With the government on the ropes, Anthony Albanese has a fighting chance


Wes Mountain/The Conversation, CC BY-ND

Frank Bongiorno, Australian National UniversitySome promising polling for Labor in recent weeks has inevitably raised that perennial question for a party whose national triumphs since Federation 120 years ago have been rare: can it win the next election? And in the manner of modern elections, the question soon becomes a more personal one: can it win under its present leader, Anthony Albanese?

My punditry in such matters is likely to be no better or worse than anyone else’s. Apart from polling, the limitations of which have become all too well known, there’s little for most of us to go on.

One place we might look is the quality of an opposition leader’s performance. They really have two jobs, which is one of the reasons no one much likes being opposition leader.

First, they need to keep government accountable, scrutinising its behaviour using parliament, committees such as Senate Estimates, and the media to draw attention to government failings or worse.

Their other job is to make themselves look like an alternative government. They do so by preparing policies, crafting an attractive image, and attending to problems such as weaknesses in the party organisation.

Taking these two roles into account, how well has Labor been doing this under Albanese?




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In the aftermath of the 2019 election, as is usually the case after an election defeat, it’s hard for an opposition to get a hearing. The government will usually have an agenda that it pursues aggressively in the flush of an election victory. Few wish to listen to the leader of a party only recently repudiated at the polls.

The months that followed the 2019 election had some of these features. The government pursued massive tax cuts, which Labor supported. But given Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s lack of an agenda – his policy at the 2019 election was to win the 2019 election – there was little for Albanese and Labor to get their teeth into.

That soon changed. Summer is usually a quiet time for both government and opposition. It was on this basis, that Morrison, “Jen and the girls” headed for Hawaii. But the Black Summer bushfires provided Albanese and the Labor opposition with their first chance to lay a glove on Morrison.

While Morrison’s performance was so poor that Albanese needed to do little to look good by comparison, the crisis did damage the government sufficiently to raise Labor’s hopes that the shine gained from “Morrison’s miracle” was wearing off.

Morrison’s absence for a Hawaiian holiday during the Black Summer of 2019-20 provoked community outrage, and an opportunity for Albanese.
AAP/Instagram/Scott Marsh

Then came sports rorts. This scandal provided Labor with opportunities to build an argument that this was a mean and tricky government that put winning elections ahead of integrity or fairness. It claimed a ministerial scalp.

Sports rorts was soon overwhelmed by the pandemic. This was very bad news for Labor. Parliamentary sittings were reduced. Worried citizens attended to their private affairs. National cabinet provided a sense of Labor state governments being drawn into the tent with Morrison, while the federal Labor opposition was rendered irrelevant. Morrison even courted the unions with some success.

Governments almost invariably benefit from major crises because they are seen as doers. There are strong pressures to place an increasing range of issues “beyond politics”, a boon for those intent on looting the treasury and bad for public accountability.

The government’s massive spending stimulus made Labor seem particularly irrelevant. There can be no doubt that if a Labor government had tried anything similar, it would have been subjected to the mother of all campaigns by right-wing media.

So, if Albanese and much of his front bench seemed invisible during this period, this is not a matter for which they can be much criticised. And to be fair, several Labor shadow ministers used this period productively to explore what a post-pandemic order might look like.

We complain about our politicians spending too little time reading and thinking. We should notice when they do. This was Labor performing the second of those functions of opposition: crafting an alternative government.

With the pandemic largely under control, Albanese has a better chance to present himself as an alternative prime minister.
AAP/Mick Tsikas

The gods have been kinder to Labor during 2021. The government has been mired in crisis, scandal and sleaze. Labor, meanwhile, has benefited from its slow and steady achievement of greater gender equity during decades in which the Coalition’s performance in this area has deteriorated.




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Labor has admittedly had to do little to keep the government accountable in these matters – Morrison’s ineptness and an enterprising group of mainly female journalists have done its job for it – but the party has benefited enormously from having capable women in leadership positions. Albanese has been able to avoid looking like another well-meaning mansplainer when the issues of sexual assault and harassment are in the spotlight.

The blatant failures of the vaccination program have provided new opportunities for the Labor Party to criticise a government that likes to present itself as the saviour of the Australian people in its hour of need – as Psalm 46 would have it, “a very present help in trouble”.

Electors seem less certain. They have returned two state Labor governments in Queensland and Western Australia widely perceived to have kept their populations safe. Other state governments remain popular, even that of Daniel Andrews, despite Victoria’s ordeal of a second wave of infections.

It is not clear how much credit the Morrison government will be able to claim. Dealing competently with the Global Financial Crisis in 2008-9 appeared to win the Rudd government limited credit among voters in the medium term. It was persecuted for a few failures instead.

Albanese’s place in these considerations remains an ambiguous one. Tanya Plibersek seems to have emerged as the most likely alternative and, if Albanese were to falter at the next election, his successor.

The rules adopted by the Labor Party during the second Rudd prime ministership in 2013 make it difficult to remove a leader between elections unless he or she agrees to go. In any case, and leaving aside the party’s split under Billy Hughes in 1916 and the interim leadership of Frank Forde in 1945, Labor has still only once removed a leader without giving him the opportunity to fight an election: Simon Crean in 2003.

Tanya Plibersek is the most logical alternative Labor leader.
AAP/Dean Lewins

As the son of a single mother raised in public housing, Albanese has a backstory that might be attractive to may voters, if they only knew it. He is a consummate political professional in an age of political professionals, admired for his management of parliamentary business during the challenging minority government of Julia Gillard.

Albanese would not have been among the front rank of ministers in the best Labor governments of the modern era — those of Bob Hawke in the 1980s. But that probably isn’t a large mark against him. After all, the general quality of our political leaders has deteriorated since then, too.

At the very least, the turn of the political dial seems to give Labor, and Albanese, a fighting chance.The Conversation

Frank Bongiorno, Professor of History, ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences, Australian National University

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

Morrison’s ratings take a hit in Newspoll as Coalition notionally loses a seat in redistribution


AAP/James Gourley

Adrian Beaumont, The University of MelbourneThis week’s Newspoll, conducted March 24-27 from a sample of 1,517, gave Labor a 52-48 two party lead, unchanged from last fortnight’s Newspoll. Primary votes were 40% Coalition (up one), 38% Labor (down one), 11% Greens (up one) and 2% One Nation (down one).

While voting intentions moved slightly towards the Coalition, Scott Morrison’s ratings fell to their lowest point since the COVID crisis began. 55% were satisfied with his performance (down seven) and 40% were dissatisfied (up six), for a net approval of +15, down 13 points.

Anthony Albanese’s net approval was up one point to +2, and Morrison led as better PM by 52-32 (56-30 last fortnight). Figures are from The Poll Bludger.

The last Newspoll was taken during the final few days of the WA election campaign. It’s plausible, given Morrison’s ratings slump without any impact on voting intentions, that Labor’s federal WA vote in the last Newspoll was inflated by the state election.

While Morrison’s ratings are his worst since the pandemic began, they are still strong by historical standards. So far, Morrison has only lost people who were likely to switch to disapproving at the first major scandal. Voting intentions imply that many who approved of Morrison were not voting Coalition anyway.

This poll would not have reflected the latest scandals about LNP Bowman MP Andrew Laming, who was revealed on Saturday night to have taken an upskirting picture in 2019. But are sexual misbehaviour scandals getting as much voter opprobrium as they used to?

In last fortnight’s article I cited two recent US examples of alleged sexual misconduct. Donald Trump was elected president in November 2016 despite the release of the Access Hollywood tape a month earlier. And New York’s Democratic governor, Andrew Cuomo, is still in office despite multiple sexual harassment allegations against his female employees.

According to Morning Consult polling of New York state, Cuomo’s ratings have stabilised recently after a large drop, and he still has a +10 net approval. That’s because he has a 75% approval rating from Democratic voters.

In the FiveThirtyEight aggregate of 2016 US national polls, Hillary Clinton gained only about a point in the week after the October 7 Access Hollywood tape was released, to have a six-point lead, up from five. Trump won that election in the Electoral College despite losing the national popular vote by 2.1%.

Draft federal redistributions for Victoria and WA

As a result of population growth trends, Victoria will gain an additional House of Representatives seat before the next election, while WA loses one. On March 19, the Electoral Commission published draft boundaries for both states.

In WA, the Liberal seat of Stirling was axed, while in Victoria the seat of Hawke was created in Melbourne’s northwestern growth area. The Poll Bludger estimated Hawke will have a Labor margin of 9.8%.

There are no major knock-on effects that would shift any other seat into another party’s column based on 2019 election results. So the impact is Labor gaining a Victorian seat as the Coalition loses a WA seat. Christian Porter’s margin in Pearce has been reduced slightly from 6.7% to 5.5%.

Ignoring the defection of Craig Kelly from the Liberals, the Coalition will start the next federal election with a notional 76 of the 151 seats, down one from the 2019 results. Labor will notionally have 69 seats, up one.

Early Tasmanian election announced for May 1

On March 26, Tasmanian Liberal Premier Peter Gutwein announced the Tasmanian election would be held on May 1, about ten months before the four-year anniversary of the March 2018 election.

The Liberals expect to capitalise on a COVID boost that could fade if the election were held as expected in early 2022. The last Tasmanian poll, conducted by EMRS in February, gave the Liberals 52%, Labor 27% and the Greens 14%. Tasmania uses the Hare-Clark method of proportional representation with five electorates that each return five members.

WA election final lower house results

At the March 13 Western Australian election, Labor won 53 of the 59 lower house seats, gaining 12 seats from what was already a thumping victory in 2017. The Liberals won just two seats (down 11) and the Nationals four (down one). Labor will have almost 90% of lower house seats.

Primary votes were 59.9% Labor (up 17.7% since 2017), 21.3% Liberals (down 9.9%), 4.0% Nationals (down 1.4%), 6.9% Greens (down 2.0%) and just 1.3% One Nation (down 3.7%).

Labor’s primary vote was higher than the 59.0% the combined Nationals and Liberals won at the 1974 Queensland election. The 1941 Tasmanian election, when Labor won 62.6%, is likely the only prior occasion in Australia of a single party winning a higher vote share than WA Labor.

The Poll Bludger estimates the two party vote as 69.2-30.8 to Labor, a 13.7% swing since 2017. The upper house has yet to be finalised, but Labor will win at least 22 of the 36 seats.

Israeli, UK local, German and Dutch elections

I wrote for The Poll Bludger on March 21 about the March 23 Israeli election and the May 6 UK local elections that also include Scottish and Welsh parliamentary elections. Israel’s right-wing PM Benjamin Netanyahu failed to win a majority for a right coalition, with that coalition winning 59 of the 120 Knesset seats. UK Labour is struggling in the polls.

I wrote for my personal website on March 19 about two German state elections that the combined left parties nearly won outright. The German federal election is expected on September 26, and the incumbent conservative CDU has slumped from its COVID heights, so the combined left could win the next German election. However, the left performed dismally at the March 17 Dutch election.The Conversation

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

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

Morrison takes big personal hit in Newspoll after missteps on women’s issue


Michelle Grattan, University of CanberraScott Morrison’s approval has taken a sizeable hit in a Newspoll showing Labor maintaining its 52-48% two-party lead.

As Morrison prepares to unveil his cabinet reshuffle the poll, published in Monday’s Australian, found his satisfaction rating fell from 62% to 55% in two weeks.

The fortnight was dominated by shocking revelations of lewd behaviour among staffers on the Coalition side, a botched attempted “reset” on gender issues when Morrison lashed out at a news conference, and a scandal around a Liberal backbencher.

In the poll, taken March 24-27, Morrison’s dissatisfaction rating jumped from 34% to 40%.

The “better PM” gap also narrowed – Morrison now leads Anthony Albanese 52% (down 4 points) to 32% (up 2 points). This the narrowest margin since March last year. In February Morrison had a 35-point margin.

The Coalition’s primary vote rose a point to 40% while Labor’s fell a point to 38%.

The Australian reports that it is the first time in more than a year that Morrison’s approval ratings haven’t been in the 60s. His net satisfaction is plus 15.

Albanese’s satisfaction increased one point. He has a net satisfaction of plus 2.

The reshuffle is set to move Christian Porter out of the attorney-general’s portfolio and Linda Reynolds out of defence, but keep both in cabinet.

The government is now confronting a major row over Queensland Liberal MP Andrew Laming who trolled two local women on Facebook and took an inappropriate photo of another woman.

Laming announced at the weekend he would not seek to run at the next election but he remains in the Liberal National Party. He is now on leave but has indicated he aims to be back for the budget session, after he has had counselling on “empathy and appropriate communications”.

Albanese said Laming was not a fit and proper person to be in parliament and should go. He said there were various measures available to the Labor Party to take against him when parliament resumed.

Morrison will be anxious to see a woman preselected for Laming’s seat of Bowman.

As the government’s crisis continues Liberal women are increasingly speaking out, with Victorian federal backbenchers Sarah Henderson and Katie Allen suggesting on the ABC’s Insiders that parliamentarians should be subject to drug and alcohol testing.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 still enjoys strong ratings in separate polls, indicating Labor’s gains may be short-lived


Adrian Beaumont, The University of MelbourneThis week’s federal Newspoll, conducted March 10-13 from a sample of 1,521 people, gave Labor a 52-48% lead on a two-party preferred basis, a two-point gain for Labor since the previous Newspoll three weeks ago.

Primary votes were 39% Coalition (down three), 39% Labor (up two), 10% Greens (steady) and 3% One Nation (steady).

In addition, 62% were satisfied with Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s performance (down two) and 34% were dissatisfied, for a net approval of +28. Labor leader Anthony Albanese’s net approval jumped eight points to +1.

Morrison, meanwhile, led as better PM by 56-30%, well down from his 61-26% lead three weeks ago.

On voting intentions, this is Labor’s best showing in the poll since last February, immediately after the bushfire crisis but before the COVID-19 pandemic spread to Australia. It is Morrison’s narrowest better PM margin since April.

Before COVID, we would have expected the party of a prime minister with a +28 net approval to have a large lead on voting intentions. The relationship between voting intentions and Morrison’s net approval has clearly broken down in the past year since the pandemic began.

The Morrison government’s response to two separate rape allegations against a minister in the cabinet and a staffer in another minister’s office has also likely played a role in Labor’s improvement in the poll.




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The Poll Bludger reports that Newspoll aggregated its last two polls to determine if the Coalition’s slump was driven mostly by women respondents.

However, this does not appear to be the case. As compared with the Newspoll aggregate data from October to December, the Coalition’s primary vote is down two points among both men and women, while Labor’s primary vote is up three points with men and up two with women.

The Essential poll out today corroborates Newspoll in still giving Morrison strong ratings — his net approval is +33, down only slightly from +37 in February.

While Newspoll had Albanese gaining much ground on the better prime minister question, Essential has Morrison ahead by 52-26% on this measure, down only slightly from 52-24% in February.

Essential gave the federal government a 70% good to 12% poor rating on handling of COVID, up from 62-14% last fortnight. This was behind the state governments’ handling of the pandemic, with the exception of Victoria, which only garnered a 62% good rating.




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Could the Morrison government’s response to sexual assault claims cost it the next election?


It appears, then, the slow roll-out of Australia’s vaccination program is not yet hurting the government’s approval ratings.

I am sceptical that the rape allegations can be a lasting driver of gains for Labor in the polls. The infamous Access Hollywood tape, in which Donald Trump spoke in vulgar terms about women, emerged about a month before the 2016 US election, yet it didn’t prevent Trump from defeating Hillary Clinton to win the presidency.

Recently, Andrew Cuomo, the Democratic governor of New York state, has been accused of sexual harassment of his female employees. But a New York Siena poll had 50% of respondents saying Cuomo should not resign immediately, while 35% said he should. Women were more favourable to Cuomo than men on this question, too.

WA election late counting

With 63% of enrolled voters counted in Saturday’s Western Australia election, the ABC is now calling 50 Labor seats, two Liberals and four Nationals, with three still in doubt. In the doubtful seats, Labor currently leads in Nedlands and Warren-Blackwood, but trails in Churchlands.

We would normally expect a decline in Labor’s primary vote as postal votes are added, as these tend to be Labor’s worst vote category. But Labor’s statewide primary vote has instead increased to 59.9% from 59.1% on election night.

Labor’s massive primary vote explains why they will win control of the upper house for the first time. Labor’s upper house vote share (60.1%) is currently slightly better than in the lower house.

On the ABC’s upper house calculators, Labor is winning 22 of its 23 seats on raw quotas, without requiring preferences.

Labor could win five of the six seats in the Eastern Metropolitan region on a massive primary vote of 67.4%, or 4.72 quotas. The most ridiculous result is in the Mining and Pastoral region, where the Daylight Saving party is winning a seat off just 0.2% of the vote (0.01 quotas).

This result shows that group voting tickets should be abolished and replaced by the Senate’s voter-directed preference system. With its big majority in both chambers of the state parliament, the re-elected Labor government should pursue both this reform and an end to the heavy rural malapportionment in the upper house.The Conversation

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

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

View from The Hill: Labor surges to 52-48% Newspoll lead, as women’s voices set to roar across the country


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Labor has hit the front in Newspoll, with a 52-48% two-party lead, as the separate crises engulfing ministers Christian Porter and Linda Reynolds take a toll of the Morrison government.

As the parliament’s fortnight sitting begins, with a big national women’s protest set for Monday, Newspoll has Labor and the Coalition equal on primary votes – 39% each – for the first time this electoral cycle.

The government fell 3 points on primaries, while Labor rose 2 points.

Labor has surged ahead on the two-party vote from the 50-50 results of the last two polls, in January and February.

Scott Morrison has taken a knock in his personal ratings. He fell 5 points on the “better PM” measure, to 56%; Anthony Albanese improved 4 points to 30%.

Satisfaction with Morrison’s performance was down 2 points to 62%; his dissatisfaction rating was up 2 to 34%, for a net approval of plus 28%.

Satisfaction with Albanese rose 4 points to 42%; dissatisfaction with him was down 4 points to 41%. His net satisfaction rating is plus 1.

Publicity around the slow early start to the vaccine rollout may have also fed into the poll.

Handling the March4Justice is fraught for the government given the strength of feelings around the rape allegations, which have morphed into the wider issue of women’s voices being heard.

The Newspoll reverse puts extra pressure on Morrison as he and “March4Justice” organisers on Sunday night were in a face off.

Morrison on Sunday said he would not go outside Parliament House to meet the protesters, but march organisers were waiting until Monday to confirm whether they’d accept his invitation to meet a delegation in his office.

It’s expected they will do so after making their point. The delegation would likely include Brittany Higgins, whose allegation she was raped by a colleague in the office of then defence industry minister Reynolds sparked the series of events that have culminated in Monday’s march.

The Newspoll comes as the Western Australian Liberals suffered a massive rout in the state election, being reduced to two or possibly three seats in the 59-seat lower house.

The Nationals are expected to get four seats, entitling them to become the official opposition. Liberal leader Zak Kirkup lost his seat.




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On counting to date, the McGowan government polled nearly 60% primary vote, achieving a two-party swing of nearly 14%. The result is the latest, and most dramatic, evidence of voters rewarding leaders for their successful handling of the pandemic.

Morrison – whose government initially supported Clive Palmer’s challenge to the WA hard border but later backed off for political reasons – said Labor’s victory was “a resounding endorsement of Mark McGowan’s leadership, which I didn’t find surprising”.

The PM pointed to the distinction voters make between federal and state elections, citing 2001 when the WA Coalition government received a drubbing but John Howard won federally.

While it’s true voters distinguish, Howard’s victory came after he made significant policy changes and following the Tampa affair and the September 11 attacks in the United States.

Albanese said many people had voted Labor for the first time. “It shows they’re open to voting Labor and I take great encouragement from it.”

Morrison again indicated the election will be next year.

Though the direct federal implications are limited Saturday’s result leaves the WA Liberals with reduced on-the-ground resources and funding for the federal election, in a state which has been important in holding up the Morrison government’s majority. The Liberals currently have 11 of the 16 federal seats.




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Labor’s thumping win in Western Australia carries risks for both sides


The federal Liberals in WA are presently mired in problems, with the uncertain futures of Porter and Reynolds who are both from that state.

The Liberals might also lose a seat in the WA redistribution, which threatens Porter’s electorate of Pearce.

The crisis over Porter is worsening for Morrison, who has ruled out an independent inquiry to determine whether he is a fit and proper person to be attorney-general after a deceased woman’s allegation he raped her in 1988, which he strongly denies.

Agitation for an inquiry continues to mount. On Friday a former boyfriend of the woman, business executive James Hooke, said he had had discussions with both the woman and Porter that were relevant. He supported an inquiry and said he was willing to testify if one was set up.

Morrison will face questions this week about Porter, who is on mental health leave. The PM will also have to release the results of an inquiry into who knew what when in his office about Higgins’ allegation.

The March4Justice protest is expected to number more than 100,000 nationally. The organisers anticipate more than 5,000 in Canberra. March4Justice was established “to protest the Australian Parliament’s ongoing abuse and discrimination of women in Australia”, but now has a broad agenda of demands.

Ministers generally are refusing to go outside the building to meet the women. Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack told the ABC he would be too busy.

The demonstrators will hand over a petition to Labor’s Tanya Plibersek and the Greens’ Larissa Waters at the protest, which starts at noon.

They invited Marise Payne, who is Minister for Women. Payne’s office on Friday said the women should email the petition. By Sunday she was offering a meeting before the march, but the organisers refused.

A spokesperson said on Sunday night Morrison’s offer of a meeting was being considered.

“Given that so many have come to the steps of Parliament to make their voices heard, the question is, why can’t the Prime Minister take the last few steps through the front door and hear them directly?”

Morrison said, “I haven’t had a habit of going out to do any marches when they’ve come to Canberra, because as Prime Minister, when you’re in Canberra, it’s a very busy day.

“But I’m very happy to receive a delegation and I’ll respectfully receive that, as I’m sure they will respectfully engage with me.”

UPDATE – Monday Morning

Organisers of March4Justice have declined to meet the Prime Minister.

Janine Hendry tweeted early Monday:

At the weekend, Scott Morrison had invited the protesters to send a small delegation to meet him after the demonstrations. He refused to go outside parliament house to see them in person, as they requested.

Some Liberal women parliamentarians are set to be present, but the Minister for Women, Marise Payne, has refused.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 takes the shot to promote vaccine confidence, as government and opposition stay tied in Newspoll


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Australia’s COVID vaccination program has begun with Scott Morrison joining a small group of recipients in a carefully orchestrated event, aimed at boosting confidence as the general rollout begins on Monday.

The first recipient was aged care resident Jane Malysiak, 84, from Marayong New South Wales, who was born in Poland and came to Australia soon after the second world war.

Sunday’s line up for the Pfizer shots included, apart from aged care and disability residents, workers in these sectors, and quarantine and border workers. These are the priority recipients for the first round of vaccination.

Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly and Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer Alison McMillan also got their shots, with McMillan assuring “it really doesn’t hurt at all”.

Morrison, decked out in an Australian flag mask, sat beside Malysiak, and encouraged her to follow his “V for Vaccine” sign – this went slightly awry when Malysiak’s fingers inadvertently turned in an “up yours” direction.

Morrison averted his eyes from the needle as he received his shot.

The Prime Minister called on the community to follow his and the other recipients’ example to “join us on this Australian path that sees us come out of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

He said he wanted Sunday’s pre-rollout vaccinations to give confidence. “Tens of thousands of people will be coming in tomorrow and I wanted them to know as they went to bed tonight that we have been able to demonstrate our confidence in the health and safety of this vaccination,” he said.

“Today is the beginning of a big game changer.”

Sunday’s figures recorded no community transmission anywhere in the country.

As the rollout starts, Newspoll showed government and opposition remained deadlocked on 50-50 on the two-party vote, but Scott Morrison extended his lead over Anthony Albanese as “better prime minister” to 61-26% (previously 57-29%). The poll is published in Monday’s Australian, and was taken Wednesday to Saturday.

Labor’s primary vote rose one point to 37% since the previous poll three weeks ago; the Coalition was steady on 42%.

Albanese’s net approval is minus 7, following a 3 point fall in his satisfaction level to 38% and a 2 point rise in dissatisfaction to 45%.

Morrison’s net satisfaction is plus 32 – his satisfaction rating increased a point to 64% and his dissatisfaction rating fell a point to 32%.

Although it has not hit his Newspoll numbers, Morrison will continue under pressure in parliament this week over who knew what in his office about the alleged rape of Brittany Higgins.

The Weekend Australian reported a second former Liberal staffer who alleges she was raped last year by the man named by Higgins.

Higgins has alleged she was raped in 2019 by a colleague in the Parliament House office of the then defence industry minister. Linda Reynolds, for whom both she and the man then worked.

Asked about the second allegation, Morrison said at the weekend:“I’m very upset about those circumstances”. He said he did not know who the woman was.

Late Sunday night, The Australian reported a third woman – a Coalition volunteer during the 2016 election campaign – has alleged she was sexually assaulted by the same Liberal staffer days before the election.

Higgins will lay a formal complaint to the police on Wednesday, which will start an investigation.

The Prime Minister said the inquiry by his departmental secretary Phil Gaetjens into who in the Prime Minister’s office knew about the Higgins rape allegation was to be finished “as soon as possible”.

Morrison has said he first knew of this allegation on Monday of last week, when the story was published, and his staff only knew the Friday before that, which was when journalist Samantha Maiden asked his office questions.

He made it clear he was angry he wasn’t alerted to Maiden’s inquiries. “I’ve expressed my view to my staff about that very candidly on Monday.”

The Special Minister of State, Simon Birmingham, indicated at the weekend that Higgins would be able to contribute to the terms of reference for the independent inquiry Morrison has announced into the workplaces of parliamentarians and their staff.

Higgins said in her Friday statement she had “advised the Prime Minister’s Office that I expect a voice in framing the scope and terms of reference for a new and significant review into the conditions for all ministerial and parliamentary staff”.

Birmingham said: “All past and present staff, including Brittany Higgins, will be able to participate in the review.

“I also welcome the input of past and present staff on the terms of the independent review and will be engaging accordingly.”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.

Whopping lead for Labor ahead of WA election, but federal Newspoll deadlocked at 50-50



Richard Wainwright/AAP

Adrian Beaumont, The University of Melbourne

With less than three weeks left until the March 13 Western Australian election, the latest Newspoll gives Labor a 68-32 lead, two-party-preferred. If replicated on election day, this would be a 12.5% swing to Labor from the 2017 election two party result.

Analyst Kevin Bonham describes the Newspoll result as “scarcely processable” and says it is the most lopsided result in Newspoll history for any state or federally.

Primary votes were 59% for Labor, up from 42.2% at the 2017 election, 23% for the Liberals (down from 31.2% in 2017), 2% National (5.4%), 8% Greens (8.9%) and 3% One Nation (4.9%). This poll was conducted February 12-18 from a sample of 1,034.

Premier Mark McGowan had an 88% satisfied rating with 10% dissatisfied (net +78), while Liberal opposition leader Zak Kirkup was at 29% satisfied, 41% dissatisfied (net -12). McGowan led Kirkup as “better premier” by a crushing 83 to 10.

A pandemic boost?

Other recent polls have been strong, albeit less spectacular for Labor. Bonham refers to a January 30 uComms poll that gave Labor a 61-39 lead, from primary votes of 46.8% Labor, 27.5% Liberal, 5.1% National, 8.3% Greens and 6.9% One Nation.

There is also a pattern here. Since the pandemic began, governments that have managed to keep COVID cases down have been rewarded. This includes Queensland and New Zealand Labo(u)r governments at their respective October elections last year.

WA Liberal leader Zak Kirkup.
Zak Kirkup was only elected as WA’s Liberal leader last November.
Richard Wainwright/AAP

McGowan’s imposition of a hard WA border to restrict COVID has boosted both his and Labor’s popularity. There have been relatively few WA COVID cases, and life has been comparably normal with the exception of a five-day lockdown in early February.

Upper house a different story

But it’s not all good news for McGowan. While Labor will easily win a majority in the lower house, it will be much harder for the ALP and the Greens to win an upper house majority. The upper house suffers from both a high degree of rural malapportionment (where there are relatively fewer voters per member) and group ticket voting.

Group ticket voting, in which parties direct the preferences of their voters, was abolished in the federal Senate before the 2016 election, but continues to blight elections in both Victoria and WA.




Read more:
Victorian upper house greatly distorted by group voting tickets; federal Labor still dominant in Newspoll


There are six WA upper house regions that each return six members, so a quota is one-seventh of the vote, or 14.3%. While Perth has 79% of the overall WA population, it receives just half of upper house seats.

There is also malapportionment in non-metropolian regions. According to the ABC’s election guide, the south west region has 14% of enrolled voters, the heavily anti-Labor agricultural region has just 6% of voters and the mining and pastoral region 4%. All regions return six members.

Despite the convincing lower house win in 2017, Labor and the Greens combined won 18 of the 36 upper house seats, one short of a majority. Bonham notes if the Newspoll swings were replicated uniformly in the upper house, Labor would win 19 of the 36 seats in its own right on filled quotas without needing preferences.

But group ticket voting and malapportionment could see Labor and the Greens fall short of an upper house majority again if Labor’s win is more like the uComms poll than Newspoll.

Federal Newspoll still tied at 50-50

This week’s federal Newspoll, conducted February 17-20 from a sample of 1,504, had the two party preferred tied at 50-50, the same as three weeks ago. Primary votes were 42% Coalition (steady), 37% Labor (up one), 10% Greens (steady) and 3% One Nation (steady).

Labor leader Anthony Albanese and Prime Minister Scott Morrison look towards the Speaker's chair in Parliament.
Newspoll continues to have the Coalition and Labor neck and neck.
Mick Tsikas/AAP

Of those polled, 64% were satisfied with Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s performance (up one), and 32% were dissatisfied (down one), for a net approval of +32. Labor leader Anthony Albanese dropped five points on net approval to -7. Morrison led Albanese by 61-26 as better prime minister (compared to 57-29 three weeks ago).

During the last week, there has been much media attention on the rape allegations made by former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins against an unnamed colleague.




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Brittany Higgins will lay complaint over alleged rape – and wants a role in framing workplace inquiry


However, it appears the general electorate perceives this issue as being unimportant compared to the COVID crisis. Albanese’s ratings may have suffered owing to the perception that Labor has focussed too much and being too negative on an “unimportant” issue.

Despite Morrison’s continued strong approval ratings and the slump for Albanese, the most important measure — voting intentions — is tied. Since the start of the COVID crisis, there has been a continued discrepancy between voting intentions based off Morrison’s ratings and actual voting intentions.

Newspoll is not alone in showing a close race on voting intentions or strong ratings for Morrison. A Morgan poll, conducted in early to mid February, gave Labor a 50.5-49.5 lead. Last week’s Essential poll gave Morrison a 65-28 approval rating (net +37).

Labor bump in Craig Kelly’s seat

As reported in The Guardian, a uComms robopoll in controversial Liberal MP Craig Kelly’s seat of Hughes has Kelly leading by 55-45. This is about a 5% swing to Labor from the 2019 election result.

Liberal MP for Hughes Craig Kelly.
Liberal MP Craig Kelly has recently been banned by Facebook for promoting alternative, medically unproven COVID-19 treatments on social media.
Mick Tsikas/AAP

The poll was conducted February 18 from a sample of 683 for the community group Hughes Deserves Better.

While additional questions are often skewed in favour of the position of the group commissioning uComms polls, voting intention questions are always asked first. However, individual seat polls have been unreliable in Australia.

Trump acquitted by US Senate

As I predicted three weeks ago, Donald Trump was comfortably acquitted by the United States’ Senate on February 13 on charges of inciting the January 6 riots.

The vote was 57-43 in favour of conviction, but short of the two-thirds majority required. Seven of the 50 Republican senators joined all 50 Democrats in voting to convict.The Conversation

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

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

Polls say Labor and Coalition in a 50-50 tie, Trump set to be acquitted by US Senate


Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

The first Newspoll of 2021 has the major parties tied at 50-50 on two-party preferred, a one-point gain for Labor since the final 2020 Newspoll in late November. The poll was conducted January 27-30 from a sample of 1,512 people.

Primary votes were 42% Coalition (down one point), 36% Labor (steady), 10% Greens (down one) and 3% One Nation (up one).

63% were satisfied with PM Scott Morrison’s performance (down three) and 33% were dissatisfied (up three), for a net approval of +30 points. While this is still very high, analyst Kevin Bonham says it is Morrison’s lowest net approval since April.

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese had a net approval of -2, down five points. Morrison led Albanese by 57-29 as better prime minister (60-28 in November).

While much commentary has written off Labor for the next election, a source of hope for the opposition is that while the Coalition has usually been ahead since the COVID crisis began, the two-party-preferred margin has been close.




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View from The Hill: Coal push from Nationals is a challenge for Scott Morrison


Morrison’s great approval ratings have not translated into big leads for the Coalition. It is plausible that by the middle of this year COVID will not be a major threat owing to a global vaccination program.

A return to a focus on normal issues could assist Labor in undermining Morrison’s ratings and the Coalition’s slender lead on voting intentions.

Albanese has come under attack from the left owing to Thursday’s reshuffle in which Chris Bowen took the climate change portfolio from Mark Butler.

But the Greens lost a point in Newspoll rather than gaining. With the focus on COVID, climate change appears to have lost salience.

On Australia Day and climate change

In an Ipsos poll for Nine newspapers, taken before January 25 from a sample of 1,220 people, 48% disagreed with changing Australia Day from January 26, while 28% agreed.

But by 49-41 voters thought it likely Australia Day would be changed within the next ten years.

In a Morgan SMS poll, conducted January 25 from a sample of 1,236 people, 59% thought January 26 should be known as Australia Day, while 41% thought it should be known as Invasion Day.

In an Essential poll conducted in mid-January, 42% (down 20 since January 2020) thought Australia was not doing enough to address climate change, 35% (up 16) thought we were doing enough and 10% (up two) thought we were doing too much.




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But there was a slight increase in those thinking climate change was caused by human activity (58%, up two since January 2020), while 32% (steady) thought we are just witnessing a normal fluctuation in the earth’s climate.

Trump set to be acquitted in impeachment trial

I related on January 20 that Donald Trump was impeached by the US House of Representatives over his role in inciting the January 6 riots with his baseless claims of election fraud.

Donald Trump boarding a helicopter as he leaves the White House.
Donald Trump departs the White House.
Alex Brandon/AP/AAP

The Senate is tied at 50-50, with Vice President Kamala Harris giving Democrats the majority with her casting vote. But it requires a two-thirds majority to convict a president, so 17 Republicans would need to join the Democrats for conviction.

On January 26, a vote was called on whether it was constitutional to try a former president. The Senate ruled it constitutional by 55-45, but just five Republicans joined all Democrats.

That is far short of the 17 required to convict, so Trump is set to be acquitted at the Senate trial that begins February 8.

Only ten of over 200 House Republicans supported impeachment. It is clear the vast majority of Congressional Republicans consider it more important to keep the Trump supporters happy than to hold Trump accountable for the rioters that attacked Congress.

In a late January Monmouth University poll, 56% approved of the House impeaching Trump while 42% disapproved. When asked whether the Senate should convict, support dropped to 52-44.




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Biden faces the world: 5 foreign policy experts explain US priorities – and problems – after Trump


FiveThirtyEight has started an aggregate of polls to track new President Joe Biden’s ratings. His current ratings are 54.3% approve and 34.6% disapprove for a net approval of +19.7 points.

While Biden’s ratings are better than Trump’s at any stage of his presidency, they are worse on net approval than all presidents prior to Trump this early in their terms.

Prior to Trump, presidents were given a honeymoon even by opposition party supporters, but it is unlikely the 30% or so who believe Biden’s win illegitimate will ever approve of him.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.

Albanese throws a bone to Labor’s Right, but Joel Fitzgibbon remains off the leash



Mick Tsikas/AAP

Mark Kenny, Australian National University

Anthony Albanese’s sudden change of heart, swapping out Labor’s climate spokesman Mark Butler in favour of the more conservative Chris Bowen, can be read in two ways.

First, as a shrewd chess move: one that sharpens the economic arguments in favour of green jobs, boxes in Bowen’s Right faction behind existing climate ambition, and perhaps constrains Bowen as a potential leadership aspirant.

Alternatively, critics could view Albanese’s decision as more self-serving — the manoeuvring of an opposition leader desperate to shore up his defences.

The NSW Right’s outspoken convener Joel Fitzgibbon had made unusually public attacks on the Left-aligned Butler. Albanese will have a job of convincing people he has not blinked under pressure, throwing an ally under a bus.

That perception could, in turn, be dangerous. It may even trigger existential discussions on his leadership. Not merely because of the loyalty questions it invites, but because of the policy implications in an area of chronic political miscalculation.

Anthony Albanese, left, and Mark Butler
Mark Butler, right, is a factional ally of Albanese’s.
Lukas Coch/AAP

Judging by his behaviour, Fitzgibbon surrendered his frontbench spot last year to free his arms for the move against Butler, and by proxy, the campaign against Albanese’s leadership.

The Hunter-based MP is trenchantly pro-coal and anti-progressive. He’s made no secret of his antipathy for green-tinged inner-city politics, which he believes has alienated the party’s industrial origins.

Fitzgibbon blames Labor’s obsession with climate change for everything from the 2019 election failure – where it pledged a 45% emissions cut by 2030 – to the party’s dwindling purchase in the outer suburbs and regions.

Albanese’s position, like all opposition leaders, relies on a mixture of support: in his case, a foundation of Left MPs and the crucial backing of key NSW and some Victorian Right figures. Unsurprisingly, these supporters were the main beneficiaries of the reshuffle.




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Deputy leader Richard Marles gets a super-portfolio combining national reconstruction, employment, skills, small business and science. Another Victorian Right figure, Clare O’Neill, gets a frontbench promotion as spokeswoman for senior Australians and aged care services – assisting the relocated Butler in health and ageing.

And Ed Husic, also an influential player in the NSW Right, is elevated to shadow cabinet in industry and innovation.

Taken separately, these moves may be justified. Together, however, they might also hint at Albanese’s vulnerability, given his own Left faction’s minority position.

Joel Fitzgibbon
Joel Fitzgibbon is trenchantly pro-coal and anti-progressive.
Mick Tsikas/AAP

The bigger concern for progressives in the short-term will be what these personnel changes amount to in policy terms, if anything.

Does Albanese intend to scale back Labor’s climate ambitions? Fitzgibbon has explicitly called on his party to ditch interim targets entirely, and simply adopt the government’s goal of 26% emissions reduction by 2030.

During the 2019 election, then leader Bill Shorten struggled to quantify the negative impact on economic growth arising from Labor’s proposed 45% cut in emissions.

It was a strategic vulnerability on which Prime Minister Scott Morrison capitalised. He argued relentlessly that Labor’s formula would cost Australian jobs and send household and business electricity prices soaring.




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Labor’s climate policy is too little, too late. We must run faster to win the race


Albanese’s decision to defer interim targets until closer to the next election had already invited doubts about whether Labor is truly committed to reaching net-zero emissions by 2050. Butler’s removal is likely to exacerbate those doubts.

The hold-fire approach leaves Labor’s left flank exposed to the Greens’ claims it is equivocating on climate action, just as the rest of the world finds new resolve.

As Albanese put the final touches on his reshuffle, the Climate Targets Panel of scientists and economists released a chastening report. It showed Australia would need to slash emissions by 50% by 2030, and achieve zero emissions by 2045 (rather than 2050) to be in line with the Paris commitment of keeping global warming inside 2℃.

Freshly installed US president Joe Biden has used a series of executive orders to accelerate US restructuring. He hopes to spur global momentum for climate action, calling on developed economies to rapidly increase their commitments.

Joe Biden
US President Joe Biden will call for developed economies to act on climate change.
Evan Vucci/AP

Albanese, however, denies any diminution. He maintains that Bowen, a former treasurer, is better placed to reframe climate policy in more starkly economic terms, stressing the opportunities for new green jobs against the risks cited by the Coalition.

This may well be sound. Bowen’s established economic standing could allow a “green jobs of the future” rebranding of Labor’s emissions approach.

That would be a breakthrough, given the widening divide between Labor’s professional and blue-collar constituencies, and claims by Fitzgibbon and others on the party’s Right that it has abandoned regional workers through its green emphasis.

There’s little doubt that, as an experienced minister, Bowen has the skills and the policy depth for the job.

But there’s a judgement question. His role in the 2019 election loss – chief advocate of an unwieldy suite of adventurous tax proposals – was arguably more central to Labor’s shock defeat than any perceived overreach on climate.

Not finished yet, Fitzgibbon has described Butler’s removal as a good start but called for further policy change.

Fitzgibbon’s Right-aligned parliamentary colleagues seemed willing to accept his public undermining of Butler. It will be interesting to see whether they allow the same treatment of Bowen.




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Biden’s Senate majority doesn’t just super-charge US climate action, it blazes a trail for Australia


The Conversation


Mark Kenny, Professor, Australian Studies Institute, Australian National University

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

Embattled Albanese uses reshuffle for a political reset



AAP/Mick Tsikas

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Anthony Albanese will attempt a political reset to shore up his leadership with a major frontbench reshuffle, shifting climate and energy spokesman Mark Butler and bringing shadow defence minister Richard Marles into a more frontline portfolio.

Butler’s job will go to Chris Bowen, from the right, currently health spokesman, as Albanese faces the challenge of forging a climate policy that straddles Labor’s dual suburban/ regional and progressive constituencies.

Until recently, sources close to Albanese have said the reshuffle would be minor. But Albanese starts 2021 facing widespread criticism from within the party as well as from commentators, and the imminent reshuffle has presented an opportunity to get more vigour into Labor’s performance.

He told the ABC on Wednesday the reshuffle “will achieve a stronger team going forward with the right people in the right jobs. And it will be, I think, a positive move”.

Butler, from the left and personally close to Albanese, held the climate portfolio under Bill Shorten and is strongly identified with the policy that Labor took to the election. He has resisted calls to water it down.

Faced with public urging from former frontbencher Joel Fitzgibbon to move Butler, Albanese last year refused to do so.

Shifting Butler will facilitate reshaping the policy, which Albanese has started to do, and send a signal about a more pragmatic position. But it could also lead to a backlash from progressive supporters and give the Greens room to score points.

Butler will become spokesman for health and ageing. This will ensure he is to the fore in the next few months, with the release of the royal commission report that will be highly critical of the aged care system.

He is a former minister for ageing and has written a book on the area, titled Advanced Australia: the Politics of Ageing.

Butler said in a statement: “The job of every frontbencher is to serve in the portfolio allocated by their leader. That’s always been my position under the four leaders I’ve had the privilege of serving under”.

As expected, Ed Husic, who joined the frontbench as resources spokesman when Fitzgibbon moved to the backbench late last year, will go to another post.

There is speculation Labor’s Senate leader Penny Wong might move from foreign affairs.

UPDATE

Here is the new shadow ministry line up, which Anthony Albanese announced on Thursday.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.