Batman is a strong victory for Shorten, but he still has a selling job on tax move



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Ged Kearney and Bill Shorten pose for a photo at Preston Market.
AAP/Ellen Smith

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

On “Super Saturday”, Bill Shorten dodged a political bullet, while Nick Xenophon took one. South Australian Liberal leader Steven Marshall got the result he should have secured four years ago. The Greens proved the old maxim that disunity is death.

The Batman byelection and the poll in South Australia threw up all sorts of interesting points – even though in other circumstances, contests in a heartland Labor seat and a state with a 16-year-old government might have been routine.

For Shorten, avoiding defeat in Batman was vital – for Labor’s current momentum, for confidence in his leadership and, given his gamble of announcing his latest tax move in the campaign’s last week, for holding the line on a controversial policy.




Read more:
After 16 years, electoral dynamics finally caught up with Labor in South Australia


Many things contributed to Labor’s win, but if you were looking for one, I suspect it might have been that Ged Kearney wasn’t David Feeney. Kearney was the sort of candidate who encouraged Labor voters to be faithful, and not run away in fury.

As for the tax announcement, election watcher Tim Colebatch notes that the pro-Labor swing in the postals and pre-poll votes was much bigger than in the polling booths on the day, and suggests this may show the impact of Shorten unveiling his plan to scrap cash refunds for excess dividend imputation credits.

That the announcement didn’t stymie Labor in the byelection doesn’t mean Shorten has won the argument more widely. Labor will have much explaining to do in this complicated area. But if it had seriously backfired in Batman, that would have given ammunition to the Coalition and caused tensions in the opposition.

Labor was helped in the byelection by the Greens’ internal backbiting. The Greens’ failure to capitalise on a great chance reflects badly on their locals and on leader Richard Di Natale.

The party has deeper problems than its schisms in Batman. It lost a seat in the recent election in Tasmania, its heartland. Nationally, the citizenship crisis has taken its toll, costing it a couple of its strongest Senate performers in Scott Ludlam and Larissa Waters. Batman suggests it may have stalled in its push for inner-city federal seats. The next federal election sees the Greens particularly exposed because of the number of senators the party has going out.

The South Australian result has presented something of a reality check on perceptions of the potency of so-called “insurgencies”. This is the third recent state poll in which a major party has won a majority. Late last year in Queensland, Labor secured a second term, as did the Liberals in Tasmania earlier this month.

In Tasmania, the Jacqui Lambie Network got nowhere. In Queensland, One Nation won votes but only one seat. And in South Australia, Xenophon’s SA-Best crashed after initial too-good-to-be-true polls, with Xenophon failing to win the seat he was seeking and SA-Best expected to have no lower house representation.




Read more:
Liberals win South Australian election as Xenophon crushed, while Labor stuns the Greens in Batman


At state level, even when such parties achieve a respectable vote (SA-Best received about 14% of the statewide vote, as did One Nation in the Queensland election), the electoral system makes it hard for them to translate that into lower house seats.

Federally, the Senate’s proportional representation voting system has given small players a relatively easy passage to a very powerful place, although changes to the electoral arrangements will make that more difficult in future.

The “disruptors” are important, because the support they attract is a measure of the disillusionment and fragmentation in the contemporary political system. But South Australia reinforces the point that the major parties are still strong. For quite a few voters, the choice is between duelling desires – between sending an angry message or opting for stability.

Outgoing premier Jay Weatherill, gracious in defeat on Saturday night, didn’t look all that upset. Labor’s bidding for a fifth term in this day and age was an almost impossible ask; anyway, Labor won last time with only about 47% of the two-party vote, so it has been on borrowed time.

The huge loser in South Australia was Xenophon. In politics, as in business, you can be too greedy. Xenophon led a three-person Senate block that had a decisive share of the balance of power. It was capable of exerting much influence, and winning concessions in negotiating legislation. Then he decided he wanted to be kingmaker in South Australia – while still aspiring to be the absent master in Canberra.

His party is likely to end up with just a couple of upper house seats in South Australia. Meanwhile, the federal Senate team has been hit by the citizenship crisis as well as weakened by Xenophon’s departure.

Due to a fight with the party, Tim Storer, a replacement for Skye Kakoschke-Moore, a casualty of the citizenship debacle, will be sworn into the Senate on Monday as an independent. The Nick Xenophon Team has been reduced to two senators (and Rebekha Sharkie in the lower house, who could face a byelection in the citizenship saga).

Xenophon is in neither parliament, and the road ahead for his party is rocky. He now talks about SA-Best as a “start-up party” to gloss over its bad result, but it’s hard to see it as a “start-up” with an enduring future. Xenophon dismisses the prospect of a return to the Senate, but it remains to be seen whether his feet will become itchy.

Federal factors were not significant in the change in South Australia. But the outcome has positive implications for Malcolm Turnbull’s government. One of the big arguments between the federal and Weatherill governments was over energy policy, with Weatherill holding out against Canberra’s National Energy Guarantee (NEG). On Sunday, the federal government was welcoming the South Australian result as very good for the future of the NEG.

Another Liberal win at state level, coming after Tasmania, will also be a morale boost, albeit a limited one, for the embattled federal Liberals.

The ConversationSo, Super Saturday had positive spin-offs for both federal leaders, but substantially more for Shorten than Turnbull.

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

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Liberals win South Australian election as Xenophon crushed, while Labor stuns the Greens in Batman



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Steven Marshall will become the next South Australian premier after defeating Jay Weatherill’s Labor government.
AAP/Tracey Nearmy

Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

With 66% of enrolled voters counted in Saturday’s South Australian election, the ABC is calling 24 of the 47 lower house seats for the Liberals, 18 for Labor and three independents. Two seats – Adelaide and Mawson – are in doubt. Pre-poll, postal and absent votes will not start to be counted until Tuesday.

While the Liberals won the election, the biggest losers were Nick Xenophon and his SA-BEST party. SA-BEST does not appear to have won a single lower house seat, while the Liberals crushed Xenophon in Hartley 58.6-41.4. When preferences are distributed, Labor could eliminate Xenophon from the final two candidates on Greens’ preferences.

Statewide primary votes were 37.4% Liberals (down 7.4% since the 2014 election), 33.9% Labor (down 1.9%), 13.7% SA-BEST, 6.6% Greens (down 2.1%) and 3.1% Australian Conservatives (down 3.0% from Family First’s 2014 vote). When counting is complete, I would expect Labor to fall somewhat, with the Liberals and Greens gaining.

Family First merged into the Conservatives last year, but this was not successful in South Australia. In my opinion, Family First had a catchier name than the Australian Conservatives.

In an October-to-December Newspoll, SA-BEST had 32% of the South Australian primary vote, and it was plausible that Xenophon could be the next premier. In the lead-up to the election, Xenophon was attacked by all sides. I believe the biggest reason for Xenophon’s flop was that he lacked a clear agenda to distinguish his party from the major parties.




Read more:
Nick Xenophon could be South Australia’s next premier, while Turnbull loses his 25th successive Newspoll


Labor had governed South Australia for 16 years, and the “it’s time” factor appears to have contributed to the result. But this election was not the disaster Labor suffered after 14 to 16 years in power in Queensland, New South Wales and Tasmania at elections between 2011 and 2014.

According to the Poll Bludger, Labor achieved about a two-point swing in its favour in two-party terms from the 2014 election, but it needed a three-point swing to win after a hostile redistribution. In 2014, Labor clung to power, despite losing the two-party vote 53.0-47.0.

In the upper house, half of the 22 members were up for election using statewide proportional representation. With 11 to be elected, a quota is one-twelfth of the vote, or 8.3%. Currently, the Liberals have 3.78 quotas, Labor 3.56, SA-BEST 2.27, the Greens 0.72 and the Conservatives 0.42.




Read more:
Xenophon’s SA-BEST slumps in a South Australian Newspoll, while Turnbull’s better PM lead narrows


Optional above-the-line preferential voting was used at this election. The Liberals will win four seats, Labor three, SA-BEST two and the Greens one. Labor is currently well ahead of the Conservatives in the race for the last seat, but Labor’s vote will probably drop after election day. However, preferences from Dignity, Animal Justice and SA-BEST should help Labor against the Conservatives, with only Liberal Democrats’ preferences likely to flow the other way.

If Labor wins a fourth upper house seat, SA-BEST’s two seats would come at the expense of Dignity and the Conservatives. The overall upper house would then be eight Liberals, eight Labor, two Greens, two SA-BEST, one Advance SA (formerly SA-BEST) and one Conservative. The Liberals would need all of SA-BEST, Advance SA and Conservative to pass legislation opposed by Labor and the Greens.

The final polls for the South Australian election, from Newspoll and ReachTEL, gave the Liberals 34%, Labor 31% and SA-BEST 16-17%. The major parties, particularly the Liberals, performed better than expected, while SA-BEST performed worse.

Labor defeats the Greens 54.1-45.9 at the Batman byelection

With 74.5% of enrolled voters counted at Saturday’s Batman byelection, Labor’s Ged Kearney defeated the Greens’ Alex Bhathal by a 54.1-45.9 margin, a 3.1% swing to Labor since the 2016 election. Primary votes were 42.7% Kearney (up 7.4%), 40.3% Bhathal (up 4.1%), 6.4% Conservatives and 2.9% Animal Justice. The Liberals won 19.9% at the 2016 election, but did not contest the byelection.

Ged Kearney celebrates her win in Batman with Opposition Leader Bill Shorten.
AAP/David Crosling

In the Northcote West booth, Labor and the Greens’ two-party results are the wrong way round. The correction of this error will push Labor’s overall margin down to 53.8-46.2, but postals counted so far have strongly favoured Labor.

At byelections, there are no Greens-favouring absent votes, so Labor’s lead is likely to increase as more postals are counted.

Labor received large swings in its favour in the southern part of Batman, the more Greens-favouring part. Kearney was a far better fit for this part of the electorate than the right-aligned David Feeney. It is also possible there was a backlash against the Greens for courting Liberal votes over opposition to Labor’s plan to alter the tax treatment of franking credits.




Read more:
With Feeney gone, Greens sniff a chance in Batman, and has Xenophon’s bubble burst in South Australia?


For Bill Shorten and federal Labor, the Batman result will be a huge relief. If Labor had lost Batman, the media would have seen it as a backlash against Labor’s tax plan.

The ConversationWhile Labor lost the South Australian election, it was not a disaster. Federal parties generally do better in states where the opposite party is in power, so Labor could do very well in South Australia at the next federal election.

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

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

Labor fends off Greens challenge in Batman


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Ged Kearney winning the seat of Batman is a big relief for Labor leader Bill Shorten.
AAP/David Crosling

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Labor has held the Victorian seat of Batman, with the ALP’s Ged Kearney leading the Greens’ Alex Bhathal 52-48% on the two-party vote with almost two-thirds of the votes counted.

Hanging onto the seat, which is in Melbourne’s northern suburbs, is a big relief for Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, especially given his risky move of announcing in the last week of the byelection campaign his plan to scrap cash refunds for excess dividend imputation credits.

Shorten told jubilant Labor supporters: “Labor is back in Batman. From the bookmakers to the commentators – they wrote Labor off in Batman and you have proved them wrong.”

Kearney said: “This is a victory for true Labor values”, and “Labor is on its way to a Shorten government”.

Both Shorten and Kearney said they had heard the messages from the electorate.

The Batman result came as in the South Australian election, the Liberals won a majority in their own right, defeating the Labor government, which had held office for 16 years. The much-vaunted bid by former senator Nick Xenophon to gain the balance of power for his SA-Best party proved a fizzer.

As the campaign wound up, Labor robocalled voters in Batman to stress that most of those affected by the proposed tax change would be people on high incomes. The byelection result will to some extent be a counter to government’s fierce criticism of the policy.

The failure to wrest Batman is a big setback for the Greens, who were buoyed last year by their victory in the state electorate of Northcote, which is within the federal seat.

On the figures late on Saturday night, there was a two-party swing of more than 1% to Labor from the last election.

Kearney had more than 42% of the primary vote, while Bhathal was on a primary vote of about 41%. There were ten candidates in the field but the Liberals did not run.

The Greens nearly took Batman in 2016 from the ALP’s David Feeney, a right-winger who was very unpopular in the electorate and had a bad campaign. The byelection was caused by Feeney’s resignation in the citizenship crisis.

Kearney, former president of the Australian Council of Trade Unions and from the left, was generally regarded as a very good candidate who was an appropriate fit for what is seen as a “progressive” seat. In the electorate during voting on Saturday, Shorten said Kearney “has done wonders to lift confidence in Labor in this electorate”.

Conceding defeat, Bhathal said: “I’ve always said regardless of the result we would have a strong woman member from a caring profession”.

Bhathal was making her sixth tilt at the seat, which had been moving toward the Greens previously, as its southern part gentrified. But the Greens campaign was marred by bitter internal controversy over Bhathal’s candidacy, with Greens dissidents lodging a formal protest about her, accusing her of bullying.

The ConversationThe Greens campaigned strongly on the proposed Queensland Adani mine, an issue Shorten struggled with as he sought to stop votes haemorrhaging to the Greens.

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

With Feeney gone, Greens sniff a chance in Batman, and has Xenophon’s bubble burst in South Australia?



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Ged Kearney has been announced as Labor’s star candidate for the inner-Melbourne seat of Batman.
AAP/David Crosling

Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

On February 1, Labor’s David Feeney resigned as the member for Batman, as he could not find proof that he had renounced his British citizenship. This will trigger a byelection in Batman, which Labor could lose to the Greens. In November 2017, Labor lost the Victorian state seat of Northcote to the Greens at a byelection.




Read more:
Contradictory polls in Queensland, while the Greens storm Northcote in Victoria


Victoria has 37 federal seats, and 88 lower house state seats, so federal seats have more than twice as many enrolled voters as state seats. Batman encompasses Northcote, but also includes northern suburbs away from the inner city, where Labor does relatively well and the Greens poorly.

The Poll Bludger’s booth map below shows the clear divide between north Batman (all red booths representing Labor two-party wins against the Greens in 2016) and south Batman (all but one booth Green). The state seat of Northcote is south Batman. Larger numbers on the map are booths where more people voted.

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During the 2016 election campaign, Feeney embarrassed Labor when it was revealed he had not declared a A$2.3 million house. Feeney narrowly held Batman by 51-49 against the Greens at the election, a 9.6-point swing to the Greens. Labor will hope the large swing reflected anti-Feeney sentiment, and that a fresh Labor candidate – former ACTU president Ged Kearney – can hold Batman.

At the 2016 election, the Liberals directed preferences to Feeney, enabling him to win after trailing the Greens on primary votes. The Liberals are very unlikely to field a candidate at the byelection, and this will help the Greens.

Kearney is already well-known and will have a personal vote. She is from Labor’s left faction, and will be a better fit with the electorate than the right-aligned Feeney. Alex Bhathal will be the Greens’ candidate; she also stood at the 2016 election.

Other Section 44 cases

In late 2017, Tasmanian senator Jacqui Lambie resigned owing to a dual citizenship. However, Lambie’s number-two candidate, Steve Martin, could also be disqualified, as he was the Devonport mayor at the 2016 election. The High Court has not yet ruled on whether a local government position violates Section 44(iv) of the Constitution, pertaining to public service employees.

If Martin is disqualified, her number three, Rob Waterman, also has problems. If none of Lambie’s ticket are eligible, One Nation’s Kate McCullogh would win the final Tasmanian Senate seat.

SA-BEST’s number four, Tim Storer, attempted to replace Nick Xenophon in the Senate, against his party’s wishes, when Xenophon resigned to contest the South Australian election. As a result, Storer was kicked out of the party.

However, SA-BEST senator Skye Kakoschke-Moore resigned in November as she had a dual citizenship. SA-BEST is arguing that Storer should not be allowed to replace Kakoschke-Moore as he is no longer in SA-BEST; it wants Kakoschke-Moore to replace herself.

Labor’s ACT senator, Katy Gallagher, renounced her British citizenship before nominations closed for the 2016 election, but she did not receive confirmation of renunciation until after nominations closed. If the High Court rules against Gallagher, at least three Labor lower house members, whose circumstances are similar to Gallagher, will probably have to resign.

Another issue is assignment to short and long Senate terms. At the beginning of this parliamentary term, following the double-dissolution election, senators were assigned to either short terms (expiring June 2019) or long terms (expiring June 2022). If a long-term senator is replaced by someone on the ticket who should only get a short term, it creates a fairness problem.

In late December, Liberal Jim Molan was declared elected to the Senate by the High Court to replace National Fiona Nash, who had a long term. Molan accepted a short term, and the number four on the joint New South Wales Coalition ticket, Liberal Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, will be promoted from a short term to a long term.

Molan won his seat from number seven on the Coalition ticket, after Nash’s original replacement, the moderate Liberal Hollie Hughes, was disqualified for taking up public service work following her failure in the 2016 election.

Bob Day’s replacement in Senate, Lucy Gichuhi, becomes a Liberal

In early 2017, before the citizenship crisis started, Family First senator Bob Day was declared ineligible to be elected by the High Court, and replaced by Family First’s South Australian number two, Lucy Gichuhi.

When Family First became part of Cory Bernardi’s Australian Conservatives, Gichuhi did not join the new party, instead sitting as an independent. Yesterday, Gichuhi joined the Liberals.

This outcome gives the Coalition 30 of 76 Senate seats, making up for the loss of Bernardi. It is unlikely to have an impact on Senate votes, as Gichuhi voted with the Liberals a large proportion of the time.

While Gichuhi has a short Senate term, Bernardi has a long term, so he cannot be replaced until July 2022 barring a double dissolution.

ReachTEL South Australian poll: just 17.6% for Xenophon’s SA-BEST

The South Australian election will be held in six weeks, on March 17. A ReachTEL poll for the Climate Council, conducted on January 29 from a sample of 1,054, gave the Liberals 33.4% of the primary vote, Labor 26.1%, Nick Xenophon’s SA-BEST 17.6%, the Greens 5.5%, Others 9.1% and 8.3% were undecided.

If undecided were excluded, primary votes would be 36.4% Liberal, 28.5% Labor, 19.2% SA-BEST, 6.0% Greens and 9.9% others.

There has been no statewide South Australian ReachTEL poll since the 2014 state election. An October to December Newspoll gave SA-BEST 32%, ahead of both major parties. Galaxy polling conducted about three weeks ago gave SA-BEST primary vote leads in three seats it is contesting.




Read more:
Nick Xenophon could be South Australia’s next premier, while Turnbull loses his 25th successive Newspoll


If this ReachTEL poll is correct, there has been a dramatic fall in SA-BEST support in the fortnight from when the Galaxy polls were conducted to the ReachTEL. The major South Australian parties started to vigorously campaign against SA-BEST after the Galaxy polls had been conducted.

The ConversationI would like to see some more polls before concluding that Xenophon’s bubble has burst, but this ReachTEL is not at all good for him.

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

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

Shorten goes colder on Adani coal mine as the battle for Batman begins


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Bill Shorten said he had become increasingly sceptical of Adani in recent months.
AAP/David Crosling

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has taken a further step toward opposing the proposed Queensland Adani coal mine as he starts campaigning for the Batman byelection, where Labor is fighting off a strong challenge from the Greens.

Shorten was appearing with Labor’s candidate Ged Kearney, who on Friday resigned as ACTU president to contest the byelection.

Shorten seized on a Guardian Australia report that said Adani put in “an altered laboratory report” when appealing a fine for contamination of wetlands near the Great Barrier Reef.

Shorten said he had become increasingly sceptical of Adani in recent months.

If Adani was “relying on false information, that mine does not deserve to go ahead”.

He called on the government to investigate the claim, and said that if it didn’t, Labor in government would do so.

Kearney said she did not see the mine going ahead. “I know Adani are not good employers,” she said.

Adani will be a big issue in the byelection, with the Greens running hard on it and a grassroots campaign underway. Directly behind Shorten at his news conference demonstrators held up “Stop Adani” signs. A big protest is planned in Canberra when parliament resumes next week.

Earlier this week, Shorten hardened his position on the mine, telling the National Press Club: “We’re certainly looking at the Adani matter very closely. If it doesn’t stack up commercially or if it doesn’t stack up environmentally it will absolutely not receive our support.”

Last year, Shorten was looking on the positive side of the project. In May he said: “There’s no point having a giant coal mine if you wreck the reef but, on the other hand, if the deal does stack up, if the science safeguards are there, if the experts are satisfied, then all well and good and there’ll be jobs created.”

But he did not support the government giving a loan subsidy for the railway that would support the mine.

Greens leader Richard Di Natale tweeted on Friday:

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Meanwhile, the Greens moved to up the ante for Labor on the issue of power, releasing a policy calling for the return of the national electricity grid into public ownership, beginning with the acquisition of the interconnectors between regions.

It said the cost of acquiring the five privately owned interconnectors would be A$2.8 billion. “A return to complete public ownership can ensure investment decisions are made in the public interest, not in the interests of profit,” the policy says.

The ConversationKearney said renationalisation was worthy of consideration but Shorten was dismissive, saying it was not going to happen.

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

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