Clive Palmer just lost his WA border challenge — but the legality of state closures is still uncertain



original.

Anne Twomey, University of Sydney

Mining magnate Clive Palmer has lost his challenge to the closure of the Western Australian border in response to COVID-19. Palmer has also been ordered to pay costs.

While it is clear from the High Court’s order in Palmer v Western Australia that Palmer lost, it remains unclear whether the border closure was and remains valid.




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WA border challenge: why states, not courts, need to make the hard calls during health emergencies


The reason for the lack of clarity is because the High Court has not yet handed down its reasons, which may take weeks or months. In the meantime, all we have is its orders – and they are phrased in a rather peculiar and limited way.

What did the court decide?

The High Court was asked whether WA’s Emergency Management Act or its Quarantine (Closing the Border) Directions were invalid because they breached the Constitution by stopping people from crossing the state’s border.

Section 92 of the Constitution says the movement of people among the states shall be “absolutely free”. But the High Court has previously accepted it can be limited if it is reasonably necessary to achieve another legitimate end, such as the protection of public health.

In the Palmer case, the High Court gave a very limited answer to the questions it was asked. In relation to the Emergency Management Act it said that “on their proper construction”, sections 56 and 67,

in their application to an emergency constituted by the occurrence of a hazard in the nature of a plague or epidemic comply with the constitutional limitation of section 92 of the Constitution.

Both these sections are quite general in nature. Section 56 says the minister can declare a state of emergency in the whole of the state or a part of it. There is nothing on obvious that would appear to offend section 92 of the Constitution in each of its limbs.

Section 67 says during a state of emergency, certain officers may issue directions that prohibit the movement of persons within, into or out of an emergency area. On the face of it, it is not directed at the movement of people across state borders. However, if a state of emergency were issued for the entire state under section 56, then section 67 would potentially allow a direction to be made that would prevent people from entering or leaving WA.

High Court of Australia
Clive Palmer launched his challenge after WA closed its border in April.
Lukas Coch/AAP

The High Court’s qualification in the phrase “on their proper construction” is therefore important. This raises the question of how the High Court has interpreted section 67 and whether it has restricted its interpretation in a manner that accommodates section 92 of the Constitution. We will have to wait for the High Court’s reasons to learn this.

The court’s order in relation to the Quarantine Directions is more unusual. It says the exercise of this power under clauses 4 and 5 of the directions “does not raise a constitutional question”. This refers to an issue raised during the hearing. The argument, initially raised by Victoria, was that the validity of a direction made under a power conferred by an act will depend on whether the direction falls within the scope of that power in the act.




Read more:
States are shutting their borders to stop coronavirus. Is that actually allowed?


If the section in the act that confers the power (in this case, section 67 of the Emergency Management Act) is constitutionally valid, then any direction that falls within that power will be valid too.

The real question, then, is whether the direction falls within the scope of the legislative power. This is not a constitutional question, but a question of administrative law. The High Court then said in its order that it had not been asked this question, so it did not need to answer it.

On the basis of this technicality, the High Court (or at least a majority of the Justices) concluded it was not necessary to address whether the actual directions that stop people going in or out of Western Australia were valid.

Does this mean more litigation?

As this case does not seem to have resolved whether or not the directions are valid, will there be more litigation? It is possible someone could challenge the directions, arguing this time that they do not fall within the scope of the authorising section in the legislation.

But such litigation would have to start from square one and so would take some time to determine. As it would not be a constitutional matter, it might have to be decided by a lower court first.

WA Premier Mark McGowan
WA Premier Mark McGowan celebrated the High Court result on Friday.
Richard Wainwright/AAP

Further, before initiating any such litigation, it would be important to read the High Court’s reasons, which may not be produced for some time. Those reasons will tell us about the scope of the legislative provision, which will be essential to know before any challenge to the directions made under it could proceed.

Hopefully, by the time we get to that point, there will be no need for such litigation because no such directions will exist, if the pandemic continues to ease in Australia.




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How Clive Palmer could challenge the act designed to stop him getting $30 billion


But it does mean we may be left with inadequate guidance about such matters for the future, which would be unfortunate given the cost and time taken with this litigation. Perhaps the court’s reasoning about the interpretation of section 67 of the Emergency Management Act will give us sufficient understanding about the operation of section 92 of the Constitution and the tests applicable to border closures in a pandemic. But that remains to be seen.

Victorian lockdown challenge also rejected

In a busy day for the High Court on Friday, it also threw out hotelier Julian Gerner’s challenge to Melbourne’s lockdown laws.




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Gerner’s challenge, to be successful, would have required the High Court to find an implied freedom of movement in the Constitution.

This would have opened up all sorts of other laws to challenge and been condemned by conservatives as judicial activism. The court was so unimpressed by the argument that it unanimously rejected it on the spot, without even needing to hear Victoria’s response.

The end of the case was swift and brutal. It is unlikely this point will be raised again before the court.The Conversation

Anne Twomey, Professor of Constitutional Law, University of Sydney

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

‘Three-peat Palaszczuk’: why Queenslanders swung behind Labor in historic election



Darren England/AAP

Chris Salisbury, The University of Queensland

Queensland’s state election was always going to deliver an outcome for the record books.

This was Australia’s first poll at state or federal level contested by two female leaders. It was also the first state general election conducted during the COVID-19 pandemic.




Read more:
Labor wins Queensland election, as Greens could win up to four seats


Counting continues after record numbers of pre-poll and postal votes, and a handful of seats remain in doubt. Regardless, the Labor government has been returned with what looks like an increased majority in a history-making third term for Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk.

This shores up her political stocks in the continued battle with federal and state governments over border closures.

A tick of approval for Palaszczuk

The election campaign was run of the mill in many ways. It wasn’t so much dominated by the pandemic as framed by aspects of it, such as borders and plans for economic recovery.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk waving, claiming victory
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk is back for a third term.
Darren England/AAP

But Queenslanders, by and large, appear to have given Palaszczuk’s government a tick of approval for its health and economic responses to coronavirus. Swings to the government were recorded in most parts of the state, with some surprising shifts towards Labor in areas like the Sunshine Coast.

The result reinforces the theory pandemic conditions favour incumbents and, similarly, the major parties. Western Australia’s Mark McGowan, who like Palaszczuk was a target of Coalition criticism over closed borders, will take heart ahead of a state election early next year.

However, this was not a straightforward repeat of recent election outcomes in the Northern Territory, ACT and New Zealand. Rather, this election panned out in ways particular to Queensland’s regional diversity, but still with ramifications for outside the state.

One Nation, Palmer barely register

The expected battleground over government-held marginal seats around Townsville and Cairns didn’t eventuate, with these seats holding firm against a concerted effort to get rid of Labor incumbents.

The LNP opposition’s pitch for a “crime crackdown” in the state’s north and plans for a youth curfew didn’t resonate, as at the last state election in 2017.




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The headline story of the election was a dramatic collapse in the One Nation vote. The party nominated an unprecedented 90 candidates, yet leader Pauline Hanson was barely sighted during the campaign. What messages did emerge from Hanson’s camp — largely criticisms of COVID-19 measures — didn’t wash with an electorate seeking leadership and protection through the crisis.

Notably, Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party hardly registered, with about 0.6% of the popular vote. This follows another big spend on often misleading advertising. The electorate may have woken up to Palmer’s “spoiler” agenda, with his investment perhaps only resulting in a push for stricter truth in political advertising rules.

There are now realistic doubts over the ability of either Palmer or Hanson to recover electorally from these setbacks. For its efforts, One Nation did hold on to its sole seat in north Queensland. Katter’s Australian Party, likewise, retained its three northern seats.

Clive Palmer walks away from a press conference.
Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party failed to pick up a single seat.
Darren England/AAP

The single biggest upset result — although widely expected —– came in South Brisbane, where Labor’s former Deputy Premier Jackie Trad lost the seat she’s held since 2012. A rise in Greens support in inner-Brisbane suburbs, as seen in other capital cities, was long viewed as a threat to Trad’s grip on the former Labor stronghold.

This result shows there are subtexts to this election result, and it is not all about the pandemic. For 30 years, Labor has often won state elections on its ability to hold onto “fortress Brisbane”. However, the party can’t take that position for granted now.

Even with the LNP’s continuing inability to bridge the Brisbane bulkhead, Labor can’t rest on its laurels after this win. Inner-Brisbane electorates like Cooper and McConnel will be next targets for the Greens, whose support at this election was concentrated in the capital where they now hold two seats.

On track to beat Beattie

Palaszczuk is now the most successful female leader in Australian history, as the first to win three elections. If she serves the full four-year term, she’ll be Labor’s second-longest serving premier in this state, surpassing Peter Beattie. Labor by then will have governed Queensland for 30 of the past 35 years.




Read more:
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This win cements the premier’s authority in her party, which is particularly important when it comes to relations between her administration and the federal government. Discussions over states border closures and other pandemic responses at the National Cabinet will be watched with renewed interest.

At the same time, the election result raises pressing questions for defeated Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington and the LNP. After recent inner-party turmoil agitating against Frecklington’s leadership, it’s expected there will be jostling for new party leadership.

Queensland LNP leader Deb Frecklington.
Deb Frecklington has signalled she wants to stay on as LNP leader, but may not get that chance.
Glenn Hunt/AAP

As now seems ritual after state elections, calls are expected for the unsuccessful LNP to de-merge. The often uneasy marriage of Queensland’s Liberals and Nationals — apparently at risk of a lurch to the arch-conservative right — appears incapable of broadening its support in both the state’s capital and the far north simultaneously.

As the final results come in, they will continue to provide important lessons for both the federal Coalition, as well as federal Labor, in how best to appeal to Queensland’s varied constituency.The Conversation

Chris Salisbury, Research Assistant, School of Political Science & International Studies, The University of Queensland

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

How Clive Palmer could challenge the act designed to stop him getting $30 billion



Dan Peled/AAP

Murray Wesson, University of Western Australia; Ian Murray, University of Western Australia; John Southalan, University of Dundee; Julie Falck, University of Western Australia; Natalie Brown, University of Western Australia, and Sarah Murray, University of Western Australia

The West Australian government recently took the extraordinary step of passing legislation to try to stop mining magnate Clive Palmer from collecting about $30 billion in damages from the state.

As Premier Mark McGowan argues, such a hefty bill risks bankrupting WA.

While the so-called “Mineralogy Act” passed state parliament in just two days, it is far from straightforward.

It raises a host of questions that are likely to be tested in courts in the months – and possibly years – ahead.

What is this dispute about?

Palmer is no stranger to litigation. Recently, he has also been fighting the WA government over COVID border closures.

But this particular dispute dates back to 2012 and concerns an iron ore project in the Pilbara.




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Palmer has argued his development proposals for the Balmoral South iron ore project were unlawfully refused by the previous state government, under former premier Colin Barnett. He is reportedly seeking about $30 billion in damages.

The Mineralogy Act

In mid-August, the state government passed the Mineralogy Act to terminate the damages claims against it.

WA Premier Mark McGowan
The McGowan government says the legislation is needed to protect the ‘interests’ of WA.
Richard Wainwright/AAP

Before this, Palmer and his companies, including Mineralogy, had been pursuing these claims through arbitration – a dispute resolution process that happens outside the courts. This arbitration was about whether the WA government properly dealt with proposals Palmer’s companies made under a 2002 agreement.

Last week, after the act passed, Palmer declared he would sue McGowan and Attorney-General John Quigley for “contempt of the High Court of Australia”.

This is likely to be one of many salvos in a protracted legal battle.

Does Palmer have a claim for contempt of court?

Contempt of court means acts that interfere with or undermine the authority, performance or dignity of the courts.

The Mineralogy Act seeks to terminate the arbitration for the reported $30 billion claims.

It also invalidates existing arbitral awards, which are decisions determining parties’ rights and liabilities. Given that arbitrations are not court proceedings, these aspects of the act do not establish contempt of court.

However, where a party does not comply with an arbitration award, the award can be registered with the courts and then enforced as if it were a court judgment.

Dumper truck in the Pilbara.
This dispute is over an iron ore project in the Pilbara.
Kim Christian/AAP

Before the act was passed, Palmer had registered two arbitration awards in the Queensland Supreme Court. The act seeks to remove the basis for these claims. There is precedent that this may constitute contempt of the Queensland court (although contrary to Palmer’s assertions, not the High Court).

However, even if Palmer establishes contempt of the Queensland court, that would not invalidate the Mineralogy Act. Any penalty imposed by the court would also be modest in comparison to the $30 billion damages claim.

Can the WA parliament pass a law that takes away rights without compensation?

Apart from the contempt issue, Palmer may argue the WA parliament cannot pass a law that takes away individual rights without compensation.

In this regard, state laws that take away rights are unusual, but not new.




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The High Court and Queensland and WA supreme courts have previously treated state laws that remove rights of particular persons without just compensation as valid.

While the WA parliament has not previously amended a state agreement with a mining company without consent, this was found to be valid in Queensland. This approach is consistent with the principle that the present parliament can generally amend existing laws.

As a political, rather than legal matter, politicians have found that laws targeting mining rights can be hazardous.

Whether public opinion will ultimately support the Mineralogy Act remains to be seen. But the current popularity of the WA government over its handling of COVID-19 and the potential popularity of “saving” the state’s finances will undoubtedly influence perspectives.

Are parts of the Mineralogy Act unconstitutional?

Palmer may also argue parts of the Mineralogy Act are unconstitutional.

Parliaments can pass laws about matters involved in ongoing legal disputes. They can even target particular cases or parties. But based on Chapter III of the Constitution, they can’t compromise the court’s integrity by telling a court how to decide. This constitutional line is often tricky to draw.

Clive Palmer at a press conference on the Gold Coast.
Clive Palmer says he will sue the WA government over the Mineralogy Act.
Dan Paled/AAP

The act does not entirely remove the court’s power to examine the legality of government actions. But it does try to stop courts from giving remedies that are unfavourable to WA.

So, it doesn’t quite tell courts how to decide, but it does restrict what they can do, which is getting into uncertain constitutional territory.

The WA government has described the Mineralogy Act as “unprecedented,” containing a number of measures that are “not usual”.

but Mineralogy and Mr Palmer are not normal and these measures are needed to best protect the interests of the state and the community.

However, even necessary laws must be constitutional.

Does Palmer really stand to gain $30 billion in damages anyway?

Palmer has said the widely reported $30 billion price tag is “bullshit”. But Quigley tabled details in parliament last month showing the total damages sought by Palmer and his companies in relation to the iron ore project was at least $27.75 billion.

Palmer’s damages claims focus on the loss of opportunities to develop and sell the project to Chinese state-owned enterprises.

But core principles for assessing damages for breach of contract – which in this case is a 2002 agreement between Mineralogy and the state government – may stand in the way.




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The state’s improper delay in approving the project must have caused the loss – but it is not clear this is the case. There may have been other reasons for the losses, including the post-GFC mining slump.

Also, the value of what Palmer has lost needs to reflect the likelihood the project would have occurred without the delay, and so is likely to be much lower than $30 billion.

Palmer must also have taken reasonable steps to minimise his loss. This might mean following the standard industry practice of amending the development proposals to meet state government conditions, noting the Mineralogy Act still leaves this possibility open.

What happens now?

Palmer has a potential claim that the passage of the Mineralogy Act constitutes contempt of the Queensland Supreme Court. It is also possible parts of the act, such as those that restrict the remedies available to courts, are unconstitutional.




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However, even if Palmer succeeds in these claims, it is not clear how much he will actually gain financially, or if his claim is really worth $30 billion.

The Mineralogy Act is so unusual, it would be foolish to predict outcomes to these complex legal questions. Over the coming months, we will start seeing answers to these questions as Palmer brings lawsuits and proceedings work their way through the courts.

The answers will provide profound insights into the decision-making powers of states.The Conversation

Murray Wesson, Senior Lecturer in Law, University of Western Australia; Ian Murray, Associate Professor, University of Western Australia; John Southalan, Global Faculty (Centre of Energy, Petroleum and Mineral Law & Policy), University of Dundee; Julie Falck, Lecturer, University of Western Australia; Natalie Brown, Lecturer in Administrative and Property Law; PhD in WA iron ore State agreements, University of Western Australia, and Sarah Murray, Professor specialising in public law and less-adversarial justice, University of Western Australia

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

WA border challenge: why states, not courts, need to make the hard calls during health emergencies



Richard Wainwright/AAP

Lorraine Finlay, Murdoch University

In recent days, both sides involved in Clive Palmer’s legal challenge against the Western Australia border closure have sought to highlight the importance of what is at stake.

WA Premier Mark McGowan has warned if the challenge is successful and the border re-opens “then potentially people will die”. Meanwhile, Palmer has emphasised that immediately re-opening the border

is crucial for the survival of the domestic economy and for the whole of Australia.

With Queensland announcing another border closure to Sydney residents today, the WA case could be pivotal.

It will set an important precedent and ultimately determine whether, and to what extent, state governments can close their borders to protect their residents against future outbreaks.

The legal challenge in WA

The WA government closed its border to everybody other than “exempt travellers” from April 5 to limit the spread of COVID-19. Palmer was refused an exemption to enter WA in May and responded by filing a constitutional challenge to the laws authorising the border closure.

The challenge focuses primarily on section 92 of the Constitution, which provides that

trade, commerce and intercourse among the states … shall be absolutely free.

The High Court has previously suggested this allows for restrictions on movement and travel that are reasonably necessary for legitimate state purposes.

The key constitutional question here is whether the current restrictions are proportionate and appropriately tailored to address the identified risk to public health.




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In particular, the Federal Court is being asked this week to identify precisely what risks the COVID-19 pandemic poses to public health in Australia, and the extent to which border closures might mitigate these risks.

The Federal Court will not make a final decision about the constitutional validity of the border closures. Instead, it will determine the relevant facts in the case based on evidence presented by public health experts.

These facts will be critical to deciding the ultimate constitutional question.

What happens next?

The Federal Court hearing is only step one. Once these factual questions have been decided, the case returns to the High Court, which will determine the constitutional questions.

While the parties and courts have all acknowledged the importance of expediting this matter, the earliest this case could be heard by the High Court would be September. This means a final decision on whether the border closures are valid could still be weeks away.

Another important practical consideration is how the WA government may react if it loses the constitutional challenge. McGowan has already said

if the High Court rules that the borders have to come down that is the law of the land.

But any High Court decision will be based on the reasonableness of the current restrictions, and the court tends to limit its decisions to the particular facts before it. The judges are unlikely to speculate about whether alternative border closure restrictions may be constitutionally valid.

As such, one option for WA if it loses may be to remove the existing restrictions, but immediately replace them with amended restrictions that are adapted to the court’s ruling.

A win for Palmer in the High Court may not therefore necessarily result in the WA borders immediately re-opening.

McGowan has defended WA’s ‘very straightforward system’ of border closures, even as neighbouring states have seen virus cases decline.
Richard Wainwright/AAP

What will the High Court decide?

It is never possible to definitively predict the outcome of a High Court case. This is particularly true in the present case, given the specific constitutional issue at hand has not previously been directly considered by the court.

However, in cases involving questions of reasonableness and the balancing of public policy objectives, courts tend to err on the side of allowing governments a significant degree of discretion.




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States are shutting their borders to stop coronavirus. Is that actually allowed?


For this reason, the WA government has a strong constitutional case, provided the Federal Court finds the expert evidence supports border closures being justified from a public health perspective.

This highlights the significance of the current Federal Court hearing. It would be extremely controversial for the High Court to invalidate border closures imposed by a state government if the expert evidence established a public health justification for the measures.

Why governments need discretion in cases like this

Indeed, this highlights a more fundamental question about who is best placed to make these types of decisions in a democratic society.

There is no objectively right or wrong answer to the question of whether state borders should be shut in these circumstances, or for how long. It is instead a judgement call that has to be made on the best information available at the time, and that requires the decision maker to balance a range of different public policy factors.

An elected government is best placed to make judgement calls of this nature. It can adapt its response as circumstances change and take into account community sentiment (which is important to ensure compliance).

A government will also be subject to a range of different accountability measures, including, ultimately, judgement by the people at an election.




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Judicial decision-making is very different. It is necessarily based on the particular facts of a single case before the courts and is not adaptive to circumstances. The courts also do not need to consider the practical challenges of implementing a specific policy or regulation, and are not subject to direct democratic accountability.

These can be virtues when the courts are engaged in legal decision-making. They also demonstrate why the courts should not be involved in making decisions of a more political nature.

While there is a legitimate role for judicial scrutiny, the judgement calls required in a public health emergency are more appropriately left to the executive and parliamentary branches of government.

This democratic mandate granted to elected officials should be respected by the courts when considering the current challenge to the WA border closures, particularly given the importance of what is at stake.The Conversation

Lorraine Finlay, Lecturer in Law, Murdoch University

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

How big money influenced the 2019 federal election – and what we can do to fix the system


Kate Griffiths, Grattan Institute; Danielle Wood, Grattan Institute, and Tony Chen, Grattan Institute

Amid the ongoing bushfire and coronavirus crises – and the political kerfuffle surrounding the Nationals and Greens – you’d be forgiven for missing the annual release of the federal political donations data this week.

Nine months after the 2019 federal election, voters finally get a look at who funded the political parties’ campaigns.

The data reveals that big money matters in Australian elections more than ever, and donations are highly concentrated among a small number of powerful individuals, businesses and unions.

These are significant vulnerabilities in Australia’s democracy and reinforce why substantial reforms are needed to prevent wealthy interests from exercising too much influence in Australian politics.

Largest donations in Australian political history

The big story of the 2019 election was Clive Palmer, who donated A$84 million via his mining company Mineralogy to his own campaign – a figure that dwarfs all other donations as far back as the records go. The previous record – also held by Palmer – was A$15 million at the 2013 election.

While Palmer failed to win any seats last year, he ran a substantial anti-Labor advertising campaign, and claimed credit for the Coalition’s victory.




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There are obviously many factors in an election win, but this raises a serious question: how much influence should we allow any single interest to hold over the national debate, especially during the critically important election period?


Grattan Institute

Several other large donors also emerged at this election. A A$4 million donation to the Liberal Party from the company Sugolena, owned by a private investor and philanthropist, takes the prize for the largest-ever non-Palmer donation.

Businessman Anthony Pratt donated about A$1.5 million to each of the major parties through his paper and packaging company Pratt Holdings. The hotels lobby, which has been influential in preventing pokies reforms in past state and federal elections, also donated about A$500,000 to the Coalition and A$800,000 to Labor.

Money buys access and sometimes influence

A 2018 Grattan Institute report, Who’s in the room? Access and influence in Australian politics, showed how money can buy relationships and political connections. The political parties rely heavily on major donors, and as a result, major donors get significant access to ministers.

While explicit quid pro quo is probably rare, the risk is in more subtle influences – that donors get more access to policymakers and their views are given more weight. These risks are exacerbated by a lack of transparency in dealings between policymakers and special interests.

Big money improves the chances of influence. But it also matters to election outcomes.




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Mineral wealth, Clive Palmer, and the corruption of Australian politics


Looking back at the past five federal elections, an interesting correlation is evident: the party with the biggest war chest tends to form government.

It’s only a sample of five, and it’s unclear whether higher spending drives the election result or donors simply get behind the party most likely to win.

But in 2019, Labor was widely expected to win, so its smaller war chest supports the proposition that money assists in delivering power.



Grattan Institute

What policymakers should do to protect Australia’s democracy

Money in politics needs to be better regulated to reduce the risk of interest groups “buying” influence – and elections.

Real transparency is the first step. Half of private funding remains hidden from public view due to Australia’s high disclosure threshold and loopholes in the federal donations rules.

Only donations of more than A$14,000 need to be on the public record, and political parties don’t have to aggregate multiple donations below the threshold from the same donor – meaning major donors can simply split their donations to hide their identity.



Grattan Institute

Parliament should improve the transparency of political donations by

  • lowering the federal donations disclosure threshold to A$5,000, so all donations big enough to matter are on the public record;

  • requiring political parties to aggregate multiple donations from the same donor, so big donors can’t hide

  • requiring quicker release of donations data, so voters have information on who funds elections during the campaign – not nine months later.

These simple rule changes would bring Australia’s federal political donations regime in line with most states and OECD nations. The current regime leaves voters in the dark.

But the donations data shows transparency is not enough to protect Australia’s democracy from the influence of a handful of wealthy individuals. Ultimately, to reduce the influence of money in politics, parliament should introduce an expenditure cap during election campaigns.




Read more:
Eight ways to clean up money in Australian politics


Parties and candidates can currently spend as much money as they can raise, so big money means greater capacity to sell your message to voters.

Capping political expenditure by political parties – and third parties – would reduce the influence of wealthy individuals. And it would reduce the donations “arms race” between the major parties, giving senior politicians more time to do their job instead of chasing dollars.The Conversation

Kate Griffiths, Fellow, Grattan Institute; Danielle Wood, Program Director, Budget Policy and Institutional Reform, Grattan Institute, and Tony Chen, Researcher, Grattan Institute

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

After Clive Palmer’s $60 million campaign, limits on political advertising are more important than ever



Clive Palmer didn’t win any seats for his party in the election, but he says his massive advertising spend was “worth it” to prevent Bill Shorten from becoming prime minister.
Darren England/AAP

Marian Sawer, Australian National University

Can billionaires buy elections in Australia? In the 2019 election, Clive Palmer demonstrated they can certainly flood the print media, airwaves, social media and billboards with advertising and have an impact on the results through their preferences and negative advertising.

Apart from United Australia Party hype about how it was going to win government, most of the high-profile advertising in the 2019 campaign was negative. There is a longstanding 48-hour ban on political advertising in radio and broadcast media prior to polling day, but advertising on social media is not covered. The very useful Facebook Ad Library showed the kind of horrors being broadcast during the 48-hour blackout.




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The Coalition was running many “death tax” ads on the Thursday and Friday. These were ads cut to show one Labor frontbencher after another saying the words “death tax”, when in fact they were denying a rumour about such a tax. Negativity, or even sheer invention, proved very effective.

One of the Coalition’s many “death tax” campaign ads.

By comparison, Labor ads on issues such as childcare or the gender pay gap – as well as its own negative ads aimed at the Coalition’s disunity and climate change policies – appeared to have little impact.

Labor’s final online advertising push didn’t resonate with voters.

Lack of regulations at federal level

How have we arrived at a place where our elections are awash with paid advertising? Believe it or not, this has been a relatively recent phenomenon.

In 1903, the Labor Party’s manifesto proudly promoted the restrictions that had been placed on campaign expenditure in the Commonwealth Electoral Act the year before:

Elaborate precautions exist to prevent wealthy men practically purchasing seats: the expenditure of a senatorial candidate is limited to £250 and of a candidate for the other House to £100.

These expenditure limits became increasingly obsolete and were not enforced. They were discarded at the federal level after 1980, following a successful challenge to the election of three candidates in the Tasmanian seat of Denison for each having spent more than A$1,500 in the 1979 state election.

From that time, Australia has been notable for the laxity of its regulation of political finance. At the federal level, there are no restrictions on the size or source of donations to political parties, apart from the recent ban on foreign donations. And there are no limits on campaign expenditure or paid advertising, apart from the requirement for authorisation.




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As a result, industry bodies wishing to fend off government regulation of guns or poker machines or financial advice are free to spend as much as they like on political donations and advertising.

There is also no “truth in advertising” requirement at the federal level, and the Australian Electoral Commission does not have the authority to approve electoral communications for publication. The only requirement in the Commonwealth Electoral Act is for authorisation, including of electronic advertising. Ultimately, it is up to the courts to enforce this, on a case by case basis.

This differs greatly from many countries in Europe, including the UK, Ireland and the Scandinavian countries, which have never allowed such paid political advertising. Two-thirds of European countries limit the amount a candidate can spend on a campaign, including advertising, and 43% limit the amount a party can spend.

When the House of Lords upheld the UK prohibition on political advertising in 2008, it argued the ban was necessary to maintain a level playing field, preventing “well-endowed interests” from using “the power of the purse to give enhanced prominence to their views.”




Read more:
Australia trails way behind other nations in regulating political donations


In Australia, the Hawke government tried to stop the arms race over paid political advertising by banning it in 1991 and replacing it with free broadcast time (Political Broadcasts and Political Disclosures Act 1991). But the following year, the High Court in Australian Capital Television Pty Ltd v Commonwealth found that this ban contravened an implied freedom of political communication in the constitution.

This decision put a dampener on reform at the federal level. It is only recently the High Court has changed course to find that burdens on free speech can be legitimate if they serve another democratic purpose, such as political equality.

In the McCloy v NSW case in 2015, the High Court upheld a cap on political donations and a total ban on political donations by property developers, finding the restrictions on freedom of political communication were more than balanced by the benefits of ensuring the integrity of the political system and “equality of opportunity to participate in the exercise of political sovereignty.”

The constitutionality of regulating political donations was reaffirmed by the High Court in April 2019.

The government had passed amendments to the Commonwealth Electoral Act to enable Commonwealth law to override the tighter regulation of political donations at the state or territory level. This provision was overturned by the High Court and Queensland’s ban on developer donations was upheld. This was despite an attempt by the plaintiff, former LNP Queensland President Gary Spence, to argue it restricted freedom of political communication.

These High Court decisions open the way to possible future caps on expenditure and donations at the federal level, which could reduce the torrent of negative political advertising democracy is currently drowning in.

Clive Palmer’s advertising was largely aimed at Labor’s policies. This ad was viewed more than 800,000 times on YouTube.

Impacts of unlimited spending on democracy

The lack of restrictions on political expenditure or donations at the federal level has contributed to perceptions that government is run primarily for the benefit of the big end of town. In 2016, 56% of respondents to the Australian Election Study believed this.

In addition, negative advertising further erodes the public’s faith in government. American political scientist Joseph Nye observed more than 20 years ago a relationship between negative advertising and loss of trust in political parties and government. In the Democracy 2025 survey conducted in Australia last year, respondents were asked about possible reforms to rebuild trust in government. It revealed strongest support for limits on political donations and campaign expenditure.




Read more:
Facebook videos, targeted texts and Clive Palmer memes: how digital advertising is shaping this election campaign


The laxity of political finance regulation at the federal level also creates loopholes at the state or territory level, where genuine progress has been made in limiting political expenditure by parties, candidates and lobbying groups.

It is equally important that allowing paid political advertising in electronic media drives up the costs of political campaigns and increases dependence on wealthy donors.

Australia could rein in the ever-increasing role of private money in its federal elections. Labor and the Greens are committed to greater transparency for political donations and spending caps on federal campaign expenditure, while the High Court has shown it is now unlikely to strike down reasonable (“proportionate”) regulation of political finance.

Democracy should be about political equality, not about the deep pockets of billionaires.The Conversation

Marian Sawer, Emeritus Professor, School of Politics and International Relations, Australian National University

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

Now for the $55 million question: what does Clive Palmer actually want?



File 20190502 117607 1cgupes.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
While Clive Palmer is often lumped in with other right-wingers, in fact he espouses a range of populist ideas and is quite progressive on some issues.
AAP/Kelly Barnes

John Wanna, Australian National University

As head of the United Australia Party, Clive Palmer is no classic right-winger nor crotchety conservative. He is no angel either. He is often wrongly lumped in with Pauline Hanson and One Nation, and maybe even with the more recent retreads like Fraser Anning and Cory Bernardi.

But he is not like them. He is a big-spending, eccentric, brusque businessman espousing a strange mixture of populist musings. He is also eager to end the strangulation the major parties exert over policy options. On some issues he is more progressive than Labor (asylum seekers); on others he is more adventurous than the Coalition (taxation) – he is a protectionist nationalist without the xenophobic baggage.

So, just what is Palmer up to in this election campaign? After a fairly desultory campaign in 2013 when he won a single lower house seat and initially three senators, he sat out the 2016 federal election. Now, he’s back in full force, spending upwards of A$55 million before the election comes to an end. He’s standing candidates in every electorate and running a team in every senate constituency. Polling is showing him “influential” in many swing seats with support running into the mid-teens in some electorates.




Read more:
View from The Hill: Can $55 million get Clive Palmer back into parliamentary game?


Why is he spending so much of his own money on what looks like a pyrrhic campaign, even if he is elected to the Senate for Queensland?

Many people say Palmer has no policies, he stands for nothing except himself, and is just fanning a protest vote.

It’s true that Palmer tends to campaign with hackneyed slogans: “Make Australia Great”, “Aussies aren’t going to cop it any more” and “Let’s get something done for a change”, being the main three. He also authorises crass advertising – his prominent billboards and full-page poster-style advertisements feature himself, curtained in canary yellow, with the implicit message that the Liberals and Labor “don’t fight for you”. He is partial to hyperbole, and in the media often lives in a world of denial.

At the 2013 federal election, Palmer’s United Party released a slender raft of policy proposals. He opposed the carbon tax and supported tax reductions, but he also proposed a more compassionate policy towards asylum seekers, a conscience vote on same-sex marriage, free university places for residents, tax relief for mortgagees, regional wealth retention, and smaller government. Many of his 2013 policies reappear in recycled form in 2019.

He claims as his achievements to have stopped many of the “zombie” measures Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey tried to impose in the 2014 budget. These include: stopping GP co-payments of $7 per visit, opposing cuts to universities, preventing more social security cuts, opposing an increase in the eligible age for the age pension to 70 years, supporting climate change and renewable energy proposals, and supporting a ban on lobbyists and the removal of boat-arrival children from offshore detention. He also claimed credit for supporting the abolition of the carbon tax and the mining tax, and for bringing down Campbell Newman’s LNP government in Queensland.

This election, the UAP is proposing to increase pensions by 20% immediately (or $4,000 a year for each pensioner). It is advocating an extra $80 billion spending on health and a further $20 billion for education over the next parliament. Palmer continues to support mining development (with more onshore processing of commodities) and a zonal taxation system, with wealth generated in regions remaining in regions. He wants immediate investment in very fast trains.

The UAP is also fiercely criticising other mainstream party policies. For instance, Palmer opposes the “sell-off” of agricultural land to foreign buyers, targeting in particular Chinese government-owned companies for their aggressive purchasing strategies. His position is not xenophobic: he detests Chinese Communist Party business practices because of first-hand experience, but he is not against people of Chinese descent coming here or doing well.

He opposes the ALP’s tax policy, regarding it as insufficient and mostly deferred until after 2024. He wants all income tax rates reduced by 15% now, and for companies and small businesses to pay their tax bill at the end of the financial year once their earnings are finalised (thus abolishing the pernicious provisional tax paid quarterly in advance).

He also wants mortgagees to be able to get a tax offset for the first $10,000 of repayments to help first-home buyers. Furthermore, the UAP is campaigning for the abolition of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan and ending the public profligacy of water buy-backs. Palmer claims that spending on the national broadband network has “wasted” $55 billion “and it still doesn’t work”.

Palmer’s revival in his electoral stocks has occurred despite him being embroiled in many controversies and untrustworthy business practices. These include the debacle over the Coolum Resort, which closed under his management, costing 600 jobs and leaving over 300 investors without their assets.

He was widely blamed for the collapse of his nickel refinery in Townsville (which he took on to “save”) and for not paying workers their redundancy entitlements. He has also been linked to a stalled Titanic II project, killed off a Gold Coast A-League soccer team, complains of Rupert Murdoch’s influence over the Australian media, and been charged by ASIC with violating the Corporation Act. He has also transferred some of his business interests to the tax haven of Singapore.




Read more:
How much influence will independents and minor parties have this election? Please explain


Many commentators who highlight Palmer’s record believe the preference deal with the Liberals and LNP could perhaps damage the Coalition vote. But although Labor will whinge to the closing of the polls on May 18, I expect the cross-preferencing arrangement to benefit both the LNP and the UAP.

Palmer may not win any lower house seats, but his preferences might determine who does in up to 20 seats. If his electoral support continues to grow, he may well secure two or three senate positions, almost back to where he was in 2013.

But he is coming under widespread attack as an illegitimate player by many commentators and media outlets as well as his political opponents. Most of the major papers and TV news outlets regularly slam his antics (Google “Clive Palmer’s Criticism”).

The key perhaps to understanding Palmer’s gravity-defying electoral support is that he is a “positive populist” rather than a largely negative populist along the lines of Pauline Hanson’s One Nation, who has based her own protectionist stance much more explicitly on race and xenophobia. Indeed, Palmer eschews the racist policies and dog-whistling his rival right-of-centre competitors have delivered, including One Nation and Fraser Anning’s Conservatives.

Palmer carefully tailors his positive populist messages to appreciative audiences: his line that “something must be done” has resonated.

Certainly, some of Palmer’s electoral support at the ballot box will be simply a protest vote (and he will be aware of that). But perhaps some greater proportion will be voting for more genuine diversity from what the cartelised major parties are offering. Australia seems ripe for a more serious positive populism offered by Palmer and his UAP. The ultimate question will be whether the wheels will again fall of the wagon.

And what after the election? Palmer’s boast that he will form government is fanciful. He has long been anti-Labor and in this election is not directing preferences their way, so he may be well and truly ostracised by Labor if it wins office.

Alternatively, if the Coalition scrapes back in it will be partly obligated to his preferences and will have to accommodate whoever the UAP manages to get into parliament.

The last time Palmer held this power his influence quickly waned as his “team” mostly abandoned him. We will soon see if he has learnt from bitter experience.


This article is adapted from an earlier piece published in The Machinery of Government.The Conversation

John Wanna, Sir John Bunting Chair of Public Administration, Australian National University

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

Facebook videos, targeted texts and Clive Palmer memes: how digital advertising is shaping this election campaign


Andrew Hughes, Australian National University

This year’s election will be the first in Australia where the parties will be advertising more on social and digital platforms than traditional media (TV, radio, newspapers and magazines).

There are a few key reasons for this. First, cost-wise, social media is far cheaper, sometimes as low as a few cents per click. Unlike heritage media, digital and social is extremely targeted, and can be done in the “dark,” so your opponents may not even be aware of the message you are pushing out.

Digital and social advertising can also be shared or even created by users themselves, further increasing the reach of a party’s messaging. This gets around the Australian Electoral Commission rules on advertising – technically they are not ads since no party is paying for them to be shared on people’s feeds.

Throw into the mix laws on political advertising – which allow parties to advertise up to and on election day on social media, but not traditional media – and we are likely seeing the first largely digitally driven election campaign in Australian political history.




Read more:
Election explainer: what are the rules governing political advertising?


Here are a few ways the parties are using advertising in the campaign so far and what makes this election unique:

What you can do with A$30 million

Among all the candidates running this year, perhaps no one has used political advertising as prolifically as Clive Palmer. This shows what money can buy.

The most recent Nielsen figures put the cost of Palmer’s ads since September at around A$30 million, though Palmer says himself he’s spent at least A$50 million. This compares to just A$16 million spent in total advertising during the last federal election, with Labor and the Coalition accounting for more than 90% of that.

From a campaign perspective, Palmer is ticking many of the right boxes: a mix of different platforms on digital and social; heritage media ads for mass market awareness featuring candidates selected from the middle; the use of memes and user-generated content; and even text messaging.

This United Australia Party ad has over 2.4 million views on YouTube thus far, making it the most viewed election ad on the platform.

Despite the ubiquity of his ads, though, Palmer is still struggling to connect with most voters. This demonstrates a very important aspect to any advertising campaign: the actual brand still needs to be seen as offering real value to voters.

The UAP has used text messaging like this one below, for example, to try to change its negative perception with voters by delivering positive campaign promises.

UAP text message advertisement.
ABC

The ‘Grim Reaper’ strategy and micro-targeting

One of the most effective ads ever done in Australia was the “Grim Reaper” AIDS awareness campaign in 1987, which showed how well “scare campaigns” and negative messaging can work, given the right context and framing. The ad’s micro-messaging was another aspect that worked so well: it personalised the issue and made it tangible to anyone sexually active.

Basically, negative messaging works on the theory that what you fear, you will avoid – or the “fight or flight response”. Negative political ads highlight the level of risk and consequence of a certain party’s policies – and then emphasise how to avoid this by not voting for them.




Read more:
Why scare campaigns like ‘Mediscare’ work – even if voters hate them


Trouble is, most ads on TV are losing their potency. As attitudes towards political messaging and brands become increasingly negative, voters are less likely to watch ads in their entirety. Many people also don’t see them as being personally relevant.

Social media, though, provides an excellent delivery mechanism for these types of messages. Digital ads can be personalised and focused on issues that voters have already expressed an interest in and therefore find relevant to their lives.

Personalised messaging from the LNP on Facebook, targeting voters in the seat of Ryan in western Brisbane.
Facebook Ad Library

Social media ads can also be altered to be even more targeted as the campaign goes on, based on voter responses. And their speed of production – only taking a matter of hours to produce and place online – allows digital advertising to do what heritage no longer can and provide a more fluid, grassroots dynamic to campaigning.

This ad by Labor featuring Prime Minister Scott Morrison in bed with Palmer, for example, was released on social media within 24 hours of the preference deal struck between the Coalition and Palmer’s UAP.

Labor’s Facebook ad depicting Scott Morrison in bed with the UAP’s Clive Palmer over their preference dealing.
Facebook/Click here to watch the video

That said, even on social media, negative advertising is not as effective if it just comes from the party itself. But when combined with information from third-party sources, such as from the media, this can increase the effectiveness. For example, the Liberal Party used the 10 Network image in this ad to support its claims on Labor’s tax policies.


Facebook Ad Library

Youth engagement

Youth voter enrolment is at an all-time high in Australia, driven, in part, by engagement and participation in the marriage equality plebiscite in 2017.

The major parties are aware of this and are creating ads specifically targeting this demographic on Snapchat, WhatsApp and Instagram. Some of these are “dark social” ads (meaning they can only be seen by the target market) or are user-made so not to be subject to disclosure rules.

For more general audiences, Labor has created ads like this one on Facebook that highlight issues young voters are concerned about, such as wage increases and penalty rates. Ads like this also attempt to engage with these voters by asking them to sign petitions – a form of experiential marketing that’s proved highly effective with young audiences, as seen through platforms such as Change.org.

Labor Facebook ad inviting voters to sign a petition demanding a higher wage.
Facebook Ad Library

Groups like the Australian Youth Climate Coalition are tapping into experiential marketing by combining online advertising with a call for offline action on issues that appeal to young voters, such as climate change. Part-rock concert, part-protest, these events might remind some of the rallies that proved so popular during the Gough Whitlam era.

The AYCC is using a combination of online and offline strategies to engage with young voters.
Facebook Ad Library

The increasing influence of lobbying groups

One of the more interesting developments of this election so far is the increasing sophistication, knowledge and strategies of political lobbying groups, or Australia’s equivalent to America’s PACs.

GetUp! is one such group, collecting A$12.8 million in donations in the last 12 months alone. Among the group’s tactics are direct phone calls to voters, partly achieved through “phone parties” where volunteers freely offer their time, phones and other resources to call people in targeted electorates. GetUp! has a goal of making 1 million phone calls in the lead-up to the election.

A GetUp! video ad encouraging voters to host ‘calling parties’

Other well-funded groups, such as the right-aligned Advance Australia, are also seeking to influence the narrative in the election, particularly in electorates like Warringah, where it has released ads against Tony Abbott’s challenger, Zali Steggall.

In part to counter the influence of lobbying groups, the Australian Council of Trade Unions has launched its own advertising campaign featuring working Australians describing how hard it is to make ends meet.

The ACTU’s “Change the Government, Change the Rules” campaign.

The rise of these groups in Australian politics opens a Pandora’s Box on just who can influence elections without even standing a single candidate – an issue that’s becoming part of politics now in many Western democracies. As many in politics would know, where there is money, there is power, and where there is power, there are those who are seeking to influence it.The Conversation

Andrew Hughes, Lecturer, Research School of Management, Australian National University

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

Poll wrap: Labor’s Newspoll lead falls to 51-49 on dubious assumptions as Palmer and Coalition do a deal



File 20190429 194633 1mrxn05.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Three weeks before the election, the UAP has been included in the party readout for the first time.
AAP/Glenn Hunt

Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

With 19 days to go until election day, this week’s Newspoll, conducted April 26-28 from a sample of 2,140, gave Labor just a 51-49 lead, a one-point gain for the Coalition since last fortnight. Primary votes were 38% Coalition (down one), 37% Labor (down two), 9% Greens (steady), 5% for Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party (UAP) and 4% One Nation (steady).

Three weeks before the election, the UAP has been included in the party readout for the first time. Prior to this change, the tables show that the UAP had 2% support in the post-budget Newspoll and 3% last fortnight – they were previously published as Others. According to pollster David Briggs (paywalled), both UAP and One Nation preferences are assumed to flow at 60% to the Coalition.

Given results at the WA and Queensland 2017 elections and at the Longman 2018 federal byelection, where One Nation preferences flowed at over 60% to the Coalition, this assumption is justified for One Nation, and was the standard assumption from early 2018.

However, the UAP has no electoral record. At the 2013 election that Palmer contested under the Palmer United Party, PUP preferences split 53.7-46.3 to the Coalition. At that election, PUP recommended preferences to the Coalition in all House seats, the same situation as now, and the Labor government was on the nose.

45% were satisfied with Scott Morrison’s performance (steady) and 46% were dissatisfied (up two), for a net approval of -1. Bill Shorten’s net approval was up two points to -12, his best net approval since May 2016. Morrison led Shorten by 45-37 as better PM (46-35 last fortnight).

Morrison was trusted to keep campaign promises over Shorten by 41-38. In some evidence for UAP preferences splitting to the Coalition, UAP voters favoured Morrison on this question by 53-13, though this is from a subsample of about 100 UAP voters.

The change in party readout and the preference assumptions for UAP explain the narrowing in this poll from 52-48 to 51-49. But there has been a clear overall narrowing trend this year from the last three Newspolls of 2018, which were all 55-45 to Labor. Morrison’s relatively good ratings and greater distance from the events of last August are assisting the Coalition.

The Poll Bludger’s BludgerTrack currently has Labor winning 87 of the 151 seats on a 52.4-47.6 two party vote. The Coalition’s primary vote in Newspoll is 4% down from 2016, but preference changes since 2016 could assist the Coalition, and that is reflected in Newspoll. However, Ipsos polls have shown no difference between last election and respondent allocated preferences since Morrison became PM.




Read more:
Post-budget poll wrap: Coalition gets a bounce in Newspoll, but not in Ipsos or Essential


In economic news, the ABS reported on April 24 that there was zero inflation in the March quarter. While this was bad for the overall economy, it is good for consumers worried about the cost of living. Lower oil prices in late 2018 meant petrol prices fell in January, but have since increased.

YouGov Galaxy poll: 52-48 to Labor

A YouGov Galaxy poll for the Sunday News Ltd tabloids, conducted April 23-25 from a sample of 1,012, gave Labor a 52-48 lead, a one-point gain for the Coalition since late March. Primary votes were 37% Coalition (up two), 37% Labor (steady), 9% Greens (down one), 4% One Nation (down four), 4% UAP (steady) and 9% for all Others (up three). YouGov Galaxy also conducts Newspoll.

Voters were asked if they were impressed or unimpressed with the campaign performances of six party leaders, and all performed poorly. Morrison was the best with a 54-38 unimpressed score, Shorten had a 60-31 rating, Nationals leader Michael McCormack a 38-8 rating, Greens leader Richard Di Natale had a 44-13 unimpressed score, Pauline Hanson a 67-20 rating and Clive Palmer a horrible 69-17 unimpressed rating.

The many don’t knows for Di Natale and McCormack reflect that most people don’t know very much about them. While ratings for Morrison and Shorten would be based to some extent on their campaign performance, those for Hanson and Palmer are much more likely based on voters’ opinions of them before the campaign.

Palmer’s preference deal with the Coalition

Under a preference deal between Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party (UAP) and the Coalition, Palmer would direct preferences to the Coalition in House seats in return for Coalition preferences in the Senate. It is important to note that voters make the choices in both houses now, and can ignore preference recommendations.




Read more:
Grattan on Friday: All is forgiven in the Liberal embrace of Palmer


In 2013, Palmer recommended preferences to the Coalition in all seats, and they flowed to the Coalition by a 53.7-46.3 margin; his party won 5.5% of the national vote in the House. While this split was not more pro-Coalition, analyst Peter Brent suggests that Palmer voters were more inclined to preference Labor, and the preference recommendations had some impact.

If the UAP won 4% of the national vote and their preference recommendations convinced 10% of their voters who would otherwise preference Labor to preference the Coalition, the Coalition’s national two party vote would by 0.4% higher than otherwise.

However, this analysis ignores the risk of doing a deal with someone as disliked by the general public as Palmer. In a January Herbert seat Newspoll, 65% had a negative view of Palmer, and just 24% a positive view.




Read more:
Poll wrap: Coalition gains in first Newspoll of 2019, but big swings to Labor in Victorian seats; NSW is tied


So while a preference deal with Palmer could earn the Coalition some more preferences, it could also damage their overall primary vote, hurting them more than helping. Labor will attack Palmer over the sacked Queensland Nickel workers, and that could impact the Coalition’s support among people with a lower level of educational attainment.

Does early voting make a difference to the results?

Pre-poll voting booths for the election are open from today. Under Australia’s compulsory voting, people are required to vote, and those who vote early are unlikely to have voted differently if they voted on election day unless there was a dramatic late-campaign development. So there is likely to be little overall impact of early voting on the results. In voluntary voting systems like the US, early voting gives people who need to work on election day a greater opportunity to vote.




Read more:
Three weeks of early voting has a significant effect on democracy. Here’s why


If one party was trending up in the polls as election day approached, early voters will decide their vote earlier, and so the trend will also be reflected in early votes.

While early voting overall has little impact, the types of people who vote early can differ markedly from the election day vote. Big pre-poll booths will not report until very late on election night, and the results could change significantly depending on those booths – as happened in the October Wentworth byelection.




Read more:
Wentworth byelection called too early for Phelps as Liberals recover in late counting


The Conversation


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

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

Election tightens in Newspoll – Labor lead narrows to 51-49%


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

The Coalition has made up ground in Newspoll, now trailing Labor by just 49-51%, compared with 48-52% a fortnight ago.

The tightening of the May 18 race, coming after Scott Morrison was seen to out-campaign Bill Shorten early on, will boost Coalition morale as pre-polling begins on Monday.

But both sides have lost support on their primary votes in the Newspoll, published in the Australian, while Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party is polling 5%, becoming the leading minor party behind the Greens.

Labor is down 2 points to 37%; the Coalition has fallen a point to 38%. The Greens remain on 9% and One Nation is static on 4%.

Shorten’s personal ratings are encouraging for him – he has had a 2 point rise to 39% in his satisfaction rating and reduced the gap on the better prime minister measure.

While Morrison still has a substantial lead as better PM, Shorten has increased his rating by 2 points to 37% and Morrison has fallen a point to 45%.

Morrison’s approval stayed on 45% while his disapproval was 46%, up 2 points, in the poll of 2136 voters taken Friday to Sunday.

Morrison and Shorten have arrived in Perth for Monday evening’s debate, their first face-to-face encounter of the campaign, which has under three weeks to run.

In a day of mega spending, Shorten on Sunday promised A$4 billion over three years to provide 887,000 families with relief on their child care costs; $2.4 billion over the forward estimates for a pensioner and seniors dental plan, and $537 million over the forward estimates to lift the pay of child care workers.




Read more:
Shorten promises $4 billion for child care, benefitting 887,000 families


Under Labor’s dental plan, age pensioners and those holding a Commonwealth seniors’ health card would be entitled to up to $1000 worth of free essential dental care every two years. Some three million people would be eligible under the plan, which would expand Medicare.

Shorten told a rally of volunteers in Melbourne: “Under a Labor government, after May 18 if you’re a pensioner or a seniors health care card holder your dental work will be backed by Medicare for the rest of your life. This is the fair go in action”.

Shorten said an ALP government over the next eight years would boost the average wage of child care workers by about $11,300. This would be on top of any rise in the award rate.

It would be “a 20% pay rise for the early educators because we value early education,” he said.

“This is an investment in quality early education, for good jobs and a strong economy of the future.

“And this is an investment in pay equity for a female-dominated industry. A fair reward for a workforce that has about 96% women, has been undervalued and underpaid for too long.”

Labor says the pay rise would not increase child care fees because the government would fully fund it.

In an initiative on cyber security the government is announcing it would to invest $156 million “to protect older Australians, small businesses and national security assets from the risk of cyber-attacks”.

A range of measures to combat cyber crime would include developing “a comprehensive online cyber security training program providing practical cyber advice for small businesses, older Australians and Australian families”.

The government says cybercrime costs the economy more than $1 billion a year.

In the vulnerable state of Victoria, the government is sandbagging the Liberal heartland seats of Higgins and Kooyong with a promise of $260 million to eliminate a level crossing on busy Glenferrie road in the suburb of Kooyong.

The project would take the train line under the road. The crossing is technically in Higgins but right on the border of Treasurer Josh Frydenberg’s seat of Kooyong. Frydenberg is being targeted by GetUp and various candidates especially on climate change.

In another Victorian seat, Flinders, Health Minister Greg Hunt has been dealt a blow by the decision of Liberal defector Julia Banks to preference Labor ahead of him.

Coalition campaign spokesman Simon Birmingham on Sunday accused her of walking away from her principles. “You’ve really got to wonder about the various positions of Julia Banks, who was until not that long ago urging people to vote Liberal and now is suggesting she will preference Labor. […] I think it shows gross inconsistency on her part”.




Read more:
View from The Hill: Palmer flypaper sticky for both sides


Clive Palmer on Monday is due to formally announce his preference deal with the Liberal party.

The debate about the debates has continued with Morrison wanting the third debate to be hosted by the ABC next week, on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday nights.The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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