Poll wrap: Coalition, Morrison slip further in Newspoll; US Democrats gain in late counting



File 20181112 35554 1dgvw65.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
The polls are not moving in the right direction for Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
AAP/Ben Rushton

Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

This week’s Newspoll, conducted November 8-11 from a sample of 1,800, gave Labor a large 55-45 lead, a one-point gain for Labor since last fortnight. Primary votes were 40% Labor (up one), 35% Coalition (down one), 9% Greens (steady) and 6% One Nation (steady).

This is the second consecutive Newspoll drop for the Coalition, after they recovered somewhat from the post-spill fallout to trail 53-47 four weeks ago. In Malcolm Turnbull’s final four Newspolls as PM, the Coalition trailed by just 51-49; the situation is far worse for them now.

Labor’s primary vote in this poll has returned to 40%, a level only exceeded in the first two polls after Turnbull was ousted. Before those two polls, Labor’s support in Newspoll had only been at 40% or more once since Julia Gillard’s early days as PM.




Read more:
Grattan on Friday: Turnbull tells Liberals to answer that unanswerable question


39% were satisfied with Scott Morrison’s performance (down two), and 47% were dissatisfied (up three), for a net approval of -8, down five points. Bill Shorten’s net approval dropped two points to -15. Morrison led Shorten by 42-36 as better PM (43-35 last fortnight).

By 48-40, voters were opposed to Australia becoming a republic, a dramatic shift from a 50-41 margin in favour of a republic in April. This is the first time since the republic referendum in 1999 that those opposed have outnumbered those in favour. The popularity of Princes Harry and William (see Essential below) probably explains this shift.

This Newspoll was the fifth to gauge Morrison’s ratings. Turnbull’s net approval peaked at +38 in his fifth Newspoll, in November 2015, before starting a long decline. Morrison’s net approval peaked at +7 in his third Newspoll, and he has lost a net 15 points since that peak.

I have said before that the Coalition under Morrison would probably have problems with the educated people who were drawn to Turnbull. To compensate, Morrison needs to outperform Turnbull among those without high levels of educational attainment.

For these people, personal economic fortunes are probably a key concern. As long as wages growth remains low, Labor and the unions will be able to win support from this group. In my opinion, the Coalition’s only realistic chance of re-election is for wages to improve strongly by the time the next election is due in May 2019. The ABS will release data for wages in the September quarter on Wednesday.

Essential: 54-46 to Labor

In last week’s Essential poll, conducted November 1-4 from a sample of 1,028, Labor led by 54-46, a one-point gain for Labor since three weeks ago. Primary votes were 39% Labor (up two), 36% Coalition (down two), 10% Greens (steady) and 6% One Nation (down one). Rounding probably assisted the Coalition in this poll. While it is not as bad as Newspoll for the Coalition, the movement in Essential agrees with Newspoll.

Morrison’s net approval was +4, down 11 points since October. Shorten’s net approval was -6, up six points. Morrison led Shorten by 41-29 as better PM (42-27 in October).

By 44-32, voters supported Australia becoming a republic with its own head of state (48-30 in May). Over 60% had favourable opinions of Queen Elizabeth and Princes Harry and William, but opinion was split 33-30 favourable on Prince Charles.

By 39-35, voters approved of government support for new coal-fired power stations. Just 8% said they had a high interest in horse racing, while 44% said they had no interest.

Queensland Galaxy: 50-50 tie federally, 53-47 to state Labor

A Queensland Galaxy poll, conducted November 7-8 from a sample of 839, had a federal 50-50 tie in Queensland, unchanged from August when Turnbull was still PM. Primary votes were 38% Coalition (up one), 34% Labor (steady), 9% Greens (steady) and 9% One Nation (down one).

This poll would be a 4% swing to Labor from the 2016 election in Queensland, so it is not good news for the Coalition (the national swing in Newspoll would be just over 5%). One of the reasons given for replacing Turnbull was that he was on the nose in Queensland. Under Morrison, the Coalition is matching its position in Queensland compared to Turnbull, but it is performing far worse in the rest of Australia.

The same poll gave state Labor a 53-47 lead, a two-point gain for Labor since August. Primary votes were 36% Labor (up one), 34% LNP (down three), 11% Greens (steady) and 10% One Nation (steady).

46% (up five) approved of Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, and 37% (down one) disapproved, for a net approval of +9, up six points. Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington had a +6 net approval, up one point. Palaszczuk led as better Premier by 43-26 (44-23 in August).

Late counting strongly favours Democrats in US midterms

Late counting for the November 6 US midterm elections has heavily favoured the Democrats, and they have reversed some election-night Republican leads in House and Senate seats.




Read more:
Democrats take House at US midterm elections, but Republicans keep Senate; Labor well ahead in Victoria


The House is likely to finish at a 234-201 Democrat majority, which would be a net gain of 40 for the Democrats since the 2016 election. That would be Democrats’ highest number of gains in a House election since 1974 – despite the strong US economy and Republican gerrymandering.

The Senate is likely to finish at a 53-47 Republican majority, a two-seat net gain for the Republicans since the 2012 election, the last time these seats were contested; Democrats had a great year in 2012. Democrats lost North Dakota, Indiana, Missouri and likely Florida, but gained Nevada and likely Arizona. A Democrat win in Arizona would be their first Arizona senator elected since 1988.

I wrote in August that Trump’s ratings were well below where they should be given the strong US economy. If he had not been so blatantly right-wing on many issues, Trump’s ratings would probably have been far better at the midterms, and the Republicans would have held the suburban seats that they lost.




Read more:
Polls update: Trump’s ratings held up by US economy; Australian polls steady


Democrats currently lead in the House popular vote by 6.5 points, and it is likely to end at about an eight-point Democrat margin. Rasmussen polls, which always give Trump far better ratings than other pollsters, had Republicans winning the House popular vote by one point.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.

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Government falls further behind – Labor leads 55-45% in Newspoll


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

The Coalition has taken another knock in Newspoll, now trailing Labor 45-55% on a two-party basis.

Scott Morrison’s personal ratings have also worsened, in a poll that comes in the wake of his intensive week of campaigning in the key state of Queensland.

This is the second consecutive Newspoll in which the two-party vote has gone backwards: the previous poll had a 46-54% result.

The Newspolls have been consistently worse for the Coalition since the
leadership change – before that Labor had been cut back to a narrow 51-49% lead.

Morrison’s net satisfaction rating is now minus 8, compared with minus 3 in the last poll a fortnight ago. Bill Shorten had a slight worsening on this measure – he is on minus 15 compared with minus 13 in the previous poll.

The gap on “better prime minister” has narrowed in Shorten’s favor – Morrison leads 42-36% compared with 43-35% previously.

Labor’s primary vote is up a point to 40%; the Coalition has dropped a point to 35%. The Greens remain on 9%; One Nation is steady on 6%.

Newspoll also found that only 40% of people now favour Australia becoming a republic, compared with 48% against. Shorten has promised
an early vote on the issue if he wins government.

Support for a republic was 50% in April this year, with 41% against.
The dramatic change suggests the big impact of the highly popular tour
of the young royals, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.

Although Coalition MPs have argued that Morrison has a better “cut through” than Malcolm Turnbull, Morrison’s sliding ratings suggests his “ordinary bloke” style isn’t going across as well as some expected.

The poll was taken Thursday to Sunday, so the publicity around Turnbull’s performance on Q&A on Thursday would have fed into it. He
declared that former colleagues had not so far answered the question
of why they had dumped him and owed an explanation to the Australian
public.




Read more:
Grattan on Friday: Turnbull tells Liberals to answer that unanswerable question


This week Morrison begins the “summit season” with the East Asia
summit in Singapore followed by APEC in Papua New Guinea.

POSTSCRIPT:

Morrison, asked about the poll, told Sky: “It’s a big mountain, and
I’m still climbing it”. He said the poll showed there was “a big risk”
of a Labor government.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.

Morrison and Shorten reveal their positions on key foreign policy questions


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While their foreign policy approaches may seem very similar, there were some significant differences.
AAP/Lukas Coch

Tony Walker, La Trobe University

It might be tempting to characterise back-to-back foreign policy speeches delivered by Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten as the work of Tweedledum and Tweedledee.

In other words, policy prescriptions advanced by the two on challenges facing Australia in one of the most difficult foreign policy environments since the end of the Vietnam War may seem very similar.

But there are differences. These are significant and in a political sense are to be welcomed, because it is important that debate be had on how to manage these challenges.




Read more:
With Bishop gone, Morrison and Payne face significant challenges on foreign policy


What should be given ample scope is the question of Australia’s positioning vis-à-vis its cornerstone security ally, the United States, and its principal trading partner, China.

Engagement in that debate should be separated from the left-right shibboleths of whether those engaged are pro- or anti-American. Tempting though it might be for one side of politics to dust off the old wedge issue of fealty to the alliance, we need to move beyond that sterile discussion.

The foreign policy speeches delivered by Shorten and Morrison just days apart both addressed the issue of the triangular relationship between Canberra, Washington and Beijing. Both trod carefully.

In Morrison’s case, he did not seek to provide a new template for such a three-cornered relationship. Rather, he emphasised the enduring importance of the alliance and the desirability of the US remaining engaged in the Indo-Pacific.

The alliance with the United States is a choice we make about how best to pursue our security interests.

And US economic engagement is as essential to regional stability and prosperity as its security capabilities and network of alliances … A strong America – centrally engaged in the affairs of our region – is critical to Australia’s national interests.

Morrison did, however, acknowledge risks for Australia when he said it was “important that US-China relations do not become defined by confrontation”.

The period ahead will, at times, be testing but I am confident of our ability to navigate it. And once again our values and beliefs will guide us.

Morrison’s speech was heavy on “values” as a guide to Australian policy under his administration. In this regard, he might have been echoing earlier statements by Labor’s foreign policy spokeswoman, Penny Wong, who has pursued a “values” theme in her foreign policy speeches over the past several years.

Morrison and Shorten revealed different approaches to the US-Australia alliance.
AAP/EPA/David Maxwell

Shorten, on the other hand, provided more grist beyond a “values” statement about Australian priorities under a Labor administration. In the process, he edged cautiously towards a posture of greater independence from an America under Donald Trump and future presidents bound by an “America first” mindset.

Australia’s interests will obviously be different from those of the United State in some areas; our national focus is different, our relationships with our close neighbours are different, our economies have different structures.

And indeed differences in perspective and opinion are one of the many valuable qualities we bring to our alliance with the United States.

The Labor Party opposed the second Iraq war – and in view of the consequences, we were more responsible allies for doing so…

We can – and will – express any differences within the enduring framework of our close relationship.

Many Australians, including a plethora of Labor supporters, will be hoping a transactional and opportunistic Shorten lives up to this declaration.

His reference to Labor’s opposition to the Iraq war oversimplifies the party’s position, in fact.

Commendably, then leader Simon Crean decreed Labor would not support Australia’s involvement without a United Nations-sanctioned process. But there were those in the party, including then foreign policy spokesman Kevin Rudd and former leader Kim Beazley, who were squeamish about this position.

Shorten himself was not yet in parliament.

The Iraq experience, in which Crean courageously asserted an independent position on the rush to war in Iraq, should be regarded by its latter-day leaders as a template for relations with Washington.

In some respects, it proved to be Crean’s finest hour. The Iraq invasion contributed to the destabilisation of the entire Middle East. It has involved expenditures of trillions of dollars, and counting, by the US and its allies.

Among various negative consequences of the march of folly in Iraq is the emboldening of Iran and its increased ability to assert itself more widely in its region. This is a story that has far from played itself out.

Both Morrison and Shorten dwelled, as might be expected, on relations with China. Shorten was both bolder and more nuanced.

The next Labor government will not deal with China purely through the prism of worst-case assumptions about its long-term ambitions.

Pre-emptively framing China as a strategic threat isn’t a sufficient response to its role and increasing influence in our region…

We will deal with China on the basis of the actions it takes – and in our own national interests.

Shorten was both bolder and more nuanced in discussing Australia’s relationship with China.
AAP/EPA/Thomas Peter/Pool

Morrison was more matter-of-fact. This no doubt reflects to a degree that he is feeling his way in his early days as prime minister.

Australia has also a vitally important relationship with China … We are committed to deepening our comprehensive strategic partnership with China.

Of course, China is not alone in being a force of change in our world.

But China is a country that is most changing the balance of power, sometimes in ways that challenge important US interests.

Inevitably, in the period ahead, we will be navigating a higher degree of US-China strategic competition.

What can be said about the Shorten and Morrison world views is that the former’s thinking has developed further than the latter’s, as might be expected given that the Labor leader has been in the job for five years, and Morrison just a few months.

However, it is also possible to detect doctrinal differences that point to a shift in Australian foreign policy under a Shorten-led government to one where Australia seeks to enlarge its room for manoeuvre in a region undergoing wrenching change.

Inevitably, this is leading to a change in tone. Whether this also results in a repositioning of Australian policy remains to be seen.




Read more:
Turnbull pushes the ‘reset’ button with China, but will it be enough?


In Morrison’s case, it is less likely a Coalition would seek to put much distance between itself and Washington.

Where Morrison and Shorten converge is in their approaches to Australia’s engagement in the southwest Pacific in response to Beijing’s overtures to Pacific island states.

Both have pledged to step up Australia’s involvement. In his speech, Morrison noted Australia would build a naval base on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea.

Given that Australia has long been the metropolitan power in the southwest Pacific, it could be said that pledges of engagement by both sides are belated.

But it might be also be observed that it’s better late than never.The Conversation

Tony Walker, Adjunct Professor, School of Communications, La Trobe University

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

Morrison to unveil broad suite of measures to boost Australia’s influence in the Pacific


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Scott Morrison on Thursday will announce an extensive suite of military, diplomatic, financial and people-to-people initiatives in a major boost to Australia’s role in the Pacific.

They include setting up a $2 billion infrastructure financing facility to promote development in the region.

The facility – coming hard on the heels of Labor proposing a government-backed infrastructure investment bank to assist the Pacific – would provide grant and loan financing for telecommunications, transport, energy, water and similar projects.




Read more:
Shorten proposes investment bank to help Pacific nations’ development


The military initiatives include an Australian Defence Force Pacific
Mobile Training Team and more naval deployments, while diplomatic
missions will be opened in Palau, the Marshall Islands, French Polynesia, Niue and the Cook Islands.

APEC focuses minds on Papua New Guinea

The Pacific push is against the background of China’s growing involvement in the area. But the government also points to issues of
potential instability in some countries, and the Islamic State terrorism threat in the broader Indo-Asia Pacific region.

The announcement comes ahead of the APEC meeting in Port Moresby on
November 17-18, and it follows Australia and Papua New Guinea agreeing
on a joint redevelopment of the naval base on Manus Island.

In Thursday’s speech at Lavarack base at Townsville, released ahead of
delivery, Morrison says: “My government is returning the Pacific to
where it should be – front and centre of Australia’s strategic outlook, foreign policy and personal connections, including at the highest levels of government”.

Morrison says it is time to “open a new chapter in relations with our
Pacific family”.

“Australia has an abiding interest in a Southwest Pacific that is secure strategically, stable economically and sovereign politically”.

The region is “where Australia can make the biggest difference in world affairs” – but too often had taken its influence for granted.

Defence to tie Australia to the Pacific

Morrison says that in future the Australian Defence Force, which already has a pivotal role, will play an even greater one with partner countries in training, capacity building, exercises and on “building interoperability to respond together to the security challenges we face”.

The proposed rotational ADF Pacific Mobile Training Team will be based in Australia, travelling to places in the Pacific, when invited, to undertake training and engagement with other forces.

Work with regional partners would be in areas such as disaster response, peacekeeping, infantry skills, engineering and logistics.

Morrison says the Navy will be deployed more to the Pacific to conduct
training and exercises with other countries. “This will enable them to
take advantage of the new Guardian Class Patrol Boats we are gifting
to them, to support regional security”.

Ties with Pacific police forces are to be strengthened, with a new Pacific faculty at the Australian Institute of Police Management that will help train future police leaders.

More regular in-person contact

To deepen people-to-people links with Pacific security forces, there
will be annual meetings of defence and police and border security
chiefs.

A security alumni network will be set up to maintain connections with
those who have taken part in the Defence Cooperation Program over
decades.

Military sporting engagements will be expanded, as will general
sporting links with a new sports program.

Announcing the new diplomatic posts, Morrison says “this will mean
Australia is represented in every member country of the Pacific Islands Forum”. He stresses also that the government wants “our best and brightest, young and experienced diplomats alike, working on the Pacific”.

As well as the infrastructure financing facility, Morrison is announcing that the government will seek parliamentary approval for Australia’s export financing agency, Efic, to have an extra $1 billion in callable capital and more flexibility to support investments in the region that benefit Australia’s national interest.

More investment in the Pacific

This would “enhance Efic’s ability to support Australian SMEs to be
active in the region. Private capital, entrepreneurialism and open
markets are crucial to our mutual prosperity,” Morrison says.

He says it is estimated the Pacific region will need US$3.1 billion
annually in investment to 2030.

Morrison says the government will work with Australia’s commercial media operators to enable people in Pacific countries to have “access to more quality Australian content on TV and other platforms.

“This will include lifestyle programs, news, current affairs, children’s content, drama and potentially sports. This is an initial step towards providing more Australian content that is highly valued by the Pacific community,” he says.

On 2GB Morrison on Wednesday had to defend Pacific countries from broadcaster Alan Jones’ attack on them as “rent seekers”.

Not rent-seekers after all

Jones lashed out after Morrison gave the importance of the Paris climate agreement to these countries as one reason for Australia not leaving the agreement.

“Do you think all these rent-seekers in the Pacific should get money that you’ve said you’re not going to contribute to Paris. … They’re
rent-seekers, they just want money,” Jones said.

Morrison replied: “I don’t think that’s very respectful to the Pacific
Islands, Alan, I really don’t, and I don’t share that view. They’re
part of the world in which we live here and we’ve always been doing
the right thing by them and we think back to Papua New Guinea, they
did the right thing by us when it came to our Diggers.

“So we have a very special relationship with the Pacific and we need to, for our own interest as well as that it’s part of the community and family of nations we live in in this part of the world. We do the right thing by them, they’ll do the right thing by us.”

Postscript: bid for gas piplines blocked

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has effectively blocked a $13 billion bid by the Hong
Kong-based CK Group for the Australian gas pipeline company APA.

The decision complicates the current visit to China by Foreign
Minister Marise Payne.

Chinese approval for the Payne trip has been hailed as an important
sign of the improving relationship between the two countries after a
period of frostiness, which included tension over the federal
government’s legislation against foreign interference and the ongoing dispute over China’s build up in the South China Sea.

Foreign investment decisions rest with the treasurer, who takes advice
from the Foreign Investment Review Board. Frydenberg said he had
decided the proposed acquisition would be “contrary to the national
interest”

“It would result in an undue concentration of foreign ownership by a
single company group in our most significant gas transmission
business.”

Frydenberg said the board had been “unable to reach a unanimous
recommendation, expressing its concerns about aggregation and the
national interest implications of such a dominant foreign player in
the gas and electricity sectors over the longer term.”

His “preliminary decision” – which under the usual process will be
finalised a fortnight – reflected the size and significance of APA
Group. It was not a reflection on the CK Group, he said.

“The APA Group is a unique company, widely held amongst investors with
significant Australian ownership and management,” Frydenberg said.

“It is by far the largest gas transmission system owner in Australia,
owning 15,000 km of pipelines representing 56 per cent of Australia’s
gas pipeline transmission system, including 74 per cent of New South
Wales and Victorian pipelines and 64 per cent in the Northern
Territory.

“It also supplies gas for part of all mainland capital
cities’ consumption, gas-fired electricity generation assets and
liquefied natural gas exports.”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.

Government to set up new multi-billion Future Drought Fund


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Prime Minister Scott Morrison will announce a Future Drought Fund, that will grow to $5 billion over a decade, at Friday’s national drought summit.

The fund is to provide support against future droughts, helping primary producers, non-government organisations and communities prepare for and respond to their impact.

It will be given an initial $3.9 billion injection, and will expand to $5 billion by 2028. The funding will be managed by the Future Fund Board of Guardians.

From 2020, about $100 million annually will be available, with payments starting on July 1, 2020.

Morrison has made dealing with the impact of drought one of his priorities since becoming prime minister, with various immediate measures for the current dry.

The summit will be attended by all levels of government, and representatives of farming and agribusiness, banking and finance services, and community and charitable organisations, as well as experts.

The special envoy for drought, Barnaby Joyce, and the coordinator-general for drought, Major General Stephen Day, will speak, while the Bureau of Meteorology will brief on present conditions and the projected outlook.




Read more:
Politics Podcast: Barnaby Joyce on facing the drought and rural women


The planned fund will provide community services and research, and assist the adoption of technology to support long-term sustainability in periods of drought, through capital or ongoing initiatives. It could include investments in local projects, infrastructure, and research.

The criteria for the type of projects to be supported have yet to be determined and the government says these would continue to change, depending on the drought and community response needed.

Initiatives to be supported by the fund would be decided as part of the budget process.




Read more:
Helping farmers in distress doesn’t help them be the best: the drought relief dilemma


Morrison said that in his visit to Quilpie in western Queensland, which he undertook immediately after becoming prime minister, he had been struck by “the strength, resilience and hope” displayed by the families.

“Our response to the drought has to be the same. Deal with the here and now, but also make sure we plan for the future.

“That’s what the Future Drought Fund is all about. Putting money aside for non-rainy days in the future,” he said.

“The fund will build over time, starting with an initial $3.9 billion up front. Part of the earning in the fund will be used to fund important water infrastructure and drought resilience projects, while the balance is ploughed back into the fund, so it grows to $5 billion over the next decade.

“This funding will support farmers and their local communities when it’s not raining.

“The challenges of drought vary from farm to farm, district to district, town to town and we continually need to adapt and build capacity – the Future Drought Fund gives us this opportunity,” Morrison said.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.

Poll wrap: Morrison’s ratings slump in Newspoll; Wentworth’s huge difference in on-the-day and early voting



File 20181029 7074 1xxtfnb.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
It took six months for Malcolm Turnbull to receive his first negative Newspoll net approval as PM; it has taken Scott Morrison just two months.
AAP/Joel Carrett

Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

This week’s Newspoll, conducted October 25-28 from a sample of 1,650, gave Labor a 54-46 lead, a one-point gain for Labor since last fortnight. Primary votes were 39% Labor (up one), 36% Coalition (down one), 9% Greens (down two) and 6% One Nation (steady). Rounding probably assisted Labor in this poll.

41% were satisfied with Scott Morrison (down four), and 44% were dissatisfied (up six), for a net approval of -3, down ten points. Bill Shorten’s net approval was up three points to -13. While Shorten’s ratings are poor, this is his best net approval this term. Morrison led Shorten by 43-35 as better PM (45-34 last fortnight).

58% thought Morrison should hold the election when due next year, while 33% thought he should call an early election before the end of this year.

Since Morrison became PM, his net approvals have been +2, +5, +7 and now -3. Turnbull’s first four net approvals were +18, +25, +35 and +32. It took six months for Turnbull to receive his first negative Newspoll net approval, it has taken Morrison just two months.

According to analyst Kevin Bonham, even if Morrison never receives another positive Newspoll net approval, he will still have more positive net approvals than either Tony Abbott (two) or Paul Keating (zero) did as PM.

Morrison’s slump could be caused by the Liberals’ loss of Wentworth, but it could also be due to increasingly bad perceptions of the Coalition over issues such as climate change. The falls in the stock market and house prices are likely to impact consumer confidence, and governments usually perform worse when the economy is not perceived to be doing well.

Essential: 53-47 to Labor

Last week’s Essential poll, mostly taken before the Wentworth byelection, gave Labor a 53-47 lead, unchanged from three weeks ago. Primary votes were also unchanged, with the Coalition on 38%, Labor 37%, the Greens 10% and One Nation 7%. This poll was conducted October 18-21 from a sample of 1,027.

Essential uses the previous election method to assign preferences, assuming One Nation preferences split about 50-50. Since December 2017, Newspoll has assumed One Nation preferences split about 60-40 to the Coalition. If Essential and Newspoll used the same method, there would probably be a two-point gap between the two. Since Morrison became PM, Newspoll has given Labor better two party results than Essential despite the One Nation adjustment.

60% (up nine since April) cited cost-of-living as one of their top three issues, while 37% cited health (up one), 29% housing affordability (steady) and 27% creating jobs (down five). Income and business tax cuts were at the bottom with just 12% and 5% respectively who thought they were important issues.

59% thought the change of PM had made no difference and the Morrison government was still the same government, while 20% thought it was a new government. By 35-28, they preferred Morrison to Turnbull as PM (57-29 among Coalition voters).

63% (down one since September 2017) thought that climate change was caused by human activity, while 25% (up one) thought we were just witnessing a normal fluctuation in the earth’s climate. 56% (steady) thought Australia was not doing enough to address climate change, 23% (up three) thought we were doing enough, and 7% (down one) thought we were doing too much.

37% did not support a separate national day to recognise Indigenous Australians, 36% supported a separate day alongside Australia Day, and just 14% supported a separate day instead of Australia Day.

Massive difference between on-the-day and early voting in Wentworth

With probably fewer than 1,000 postal votes to come before Friday’s deadline for reception, independent Kerryn Phelps won the October 20 Wentworth byelection by a 51.2-48.8 margin over Liberal Dave Sharma, a vote margin of 1,783, and a swing of 18.9% against the Liberals. Primary votes were 43.1% Liberal (down 19.1%), 29.2% Phelps, 11.5% Labor (down 6.2%) and 8.6% Greens (down 6.3%).




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


Early on election night, Wentworth was called for Phelps owing to her strong performance on election-day booths. Pre-poll and postal votes counted by October 21 were much stronger than expected for Sharma, as this tweet from the ABC’s Antony Green shows.

Green also tweeted that there has been a big drop in Sharma’s percentage share of the postals as later batches are counted. Sharma was at 64.4% on postals counted by the morning of October 21, but dropped to just 44.3% in postals counted October 25. Later postals would have been sent closer to the election date.

Later postals tend to be less conservative-friendly than earlier ones, but not to this extent. It is clear from this data that Wentworth voters shifted decisively against the Liberals in the final days.

I think the most important reason for this shift was Coalition senators voting with Pauline Hanson on her “It’s OK to be white” motion. This motion would have absolutely no appeal to an electorate with a high level of educational attainment relative to the overall population.

Victorian Galaxy poll: 53-47 to Labor

The Victorian election will be held on November 24. A Galaxy poll for the Bus Association, conducted last week from an unknown sample, gave Labor a 53-47 lead, unchanged since September. Primary votes were 40% Labor (down two), 39% Coalition (down one) and 12% Greens (up two). This poll was probably close to 54-46 to Labor.

44% approved of Premier Daniel Andrews (up four), and 35% disapproved (down seven), for a net approval of +9, up eleven points. Opposition Leader Matthew Guy’s net approval was up one point to -18.

Since the change in PM, there have been two 53-47 to Labor results from Galaxy, and a 52-48 from ReachTEL. Labor is likely to win the Victorian election, though they could be forced into a minority government if the Greens take inner city seats.

US midterm elections, and far-right wins Brazil presidential election

US midterm elections will be held on November 6. I wrote for The Poll Bludger on Saturday that Democrats are likely to win the House, but Republicans are likely to retain the Senate. Trump’s ratings dropped from highs last seen in March 2017. The recent far-right terrorist events may shift public opinion.

The Brazilian presidential election runoff was held Sunday after no candidate won an outright majority in the first round on October 7. The far-right candidate, Jair Bolsonaro, defeated the left-wing Workers’ Party candidate, Fernando Haddad, by a 55.1-44.9 margin. Bolsonaro has made comments sympathetic to the 1964-85 Brazil military dictatorship. Corruption by the established parties and a recession are key reasons for this result.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.

Government raises glimmer of hope for New Zealand deal on refugees


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

The Morrison government has sent qualified signals that it might agree to some refugees from Nauru being settled in New Zealand.

It says it would be “more likely” to support the New Zealand option if Labor agreed to pass legislation to stop these people then being able to reach Australia by the back door, via the free travel arrangements between the two countries.

The positive note comes ahead of Saturday’s Wentworth byelection, in which the situation of the refugees is one of the issues.

New Zealand has for years had on the table an offer to take 150 of the refugees a year.

The legislation at issue – which has not been able to obtain Senate support – would prohibit anyone who’d come by boat and was settled in another country from ever being allowed into Australia.

But Labor remains opposed to the legislation in its current form.

Opposition immigration spokesman Shayne Neumann said Labor welcomed the government’s “sudden and unexplained interest” in considering a deal with New Zealand.

But the “lifetime ban” legislation “is not required to secure regional resettlement arrangements,” he said.

Labor argues the government should negotiate a special arrangement with New Zealand to stop people resettled there from entering Australia, rather than having the catch-all bill.

The issue of the children on Nauru – many of them with serious health issues – escalated in recent weeks, with campaigning by doctors for a more humane approach and pressure from government backbenchers.

On Tuesday the crossbench gave notice of a bill to temporarily relocate children from Nauru for medical treatment.

Crossbencher Rebekha Sharkie asked Scott Morrison whether he would support calls to do this.

It is understood these transfers have been increased after backbenchers Russell Broadbench and Craig Laundy made representations to Morrison in a meeting last month. Victorian backbencher Julia Banks has also spoken out.

Replying to Sharkie, Morrison hinted at more movement recently, when he offered crossbenchers an update “on the issue of transfers that continue to take place on a case-by-case basis”.

There had been quite a number of transfers undertaken, recently and over a longer period, he said, adding that “some work has been done further over the last month on these issues”.

Sources said the sick children were already off Nauru.

At the Liberal party meeting on Tuesday, NSW backbencher Trent Zimmerman asked Morrison about the children and the New Zealand option.

Shorten wrote to Morrison saying Labor would introduce legislation to ensure children received proper medical care.

Among other things this would ensure the recommendation of treating clinicians was prime when determining a temporary medical transfer for a child and ensure the minister, not the bureaucracy, was the final decision-maker on transfers.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.

Grattan on Friday: Liberals plan for May election but Morrison might look better in March


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

While the Coalition took a hit in its two-party vote after the leadership change, the next few Newspolls will tell whether Scott Morrison – who’s started better than many anticipated – restores the government to the 49-51% position of Malcolm Turnbull’s last days.

That would still leave Labor election favourite, not least because the government has no fat in terms of seats and the redistribution works against it. Plus, of course, the voters’ sour mood.

But the narrowing would put Labor nerves on edge. It would judge that if, come election time, it goes into a campaign against Morrison with a lead around 51-49%, the fight could be tougher than if the margin were similar but the opponent had been Turnbull. Turnbull was a poor campaigner; Morrison shows the signs of a good one.

Labor has had plenty of luck, but it needs to keep up the momentum, to look the positive alternative, not just a fallback for disillusioned voters.

This week again saw Bill Shorten on the move. His proposed funding to extend subsidised pre-schooling to three-year-olds is playing to Labor’s policy strength in education.




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A Shorten government would subsidise pre-school for three year olds


His other initiative – roundtables to hear the stories of more victims of the banks and other financial institutions – exploits the potent politics of a scandal that has gripped most people’s attention. Labor’s research tells it the public are red hot with anger about what’s come out at the royal commission.

The government accuses the opposition of disrespecting the commission by launching its own listening tour.

But it’s unlikely too many voters will see it that way. And the sessions, especially those in regional areas, will build on another strength. As leader Shorten has held town hall meetings all over the country. Such grassroots gatherings are useful for establishing Labor’s presence on the ground.




Read more:
Labor to hold its own ‘hearings’ for bank victims


Between now and Christmas Shorten will be rolling out more policy. Meanwhile, the government continues working on removing negatives.

Morrison as treasurer had started on one of these when in July the government announced a new formula for distributing the GST revenue, rectifying Western Australia being disadvantaged under the existing one. To smooth the way, the Commonwealth threw in an extra $9 billion over a decade so no state or territory would be left worse off.

With several WA Liberal seats at risk, getting this sorted was urgent; the government decided not to haggle with the states for an agreement but to legislate the change.

But, despite the assurance there’ll be no losers, state treasurers on Wednesday conjured up possible adverse scenarios and insisted the “no worse off” guarantee must be in the legislation, a demand the federal government is resisting.

The legislation is expected to pass in the end, but only after more argy bargy. It is another example of how messy barnacle-removal can be.




Read more:
States want the GST guarantee set in legislative stone


Especially when it involves state governments that have elections pending: Victoria goes to the polls on November 24 and NSW on March 23. NSW treasurer Dominic Perrottet was particularly vocal on the GST guarantee.

The Berejiklian government has its elbows out more generally. It recently attacked the Morrison deal to give a pot of money to the Catholic (and other non-government) schools to buy peace. NSW complained this was unfair because it left out government schools and distorted the Gonski-based policy announced by Turnbull.

The Morrison and Berejiklian governments might be of the same stripe but, with both facing elections in the first half of 2019, their interests rub up against each other uncomfortably.

Each is on the nose. The thinking is that whichever goes to the people first could get a double hit, with NSW voters taking out their anger simultaneously against both administrations.

This is a big strike against a March federal poll in the eyes of federal Liberals, apart from the problem of partially overlapping campaigns. The NSW government would dearly like Morrison to run first but all the federal Liberal planning appears to be heading towards May.

“Morrison needs time,” is the mantra. Maybe. But there is a counter argument, even if it is not being run.

Morrison hasn’t received a honeymoon bounce in the two-party vote, but he has had good publicity. He’s been cast as a can-do guy. But will this fade as the months wear on?

By the time the government gets to the weeks before a May election, the arguments about policy will have deepened, and how will Morrison go then?

In particular, will the Coalition’s energy policy uncertainty be difficult to handle as the weather starts to chill and people look to another winter?

It is unlikely there will be serious good news on consumer prices. It’s early days but the new energy minister, Angus Taylor, has not at yet come across strongly or indeed been much in evidence. Will he be convincing when he’s put under pressure?

An election launched at the start of February for early March would come off a non-parliamentary period; one launched in April for May (with, incidentally, Easter falling awkwardly during the campaign) would come after parliamentary sittings, which often are difficult for the government.

One reason for the May timetable is that the government needs to fit in a pre-election economic statement (because there would not be a budget before the poll). But though a squeeze, it wouldn’t be too hard to have that statement early.

A factor in the government’s standing over the summer will be the October 20 Wentworth byelection – the outcome will affect its morale and subsequent media coverage.

The conventional wisdom is that a prime minister (who can choose the date, unlike a premier faced with a fixed date) will go when the evidence suggests they can win. This is trickier if a loss seems more probable than victory, whatever the date.

So the assessment becomes: when will the government be at its peak, whatever that peak might be?

Whether Morrison would be at his strongest in March or May is a moot point.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.

Poll wrap: Phelps slumps to third in Wentworth; Trump’s ratings up after fight over Kavanaugh



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Independent Kerryn Phelps has slumped in the polls ahead of the Wentworth byelection, which was likely caused by changing her position on preferences.
AAP/Mick Tsikas

Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

The Wentworth byelection will be held on October 20. A ReachTEL poll for independent Licia Heath’s campaign, conducted September 27 from a sample of 727, gave the Liberals’ Dave Sharma 40.6% of the primary vote, Labor’s Tim Murray 19.5%, independent Kerryn Phelps 16.9%, Heath 9.4%, the Greens 6.2%, all Others 1.8% and 5.6% were undecided.

According to The Poll Bludger, if undecided voters were excluded, primary votes would be 43.0% Sharma, 20.7% Murray, 17.9% Phelps, 10.0% Heath and 6.6% Greens. Compared to a September 17 ReachTEL poll for GetUp!, which you can read about on my personal website, primary vote changes were Sharma up 3.7%, Murray up 3.3%, Phelps down 4.8%, Heath up 5.6% and Greens down 6.0%. Phelps fell from second behind Sharma to third behind Murray and Sharma.

Between the two ReachTEL polls, Phelps announced on September 21 that she would recommend preferences to the Liberals ahead of Labor, backflipping on her previous position of putting the Liberals last. It is likely this caused her slump.




Read more:
Poll wrap: Labor drops in Newspoll but still has large lead; NSW ReachTEL poll tied 50-50


While more likely/less likely to vote a certain way questions always overstate the impact of an issue, it is nevertheless bad for Phelps that 50% of her own voters said they were less likely to vote for her as a result of the preference decision.

This ReachTEL poll was released by the Heath campaign as it showed her gaining ground. Heath appears to have gained from the Greens, and the endorsement of Sydney Mayor Clover Moore could further benefit her.

Despite the primary vote gain for Sharma, he led Murray by just 51-49 on a two candidate basis, a one-point gain for Murray since the September 17 ReachTEL. The Poll Bludger estimated Murray would need over three-quarters of all independent and minor party preferences to come this close to Sharma.

At the 2016 election, Malcolm Turnbull won 62.3% of the primary vote in Wentworth. While the Liberals’ primary vote in this poll is about 19% below Turnbull, it is recovering to a winning position.

Trump, Republicans gain in fight over Kavanaugh Supreme Court confirmation

On July 9, Trump nominated hard-right judge Brett Kavanaugh to replace the retiring centre-right judge Anthony Kennedy. The right currently has a 5-4 Supreme Court majority, but Kennedy and John Roberts have occasionally voted with the left. If Kavanaugh is confirmed by the Senate, it will give the right a clearer Supreme Court majority. Supreme Court judges are lifetime appointments.

Although Kavanaugh is a polarising figure, he looked very likely to be confirmed by the narrow 51-49 Republican majority Senate until recent sexual assault allegations occurred. Since September 16, three women have publicly accused Kavanaugh of sexual assault when he was a high school or university student.

On September 27, both Kavanaugh and his first accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee. On September 28, without calling additional accusers, the Committee favourably reported Kavanaugh by an 11-10 majority, with all 11 Republicans – all men – voting in favour.

However, after pressure from two Republican senators, the full Senate confirmation vote was delayed for a week to allow an FBI investigation. The Senate received the FBI’s findings on Thursday, and the investigation did not corroborate Ford. Democrats have labelled the report a “whitewash”, but it appears to have satisfied the doubting Republican senators, and Kavanaugh is very likely to be confirmed.

Since the sexual assault allegations against Kavanaugh began, Trump’s ratings in the FiveThirtyEight poll aggregate have recovered to about a 42% approval rating, from 40% in mid-September. Democrats’ position in the race for Congress has deteriorated to a 7.7 point lead, down from 9.1 points in mid-September.

Midterm elections for all of the US House and 35 of the 100 Senators will be held on November 6. Owing to natural clustering of Democratic votes and Republican gerrymandering, Democrats probably need to win the House popular vote by six to seven points to take control.

While the House map is difficult for Democrats, the Senate is far worse. Democrats are defending 26 Senate seats and Republicans just nine, Five of the states Democrats are defending voted for Trump in 2016 by at least 18 points. Two polls this week in one of those big Trump states, North Dakota, gave Republicans double digit leads over the Democratic incumbent.




Read more:
Polls update: Trump’s ratings held up by US economy; Australian polls steady


The FiveThirtyEight forecast models give Democrats a 74% chance of gaining control of the House, but just a 22% chance in the Senate.

Republican gains in the polls are likely due to polarisation over Kavanaugh. In a recent Quinnipiac University national poll, voters did not think Kavanaugh should be confirmed – by a net six-point margin – but Trump’s handling of Kavanaugh was at -7 net approval. Democrats led Republicans by seven points, and Trump’s overall net approval was -12. Kavanaugh was more unpopular than in the previous Quinnipiac poll, but Trump and Republicans were more popular.

The hope for Democrats is that once the Kavanaugh issue is resolved, they can refocus attention on issues such as healthcare and the Robert Mueller investigation into Trump’s ties with Russia. However, the strong US economy assists Trump and the Republicans.

In brief: contest between left and far right in Brazil, conservative breakthrough win in Quebec, Canada

The Brazil presidential election will be held in two rounds, on October 7 and 28. If no candidate wins over 50% in the October 7 first round, the top two proceed to a runoff.

The left-wing Workers’ Party has won the last four presidential elections from 2002 to 2014, but incumbent President Dilma Rousseff was impeached in August 2016, and replaced by conservative Vice President Michel Temer.

Workers’ Party candidate Fernando Haddad and far-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro are virtually certain to advance to the runoff. Bolsonaro has made sympathetic comments about Brazil’s 1964-85 military dictatorship. Runoff polling shows a close contest.

In the Canadian province of Quebec, a conservative party won an election for the first time since 1966.

You can read more about the Brazil and Quebec elections at my personal website.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.

Privatising WestConnex is the biggest waste of public funds for corporate gain in Australian history



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Gladys Berejiklian’s government will pay for much of WestConnex construction, give away other toll roads, guarantee annual toll increases and force motorists to use the toll road.
AAP Image/Joel Carrett

Christopher Standen, University of Sydney

The NSW government has confirmed it will sell 51% of WestConnex — the nation’s biggest road infrastructure project — to a consortium led by Transurban, the nation’s biggest toll road corporation.

NSW treasurer Dominic Perrottet described the A$9.3 billion sale to one of his party’s more generous donors as a “very strong result”.

I would describe it differently: the biggest misuse of public funds for corporate gain in Australia’s history.

Let’s examine how much public funding has been or will be sunk into WestConnex, a 33km toll road linking western Sydney with southwestern Sydney via the inner west.

Privatising Westconnex will return the NSW government 30 cents for every dollar of public money spent.
WestConnex Business Case Executive Summary

To date, the NSW and federal governments have provided grants of about $6 billion. Much of this was raised through selling revenue-generating public assets, including NSW’s electricity network.

Hiding privatisation by stealth

As well, the NSW government is bundling three publicly owned motorways into the sale: the M4 (between Parramatta and Homebush), the M5 East and the M5 Southwest (from 2026). Together, Credit Suisse values these public assets at A$9.2 billion. The government is privatising them by stealth. Leaked NSW cabinet documents suggest the Sydney Harbour Bridge will be next.

Then there is the A$1.5 billion bill for property acquisitions and the millions spent on planning, advertising, consultants, lawyers and bankers.

The government is funding extra road works to help prop up WestConnex toll revenue. It will increase the capacity of road corridors feeding into the interchanges. But it will reduce the number of traffic lanes on roads competing with WestConnex, such as Parramatta Road.




Read more:
Modelling for major road projects is at odds with driver behaviour


It will also pick up the bill for building a A$2.6 billion airport connection and the complex underground interchange at Rozelle. It will even pay compensation if the latter is not completed on schedule.

To further bolster toll revenue, NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian introduced a vehicle registration cashback scheme for toll-road users.

Her government has also committed to continuing the M5 Southwest toll cashback scheme. The cost of these incentives to the public purse is likely to exceed A$2 billion every ten years.

In total, I estimate the NSW government is pumping more than A$23 billion worth of cash, public assets, enabling works and incentives into WestConnex — though efforts to shield the scheme from public scrutiny mean the figure could be much higher.

Finally, as part of the deal with Transurban, the government has agreed to plough A$5.3 billion of the sale proceeds back into WestConnex. It’s recouping just A$4 billion by selling majority ownership.

This translates to a financial return of 34 cents for every dollar spent.

Government expenses and receipts.

Of course, governments don’t always spend our money with the intention of making a profit. Usually there are broader social benefits that justify the expenditure. However, past experience shows inner-city motorways do more harm than good — which is why many cities around the world are demolishing them.

Given its proximity to residential areas, WestConnex will have serious impacts on Sydney’s population. Construction is already destroying communities, harming people’s health and disrupting sleep and travel — with years more to come.

Motorists who cannot afford the new tolls on the M4 ($2,300 a year) and M5 East ($3,100 a year) will have to switch to congested suburban roads. This will mean longer journey times — especially with the removal of traffic lanes on Parramatta Road.

New tolls on existing motorways.

Those who do opt to pay the new tolls may enjoy faster journeys for a few years — until the motorways fill up again.

Costs outweigh the benefits

But this benefit will be largely cancelled out by the tolls they have to pay — with low-income households in western Sydney bearing much of the pain. As such, the ultimate beneficiary will be a corporation that pays no company tax and employs very few people.

Traffic and congestion on roads around the interchanges will increase significantly. Moreover, with tolls for trucks three times those for cars, we can expect to see them switching to suburban and residential streets — especially between peak hours and at night.

The extra traffic created by WestConnex will lead to more road trauma, traffic noise and air pollution across the Sydney metropolitan area. With unfiltered smokestacks being built next to homes and schools, more people may be at risk of heart disease, lung disease and cancer in years to come.




Read more:
Big road projects don’t really save time or boost productivity


On any measure, the WestConnex sale is not in the public interest. The billions of dollars ploughed into the scheme would have been better spent on worthwhile infrastructure or services that improve people’s lives.

Is the WestConnex acquisition a good deal for Transurban? A$9.3 billion may sound like a high price, given the past financial collapses of other Australian toll roads.

However, with the Berejiklian government agreeing to fund most of the remaining construction, giving away the M4 and M5, guaranteeing annual toll increases of at least 4%, and bending over backwards to force motorists under the toll gantries, it can only be described as a “very strong result” for the consortium, though not for taxpayers.The Conversation

Christopher Standen, Transport Analyst, University of Sydney

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