Democrat Doug Jones wins Alabama Senate byelection in stunning upset; Bennelong is tied 50-50



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Democrat candidate Doug Jones has had an unlikely win in the hard-fought Alabama Senate ballot.
Reuters/ Marvin Gentry

Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

With all election-day votes counted, Democrat Doug Jones defeated Republican Roy Moore by a 49.9-48.4 margin to win the Alabama Senate byelection today. Once Jones is seated, Republicans will hold only a 51-49 Senate majority, down from their current 52-48.

Donald Trump crushed Hillary Clinton by a 62-34 margin in Alabama at the 2016 Presidential election, so in Australian terms, this result is a swing to the Democrats of 14.6%.

The massive swing was partly due to Moore’s faults. His extreme right-wing views probably made him a liability even in a state as conservative as Alabama. In November, I wrote that Moore’s alleged sexual encounter with a 14-year-old girl, when he was 32, could damage him. Similar allegations against Moore were made by other women.

While Moore was a bad candidate, Trump and national Republicans can also be blamed for this result. According to exit polls, Trump’s approval with the Alabama electorate was split 48% approve, 48% disapprove, a large drop from his 2016 margin.

According to FiveThirtyEight’s poll aggregate, Trump’s national ratings are 37% approve, 57% disapprove, for a net of -20. Trump’s ratings have recently slipped back to near-record lows, probably as a result of the unpopular Republican tax plan.

This tax plan is unlikely to be derailed by Jones’ win. Different versions have already passed the House and Senate, and Republicans still have some time before Jones is seated to pass the same version through both chambers of Congress. The current Senate version was passed 51-49. Even if Jones is seated, there would be a 50-50 tie, which would be broken by Vice-President Mike Pence.

The last Democrat to win an Alabama Senate contest was Richard Shelby in 1992, and he became a Republican in 1994. Southern Democrats used to easily win Alabama and other conservative southern states, but these Democrats were nicknamed “Dixiecrats”, and were definitely not left-wing. Doug Jones may be the first genuinely left-wing Senator from Alabama.

The Alabama result will be a massive morale boost for Democrats, as many will think that if Democrats can win Alabama, they can win anywhere. This should allow Democrats to recruit strong candidates for the 2018 midterm elections.

According to the FiveThirtyEight poll aggregate, Democrats lead in the race for Congress by 47.2-37.5. If Democrats win the national popular vote by this margin next November, they should easily gain control of the House.

The Alabama result will make it more difficult for Republicans to pass legislation and get conservative judges approved. It also puts the Senate in play in November 2018, as Jones will not be up for election until 2020. Democrats now need to gain two seats in 2018 to take control, rather than three.

One-third of the Senate is up for election every two years, and Democrats won the 33 Senate seats up next year by a 25-8 margin in 2012. Republicans will only be defending eight seats, while Democrats defend 25. In these circumstances, two Senate seats are far easier to gain than three.

Most Alabama polls gave Moore a three-to-seven-point lead over Jones, with one at a nine-point Moore lead. The Monmouth and Washington Post polls (respectively tied and Jones by three) were the most accurate. Ironically, the Fox News poll was the most pro-Jones, giving him a ten-point lead.

Bennelong Newspoll 50-50

The Bennelong byelection will be held on Saturday, December 16. A Bennelong Newspoll, conducted December 9-10 from a sample of 529, had a 50-50 tie, a ten-point swing to Labor from the 2016 election. Primary votes were 39% Liberal, 39% Labor, 9% Greens, 7% for Cory Bernardi’s Conservatives and 2% Christian Democrats.

Newspoll is assuming that Conservative and Christian Democrat preferences are as favourable to the Liberals as Greens preferences are for Labor.

At the start of the campaign, more than three weeks ago, Galaxy had a 50-50 tie, while ReachTEL gave the Liberals a 53-47 lead. This Newspoll is the first publicly released Bennelong poll since then, though The Australian reported last week that internal Liberal polling had them leading 54-46.

In past elections, individual seat polls have been inaccurate. There is some chance of a Labor win in Bennelong, but there is also some chance of a thumping Liberal win.

Newspoll asked about Labor candidate Kristina Keneally’s performance when she was NSW premier. 19% thought she was one of the worst premiers, 15% below average, 26% average, 23% better than average, and 10% one of the best. The Liberals have attacked Keneally on her record as premier, but this does not appear to have worked.

The national polls below indicate the media frenzy over Sam Dastyari has had little impact on voting intentions. Often issues that excite partisan voters have little resonance with the general public.

Essential 54-46 to federal Labor

The Coalition gained a point in this week’s Essential, but this was due to rounding. Labor led 54-46, from primary votes of 38% Labor, 35% Coalition, 10% Greens, 7% One Nation and 2% Nick Xenophon Team. Essential uses a two-week sample of about 1,800 for voting intentions. Additional questions use one week’s sample.

Despite Labor’s strong lead in voting intentions, Turnbull’s net approval improved from -12 in November to -3. Shorten’s net approval also improved from -13 to -9.

71% thought it is important that sexual harassment claims in the film and TV industry are exposed, while just 17% thought exposing these claims could unfairly harm reputations. 55% thought the current media attention on sexual harassment would bring about lasting change in the Australian workplace, while 30% thought it would soon be forgotten.

Considering energy policy, 37% said costs should be prioritised (up nine since June), 18% thought reliability should be prioritised (down three) and 15% carbon emissions (down four).

YouGov primary votes: 35% Labor, 34% Coalition, 11% Greens, 8% One Nation

This week’s YouGov, conducted December 7-10 from a sample of 1,032, had primary votes of 35% Labor (up 3 since last fortnight), 34% Coalition (up 2), 11% Greens (up 1) and 8% One Nation (down 3).

Although this poll would be about 54-46 to Labor by 2016 election preferences, YouGov’s respondent allocated preferences are tied 50-50, a three-point gain for the Coalition.

By 40-39, voters thought Turnbull should stand down as prime minister and let someone else take over, rather than remain prime minister. 28% said Turnbull’s decision to go ahead with the banking royal commission gave them a more positive view of him, 15% more negative and 52% said it made no difference.

The Conversation39% expected Labor to win the next federal election, 24% the Coalition, and 14% expected a hung parliament.

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

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

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Grattan on Friday: Bill Shorten faces a summer of uncertainty


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

It is not impossible that the Greens, who started the citizenship crisis with the resignation of then-senator Scott Ludlam, could end up winners from this fiasco that has cut a swathe through the parliament and threatens more havoc.

Wednesday’s reference to the High Court of Labor’s David Feeney, who holds the Melbourne seat of Batman, has certainly put a gleam in the Greens’ eyes.

Feeney hasn’t been able to produce the documentation to confirm the renunciation of British citizenship which he says he made a decade ago.

Unless the paperwork turns up or the High Court shows a leniency that hasn’t been in its nature recently, a byelection in Batman would give the Greens a big chance of installing a second MP to keep Adam Bandt company in the House of Representatives.

Bill Shorten is understandably livid about Feeney, who before the last election overlooked declaring a A$2.3 million house, only narrowly held off the Greens in his seat, and now, if he triggers a byelection, could reduce the opposition’s numbers. No wonder there’s speculation he’d be ditched as Labor’s candidate.

And Feeney’s rank carelessness, to describe it most charitably, comes on top of the recent new revelations about Labor senator Sam Dastyari’s conduct, showing how deeply the New South Wales numbers man has been in the thrall of the Chinese, in particular of a Chinese business benefactor.

It’s made for a very uncomfortable end to the parliamentary year for Shorten, who in previous months had most things breaking his way.

The citizenship crisis had taken a heavy toll on the government, with a minister and the Senate president gone from parliament, and the deputy prime minister and a Liberal backbencher forced to byelections.

To put things in perspective: yes, they all failed to do due diligence, but none of them compromised themselves in the way Dastyari did.

Now it’s Labor in the crosshairs. The situation of several of Shorten’s MPs – leaving aside the egregious case of Feeney – is problematic, and Shorten’s boast about Labor vetting processes is being seen as hubristic.

It will be months before Labor will know what damage the citizenship crisis might do to it.

It will be more contained if the High Court, when it considers the case of ACT senator Katy Gallagher who was also referred this week, accepts the ALP argument that an MP is constitutionally eligible provided they took reasonable steps to renounce foreign citizenship before nominating, even though confirmation didn’t come through by then.

If, however, the court were to find that the candidate needs the confirmation before they nominate, that could trigger byelections in three ALP seats (Braddon in Tasmania, Longman in Queensland and Fremantle in Western Australia) as well as in Mayo, held by crossbencher Rebekha Sharkie.

The Gallagher case will set a precedent for the other MPs with similar circumstances (although if Gallagher were knocked out her Senate position would be filled by a countback, not a byelection).

While byelection swings usually go against governments (Saturday’s result in New England notwithstanding), the thought of having to fight in the marginal seats of Longman and Braddon would make Labor nervous.

Even if it turned out that the only byelection were in Feeney’s seat, the strong prospect of a loss there would sour and distract Shorten’s new year.

Similarly, the extent of the fallout from the Dastyari affair is not yet clear.

There is no defence for Dastyari’s action in warning his Chinese benefactor that his phone was likely tapped, so they should talk outside. That was the core of the latest revelations, which came on top of earlier ones about Dastyari receiving financial largesse and toeing China’s policy line on the South China Sea.

But from Shorten’s point of view, dealing with the Dastyari issue is fraught.

All Shorten has done this time is strip him of what minor responsibilities he had.

It’s fanciful to think Shorten would ever contemplate trying to throw him out of the Labor Party, which would mean taking on the NSW right, and would reduce Labor’s Senate numbers.

But while Dastyari stays, Shorten is open to Coalition attacks and hostage to anything further that may come out – just when the government is cracking down on attempts by foreign interests to influence Australian politics. Dastyari might face an inquiry by the Senate privileges committee.

It would be a gift for Shorten if Dastyari were to decide rehabilitation is too long a road and he should look for other career opportunities.

The problems that Shorten currently faces highlight certain weaknesses that his critics identify in his political approach.

The citizenship issue shows the way he plays the tactical game relentlessly, with insufficient appreciation of how things can come back to bite you.

Of course Labor would make the most of the government’s embarrassment over its dual citizens, but Shorten left himself little wriggle room when he insisted for so long Labor was fireproofed, despite warning signs it mightn’t be.

When its vulnerability was exposed this week, Shorten doubled down. After all MPs’ declarations became public, Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus produced a list of Coalition members who Labor said hadn’t supplied enough evidence that they were not dual citizens. One was Josh Frydenberg, whose mother had been fleeing persecution. Frydenberg’s inclusion in the Dreyfus list brought rebukes from two Labor MPs.

This was followed by Labor’s unsuccessful attempt to refer four Liberals (not including Frydenberg) to the High Court, as well as four of its own and Sharkie.

The move on the Liberals looked like seeking cover, especially when one of them, Nola Marino, produced a letter from Italian authorities saying she did not have Italian citizenship.

Surely it is adequate to rely on a country’s word that someone is not a citizen? Certainly Labor’s deputy leader Tanya Plibersek is using a letter from Slovenian authorities.

The Dastyari affair raises questions about how far Shorten is willing to go for those who are politically important to him.

Dastyari had to leave the front bench after the initial revelations about his Chinese links.

But within months he was given a partial leg up, becoming deputy opposition whip in the Senate. This seemed undue haste, and it raises concerns about Shorten appearing beholden to his allies. We see another example in his refusal to take a tougher line towards the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union.

Despite the setbacks, Shorten is still very well-placed, compared with Turnbull, as the end of 2017 approaches, although the December 16 Bennelong byelection will play into this balance.

The ConversationNevertheless, it is Shorten, rather than Turnbull, who appears to face the bigger uncertainties in the early part of 2018.

https://www.podbean.com/media/player/xac9s-7e77c6?from=site&skin=1&share=1&fonts=Helvetica&auto=0&download=0

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

Newspoll and Ipsos give Labor a 53-47 lead as Barnaby Joyce wins convincingly in New England



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Barnaby Joyce’s big win in the New England byelection had little to do with recent political developments.
AAP/Tracey Nearmy

Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

This week’s Newspoll, conducted between November 30 and December 3 from a sample of 1,560, gave Labor a 53-47 lead, a two-point gain for the Coalition from three weeks ago. Primary votes were 37% Labor (down one), 36% Coalition (up two), 10% Greens (up one) and 8% One Nation (down two). This is Malcolm Turnbull’s 24th consecutive Newspoll loss, six short of Tony Abbott’s 30.

32% were satisfied with Turnbull’s performance (up three) and 57% were dissatisfied (down one), for a net approval of minus 25. Bill Shorten’s net approval was minus 21, down two points. Turnbull extended his better prime minister lead over Shorten from 36-34 to 39-33, but this is still Turnbull’s second-worst better prime minister lead.

The two-party shift in Newspoll is overstated because the left-wing parties (Labor and the Greens) are stable on 47%, and the right-wing parties (the Coalition and One Nation) are also stable on 44%.

It is clear from the Queensland election seat results that One Nation preferences assisted the LNP. I think pollsters should stop giving the Coalition just the 50% of One Nation preferences that it received at the 2016 election, and instead assume the Coalition will receive 60% of One Nation preferences. This is consistent with the recent Queensland and Western Australian state elections.

On four of six leader attributes, Turnbull’s ratings fell since May, though this included the negative attribute of arrogant. Shorten only had a clear lead on being in touch with the voters (51-42).

Three weeks ago, Newspoll asked a best Liberal leader question with options for Turnbull, Julie Bishop and Peter Dutton. Bishop led Turnbull 40-27, with 11% for Dutton. This week, Newspoll also included Abbott, and Bishop led Turnbull 30-25, with 16% for Abbott and 7% Dutton. Among Coalition voters, Turnbull led Bishop 39-28. Abbott had 32% and Dutton 12% among One Nation voters.

Ipsos 53-47 to Labor

The first Ipsos poll since September, conducted between November 29 and December 2 from a sample of 1,400, gave Labor an unchanged 53-47 lead.

Primary votes were 34% Coalition (down one), 33% Labor (down one), 13% Greens (down one), 7% One Nation (not asked before), 4% Nick Xenophon Team, and 10% for all “others”. As usual in Ipsos polls, the Greens are higher than in other polls.

On respondent-allocated preferences Labor had a narrower 52-48 lead. This is another indication that One Nation is assisting the Coalition more than at the 2016 election.

Ipsos gives milder leader ratings than Newspoll, particularly for Turnbull. Turnbull’s ratings were 49% disapprove (up two), 42% approve (steady). Shorten’s net approval was minus 14, up two points. Turnbull led Shorten by an unchanged 48-31 as better prime minister.

Ipsos’ best Liberal leader question included the same people as Newspoll, plus Scott Morrison. Bishop led Turnbull 32-29, with 14% for Abbott, 5% Dutton, and 4% Morrison. Among Coalition voters, Turnbull led Bishop 35-29, with 18% for Abbott.

Ipsos also asked about the best Labor leader with three options: Shorten, Tanya Plibersek and Anthony Albanese. Shorten led Plibersek 25-23, with 20% for Albanese. Among Labor voters, Shorten led Plibersek 38-24, with 17% for Albanese. Greens voters favoured Plibersek 35-21 over Shorten, with 15% for Albanese.

By 49-47, voters supported changing the Constitution to allow MPs to be dual citizens. By 71-19, they supported a royal commission into the banks. 71% thought the party leader should be allowed to lead for the full term of the government, while only 25% thought the governing party should change leaders mid-term.

ReachTEL 53-47 to Labor

A Sky News ReachTEL poll, presumably conducted on November 28 from a sample of more than 2,000, gave Labor a 53-47 lead by respondent-allocated preferences, unchanged since October. Primary votes were 36% Labor (up one), 33% Coalition (down one), 10% Greens (up one) and 9% One Nation (steady).

These vote shares may not include a small percentage of undecideds, who can be pushed into saying which way they lean. Using 2016 election preference flows, Kevin Bonham estimates this poll was 54.7-45.3 to Labor.

In ReachTEL’s forced choice better prime minister question, Turnbull had a 52-48 lead over Shorten (51-49 to Turnbull in October). Turnbull’s better prime minister leads in ReachTEL have usually been narrower than in Newspoll, which allows an undecided option.

By 69-12, voters favoured a royal commission into the banking sector. By 44-43, they favoured allowing dual citizens to serve in federal parliament. By 56-31, voters thought businesses should not be able to refuse services for same-sex couples.

Barnaby Joyce’s crushing victory at New England byelection

At the New England byelection held on December 2, Barnaby Joyce thrashed Labor by 73.9-26.1 after preferences. This was a 7.4-point swing to Joyce since the 2016 election.

Joyce won an overwhelming 64.9% of the primary vote (up 12.6), to 11.2% for Labor (up 4.2), 6.8% for independent Rob Taber (up 4.0), and 4.3% for the Greens (up 1.3). The 13 other candidates all won well under 4%, and forfeited their deposit. In 2016, Tony Windsor won 29.2%, but Labor and the Greens were only able to take 5.5 points of his vote.

While Joyce is detested by urban lefties, he is evidently very popular in New England.

The massive victory can be partly explained by the lack of competition. Unlike Windsor, none of Joyce’s opponents had the resources to run a strong campaign.

I believe that Joyce also benefited from the circumstances of the byelection. Many voters would have thought he was disqualified on a technicality, and so he received a sympathy vote. While lefties would like an early election, it is unlikely that most Australians want one. Re-electing Joyce made an early election less likely.

The above two factors also apply to the Bennelong byelection on December 16. Given the double-digit primary vote swing to Joyce, I am more sceptical of Labor’s chances in Bennelong.

Joyce’s big win had little to do with recent political developments. Booth results show he had large swings towards him on both election day and pre-poll booths, and also postal votes.

Queensland election late counting: Greens set to win Maiwar

Tuesday is the last day for postal votes to be returned for the Queensland election, and we will probably know the final seat count by the end of this week.

In Maiwar, with 86.5% of enrolled voters counted, the Greens have taken a 51-vote lead over Labor in the race for second. Preferences from a minor candidate will benefit the Greens, so their real lead is about 200 votes. If this holds Labor will be excluded, and the Greens will defeat Shadow Treasurer Scott Emerson on Labor preferences.

A Maiwar win would give the Greens their first elected Queensland MP; they briefly held a seat as a result of a defection from Labor.

The ConversationWhile still in doubt, Labor is looking more likely to win Townsville. The ABC gives it a 52-vote two-candidate lead over the LNP, and I believe the ABC’s estimate is understating Labor. Unfortunately, we currently have no official two candidate counts from the Electoral Commission of Queensland. If Labor wins Townsville, it will probably have 48 of the 93 seats: a three-seat majority.

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 behind in two new polls as triumphant Joyce heads back to Canberra


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

The Coalition trails 47-53% in the latest Newspoll and the Fairfax-Ipsos poll, but the government goes into the parliamentary week heartened by Barnaby Joyce’s landslide win in Saturday’s New England byelection.

Newspoll published in Monday’s Australian shows the government clawing back from the massive 45-55% two-party gap of three weeks ago, and Malcolm Turnbull improving his net satisfaction rating and widening his lead as better prime minister.

But while the government improved compared with the previous poll, this is the 24th consecutive Newspoll the Coalition has lost in two-party terms.

Interviewed on Sky on Sunday, Turnbull said “I don’t run the government based on the Newspoll”, although in 2015 he cited 30 bad Newspolls as one of the reasons Tony Abbott should be deposed.

The Coalition hopes the decisive New England outcome – where Barnaby Joyce has nearly 65% of the primary vote, representing a swing of about 12.5% – means the result could be officially declared in time to have him back in the House of Representatives by the end of the week or even mid-week.

Turnbull signalled the government will take an aggressive approach to Labor in the parliamentary week – expected to be the last of the year. It will move to have certain ALP MPs referred to the High Court over their citizenship, and pursue Bill Shorten over senator Sam Dastyari’s behaviour in relation to a Chinese donor.

In Newspoll, the government’s primary vote is up two points to 36%; Labor’s is down one point to 37%. One Nation has fallen two points to 8%; the Greens are up one point to 10%.

Turnbull’s net satisfaction has improved from minus 29 points to minus 25; Shorten’s net satisfaction has worsened from minus 19 to minus 21. Turnbull’s lead as better prime minister has widened to 39-33%, compared with only a two-point advantage in the last poll.

Turnbull said he had “every confidence that I will lead the Coalition to the next election in 2019 and we will win it”.

The Fairfax-Ipsos poll showed Turnbull well ahead of Shorten as preferred prime minister (48% to 31%).

In that poll, Julie Bishop is the preferred Liberal leader (32%), over Turnbull (29%). Tony Abbott trails on 14%, followed by Peter Dutton on 5% and Scott Morrison on 4%. Liberal voters, however, prefer Turnbull (35%) over Bishop (29%) and Abbott (18%).

But voters overwhelmingly oppose a government changing leaders between elections (71% to 25% who approve). The strength of the opposition indicates the high transactional costs the Liberals would incur if they switched from Turnbull before the election.

On preferred Labor leader, people were relatively evenly split between Shorten (25%), Tanya Plibersek (23%) and Anthony Albanese (20%). Shorten had a clear lead (38%) among Labor voters over Plibersek (24%) and Albanese (17%).

The parliamentary week will be dominated by same-sex marriage and MPs’ citizenship. The government will also introduce a suite of legislation targeting foreign interference and espionage.

In his wide-ranging interview, Turnbull talked up his plan to make personal income tax cuts a focus of his pitch for the election, saying “our intention is to introduce them before the next election”.

“That’s our intention but of course you’ve got to stick to your commitment, our commitment to keep getting the budget back into balance by 2021,” he said. It remains unclear whether the cuts would be simply announced pre-election or their delivery would start then.

Turnbull indicated that in the same-sex marriage debate he will support amendments that were moved unsuccessfully in the Senate by Attorney-General George Brandis, the most important of which would allow celebrants to refuse to perform a marriage.

Whatever the fate of the Brandis amendments, the extra safeguards and restrictions unsuccessfully pushed by hardline conservatives in the Senate last week are expected to be defeated in the lower house as well.

Ahead of the release of MPs’ citizenship declarations, both sides claim the other has MPs who should be referred to the High Court.

Turnbull said he was satisfied, on the basis of the reports from Coalition MPs, “that there are none of our members that are ineligible”.

He said there were plainly a number on the Labor side whose status should be determined by the court, and if Labor would not refer them, the government would do so. This was an “acid test” of Shorten’s integrity, Turnbull said.

But Manager of Opposition Business Tony Burke described the government’s proposed action as appalling. He said it was adopting “a protection racket for their own members” while planning to refer Labor MPs.

Noting that currently referrals could only be moved by a minister, Burke said that on Monday he would seek to rectify this, so referrals could be moved by either side.

Turnbull continued the government’s attack over Dastyari who, it was revealed last week, in 2016 told a Chinese donor who is of interest to Australian security agencies that his phone was likely tapped.

Turnbull said Dastyari “has betrayed Australia’s interests” and repeated that he “must go” from parliament.

He hinted the Dastyari affair was being investigated by the authorities but said: “This is a political matter and I do not give directions to our police or our security agencies on operational matters”.

But there were “a number of facts in the public domain and it’s a matter for the relevant agencies to look into”, Turnbull said.

If Shorten didn’t act on Dastyari it meant the opposition leader was putting his factional survival ahead of Australia’s national security, Turnbull said.

“It’s time for Bill Shorten to show that he’s really on Australia’s side and boot Dastyari out,” he said.

Shorten is standing by Dastyari although he has been demoted; anyway, while it could expel him from the party, Labor has no power to remove him from parliament.

The government’s legislation targeting foreign interference will strengthen and modernise offences including espionage, sabotage and treason, and introduce new offences targeting foreign interference and economic espionage.

Among the new offences, there will be ones that criminalise covert and deceptive activities of foreign actors that fall short of espionage but are intended to interfere with Australia’s democratic system and processes or support the intelligence activities of a foreign actor.

New provisions will criminalise support for foreign intelligence agencies, modelled on offences banning support for terrorist organisations.

There will be a reformed secrecy regime to criminalise disclosing information such as classified documents. This will replace old offences in the Crimes Act.

The ConversationA new transparency scheme will be established to inform the public and decisionmakers of instances of foreign influence on the governmental and political processes. Those who act on behalf of or in the interests of foreign principals will have to register that fact.

https://www.podbean.com/media/player/hdjfk-7dce11?from=site&skin=1&share=1&fonts=Helvetica&auto=0&download=0

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

Voters see through Turnbull, but cool on Shorten: Queensland research


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Malcolm Turnbull’s cancellation of next week’s House of Representatives sitting has been received sceptically by Queensland “soft” voters, but they still prefer the Prime Minister over Bill Shorten, according to focus group research ahead of Saturday’s state election.

Participants were dismissive of Turnbull’s claim he was rearranging the sitting times to concentrate on the same-sex marriage bill. Nor do they believe the marriage issue will boost his fortunes.

But when pressed, these voters don’t agree Turnbull is a dead duck for the next federal election. They think Australia is headed in the right direction, and there is still some hope for him.

The four groups of 10 people each were conducted on Monday and Tuesday, two in Brisbane and two in Townsville. There was a mix of gender, age and socio-economic characteristics. They were run by Landscape Research for the University of Canberra’s Institute for Governance and Policy Analysis.

In Brisbane participants were drawn mainly from the marginal seats of Ferny Grove (ALP, 0.82%) and Everton (LNP, 1.77%) in the LNP-held federal electorate of Dickson. In Townsville they came predominantly from Mundingburra (ALP, 2.76%) and Townsville (ALP, 5.69%) in the Labor-held federal seat of Herbert. These voters, most of whom took part in the research’s earlier round, were “undecideds” when the campaign started.

In the discussions, Turnbull’s cancelling of the House’s sitting was variously described as weird, ridiculous, a “bit naughty”; a Townsville electrician thought it was done for “non-altruistic reasons, probably more political. … to push everything else out of the way.”

A retired Townsville manager declared it “opportunistic”, bound up with the citizenship crisis and fear of losing a vote on the floor of parliament. “I read this morning there’s 53 Bills that they could be dealing with that they’re not now,” said a Townsville retailer.

As for any government hope of a boost from same-sex marriage, a Brisbane retiree opined that voters would “forget about it” come federal election time.

The latest Newspoll had Shorten breathing down Turnbull’s neck on the “better PM” measure. But for people in these groups Shorten still carries baggage, especially of the union kind. Voters struggle to produce positives about Turnbull, but they agree he is better than the alternatives, in his own party and in Labor.

While some see Turnbull as weak and having to toe the party line, Shorten remains an unknown quantity for them, and choosing a weak Turnbull is still preferable for many.

Contributions from the Brisbane group of working-age voters capture their views. “I don’t think Bill Shorten is a done deal to get in”. “Bill Shorten’s got some bad things behind him, I think, when the union movement did some underhand deals”. “If he had some decent competition, Malcolm Turnbull, then I think it would be all over for him”.

Working Townsville soft voters also, when pressed, prefer Turnbull over Shorten. As one put it, it’s “the devil you know versus the devil you don’t know – what he will do”.

This research is qualitative, so numbers have no statistical significance. Bearing this in mind, as the state campaign went into its final week the result of a “mock” ballot for Saturday’s vote across the four groups was ALP 23 and LNP 17. That result is counting which of the two major parties people put first, even if that party was not given their number 1.

Many of these soft voters are eschewing the traditional flow of preferences along broadly ideological lines. If this happened widely on Saturday, it could have unforeseen consequences in key marginals.

For example among voters from Mundingburra, held by Disability Services minister Coralee O’Rourke, a number gave Katter’s Australian Party (KAP) their first vote, preferencing Labor or Greens above the Liberal National Party. Similarly, one voter in the seat of Townsville gave the Greens her number one vote followed by KAP as number 2.

In this north Queensland city, KAP doesn’t have the same extreme right wing stigma that some attribute to One Nation, and Pauline Hanson isn’t as popular as in regions further south. The appeal of KAP is as a sort of reinvention of the old Country party, giving it some attraction for disgruntled LNP and Labor people alike.

Unable to decide who to put first, many participants started with who they might put last.

“It’s a bit of a toss up between Greens and One Nation,” said a Townsville retiree, adding “they’re divisive and would make parliament unworkable”. Another Townsville participant said he would put the LNP last because “I don’t trust them – I don’t know how they’re funded”.

An Everton personal trainer was “putting Labor last. There are lots of promises on expenditure but no explaining where the money is coming from, or why they’ve not done it already”.

Opposition leader Tim Nicholls continues to carry the burden of the Newman government, in which he was treasurer. “If they were a racehorse, their form is not good,” said a Brisbane retiree. Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk is criticised in the wake of her Adani flip flop, the perception of achieving little for Queensland, and gaffes by treasurer Curtis Pitt.

While some voters have firmed their views on who to vote for, many remain undecided, either waiting for something to cement their decision or so disengaged that they’ve almost shut down from the barrage of news and canvassing. “I’m getting three to five phone calls a night. I’ve had it”, said a Mundingburra voter.

Despite the widespread disappointment with the major parties, very local policy decisions help some people decide. One was choosing Labor because it would renovate local schools; another, the LNP because of a commitment to fix district traffic problems.

Participants cared little about the backroom preference manoeuvrings that were receiving publicity, seeing them as “political”. Whether they will take more notice when handed how-to-vote cards on election day – the system has moved to compulsory preferential – remains to be seen.

A desire for stability ran through both Brisbane and Townsville groups, which pushed some soft voters into putting Labor first. This also steered some away from One Nation, which for many seemed riddled with internal strife, not making for a responsible crossbench presence.

Instability flows on to the government not being able to govern, and therefore not doing its job. These voters are frustrated with the lack of action and achievement at both state and federal level.

A notable part of the discussions was about a subject that, politically, is more current in Victoria and NSW than in Queensland – euthanasia (which is a state government area). The same-sex marriage ballot opened the way for opinions on direct democracy and other matters that might be considered appropriate for a people’s vote.

Voluntary assisted dying was narrowly defeated in NSW last week, but is set to pass in Victoria, once the lower house considers the amended bill which cleared the upper house in a marathon sitting this week.

Almost to a person (38 out of 40 participants) there was support for euthanasia – it galvanised younger and older voters, regional and metropolitan participants. Some saw it as more complex and important than same-sex marriage. As a Townsville voter put it, “this affects everyone”.

Twenty eight of the 40 supported a public vote to indicate to MPs how people felt. But notwithstanding their support for euthanasia some opposed a plebiscite, seeing it as a waste of money.

While many agree with the idea of tapping into voter opinion on euthanasia, they are universally unhappy with what they see as the outrageous cost of the marriage vote. They believe cheaper methods should be used for future exercises in direct democracy, such as online voting, or plebiscites held with elections.

The ConversationThey want to be heard – but it shouldn’t cost so much.

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Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

Shorten goes for broke in byelection with mega stakes for Turnbull


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Kristina Keneally’s entry into the Bennelong byelection has put more sizzle into a contest already up there as potentially one of the most significant byelections in recent years.

A decade ago Maxine McKew took the Sydney seat from John Howard, in the general election won by Labor.

If Keneally could wrest the electorate once again for Labor, the opposition would inflict a massive blow on the Coalition. Possibly one that would spell the end of Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership. A defeat would, in short, be catastrophic for the government.

On the other hand, if the swing against the Liberals was limited, that would help a besieged government and put some heart into its backbench.

Byelections can be seminal political moments. The Liberals’ loss of the Queensland seat of Ryan in 2001, with a 9.7% swing – the precise margin Bennelong is on – galvanised an embattled Howard. Retaining the Victorian seat of Aston a few months later (with a swing of only 3.7%) was seen as something of a turning point for the government.

In 2015, then prime minister Tony Abbott faced the Canning byelection in Western Australia, with the shadow of Malcolm Turnbull’s ambition hanging over him and warnings of dire consequences if the seat fell. When party polling suggested it would be saved, Turnbull pre-empted a positive result by launching his challenge before polling day.

John Alexander, 66, who fell foul of the dual citizenship crisis so creating this byelection, won Bennelong from McKew in 2010. The one-time tennis star hasn’t reached the frontbench and is rarely in the national news – though he did arc up on housing affordability.

But he is locally active and popular; in the difficult 2016 election he achieved a swing toward him. There had been speculation this might be his last term in parliament – he’d sold his home in the electorate – but now he’s committed to contesting the next election if he wins the byelection. He has said his move was downsizing and that he’s looking for an apartment in the seat.

Appearing with Bill Shorten on Tuesday, Keneally was careful to declare Alexander “a lovely guy”, though sloppy with his paperwork. He has to tie up his renunciation of British citizenship before nominating – presumably the UK bureaucrats are not dawdling.

In tapping Keneally to run, Shorten has both gone for the big hit and taken a gamble. The former NSW premier is well-known, media-savvy and campaign-hardened. She’s most recently worked for Sky; she’s in practice at talking a lot and thinking on the run. In political terms, she’s the quintessential star candidate.

But her background is from the bad times of NSW Labor politics, the days of Eddie Obeid and Ian Macdonald, both in jail, and Joe Tripodi. The Labor premier she displaced, Nathan Rees, said his successor would be a “puppet” of Obeid and Tripodi, to which she retorted “I am nobody’s puppet … I am nobody’s girl”.

The Coalition has an arsenal to use against her, and has immediately started to fire its bullets.

“Don’t let Kristina Keneally do to Bennelong what she did to New South Wales,” Turnbull said from the Philippines. “She is Bill Shorten’s handpicked candidate, so obviously Eddie Obeid and Bill Shorten have formed the same view about Kristina Keneally.” Ministers Greg Hunt and Scott Morrison had similar lines.

At this early stage no-one can be confident in predicting how this battle might go. There are more questions than answers.

To what extent can the Coalition exploit Keneally’s past if voters just want to lodge a protest against the Turnbull government? How far back will memories stretch, especially when there was no suggestion Keneally was corrupt?

Will state issues play into the campaign, and will the contest become more “local” as time goes on? How important will be the ethnic vote, in particular the big local Chinese community? Will voters sympathise with Alexander over his citizenship oversight, or will they mark him down for an unnecessary byelection?

The ABC’s election analyst Antony Green believes that despite the size of the margin “it’s a competitive contest given the polls and given the profile of Labor’s candidate”. As for Keneally’s past, “it’s the baggage of the current federal government that is the issue rather than the baggage of the state Labor government she led six years ago”.

Labor will run a well-resourced campaign. Shorten doesn’t have as much at stake as Turnbull, but once committed to a nationally known candidate and a high-profile campaign he would be burned by a poor Labor showing.

The December 16 Bennelong result will come after the December 2 New England byelection, which will return Barnaby Joyce, and the Queensland state election, where the outcome is uncertain. It will also follow the internal Coalition arm-wrestle over the detail of implementing same-sex marriage.

The ConversationEach will play into the government’s fortunes, but the Bennelong outcome might be the most important in how Turnbull goes into the new year.

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Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

Shorten recruits Keneally for Bennelong, as citizenship crisis claims Lambie


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Labor is running high-profile former New South Wales premier Kristina Keneally in the December 16 Bennelong byelection, upping the stakes for both Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten in the battle.

Shorten rang Keneally, who is a commentator and presenter on Sky, at the weekend to ask her to contest the seat, which is on a margin of nearly 10%. The byelection has been triggered by its Liberal member John Alexander, 66, a former tennis star, resigning in the dual citizenship crisis after it became obvious he had inherited his father’s British citizenship.

Meanwhile, that crisis has now captured its eighth victim, with Jacqui Lambie, a Tasmanian crossbench senator, announcing on Tuesday morning that she was resigning from parliament.

Lambie – who was originally part of the Palmer United Party before quitting it, forming her own group and being re-elected in 2016 – inherited UK citizenship.

An emotional Lambie, breaking the news in a Launceston radio interview, said she realised she had a problem after former Senate president Stephen Parry went public with his UK citizenship.

“I’m obviously doing my autobiography, I’ve gone back over dad’s stuff and straight away I just thought ‘oh my God’ …By Thursday last week I rang him and I said ‘Dad, I’m gone, aren’t I?’ and he said ‘you know what sweetheart? I think we’re gone’.”

Lambie said that if there was a byelection in the lower house federal seat of Braddon, where there is a question mark over the citizenship of Labor member Justine Keay, she would think about running. “I’d certainly have a good look at it, I just have to see what else is going on,” she said. She ruled out running in a state seat in the coming election.

Later she made a tearful statement to the Senate.

Jacqui Lambie, always a colourful character.
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Keneally, who lives just outside the Bennelong electorate but has a long association with the area, said: “I am not running in Bennelong because John Alexander is a dual citizen.

“That’s why we’re having this byelection but that is not why I am
running. I am running because this is a moment, this is an opportunity
for the community in which I live to stand up and say to Malcolm Turnbull, ‘Your government is awful’.”

Shorten said the byelection was “a great opportunity to send a message to Mr Turnbull to pull up your socks, lift your game, focus on the people and not yourself”.

Keneally, 48, was premier from December 2009 to March 2011 when the government was defeated at the election. After the announcement of her Bennelong candidature, federal Coalition members and commentators immediately started homing in on the NSW Labor scandals involving Eddie Obeid and Ian Macdonald, who were both eventually jailed.

Nathan Rees, the premier she replaced in a coup, described her as “puppet” of powerbrokers Obeid and Joe Tripodi, prompting her much-quoted reply: “I am nobody’s puppet, I am nobody’s protege, I am nobody’s girl”.

Health Minister Greg Hunt said: “You’ve got a comparison here. One, Kristina Keneally, fought for Eddie Obeid. The other, John Alexander, fought for Australia on the international [tennis] courts.”

Turnbull, who is in the Phillipines, was asked about Bennelong and said: “Don’t let Kristina Keneally do to Bennelong what she did to NSW”.

“She is Bill Shorten’s handpicked candidate, so obviously, Eddie Obeid
and Bill Shorten have formed the same view about Kristina Keneally.”

Labor defeated the then prime minister, John Howard, in Bennelong in 2007 with another high-profile candidate, TV personality Maxine McKew. But she lost the seat to Alexander after one term.

But former premiers inevitably carry the barrage of their earlier political years. In the 2013 election the ALP ran former Labor premier Peter Beattie in the Queensland seat of Forde but he failed to wrest it off the Liberal National Party.

The ConversationKeneally is American-born but long ago renounced her US citizenship.

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Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

Newspoll 55-45 to Labor as Turnbull’s better PM lead falls to 2. Qld and Alabama polling


Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

This week’s Newspoll, conducted 9-12 November from a sample of 1630, gave Labor a 55-45 lead, a one point gain for Labor since last fortnight, and their largest Newspoll lead since February. Primary votes were 38% Labor (up 1), 34% Coalition (down 1), 10% One Nation (up 1) and 9% Greens (down 1). This is Turnbull’s 23rd consecutive Newspoll loss as PM, 7 short of Abbott.

29% were satisfied with Turnbull’s performance (down 2), and 58% were dissatisfied (down 1), for a net approval of -29. Shorten’s net approval was up five points to -19. The biggest story in the personal ratings was Turnbull’s lead as better PM over Shorten narrowing from 41-33 to 36-34, by far Turnbull’s lowest Newspoll lead over Shorten since he ousted Abbott to become PM.

This result will increase leadership speculation, and hard right commentators will say the Coalition should return to a proper conservative leader. However, while this is Turnbull’s worst better PM rating, Shorten often led Abbott while Abbott was PM. The better PM measure favours incumbents more than would be expected given voting intentions.

Newspoll asked a best Liberal leader question with three options: Turnbull, Julie Bishop and Peter Dutton. Bishop led Turnbull 40-27, with 11% for Dutton. Among Coalition voters, Turnbull was ahead 42-39 with 7% for Dutton. Dutton won 24% with One Nation voters.

If we count Labor/Greens as left, and Coalition/One Nation as right, there has been little change between the total left and right votes in the last six Newspolls. The total left vote has been 47% in all six, and the total right 44-45%. One Nation’s preference flow to the Coalition is likely to be stronger than the 50% at the 2016 election, which Newspoll uses, so Labor’s two party lead is probably overstated.

The fall in Turnbull’s better PM lead is likely due to the citizenship debacle, with voters thinking he has lost control of the situation. By 45-42, voters favoured changing the Constitution to allow dual citizens to run for Parliament.

The Bennelong by-election will be held on 16 December. Former NSW Premier Kristina Kenneally today announced she would contest the by-election for Labor. Kenneally has a high public profile. While Labor was smashed at the 2011 NSW election, the damage was done long before Kenneally became Premier, and she has not been blamed for that loss. Kenneally appears to be a very good choice for Labor.

With Essential and YouGov below confirming the trend in Newspoll, Kevin Bonham’s poll aggregate is now at 54.2% two party to Labor, a 1.0 point gain for Labor since last week, and Labor’s best for this term.

Lambie’s probable disqualification will un-un-elect McKim

Two weeks ago, I wrote that Tasmanian Liberal Senator Stephen Parry’s disqualification would see One Nation’s Kate McCulloch defeat Green Nick McKim for the 12th and final seat, reversing the 2016 election result.

Jacqui Lambie has revealed she has a Scottish father, and has resigned from the Senate. If both Parry and Lambie are disqualified, the Senate recount reverts to electing McKim instead of McCulloch. So it now appears that the High Court will not have to rule on whether an elected Senator who has done nothing wrong himself can be unelected.

SSM plebiscite polling

The result of the same sex marriage plebiscite will be declared at 10am Melbourne time tomorrow. In Newspoll, 79% said they had voted, up 3 since last fortnight. Of these 79%, Yes led 63-37 (62-35 from the 76% who had voted last fortnight).

In Essential, 45% thought the postal survey a bad process that should not be used in the future, 27% a good process that should be used in the future, and 19% a good process that should not be used.

If Yes wins, 58% in YouGov thought the government should pass a law legalising same sex marriage straight away, 18% ignore the result, and 14% wait before passing a law. By 46-42, voters thought MPs who personally oppose same sex marriage should vote for the bill.

Essential 54-46 to Labor

This week’s Essential, conducted over the last two weeks from a sample of 1820, gave Labor a 54-46 lead, a one point gain for Labor since last week. Primary votes were 38% Labor, 36% Coalition, 9% Greens, 8% One Nation and 3% Nick Xenophon Team. Additional questions use one week’s sample.

Turnbull’s net approval was down 11 points to -12 since October, and Shorten’s net approval was down six points to -13. Unlike Newspoll, Turnbull maintained a 40-28 lead as better PM (42-28 in October).

By 44-40, voters thought Turnbull’s proposal to resolve the dual citizenship crisis did not go far enough. By 49-30, they thought disqualified MPs should repay public funding of their election campaigns. By 44-31, voters disapproved of privatising the NBN when completed.

YouGov primary votes: 34% Labor, 31% Coalition, 11% Greens, 11% One Nation

This week’s YouGov poll, conducted 9-12 November from a sample of 1034, gave Labor a 52-48 lead by respondent preferences, a 3 point gain for Labor since last fortnight. Primary votes were 34% Labor (up 1), 31% Coalition (down 5), 11% Greens (up 1) and 11% One Nation (up 2). By previous election preferences, this poll would be about 55-45 to Labor.

Hanson had a 48-45 unfavourable rating (50-42 in early September). Greens leader Richard di Natale had a 33-29 unfavourable rating (39-26). Nick Xenophon had a 53-28 favourable rating (52-28). Abbott had a 56-36 unfavourable rating (57-34).

By 61-16, voters thought a full audit into all parliamentarians regarding dual citizenship a good idea. By 63-26, they thought it unacceptable to legally avoid paying tax. By 55-27, voters said they would not take part in a tax avoidance scheme, which is probably not an honest assessment.

Qld ReachTEL poll of One Nation voters, and more Galaxy seat polls

A ReachTEL poll of over 3400 voters was conducted for the Sunday Mail. From the Poll Bludger’s write-up and comments, it appears this poll was of just One Nation voters, not all voters. Sky News reported this poll as 52-48 to the LNP, but they appear to have extrapolated One Nation preferences in this poll (74.5% to LNP), and applied those preferences to other polls.

If 3 in 4 One Nation preferences are going to the LNP, Labor has shot itself in the foot by changing the electoral system from optional preferential to compulsory preferential voting last year. Labor can hope that this poll had self-selection issues, with hard right One Nation supporters more likely to participate than those who are simply disillusioned with both major parties.

In deputy Premier Jackie Trad’s South Brisbane, the Greens had a 51-49 lead over Trad according to a Galaxy poll taken last week. However, this poll assumes that LNP voters will assign their own preferences, rather than follow their party’s How-to-Vote card. In practice, over half of major party voters follow the card. With the LNP putting the Greens behind Labor on all its cards, Trad should retain South Brisbane easily.

In Burdekin, the LNP had a 51-49 lead over Labor, a 2 point swing to the LNP since the 2015 election.

Following Moore’s alleged sex encounter with 14-y/o, Alabama Senate race tightens

The Alabama Senate by-election will be held on 12 December. Last Thursday, the Washington Post reported that extreme right Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore had had a sexual encounter with a 14 year-old girl when he was 32.

The three polls taken since this revelation are between a 4-point lead for Democrat Doug Jones, and a 10-point lead for Moore, averaging at Moore by 2 points. There have been 12-point shifts in Jones’ favour from the previous editions of both JMC and Emerson, and a 5-point shift in Opinion Savvy.

The ConversationWhat happens next depends on whether voters quickly get over the scandal, or whether it festers, and continues to damage Moore. If the former happens, Moore should win comfortably, but the latter outcome would give Jones a real chance. An example of a scandal that festered in Australia was Bronwyn Bishop’s Choppergate affair.

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

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

Cormann and Shorten reach deal on citizenship disclosure


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

The government has agreed to Labor’s December 1 deadline and tougher conditions in a deal on MPs citizenship disclosure clinched between Opposition Leader Bill Shorten and deputy Senate leader Mathias Cormann on Monday.

The agreement comes after last week’s haggling over timing and the terms of disclosure, and a meeting and an exchange of sharp letters between Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Shorten. It paved the way for an immediate motion in the Senate and one in the House of Representatives after it returns on November 27.

Under changes obtained by Labor, MPs will have to go back as far as their grandparents and say what steps they have taken to confirm that they did not inherit foreign citizenship from their parents and grandparents.

The original proposal by Turnbull only went back as far as parents. It required only that MPs stated when they nominated they were not, to the best of their “knowledge and belief”, a citizen of any other country.

The resolution includes a provision requiring an MP who at the time of nomination, was a foreign citizen (or is currently), to state on what basis they contend they should not be disqualified under Section 44(i) of the Constitution.

This covers the situation of several Labor MPs, who took steps to renounce their foreign citizenship but did not receive confirmation before they nominated. Labor has legal advice these MPs are safe; the government has advice they are breaching the Constitution.

Labor claimed it got all it wanted in the deal; the government claimed the ALP wished to include further clauses designed to clear MPs on the basis that they had taken “reasonable steps” to renounce dual citizenship.

The government compromised twice in bringing forward the date of disclosure. Most recently it was saying it should be December 7.

A later disclosure date would have required a special recall of parliament to consider any referrals to the High Court. These will now be able to be dealt with in the last week, starting December 4, of the current timetable.

The government is flagging it will refer up to four Labor MPs to the court, although it is not clear whether it will wait to do this until the December 4 week, or seek to move the week before.

In the Senate, Australian Conservatives leader Cory Bernardi claimed a senator was ineligible to sit and the government was aware of it. The senator in question is not a member of the government. Tasmanian crossbencher Jacqui Lambie’s eligibility has been questioned in recent days.

Meanwhile, a ministerial vacancy has opened with the elevation of Scott Ryan to the Senate presidency on Monday morning. Ryan has been special minister of state.

Turnbull will reshuffle his ministry at some later point, in what are expected to be quite extensive changes. The High Court’s recent disqualification of the Nationals Fiona Nash has opened another vacancy. In the meantime, Cormann will take over responsibility for the special minister of state portfolio.

The byelection for the seat of Bennelong, vacated by John Alexander who believes he had dual citizenship, will be held on December 16. Alexander will have to free himself of his UK citizenship before nominations close for the byelection.

Shorten told a meeting of Labor senators: that Labor was “behind the eight ball” in Bennelong, where the Liberals have a margin of nearly 10%.

“But we are going to give it every effort,” he said, defining the battle as “about the direction in which the nation is headed.

“One point we will be making in Bennelong is that because of the increasing and disturbing closeness and proximity between One Nation and the Liberal Party, that a vote for the Liberal Party in Bennelong is effectively a vote for One Nation on the national stage.

“When you look at One Nation’s voting record in the Senate, nearly 90% of the time they are voting with the Liberals.

The Conversation“So for the voters who think they are voting for One Nation as a protest against the Government, they are not. And for people who vote Liberal because they don’t agree with some of One Nation’s extreme views, they are, in fact, endorsing them,” Shorten said.

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Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

Labor increases Newspoll lead to 55-45% as Shorten moves within striking distance as better PM


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Newspoll has delivered a sweeping new setback to Malcolm Turnbull, with a big cut in his “better prime minister” rating and Labor increasing its two-party lead to a massive 55-45%.

The blow comes as the government and opposition prepare for a byelection in the Sydney seat of Bennelong, expected to be on December 16, following Saturday’s resignation of Liberal backbencher John Alexander, who said he was a likely British citizen.

The Coalition will be particularly panicked by the fall in Turnbull’s rating as better prime minister, from 41% to 36%. Bill Shorten’s rating rose one point to 34%. Turnbull’s two-point lead over Shorten is the narrowest margin there has been between them.

The government has always looked to this measure to argue Turnbull’s strength against Shorten, even in the face of the bad two-party results.

In the 23rd consecutive Newspoll in which the Coalition has trailed, the ALP increased its two-party vote from 54-46% a fortnight ago, and its primary vote from 37% to 38%. The Coalition’s primary vote went down one point to 34%. The escalating citizenship crisis has dominated the two weeks.

Turnbull’s net satisfaction worsened slightly from minus 28 to minus 29, while Shorten’s improved from minus 24 to minus 19. Pauline Hanson’s One Nation rose one point to 10%; the Greens fell one point to 9%.

Bennelong, once held by John Howard, is on a margin of a little under 10%, making it safe in normal times but potentially vulnerable in the present chaotic climate.

Alexander said that although he had not received formal confirmation from the British that he was a UK citizen via his father, “the probability of evidence is that I most likely am”. He will recontest the seat.

With Barnaby Joyce and Alexander both out of parliament the government will be operating from a minority position when the House of Representatives returns on November 27. It has 74 of the 148 occupied seats, 73 on the floor when the Speaker, who only has a casting vote, is excluded.

Though the government is not at risk of a no-confidence motion, thanks to having sufficient crossbench support, Labor will make the lower house as difficult as possible.

Turnbull said the byelection date was “a matter for the Speaker” but the government wanted it “as soon as possible”. Labor started campaigning in the seat on Sunday.

Both sides became more shrill at the weekend in their claims about the alleged dual citizens among the ranks of their opponents.

The government is threatening to refer at least two ALP MPs, Justine Keay and Susan Lamb, to the High Court, and perhaps more. It could not do this on its own, with its present numbers.

In response, the opposition has issued a “hit list” of Liberals, including Julia Banks, Nola Marino, Alex Hawke, Tony Pasin and Ann Sudmalis.

A Labor source said that if Malcolm Turnbull “wants to fire this missile, we’ve got the ammo to go nuclear”. Turnbull was “locking and loading the gun at his own MPs”.

Several Labor MPs moved to renounce their dual citizenship before their nominations but did not get their confirmations until afterwards. The ALP claims they should not be referred to the court, because they took reasonable steps but given the High Court’s black-letter approach in its recent decisions, it is not clear how it would treat such cases.

Turnbull, who is trying to manage the unfolding crisis from a distance during his Asia trip, said: “Bill Shorten has got to stop running a protection racket for his own dual citizens”.

Turnbull said Labor had welcomed the court’s literalism. But “the worm has turned and now we see one Labor MP after another who could not pass that literal test.

“Now, if Labor says they’ve got counter-arguments, terrific. Let them make them in the court.

“There is no question that Labor has a number of members who not only were, but knew they were … foreign citizens at the time they nominated for parliament. That makes them ineligible.”

The manager of opposition business in the House of Representatives, Tony Burke, said the difference between the Labor and Liberal MPs was that “Those who are in the spotlight for the Labor party took reasonable steps before the nomination date. Those who are in the focus from the Liberal party took no steps at all before the nomination date.”

Burke on Sunday was campaigning in Bennelong, where Labor is homing in on the seat’s ethnic component.

Following the Queensland Liberal National Party preferencing One Nation in many seats for the November 25 state election, Burke said a petition was being launched “to demand that Malcolm Turnbull end the preference deals with One Nation”.

Labor will also make the government’s proposed toughening of the citizenship law an issue in Bennelong.

“A prime minister with any authority would be able to stop a preference deal with One Nation. John Howard would have been able to stop a preference deal with One Nation,” Burke said.

The Conversation“But Malcolm Turnbull, a prime minister with no authority and a government with no majority, has failed to stand up for the people who live here. Make no mistake, when you attack multicultural Australia, which is exactly what One Nation is all about, you attack the community that lives here in Bennelong.”

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Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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