View from The Hill: Morrison government’s message to Daniel Andrews: ‘open faster’


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Daniel Andrews’ Sunday announcement of some modest steps out of lockdown will bring both relief and reassurance to many Victorians, but frustration to those who think he should move faster.

Certainly the Morrison government wants the state to take bigger strides.

As the federal government finalises next week’s budget, with a deficit for this financial year of a magnitude none of us have seen before and large red numbers into the future, Morrison, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Health Minister Greg Hunt applied the blow torch to the premier.

“It will be important that more be done in the weeks ahead to safely ease more restrictions,” they said in a joint statement.

“We note that at similar case levels NSW was fundamentally open while remaining Covidsafe due to a world class contact tracing facility.

“As many epidemiologists have encouraged, we would support Victoria in reviewing the trigger of five and zero cases with regards to the third and last steps.

“As it stands this lockdown is already longer than that faced by residents in many cities around the world. We remain deeply concerned about the mental health impacts of a prolonged lock down on Melbourne residents,” they said.

Andrews has responded to a more rapid than expected fall in new cases, and says he will now be driven by numbers rather than dates.

But there is every indication he will continue to be risk averse, after the disaster of the second wave, and on the evidence of last week’s Newspoll, he has public support for that approach. Some 62% of Victorians thought he was handling COVID-19 well.

Andrews has become a highly polarising figure in the pandemic and that’s only likely to increase after his and other evidence to the inquiry into hotel quarantine, followed by Saturday’s resignation of Health Minister Jenny Mikakos.

In contrast to his demeanour at his news conferences, when appearing before the inquiry on Friday, Andrews seemed to be barely containing his anger.

He, like a conga line of witnesses, couldn’t say who had decided to use private security guards to supervise the quarantine.

But he made it clear he held Mikakos responsible for the program.

She, however, thought responsibility spread more widely and indicated her resignation was triggered by Andrews throwing her under the bus.

It continues to be unfathomable to most observers that no one – whether minister, bureaucrat or anyone else – can answer the fundamental but on the face of it simple question: who made the decision about the private security guards?

But Kristen Rundle, from Melbourne University’s Law School, is not so surprised, given the often opaque accountability situations created by contracting out, increasingly a default practice of governments around the country.

She writes in a policy brief titled Reassessing Contracting-Out published last week, that “we need to look beyond standard mechanisms of political accountability in order to address the structural problems posed by contracting-out high-stakes government functions.

“Specifically, we need to analyse more deeply the appropriateness of contracting-out in cases that carry serious consequences for public safety and security, and develop frameworks to achieve better decision-making on when, and whether, to contract out complex government functions.

“The failures in this case underscore that choices about who delivers such government functions, and how, matter to those directly affected by them.”

Clearly the Victorian disaster had three root causes: the bad quarantine arrangements, the failure of Victorian contact tracing and the vulnerability of aged care.

The first two can be completely sheeted home to the Victorian government; aged care is a federal government responsibility, although the state government is responsible for the public health aspects.

Andrews’ supporters aren’t too preoccupied with the state government’s mistakes. They believe he has put health first (despite the death toll, which has been overwhelmingly in aged care). They have been impressed by his willingness to front up day after day to those extended news conferences. They see that as a sign of accountability.

The premier’s critics look at the news conferences in a totally different way. Andrews’ physical presence is not a mark of accountability, they argue, because he pushes aside vital questions (often repeated again and again), saying they must wait for the inquiry’s findings.

Many of Andrews’ strongest critics are those who believe the economy and people’s livelihoods have not received sufficient consideration generally in the pandemic. They are outraged at the economic costs of Victoria’s second wave, and at the slowness of the reopening.

The divisions have an ideological element between the priorities of the left and the right during the crisis.

Mikakos’ quitting has renewed the calls from those who say it is the premier who should go.

There doesn’t seem a lot of common sense in this. Andrews has said he accepts ultimate responsibility for what’s happened. So he should – what’s occurred in Victoria has been appalling.

But would his going actually do any good? Would a replacement perform any better? Would a change of leader amount to anything more than a notch on the critics’ belts?

While Andrews remains the best person for the current job, the pandemic has revealed serious inadequacies in his government, and thus in his leadership, and in parts of the state’s administration.




Read more:
Daniel Andrews has flagged a quicker easing of Melbourne’s restrictions. But cases are still in the ‘red zone’


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.

Victorian Health Minister Jenny Mikakos quits, lashing out at Daniel Andrews



AAP/James Ross

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Victoria’s health minister Jenny Mikakos has resigned, pointing the finger at Premier Daniel Andrews’ evidence that hung her out to dry in the hotel quarantine inquiry on Friday.

Mikakos said in a Saturday statement she will also quit parliament.

She said she never wanted to leave a job unfinished but in light of Andrews’ statement to the inquiry “and the fact that there are elements in it that I strongly disagree with, I believe that I cannot continue to serve in his Cabinet”.

“I am disappointed that my integrity has sought to be undermined. I know that my statement [to the inquiry] and evidence would have been uncomfortable for some.”

Andrews told the inquiry in his written statement that after an April 8 cabinet meeting, Mikakos was in charge of the hotel quarantine program, in which private security guards were used. This program went horribly wrong when COVID got out, triggering Victoria’s second wave. Andrews, Mikakos and other witnesses have all said they do not know who made the decision to use private guards.

Andrews said: “At the start of the program, I regarded Minister Mikakos and Minister Pakula as responsible for informing cabinet about, and seeking cabinet’s endorsement of, the initial overall service model and costings that had been determined for the program. They did so at the Crisis Council of Cabinet meeting on 8 April 2020.

“I then regarded Minister Mikakos as accountable for the program. The CCC was provided with regular reports by Minister Mikakos containing data relevant to Victoria’s response to the public health emergency, key insights from the data, as well as other updates, including in relation to the program.”

Mikakos, in her statement posted on Twitter, said: “For 3 months I had looked forward to learning who made the fateful decision to use security guards. Victorians deserve to know who.”

She said she had never shirked her responsibility for her department “but it is not my responsibility alone”.

“As I said to the Board of Inquiry, I take responsibility for my department, the buck stops with me. With the benefit of hindsight, there are clearly matters that my department should have briefed me on. Whether they would have changed the course of events only the Board and history can determine,”

“I look forward to the Board of Inquiry’s final report.”

Mikakos said she was “deeply sorry” for the situation Victorians found themselves in. “In good conscience, I do not believe that my actions led to them.”

On Thursday she told the inquiry she was “not at all” involved in the decision to use private security guards, and “I do not know who made that decision”. She said she didn’t know private security guards were being used until late May after a COVID outbreak at Rydges, almost two months after the program started.

“I can‘t imagine why it [the use of private security guards] would be brought to my attention, because […][the Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions] held the contracts with the security companies,” she said.

But her evidence immediately came into question, because she had been at a press conference in late March when the use of private security was confirmed, and private security was mentioned in a briefing note for caucus on April 8. In a statement to the inquiry on Friday, Mikakos denied misleading it.

Andrews announced at a news conference on Saturday afternoon that the Mental Health Minister, Martin Foley, will replace Mikakos as health minister.

Andrews said Mikakos had taken the “appropriate course” in resigning. But he said he had not spoken to her beforehand – or since. She has texted him that she had sent a letter to the governor, of which he was already aware.

NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said on Twitter:

But the Health Workers Union, which had called for Mikakos’ resignation earlier this week, welcomed her departure.

Andrews said Labor would aim to have a replacement for Mikakos in the upper house before parliament next meets. Labor’s national executive will formally determine who fills the seat because the state ALP is being federally administered at present.

There will also be a replacement in cabinet, drawn from the upper house.

Foley told the Andrews news conference he had nothing but confidence in the health department and its secretary.

Andrews said the latest Victorian COVID tally was 12 new cases, and he would be making a statement on Sunday about the easing of restrictions. He said there was no dramatic variation from the road map but there were a couple of areas where more could be done.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.

View from The Hill: Daniel Andrews frustrates Scott Morrison with a slow-pace lockdown exit



Erik Anderson/AAP

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Victoria’s ultra-cautious roadmap out of its lockdown, outlined by Premier Daniel Andrews on Sunday, reinforced the strong message that came from Friday’s national cabinet.

Premiers are in the driving seat of exiting COVID restrictions, and they are imposing the strictest speed limits – much slower than Prime Minister Scott Morrison would like – and ignoring federal government pressure.

Western Australia’s Mark McGowan defied Morrison’s plan on Friday. Queensland’s Annastacia Palaszczuk made it clear she won’t open her state’s border with New South Wales until she’s good and ready.

Now, unsurprisingly, Andrews has indicated he will not be hurried, despite the cries from business and the sound of Canberra’s grinding teeth.

Andrews stressed his timetable “is not what many people want to hear – but it is the only option”. He warned “you can’t run” out of lockdown – or there would be a third wave.

The Morrison government doesn’t think it is the only option, and didn’t mince words in a statement quickly issued from the PM, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Health Minister Greg Hunt (the latter two are Victorians).

“To extend lockdown arrangements will be hard and crushing news for the people of Victoria,” they said.




Read more:
‘Slow and steady’ exit from lockdown as Victorian government sets sights on ‘COVID-normal’ Christmas


Just in case anyone doubted where to sheet blame, this was “a further reminder of the impact and costs that result from not being able to contain the outbreaks of COVID 19”.

The statement stressed the roadmap was “a Victorian government plan”, distancing the feds from any ownership.

A woman walks wearing a mask.
Dan Andrews has charted a slow course out of lockdowns for Victoria.
AP

The tone was very different from Morrison’s words to Parliament last Tuesday, when he said “Victoria has turned the corner and we, together with the Victorian government, are planning to reopen Melbourne and reopen Victoria”.

Sunday’s federal statement declared “the proposed roadmap will come at a further economic cost.”

“While this needs to be weighed up against mitigating the risk of further community outbreak, it is also true that the continued restrictions will have further impact on the Victorian and national economy, in further job losses and loss of livelihoods, as well as impacting on mental health.”

The federal government will talk to business in Victoria “to understand their concerns and seek to ensure they are addressed”.




Read more:
Victoria’s path out of COVID-19 lockdown – quick reference guides


Morrison and his ministers also had fresh praise for the NSW government, which has its economy running despite continuing low levels of cases. They highlighted the Berejiklian government’s successful contact tracing.

Federal help is being offered to strengthen Victorian contact tracing, in the (probably vain) hope that could put the Victorian foot on the accelerator.

Andrews has used elaborate modelling in reaching his strategy. But his critics argue the benchmarks, particularly at the back end of the timetable, are unrealistic.

For example, the last step in Melbourne’s easing, dated from November 23, is contingent on “no new cases for 14 days (state-wide)”.

It was quickly pointed out if the Andrews’ road map were in place in NSW, that state would have a curfew now.

An empty Melbourne street at night.
Businesses want Victoria’s restrictions to be lifted more quickly.
AP

NSW’s tally announced on Sunday was 10 new cases to 8pm Saturday. The Melbourne curfew is to be lifted from October 26 if there is a statewide daily average over the previous fortnight of less than five new cases and a statewide total of less than five cases with unknown sources over that period.

For the immediate future, in Melbourne there will be an additional fortnight – beyond next weekend – of the hard lockdown, with some minimal tweaking.

The overnight curfew will start an hour later (at 9pm), exercise can be up to two hours, and singles will be able to form a bubble with someone else.

From September 28, if the cases have come down (latest tally on Sunday was 63) to 30-50 daily average in metro-Melbourne over the previous fortnight, there will be gradual relaxations including the re-opening of childcare. The state government says step two would see about 100,000 people return to work across a number of sectors, including construction and manufacturing.

But Melbourne businesses in retail and hospitality will not be able to start to getting back to reasonable activity until the end of October, and hospitality will be strictly limited.

The restrictions in regional Victoria will be eased from their already lighter base.

Business is up in arms. The Australian Industry Group predicted “catastrophic economic, health and social damage caused by the continued lockdown and [the] prospect of more months of sharply diminished activity”.

Frydenberg said a week ago that on Treasury estimates, in the December and March quarters more Victorians were expected to be on JobKeeper than in every other state combined. The calculations didn’t assume any extension of the lockdown. The roadmap could see the numbers even higher than anticipated.

The Andrews timetable will put pressure on the Victorian government but also on Morrison.

Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg in Parliament with masks
The Victoria situation will put pressure on Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
AP

Andrews’ hard line is stretching the tolerance of Victorians. Not only will many local businesses believe they can’t survive the longer restrictions, but some voters will be reaching levels of deep stress.

The pressure points on the federal government come from various directions.

There have been calls for it to just “do something”, to intervene to override what are being seen as recalcitrant states. However it is not obvious it would have viable power to do so.

Even if it could intervene, it would be high risk – on health, economic and political grounds.

The extended Victorian lockdown will increase demands for the government to provide more stimulus for the economy, and bolster the calls of those who say JobKeeper and the Coronavirus supplement should not be phased down.

The Victorian roadmap won’t just feed into the budget numbers, but it will affect the public climate in which the October budget is brought down.

In that budget, the government will be talking up hope. But on October 6, Victorians hearing the budget will be still under curfew, confined to takeaways, unable to see extended family.

“I want all of us to stay the course so that we can all have something approaching a normal Christmas,” Andrews said on Sunday. It will require quite a feat to deliver that, on the terms of this strict roadmap.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.

Labor likely to win Eden-Monaro; Andrews’s ratings fall in Victoria



Labor’s Kristy McBain Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese.
AAP/Lukas Coch

Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

At Saturday’s Eden-Monaro byelection, Labor’s Kristy McBain currently leads the Liberals’ Fiona Kotvojs by a 50.7-49.3 projected margin in The Poll Bludger’s Eden-Monaro election page. This page has all the numbers, including booth by booth results. The projected margin is an estimate of the margin once all votes are counted, not the current margin. McBain is given a 74% win probability.

Primary vote projections are currently 38.5% Liberal, 35.3% Labor, 6% National, 6% Greens and 14.2% for all Others. Had preference flows at the byelection been similar to the 2019 federal election, the Liberals would have won. But Labor currently has 50% of all preferences, a 10% swing on preference flows to Labor.

While the Greens lost vote share, much of it went to Help End Marijuana Prohibition (HEMP), which won 2.5%. Labor also benefited from the “donkey vote” coming from the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers. The Shooters were first on the ballot paper, with Labor ahead of the Liberals.

If Labor holds on in Eden-Monaro, it will be a huge relief for Anthony Albanese. Analyst Peter Brent wrote in Inside Story that, while no government has gained an opposition-held seat at a byelection in almost a century, the lack of a personal vote for the sitting MP in opposition-held seats means they are far more likely to swing to the government at a byelection than in a government-held seat.

In 2013, the Abbott government achieved a 1.2% two party swing in former PM Kevin Rudd’s seat of Griffith at a byelection. Had that swing occurred Saturday, the Liberals would have gained Eden-Monaro.




Read more:
Grattan on Friday: Saturday is crucial for Albanese but July 23 is more important for Morrison


Premiers still have high ratings, but Andrews falls in Victoria

In late April, Newspoll polled the ratings of the six premiers, and this exercise was repeated last week. Samples were 500-550 for the mainland states, and 311 in Tasmania.

Tasmanian Liberal Premier Peter Gutwein had the best ratings in the June premiers’ Newspoll, at 90% satisfied, 8% dissatisfied (net +82). His satisfaction rating overtook WA Labor Premier Mark McGowan in April (89%) as the best ever for a premier or PM in Australian polling history.

Gutwein’s net approval was up nine points from April, while McGowan slid four points to a still very high 88% satisfied, 9% dissatisfied (net +79).

The biggest change in net approval was Victorian Labor Premier Daniel Andrews. His net approval fell 18 points to +40, with 67% satisfied and 27% dissatisfied. Andrews’s fall appears to be related to the recent spike in Victorian coronavirus cases, not the Adem Somyurek branch stacking affair. His net ratings on handling coronavirus fell sharply from +74 to +47.

NSW Liberal Premier Gladys Berejiklian had a +42 net approval, down from +46, with 68% satisfied and 26% dissatisfied. SA Liberal Premier Steven Marshall had a +52 net approval, up from +47, with 72% satisfied and 20% dissatisfied.

Queensland Labor Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk continued to trail with a +24 net approval, though that was up eight points. 59% were satisfied and 35% dissatisfied. The Queensland election will be held in late October.

Scott Morrison had a +41 net approval in last Monday’s federal Newspoll. Palaszczuk trails Morrison, Andrews and Berejiklian are about level, Marshall is above him, and McGowan and Gutwein are far ahead.

A good US jobs report, but there’s a long way to go

The June US jobs report was released Thursday. 4.8 million jobs were created and the unemployment rate dropped 2.2% to 11.1%. While the unemployment rate is far better than the 14.7% in April, it is far worse than during a normal economy.

The employment population ratio – the percentage of eligible Americans that are employed – rose 1.8% in June to 54.6%. But at the lowest point of the recovery from the global financial crisis, the employment ratio was 58.2%.

The surveys used for the jobs report were conducted in mid-June, before the recent spike in US coronavirus cases, which peaked at over 57,000 on Thursday. This new spike may derail an economic recovery.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.

Steve Bracks and Jenny Macklin installed to run crisis-ridden Victorian ALP


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

The ALP national executive has decided on sweeping federal intervention into the crisis-ridden Victorian ALP, in the wake of revelations of the alleged “industrial scale” branch stacking and threats by now former state minister and power broker Adem Somyurek.

Former state premier Steve Bracks and former federal cabinet minister Jenny Macklin will run the state branch and prepare reforms, while the ALP national executive will handle federal and state preselections.

The intervention follows Nine’s 60 Minutes and The Age revealing recorded conversations in which Somyurek boasted of his power over state and federal MPs, and of running massive branch stacking. He also used highly offensive language about a female colleague.

Victorian premier Daniel Andrews sacked Somyurek from his cabinet on Monday, and two other ministers, Robin Scott and Marlene Kairouz, whose staff were allegedly associated with the stacking have resigned, while denying any wrongdoing. Somyurek quit the Labor party on Monday before he was due to be expelled.

The scandal comes at the worst time for federal leader Anthony Albanese who is fighting the byelection in the Labor held seat of Eden-Monaro, which is on a margin of under 1%.

Another complication for the federal party is that some of the secret recording was apparently in the electorate office of Victorian federal Labor MP Anthony Bryne, who is deputy chair of the powerful parliamentary committee on intelligence and security.

ALP national president Wayne Swan said in a statement after a national executive hook up on Tuesday night that Bracks and Macklin “will provide the national executive with recommendations on how the Victorian branch should be restructured and reconstituted so that the branch membership comprises genuine, consenting, self-funding party members”.

He said in developing their recommendations, the administrators would consult party members and affiliated unions.

“The conduct exposed in recent days is reprehensible and at odds with everything the ALP stands for,” Swan said. “The national executive takes these matters incredibly seriously.”

Andrews wrote to ALP national secretary Paul Erickson calling for profound reform of the branch, and asking for its members’ voting rights to be suspended.

“I have no confidence in the integrity of any voting rolls that are produced for any internal elections in the Victorian branch,” he said.

“Accordingly we must suspend those elections and begin a long and critical process of validating each and every member of the Labor party in Victoria as genuine, consenting and self-funded”.

All state officials and staff will have to report to Bracks and Macklin, who are appointed until January 31 next year. All committees are suspended.

All voting rights are suspended until 2023.

Bracks and Macklin will do a scoping report by the end of next month, including recommendations on integrity measures that are needed for the branch. By Novemeber 1 they are to produce a final report on the restructuring and reconstitution of the branch.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.

Labor’s branch stacking scandal is a problem for the whole party. Not just Victoria.



James Ross/ AAP

Geoffrey Robinson, Deakin University

Victorian Labor, the jewel in the party’s crown, has been thrown into crisis by the allegations of massive branch stacking.

A third state Labor minister has now left their position over the scandal that as engulfed the party in the wake of revelations by the The Age and 60 Minutes.

But with federal leader Anthony Albanese also facing questions about party culture, the scandal will not be contained to Victoria.

Declining membership facilitates branch stacking

On Monday, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews sacked Labor powerbroker Adem Somyurek from his cabinet. This came after allegations Somyurek was involved in “industrial scale” branch stacking and used offensive language about a ministerial colleague.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews sacked Adem Somyurek on Monday.
Scott Barbour/AAP

As federal Labor MP and former academic Andrew Leigh has shown, the propensity of Australians to join formal organisations has been in steady decline for 50 years, and parties are a key example. Weeds have sprouted in these ruins.

The infrastructure of party and union branches that once underpinned politics in Labor heartlands has collapsed. The factories are gone and Labor branches have in most cases shrunken to a few ageing true believers.




Read more:
Explainer: what is branch stacking, and why has neither major party been able to stamp it out?


Branch stacking is possible because Labor’s active membership is now so low they can be easily swamped by those “stacked” into the party.

Preselections for safe seats in state parliament are often determined by fewer than 50 votes at the local level.

We have been here before

Branch stacking is, however, not new.

During the Cold War, membership soared as left and right battled for control. But back then, it reflected real ideological disagreements that mobilised thousands. This popularisation sparked a catastrophic split in the ALP.

Today, Labor is not divided by deep ideological battles and as a consequence, its membership is much lower. As a further result, it is much easier to stack the branches.

With Labor as the dominant political force in Victoria, it is now mostly jobs – from lowly electorate officers to ministerial roles – that people fight about. The power of factional bosses rests on their ability to control access to these positions.

The need for change

The decline in the levels of Labor membership and the commitment of Labor voters have concerned supporters for decades.

Today, new political forces such as the Greens and independents are now going after Labor in their heartland. Even at the 2018 landslide victory of the Andrews government, the Greens retained three seats and independents mounted serious challenges in safe Labor seats.

The Greens are challenging Labor in heartland seats.
Penny Stephens/ AAP

One popular proposal has been to increase the rights of members, so they can have a greater say in how the party is run.

At the federal level and for some states, this has taken the form of direct ballots for parliamentary leaders.

This method was described by former ALP national secretary George Wright as “an outrageous success” in 2013, leading to an extra 4,500 members at the time. But some states – including Victoria – have not gone down this path.




Read more:
Explainer: what does the law say about secret recordings and the public interest?


Some have argued it would be better to give up the dream of building a mass membership Labor Party and instead allow all Labor voters, not just party members, to select candidates by an American-style system of primaries.

However, here, the likely outcome would be an even more media-centric politics, where political celebrities – such as Canadian leader Justin Trudeau – would communicate directly with voters. It is a weak shield against a populist right on the march.

Organisational reforms flagged

On Tuesday night, ALP president Wayne Swan announced former Victorian premier Steve Bracks and former federal frontbencher Jenny Macklin had been appointed administrators of the Victorian branch until the end of January 2021.

They will report on how the branch “should be restructured and reconstituted so that the branch membership comprises genuine, consenting, self-funding party members”.

So, organisational reforms are most likely in the short term. These could include banning the payment of membership fees in cash as well as a proposed audit of party membership.

But in the absence of a larger and engaged membership, organisational reforms will always be subject to evasion. The highly-centralised pre-selection system in Victorian Labor provides an incentive to stack, but reform of this would disrupt the delicate factional balance within the ALP.

The political fallout

The branch stacking scandal also presents political opportunities for Labor’s opponents.

For the Greens, this latest scandal offers the opportunity to challenge Victorian Labor’s progressive image. In the short run, the Andrews brand is strong enough to ride out the loss of less talented ministers, but one day, the political tide will turn. The collapse of the once all-conquering NSW Labor Party is a cautionary lesson.

The branch stacking scandal is an unwelcome distraction for Anthony Albanese ahead of the Eden-Monaro by-election.
Mick Tsikas/AAP

At a federal level, it drags Albanese back into mire of Labor politics and undercuts his attempt to present him as an inner-suburban everyman – unlike former leader Bill Shorten, who could never escape his identity as a political hack.

If Labor loses the forthcoming Eden-Monaro byelection, this is something all Labor MPs, not just the Victorians, will have more to worry about.

Albanese most of all.




Read more:
Eden-Monaro byelection to be on July 4


The Conversation


Geoffrey Robinson, Senior Lecturer, School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Deakin University

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

View from The Hill: Yes Prime Minister… Dan Tehan withdraws his attack on Daniel Andrews’ leadership


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Scott Morrison was on the ball – and quickly on the phone. Hardly had education minister Dan Tehan finished giving Victorian premier Daniel Andrews a bollocking on the ABC’s Insiders than he received a call from the PM.

The Conversation understands that in his exchange with his leader, the minister’s tone was apologetic.

Not too long afterwards came a mea culpa from Tehan, the like of which we rarely see in politics.

Morrison might have wanted Tehan to deliver Andrews a touch-up, but not to go at him with a sledge hammer.

The federal government has been frustrated from the get-go with Andrews, who (with NSW’s Gladys Berejiklian) early on insisted on very tough measures generally, not just on schools.

Morrison would have liked schools fully open all through. As the weeks have passed he’s become increasingly annoyed with the slow progress back to normal. It’s a national patchwork, but the Victorian government is the most conservative, with online learning set to be maintained through term two, and classrooms available only for children for whom other arrangements can’t be made or who are vulnerable.

The federal government has direct control only over non-government schools and it has been using a mixture of threats and bribes – with Tehan the wielder of the (funding) whip and giver of (funding) sugar – to bend them to its will.

It’s against this background that Tehan gave his ill-judged interview on Sunday.

He was caught in knots from the start.

Parents should listen to the medical expert panel – made up of federal and state health officers – which said it was safe for schools to be open, he said.

But he struggled when confronted with Morrison’s April 16 advice that they should listen to their premiers. “If you live in Victoria, listen to the Victorian premier,” the PM said then.

David Speers put to Tehan that Victoria’s chief health officer’s advice had been not to re-open schools because keeping children at home could help suppress community transmission (it’s important to note the Victorian health advice is directed specifically to this issue of limiting wider community spread).

Speers asked: “coming back to what the Prime Minister said, should parents listen to their premier or not?” “This is a question for Dan Andrews,” Tehan replied, in a futile attempt to evade.

After more toing and froing, Tehan lashed out. “If the national medical expert advice is saying that it’s safe for children to be back in the classroom – then why wouldn’t they be?

“This is a failure of leadership by Dan Andrews, let’s be clear about that”.

Andrews was “jeopardising the national consensus”, Tehan said; unlike other states, Victoria had no plan. The children, especially the most disadvantaged, were suffering “and I think it’s time that we seriously call Dan Andrews out on this”.

It was actually Tehan who found himself called out – or called up.

Morrison has been biting his tongue over Andrews – a premier who is Labor, popular, and can’t be bullied – because the PM knows the benefit of the national cabinet and has learned, on occasion painfully, that the way to operate it effectively is to avoid over-reacting to differences within it.

In unfortunate timing, immediately after the Tehan outburst came a report that a Melbourne primary school will close from Monday to Wednesday after a music teacher has tested positive for COVID-19.

Tehan’s statement amounted to an abject admission he’d exceeded his brief.

Praising the co-operation of leaders at the national cabinet, he said it was “important to note that this will not always result in all states and territories and the federal government agreeing on all points.”

The consistent advice from the expert medical panel had been that schools could be fully open, he said.

“Notwithstanding this position, the Victorian Chief Health Officer has provided more cautious advice to the Victorian Premier, who has been acting on this advice in relation to Victorian state schools.”

Tehan said he, and many other politicians, had heard countless stories of parents struggling with home schooling, and he referenced the problems of children missing out on their education.

The minister maintained he’d been thinking of these things “when I expressed my personal frustration that more schools weren’t starting more in-class learning in my home state.

“It was this frustration that led me to overstep the mark in questioning Premier Andrews’ leadership on this matter and I withdraw”.

He promised to “continue working constructively with my state counterparts as they run their state school systems to support them with the best medical and education expert advice the federal government can offer”.

Once again, the Morrison government has had to bow to state opinion, and this time it’s been particularly embarrassing.

Whether Andrews’ stand on the substance of the issue will ultimately be seen by parents as the correct one is another matter.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.

Historical fall of Liberal seats in Victoria; micros likely to win ten seats in upper house; Labor leads in NSW


File 20181205 186055 3ycxa8.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Victorian Liberal leadership hopeful John Pesutto has lost his blue-ribbon seat of Hawthorn.
AAP/David Crosling

Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

While it is possible that two seats could change, Labor appears to have won 56 of the 88 seats in the Victorian lower house, up nine seats since the 2014 election, the Coalition won 26 seats (down 12), the Greens three seats (up one) and independents three seats (up two).

These results reflect changes since the 2014 election, and do not account for Labor’s loss of Northcote to the Greens at a byelection, which Labor regained at the general. Party defections are also ignored.

Labor’s unexpectedly crushing victory was capped by triumphs in Hawthorn (50.4-49.6) and Nepean (50.9-49.1). Labor had not won Hawthorn since 1952, and Nepean (formerly known as Dromana) since 1982. It also came close to winning Caulfield (a 50.3-49.7 loss), which has never been Labor-held since its creation in 1927.

The 8-10 point swings to Labor in Hawthorn, Nepean and other affluent Liberal heartland seats such as Brighton and Malvern appear to demonstrate well-educated voters’ anger with the Liberals’ law and order campaign, and the federal Liberals’ ousting of Malcolm Turnbull.




Read more:
Labor has landslide win in Victoria


Labor was assisted in Victoria by a strong state economy, and an unpopular federal Coalition government. The national economy is currently good, and this could assist the federal government if they could stop fighting among themselves.

While Labor had massive wins in Melbourne and its outskirts, and increased its margins in regional cities, it did not perform well by comparison in country areas. Labor only gained one country seat, Ripon, and that was by just 31 votes on a swing under 1%; there could be a recount in Ripon.

The Greens held Melbourne and Prahran, and gained Brunswick from Labor. In Prahran, Green Sam Hibbins was third on primaries, trailing Labor by 0.8%. On preferences of left-wing micros, he overtook Labor by 0.7%, and easily defeated the Liberals on Labor preferences. This is the second consecutive election in which Hibbins has come from third on primary votes to win Prahran.

Russell Northe, who defected from the Nationals in the last parliament, retained Morwell as an independent. Ali Cupper, who had contested Mildura in 2010 as a Labor candidate, gained it as an independent from the Nationals. Independent Suzanna Sheed retained Shepparton, a seat she gained from the Nationals in 2014.

Near-final statewide primary votes were 42.8% Labor (up 4.7% since the 2014 election), 35.2% Coalition (down 6.7%) and 10.7% Greens (down 0.8%). It is unlikely we will have an official Labor vs Coalition statewide two party count until next week, but The Poll Bludger estimates Labor won this count by 57.4-42.6, a 5.5% swing to Labor.

Final pre-election polls greatly overstated the Coalition and understated Labor, as shown by the table below. The only poll that came close to the result was a ReachTEL poll for a left-wing organisation, taken 11 days before the election, that gave Labor a 56-44 lead.

Victorian election’s poor polls.

Bold numbers in the table indicate a poll estimate that was within 1% of the results. All polls had the Greens right, but missed on Labor and the Coalition.

Micro parties still likely to win ten upper house seats

The ABC calculator currently gives Labor 18 of the 40 upper house seats, the Coalition 11, the Greens just one, and ten for all others. Others include four Derryn Hinch Justice, two Transport Matters, one Animal Justice, one Liberal Democrat, one Aussie Battler and one Sustainable Australia.




Read more:
Coalition pares back losses in late counting, as predicted chaos eventuates in upper house


The upper house has eight regions that each elect five members. The three country regions are very close to completion of their counts, while the city regions lag. In Northern Victoria, Labor will win two seats, the Coalition one, Hinch Justice one and Liberal Democrats one. In Western Victoria, Labor will win two, the Coalition one, Animal Justice one and Hinch Justice one.

In Eastern Victoria, the calculator has Labor and the Coalition each winning two seats with one for Aussie Battler. However, Kevin Bonham says that Aussie Battler is ahead of Hinch Justice at a critical point by just 0.11%, and this lead will be overturned with below-the-line votes. The Shooters will win the final Eastern Victoria seat.

In Eastern Metro, with the count at 87.2%, there will be two Labor, two Liberals and Transport Matters wins the final seat from just 0.6% (0.04 quotas). In Southern Metro, two Labor and two Liberals win. The Greens, with 0.79 of a quota, are easily beaten to the last seat by Sustainable Australia, with just 1.3% or 0.08 quotas.

While the figure used by the ABC is the rechecked percentage counted, the electoral commission has been providing actual primary counts in Word files, which are ahead of the rechecked count in Metro regions.

In South-Eastern Metro, Labor will win three seats and the Liberals one. Bonham says Transport Matters could be excluded at a critical point, and fail to take the final seat, in which case it goes to the Liberal Democrats, who had an even lower vote than Transport Matters in that region (1.2% vs 0.8%).

In Western Metro, Labor will win three seats and the Liberals one. The last seat is likely to go to Hinch Justice, which won 6.9% in that region. However, the Shooters, with just 1.9%, could win the final seat.

In Northern Metro, two Labor and one Green are certain winners. In Bonham’s more up-to-date figures, the Liberals win one seat, and the final seat is probably a contest between Hinch Justice and Fiona Patten.

Labor and the Coalition are likely to win the 18 and 11 seats respectively that the calculator currently gives them. The ten micros could be a little different from the ABC’s current projection.

The group voting tickets are excessively complex, and it would be far easier to call these seats with a more sensible system.

NSW Galaxy: 52-48 to Labor, ReachTEL: 51-49

The New South Wales election will be held on March 23, 2019. A YouGov Galaxy poll for The Daily Telegraph, conducted November 29-30 from a sample of 903, gave Labor a 52-48 lead; this is the first NSW Galaxy poll since the 2015 election. A ReachTEL poll for The Sydney Morning Herald, conducted November 29 from a sample of 1,560, gave Labor a 51-49 lead, a one-point gain for Labor since a September ReachTEL poll.

Primary votes in the Galaxy poll were 39% Labor, 37% Coalition, 9% Greens and 8% One Nation. In ReachTEL, primary votes, after excluding 3.1% undecided, were 37.7% Coalition, 35.2% Labor, 9.9% Greens and 7.7% One Nation. Labor’s primary vote is four points lower in ReachTEL than Galaxy.

After replacing Luke Foley as Labor leader, Michael Daley appears to be benefiting from a honeymoon. He trails incumbent Gladys Berejiklian 33-31 in Galaxy, and leads her 54.2-45.8 in ReachTEL as better Premier. ReachTEL’s forced choice better PM/Premier questions usually benefit opposition leaders.

State parties tend to do better when the opposite party is in power federally, and the current federal government is unpopular. It appears that the federal election will be held in May 2019, and this is bad news for the NSW Coalition, which has to face voters first. In ReachTEL, voters said by 50-36 that federal politics would play a role in their state election decision.

By 58-36, voters in ReachTEL opposed the NSW government’s stadium policy, which includes knocking down and rebuilding stadiums.

Newspoll: 55-45 to federal Labor, but Morrison’s ratings recover

Last week’s federal Newspoll, conducted November 22-25 – the same weekend as the Victorian election – from a sample of 1,720, gave Labor a 55-45 lead, unchanged since three weeks ago. Primary votes were 40% Labor (steady), 34% Coalition (down one), 9% Greens (steady) and 8% One Nation (up two).

43% were satisfied with Scott Morrison’s performance (up four), and 42% were dissatisfied (down five), for a net approval of +1, up nine points. Bill Shorten’s net approval was up two points to -13. Morrison led Shorten by 46-34 as better PM (42-36 three weeks ago).

By 40-34, voters opposed moving the Australian embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. After being told that Indonesia and Malaysia had raised concerns about the embassy move, voters thought by 46-34 that Morrison should announce the move will not take place, rather than ignore those countries’ concerns.

Newspoll was three points better for Labor than two polls last fortnight, which both had Labor leading by just 52-48. The PM’s ratings are usually a good guide to voting intentions, so the hope for the Coalition is that Morrison’s lift could soon lift the Coalition. This poll was taken before last week’s parliamentary session.

UK Brexit deal vote on December 11

The UK House of Commons will decide whether to reject or approve PM Theresa May’s Brexit deal with the European Union on December 11.

Indications are that the deal will be rejected by a large margin, with about 100 Conservative MPs set to vote against the deal. You can read my article on the probable consequences of a “no-deal” Brexit on 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.

View from The Hill: Labor’s 55-45% Newspoll lead adds to Liberals’ weekend of woe


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Labor has maintained a 55-45% two-party lead in the latest Newspoll,
in a weekend of woe for the Morrison government, which is trying to
play down the federal contribution to the Victorian Liberal wipeout.

The Coalition’s primary vote fell for the third consecutive
time, to 34%, in a poll that if replicated at an election would see a loss of 21 seats. Labor’s primary vote remained at 40%. One Nation rose 2
points to 8%; the Greens were steady on 9%.

Scott Morrison boosted his lead over Bill Shorten as better PM to 12
points, leading 46-34% compared with 42-36% a fortnight ago. Morrison
has a net positive satisfaction rating of plus one, improving from
minus 8 in the last poll.

The poll will reinforce Coalition gloom after Saturday’s Victorian
election which saw a swing to the Labor government estimated by ABC
election expert Antony Green at around 4% in two-party terms. While an
ALP win was expected, the stunning size of it came as a surprise.




Read more:
Labor has landslide win in Victoria


Even assuming the Victoria election was mainly won (or lost) on state
issues, there are clearly federal factors and lessons in this smashing
of the Liberals, which if translated federally would potentially put at risk half a dozen Victorian seats.

As Premier Daniel Andrews said, Victoria is a “progressive” state. It
stands to reason that Liberal infighting and the dumping of Malcolm
Turnbull, the trashing of the National Energy Guarantee and the
talking down of renewables, and the broad rightward lean of the
federal Coalition alienated many middle-of-the-road Liberal voters.

The anecdotal evidence backs the conclusion that Victorians were
sending strong messages to the Liberal party generally, including the
federal party.

But are the federal Liberals willing to hear those message? And anyway,
does Morrison have the capacity to respond to them effectively?

Morrison has so far demonstrated no personal vision for the country,
and his play-for-the-moment tactics are being increasingly seen as
unconvincing.




Read more:
Victorian Labor’s thumping win reveals how out of step with voters Liberals have become


Morrison took the unusual course of not saying anything about Victoria
on Saturday night or Sunday. He will meet the Victorian federal
Liberals on Monday to discuss the outcome.

Ahead of that meeting Treasurer Josh Frydenberg – who is from Victoria and is deputy Liberal leader – played down the federal implications. While conceding “the noise from Canberra certainly didn’t help”, he claimed in an ABC Sunday night interview that the lessons to be learned federally were about grassroots campaigning and the need to rebut “Labor lies”. He would not concede a recalibration of policy was needed.

Some in the right will try to write Victoria off as unrepresentative
of the nation, just as they did Wentworth. This flies in the face of
reality – there were big swings in the eastern suburbs and the sandbelt,
the sort of areas the Liberals would expect to be their middle class strongholds.

The government needs to pitch much more to the centre in policy terms
but it will be hard to do so.

Given its current positioning, how could it sound moderate on energy
and climate policy? It can’t go back to the NEG. It is stuck with its
obsessions about coal and its distrust of, or at least equivocation
about, renewables, as well as its business-bashing threat of
divestitures.

On issues such as coal and climate change, the party’s eyes have been
turned obsessively to Queensland, where there is a raft of marginal
seats, without sufficient regard to those in Victoria and NSW. Even in
relation to Queensland, there has been a failure to adequately
recognise that that state is not monolithic when it comes to issues
and priorities.

The right is unlikely to stop its determined effort to take over the
party, whatever the cost. Indeed some on the right will argue that the Morrison strategy should be to sharpen the policy differences further, rather than looking to the centre.

The right’s mood will be darkened by the Saturday dumping of rightwing senator Jim Molan to an unwinnable position on the NSW Liberal ticket. Molan has pulled out from Monday’s Q&A program; the ABC tweeted that he’d said he could “no longer defend the Liberals”.

As if the Victorian result was not sobering enough, the government
this week begins the final fortnight of parliament for the year in minority
government, with independent Kerryn Phelps sworn in on Monday as
Turnbull’s replacement in Wentworth.

The government wants the focus on national security legislation but
other issues will be political irritants for it.

Labor and crossbenchers are pushing the case for a federal
anti-corruption body – the sort of initiative that would appeal to
voters highly distrustful of politicians.

Crossbenchers Cathy McGowan and Rebekha Sharkie will introduce a
private member’s bill. 34 former judges have signed an open letter
advertisement calling for a national integrity commission.

They said: “Existing federal integrity agencies lack the necessary
jurisdiction, powers and know-how to investigate properly the
impartiality and bona fides of decisions made by, and
conduct of, the federal government and public sector.”

The government is resisting a new body but will need some convincing
alternative response.

The government will also be under pressure over Morrison’s pledge to
legislate to remove the opportunity for religious schools to
discriminate against gay students. Negotiations with the opposition
have been at an impasse, although the government says it still wants
legislation through this fortnight.

In the middle of the fortnight Morrison attends the G20, where he is
expected to have a meeting with Donald Trump. One would assume they
will canvass the Australian government’s consideration of moving our
embassy to Jerusalem, with Trump urging Morrison to go ahead with
the controversial move.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.

Senate president Scott Ryan launches grenade against the right


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Senate president Scott Ryan has called out the right within the
Liberal party and among commentators, declaring that Liberal voters
“don’t want views rammed down their throats”.

In a trenchant critique of federal influences in the rout of the
Victorian Liberals, Ryan, a former vice-president of the state
division, pointed to the swings in seats “that are the cradle of the
Liberal party”.

They were areas that were in federal seats like Goldstein, Higgins,
Menzies and Kooyong, he told the ABC.

These voters were the “real base of the Liberal party. They sent us a
message,” he said. “They don’t want litmus tests for what it means to be a real Liberal”.

Many Liberal voters were fairly conservative in their own lives,
raising kids, working hard, running small businesses, supporting
strong local communities. “But they’re pretty liberal in their
political outlook. They don’t want views rammed down their throat, and
they don’t want to ram their views down other people’s throat.

“And that has historically been the Liberal way. We’re often
conservative in our disposition – I am – but I’m very liberal in my
political outlook”.

He said part of the problem was “tone” – while Victoria was a state
election some of the noise that came out of Canberra “did strongly
influence the scale of the loss, where it happened”.

Ryan said after the loss of Wentworth some had “tried to dismiss those
voters as not part of real Australia … labelling people, dismissing
them – that’s not the Liberal way.

“I want to cast the net wide in the Menzies and Howard tradition [so]
as to give people a reason to be Liberals, not come up with litmus
tests and say if you don’t hold this view on a social issue, or if you
don’t hold this particular view on climate change or renewable energy,
then somehow you’re not a real Liberal.

“This is not the path to electoral success. And I’m sick of being
lectured to by people who aren’t members of the party, by people who
have never stood on polling booths, about what it means to be a real
Liberal”.

Ryan declined to name names, but his reference to the media was
directed at commentators on Sky in the evening and the Sydney shock
jocks.

Liberal voters wanted the government to focus on their issues and “I
think the federal government is doing that,” he said.

Ryan said that the days before Wentworth “were distracted … talking
about what some people call religious freedom”. In Victoria people
weren’t raising anti-discrimination law with him on polling booths.

“What we need to do is say the Liberal party has people with various
views, and all of those views can be accommodated, and internally the
idea of compromise is actually a good thing”.

Too often compromise was seen as a sell out, he said. But John Howard
and Peter Costello had compromised to achieve historic tax reform;
Peter Reith had compromised with the Australian Democrats to get
industrial relations change.

“This idea – and I think this is another thing that a lot of our
voters are tired of – that somehow to compromise to address a problem,
and move on to one of the other plethora of problems governments need
to address – that is not selling out – that is getting the jobs done”.

Tim Wilson, the member for Goldstein, criticised those who were being
ideological about energy policy.

“If anybody thinks that there’s this great public sentiment out there
that people really deep down hate renewables and they’re hugging
something like coal, I say again — get real,” Wilson told Sky.

He said he had sat on polling booths where “every second person either gave you deadly silence, which is a very cold, deadly silence, or there were people mentioning energy, climate, or the deposing of the prime minister”.

Victorian senator Jane Hume wrote in the Australian Financial Review:
“Our quest should always be to raise the standard of living – whether
through economic policies, energy, health or education. If we allow
good policy to be infiltrated by even the perception of an ideological
crusade, Labor will win the messaging war”.

After the Prime Minister met Victorian Liberal federal MPs on Monday
morning Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, who is deputy Liberal leader, said
“We had a good, honest discussion about lessons to be learned from the
state campaign. As a group we will continue to be focused on
delivering for our local communities.”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.