One Nation, guns and the Queensland question: what does it all mean for the 2019 federal election?



File 20190328 139371 1uycvcc.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Pauline Hanson claims the Al Jazeera undercover “sting”, which has grabbed international headlines, was a media “stitch-up”.
AAP/Dan Peled

Chris Salisbury, The University of Queensland

Of all the controversies to conceivably bring Pauline Hanson undone, private discussions about gun law amendments wasn’t an obvious candidate.

Yet her recorded comments about the 1996 Port Arthur massacre and subsequent gun law reforms are potentially destructive for her One Nation party. Only potentially, though; Hanson’s supporters have long shown a propensity to forgive or shrug off her party’s outlandish or shocking assertions.




Read more:
Grattan on Friday: Scott Morrison struggles to straddle the south-north divide


Already, Hanson and party colleagues have shifted blame for the Al Jazeera “sting” to a media “stitch-up” and, they claimed, foreign political interference by an “Islamist media organisation”.

Presumably some Hanson adherents will find that plausible – the party has made anti-Muslim rhetoric part of its regular platform. Other One Nation supporters might now question the principles the party claims to stand for.

Why guns policy?

Why would One Nation seemingly risk whatever political capital it possesses by flirting with changes to gun controls and seeking assistance (if not funding) from gun lobby groups?

The party’s nativist policy positions on refugees, immigration and foreign investment are well known and readily detailed on its website. Until now, gun law amendment has sat well behind these. One Nation’s listed policies on firearms regulations include increasing penalties for gun-related crime and “streamlining” weapon licensing requirements. Not exactly controversial stuff.

But it is important to remember that the party first emerged in the wake of the Port Arthur shootings and rural resistance to the Howard government’s gun ownership reforms. Hanson and her candidates campaigned in the party’s early years on relaxing John Howard’s laws. They also benefited politically from a mainly regional backlash against these – and against Howard’s National Party partners.




Read more:
How Fraser Anning was elected to the Senate – and what the major parties can do to keep extremists out


Recently highlighted connections between Australian gun lobby groups and minor parties, including One Nation and Katter’s Australian Party, bring the backdrop to this policy agenda into sharper relief.

One Nation’s original and more recent platform caters to disaffected, largely non-metropolitan constituents who feel the party’s anti-immigration, anti-foreign business and anti-government intervention policies “speak for them”.

In its recent incarnation, One Nation has tried – and found ready accomplices in sections of the media – to “mainstream” its appeal and some of its positions. It’s been observed that the party’s Senate members have regularly supported the Coalition government’s legislative agenda during this term, on matters ranging from the reintroduction of the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) to reduced welfare spending.

The party’s suite of published policies covers matters of concern to many Australians, such as power prices, transport infrastructure, water supply and jobs creation.

In this respect, it was perhaps not so surprising that Liberal MPs should describe the party as “more responsible” than its earlier manifestation. Even former prime minister Tony Abbott, Hanson’s one-time political nemesis, endorsed One Nation owing to its “constructive” relationship with the government in parliament.

But this normalisation fails to mask the party’s extreme stances or inconsistent policy positions – even between its own members. One Nation adheres to curious policies decrying United Nations infringement on our sovereignty, as well as questionable claims about evidence-based climate policy.

Then there is the attention-seeking behaviour: Hanson wearing a burqa in the Senate chamber; or Queensland Senate candidate Steve Dickson suggesting the Safe Schools program involved teachers instructing students in masturbation techniques; or New South Wales upper house candidate Mark Latham proposing Indigenous welfare recipients undergo DNA testing. Stunts like these place One Nation firmly on the political fringe – though not without fellow dwellers. Notoriously, Coalition senators scrambled to backtrack on supporting Hanson’s Senate motion decreeing that “it’s OK to be white”.

Stunts such as Pauline Hanson wearing a burqa in the Senate place One Nation on the political fringe.
AAP/Mick Tsikas

This latest party engagement in seeking out overseas gun lobby assistance highlights another inconsistency, given Hanson’s vote in the Senate supporting new restrictions on foreign donations.

The Queensland question

Considering this, why do One Nation’s policies seemingly still appeal to significant numbers of voters, particularly in Queensland? Traces of an entrenched conservative political culture thumbing its nose at “the establishment” partly explain the party’s appeal in Queensland (and perhaps some of Peter Dutton’s ill-judged, racially charged comments as immigration minister).

It’s a culture underpinned by a history of less diverse migrant influence than other parts of the country and arguably a more wary, paternalistic past regarding Indigenous and minority communities.

Another reason is the accentuated city-country divide in Australia’s most decentralised mainland state. Here, some agrarian-themed party policies – such as for dam building or vegetation management – directly pander to regional voters. As a minor party not in government, though, One Nation has limited opportunity to carry these through, beyond aiming to wield balance-of-power influence in the Senate.

More telling is One Nation’s claimed inheritance of an old National Party constituency. It is one that feels “left behind” – a sentiment the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party successfully tapped into in the NSW election.

As in the past, the Nationals will seek to differentiate themselves from their Coalition partners and marginalise One Nation and other far-right parties ahead of the 2019 federal election.

But that’s no easy feat in Queensland. Since the Liberal and National parties merged in the state to form the LNP in 2008, there has been no distinct outward National Party. Some rural and regional voters in Queensland have felt unrepresented to a certain extent, and their grievances have placed many in a resurgent One Nation camp.

The party’s identification with aggrieved outer-urban and regional conservative interests keeps its voters’ preferences an issue. Again, this is especially so in Queensland, where several LNP MPs hold seats in such areas on tight margins.

But following this week’s revelations, and particularly in the wake of the Christchurch shootings, the preference issue will bedevil the Coalition in this state and elsewhere.




Read more:
Guns, politics and policy: what can we learn from Al Jazeera’s undercover NRA sting?


The prime minister’s latest announcement directing the Liberal Party’s state branches to preference Labor ahead of One Nation sends a needed message, but not unequivocally. It apparently leaves Liberals free to place One Nation ahead of the Greens or others, and is ambiguous on how this will apply to all LNP MPs in Queensland, or possibly influence Nationals MPs elsewhere.

But the clamouring of Queensland’s Nationals-aligned MPs for new coal-fired power stations – mirroring One Nation policy – indicates their likely preference leanings in favour of the minor party (and presumably leaves the Greens last of all).

The recorded actions and comments of Hanson and her party colleagues could bring a political reckoning for One Nation at the coming federal election. Voters will soon judge if the party warrants their electoral support and decide if this new controversy is a bridge too far.

For its part, the Coalition is treading a line between getting its hands burned over preference “deals”, as happened at Western Australia’s last election, or doing as John Howard (ultimately) did and jettisoning One Nation preferences altogether.The Conversation

Chris Salisbury, Research Associate, The University of Queensland

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

Advertisements

Guns, politics and policy: what can we learn from Al Jazeera’s undercover NRA sting?


Samara McPhedran, Griffith University

Al Jazeera’s undercover investigation into the US National Rifle Association (NRA) has gained international headlines, partly because of One Nation political wannabes drunkenly bragging about how important they could be if only they had the money.

None of this should come as a surprise. You would have to be living under a rock to not know that the NRA has money, lobbies with it, and uses a standard set of PR tactics. Likewise, nobody has ever accused One Nation of being sophisticated or lacking grandiose delusions.




Read more:
View from The Hill: James Ashby rocks a few boats, including his own


However, in a carefully timed release to the ABC, a report commissioned by Gun Control Australia and Getup! claims gun control in Australia is being eroded because of the gun lobby.

In reality, Australia’s gun laws remain virtually the same as when each state and territory introduced them more than 20 years ago. The last major change was in 2017, when all jurisdictions agreed to ban lever-action shotguns with a magazine capacity of more than five rounds of ammunition. Hardly “watering down”.

What is really going on?

Simple: when all we hear is guns, guns, guns, it means an election is on the horizon. It is not about guns, but politics.

Over the past few years, regular as clockwork, we have seen both major parties wheel out campaigns around gun laws, aided and abetted by the Greens. This occurred most recently in New South Wales, with the Liberal-Nationals running attack ads against the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party.

The campaigns involve one or more of: releasing data obtained under Freedom of Information about how many guns are legally owned; claiming gun laws are being (or have been, or will be) dangerously watered down if an opposing major party or rising minor party gains power; and making scary statements about a well-funded gun lobby (which is somehow all-powerful despite having changed little in over two decades).

The goal is to create fear, in the expectation this will translate to voting patterns. Politicians also like to have an “enemy” to rally against, to display their own virtues. At times, this tactic has worked. It is a fair bet that politicians’ reactions to One Nation’s buffoonery reflect the hope that it will work again.

Based on past voting patterns, it is likely both major parties anticipate One Nation robbing them of votes in the upcoming federal election and are looking for ways to blunt that. The mudslinging over preferences makes this clear.

If the recent New South Wales state election is anything to go by, though, voters seem to be ignoring gun campaigns and making their own decisions based on much bigger issues.

However, there is a genuine danger arising from the Al Jazeera report. Unfortunately, we can now expect that anybody who suggests that effective firearm policy takes time and careful thought – and that it might not be as simple as it looks – will be denounced as an NRA shill. This is a silencing tactic that does absolutely nothing to improve the impoverished and tribalised nature of public debate in this country.

As New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern recently observed, firearm policy and legislation is a complex area. In addition to the technical aspects, evidence about what does and does not work to reduce gun violence is nowhere near as clear-cut as it is sometimes made out to be. Well-intentioned measures can have unintended consequences, which we should learn from and attempt to avoid.

It is not far-right madness to say that if a policy gains appeal primarily because of the emotions surrounding it, rather than on its merits, then it might not be an effective policy. It is not dangerous extremism to suggest that sound legislation comes from careful reflection and robust debate. It is not irrational to raise concerns about the negative outcomes that can arise when reacting is turned into a virtue and thinking into a vice.




Read more:
Did Al Jazeera’s undercover investigation into One Nation overstep the mark?


In fact, a rational and careful approach, based on rigorous evaluation and calm, measured discussion, is the very foundation of evidence-based policy – a much-touted model of how to approach decision-making.

Political failure to adopt evidence-based policy – despite politicians paying it lip service – is the subject of much scholarly teeth-gnashing, and for good reason. Some of the most ill-fated, costly and objectionable policies we have seen in Australia in recent years – in areas including immigration, Indigenous affairs, and youth violence, to give just three examples – have come as a result of ignoring evidence-based policy. We are quick to call these out, and rightly so. Why behave differently about guns?

If we are serious about wanting thoughtful and well-considered decisions, we cannot pick and choose the issues to which we apply reflection and analysis. And if we do want to pick and choose, then we cannot complain when politicians do the same with the issues we really want them to do better on.The Conversation

Samara McPhedran, Director, Homicide Research Unit/Deputy Director, Violence Research and Prevention Program, Griffith University

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

View from The Hill: James Ashby rocks a few boats, including his own


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

It’s appalling, sinister and faintly ludicrous that Pauline Hanson’s right-hand man James Ashby and former Queensland MP Steve Dickson played footsie with the American gun lobby, talking up One Nation’s book, trailing their coats for gun (or any other) gold.

That they fell victim to an Al Jazeera “sting”, trusting a man in an Akubra whom they now call a “spy”, is stunning, but sort of fitting. It was Ashby who was involved in a different kind of sting that brought down former speaker Peter Slipper.

Indeed, Ashby’s political career is a dark, rolling soap opera. Currently he’s banned from entering parliament house over a physical altercation with a former One Nation senator.

These two political cowboys are crying foul after being duped and publicly trashed by an extraordinarily elaborate Al Jazeera plot.

They’ve called in the police and ASIO and denounced political interference from a “Middle Eastern country”. Al Jazeera is based in the Middle Eastern nation of Qatar. They say they didn’t set out to seek money, let alone to weaken gun laws. They just wanted to tap into America’s National Rifle Association about campaigning techniques.

As for those damning recorded references to A$10 million, A$20 million, they’d “got on the sauce” – it’s what happens when there are “three men talking together and having scotches for about three or four hours”.

They might as well not bother with the spin and excuses. Claims about “context” are lame; they damned themselves most times they opened their mouths, and that was often.

The whole sordid episode, in long version, is there in pictures and audio. Ashby and Dickson grabbed the entree to the US gun advocates, and if the millions of dollars they fantasised about had materialised from somewhere they’d have grabbed them too.

Subject, no doubt, to what Hanson said – a couple of months later she voted to ban foreign donations.




Read more:
Did Al Jazeera’s undercover investigation into One Nation overstep the mark?


Not that the dollars were a prospect. Just as, all those years ago in the 1970s, the money the Labor party sought from Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi Baath party was never seen. It’s like that when you deal with dubious characters – or ones who are much too clever for you.

Ashby knew he was playing a dangerous game; as we hear him saying in the Al Jazeera documentary, “If it gets out, it’ll fucking rock the boat”. And Hanson, though invited, sensed this was a trip not to be on.

Well, boats have been rocked. Hanson’s for one. Scott Morrison’s for another. To say nothing of Ashby’s.

The extraordinary expose is a blow for the One Nation leader, days after her star recruit Mark Latham was elected to the NSW upper house. Hanson – who did not appear in public on Tuesday, reportedly feeling very unwell – and Ashby are joined at the hip. He is the political figure to whom she is closest, and she’s stood by him in previous embarrassments. She should, of course, immediately send him packing.




Read more:
Coalition wins a third term in NSW with few seats changing hands


How much the affair will hit the One Nation vote is a matter of conjecture. Logically, you’d expect it to hit One Nation substantially, especially coming after the New Zealand massacre. There has been much praise for the strength and value of Australia’s gun laws.

But I’m not sure logic is the best prism to use here. Hanson has a certain Teflon quality in the eyes of her supporters, who routinely have overlooked the chaos (and worse) around her shambolic party.

Many of those in One Nation heartland are protesting against perceived grievances; they may see this as a sideshow. Anyway, some potential One Nation voters would be quite in sync with the gun lobby. On Saturday in NSW, the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers picked up two more seats.

The Ashby-Dickson debacle complicates Scott Morrison’s struggle in handling what were already awkward questions about his attitude to preferencing One Nation.

Since the Christchurch killings Morrison has been on the barbed wire fence when repeatedly pressed on whether the Coalition should or would put One Nation last on how-to-vote cards.

In the Coalition this is another North-South issue, like coal and climate change. Southern Liberals insist One Nation should be at the bottom of voting tickets. Cabinet Minister Kelly O’Dwyer (retiring from the Melbourne seat of Higgins) said on Tuesday, “I can’t see any reason why One Nation wouldn’t be preferenced last”.

In Queensland it’s another story. Nationals Ken O’Dowd on Monday said One Nation should be above Greens and ALP.

In general, the preference debate is encouraging the Coalition to demonise the Greens even more than usual, with some in the government painting them as being as bad as, or worse than, One Nation.

Morrison initially used his favourite look-over-there tactic, trying to fend off the questions by saying there would be no preference deal with One Nation. That didn’t wash. No one ever thought there would be a “deal” (quite apart from remembering the Liberals’ bad experience in the Western Australian election, when they did a deal).

The issue is where the Liberals and Nationals decide to put One Nation on their tickets, regardless of what One Nation does with its preferences.

As the preference debate has raged, some are urging Morrison to take John Howard’s “principled” position. Howard says One Nation should be placed last. Talk of Howard’s “principle” overlooks that he was dragged to this position. He was considering to accept a seat-by-seat approach, until it became untenable.

In the wake of the Al Jazeera revelations, Morrison on Tuesday hopped into One Nation while making a direct appeal to those inclined to vote for it.

It was “abhorrent” that its officials “basically sought to sell Australia’s gun laws to the highest bidders, to a foreign buyer,” Morrison said.

He went on: “I’m not interested in getting One Nation’s preferences, I am interested in getting their primary vote”. The answer to the grievances of these votes “is not One Nation, the answer is not to go to those extremes. The answer is the Liberal and National Parties”.

But that is not the answer to the preference question. And on that Morrison won’t be drawn. It’s a matter for closer to the election, he says, when all the candidates can be seen. (One convenient diversionary line is: what about if there are Fraser Anning candidates?)

The signs are that come the election, the Coalition preference picture will likely be a patchwork, with One Nation being treated benignly at least in parts of Queensland. Possibly Morrison couldn’t stop that if he wanted to; probably he doesn’t want to.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 Al Jazeera’s undercover investigation into One Nation overstep the mark?


Andrew Dodd, University of Melbourne

The sheer audacity of Al Jazeera’s three-year ruse is astounding.

The news company’s investigation unit has carried out a sting that has captured both the National Rifle Association of the United States and Australia’s One Nation Party in all sorts of compromising positions.

The series, “How to sell a massacre”, has exposed the NRA’s manipulative media practices and revealed One Nation’s desire to cosy up to the US gun lobby to find ways of funding its domestic campaign to overturn our gun laws.

The documentary has exposed the thinking of some of the party’s most senior figures about taking control of the parliament and their obsession with Muslim immigration.

How to Sell a Massacre P1 | Al Jazeera Investigations.

Al Jazeera senior producer Peter Charley did this by placing actor-turned journalist Rodger Muller in the field to impersonate the head of a fake pro-gun lobby group called Gun Rights Australia. The pair then pandered to One Nation’s desire for financial support and international endorsement and exploited US gun lobbyists’ fears about Australia’s strict gun laws.

They got away with this for three years, gaining unprecedented access to the halls of the NRA and to the minds of two One Nation officials, Queensland state leader Steve Dickson and the party’s controversial chief of staff, James Ashby.




Read more:
How Australia’s NRA-inspired gun lobby is trying to chip away at gun control laws, state by state


A matter of ethics

There are at least two ethical questions about this documentary.

The first is whether the producers have overstepped the mark by not only reporting what they saw but creating the scenario in which the events occurred.

The second concerns the program’s extensive use of hidden cameras.

On the first matter, the issue is whether the program created the meeting between One Nation and the NRA and therefore acted irresponsibly by entrapping the subjects of the film.

In his account of what happened, Rodger Muller put it this way:

Then Charley asked me to contact Pauline Hanson’s One Nation – a far-right pro-gun Australian political party. Charley wanted me to find out if any connections existed between One Nation and the US gun lobby. And so began another chapter in my life as an avid “gunner”.

When I approached One Nation Chief of Staff James Ashby and mentioned my NRA connections, he told me he wanted to visit the US to meet them. I set up meetings in Washington and soon Ashby and One Nation’s Steve Dickson were on a flight to the US.

I was there, ready to meet them. And our hidden cameras were all primed and ready to go.

This suggests that Muller and Al Jazeera were catalysts and enabled the connection between One Nation and the NRA. But it also demonstrates that there was a desire on the part of One Nation to meet the US gun lobby, and – as later becomes clear – the party was motivated to do so to raise funds and make political connections.

So is this responsible journalism?

The Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance code of ethics – the protocols by which thoughtful journalists operate in Australia – is largely silent on this issue.

It doesn’t say anything explicitly about creating the news by making connections between players to observe what happens next. But it does stress the need to “report and interpret honestly”.

It calls on reporters to use “fair, responsible and honest means to obtain material” and to “respect personal privacy”. But the code also acknowledges journalists both scrutinise and exercise power. The preamble makes the point that journalism animates democracy.

Most importantly, in its guiding cause, the code states:

ethical journalism requires conscientious decision-making in context.

It allows for any of its other clauses to be overridden to achieve “substantial advancement of the public interest”.

So is it wrong to make and enable connections that might not otherwise happen in order to observe the outcomes? Is this fair and honest and responsible?

Like many things, the answer might be dependent on the motivation. From where I stand, it looks like Al Jazeera’s motivation was to get to the heart of something fundamentally important that would otherwise remain opaque.

Breaches of privacy and deceptive conduct

And while we’re pondering that one, there’s the perennial ethical question about hidden cameras.

This isn’t your garden variety case of a tabloid TV program exposing a dodgy car salesmen or a real estate scammer. In this film, the use of hidden cameras directly places several parts of the code of ethics against that all important public interest override.

The question is whether the public’s right to know is so important that it justifies the film’s deceptive conduct and breaches of privacy.

For me, the use of hidden cameras can clearly be defended when a publicly funded Australian political party, that knows what it’s doing is dodgy, is making connections to “change Australia” by gaining the balance of power in the parliament and “working hand in glove with the United States”.

It is highly likely the extent of One Nation’s behaviour could only be exposed through this sort of reportage. James Ashby is captured repeatedly reminding others they need to be secretive in their dealings with the NRA.

The public has a clear right to know what One Nation is up to. This is especially the case when part of its mission is to learn new techniques to manipulate the public debate to pursue an agenda of overturning the ban on guns following the 1996 Port Arthur Massacre.

The NRA are media experts

There’s something else about this program that justifies the use of hidden cameras. It exposes the utter cynicism of the media messaging and media training that underpins the NRA like nothing I have ever seen before.




Read more:
What the NRA can teach us about the art of public persuasion


In a closed meeting with NRA officials, One Nation is given a crash course on how to deal with bad press, particularly following mass shootings.

Lars Dalseide, an NRA media liaison officer, is captured saying pro-gun lobbyists should smear supporters of gun control by accusing them of exploiting the tragedy.

He even provides a useful retort to anyone who might suggest that gun ownership might be a factor in a mass shooting. He says:

How dare you stand on the graves of those children to put forth your political agenda.

“Just shame them to the whole idea,” he suggests, by arguing pro-gun campaigners should declare to opponents:

If your policy isn’t good enough to stand on its own, how dare you use their deaths to push that forward.

As he says this, Ashby is recorded replying: “That’s really good, very strong”.

Some of that phrasing seems familiar in the immediate aftermath of the Christchurch massacre, suggesting parts of the NRA’s playbook have already made their way down under.

This documentary underscores two things.

The brutal tactics of the gun lobby and the operations of One Nation need exposing. Journalism sometimes has to take on the unsavoury job of extracting the truth from those who do not want to share it.The Conversation

Andrew Dodd, Director of the Centre for Advancing Journalism, University of Melbourne

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

After the floods come the mosquitoes – but the disease risk is more difficult to predict


Cameron Webb, University of Sydney

We’re often warned to avoid mosquito bites after major flooding events. With more water around, there are likely to be more mosquitoes.

As flood waters recede around Townsville and clean-up efforts continue, the local population will be faced with this prospect over the coming weeks.

But whether a greater number of mosquitoes is likely to lead to an outbreak of mosquito-borne disease is tricky to predict. It depends on a number of factors, including the fate of other wildlife following a disaster of this kind.

Mozzies need water

Mosquitoes lay their eggs in and around water bodies. In the initial stages, baby mosquitoes (or “wrigglers”) need the water to complete their development. During the warmer months, it doesn’t take much longer than a week before they are grown and fly off looking for blood.

So the more water, the more mosquito eggs are laid, and the more mosquitoes end up buzzing about.

But outbreaks of disease carried by mosquitoes are dependent on more than just their presence. Mosquitoes rarely emerge from wetlands infected with pathogens. They typically need to pick them up from biting local wildlife, such as birds or mammals, before they can spread disease to people.




Read more:
The worst year for mosquitoes ever? Here’s how we find out


Mosquitoes and extreme weather events

Historically, major inland flooding events have triggered significant outbreaks of mosquito-borne disease in Australia. These outbreaks have included epidemics of the potentially fatal Murray Valley encephalitis virus. In recent decades, Ross River virus has more commonly been the culprit.

A focal point of the current floods is the Ross River, which runs through Townsville. The Ross River virus was first identified from mosquitoes collected along this waterway. The disease it causes, known as Ross River fever, is diagnosed in around 5,000 Australians every year. The disease isn’t fatal but it can be seriously debilitating.

Following substantial rainfall, mosquito populations can dramatically increase. Carbon dioxide baited light traps are used by local authorities to monitor changes in mosquito populations.
Cameron Webb (NSW Health Pathology)

In recent years, major outbreaks of Ross River virus have occurred throughout the country. Above average rainfall is likely a driving factor as it boosts both the abundance and diversity of local mosquitoes.

Flooding across Victoria over the 2016-2017 summer produced exceptional increases in mosquitoes and resulted in the state’s largest outbreak of Ross River virus. There were almost 1,700 cases of Ross River virus disease reported there in 2017 compared to an average of around 300 cases annually over the previous 20 years.




Read more:
Explainer: what is Ross River virus?


Despite plagues of mosquitoes taking advantage of flood waters, outbreaks of disease don’t always follow.

Flooding resulting from hurricanes in North America has been associated with increased mosquito populations. After Hurricane Katrina hit Louisiana and Mississippi in 2005, there was no evidence of increased mosquito-borne disease. The impact of wind and rain is likely to have adversely impacted local mosquitoes and wildlife, subsequently reducing disease outbreak risk.

Applying insect repellent is worthwhile even if the risk of mosquito-borne disease isn’t known.
From shutterstock.com

Australian studies suggest there’s not always an association between flooding and Ross River virus outbreaks. Outbreaks can be triggered by flooding, but this is not always the case. Where and when the flooding occurs probably plays a major role in determining the likelihood of an outbreak.

The difficulty in predicting outbreaks of Ross River virus disease is that there can be complex biological, environmental and climatic drivers at work. Conditions may be conducive for large mosquito populations, but if the extreme weather events have displaced (or decimated) local wildlife populations, there may be a decreased chance of outbreak.

This may be why historically significant outbreaks of mosquito-borne disease have occurred in inland regions. Water can persist in these regions for longer than coastal areas. This provides opportunities not only for multiple mosquito generations, but also for increasing populations of water birds. These birds can be important carriers of pathogens such as the Murray Valley encephalitis virus.




Read more:
Giant mosquitoes flourish in floodwaters that hurricanes leave behind


In coastal regions like Townsville, where the main concern would be Ross River virus, flood waters may displace the wildlife that carry the virus, such as kangaroos and wallabies. For that reason, the flood waters may actually reduce the initial risk of outbreak.

Protect yourself

There is still much to learn about the ecology of wildlife and their role in driving outbreaks of disease. And with a fear of more frequent and severe extreme weather events in the future, it’s an important area of research.

Although it remains difficult to predict the likelihood of a disease outbreak, there are steps that can be taken to avoid mosquito bites. This will be useful even if just to reduce the nuisance of sustaining bites.

Cover up with long-sleeved shirts and long pants for a physical barrier against mosquito bites and use topical insect repellents containing DEET, picaridin, or oil of lemon eucalyptus. Be sure to apply an even coat on all exposed areas of skin for the longest lasting protection.The Conversation

Cameron Webb, Clinical Lecturer and Principal Hospital Scientist, University of Sydney

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

Here’s what you need to know about melioidosis, the deadly infection that can spread after floods



File 20190214 1721 1pkznl1.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
People typically become sick between one and 21 days after being infected.
Goran Jakus/Shutterstock

Sanjaya Senanayake, Australian National University

The devastating Townsville floods have receded but the clean up is being complicated by the appearance of a serious bacterial infection known as melioidosis. One person has died from melioidosis and nine others have been diagnosed with the disease over the past week.

The bacteria that causes the disease, Burkholderia pseudomallei, is a hardy bug that lives around 30cm deep in clay soil. Events that disturb the soil, such as heavy rains and floods, bring B. pseudomallei to the surface, where it can enter the body through through a small break in the skin (that a person may not even be aware of), or by other means.

Melioidosis may cause an ulcer at that site, and from there, spread to multiple sites in the body via the bloodstream. Alternatively, the bacterium can be inhaled, after which it travels to the lungs, and again may spread via the bloodstream. Less commonly, it’s ingested.




Read more:
(At least) five reasons you should wear gardening gloves


Melioidosis was first identified in the early 20th century among drug users in Myanmar. These days, cases tend to concentrate in Southeast Asia and the top end of northern Australia.

What are the symptoms?

Melioidosis can cause a variety of symptoms, but often presents as a non-specific flu-like illness with fever, headache, cough, shortness of breath, disorientation, and pain in the stomach, muscles or joints.

People with underlying conditions that impair their immune system – such as diabetes, chronic kidney or lung disease, and alcohol use disorder – are more likely to become sick from the infection.

The majority of healthy people infected by melioidosis won’t have any symptoms, but just because you’re healthy, doesn’t mean you’re immune: around 20% of people who become acutely ill with melioidosis have no identifiable risk factors.

People typically become sick between one and 21 days after being infected. But in a minority of cases, this incubation period can be much longer, with one case occurring after 62 years.

How does it make you sick?

While most people who are sick with melioidosis will have an acute illness, lasting a short time, a small number can have a grumbling infection persisting for months.

One of the most common manifestations of melioidosis is infection of the lungs (pneumonia), which can occur either via infection through the skin, or inhalation of B. pseudomallei.

The challenges in treating this organism, though, arise from its ability to form large pockets of pus (abscesses) in virtually any part of the body. Abscesses can be harder to treat with antibiotics alone and may also require drainage by a surgeon or radiologist.

How is it treated?

Thankfully, a number of antibiotics can kill B. pseudomallei. Those recovering from the infection will need to take antibiotics for at least three months to cure it completely.

If you think you might have melioidosis, seek medical attention immediately. A prompt clinical assessment will determine the level of care you need, and allow antibiotic therapy to be started in a timely manner.

Your blood and any obviously infected body fluids (sputum, pus, and so on) will also be tested for B. pseudomallei or other pathogens that may be causing the illness.

While cleaning up after these floods, make sure you wear gloves and boots to minimise the risk of infection through breaks in the skin. This especially applies to people at highest risk of developing melioidosis, namely those with diabetes, alcohol use disorder, chronic kidney disease, and lung disease.




Read more:
Lessons not learned: Darwin’s paying the price after Cyclone Marcus


The Conversation


Sanjaya Senanayake, Associate Professor of Medicine, Infectious Diseases Physician, Australian National University

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

Queensland’s floods are so huge the only way to track them is from space


Linlin Ge, UNSW

Many parts of Queensland have been declared disaster zones and thousands of residents evacuated due to a 1-in-100-year flood. Townsville is at the epicentre of the “unprecedented” monsoonal downpour that brought more than a year’s worth of rain in just a few days, and the emergency is far from over with yet more torrential rain expected.

Such monumental disruption calls for emergency work to safeguard crucial infrastructure such as bridges, dams, motorways, railways, power substations, power lines and telecommunications cables. In turn, that requires accurate, timely mapping of flood waters.

For the first time in Australia, our research team has been monitoring the floods closely using a new technique involving European satellites, which allows us to “see” beneath the cloud cover and map developments on the ground.




Read more:
Floods don’t occur randomly, so why do we still plan as if they do?


Given that the flooding currently covers a 700km stretch of coast from Cairns to Mackay, it would take days to piece together the big picture of the flood using airborne mapping. What’s more, conventional optical imaging satellites are easily “blinded” by cloud cover.

But a radar satellite can fly over the entire state in a matter of
seconds, and an accurate and comprehensive flood map can be produced in less than an hour.

Eyes above the skies

Our new method uses an imaging technology called “synthetic aperture radar” (SAR), which can observe the ground day or night, through cloud cover or smoke. By combining and comparing SAR images, we can determine the progress of an unfolding disaster such as a flood.

In simple terms, if an area is not flooded on the first image but is inundated on the second image, the resulting discrepancy between the two images can help to reveal the flood’s extent and identify the advancing flood front.

To automate this process and make it more accurate, we use two pairs of images: a “pre-event pair” taken before the flood, and a “co-event pair” made up of one image before the flood, and another later image during the flooding.

The European satellites have been operated strategically to collect images globally once every 12 days, making it possible for us to test this new technique in Townsville as soon as flooding occurs.

To monitor the current floods in Townsville, we took the pre-event images on January 6 and January 18, 2019. The co-event pair was collected on January 18 and January 30. These sets of images were then used to generate the accurate and detailed flood map shown below.

The image comparisons can all be done algorithmically, without a human having to scrutinise the images themselves. Then we can just look out for image pairs with significant discrepancies, and then concentrate our attention on those.

Satellite flood mapping along the Queensland coast, compiled using images from the European radar satellite Sentinel-1A.
European Space Agency/Smart Spatial Technology Development Laborator (SSTD), UNSW, Author provided



Read more:
Planning for a rainy day: there’s still lots to learn about Australia’s flood patterns


Our technique potentially avoids the need to monitor floods from airborne reconnaissance planes – a dangerous or even impossible task amid heavy rains, strong wind, thick cloud and lightning.

This timely flood intelligence from satellites can be used to switch off critical infrastructure such as power substations before flood water reaches them.The Conversation

Linlin Ge, Professor, UNSW

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

Sydney storms could be making the Queensland fires worse


Claire Yeo, Australian Bureau of Meteorology

A strong low-pressure system has meant severe thunderstorm and hail warnings are in effect for much of the New South Wales South Coast. At the same time, very dry conditions, strong winds and high temperatures are fuelling dozens of bushfires across Queensland.

The two events are actually influencing each other. As the low-pressure system moves over the Greater Sydney area, a connected wind change is pushing warm air (and stronger winds) to Queensland, worsening the fire conditions.




Read more:
Drought, wind and heat: when fire seasons start earlier and last longer


These lows over NSW are the kind we might see a couple of times a year – they’re not just regular weather systems, but neither are they massively out of the ordinary.

However, when combined with the current record-breaking heat in Queensland, the extra wind is creating exceptionally dangerous fire conditions. Queensland’s emergency services minister, Craig Crawford, has warned Queenslanders:

We are expecting a firestorm. We are expecting it to be so severe that it won’t even be safe on the beach […] The only thing to do is to go now.

Conditions in Queensland

At least 80 bushfires were burning in Queensland on Wednesday, with more than a dozen fire warnings issued to communities near the Deepwater blaze. Queensland Police Deputy Commissioner Bob Gee said that “people will burn to death” unless they evacuate the area.

These fires have come during a record-breaking heatwave. On Tuesday Cooktown recorded 43.9℃, beating the previous November high set 70 years ago by more than two degrees. Cairns has broken its November heatwave record by five whole degrees.

Grasslands and forests are very dry after very little rain over the past two years. Adding to these conditions are strong winds, which make the fires hotter, faster and harder to predict. This is where the storm conditions in NSW come in: they are affecting air movements across both states.

NSW low is driving winds over Queensland

A large low-pressure system, currently over the Hunter Valley area, is causing the NSW storms. As it moves, it’s pushing a mass of warm air ahead of it, bringing both higher temperatures and stronger winds across the Queensland border.

Once the low-pressure system moves across the Hunter area to the Tasman Sea east of Sydney, it will drag what we call a “wind change” across Queensland. This will increase wind speeds through Queensland and temperatures, making the fire situation even worse.

This is why emergency services are keeping watch for “fire tornado” conditions. When very hot air from large fires rises rapidly into a turbulent atmosphere, it can create fire storms – thunderstorms containing lightning or burning embers. Strong wind changes can also mean fire tornadoes form, sucking up burning material. Both of these events spread fires quickly and unpredictably.




Read more:
Turn and burn: the strange world of fire tornadoes


What does this mean for the drought

Unfortunately, it’s not likely the heavy rains over NSW will have a long-term effect on the drought gripping much of the state. While very heavy rains have fallen over 24 hours, the drought conditions have persisted for years.




Read more:
Trust Me, I’m An Expert: Australia’s extreme weather


The wet weather may bring some temporary relief, but NSW will need much more rain over a longer period to truly alleviate the drought.

In the meantime, the Bureau of Meteorology will be monitoring the Queensland situation closely. You can check weather warnings for your area on the bureau’s website.The Conversation

Claire Yeo, Supervising Meteorologist, Australian Bureau of Meteorology

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

Longman result shows Queensland vote is volatile and One Nation remains potent



File 20180730 106521 s3d9se.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
The most notable – and underestimated – aspect of the vote count in Longman was the fall in support for the Coalition.
AAP/Darren England

Chris Salisbury, The University of Queensland

As expected, the Longman by-election was the contest to watch on “Super Saturday”. But, as it turned out, it was for reasons that weren’t all anticipated.

Observers had predicted a tight race in the marginally-held seat north of Brisbane, with high poll support for Pauline Hanson’s One Nation adding to the unpredictability. Yet, Labor’s Susan Lamb defied the naysayers and secured a reassuring swing, regaining the seat she’d vacated owing to her former dual citizenship status.

For opposition leader Bill Shorten, the weekend’s byelection results provide a confidence boost and should dampen the leadership speculation that has animated sections of the media.

For Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, however, the Longman result especially (and South Australia’s Mayo to a similar extent) will prompt soul-searching in Coalition ranks ahead of the next federal election.




Read more:
View from The Hill: Malcolm Turnbull’s authority diminished after byelection failures


The most notable – and underestimated – aspect of the vote count in Longman was the fall in support for the Coalition. This flew in the face of opinion polls leading up to the byelection date, which suggested there was little between the major candidates. Warnings from election analysts about the reliability of single-seat polling might be heeded more closely in future.

The Coalition’s primary vote in Longman plunged 9.4% from the 2016 federal election, resulting in a two-party-preferred swing of 3.7% against LNP candidate Trevor Ruthenberg. While senior Coalition MPs have since put this down to an “average” anti-government swing at byelections, few in the party would have expected such a kicking in a historically conservative seat.

Ruthenberg came under scrutiny during the by-election campaign for a wrongly claimed military service medal. He also carried some baggage as MP for a nearby state seat during the single-term government of Campbell Newman. Combined, this probably turned away a number of potential voters, and contributed in part to Lamb increasing her primary vote from 35.4% to almost 40%. Queensland’s LNP faces fresh questions about its organisational and campaigning stocks following a disappointing showing at last November’s state election.

The bigger concern for the federal government is the extent to which its policies are on the nose with voters. Certainly, Labor focused much of its Longman campaign on the effects that penalty rate reductions and company tax cuts for big businesses would have on local job prospects and funding for hospitals and education services. ALP insiders were quietly confident of crafting a successful “class warfare”-style campaign in an electorate with higher than average unemployment and below average incomes.

In this respect, the Longman campaign offered a preview to the likely dimensions and key party messaging of the coming federal election campaign, expected in the first half of next year. Given the number of marginal federal seats in Queensland, this positions the state as the “battleground” where that election can be won and lost.

The fight for marginal seats

Byelection results shouldn’t, of course, be extrapolated to likely voting patterns at a general election. Many in Queensland remember John Howard’s Liberals losing a 2001 byelection for the Brisbane seat of Ryan, only to regain it comfortably at the national election later that year (aided by some notable external factors).

The Longman contest was fought on local as much as broader issues – with residents’ health, education and employment concerns front of mind for most. But these “bread and butter” issues, as well as Longman’s characterisation as a true marginal, urban fringe seat, make the fall of the votes here possibly indicative of wider trends. If the government’s intended tax cut package for large as well as smaller businesses turned off many Longman voters, it may well do so in marginal seats across the board.

In Queensland, where there is nearly a dozen such marginal seats – seven held by the Coalition – any inkling as to what might motivate voters in those electorates will be keenly sought by the major parties. The Coalition, in particular, stands to lose much if lessons can’t be drawn from voters’ messages.

After the weekend, MPs in the neighbouring electorates of Petrie (margin of 1.6%) and high-profile Dickson (held by Peter Dutton on the same margin), as well as Flynn (1%), Forde (0.6%) and Capricornia (0.6%), will be sitting more nervously in the Coalition party room.




Read more:
Super Saturday: Labor holds Braddon and easily wins Longman, while Sharkie thumps Downer in Mayo


The issues animating many Longman voters also feature in seats alongside it. Anti-government sentiment could well seep across electorate boundaries and threaten incumbents there. Notably, Dutton’s late arrival on the Longman campaign trail warning of the immigration policy “perils” of Shorten’s Labor didn’t much seem to stem the flow of votes away from Ruthenberg.

With Labor also holding a handful of marginal Queensland seats, both major parties will be conscious of shoring up an unstable vote base. It is this landscape, as much as Labor’s campaign messages about “big end of town” tax cuts, that likely determines how much the government refashions its policy agenda ahead of the federal election.

One Nation vote hurts the Coalition

One Nation’s considerable vote in Longman – almost 16% compared to the 9.4% it gained in 2016 – underlines the current strength of the minor party protest vote. Indeed, the increase in One Nation’s support in Longman came mainly at the expense of the Coalition’s candidate. In a field of eleven nominations, the next best vote was the Greens’ 4.8%.

There is residual irritation in the wider electorate about voters’ circumstances and about a perceived disconnection from their elected representatives. This alienation was again apparent in the Longman result, and signals a warning to both major parties about volatile voter sentiment in Queensland and elsewhere.

The high One Nation vote came after a more concerted and less gaffe-prone campaign, despite candidate Matthew Stephen facing persistent queries over his business history. This was achieved in the conspicuous absence of Pauline Hanson’s “star power” (dozens of cardboard cut-outs of the party leader notwithstanding).

But these circumstances are possible at a byelection more so than a general election, where One Nation’s modest resources are typically stretched. It may be that the party concentrates its federal campaigning and nominations on fewer seats so as not to spread itself too thinly (as it found to its cost at the recent Queensland election).

The ConversationThe way the party suggests its voters direct their preferences is regularly a mystery, as is how closely its voters follow those recommendations. But if One Nation focuses on the marginal seats in Queensland, those preferences might place the party in an influential position with the government on policy negotiations ahead of the next federal election.

Chris Salisbury, Research Associate, The University of Queensland

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

Byelection guide: what’s at stake on Super Saturday


Rob Manwaring, Flinders University; Chris Salisbury, The University of Queensland; Ian Cook, and Michael Lester, University of Tasmania

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten have been criss-crossing the country for weeks to spruik their parties’ candidates in Saturday’s all-important byelections – a key test for both the Liberals and Labor ahead of the next federal election.

Here’s what you need to know about the five electorates up for grabs and, with a federal election likely in the first half of 2019, what’s at stake for Turnbull and Shorten.


https://cdn.theconversation.com/infographics/287/78461d5072b825744d7c283b9901731f603a5d45/site/index.html


Longman

Chris Salisbury, Research Associate, University of Queensland

Longman’s very marginal status, held by Labor’s Susan Lamb by a slim 0.8% prior to her High Court-enforced resignation, makes this race the most tightly contested on Saturday.

Seasoned observers expect this to go the way of most byelection contests – largely distanced from broader federal concerns. Local issues are at play, dominated by arguments over funding for the Caboolture hospital in the electorate north of Brisbane, as well as for local education and employment support services.

Yet, the race is also being touted by some as a judgement on the major parties’ signature economic policies, and significantly on the performances of both party leaders. Labor has campaigned hard on the merits of the Coalition’s proposed company tax cuts. The Liberals, meanwhile, have fanned fears among retirees about Labor’s proposed investment savings changes.

Longman is a typical marginal seat in the outer suburban fringe, home to what a dozen years ago would have been called “Howard’s battlers”. The electorate provides a platform for the major parties to road-test policy differentiation and campaign messages on “average voters” ahead of the next federal election.




Read more:
Grattan on Friday: ‘Super Saturday’ is not so super in Labor’s eyes


It’s also fertile ground for the growing distrust of mainstream politics. One Nation’s Pauline Hanson has been prominent in the electorate, attempting to capitalise on negative voter sentiment toward the major parties. Her party even enlisted former Labor leader Mark Latham’s support, voicing robocalls to local residents attacking Shorten.

Lamb is attempting to be re-elected to the seat she won unexpectedly from the LNP’s Wyatt Roy in 2016. She benefits from recognition as the incumbent and has the strong backing of her party leader. Shorten made a beeline for Longman ahead of the announcement of the byelection date to spruik his candidate.

LNP’s Trevor Ruthenburg also enjoys recognition of sorts as a previous state MP for nearby Kallangur. However, he might have spurned some conservative Longman voters with fresh revelations of an incorrectly claimed military service medal in his Queensland parliament biography.

Among the minor party candidates, One Nation’s Matthew Stephen will also need to overcome questions regarding his business dealings to build on his party’s 9.4% primary vote in the 2016 election.

Labor’s concerted campaigning has Lamb a slight favourite to be returned. However, a Coalition win might convince Turnbull to call an early election. This then raises the question: could a poor result for Labor put enough pressure on Shorten to prompt the party to change leaders to better combat the PM’s standing?


Braddon

Michael Lester, PhD candidate, University of Tasmania

For an election that won’t change the status quo in parliament, the Braddon byelection is getting a great deal of attention.

Both Turnbull and Shorten have made multiple visits to campaign for their candidates, with support also coming from of a host of their cabinet and shadow cabinet colleagues.

Braddon is a notoriously fickle electorate, having changed hands four times since 1996, and the margins are always tight. This election is no different. All the polls indicate it is a close race.

In 2016, Labor’s Justine Keay won the seat with a 2.2% lead over then-sitting Liberal member Brett Whiteley. She was later forced to resign after her UK citizenship was revealed. Both candidates are standing again, but neither is considered to have strong personal followings.

Polls in the first week of July showed the gap between the parties has narrowed. This means the result will likely come down to the preferences of independents and minor parties, particularly the Greens’ Jarrod Edwards, the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party candidate Brett Neal and independent Craig Garland. All three are likely to favour Labor.




Read more:
VIDEO: Michelle Grattan on the federal government’s tax package, the ABC and the ‘Super Saturday’ byelections


The differences between the campaign styles and tactics of the two major parties are striking.

The Liberals have used incumbency at both the state and federal level to frame their campaign around their economic records and budget infrastructure spending, holding photo opportunities around a series of project announcements.

Labor, meanwhile, is using the campaign to road-test a swag of policies and messages. Key among them are wage stagnation, the loss of penalty rates, the “scourge of labour hire companies”, the bad behaviour of banks and the Liberals’ support for corporate tax cuts.

Shorten took most by surprise by also promising an AU$25 million grant to support a Tasmanian AFL team at a time when the Aussie game is in crisis in one of its foundation states. However, Labor seems to be getting better traction with promises to restore funding for essential services like health care and education.

The real impact of the Braddon byelection is likely to be on the political future of the two party leaders, the timing of the next federal election and the choice of the policies they choose to run on.


Mayo

Rob Manwaring, Senior Lecturer, Politics and Public Policy, Flinders University

The campaign in Mayo is symptomatic of a wider problem that has beset Liberals in South Australia – a failure to lock in so-called blue-ribbon safe seats.

Mayo is now a straight two-way fight between the incumbent Centre Alliance’s Rebekah Sharkie and Liberal Georgina Downer. Downer’s success or failure could well be a strong signifier of the strength of Malcolm Turnbull’s government.

Polling has Sharkie on track to hold onto the seat, despite her citizenship problems triggering the byelection. A late-June Reachtel poll had Sharkie leading Downer by 62% to 38% in two-candidate voting.

Sharkie’s surge in the polls is striking, given that a large part of her win over then-Liberal Jamie Briggs in 2013 seemed to rest on the personal unpopularity of Briggs.




Read more:
Grattan on Friday: Disillusioned voters find it easy to embrace a crossbencher like Rebekha Sharkie


Yet, as has been proven in state-level races in South Australia before, voters in notionally safe “non-Labor” seats are often reluctant to give up strong local independents. Despite its disappointing showing in the recent state election, the Xenophon team retains deep residual support in South Australia.

The Mayo campaign is an intriguing confluence of local and national issues. Sharkie is pushing hard on a range of local issues, and her support to have the Great Australian Bight listed for World Heritage status to safeguard it from oil drilling also targets a perceived weakness of Downer’s – environment issues.

Downer, seeking to secure her family dynasty, is playing to different strengths – especially her close network with the Liberal hierarchy. (She is the daughter of former foreign minister Alexander.) Since announcing her candidacy, Downer has had notable visits from Turnbull and others. She boasts influence unavailable to her rivals, evidenced by her securing of federal funding for a new aquatic centre in Mount Barker.

Strikingly, immigration has become a new issue in the campaign. Downer’s comments about immigration may stoke local fears that the Inverbrackie site will be re-opened for mainland asylum seeker detentions.


Perth and Fremantle

Ian Cook, Senior Lecturer of Australian Politics, Murdoch University

Labor will win both races being contested in Western Australia in Saturday’s byelections. That’s not a brave prediction. The Liberals aren’t running candidates.

Some analysts believe it was the wrong decision by the Liberals, given that a minimal campaigning effort wouldn’t have cost that much and it’s unclear how voters will react when the Liberals do put up candidates in the federal election.

But the decision actually makes a lot of sense. Labor has held both seats – Perth and Fremantle – for much of their existence. (The electorates were created in 1901.) Labor even held on in Fremantle in the 1975 election, which was the last time it lost Perth.

On top of this, the WA Liberals had been swept from government last year as a result of a 20% swing against them across the state. And there were no signs of the federal Liberals doing much to change anything.

So, while Perth’s 3.3% margin looks close, the Liberals chose not to run a candidate there. Likewise in Fremantle, which is even less competitive, with a margin of 7.5%. The decision not only saves the Liberals money, it won’t expose their weak support in WA.




Read more:
Liberal rebel Dean Smith to fight party decision not to contest Perth byelection


Some Liberals may have regretted the move after the party won the byelection for the state seat of Darling Range last month, but Labor got a lot wrong in that campaign.

The Liberals’ decision not to run in Perth and Fremantle has brought the Greens more into the spotlight. With no other seats to talk about and no major party competition to drown them out, the Greens should be able to do something meaningful in these byelections.

Perth and Fremantle are exactly the type of inner metropolitan seat the Greens should be favoured to win, but their candidates have never gained more than 18% of first-preference voting in previous contests in the electorates. And nothing looks likely to change this time around.

The ConversationIf Greens candidates can’t put themselves in a position to win Perth and Fremantle in these byelections and demonstrate they are to be a meaningful political force, then they likely never will.

Rob Manwaring, Senior Lecturer, Politics and Public Policy, Flinders University; Chris Salisbury, Research Associate, The University of Queensland; Ian Cook, Senior Lecturer of Australian Politics, and Michael Lester, PhD candidate, University of Tasmania

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