Jacinda Ardern to become NZ prime minister following coalition announcement



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Jacinda Ardern is set to become New Zealand’s new prime minister.
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Richard Shaw, Massey University

During the dim, distant past of New Zealand’s recent election campaign, soon-to-be-former prime minister Bill English grumbled that the “stardust” that was falling thick and fast on new Labour leader Jacinda Ardern would settle.

Well, it just has – in such quantities that some time next week Ardern will be sworn in as the 40th – and second youngest – prime minister of Aotearoa/New Zealand.

From stardust to PM

It is quite some denouement to an extraordinary period in New Zealand’s political history. A little under three months ago, Ardern was the deputy leader of a Labour Party that was polling in minor party territory. From deputy leader of a struggling opposition party to prime minister in under three months – that’s stardust on an industrial scale.

For Winston Peters, too, who is likely to become the next deputy prime minister (for the second time), it is a spectacular return to form. Three times Peters has been the veto player in the government formation process. On each occasion he has kept everyone guessing, including, it appears, members of his own caucus.


Read more: Long live the kingmaker: Winston Peters and the NZ election


So, here’s what we know. The new government will comprise a formal coalition between Labour and NZF (the first executive coalition we’ve had on this side of the ditch since 2005). As a minority administration, it will govern with support on confidence and supply from the Greens.

NZF will hold four cabinet positions and an additional slot outside of cabinet. This means that just over half of its caucus will be in the political executive. The Greens, too, will – for the first time in their history – have ministerial portfolios: three outside of Cabinet and one parliamentary under-secretary.

But there’s plenty we don’t yet know. We’re not sure who will occupy which portfolios (although we’re fairly sure Peters will be the deputy prime minister). Neither will we know the nature of the policy detail (if any) in the executive agreement and its associated confidence and supply document until next week.

Few rules to form a government

The last time NZF was in formal coalition – ironically, with the National Party in 1996 – there was an awful lot of devil in that detail. Since then, New Zealand governments have moved away from policy-prescriptive agreements to arrangements that emphasise procedural certainty and clarity. However, the attention that has clearly been paid to matters of policy in the negotiations over the last three weeks suggests we may see a swing back to a greater emphasis on policy substance.

Once the dust – wherever it happens to have come from – has settled on today’s momentous events, a number of features of this election will merit careful reflection.

In particular, questions will certainly be asked of the way in which New Zealand governments are formed. Almost alone amongst mature parliamentary democracies, there are few or no formal rules governing the process. Apart from the constitutional requirement that the government is formed by the party or parties able to demonstrate to the governor-general that they command the confidence of parliament, there is little formal guidance and few restrictions on the process.

That goes a long way to explaining why it has taken a few days short of four weeks to form this government and why, for the first time under the mixed member proportional (MMP) electoral system in New Zealand, the incoming government will not be led by the party that won the largest number of seats in the election. All of this is perfectly constitutional, but disconcerting for some New Zealanders nonetheless.

Expect big, boisterous opposition

What next? National will be furious. Expect some talk over the next couple of days of the “moral authority” the party had to govern, given that it won a clear plurality of parliamentary seats. While the constitution recognises no such thing, National certainly had political precedence on its side.

National will ride that wave of righteous anger – internally at least, if not outwardly for public consumption – for some time to come. Hell hath no fury and so forth. And if the Labour/NZF/Green governing bloc starts fraying at the edges, then National’s claim to “moral authority” will start to look a little less imaginary.

But this might not have been a bad election for National to lose. The party can now move on from the Key years, start generating fresh ideas and begin bringing through some of its younger talent as it remakes itself as a conservative force. Moreover, National will comprise a big, boisterous opposition. The parliamentary conventions and rules governing the allocation of questions in the house, speaking time and membership on select committee positions mean that it will be able to make life very challenging for the new administration.

Human face of capitalism

And what of the new government? For Labour, NZF and Greens – which between them represent 50.5% of those who cast party votes in the election (against National’s 44.4%) – this is the chance to effect change following nine years of orthodox neoliberal government from National.

Peters’ claim when announcing his decision that he wanted to be part of a government that would restore ‘capitalism with a human face’ falls far short of a clarion call for the destruction of neoliberalism. It does, however, signal a significant change in policy direction. For those New Zealanders on the wrong side of the ledger when it comes to our dire performance in health, housing, productivity, wage and salary growth, poverty and so on, that change can’t come soon enough.

The ConversationThis, then, will be a legacy government, one that represents a generational shift in thinking away from the priorities of the baby boomers towards the concerns of the millennials. The irony that such a thing has been brought about by a man on the other side of 70 won’t be lost on anyone. “Let’s do this” was Ardern’s campaign slogan. Now we get to see how New Zealand’s political odd couple go.

Richard Shaw, Professor of Politics, Massey University

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

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Newspoll 54-46 to Labor as Turnbull’s ratings slump. Qld Newspoll 52-48 to Labor


Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

This week’s Newspoll, conducted 12-15 October from a sample of 1580, gave Labor a 54-46 lead, unchanged from three weeks ago. Primary votes were 37% Labor (down 1), 36% Coalition (steady), 10% Greens (up 1) and 9% One Nation (up 1). This is Turnbull’s 21st consecutive Newspoll loss as PM.

32% were satisfied with Turnbull’s performance (down 3) and 56% were dissatisfied (up 4), for a net approval of -24, down 7 points. Shorten’s net approval was -22, down two points. According to Kevin Bonham, this is Turnbull’s worst net approval since July, and Shorten’s worst since June.

By 63-23, voters favoured continuing renewable energy subsidies. However, 58% said they would pay nothing more for electricity or gas to implement a clean energy target. In a mid-September Essential poll, voters thought renewables better for electricity costs than fossil fuels by a 41-27 margin.

The general public would like more investment in renewables, and expects that renewable energy would not increase current power prices. However, the Coalition backbench is strongly opposed to renewable energy. By siding with the backbench, Turnbull is undermining his standing with the public.

Labor should ferociously attack the Coalition’s new energy policy that was announced today. In recent global elections, major left-wing parties have performed best when they have clearly distinguished themselves from conservatives. Where the left has become close to the conservatives, they have performed dismally, with Austria (see below) the latest example.

While Newspoll was good for Labor, Essential and YouGov below are not as good. All three polls this week agree that One Nation’s vote is up by 1-2 points.

Last week, The Australian published the July to September quarter Newspoll breakdowns by state, region, sex and age. Since the 2016 election, there has been an 8 point swing to Labor in Queensland, WA and outside the five capitals, but milder swings elsewhere.

SSM plebiscite turnout and polling

As at Friday 13 October, the ABS estimated it had received 10.8 million same sex marriage forms (67.5% of the electorate). The turnout is up from 62.5% on 6 October and 57.5% on 29 September. Weekly updates will be provided until 7 November, the final day for reception of SSM envelopes.

In this week’s YouGov poll, 67% of respondents had already voted, a very good match for the ABS. Among these, Yes led by 61-35. The remaining 33% favoured Yes 54-28, including 13% who were very likely to vote.

Wednesday morning update 18 October: In Newspoll, 65% said they have already voted and another 19% definitely will, implying an 84% turnout. Among those who have already voted, Yes led by 59-38, and by 49-37 among those who have not yet voted. For the whole sample, Yes led by 56-37 (57-34 three weeks ago). By 50-43, voters were opposed to the postal plebiscite (46-44 opposed three weeks ago).

Essential 52-48 to Labor

This week’s Essential, conducted over the last two weeks from a sample of 1850, gave Labor a 52-48 lead, a 2 point gain for the Coalition since last week. As Essential uses two week rolling averages, this implies that this week’s sample was close to 50-50. Primary votes were 37% Coalition (up 1), 36% Labor (down 2), 9% Greens (down 1), 8% One Nation (up 1) and 3% Nick Xenophon Team (up 1). Additional questions are based on one week’s sample.

Voters approved 65-15 of the Clean Energy Target, 74-10 of renewable energy subsidies and 62-18 of Labor’s 50% renewable energy target. These questions can be said to be “pony polls”, in that the voter is asked whether they approve of something that sounds nice, without considering cost or other issues.

61% (down 10 since February) thought the government was not doing enough to ensure affordable, reliable and clean energy, 15% thought it was doing enough (up 3) and 5% that it was doing too much (up 2).

42% thought Abbott should resign from Parliament (down 1 since April), 14% that he should be given a ministry (down 4), 16% remain a backbencher (up 2) and 9% challenge Turnbull (not asked in April).

In contrast to Newspoll, last week’s Essential gave Turnbull a net -1 rating, up from -5 in September. Shorten had a net -7 rating, up from -11.

Essential asked which people’s interests the major parties best represented, with expected results. Labor was seen as best for low-income working people (+33 vs the Liberals), people on welfare (+28) and students (+22). The Liberals were best for big business (+51) and high-income working people (+49).

By 55-36, voters thought it likely there would be a war between North Korea and the US. 33% said terrorism was the biggest concern for their personal safety, with 20% selecting a car accident and 13% nuclear warfare.

YouGov primary votes: 34% Coalition, 32% Labor, 11% Greens, 11% One Nation

YouGov continues to have Labor much lower than other polls. Primary votes in this week’s YouGov, conducted 12-16 October with a sample of 1067, were 34% Coalition (steady), 32% Labor (down 1), 11% Greens (steady), 11% One Nation (up 2), 3% Nick Xenophon Team (down 1) and 4% Christian parties (steady).

As usual, YouGov’s two party result, using respondent allocation, is skewed to the Coalition; they lead 51-49, though the previous election method would give Labor about a 52.5-47.5 lead according to the Poll Bludger.

56% thought Australia should have stricter gun laws, 34% thought they should remain about the same and just 7% thought they should be less strict. By 45-37, voters thought the Constitution should not be changed to allow dual citizens to run for office.

Qld Newspoll 52-48 to Labor

A Queensland Newspoll, conducted 10-12 October from a sample of 917, gave Labor a 52-48 lead, a one point gain for the LNP since the July to September Newspoll. Primary votes were 37% Labor (steady), 34% LNP (steady), 16% One Nation (up 1) and 8% Greens (steady). The next Queensland election must be held by early 2018.

42% were satisfied with Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk’s performance (up 1), and 45% were dissatisfied (down 1), for a net approval of -3. Opposition leader Tim Nicholls had a net approval of -11, up five points.

The narrowing in Labor’s two party lead is partly because Newspoll are now assuming that One Nation preferences flow to the LNP at a 60% rate, up from 55% previously. Unlike most state Newspolls, this poll was taken over three days last week, rather than a period of months.

Austria election: conservative/far-right coalition likely outcome

The Austrian election was held on 15 October. The conservative OVP won 31.5% of the vote (up 7.5 points since the 2013 election), the centre-left SPO 26.9% (steady) the far-right FPO 26.0% (up 5.5), the liberal NEOS 5.3% (up 0.3), the Greens breakaway party PILZ 4.4% and the Greens 3.8% (down 8.7). Turnout was 79.4%, up 4.5 points.

Seats are awarded roughly proportional to vote share with a 4% threshold. The OVP won 62 of the 183 seats (up 15), the SPO 52 (steady), the FPO 51 (up 11), the NEOS 10 (up 1) and PILZ 8. Thus the FPO holds the balance of power, and will probably join the OVP in a conservative/far-right coalition government. Although a few votes remain to be counted, the Greens appear to have missed the threshold, losing all 24 of their seats.

The centrist parties, the SPO and OVP, had been in coalition for the last two terms. According to this article in The Guardian, both parties became more right-wing in an attempt to appeal to FPO voters. From what we have seen in other countries, this strategy only helps the far-right.

In the December 2016 Austrian Presidential election, Greens candidate Alexander Van der Bellen defeated the far-right Norbert Hofer 53.8-46.2, showing that a left-wing candidate could win. However, the SPO did not embrace a left-wing agenda.

The ConversationThis election was an utter disaster for the Austrian Greens. The Greens won 12.4% in 2013. With the major parties becoming more right-wing, this should have been an opportunity for the Greens to increase their vote. However, the Greens split into the PILZ and Greens before the election, and only the PILZ made it back into Parliament.

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

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

Turnbull’s ratings fall in another bad Newspoll


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

The Coalition is trailing in its 21st consecutive Newspoll, with Labor maintaining its two-party lead of 54-46% and Malcolm Turnbull suffering a setback in his personal ratings.

As parliament resumes, with the energy issue preoccupying cabinet and the government nervously waiting on the High Court’s citizenship decisions, Turnbull’s lead over Bill Shorten as better prime minister narrowed to 41-33%, a margin of eight points, compared with 11 three weeks ago (42-31%).

Turnbull’s net satisfaction in the poll, published in Monday’s Australian, worsened from minus 17 points to minus 24 points. Shorten’s rating also worsened, from minus 20 to minus 22.

The run-up to the poll was marked by Tony Abbott’s controversial speech on climate change, delivered in London. It also saw further public uncertainty over the government’s yet-to-be-announced policy on energy, which cabinet is expected to consider on Monday.

Last week, the government effectively dumped any prospect of bringing in a clean energy target, which kills the chance of any bipartisanship. Opposition spokesman Mark Butler on Sunday told the ABC that if Turnbull walked away from a clean energy target “he won’t get the support of the Labor Party”.

When he challenged Abbott in 2015, Turnbull pointed to the Coalition being behind in 30 Newspolls in a row. His government is now more than two-thirds of the way to that benchmark.

Labor’s primary vote fell one point to 37%, while the Coalition was steady on 36%. One Nation rose one point to 9%; the Greens rose one point to 10%; and support for “others” fell from 9% to 8%.

The poll of 1,583 voters was done from Thursday to Sunday.

In parliament, the government this week will press its efforts to lower the company tax rate for larger enterprises. A deal with Nick Xenophon earlier this year saw the passage of the tax plan reductions for companies with a turnover of up to A$50 million annually. But the government has not been able to win support for the cuts proposed for big business. It is the cuts for the large companies which have the more significant economic impact.

Xenophon on Sunday night reiterated his Nick Xenophon Team (NXT) would not support the cuts. “We’ve ruled it out. Our position won’t change,” he said.

The ten-year tax plan was a centrepiece of the Coalition’s 2016 election policy.

The Business Council of Australia (BCA) has stepped up its lobbying for the cuts, with a booklet titled “Why Australia needs a competitive company tax rate”.

The BCA says Australia’s top company tax rate of 30% is the fifth-highest in the OECD and could soon be the third-highest. The average company rate across the OECD is 24%, while in Asia the average is 21%.

The UK has plans to cut its federal rate from 35% to 20% and the UK has legislated to go from 19% to 17%, the BCA points out.

BCA chief executive Jennifer Westacott said the “global action should be a wake up call for the Senate that Australia cannot afford to stand still, since every company tax reduction overseas is a de-facto tax increase on Australia”.

Westacott said parliament’s decision in March to restrict the tax cut to businesses with a turnover up to $50 million per year “leaves the job half done and our economy at risk as other countries become more competitive in the global race for investment.

“Those who attack the case for company tax cuts have no alternative credible plan to get investment growing strongly again,” she said.

The government is also battling to get the numbers to pass its higher education package. On this Xenophon said the NXT had serious reservations “but we’re still talking to the government”.

Xenophon is one of those MPs whose citizenship status is before the High Court, but he plans to leave federal politics even if the court decision goes in his favour (although he hasn’t said exactly when). He intends to lead his SA-BEST party at next year’s South Australian election.

The government has two ministers – Barnaby Joyce, the deputy prime minister, and Fiona Nash, the Nationals’ deputy – before the High Court, as well as former minister Matt Canavan, who quit the frontbench when the question of his constitutional eligibility for parliament arose.

The ConversationThe High Court is expected to make its decisions on the seven citizenship cases quickly.

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

High stakes for Turnbull government as High Court hears MPs’ citizenship cases


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Barnaby Joyce is on tenterhooks. Despite Malcolm Turnbull’s confidence that the High Court will find for him, Joyce’s parliamentary eligibility is a key to how the government finishes the year.

From Tuesday to Thursday, the court will consider what is surely one of the most extraordinary set of cases to come before it – the constitutional position of seven current and former MPs who were dual citizens.

All but Joyce are or were senators, which means that the only potential byelection that could be caused is for Joyce’s seat of New England. Three are Nationals: Joyce, Fiona Nash and Matt Canavan. Canavan quit the ministry (but not the parliament) when his issue arose; Joyce and Nash remain on the frontbench.

The two Greens, Scott Ludlam and Larissa Waters, resigned from parliament when they discovered their dual nationality. It was Ludlam’s departure that started the dominoes falling, as others checked their positions. Both Greens argue they were ineligible to sit – although the Commonwealth is actually saying Waters was eligible.

The remaining two are One Nation’s Malcolm Roberts, and Nick Xenophon.

Roberts, Ludlam and Waters were born overseas. The rest had foreign citizenship by descent. Joyce and Ludlam were New Zealanders; Nash, Xenophon and Roberts had British citizenship; Waters found herself a Canadian because she was born there during her parents’ brief stay; Canavan was Italian.

There have been some bizarre twists. Canavan said initially his mother had signed him up to Italian citizenship without his knowledge; later it was found she hadn’t had to – he already had it.

This latter fact is important for the Commonwealth’s legal argument. It is contending the constitutional provision about citizenship was only intended to exclude those who acted positively to obtain foreign citizenship or knowingly kept it. If Canavan’s Italian citizenship was gained by positive action, he wouldn’t be protected by that argument, as he would be if he were Italian by descent.

Xenophon had a very weak form of British citizenship, via his father, who had emigrated from Cyprus, which was a British territory.

The court has already declared that Roberts, who sent questions about his status to defunct email addresses, was a British citizen when elected, although it has not yet ruled on his eligibility.

Section 44 (i) of the Constitution reads clearly enough, on the face of it.

A person cannot be chosen for or sit in federal parliament if he or she:

… is under any acknowledgement of allegiance, obedience, or adherence to a foreign power, or is a subject or a citizen or entitled to the rights or privileges of a subject or citizen of a foreign power.

To clear themselves of this potential problem, an aspiring parliamentarian has to take proper steps to renounce a foreign citizenship.

It’s notable the major parties, which have good vetting, aren’t caught up in this case, although there have been allegations against some of their MPs.

The government is arguing that if the MP was Australian at birth (whether born here, or abroad to Australian parents) and wasn’t aware of their dual citizenship, they should not be found ineligible – in other words, that ignorance is a defence.

But if the MP was born overseas and later naturalised, the government argues, they were on notice about potentially being a foreign citizen, regardless of what they thought was the case. In this instance, according to the government’s argument, ignorance is not a defence.

If the court clears most of the MPs, it would be an effective rewrite, through interpretation, of the literal wording of this section.

The potential implications of the court’s decisions are wide and varied.

With Ludlam and Waters already out of parliament, the issue is just how they are replaced. If the court agrees with their own assessments that they were ineligible, their replacements will be the next candidates on the Greens 2016 tickets in Western Australia and Queensland, respectively Jordon Steele-John and Andrew Bartlett (a one-time Australian Democrats senator and leader).

If the court upheld the eligibility of one or both, the replacement or replacements would be chosen by the party. Ludlam has indicated he would not seek nomination; Waters, anxious to return to parliament, would be expected to do so.

It’s always possible, incidentally, for someone elected via a countback to then resign, leaving the way for the party to choose the replacement.

If Roberts is knocked out, the next on the One Nation ticket is Fraser Anning, who recently avoided another constitutional impediment: bankruptcy.

Disqualification of Xenophon would see Tim Storer of the Nick Xenophon Team (NXT) installed. But if Xenophon’s eligibility is upheld, he will leave the Senate anyway, to contest the South Australian election. In that circumstance, his party would choose who followed him.

The disqualification of Nash and Canavan would lead to candidates down their respective 2016 New South Wales and Queensland tickets replacing them. That would create some internal complications regarding the numbers between the Coalition parties.

Professor Anne Twomey, from the University of Sydney Law School, noted that if Nash were disqualified and a recount held, she would most likely by replaced by the Liberal who was next on the joint ticket. She said:

Even if that Liberal then resigned in an effort to pass the seat back to the Nationals, the constitution requires that the person who fills the seat is a member of the same party as the senator who was ‘chosen by the people’.

This would not have been Nash, as she was disqualified, and therefore never validly chosen. It would be the Liberal who won the seat on the recount. This would mean that she would have to be replaced by a Liberal, upsetting the balance in the Coalition.

The loss of one or both National senators would also mean a reshuffle of portfolios. This would fit with Turnbull’s desire for an end-of-year reshuffle, but test the Nationals’ talent pool. (Canavan is out of the ministry but Joyce is acting in his roles.)

But it is the finding on Joyce that has the big implications. If he were forced to a byelection, it would rock the government – even though he would almost certainly retain his seat.

The first issue would be whether he stood down from the ministry.

Twomey noted that while the constitution allows a person to be a minister for three months without holding a seat, the problem would be that Joyce had not validly held a seat since July last year – “which suggests that his three-month grace period is well and truly over. On that basis he would have to stop acting as a minister immediately.”

With Joyce out of parliament, the government would lose its majority on the floor of the House of Representatives. The result of particular votes would depend on the issue, the crossbenchers and – if it came to that – the Speaker’s casting vote.

Fighting a byelection would be distracting and disruptive for a government struggling in the polls.

The former independent member for New England, Tony Windsor, who is maintaining in the High Court that Joyce should be disqualified, has not ruled out running in a byelection. One Nation could be in the field, as could the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party, whose support will be tested in the NSW byelections this weekend.

The Newspoll quarterly breakdown, published this week, has found the government under pressure in regional areas. But a ReachTEL poll done last month for the Australia Institute found the Nationals polling 44.6% in New England, Windsor 26.5% and One Nation 9.8%, Labor 8.4%, and the Greens 2.4%.

The Queensland election, expected to be announced very soon, would be another dynamic in a byelection situation.

If, on the other hand, Joyce’s eligibility is upheld, Turnbull’s end-of-year reshuffle becomes much easier, especially with a strong win for the “yes” case now expected in the marriage ballot.

That still leaves the challenge of energy policy. Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg on Monday signalled the government was turning its back on a clean energy target, a reflection of the strength of the conservative voices within Coalition ranks – a combination of right-wing Liberals and the Nationals.

On the present timetable, the government is likely to take the broad outlines of its energy policy to the Coalition partyroom when parliament resumes next week.

The ConversationBut the situation is fluid, with the outcome in the High Court the known unknown. While the timing isn’t precise, the court is expected to be quick with its decision. It is obviously not driven by politics, but it is alert to the need to provide political certainly as soon as possible.

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

Turnbull loses 20th successive Newspoll, 54-46, but Yes to SSM support falls


Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

This week’s Newspoll, conducted 21-24 September from a sample of 1700, gave Labor a 54-46 lead, a one point gain for Labor since the last Newspoll, three weeks ago. Primary votes were 38% Labor (steady), 36% Coalition (down 1), 9% Greens (steady) and 8% One Nation (steady). This Newspoll is Turnbull’s 20th successive Newspoll loss; Abbott had 30 in a row before he was dumped.

37% (up 2) were satisfied with Turnbull’s performance, and 52% (down 1) were dissatisfied, for a net approval of -17. Shorten’s net approval was unchanged at -20. Turnbull’s lead as better PM was reduced from a blowout 46-29 three weeks ago to a more normal 42-31.

Turnbull’s ratings improvement is probably due to right-wing voters’ approval of his pro-coal policy. However, as I suggested here, this policy does not appear to be helping the Coalition in voting intentions.

Turnbull’s continued lead over Shorten as better PM is partly because Greens voters are uninspired by Shorten, and select “don’t know” when asked who is the better PM. In the most recent poll to give a better PM breakdown by voting intentions, the Greens backed Shorten by just 42-25 in Essential last fortnight.

SSM plebiscite polling

The same sex marriage plebiscite is currently in progress. Voters have until 7 November for ballot papers to be received by the ABS. The result will be declared on 15 November.

In Newspoll, 67% said they would definitely vote and 15% said they had already voted, so 82% would definitely or had already voted, up from 67% in August. Among those who would definitely or had already voted, Yes led by 61-34 (67-31 in August). For the whole sample, Yes led by 57-34 (63-30 in August).

In this week’s Essential, Yes led by 72-26 among the 36% who had already voted, and by 57-39 among the 45% who will definitely vote. Last week, Yes led by 63-33 among the 62% who would definitely vote, and by 59-37 among the 9% who had already voted. 81% this week say they will definitely or have already voted, up from 71% last week and 62% three weeks ago. Definite voters were 68-28 Yes three weeks ago. For the whole sample, Yes led 58-33 (55-34 last week, 59-31 three weeks ago).

Last week’s YouGov had Yes leading by 59-33, unchanged from a month ago. There were no breakdowns by likelihood to vote.

A potential problem with this polling is that pollsters are asking whether voters support changing the law, not how they will vote on the actual survey. There could be people who support changing the law, but will vote No because they want religious freedoms guaranteed, or are concerned about safe schools or other No campaign issues. So far Newspoll is the only pollster asking the correct question.

There is a large difference between Newspoll and Essential on the percent who have already voted (15% in Newspoll, 36% in Essential), even though these polls had similar fieldwork dates. I think Essential is more likely to be correct, as those who are keen to vote will do it shortly after receiving their survey.

I believe that the Yes lead has been narrowing somewhat because the Yes case is associated with the left, and conservative voters are wary of voting for anything that the left supports. However, Yes still has a big lead, and should win easily. If comparisons are made to Trump or Brexit, neither trailed by over 20 points, although UK Labour did face such a deficit before a huge surge saw the Conservatives lose their majority at the 2017 UK election.

In other polling on the plebiscite, Newspoll found voters opposed the postal plebiscite 46-44, a reversal of a 49-43 favourable result in August. Voters favoured providing religious guarantees by an unchanged 62-18. However, only 20% in Essential were very concerned about the impact of same sex marriage on religious freedoms, with another 15% concerned.

Kevin Bonham has a long article about the polling for the same sex marriage plebiscite.

ReachTEL polls in coal country seats show support for renewables

The left-wing Australia Institute commissioned ReachTEL to conduct polls in the NSW Federal seats of Hunter and Shortland on 15-16 September; these seats are both in the Hunter valley region. The sample was 643 in Shortland and 714 in Hunter. Labor held a 60-40 lead in Hunter and 58-42 in Shortland by respondent allocated preferences, with both seats swinging to the Coalition by about 2 points since the 2016 election.

The Hunter region is well-known for coal, and the Liddell coal-fired power plant is located here. However in both seats, more people supported AGL’s decision to close the Liddell plant than were opposed, and more thought energy from renewables was cheaper to produce than from coal. By margins over 20 points, people would prefer investment in renewables to coal.

Essential 53-47 to Labor

In this week’s Essential, Labor led by 53-47, a one point gain for Labor since last week, but a one point gain for the Coalition since last fortnight. Essential uses a two-week rolling average for its voting intentions polling (sample 1800). I believe Labor had a strong result three weeks ago, which was replaced by a weak result last week, but a stronger poll this week. Primary votes were 37% Labor (up 1 since last week), 37% Coalition (down 1), 10% Greens (steady), 7% One Nation (down 1) and 3% Nick Xenophon Team (steady).

Belief or disbelief in various propositions to do with aliens and the supernatural were ascertained, along with some conspiracy theories. By 68-21, voters did not believe that global warming is a hoax. By 58-16, they did not believe that vibrations from wind farms cause long-term health damage. By 70-14, they did not believe that vaccines can cause autism.

Over 80% agreed with three statements saying the government should do more to restrict private health insurance fee increases. By 60-27, voters thought private health insurance not worth the money paid for it.

In last week’s Essential, 64% (up 4 since February) thought climate change was human-caused, while 24% (down 1) thought it may be due to normal fluctuations. Belief in human causes has been trending up since a 48-39 margin in October 2012. 56% (up 7 since December 2016) thought Australia is not doing enough to address climate change, 20% (down 2) thought we were doing enough, and 8% (down 3) thought we were doing too much.

Among workers, 52% said they had not had a wage increase in the last year, while 36% said they had.

YouGov primary votes: 35% Labor, 34% Coalition, 11% Greens, 9% One Nation

In last week’s YouGov, conducted 14-18 September from a sample of 1060, primary votes were 35% Labor (up 3 from three weeks ago), 34% Coalition (steady), 11% Greens (down 1), 9% One Nation (steady), 3% Nick Xenophon Team (down 1) and 3% Christian parties (steady).

The ConversationDespite the improvement for Labor’s primary vote, the two party result was an unchanged 50-50 tie. The Poll Bludger says these primary votes would by 54-46 to Labor by last election preferences. Other polls have been 1-2 points worse for Labor when using respondent preferences as compared with the previous election method, but a four point difference is far too large to be credible.

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

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

Ipsos 53-47 to Labor, but Shorten’s ratings slump; Qld Newspoll 53-47 to Labor


Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

An Ipsos poll, conducted 6-9 September from a sample of 1400, gave Labor a 53-47 lead, unchanged from the last Ipsos poll, taken after the May budget. Primary votes were 35% Coalition (down 2), 34% Labor (down 1), 14% Greens (up 1) and 17% for all Others (up 2). Ipsos has given the Greens higher votes than any other pollster.

42% approved of Turnbull’s performance (down 3), and 47% disapproved (up 3), for a net rating of -5. Shorten’s net approval slumped 11 points to -16. Usually Ipsos gives both leaders better ratings than Newspoll, but not so much for Shorten this time.

Reflecting other polls, Labor’s lead was reduced to 52-48 when respondents were asked for preferences. In 2016, all Others preferences split roughly 50-50 between the major parties. Currently, it appears that Others will be more favourable to the Coalition, as some Abbott-supporting voters have deserted the Coalition, but will probably return after preferences.

Scott Morrison had a 42-38 approval rating as Treasurer, much better than Joe Hockey’s 58-33 disapproval rating in April 2015. Morrison led Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen 38-29 as better Treasurer, and the Coalition led Labor 38-28 on economic management, with 3% opting for the Greens.

By 56-25, voters thought Turnbull had provided better economic leadership than Abbott, another result showing the electorate overwhelmingly prefers Turnbull to Abbott.

Economic management has always been a strength for the Coalition, so their leads on preferred Treasurer and the economy are expected. However, while voters may prefer the Coalition to manage the overall economy, low wages growth is a key reason to vote Labor for personal economic reasons.

Shorten’s ratings may have been damaged by the Coalition’s attacks on him, and also by his negative parliamentary tactics. However, most people do not focus on the opposition and its policies until the election campaign.

In a March UK poll, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and Donald Trump were almost equally unpopular, with both at less than -40 net approval. Corbyn and UK Labour’s popularity surged in the election campaign, and the Conservatives suffered a shock loss of their majority at the June UK election.

65% of Ipsos’s sample said they were certain to vote in the same sex marriage plebiscite. Of certain voters, there was a 70-26 margin in favour of same sex marriage. Ipsos is a live phone pollster, so it is likely to be biased against politically incorrect views.

Essential 54-46 to Labor

This week’s Essential, conducted over the last two weeks from a sample of 1830, gave Labor a 54-46 lead, a one point gain for Labor since last fortnight. Primary votes were 37% Labor, 36% Coalition, 10% Greens, 9% One Nation and 2% Nick Xenophon Team. These primary votes are virtually the same as last week, but rounding helped Labor this time. Additional questions are based on one week’s sample.

Turnbull’s net approval was -5, up 3 points since August. Shorten’s net approval was -11, down four points.

Nine measures were proposed to ensure reliable, affordable and clean energy. 86% supported regulating electricity and gas prices, and 81% supported increasing investment in renewables. At the bottom were stopping coal-fired power stations from closing (51-30 support), more onshore gas exploration (48-26 support) and building new coal-fired power stations (48-34 support).

By 73-8, voters thought renewables were better than fossil fuels for the environment. Renewables were also thought better for electricity costs (41-27), the economy (40-28) and jobs (34-26). There has been movement towards fossil fuels in the last three categories since May 2015.

Labor was thought more likely to deliver lower energy prices by a 28-19 margin over the Coalition, with 35% opting for no difference.

Queensland Newspoll: 53-47 to Labor

A Queensland Newspoll, conducted from July to September from a sample of 1335, and released 6 September, gave Labor a 53-47 lead, a 2 point gain since the May-June 2016 Queensland Newspoll. Primary votes were 37% Labor (down 1), 34% LNP (down 6), 15% One Nation (not asked in 2016) and 8% Greens (steady). The next Queensland election must be held by early 2018.

41% (down 3) were satisfied with Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, and 46% (up 4) were dissatisfied, for a net approval of -5. Opposition leader Tim Nicholls’ net approval fell 11 points to -16.

Labor changed the electoral system from optional preferential to compulsory preferential voting, and this could disadvantage Labor if One Nation’s vote is high. For its two party calculations, Newspoll is assuming that 80% of Greens preferences flow to Labor, 55% of One Nation preferences go to the LNP, and that Others split 50-50.

The ConversationThis good Newspoll for Labor contrasts with a Galaxy poll in early August that had Labor just ahead 51-49, with the LNP leading 36-35 on primary votes.

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

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

The Australian Greens at 25: fighting the same battles but still no breakthrough


Marc Hudson, University of Manchester

On August 30, 1992 in Sydney, media were invited to a press conference to launch a new national political party: The Australian Greens. It was a Sunday, and no television crews bothered to turn up. One journo who did was Robert Garran from the Australian Financial Review, who reported that:

The Greens Party, representing green political groups in Tasmania, NSW and Queensland, has agreed to a constitution, and aims to contest Senate and House of Representative seats in the next federal election. The high-profile Tasmanian Green MP, Dr Bob Brown, said the party offered the electorate the choice of abandoning the two-party system, which had failed to address the nation’s problems.

Brown, who first rose to fame for his environmental campaign against Tasmania’s Franklin Dam, said his party was “more than a one-issue group”, describing its values as being “about social justice, enhancing democracy (particularly grassroots democracy), solving our problems in a peaceful and non-violent way, and about looking after our environment”.


Read more: The Greens grow up.


The launch was also reported by a rather interesting (and useful if you’re an historian/geek like me) publication called GreenWeek. Its editor Philip Luker was sceptical of the nascent Green movement’s momentum (rightly, as it turned out), offering this verdict:

Drew Hutton of the Queensland Greens is talking through his hat when he predicts green governments all over Australia in the next decade.

Almost 20 years later, during the battle over the fate of Julia Gillard’s carbon price, Brown was interviewed by The Australian. He pushed the timeframe back, predicting that “within 50 years we will supplant one of the major parties in Australia”.

Therein lies the main problem for the Greens. Many of the things they’ve been warning about have come to pass (deforestation, the climate crisis, human rights meltdowns), yet still they haven’t managed to break through with their calls for change. This is even more alarming given that the real history of the Greens precedes their August 1992 launch by more than two decades.

1971 and all that

There was something in the air in the early 1970s. Readers of a certain vintage will remember songs like Neil Young’s After the Gold Rush (“Look at mother nature on the run, in the 1970s”), Marvin Gaye’s Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology), and
Joni Mitchell’s Big Yellow Taxi.

Even the Liberal government of the day could hear the mood music, as the new Prime Minister Billy McMahon created the short-lived Department of the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts. (Not everyone was quite so enlightened; the new department’s minister Peter Howson complained to a colleague about his new portfolio of “trees, boongs and poofters”.)

Meanwhile, a battle was raging in Tasmania over the plan to build three hydroelectric dams that would flood Lake Pedder National Park. In his fascinating and inspiring memoir, Optimism, Bob Brown wrote:

In 1971, Dr Richard Jones, his foot on a Central Plateau boulder, had seen the pointlessness of pursuing ecological wisdom with the old parties and proposed to his companions that a new party based on ecological principles be formed.

The United Tasmania Group, now seen as the first incarnation of the Green Party, contested the 1972 state election, and Jones came within a whisker of being elected.

Lake Pedder was lost, but other battles were still to be fought: green bans, Terania Creek, campaigns against nuclear power and whaling.

In Tasmania the next big skirmish was the Franklin Dam. Green activists mobilised, agitated and trained in non-violent direct action. Amanda Lohrey, in her excellent Quarterly Essay Groundswell, recalls:

An acquaintance of mine in the Labor Party lasted half a day in his group before packing up and driving back to Hobart. “It was all that touchy-feely stuff,” he told me, grimacing with distaste. Touchy-feely was a long way from what young apparatchiks in the ALP were accustomed to.

Those culture clashes between Labor and Greens have continued, despite a brief love-in engineered by Bob Hawke’s environment minister Graham ‘whatever it takes’ Richardson. To the chagrin of Labor rightwingers, the 1990 election was won on preferences from green-minded voters. But by 1991 it was clear that the Liberals would not compete for those voters, and Labor gradually lost interest in courting them.

So in 1992 the Greens went national, and so began the long march through the institutions, with gradually growing Senate success. In 2002, thanks to the Liberals not standing, they won the Lower House seat of Cunningham, NSW in a by-election, but couldn’t hold onto it.

In 2010, after receiving the largest single political donation in Australian history (A$1.68 million) from internet entrepreneur Graeme Wood, the Greens’ candidate Adam Bandt wrested inner Melbourne from Labor, and has increased his majority in 2013 and 2016.

Critics, problems and the future

Doubtless the comments under this article will be full of condemnations of the Greens for not having supported Kevin Rudd’s Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme in December 2009. Despite Green Party protestations to the contrary, Gillard’s ill-fated carbon price wasn’t that much better at reducing emissions (though it did have additional support for renewable energy).

However, we should remember three things. First, Rudd made no effort to keep the Greens onside (quite the opposite). Second, hindsight is 20/20 – who could honestly have predicted the all-out culture war that would erupt over climate policy? Finally, critics rarely mention that in January 2010 the Greens proposed an interim carbon tax until policy certainty could be achieved, but could not get Labor to pay attention.

The bigger problem for the Greens – indeed, for anyone contemplating sentencing themselves to 20 years of boredom, for trying to change the system from within – is the problem of balancing realism with fundamentalism. How many compromises do you make before you are fatally compromised, before you become the thing you previously denounced? How long a spoon, when supping with the devil?

You’re damned if you do, and damned if you don’t. Focus too hard on environmental issues (imagining for a moment that they really are divorced from economic and social ones) and you can be dismissed as a single-issue party for latte-sippers. Pursue a broader agenda, as current leader Richard Di Natale has sought to do, and you stand accused of forgetting your roots.

Can the circle of environmental protection and economic growth ever be squared? How do you say “we warned you about all this” without coming across as smug?

As if those ideological grapples weren’t enough, the party is also dealing with infighting between the federal and NSW branches, not to mention the body-blow of senators Scott Ludlam and Larissa Waters becoming the first casualties of the ongoing constitutional crisis over dual nationality.


Read more: If High Court decides against ministers with dual citizenship, could their decisions in office be challenged?.


The much-anticipated breakthrough at the polling booth failed to materialise in 2016. Green-tinged local councils work on emissions reductions, but the federal party remains electorally becalmed.

The ConversationThe dystopian novel This Tattooed Land describes an Australia in which “an authoritarian Green government takes power and bans fossil fuel use”… in 2022. It still sounds like a distant fantasy.

Marc Hudson, PhD Candidate, Sustainable Consumption Institute, University of Manchester

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

Newspoll 54-46 to Labor as Turnbull’s ratings fall back


Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

This week’s Newspoll, conducted 17-20 August from a sample of 1770, has broken the string of six consecutive 53-47 leads for Labor. Labor had a 54-46 lead, a one point gain since last fortnight. Primary votes were 38% Labor (up 2), 35% Coalition (down 1), 9% Greens (down 2) and 9% One Nation (up 1). This is the Coalition’s 18th consecutive Newspoll loss under Turnbull; Abbott lost 30 in a row.

In last fortnight’s Newspoll, Turnbull had an eight-point improvement in his net approval, from -20 to -12. This improvement lasted only one Newspoll; in this Newspoll, 35% were satisfied with Turnbull’s performance (down 3), and 55% were dissatisfied (up 5), for a net approval of -20. Kevin Bonham says this is the ninth time in Newspoll history a PM has gained eight or more net approval points, then lost them all the next poll. Shorten also lost five points to fall to -20 net approval.

Last week, the media focus was on Deputy PM Barnaby Joyce’s discovery that he was a New Zealand citizen by descent, and may be ineligible to sit in Parliament. This revelation is damaging for the government as Joyce is a lower house MP. Labor can argue that the government’s one-seat majority is invalid until the High Court rules on Joyce.

One Nation’s slight increase may be a result of Pauline Hanson’s burka stunt last Thursday. Labor’s primary vote is its highest in Newspoll since November 2016, although Labor’s gains came at the Greens’ expense.

Essential’s questions below may explain why Labor has had a persistent poll lead. A majority of voters think their income has fallen behind the cost of living, with energy costs perceived to have increased a lot. The government receives very poor ratings for its handling of energy.

67% said they will definitely vote in the same sex marriage voluntary postal plebiscite. Among definite voters, 67% supported same sex marriage, and 31% were opposed (63-30 for the whole sample). By 49-43, voters were in favour of the postal plebiscite, and by 62-18 they supported guarantees for freedom of conscience, belief and religion.

Australia does not usually use voluntary voting, so our pollsters have no experience at estimating likelihood to vote. Even in countries with voluntary voting, pollsters sometimes mess up their turnout filters, and have had big misses of the actual results.

Newspoll’s age breakdowns show young people are least likely to be definite voters, and that same sex marriage support is highest for young people. It is odd that definite voters support same sex marriage more than the overall sample; this is explained by greater enthusiasm to vote among same sex marriage supporters.

In last fortnight’s Newspoll, voters supported an Australian republic by 51-38, almost the same as in January 2016 (51-37). If Prince Charles becomes King, voters would favour an Australian republic 55-34, the same as in January 2016.

Essential 53-47 to Labor

This week’s Essential, conducted over the last two weeks from a sample of 1820, gave Labor a 53-47 lead, a one point gain for the Coalition since last fortnight. Primary votes were 37% Coalition, 37% Labor, 9% Greens, 8% One Nation and 3% Nick Xenophon Team. Labor’s primary vote is down two as a pro-Labor sample from last fortnight washes out. Additional questions are based on one week’s sample.

74% of same sex marriage supporters say they will definitely vote in the postal plebiscite, compared to 58% of opponents. Among the 63% “definite voters”, 67% will vote for same sex marriage, and 30% against (57-32 for the overall sample). By 49-39, voters disapproved of the postal plebiscite.

52% thought terrorism the biggest threat to global stability (up 3 since April), followed by 14% for North Korea aggression (not asked in April), 13% climate change (up 2) and 9% US aggression (down 6, presumably due to North Korea’s inclusion).

By 38-35, voters thought Australia should not commit military support to the US if it became involved in a war with North Korea. By 61-22, voters thought a declaration of war should be voted on by Parliament, not decided by the PM alone.

Last week, Essential asked whether the Coalition is handling various issues well or poorly. With the exceptions of terrorism (a net +30) and the economy (net +3), the Coalition had negative ratings on the 12 issues surveyed. At the bottom were the NBN (net -28) and providing affordable and reliable energy (net -34). 59% thought they were paying a lot more for electricity and gas than two or three years ago, with insurance the next highest on 31%.

33% thought the top marginal tax rate of 47% on earnings over $180,000 per year was too high, 12% too low and 39% about right. 47% disapproved of the postal plebiscite and 39% approved, a shift from 43-38 approval a fortnight ago, though the question wording was different.

53% thought their household’s income had fallen behind the cost of living, 25% said it had stayed even and 15% that it had gone up more.

YouGov 51-49 to Coalition

This week’s Australian YouGov, conducted 17-21 August from a sample of 1010, had the Coalition ahead by 51-49, a one point gain for the Coalition since last fortnight. Primary votes were 34% Coalition (steady), 33% Labor (up 1), 10% Greens (down 1), and 10% One Nation (up 1).

By previous election preferences, this poll would give Labor 52 or 53 percent two party. YouGov is recording low major party primaries compared to other polls, and an excessive respondent allocated skew to the Coalition.

By 45-38, voters thought Barnaby Joyce should step aside while the High Court considers his case. It is not clear whether voters thought Joyce should “step aside” from Cabinet or from voting in the lower house.

Upcoming High Court decisions

On 5-6 September, the Australian High Court will hold a full bench hearing on whether the postal plebiscite, which the government authorised without Senate approval, is constitutional. With ballot papers scheduled to be mailed out from 12 September, a decision will probably be announced soon after this hearing.

In the coming months, the High Court will decide whether Greens Senators Larissa Waters and Scott Ludlam, One Nation Senator Malcolm Roberts, Nationals Senators Matt Canavan and Fiona Nash, Senator Nick Xenophon, and Deputy PM Barnaby Joyce were ineligible to be elected, owing to violations of Section 44(i) of the Constitution, pertaining to dual citizenships.

While the media have been focused on the dual citizenship issue, Labor is also challenging Nationals House member David Gillespie over Section 44(v), pertaining to a conflict of interest with the Commonwealth public service. Nationals Senator Barry O’Sullivan could also be challenged under this clause.

The ConversationIf the Senators are ruled ineligible, their positions will be filled from their parties’ tickets after a special recount. If either or both Joyce and Gillespie are found ineligible, there would be by-elections in their seats of New England and Lyne respectively, putting the Coalition’s one-seat lower house majority at risk.

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

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

Coalition position worsens in Newspoll to trail 46-54%


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

The government has lost further ground in Newspoll, now trailing Labor 46-54% in two-party terms, in the wake of the crisis over citizenship.

This is the 18th consecutive Newspoll in which the government has been behind. The two-party fall comes after several polls in which the Coalition trailed 47-53%.

The early part of the poll fortnight was dominated by the issue of the postal vote on same-sex marriage. Then the declaration of Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce that he had been informed he was a New Zealand citizen began a horror week for the government which ended with Fiona Nash, the deputy Nationals leader, announcing she had British citizenship.

Labor increased its primary vote by two points to 38%, while the Coalition fell one point to 35%. One Nation rose one point to 9%, equal with the Greens, who lost two points over the fortnight.

Malcolm Turnbull’s net satisfaction rating has plunged from minus 12 to minus 20 in the poll, published in Monday’s Australian. Bill Shorten’s net satisfaction also took a hit, deteriorating from minus 15 to minus 20.

Turnbull still has a significant lead as better prime minister – 43-33% – although the gap narrowed from the previous 46-31%.

The poll contains encouraging news for the “yes” case in the postal ballot, with 63% saying they would vote yes to the plebiscite question, compared with 30% who would vote no. More than two-thirds of people (67%) said they definitely intended to vote; another 15% said they probably would.

Nearly half (49%) said they were in favour of the postal plebiscite while 43% were opposed.

Asked whether parliament should provide guarantees in law for freedom of conscience, belief and religion if it legislated for same-sex marriage, 62% said yes and 18% said no.

The support for same sex marriage is strongest among younger voters, with 70% of those aged 18-34 in favour. It is lowest among those aged over 65, with only 49% supporting it.

The ConversationThe poll was of 1,675 people and taken between Thursday and Sunday.

https://www.podbean.com/media/player/8ppnw-6fcd65?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.

To the High Court we go: six MPs under clouds in decisions that could undermine the government



File 20170815 12098 kghj4m
Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce is one of five MPs caught out in the ban in dual citizens holding seats.
AAP/Lukas Coch

Graeme Orr, The University of Queensland

Two green bottles and up to four blue ones. Falling from the parliamentary wall, unless the High Court saves them from the rules about MP qualifications. The six are now-resigned Greens senators Scott Ludlam and Larissa Waters, fellow upper house members Matt Canavan (LNP) and Malcolm Roberts (One Nation), and two government members of the lower house, Barnaby Joyce and David Gillespie (both Nationals).

At least that’s the latest count, as of Monday’s referral of Joyce to the court. I hesitate to file this piece lest the number rise again today.

What happens now?

First, a word on process. Gillespie’s case is different from the others, in two ways. He is not a dual citizen but faces claims about his “pecuniary interest” in a shop sub-leased to Australia Post. This is the constitutional rule that knocked out Family First senator Bob Day in April.

Also, Gillespie is being sued by his former Labor Party rival, acting as a “common informer” – a fancy term for an officious bystander who sues to enforce the law.

This avenue to challenge an MP has not been used before. It’s not entirely clear the court has power to declare Gillespie “not duly elected”. (As opposed to exacting a penalty from an MP, in the princely sum of A$200, for any day they sat while under a disqualification.)

The other five – facing dual citizenship claims – are not being sued at all. Rather, parliament has referred their positions to the court. A few things flow from that, aside from the Commonwealth almost certainly having to cover their legal costs.

One is that there is no belligerent plaintiff to argue against, say, Joyce. There will just be the solicitor-general, putting legal arguments for the Commonwealth, plus lawyers for whichever of the other four MPs or their parties choose to be represented.

Yet Joyce, Canavan and Roberts share a desire to convince the High Court that they are legitimate, arguing on related grounds that it might be unfair to unseat them.

Another is that while the election is long over, the High Court says it can undo an election on a reference from parliament. This is due to a quirky, 30-year-old ruling. I say quirky because, for more than a century, there’s been an absolutely strict time limit for challenging elections.

With electoral fraud, unlawful campaigning, or electoral commission stuff-up, a court case must begin within 40 days of the election. Yet the High Court says it can undo election results, long afterwards, over qualifications issues.

What will the MPs argue?

We must await the arguments, but it seems that Joyce, Canavan and Roberts will argue that they either took reasonable steps to renounce (Roberts) or that it was unreasonable to expect them to have known of their dual citizenship (Joyce and Canavan). In a 1992 case, the High Court softened the law against dual citizenship to allow a defence of “reasonable steps” of renunciation.

Roberts was born in India (after partition) to a Welsh father. He took some steps – three emails in one day on the eve of nominating, apparently – to renounce his UK inheritance. Was that enough, given the UK has a set application form and fee for renunciation? Roberts, some time after the election, received notice that his UK citizenship was expunged.

Canavan, Australian-born, asserts that his mother took out Italian citizenship on his behalf, without his knowledge.

Similarly, Joyce, also Australian-born, says he was blindsided to learn he had New Zealand citizenship via his NZ-born father. They want the court to inject a subjective element – actual or constructive knowledge of dual nationality – to avoid a finding that taking no steps to renounce does not meet the idea of “reasonable steps”.

It’s possible Joyce will also argue the details of NZ law. For example, whether it automatically bestowed citizenship on him, or whether he was merely guaranteed it if he applied to activate it.

The Greens pair, by resigning, seemed to admit they were disqualified. But MPs cannot declare themselves improperly elected. Only the court can do that.

Ludlam (New Zealand) and Waters (Canada) were each born overseas, but to Australian parents. They left their birth countries at the tender ages of three years and 11 months respectively.

At least in Waters’ case, her family lore (not law) was that her nationalisation as an Australian toddler terminated any Canadian status. In some countries, you lose your birth citizenship when you take out another nationality. This was the law in Australia until recently.

The logic of the Greens’ political position is to have their two Senate seats filled ASAP. Yet, in substance, their pair are hardly more blameworthy than the other MPs, who seek to fight on. They have hemmed themselves in, however, by resigning.

If the court found their disqualifications were OK, the Greens could reappoint them or any other Greens member, under the old rule for filling a “casual vacancy”.

Finally, to legal consequences. If a senator is declared “unduly elected”, the Australian Electoral Commission conducts a recount. Invariably, the next candidate in the party’s original electoral ticket inherits the seat.

That windfall beneficiary can keep it, or the party could cajole them to resign in favour of … the unelected MP. Because all of these MPs, with sufficient paperwork and knowledge, can fix up their qualifications.

Roberts and Waters say they’ve done that. Joyce and doubtless Canavan have that in train.

In a lower house seat, however, a recount would be crazy. The seat would go to the rival major party, robbing the electorate. Instead, the court effectively triggers a byelection.

In a worst-case scenario for Joyce (or Gillespie), he would recontest that fresh election. A lot would be at stake in New England (or Port Macquarie). But it’s hard to see the electors there treating now-ex-Kiwi Joyce as a fifth columnist.

The law is an unnecessary mess

All this is a law professor’s picnic.

Section 44, as it applies to elections, detracts from, rather than adds to, democracy. Its technicalities are a thicket, catching many a candidate. It sits oddly in a Constitution that never guaranteed a right to vote, leaving that small matter to the national parliament.

It’s time for reform. We inherited the dual citizenship rule, an old rule about fealty to one Crown, from our English forebears.

The ConversationThe founders struck it in stone in the Constitution. Yet state parliaments are fine with dual citizens being elected. So too is New Zealand. And, funnily enough, so nowadays is the UK.

Graeme Orr, Professor of Law, The University of Queensland

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