We’re at the mid-point of the Queensland election campaign.
Pre-polling opened on Monday, with about two million Queenslanders expected to vote before election day on October 31.
But with just 12 days to go, despite the Liberal-National Party (LNP) opposition stumbling a little more often than the Labor government, neither side has emerged as a clear front-runner. However, the ALP has its nose in front.
Unusually, for a state that produced the likes of Bob Katter, Pauline Hanson and Clive Palmer, the campaign’s first two weeks have been notable only for a low-energy blandness. COVID-19 conditions and too few federal leaders appearing on the hustings have only added to a quiet air of sober austerity.
Fortunately for the Palaszczuk government, flavourless campaigns very often play into the hands of incumbents.
Indeed, it appears the pandemic has been a boon for incumbents everywhere. Between August and last weekend, Labor/Labour governments have been easily re-elected in the Northern Territory, Australian Capital Territory and New Zealand.
Voters, at least for now, appear to view leaders, parties and issues through a unique COVID-19 lens, and give governments free passes on such traditional vote-killers as debt, deficit and unemployment.
Put simply, opposition parties are getting little traction when making the case for change. This phenomenon will not have escaped the attention of federal Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese.
The Queensland opposition’s own lack of traction was confirmed in a weekend Newspoll.
Currently, Labor and the LNP are evenly pegged in their primary vote at 37%, with Labor enjoying a narrow lead, after preferences, of 52 to 48%. That’s a swing to Labor of about one percentage point since the 2017 state election. If uniform, that swing could see Labor seize three additional LNP seats.
Newspoll also revealed a slightly higher Greens vote, with One Nation’s vote down by about five points since 2017.
That lack of appetite for change has seen something of a role reversal between the major parties.
Where the LNP is spruiking a “vision” via costly infrastructure projects — a $15 billion “New Bradfield” irrigation scheme and a $33 billion Bruce Highway upgrade — Labor is painting itself as the party of steady growth and public safety amid the greatest health crisis in a century.
Even so, the campaign is firmly aligned with the traditional pillars of Queensland political culture. In the words of political scientist Colin Hughes, this means it is about “things and places rather than people and ideas”.
But a theme of political stability also emerged during the first week. After eight decades of majority government, since the mid-1990s, Queensland has seen three hung parliaments.
Both Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and LNP leader Deb Frecklington warned of instability being brought about by a vote for minor parties, then pledged “no deals” with crossbench members. Few believed either leader.
The campaign’s second week turned to integrity when the ABC reported Frecklington had been referred by her own party to the Electoral Commission of Queensland after attending a dinner in August hosted by a property developer.
Under 2018 legislation, political donations from property developers are illegal.
Frecklington denied any wrongdoing. The LNP also denied reporting Frecklington, noting it “regularly communicates with the ECQ to ensure that [they] comply with the act.”
This came as the state’s Crime and Misconduct Commission (CCC) took the unprecedented step of writing to every candidate with a stark warning,
[…] the lines between government and the private sector are blurring, with overlapping networks of association involving consultants, influencers, lobbyists and executives.
Labor briefly played up integrity questions last week, but the Frecklington story soon faded.
Even so, the issue robbed the opposition of a valuable campaign oxygen and made Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s (probably only) visit to Queensland something of a non-event.
Indeed, the fact that Morrison’s intervention caused few local ripples underscores the fact this campaign is very clearly about Queensland affairs.
That’s why Palaszczuk and Frecklington spent about half of their first two weeks in the regions, where economic pain is so often felt hardest.
It’s also why the LNP is pledging an unemployment rate of 5% (down from the current 7.7%) and why Labor talked up its enthusiasm for coal mining via the approval of a $1 billion Olive Downs mine near Mackay.
Last week, Labor jumped on Frecklington’s refusal to rule out “natural attrition” in the public service as a cost-saving measure — drawing comparisons with former LNP Premier Campbell Newman’s unpopular cuts. This is despite Labor’s own public service hiring freeze sounding remarkably similar.
It’s a curious strategy that will have an effect only in a small number of seats where the LNP finishes third behind Labor and a minor party or independent. Later, the LNP said it would put the Informed Medical Options Party — an anti-fluoridation, anti-“forced” vaccinations group — last in the 31 seats the IMOP is contesting.
Will pre-poll voting beginning this week, up to 70% of electors could vote before October 31, when postal votes are also considered. This pressure to “front-end” their campaigns saw the major parties bring forward their campaign launches to Sunday, October 18.
Few surprises were offered, although Labor’s long-pledged euthanasia legislation and free TAFE for students under 25 years have generated headlines. The LNP’s $300 car registration rebate and plans for cheaper electricity for 16,000 manufacturing businesses will also provoke interest.
This election is still Labor’s to lose.
Few would have thought a US-China relationship marked by relative stability for half a century would be upended in just four years.
But US President Donald Trump’s privileged tour of the Forbidden City in November 2017 by Chinese President Xi Jinping now looks like it happened in a bygone era, given the turbulence in the bilateral relationship since then.
The shift in the US’s China policy is no doubt one of the major legacies of the Trump administration’s foreign policy, alongside a renewed peace process in the Middle East.
When Trump’s daughter Ivanka said at the Republican National Convention that “Washington has not changed Donald Trump, Donald Trump has changed Washington”. This would certainly include its handling of China.
Although China’s rise had been a concern of the previous Bush and Obama administrations, it was the Trump administration that transformed the entire narrative on China from strategic partner to “strategic competitor”, starting with its National Defence Strategy report released just one month after Trump’s 2017 China visit.
This read, in part,
China and Russia want to shape a world antithetical to US values and interests. China seeks to displace the United States in the Indo-Pacific region, expand the reaches of its state-driven economic model and reorder the region in its favour.
This new way of thinking deemed the US’s decades-long engagement strategy, deployed since President Richard Nixon in the early 1970s, a failure.
Prior to Trump, the US had sought to encourage China to grow into a responsible stakeholder of a rules-based international order.
According to the Trump administration, this is centred on “predatory economics” in trade and technology, political coercion of less-powerful democracies and Chinese military advancement in the region.
Trump’s sledgehammer approach to the US-China relationship has been problematic at best.
For one, Trump viewed the relationship transactionally, hardly scratching the surface of the deeper structural issues — such as state subsidies and labour standards — that exist between the countries.
He believed he could reduce the massive US trade deficits with China through a “big, beautiful monster” of a trade deal and this would be a silver bullet for both the economy and his re-election prospects.
This explains all the flip-flops during the drawn-out trade negotiations, during which Beijing largely managed to use the deal as bait to keep larger strategic issues off the table.
Moreover, Trump’s policies toward China, at least on the trade front, were unilateral. Instead of finding common ground with allies, Washington angered and deserted its allies by invoking punitive tariffs (Canada), renegotiating trade agreements to the US advantage (Japan and South Korea) and reducing its security commitments under NATO.
At the same time, the Trump administration relinquished US leadership in global institutions dealing with trade, climate change and human rights. As a result, the US lost its allies when it needed them most and gave China a new platform on the international stage.
Trump’s China policy has been further mired by competing interests in his cabinet.
According to former National Security Adviser John Bolton, Trump’s team was “badly fractured” in its handling of the trade war against China and its wider China policy.
The spectrum of voices in the cabinet ranged from China moderates such as Treasurer Steven Mnuchin and senior advisor Jared Kushner to sceptics such as US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to more radical China bashers such as Bolton, Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
As Trump became increasingly frustrated with a recalcitrant Xi reneging on “the deal” in mid-2019, followed by the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the China hawks in the administration gained the upper hand.
Although this led to a more coherent approach to addressing the strategic challenges posed by China, the result was more direct confrontations with Beijing and heightened tensions.
The past year has marked a low point in relations with tit-for-tat actions on a number of fronts, including
US sanctions on Chinese technology firms
visa restrictions for journalists, students and scholars
and more serious challenges to China’s territorial claims over the South China Sea and Beijing’s policies towards Xinjiang, Hong Kong and Taiwan.
The China hawks in the Trump administration now advocate empowering the Chinese people to change the Communist Party’s behaviour — just shy of calling for a regime change in China.
Beijing was largely wrong-footed in dealing with a maverick US president so different from previous administrations it had handled with ease.
However, it would be wrong to assign blame for the deteriorating relationship on Washington alone. It takes two to tango.
As Xi has consolidated his power, China has
expanded its surveillance state against perceived threats to the Communist Party
clashed with the US, Britain and others over a harsh national security law in Hong Kong
made shows of force to warn the US against supporting Taiwan
and further militarised its occupied islands and reefs in the South China Sea.
The list goes on. And these were not provoked by the US.
It is extraordinary that what started as Trump’s petty complaints on trade with China eventually escalated into what many call “a new Cold War”.
Trump may not have succeeded in completely changing Washington, but his administration has at least shifted the public narrative and strategic view of China among the US elites.
Getting tough on China has become a source of rare bipartisan consensus in a polarised political climate. In fact, even if Trump loses the election to Democratic challenger Joe Biden, a fundamental U-turn in US-China relations is still unlikely.
if China has its way, it will keep robbing the United States and American companies of their technology and intellectual property.
However, Biden does suggest he would ditch tariffs as means in securing a fairer trade deal with China. And he wants to build a
united front of US allies and partners to confront China’s abusive behaviours and human rights violations.
So, if Beijing was hoping the upcoming election would fix its Trump problem by bringing someone new into the White House, it shouldn’t hold its breath.
The US-China relationship has been drastically changed by Trump — and this won’t be undone easily.
Much of the focus of Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese’s budget reply speech was around Labor’s proposal to expand childcare subsidies – a policy with some flaws but which moves in the right direction.
Labor’s plan to modernise the electricity grid by setting up a “Rewiring the Nation Corporation” with A$20 billion in government support was also met with general approval.
What got less attention was the third pillar of Labor’s budget strategy – a big push toward more local manufacturing jobs.
Albanese wasn’t shy about what he meant. He lamented the loss of Australia’s car-making industry:
Australians will never forget that it was this government that drove Holden, Ford and other car makers out of Australia, taking tens of thousands of jobs in auto manufacturing, servicing and the supply chain with them.
He then announced Labor would create a “National Rail Manufacturing Plan” to expand Australia’s boutique train-building industry:
We will provide leadership to the states and work with industry to identify and optimise the opportunities to build trains here in Australia – for freight and for public transport.
The economics of pillars 1 and 2 make sense. Pillar 3 involves trying to turn back the clock on the irrepressible, tectonic forces of globalisation and automation to pretend we should make things here we shouldn’t.
Countries benefit from trade rather than seeking to produce everything they need locally. This is due to the idea of “comparative advantage”, originated by David Ricardo in his 1817 book On the Principles of Political Economy and Taxation.
One country (call it country A) might be more efficient than another (country B) in absolute terms at producing, for example, T-shirts and wine. It is tempting to think, then, that country A should produce both T-shirts and wine.
But what if country B is really inefficient at producing T-shirts but reasonable at producing wine? If country A specialises in producing T-shirts and country B specialises in producing wine, they can trade and both be better off.
Why? Because country A produces T-shirts much more efficiently than country B, and country B is only a little less efficient at producing wine. Overall, both economies get more efficient, raising living standards.
Does Australia have any comparative advantage at producing cars or trains?
With cars the evidence speaks for itself. Local manufacturing only survived for decades because of huge government subsidies. Without them Australian-made cars couldn’t compete.
Only part of that was to do with labour costs – and we should be rightly proud of our comparatively high wages and good working conditions. Germany – home of BMW, Mercedes Benz and Volkswagen – also has high wages and conditions.
What about trains? Some trains are made in Australia – by Downer EDI and Canadian multinational Bombardier. That’s good for a few thousand jobs. But the market is domestic, with the customers being state governments who buy with an eye on local jobs.
There’s not a lot to suggest it can become an export industry, competing for example with Japan, which has been making bullet trains since the early 1960s. Or France, whose train builders have sold hydrogen trains to Germany and high-speed freight trains to Italy.
With these competitors having such an edge, and the well-known phenomenon of “learning-by-doing”, are we really going to catch up?
There are many other sectors in which Australian producers are internationally competitive, such as agriculture, services and areas of high-tech manufacturing.
Building on and expanding comparative advantage in these areas makes a lot more sense.
That said, the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us how fragile certain parts of our economy are. The same logic of comparative advantage that has done so much to improve living standards has also made us vulnerable in some areas.
Having little or no manufacturing capacity in personal protective equipment or pharmaceuticals like insulin, EpiPens and antibiotics is potentially very dangerous. Importing more than 90% of our pharmaceuticals puts us in a vulnerable position if a state actor that controls important parts of the global supply chain decides to cut supply. This is what economists call the “hold-up problem”.
So it makes sense for Australia to have more presence in strategic manufacturing like pharmaceuticals and personal protective equipment, even if producing these goods locally is not as efficient as buying them from overseas.
The pandemic has taught us that we have, as a nation, moved a little too far towards the efficiencies of “just-in-time” supply chains. We need to move back somewhat, but certainly not completely, in the direction of “just-in-case” – to a little less efficiency but a little more insurance.
That should involve a push for strategic manufacturing. We should at all times be looking to build on and expand our comparative advantage.
But trying to go “Back to the Future” and build an Australian De Lorean makes no sense.
Josh Frydenberg has told us his 2020 Budget is “all about jobs”.
What he hasn’t said is that it is actually aiming for a slower recovery from the recession, as far as unemployment goes, than from most recessions in Australia’s history.
That’s both the budget’s explicit forecast and the result of the measures in it.
You would be forgiven for expecting the recovery from this recession to be faster than the recoveries from previous recessions. Previous recessions haven’t involved the government requiring businesses close their doors.
In most recessions the government isn’t able to switch things back on.
Yet Australia’s recovery from this COVID recession is officially forecast to be on the sluggish side, as our graph of the recovery in the unemployment rate after each of the past eight recessions and slowdowns shows.
The budget expects the unemployment rate to peak at 8% in December this year, but then take three-and-a-half years to fall to 5.5% by mid-2024.
That’s an average decline of 0.71 percentage points per year in the unemployment rate.
In the 1990s recession – Australia’s most recent major recession – the unemployment rate peaked at 11.1% in late 1992, then fell to 8.3% by 1996.
That’s an average decline of 0.9 percentage points per year – a good deal faster than expected after this recession.
By the standards of past overseas recessions, our recovery is expected to be no more than typical.
We examined 150 past recessions in the countries that make up the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and found that typically unemployment falls by 0.85 percentage points per year – about the same as what Australia expects this time.
This analysis uses all the labour force data kept by the OECD – which in Australia’s case goes back to 1966.
The initial phase of the Australian recovery is forecast to be quite brisk, as you’d expect given the nature of this recession and the budget assumption that a COVID-19 vaccine will be found soon.
After peaking at 8% in late 2020, unemployment is expected to fall to 7.25% by mid-next year. That decline – 0.75 percentage points in 6 months, a 1.5-percentage-point annualised fall – is on the fast side.
But from there on, the recovery is forecast to stall, particularly in 2022-23 and 2023-24 when only 0.5 percentage points per year is expected to be knocked off the unemployment rate.
The budget papers show that support to date has kept unemployment much lower than it would have been.
Treasury believes that without it the unemployment rate would have peaked at about 13% instead of the predicted 8%.
Which raises the question: why isn’t the government being more ambitious and aiming to bring unemployment down faster?
The rapid recovery in unemployment peters out from mid-2022 because, as this graph shows, the stimulus is set to be withdrawn quickly – the deficit is set to more or less halve next year, and then halve again over the following two years.
Policy decisions made this year actually subtract from the deficit by 2023-24.
And the stimulus is made up of measures not particularly likely to create jobs, such as income tax cuts (where much of the money is likely to be saved rather than spent) and transport infrastructure, which creates fewer jobs per dollar spent than services such as child care, health and aged care.
We shouldn’t be content with a recovery that putters along at a below-average pace.
We calculate that extra stimulus of about $50 billion over and above what was announced in the budget will be needed over the next two years to drive unemployment back down to 5%, a result that would kickstart wages growth nearly two years ahead of the government’s schedule.
Some may appear in upcoming state budgets, but there’s no doubt the Treasurer has more work left to do.
Every year that unemployment remains too high is another year that Australians can expect close to zero real wages growth, and another year that Australians young and old will continue to confront a dearth of job opportunities.
Reserve Bank governor Philip Lowe said last week he wanted to achieve more than just “progress towards” full employment.
For him and his board, addressing high unemployment was an “important national priority”.
It ought to also be an important government priority.
Even as the results rolled in on election night there were mutterings that a parliamentary majority controlled by one political party is somehow inconsistent with the spirit of MMP. The magnitude of the Jacinda Ardern-led Labour Party’s victory will no doubt encourage that view.
Wrong. In at least three respects the election result is exactly what electoral reform was about.
For the better part of the 20th century single-party majority governments in Aotearoa New Zealand were formed by parties that won a minority of the popular vote. The best example (or worst, depending on your view) was in 1993, when Jim Bolger’s National Party wound up with a manufactured parliamentary majority based on just 35% of the vote.
You need to go all the way back to 1951 to find the last time a governing party won a majority of the vote.
But you can’t get away with this under MMP. Ardern has already racked up Labour’s highest share of the vote since the 51.3% Peter Fraser’s Labour Party won in 1946. It’s also the best performance of any party under MMP.
She’s done it at a time when voting for a party other than Labour or National is both possible and pretty normal. If, once special votes have been counted, Labour clears 50% of the vote Ardern will have achieved something no prime minister has done in 70 years.
MMP was designed to accurately translate people’s votes into parliamentary seats — and that is exactly what it has done.
Ardern is a centrist, a self-avowed consensus politician. Her single-party majority government will not behave as the Labour and National administrations of the 1980s and 1990s did.
If MMP was designed to do anything it was to lock in policy moderation. In fact, in the early 1990s, the Treasury was concerned to implement its favoured neo-liberal reforms before the electoral system changed, precisely because it knew policy radicalism would be next to impossible under MMP.
Where the David Lange-led Labour and Bolger-led National governments of the late 20th century were doctrinaire and divisive, Ardern will be pragmatic and focused on results. For better or worse, she knows exactly where the median voter lives.
For reasonable people, one of the purposes of an electoral system is to produce legislatures that broadly reflect the people who choose them. On at least one count MMP is heading in the right direction.
In 1996, the first MMP parliament doubled the presence of women in the House of Representatives. By 2017 the proportion of women parliamentarians stood at 40%. That figure got another bump on Saturday, pushing the number of women in the 120-member legislature from 49 to 56.
Nearly half (46.5%) of all parliamentarians are now women, the vast majority of them — 73% — members of the Labour or Green parties. This lifts New Zealand from 20th on the international league table to ninth (two spots behind Sweden).
This election will change the way politics is done, discussed and practised in Aotearoa NZ due to three significant developments:
Labour has won big in the towns and in the country. National can no longer claim to be the party of rural people, and Labour can no longer be painted as the party of urban élites. In fact, the fundamental question confronting National now is: what kind of party are we?
Once special votes are counted, it is possible Labour will have over 50% of the vote. Not only will it be the first time this has happened since 1951, it will also mean most New Zealanders have chosen a politics of communitarianism over a politics of individualism.
For the first time in our history more people voted before polling day than on the day itself (a lot more — 70% of votes were cast early this year). The very nature of elections has changed, meaning the laws banning political activity on polling day need to be revised. (In the process, the problem of setting an election date to avoid an All Blacks Test might be avoided.)
There is more to be digested, including that this parliament contains no small-party tail to wag the big party’s dog. But right now one thing is clear: MMP gets two ticks for its performance this year. It has done exactly what it was designed to do.
New Zealanders were not the only ones to go to the polls over the weekend. On Saturday, the Australian Capital Territory also voted, returning Labor for a sixth consecutive term after almost 20 years in office.
Andrew Barr, after almost six years as chief minister, has won a further four years in office.
The result confirms Canberra’s reputation as the most progressive jurisdiction in the Australia.
Labor’s vote remained steady, despite being the nation’s longest-serving government, albeit under different leaders.
The big winner on the night was Barr’s coalition partner, the Greens, led by Minister for Climate Change, Sustainability and Corrections, Shane Rattenbury.
There are five electorates of five members each under the ACT’s Hare-Clark electoral system and the Greens may have at least one member in each electorate.
With several seats still to be decided, at this stage, the outcome looks like it could be Labor 11, Liberals ten, and Greens four.
At the 2016 election Labor won 12 seats, the Liberals 11, and the Greens two.
The return of the government was predictable, but the result was expected to be much closer.
The government ran as an experienced, progressive coalition, tagging the opposition leader as inexperienced and too socially conservative for Canberra. It was a low-key, steady pair of hands approach, in contrast to an opposition relying on stunts and expensive policy proposals.
It was the Greens, coming off a solid 2019 federal election performance, who painted a vision of a “better normal”, including action on climate change and social housing, rather than business as usual.
The Liberal’s slogan was “lower taxes, better services”, playing on community concerns about rate rises and problems in health and transport services. It wanted to “grow the pie” through population growth, by appealing for the return of Canberrans attracted to nearby NSW towns by lower property prices. It also painted the government as arrogant and tired.
But the Liberal campaign, widely acknowledged to be disciplined, failed to cut through and was dogged by its inability to convincingly answer where the money was coming from for better services, if rates were frozen. The Liberals have now campaigned for almost a decade against cost of living rises without any return.
Saturday’s election result also sees the long-running controversy about the government’s investment in light rail resolved in Labor-Greens’ favour.
Despite concerns about the construction and usage of the new transport system, which launched in the city’s north in 2019, it is now seen as a positive. Canberrans in the southern suburbs want to get on board too.
Within the overall result, there were some intriguing variations between and within the parties and regions.
The Liberals’ lost a seat in its hitherto southern heartland, Brindabella. This may have been connected to growing concerns about climate change, fuelled by the bushfires and smoke haze at the beginning of the year.
But in the northern seat of Yerrabi, which benefited from the new light rail, Labor surprisingly looks like losing a seat to the Greens.
Stinging criticism of Labor, by former Labor Chief Minister Jon Stanhope, may have driven some Labor voters, not to the Liberals, but to the Greens.
Given the small size of the ACT and its traditional Labor-leanings, there are few national lessons from Saturday’s result. But the Greens will be encouraged to campaign again on a positive vision.
Meanwhile, the idea that incumbent governments thrive under pandemic condition elections also received a boost. There will be another opportunity to test this theory when Queensland goes to the polls on October 31.
At Saturday’s New Zealand election, Labour won 64 of the 120 seats (up 18 since the 2017 election). This means a Labour eight-seat majority. The opposition National won 35 seats (down 21), the right-wing ACT ten (up nine), the Greens ten (up two) and the Māori party one (up one).
Vote shares were 49.1% Labour (up 12.2%), 26.8% National (down 17.6%), 8.0% ACT (up 7.5%), 7.6% Greens (up 1.3%) and 1.0% Māori (down 0.2%).
Under New Zealand’s system, parties are entitled to a proportional allocation of seats if they either win at least 5% of the overall vote, or win a single-member seat. The Māori party entered parliament by winning one of the seven single-member seats reserved for those on the Māori roll. The Greens and ACT also won single-member seats.
Since the 2017 election, Labour has governed in coalition with the Greens and the populist NZ First. NZ First will not be returned to parliament, as their vote slumped to 2.7% (down 4.5%), and they failed to win a single-member seat.
This will be the first single-party New Zealand majority government since the adoption of proportional representation in 1996.
In February, two polls had National ahead of Labour. But Labour recorded massive poll leads in May owing to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s handling of coronavirus. Labour’s lead narrowed somewhat as the election approached, but final polls understated Labour’s lead; they won by 22 points, not the 15 in final polls.
With 78% of enrolled voters counted at Saturday’s ACT election, vote shares were 38.4% Labor (down 0.1% since 2016), 33.1% Liberals (down 3.6%) and 13.9% Greens (up 3.6%).
The ACT uses five five-member electorates, with candidates elected using the Hare-Clark system. A quota is one-sixth of the vote, or 16.7%. Preference distribution sheets have been released based on votes cast electronically. Paper ballots will be manually entered.
In Brindabella, Labor has 2.5 quotas, the Liberals 2.3 and the Greens 0.7. The Poll Bludger’s analysis of preferences has it very close between Labor and the Greens for the final seat.
In Ginninderra, Labor has 2.4 quotas, the Liberals 1.6 and the Greens 0.8. Labor leads the Liberals for the final seat, but it could be overturned on late counting.
In Kurrajong, Labor has 2.3 quotas, the Liberals 1.6 and the Greens 1.4. Preferences from Labor and minor parties give the Greens a solid lead over the Liberals in the race for the final seat. So Kurrajong is likely to split two Labor, two Greens and just one Liberal.
In Murrumbidgee, Labor has 2.2 quotas, the Liberals 2.1 and the Greens 0.7. This is a clear two Labor, two Liberals, one Green result.
In Yerrabi, the Liberals have 2.4 quotas, Labor 2.1 and the Greens 0.6. This will be two Liberals, two Labor and one Green.
In summary, Labor is likely to win ten of the 25 seats, the Liberals eight and the Greens five, with two in doubt, one Labor vs Greens and one Labor vs Liberal. In 2016, the result was 12 Labor, 11 Liberals, two Greens. The current Labor/Green coalition has easily retained power.
The Queensland election will be held on October 31. A Newspoll, conducted October 9-14 from a sample of 1,001, gave Labor a 52-48 lead, a three-point gain for Labor since a late July Newspoll. Labor’s lead is the same as in a YouGov poll that I covered in early October. YouGov conducts Newspoll, so it is effectively the same pollster.
Primary votes were virtually identical to that YouGov poll, at 37% Labor, 37% LNP, 11% Greens and 9% One Nation; the only difference a one-point drop for the Greens.
63% were satisfied with Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk’s performance and 33% were dissatisfied, for a net approval of +30. These figures are identical to a September Newspoll of the Victorian and Queensland premiers’ ratings.
Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington had a net approval of -7, up one point since the late July Newspoll. Palaszczuk led Frecklington as better premier by 57-32 (57-26 in July).
Channel 10 commissioned a uComms NSW poll after revelations of Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s affair with former Liberal MP Daryl Maguire. 63% said Berejiklian should not resign, and just 28% thought she should go.
The only information provided on voting intentions was that the Coalition led Labor by 38-30. William Bowe says that uComms includes undecided in the initial table, and that this implies little change from the 2019 election result.
A YouGov poll for The Sunday Telegraph gave Berejiklian a 68-26 approval rating. By 49-36, voters did not think she had done anything wrong. By 60-29, they wanted her to stay as premier.
A Victorian SMS Morgan poll, conducted October 12-13 from a sample of 899, gave Labor a 51.5-48.5 lead, unchanged since late September. Primary votes were 40% Labor (up one), 40% Coalition (up 0.5) and 9% Greens (down one). Premier Daniel Andrews had a 59-41 approval rating (61-39 previously).
The FiveThirtyEight national polls aggregate currently gives Joe Biden a 10.6% lead over Donald Trump (52.4% to 41.8%). It’s somewhat closer in the key states with Biden leading by 7.9% in Michigan, 7.8% in Wisconsin, 6.8% in Pennsylvania, 4.0% in Florida and 3.9% in Arizona.
Pennsylvania has returned to being the “tipping-point” state, and is currently polling 3.8% better for Trump than nationally. But Trump needs to get within five points to make the Electoral College competitive.
There appears to be a new surge of coronavirus in the US: over 70,000 new cases were recorded Friday, the highest since late July. Trump is perceived to have handled coronavirus poorly, so the more it is in the headlines, the worse it will probably get for him.
A pandemic can change the foundations of a society. But if this happens in New Zealand over the next three years, it will be for reasons beyond the control of the sixth Labour government. When it comes to the fundamental structure of state and economy, Labour is broadly committed to the status quo.
This was confirmed on election night when Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, wearing a Labour red dress before a National blue background, declared: “We will be a party that governs for every New Zealander.”
In times of upset, people yearn for normality — and Ardern’s Labour Party was awarded a landslide for achieving something close to this. The risk of a further COVID-19 outbreak is ever present, as today’s announcement of a community transmission case in Auckland reminded us.
Nevertheless, international spectators view our pandemic response with a wistful gaze. At a time when many nations went sour on liberal democracy and rolled the populist dice, New Zealand appears on the world stage like a tribute act to third-way politics, a nostalgic throwback to the relative sanity and stability of the long 1990s.
Yet for many people who live in Aotearoa New Zealand, the status quo isn’t working, and hasn’t for some time. These tensions are only intensifying.
Housing unaffordability is on the rise again, with implications for wealth inequality and deprivation. This is compounded further by the cascading economic effects of the global pandemic and unconventional manoeuvres in monetary policy that are pushing house prices higher.
Without remedial action, this inequality will leave New Zealand society more exposed to future shocks, not only from COVID-19, but also the multiplying risks of climate change, biodiversity collapse, digital disruption and international instability. Inequality ensures uneven impacts, a recipe for further discontent and conflict.
Even from a purely electoral perspective, the Labour Party can’t afford inaction. It is easy to forget how precarious the prime minister’s position was at the beginning of the year. She could boast enough policy wins to stack an early campaign video, yet hadn’t pulled a fiscal lever large enough to convince the public that her government was truly “transformational”.
Entering a second term, her policy agenda is more recognisable by what she won’t do than what she will — no capital gains tax, no wealth tax, indeed no new taxes at all beyond a tweak for the highest earners.
This leaves us with the longstanding conundrum of what the Labour Party is and what it really stands for these days. Ardern and her colleagues are not ideologues, but no politics is without ideology — a system of ideas, values and beliefs that orients its efforts.
I’ve argued in the past that Ardern’s government has a spirit of civic republicanism. This has met with reasonable scepticism, yet in the midst of the pandemic it feels more relevant than ever. With borders drastically restricted, and old allies going wayward, there is a renewed sense of separateness, of independence in the world.
Might the pandemic seal New Zealand’s fate as the Commonwealth of Oceana, as a 21st century version of 17th century English republican John Harrington’s utopian island?
The first symptom of republicanism belongs to Ardern herself. She is the active citizen par excellence. She embodies civic commitment and public-spiritedness, along with a good dose of humility. Even in emergencies, she remains one of us: primus inter pares, “first among equals”.
Analysts of Ardern’s political leadership emphasise her openness, honesty, self-discipline, empathy and, above all, her authenticity. For civic republicans, the exercise of such virtues is the lifeblood of public life. Indeed, insofar as Ardern has a distinctive political agenda, it is centred on the virtue of kindness.
Arguably, this has displaced the more principled commitments that might guide substantive structural reform. But kindness also provided vital emotional leadership in the raw moments following the Christchurch mosque attacks and the outset of the pandemic.
As the 18th century philosopher Montesquieu said, “Virtue in a republic is a most simple thing: it is a love of the republic.” Few could doubt Ardern’s devotion to the nation. But for the Labour Party, as for republicans, this has an exclusionary aspect.
Given the emphasis on citizens, republicans have tended to prioritise “us” over “them”. In the Athenian republic, only citizens could participate in democracy, and only wealthy men could be citizens — not women, not slaves, not foreigners.
Similarly, in New Zealand’s “team of five million”, only citizens have the full spectrum of rights and entitlements. For more than 300,000 temporary visa holders, whose compliance with pandemic restrictions was vital for containing the outbreak, there was minimal solidarity from government.
Many were frozen out of jobs during lockdown, unable to relocate due to visa conditions, and excluded from social welfare support. Others were stuck outside the country until very recently, unable to re-enter. From a liberal or internationalist perspective, this is hard to swallow. But there is a nativist strain within the Labour Party which will relish these harder borders.
None of this is to say that Labour’s politics aren’t liberal or social democratic. Ideologies can be mixed in the same way that economies can be. It is to say, more modestly, that some of the qualities that characterise the Ardern government align with civic republicanism.
And this helps to resist the lazy analysis that this government is nothing more than a continuation of what came before, another phase in an undifferentiable centrist blob.
But where to next? Firstly, this is not a government of pure socialist intentions. Accusations of this kind come from a place of confusion, delusion, or plain mischief. Socialism, simply put, involves collective ownership of the means of production.
This government already relinquished an unprecedented opportunity to socialise the economy when it implemented its wage subsidy scheme at the outset of the pandemic.
Public debt is growing precisely to keep private businesses in private hands. Labour’s resistance to substantive tax reform, even to reduce the debt it insists it must pay back, reveals its abandonment of redistribution as a practicable tool for social change.
Secondly, this is not a government of purely liberal intentions. It is ambivalent about the free flow of people and capital. Attorney-General David Parker, in particular, has prioritised citizens through restrictions on overseas buyers of housing and the “national interest” test for foreign investment.
Ardern’s government is also unembarrassed about a more active role for the state. Its approach for housing is illustrative — not just its boost to state-owned housing, but especially its embrace of the state’s potential as a developer providing houses directly to market.
Liberals see this as mere interference, but republicans tolerate government intervention wherever it improves the lives of citizens. In the wake of the pandemic, voters will be prone to agree.
This touches on the defining feature of civic republicanism: its commitment to freedom from domination. Republicans accept the kinds of intervention that liberals fear, as long as they free people from situations of oppression and subjugation.
Domination should also be broadly understood to include regulations, poverty, sexism, racism, environmental degradation, employment relations — anything that thwarts our cherished projects.
This is where the republican spirit mostly clearly intersects with the sixth Labour government’s interest in well-being. The purpose of worrying about well-being is to improve people’s capabilities to live the kinds of lives they most value.
Because the aforementioned forms of oppression curtail such freedoms, we have a duty to overturn them, through intervention if necessary. Well-being economics isn’t merely about measurement; it is an emancipatory project.
Ardern’s government is most vulnerable to criticism when it falls short of this ideal — for example, the oppressive practices of Oranga Tamariki or ineffective infrastructure development. If voters won’t punish Ardern for not being socialist or liberal enough, they might still penalise her for failing to make real these republican impulses.
It is said that, in politics, what lifts you up is what will eventually drag you down. When the virtues of openness fail to strengthen transparency, when state intervention fails to deliver outcomes competently or effectively, when appeals to “the people” paper over vital differences, when the politics of kindness fail to prevent suffering — this is where trust will be lost.
The danger of electoral dominance is becoming your own worst enemy.
Richard Shaw, Massey University; Bronwyn Hayward, University of Canterbury; Jack Vowles, Te Herenga Waka — Victoria University of Wellington; Jennifer Curtin, and Lindsey Te Ata o Tau MacDonald, University of Canterbury
The pre-election polls suggested it might happen. But the fact that Labour and Jacinda Ardern have provisionally won an outright majority and the mandate to govern New Zealand alone is more than an electoral landslide — it is a tectonic shift.
You can see the full results and compare them with the 2017 election here.
This is also not a result the mixed member proportional (MMP) voting system was designed to deliver. The challenge for Ardern and Labour now will be to translate that mandate — and the fact that their natural coalition partner the Greens have performed strongly too — into the “transformational” agenda promised since 2017.
For now, there is much to digest in the sheer scale of the swing against National and the likely shape of the next parliament. Our panel of political analysts deliver their initial responses and predictions.
Jack Vowles, Professor of Political Science, Te Herenga Waka/Victoria University of Wellington
It’s an historic MMP result, and that is down to one thing: COVID-19. Labour and Ardern made the right calls. Comparative analysis of COVID responses internationally shows it’s not just a matter of what you do, it’s a matter of whether you do it soon enough. Labour did that and have been rewarded electorally.
The polls were largely in line with what looks like the final result will be — the Greens have done a bit better, as has Labour, and National appreciably worse. It’s unlikely they can claw that back to where earlier polls had them. Special votes will be roughly 15% of the total and they are likely to go more in Labour’s and the Green’s direction, as they did in 2017.
The swing away from National is pretty dramatic. If it is indeed the first single party majority under MMP it’s very unlikely to happen again for a long time. The big question is whether Labour wants to do a deal with the Greens when they don’t have to.
It might be in their interests to do so in the long run — in 2023 Labour probably won’t be in such a strong position. If they have a good relationship with the Greens it might stand them in better stead, but it’s a tough strategic call.
As for New Zealand First, according to analysis of the Reid Research polls over the past months, most of their vote has gone to Labour. And that is simply another reflection of this being a COVID election. Labour was rewarded for protecting New Zealanders, particularly the most vulnerable — and that is in the traditions of the Labour Party.
Bronwyn Hayward, Professor of Politics, University of Canterbury
With a record 1.9 million people casting an early vote, this was always going to be an election with a difference. Younger voters also enrolled in historic numbers, with a significant increase in those aged 18 to 29 enrolling across the country. A generation’s hopes and aspirations now hang in the balance.
Labour’s victory offers the party command of the house, an unprecedented situation in an MMP government. But it masks some other remarkable achievements. The Māori Party’s fortunes have risen, with very little national media coverage.
ACT has been transformed from a tiny grouping of 13,075 party votes in 2017 to win an astonishing 185,723 party votes this year.
The Greens defied a dominant mantra that small parties who enter governance arrangements are eclipsed in the next election. They maintained their distinctive brand and should bring ten MPs into the House.
The epic struggle for Auckland Central by Chlöe Swarbrick (Green) and Helen White (Labour) has pushed up both the Green and the Labour vote — a microcosm of the wider shift to a progressive left electorate bloc.
The challenge now is for Labour to decide to open this victory to support parties. What happens next matters as much as the election itself. Will a Labour government led by the most popular prime minister in New Zealand’s history be incrementalist or transformative in tackling the biggest challenges any government has faced in peacetime?
Lindsey Te Ata o Tau MacDonald, Senior Lecturer in Politics, University of Canterbury
Tonight demonstrates that Māori voters continue to waver between the Māori Party via its electorate MPs and Labour via the party vote.
On one side there is the legacy of Tariana Turia and Pita Sharples, and the founding generation of “by Māori, for Māori, with Māori” in the post-settlement era. Rawiri Waititi, who may well take Tamiti Coffey’s seat in Waiariki, is the living embodiment of the success of that struggle.
The other side is exemplified by Koro Wetere’s triumph in 1975 in creating the Waitangi Tribunal. These two stories — struggle via protest and gradual legislative change — were deeply intertwined in Labour’s grip on the Māori seats until 2003. Then, in one grand racist gesture, Labour proved itself a colonial government by taking the last Māori land, the foreshore and seabed, by statute.
Māori voters have not forgotten the deep betrayal of that removal of their property rights. Hence the close races tonight for those who truly inherit the mantle of the Māori party’s founders, such as Waititi and Debbie Ngarewa-Packer.
John Tamihere’s close run in Tāmaki Makaurau is more just politics, Auckland style, as usual. He may be wondering why he didn’t go with ACT, which has brought in interesting new Māori talent.
Jennifer Curtin, Professor of Politics and Policy, University of Auckland
Two aspects are interesting in this post-MMP history-making election. The first is that Labour has made significant gains in the regions. It is now not solely a party of the cities — it looks to have claimed seats that have long been forgotten as bellwethers (Hamilton East and West), as well as those provincial hubs in Taranaki, Canterbury, Hawkes Bay and Northland.
This suggests that while New Zealand First had been gifted the Provincial Growth Fund to deliver regional economic growth to the regions, it was Labour that reaped the rewards of this largesse.
While COVID-19 is definitely part of the reason for Labour’s success, the support is likely to have come from across the political spectrum, bringing its own challenges.
This leads into the second interesting point. Judith Collins reportedly did not share internal polling with her caucus, but public polls suggested National support was in the 30% region. Collins argued the result would be higher, that there were shy Tories who would turn out for National.
In fact, this result suggests it was “shy lefties” the polls had failed to capture. And it appears undecided voters decided National was not for them this time.
Richard Shaw, Professor of Politics, Massey University
The Prime Minister asked for a mandate and she got it. Final numbers won’t be known for a couple of weeks, but the headline result was one last seen in New Zealand in 1993: a political party in possession of a clear parliamentary majority.
All the same, Jacinda Ardern will be chatting with Green Party leaders Marama Davidson and James Shaw (and perhaps the Māori Party, depending on events in Waiariki) about how Labour and the Greens might work together in the 53rd Parliament. Perhaps a formal coalition, but more likely a compact of some sort.
She doesn’t need the Greens to govern and their leverage is limited. But a lot of people who voted for Labour would not have done so under other circumstances (no Ardern, no COVID). At some point they will return home to National. Labour will already be thinking about 2023 and Ardern knows she will need parliamentary friends in the future.
But right now Ardern has a chance to consign the centre-right to the opposition benches for the next couple of electoral cycles. There is a chasm between the combined Labour/Green vote (57%) and National/ACT (35%). ACT had a good night but the centre-right had a shocker. National now has a real problem with rejuvenation. With a low party vote, and having lost so many electorates, their ranks will look old and threadbare in 2023.
This election is tectonic. Ardern has led Labour to its biggest victory since Norman Kirk, and enters the Labour pantheon with Savage, Lange and Clarke. Once special votes are counted, Labour could be the first party since 1951 to win a clear majority of the popular vote.
It has won in the towns and in the country. It won the party vote in virtually every single electorate. Labour candidates, many of them women (look for a large influx of new women MPs), have won seats long held by National.
Tonight Labour is looking like the natural party of government in Aotearoa New Zealand. Ardern has her mandate — now she needs to deliver.
Richard Shaw, Professor of Politics, Massey University; Bronwyn Hayward, Professor of Politics, University of Canterbury; Jack Vowles, Professor of Political Science, Te Herenga Waka — Victoria University of Wellington; Jennifer Curtin, Professor of Politics and Policy, and Lindsey Te Ata o Tau MacDonald, Senior Lecturer in Politics, University of Canterbury