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.
Big wins for the Greens, losses for Liberals
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.
The Greens earned a swing of 3.4%. It looks like the party will go from two to at least three seats, with the possibility of up to six in the 25-seat Legislative Assembly as counting is confirmed.
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.
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.
Independents and new parties made no inroads. The Belco Party, created by former Liberal leader, Bill Stefaniak, fell short in the western seat of Ginnindera, damaging the Liberals in the process.
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.
Combined with retirements, the losses among sitting members on both sides may mean as many as seven new faces in the 25-member Legislative Assembly.
COVID elections good for incumbents
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.
In February, two polls had National ahead of Labour. But Labour recorded massive poll leads in May owing to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s handling of coronavirus. Labour’s lead narrowed somewhat as the election approached, but final polls understated Labour’s lead; they won by 22 points, not the 15 in final polls.
Greens could win six of 25 ACT seats
With 78% of enrolled voters counted at Saturday’s ACT election, vote shares were 38.4% Labor (down 0.1% since 2016), 33.1% Liberals (down 3.6%) and 13.9% Greens (up 3.6%).
The ACT uses five five-member electorates, with candidates elected using the Hare-Clark system. A quota is one-sixth of the vote, or 16.7%. Preference distribution sheets have been released based on votes cast electronically. Paper ballots will be manually entered.
In Brindabella, Labor has 2.5 quotas, the Liberals 2.3 and the Greens 0.7. The Poll Bludger’s analysis of preferences has it very close between Labor and the Greens for the final seat.
In Ginninderra, Labor has 2.4 quotas, the Liberals 1.6 and the Greens 0.8. Labor leads the Liberals for the final seat, but it could be overturned on late counting.
In Kurrajong, Labor has 2.3 quotas, the Liberals 1.6 and the Greens 1.4. Preferences from Labor and minor parties give the Greens a solid lead over the Liberals in the race for the final seat. So Kurrajong is likely to split two Labor, two Greens and just one Liberal.
In Murrumbidgee, Labor has 2.2 quotas, the Liberals 2.1 and the Greens 0.7. This is a clear two Labor, two Liberals, one Green result.
In Yerrabi, the Liberals have 2.4 quotas, Labor 2.1 and the Greens 0.6. This will be two Liberals, two Labor and one Green.
In summary, Labor is likely to win ten of the 25 seats, the Liberals eight and the Greens five, with two in doubt, one Labor vs Greens and one Labor vs Liberal. In 2016, the result was 12 Labor, 11 Liberals, two Greens. The current Labor/Green coalition has easily retained power.
Queensland Newspoll: 52-48 to Labor
The Queensland election will be held on October 31. A Newspoll, conducted October 9-14 from a sample of 1,001, gave Labor a 52-48 lead, a three-point gain for Labor since a late July Newspoll. Labor’s lead is the same as in a YouGov poll that I covered in early October. YouGov conducts Newspoll, so it is effectively the same pollster.
Primary votes were virtually identical to that YouGov poll, at 37% Labor, 37% LNP, 11% Greens and 9% One Nation; the only difference a one-point drop for the Greens.
63% were satisfied with Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk’s performance and 33% were dissatisfied, for a net approval of +30. These figures are identical to a September Newspoll of the Victorian and Queensland premiers’ ratings.
Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington had a net approval of -7, up one point since the late July Newspoll. Palaszczuk led Frecklington as better premier by 57-32 (57-26 in July).
More state polls: NSW and Victoria
Channel 10 commissioned a uComms NSW poll after revelations of Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s affair with former Liberal MP Daryl Maguire. 63% said Berejiklian should not resign, and just 28% thought she should go.
The only information provided on voting intentions was that the Coalition led Labor by 38-30. William Bowe says that uComms includes undecided in the initial table, and that this implies little change from the 2019 election result.
A YouGov poll for The Sunday Telegraph gave Berejiklian a 68-26 approval rating. By 49-36, voters did not think she had done anything wrong. By 60-29, they wanted her to stay as premier.
A Victorian SMS Morgan poll, conducted October 12-13 from a sample of 899, gave Labor a 51.5-48.5 lead, unchanged since late September. Primary votes were 40% Labor (up one), 40% Coalition (up 0.5) and 9% Greens (down one). Premier Daniel Andrews had a 59-41 approval rating (61-39 previously).
Trump still down by double digits nationally
The FiveThirtyEight national polls aggregate currently gives Joe Biden a 10.6% lead over Donald Trump (52.4% to 41.8%). It’s somewhat closer in the key states with Biden leading by 7.9% in Michigan, 7.8% in Wisconsin, 6.8% in Pennsylvania, 4.0% in Florida and 3.9% in Arizona.
Pennsylvania has returned to being the “tipping-point” state, and is currently polling 3.8% better for Trump than nationally. But Trump needs to get within five points to make the Electoral College competitive.
There appears to be a new surge of coronavirus in the US: over 70,000 new cases were recorded Friday, the highest since late July. Trump is perceived to have handled coronavirus poorly, so the more it is in the headlines, the worse it will probably get for him.
Editor’s note: this article adds to the information we already published for New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria, and we will endeavour to update with information as we are able to collect it.
What you can and can’t do under the coronavirus restrictions seem to vary from place to place so no wonder people have turned to Google for answers.
According to Google Trends, some of the top coronavirus searches nationally in the last few days include “can I visit my parents coronavirus Australia?”, “can I go fishing during coronavirus?” and “can I go for a drive during coronavirus Australia?”
“Can I visit my boyfriend during coronavirus Australia?” was also a common one.
This time we asked legal experts – Benedict Sheehy in the Australian Capital Territory and Mark Giancaspro in South Australia – to help shed some light on what the new rules might mean for residents of their state or territory.
Benedict Sheehy, ACT: The ACT government is rolling over a set of declarations and there are day by day changes. That is what you might hope for with a small population and a government that is seeking to be flexible.
The declarations are currently less restrictive than those in New South Wales and Victoria. They include fines of $8,000 for breaches by individuals.
The declarations have the same emphasis on reducing gatherings of more than a few people, through to mandatory closure of “non-essential” venues such as gyms, restaurants and museums in line with the national government.
The declarations are likely to become more restrictive in line with spread of COVID-19 and national government policy. Like other parts of Australia there are uncertainties about specific aspects, particularly how they will be interpreted by the police and ordinary people.
At this stage there aren’t tough restrictions. Visits by children who do not normally live with their parents are permitted for “care and support”, including food delivery and other assistance. Visits by friends are also permitted.
The declarations aim to restrict unnecessary visits rather than provide a comprehensive lockdown of elders living at home. But aged care facilities are restricted.
Mark Giancaspro, SA: The SA government has taken direction from the federal government in advising South Australian residents to stay home unless it is absolutely necessary to go outside. There are fines of $1,000 for people who fail to follow the rules on self-isolating.
“Non-essential” visits include social visits to family and friends. But in SA, gatherings of ten people or fewer are currently permitted provided social distancing rules are adhered to (though a limit of two people per gathering is “encouraged”).
If your parents are in a residential aged care facility then a recent direction from the Chief Executive of SA Health prohibits visitation.
In any event, the federal government advises those aged 70 or over (or 65+ with chronic medical conditions) to avoid contact with others to reduce risk of infection.
An obvious exception, which is regarded as “essential” contact, is where care or support are being provided by the visitor.
Benedict Sheehy, ACT: There is no specific restriction but considerable uncertainty. Campgrounds, playgrounds and information centres in Namadgi National Park and the Parks and Gardens facilities are closed.
Most wildlife areas and parks are still open “providing the community access to nature for recreation, health and wellbeing”. The declarations allow non-social outdoor exercise.
As things stand people can apparently go bushwalking or fishing as long as they are not in a closed location (sometimes still closed after the bushfires) and maintain physical distancing 1.5m from others.
Mark Giancaspro, SA: Again, SA is taking advice from the federal government and stipulates that South Australians may leave home for “essentials”, including exercise “in a public space such as a park”, with a limit of two people applying.
South Australians are permitted to visit parks, including bush and walking tracks, provided they have not been ordered to isolate and the parks are in their local neighbourhood. Most South Australian parks remain open to local visitors.
There is no firm direction as to fishing but the federal government said Australians are required to stay home unless it is essential they go outside.
Recreational fishing, therefore, would not be deemed essential. But if this is in the course of employment or to attain seafood for consumption, this would appear to count as an “essential” activity and be allowed (subject to social distancing requirements).
Benedict Sheehy, ACT: Occupancy in major carparks appears to be down by around 80% . There are no reports of police pulling over motorists with questions about whether travel is essential.
Public transport and taxis are still operating. The expectation is that people will use common sense. Public and private transport will be used for travel to workplaces with an essential status, childcare, for buying food and other supplies, visiting the doctor (queues for flu shots in several locations) and visiting friends.
Mark Giancaspro, SA: Yes, provided this is for the purposes of undertaking an “essential activity”. This includes travelling to: markets for food shopping; public spaces such as parks for exercise; medical facilities or pharmacies for appointments or to collect medications; to work (if you cannot work from home); or to another person’s home to provide them with vital care or support.
It is otherwise required that you stay home and avoid travel.
Benedict Sheehy, ACT: People are still visiting loved ones or friends, subject to restriction on visits by people who are quarantined.
You are not permitted to visit boyfriends/girlfriends if either are subject to any are in self-isolation (people who have been diagnosed as having COVID 19) or self-quarantine (people who are travellers returning to the ACT from an international trip).
Mark Giancaspro, SA: Yes, provided you adhere to the limitation as to gatherings of people, as well as the social distancing requirements.
Increasing integrated global supply chains have made it hard to tell whether even products that are stamped “Made in Australia” have at some stage used slaves or underage children as part of the production process.
Forcibly detained adults and children work in industries including fishing, cocoa, cotton, clothing, cannabis, construction and prostitution.
The term “modern slavery” refers only to the worst forms of exploitation, and not to other serious breaches of human rights such as the denial of freedom of association or the denial of worker safety, such as at Rana Plaza clothing factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh in which more than 1,000 garment workers died when their building collapsed in 2013.
The International Labour Organisation believes that 21 million people worldwide are forced labourers, half of them in the Asia-Pacific region.
What will be required
As with the British Act, Australia’s will require businesses and other organisations above a certain size (consolidated revenue of A$100 million) to report annually on the risks of modern slavery in their operations and supply chains, and the action they have taken to assess and address those risks, and the effectiveness of their response.
Smaller businesses will be able to report voluntarily.
To ensure high-level engagement, the statement has to be approved by the board of directors or equivalent and signed by a director.
The statements will be publicly available on a central register maintained by the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth government itself, and those of its entities that satisfy the reporting revenue threshold, will also have to prepare a statement.
What will not be required
Two controversial omissions are penalties and independent oversight.
The government was unwilling to impose a penalty for failing to lodge a statement or for lodging an incomplete statement.
This needn’t be fatal. The requirement and the public register means that companies that don’t report properly can be “named and shamed” by non-government organisations. Consumer pressure can itself become a sanction.
The UK experience does not encourage optimism as about compliance.
In response to these concerns, Senate amendments have empowered the minister to name and shame his or herself, publicly calling out continued instances of non-compliance and reporting to parliament annually on compliance trends.
Australia’s parliamentary inquiry and a good many of the submissions strongly supported the appointment of an independent statutory anti-slavery commissioner with the authority and resources to oversee compliance.
The government will instead establish a departmental unit to help business address slavery risks and prepare statements.
The Labor party supports both penalties and the appointment of an independent commissioner.
It is possible that both requirements will be in place before the first modern slavery statements are due on June 30, 2020.
NSW has also passed its own Modern Slavery Act, due to take effect after the Commonwealth Act commences. It imposes a lower revenue reporting threshold of $50 million, and provides for penalties for businesses that do not comply, of up to A$1.1 million.
It also creates the post of Independent NSW Anti-Slavery Commissioner.
American baseballer Yogi Berra said that when we come to a fork in the road, we should take it. Wise advice. We have two ways forward and should take both. In truth, they converge.
First, we need to monitor compliance levels, and determine whether penalties and independent oversight are needed. And we need to set up processes that ensure the reports are of good quality.
First, there is no doubt that activities associated with modern slavery, such as human trafficking, servitude and forced labour, are grave human rights issues, requiring a dedicated and co-ordinated response.
Governments cannot solve the problem on their own. It is a particular issue in countries like India, but also occurs in Australia.
Although the UK’s Modern Slavery Act has seven parts, including protection for victims, civil and criminal provisions, new maritime enforcement mechanisms, and the establishment of an anti-slavery commissioner, the focus has overwhelmingly been on its impact on businesses.
The act and associated regulations require businesses with a turnover of £36 million or more to disclose what they are doing to eliminate slavery and trafficking from their supply chains and their own businesses. It appears there is support from people in the business community, and faith-based and other non-governmental organisations, for a similar business reporting initiative in Australia.
A key promoter of the introduction of a Modern Slavery Act here is businessman and philanthropist Andrew Forrest. He and his wife Nicola established Walk Free, a Perth-based international non-governmental organisation with a mission to “end modern slavery in our generation”.
Walk Free was one of the 173 organisations and individuals to make a submission to the parliamentary inquiry.
Although submissions varied in terms of how modern slavery and trafficking might best be tackled, there was broad, in-principle support for the introduction of an act. This includes submissions by businesses such as Qantas and Wesfarmers, both of which already report on their anti-slavery efforts under the UK legislation.
There is apparent bipartisan support for the initiative. The Coalition government has been exploring options for business reporting over the last several years through the Supply Chains Working Group set up as part of the National Roundtable on Human Trafficking and Slavery.
Labor has expressed strong support for the introduction of new business reporting obligations, proposing to go further than the UK by imposing penalties on businesses in Australia that fail to report on their anti-slavery efforts.
In the UK, as well as at an international level, compliance with such reporting obligations is primarily driven by considerations of public opinion.
What international obligations exist?
Several voluntary international obligations relevant to modern slavery exist. Globally, more than 9,400 organisations from over 160 countries have committed as participants to the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC). This is the world’s largest corporate sustainability initiative, actively engaging in responsible human rights and labour practices.
The Global Compact Network Australia (GCNA) brings together UNGC participants, other leading companies, non-profit organisations and universities – including the University of Western Australia – to advance these same goals in Australia.
OECD guidelines for multinational enterprises also apply to Australian businesses. For example, the associated dispute resolution mechanism has been used to bring a complaint against security firm GS4 Australia for conditions and alleged abuse of detainees on Manus Island.
Will an Australian Modern Slavery Act prove effective?
Last week’s visit to Australia by Kevin Hyland, the UK anti-slavery commissioner, was timely.
Although the UK legislation has received a cautious welcome so far, it is too early to judge whether it will have any meaningful impact on reducing worker exploitation.
In Australia, longstanding criminal laws against trafficking and slavery have not prevented their occurrence and, for the most part, have not been relied on by authorities to prosecute exploitation. The effectiveness of pursuing employers for the exploitation of migrant workers via the Fair Work Ombudsman is also limited.
By extending the responsibility to tackle exploitation to include business and not just government, it is hoped that the introduction of an Australian Modern Slavery Act will help tackle worker exploitation. However, there remains a risk that this initiative will continue the trend of side-stepping the root causes of worker exploitation in this country.
Vulnerability to workplace exploitation is closely connected to the regulation of migration and labour.
Therefore, as well as receiving the support of Australia’s business community, any proposed solution to this problem must engage with government policies and practices affecting migration and migrant labour to reduce worker vulnerability.
South-Eastern Australia is in the grip of a heatwave with temperatures threatening the record books. Temperatures across the country are reaching between 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) and 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit), with the hottest recorded temperatures in many centres threatened, as well as the highest temperature every recorded in Australia.