Coalition regains Newspoll lead; time running out for Trump



AAP/Dean Lewins

Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

This week’s Newspoll, conducted September 16-19 from a sample of 2,068, gave the Coalition a 51-49 lead, a one-point gain for the Coalition since the previous Newspoll, three weeks ago.

Primary votes were 43% Coalition (up two), 34% Labor (down two), 12% Greens (up one) and 3% One Nation (steady) – all figures from The Poll Bludger.

65% were satisfied with Scott Morrison’s performance (up one), and 31% were dissatisfied (down one), for a net approval of +34. Anthony Albanese’s ratings fell into negative territory: his net approval was -1, down three points. Morrison led Albanese as better PM by 59-27 (58-29 last time).

The last Newspoll had the Coalition’s lead dropping from 52-48 to a 50-50 tie, while Morrison’s net approval was down seven points. This Newspoll implies movements in the previous Newspoll may have been exaggerated.

It is also possible the federal Coalition is benefiting from restrictions to fight coronavirus becoming less popular in Victoria. A Morgan Victorian state poll (see below) gave Labor a narrow lead, but that lead was well down on the November 2018 election result. In other state polls, there was a clear surge to the incumbent government.

Australian state polls: Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania

A Victorian SMS Morgan poll, conducted September 15-17 from a sample of 1,150, gave Labor a 51.5-48.5 lead over the Coalition, a six-point gain for the Coalition since the November 2018 state election. Primary votes were 38.5% Coalition, 37% Labor and 12% Greens. Morgan’s SMS polls have been unreliable in the past.

A South Australian YouGov poll, conducted September 10-16 from a sample of 810, gave the Liberals a 53-47 lead over Labor, a six-point gain for the Liberals since March, likely due to the state’s handling of coronavirus. Primary votes were 46% Liberals (up seven), 35% Labor (down three) and 10% Greens (down one).

Liberal Premier Steven Marshall had a massive surge in net approval, to +52 from -4 in March. Opposition Leader Peter Malinauskas had a +22 net approval.

A Tasmanian EMRS poll, conducted August 18-24 from a sample of 1,000, gave the Liberals 54% (up 11 since the last publicly released EMRS poll in March), Labor 24% (down ten) and the Greens 12% (steady). Liberal Premier Peter Gutwein led Opposition Leader Rebecca White by 70-23 as better premier (41-39 to White in March).

Time running out for Trump

This section is an updated version of an article I had published for The Poll Bludger last Thursday.

Six weeks before the November 3 election, FiveThirtyEight’s national aggregate gives Joe Biden a 6.8% lead over Donald Trump (50.3% to 43.5%). This is an improvement for Trump from three weeks ago, when he trailed by 8.2%. In the key states, Biden leads by 7.6% in Michigan, 6.6% in Wisconsin, 4.6% in Pennsylvania, 4.5% in Arizona and 2.0% in Florida.

In my article three weeks ago, the difference in Trump’s favour between the Electoral College tipping-point state and the national vote had widened to three points, but this difference has fallen back to about two points, with Arizona and Pennsylvania currently two points more favourable to Trump than national polls.

If Biden wins all the states carried by Hillary Clinton in 2016, plus Michigan, Wisconsin and Arizona, he gets exactly 269 Electoral Votes, one short of the 270 required for a majority. Maine and Nebraska award one EV to the winner of each of their Congressional Districts, and two to the statewide winner. All other states award their EVs winner-takes-all.

Under this scenario, Biden would need one of either Nebraska’s or Maine’s second CDs for the 270 EVs required to win the Electoral College. Nebraska’s second is a more likely win for Biden as it is an urban district.

The US economy has rebounded strongly from the coronavirus nadir in April. Owing to this, the FiveThirtyEight forecast expects some narrowing as the election approaches. Every day that passes without evidence of narrowing in the tipping-point states is bad news for Trump. Biden’s chances of winning in the forecast have increased from a low of 67% on August 31 to 77% now.

While Trump has improved slightly in national polls, some state polls have been very good for Biden. Recently, Biden has had leads of 16 points in Minnesota, 21 points in Maine, 10 in Wisconsin and 10 in Arizona.

Trump’s ratings with all polls in the FiveThirtyEight aggregate are currently 43.2% approve, 52.7% disapprove (net -9.5%). With polls of likely or registered voters, his ratings are 44.0% approve, 52.8% disapprove (net -8.8%). In the last three weeks, Trump has gained about two points on net approval, continuing a recovery from July lows.

The RealClearPolitics Senate map has 47 expected Republican seats, 46 Democratic seats and seven toss-ups. If toss-ups are assigned to the current leader, Democrats lead by 51-49, unchanged from three weeks ago.

Coronavirus and the US economy

The US has just passed the grim milestone of over 200,000 deaths attributable to coronavirus. However, daily new cases have dropped into the 30,000 to 50,000 range from a peak of over 70,000 in July. Less media attention on the coronavirus crisis assists Trump.

In the US August jobs report, 1.4 million jobs were created and the unemployment rate fell 1.8% to 8.4%. The unemployment rate has greatly improved from its April high of 14.7%.

The headline jobs gained or lost are from the establishment survey, while the household survey is used for the unemployment rate. In August, the household survey numbers were much better than the establishment survey, with almost 3.8 million jobs added.

It is probably fortunate for Biden that the September jobs report, to be released in early October, will be the last voters see before the election. The October report will be released November 6, three days after the election.

I believe Trump should focus on the surging economy in the lead-up to the election, and ignore other issues like the Kenosha violence and culture war issues. Particularly given the Supreme Court vacancy, Biden should focus on Trump and Republicans’ plans to gut Obamacare.

Implications of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death

On Friday, left-wing US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died. While Democrats control the House of Representatives, only the Senate gets a vote on judicial appointments, and Republicans control that chamber by 53-47.

Even if Democrats were to win control of both the Senate and presidency at the November 3 election, the Senate transition is not until January 3, with the presidential transition on January 20.

There is plenty of time for Trump to nominate a right-wing replacement for Ginsburg, and for the Senate to approve that choice. That will give conservative appointees a 6-3 majority on the Supreme Court.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.

South Australia will re-open its borders to some states, but not others. Is that constitutional?



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Benjamen Franklen Gussen, Swinburne University of Technology

In one relatively short section of the Australian Constitution, section 92, you will find this phrase:

[…] trade, commerce, and intercourse among the states […] shall be absolutely free.

You would think there is not much in it, but it turns out this section is one of the most litigated sections in the constitution.

Australians have taken a special interest in section 92 since mid-March. Debating the constitutionality of state border closures in response to COVID-19 seemed to be trending with everyone staying home to help flatten the curve.

Legal challenges on border closures are already underway in the High Court, with arguments of its constitutionality.




Read more:
States are shutting their borders to stop coronavirus. Is that actually allowed?


Now, this interest in section 92 is being rekindled with the partial re-opening of borders between South Australia, Western Australia, the Northern Territory and Tasmania.

With Australia being one country, it was hard enough to accept it is constitutional for states to close their borders, but now South Australia seems to be offering travellers from these states and the territory special treatment.

West Australian Premier Mark McGowan has more recently suggested the partial opening of borders may be unconstitutional. Is it?

The issue is not the partial opening of borders. It is the rationale for these actions.

When South Australia announced this partial re-opening, it also indicated it plans to open its borders to all remaining states by July 20. The issue then is whether South Australia’s discrimination against New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland can be justified by efforts to prevent a second wave of COVID-19 deaths.

Since 1988, the High Court has interpreted section 92 as prohibiting discrimination of a protectionist kind – that is to say, the section prevents states from passing legislation to restrict trade. In the 1988 case of Cole v Whitfield, the High Court, in a unanimous decision, upheld Tasmanian regulations prohibiting a person from taking, buying or selling crayfish of less than a prescribed size, whether or not taken in Tasmanian waters.

In the course of his interstate trade, David Whitfield brought crayfish from South Australia to Tasmania for the purpose of sale to mainland and overseas markets. The crayfish were less than the prescribed size under the Tasmanian regulations, though above the prescribed size under comparable regulations in South Australia. The court explained in the decision that the legislation was not protectionist in nature. It was intended to help protect Tasmanian crayfish rather than restrict trade. The court elaborated in the following terms:

[D]iscrimination commonly involves the notion of a departure from equality of treatment. It does not follow that every departure from equality of treatment imposes a burden or would infringe a constitutional guarantee of the freedom of interstate trade and commerce from discriminatory burdens […]

As was the case when all states decided to close their borders, the legal issue is whether the purpose of the closures is to restrict trade or to help protect the citizens of each state from becoming infected with COVID-19.

The orthodox view among Australian constitutional jurists is that section 92 does not allow for a balancing exercise between the competing interests of free trade and combating a pandemic. This might well be a question for the High Court to elaborate on when deciding the legal challenges brought against the Queensland government.

At a different analytical scale, the issue is not the interpretation of section 92, but rather the effect of crises on the interpretation of our constitution.

This interpretation is not impervious to pandemics or other crises. We see this in what are known as purposive powers, such as the defence power in section 51. In times of war, the core of this power will expand to equip the Commonwealth with the type of intervention necessary to keep Australia safe. There is no reason this rationale would not extend to pandemics.




Read more:
National and state leaders may not always agree, but this hasn’t hindered our coronavirus response


Enter the principle of subsidiarity. Elsewhere, I have argued the Commonwealth Constitution is superior to the Canadian and US constitutions, because it is more efficient. It allows for a wider area of concurrent powers. Our federal model is more agile, in the spirit of true subsidiarity, with its rules of assistance, non-interference and helping states acquire more competencies over time.

It is this principle of subsidiarity that holds the key to understanding the constitutionality of border closures and partial re-opening in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The states are best positioned to judge what intervention will work best in their case.

In the time of crises, no one size fits all.The Conversation

Benjamen Franklen Gussen, Lecturer in Law, Swinburne University of Technology

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

Can I visit my boyfriend? My parents? Go fishing or bushwalking? Coronavirus rules in the ACT and South Australia explained



Flickr/Chris Fithall, CC BY

Michael Lund, The Conversation and Wes Mountain, The Conversation

Editor’s note: this article adds to the information we already published for New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria, and we will endeavour to update with information as we are able to collect it.

What you can and can’t do under the coronavirus restrictions seem to vary from place to place so no wonder people have turned to Google for answers.

According to Google Trends, some of the top coronavirus searches nationally in the last few days include “can I visit my parents coronavirus Australia?”, “can I go fishing during coronavirus?” and “can I go for a drive during coronavirus Australia?”

“Can I visit my boyfriend during coronavirus Australia?” was also a common one.




Read more:
Can I visit my boyfriend? My parents? Can I go fishing or bushwalking? Coronavirus rules in NSW, Queensland and Victoria explained


This time we asked legal experts – Benedict Sheehy in the Australian Capital Territory and Mark Giancaspro in South Australia – to help shed some light on what the new rules might mean for residents of their state or territory.

Obviously things are changing quickly so best to keep an eye on the latest information from the ACT and South Australia, as well as the federal government.

Can I visit my parents?


Wes Mountain/The Conversation, CC BY-ND

Benedict Sheehy, ACT: The ACT government is rolling over a set of declarations and there are day by day changes. That is what you might hope for with a small population and a government that is seeking to be flexible.

The declarations are currently less restrictive than those in New South Wales and Victoria. They include fines of $8,000 for breaches by individuals.

The declarations have the same emphasis on reducing gatherings of more than a few people, through to mandatory closure of “non-essential” venues such as gyms, restaurants and museums in line with the national government.

The declarations are likely to become more restrictive in line with spread of COVID-19 and national government policy. Like other parts of Australia there are uncertainties about specific aspects, particularly how they will be interpreted by the police and ordinary people.

At this stage there aren’t tough restrictions. Visits by children who do not normally live with their parents are permitted for “care and support”, including food delivery and other assistance. Visits by friends are also permitted.

The declarations aim to restrict unnecessary visits rather than provide a comprehensive lockdown of elders living at home. But aged care facilities are restricted.

Mark Giancaspro, SA: The SA government has taken direction from the federal government in advising South Australian residents to stay home unless it is absolutely necessary to go outside. There are fines of $1,000 for people who fail to follow the rules on self-isolating.

“Non-essential” visits include social visits to family and friends. But in SA, gatherings of ten people or fewer are currently permitted provided social distancing rules are adhered to (though a limit of two people per gathering is “encouraged”).

If your parents are in a residential aged care facility then a recent direction from the Chief Executive of SA Health prohibits visitation.

In any event, the federal government advises those aged 70 or over (or 65+ with chronic medical conditions) to avoid contact with others to reduce risk of infection.

An obvious exception, which is regarded as “essential” contact, is where care or support are being provided by the visitor.




Read more:
Can I still go to the dentist? How coronavirus is changing the way we look after our teeth


Can I go fishing or bushwalking?


Wes Mountain/The Conversation, CC BY-ND

Benedict Sheehy, ACT: There is no specific restriction but considerable uncertainty. Campgrounds, playgrounds and information centres in Namadgi National Park and the Parks and Gardens facilities are closed.

Most wildlife areas and parks are still open “providing the community access to nature for recreation, health and wellbeing”. The declarations allow non-social outdoor exercise.

As things stand people can apparently go bushwalking or fishing as long as they are not in a closed location (sometimes still closed after the bushfires) and maintain physical distancing 1.5m from others.

Mark Giancaspro, SA: Again, SA is taking advice from the federal government and stipulates that South Australians may leave home for “essentials”, including exercise “in a public space such as a park”, with a limit of two people applying.

South Australians are permitted to visit parks, including bush and walking tracks, provided they have not been ordered to isolate and the parks are in their local neighbourhood. Most South Australian parks remain open to local visitors.

There is no firm direction as to fishing but the federal government said Australians are required to stay home unless it is essential they go outside.

Recreational fishing, therefore, would not be deemed essential. But if this is in the course of employment or to attain seafood for consumption, this would appear to count as an “essential” activity and be allowed (subject to social distancing requirements).




Read more:
Can mosquitoes spread coronavirus?


Can I go for a drive?


Wes Mountain/The Conversation, CC BY-ND

Benedict Sheehy, ACT: Occupancy in major carparks appears to be down by around 80% . There are no reports of police pulling over motorists with questions about whether travel is essential.

Public transport and taxis are still operating. The expectation is that people will use common sense. Public and private transport will be used for travel to workplaces with an essential status, childcare, for buying food and other supplies, visiting the doctor (queues for flu shots in several locations) and visiting friends.

Mark Giancaspro, SA: Yes, provided this is for the purposes of undertaking an “essential activity”. This includes travelling to: markets for food shopping; public spaces such as parks for exercise; medical facilities or pharmacies for appointments or to collect medications; to work (if you cannot work from home); or to another person’s home to provide them with vital care or support.

It is otherwise required that you stay home and avoid travel.

If you drive beyond the state borders, which is highly discouraged, you may be subject to entry requirements. On return you will also be subject to strict measures including compulsory isolation for 14 days.




Read more:
If coronavirus cases don’t grow any faster, our health system will probably cope


Can I visit my boyfriend/girlfriend?


Wes Mountain/The Conversation, CC BY-ND

Benedict Sheehy, ACT: People are still visiting loved ones or friends, subject to restriction on visits by people who are quarantined.

You are not permitted to visit boyfriends/girlfriends if either are subject to any are in self-isolation (people who have been diagnosed as having COVID 19) or self-quarantine (people who are travellers returning to the ACT from an international trip).

Mark Giancaspro, SA: Yes, provided you adhere to the limitation as to gatherings of people, as well as the social distancing requirements.




Read more:
The coronavirus lockdown could test your relationship. Here’s how to keep it intact (and even improve it)


Can I go for a walk around my neighbourhood or sit on a park bench?


Wes Mountain/The Conversation, CC BY-ND

Benedict Sheehy, ACT: The declarations allow outdoor exercise and walking to the shops. The restriction emphasises physical distancing rather than a curfew or ban on being outdoors.

The declarations contains no specific instruction concerning park benches.

Mark Giancaspro, SA: Yes. In fact, this is recommended if you plan to exercise, as open spaces provide opportunities to stay active and healthy while also abiding by social distance requirements.

This is again subject to limitations on the number of people assembling. You should not go for a walk or sit on a park bench with more than one other person.




Read more:
Coronavirus: tiny moments of pleasure really can help us through this stressful time


The Conversation


Michael Lund, Commissioning Editor, The Conversation and Wes Mountain, Multimedia Editor, The Conversation

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

Australia: Bushfire Crisis Update