The government has picked up another Senate crossbencher to add to its numbers, with Tasmanian independent Steve Martin announcing he has joined the Nationals.
It is the first time the party has had representation in that state since the early 1920s, when William McWilliams was briefly leader of the Country Party.
Although it is to the Coalition’s advantage to have an additional senator locked in, and one less independent with whom to negotiate, in practice the change does not affect things significantly.
Martin’s move takes the Coalition to 31 in the Senate, out of a 76-member chamber. It means the government has to get eight of ten crossbenchers to pass legislation opposed by Labor and the Greens. Previously it was nine of 11. Martin has mostly voted with the Coalition and was already committed to supporting the government’s company tax cuts for big business.
He was elevated to Parliament on a countback, following the resignation of Jacqui Lambie in the citizenship crisis, but he never sat as a representative of the Jacqui Lambie Network, becoming an independent.
Earlier, Senator Lucy Gichuhi moved from the crossbench to the Liberals. She has come under threat for a winnable place on the South Australian Liberal ticket.
Martin said on Monday that what drew him to the Nationals was “their focus on key issues such as natural resources, teamwork and, of course, people”. He said the Nationals had a record of looking after rural and regional communities and Tasmania was rural and regional.
Nationals leader and Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack said Martin’s joining was “reinvigorating the National Party in Tasmania”.
Recalling the long period since the party had had representation there – before the Tasmanian tiger was last seen in the 1930s – McCormack said: “I liken Steve a bit to the Tasmanian tiger, inasmuch as he will be a tiger for regional development, an absolute tiger in there fighting for the interests of Tasmanians.”
Martin said he had no “deal” with the Nationals although “I hope I get the number one on their election paper”.
It is not clear how Martin, who is up for election at the next poll, would fit with the Liberals’ ticket. Although only Liberal Richard Colbeck is up for re-election next time, sources say Martin’s joining the Nationals does not mean there would necessarily be a joint Coalition ticket. There could be separate tickets.
Lambie, meanwhile, responded to the news with her own tweet on Monday: “I will be running to return the Senate seat to the people of Tasmania who want a truly independent voice in Canberra. Trust me, I am biting at the bit, looking forward to taking the Nats out!”
Malcolm Farnsworth on his blog, AustralianPolitics.com has corrected Michael McCormack, and The Conversation. McCormack (and we) said that before new recruit Steve Martin, the last federal representative of his party from Tasmania was William McWilliams. Farnsworth says it was Llewellyn Atkinson, who was the Country Party member for Wilmot from 1921 until 1928.
New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia are currently affected by a massive complex low pressure system, dropping temperatures and bringing rain, hail, wind and snow.
While complex low pressure systems like this come along every year or so, some Australians may be feeling whiplash after a particularly warm autumn.
Typically, as Victoria and Tasmania head into winter we see cold fronts that move from west to east, generating rain and thunderstorms. This weather system started off like that, but developed into a complex low that will stay with us for the rest of the week.
It’s the kind of weather system you see on average once every year or two. What is a little unusual is to see such a deep pool of cold Antarctic air so early in May. Canberra, for example, is forecast to have a maximum of 9℃ on Friday – which would be its coldest day in the first half of May since 1970.
In weather-speak, “complex” describes a weather system with an intricate structure. Starting as a cold front across Victoria and Tasmania, this complex low now has multiple low-pressure centres at the surface, and is interacting with a broad low-pressure system in the upper levels of the atmosphere. These upper and low-level weather systems reinforce each other.
The other factor contributing to the complexity is the warmer waters of the Tasman Sea. The East Australian Current brings warmer waters down the east coast, raising ocean surface temperatures in the Tasman Sea relative to the neighbouring Bass Strait and Southern Ocean. When these low pressure systems develop over the western Tasman Sea, that warm water provides a lot more energy through evaporation.
When all the elements align, with a cold front and its associated cold air mass moving over warm water, beneath an upper-level low in the same place providing reinforcement, a deep and complex low-pressure system can develop.
Difficult to predict
The Bureau of Meteorology usually has several days’ indication that a system like this may form, but development of multiple low-pressure centres at the surface makes it tricky to predict exactly where local impacts will strike.
These small-scale low-pressure centres influence exactly where the heaviest rain or strongest winds will be, as do features of the landscape like mountain ranges.
While we can make broad predictions of what may be on the way, it’s not until we get closer to the event that we can really start to be more specific about rainfall totals, wind speeds, and so on.
The Bureau gets minute-to-minute readings from our Automatic Weather Stations, but we have the ability increase the frequency of some of our measurements (for example, at the moment we have increased the frequency of weather balloon releases at Hobart airport), to get additional information about the atmosphere.
This system will move fairly slowly over the next couple of days, and different elements will impact different parts of Australia.
We’ve got cold air, wind and showers over Victoria and southern New South Wales at the moment, but there are parts of the east coast that are still quite warm today. Tasmania is starting to see windy conditions in Hobart and rain developing, and potentially heavy rain through the east of the state over the next couple of days.
Once the cold air moves further north into NSW we’ll expect snow at lower levels as far north as the Central Tablelands, and then as we move into the weekend the low pressure system will move out into the Tasman Sea.
We’ll then start to see swell increase, as the ocean responds to the weather system. Heavy swell and hazardous surf conditions could push well north along the NSW coast and potentially into southern Queensland by early next week.
Currently, severe weather warnings for wind have been issued across parts of South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales and Tasmania. Heavy rain warnings and flood watches are in place in Victoria, and flood watches and warnings are current in Tasmania as well.
Other specific warnings provide important information for those on the land – the Bureau has alerted sheep graziers, for example, to the impacts of cold, wet and windy conditions on exposed livestock.
While these warnings are all fairly standard for this kind of weather system, always follow the advice of emergency services. We’re the weather experts, but they’re certainly the experts on preparing for hazardous weather!
On April 6, the Electoral Commission announced draft boundaries for Victoria and the ACT, with both jurisdictions gaining a House seat. Victoria went from 37 to 38 seats, and the ACT from two to three.
As a result of these changes, Labor notionally gained two seats in Victoria and one in the ACT, and the Coalition lost two seats in Victoria.
On Friday, draft boundaries were announced for South Australia, with that state dropping from 11 seats to ten. According to The Poll Bludger, the safe Labor-held seat of Port Adelaide is to be abolished, but the new seat of Spence (formerly Wakefield), Adelaide and Hindmarsh become much safer for Labor.
Margins in Liberal-held seats were not greatly affected by the redistribution. Boothby has been reduced from a 3.5% to a 2.8% Liberal margin, and the SA-BEST-held seat of Mayo goes from a 5.4% to a 3.3% Liberal vs Labor margin. After SA-BEST performed poorly in the South Australian election, Mayo is an opportunity for either major party.
After the next election, there will be 151 seats in the House of Representatives, up from the current 150. The Coalition will notionally hold 74 seats (down two), Labor 71 (up two), and the five current cross-benchers notionally hold their seats. The new Victorian seat of Cox (formerly Corangamite) is too close to call on the new boundaries between the Liberals and Labor.
On the new boundaries, Labor requires just a five-seat gain to win a majority, while the Coalition needs to gain two seats to retain its majority.
The draft boundaries will go through a further consultation process before they are finalised. Final boundaries will be gazetted (become official) by July 20. If an election is called before all boundaries are gazetted, emergency redistributions are used. These emergency redistributions have never been used.
An election of the House and half the Senate could be called in early July, before the new boundaries are gazetted. However, according to the ABC’s Antony Green, the Coalition would lose from the emergency redistributions.
South Australian election final result: 25 Liberals, 19 Labor, 3 Independents
At the South Australian election held on March 17, the Liberals won 25 of the 47 lower house seats (up three since the 2014 election), Labor 19 (down four) and independents three (up one).
The Liberals won the two party vote by a 51.9-48.1 margin, but this represented a 1.1% swing to Labor from 2014, when Labor clung to power despite losing the popular vote 53.0-47.0.
Primary votes were 38.0% Liberal (down 6.8%), 32.8% Labor (down 3.0%), 14.2% SA-BEST, 6.7% Greens (down 2.1%) and 3.0% Conservatives (down 3.2% from Family First’s 2014 vote).
In South Australia, there is a fairness clause that requires boundaries to be drawn so a party with over 50% of the two party vote should win the election. The boundaries used at this election notionally gave the Liberals 26 seats, Labor 20 and one independent (Geoff Brock in Frome).
On the new boundaries, both major parties lost a seat to independents who had defected during the last parliamentary term. The Liberals gained King from Labor, but Labor gained Mawson from the Liberals. In Mawson, sitting Labor member Leon Bignell had a 4.5% swing in his favour, just overcoming a hostile redistribution.
Conservative commentators such as Graham Richardson have blamed Labor’s loss partly on its renewable energy policies. Between 2011 and 2014, Labor governments that had been in power for 14 to 16 years were smashed in New South Wales, Queensland and Tasmania. In South Australia, Labor had a two party swing in its favour. Renewable energy probably helped Labor, rather than damaged it.
The upper house results have not yet been finalised. In the race for the final seat, Labor has 3.46 quotas and the Conservatives 0.42. With preferences to come from Animal Justice, Dignity, SA-BEST and the Liberal Democrats, it is likely that Labor’s fourth candidate will defeat the Conservatives.
Final Tasmanian result: 13 Liberals, ten Labor, two Greens
At the Tasmanian election held on March 3, the Liberals won 13 of the 25 lower house seats (down two since the 2014 election), Labor won ten (up three) and the Greens two (down one). This is the first time a single party has had a one-seat majority at a Tasmanian election since 1978.
There were two seats contested between different parties that were undecided on election night. In Franklin, the Greens won the final seat by 226 votes or 0.02 quotas against the Liberals. Labor gained a seat from the Liberals.
Final primary votes gave the Liberals 2.90 quotas, Labor 2.06, the Greens 0.86 and the Shooters 0.17. As expected, the Liberals greatly benefited from Shooters’ preferences, but were damaged by within-ticket leakage. With only Labor votes left (they had 2.20 quotas at this point), the final Liberal led the final Green by just 81 votes. Labor’s votes then flowed strongly to the Greens.
In Bass, the Liberals had 3.53 quotas, Labor 1.58 and the Greens 0.56. At the three-way crunch point, the Liberals were just behind the Greens and Labor and were excluded. On Liberal preferences, Labor comfortably defeated the Greens by 801 votes or 0.07 quotas, thus gaining a seat from the Greens.
Final statewide vote shares were 50.3% Liberal (down 1.0% since 2014), 32.6% Labor (up 5.3%), 10.3% Greens (down 3.5%) and 3.2% Jacqui Lambie Network. This was the Greens’ lowest Tasmanian vote since 1998, when they received 10.2% – their vote has more than halved since they won 21.6% in 2010.
I believe the Greens’ poor result was mostly because Labor has a young left-wing leader in Rebecca White, and Labor’s anti-pokies policy attracted Greens’ voters.
The upper house was not up for election. The 15 members of the Tasmanian upper house are elected for rotating six-year terms in single-member electorates. Every May, two or three electorates are up. Labor has four upper house seats, and there are four left-wing independents, so the left currently controls the upper house.
New South Wales March ReachTEL: 52-48 to Coalition
A New South Wales ReachTEL poll for The Sydney Morning Herald, conducted March 15 from a sample of 1,521, gave the Coalition a 52-48 lead, unchanged since October 2017. Excluding 6.2% undecided, primary votes were 44.7% Coalition (up 3.8%), 34.6% Labor (up 0.9%), 10.0% Greens (up 0.1%) and 5.4% One Nation (down 3.5%).
Incumbent Gladys Berejiklian led Opposition Leader Luke Foley 52.3-47.7 as better Premier in ReachTEL’s forced choice question. By 59-26, voters opposed the government spending $2.5 billion on constructing new stadiums.
In an era of single-term governments and growing electoral volatility in Australia, the return of Will Hodgman’s Liberal government at Saturday’s Tasmanian election with more than 50% of the primary vote is significant – and will have national implications.
The Turnbull government will take comfort from a result that demonstrates voters – even in left-leaning Tasmania – are prepared to re-elect a competent Liberal government that has delivered strong economic and employment growth.
It was a strong result for the Liberals. However, the outcome was shaped as much by Tasmania’s distinctive political practices and local issues as it was by national trends.
Pokies, housing, hospitals, and – at the 11th hour – watering down gun laws might have been the specific issues that dominated the campaign, but the decisive factor was Tasmanians’ enduring apprehension about minority government.
The legacies of Labor-Green minority government of the early 1990s and between 2010 and 2014 cast a long shadow during the 2018 campaign. Both periods are associated with economic decline, rising unemployment, and budget cuts.
While there is little evidence to suggest minority government has been a cause of poor economic outcomes in Tasmania – it is more that these governments were unlucky and found themselves in charge after national downturns – the fact remains that Tasmanians have a strong preference for majority government.
Given this history, undecided Tasmanian voters tend to back the major party that’s most likely to form majority government. This was evident in both 2006 and 2014, and was always going to be a feature of the 2018 campaign given memories of the 2012-13 recession in Tasmania are still fresh in voters’ minds. And the Liberal government, which was elected in 2014, has delivered strong economic growth.
It is this bandwagon effect that helps explain why support for the government increased by ten points over the course of the campaign, rather than going to minor parties – as has been the case elsewhere.
The final result was an emphatic win for Hodgman. But it is also fair to say he lost a bit of skin along the way, due to the Liberals’ big-budget, brutally effective advertising campaign seeming to have been funded by gaming interests.
The reality is that Tasmania remains deeply divided on pokies and the means the gaming industry uses to protect its interests.
Tasmanians voted for political and economic stability on Saturday, but an overwhelming majority support Labor’s policy of phasing pokies out of pubs and clubs over a five-year period.
The pokies debate is far from over. Hodgman must commit to open and transparent government, and subject his gaming policies to full parliamentary scrutiny in an attempt to regain the electorate’s trust. Opposition parties also have a role to play, and must be willing to compromise to find some middle ground.
The election’s losers
The result wasn’t a disaster for Labor.
Rebecca White, after securing the Labor leadership only a year ago, performed strongly during the campaign and has consolidated her credentials as a future premier. That she will be leading a stronger opposition bolstered by handful of up-and-coming new MPs also bodes well for Labor’s future.
The real losers in the election were the Greens and Jacqui Lambie.
In contrast to their success in inner-Melbourne and Sydney, the Greens have been struggling in Tasmania in recent years. The explanation for their decline in their former heartland can be attributed to the legacies of the last government, the absence of a high-profile local environmental issue, and that Labor, under White, has championed many of their core progressive causes.
Lambie and her party could have been the wildcard of this election, but she has had a tough summer and will have to fight hard to salvage her political career. Had Lambie herself run as a candidate on Saturday, it’s likely she would have been elected – and could have held the balance of power in the lower house.
Strangely, given that personalities and name recognition are so important in Tasmanian elections, she ran a ticket of grassroots candidates under her Jacqui Lambie Network banner that, as expected, failed to secure any serious support.
Lessons for the future
As the dust settles, we can draw a few conclusions from the Tasmanian election result.
Above all else, Tasmanians are a pragmatic bunch and are prepared to reward a government that delivers political stability and good economic outcomes.
The campaign also highlighted the power of sectional interests – be they mining, gaming or other actors – in Australian politics. The collective health of our democracy depends on curbing the influence of these groups at both the state and federal level.
Given the distinctive dynamics of Tasmanian politics, not too much can be read into the swing away from minor and protest parties and back to the majors. Perhaps the real test of the national political mood will come in South Australia on Saturday week.
With 84% of votes counted at Saturday’s Tasmanian election, the ABC is calling 13 of the 25 seats (a majority) for the Liberals, eight for Labor, and one Green, with three in doubt.
Labor is very likely to win the final seat in Braddon, while the final seat in Bass is a Labor/Greens contest, and the final seat in Franklin is a Liberal/Greens contest.
Vote shares were 50.5% Liberals (down just 0.8% since the 2014 landslide), 32.8% Labor (up 5.4%), 10.0% Greens (down 3.8%), and 3.2% Jacqui Lambie Network (JLN) – which only contested three of the five electorates.
Tasmania uses the Hare Clark system for its lower house elections, with five five-member electorates. A quota is one-sixth of the vote, or 16.7%. For a vote to be formal, at least five candidates must be numbered. Unlike the federal Senate, there is no above-the-line party ticket box.
I will run through each electorate’s results from easiest to most complicated.
In Denison, Labor won 2.55 quotas, the Liberals 2.26, and the Greens 1.03. This is a clear two Labor, two Liberals, one Green result, unchanged from 2014.
In Lyons, the Liberals won 3.05 quotas, Labor 1.99, the Greens 0.38, and the JLN 0.32. This is a clear three Liberals, two Labor result, unchanged from 2014.
In Braddon, the Liberals won 3.38 quotas, Labor 1.64, the JLN 0.36, ungrouped candidates 0.26, and the Greens 0.20. Labor is well ahead of everyone else in the race for the last seat, and will benefit from Greens preferences. This will be a Labor gain from the Liberals.
In Bass, the Liberals won 3.53 quotas, Labor 1.59, the Greens 0.54, and the JLN 0.28. Labor is more exposed to within-ticket leakage than the Greens, but is likely to be helped by JLN preferences that do not exhaust.
There will be a crunch point where one candidate from the Liberals, Greens and Labor is left. If the Liberals are third at that point, their preferences probably exhaust. If either Labor or the Greens are third, their preferences should benefit the other left-wing candidate.
In Franklin, the Liberals won 2.91 quotas, Labor 2.07, the Greens 0.86, and the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers 0.16. Premier Will Hodgman won 2.30 quotas, and some of his surplus will leak out of the Liberal ticket. However, the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers ran just one candidate, so four further preferences were required for formal votes. These preferences are likely to assist the Liberals against the Greens.
Labor has gained a seat in Franklin at the expense of the loser of the Liberals/Greens contest.
I believe preferences will start to be distributed following the last day for receipt of postal votes, on March 13.
Why this result occurred
In December, an EMRS poll had the Liberals and Labor tied at 34%, the Greens on 17%, and the JLN on 8%. In the three months since that poll was taken, the Liberals went from a losing position to an emphatic victory – a bitterly disappointing outcome for Labor and the Greens.
EMRS does not usually provide favourable ratings for the leaders, but it did in its December poll. It found Labor leader Rebecca White at a net +40, and Hodgman at a net +13 rating.
There have been two recent state elections with first-term Coalition governments that won landslides at the preceding election, ending at least 14 years of continuous Labor government.
At the Queensland 2015 election, the Liberal National Party under Campbell Newman was defeated; Newman was very unpopular.
At the New South Wales 2015 election, the Coalition was comfortably re-elected; Premier Mike Baird was popular at the time.
Tasmania has now followed the NSW example. Labor was crushed in 2014 after 16 consecutive years in power, and the Liberals easily won Saturday’s election.
In Tasmania, White’s initial popularity may have inflated Labor’s position in the polls. However, people generally do not vote a certain way because they like the opposition leader; the premier’s performance is far more important. But popular opposition leaders can inflate their party’s vote until close to an election.
At the 2017 Western Australian election, which Labor won in a landslide, Opposition Leader Mark McGowan was popular, but Premier Colin Barnett was very unpopular. The perception of Barnett was probably far more important than that of McGowan.
The Tasmanian Liberals also benefited from anti-Greens sentiment. In the final week, ReachTEL gave the Liberals a 46-31 lead over Labor, and EMRS gave them a 46-34 lead. These polls may have pushed undecided voters into voting Liberal to ensure a majority government, and so they understated the Liberal vote.
It appears that, four years after one term of Labor/Greens minority government, Tasmanians do not want to return to the Greens holding the balance of power. In 2006, Labor easily won an election that was expected to be close because of the Greens factor.
Tasmanian analyst Kevin Bonham has written about why Labor’s anti-pokies policy was not a major vote winner.
On Friday, the last day of campaigning, the Liberals were embarrassed when it was revealed they had a policy to relax gun laws that had been hidden from the public. There have been other recent cases where issues that would be expected to have a last-minute impact on an election have fizzled. If the Liberals defeat the Greens on Shooters, Fishers and Farmers preferences in Franklin, the net impact will be positive for the Liberals.
At the 2016 federal election, Tasmania was easily Labor’s best state. On Saturday, Labor had its worst result in a state election since the 2014 Tasmanian election – federal and state results do not necessarily agree. A Liberal state government will probably help federal Labor retain its four Tasmanian federal seats.
The Greens’ pitch to voters at Saturday’s Tasmanian state election is not being couched in policy terms alone. It is also based on a vision of a more desirable governing context for Tasmania. But is minority government good for the Greens?
The likelihood of minority government
There is a high probability that the Greens will get their wish and a minority government will be returned at this election.
Tasmania elects its lower house using a form of proportional representation known as the Hare-Clark system, where parties are awarded seats roughly in accordance with their levels of support within the electorate. Unless a party can win an overall majority of votes, it will not attain the necessary majority of seats to form a government in its own right.
In recent decades, the two major parties have struggled to secure governing majorities. In the eight Tasmanian elections since 1989, majority governments have been elected on only five occasions.
There is general agreement among commentators that a majority government at this election is far from certain. The Liberal Party attained 51.22% of the vote in 2014, and lead Labor in most polls. However, according to analysis by Ben Raue, the Liberals polled above 40% in just one of five polls held in the last year. If these figures are translated into actual votes, minority government is inevitable.
One might think that the possibility of minority government would render the major parties open to working with the Greens to form government. Yet the incumbent premier, Will Hodgman, has already declared that the Liberals “will govern alone or not at all”.
Likewise, Labor leader Rebecca White has also confirmed that her party “will not govern in minority”.
Much of this talk should be taken seriously but not literally. The major parties will be under pressure to negotiate an agreement of some description in the likely event of a hung parliament.
Any party that seeks to govern without the support of opposition forces will be perpetually at risk of defeat on the floor of the lower house. This reality is likely to weaken the resolve of even the most stubborn party leader – even more so once Governor Kate Warner makes the necessary entreaties.
However, it is not certain that the Greens will be the only parliamentary grouping in the mix to form a minority government. The most recent polling data (based on a MediaReach internal poll commissioned by the Liberal Party) has the Greens’ statewide primary vote at under 13%, which may not prove sufficient to secure the all-important “hinge seat” in each of the five multi-member electorates.
One of the particular challenges the Greens are confronting in 2018 is Labor’s capacity to outmanoeuvre them. As psephologist Kevin Bonham has observed, the Greens are being squeezed by the appeal of Labor’s “left-wing leader”.
Labor has also stolen the Greens’ thunder on the pokies issue, and its energy policy – complete with 120% renewable energy target – is likely to find favour with environmentally concerned voters.
Adding to the uncertainty is the prospect – albeit faint given recent polling – of the Jacqui Lambie Network (JLN) electing one, possibly two candidates. The JLN might make more attractive legislative partners for the major parties than the Greens.
Is minority government good for the Greens?
There is a deeper question that the Greens must ask: whether it is prudent for them to enter into any kind of formal arrangement with either major party.
There are advantages in the short term, such as policy concessions and even the possibility of executive office. But the longer-term consequences are far less clear.
The Tasmanian Greens suffered swings against them following the three previous occasions that they entered into some form of agreement to support a minority government: -3.9% in 1992, -2.1% in 1996, and -7.8% in 2014.
Though there were unique circumstances surrounding each of these agreements, it is unclear if the benefits outweigh the costs for the Greens. One international study concluded that participation in government “is not necessarily bad for Green parties”, which falls well short of a ringing endorsement.
If, following this election, the Greens are needed to form a stable government, then the party will have to think strategically about the terms on which it does so. Is participation in executive office a higher prize than consistency of electoral performance?
If the Greens value the former, then securing a formal agreement is the best way forward. But if they value the latter, then a “confidence-and-supply agreement” is their best option. This would allow the Greens to demand additional parliamentary resources and to shape the fate of legislation, without having to shoulder responsibility for government failures at a critical time in the party’s development.
The Tasmanian election will be held on Saturday. A ReachTEL poll, conducted for The Mercury on February 22 from a large sample of more than 3,100, gave the Liberals 46.4% of the vote, Labor 31.1%, the Greens 12.1%, the Jacqui Lambie Network (JLN) 5.2%, others 2.0%, and 3.3% were undecided.
When undecideds are excluded, the Liberals have 48.0%, Labor 32.2%, the Greens 12.5%, and JLN 5.4%.
Tasmania uses the Hare-Clark system, with five five-member electorates. A quota is one-sixth of the vote, or 16.7%. Sample sizes for each electorate in ReachTEL were 620-650. The Liberals had well over 50% in Bass and Braddon, and 49.6% in Lyons, implying they would win three of the five seats in each.
In Franklin, the Liberals had 42.6%, easily enough for two seats. In Denison, the Liberals had 33.8%, just enough for two seats.
On the stated figures, the most likely overall seat outcome is 13 or 14 Liberals out of 25, eight-to-ten Labor, and two or three Greens. So, the Liberals should win a majority.
Like other Tasmanian polls, ReachTEL has in the past skewed to the Greens and against Labor. At the last two federal elections, ReachTEL skewed to the Liberals in Tasmania, though it skewed against the Liberals at the 2014 state election.
Adjusting for ReachTEL’s skew, Tasmanian analyst Kevin Bonham thinks the most likely outcome is 13 Liberals, ten Labor, and two Greens. The next two most likely outcomes are 13 Liberals, 11 Labor, one Green; and 12 Liberals, 11 Labor, two Greens.
I do not think opposition to Labor’s anti-pokies policy caused the swing to the Liberals during the campaign. The most important factor was probably that many Tasmanians detest the Greens, and will vote for the major party most likely to win a majority. In 2006, Labor easily won an election that had appeared likely to result in a hung parliament.
The Greens’ vote of 12.5% in this poll is below the 13.7% they won at the 2014 election, and it could be lower given ReachTEL’s pro-Greens skew. It is likely the Greens are doing badly because Labor, under Rebecca White’s leadership, has become more left-wing, so the Greens are having trouble differentiating themselves from Labor.
Incumbent Will Hodgman led White by 51.8-48.2 on ReachTEL’s forced choice better premier question. Labor’s pokies policy was supported against the Liberals’ policy by a 57-43 margin.
ReachTEL 54-46 to federal Labor
A Sky News ReachTEL, conducted February 22 – the day before Barnaby Joyce resigned – had federal Labor leading by 54-46, a two-point gain for Labor since late January. Primary votes were 37% Labor (up one), 33% Coalition (down one), 11% Greens (up one), and 7% One Nation (down one). The remaining 12% probably included some undecided voters.
ReachTEL is using respondent-allocated preferences, which have been better for the Coalition than previous election preferences, as One Nation preferences are flowing to the Coalition at a greater rate than the 50-50 flow at the 2016 election. By last election preferences, Bonham calculates this poll was about 55.5-44.5 to Labor. This makes it one of the worst polls for the Coalition this term.
Despite the blowout in the Labor margin, Malcolm Turnbull continued to lead Bill Shorten by 53-47 in ReachTEL’s forced choice better prime minister question (54-46 in January). Although the Joyce affair appears to have damaged the Coalition, Turnbull is not being blamed.
Last week’s Newspoll, conducted February 15-18 from a sample of 1,630, gave Labor a 53-47 lead, a one-point gain for Labor. Primary votes were 37% Labor (steady), 36% Coalition (down two), 10% Greens (steady), and 8% One Nation (up three). This was Turnbull’s 27th successive Newspoll loss, three short of Tony Abbott.
The overall Labor/Green vote in this Newspoll was 47%; the left vote has been stuck at 47% in Newspoll since August. Despite the Joyce affair, the overall Coalition/One Nation vote was up one point to 44%.
Turnbull’s ratings were 34% satisfied, 54% dissatisfied (37-50 previously). Shorten’s ratings were the same as Turnbull’s, and Turnbull led Shorten 40-33 as better prime minister (45-31 previously).
A total of 65% thought Joyce should resign as deputy prime minister, while only 23% thought he should stay. By 64-25, voters supported a ban on politicians having sexual relations with their staff. By 57-32, voters supported Shorten’s policy to give Indigenous people a voice to federal parliament.
As long as Republicans hold Congress, no chance of real US gun control
After the recent Florida high school gun massacre, there has been a renewed push for US gun control. However, as I wrote following the Las Vegas massacre in October, meaningful gun control will not happen under Donald Trump and the current Republican-controlled Congress.
The Florida state legislature, which Republicans control 76-40, defeated a motion to debate a ban on assault weapons by 71-36, even as students from the affected school looked on. Instead, it passed a motion declaring pornography a public health risk.
Trump’s ratings are currently 39.1% approve, 55.6% disapprove, in the FiveThirtyEight poll aggregate. Before the gun massacre, Trump’s approval had risen to 41.5% owing to perceptions of an improving US economy; for several weeks, Trump’s approval was at least 40%.
Democrats lead by 47.0-38.8 in the race for Congress. Before the massacre, the Democrats’ lead had fallen to 6.4 points. All 435 US House of Representatives seats will be up for election in November, and also one-third of the 100 senators. Democrats probably need a mid-to-high single-digit popular vote margin to win control of the House of Representatives.
The Italian election will be held on March 4. 37% of both chambers of the Italian parliament will be elected by first past the post, and the remainder by proportional representation.
Italy imposes a blackout on polling during the final two weeks of election campaigns. The last polls were published on or before February 16.
In the final pre-blackout polls, the centre-right coalition was in the high 30s, with the centre-left coalition and the populist left Five Star Movement trailing with about 27% each. A left-wing breakaway from the centre-left had about 6%.
Even though the overall left vote is about 60%, the right could win a majority owing to the first-past-the-post seats.
The centre-right coalition includes former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s old party (Forza Italia). Although Berlusconi is banned from contesting elections, he could be the power behind the throne if his coalition wins a majority in both chambers.
Some say Tasmania’s smaller population is an asset to the state’s unique character, others believe it condemns the state to mediocrity and holds us back.
But what’s usually ignored in the typical BBQ conversation is that it’s actually the composition of the population that really matters.
It is unrealistic for these political parties to expect population growth rates to be maintained or increase by themselves as population growth is not linear. The drivers of population change in Tasmania are the population age structure and the state’s relative economic performance with the rest of the country. Tasmania needs the ability to retain and/or attract families to live and work there.
A long standing population policy
In March 2013, the then opposition leader for the Liberal Party, Will Hodgman, announced a population target of 650,000 Tasmanians by 2050. This was based on a population growth rate of 0.6% per annum, the average rate of growth over the previous decade.
Previous Labor governments had asserted that population growth would occur naturally alongside a strong economy and so a specific population strategy was not required.
When the Hodgman Liberal government took office in March 2014, it developed and released a population strategy aiming to reverse Tasmania’s projected population decline and put Tasmania on a population growth trajectory.
Population change occurs as a result of natural increase (more births than deaths) and migration (in Tasmania’s case both interstate and overseas migration).
Historically, around 60% of Tasmania’s population growth has occurred from natural increase. However, the state’s population continues to age and the number and proportion of women of reproductive age continues to decline. So the usual natural increase will wane as the gap between births and deaths reduces.
Migration will need to increase considerably to replace this projected slowing down and to achieve both the short term population targets desired by the Property Council and the longer term objectives of the Tasmanian Liberal government. Even with increased migration (interstate and overseas) of families, they will then need to have at least two children to ensure population replacement is possible.
However, historically Tasmania has always gained more older people (those aged 45 and over) and lost more younger, working and reproductive aged people (those aged 19 to 39). This is primarily due to a lack of employment opportunities..
This trend reduces the proportion of the population that is younger – and increases the proportion of the population that is older. In comparison with the rest of Australia, Tasmania is seeing this happen at a faster rate, even in times of stronger population growth.
Impact on Tasmania’s economy
Tasmania’s ageing population matters because as people get older they become more reliant on the services provided by governments (for example pensions, health and aged care). These services are funded by the taxpayer; however in ageing populations, taxpayers are diminishing in supply.
Of course this is not to say that older people are not valuable contributors to the community and economy, particularly those who are active, engaged and self-funded in their retirement.
Older people can also contribute to the state’s economy as consumers in labour intensive sectors like retail and hospitality and the health and care services. These all create employment opportunities for Tasmanians. Over a third of all new jobs projected over the next five years in Tasmania are in the healthcare and social assistance sector (5,300 additional jobs).
These economic and employment opportunities will need to be carefully managed as the Tasmanian workforce becomes increasingly dominated by industry sectors that are largely publicly funded.
The Tasmanian Liberals’ three-pronged plan focuses on job creation and workforce development, supporting interstate and overseas migration, and promoting Tasmania’s liveability and lifestyle. Labor’s intent is to invest in essential services, build productive infrastructure and promote the creation of secure and stable jobs.
Both plans are laudable in achieving potential growth. However, to effectively change the age structure of the population (and longer term population growth), these policies will need to be targeted to those of working and reproductive age.
While targeted population growth is important for Tasmania in meeting the challenges of an ageing population and a growing economy, population change needs to be planned for. A stable age structure with a population balanced between the working age and non-working age will provide a platform for proactive and consistent economic development policy.
This in turn will provide greater confidence for the private sector to invest in the state over the longer term, increasing the propensity for growth and the potential prosperity for all Tasmanians.
Population growth for growth’s sake (as a proxy for economic growth), without consideration for the economic and social implications this creates, might actually result in a type which puts at risk the longer term economic viability of the state.
On Sunday, Premier Will Hodgman called the Tasmanian election for March 3. Tasmania uses the Hare Clark system for its lower house, with five electorates, each with five members. The electorates use the same names and boundaries as the five federal Tasmanian electorates of Bass, Braddon, Franklin, Denison and Lyons. A quota for election is one-sixth of the vote, or 16.7%.
At the March 2014 election, the Liberals won in a landslide, with 15 of the 25 seats, while seven went to Labor and three to the Greens. The Liberals won 51.2% of the vote, to 27.3% for Labor and 13.8% for the Greens. The Liberals won four of the five Braddon seats, three each in Bass, Franklin and Lyons, and two in Denison.
With all polls showing a substantial swing against the Liberals, they are likely to lose their fourth Braddon seat and third Franklin seat. If the Liberals lost another seat, they would lose their majority.
Psephologist Kevin Bonham expects the pivot seat to be the Liberals’ third Lyons seat. If the Liberals lose this seat, they are likely to lose their majority. If they win it, they will probably retain their majority.
Other than the established parties, the populist Jacqui Lambie Network (JLN) has a realistic chance of winning seats – its main chance would be in Braddon.
Both Hodgman and Labor leader Rebecca White have ruled out governing with the Greens’ support. A large bloc of Tasmanians detests the Greens, and the three previous governments that involved the Greens have had major problems. If Hodgman and White stick to their promise after the election, and the Greens hold the sole balance of power, the next parliamentary term could be messy.
In most polls, the Liberals are leading Labor. The people who detest the Greens have in the past swung towards the major party most likely to win a majority. If this behaviour is repeated at this election, the Liberals could get home. On the other hand, the unpopularity of the federal Coalition government should help Labor.
In December, White announced that a Labor government would remove poker machines from pubs and clubs within five years. I think this is good politics, as it differentiates Labor from the Liberals on an issue that neither major party had tackled in the past. I previously wrote that left-wing parties that differentiated themselves from conservative parties performed better in 2017 elections.
The Tasmanian upper house will not be up for election on March 3. The 15 upper house members have rotating six-year terms; every May, two or three electorates are up for election. Labor and left-wing independents currently have an upper house majority following a November byelection win by Labor.
The last three Tasmanian elections have been held on the same day as the South Australian election (March 17 this year). So, the election date is good news for people interested in elections, as it avoids a clash.
Xenophon’s party leading in Galaxy polls of three South Australian seats
There is no sign of any drop in support for Nick Xenophon’s SA-BEST. According to Galaxy polls conducted January 11-14 for the corporate sector, SA-BEST had 37% in Liberal-held Hartley, which Xenophon will contest, followed by the Liberals with 32% and Labor with 21%; Xenophon led 57-43 after preferences.
In Labor-held Mawson, SA-BEST had 38%, the Liberals 25% and Labor 22%. In Labor-held Hurtle Vale, SA-BEST had 33%, Labor 29% and the Liberals 23%.
Galaxy also polled the federal South Australian seat of Mayo, where SA-BEST member Rebekha Sharkie could be disqualified over the dual citizenship issue. Sharkie would easily retain by a 59-41 margin against the Liberals, from primary votes of 37% Sharkie, 33% Liberal and 18% Labor.
ReachTEL 52-48 to federal Labor
A ReachTEL poll for Sky News, conducted January 25 from a sample of presumably about 2,300, gave Labor a 52-48 lead by respondent-allocated preferences, a one-point gain for the Coalition since a late November ReachTEL.
Primary votes were 36% Labor (steady), 34% Coalition (up one), 10% Greens (steady) and 8% One Nation (down one). The remaining 12% very likely included some undecided voters who were prompted to show which way they lean. As usual, media sources have not given full primary votes. Bonham says this poll would be about 54-46 to Labor by 2016 preference flows.
Malcolm Turnbull’s ratings improved; 30% gave him a good rating (up six), 37% an average (up two) and 32% a poor rating (down eight). Bill Shorten’s ratings were 31% good (up one), 32% average (down four) and 36% poor (up three). Turnbull led Shorten by 54-46 as better prime minister, up from 52-48 in November. ReachTEL’s forced-choice “better prime minister” question usually gives opposition leaders better ratings than other polls.
I think Turnbull’s ratings have improved in parliament’s absence because the public is less exposed to the hard-right Coalition backbenchers.
By 44-32, voters opposed cutting the company tax rate for businesses with a turnover of more than A$50 million. By 39-20, voters thought trade deals were good for employment. However by 49-20, voters thought Labor should oppose the Trans Pacific Partnership if it did not protect jobs.
Essential 54-46 to Labor
In this week’s Essential, conducted January 26-28 from a sample of 1,028, Labor led by 54-46, a one-point gain for Labor since last fortnight.
Primary votes were 36% Labor (down two), 35% Coalition (down two), 10% Greens (up one) and 8% One Nation (up two). As noted last Friday, Essential will appear fortnightly instead of weekly this year.
Essential asked whether the Liberals or Labor would be better at handling various issues. Labor’s position improved on economic management (from Liberals by 15 in June 2017 to Liberals by ten), interest rates (Liberals by ten to Liberals by four) and political leadership (Liberals by eight to Labor by two). The Liberals improved on water supply (Labor by five to Liberals by one).
48% (up four since November) thought Australia’s political and economic system is fundamentally sound, but needs refining, while 32% (steady) thought it should be fundamentally changed, and 8% (down two) thought the system was already working well.
There were large, favourable changes in perceptions of how the economy and unemployment have performed over the last year, compared to February 2016. There was relatively little movement on other economic issues.
51% (down two since August) thought their income had fallen behind the cost of living, 28% stayed even (up three) and 14% gone up more (down one). Private health insurance continued to be very negatively perceived, with the questions last asked in September.
Essential asked whether sports were exciting or boring to watch. Tennis was easily the best with a net +13 rating, followed by swimming at a net +3 and AFL football at a net +2. Twenty20 cricket had a net -7 rating, rugby league and soccer both had a net -15, Test cricket a net -24, rugby union a net -32, and golf was at the bottom on a net -54.
Far-right Czech Republic president re-elected
In the a presidential election runoff held January 26-27 in the Czech Republic, the far-right incumbent, Miloš Zeman, defeated his opponent, Jiří Drahoš, by a 51.4-48.6 margin.
The March 3 Tasmanian election, announced on Sunday, will be the opening contest in an election-heavy year that will see three state polls, with the expectation of federal byelections as well.
But, Malcolm Turnbull says, people won’t be casting a national vote until the due time of 2019 – although Labor is working on contingency plans for this year in case Turnbull changes his mind or is foxing.
Of special interest at the state level is the South Australian March 17 election, in which Nick Xenophon – who left the Nick Xenophon Team in the Senate to return to SA politics – is shooting for the balance of power.
His strong support in the polls has injected high uncertainty into the battle; before Xenophon’s surprise entry the state Liberals had been confident they had a good prospect of unseating the long-term Labor government.
The other state poll is in Victoria in November, with the federal Liberals already at work to assist their state colleagues by weighing into the law-and-order issue – particularly the debate about African gang violence.
There is speculation that the Tasmanian contest could result in a hung parliament.
ABC election expert Antony Green said that Will Hodgman’s Liberal government could only afford to lose three seats to forfeit its majority and it was almost certain to lose two of those.
If it lost its majority, the Liberals would still probably have more seats than Labor, Green said.
Tasmania has a proportional representation voting system. The Liberals have 15 seats in the 25-member lower house, Labor seven and the Greens three. The election will be a test for the Jacqui Lambie Network.
Green said that if Hodgman again won a majority, he would be only the second Liberal premier of the state to be re-elected to majority government.
“Tasmanian elections are always tough for the Liberal party,” Green said. Labor’s fortunes had improved with the installation of a new young leader, Rebecca White, 34, who has been in the position less than a year.
Hodgman on Sunday ruled out deals with minor players, saying “we will govern alone or not at all”, warning of “the risk of going back to the political uncertainty and instability” of a hung parliament.
White had a similar theme as the campaign began formally. “We will not do any deals with any minor parties. We will not do any deals with the Greens. And we will not govern in minority.”
Poker machines are set to be a significant issue in the state campaign, with White promising to ban them in pubs and clubs.
In federal politics, the citizenship saga that dominated 2017 is set to cause more political heartaches and opportunities this year, with the future of Labor’s David Feeney, who holds the Victorian seat of Batman, now before the High Court.
There is a general expectation that Feeney, who hasn’t been able to produce documentation renouncing his British citizenship, will be knocked out of parliament by the court – and that Labor will run someone else at the subsequent byelection, where it would be struggling to hold the seat against the Greens.
Labor’s ACT senator Katy Gallagher is also before the High Court – but if disqualified, she would be replaced without a byelection.
The government has threatened to refer to the court three other Labor MPs caught up in the dual citizenship crisis – Justine Keay (Braddon, Tasmania), Josh Wilson (Fremantle, Western Australia) and Susan Lamb (Longman, Queensland).
The prospect of byelections in Labor seats means Opposition Leader Bill Shorten starts the year under some pressure, although Labor remains ahead in the polls.
Shorten will seek to get on the front foot with an address at the National Press Club on Tuesday – a week before the resumption of federal parliament – that will include some announcements of policy.
The government says its main themes for this year will be the economy and jobs, lower taxes, and national security. In legislative terms, it is pushing its tax cuts for larger companies, but so far they are being thwarted by Labor and the crossbench.
It is talking up the just-agreed deal for a Trans-Pacific Partnership that, while not embraced by the US, has put paid to the earlier suggestions – including from Shorten – that a TPP became impossible once Donald Trump refused to be part of it.
Trump has now said that: “I would do TPP, if we made a much better deal than we had”.
In Davos last week he said: “The deal was terrible, the way it was structured was terrible. If we did a substantially better deal, I would be open to TPP.”
Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce told Sky on Sunday that Australia wanted the US to be part of the agreement and if “minor changes” were required to bring the US on board, “that should be done”.
Labor is reserving its position on the issue until it sees the detail of the deal, due to be signed in March. Legislation would be needed for the agreement’s implementation, and it is expected that Labor would eventually support it.