Labor gains in Newspoll to move to 53-47 lead


Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

This week’s Newspoll, conducted Thursday to Sunday from a sample of 1710, had Labor leading by 53-47, a one point gain for Labor since last fortnight’s Newspoll that looked like an outlier. Primary votes were 36% for the Coalition (down 1), 36% for Labor (up 1), 10% for the Greens (up 1) and 10% for One Nation (steady). The Conversation

30% were satisfied with Turnbull’s performance (steady) and 59% were dissatisfied (up 2), for a net approval of -29. Turnbull’s ratings since the election have tended to be worse than voting intentions would imply, probably due to discontent from the hard right, who will nevertheless preference the Coalition ahead of Labor. Shorten’s net approval was up six points to -22.

The deal to pass company tax cuts for businesses with an annual turnover of up to $50 million was announced late Friday afternoon, two days into Newspoll’s fieldwork period. Thus this poll does not tell us about public reaction to the deal. I expect next week’s Essential will have questions on the deal.

The tax cut deal is a possible danger for Nick Xenophon. Minor parties that are perceived to have compromised on their principles in dealing with major parties can be wiped out. This happened to the Australian Democrats in the years following Meg Lees’ GST deal with John Howard, and the UK Liberal Democrats were reduced to just eight seats out of 650 at the 2015 UK general election, following five years of coalition government with the Conservatives.

60% of Nick Xenophon Team preferences went to Labor at the last Federal election, and 40% to the Coalition. If Xenophon continues to make deals with an unpopular Coalition government, his left-wing supporters could desert.

Essential at 53-47 to Labor

This week’s Essential, conducted over the last two weeks from a sample of 1800, has Labor ahead by 53-47, a 2 point gain for the Coalition since a blowout 55-45 Labor lead a fortnight ago. Primary votes are 37% Coalition, 36% Labor, 10% Greens, 8% One Nation and 3% Nick Xenophon Team. Additional questions are based on one week’s sample.

28% strongly supported the proposed changes to the Racial Discrimination Act that were defeated in the Senate last week, 27% were strongly opposed and the rest either did not have strong opinions or did not know. 51% supported a carbon emissions trading scheme in the electricity sector, with 21% opposed.

Most organisations to whom money given is tax deductible had at least majority support to remain that way, with the exception of churches and religious groups (34% support these being tax deductible, 51% oppose) and groups that campaign on social issues (34% support, 44% oppose).

Asked whether political parties should be able to receive donations from various entities, individual Australian voters were the only supported source (47-39). All other sources of donations were opposed by at least 55-30, with casinos and foreign companies at the bottom (over 70% opposed). 41% thought activist groups, such as GetUp, should not be allowed to accept foreign donations, with 31% in favour.

50% said it was never justified to break the law, while 37% thought it was sometimes justified.

High Court rules that Bob Day was invalidly elected in 2016

Today the High Court, sitting as the Court of Disputed Returns, ruled that Family First Senator Bob Day was ineligible to be elected at the 2016 election, as he had a financial interest in Commonwealth property.

The Court has ordered that a recount be held to fill Day’s seat. Such a recount will very probably elect Family First’s No. 2, Lucy Gichuhi. Since October 2016, when Day resigned from the Senate, the Senate has had 75 members, with 38 votes required to pass legislation. Gichuhi’s election will bring the Senate back to its normal 76 members, with 39 votes required to pass legislation.

Bob Day was the Coalition’s most reliable crossbench supporter, but it is wrong to say his vote has been missed because the requirement to pass legislation was reduced by one in his absence. A key question now is whether Gichuhi will be a Bob Day clone on legislation, or whether she is more left wing. Gichuhi will not be able to take her seat until the Senate next sits on 9 May.

Had the High Court ruled that Day was validly elected, his replacement would have been selected by Family First. Day’s former chief of staff, Rikki Lambert, would have been the favourite. Lambert is now Cory Bernardi’s chief of staff, and would have probably been a Bob Day clone.

A final twist could occur if the Kenyan-born Gichuhi did not renounce her Kenyan citizenship prior to the 2016 election. In that case, following another High Court challenge, the seat would go to Labor’s Anne McEwen. Fairfax commentator Adam Gartrell tweeted that Family First is confident that Gichuhi is a valid candidate.

Tasmania: Shane Broad defeats Brenton Best to replace Bryan Green

Following former Labor leader Bryan Green’s resignation from Parliament on 17 March, a recount was held Monday in his electorate of Braddon to determine who would replace him using Green’s votes at the 2014 election. While both Broad and Best were Labor candidates at the last election, Best had been a troublemaker in the last Parliament; he was strongly opposed to the Labor/Greens coalition government.

After exclusion of other candidates, Broad defeated Best by 60-40. This will be a relief to Labor, which absolutely did not want Best back in Parliament.

French Presidential election update

The French Presidential election will be held in two rounds. All candidates will compete in the first round on 23 April, with the top two proceeding to a runoff election on 7 May.

Current polls give the centrist Emmanuel Macron about 26% of the first round vote, followed by the far right’s Marine Le Pen on 25%, conservative Francois Fillon on 18%, the hard left’s Jean-Luc Melenchon on 15% and Socialist Benoit Hamon on 10%.

In the last fortnight, the standings of the top three candidates are little changed, with Macron just ahead of Le Pen now after being narrowly behind. However, Melenchon has surged at the expense of Hamon. This probably reflects prominent Socialist politicians backing Macron instead of Hamon, causing Hamon to lose votes on both his left and right flanks.

In the second round, Macron continues to lead Le Pen by about 60-40. However, Fillon’s second round lead over Le Pen is down to 53-47 in one survey, which gives Le Pen a chance in the unlikely event that Fillon rather than Macron makes the runoff.

I will be doing an article on this election for the University of Melbourne’s Election Watch in the days before the first round.

Adrian Beaumont, Honorary Associate, School of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Melbourne

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

Electoral system flaws deny Labor and Greens WA upper house majority


Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

At the Western Australian election held 11 March, Labor won a landslide in the lower house, winning 41 of the 59 seats. However, in the upper house Labor and the Greens combined won 18 of the 36 seats, one short of an outright majority. There were two reasons for the left’s underperformance in the upper house: malapportionment in favour of rural regions and the group voting ticket system. The Conversation

There are six upper house regions, three in Perth and three in the rest of WA. Each region elects six members to the upper house, so the quota is 1/7 of the vote, or 14.3%.

I wrote here that Perth only has half the upper house seats despite having 77% of the state’s population. However, the problem is worse than this. As Antony Green wrote, a voter in the deeply conservative Agricultural region has almost 4 times the weight of a Perth voter. A voter in the Mining & Pastoral region, which is becoming more conservative, has almost six times the weight of a Perth voter.

At this election, about 49,000 formal votes were recorded in Mining & Pastoral region, 88,000 in Agricultural region and 194,000 in South West region. The three metropolitan regions had at least 334,000 formal votes each, more than the non-Perth regions combined.

Although Labor’s vote improved across the state from 2013, Labor and the Greens combined won two of the six seats in Agricultural region, and just barely three of the six in Mining & Pastoral. In all other regions, Labor and the Greens easily won at least three of the six seats per region. Here is the final upper house results table. Vote shares and changes from 2013 are from Wikipedia.

WA upper house.

The table shows the effect of malapportionment, with the Nationals, who only contested the non-Perth regions, winning as many seats as the Greens on half the Greens’ vote. Others in the table are the Shooters in Agricultural region and the Liberal Democrats in South Metro.

If all the non-Perth regions (South West, Agricultural and Mining & Pastoral) were combined, and non-Perth representaion reduced to six, Labor would have won 2.30 quotas, the Liberals 1.44, the Nationals 1.26, One Nation 0.80, the Greens 0.44 and the Shooters 0.33.

With One Nation short of a quota, so they would soak up right wing votes, and Labor’s surplus going heavily to the Greens, the Greens would have been likely to defeat the Liberals for the final seat, resulting in Labor 2, Liberals, Nationals, One Nation and Greens one each outside Perth, rather than the actual result of Labor/Greens 8, all Others 10.

There were three cases where a candidate who did not deserve to win won through the artificial preference flows under the group voting system, which is still used in WA. In Agricultural region, the Shooters, with 0.40 quotas, defeated One Nation with 0.82. In East Metro, One Nation, with 0.56 quotas, defeated the 2nd Liberal, who had 0.75 quotas. So much for some people’s theories that One Nation would not benefit from group voting tickets.

Most disappointing for the left, in South Metro the Liberal Democrats, with 0.27 quotas, defeated the Greens with 0.65 quotas. In that region, the Liberal Democrats were to the left of the Liberals on the ballot paper, and won 3.9% of the vote mostly due to name confusion. In all other regions, the Liberal Democrats were to the right of the Liberals, and won about 1%.

The table below represents what I think would have happened had the current Senate system been used for the WA upper house, and the malapportionment removed.

WA upper house fair.

This would give Labor and the Greens 14 of the 24 seats. In this scenario the Greens would win four seats, to one for One Nation. This may seem unfair on One Nation, but the Greens benefited from Labor surpluses, while the Liberals had no surpluses to spare to help One Nation. Individual “Others” did not receive many votes, and none would have won if not for the artificial preference flows that only happen when parties, not voters, direct preferences.

In the WA upper house, the President can only vote to break a tie. If Labor can persuade a non-Labor/Greens member to take the Presidency, Labor and the Greens would have 18 of the 35 votes on the floor. If a Labor member takes the Presidency, Labor will need the Greens and one vote from a right wing member to pass legislation.

Adrian Beaumont, Honorary Associate, School of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Melbourne

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

Labor seizes 55-45 lead in Ipsos with the Greens at an unrealistic 16%


Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

This week’s Ipsos, conducted Wednesday to Saturday from a sample of 1400, had Labor leading 55-45, a 4 point gain for Labor since late November. Primary votes were 34% for Labor (up 4), 33% for the Coalition (down 3) and 16% for the Greens (steady). The headline figure in Ipsos uses the last election preferences method; by respondent allocated preferences, it is 56-44 to Labor, a 5 point gain for Labor. The Conversation

Ipsos’ two polls since the last election have both had the Greens on 16%, while no other poll during that period has had the Greens on more than 11%. In the lead-up to the last election, Ipsos had a strong skew towards the Greens. If anything, that skew appears to have increased.

40% approved of Turnbull’s performance (down 5) and 48% disapproved (up 3), for a net approval of -8. Ipsos has given Turnbull far better ratings than Newspoll. Shorten’s net approval was -18, down 2 points.

Surprisingly, 44% supported reducing company tax rates to 25% over the next ten years, with 39% opposed. Two weeks ago, Essential found that 46% disapproved of the $50 billion in cuts to medium and large business, with 24% approving. Presumably, Ipsos did not mention the cost, or which companies would benefit.

63% thought that more businesses would not open on Sundays and public holidays following the reduction in penalty rates, while 29% thought more businesses would open. A Newspoll question from last week found that 59% thought penalty rates should be higher on Sunday, 29% wanted Sunday penalty rates reduced to Saturday rates, and 10% wanted penalty rates for weekend work abolished.

In Ipsos, 78% thought it should be unlawful to “offend, insult or humiliate” someone on the basis of race or ethnicity, with just 17% for lawful. However, Essential this week found 45% approving of the proposed change to replace “insult, offend or humiliate” with “harass”, with 34% disapproving. Question wording can make a large difference.

With Ipsos at 55-45 to Labor, and Essential at 54-46, it looks as if last week’s Newspoll that showed a 3-point recovery for the Coalition to close to 52-48 may have been an outlier. The next Newspoll will be interesting.

Essential at 54-46 to Labor

This week’s Essential, conducted over the last two weeks from a sample of 1810, was at 54-46 to Labor, a one point gain for the Coalition since last week. Primary votes were 37% Labor, 35% Coalition, 10% Greens, 8% One Nation and 4% Nick Xenophon Team – this is the lowest One Nation support recorded in Essential since January. Additional questions are based on one week’s sample.

40% thought racial discrimination laws were about right, 26% too weak and 16% too strict; these figures are little changed from November.

A question on priorities for the government had 46% nominating health, followed by “ensuring big businesses pay their fair share of tax” at 30% and unemployment at 26%. Cutting company tax was at the bottom, with only 3% nominating it as a priority. Since July 2016, health is down 9 points, education and deficit reduction both down 7 points, renewable energy up 6 and same sex marriage up 4.

41% thought Australia’s relationship with the US was becoming worse, with just 6% for better, presumably due to President Trump. 59% approved of the proposal to expand the Snowy Hydro scheme, with just 12% disapproving.

Newspoll’s additional questions are sometimes skewed to the right

While voting intentions and leaders’ ratings questions are asked in the same format every Newspoll survey, additional questions on the public’s attitude to various issues have sometimes been skewed towards the viewpoint of Newspoll’s publisher, The Australian.

In this article, Kevin Bonham was critical of Newspoll’s question last week on Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act. Yesterday, we were told that 47% were in favour of a new coal-fired power station, with 40% opposed (paywalled link).

The question is, “Would you be in favour or opposed to the Federal government helping fund the construction of a new coal-fired power station to improve energy security?” It is not established that a new coal-fired power station, which would take years to construct, would improve energy security. Those four last words should have been omitted from the question.

A February Essential found 45% opposed to new coal-fired power stations in Australia, and 31% in favour.

Rebecca White replaces Bryan Green as Tasmania’s Labor leader

Even though the party vote shares indicated a Labor/Greens parliamentary majority, the last EMRS Tasmanian poll had Premier Will Hodgman crushing Labor leader Bryan Green as better Premier 52-20. Partly as a result of this poll, Green resigned from Parliament on 17 March, and Rebecca White was elected unopposed by the Labor caucus. The next Tasmanian election is due early next year.

A November 2016 ReachTEL poll had 31.5% preferring White as Labor leader, followed by Scott Bacon on 19%, Lara Giddings on 15% and the incumbent Green on just 14%. White was ahead in all five electorates, including Green’s electorate of Braddon.

A countback using Green’s votes will be held to decide his parliamentary replacement. Shane Broad and Brenton Best are the contenders, although only Broad has so far announced he will contest. A Best win would be bad for Labor, as he was rebellious in the last Parliament.

Donald Trump’s Obamacare repeal attempt flops

At the 2016 election, Republicans won a 241-194 majority in the US House, and a 52-48 Senate majority. Despite the large House majority, Republicans were unable to pass a bill in that chamber to repeal and replace the 2010 Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare. Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan was forced to withdraw the repeal bill, and said afterwards that Obamacare would be the law for the “foreseeable future”.

The repeal bill failed because it lost the support of both hard right and more moderate Republicans. Appeasing the hard right Freedom caucus would have lost more support from the more moderate Republicans, and vice versa. Of course, Republicans could have made their bill centrist enough to attract some Democrats, but that would have been unthinkable!

It did not help Republicans that the public was strongly opposed to their Obamacare replacement plan. Midterm elections will be held in November 2018, and some Republicans were afraid that supporting this bill could cost their party many seats.

Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight website has Trump at 42% approval, 52% disapproval using a poll aggregation method. Over the last few weeks, Trump’s ratings have dropped a net six points, likely due to the health care debate.

Adrian Beaumont, Honorary Associate, School of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Melbourne

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

Government behind 45-55% in Ipsos poll


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

The Turnbull government trails Labor 45-55% on the two-party vote in the Fairfax Ipsos poll, as the Senate prepares to drastically restrict the proposed company tax cuts and reject changes to Section 18C in parliament’s last week before the pre-budget break. The Conversation

The Ipsos poll has found 44% support the government’s ten-year plan to reduce the company tax rate to 25%, while 39% oppose.

But the Senate is set to back the cuts only for smaller businesses. Malcolm Turnbull on Friday flagged the government would continue to push the full plan, even after a Senate defeat.

The Nick Xenophon Team has indicated it will shoot down the government’s proposed changes to the wording of 18C, which is being rushed to a vote.

Meanwhile, the government is stepping up its moves on energy policy by directing the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to review retail energy prices.

Announcing the review, Turnbull and Treasurer Scott Morrison said it would examine electricity retailer behaviour, as well as contracts offered to residential and business customers, to ensure consumers benefit from competition in the National Electricity Market.

The government is behind in the polls generally, with some differences in the degree. In Newspoll last week, the Coalition trailed Labor 48-52%, while Essential had the two-party vote at 45-55%.

Taken between Wednesday and Saturday, the Ipsos poll found Labor’s primary vote on 34% and the Coalition’s at 33%. The Greens were on 16%, and the “other” vote was 17%. The two-party vote is on the basis of preferences at the 2016 election.

Turnbull’s approval is 40%; his disapproval is 48%. Bill Shorten’s approval is 35%, while 53% disapprove of his performance. Turnbull leads 45-33% as preferred prime minister. Fairfax has not polled since November, when Labor had a 51-49% two-party lead.

The latest move on energy policy follows Turnbull recently seeking guarantees of domestic supply from the gas producers and announcing the government will expand the Snowy Hydro. There is an inquiry into the future security of the national energy market underway chaired by the chief scientist, Alan Finkel.

In their statement Turnbull and Morrison said that competition in retail energy markets should mean lower prices for householders and businesses. But “retail electricity markets don’t appear to be operating as effectively as they could”. The government was “determined to ensure Australians get a better deal for their energy”.

They said that recent work, including by the Australian Energy Market Commission, Energy Consumers Australia and the Grattan Institute, had highlighted significant concern about the causes of recent electricity price increases on the east coast. Submissions to the Finkel review had also raised concerns.

The ACCC inquiry would identify cost components of electricity retail pricing and how they affect the retail offers made to customers. It would look at whether electricity retailers’ margins and profitability are in line with their costs and risks, as well as considering impediments to consumer choice, such as the clarity of contracts.

It would also examine the competitiveness of offers available to larger business customers, taking into account the conduct of the wholesale electricity market.

The inquiry will have until June 30 next year to report, with the ACCC producing a paper on its “preliminary insights” within six months.

https://www.podbean.com/media/player/egvg5-68f11e?from=yiiadmin

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

Coalition rebounds in Newspoll following Snowy announcement, but Essential moves to Labor


Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

This week’s Newspoll, conducted 16-19 March from a sample of 1820, has Labor leading 52-48, but this is a 3 point gain for the Coalition since the previous Newspoll, three weeks ago. Primary votes are 37% for the Coalition (up 3), 35% for Labor (down 2), 10% for One Nation (steady) and 9% for the Greens (down 1). The Conversation

Despite the relatively strong result for the Coalition, Turnbull’s ratings only improved slightly: 30% (up 1) were satisfied, and 57% (down 2) were dissatisfied, for a net approval of -27. Shorten’s net approval was -28, down two points.

On Thursday, the first day of Newspoll’s fieldwork, Turnbull announced an extension of the Snowy River hydro-electric plan, and it appears that this announcement has given the Coalition at least a temporary boost. The public likes infrastructure policies that appear to offer solutions to Australia’s energy crisis.

Labor may also have been damaged by the furore over new ACTU secretary Sally McManus’ comments that workers could break “unjust” laws.

An additional Newspoll question found 47% in favour of a proposed change to Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, while 39% were opposed. Kevin Bonham thinks the long preamble to this question is skewed towards supporting the proposed change.

Essential at 55-45 to Labor

This week’s Essential, conducted over the last two weeks from a sample of 1800, had Labor gaining two points to lead 55-45. Primary votes were Labor 37%, Coalition 34%, One Nation 10%, Greens 9% and Nick Xenophon Team 3%.

Newspoll and Essential disagree markedly this week, but Newspoll has performed well when measured against election results, so I trust it more than Essential.

Additional Essential questions are based on one week’s sample. On attributes of the political parties, Labor was up since June 2016 on positive attributes and down on negative ones, with the exception of being too close to the big corporate and financial interests (up 5). For the Liberals, the perception that they are divided was up 16 points, and “has a good team of leaders” down 9 points. Labor led on all positive attributes and trailed on all negative ones, with some differences of well over 10 points.

77% thought their gas and electricity costs had increased over the last few years, with only 2% thinking prices had decreased. 75% would approve of a reservation policy where a percentage of gas is reserved for domestic use, and only 6% would disapprove. 68% approved of the SA government’s energy plan, and only 11% disapproved. 31% thought coal seam gas mining on farming land should be restricted, 25% thought it should be banned altogether, and only 14% thought there was already sufficient regulation of coal seam gas mining.

In last week’s Essential, Turnbull’s net approval was -17, down two points since February. Shorten’s net approval was -19, also down two points.

Proposed tax increases that were aimed at the wealthy and multinational corporations polled strongly, but removing GST exemptions or increasing the GST rate did not have much support. 46% disapproved of the $50 billion in tax cuts for medium and large businesses, while 24% approved. 43% thought the company tax cuts would deliver business bigger profits, and that this money should be used for schools, hospitals, etc. 25% thought the company tax cuts would bring our tax into line with other countries, and deliver more jobs through greater business investment.

Trust in various media has taken an across the board hit since February 2016, but the ABC and SBS are the most trusted media.

Essential’s polling on penalty rates from two weeks ago found 56% disapproving of the Fair Work Commission’s decision to reduce Sunday penalty rates, with 32% approving. 34% strongly disapproved with just 9% strongly approving. 57% thought the penalty rate reduction would result in business making bigger profits, while 24% thought business would employ more workers. 51% thought the government should legislate to protect penalty rates, while 31% thought the government should accept the decision.

WA election late counting: Labor wins 41 of 59 lower house seats

At the WA election held 11 March, Labor won a massive landslide in the lower house, winning 41 of the 59 seats (up 20 since the 2013 election), to 13 for the Liberals (down 18) and 5 for the Nationals (down 2). According to Antony Green, Labor’s percentage of lower house seats (69.5%) is the highest it has ever won at WA lower house elections.

In the upper house, Labor and the Greens are likely to win a combined 18 of the 36 seats. Below the line votes have not yet been added to the count. The Greens and micro parties tend to perform well on below the line votes at the expense of the major parties. The Greens will be hoping that a below the line surge allows them to defeat the Liberals for the final seat in South Metro region. Below the line votes in that region may also give the Daylight Saving party a seat at the expense of the Liberal Democrats.

If Labor and the Greens combined win 18 of the 36 upper house seats, Labor could attempt to persuade a non-Labor/Greens member to be the upper house President. The President of the WA upper house can only vote when the votes are tied, so such a manoeuvre would give Labor and the Greens 18 of the 35 floor votes.

Dutch election: far right flops again

The Dutch election was held last Wednesday. The 150 members of the Dutch Parliament are elected by proportional representation. Geert Wilders’ far right Party of Freedom had a large lead in the polls in December, but that lead fell as the election approached, and they ended the campaign predicted to win a few seats less than the conservative/liberal VVD.

In the event, the VVD won 33 seats, to 20 for the Party of Freedom. It is likely that the VVD will head the new Dutch government, after negotiations with other parties are completed.

The WA and Dutch elections have both featured far right parties slumping as election day approached. Many supporters of such parties are against established parties, but not in favour of the far right’s policies. As these policies receive more exposure closer to the election, these supporters can desert.

The main reason Donald Trump won the US Presidency is that he won the Republican party’s nomination. Had Trump run a third party campaign, he would not have come close to winning. The US Republican party is already very right wing, and most Republicans utterly detest the Democrats and Hillary Clinton. Many Republicans probably had reservations about voting for Trump, but hated the alternative more.

French Presidential election: 23 April and 7 May

The French Presidential election will be held in two rounds, with the top two vote winners from the first round on 23 April proceeding to a runoff on 7 May, barring a very unlikely majority vote victory for one candidate in the first round.

Current polls have the far right Marine Le Pen leading the first round with 26%, followed by centrist Emmanuel Macron on 25%, conservative Francois Fillon on 18%, Socialist Benoit Hamon on 13% and the hard left Jean-Luc Melenchon on 12%. Other candidates have negligible vote shares.

While Le Pen is narrowly ahead in the first round, second round polling has Macron trouncing her by over 60-40, while Fillon defeats Le Pen by about 56-44.

With the Socialists discredited by Francois Hollande’s ineffectual Presidency (he did not run for re-election), a conservative was the clear favourite to win this election. However, Fillon has been dogged by allegations that he paid his wife and children government money for fake jobs, causing his poll ratings to slide. Last Tuesday, Fillon was placed under formal investigation over these allegations, the closest French equivalent to being charged.

Despite the allegations, Fillon has refused to quit. He won his party’s US style primary in November 2016, and his party has had no legal means to replace him. Nominations closed on Friday, so it is now too late to replace a candidate.

Adrian Beaumont, Honorary Associate, School of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Melbourne

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

Labor wins WA in a landslide as One Nation fails to land a blow



Image 20170311 19263 d6yd4h
Former navy lawyer Mark McGowan is set to become the new premier of Western Australia.
AAP/Dan Peled

Natalie Mast, University of Western Australia

Labor has won the 2017 Western Australian election in a landslide, sweeping aside the long-running Barnett government and installing Labor’s Mark McGowan as the state’s 30th premier. The Conversation

The ABC is predicting Labor will win 40 seats, doubling its current number of seats held and providing it with a clear majority.

The Liberals look to have held only 14 of their 30 seats, while the Nationals appear to have held five of their seven lower house seats. Several seats technically remain in doubt.

Labor’s victory is Perth-based. Thirty-five of the 40 predicted seats it won are based in the metropolitan area. Within the three non-metropolitan regions, Labor has held Kimberley and Albany, and likely picked up only three seats – Bunbury, Collie-Preston, Murray-Wellington. All, except Kimberley, are in the state’s south-west.

State-wide, the One Nation vote in the Legislative Assembly is only 4.7%. It looks like One Nation could win two seats in the Legislative Council, one in Mining and Pastoral and the other in the south-west. This is below the results expected prior to Pauline Hanson’s disastrous trip to WA.

A drover’s dog type of election?

This was an election where the vote was driven by dislike of the sitting government, rather than attraction to the opposition.

It’s rare for a party to gain a third term in WA, and the Barnett government has been trailing in the polls for some time. In particular, as the face of his government, Premier Colin Barnett is deeply unpopular across the state.

The election day ReachTEL poll of 2,573 voters, published in The West Australian, had Labor on a two-party-preferred vote of 54% to 46%. Of those planning to vote Labor, 27.2% said their main reason was that “It’s time for a change of government”, and 16.3% said “I don’t like Colin Barnett”.

ReachTEL poll, March 9.
ReachTEL

Mark McGowan: WA’s new premier

McGowan will become premier after surviving a somewhat bizarre challenge on his leadership last March by former federal Labor minster Stephen Smith.

McGowan, who has been opposition leader since 2012, has patiently plugged away at the government.

In the strained economic circumstances in which WA finds itself, it is difficult to run a campaign full of expensive promises. The most high-profile of Labor’s policies was its declaration that it would not sell Western Power, which the government hoped to use to reduce state debt by around A$8 billion.

Labor also campaigned heavily on public transport, which the government had failed to deliver on over its last two terms.

The Metronet rail network plan gained a place in the public imagination during the 2013 campaign. The basics of the plan survived Labor’s defeat at the last state election as it remained popular within the electorate, providing a clear alternative plan to the changing positions of the Barnett government.

Labor cleverly claimed it would fund Metronet by cancelling the Perth Freight Link, which includes the deeply unpopular Roe 8 extension, and diverting the federal funding from that project to Metronet.

Colin Barnett’s defeat is a tale of a tin ear

The key issues in this election have tended to be economic in nature. WA’s unemployment rates, high state debt, high cost of living, and predicted budget deficits, have not instilled confidence in voters.

The outgoing premier’s last appeal to voters was “please don’t vote for a return to Dullsville” that ended with the old argument that the unions would be in control under Labor.

Given the economic uncertainty, it was a strange plea. Many voters are more concerned with being able to pay their mortgage than take advantage of the improvements to city.

Outgoing premier Colin Barnett had become unpopular with voters.
AAP/Richard Wainwright

Barnett’s fundamental problem is that while his government has transformed Perth over the last eight years, voters are more concerned with their own economic circumstances, and the benefits of large infrastructure projects have not resonated.

It’s a hard sell to convince people that while the significant economic downturn over the last four years is due to circumstances the government can’t control, the government can nonetheless be trusted to turn the state’s fortunes around.

Brendan Grylls distinguishes the Nationals from the Liberals

Outside of Perth, Brendan Grylls appears to have saved the Nationals from oblivion.

Grylls is responsible, through the Royalties for Regions program, for differentiating the Nationals from the Liberals. While the swing against the Liberals is projected to be around 16%, the swing against the Nationals is projected to be less than 1%.

The fact the Nationals have held their ground is impressive on two fronts. The first was the threat One Nation posed outside the metro area.

The other is that the WA Chamber of Minerals and Energy spent around $2 million campaigning against Grylls’ proposal of raising the 25 cent per tonne production rental fee on iron ore to $5, which would deliver an estimated $7.2 billion over the next four years.

Grylls is the member for Pilbara, having moved from the seat of Central Wheatbelt in the 2013 election. The tax policy was high risk, particularly for Grylls himself given that much of WA’s mining happens in his seat.

While the plan seems to have worked in the agricultural parts of the state, the count will continue in the mining seats of Pilbara and Kalgoorlie, which are too close to call.

What the eastern states can learn from the result

In terms of the WA election having federal implications for the Turnbull government, this really was an election determined by local issues.

During the campaign Bill Shorten visited three times, while Malcolm Turnbull made only one fleeting visit, where he failed to deliver a plan to get WA a “fair” share of the GST.

While it is generally not opportune for a national governing party to lose at state level, only internal mischief-makers would try to blame the loss on Turnbull’s leadership.

The most significant issues that will resonate across the country will be the outcome of the preference deal with One Nation, and the ability of the Nationals to differentiate themselves so convincingly from the Liberals.

Natalie Mast, Associate Director, Business Intelligence & Analytics, University of Western Australia

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

Labor romps to landslide win in WA election


Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

With 67% of enrolled voters counted in yesterday’s Western Australian election, the ABC’s election computer was giving Labor 36 of the 59 lower house seats, to 11 Liberals and 5 Nationals. Of the seven doubtful seats, I expect the Liberals to overtake narrow current Labor leads in two seats on late counting. If that happens, Labor will win 38 seats to 21 for the Liberals and Nationals, a reversal of the 2013 result (38 Liberal/Nationals, 21 Labor). The Conversation

Primary vote shares were 42.8% for Labor (up 9.7 points since the 2013 election), 31.4% for the Liberals (down a massive 15.7 points), 5.4% for the Nationals (down 0.7), 8.5% for the Greens (up 0.1), a disappointing 4.7% for One Nation and 7.2% for all Others (up 1.9). As post-election day votes are processed, I expect Labor’s share to drop slightly, and the Liberals and Greens to slightly improve.

No statewide two party result has been provided by the Electoral Commission, and this will not be known until after all other results are finalised.

At the time of One Nation’s last peak from 1998-2001, they won 9.6% at the 2001 WA election. After polling in the 12-13% range early in the campaign, One Nation’s vote slumped to 7-9% in the final polls. Polls may have overestimated One Nation as they were only standing in 35 of 59 lower house seats.

There were two reasons for One Nation’s loss of support late in the campaign. First, the preference deal with the Liberals damaged their brand: it is hard to be an anti-establishment party if you deal with an established major party. Second, One Nation’s policies received more exposure in the closing days, causing some One Nation supporters who disagreed with the party’s far right agenda to desert.

The preference deal with One Nation also had dire consequences for the Liberals. While the Liberals were behind prior to the deal, it did not appear that Labor would win a landslide before the deal was announced. The fallout from this deal will mean that the Coalition parties and One Nation, in other states and federally, will be more reluctant to trade preferences.

Barnett was deeply unpopular, WA’s economy was weak, and the unpopular Federal government was a drag. These factors made a Labor win probable, but the deal with One Nation probably exacerbated the Liberals’ losses.

This will be Labor’s first true landslide in any state or federally since 2006, when Labor had landslide wins in Victoria, Queensland and Tasmania. By “landslide”, I mean not just defeating the opposition, but thrashing them in both seat and vote terms. That Labor won a big victory in the most conservative state at Federal level will make it even sweeter for them.

Polling appears to have underestimated the Greens and Labor’s primary votes a little, and overestimated One Nation. Galaxy and Newspoll had the Liberals and Nationals about right, but ReachTEL overestimated their vote.

Fluoride Free could win a seat in WA upper house

While 67% of enrolled voters for the lower house have been tallied, only 47% has been counted in the upper house. The WA upper house is severely malapportioned, and still uses the group voting ticket system that was abolished in the Senate.

Using the group voting tickets, the ABC is currently predicting Labor to win 15 of 36 upper house seats (up 4 since 2013), the Liberals 9 (down 8), the Nationals 4 (down 1), the Greens 3 (up 1), Shooters 2 (up 1) and One Nation, Liberal Democrats and Fluoride Free are currently predicted to win one seat each.

The ABC currently gives one seat to Daylight Saving, but Kevin Bonham spotted an error. The Daylight Saving candidate in Mining and Pastoral region is actually the Shooters candidate.

With the upper house count well behind the lower house count, these results may change. However, currently Fluoride Free is winning a seat in East Metro region on just 0.35%. A quota is 1/7 of the vote, or 14.3%.

Adrian Beaumont, Honorary Associate, School of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Melbourne

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

Labor very likely to win WA election as One Nation slumps


Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

The West Australian election will be held today. Polls close at 6pm local time (9pm Melbourne time). All three polls taken in the last week give Labor a 54-46 lead, which would represent an 11 point swing to Labor since the 2013 election. If this polling is accurate, Labor leads the combined Liberal/National total on primary votes. Here is the WA final poll table. The Conversation

WA final polls.

The last Newspoll was taken in late January. Primary votes in this Newspoll were Labor 41% (up 3), Liberals 32% (up 2), Nationals 5% (steady) One Nation 8% (down 5) and Greens 7% (down 2). 34% (up 2) were satisfied with Premier Colin Barnett’s performance, and 57% (steady) were dissatisfied, for a net approval of -23. Opposition leader Mark McGowan had a net approval of +5, down 7 points. 54% thought Labor would win, with 27% backing the Liberals.

The last ReachTEL was taken for Fairfax on 27 February. After excluding 3.5% undecided, this ReachTEL has primary votes of Labor 41.8% (up 6.6), Liberals 33.9% (down 0.7), Nationals 6.0% (down 0.8), One Nation 6.8% (down 1.7) and Greens 6.5% (down 4.2). 61% thought the Liberals should not have entered a preference deal with One Nation, with only 22% in favour.

The only Galaxy poll since the last election was published last Sunday. It had primary votes of Labor 40%, Liberals 31%, Nationals 5%, One Nation 9% and Greens 8%.

On better Premier, McGowan led Barnett 45-37 in Newspoll, 56.5-43.5 in ReachTEL and 46-33 in Galaxy.

Much of Labor’s strong primary vote is coming at the expense of the Greens. Greens preferences help Labor in two party terms, so Labor will not do as well from preferences with a low Green primary.

It appears that the preference deal between the Liberals and One Nation has damaged both parties. From a peak of 12-13%, One Nation’s vote has slumped to 7-9%. The Liberals started the campaign behind, and this deal was an attempt to win One Nation lower house preferences. It is now likely that the Liberals will lose by a greater margin than if they had avoided this deal.

There may be shy One Nation voters, but neither ReachTEL nor Newspoll use live phone interviews. ReachTEL is a robopollster, while Newspoll uses robopolling and online panel methods.

Tasmanian EMRS poll: Liberals slump to 35%

A Tasmanian EMRS poll, conducted 1-4 March from a sample of 1000, has the Liberals on 35% (down 5 since November), Labor on 29% (up 1), the Greens on 19% (up 1), Independents on 10% (down 1) and One Nation on 6%.

Kevin Bonham says that EMRS skews to the Greens and Independents and against Labor. He interprets this poll as having primaries of 37% Liberal, 33% Labor, 16% Greens and 6% One Nation. Under Tasmania’s Hare Clark system, this poll would result in a hung Parliament with the Greens holding the balance of power; Bonham thinks 11 Liberals, 10 Labor, 4 Greens the most likely result.

No approval ratings are provided, but Premier Will Hodgman has a massive 52-20 lead over Labor’s Bryan Green as better Premier. Although better Premier is skewed in favour of the incumbent, the lead should not be this huge on a poll that would result in a Labor/Greens parliamentary majority. It is likely that Green’s lack of popularity is driving this disparity.

Adrian Beaumont, Honorary Associate, School of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Melbourne

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

Barnett government looks set for defeat as One Nation looms large in WA election


Image 20170303 24325 kn3mg
The odds are against Colin Barnett still being WA premier after March 11.
AAP/Rebecca Le May

Natalie Mast, University of Western Australia

The past four years have not been kind to Western Australia. Coming off a once-in-a-lifetime boom, the bust, which for some reason the state always forgets to anticipate, is cutting deep, and it’s proving a problem for the Barnett-led Coalition government. The Conversation

It’s the economy, stupid

Treasury’s pre-election financial projections statement has growth for the financial year dropping from 1% to 0.5%.

While the current and next financial year budgets are expected to have smaller deficits than projected, primarily due to a three-year high in iron ore prices, state debt is expected to reach A$41.1 billion in 2020. Treasury does not foresee an operating surplus in the forward estimates period.

Population growth, driven by interstate and international migration, has fallen from 4% a year in 2012 to just over 1%.

Job uncertainty is a major issue. WA now has the highest unemployment level in the country, at 6.5% in January, although the rate has dropped by 0.2% since November 2016.

Many Western Australians are now fearful of losing their jobs while having to maintain large mortgages. This is in a climate in which the median value of a house in Perth has fallen back to 2013 levels, down 2.3% in 2016.

It’s worse in some remote parts of the state, where property prices have dropped by up to 75% over the last three years.

For those who have maintained their jobs, many are still in a worse financial position as bonuses and other financial incentives from the boom dry up. Others managing to find employment now have reduced salaries.

The public education system has increased its share of the students in each of the last five years. Part of this rise has been attributed to the downturn in the economy, as people divert money from school fees to the mortgage and other essentials. This in turn adds costs to the state budget.

Who’s responsible for this situation?

During his two terms, Premier Colin Barnett has projected the image of a leader in control. Treasurers have come and gone, and most ministers have minimal presence in the media. Barnett is the face of the government, and he bares the brunt of a scared and angry population, wondering what happened to his 2009 promise of a 20-year boom with growth of 5-7% a year.

At the time of the 2013 leaders’ debate, state debt was around A$18 billion, but Barnett insisted the rate of increase would not be maintained. Instead, over the last four years, the debt has risen by around A$15 billion.

In August 2014, the state lost its AAA credit rating. In February 2016, Moody’s further downgraded the rating from AA1 to AA2.

During the recent leaders’ debate on February 22, Barnett pointed to his government’s investment in schools and health, with construction of the Fiona Stanley and new Perth Children’s hospitals. The latter has yet to open and is now more than a year behind schedule.

Part of the reason for the government’s high debt levels are investments in Perth infrastructure, such as a new stadium, which will open in 2018, Elizabeth Quay and the sinking of the railway line and bus station in Northbridge.

While of long-term benefit to the city, the last two projects are releasing inner-city land for development at a time when office vacancies are at 30% with retail vacancies at a similar level.

Other key election issues

Without funds to play with, promises are limited. Barnett is arguing that his government is a strong pair of hands for these hard times.

There are two significant issues separating the Labor and Liberal parties at this election.

The first is the privatisation of Western Power, which the government will use to pay off part of the state’s debt.

Labor leader Mark McGowan is running an old-fashioned scare campaign claiming prices will rise if the monopoly is sold. Energy prices have long been contentious in Western Australia, with the Barnett government overseeing a 67% price increase for households since 2009, admittedly off an artificially low base. McGowan is arguing the state should not sell off a revenue-generating monopoly to deal with the debt.

The second issue is public transport. The Barnett government has broken promises to deliver improved services to the outer suburbs of Perth, in places such as Ellenbrook.

The government’s key 2013 election transport promise of Max light-rail was abandoned as the state’s economic situation deteriorated.

Labor has resurrected its highly popular Metronet rail plan from the last election. Federal leader Bill Shorten is promising to help fund the plan should Labor return to government at the national level.

The costs of Metronet appear rubbery at the moment, but WA Labor is also planning to divert federal funding from the controversial Roe 8 highway.

While Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has stated the Commonwealth will not allow the diversion of funds, McGowan is pointing to the success of the Victorian Labor government in cancelling the East-West Link and using the funding for other projects.

WA is also seeing an increase in crime, some of which is linked to the so-called ice epidemic. Both parties are promising to be tough on crime. The Liberals are promising mandatory sentencing and Labor is advocating a maximum sentence of life for meth dealers.

During his blink-and-you-miss-it trip west, Turnbull disappointed Liberals with his lack of a plan to provide WA with its fair share of GST. Barnett has been campaigning on this issue for years, and the claimed A$4.7 billion annual shortfall in funds would help with the budget deficit.

Just how big is the swing to Labor?

There are 59 seats in the Legislative Assembly. The Liberals go into the election holding 30 seats and the Nationals seven, for a total of 37. Labor holds 21 seats. There’s one independent, former Liberal minister Rob Johnson.

In the 2015 electoral boundary redistribution, the Liberals notionally gained a seat from Labor.

To win government, Labor needs to win ten seats, with a uniform swing of around 10%.

Polling has been somewhat inconsistent. A ReachTEL poll for The West Australian on February 19 showed a two-party-preferred (TPP) result of 50-50. The two previous polls had Labor at 52-48 on TPP.

On February 23, The West published a private poll of marginal seats funded by advocacy group, The Parenthood, again conducted by ReachTEL. The West noted a surge to Labor, with all six seats polled (Southern River, Perth, Mt Lawley, Wanneroo, Joondalup and Bicton) predicted to fall with an average TPP swing of 15%.

A swing of this magnitude would deliver a decisive Labor victory, with the party winning 41 seats.

Fairfax commissioned a ReachTEL poll published on March 3, in which Labor had a 52-48 lead on the TPP vote. The swing of 9% suggests Labor could fall one seat short in its bid to gain government.

How important are One Nation Preferences?

From a purely pragmatic viewpoint, Barnett’s preference deal with One Nation is a legitimate gamble. His unpopular government is facing electoral defeat and with One Nation’s fortunes on the rise again in WA, shoring up the two party preferred vote is essential.

There are risks in the deal. The first question put to the premier by the panel at the leaders’ debate focused on how a man with integrity could engage in a “dirty preference deal”. While One Nation may have become more politically savvy, the party’s distasteful views remain and trying to suggest the party reflects mainstream opinion is disingenuous.

Barnett risks losing preferences from Nationals who are outraged at being placed behind One Nation in the Legislative Council, Greens who won’t direct their preferences on principle, and moderate Liberals protesting the deal.

The flow of preferences from One Nation supporters isn’t guaranteed either. Despite Pauline Hanson’s “it’s my party, I am the leader and I make the deals” position, a number of WA One Nation candidates are unhappy. Two were disendorsed — although it is unclear how large a role their position on the preference deal played.

A week out, the bookmakers have Labor at A$1.30 and the Coalition at A$3.40. The betting would suggest that WA is about to have a change of government.

Natalie Mast, Associate Director, Business Intelligence & Analytics, University of Western Australia

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

WA ReachTEL: Labor leads 52-48, One Nation down, Greens up


Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

The West Australian election will be held in eight days, on 11 March. A Fairfax ReachTEL poll, conducted Monday night from a sample of 1660, has Labor leading 52-48, a 2 point gain for Labor since a ReachTEL poll for The West Australian, two weeks ago. The Conversation

ReachTEL asked a main voting intentions question with an undecided option, then further queried the 5.1% undecided as to which way they were leaning. Combining responses for these questions gives primary votes of Liberals 34.6% (down 0.8), Nationals 6.8% (down 1.6), Labor 35.2% (up 0.2), Greens 10.7% (up 4.7) and One Nation 8.5% (down 3.2).

The surge for the Greens is likely a correction from previous low Green votes in ReachTEL’s polls. At the 2016 Federal election, the Greens won 12.1% in WA, above their national vote share of 10.2%. In WA, the Greens tend to do relatively well and Labor relatively badly compared to the national vote at Federal elections.

The drop for One Nation may be due to discontent at One Nation doing a preference deal with one of the big parties that its voters despise. Research reported by Possum (Scott Steel) also indicates that many people voting for One Nation are doing so as a protest against the major parties, but they do not agree with One Nation’s policies, and dislike Donald Trump.

If this is the case, some people who currently say they will vote One Nation may desert as the election approaches and they become more aware of One Nation’s policies. This is also happening in the Netherlands; December polls had Geert Wilders’ Party for Freedom easily winning more seats than any other party, but a dramatic slump in their support now has them second. The Dutch election will be held on 15 March.

At the 2013 WA election, the Liberals thrashed Labor 57.3-42.7 after preferences, and the Liberal/National alliance won 38 of 59 lower house seats, to 21 for Labor. Labor notionally lost a seat following a redistribution, so they need to gain 10 seats to win majority government.

On paper, Labor requires a uniform swing of 10.0 points to gain their 10th seat (Bicton). Labor would thus need 52.7% of the vote after preferences to win the election. However, marginal seat polling suggests that Labor is winning the required swing where it counts, though seat polls have not been accurate in the past.

Galaxy poll update Sunday morning: 54-46 to Labor

A Galaxy poll, conducted Wednesday to Friday from a sample of 1115, has Labor leading by 54-46, from primary votes of Labor 40%, Liberals 31%, Nationals 5%, One Nation 9% and Greens 8%.

A Newspoll in late January and this Galaxy poll have both bad Labor well ahead of the combined Liberal/National vote on primaries, while ReachTEL’s polling has been more favourable for the Liberals. It will be interesting to see which pollster is correct next Saturday.

Adrian Beaumont, Honorary Associate, School of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Melbourne

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