With One Nation on the march, a change to compulsory voting might backfire on Labor


Doug Hunt, James Cook University

The Queensland Labor government’s change back to compulsory preferential voting could increase informal voting and actually backfire, with a strong flow of Pauline Hanson’s One Nation preferences to the Liberal National Party.

What appeared to be a masterly, if cynical, move from Labor now looks far from smart. This is especially so as opinion polling shows a strong flow of One Nation preferences to the LNP, making it the beneficiary of full preferential voting.

Paradoxically, Labor preferences may assist the LNP in some rural seats where One Nation comes second to the LNP. One Nation, which looks set to win a few seats, will itself be helped by preferences from Katter’s Australian Party and also from the LNP.

The difference between optional and compulsory preferential voting

In April last year, Queensland parliament increased the number of electoral districts from 89 to 93. This move, initiated by the LNP with the support of crossbench members, was trumped by Labor, also with crossbench support. Labor amended the Bill to additionally re-introduce compulsory preferential voting.

The introduction by Labor of compulsory full preferential voting owed nothing to democratic electoral theory. Like all previous voting system changes, Labor expected to get some advantage.

Labor proposed two related reasons for the change: to reduce informal votes and achieve consistency between state and federal elections. However, optional preferential voting has meant that Queensland elections have the lowest rate of informality across all Australian parliaments. This is despite Queensland being having a high informal vote in federal elections.

The return to full preferential voting will actually increase the number of informal votes. An informal vote is a ballot paper where the voter has failed to put a number every box, or otherwise not complete it properly.

Compulsory, or full preferential, voting requires an elector to number every box beside each candidate on the ballot paper sequentially in order of the voter’s preference. If no candidate achieves a majority of “1” votes on the first count, the candidate with the lowest number of votes is eliminated from the ballot, and their votes allocated to the remaining candidates according to the eliminated candidate’s second preference.

This process continues until one candidate reaches a majority (50% plus one) of votes. The aim is to elect the most preferred candidate, rather than the simple plurality required under first-past-the-post voting.

FPV Formal Ballot Paper Example.
Electoral Commission of Queensland

This is the system used in federal elections and in all other states except New South Wales, which uses optional preferential voting. Queensland elections were conducted via full preferential voting from 1962 until 1992. Optional preferential voting was then introduced following a recommendation of the Electoral and Administrative Review Commission.

Under optional preferential voting, voters can choose how many, if any preferences they allocate to candidates. They can simply vote 1, or they can vote for some or all candidates in order of their preference. Counting proceeds as with full preferential voting.

This system maximises choice for voters, ensuring that they don’t have to indicate any preference for someone they don’t wish to elect. Optional preferential voting therefore seems like the most democratic form of voting.

On the other hand, full preferential voting arguably maximises the democratic principle of public participation, by ensuring that voters’ second (and so on) preferences pass on to other candidates. Their votes are therefore not wasted. So, elections more accurately reflect the will of the people, as the winner can claim the support of most voters.

Under optional preferential voting, if large numbers of electors limit their preferences to one candidate, someone without majority support may be elected.

What history tells us

The real reason for a return to full preferential voting was to assist Labor in garnering preferences from the Greens. These preferences typically flow heavily to Labor – as high as 80% in many cases.

However, optional preferential voting meant that Greens voters increasingly just voted 1 for their own candidate, robbing Labor of votes. ABC election analyst Antony Green calculated that had full preferential voting been in place in 2015, Labor would have won an additional eight seats and an absolute parliamentary majority.

Labor also hoped to pick up preferences from other candidates in order to stave off Greens challenges in inner-city districts.

The optional preferential voting experience in Queensland shows that over time, the proportion of the electorate not stating full preferences generally increases. Academic John Wanna warned of a defacto first-past-the post system, calling it a “denial of a true democratic outcome”.

In 2012, 70% of electors voted 1 only. This proportion fell to 55% in the 2015 election, apparently due to disaffection with the Newman LNP government, when many voters deliberately put the LNP last on the ballot paper.

In 2016, Labor appeared in a winning position with the change to compulsory preferential voting. 2017 is different.

The difficulty in predicting the outcome of Queensland’s state election is compounded not just by changes to the electoral system, but by volatile political factors.

Chief among these is the resurgence of support for One Nation. In the 2015 election, standing in only 11 electorates, the party garnered a statewide vote of less than 1% – though Hanson herself lost narrowly to the LNP in the seat of Lockyer.

Recent opinion polls suggest support for One Nation at around 18%, prompting commentators to assign it a “kingmaker” role in a likely hung parliament.

So it’s impossible to gauge the impact of a return to compulsory compared with optional preferential voting with certainty. In most seats, it won’t change the outcome.

However, some seats will likely be decided differently under full preferential voting. In a close election, that can determine which party wins on 25 November.

The ConversationIronically, given the LNP’s vehement criticism of the change to full preferential voting last year – it was the ‘death of democracy’, according to one parliamentarian – they are likely to be the main beneficiary of the changed system.

Doug Hunt, Adjunct Associate Professor, College of Arts, Society and Education, James Cook University

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

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Undecided Queensland voters disillusioned with Palaszczuk, suspicious of Nicholls


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Queensland “soft” voters are deeply disillusioned with both the Palaszczuk government and the Nicholls opposition, with many predicting a hung parliament from the November 25 state election, according to focus group research.

These voters are dismayed by the quality of Queensland’s political leadership, and struggling to find reasons to vote for the Labor government or the Liberal National Party alternative. Their votes are drifting somewhat toward minor parties and independents. If there’s a hung parliament, the majors will have themselves to blame.

Soft voters’ feelings about the controversial proposed Adani Carmichael coal mine – a high-profile issue in the campaign’s early stages – are complicated, with many believing the mine will be economically beneficial, but doubts about a publicly funded loan for its railway, and deep cynicism about Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk’s backflip on the issue.

Federally, many of these voters see Malcolm Turnbull’s ability to turn a “yes” result on same-sex marriage – if that’s the outcome of the postal ballot – into legislation quickly as a decisive test of the prime minister’s leadership.

The groups, two in each of Brisbane and Townsville, were conducted on Tuesday and Wednesday last week. The participants hadn’t yet decided how they would vote. Ages ranged from 18 to 75, with a mix of gender and socioeconomic backgrounds. Landscape Research conducted the research for the University of Canberra’s Institute for Governance and Policy Analysis.

Brisbane participants were predominantly drawn from the Queensland marginal electorates of Ferny Grove (ALP 0.82%) and Everton (LNP 1.77%), in the marginal federal LNP electorate of Dickson. Townsville participants were predominantly drawn from the marginal electorates of Mundingburra (ALP 2.76%) and Townsville (ALP 5.69%) in the marginal federal Labor electorate of Herbert.

The participants’ criticism of the big parties and their interest in small players reflect trends shown in recent quantitative polling.

“Major parties concentrate too much on negatives and not new policies,” complained a retired Brisbane retail worker; a Townsville worker said: “everyone’s going to independents. They’re sick of lies.”

“No matter what happens here, the independents will have a louder voice,” said a Townsville police officer.

Despite their criticisms of the major parties and the state’s leadership, these voters are more optimistic than pessimistic about Queensland’s future, seeing at least small signs of economic improvement, more jobs, and hospitals and schools being built. “The economy is starting to turn around, we’ve been through the worst of things,” said one.

The main issues of concern shared by soft voters in both places are the cost of living, including power prices, roads and traffic congestion, and crime. In Townsville water security is a particular priority.

On Adani, there are some worries about possible environmental implications, including for the Great Barrier Reef. But many are attracted to the potential economic benefits – wealth and direct and indirect jobs.

Nevertheless, these voters hesitate about funds from the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF) helping an overseas company make a profit, when the money could be used for other things, such as Townsville’s water.

People were scathing about Palaszczuk’s about-turn, in announcing a re-elected Labor government would veto NAIF funding for the mine’s railway. They see her pandering to “greenies” at the expense of hard-working Queenslanders. Some regard the fallout as “disastrous” for her, who’s also criticised for calling the election immediately after she denied she’d do so.

“She’s a straight bare-faced liar,” was the acerbic assessment of one Townsville participant.

For many, Palaszczuk hasn’t done enough to get their vote again; some pointed to her rocky start in the campaign, and concerns lingered about union influence on Labor.

But despite her perceived drawbacks, many of these soft voters are still leaning toward voting Labor. Their reasons include that Palaszczuk is better than the alternative; they like their local MP; and they want this time to have majority government and believe the ALP has a better chance than the LNP of achieving that. “Better the devil you know,” a Brisbane female executive assistant felt.

For some, Tim Nicholls embodies the ghost of Campbell Newman, the former premier dispatched in the massive swing of 2015. Nicholls and his team carry the baggage of the past. “I don’t trust the LNP because those people are still there,” one participant said.

But others favour the LNP on economic grounds; they “potentially manage the economy better,” in the view of a Townsville small-business-owner.

Given their negativity toward the major parties, some soft voters are looking seriously at minor party and independent alternatives. In Townsville, One Nation and Katter’s Australian Party (KAP) are appealing. One Nation and KAP have done a preference deal.

In Brisbane, some older voters are also considering One Nation; some younger Brisbane voters are looking at the Greens.

Senator Pauline Hanson, who was overseas when the election was called, had started to hit the Queensland election trail when the focus groups were meeting.

A Brisbane retired public servant was “leaning towards One Nation for a change. I’m sick of the childlike behaviour of the major parties.”

For a Townsville electrician, it’s about sending “a message to the major parties that we’re not happy with them. I’m leaning towards KAP for a change. They’ll be a strong voting block with One Nation.”

The soft voters differ dramatically about One Nation and Hanson. “I appreciate that she doesn’t think she’s King Shit,” said a Townsville property developer, “she seems more humble”. But a Townsville stay-at-home mum believed “someone like that would just set us back decades,” just when “as a society we’re just getting to the point where we’re being more inclusive”.

“I would be quite positive if Katter had the balance of power, but I’d be absolutely devastated if One Nation had the balance of power,” said a Townsville participant.

While many are predicting a hung parliament/minority government, people see pros and cons in that sort of outcome. The downside would be instability and chaos; “It sounds like a continuation of the political shit storm,” said a young Townsville occupational therapist.

On the other hand, having crossbenchers holding the untrustworthy majors to account is a positive. “It might make the major parties wake up a bit to what the realities are,” a retired Brisbane small-business-owner said.

For some, a hung parliament puts too much power in the hands of a few, elected by a minority of voters. The government can be held to ransom by the whims of an unrepresentative “looney” minority. “It takes the power off your vote again because you voted for someone and they could go and form a coalition with someone that you very strongly disagree with,” said a personal trainer from Brisbane.

At this stage of the campaign, younger undecided voters in particular admitted they were still disengaged and lacked enough information to make informed choices.

Mostly, these soft voters don’t see significant implications flowing federally from the Queensland result. But they do caution the LNP that the federal Liberals’ performance won’t help them; they also think the federal Liberals fortunes couldn’t be worsened by whatever happens here.

“I wouldn’t let Malcolm Turnbull anywhere near the place,” said a retired Brisbane solicitor; a Townsville participant described the federal government as “a lame duck”. Some believe the rise of independents in Queensland is a wake-up call for the federal Coalition.

Unprompted, these voters cite as top-of-mind federal issues dual citizenship -–which they see as politics at its worst, “farcical”, “ridiculous” – Manus Island, and same-sex marriage.

On the Manus crisis they are polarised (“we should be ashamed”; “they’re illegal immigrants”), at a loss to suggest a solution, and unsure what the federal government is or should be doing.

Despite the Manus crisis, which was escalating as the groups met, some Dickson voters remain enthusiastic about their local member, Immigration Minister Peter Dutton (“I think he’s great”; “he’s doing an excellent job”).

But his popularity among some is being tested by their dislike of the Turnbull.

A retired printer said it was a question of who one was voting for. “If I’m looking at my federal electorate, I’m looking at Dutton, who just happens to be a Liberal guy, but I really don’t like the leader of the party and if there’s a choice to vote another way I’ll be voting against Liberal because of him, Turnbull, and not liking the consequences of dumping Dutton.”

On same-sex marriage, these voters are critical of the cost of the postal ballot (one chose not to vote in protest). But if a “yes” win is announced on Wednesday, they want Turnbull to deliver a parliamentary result – otherwise it will confirm their view that he is weak and beholden to the conservative part of his party.

As a Brisbane female small-business-owner bluntly put it: “This is the litmus test. I feel like this is going to be: how much do you actually listen to us? And if you don’t listen to us, you can go get stuffed.”

The ConversationThese groups will meet again in the last week of the campaign, when we will bring you their views. Meanwhile, watch for The Conversation’s FactChecks on the Queensland election.

https://www.podbean.com/media/player/k3zus-7afe23?from=site&skin=1&share=1&fonts=Helvetica&auto=0&download=0

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

Coalition loses majority after Alexander resigns. Qld polling and preferences


Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

Liberal John Alexander today resigned as the Member for Bennelong, owing to concerns he had British citizenship by descent through his father. As Barnaby Joyce has also been ousted pending a 2 December by-election in New England, the Coalition now has 74 of the 148 occupied lower house seats, not quite a majority. Since the Speaker cannot vote except to break a tie, they have 73 of 147 votes on the floor. If all five cross-benchers vote with Labor, Labor would win divisions.

The Senate alone sits next week, with the full Parliament to hold a two-week sitting from 27 November. Joyce is likely to be absent for both these weeks. Even if he wins convincingly, the electoral commission will take some time to formally declare the New England result.

If the Coalition does not want to attempt minority government for these two weeks, Turnbull could ask the Governor-General to prorogue (suspend) Parliament until after the New England and Bennelong by-elections are held.

At the 2016 election, Alexander won Bennelong by 59.7-40.3 vs Labor, a 2 point swing to the Liberals. Alexander said he will re-contest Bennelong at the by-election, and this makes Labor’s task more difficult. In most by-elections, the incumbent party loses the personal vote of the sitting member, but not in either New England or Bennelong.

Labor’s Maxine McKew famously ousted incumbent PM John Howard from Bennelong at the 2007 election, but Alexander regained it for the Liberals in 2010, and has held it since.

17 candidates have nominated for the New England by-election, likely increasing the informal vote. Many of these candidates will forfeit the $1000 deposit for failing to win at least 4% of the vote. The most original candidate name was “MEOW-MEOW, Meow-Ludo Disco Gamma” from the Science Party. Joyce is the overwhelming favourite, with Independent Rob Taber and Labor’s David Ewings likely to contest second.

3 of 4 Senate vacancies filled, but questions over Hughes

Following recounts of Senate votes for four ousted Senators, yesterday the High Court declared Greens Andrew Bartlett elected to replace Larissa Waters, Greens Jordan Steele-John elected to replace Scott Ludlam and One Nation’s Fraser Anning elected to replace Malcolm Roberts. These Senators will be sworn in when the Senate resumes Monday.

Nationals Fiona Nash’s replacement has been complicated as Liberal Hollie Hughes, the next on the joint Coalition ticket in NSW, took up public service work following her failure at the 2016 election, and may be disqualified under Section 44(iv) of the Constitution. The full High Court will consider Hughes’ case next week. If Hughes is disqualified, Liberal Jim Molan is next on the Coalition ticket.

Qld Galaxy seat polling and preference recommendations

The Queensland election will be held in two weeks, on 25 November. Galaxy conducted seven electorate polls, presumably on 9 November from samples of about 550 per seat. The seats polled were Logan, Mundingburra, Hervey Bay, Rockhampton, Cairns, Bonney and Glass House.

In only one seat, Logan, was One Nation second on primary votes with 32%, but they were losing to Labor 52-48 after respondent-allocated preferences. In the other seats, One Nation’s vote was at most 25%.

Mundingburra was the only seat shown as changing hands on this polling, with the LNP leading 52-48, a 4 point swing to them. However, Glass House and Bonney were both tied 50-50, representing swings to Labor. Labor-turned-Independent candidates in Cairns and Rockhampton were not a threat.

Labor and the Greens will put One Nation last on their how-to-vote cards in all seats. One Nation will put sitting members second last ahead of the Greens, with a handful of exceptions, primarily for the two Katter party MPs. According to the ABC’s Chris O’Brien, the LNP will recommend its voters preference One Nation ahead of Labor in at least 50 of the 93 seats.

The ConversationI think the LNP’s preference decision is likely to be a negative in south-east Queensland, where well-educated conservative voters may be unhappy with their party preferencing a perceived racist party.

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

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

Qld Galaxy: 52-48 to Labor but One Nation up. Why Labor’s Adani support a vote loser


Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

A Queensland Galaxy poll, conducted probably on 1-2 November from a sample of 900, gave Labor a 52-48 lead, a one point gain for Labor since an early August Galaxy. Primary votes were 35% Labor (steady), 32% LNP (down 4), 18% One Nation (up 3) and 9% Greens (up 2). The Queensland election will be held in three weeks, on 25 November.

41% approved of Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk (up 2), and 42% disapproved (down 2), for a net approval of -1. Opposition leader Tim Nicholls had a net approval of -12, up two points.

This poll is bad for the LNP, not just in vote shift terms, but because it undermines perceptions that the LNP can win a parliamentary majority without One Nation. There are likely to be many normally conservative voters in south-east Queensland who will vote Labor if they believe the only alternative is an LNP/One Nation government.

Labor has other advantages. Palaszczuk is relatively popular, the Federal Coalition is unpopular, and Nicholls was the Treasurer during Campbell Newman’s government, in which there were drastic job cuts to the public service.

Why I believe Labor’s Adani support is a vote loser

Labor’s support for the Adani coal mine is a vote loser for them on both the left and right. On the left, Adani is a high priority issue for the Greens and Labor’s left-wing activists. That means activists will be less enthusiastic about on-the-ground campaigning.

While Newspoll assumes Greens preferences will flow to Labor at an 80% rate, some Greens will be so disappointed with Labor over Adani that they will preference the LNP. If Labor only wins 70%, not 80%, of Greens preferences, their two party vote will be about a point lower.

The LNP and One Nation will always be able to outflank Labor from the right. People who want the Adani coal mine are likely to trust these two parties over Labor. Had Labor rejected Adani soon after winning office in early 2015, the Adani issue would probably be dead now; instead, it has continued to fester.

While working class voters in general prefer jobs to environmental concerns, Adani is likely to create far fewer jobs than the 10,000 advertised, and will cost tourism jobs. Had Labor opposed the mine, they could have forcefully made these arguments. Jobs created through renewable energy projects would be far better politically for a left-wing party.

One Nation is an anti-establishment party, which will perform best when the two major parties appear close. By sticking with Adani, Labor is playing into One Nation’s hands. One Nation’s preferences are likely to assist the LNP on cultural grounds.

Palaszczuk announced yesterday that she would veto Commonwealth funding for the Adani mine through the Northern Australia Infrastructure Fund. This announcement should encourage left-wing activists, and ensure a strong flow of Greens preferences to Labor.

As the LNP will not veto the NAIF funding, there is now a clear distinction between Labor and the LNP over Adani, so it is possible that the two major parties will regain support from One Nation.

The ConversationMany commentators think Palaszczuk’s announcement will cost Labor in regional Queensland, but those people who like Adani are unlikely to trust Labor on this issue no matter how pro-Adani Labor is.

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

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

Federal Coalition will be watching the Queensland election anxiously



File 20171029 13355 18dhrar.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Any appearance in the Queensland campaign by Malcolm Turnbull can be expected to be minimal.
Joel Carrett/AAP

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

People distinguish between levels of government when casting their votes. Nevertheless, a state result can reverberate federally, whether it is sending a protest or for other reasons.

We only have to remember 2015 to understand that the outcome of the November 25 Queensland poll carries implications for the Turnbull government.

Queensland is notable for big swings. In 2015 the shock defeat of Campbell Newman, who had won in a landslide against Labor, delivered an enormous blow to the then prime minister, Tony Abbott, and was a factor in the first (“empty chair”) move against his leadership.

Labor Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has announced the state election as the Turnbull government is reeling from Friday’s High Court judgment, which knocked out of parliament Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce, now campaigning in a New England byelection, as well as Joyce’s deputy Fiona Nash, who has no immediate way back.

While being careful to sound respectful of the High Court – after earlier (wrongly) anticipating its decision – the Coalition is smarting from a judgment that adhered to black letter law rather than accepting the more creative interpretation of the Constitution’s Section 44 that the government urged.

Attorney-General George Brandis on Sunday described it on Sky as “almost brutal literalism”. Well, it’s the Coalition that has always railed against judicial adventurism.

One question in the judgment’s wake will be whether the ministerial decisions that Joyce and Nash took are challenged. Labor’s Tony Burke suggested on the ABC that “vested interests” could consider contesting, for example, decisions Joyce made in quarantine matters.

Surely the risk would be highest in relation to decisions taken when the pair knew the constitutional ice could break under them. That was always an argument for their standing aside, as Matt Canavan did (in the end he survived and has been restored to the cabinet).

To clean up untidy ends, Turnbull delayed until Sunday night his departure for Israel to attend the commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Beersheba.

Deputy Liberal leader Julie Bishop is acting prime minister while he’s away, with Turnbull insisting the acting parliamentary leader of the Nationals, Nigel Scullion, was “absolutely in support of this arrangement”. That assertion followed suggestions of some tetchiness between the parties on the matter.

Just in case Bishop might get any inflated opinion of her situation, Turnbull pointed out that “when I’m overseas, I continue to discharge all of my duties as prime minister. All decisions that are taken by the prime minister are taken by me.

“The acting prime minister is a role that is really designed to cover circumstances where, for example, it was urgent for a document to be signed, with my consent, obviously, but I’m not in the country to sign it. Or, of course, in the event of some disaster occurring while I was travelling.” There will be no deputy prime minister while the New England byelection is on.

Turnbull has a busy schedule of international travel in coming weeks, including APEC and the East Asia summit. Any appearance in the Queensland campaign can be expected to be minimal. As Newman told Sky: “Malcolm Turnbull doesn’t go down well in Queensland”. Newman also noted Joyce would have been good there, but he is tied up south of the border.

No wise person would bet too heavily on the Queensland result. Insiders on both sides of politics are predicting One Nation is likely to hold the balance of power. The parliament has been hung – the ABC’s analyst Antony Green says that given Queensland is moving to fixed terms the ALP will run hard on the importance of avoiding minority government. “Stability is a big issue in Queensland,” Green says.

Queensland is a critical state for the federal Coalition and so for its fortunes at the next election. A serious rebuff to the Liberal National Party there would create deep alarm in the Coalition.

A lot of variables make the state election particularly hard to read. The parliament’s size has been increased and boundaries redrawn. Voting will be a compulsory preferential system rather than the previous optional preferential.

Green says: “Both sides of politics need to increase their vote to win … But both have lost first preferences since One Nation came back on the scene”.

One Nation is a significant player, in terms of both how many seats it could pick up and what will happen with its preferences.

This is Pauline Hanson’s stamping ground – though she got caught out by being overseas when Palaszczuk called the election, despite it having been much flagged beforehand.

Green predicts One Nation could win five or six seats but not the 11 it secured in 1998. “It can win seats off the LNP. It’s tougher for it to win them off Labor.”

Much will depend on what the LNP does with preferences, Green says. The LNP has ruled out any across-the-board preference deal. One Nation has said it will put sitting members last. Labor will preference against One Nation.

While the strength of the One Nation state vote won’t be a accurate guide to the minor party’s influence in Queensland federally, it will be a pointer to how much momentum Hanson has.

Postscript

Labor has maintained a 54-46% two party lead in the Newspoll in Monday’s Australian – the 22nd consecutive Newspoll in which the Coalition has been behind.

Both leaders lost ground on their net approval, although the Prime Minister took the bigger hit. Malcolm Turnbull has gone from a net satisfaction rating of minus 24 to minus 28, while Bill Shorten’s net rating has deteriorated from minus 22 in the last poll to minus 24.

Turnbull’s lead as better prime minister is unchanged at 41-33%.

The Coalition primary vote has fallen a point to 35%; Labor is steady on 37%. Greens on 10% and One Nation on 9% were unchanged.

The ConversationThe poll of 1623 was taken from Thursday to Sunday, amid controversy around Employment minister Michaelia Cash, as well as Friday’s High Court decision.

https://www.podbean.com/media/player/g8gar-796795?from=site&skin=1&share=1&fonts=Helvetica&auto=0&download=0

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

Palaszczuk must grapple with One Nation, and history, in unpredictable Queensland election



File 20171029 13331 1rhj2ah.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Annastacia Palaszczuk is seeking a second term as premier when the state goes to the polls on November 25.
AAP/Darren England

Chris Salisbury, The University of Queensland

Queensland’s state election has been called for November 25. The outcome is, at this stage, anyone’s guess.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk cited her disendorsement of sitting MP Rick Williams, and the resignation for health reasons of minister Bill Byrne, as triggers for an election months before it was due.

Williams’ subsequent resignation from the ALP to contest his seat as an independent leaves the Labor minority government and Liberal National Party opposition both holding 41 seats in the 89-seat state parliament.

Polling has typically had the government slightly ahead in two-party-preferred terms. But narrowing poll margins and the major parties’ shrinking primary vote share point to a tight result – and potentially another hung parliament.

In this scenario, the election “winner” could be forced into tricky negotiations with minor parties to form government. Yet Palaszczuk and Opposition Leader Tim Nicholls have both pledged not to govern in coalition with the likes of One Nation and Bob Katter’s Australian Party. So where will that leave the make-up of Queensland’s next government?

A typical contest?

On one hand, this election looks set to be a conventional state contest, fought over economic, employment and cost-of-living issues.

With ink still drying on the federal government’s new energy policy, the main parties in Queensland have all made recent announcements playing to voters’ worries of rising power bills.

Campaign attention is expected to focus on regional voters’ concerns – especially in the many marginal seats – over local employment opportunities and industry downturns. Memories are still fresh in and around Townsville of painful job losses from the closure of the Yabulu nickel refinery.

Meanwhile, attracting votes – and Greens preferences – in the state’s southeast corner will be critical. Population pressures have given rise to transport infrastructure projects (like Brisbane’s Cross River Rail) and school building proposals that, in some cases, have become political footballs.

Adani and voting changes add to unpredictability

On the other hand, this election shapes as unpredictable and intriguing.

Uncertainty looms over key economic projects – principally the Adani Carmichael coalmine and state-federal financing arrangements for the proposal.

The Adani mine has dominated Queensland’s political landscape – and divided community opinion – like few other recent issues. Party positions on the mine’s approval could prove decisive in many areas.

Similarly, the state and federal governments’ management of the Great Barrier Reef has contributed to volatility in public sentiment.

This, along with the Adani proposal and the state government’s inability to reinstate tree-clearing restrictions, has been an environmental sore point for Queensland’s left-dominated ALP caucus. Negative public reaction has even fed speculation that Deputy Premier Jackie Trad could face a realistic challenge from the Greens in her South Brisbane seat.

Adding to the unpredictability is a handful of “unknowns”. These include the introduction of four-year fixed parliamentary terms, a redrawing of the state’s electoral map from 89 to 93 seats, and the reintroduction of compulsory preferential voting. The latter especially makes predicting results in most electorates fraught with difficulty.

Even the swelling of numbers on the electoral roll (primarily of younger voters) as a result of the national same-sex marriage survey adds an unpredictable element.

The One Nation question mark

On top of all this is the presence of Pauline Hanson’s One Nation.

Since bursting back onto the political stage at last year’s federal election, One Nation’s popularity in its “home” state has again seen the major parties in Queensland and federally jumping at shadows.

It did not go unnoticed when Pauline Hanson recently announced federal-government-funded projects in Ipswich and elsewhere. This reportedly prompted a furious rebuke from federal Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce.

One Nation even enters this election defending a seat, after the defection of former LNP MP Steve Dickson in January this year.

The party’s wildcard quality was made more stark after the announcement that Malcolm Roberts – having had his Senate election ruled invalid by the High Court – would stand in the seat of Ipswich at the state election.

One Nation has variously polled between 10% and 15% across Queensland, even exceeding 20% in some of the 50-plus seats in which it will field candidates.

Regional areas in particular, where high unemployment has fed voter dissatisfaction with the major parties at state and federal levels, is where One Nation’s presence will be felt most. Yet it is uncertain how preferences from the party’s voters will play out in different seats.

What to expect in the campaign

The Palaszczuk government will highlight its high-profile job-creating projects in Brisbane’s Queen’s Wharf development and Townsville’s new sports stadium. Recent jobs growth figures and statewide unemployment falling below 6% have provided the government with positive economic news.

The LNP will focus on government missteps, such as train system malfunctions and ministerial blunders. It will also pursue a message of the Labor government as indecisive and “do nothing”, after ordering numerous reviews and overseeing a stubbornly high unemployment rate relative to the national average.

Voters will be asked whether Nicholls has done enough as opposition leader in the last 18 months to warrant a crack at the top job.

Labor will be keen to remind voters of Nicholls’ role as treasurer in the Newman government, particularly with the electorally poisonous public asset sale agenda and his supposed unpopularity in bush areas.

Ultimately, Palaszcuk will look to benefit from incumbency and her lead as preferred premier. Her Labor team will also benefit from an incumbent federal Coalition government that is dealing with the fallout from High Court rulings that ousted the Nationals’ leader and deputy from parliament.

The ConversationHistory may be against Palaszczuk, though: she would be the first female Australian state premier to defend an election win.

Chris Salisbury, Lecturer in Australian Studies, The University of Queensland

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

Labor should head left to win 25 November Qld election


Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk today called the state election for 25 November, about two months before the three-year anniversary of Labor’s shock win in January 2015. There will be 93 single-member electorates at this election for the lower house; Queensland has no upper house.

There have been two recent polls by reputable pollsters. A mid-October Newspoll gave Labor a 52-48 lead from primary votes of 37% Labor, 34% LNP, 16% One Nation and 8% Greens. However, a late September ReachTEL gave the LNP a 52-48 lead from primary votes of 34.8% Labor, 33.2% LNP, 19.6% One Nation and 8.1% Greens.

The major difference between Newspoll and ReachTEL is that Newspoll assumes that Labor will win 80% of Greens preferences, 40% of One Nation preferences and 50% of all Others. ReachTEL uses respondent-allocated preferences, and is clearly finding a strong flow of One Nation preferences to the LNP.

On current polling, four outcomes are plausible. There could be a Labor or LNP majority government, a Labor minority government with Independent or Katter Party support, or a LNP minority government with One Nation or Katter support.

In recent overseas elections, UK and NZ Labour greatly increased their vote share from the previous election by offering a clear left-wing agenda, emphasising their differences from the conservatives. However, at the German and Austrian elections, far-right parties performed well partly because the major centre-left party was perceived as too close to the conservatives.

It appears that many voters want a major change from the prevailing orthodoxy. If the major centre-left party does not offer such a change, these votes are likely to go to right-wing populist parties.

In my opinion, Queensland Labor’s strong support for the Adani coal mine is a major negative. Not only does this anger environmental activists, it also means Labor is perceived as close to the LNP on this issue. It would have been better for Labor if they had rejected Adani at the start of the current term.

I think Labor can win over some of the One Nation voters if they advocate populist left-wing economic policies. If Labor’s primary vote rises into the 40’s, they would be assured of winning. If Labor does not advocate left-wing policies, One Nation is likely to win a high teens primary vote, and their preferences will probably assist the LNP on cultural grounds.

Earlier in the current term, before One Nation’s rise began, Labor changed the Queensland electoral system from optional preferential to compulsory preferential voting, in an attempt to ensure strong Greens preference flows. With One Nation winning at least double the Greens in the polls, this change looks like a mistake.

In its attacks on One Nation, Labor should target their right-wing economic policies, not their perceived racism. As at August, One Nation had voted with the Coalition in 79% of Senate divisions where Labor was opposed. This record is more likely to dissuade working class voters from One Nation than calling Hanson and co racists.

Labor has never been far ahead in the Queensland polls during the current term, and this can be attributed to the hung Parliament, particularly having to rely on Labor defectors such as Billy Gordon.

The unpopular Federal Coalition government will be a drag on the state LNP. If state Labor wins, they are likely to be a drag for Federal Labor at the next Federal election. From the viewpoint of maximising its chances at the next Federal election, Federal Labor would prefer an LNP/One Nation Queensland government.

The ConversationIn 2016, a referendum for fixed four-year terms was passed, with the election on the last Saturday in October; this did not apply to the current term. If this election had been held after 1 January 2018, the next election would have been in October 2021. As it is, the next election will be in October 2020, just under three years after this election.

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

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

Labour wins NZ election after backing from NZ First. Bankers’ SA Galaxy: 31% Lib, 30% SA Best, 26% Labor


Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

The New Zealand election was held on 23 September, with final results released on 7 October. The conservative National won 56 of the 120 seats, Labour 46, the anti-immigrant populist NZ First 9, the Greens 8 and the right-wing ACT 1. As a result, the right held 57 seats and the left 54, with NZ First’s 9 seats required for a majority (61 seats) for either the left or right.

26 days after the election, and 12 days after final results were published, NZ First leader Winston Peters today announced that his party would form a coalition government with Labour. With NZ First backing, the left bloc has 63 seats, a clear majority in the NZ Parliament. This outcome ends National’s nine successive years in power, in which Labour had utterly dismal results in the three elections from 2008-14.

While the time taken after the election to form a government may seem long, it is not by international standards. Following the Dutch election in March 2017, a coalition government was not formed for 208 days. The German election was held on 24 September, with final results known on 25 September, but government negotiations only began yesterday.

Bankers’ SA Galaxy: 31% Liberal, 30% SA Best, 26% Labor

The Australian reported today that a SA Galaxy poll, conducted for the Australian Bankers Association 10-12 October from a sample of 806, gave the Liberals 31% of the primary vote, SA Best (Nick Xenophon’s SA party) 30% and Labor 26%. The next SA election will be held in mid-March 2018.

This poll is not a media-commissioned poll. The ABA is an anti-Labor lobby group that wants to stop the proposed SA state bank tax. Polls such as these are prone to selective release; it is unlikely the ABA would have released a poll with Labor doing well.

The last media-commissioned SA Galaxy poll, in late June, had the Liberals leading Labor 34-28 on primary votes with SA Best on 21%, and a 50-50 tie between the major parties after preferences. If this ABA Galaxy poll is accurate, it implies that SA Best has surged 9 points since Xenophon announced his candidacy for the Liberal-held seat of Hartley.

In the better Premier question, Xenophon had 41%, with both incumbent Premier Jay Weatherill and opposition leader Steven Marshall at 21%.

If these primary votes were replicated at an election, SA Best would win many seats on Labor preferences, and could be the largest party in SA’s lower house. Such an outcome would break the two party duopoly for the first time in an Australian Parliament since the early 20th century.

However, there are still five months to go before the election. Even if this poll is accurate, it could represent SA Best’s high point. Both major parties will attack Xenophon during the election campaign, in an attempt to undermine his popularity. Labor will use Xenophon’s controversial Senate decisions against him.

Although Labor is third in this poll, they are not out of the running. If Labor can take a few percent from SA Best, they would be more likely to benefit on preferences than the Liberals. If Labor retains office at the next election, it will be a fifth consecutive term for them.

The ConversationAfter 14 years in office, Queensland Labor was demolished at the 2012 Queensland election, and NSW Labor had a similar fate after 16 years at the 2011 NSW election. A SA Labor victory after 16 years would be a remarkable achievement.

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

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

Australia’s Human Rights Council election comes with a challenge to improve its domestic record



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Australia’s campaign for a seat on the Human Rights Council opened it to further scrutiny of its record on such issues.
Reuters/Denis Balibouse

Amy Maguire, University of Newcastle and Georgia Monaghan, University of Newcastle

Australia has been elected to a seat on the United Nations Human Rights Council. It will serve on the council from 2018 to 2020.

The announcement overnight formalised an assumed result: Australia and Spain were the only two countries seeking election to the two available seats for the Western Europe and Others group. Most of the other newly- elected council members similarly ran uncontested.

However, all campaigning countries required the support of a majority of voting countries to ensure their election. Australia received 176 votes and Spain 180 – both survived grilling by an expert committee.

How did Australia present itself as a candidate?

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop led Australia’s campaign, which had a particular focus on freedoms, free speech, and equality. The “five pillars” of Australia’s bid were:

  • gender equality

  • good governance

  • freedom of expression

  • the rights of Indigenous peoples

  • strong national human rights institutions and capacity building.

Australia presented itself as a “pragmatic and principled” candidate for the council position. Bishop cited Australia’s “strong track record for human rights” as well as its active and practical involvement in international affairs.

Such active and practical involvement can be seen in Australia’s advocacy for the abolition of the death penalty, as in the case of Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan. Furthering global advocacy for death penalty abolition is one of Australia’s primary pledges as a new council member.

Australia’s involvement in multiple UN treaties and its anticipated adoption of the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture were also cited as evidence of its worthiness for election.

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Australia’s bid and opportunities for human rights advocacy

However, Australia’s campaign opened it to further scrutiny of its human rights record. Human rights organisations in Australia and overseas have been lobbying to ensure that Australia’s practices are well publicised and subject to oversight and critique.

In December 2016, Bishop sought to pre-empt such criticism, claiming “no country is perfect”. Bishop pledged to be “honest and open” about Australia’s human rights record during the campaign.

Yet the campaign’s pledges failed to acknowledge Australia’s human rights abuses. As such, Australia remains open to accusations of hypocrisy on human rights.

Australia’s human rights track record is more chequered than it would claim. The UN has condemned Australia for its asylum-seeker policies and treatment of Indigenous peoples.

Bishop frequently praised Australia for its success in building a multicultural society and valuing the diverse background of migrant settlers. Yet asylum seekers arriving by boat continue to be dehumanised.


Further reading: ‘Fake refugees’: Dutton adopts an alternative fact to justify our latest human rights violation


Another key area of human rights controversy is the current postal plebiscite to survey public opinion on marriage equality. Australia’s council bid promised the protection of LGBTQI rights. But as was forewarned, the plebiscite campaign has exposed LGBTQI people to harmful fear campaigning and social exclusion.

It is incongruous for a claimed champion of human rights to put the rights of a minority group to a popular vote, potentially in an effort to prevent that group from gaining marriage equality.

Australia strikes a similarly dissonant note in relation to its treatment of Indigenous people. A key pledge of the council bid was the recognition of Indigenous Australians in the Constitution. However, a constitutional convention rejected the form of “recognition” the government-sponsored Recognise campaign had promoted.

The Recognise campaign has since been abandoned, and the future of the proposed referendum is unclear. The Australian government is yet to embrace the Referendum Council’s proposals for treaty, truth-telling and a First Nations Voice.


Further reading: Listening to the heart: what now for Indigenous recognition after the Uluru summit?


France’s withdrawal was a loss to the election campaign

Given Australia’s record, France’s withdrawal as a third candidate for the two available seats was unfortunate. The lack of competition reduced pressure on Australia to extend its human rights commitments.

The weight of international disapproval of Australia’s practice in relation to refugees, in particular, could well have weakened the bid had France stayed in the race.

No doubt this was also true for Spain. The recent Catalan independence referendum exposed Spain’s problematic record in relation to self-determination and political rights for minority groups.


Further reading: As Spain represses Catalonia’s show of independence, the rest of Europe watches on nervously


In interesting company

The UN’s orientation is to promote inclusion rather than marginalisation of member countries on international bodies. The UN is committed to universal values and obligations, and seeks to enforce these through universal involvement in its processes.

It is undoubtedly difficult to countenance egregious human rights violators participating in human rights processes. But it is at least arguable that their involvement promotes the progressive realisation of human rights more effectively than their marginalisation would.

However, in some cases, it may be that a country’s membership should be postponed until it can show improvement in a deplorable record. Leading up to the election, Human Rights Watch campaigned against promoting the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the council due to its grave human rights violations.

Meanwhile, the US warned it may withdraw if the council continued to elect countries responsible for gross abuses.

Australia is not in this category. It aspires to be an exemplary member of the council. And its election should act as impetus for progressive gains in its human rights performance.

The value of Australia’s election for human rights

Human rights advocates will take the opportunity to draw attention to any gaps between Australia’s international legal obligations and its domestic practices.

Bishop was right to highlight the value of Australia becoming the first Pacific country to join the council. Strong diplomatic and trade relationships will hopefully enable Australia to influence human rights development in its region. It is the only place without a regional human rights treaty or institution.

An important focus in this context will be Australia’s advocacy for the abolition of capital punishment. Allied to that concern for the right to life, perhaps Australia might also consider lobbying other countries – notably the US – for gun laws that prioritise human life and wellbeing.

Australia could substantially increase the legitimacy of such efforts, though, by working to build adequate domestic human rights architecture. Without federal human rights legislation, Australia cannot demonstrate the social and legal value of building human rights protections into law.

Australia’s election also calls for a renewal of political commitment to the value of international human rights review processes. Recent years have seen expressions of frustration, dismissal and poor faith that undermine Australia’s strong record of commitment to international human rights treaties.

Nowhere was this troubling attitude toward human rights protection more clear than in efforts to tarnish the reputation and work of former Human Rights Commission president Gillian Triggs.

Such mixed messages sit poorly with Australia’s continued efforts to review the practices of other countries – particularly now that it has an official role on the Human Rights Council.


Further reading: Why does international condemnation on human rights mean so little to Australia?


Australia has claimed leadership in the areas of gender equality, good governance, freedom of expression, the rights of Indigenous people, and strong national human rights institutions.

Imperfect performance in these areas indicates key targets for immediate focus – for example through human-rights-informed approaches to gendered violence, and concern for limitations on the freedom to express views about politically sensitive matters.

Considerable progress will be required on the rights of Indigenous people for Australia to claim success on that key pillar of its council campaign. The federal government could look to progress on a treaty in Victoria as evidence that such a conversation can be inclusive and productive.

The ConversationImportantly, Australia must also be held accountable in the key area its bid sought to avoid: the treatment of asylum seekers and refugees. Its election provides an ideal opportunity for Australia to show leadership and commitment to durable regional and global responses to refugee flows.

Amy Maguire, Senior Lecturer in International Law and Human Rights, University of Newcastle and Georgia Monaghan, Research Assistant, University of Newcastle

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