Newspoll steady at 53-47 to Labor. Macron’s party wins French lower house elections


Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

This week’s Newspoll, conducted Thursday to Sunday from a sample of 1790, has Labor leading by 53-47, unchanged since the last Newspoll, three weeks ago. Primary votes are 37% Labor (up 1), 36% Coalition (steady), 11% One Nation (up 2) and 9% Greens (down 1).

32% were satisfied with Turnbull’s performance (down 3), and 55% were dissatisfied (up 1), for a net approval of -23. After creeping above a net -20 rating in the last Newspoll, Turnbull has slid back. Shorten’s net approval was also -23, down three points.

The 2-point lift in One Nation support is probably due to the many headlines about terrorism in the last few weeks. While there has been bad publicity about One Nation’s expenses, One Nation voters are likely to regard this as a media conspiracy to “get” One Nation, and be undeterred.

Since Donald Trump’s election, far right parties in Europe, and at the WA election, have slumped in the closing weeks of election campaigns, and then underperformed their polls on election day. There is no reason to think that a similar pattern will not apply at the next Federal election.

Some have argued that the UK election resembles the Australian 2016 election. As Kevin Bonham says, this is not true. The UK election was held three years early, while the Australian election was held two months early. Furthermore, the Australian election was held early in an attempt to make the Senate more compliant, while the UK election was held solely to attempt to increase the Conservatives’ Commons majority, and this was a dismal failure.

UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn succeeded by enthusing the youth vote. With compulsory voting in Australia and full preferential voting required, parties do not need to encourage their supporters to vote. While many on the left would prefer Tanya Plibersek as Labor leader, they will still preference a Labor party led by Shorten higher than the Coalition.

Similarly, many on the right would prefer a PM more right-wing than Turnbull, but they will still prefer the Coalition to Labor.

UK election aftermath

At the UK general election held on 8 June, the Conservatives lost their majority, winning 318 of the 650 seats, 8 short of an outright majority. The Northern Ireland (NI) Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) won 10 seats. As the DUP is very socially conservative and Corbyn has connections to the IRA, they will support the Conservatives.

All other parties represented at Westminster are to the left of the Conservatives. With the Speaker, John Bercow, omitted from the Conservative total, the Conservatives and DUP would have a wafer-thin majority of 327-322.

However Sinn Féin, which won seven seats in NI, will not take its Westminster seats, owing to historical opposition to British rule of NI. Unless this policy changes, the Conservatives and DUP will have a more comfortable 327-315 majority.

Owing to her loss of authority, PM Theresa May’s YouGov ratings have slumped since the election, while Corbyn’s have surged. This graph shows the net favourable ratings of May, Corbyn, the Conservaitves and Labour before the election campaign, near the end of the campaign, and now.

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According to YouGov, just 8% had a favourable opinion of the DUP, while 48% had an unfavourable opinion. Association with the DUP could taint the Conservative brand.

Division within the Conservatives is likely over Brexit. Had the Conservatives won the expected thumping majority, May would have a mandate for a “hard” Brexit. As it is, Conservatives who favour a “soft” Brexit are pushing back.

Macron’s party easily wins French lower house elections

Elections for the French lower house were completed in yesterday’s second round vote. President Emmanuel Macron’s new party, La République En Marche! (REM), won 308 of the 577 seats, and its ally, the Democratic Movement, won another 42 seats. The centre right parties won 137 seats, the centre left 44, the hard left Unsubmissive France 17, the Communists 10 and the far right National Front 8. Turnout was just 42.6% of registered voters, and only 38.4% cast a valid vote.

At the 2012 lower house elections, the centre left had won 331 of the 577 seats, the centre right 229, the Left Front 10, the National Front and the Democratic Movement 2 each. In 2017, Macron’s centrist movement made huge gains at the expense of both the right and left, with far right and left parties also gaining seats.

In the first round held on 11 June, the REM and Democratic Movement won 32.3% of the vote, the centre right 21.6%, the centre left 9.5%, the National Front 13.2%, Unsubmissive France 11.0% and the Greens 4.3%. Unless a candidate won a first round vote majority, the top two candidates in each seat proceeded to the second round.

The ConversationCandidates other than the top two who received at least 12.5% of registered voters also qualified for the second round. However, turnout of only 48.7% meant that just one seat was contested by more than two candidates in the second round.

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

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

Turnbull and Shorten urge need to curb terrorists’ opportunities on the internet



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Both the government and the opposition will warn about terrorists exploiting cyberspace.
Mick Tsikas/AAP

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten will both home in on the importance of tackling cyber issues as part of the fight against terrorism, in parliamentary speeches on Tuesday.

In a security update on the threats facing Australia at home and abroad, Turnbull will say that an “online civil society is as achievable as an offline one”.

“The privacy and security of a terrorist can never be more important than public safety,” he says in notes released ahead of the address.

“The rights and protections of the vast overwhelming majority of Australians must outweigh the rights of those who will do them harm.

“That is truly what balancing the priority of community safety with individual liberties and our way of life is about.”

The government would not take an “if it ain’t broke we won’t fix it” mentality, Turnbull says – rather, Australia is at the forefront of efforts to address future threats.

Attorney-General George Brandis will visit Canada this month to meet his Five Eyes security counterparts – the others are from Britain, the US, New Zealand as well as Canada – and discuss what more can be done by likeminded nations and with the communications and technology industry “to ensure terrorists and organised criminals are not able to operate with impunity within ungoverned digital spaces online”.

Shorten, in his address (an extract of which has been released), will say: “We need to recognise this is a 21st-century conflict – being fought online as well as in the streets. Terrorists are using sophisticated online strategies as well as crude weapons of violence.”

He says this is where the private sector has a responsibility.

“For a long time Daesh has used the internet as an instrument of radicalisation. Through Twitter and Facebook they boast of a propaganda arm that can reach into every home in the world: spreading hate, recruiting followers and encouraging imitators.

“And with encryption technology like Whatsapp and Telegram they can securely communicate not just a message of violence – but instructions in how to carry it out.”

Shorten will acknowledge many internet providers and social media platforms such as Facebook work hard to detect and remove offensive content, namely child pornography and other forms of violent crime.

“But we need more – and these companies have the resources and the capacity to do more.

“As good corporate citizens and responsible members of democratic nations, I’m confident these tech companies will seek to do everything they can to assist the fight against terror.

“We must always be mindful of the rule of the law and the proper protections of our citizens – but we must be equally focused on adapting to new mediums and new technologies to detect and prevent new threats,” Shorten says.

The security focus in parliament comes after last week’s attack in Melbourne, events in Britain, and Friday’s decision by the Council of Australian Governments that there should be a presumption against parole and bail for people who have had any involvement with terrorism.

The ConversationThe government this week will introduce its tough new provisions governing visa and citizenship requirements. They include giving Immigration Minister Peter Dutton power to overrule Administrative Appeal Tribunal decisions on citizenship. Dutton said this would align citizenship provisions with the power he already has in relation to visas. There would still be the right to appeal to the Federal Court. Labor will announce its attitude when it sees the legislation.

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Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

Coalition fails to get post-budget boost predicted by commentariat


Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

After the release of the Federal budget on Tuesday night, much of the political commentariat thought that the budget would be popular, and predicted a lift for the Coalition in the post-budget polls. Graham Richardson in The Australian said the government would “no doubt get a sugar hit from the budget”. The Conversation

All the regular post-budget polls are instead at least 53-47 to Labor, with little change apparent from the pre-budget situation. In Newspoll Labor gained a point, while in Ipsos the Coalition gained two points, leading to different commentary from Fairfax, which sponsors Ipsos, than The Australian, which sponsors Newspoll.

The last Ipsos was 55-45 to Labor in late March; this seemed an outlier at the time. The last Newspoll was 52-48 to Labor three weeks ago, and was probably influenced by the announcements on the citizenship test and 457 visas.

Here is the post-budget poll table. Two separate ReachTEL polls were conducted on 11 May, one for Sky News and one for Channel 7. They are the first public ReachTEL Federal polls since before the 2016 election. Only half of the Essential sample is post-budget, though this week’s additional questions are based on the post-budget sample.

post budget.

The Sky News ReachTEL was reported as 53-47 to Labor, and the Channel 7 ReachTEL as 54-46. However, both these results were based on respondent allocated preferences. To match polls that only give the previous election preferences, I am using Kevin Bonham’s calculated two party vote from the decimal primaries of both ReachTELs. Since the rise of One Nation, ReachTEL’s state polls have leaned to the Coalition, and this lean appears to be happening federally.

While individual budget measures, such as the bank levy and additional Medicare levy, are popular, the budget as a whole gets only a middling rating on a range of measures. Commentary suggesting that the overall budget would be very popular has been shown to be wrong.

While the budget allocated much spending to health and education, voters trust Labor more on these issues. A government that has tried to cut spending for three years, but suddenly has a poll-driven about-face strains credibility. Labor’s fairness criticisms of the termination of the 2% deficit levy for high-income earners, and the now $65 billion for company tax cuts, are likely to be accepted by a large portion of the population.

Kevin Bonham’s poll aggregate is at 52.7% two party preferred to Labor, a gain for Labor of 0.2 points since last fortnight.

Perceptions of this budget

After each budget, Newspoll asks three questions: whether the budget was good or bad for the economy, good or bad for the voter personally, and whether the opposition would have delivered a better budget.

45% thought they would be worse off and 19% better off, for a net of -26. 36% thought the economy would be better with this budget, and 27% worse, for a net of +9. Compared with previous budgets, neither of these scores are very bad nor very good.

Coalition governments do better than Labor ones on whether the opposition would have delivered a better budget. In this Newspoll, by a 47-33 margin, voters thought Labor would not have delivered a better budget. This 14-point margin is about the same as the last two budgets, but better for Labor than any budget in the Howard era, except the 2007 13-point margin, which came shortly before Rudd ousted Howard at the November 2007 election.

In other Newspoll questions, 45% said they would be prepared to see a reduction in taxpayer funded entitlements to pay down debt, while 41% thought otherwise. By 39-36, voters thought this budget was fairer than others under this government. As one of those budgets was the widely hated 2014 budget, this is not saying much. By 71-19, voters thought the banks would not be justified in passing on costs from the bank levy.

In Ipsos, by 45-44 voters approved of the budget, and by 42-39 they thought it was fair; these measure are much better for the government than following the 2014 budget. 50% thought they would be worse off with the budget, while 20% expected to benefit. By 58-37, voters supported increasing national debt to build infrastructure.

The Sky News ReachTEL found that 52% thought their family would be worse off with this budget, with just 11% for better off. 36% thought the government had done a good or very good job explaining its budget, 37% an average job and 27% poor or very poor. 34% of non-home owners thought the budget made it harder to buy a home, 13% easier, and the rest said there was no change.

The Channel 7 ReachTEL found that the budget was rated average by 38%, poor or very poor by 33% and good or very good by 29%.

In Essential, voters approved of the budget by 41-33, though 29% said it made them less confident in the government’s handling of the economy, with 27% for more confident. On both questions, the strongest disagreement with the budget came from Other voters, not Labor and Greens voters.

Explaining why Shorten did not mention punitive measures against the unemployed in his budget reply speech, a crushing 76-14 supported payment reductions for jobseekers who fail to attend appointments, and 69-22 supported a drug trial for jobseekers. The second airport in Sydney was supported by 54-18.

By 51-27, voters agreed with the statement that the budget was more about improving the government’s popularity than the economy. 56% thought higher income earners should bear a greater share of the cost of funding the National Disability Insurance Scheme, while 27% thought applying the Medicare levy for all taxpayers is the right approach. Scott Morrison was favoured over Chris Bowen as preferred Treasurer by 26-22 with 52% undecided.

There was strong support for the bank levy (68-21 in Newspoll, 62-16 in the Sky News ReachTEL, 60-18 in the Channel 7 ReachTEL, 68-29 in Ipsos and 66-19 in Essential). The additional Medicare levy was also well supported (54-36 in Newspoll, 48-34 in the Sky News ReachTEL, 51-28 in the Channel 7 ReachTEL and 49-39 in Essential).

Primary votes, leaders’ ratings and other polling

Primary votes in Newspoll were 36% Coalition (steady), 36% Labor (up 1), 10% Greens (up 1) and 9% One Nation (down 1). 33% (up 1) were satisfied with Turnbull’s performance and 53% (down 4) were dissatisfied, for a net rating of -20, up five points. Shorten’s net rating was -22, down two points.

In Ipsos, primary votes were 37% Coalition (up 4), 35% Labor (up 1) and 13% Greens (downs 3 from an unrealistic 16%). 45% approved of Turnbull’s performance (up 5) and 44% disapproved (down 4), for a net rating of +1, up nine points. Shorten’s net approval increased a sizable 13 points to -5. Turnbull’s ratings in Ipsos have been much better than in other polls. Ipsos skews to the Greens, but less this time than in their first two polls of the new parliamentary term.

The Sky News ReachTEL had primary votes of 37.8% Coalition, 34.2% Labor, 10.3% Greens and 10.2% One Nation. In the Channel 7 ReachTEL, assuming the 9.2% undecided are excluded, primary votes are 37.1% Coalition, 35.0% Labor and 10.8% for both the Greens and One Nation.

Primary votes in Essential were unchanged on last week at 38% Labor, 37% Coalition, 10% Greens, 6% One Nation and 3% Nick Xenophon Team.

In the Channel 7 ReachTEL, both leaders’ ratings tanked from the final survey prior to the 2016 election. Turnbull’s (total good) minus (total poor) score fell 18 points to -24, his record lowest, just ahead of Tony Abbott’s ratings before Abbott was replaced. Shorten’s rating was down 17 points to -21, his lowest since March 2016.

38% preferred Turnbull as Coalition leader, followed by 29% for Julie Bishop, 17% for Abbott, 11% for Peter Dutton and 6% for Scott Morrison. Among Coalition voters, it was 61% Turnbull, 18% Bishop and 14% Abbott.

For preferred Labor leader, Tanya Plibersek had 31% with Shorten and Anthony Albanese tied on 26%. Labor voters had Shorten leading with 40%, Plibersek on 33% and Albanese on 20%. Plibersek was strongly favoured by the Greens, with 51% support from them.

Turnbull led Shorten as better PM by 47-35 in Ipsos and 44-31 in Newspoll, but only 52-48 in the Channel 7 ReachTEL. ReachTEL uses a forced choice question, and this method usually benefits opposition leaders.

ReachTEL’s respondent allocation problem

As noted at the beginning of this article, ReachTEL’s respondent allocated preferences are over a point more favourable to Labor than using the previous election method. It appears that some of this difference is explained by ReachTEL asking National voters which of Labor or Liberal they prefer.

This is a mistake, as in most cases the Nationals are not opposed by a Liberal, and so their preferences are not distributed. In the few cases where National votes were distributed, 22% leaked to Labor at the 2016 election. Applying this rate to the 3.5% National vote in the Sky News ReachTEL would mean that Coalition leakage would increase Labor’s two party vote by 0.8 points; the actual Coalition leakage is worth only about 0.1 points to Labor.

Ipsos also asked for respondent allocated preferences, and had Labor ahead by 53-47 on this measure, the same as when using the previous election method.

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

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

Coalition two-party vote slips in post-budget Newspoll


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

The Coalition has slipped further behind in Newspoll, trailing Labor 47-53% in two-party terms, despite a pragmatic budget that moved the government onto ALP ground in a bid to win back voters. The Conversation

Labor slightly widened the gap compared with three weeks ago when it led 52-48%. This makes a dozen Newspolls in a row that have seen the government behind the opposition.

The post-budget Fairfax-Ipsos poll also has Labor ahead 53-47%.

The previous Ipsos poll was in late March, when the ALP led 55-45%.

Both polls show majority support for the budget’s tax increases – the new bank tax and the proposed hike in the Medicare levy. The bank tax was backed by 68% in each poll; the Medicare levy rise was supported by 54% in Newspoll and 61% in Ipsos.

In the Ipsos poll, one in two people said they would be worse off from the budget; only one in five believed they would be better off. In Newspoll 45% thought they would be worse off and 19% said they would be better off. In both polls, Coalition voters were more likely than Labor voters to think they would be better off.

In Ipsos people were evenly split on whether they were satisfied with the budget – 44% were and 43% were not, a net plus one. This is better than the response to last year’s budget (minus seven) but not as good as the reception for the 2015 Hockey budget (plus 17).

Ipsos found 42% thought the budget fair, compared with 39% who did not, a net plus three. Last year’s budget rated a net minus six on fairness. Coalition voters were more likely than Labor voters to rate the budget as fair – 63% to 25%.

Newspoll asked whether it was fairer than previous budgets delivered by this government: 39% thought it was, while 36% did not.

Labor’s primary vote in Newspoll, published in The Australian, is up a point to 36%; the Coalition is static on 36%. The Greens rose a point to 10% and One Nation fell a point to 9%. The poll was taken from Thursday to Sunday.

When budgets do not normally bring a bounce for a government – ministers will argue it will take time for positives to show up in the polls – the result will be a disappointment for Malcolm Turnbull, although his personal ratings have improved.

In Newspoll, his net satisfaction went from minus 25 points to minus 20 points in three weeks, while satisfaction with Opposition Leader Bill Shorten declined from minus 20 to minus 22. Turnbull has also widened his lead as better prime minister from nine to 13 points – he is now ahead 44-31%.

In the Ipsos poll, taken Wednesday to Saturday, Labor’s primary vote is 35%, and the Coalition’s is 37%. The Greens are on 13%. Turnbull’s net approval is plus one, up nine points since March; Bill Shorten’s net approval is minus five, up 13 points since March. Turnbull leads Shorten as preferred prime minister 47-35%

The Ipsos poll found the government’s promised A$18.6 billion boost to spending on schools was supported overwhelmingly – by 86%. Some 58% backed increasing national debt to build infrastructure, but 37% opposed.

Treasurer Scott Morrison on Sunday continued his tough language on the big banks, which are furious about the new tax imposed on them.

When it was put to him that he could not stop them hitting customers with it he said: “In the same way that banks have put up interest rates even when there hasn’t been a move in the Reserve Bank cash rate. I mean, banks will find any way they can to charge their customers more.”

He reiterated that the government would pressure the banks through the regulator not to pass on the tax to customers. “But the best thing you can do is if you are unhappy with how a bank is seeking to fleece you – that’s what they would be doing if they pass this on – go to another bank.”

The tax was just six basis points, he said on the ABC. “Reserve Bank cash rates move by 25 basis points at a time and to suggest that this is the end of financial civilisation as we know it is one of the biggest overreaches in a whinge about a tax I’ve ever seen.”

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

Labor to oppose Medicare levy for lower- and middle-income earners


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Bill Shorten arrives to deliver the budget reply speech.
Mick Tsikas/AAP

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has said Labor will oppose the budget’s increase in the Medicare levy hitting taxpayers on incomes under A$87,000. The Conversation

And he has flagged a Labor government would reimpose the deficit levy on high-income earners, that automatically expires on June 30. “Labor will not support spending $19.4 billion on the wealthiest 2% of Australians,” he said in his budget reply on Thursday night.

Labor says that a combination of the pared back levy rise and the deficit levy would deliver an extra $4.5 billion over ten years “without putting the burden onto families earning modest incomes”.

The combination would mean that, under Labor’s proposal, those on incomes of more than $180,000 would pay a 49.5% marginal tax rate.

After the opposition hedged its position last week, Shorten has confirmed a Labor government would put an extra $22 billion into schools above the amount the government has pledged, going back to the original ALP plan.

In an extensive attack on key budget measures, Shorten said Labor will oppose the government’s cuts to universities, its proposed increase in student fees, and the change in the repayment threshold that “hits women, Indigenous Australians and low-income earnest the hardest”.

In power, it would reverse the government’s new cuts to TAFE.

Labor would also oppose the budget plan to give a tax break for people saving for their first home. Shorten said this was a “cruel hoax”, a joke and an insult, representing just $565 for each first home.

He said the 0.5% boost in the Medicare levy – imposed to fund the National Disability Insurance Scheme and to take effect from mid-2019 – would affect every Australian down to an income of $21,000.

It would mean a worker on $55,000 would pay $275 extra a year, while someone on $80,000 would face an extra $400.

“Labor cannot support making people on modest incomes give up even more of their pay packets,” he said. Labor would only support the levy rise for those in the top two tax brackets.

Shorten said the budget “fails the fairness test” and it “fails the generational test”.

It was a “budget of big government, higher tax and more debt” and “devoid of values altogether”.

He dismissed the government’s measures to protect Medicare, saying that Malcolm Turnbull “only discovers his heart when he feels fear in it”.

The opposition leader was at pains to counter the widespread observation in commentary that this was “a Labor budget”.

He confirmed Labor would not oppose the budget’s tax on big banks, which has sparked a furious reaction from the banking sector.

But it was worried that “the weakness of this government will turn $6 billion tax on the banks into a $6 billion charge on every Australian with a bank account or a mortgage”.

The banks knew they could run over the top of this weak prime minister, he said.

“He’s giving them a levy with one hand, a tax cut with the other and a free pass for bad behaviour. I’ll give them a royal commission.”

He said that “if the banks pass on a single dollar of this tax to Australian families then that should be the end of this treasurer, this prime minister and this government”.

Shorten said that since budget night Labor had identified $1 billion in measures it would not support, including the $170 million set aside for a marriage equality plebiscite to which the Senate has refused to agree.

Earlier, in Question Time, the opposition extracted from the government the fact that the cost of its ten-year corporate tax cut – the first part of which is already legislated – would be $65 billion over the upcoming decade, compared with nearly $50 billion over a decade when announced a year ago.

In his budget reply, Shorten said: “This is a recipe for fiscal recklessness on a grand scale. It is a threat to Australia’s triple A credit rating – and therefore a threat to every Australian mortgage holder”.

Labor’s plan to close tax loopholes that let big companies shuffle money internationally would deliver $5.4 billion over a decade.

Shorten announced that a Labor government would cap at $3,000 the amount people could deduct for the management of their tax affairs. Although affecting only one in 100 taxpayers, this would save $1.3 billion over the medium term.

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann called on Shorten to submit his speech to the Parliamentary Budget Office for costing.

“If Bill Shorten is serious he needs to come clean with the Australian people about how much bigger the deficit would be over the forward estimates period as a result of the announcements that he has made,” Cormann said.

He said Labor’s numbers did not add up and it would put the triple A credit rating at risk.

Social Services Minister Christian Porter said that Labor had not outlined enough to fund the NDIS.

https://www.podbean.com/media/player/55eic-6aa7da?from=yiiadmin

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

Shorten fights on fairness in budget reply, but will it be enough?


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Bill Shorten used his budget-in-reply speech to appeal to middle Australia.
AAP/Mick Tsikas

Natalie Mast, University of Western Australia

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten is under real pressure for the first time since the 2016 election, as the government attempts to wedge Labor with a circuit-breaker budget. The Conversation

Shorten used his budget-in-reply speech to appeal to middle Australia, putting forward an argument that Labor is the only party that can be trusted to deliver a fair go. He argued the government’s so-called “Labor-lite budget” is unfair, bringing benefits only to rich.

Since the election, it seems everything – including the polls – has gone Labor’s way. The Turnbull government has been plagued by infighting and its messages have failed to resonate with the electorate.

However, over the last few weeks – starting with changes to 457 visas and the expansion of the Snowy Hydro scheme – the Coalition has begun a new conversation with the electorate.

Shorten’s pitch

The 2017 budget positioned the government as more centrist. It contained several policy positions ordinarily associated with Labor.

The government’s three-word slogan for the budget was “fairness, opportunity and security”. It has tried to position itself as a “doing government”, taking on good debt to invest in infrastructure, funding the NDIS into the future, and adopting measures from the Gonski schools funding plan.

Shorten’s speech was framed around modern class politics. He claimed Labor is the only party that can be trusted to protect low-income workers, and look after the interests of the middle class in terms of Medicare, universities and schools.

Shorten refuted Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s claim that the budget is a fair one:

This prime minister of many words has learned a new one – fairness – and he’s saying it as often as he can. But repetition is no substitute for conviction … This isn’t a Labor budget – and it’s not a fair budget … Fairness isn’t measured by what you say – it’s revealed by what you do.

It is highly unlikely that this budget will be viewed as negatively as the 2014 budget. But Labor needs to convincingly discredit it to the point that the government cannot use it to help restore its standing in the eyes of voters.

Labor will need to attack on two fronts. The first will be scare tactics. Voters will need to be convinced they are unnecessarily worse off under this budget.

Shorten claimed:

There’s nothing fair about making middle-class and working-class Australians pay more, while millionaires and multinationals pay less.

He highlighted higher tax rates for low-income workers, as a result of the increase in the Medicare levy, as well as the traditional Liberal threat to Medicare. Shorten also posited schools would be much worse off due to the gap in promised funding between Labor and the government.

The second line of attack will be providing an alternative set of policy options that voters view as more attractive than those put forward by the government.

What is Labor offering voters?

In his speech, Shorten promised a Labor government would remove the Medicare rebate freeze, rather than wait for indexation to begin in July 2020 – thereby reducing the cost of health care. Labor will also restore A$22 billion to the schools sector.

As an alternative to the measures to assist first home buyers through a savings scheme, Shorten said Labor had a plan for affordable housing that would include the construction of 55,000 new homes over three years, and create 25,000 new jobs every year. He also noted Labor’s commitment to developing more public housing.

In what is likely to prove a popular idea, Labor will seek to close the loopholes allowing multinational companies avoiding tax in Australia.

Likewise, in an effort to halt tax avoidance by wealthy individuals, Labor plans to limit the amount an individual can deduct for the management of their tax affairs to A$3,000 per year. Shorten claimed that less than 1% of taxpayers would be affected, and that measure would save the budget A$1.3 billion over the medium term.

Shorten continued to argue that a royal commission into the banking industry is required.

Where does Labor stand on individual budget items?

Labor needs time to review the proposed legislation resulting from the budget in order to determine what it is willing to support. But Shorten outlined Labor’s position on several measures.

  • It supports the additional Medicare levy to fund the NDIS. However, it wants to limit the levy to the top two tax brackets, so that only those earning more than $87,000 per year will be impacted.

  • It supports the bank levy – but simultaneously put pressure on the government, claiming it is responsible for stopping the banks from passing the cost onto customers.

  • It does not support the cuts to universities or the proposed increase in university fees for students.

  • It does not support the plan to allow first home buyers to use up to $30,000 in voluntary superannuation contributions. Shorten described the policy as “microscopic assistance”.

In this game, it’s the message that matters

This is a political budget, and so we should expect in the coming weeks that both parties will attempt to appeal to voters’ base instincts, rather than presenting considered arguments for or against policies.

Thus, the government is focusing on forcing greedy banks to “pay their fair share”, secure in the knowledge that former Queensland premier Anna Bligh, as head of the Australian Bankers’ Association, is unlikely to be able to cut through the bank-bashing mentality of the average Australian voter.

Likewise, Shorten will campaign hard on the natural end of the temporary budget repair levy, which was introduced in the 2014 budget. He is claiming this is a tax cut for the rich at the same time as the government is making everyday Australians pay more tax through a higher Medicare levy.

Interesting times ahead

Shorten is right: this budget is about trust.

The government and the opposition both need to convince average working and middle class voters that their policies will provide Australians with the best outcome. In some ways, this is politics as usual.

But, with the polls leaning to Labor and voters’ faith in the government’s ability to deliver low, the stakes seem higher than normal – especially as voters are presented with two positions not as divergent as they have been in recent years.

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

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

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


Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

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

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

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

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

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

Essential at 55-45 to Labor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dutch election: far right flops again

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

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

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

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

French Presidential election: 23 April and 7 May

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Coalition trails 45-55% and Turnbull’s ratings sink in Newspoll


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

A disastrous Newspoll showing the Coalition trailing Labor 45-55%, One Nation gaining ground and Malcolm Turnbull’s ratings falling will fuel the alarm and anger in the Coalition as it returns to parliament in the wake of Tony Abbott’s outburst. The Conversation

Abbott will cop much blame for the result. But the worsening in Turnbull’s personal numbers also suggests his recent more aggressive performance hasn’t impressed the public as much as it did his colleagues.

The poll, in Monday’s Australian, showed a further deterioration from the 46-54% two-party vote of three weeks ago, which had been the worst result of Turnbull’s prime ministership. One Nation has increased its support from 8% to 10% over the three weeks.

The poll was taken Thursday to Sunday, so Abbott’s provocative Thursday evening speech and TV interview – warning of the risk of a “drift to defeat” and setting out his alternative agenda including a call for lower immigration – would have fed straight into it.

Turnbull’s net satisfaction has plummeted by nine points, from minus 21 to minus 30; Shorten’s net satisfaction has dipped by four points, from minus 22 to minus 26. Turnbull has also lost ground in his lead over Shorten as better prime minister – 40% (down two points) to 33% (up three points).

The Coalition’s primary vote has fallen one point to 34%, with Labor increasing one point to 37%. The Greens are on 10% and “others” are on 9%.

Parliament resumes not only with the government’s division on display but with Labor having ammunition after last week’s decision by the Fair Work Commission cutting Sunday penalty rates for the hospitality, retail, fast-food and pharmacy sectors.

Abbott’s intervention has been condemned by colleagues, but his former chief-of-staff Peta Credlin defended him at the weekend.

She said that as a former prime minister he had every right to make a speech “outlining what he thinks the Coalition needs to do to win back its supporters and govern in Australia’s national interest”, although she was critical of his also doing a media interview.

“Of course, it would have been easier for everyone if he’d given his counsel in private, but the PM has made it clear he doesn’t want Abbott’s advice so it is hard to criticise him for speaking publicly,” she wrote in the Sunday Telegraph.

She said Abbott had come back from a large number of marginal seat visits “so he has no illusions about the anger among Coalition supporters and party members”.

Credlin wrote that despite what Turnbull said, Coalition supporters didn’t believe he “has a conservative bone in his body”.

“Regardless of his promises, Turnbull’s problem has always been a lack of authenticity,” she wrote.

“It comes down to this: Malcolm Turnbull is desperate to hold on to power and Tony Abbott is desperate to hold the Liberal Party together. It’s not necessarily the same thing.”

On Sky Credlin said “there is absolutely no relationship” between Abbott and Turnbull: “it was manufactured to get everybody through the campaign so no one could accuse Abbott of being a wrecker”.

Credlin also said she did not believe Abbott wanted the prime ministerial job again: “I think he would have a hard time reconciling around that cabinet table with people like Christopher Pyne and Julie Bishop and others who would very likely stay in the senior ranks.”

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann, an Abbott loyalist to the end of his prime ministership, who on Friday strongly criticised Thursday’s intervention, told Sky he had “thought it was important to send a very clear message … to essentially signal that enough is enough”. He said that “obviously private messages hadn’t been heeded”.

His Friday criticism of Abbott was not co-ordinated with Turnbull’s office, Cormann said. “It was off my own bat … I made the judgement it was necessary and appropriate to say what I said.”

Shorten on Monday will give notice of a private member’s bill to protect penalty rates. The bill would prevent the decision of the Fair Work Commission from taking effect. It would also ensure that penalty rates could not be cut in future if that resulted in a cut in take-home pay.

In a letter to Turnbull on Sunday, Shorten said at least 600,000 people would be hurt by this pay cut and the brunt of the decision would be borne by low income earners.

Calling for the government to intervene to head off the cuts, Shorten wrote that “a decision not to intervene is a decision to endorse the proposed cuts to pay. There is no doubt that this decision will cause genuine financial hardship. It is simply unacceptable to reduce penalty rates without compensation.

“You have a window to act before the commission issues its determination and the opposition would work with you to ensure this devastating cut to low paid workers’ income never occurs,” Shorten wrote.

The government, aware the pay cut is likely to rebound on it, is stressing it is the decision of the “independent umpire” rather than a government decision.

It also points out that when workplace relations minister, Shorten brought in an amendment that referred to penalty rates being included in the review of awards.

But Shorten said in his letter that his 2013 amendments were intended to ensure the commission took into account “the need to provide additional remuneration for employees working outside normal hours”.

“It was clearly the parliament’s intent that the award review process would not ever result in a cut to worker’s pay.”

On Friday the Greens flagged a private member’s bill to prevent the commission’s decision from coming into effect.

https://www.podbean.com/media/player/j795u-67fef0?from=yiiadmin

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

Labor leads 55-45 in Newspoll as Turnbull’s ratings tank


Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

This week’s Newspoll, conducted Thursday to Sunday from a sample of 1680, gave Labor a 55-45 lead, a 1 point gain for Labor since the previous Newspoll, three weeks ago. Primary votes were 37% for Labor (up 1), 34% for the Coalition (down 1), 10% for the Greens (steady) and 10% for One Nation (up 2). It appears that One Nation is now in Newspoll’s party readout, so their support should not be underestimated. The Conversation

29% were satisfied with Turnbull’s performance (down 5), and 59% were dissatisfied (up 4), for a net approval of -30, down 9 points. This is a record low net approval for Turnbull; his previous low was -28. Shorten’s net approval also slumped four points to -26.

According to Kevin Bonham, Turnbull and Shorten are now at a combined low net approval of -56, though they are still five points above Abbott and Shorten’s record low of -61. Paul Keating and John Hewson hold the record low net approval with a combined score of -76.

While Turnbull’s parliamentary performance in the first two weeks of sittings won plaudits from the political press, Newspoll suggests it did not impress the general public. Essential’s findings below show that the public is strongly in favour of renewable energy, undermining the pro-coal and anti-renewables rhetoric of the Coalition and their right wing media cheerleaders.

Three weeks ago, I wrote that there was no evidence from the polling under Abbott or Turnbull that Australians want a hard right government. When Turnbull adopts Abbott-type policies and rhetoric, his ratings and the Coalition’s come to resemble those under Abbott. To some extent, Abbott was protected by reluctance to return to Labor after one term, but the Coalition is now into its second term.

An additional Newspoll question finds that 17% would be willing to pay an extra $300 or more per year for renewable energy, 26% would pay an extra $100 and 45% nothing more. These figures are little changed from October 2016.

Essential at 53-47 to Labor

Primary votes in this week’s Essential are 37% Coalition, 37% Labor, 9% Greens, 9% One Nation and 3% Nick Xenophon Team. Voting intentions are based on a two-week sample of 1800, with other questions using one week’s sample.

Since September last year, positive attributes of Turnbull fell slightly and negative attributes rose slightly; the biggest change is for visionary (down 5). Shorten’s attributes moved in the same direction as Turnbull’s, though to a lesser extent. The three biggest attribute differences between the two leaders are on out of touch (Turnbull by 18), intelligent (Turnbull by 12) and arrogant (Turnbull by 12).

44% approved of negative gearing (up 1 since May 2016), and 35% disapproved (down 1). 41% disapproved of investors receiving a capital gains tax deduction on profits made selling properties, and 37% approved. Asked what would be the effect of limiting negative gearing and reducing the capital gains tax concession, 32% said house prices would rise at a slower rate, 19% said house prices would fall and 17% said house prices would rise at the same rate.

46% thought housing affordability was more important for the government to address, while 44% selected rising energy prices. 64% would support a royal commission into banking, with just 16% opposed.

In last week’s Essential, 60% (up 6 since December) thought climate change is happening, and is caused by human activity, while 25% (down 2) thought we are witnessing a normal fluctuation. This is a record high for human caused climate change in Essential’s polling, and probably reflects the effects of the recent heatwave across eastern Australia.

65% supported Labor’s 50% renewable energy target by 2030, with only 18% opposed. 45% blamed the recent SA power blackouts on failures of the energy market, 19% blamed it on privatisation of the energy market, and only 16% blamed renewables. 64% thought renewable energy was the solution to our future energy needs, and only 14% thought it a threat to our energy supply. 45% opposed building new coal-fired power stations, with 31% in favour.

29% approved of the Liberals directing preferences to One Nation in the WA election, and 38% disapproved. 82% thought people required to work outside normal hours should receive a higher hourly pay rate, and only 12% disagreed.

Victorian Galaxy: Labor holds narrow lead, but Andrews has negative rating

A Victorian Galaxy poll had Labor holding a 51-49 lead, a one point gain for the Coalition since a November Galaxy. Primary votes were 41% for the Coalition (down 1), 37% for Labor (steady), 10% for the Greens (down 2) and 8% for One Nation. 35% approved of Premier Daniel Andrews, and 52% disapproved, for a net rating of -17; this question was not asked in November. 52% thought Victoria had become less safe under Labor, with just 15% for more safe. This poll was conducted 16-17 February from a sample of 1090.

A separate Galaxy poll of the Labor-held seat of Werribee, conducted 16 February with a sample of 550, had Labor crashing, probably due to concerns about a proposed youth prison in Werribee. The Liberals held a 51-49 lead, a massive swing of 17 points since the 2014 election. Primary votes were Liberals 35% (up 6), Labor 29% (down 28!), One Nation 21% and Greens 7% (down 2). 85% disapproved of the youth prison, with only 12% in favour.

These two Galaxy polls were taken before the Speaker and deputy Speaker of Victoria’s lower house resigned owing to abuse of parliamentary entitlements.

Queensland redistribution

Last year, the Liberal National Party (LNP) combined with crossbenchers to expand the unicameral Queensland Parliament from 89 to 93 seats, despite the objections of the Labor government. The LNP thought they would lose seats under a redistribution had the old 89 seats been retained.

On Friday, the Queensland Electoral Commission published draft boundaries for the redistribution. Antony Green has calculated the new margins in all seats. He finds that Labor would win 47 of the 93 seats based on votes at the 2015 election. The LNP would win 44, the Katter Party one, and one Independent. The 2015 election result was 44 Labor, 42 LNP, 2 Katter and 1 Independent.

These calculations ignore two defections from Labor and one from the LNP since the last election. They assume standard two party contests, so the surge in support for One Nation could throw them out.

UK Labour suffers disastrous by-election loss

On Thursday, UK by-elections occurred in the Labour-held seats of Stoke Central and Copeland. Labour retained Stoke Central with a small swing against them, but in Copeland the Conservatives won by 44.3% (up 8.5 points since the 2015 election), to 37.3% for Labour (down 4.9). At the 2015 election, Labour won Copeland by 6.5 points.

This is the first time a government has gained a seat at a UK by-election since 1982. In that case, and in several other cases, the opposition’s vote was split at the by-election by sitting members contesting for another party. The last time a UK government won an opposition-held seat at a by-election without vote splitting was 1960, but that seat had only been won by 47 votes at the previous general election. According to Number Cruncher Politics, 1878 was the last time a truly comparable event occurred.

Current polls have the Conservatives in the low 40’s and Labour in the mid 20’s. The Copeland by-election adds to the evidence that Labour faces an utter shellacking at the next general election with Jeremy Corbyn as its leader.

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

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

Grattan on Friday: Penalty rates – Shorten’s own goal becomes Turnbull’s political problem


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

The latest reflection on just how appalling things are in federal politics came this week from former Treasury head Ken Henry, who’s now chairman of NAB. The Conversation

“Our politicians have dug themselves into deep trenches from which they fire insults designed merely to cause political embarrassment. Populism supplies the munitions,” Henry told a conference in Canberra. “The country that Australians want cannot even be imagined from these trenches,” he said.

A senior player in reforms under Hawke-Keating Labor and the Howard government, Henry contrasted the current dysfunction “to earlier periods of policy success – where politics was adversarial, every bit as partisan – but when the tribal tensions within parties were generally well-managed and the political contest appeared to energise policy, not kill it”.

Henry may be slightly romanticising the past, as often happens when people look back to that period of policy-rich achievement. There were more than a few unedifying times in the fights of those years. But his general point is right.

He and his fellow heavyweights in the banking industry have just had a close-up view of the Coalition’s ugly tribalism with Treasurer Scott Morrison’s tantrum over former Labor premier Anna Bligh’s appointment to the Australian Bankers Association. It was short-sighted, counter-productive behaviour.

The fact that some in the Coalition saw Bligh’s appointment as the banks writing off the government was revealing. Given the volatility of politics, the bankers would hardly be predicting the next election’s outcome now – the interpretation suggests more about the mindset of alarm in Liberal circles.

When governments are flagging there is always talk of a “reset”. We’ve been hearing it this year, just as we did in the Gillard days.

But looking to a “reset” is more often than not to be staring at a mirage. It’s true that in 2001 the Howard government had a spectacular “reset”. It changed some decisions and crafted a canny budget, but the biggest factors in cementing its turnaround were Tampa’s arrival and September 11.

Some Coalition MPs believe Malcolm Turnbull’s burst of aggression – over Bill-and-the-billionaires and Labor and renewables – will give the government its “reset”. It’s doubtful. People don’t like abuse. And in the energy debate, this week’s Essential poll suggested the government is struggling.

So, looking ahead, there are no quick fixes, or answers based in a superficial change of style. The government faces the toughest slog, as it contemplates a budget that’s difficult to put together and the challenge of delivering an energy policy.

There will be pressure to spend in the budget to gain credibility on health, which cost the Coalition votes last July. Stories are already appearing about ending the freeze on the Medicare rebate. But where will offsetting cuts be found?

And, given the Senate gridlock on savings, can the government produce a budget that doesn’t alienate voters but keeps the ratings agencies at bay and Australia’s AAA rating intact?

As for energy security, the government’s “clean coal” frolic is genuinely hard to understand – beyond fears about regional seats and pressure from the Nationals – given that the word from the sector is that investors won’t go there. Eventually hyper rhetoric will have to give way to concrete measures that can fly.

High electricity prices are a politically sensitive cost-of-living issue and the government is trying to pin the blame for them, and for blackouts, on Labor’s commitment to renewables.

But suddenly there is a new cost-of-living issue, with the Fair Work Commission decision on Thursday to cut Sunday and public holiday penalty rates for those working under the hospitality, fast-food, retail and pharmacy awards.

This is not the government’s decision – the commission is independent and the government didn’t even put a submission to its inquiry.

And, in an ironic twist, Bill Shorten when workplace relations minister paved the way for this decision, with amendments requiring the review of industrial awards to cover the area of “additional remuneration” for employees working on weekends, public holidays, shifts and the like.

The Gillard government thought it was writing protection of penalty rates into the award system. Julia Gillard, addressing an Australian Council of Trade Unions summit, said: “We will make it clear in law that there needs to be additional renumeration for employees who work shift work, unsocial, irregular, unpredictable hours or on weekends and public holidays.”

Labor says it never envisaged the commission would reduce rates. Let alone when the bench members are overwhelmingly ALP appointees.

Although it did not make it, the decision is in line with general government thinking for industrial relations reform. But the government finds itself caught between its base, that will applaud the cut, and many voters whose hip pockets will be hit.

It argues the decision will boost employment, as the commission says. However, the job increases – which neither the commission nor employers can quantify – are likely to be longer in coming and less visible than the pay losses.

Shorten has potential to make hay with the decision, helped by the unions. Those facing smaller pay packets are unlikely to be diverted by the government highlighting his role in getting the review of penalties rolling.

Labor says it will intervene when the commission on March 24 considers transition arrangements; it also is looking to some parliamentary initiative. If (as seems likely) these paths come to dead ends, it is promising legislation if it wins the next election to clip the wings of the commission.

The government faces a dilemma as to whether it intervenes to put a view on how long the transition should be.

There is a parallel here with the problem the government is facing with its omnibus bill which reforms child care while shaving family tax benefits. In each case, people stand to lose something.

The big difference is that with the penalty rates the government isn’t the body making the decision and can say the judgement of the independent umpire should prevail. But if Labor can make the Coalition wear some of the odium for low-paid workers losing dollars, this will be another burden for Turnbull.

https://www.podbean.com/media/player/j795u-67fef0?from=yiiadmin

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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