Let’s “SnapBack” to better society with more secure jobs: Anthony Albanese


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Anthony Albanese says Australia must use the pandemic experience to move to a more resilient society, creating more permanent jobs and revitalising high value manufacturing.

In his fifth “vision statement”, delivered against the background of the government foreshadowing an extensive post-crisis reform agenda, Albanese is giving a broad outline of Labor’s priorities for change.

The Monday speech, issued ahead of delivery, comes a day before parliament resumes for a three-day sitting expected to be more combative than the previous two one-day sittings. It also precedes Josh Frydenberg’s economic update on Tuesday – the day the treasurer was, pre-pandemic, due to deliver the budget, now delayed until October.




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Referring to the government’s “SnapBack” terminology, Albanese says: “Let’s not SnapBack to insecure work, to jobseekers stuck in poverty, to scientists being ignored.”

“It’s no time for a ‘SnapBack’ to the Liberal agenda of cutting services, suppressing wages and undermining job security.

“This pandemic has shown that Labor’s values of fairness and security and our belief in the power of government to shape change to the advantage of working people are the right ones.

“A constrained fiscal position does mean difficult choices. But a reform agenda that doesn’t work for all Australians isn’t one we should pursue”.

Albanese says Labor has been constructive during the crisis, not allowing “the perfect to be the enemy of the good”; he contrasts its approach with the Coalition’s negativity against the Labor government during the global financial crisis.

While Australians have been getting through the crisis together, it has been tougher for some than others, including those who have lost jobs and businesses, he says.

“Sharing the sacrifice to get through the crisis together has to mean working to secure a recovery in which no one is left behind.

“We have to be clear in recognising that those with the least, have suffered the most through this crisis – something that must change.

“It’s critical that we are still saying , ‘we’re all in this together’, after the lockdown has come to an end,” Albanese says.

“We must move forward to having not just survived the pandemic, but having learned from it.

“To secure a more resilient society, given just how quickly things can change, through no fault of anyone.

“To better recognise the contributions of unsung heroes, like our cleaners, supermarket workers and delivery workers. To honour our health and aged care workers.

“To recognise that young people have done more than their share.

“Young people deserve better than an economy and society that consigns them to a lifetime of low wages, job insecurity, and unaffordable housing.

“We must ensure that what emerges is a society that no longer seems stacked against them, or denies them the opportunity and economic security of older generations”.

Albanese says this is a once-in-a-political lifetime event that “creates once-in-a-century opportunity to renew and revitalise the federation” and “a once-in-a-generation chance to shape our economy so it works for people and deepens the meaning of a fair go”.

“We must build more permanent jobs, an industrial relations system that promotes co-operation, productivity improvements and shared benefits,” he says.

“We must revitalise high value Australian manufacturing using our clean energy resources.”

He also urges nation building infrastructure including high speed rail and the local construction of trains; a decentralisation strategy including restoring public service jobs in agencies such as Centrelink that deliver services to regional areas; a conservation program to boost regional employment; and governments working with the private sector and superannuation funds to deliver investment in social and affordable housing.

“A housing construction package should include funding to make it easier for essential workers to find affordable rental accommodation closer to work.”

Albanese says that “too much of the risk in our economy has been shifted onto those with the least capacity to manage in tougher times.

“The broadest burden has been put on the narrowest shoulders.

“Our economy has become riskier, and we need to think through what that means for us all.

“We need to realise that a good society can’t thrive when the balance between risk and security falls out of step.”

Albanese says there needs to be an emphasis on growth, “because only inclusive economic growth can raise our living standards.

“We need to put more emphasis on secure employment – especially for the next generation of younger workers who nowadays have little idea of the meaning of reliable income or holiday pay”.The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

View from The Hill: Albanese would have no excuse for an Eden-Monaro loss after Coalition high flyers implode


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Anthony Albanese, who will campaign in Eden-Monaro on Thursday, has lost any possible claim to “underdog” status in the coming byelection.

The idea of Labor as underdog was always dubious in light of history, despite former member Mike Kelly’s personal vote. But the prospect of one or other of two NSW government high flyers having a tilt at the seat gave it some credibility.

Now, thanks to a rolling implosion within the Coalition parties, Labor starts as favourite to retain the seat, which it holds on a margin of less than 1%.

There’s a sting, however. If the favourite lost, defeat would carry even more serious implications for Albanese than a loss to a star candidate.

NSW Transport Minister Andrew Constance’s Wednesday withdrawal as a contender for Liberal preselection, a day after throwing his hat in the ring, took the Coalition parties’ shenanigans to an even higher level of farce.

The last several days have seen a political shootout between NSW Deputy Premier and Nationals leader John Barilaro and Constance. Both are damaged as well as a big blow having been dealt to the Morrison government’s aspiration to defy history (no federal government has taken a seat from an opposition at a byelection for a century).

It started with Barilaro’s plan to run for the seat, which includes his state electorate where he had a very strong vote last year.

Barilaro wanted the Liberal party to step aside for him, but that was not a goer. Then Constance, whom he hoped would support him, stayed in the frame as a potential Liberal candidate, even though it was clear the two NSW ministers couldn’t both run, especially given the state government’s narrow majority.

The Nationals put out research favouring Barilaro; the Liberals had competing research.

By Monday Barilaro had hoisted the white flag – of course citing the family.

He was furious – at federal Nationals leader Michael McCormack, for not helping him, and at Constance for impeding him.

A blistering text went to McCormack, leaked to Sky on Tuesday. On Wednesday the Daily Telegraph reported “Barilaro told a parliamentary colleague Mr Constance was a ‘c…’”.

Constance cited the story in his withdrawal.

He told a news conference: “Stuff that — I hadn’t signed up to contest federally to be called that type of smear.”

“Why would I sit here for the next five weeks defending that type of front page? You can’t.”

But he also said: “I don’t believe John means it. I had that discussion with him. We’ve cleared it up. I forgive him”.

In short, Constance was all over the place, and likely a mix of reasons caused his meltdown.

Despite a touch of wild speculation that Barilaro might rethink, he quickly dispelled any such suggestion, saying: “My decision not to seek preselection for the Eden-Monaro byelection has not changed”.

The other name on the government side who’d been mentioned, Liberal senator Jim Molan, also ruled himself out on Wednesday.

Molan never seemed likely to contest. But he issued a statement saying “no one has tried to force me to not nominate, nor was I ever intimidated by the prospect of competing in a preselection or in a campaign”.

The Liberals will be well behind Labor – which is running Bega mayor Kristy McBain – in beginning their campaigning.

Nominations for Liberal preselection close Friday and then they have to organise a rank and file ballot.

Fiona Kotvojs, who pushed Kelly close at last year’s election, is seeking endorsement.

Pru Gordon, from the National Farmers Federation, a former adviser to two trade ministers and a former official with the department of foreign affairs and trade, is also in the field. A third contender is Jerry Nockles, now at World Vision, who formerly worked for federal Liberals.

The Liberal candidate, whoever they may be, will inherit the legacy of a Coalition display of bad behaviour and self-absorption, which is not a good start when you are asking for votes in an electorate that’s faced drought and fire and now struggles to recover amid economic devastation.The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

Labor gains in Newspoll despite Morrison’s continued approval surge; Trump’s ratings slide



AAP/Mick Tsikas

Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

This week’s Newspoll, conducted April 22-25 from a sample of 1,519, had a 50-50 tie between the major parties, a one-point gain for Labor since the last Newspoll, three weeks ago. Primary votes were 41% Coalition (down one), 36% Labor (up two), 12% Greens (down one) and 4% One Nation (down one). Figures are from The Poll Bludger.

Despite Labor’s voting intentions gain, Scott Morrison’s ratings jumped again, following a record 38-point gain in net approval last time. 68% (up seven) were satisfied with his performance and 28% (down seven) were dissatisfied. That’s a net approval of +40, up 14 points. Morrison’s net approval is the best for a PM since Kevin Rudd in October 2009.




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Morrison sees massive ratings surge in Newspoll over coronavirus crisis; Trump also improves


Anthony Albanese also improved his ratings, with his net approval up two points to +11 after a nine-point gain last time. Morrison led as better PM by 56-28 (53-29 three weeks ago).

Ratings for the PM are correlated strongly with voting intentions, so having the PM’s net approval at +40 while voting intentions are tied is abnormal. Analyst Kevin Bonham tweeted this chart showing that this Newspoll is a major outlier.

The most likely explanation for the discrepancy between voting intentions and the PM’s ratings is that Labor and Greens voters approve of Morrison’s performance on the coronavirus crisis, but they distrust the Coalition in general.

Australia’s performance on coronavirus has been strong by international standards. I expect Morrison’s ratings to stay high if Australia continues to perform well, as long as the public thinks there is a crisis. Once the crisis is perceived to be over, Morrison’s ratings are likely to drop over normal partisan conflict.

South Korea is another country that has performed well on coronavirus. The left-wing Democratic party of the incumbent president was rewarded for this performance at April 15 parliamentary elections. They won 180 of the 300 seats (up 57 since 2016), to 103 for conservative parties (down 19).

In an additional Newspoll question, 54% said they would be prepared to install the government’s voluntary coronavirus tracking app, while 39% said they would not install it.

Trump’s ratings slide and Biden leads in key states

This section is an updated version of an article I wrote for The Poll Bludger, published on Friday.

In the FiveThirtyEight poll aggregate, Donald Trump’s ratings with all polls are 43.4% approve, 52.4% disapprove (net -9.0%). With polls of registered or likely voters, Trump’s ratings are 43.8% approve, 52.5% disapprove (net -8.7%). Since my article three weeks ago, Trump has lost five points on net approval, returning his ratings to about their early March levels, before the coronavirus crisis began.

As the US coronavirus death toll increases to over 50,000, there has been far more criticism of Trump’s early response, and this appears to have punctured the “rally round the flag” effect.

Furthermore, there has been a massive economic impact from the virus and related shutdowns: in the past five weeks, over 26 million filed for unemployment benefits. In the latest week, over 4.4 million filed. While this is a slowdown, it is far ahead of the previous record of 695,000 weekly jobless claims. The April jobs report, to be released in early May, will be grim.

The RealClearPolitics average of national polls gives Joe Biden a 5.9% lead over Trump, little changed from 6.1% three weeks ago. However, most of the polls in the average were taken in early April, when Trump’s ratings were better.

As we know from 2016, the US does not use the popular vote to elect presidents; instead, each state is allocated Electoral Votes (EVs). A state’s EVs are the sum of its House seats (population dependent) and senators (always two). There are 538 total EVs, so it takes 270 to win. With two minor exceptions, states award their EVs winner-takes-all.

In 2016, Trump won 306 EVs to Hillary Clinton’s 232, ignoring “faithless” electors, despite losing the popular vote by 2.1%. Trump won Florida, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan by 1.2% or less.

The three most recent Florida polls give Biden an average two-point lead. In Michigan, he has an eight-point lead in the only April poll. In Pennsylvania, Biden averages a seven-point lead in two April polls. In Arizona, which has trended Democratic at recent elections, Biden leads Trump by 9% in an April poll.

Despite noisy protests in Michigan and other states advocating an end to social distancing, polls show the vast majority of Americans want social distancing to continue. In an AP-NORC poll, just 12% thought distancing measures went too far, 26% said they didn’t go far enough and 61% said they are about right.

To have a realistic chance of winning the next election, Trump needs the US economy to be perceived as improving by November. While his base is loyal, lower-educated voters in general want a good economy, and Trump needs their support to offset losses among higher educated voters owing to his behaviour.

Despite the continued economic and coronavirus woe, the Dow Jones has rebounded from a low below 18,600 on March 23 to be currently above 23,700. Stock traders anticipate a V-shaped recovery, which would assist Trump. But since March 31, there have been 25,000 to 39,000 new US coronavirus cases every day. I am sceptical that the US can reduce the caseload to a point where economic activity can safely resume anytime soon.The Conversation

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

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

Vital Signs: Scott Morrison is steering in the right direction, but we’re going to need a bigger boat


Richard Holden, UNSW

The Australian government’s JobKeeper wage subsidy, estimated to cost A$130 billion, is a crucial measure to help keep the economy from completely cratering.

But, even if COVID-19 is sufficiently under control for the economy to return to semi-normality in six months, the plan is unlikely to be sufficient and will need to be increased. To paraphrase the famous line in Jaws, we’re going to need a bigger boat.

Perhaps even more importantly, the Australian narrative around “debt and deficits” will have to change.

A welcome change of direction

First, let’s give the Morrison-Frydenberg government credit for discarding its core political narrative about balancing budgets and enacting a plan that blows a massive hole in the budget. This, granted, was the only responsible course of action, but it still shows a willingness to put the national interest above tribal politics. That’s something we haven’t seen in this country for a long time.

The A$130 billion JobKeeper program, paying up to A$1,500-per-fortnight to six million Australians for six month, is by far the costliest of the Australian government’s spending measures in response to the coronavirus crisis. By comparison, the extra payments to welfare recipients, including doubling of the new Jobseeker payment, will cost a mere A$24 billion.




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JobKeeper payment: how will it work, who will miss out and how to get it?


On the plus side, the JobKeeper program covers full-time and part-time workers, sole traders, and not-for-profits. It’s good that it encourages employers to retain workers. It minimises both the economic and social disruption that would deepen the crisis and slow recovery. The delivery of payments, via employer payrolls, is likely to be vastly more efficient than Centrelink processes.

On the minus side, the fact it is a flat subsidy – every worker gets $1,500 a fortnight regardless of what they had been earning – overcompensates some workers and undercompensates others. This creates employer incentives to retain the lowest-paid workers at the expense of better-paid workers. An employer could, for example, keep on workers paid less than A$1,500 a fortnight, because now that labour is effectively free, while retrenching higher skilled workers they would have to pay partially out of their own pockets.




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Undercompensation of some workers will come back to bite. People have financial commitments – mortgages and rents being the most significant – based on what they earn. Undercompensation means some workers won’t be able to ride out the economic crisis without being forced to sell assets, going into significant personal debt or defaulting on rent or mortgage payments.

That will reverberate throughout the rest of the economy. It will put pressure on landlords and banks, among other parties to whom these workers have made financial commitments.

So quibbles can be made about the details of the JobKeeker payment. It would have been far better to do a 100% wage replacement up to some cap (perhaps double the current A$1,500 a fortnight).

That would cost more, but it would be better targeted and have fewer adverse flow-on effects.

A new narrative on debt and deficits

But at least the government is prepared to spend more.

“The first revolution,” said jazz poet Gil Scott Heron, “is when you change your mind about how you look at things.”

It is good see the Morrison government change its mind on the concept of a budget deficit. We now need a bigger revolution in our national thinking about debt and deficits.

Even now the overwhelming narrative among many commentators across the political spectrum is along the lines of “we need to do this and the debt will take a long time to pay back”. We must stop thinking like that.

Australia entered this crisis with a projected net debt of about A$361 billion – 18% of GDP. As a thought experiement – although it might end up a grim reality – imagine the economy operates at two-thirds capacity for 18 months (the likely time before a vaccine becomes widely avaiable, according Australia’s deputy-chief medical officer).

And suppose the government completely compensates for that lost GDP with stimulus payments of one kind or another. That would leave us with net debt of about 70% of GDP post-crisis.

That compares to the 107% the United States had entering the crisis.

Setting aside the important practical matters of how we issue government bonds and implement that debt level, let’s focus on the servicing cost.

Right now the ten-year government bond rate is 0.78%. That moves up and down, so let’s make it 1% for simplicity. With a A$2 trillion economy and 70% net debt to GDP, that would mean A$14 billion a year in interest payments.

That’s seems a lot when compared with the roughly A$60 billion the nation spends on primary and secondary education.




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Vital Signs: Australia’s nation-building opportunity held hostage by the deficit daleks


But it’s not that big a price to get through a once-in-a-century event. It’s smaller than the A$17 billion collected from the tobacco excise. It’s about $560 a year for each Australian.

We need to start thinking about a national debt that gets shrunk away as a percentage of GDP rather than gets paid back. That’s what happened after World War II.

The idea we should have zero net-debt to GDP has to change. If we continue to think of fiscal responses to this crisis as loans that need to be paid back on a short clock, we will do too little on the fiscal front. We will damage the ability of the economy to come out this crisis healthy enough to grow away the debt.The Conversation

Richard Holden, Professor of Economics, UNSW

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

‘You can have both higher super and higher wages’: Albanese


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

An “unholy coalition” is attacking the planned increase in the superannuation guarantee, Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese says in his latest “vision statement”, pledging to resist any attempt to stop the legislated rise to 12% going ahead.

In a speech on older Australians – released ahead of Wednesday’s delivery in Brisbane – Albanese says critics “want to see super wound back or abolished. They say that the pension should be enough, or that it reduces wages.

“I absolutely reject this binary approach. With economic growth and productivity you can have both higher super and higher wages.”

The rise in the guarantee, at present 9.5%, would take it in increments to 12% by 2025. The increase has strong critics within government ranks (where some would favour making superannuation voluntary) and outside, among them the Grattan Institute. The government has an inquiry into retirement incomes running.

The Australian Council of Social Service has argued that “any increase in compulsory retirement saving above 10% of wages should be based on a careful assessment of the needs of low and middle-income workers before and after retirement”.

ACOSS also says the guarantee should not rise above 10% until tax breaks for super contributions are reformed to make them fair.

Interviewed on Sky on Tuesday, government senator Gerard Rennick, from Queensland, agreed there was a growing push among Liberals to stop the increase.

Albanese says the prescriptions of ACOSS and others play into the government’s hands.

Supporting the guarantee going to 12%, he says: “Having established the superannuation system we will not stand by and see it chipped away. We want to make it better.”

In his speech Albanese also says a Labor government would charge its proposed body Jobs and Skills Australia with strengthening the workforce for the aged care sector.

This is one of “the workforces of the future”, and needs proper pay and training to be able “to provide culturally and linguistically appropriate care”.

Albanese attacks the government’s plan to privatise aged care assessments. “The first interaction the elderly and their families have with the aged care system is through an aged care assessment or ACAT. It is the first step to getting a home care package or entering a residential aged care facility.

“Our aged care system is broken – and this government wants to make it worse by subjecting ACAT to the indifference of the market. There is a role for the market. But markets have no conscience.”

Albanese also endorses the concept of “intergenerational care”.

“The ABC program ‘Old People’s Home for 4 Year Olds’ made me laugh and made me cry – but it also made me imagine a future where intergenerational care is the answer to our aged care crisis.

“Imagine a future where we co-locate aged care facilities including day respites with kinders and preschools.

“Day respite for our elderly is a missing piece of the puzzle. For many families, they want mum or dad to stay at home or live with them, but they worry about the long days when they are at work.

“Imagine being able to drop your child and grandmother off to the same location.

“Imagine knowing their day would be enjoyable and safe, with activities led by well-paid staff.

“The benefits of intergenerational care are immense. It can help our elderly re-engage with the world, minimise their isolation and the effects of their health issues.”

On the issue of older workers who have trouble getting jobs, Albanese says the answer for some is “to upgrade their skills, which underscores the urgency of rebuilding our TAFEs in particular and our VET system in general”.

But cultural change is also needed, he says, and employers must play their part.

“According to Deloitte Access Economics, a 3% increase in workforce participation by Australians aged over 55 would generate a A$33 billion boost to the economy each year.

“Volunteering is great. But to build a stronger economy we must harness the talents of everybody – and that includes older Australians who are sources of wisdom and experience for their employers and co-workers.”The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

Morrison’s approval ratings crash over bushfires in first 2020 Newspoll; Sanders has narrow Iowa lead



Anthony Albanese led Scott Morrison 43-39 as preferred prime minister in the first Newspoll of the new year.
Marc Tewksbury/AAP

Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

In the first Newspoll of the new year, Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s ratings have tanked as a result of his handling of the bushfire crisis.

The Newspoll, conducted January 8-11 from a sample of 1,500 people, gave Labor a 51-49 lead on a two-party preferred basis, a three point gain for Labor since the last Newspoll in early December.

Primary votes were 40% Coalition (down two points), 36% Labor (up three), 12% Greens (up one) and 4% One Nation (down one).

Morrison also suffered a drop in his job performance rating, with 37% saying they were satisfied, down eight points from early December, and 59% saying they were dissatisfied, up 11 points.

His net approval was -22, down 19 points since December. Labor leader Anthony Albanese’s net approval, meanwhile, improved ten points to +9.

Albanese also led Morrison 43-39 as preferred PM, a reversal of Morrison’s 48-34 lead in December. Apart from Morrison’s first Newspoll as PM following the ousting of Malcolm Turnbull in August 2018, this is the first time an opposition leader has led the incumbent PM on this measure since Tony Abbott was in office.

The bushfire crisis almost certainly explains the crash in Morrison’s ratings, but will this be sustained? As memories of a key event fade, people tend to move back to their previous positions.

US Democratic primary polls: Sanders has narrow Iowa lead

As the US Democratic primaries and caucuses are about to begin, here are the latest polls from the US.

Three weeks before the February 3 Iowa caucus, the highly regarded Selzer Iowa poll, conducted for CNN and the Des Moines Register, has shown Bernie Sanders with a slight lead in the state.

Sanders was at 20% in the poll (up five points from November), Elizabeth Warren 17% (up one), Pete Buttigieg 16% (down nine), Joe Biden 15% (steady), Amy Klobuchar 6% (steady) and Andrew Yang 5% (up two).

No other candidate had more than 3%. The poll was conducted January 2-8 from 701 likely caucus attendees.




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Buttigieg surges to clear lead in Iowa poll, as Democrats win four of five US state elections


The last Selzer Iowa poll had Buttigieg ahead at 25%, but he is down to third place in the new poll. After the last poll, there was much media attention on the former South Bend, Indiana, mayor, but he failed to catch on nationally. This failure has probably contributed to loss of enthusiasm in Iowa.

There are four early state primary contests: Iowa, New Hampshire (February 11), Nevada (February 22) and South Carolina (February 29). Fifteen states and territories then vote on March 3, otherwise known as Super Tuesday, when 36% of the total delegates will be awarded. This date could be decisive to determining who will be the nominee.

As I have written previously, the two states at the top of the calendar, Iowa and New Hampshire, are largely comprised of white voters. As such, they do not represent the diversity of the Democratic electorate.

Biden is doing far better with black voters, who made up 61% of the South Carolina Democratic primary electorate in 2016.

A recent poll of black voters nationally gave a Biden a huge lead with 48%, with Sanders on 20% and nobody else in double digits.

Sanders and Warren, the two most left-wing candidates, are leading in the latest Iowa poll. One explanation is that Iowa is a caucus, not a primary. Caucuses are conducted by the parties and are time-consuming affairs that require voters to attend meetings where supporters make their case for candidates.




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US Democratic presidential primaries: Biden leading, followed by Sanders, Warren, Harris; and will Trump be beaten?


Primaries, meanwhile, are managed by the state’s electoral authority and operate like normal elections. As a result, caucuses have far lower turnout rates than primaries, and are more likely to be influenced by party activists.

In the 2016 Democratic presidential primary, Sanders performed far better than Hillary Clinton in caucus states, while Clinton performed better in most primary states.

The bad news for Sanders and Warren is that Democrats strongly encouraged states to use primaries this year. After Iowa and Nevada (February 22), only one state uses a true caucus, while four others have a party-run primary.

According to New York Times analyst Nate Cohn, 14% of pledged delegates were awarded by caucuses in 2016; this year only 3% will be. Left-wing candidates are most likely to be hurt by this change.

National Democratic polls and polls of other early states

The most recent RealClearPolitics national Democratic poll average has Biden leading with 29.3%, with Sanders at 20.3%, Warren 14.8%, Buttigieg 7.5%, Michael Bloomberg 5.8% and Yang 3.5%.

In New Hampshire, the RCP polling average has Sanders leading with 21.5%, followed by Biden at 18.8%, Buttigieg 18.3% and Warren 14.8%.

In Nevada, the only poll conducted in January has Biden at 23%, Sanders 17% and Warren and Tom Steyer both at 12%. And in South Carolina, the only January poll conducted had Biden in the lead at 36%, with Steyer in a surprise second at 15%.

The last Democratic presidential debate before voting begins will be held on Tuesday night at Drake University in Iowa. Six candidates have qualified. There will be three more debates in February.

US jobs still good, but wage growth down

In December, the US economy added 145,000 jobs. While this is down from 256,000 in November, it is still a good performance.

However, hourly wages grew only by three cents in December, and the annual hourly wage growth increased by just 2.9% – the first time it has been below 3% since July 2018.

We do not yet have the inflation report for December, but inflation increased 0.7% in October and November. Higher inflation undermines wage growth.

The US uses two surveys for its jobs reports. The number of jobs gained and wage growth are based on an establishment survey, while other statistics are based on a household survey. In December, the household survey was steady for the three most important indicators: unemployment at 3.5%, labour participation rate at 63.2% and employment population ratio at 61.0%.

The strong jobs reports and the fact the Dow Jones surged to near 29,000 are good news for President Donald Trump. The economy represents Trump’s best chance of re-election in November.

Trump’s ratings and head-to-head polls

With all polls, the FiveThirtyEight aggregate has Trump’s ratings at 41.8% approve, 53.5% disapprove, for a net approval of -11.7%. With polls of likely or registered voters, Trump’s ratings are 42.9% approve, 53.0% disapprove (net -10.1%).

In mid-December, Trump’s ratings rose to their highest since the very early days of his presidency. His ratings have since fallen by two to three net points since then, perhaps owing to the conflict with Iran.

In the most recent national head-to-head election polls, Biden led Trump by 4.5% in the RealClearPolitics average, Sanders led Trump by 2.6%, Trump led Warren by 0.2% and Trump led Buttigieg by 1.2%.

These polls were taken in early to mid-December, when Trump’s ratings were at their peak.The Conversation

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

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

Labor’s reset on climate and jobs is a political mirage



Labor leader Anthony Albanese, pictured at a cabinet meeting this month, says coal has a future under the renewables expansion.
Richard Wainwright/AAP

Peter Christoff, University of Melbourne

Anthony Albanese’s “Jobs and the Future of Work” speech delivered on Tuesday was, in some ways, a beacon in a dark landscape short on policy ambition. It illuminates the right issues. Technological change and artificial intelligence. The potential for smart manufacturing and domestic economic development. New directions for Australia’s resource sector. A clean energy economy. But the torch shines unevenly.

As an agenda-setting speech coming early in the new electoral cycle, it is weak on ideas, facts and proposals. It spins on about technology and innovation, a hollow chant reminiscent of former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull’s mantra “jobs and growth, jobs and growth”. Maybe Labor is keeping its powder dry. Or it has been scarred and silenced by its election loss, blamed by some on a big target, policy-heavy campaign.




Read more:
Low carbon economy can spur Australian “manufacturing boom”: Albanese


The “vision statement” nevertheless opens impressively by looking at clean energy technology and the Australian possibilities for a new manufacturing boom in a decarbonising world. About the Morrison government, Albanese says its policy settings barely acknowledge climate change, yet “in the century before us, the nations that will transform into manufacturing powerhouses are those that can harness the cheapest renewable energy resources”.

Workers at AGL’s Liddell coal-fired power station.
AAP

Albanese pumps up the potential for Australia’s cheap wind, wave and solar power to grow domestic manufacturing jobs and energy-intensive industries. He sings about clean energy jobs based around mineral resources such as lithium.

And as another round of state and federal parliamentary inquiries probe the feasibility of nuclear power in Australia, Albanese slams the door on this tired debate, declaring: “we don’t need nuclear power when every day we can harness the power (of the sun)”.




Read more:
Coal miners and urban greenies have one thing in common, and Labor must use it


But for all its talk of the need to “innovate, adapt and adjust”, the speech is blind to the harder questions of decarbonisation. On this issue, Albanese tried to walk both sides of the highway by wandering down the middle.

Australia is a major domestic producer of greenhouse gas emissions, making it about the world’s 14th biggest emitter. In recent years our domestic emissions have risen, largely thanks to fugitive emissions released as we extract increasing volumes of coal and natural gas for export.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese in Melbourne this year.
AAP

Australia is among the world’s largest fossil fuel exporters. These exported fossil fuels are responsible for an estimated 3.6% of the global emissions total. If we add these emissions – for which we are morally responsible and from which we benefit financially – to our domestic pollutant load, this places Australia among the planet’s worst emitters.

While bickering about domestic emissions targets, neither Labor nor the Coalition have tackled Australia’s parallel carbon economy – our growing exported contribution to global warming. It’s a big, dirty, lucrative, open secret. It involves jobs in marginal seats. It can determine the fate of governments.

And so Albanese’s vision statement, while extolling the virtues of a hydrogen export sector, also pumps up our fossil fuel trade. He nods at jobs from liquified natural gas exports from northern Australia, and at how traditional industries might benefit from a low-carbon future, such as by providing metallurgical coal to produce wind turbines. (Metallurgical coal is used in steel production. But environmental advocates argue Australia’s continued expansion of these exports is preventing the global uptake of cleaner steel-making alternatives).

Coal being loaded onto ships at a Newcastle port.
AAP

One wonders who his intended audience is. Labor fools no-one by supporting both a clean energy revolution and a business-as-usual future for fossil fuels. It’s akin to the party’s evasive and self-harming position on Adani, which left workers in regional Queensland feeling patronised, dispensable, anxious, hostile and disaffected — and the growing majority of Australians who are deeply concerned about climate change, furious.




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How to transition from coal: 4 lessons for Australia from around the world


Those who have been following the climate issue closely – resource sector workers, unionists, parents, children and activists alike – know what is required now are tough but fair policies, and a strong commitment to future jobs that are not dependent on the whims of export markets in a decarbonising world, or on policy shocks at home when weak emissions targets suddenly have to be toughened dramatically.

A truck hauling coal at a West Australian mine.
Wesfarmers

To achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement — to hold global average warming to well below 2℃ and as close as possible to 1.5℃ — requires “negative emissions” – removing existing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. To propose a low-carbon future with continued fossil fuel exports is fakery in the extreme.

Many researchers and others, here and overseas, are working with regional communities on ways to generate investment and enduring jobs, enabling a rapid transition from economic dependence on coal and gas. It is slow and sometimes hard work. In this vision statement, Labor fails to recognise the need for a concerted, innovative national program along these lines. It is here that fresh policy is needed, and trust and consensus must be built, carefully, over the coming years.


Clarification: this article has been amended to clarify the author’s view that Australia is morally, if not legally, responsible for emissions created by its fossil fuel exports.


Update: following publication, Labor’s shadow minister for climate change, Pat Conroy contacted The Conversation with the following statement:

The moral and legal responsibility for carbon emissions lies with the nation that burns the coal, not the nation that digs it up.

This principle was enshrined in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Paris climate treaty and previous international agreements for reducing global emissions.

Holding Australia responsible for burning Australian coal overseas is equivalent to holding Japan responsible for pollution emitted by Japanese cars in Australia.

Activists who want to hold Australia responsible for emissions from coal burned overseas are arguing for the destruction of global climate conventions established 27 years ago, and the only practical approach to addressing climate change as a global challenge.

Under the approach argued in the article, responsibility for transport emissions in Australia would shift to Japan, Germany and Thailand, because the cars are made there, and to Singapore which exports the fuel.

Not only is this completely impractical and unimplementable globally – it gives the Morrison Government leave to do even less. It distracts from the main game – meeting our legal obligations and transitioning Australia to a clean economy – and it says Labor is no different from the Liberals.

In campaigning on coal exports, activists are acting as if we have already secured strong emissions reduction mechanisms in Australia, and making it harder to do the real work to build community support needed to achieve real action.The Conversation


Peter Christoff, Associate Professor, School of Geography, University of Melbourne

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

Albanese slams Morrison for using a “loud hailer” to talk to China from US


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Anthony Albanese has attacked Scott Morrison for sending a message to Beijing while in the United States, and also split with him over the economic status of China.

Albanese accused Morrison of using “a loud hailer” to talk to China during a visit in which he was seen to be very close to the American President, including “being a partner in what would appear to be some of Donald Trump’s re-election campaign there in Ohio”. This was a reference to their joint appearance at billionaire Anthony Pratt’s new paper recycling factory.

The opposition leader’s comments open a partisan rift at a time when Australia-China relations are at a low point.

In his address on foreign policy in Chicago, Morrison described China “as a newly developed economy”, and said it needed to reflect this new status in its trade arrangements and meeting environmental challenges.

But Albanese told the ABC China quite clearly was “still developing”.

“It is still an emerging economy”, he said, pointing to the disparity between China’s per capita income and that of advanced economies such as the US and Australia.

Albanese, who made a series of comments, suggested it was not constructive “to send a message to China from the US in the way that it has occurred”.




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While there was a legitimate debate around the World Trade Organisation system, “the conflict between China and the United States [over trade] is one that is not in Australia’s interests. We want that to be resolved rather than be overly partisan about it,” he said.

“Of course our alliance with the United States is our most important relationship. That won’t change. But we need to, I think, be very measured in our comments particularly comments from the United States in the context in which they’ve been given.”

If Morrison was sending a message to China “it would have been better sent from Australia so that there was no confusion that the Prime Minister was advancing Australia’s national interests.”

Morrison had changed “the characterisation of the entire Chinese economy from Chicago,” Albanese said. “Does he think that will be well received and will reduce tension between China and the United States over trade?”

In fact, while Morrison’s language on China’s economic status went further than before, he had gone a considerable way down this path previously. In a major address in June he said: “China’s rise has now reached a threshold level of economic maturity”, with its most successful provinces sometimes exceeding the economic sophistication of global competitors. Yet they enjoyed concessions on trade and environmental obligations not available to other developed economies, he said.

In his Chicago speech Morrison said there was a need to reduce trade tensions that had developed in recent years.

“China’s economic growth is welcomed by Australia and we recognise the economic maturity that it has now realised as a newly developed economy,” he said.

It was important this was reflected in its trade arrangements, participation in addressing important global environmental challenges, transparency in its partnerships and support for developing nations.

“All of this needs to reflect this new status and the responsibilities that go with it as a very major world power,” Morrison said.

He also said: “The world’s global institutions must adjust their settings for China, in recognition of this new status. That means more will be expected of course, as has always been the case for nations like the United States who’ve always had this standing.”

Asked at a news conference what he wanted China to do that it was not doing now, Morrison said the objective was that “similar rules will apply to countries of similar capabilities”.




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Meanwhile in a speech in Beijing this week Richard Marles, Labor’s deputy leader and defence spokesman, urged a deepening of Australia’s relations with China, including even at the defence level.

“I firmly believe it is possible for Australia to maintain our strong alliance with the United States while also deepening our engagement with China. In fact, not only is this possible, it is vital,” Marles said.

“And that must be obvious. Because from the perspective of Australia, the world looks a lot safer when the United States and China are talking to each other and improving their relations.

“And if this is our view, then it stands to reason that Australia’s interest lies in having the best possible relations we can with both the United States and China.

“And from the perspective of Australia the world also looks a lot more prosperous when China and the United States trade with each other.”

“Our starting point has to be that we respect China and deeply value our relationship with China. We must seek to build it. And not just in economic terms, but also through exploring political co-operation and even defence co-operation.

“To define China as an enemy is a profound mistake. To talk of a new Cold War is silly and ignorant,” Marles said.

Asked about the defence reference, Albanese played it down.




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In a Tuesday speech in Jakarta, Labor’s shadow minister on foreign affairs Penny Wong said: “It is clear that the United States and China now treat each other as strategic competitors.

“The strategic competition in our region means we need to think carefully and engage actively to avoid becoming collateral. Great powers will do what great powers do – assert their interests. But the rest of us are not without our own agency,” she said.

“What our region is looking for is less a contest about who should be or will be number one, than how we foster partnerships of enduring connection and relevance”.

Wong said the US should “present a positive narrative and vision about the future, by articulating and presenting what it offers not only what it is against.”

“A greater focus on the likely settling point will enable the United States to recognise – and embrace – the fact that multi-polarity in the region is likely to get stronger.

“And in the context of Beijing’s ambitions, this growing multi-polarity – with countries like Indonesia, India and Japan playing increasingly important leadership roles in the region – is beneficial to Washington’s interests.

“Defining a realistic settling point will also help the United States recognise and accept that decisions relating to China will vary depending on the issues and interests at stake.”

Albanese also criticised Morrison for not attending the United Nations leaders summit on climate.

Morrison said that when he addresses the UN General Assembly this week: “I’ll be focusing very much on Australia’s response to the global environmental challenges. Which isn’t just climate change … it’s about plastics, it’s about oceans, it’s about recycling”.The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

Albanese says Voice must be in the Constitution


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Opposition leader Anthony Albanese says an Indigenous “Voice” to parliament must be enshrined in the Constitution.

His position, spelled out in a speech to be given on Saturday to the Garma Festival, makes it difficult to see how he and Prime Minister Scott Morrison will be able to agree on a referendum question.

Albanese says in his address, released ahead of delivery:

With a Voice in place, there can be truth-telling, and there can be Makaratta. […] It is clear to me that enshrining that Voice in the Constitution is what must come first.




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Morrison has been adamant there should be no reference to a Voice in what is inserted in the Constitution to recognise Australia’s First Peoples.

Without bipartisan support, a referendum would not have a chance of success and, indeed, would not be put.

Indigenous leaders in the Uluru Statement from the Heart called for “the establishment of a First Nations Voice enshrined in the Constitution”.

Albanese says:

I want a Voice and Truth then Treaty to be part of our nation’s journey, part of our national life. It’s not just about respect and redress. It’s about progress and change. It’s about moving out of the darkness

Although there is a gulf between Albanese and Morrison over what should go into the constitution, Albanese says he still hopes for bipartisanship.

“We have not yet had true reconciliation, and a country that is not truly reconciled is not truly whole. And until we are whole, we will never reach our truest potential as a nation – and we have so very much potential,” he says.

But how can we have reconciliation when one side has no voice?

The Voice is the bedrock upon which we must build.

I will take the fight to the government on so many things; never have any doubt about that. But on this we must work together. We must be together. My hope we can have bipartisanship on this remains alive.




Read more:
Politics with Michelle Grattan: Ken Wyatt on constitutional recognition for Indigenous Australians


Albanese says he is encouraged by “the tentative moves towards constitutional change” by the Minister for Indigenous Australians, Ken Wyatt. “I hope he gets the support he needs and deserves from his colleagues.”

He says he is also encouraged by “the epiphany experienced by Barnaby Joyce.

“After being part of the chorus pushing the myth that a Voice would amount to a third chamber in parliament, Mr Joyce did something unusual. He stopped. He listened. He asked questions from people with knowledge. […]

“Mr Joyce then went on television to own up to his mistake, and to explain why he’d been wrong. And he encouraged others who’d made the same mistake to follow his example.”

At Tuesday’s caucus meeting Pat Dodson, the opposition spokesman on Indigenous recognition, said constitutional recognition had now been decoupled from everything that was in the Uluru statement. Uluru had now shifted to “co-design with select individuals”, he said.

Dodson said there was no structure for formal consultations with First Nations. “Apparently the minister has a plan for consultation with the Coalition backbench and apparently with Pauline Hanson”, he said.

The challenge now was to “assist the minister without walking away with all the fleas and ticks that would undermine a principled position”, Dodson said.The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

Grattan on Friday: Labor battles to keep warm in a cold climate



Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese’s approach is for Labor to pick carefully which issues it takes to the wire.
AAP/Mick Tsikas

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Although his circumstances are vastly different, Anthony Albanese is in sync with Scott Morrison in using the authority of leadership to the maximum.

In Albanese’s case, this has ranged from his determination to expel rogue union official John Setka from the ALP (a work still in progress) to new question time tactics and the opposition’s handling of the government’s wedge politics on legislation.

As Labor continues to absorb the consequences of its defeat, this week Albanese gave his caucus a sharp lecture about the harsh realities of this parliament.

Highlighting that the post-election Senate crossbench is much less pliable for Labor, he said the situation was effectively akin to when the Howard government won control of the upper house.

Unable to secure amendments to legislation, “we will often be confronted with circumstances where we have to vote on an issue which involves measures we agree with and measures we disagree with”, Albanese said. “The government is wanting to focus on us, with claiming every piece of legislation is a test for Labor”.

Caucus earlier had been debating a bill combining child protection and mandatory sentencing. It agreed to back it, despite ALP policy being against mandatory sentencing.

Albanese’s tough talk was timely. In the just concluded parliamentary fortnight, the Coalition has used every opportunity to corner Labor, and it will go on doing so. On Thursday, it foreshadowed bringing back after the winter break legislation from last term for a drug-testing trial for some Newstart and Youth Allowance recipients.

It tries to maximise the pressure on Labor with its endlessly repeated challenge, “whose side are you on?” Eventually, this prompted a detailed listing by Albanese of who and what Labor sided with.

Given the situation in which it finds itself, Labor can’t win – it can only try to cope as best it can.

When it attacks government measures, and then votes for them, its critics denounce it as inconsistent. If it turned everything into a last-ditch fight, it would be cast as the perennial naysayer, and mostly it would lose anyway.

Albanese’s approach is for Labor to pick carefully which issues it takes to the wire.

Labor will oppose the bill to repeal the medevac legislation, the outcome of which will depend on Jacqui Lambie. It will also maintain its stand against the legislation to toughen the rules against bad behaviour by unions and their officials. But it has been voting with the government on security measures, albeit with some concerns.

Despite the opposition’s general impotence, Albanese’s revised question time tactic – precise questions trying to force answers rather than get TV grabs – is an improvement, and scored some hits on Energy Minister Angus Taylor.

So far, Albanese has managed to keep a demoralised team united, when it wouldn’t have been surprising to have seen massive bloodletting after an election that Labor should have won.

But it is very early days and there’ll be lots of arguments ahead as Labor digs into the reasons for its defeat and looks to refashion its policies. That debate will start to crystallise when the party’s election review is finished later in the year and as the deep dives begin on whether particular policies should be filleted or scrapped entirely.

Kim Carr, Senate veteran and former minister, writing in the July edition of The Tocsin (put out by the John Curtin Research Centre), has rejected the “just wipe the slate clean and start again” prescription, warning against simply concluding Labor’s “redistribution agenda, paid for by reform of the taxation system, was a fundamental mistake”. Rather, Carr argues, there was “a massive failure of messaging”.

“Labor failed because its messaging essentially appealed to affluent voters rather than to the blue-collar voters who provide – though not as strongly as was once the case – its core support, and who typically decide federal election outcomes,” Carr says.

“We paid insufficient attention to the anxieties and insecurities that working-class families have about the future,” he writes. “We lost the trust of too many of our own people, while paradoxically winning the trust of many voters in seats that have long been Liberal heartland.”

Finding ways to re-engage with these voters will be harder than identifying their loss. It can lead to some strange contortions.

Take the issue of coal, which cost Labor dearly in Queensland. When Liberal backbencher Craig Kelly (one of the anti-NEG cabal that helped bring down Malcolm Turnbull) last week challenged Labor’s resources spokesman, Joel Fitzgibbon, to co-chair his new Parliamentary Friends of Australian Coal Exports group, set up “to acknowledge and celebrate the invaluable contribution that Australian coal exports make to our nation”, Fitzgibbon immediately agreed.

From the vantage point of Fitzgibbon, who holds the coal seat of Hunter in NSW, this sends a signal, on high volume, about his commitment, as well as saying something more generally about the ALP’s post-election position. Nevertheless, while participation doesn’t contradict Labor policy on climate change and coal, the Kelly-Fitzgibbon alliance does seem an odd coupling.

As the Labor team shakes down, Bill Shorten – still deeply bruised – emerged briefly in question time this week. But he and last term’s frontliners Chris Bowen and Tanya Plibersek remain near invisible.

In contrast, one player coming strongly into focus in the new Labor firmament is former NSW premier Kristina Keneally.

After the election, Keneally crashed through the internal party processes to become Labor’s deputy leader in the Senate. She shadows Peter Dutton in home affairs, and seems to be everywhere. This week she was in the headlines calling for controversial British right-wing activist Raheem Kassam to be banned from coming to Australia to speak at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Sydney next week.

Keneally even attracted an attack from Donald Trump’s son, Donald junior, who tweeted his condemnation.

It is difficult to judge how Albanese will fare this term but you can bet Keneally will be making plenty of splashes.The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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