NSW Coalition scrapes back in as minor parties surge – but delivering on promises will not be easy



File 20190324 36252 j4x2lh.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Having been returned to power, the Berejiklian now has to deliver on its big promises.
AAP/Lukas Coch

Andy Marks, Western Sydney University

“It’s not a game of SimCity,” NSW treasurer, Dominic Perrottet assured viewers on the ABC’s NSW election night coverage. “Sydney’s under construction”, he added, acknowledging the Coalition government’s unfinished infrastructure projects are causing grief, but noting, “I don’t sense any baseball bats”. He was right.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s Liberal-National government was returned to office on Saturday night, albeit on a slender margin. With the victory came some wreckage, and largely unexpected beneficiaries. This poll was predicted to be decided in the bush, and that’s where the movement occurred.




Read more:
Low-key NSW election likely to reveal a city-country divide


The Nationals lost the long held seats of Murray and Barwon on swings of around 27% and 21% respectively. And it was the Shooters, Farmers and Fishers that swept the field, capitalising on internal Nationals strife and pledging to act on the fish kill, water security and the drought.

The Shooters also consolidated the slender claim they had on Orange after the 2017 byelection, securing a 37% swing to make the central west firmly their own. A possible tempering of the Shooters vote in light of events in Christchurch didn’t eventuate, with victorious Orange candidate, Phil Donato, telling Channel Seven, “there wasn’t a real lot of talk about it”, adding, “it’s unfortunate it was politicised by the government.”

NSW Nationals leader John Barilaro remarked that his was “not a party of ideology” but a “party of geography”. He wasn’t wrong. While they incurred considerable drops in support in parts of the central, southern and outer west of the state, the Nationals actually attracted a swing of, on average, 5.6% across the seats of Clarence, Cootamundra, Monaro, Northern Tablelands and Oxley. Nevertheless, their Coalition partners were clearly concerned at the federal implications. Progressive Liberal Trent Zimmerman reserved particular scorn for Barnaby Joyce, arguing the NSW result confirmed, “he should spend more time in Tamworth and less time on TV”.

For the Nationals, under leader John Barilaro, the election result was a poor one.
AAP/Dan Himbrechts

Newly-minted independent, Joe McGirr, has made Wagga Wagga his own, retaining the seat he won from the Liberals at last year’s byelection and building his buffer to over 15%. Long-standing Lake Macquarie independent, Greg Piper has put the one-time Labor stronghold squarely out of reach, picking up a 12% swing in the process. Depending on the flow of votes in the lower house, there is talk Piper will be approached for the speakership.

Affirming this election’s broad trend away from the major parties, Alex Greenwich retained Sydney with a roughly 3% swing in his favour. While still in doubt, independent Mathew Dickerson is making a very close run affair of Dubbo, nudging the high profile Nationals’ candidate, Dugald Saunders, a former ABC radio host.

Unlike the independents and the Shooters, One Nation was never going to secure lower house representation. But it did make notable inroads in urban areas. At last count, the NSW arm of Pauline Hanson’s party was odds on to usurp the Greens as the third force in Sydney metropolitan seats like Camden, Holsworthy, Penrith and Wollondilly.

Despite their recent internal turmoil, the Greens made a strong showing in lower house voting. Jamie Parker (Balmain) and Jenny Leong (Newtown) substantially grew their base, securing swings of 6.4 and 5.1% respectively. While in the north, Tamara Smith expanded her two-party preferred vote to over 57%.

The struggle to take neighbouring Lismore is going down to the wire, with former federal Labor MP, Janelle Saffin a chance to pull ahead of the Greens and Nationals in a complex three-way preference contest.




Read more:
Coalition wins a third term in NSW with few seats changing hands


The outcome for the Greens and the Coalition in the upper house won’t be determined for some time. The trend towards minor parties and independents in the lower house, however, suggests that they will feature substantially in the 21 Legislative Council spots in play.

One Nation’s Mark Latham looks to have secured the required 4.55% vote share, with his party a chance for a second. At last count, the Coalition had just over seven spots, Labor six the Greens two and the Shooters one. The eventual upper house composition will almost certainly see the Coalition required to deal with a significantly expanded and unwieldy crossbench; a change from their current, more predictable arrangements, usually with the Christian Democrats.

This election will be remembered as a contest of clear delineations for the Coalition. While their partners, the Nationals, took substantial hits in the bush, the Liberals managed to hold the line in the city, losing Coogee, but retaining marginal East Hills, against the odds.

Labor leader Michael Daley’s “schools and hospitals before stadiums” message may have found traction in pre-election polling and with parts of the electorate, but it wasn’t sufficient for a relatively untested leader to take down a government pledging to “get it done” on infrastructure programs worth over A$80 billion.

Getting it done is the task now for the Berejiklian government, who will be looking to deliver on the large scale but delay-plagued infrastructure projects it has undertaken. Pressing ahead with that agenda won’t be easy for a government skirting a possible minority in the lower house and an unknown quantity in the upper house.

As for Labor, Daley is seeking to stick it out. Barring the stumbles of the last week of his campaign, he has performed remarkably well for a leader in the job only four months, fronting a party that only eight years ago suffered one of the worst electoral defeats in Australian political history. That might not matter to those seeking a new leadership direction after Saturday’s result.The Conversation

Andy Marks, Assistant Vice-Chancellor, Strategy and Policy, Western Sydney University

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

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View from The Hill: NSW result gives federal Liberals a boost in the mind games


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Scott Morrison couldn’t wait for NSW opposition leader Michael Daley’s concession speech on Saturday night. Morrison leapt to the stage at the Liberals’ function, speaking ahead of Gladys Berejiklian, to hail the victory of her government.

For the federal Liberals, the night was a vital morale booster, though the result had been determined mostly on state factors.

Consider what could have happened. Months ago all the talk was how the NSW government feared that going to the people ahead of its federal counterpart meant it would take a serious knock from voters wanting to protest against the Morrison government.

That knock (and attendant backbiting) didn’t come. The polls suggest it is in the pipeline, but if it had been delivered prematurely it would have blown away Morrison’s messages.

The Liberals would delude themselves if they took too much heart from NSW. But at a psychological level it will lift the spirits of their MPs and campaign workers, and provide a better climate in which to launch the April 2 budget than if Labor had won or done significantly better.

Some in Labor are concerned the NSW result breaks the momentum for the federal opposition – that feeling of total inevitability about a Bill Shorten win. If, on the back of this result, the next Newspoll saw a tightening, there’d be a sharp intake of breath in ALP circles.




Read more:
NSW Coalition scrapes back in as minor parties surge – but delivering on promises will not be easy


Both the NSW and federal Liberals have had change at the top since their previous elections. But the difference is dramatic. The federal Liberals tore down a leader in a coup driven by ideology and revenge. The NSW Liberals saw Mike Baird exit and a smooth handover to Berejiklian. The nature of the succession helped set her up for this election.

The Liberals are making much of the fact Berejiklian becomes the first woman to be elected as NSW premier. But that piece of history doesn’t offset the reality that women are thin on the ground in the federal parliamentary party and will remain so after the election.

The failure of NSW Labor has reinforced the message that the actual campaign matters.

Perhaps the ALP wouldn’t have come close even with a better final week. But until then the commentary judged the Berejiklian campaign as poor. Then the video emerged of Daley saying Asians were taking local jobs. He had another own goal when, questioned at a people’s forum, he couldn’t recall the detail of his own policies.

The contrast was stark: a premier who knew what she was doing, and an opposition leader who wasn’t sure what he was promising.

Federally, the 2016 election showed the importance of the last few weeks before voters make their choice. Malcolm Turnbull performed poorly on the hustings and nearly lost.

Indeed, campaigns may matter increasingly. The contemporary electorate is very volatile. And are some voters so disgusted with politics they refuse to listen to the noise until close to election day?

The NSW results also underlined that local campaigns are pivotal. The performance of individual MPs and the quality of candidates can be critical when voters are often focused as much or more on what is happening in their own backyard as on the central messages coming through the media.

The Nationals have been big losers out of the NSW poll, with huge swings in some areas. Two of their seats have gone – Barwon and Murray, won by the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers – and a third, Lismore, is in the balance but likely to be lost to Labor.

In the first two, water was a crucial issue. More generally, the Nationals are having trouble convincing their constituencies they can deliver for them; they’ve become hostage to regional voters’ belief they get a worse deal in services than city people. The siren call of protest parties is potent.

The federal Nationals – who are taking a little comfort from modest positive swings in some other areas – don’t have to worry about the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers winning seats in May.

But, coming against the background of destabilisation in their ranks, the state losses will further unnerve them as they face their test with weak leadership and doubtful prospects.




Read more:
Coalition wins a third term in NSW with few seats changing hands


Michael McCormack is safe until the election but he struggles to manage an unsettled bunch. It seemed very deliberate that Liberal senator Arthur Sinodinos on Sunday went out of his way to give a shout-out to McCormack.

“Let me make it very clear: Scott Morrison, Josh Frydenberg, Arthur Sinodinos for what it’s worth, and all the other members of the Liberal-National coalition back Michael McCormack as the leader to go into the election,” Sinodinos said on the ABC.

The Nationals have several lower house seats vulnerable in May. They’ll need to differentiate themselves from the Liberals – as they did in 2016 – but how effectively McCormack can execute this is another matter.

Former leader Barnaby Joyce, a campaigning asset for the Nationals – and by extension the government – in 2016, now runs off the leash, often sounding quite wild. His aggressive performance on Seven was the talk of the election-night TV coverage.

In a clear signal to Joyce, Sinodinos said his campaigning ability should be “used to the greater good of the Coalition”. NSW federal Liberal MP Trent Zimmerman put it more bluntly – Joyce should “spend more time in Tamworth and less time on TV”. But the man who declared on Saturday night “we’ve got to stop taking our political advice from the ABC” is unlikely to be tuning into those who want him to turn his volume down.

The NSW outcome probably puts even more eggs in the budget basket.

Sinodinos highlighted its tax cuts as a campaigning counter to Labor’s line on wages.

“When the ACTU and others are out there talking about ‘we need a wage increase of X’, that’s a pre-tax wage increase. You can get an equivalent effect through a proper tax cut for low and middle income earners,” he said. “So we’ll be saying that until our policies kick in to help lift wages even further, the way to do this is through tax cuts focussed on low and middle income earners”.

As is so often observed, people distinguish between their state and federal votes. For the federal battle, this NSW poll has not thrown any switch – it has just made some readjustment to the temperature.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.

The government is right – immigration helps us rather than harms us


Robert Breunig, Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University

Opponents of Australia’s strong immigration program will be disappointed.

In announcing a cut in Australia’s migration ceiling from 190,000 to 160,000 per year, federal population minister Alan Tudge launched an all-out defence of immigration as a driver of economic prosperity.

It has not only boosted gross domestic product and budget revenue, as would be expected when with more people, but also also living standards – measured as GDP per person. Tudge explained:

This is often not sort of fully understood. Not only does population growth help with GDP growth overall, but it helps with GDP per capita growth too. It’s actually made all of us wealthier.

In fact, Treasury estimates that 20% of our per capita wealth generated over the last 40 years has been due to population factors. How does that come about? In part because when we bring in migrants, they come in younger than what the average Australian is. On average, a migrant comes in at the age of 26. The average age of an Australian is about 37. So it very much helps with our workforce participation, and that’s essentially a big driver of our GDP per capita growth.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison added:

I would also mention from a pensions point of view and social welfare point of view, achieving more of a balance in the working-age population means there’s more people in the working age to actually pay for the pensions and the welfare bill for those who aren’t able to be in the workforce and with an ageing population.

The lower ceiling announced on Wednesday will make little difference to Australia’s migrant intake. It is already close to 160,000, at about 162,000. Other changes will attempt to influence where migrants settle.

Two new regional visas for skilled workers will require them to live and work in less urban Australia (outside of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and the Gold Coast) for three years before being able to become a permanent resident. Of the 160,000 potential places, 23,000 will be set aside for these visa-holders. International students studying outside the big cities will get access to an extra year in Australia on a post-study work visa.

Immigration shouldn’t supress wages

Tudge’s acceptance that migration neither boosts unemployment nor cuts wages is consistent with most evidence from Australia and overseas.

New arrivals increase the supply of workers (such as teachers and house-builders), which might be expected to depress existing residents’ wages. But there are two countervailing forces.

First, migrants also increase the demand for goods and services (as the arrivals’ children get taught and their homes get built), which might be expected to boost preexisting residents’ wages.

Second, if migrants fill jobs that would otherwise go unfilled, they can boost the productivity, and hence the wages, of existing residents.

Most studies of migration shocks, such as the repatriation of more than a million French citizens to metropolitan France after the Algerian civil war, have found that the net effect is close to zero.

There is hardly any evidence that it does

An exception is work in the United States by George Borjas, who found that the boatlift of 125,000 mostly low-skilled immigrants from Cuba to Miami in 1980 did suppress the wages of low-skilled Miami workers, if not Miami workers overall. But this finding has been disputed.

In 2015 Nathan Deutscher, Hang Thi and I set out to replicate his work, using changes in the immigration rates of different skill groups to Australia to identify the effects of immigration on the earnings and employment prospects of particular groups of Australian workers.

Our data came from the Australian Census, the Surveys of Income and Housing, and the Household Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia Survey.

We isolated 40 distinct skill groups at a national level, identifying them with a combination of educational attainment and workforce experience and examined six outcomes – annual earnings, weekly earnings, wage rates, hours worked, labour market participation rate, and unemployment.

We explored 114 different possibilities, controlling for macroeconomic conditions and for the fact that immigrants to Australia are disproportionately highly skilled with higher wages.

In Australia, we found next to none

We found immigration had no overall impact on the wages of incumbent workers. If anything, the effect was slightly positive.

Some of our estimates showed immigration had a negative effect on some groups of incumbent workers, but the positive effects outnumbered negative effects by three to one. The vast majority of effects were zero.

The statistical basis for our finding of no overall effect was incredibly strong. It more than passed the standard tests.

Our research only looked at one, very limited, aspect of immigration. Immigrants can also bring cultural and demographic benefits. And until infrastructure catches up, they can increase congestion.

But immigration doesn’t seem to harm either jobs or wages, a point the Morrison government is right to acknowledge.




Read more:
Solving the ‘population problem’ through policy


The Conversation


Robert Breunig, Professor of Economics and Director, Tax and Transfer Policy Institute, Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University

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

Slimmed-down migration program has regional focus


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

The government has announced a reduced annual cap on migration of 160,000 for each of the next four years, as well as measures to stream a greater proportion of migrants to regional areas and boost the skilled component to these places.

The overhaul of the program comes after pressure from various quarters including conservative Liberals for immigration to be lowered, and the government talking up the need for “congestion busting”.

The government said cutting the migration cap by 15 per cent would reduce the maximum intake by a cumulative 120,000 over four years.

But the migration cap, although it is 30,000 lower than the present cap, in fact broadly reflects the actual current level of intake.

Last year permanent migration fell to its lowest level in a decade as a result of visa and other tightening.

Two new regional visas will be introduced for skilled workers, requiring them to live and work in regional areas for three years before being eligible to access permanent residency.

Skilled Employer Sponsored Regional and Skilled Work Regional visa holders will be given priority processing and will have access to a larger pool of eligible jobs.

Some 23,000 places will be set aside for regional skilled visas – this is a rise from 8,534 in 2017-18. This 8,534 represented only 7.7% of the total 111,000 skilled migrants; their visas required them to live and work in regional areas only for two years before being able to apply for permanent residency. The 23,000 will be 21% of the skilled intake.

There will also be new tertiary scholarships for Australian and international students to study in the regions – these will be worth $15,000 and go to more than 1000 local and foreign students annually.

International students studying at regional universities will be given access to an extra year in Australia on a post-study work visa.

The government says the new migration program increases the focus on skills, with the number of Employer Sponsored skilled places rising from 35,528 in 2017-18 to 39,000 in 2019-20. The family stream of the program hasn’t changed with 47,732 places available in 2019-20. The squeeze on the cap comes in the form of a reduction in the independent skilled category.

The program’s composition will be kept at about 70 per cent in the skilled stream and 30 per cent in the family stream.

The reduction in the migration ceiling will have no impact on the budget.

Scott Morrison said the government’s plan “manages population growth by adopting well targeted, responsible, and sustainable immigration policies”.

Morrison said migrants “are an invaluable part of Australia’s economic and social fabric. Our economic strength is supported by a successful migration program that brings skilled people of working age”.

He warned against those who wanted to run scare campaigns as a result of the announcements, saying they would be taking Australians for mugs.

Better targeting the intake would address skills shortages and benefit the whole economy, he said. “It will take pressure off in those cities that are straining, while supporting the cities and towns that are keen to have stronger growth”.

Morrison said managing population growth was not just about the migration intake, but also about infrastructure, city and regional deals, congestion busting projects, removing traffic bottlenecks, funding essential services, and providing key skills to regional to rural areas.

“Our plan marks a turning point in the way population is treated across government, with a move to greater collaboration, transparency and longer term planning. It is a comprehensive plan that engages and partners with our states and territories and local governments.”

Morrison said he wanted Australians to “spend less time in traffic and more time with their families”.

“Meanwhile I know we have rural and regional communities that have plans and opportunities to grow their shires, who are looking for more people to come and settle in their districts to fill jobs, inject more life into their towns, and shore up the important education and health services for the future they rely on.”

Bill Shorten played down the change in the migration cap, saying it was a 1% reduction from the 162,000 actual intake of last year. “That’s fine – I’ll always be guided by the experts”.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.

Coalition wins a third term in NSW with few seats changing hands



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Gladys Berejiklian is set to be returned as New South Wales premier.
AAP/Lukas Coch

Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

With 54% of the vote counted at the New South Wales election held today, the ABC is currently projecting 45 of the 93 lower house seats for the Coalition, 35 for Labor, three Greens, three independents and two Shooters, Fishers and Farmers. Five seats remain undecided. Coogee is the only current clear Labor gain from the Coalition.

Forty-seven seats are needed for a majority, but the Coalition is in a strong position to form a minority government if it falls short. This will be the Coalition’s third term in NSW. It is the first time the Coalition has won a third term in NSW since 1971; the last time the Coalition won a third term in state government in Australia was in 1980.

All crossbenchers in the current parliament retained their seats. The Greens won Newtown, Balmain and Ballina. The Shooters retained Orange, which they had won at a byelection, and gained Murray from the Nationals. Independents retained Sydney, Lake Macquarie and Wagga Wagga (also won at a byelection).

The ABC’s projection of final primary votes are currently 41.7% Coalition (down 3.9% since the 2015 election), 33.4% Labor (down 0.7%), 9.9% Greens (down 0.4%) and 3.1% Shooters. If the projection is accurate, it is an indictment on Labor that their primary vote fell. The two party statewide result will not be available for a long time, but the Coalition probably won by about 53-47, a swing of about 1.5% to Labor.

Late campaign mishaps probably cost Labor in NSW. On March 18, Labor leader Michael Daley was revealed to have made comments in September 2018, before he became leader, that could be perceived as anti-Asian. On March 20, during a leaders’ debate, Daley could not recall details of funding for his party’s policies.

The final NSW Newspoll gave the Coalition a 51-49 lead, a one-point gain for the Coalition since eleven days ago. Primary votes were 41% Coalition (up one), 35% Labor (down one) and 10% Greens (steady). Reflecting his bad final week, Daley’s net approval plunged 14 points to -15, while Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s net approval dropped five points to +1. That Newspoll was taken March 19-21, and the momentum towards the Coalition appears to have carried over into the election results.

Two days before the 2015 Queensland election, Labor leader Annastacia Palaszczuk was unable to name the GST rate in an interview. Yet Labor ousted the LNP at that election on a massive swing.

I believe the difference between Queensland 2015 and NSW 2019 is that voters are more inclined to forgive politicians who make a mistake that is perceived to be out of character. Daley has only been the NSW Labor leader since November, and his anti-Asian video revealed something that voters did not like. It is probably more dangerous for a left-wing leader to be perceived as racist than a right-wing leader.

I will update this article tomorrow with more complete details of the lower house and a look at the upper house.

MORE TO COMEThe 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.

Morrison announces $55 million for security at religious premises and warns against “tribalism”


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Scott Morrison has warned against “tribalists” hijacking policy
arguments, declaring the migration issue “must not be appropriated as a proxy debate for racial, religious or ethnic sectarianism”.

In his address in the wake of the New Zealand attack, on the theme of managing differences, Morrison said it was not a matter of “disagreeing less, but disagreeing better”.

“When we disagree better, we engage with respect, rather than
questioning each other’s integrity and morality,” he told the
Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce in Melbourne.

“Tribalists constantly seek to appropriate legitimate policy issues and public concerns as a tool to promote their separatist and exclusive agendas. To contort and misrepresent disagreement in the worst possible terms,” the Prime Minister said.

He announced A$55 million for religious organisations to increase
security at their premises, including schools, and places of worship and assembly.

Grants will range from $50,000 to $1.5 million for enhancements
including CCTV cameras, lighting, fencing, bollards, alarms, security systems and public address systems.

On two charged and divisive political debates, Morrison stressed that dealing with population growth was a “practical policy challenge”, and claimed “I have never sought to question the compassionate motives of those who hold different views about the best way to manage Australia’s borders”.

He said that in Australia as in many other countries the “ties
that bind us are under new pressures and are at risk of breaking.

“If we allow a culture of ‘us and them’, of tribalism, to take hold; if we surrender an individual to be defined not by their own unique worth and contribution but by the tribe they are assigned to, if we yield to the compulsion to pick sides rather than happy coexistence, we will lose what makes diversity work in Australia,” he said.

“As debate becomes more fierce, the retreat to tribalism is
increasingly taking over, and for some, extremism takes hold.

“Reading only news that we agree with, interacting with people only we agree with, and having less understanding and grace towards others that we do not even know, making the worst possible assumptions about them and their motives, simply because we disagree with them.

“This is true of the left and the right. And even more so from those shouting from the fringes to a mainstream of quiet Australians that just want to get on with their lives.

“Hate, blame and contempt are the staples of tribalism, it is
consuming modern debate, egged on by an appetite for conflict as
entertainment, not so different from the primitive appetites of the colosseum days, with a similar corrosive impact on the fabric of our society”.

Morrison said tribalists sought to take over legitimate policy issues and public concerns, using them to promote their separatist agendas, contorting and misrepresenting disagreement.

A discussion of the annual migrant intake was “not a debate about the value or otherwise of multiculturalism or the economic contribution of migration,” he said.

“It must not be appropriated as a proxy debate for racial, religious or ethnic sectarianism.

“Just because Australians are frustrated about traffic jams and
population pressures encroaching on their quality of life, especially in this city, does not mean they are anti-migrant or racist,” he said.

“For the overwhelming majority of Australians concerned about this
issue, this is not and never would be their motivation”.

He said the worst example was “the despicable appropriation of
concerns about immigration as a justification for a terrorist
atrocity.

“Such views have rightly been denounced. But equally, so to must the imputation that the motivation for supporting moderated immigration levels is racial hatred.

“As Australians we need to stand against the militant and lazy group think that distorts our public debate, stand up for our individualism and seek to think better of each other”.

He said “extremism, or in a different form fundamentalism, is simply an inability to tolerate difference.

“It is to feel threatened by others who do not conform to your world view.

“And it takes many forms: religious extremism, secular extremism, and political extremism.

“Every terrorist attack has at its core a hatred of difference and a hatred about the choices and lives of others”.

Morrison said last week “mindless tribalism” ended the lives of 50
people in New Zealand.

“Tribalists always want to separate us, divide us, set one Australian against another.

As Prime Minister I want to continue to bring Australians together, not set them against one another”.

“I believe, not in a tribalism that divides, but in an us that unites.”

Morrison took up Jacinda Ardern’s phrase when she said of Muslims
“they are us”, and applied it to Australia.

He said:

  • Indigenous Australians are us

  • Immigrant Australians from all nationalities and backgrounds,
    including Chinese, Lebanese, Greek, Indian, Turkish, Vietnamese, just to name a few, are us

  • Muslim Australians are us

  • Christian Australians are us

  • Jewish Australians are us

  • Hindu Australians are us

  • atheist Australians are us

  • LGBTIQ Australians are us

  • whoever you vote for – us

  • older Australians are us

  • young Australians are us

  • female Australians are us

  • male Australians are us

  • regional Australians are us.

“From the bottom of Tasmania to the tip of Cape York, from Byron to Broome, all 25 million Australians are us.

“We belong to each other. We stand with each other. We must love and respect each other more. That’s what we must affirm today to fight the forces that will otherwise weaken our nation”.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.

NSW election neck and neck as voters face a 1950s-style ‘I’ll see you and raise you’ campaign


David Clune, University of Sydney

On Saturday, March 23, the people of New South Wales will head to the ballot boxes for a state election. It is looking increasingly close, with polls showing government and opposition neck and neck on about 50% of the two-party preferred vote. This is a decline in the Coalition vote of 4% compared to the 2015 election.

The current campaign is reminiscent of a 1950s “I’ll see you and raise you” one. Government and opposition are engaged in an auction to outbid each other in the amounts committed to schools, hospitals, transport and other basic services. The campaign is one of the quietest in a long time, with little excitement about the respective leaders and no major clash of visions for the future.




Read more:
Mark Latham in the upper house? A Coalition minority government? The NSW election is nearly upon us and it’s going to be a wild ride


Mike Baird’s victory in 2015 laid the foundation for this. The then Coalition leader won a mandate to privatise the state’s electricity network, although sacrificing seats his successor would be glad to have in reserve. The mountains of money produced by this and other privatisations have allowed Premier Gladys Berejiklian to go to the election with a massive war chest.

In addition, the NSW economy is in good shape, performing well compared to most other states. The budget is in surplus and predicted to remain there. Net debt is negative. Unemployment is at a record low.

The Coalition government has a large array of infrastructure projects in progress, including the Westconnex and Northconnex motorways, Sydney Metro – the largest public transport project in Australia – and the CBD and South East light rail. The amount committed for infrastructure over the next four years is just under A$90 billion.

Berejiklian’s pitch is: don’t jeopardise all this by electing Labor. She is keen to remind the electorate of the factional bloodletting, policy paralysis and corruption that marked the final years of the last ALP government in NSW. The release during the campaign of Ian Macdonald, another ex-ALP minister, after his conviction was quashed, assisted the government by putting their misdeeds back on the front pages.

The Coalition also has some significant problems. Overdevelopment is devastating many Sydney suburbs. Residents angry at the disruption to their lives are likely to turn against the Liberals. The premier will not be presiding at many opening ceremonies for infrastructure projects before the election. More apparent are cost over-runs, delays and short-term inconvenience.

The general unpopularity of the federal Coalition government is a handicap for its NSW counterpart. In rural NSW, a belief that the Nationals have neglected voters’ interests could cost the government seats.




Read more:
Low-key NSW election likely to reveal a city-country divide


Opposition Leader Michael Daley struggled at first to gain momentum and attention. His campaign ignited three weeks out from polling day when he took on influential radio commentator Alan Jones over the Sydney stadiums issue. This has been a festering sore for the government since November 2017, when Berejiklian announced that both Allianz Stadium at Moore Park and ANZ Stadium at Homebush would be simultaneously demolished and rebuilt at an estimated cost of A$2.5 billion.

The public outcry at what was seen as wasteful expense was so great that she quickly backed off. The rebuilding of Allianz would proceed, but ANZ would now be renovated, saving A$1 billion.

Labor quickly seized on the issue, opposing the demolition of Allianz and coining the effective slogan of “schools and hospitals before Sydney stadiums”.

Jones is a member of the prestigious Sydney Cricket Ground Trust, which controls Allianz and has lobbied strongly for its rebuilding. Daley attacked Jones and promised to sack him and most members of the trust.

Daley instantly became the people’s politician, unafraid to stand up to a powerful broadcaster and an elite board. He put the stadium issue back at the centre of the campaign. It crystallised the perception that the government is more concerned about developers and big business than the community.

But does Daley have anything more positive to offer? There is some policy differentiation.

Labor has promised there will be no more privatisations and will re-regulate the electricity industry. Labor also has stronger policies on the environment and climate change than the Coalition. It will be more generous to the public sector. But the main thrust of Daley’s campaign is: we will give you more of the same but do it better.

The government has 52 of the 93 seats in the Legislative Assembly. The opposition holds 34. A uniform swing of nearly 9%, just under what it achieved at the last election, would be needed for Labor to gain a majority in its own right.

A feature of this poll is the difference between Sydney and the bush. In 2015, Labor picked up most of the low-hanging fruit in Sydney and only a handful of seats are in play this time. In rural and regional NSW, the Nationals face a strong challenge from independents and minor parties.

If the government loses six seats, it will be in a minority. After appointing a speaker, its numbers would drop to 45. The crossbench would be in a crucial position.

Currently, there are seven crossbench MPs in the lower house: three Greens, a Shooter and three independents (Alex Greenwich, Joe McGirr and Greg Piper). The Greens have already indicated they would support the Coalition. Greenwich is on the left and has close links with his predecessor, Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore. The other three are more conservatively inclined. The election of additional crossbenchers would add to the unpredictability.

Daley is hoping the electorate has forgotten about Obeid and that accumulated dissatisfaction with the government will translate into a victory for him. The result hinges on whether voters have lost faith in the Coalition to the extent that they are prepared to trust Labor again.The Conversation

David Clune, Honorary Associate, Government and International Relations, University of Sydney

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

Grattan on Friday: The Coalition is trapped in its coal minefield


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Sydney shock jock Ray Hadley was apoplectic. Home Affairs Minister
Peter Dutton, one of Hadley’s favourites, who has a regular spot on his 2GB program, had just committed blasphemy.

Dutton said he didn’t believe in the government building a new
coal-fired power station. Hadley couldn’t credit what he was hearing. “You’re toeing the [Morrison] company line”, he said accusingly.

It’s another story with Dutton’s cabinet colleague and fellow
Queenslander, Resources Minister Matt Canavan, who is part of the
Queensland Nationals’ push for support for a new power station in that state.

“Studies have come back always saying that a HELE [high-efficiency, low-emissions] or a new coal-fired power station would make a lot of sense in North Queensland,” Canavan said this week.

The two ministers’ divergent views are not surprising on the basis of where they come from. In Brisbane voters tend to share similar opinions on climate change and coal to those in the southern capitals – it’s the regions where support for coal is stronger.

What’s surprising is how the rifts at the government’s highest levels are being exposed. In these desperate days, it is every minister, every government backbencher, and each part, or sub-part, of the Coalition for themselves.

Never mind cabinet solidarity, or Coalition unity.

The most spectacular outbreak came this week from Barnaby Joyce,
declaring himself the “elected deputy prime minister” and pressing the government for a strongly pro-coal stand.

It was a slap at besieged Nationals leader Michael McCormack, after rumourmongering that McCormack might be replaced even before the election. Predictably, the NSW Nationals, fighting a difficult state election, were furious.

The Joyce outbreak was further evidence that the federal Nationals are a mess, over leadership and electorally. They have a party room of 22 – there are fears they could lose up to four House of Representatives seats as well as going down two in the Senate.




Read more:
View from The Hill: Coal turns lumpy for Scott Morrison and the Nationals


(However it’s not all gloom in the Nationals – at the election they will gain three new women, two in the Senate – Susan McDonald from Queensland and Sam McMahon from the Northern Territory – and Anne Webster in the Victorian seat of Mallee. Whatever happens to the party’s numbers overall, the women will go from two to four or five, depending on the fate of Michelle Landry, who holds the marginal seat of Capricornia. The Nationals’ NSW Senate candidate is also a woman but is unlikely to be elected.)

By mid week Joyce was back in his box, stressing that McCormack would take the party to the election. But he was still in the coal advocacy vanguard.

The coal debate and the assertiveness of the Queensland Nationals
smoked out a clutch of Liberal moderates, who question spending
government money on coal projects (although there is some confusion between building power stations and underwriting ventures).




Read more:
Queensland Nationals Barry O’Sullivan challenges Morrison over coal


The government’s policy is for underwriting “firm power” projects, on a technology-neutral basis, if they stack up commercially.

The marauding Nationals were derisive of moderate Liberals trying to protect their seats. “Trendy inner-city Liberals who want to oppose coal and the jobs it creates should consider joining the Greens,” Queensland National George Christensen said tartly on Facebook.

It was a rare appearance by the moderates, who have made a poor
showing over the last few years, True, some were crucial in achieving the same-sex marriage reform. But in general they’ve failed to push back against the right’s tightening ideological grip on the Liberal party, and the government has suffered as a result.

The week highlighted, yet again, that instead of a credible energy
policy, the government has only confusion and black holes.

With his recent announcements, Morrison has been trying to show he’s heard the electorate on climate change. But actually, these were mostly extensions of what had been done or proposed.

The Abbott government’s emissions reduction fund (renamed) is getting an injection, given it would soon be close to exhausted. And the Snowy pumped hydro scheme, announced by Malcolm Turnbull, has received the go-ahead. Didn’t we expect that? There was also modest support for a new inter-connector to transmit Tasmanian hydro power to Victoria.

The government can’t get its “big stick” legislation – aimed at
recalcitrant power companies – through parliament. It will take it to the election. But who knows what its future would be in the unlikely event of a re-elected Coalition government? It would face Senate hurdles and anyway “free market” Liberals don’t like it.

And then we come to the underwriting initiative. The government has 66 submissions seeking support, 10 of which have “identified coal as a source of generation”.

Sources say it is hoped to announce backing for some projects before the election. But this will be fraught, internally and externally, for the government.

One source hinted one project might involve coal. Even if this is
true, it won’t satisfy the Coalition’s coal spruikers, deeply unhappy that Morrison has flagged there won’t be support for a Queensland coal-fired power station. (The Queenslanders liken Morrison’s cooling on coal to Kevin Rudd’s 2010 back off from his emissions trading scheme.)

On the other hand, underwriting of any coal project would alarm
Liberals in the so-called “leafy-suburbs” electorates.

Given the proximity to the election, the government could do little more than give promises to particular projects. There is also the risk of blow back from those whose bids are unsuccessful.

There would be no obligation on a Labor government to honour any
commitments, because formal agreements would not have been finalised.

Meanwhile the government is trying to promote a scare against Labor’s climate policy, still to be fully outlined, which includes reducing emissions by an ambitious 45% by 2030 (compared with the government’s pledge of 26-28%).

But unlike, for example, the scare over the ALP’s franking credits
policy (dubbed by the government a “retirement tax”), this scare is much harder to run, except in specific regional areas.

The zeitgeist is in Labor’s favour on the climate issue, not least
after sweltering summer days and bushfires.

The public have a great deal of faith in renewables – in focus groups people don’t just like them, they romanticise them.

It seems the government can’t take a trick on climate and energy
policy – even the school children are reminding it of that.




Read more:
Students striking for climate action are showing the exact skills employers look for


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.

Young voters may hold the key to the NSW state election: here’s why


File 20190313 86713 1fx7hkz.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Students march through the University of NSW in Sydney calling on the university to divest from fossil fuels.
AAP/Danny Casey

Philippa Collin, Western Sydney University

Young Australians are more connected, educated and informed than previous generations. They are also more likely to have higher debt and less economic independence into their 30s. Many feel excluded from traditional politics and policy making and are turning to local action and global issues to express their political views.

Young people are also swing voters who have had a significant, but unrecognised, effect on the outcomes of elections since the mid 1990s. In NSW, there are 1.34 million voters aged 18-35 – 25% of all electors. This is a record high number following a 2017 surge in national enrolment when 65,000 new young voters registered in the lead up to the same-sex marriage poll. There are now 140,000 more 18-24-year-old voters than 1.5 years ago.




Read more:
Many young people aren’t enrolled to vote – but are we asking them the wrong question?


In general, young voters are socially progressive and action-oriented. They are not rusted on to party politics and they want to see leadership on issues. In close elections, like this year’s NSW state poll, winning the youth vote will be key to winning government – especially in marginal seats.

For example, in the 2015 election, Coogee was won by less than 2,500 votes – equivalent to half of the 20-24-year-olds in that electorate. So the issues that matter to young people should matter to NSW electoral candidates.

What matters to young people in NSW?

Safety at entertainment events and school strikes on climate change have already tested the Coalition government’s responses to young people and their concerns. Yet, the diverse experiences and needs of young people still aren’t reflected by political parties. Key issues that matter to young people in the NSW election include:

Heath and mental health

In NSW, mental health is the top priority issue for those aged 15-19. The most frightening aspect of mental health for young people is the growing rate of youth suicide, and 45% of all young people who died by suicide in 2016 were from NSW.

Around two-thirds of young Australians who need help don’t get it. In consultations with more than 4,000 children and young people, the NSW Advocate for Children and Young People identified access to health and mental health services and support as a major concern. Young people want the government to ensure there is appropriate help, when they need it – including after hours.

They also want governments to address the “causes of the causes” of poor health and mental health – such as poverty, inequality and violence.

Unemployment

Finding work is becoming more difficult for young Australians. With one in three young people unemployed or underemployed, young people are not benefiting from economic or job growth in the state. The youth unemployment rate is more than twice Australia’s overall unemployment rate and in NSW, 84,900 young people are not in paid work. Despite 60% of young Australians achieving post school qualifications, half of Australia’s 25-year-olds are unable to secure full-time employment.




Read more:
High youth unemployment can’t be blamed on wages


Housing affordability

As more young people are pushed into perpetual and unaffordable renting because they cannot afford to buy a home, and with the increasing number of youth experiencing homelessness, housing affordability is a clear election priority. The relative cost of purchasing a house in 2016 was four times what it was in 1975, with more than 50% of young people under 24 experiencing housing stress.

For young people in Western Sydney, the situation is especially acute. Rents can be 35-60% of average weekly wages for people over the age of 15. Of immediate concern is the massive increase in youth homelessness over the last decade by 92%. There were 9,048 homeless young people in NSW in 2016: more than in any other state.

Climate change

Climate change remains a key concern for young people: it is one of the top three issues identified by young people for the 2016 election. In 2017, a United Nations Youth Representative Report listed it as the number one concern.

Since then, young people have been calling for politicians to take meaningful action on climate change, spurring a world-wide movement “school strike 4 climate” for which many will demonstrate at an estimated 50 sites around Australia on March 15. Young people have the most at stake when it comes to climate change and they are holding the government to account. Climate change will be a deciding issue until there is clear action made by state and federal governments.

Education

The rising cost of VET, TAFE and university fees, compounded by insecure work and the high cost of living, are making educational access increasingly unequal for young people across NSW.

Young people want education to be free or more affordable, to ensure that everyone has access to a well-funded and relevant education system, according to a survey of 3,400 young people done by Youth Action in 2018.

Young people, especially those from rural and remote areas, those with a disability, and those from low SES backgrounds continue to face disproportionate challenges in our state education system.

Beyond the election

Young people won’t be won over by small, short term measures. Candidates and parties must be genuine, honest, consistent and lead on the key issues that matter to young people. To gain and retain their votes, politicians need to deliver and meaningfully engage with young people in the long term. Much like a Minister for Ageing (which NSW has), a Minister for Youth would ensure this consistently across government.




Read more:
How to engage youth in making policies that work for us all


In all their diversity, young people care about issues and they want to be involved. Adding their voices and votes to solving big policy problems in NSW will have a beneficial flow-on effect for the rest of society. In extensive consultations by the NSW Advocate for Children and Young People and for Youth Action’s 2019 Election Platform young people have clearly articulated what needs to happen to create a better society for their peers and deliver benefits to the wider community.

Candidates in the upcoming election would be wise to heed and act on the priorities of young people who will be voting in March – and for many decades to come. If you don’t secure their vote, someone else will.

This article was co-authored with Katie Acheson (CEO, Youth Action)The Conversation

Philippa Collin, Associate Professor, Institute for Culture and Society, Western Sydney University

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

How the NSW election promises on transport add up


Marion Terrill, Grattan Institute and James Ha, Grattan Institute

Sydney is awash with construction activity – new motorways, light rail and the Metro project are all part of an infrastructure deluge. And as New South Wales voters head to the polls, the two major parties keep raining promises on electorates of ever-larger, ever-faster transport projects.

But with early voting now open, it’s time to take stock. And Grattan Institute has tallied the numbers to help make sense of it all.

First, the total cost: Labor is promising about A$50 billion of transport projects, and the Coalition about A$70 billion. And the five largest projects on each side together account for more than three-quarters of the total cost. This matters – the bigger the project, the more likely it’ll go over budget, and in a big way.




Read more:
WestConnex audit offers another $17b lesson in how not to fund infrastructure


So far, 14 projects have been announced with price tags in the billions of dollars. Each A$1 billion equates to around A$125 from every person in NSW.

How different are the party platforms?

A striking difference between this election and the Victorian election last November is how much the major parties actually agree on. Both support three of the four largest projects. Voters take note: no matter who wins, you can expect to pay for most of the transport infrastructure promises now on offer.

The major difference is in the parties’ positions on roads – especially toll roads. The Coalition is backing the A$14 billion Western Harbour Tunnel & Beaches Link and the A$2.6 billion F6; Labor is promising to scrap them.

Before he resigned as state Labor leader last November, Luke Foley declared that Labor would “unashamedly prioritise public transport over toll roads”. His successor, Michael Daley, appears to have held the course.

The bulk of public transport spending by both sides will be on rail, nearly all of it in Sydney. An exception is the Liberals’ plan for regional fast rail. Sound familiar? Just a few months ago, the then leader of the Victorian Liberals, Matthew Guy, tried to woo voters with a similar promise.

Unlike their southern counterparts, the Berejiklian government is not taking an actual plan to the election, just a commitment to plan. It’s a move they might’ve learned from Victorian Labor Premier Daniel Andrews and his promised A$50 billion rail loop. The NSW Liberals have not provided any cost estimates for fast rail, so Grattan Institute has excluded it from these charts; safe to say, including it would make the Coalition’s total spending promises even more enormous.




Read more:
How much will voters pay for an early Christmas? Eight charts that explain Victoria’s transport election


The coming transport infrastructure wave is heavily focused on Sydney. Both parties are set to pour cash into western Sydney, a clear battleground. It’s not surprising that regional NSW gets less of the transport love – voters outside the capital might be more concerned with hospitals and schools than with transport, particularly if they face little congestion.

How well justified are these projects?

Election campaigns can feel like birthday parties, with politicians bestowing gifts upon voters. But these gifts are largely paid for by the taxpayer, or by motorists in the case of tollways. Big infrastructure doesn’t come with a gift receipt; voters need to know in advance whether these projects’ benefits outweigh the costs.

Infrastructure NSW and Infrastructure Australia are two independent bodies that can identify worthy projects and assess business cases. Only two major projects have a tick of approval from either of those bodies – Sydney Metro (City and Southwest sections), and Stage 1 of the F6.

The Coalition supports both of these, whereas Labor supports only the City section of Sydney Metro. It is unclear why Labor would walk away from projects with established net benefits to the community.

Voters should be concerned that the other promised infrastructure is either not recommended or lacks business cases.

It can be difficult for an opposition to complete a business case, given it doesn’t have access to department resources. The government has no such excuse. Making promises without first scrutinising them forces voters to make risky decisions. Grattan Institute research shows that cost overruns were 23% higher for projects announced close to an election.




Read more:
Spectacular cost blowouts show need to keep governments honest on transport


Reforms promise a better way

Governments should do their due diligence before election time. Fortunately, there are signs of improvement on this score.

Labor is promising to introduce public planning inquiries on projects worth more than A$1 billion. This should help ensure business cases are completed, independently assessed and accessible to the public before projects are approved. When infrastructure is so costly and, at times, controversial, it’s very worthwhile to strive for community support and bipartisanship.

And Labor promises a new level of transparency in how government operates, by bringing in the independent pricing regulator, IPART, and the Auditor-General to shine a light on toll road contracts.

Labor also promises to strengthen the Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO) so that it runs all year round, not just before elections. Much like the Victorian PBO, this would enable minor parties to have their policies costed as well.

With 30% of voters planning to cast their ballots early this election, the PBO should also be required to publish budget impact statements two weeks before the election, not five days. This would help early voters to make informed decisions, as well as raising public suspicion about any policy announced in the fortnight before election day, too late for costing.

Recent experience suggests that promising splashy projects with big price tags can be very effective at election time. With more accountability and better processes, voters mightn’t be so easily swept off their feet.




Read more:
We hardly ever trust big transport announcements – here’s how politicians get it right


The Conversation


Marion Terrill, Transport and Cities Program Director, Grattan Institute and James Ha, Graduate Associate, Grattan Institute

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