some actions are being undertaken, and there is the complication that the report of the royal commission into aged care is still months away. But the issue is urgent.

The Morrison government is always reluctant to be seen to be pushed, and Friday’s national cabinet provided an interesting insight into this.

When the royal commission less than a fortnight ago suggested, based on evidence from Monash University geriatrician Joseph Ibrahim, that the government should set up an advisory unit including people with expertise in aged care, infection control and emergency responses, Morrison was publicity dismissive.

But the statement from Friday’s national cabinet said: “A time-limited AHPPC Aged Care Advisory Group will be established to support the national public health emergency response to COVID-19 in aged care. The Advisory Group will bring together expertise about the aged care sector, infection control, emergency preparedness and public health response.”

Take a bow, Professor Ibrahim and the royal commission.The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

Did someone say ‘election’?: how politics met pandemic to create ‘fortress Queensland’



AAP/Dan Peled

Chris Salisbury, The University of Queensland

Government responses to COVID-19 in Australia have received, by and large, bipartisan support. An exception, it seems, is the imposition of restrictions on interstate movement. State borders have become a lightning rod for political friction and feverish commentary. With elections in the frame, this has escalated into apparent “border wars”.

Going hard on borders

The latest salvos follow alarming coronavirus outbreaks in Victoria and, in lesser numbers, Greater Sydney.

After partially reopening Queensland’s borders mere weeks ago, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk surprised some by reimposing a “hard” border closure effective from the weekend. As case numbers ballooned in Melbourne and instances occurred of infected returning travellers “breaching” quarantine measures, many Queenslanders anticipated toughened restrictions – and indeed welcomed them.




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It should be remembered that the Queensland government’s generally successful handling of the pandemic crisis, including its readiness to close borders, enjoys broad approval. Some wondered why this latest border closure extended to the ACT as well, where there are no active cases.

But a hard line on borders to effectively “put Queenslanders’ health first” is a popular move. Support for the closures even came from a possibly unexpected source in Gold Coast Mayor Tom Tate. Amid heightened anxiety, residents here will take comfort from the seeming security of “fortress Queensland”.

Election fever in the air

In Queensland, pandemic conditions currently favour the incumbent premier – in stark comparison to Daniel Andrews’s situation in Victoria. With community transmission largely under control, Palaszczuk has played a steady hand in easing lockdown restrictions, informed by her chief health officer’s advice.

Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk
Annastacia Palaszczuk will benefit from being the incumbent leader during a crisis, with Queensland so far emerging relatively unscathed.
Darren England/AAP

While impacts on the state’s economy and unemployment levels remain worrying – and potentially politically damaging – everything is viewed through the prism of the government’s ability to manage the crisis. These circumstances seemingly lend themselves to taking an “abundance” of caution.




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View from The Hill: With an abundance of caution, Palaszczuk puts out the unwelcome mat to Sydneysiders


This has in turn invited criticism from some business quarters, but it’s an approach that suits both the times and the premier’s style.

A recent coronavirus outbreak in Brisbane’s south tested the premier’s leadership and her government’s responsiveness, providing a reminder of the disease’s unpredictability. Subsequently, taking a resolute stance on border measures, in defiance especially of naysayers from southern states and Canberra, will only boost Palaszczuk’s standing in her (often parochial) home state. With an election less than 12 weeks away, there are, variously, more rewards than risks in unapologetically prioritising the protection of Queenslanders’ health.

But as that election nears, both the premier and her LNP counterpart, Deb Frecklington, will look to turn circumstances more clearly to their political advantage. Opinion polls show the LNP holding a slim two-party-preferred lead – yet, perhaps significantly, Palaszczuk has a distinct lead as voters’ preferred premier.

The premier adopting a position of ‘strength’

Many in Queensland see Palaszczuk as personable and a “safe pair of hands”. This reassuring attribute might be well suited to these uncertain times.

With Palaszczuk’s leadership stocks running high, Queensland voters can anticipate a presidential-style election campaign come October. Messaging has already surfaced singling out Palaszczuk as a “strong premier”, suggesting she’s the leader to make “strong decisions”. But Labor may well tread this path warily, remembering what befell Campbell Newman, the last Queensland premier who campaigned relentlessly on “strong” characteristics.




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Admittedly, accentuating “strength” counters claims of being indecisive or too cautious, critiques that have dogged Palaszczuk’s leadership until now. This approach could work well politically, so long as events – or potentially the federal government – don’t turn against the premier’s handling of the pandemic. If there’s a heightened element to the crisis in coming weeks, the situation could reverse quickly for Palaszczuk’s government, leaving the premier wearing much of the blow-back.

Even Anna Bligh’s much-lauded leadership during the destructive 2010-11 cyclones and floods in Queensland didn’t translate to a long-term boost in support. But the looming state election is a more short-term prospect. The pandemic will remain front and centre, with Palaszczuk’s crisis management still very much in the spotlight.

When to oppose in opposition?

The spread of COVID-19 has presented a political challenge for the opposition in Queensland.

The LNP’s past criticism of the Palaszczuk government over the state’s border closure has come back to bite it. Echoing their leader, throughout June several LNP MPs (supported by the prime minister no less) called repeatedly for the border’s reopening. Events since, understandably, have forced an about-face from LNP figures. They’re now advocating “tougher” border measures at the risk of appearing inconsistent.

LNP leader Deb Frecklington
Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington has refined her position on border closures during the course of the pandemic.
Dan Peled/AAP

Regardless, the opposition finds itself – ironically – having to be cautious about the limits of striking a point of difference. This much is obvious in Frecklington’s newly struck tone of resigned consensus with the government’s border position. This is a bind opposition parties are experiencing nationwide, a hard reality especially in states and territories with elections nearing.

The LNP, having gambled on criticising the government’s border restrictions, now wears the fallout. Labor has pounced on the opportunity, in early signs of a de facto election campaign. Social media posts have highlighted how Frecklington – who’s had to endure her own party’s turmoil of late – called for Queensland’s borders to be opened “early” on dozens of occasions.

Queenslanders can expect to be reminded of this “rashness” from now until the election. The LNP, meanwhile, must identify issues not necessarily coronavirus-related – such as law and order or water security in regional Queensland – to provide it some campaign cut-through.

Palaszczuk in the driver’s seat

Notably, for ten of the past 13 years, a woman has been premier of Queensland. Whichever major party wins October’s election, a woman will be leader for (likely) a further four years. With Palaszczuk emphasising – in the face of LNP criticisms – that “the lady’s not for turning” from her border stance, she gives herself every chance to remain that leader.The Conversation

Chris Salisbury, Research Associate, School of Political Science & International Studies, The University of Queensland

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