Barnaby Joyce scores dismal ratings in Resolve poll, while Berejiklian government easily in front despite NSW lockdown


Mick Tsikas/AAP

Adrian Beaumont, The University of MelbourneIn the latest Resolve poll for Nine newspapers, the Coalition had 38% of the primary vote (down two since June), Labor 35% (down one), the Greens 12% (up two) and One Nation 4% (up one).

This is based on a sample of 1,607, conducted from July 13 to July 17.

Two party estimates are not provided by Resolve, but The Poll Bludger estimates 51.5-48.5 to Labor from these primary votes, which is a one-point gain for Labor.

Negative ratings for Joyce, Morrison and Albanese

Of those surveyed, 45% said they had a negative view of Nationals leader and Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce. Just 16% had a positive view, for a net likeability of -29. Former Nationals leader Michael McCormack had a 17% negative, 11% positive rating for a net -6 in June.

This poll suggests the ousting of McCormack in favour of Joyce could hurt the Coalition, as I wrote about last month.




Read more:
Labor regains Newspoll lead as COVID crisis escalates; is Barnaby Joyce an electoral asset?


Also in the Resolve poll, 46% (up six) gave Prime Minister Scott Morrison a poor rating for his performance in recent weeks and 45% (down three) a good rating. Morrison’s net -1 rating is his first negative rating from any pollster since the COVID pandemic began, though Resolve’s ratings are harsher than other pollsters.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese’s net rating fell three points to -16. Morrison continued to lead Albanese by 45-24 as preferred prime minister (46-23 in June).

On COVID, voters thought lockdowns and border restrictions should be gradually eased over the coming months as more people are vaccinated by a margin of 54-19%. By 54-19%, they thought fully vaccinated people should be given more freedom, though they believed (45-34%) this should not occur until everyone has had an opportunity to be vaccinated.

On economic management, the Liberals and Morrison led Labor and Albanese by 41-25% in July (43-20% in June). On COVID management, the Liberals led by 37-25% (40-20% previously).

Essential voting intentions, and anti-vaxxer sentiment

The Essential poll no longer publishes voting intentions with each poll. Instead they release them every few months for all polls they conducted during that period. Essential’s voting intentions numbers include undecided voters.

Last week’s Essential report gave Labor a 47-45% lead with 8% undecided. If undecided voters are removed (as other pollsters do), Labor led by 51-49.




Read more:
Labor gains clear Newspoll lead during Sydney lockdown, but will the economy save the Coalition?


This is a slightly different result from early July when Labor led by 48-44 (52-48 without undecided). They have led by two or four points since April. The Poll Bludger said applying last election preferences instead of respondent preferences to the current poll gives Labor above a 52-48 lead,

With the Sydney and Melbourne lockdowns, anti-vaxxer sentiment has dropped. In Essential, 11% (down five from early July) said they’d never get vaccinated, and 27% (down six) said they’d get vaccinated but not straight away. In Resolve, 21% (down eight since May) said they were unlikely to get vaccinated.

The federal government had a 46-31 good rating for response to COVID in Essential, slightly better than 44-30 in early July, but a long way below the 58-18 rating in late May, before the Victorian and NSW outbreaks. 54% (down three) gave the NSW government a good rating.

Morgan poll and BludgerTrack poll aggregate

A Morgan poll, conducted over July 10-11 and 17-18 from a sample of over 2,700, gave Labor a 52.5-47.5 lead, a 2% gain for Labor since mid-June. Primary votes were 39% Coalition (down 2.5%), 37% Labor (up 2.5%), 11.5% Greens (down 0.5%) and 3% One Nation (down 0.5%).

With polls from Newspoll, Resolve, Essential and Morgan, the Poll Bludger’s BludgerTrack aggregate of recent polls has Labor ahead by 52.0-48.0, from primary votes of Coalition 39.8%, Labor 37.3%, Greens 10.7% and One Nation 2.9%. Labor has been gaining during this year.

NSW Coalition retains large lead in Resolve state poll

In a Resolve NSW poll for The Sydney Morning Herald, Berejiklian’s Coalition had 43% of the primary vote (down just one point since May), Labor 28% (steady), the Greens 12% (steady) and the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers 1% (down three).

This poll was conducted at the same time as the federal June and July Resolve polls from a sample of 1,100. While the July poll was conducted during Sydney’s lockdown, the June poll
occurred after Jodi McKay was ousted in favour of Chris Minns as Labor leader, owing to a disappointing result in the May 22 Upper Hunter byelection.




Read more:
Coalition has large lead in NSW as Nats easily hold Upper Hunter at byelection


The Sydney Morning Herald’s poll article says the Coalition’s position was worse in July than in June. With NSW’s optional preferential voting, the Coalition would lead by around 55-45 from these primary votes. Incumbent Gladys Berejiklian led Minns as preferred premier by 55-16 (compared to 57-17 vs McKay in May).

In questions on the outbreak (only asked of the July sample), 56% thought Sydney was too slow to go into lockdown and 52% said the government should have been more proactive in urging people to get vaccinated. Almost half (46% agreed) the state has handled the outbreak well.

In Essential, 44% of NSW respondents (down seven since early July) thought NSW had moved at about the right speed to enforce lockdown restrictions. But 44% (up five) thought NSW was too slow, and 12% (up two) too quick.

Other states were unsympathetic to NSW, bringing the national figure to 56% for too slow, 34% for about right and 10% for too quick.

Labor easily holds Stretton at byelection

A state byelection for the Queensland Labor-held seat of Stretton occurred on Saturday. It was caused by the death of the previous member, Duncan Pegg.

With 73% of enrolled voters counted, the ABC’s results currently give Labor a 63.8-36.2 win over the LNP, a mere 1.0% swing to the LNP from the 2020 election. Primary votes are 56.6% Labor (no change), 32.7% LNP (up 2.5%) and 6.5% Greens (down 2.2%). The anti-vaxxer Informed Medical Options Party won just 2.5%.

Parties defending seats at byelections normally suffer from the loss of the previous MP’s personal vote. State Labor has held government since 2015, so this is a good result for them. 62% of Queensland respondents in Essential gave their government a good rating on dealing with COVID.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.

Coronavirus Update: Australia


Are the Nationals now the party for mining, not farming? If so, Barnaby Joyce must tread carefully


Perry Duffin/AAP

Geoff Cockfield, University of Southern QueenslandThe return of Barnaby Joyce to the federal National Party’s top job has highlighted tensions within, and dilemmas for, the broader party – particularly on climate change policy and coal.

Joyce and some of his Queensland colleagues unashamedly support the coal industry, and the federal party appears broadly opposed to Australia adopting a target of net-zero emissions by 2050.

These are positions at odds with progressive quarters of the party, particularly in Victoria. The divisions came to a head earlier this month when, in response to Joyce’s ascension, Victorian Nationals leader Peter Walsh and deputy Steph Ryan sought to split the state party from its federal counterpart.

The move was unsuccessful. But Walsh later called for the party to have “a constructive discussion about the transition of our energy supplies and how we reduce our impact on the Earth we live on”.

So are the federal Nationals the latter-day party for mining, not farming? If so, what does this mean for the party’s political positioning and prospects? To address this question, we must examine the Nationals’ evolution over the past century.

surprised man seated, other man standing holding piece of coal
Barnaby Joyce’s support for coal has troubled the Victorian Nationals.
Mick Tsikas/AAP

Coal as nation-builder

The National Party began federally in 1920 as the Australian Country Party, and traditionally represented farmers and rural communities. But over time, the party evolved to represent and advocate for the broader interests of regional Australia.

Economic nationalism has underpinned the party, especially since the 1950s. Under this ethos, farming, mining and basic manufacturing were considered key foundations for nation-building – a view which persists today. As the Nationals’ Senator Matt Canavan wrote in an opinion piece last month:

The restoration of Barnaby Joyce as deputy prime minister restores a strong advocate for the economically nationalist, Australia-first approach that has always served us well.

Most Nationals candidates come from rural small businesses, finance organisations and social and community services – though many have farming roots or some involvement in farming activities.

Rural communities are under pressure from dwindling populations and limited employment opportunities. In that sense, the mining industry is an important source of jobs and economic activity in Australia’s regions.




Read more:
Net zero by 2050? Even if Scott Morrison gets the Nationals on board, hold the applause


coal pile at mine
Mining is an important source of jobs in regional Australia.
Dean Lewins/AAP

The federal party’s vociferous support for mining and opposition to emissions reduction is, in part, values signalling. For many in the Nationals, coal helped build the nation, while climate change action and renewable energy represent a moral and material threat.

Regional differences also exist. Nationals’ support for mining is particularly strong in Queensland – traditionally a mining-dependent state where resource investment has long been considered a means of rural development. At both the Queensland and federal levels, strong political connections exist between mining companies and the Liberal-National Party.

In another sign of the federal party’s contemporary priorities, Joyce’s close party ally Matt Canavan recently told the Guardian:

About 5% of our voters are farmers. It’s about 2% of the overall population. So 95% of our voters don’t farm, aren’t farmers or don’t own farmland.

The Nationals’ apparent support for mining above farming exists partly because because they can get away with it. In many regions, farming and mining co-exist in reasonable harmony, both sectors enjoying the benefits of strong regional centres.

In some cases conflict does arise, such as with gas exploration in cropping country. But in those regions, disenfranchised Nationals voters typically direct their votes to micro-parties rather than Labor or the Greens. These votes often flow back to the Nationals via preferences.

Man in hard hat
Pro-coal Nationals senator Matt Canavan has downplayed the importance of farmers to the party’s constituency.
Lukas Coch/AAP

A questionable strategy

The federal Nationals’ pro-mining, anti-renewables stance may not, however, benefit the party over the long term.

First, mining is at best a very patchy contributor to rural development. Overall, net employment in agriculture is still higher than for mining and is more evenly distributed across the regions. Mining investment can ebb and flow quickly with commodity prices and the stage of project development, leaving communities with falling real estate values and an altered social fabric.

The anti-emissions control stance could also trigger conflict with major farm organisations. Many, such as the National Farmers Federation and Meat and Livestock Association, want to see a strong national emissions reduction plan, under which landowners can benefit financially by participating in land carbon schemes.

Many farmers are also interested in renewable energy as both a source of income and cheaper power. Renewables projects are proliferating in regional areas and even Joyce has been known to turn up in a hard hat to get behind them. So we can look forward to some interesting management of that cognitive dissonance.




Read more:
Renewables need land – and lots of it. That poses tricky questions for regional Australia


cows and wind turbines in field
Many farmers are interested in hosting renewables projects.
Shutterstock

Trouble ahead

Following Joyce’s return to the federal party leadership, Victorian Nationals leader Peter Walsh said he’s had “a very frank discussion with him about the policy differences on climate change”.

But discontent on climate policy is not confined to Victoria. Across the party, Young Nationals organisations are generally far more open to climate action than their older party colleagues.

And the hardline mining stance will not help the Nationals regain or even retain seats in areas such as Ballina in NSW, where demographic changes have eroded the party’s support.

But the biggest test of the Nationals’ farming-vs-mining rift is perhaps yet to come. The European Union and other jurisdictions are considering imposing tariffs on goods – including agricultural products – from nations such as Australia which lack strong emissions reduction policies.

While helping drive global climate action, such moves would partly be motivated by economic nationalism – boosting the international competitiveness of industries in the country/s applying the tariff. The sight of the Nationals impotently arguing for free trade in this instance will be fascinating political theatre.




Read more:
No point complaining about it, Australia will face carbon levies unless it changes course


The Conversation


Geoff Cockfield, Professor of Government and Economics, and Deputy Dean, University of Southern Queensland

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

Labor regains Newspoll lead as COVID crisis escalates; is Barnaby Joyce an electoral asset?


AAP/Lukas Coch

Adrian Beaumont, The University of MelbourneThis week’s Newspoll, conducted June 23-26 from a sample of 1,513, gave Labor a 51-49 lead, a one-point gain for Labor since the previous Newspoll, three weeks ago. Primary votes were 41% Coalition (steady), 37% Labor (up one), 11% Greens (steady) and 3% One Nation (steady). Figures are from The Poll Bludger.

55% were satisfied with Scott Morrison’s performance (up one), and 41% were dissatisfied (down two), for a net approval of +14, up three points. Anthony Albanese’s net approval increased four points to -5. Morrison led Albanese as better prime minister by 53-33 (53-32 previously).

While Morrison’s net approval was up slightly, this followed a fall of nine points in the previous Newspoll. Analyst Kevin Bonham said Morrison’s current net approval is his second lowest since the COVID situation started last year.

The fieldwork for this poll was Wednesday to Saturday. The vast majority of the sample would have been done before NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian put Greater Sydney into a two-week lockdown on Saturday. Further restrictions were announced for the NT and WA on Sunday, with Queensland following on Monday.

Problems with Australia’s vaccination rollout were apparent in April, but did not have an impact on Morrison’s, or the Coalition’s, polling, or the perception of handling of COVID. At the time, most Australians felt secure behind our hard border, and did not see any rush to get vaccinated.

I believe the current lockdowns are a danger to the Coalition, as the slow vaccination rollout may start to bite. The previous Newspoll was taken during the Victorian lockdown, and Morrison’s net approval slid nine points. In an early June Essential poll, the federal government’s handling of COVID dropped to a 53-24 good rating from 58-18 in late May.

Only 25% of Australians have received at least one dose of COVID vaccinations, compared to 48% in France and higher in other comparable countries. Furthermore, under 5% of Australians are fully vaccinated (received two doses), compared to at least 25% in comparable countries.

The head of the Therapeutic Goods Administration recently said that effective protection against the Delta COVID variant that has spread quickly in Sydney requires both vaccination doses.

Barnaby Joyce’s electoral impact

On June 21, Barnaby Joyce won a Nationals leadership spill, and replaced Michael McCormack as Nationals leader and deputy prime minister. Joyce returned as Nationals leader more than three years after he was forced to resign over an affair with a former staffer and sexual harassment allegations (which he denies).

I wrote in May that non-university educated whites have been deserting left-leaning parties in Australia, the US and UK, and that they appear to be voting contrary to elite opinion.




Read more:
Non-university educated white people are deserting left-leaning parties. How can they get them back?


Elite opinion detests Joyce, so by this logic the Coalition should be boosted with non-uni whites. However, the Nationals have little appeal beyond regional electorates that are not based on a large regional city like Geelong or Newcastle.

At the 2019 federal election, The Poll Bludger wrote there were large swings to the Coalition in regional Queensland, taking seats that were Coalition-held by small margins out of range for Labor. The Coalition also gained Herbert by a large margin.

Owing to these swings, there are few seats where the Nationals traditionally do well that Labor could win at the next election. The weakness of Joyce is that non-uni whites outside the Nationals’ heartland don’t care who the Nationals’ leader is, while university-educated people will dislike the Coalition more than they would have had the far less well-known McCormack remained Nationals leader.

Excellent jobs report for government

On June 17, the ABS reported the unemployment rate in May had dropped 0.4% to 5.1%, returning to where it was before COVID. This drop occurred despite a 0.3% increase in the participation rate.

The employment population ratio – the percentage of the eligible population that is employed – jumped 0.5% to 62.8% in May. It is now higher than at any previous point in the ABS chart going back to May 2011; the previous high was 62.7% in September 2019.

With these economic figures, the government is a clear favourite to be re-elected. Provided the current COVID outbreaks do not lead to extended lockdowns, the economy will probably be doing well whenever the next election is held.

Essential climate change and foreign relations questions, and Morgan poll

In last week’s Essential poll, 56% (down two since January) thought climate change is happening and is caused by human activity, while 27% (down five) thought we are just witnessing a normal fluctuation in the earth’s climate.

45% (up three since January, but down seven since June 2020) thought Australia was not doing enough to address climate change. 30% (down five) thought we were doing enough, and 12% (up two) thought we were doing too much.

On foreign relations, 50% thought we should get closer to NZ (up one since December), 44% the UK (up six), 37% the European Union (up four), 32% the US (up four) and 12% China (down three). By 57-14, respondents favoured the US over China as most beneficial for Australia to strengthen our relationship with (42-18 in May 2020, before Joe Biden’s election as US president).

A Morgan poll, conducted June 12-13 and 19-20 from a sample of nearly 2,800, gave Labor a 50.5-49.5 lead, a 0.5% gain for the Coalition since early June. Primary votes were 41.5% Coalition (up 1.5%), 34.5% Labor (down 1%), 12% Greens (up 0.5%) and 3.5% One Nation (up 0.5%).

Victorian state poll and Tasmanian Labor leadership

As reported by The Poll Bludger, a Redbridge Victorian poll for The Herald Sun, conducted June 12-15 from a sample of almost 1,500, gave Labor a 52.4-47.6 lead. Primary votes were 41% Coalition, 37% Labor and 12% Greens.

Incumbent Daniel Andrews led Michael O’Brien as preferred premier by 42-23. I had a recent article about the Victorian June Resolve poll.

David O’Byrne was elected Tasmanian Labor leader on June 15, after defeating Shane Broad by a 74-26 margin of all votes cast.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.

Joyce repays supporters and demotes opponents in a ‘reward and punishment’ reshuffle


Michelle Grattan, University of CanberraThe Nationals Senate leader Bridget McKenzie has been restored to cabinet and Darren Chester has been dropped to the backbench in a reshuffle of blatant reward and punishment following Barnaby Joyce’s elevation.

The reshuffle comes as Newspoll, published in The Australian, shows the Nationals’ turmoil and problems with the vaccine rollout have had little impact on polling numbers.

Labor went to a 51-49% two-party lead, compared with a 50-50 result in the previous poll. But the Coalition primary vote was stable on 41% while Labor improved one point to 37%. Both leaders had small improvements in their satisfaction ratings. There was little change on the measure of “better PM”, where Scott Morrison leads Anthony Albanese 53-33%.

In the reshuffle Andrew Gee, whose switch to Joyce was important in his victory, goes from the outer ministry into Chester’s cabinet spot, and his portfolios of veterans affairs and defence personnel. Chester had been an outspoken supporter of ousted leader Michael McCormack.

McKenzie becomes minister for regionalisation, regional communications and regional education, as well as minister for drought and emergency management. It had been speculated that she wanted responsibility for agriculture.

Deputy leader David Littleproud retains agriculture but loses emergency management while gaining responsibility for northern Australia. He will retain a stake in the policy side of drought, which he previously had responsibility for, through his agriculture job.

It is something of a slap for Littleproud – who would have run for leader if McCormack had not stood – given his deputy position. Emergency management has a high profile.

Keith Pitt keeps resources and water but is dropped to the outer ministry and loses responsibility for northern Australia. Questioned about the demotion of mining to the outer ministry Joyce said Pitt would remain “over this portfolio like a bad suit”.

The very political nature of the changes, with their paybacks, risks reinforcing the divisions that have plagued the Nationals.

In the Coalition, the Nationals leader chooses their team but has to negotiate with the prime minister on portfolios. In this reshuffle the Nationals have not been able to encroach on any portfolios held by Liberals.

The changes were announced by Scott Morrison.

Morrison forced McKenzie’s resignation in early 2020 in the wake of the sports rorts affair.

Morrison said McKenzie would have “a clear focus on service delivery in regional Australia and be responsible for the continued work developing Australia’s disaster management capability”.

David Gillespie joins the ministry as minister for regional health, and will be deputy leader of the House, a post Chester held. Mark Coulton is relegated from the junior ministry to the backbench.

Kevin Hogan will be assistant minister to Joyce, as he was to McCormack, and becomes assistant minister for local government.

Michelle Landry continues as assistant minister for children and families, but loses her previous post of assistant minister for northern Australia.

Outside the formal executive senator Susan McDonald, from Queensland, another Joyce supporter, has been given the role of “envoy for northern Australia”.

Morrison said: “These changes will provide the strongest female representation in an Australian government cabinet on record, building on the previous record also achieved under my government”.

One of Joyce’s political problems is seen to be the opposition from significant women in the rural community, as well as the doubts about him from some within his party given that a claim (which he rejects) of sexual harassment was key to his resignation from the leadership in 2018.

Chester said in a statement: “I will continue to advocate strongly for Australians to understand that the majority of veterans will transition successfully to civilian life. The myth that all veterans are broken is damaging to their well-being and creates a vicious circle of despondency and desperation.

“As a grateful nation, we must support those who need our help but at the same time promote the many achievements of our veteran community.”

Labor’s shadow minister for resources Madeleine King and shadow minister for Queensland resources Murray Watt said the government “has delivered a slap in the face to mining and resources communities around Australia by dumping the portfolio from cabinet”.

The limit of Joyce’s clout was shown at the weekend when one of his supporters, Northern Territory senator Sam McMahon, was defeated for preselection by Jacinta Price, an indigenous woman who is Alice Springs deputy mayor.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.

What is Barnaby Joyce’s ‘women’ problem? And why does it matter?


Narelle Miragliotta, Monash UniversityThere has been a mixed reaction to Barnaby Joyce’s return to leader of the federal National Party and deputy prime minister. Even some within his own party have expressed concern at his return to centre stage.

There are multiple reasons why Joyce’s restoration has failed to garner greater enthusiasm.

One concern relates to the optics of a leadership change. These events are rarely well received by the public and often lead to in-fighting and instability. They also tend to further strain public trust in the political class, particularly when the politicians involved have issued full-throated denials that a spill is imminent.

A second reason is linked to Joyce’s populist leadership style and more strident policy rhetoric on coal and climate change. Here the concern is that Joyce’s presence will exacerbate tensions within the party room, and also scramble relations with its coalition partner, the Liberals.

The third reason is the circumstances that occasioned Joyce’s resignation from the National’s leadership in 2018.

Joyce stood down voluntarily owing to a credible, but unresolved, sexual harassment allegation (which Joyce denies), and over serious concerns about the propriety of his conduct with his now partner but then staffer, Vikki Campion.




Read more:
Grattan on Friday: Blowin’ in the wind with Barnaby


The male culture of politics

Joyce’s (re)ascension signals that the Nationals are somewhat inured to growing public concerns over the unhealthy gender dynamics in parliament, even when the voices raising these uncomfortable truths are from within the party.

One of the most strikingly apparent and longstanding gender inequities in politics is the under-representation of women in Australian parliaments. Despite Australia’s strong democratic credentials, it remains one of the great laggards on achieving gender parity in parliament.

In recent decades, the problem has been especially pronounced among parties of the mainstream political right. They have consistently rejected the implementation of pre-selection quotas in favour of training programs targeted at aspiring women candidates. Although these programs can be of some help, research shows they are a less effective way of redressing under-representation.

The effects of the reliance on so-called merit-based pre-selection is especially striking in relation to the Nationals. Its record on electing women to Australian parliaments is particularly poor, a situation that academic Marian Sawer – three decades ago – attributed to the greater persistence of “sex-role conservatism” in rural Australia. Sawer proposed that the National Country Party (as the Nationals was known then) reflected this conservatism.

Data compiled by Anna Hough from the Australian Parliamentary Library shows the extent to which the party’s conservatism continues to reveal itself with the under-representation of women in Australian lower houses.

Federally, only 13% of Nationals in the House of Representatives are women. This compares to 22% for the Liberals and 43% for ALP.

A similar pattern is apparent in the states where the Nationals have a legislative presence.

In the NSW lower house, only 16.7% of the party’s contingent are women, which is much lower than for the Liberals (32%) and Labor (45.5%).

In Western Australia, while the Nationals are led by a woman (Mia Davies), she is the sole National woman in the Western Australian parliament.

In Victoria, 33% of the party’s number in the Legislative Assembly are women, and it also selected a female deputy leader (Steph Ryan).

The situation in Queensland (LNP) and the Northern Territory (CLP) is complicated because these parties are affiliated to the National and Liberal parties and not strictly divisions of the Nationals. Nevertheless, both the LNP and CLP are kindred National parties.

In the case of the LNP, only 18% of its members in the Legislative Assembly are women, compared to 40% in Labor.

The situation for the CLP is healthier but is still not a record to be admired. While the CLP’s parliamentary party is led by a woman (Lia Finocchiaro), only 38% of its MPs are female.

As Jennifer Curtin and Katrine Beauregard note, women have been “active as ordinary and executive members of the party”. Notwithstanding this achievement, low levels of women in party rooms, and in lower houses particularly – which are practically and symbolically important as the chamber of government – does seriously limit the diversity of perspectives that are represented in policy and law making.




Read more:
Barnaby Joyce’s return, and John Anderson’s loss, is symbolic of a political culture gone awry


Why Joyce’s return makes this situation worse

Joyce has not done much to instil confidence that he has learned anything in his years returned to the backbench.

While acknowledging his faults and remarking that he “hopes” he has “come back a better person”, it is not clear what new insights Joyce gained about the events that caused him to resign, especially given he has no appetite to “dwell on the personal”.

His lack of introspection is perhaps not surprising given how he managed the situation in 2018.

At the time, Joyce was quick to declare that none of the “litany of allegations” levelled against him had been “sustained”. He emphasised that he was stepping aside for the “person in the weatherboard and iron”, and not because it was warranted by his conduct.

The Nationals have calculated they will not pay much of an electoral price for their decision to return him as leader. As the federal president of the National Party, Kay Hull, reasoned:

“[s]ome women may be disappointed but […] the only women that will be voting or not voting for Barnaby Joyce will be the women of New England.

Hull may be right, but there are potentially other costs associated with the party’s actions.

As the smaller party in the coalition, the Nationals have not had to defend their record on gender in the same way as their Liberal counterpart. Joyce’s return will make it increasingly difficult for the Nationals to fly under the radar on this issue. At least, let’s hope that it does.The Conversation

Narelle Miragliotta, Senior Lecturer in Australian Politics, Monash University

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

The National Party used to be known for its leadership stability — what happened?


Mick Tsikas/AAP

Geoff Cockfield, University of Southern QueenslandBarnaby Joyce is back as Nationals leader, after a spill in Canberra on Monday morning.

This is the latest development in an unusually tumultuous period for the junior Coalition partner, beginning with Joyce’s reluctant resignation in 2018 and punctuated by his unsuccessful leadership challenge in February 2020 and ongoing discord and rebellion over climate policy.




Read more:
View from The Hill: Nationals in crisis, with pressure on Michael McCormack’s leadership


All this from a party that has a long history of relatively stable leadership, being out of the national media and settling disagreements with the Liberals behind closed doors

Some might argue the instability in recent years is the result of Joyce’s personality, ambition and behaviours. As well as the media’s focus on leadership and the contagious nature of leadership instability in other parties over the last decade.

But there are also other factors to consider.

Party differentiation

The federal Coalition has the characteristics of one party while formally remaining separate entities, which has been a successful, but unusual political arrangement.

In Canberra, party leaders largely act as one party, negotiating policy outcomes or implementing decisions. When in government, the Nationals leader gets the deputy prime ministership, Nationals MPs sit in Cabinet and there are joint party room meetings and joint Senate tickets.

Yet the Liberals and Nationals also have their own separate party room meetings and occasionally compete against each other for lower house seats when a previous member does not recontest a seat. During election season, the Nationals go on “the Wombat trail” as partial policy independents.

On the campaign trail, the Nationals speak the language of rural populism with its tropes of rural disadvantage and urban indifference or hostility, with the “urban enermy” implicitly including the Liberal Party.

The problem here

The problem for the Nationals is they struggle to deliver adequate agricultural support and rural services in a post-deregulation world. So they have no signature programs that show their policy value.

They fight for residual programs such as drought support or regional funding that are limited in scope, time and impact and subject to considerable criticism as to effectiveness and fairness.

The Nationals need new generation signature issues that deliver for regions, while still representing the values and aspirations of an earlier Australia. For example, large-scale irrigation projects and mining developments, but even many Liberals don’t want these.

Meanwhile, their vocal support for the coal industry only holds sway among select voters (and turns off others).

Geography

The Nationals are also trying to overcome geographical divides. At the federal level, National Party power is split between Queensland and NSW. The latter generally dominates party leadership, contributing to easily animated northern resentments.




Read more:
Politics with Michelle Grattan: Acting PM Michael McCormack on net zero 2050 and prospects for a new coal-fired power station


The formation of the Liberal National Party (LNP) in Queensland in 2008 further complicated matters.

It created a party now pressing for greater influence within the Coalition, especially after the 2019 federal election, where the LNP was seen to have “delivered” government for the Coalition.

The results in the so-called “coal seats” of central Queensland (such as Flynn and Dawson) have given further encouragement to the resources focus. Joyce, though now a NSW representative, started his political career in Queensland and it is presumed much of his support for his leadership challenges came from the sunshine state.

Leadership

Balancing the Coalition relationship, with different strands of the Nationals’ base is a difficult task for a leader. And is seen as a significant reason for Joyce’s return.

Last century, longstanding National leaders, such as John McEwan and Doug Anthony, possessed combinations of strong personality, electoral leverage, political acumen and good relationships with the Liberal (or predecessor parties) leaders. From 1922 to 1984, the average length of tenure of a Nationals leader was more than 12 years, with two of them serving more than 17 years.

No other party comes close to this record of keeping multiple leaders in office for long periods — and this now seems a historical quirk. Since 1988, there has been an increased rate of turnover, though most transitions still occurred reasonably peacefully.

More recent leaders have been confronted with the declining electoral position of the Nationals and the discontent of people in the bush. Most — such as Tim Fischer, John Anderson and Warren Truss — opted for being collaborative Coalition partners and keeping disputes behind closed doors. McCormack was also of that persuasion (and indeed, was criticised for not pushing back enough).

This means he could be characterised as too close to the Liberals and too accommodating. The other approach is more public signalling of the differentiation and more implicit threats of splitting the Coalition.

Policy tightrope

The Nationals then, must operate in the zone between tight cooperation and political competition.

The Liberals need them to form government but if skirmishes break into open disagreement and competition, the Liberals may lose majority government and the Nationals would face an existential threat.

Barnaby Joyce talks to a man on a horse during the Upper Hunter byelection in May 2021.
Since quitting the leadership, Joyce has never been far from the spotlight.
Darren Pateman/AAP

Open competition at the state level in Victoria (in the 1930s-50s) and Queensland (in the 1980s) did yield some increased power in the short run for the Nationals. But this was followed by long periods out of government.

As a standalone party in Western Australia, they got a signature program (“royalties for regions”) in 2008 but no sustained increase in either state or federal representation. Voters in southern NSW and northern and western Victoria have also shown that they will elect rural Liberals, which is one of many threats to Nationals’ parliamentary representation.

In amongst this, rebel Nationals — such as George Christensen and Matt Canavan — have not necessarily picked issues that are easy for a modern Coalition government to give way to. Arguing for more coal fire power stations goes against international political trends and the sciences around climate change.

Under the new leadership of United States President Joe Biden, global cooperation on emissions is likely to step up and pull Australia along with it. Business is moving ahead of government in investment decisions on energy and even the National Farmers Federation want an emissions reduction strategy.

Marriage of convenience

Earlier this year, Joyce characterised the Coalition as a “marriage of convenience”.

This may be so, but a love match is unlikely (otherwise the parties would merge) and a divorce would come at a huge cost.

As Joyce resumes leadership of the Nationals, he now takes on the difficulties of keeping the party relevant, united and electable as we head towards the next federal election.The Conversation

Geoff Cockfield, Professor of Government and Economics, and Deputy Dean, University of Southern Queensland

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

Barnaby Joyce ousts Michael McCormack to regain Nationals leadership


Michelle Grattan, University of CanberraBarnaby Joyce has blasted Michael McCormack out to seize back his old job of Nationals leader.

Joyce’s win, which automatically makes him deputy prime minister, has major implications and challenges for Scott Morrison, who had been hoping the more malleable McCormack would survive.

It was a two-horse race but, in line with its practice, the National party did not announce numbers.

Joyce is a hardliner on issues such as climate change and coal. On a very different front, he recently declared the Bileola Tamil family should be allowed return to the town.

He is a formidable retail politician and will seek to strongly differentiate the Nationals from the Liberals in the run up to the election.

He may also want to renegotiate with Morrison the detail of the Coalition agreement. He has to deal with Morrison, who is in isolation after his trip, remotely.

As Joyce takes over the Nationals in parliament, Morrison this week will be handling question time via videolink.

David Littleproud remains as deputy Nationals leader. What changes Joyce will make to the Nationals ministerial line up are yet to be revealed.

But their Senate leader, Bridget McKenzie, who was forced out of cabinet at Morrison’s insistence after the sports rorts affair, appears likely to be brought back. Matt Canavan, a former resources minister, said ahead of the vote he was not seeking to return to the frontbench.

At Monday morning’s Nationals party room meeting, the spill was moved by Canavan, a Joyce loyalist, and David Gillespie, a backbencher from NSW.

There had been constant criticism among Nationals of McCormack’s performance, with many of them feeling he did not stand up to Morrison firmly enough.

Feeling against McCormack has intensified since the budget, when discontented Nationals believed the minor party had not received proper acknowledgement, particularly in the government’s infrastructure announcements.

Some Nationals have become particularly concerned at Morrison’s slow but steady move towards embracing a “net zero 2050” target. Nationals Resources Minister Keith Pitt and McKenzie both came out publicly last week declaring this was not the Nationals policy.

The Nationals were also dismayed by McCormack’s embarrassing performances in parliament when acting prime minister last week.

Joyce became deputy prime minister in February 2016 after Warren Truss resigned. He quit as leader in February 2018, amid a scandal over his extra-marital affair with his now partner Vikki Campion, and a claim of sexual harassment, which he denied.

In 2017 he had to fight a byelection for his seat of New England after he was disqualified by the High Court during the dual citizenship crisis. He had been a dual New Zealand citizen and so ineligible to be a candidate at the 2016 election, the court found.

This was Joyce’s second attempt to overthrow McCormack, after a failed challenge in February last year.

Asked on radio before the vote whether he was happy with McCormack’s performance as Nationals leader, Morrison said, “Absolutely. I’ve got a wonderful partnership with Michael. We’ve worked very closely together and provided great, stable leadership for Australia”.

McCormack said after the vote: “I’ve represented this nation as deputy prime minister for three years, and I’m proud of the fact I did my best, that’s all you can ever ask”.

Asked whether his colleagues had betrayed him, he said:“It’s called democracy”.

UPDATE

In a bizarre arrangement, Michael McCormack sat at the House of Representatives’ central table, in what would normally be Morrison’s chair, at question time. This was because the Governor-General is out of Canberra and so Joyce could not be sworn in immediately.

Asked by Anthony Albanese who was deputy prime minister Morrison, speaking virtually from The Lodge, said “the member for Riverina is currently the deputy prime minister of Australia”.

At a news conference before question time Barnaby Joyce said he would take the issue of net zero 2050 to his party room.

He was asked whether he believed Morrison should be going to the Glasgow climate summit with a net zero by 2050 policy.

Joyce said: “I will be guided by my party room. It’s not Barnaby policy – it’s Nationals policy. And Nationals policy is what I will be an advocate for.

“And if the Nationals Party room believes that the best deal for regional Australia is to make sure that we secure their jobs, is to make sure we secure their industries, is to clearly understand the dynamics of an Australian economy, as opposed to a Danish one or a German one – if that’s the view of the Nationals Party room, that’s the view that I’ll support.”

Asked how he would change the Nationals Joyce said: “I have a different suite of issues. I have a different suite of attributes and I hopefully will be able to apply them in such a way as to give us the best chance [at the election].”

Joyce said he would consult his colleagues about the new Coalition agreement. A new agreement was “part and parcel of when you have a new leader,” he said.

“And I’ll be making sure that I talk to my colleagues in the Nationals about the issues that they see as pertinent, and I will be making sure that that respect is given to the party room.”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.

Barnaby Joyce declares the COVID parliament curbs democratic rights


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Former Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce has condemned the slimmed down, part-virtual COVID parliament as living “in a half life” and compromising democratic rights.

“No disease in 2020 should interfere in your parliamentary democratic rights. Parliament in a half life is not a parliament, it is merely a rather large building, kind of a new age palace in Canberra.”

Under rules agreed for the current sitting fortnight MPs can participate in parliament remotely and ask questions and speak but cannot vote.

The prohibition on remote voting reflects not just technological challenges but a desire to preserve the integrity of votes, represented by the tradition of the chamber doors being locked when votes are counted.

There are some differences in rules between the House of Representatives and the Senate – senators can move amendments remotely.

The House numbers in the chamber at any one time are limited not just to comply with social distancing but to avoid ACT health rules that would apply if the number was above 100. The parties have rosters. Numbers are managed to reflect the balances between the parties.

Writing on Facebook, Joyce said he was in Canberra but every second day he did not have a seat in the parliament to do his job.

“This is all very epidemiologically responsible but also a dangerous intrusion into your democratic rights.”

Legislation passed on a majority vote, but if he was “rostered off” on the day of a vote, how did the people in his New England seat have their wishes represented?

“On that day New England is disenfranchised and there is merely the presumption that their wishes are the same as the executive.

“It is difficult to be responsible for something I had no vote on and I don’t want to explain how I didn’t actually support something but … that was my RDO”.

Joyce said to bring on a private member’s bill required more than half of the actual 151 members of the House, posing a big problem when many members were not there.

“Nothing will be brought on against the wishes of the executive and don’t the ministers in the executive love that.”

He gave the example that the Senate might soon vote to restore the Northern Territory’s two lower house seats (one of which has been abolished due to population loss) but in present circumstances there would be no way to bring the bill on in the House unless the executive agreed.

“Our parliament can’t work on the presumption of the benevolence of the boss being all good. Whether right or wrong it is just too North Korea.”

“I am sure the PM and cabinet are doing the right thing, I don’t see them
as bad people, but if they went off the reservation then there is little or rather vastly less than there should be, to check them.

“This must stop because when the malady is hard to diagnose it is easy to cure, however when it is easy to diagnose – well it is then too late.”

Questioning why MPs could not vote remotely, Joyce said “a person can transfer millions of dollars back and forth in bank accounts but apparently it is too dangerous for a member of parliament to press ‘y’ for yes or ‘n’ for no, check that they have registered on the correct side for how they intend to vote and then press ‘enter’.

“Apparently it is too difficult to declare the empty public gallery, to allow social distancing, as being part of the chamber, so if you are in Canberra, you can vote responsibly.”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: Michael McCormack’s battle to hold off a second shot from Joyce’s locker


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Scott Morrison dodged a bullet when the Nationals clung on to Michael McCormack. There was palpable relief when the news came through to the Liberals. “We still have a Coalition,” one MP was heard to say during the Liberal party meeting.

But it had been the Prime Minister who created the circumstances for Barnaby Joyce to get his gun out of the cupboard.

If Morrison hadn’t been in such a politically weak position, due to his summer missteps, he’d probably have brazened out the sports rorts affair.

Morrison didn’t force Bridget McKenzie from cabinet because she skewed the grants scheme – for which she deserved sacking.




Read more:
View from The Hill: Bridget McKenzie falls – but for the lesser of her political sins


He acted because the price of keeping her became too high. But then suddenly the cost of ditching her skyrocketed when Joyce seized the moment. Morrison found he had destabilised the deputy prime minister he desperately needs to keep in place.

How things will pan out now is the unanswerable question. Of course no one believes Joyce’s protestation that “I support the vote of the [party] room”. Joyce can’t bear not being the macho top dog and he and his ally Matt Canavan – self-exiled from cabinet and a huge loser from the day – will continue to create trouble for McCormack.

The Nationals don’t release their voting numbers. McCormack people claim he had a healthy margin; the Joyce camp says they were line ball. If McCormack’s backers are right the secrecy harms him, fuelling uncertainty and the opportunity for mischief.

The easy consensus is McCormack must “lift his game”. Might as well tell a jogger to become a sprinter. McCormack isn’t the worst of leaders but he’s never going to be more than average.

And having acquired the reputation of a poor performer, he can’t win. Thus he’s criticised for having a low profile when Morrison was in Hawaii. But could he have raised it when the prime minister’s office was trying to hide their boss’s holiday?

The rebel (for want of a better description) Nats attack McCormack for not standing up to the Liberals, in particular to Morrison. They seek a more distinctive Nationals branding.

Now this is a real issue. A well-functioning National party has to strike a balance within the Coalition between, if you like, growling and purring. Each Nationals leader must find a sweet spot. Assertive but supportive in the government’s inner sanctums. In the electorate, distinctive while also a team player.

But if McCormack follows the wishes of the Nationals to be more aggressive, this carries its potential dangers. On the flip side of that coin is “division”, a bad look for the government as a whole.

McCormack might be a pushover but Morrison has not been sensitive to their mutual interest in the Nationals’ profile. John Howard gave them a few wins, and recognition. Morrison tends to occupy whatever space is available. His very personal central role on drought issues, for example, has overshadowed the Nationals on their home ground.

If Morrison wants to prop up McCormack he needs to pump his tyres. As former Nationals senator John (“Wacka”) Williams told Sky, there was a message in Tuesday’s events for Morrison: “Don’t make the Nationals irrelevant”. The Nationals had to be treated with respect and get some pats on the back, Williams argued.

The Nationals’ schism triggered a reminder that Morrison is in a no win situation internally on climate change policy, as he faces an increasing need to nuance it.

In Tuesday’s Coalition parties meeting (coming immediately after the vote) a bevy of Nationals – Joyce, Canavan, George Christensen and David Gillespie – sent hardline messages on climate among talk of regional jobs and industry. Joyce said some people were trying to push their hobby horse issues out of the fire tragedies. To one Liberal source, these outpourings from the Nationals’ losing side were a bit weird and not very coherent.

They were met by a counter from some moderate Liberals. Earlier, in the separate Liberal party meeting, Queenslander Andrew Laming criticised those who went on policy “solo flights” on climate. The government’s policy was based on the science, which had been overwhelmingly accepted, Laming said – to contest the science undermined the policy.

McCormack’s next test is immediate – recrafting his frontbench. He has two cabinet vacancies, with Victorian Darren Chester expected to fill one.

What happens with the key resources portfolio vacated by Canavan will be crucial, given the coal issue and energy battles. Whether McCormack should have invited Canavan back is a moot point. Canavan (a loud voice for the coal industry) has a sharp policy mind; also, he might have been less trouble for McCormack if still on the frontbench than rampaging round the backbench.

Among the complexities of the reshuffle is that with the fall of McKenzie and Canavan the Nats have no Senate minister, but the remaining three senators (all women) are parliamentary newcomers. Still, one of these women will surely be in line for promotion, at the least to an assistant minister. McCormack sources believe all six women in the 21-member party voted for him; certainly most did.

The significance of the Nationals new deputy, David Littleproud, should not be overlooked in considering the future. Littleproud is competent, ambitious and articulate. He was frustrated at having his portfolio sliced back after the election.

His presence could assist McCormack. At 43, he has plenty of time and, in the National party tradition, an incentive to support his leader and inherit the mantle rather than trying to snatch it.

But if McCormack can’t survive until the election, the party would be better off turning to Littleproud than to Joyce, who would carry a maximum risk factor, not least for Morrison.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.