Newspoll: Labor gains to lead 53-47


Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

Tuesday’s Newspoll, conducted 3-6 November from a sample of 1850, had Labor leading 53-47, a one point gain for Labor. Primary votes were 39% for the Coalition (steady), 38% for Labor (up 1) and 10% for the Greens (steady).

30% were satisfied with Turnbull’s performance (up 1), and 58% were dissatisfied (also up 1), for a net approval of -28. It is the first time since the election that Turnbull’s net approval has not declined in Newspoll. Shorten’s net approval was an unchanged -15.

To the extent that Donald Trump’s shock victory has an effect on Australian politics, it will probably help One Nation, the most Trump-like party in Australia. Most supporters of the three established parties will not change their votes, but One Nation could consolidate some of the Others vote.

Last week’s Essential, conducted over two weeks from a sample of 1800, also had Labor leading 53-47 from primary votes of Coalition 38%, Labor 37%, Greens 10%, One Nation 6% and Nick Xenophon Team 3%. Turnbull’s net approval was -8, down from -3 in October. Shorten’s net approval was -9, down from -3.

23% thought the Coalition government was too tough on asylum seekers, 24% too soft and 37% about right; in August, these percentages were respectively 21%, 29% and 31%. 56% approved of the government’s proposed legislation to ban asylum seekers from ever coming to Australia, and 29% disapproved.

59% would have supported Clinton if they could vote, with 19% supporting Trump. In June, respondents favoured Clinton 71-15; the 12 point drop for Clinton was driven mainly by Coalition and Other voters. Australian voters far preferred Clinton to handle important issues. 52% thought that US influence in the world is becoming weaker, with 19% for stronger.

An Ipsos online panel poll of 921 respondents, conducted Thursday and Friday, found that 66% of Australians opposed Trump’s election as US President. Similar percentages (58-63%) thought he would be bad for the US, the world economy, the Australian economy, world security and relations between the US and Australia. 45% thought the Coalition would be most capable of managing Australia’s relationship with the US under Trump, with 22% selecting Labor and 14% One Nation.

NSW by-elections: huge swing against Nats in Orange

Yesterday, by-elections were held in the NSW lower house seats of Orange (National-held), Wollongong (Labor-held) and Canterbury (Labor-held). In Orange and Canterbury, the sitting members successfully contested Federal seats at the recent election, while Noreen Hay resigned as Wollongong member after many scandals.

In Orange, the Nationals won 31.1%, down a massive 34.5 points from the 2015 election. Perhaps reflecting a Trump surge, the Shooters, Fishers & Farmers were second with 24.3%, followed by Labor at 18.6% (down 4.7). The rest of the vote mainly went to Independents with the Greens at 5.8%.

There is no preference count yet for the Nationals vs Shooters contest. NSW uses optional preferential voting, which will make it harder for the Shooters. However, unless the Nationals can greatly extend their lead on the remaining votes, the Shooters are likely to win their first ever single member electorate.

The Orange result has been blamed on the proposed greyhound racing ban that has now been withdrawn, and on forced council amalgamations.

The other two by-elections were less dramatic. In Wollongong, Labor defeated Independent Gordon Bradbery 58-42, a one point swing to the Independent who had contested the 2015 election. In Canterbury, Labor was opposed by only the Greens and Christian Democrats, and romped home with 66% of the primary vote.

WA Newspoll: 52-48 to Labor

The Western Australian election will be held in four months on 11 March 2017. A WA Newspoll, conducted from August to October with a sample of 860, has Labor leading by 52-48, a 2 point gain for the Liberal/Nationals since the March to May WA Newspoll.

Primary votes are 41% for Labor (down 1), 40% for the combined Liberals and Nationals (steady) and 9% for the Greens (down 2). These primary vote changes imply that the 2 point two party change is partly a result of rounding.

Despite the improvement on voting intentions, Premier Colin Barnett’s ratings slumped. His satisfied rating was down 3 to 28% and his dissatisfied rating up 3 to 61%, for a net approval of -33. Opposition leader Mark McGowan’s net approval fell 10 points, but he is still at a +13 net rating.

This poll is in agreement with a recent ReachTEL poll that also had Labor ahead 52-48. The ReachTEL poll was conducted on 27 October, so it is much more recent and useful than this Newspoll, conducted over three months.

Queensland Galaxy: 51-49 to Labor

A Queensland Galaxy poll has Labor leading by 51-49, a one point gain for Labor since August. Primary votes are 37% for the Liberal Nationals (down 1), 35% for Labor (up 2), 16% for One Nation (steady) and 8% for the Greens (steady). Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk’s approval was down two to 44% and her disapproval was up eight to 39%, for a net approval of +5. I expect this poll was conducted Wednesday and Thursday from a sample of about 900.

US Presidential election: Clinton won popular vote

Donald Trump will be the next US President after winning the decisive Electoral College by a likely 306-232 margin. However, according to Cook Political Report analyst David Wasserman, Hillary Clinton is currently leading in the national popular vote by 47.7% to 47.1%, and that lead is certain to increase as most of the remaining votes are from strong Democratic territory. Clinton is likely to win the popular vote by about 2%.

The popular vote/Electoral College discrepancy occurred because Clinton performed much worse in the swing states than overall. The swing states had a higher proportion of non-university educated whites than nationally, and this group was easily Trump’s best demographic. This will be the fifth time in US history that the popular vote winner has not won the Presidency; 2000 was the most recent occurrence.

My last two articles on the US election for Election Watch may help to understand why this result happened. This tweet below from New York Times analyst Nate Cohn shows how rural America swung big to Trump (red is the Republicans’ colour).

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The Conversation

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

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

Labor easily wins NT election


Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

At the 2012 Northern Territory election, the Country Liberal Party (CLP) won 16 of 25 seats, to 8 for Labor and 1 Independent. During a chaotic term, 4 CLP and 1 Labor members defected to sit as Independents, so the pre-election parliamentary numbers were 12 CLP, 7 Labor and 6 Independents.

At yesterday’s NT election, the ABC is calling 15 of 25 seats for Labor, 1 for the CLP and 3 for Independents, with 6 in some doubt. The ABC’s prediction is 18 Labor, 3 CLP and 4 Independents. Even if Labor loses all doubtful seats, they would still have a clear majority.

Two of the doubtful seats – Blain and Nhulunbuy – are cases where the incorrect final two candidates were selected on election night. The electoral commission will need to redo the two candidate count in those seats. Former chief minister Terry Mills, who was deposed by Adam Giles in the last term, will need a strong flow of preferences from the CLP in Blain.

Giles himself is in trouble in his own seat of Braitling, trailing Labor by 21 votes on a swing of almost 20 points. Former Labor leader Delia Lawrie is likely to hold her seat of Karama as an Independent; she leads by 51.2-48.8.

Overall primary votes were 43.1% for Labor (up 6.6), 31.7% for the CLP (down 18.9), 3.5% for the new 1 Territory Party, 2.8% for the Greens (down 0.5) and 18.9% for all Others (up 9.3). The Others were mostly Independents. The Poll Bludger has a breakdown of the votes and seats for each region.

There are still some booths that have not yet been added to counts, particularly in remote seats. However, most electorates are reporting postal counts, so it is unlikely that the CLP’s position will improve post-election, in the way the Federal Coalition’s position improved. Counting will resume tomorrow morning.

At this election, the voting system was changed to optional preferential voting; previous NT elections used compulsory preferential voting. However, this change appears to have helped Labor. In Braitling, Labor trails by 10.4% on primary votes, but leads by 0.4% after preferences. It is likely that minor party voters who were hostile to the CLP put the CLP last, while those who were better disposed to the CLP followed the CLP’s advice, and just voted “1”.

Shock NSW ReachTEL has a 50-50 tie

At the March 2015 NSW election, the Coalition won 45.6% of the primary vote, with 34.1% for Labor and 10.3% for the Greens. The Coalition won the two party vote 54.3-45.7.

The first ReachTEL poll since the election, conducted Thursday night from a sample of 1610, has the Coalition and Labor tied at 50-50. Excluding the 8.1% undecided from the primary votes gives 42.9% for the Coalition (down 2.7 since the election), 38.0% for Labor (up 3.9) and 8.7% for the Greens (down 1.6).

Opposition leader Luke Foley led Premier Mike Baird 51-49 as better Premier, but ReachTEL’s forced choice better PM/Premier question removes the lean towards the incumbent that other polls exhibit. Despite the Coalition’s slump, voters approved of the ban on greyhound racing by a 51-31 margin.

Polls in most states are very scarce outside election campaigns. The last NSW poll by a credible pollster was the November-December 2015 Newspoll, which had the Coalition ahead by 56-44. This ReachTEL implies that the gloss has come off the Coalition since then.

The Conversation

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

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

Major rebuff to Malcolm Turnbull as poll result hovers on knife edge


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

The federal election result is on a knife-edge, with the outcome between a majority Turnbull government and a hung parliament.

Malcolm Turnbull has been delivered a major rebuff and left potentially embattled, with bitter recriminations breaking out in conservative ranks. Even if the Coalition ends up with a majority, Turnbull will have an uphill struggle to manage a party that includes many who are his enemies.

There were immediate calls for a review of the superannuation policy that the government took to the election, which cut back concessions for high-income earners and deeply angered the Liberals’ base.

Liberal ministers blamed Labor’s Medicare scare campaign for turning voters against the Coalition.

Late in the night the swing against the government was 3.6%. The election has seen a high vote for small parties.

Turnbull waited until after midnight to address his supporters, declaring: “I can report that based on the advice I have from the party officials, we can have every confidence that we will form a Coalition majority government in the next parliament”. In his speech, he did not accept any blame for the bad result or suggest he would make any changes as a result.

Treasurer Scott Morrison said the Coalition was “on the cusp” of being able to claim the 76 seats needed to form majority government.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, who spoke to supporters around 11:30PM, said the outcome might not be known for days but whatever happened one thing was sure: “the Labor Party is back”. He said the Liberals had “lost their mandate”.

Labor’s Senate leader, Penny Wong, said there was “too much on the table to call it tonight”.

The ABC said that with more than 70% of votes counted, the Coalition was on track to win 72 seats, and Labor set to claim 66, with five crossbenchers including one Green, and seven seats in doubt.

An unanticipated big swing in Tasmania has cost the Liberals Bass, Braddon and Lyons. Labor has won Eden-Monaro (NSW), Macarthur (NSW), and the notional Liberal seat of Burt in Western Australia.

In Queensland, Assistant Innovation Minister Wyatt Roy appears to have lost Longman and the Liberals may lose Herbert. The Sydney seat of Lindsay is likely to fall, as is Macquarie. In the Northern Territory, Solomon is set to fall.

Nick Xenophon’s Nick Xenophon Team (NXT) candidate Rebekha Sharkie has taken Mayo from former minister Jamie Briggs, who had to quit the frontbench after an incident in a Hong Kong bar. Briggs tweeted “After a tough fight tonight hasn’t been our night”.

The Liberals could win the Victorian Labor seat of Chisholm. The Labor-Green contest in Batman is neck and neck.

Despite Turnbull calling the double dissolution to clear out small players in the Senate, the new Senate will contain a plethora of micro players. They will include three South Australian senators from NXT. Pauline Hanson has been elected to a Senate seat in Queensland. Broadcaster Derryn Hinch has claimed a Victorian Senate seat. Independent Jacqui Lambie has been returned in Tasmania.

In his speech Turnbull took on criticism, already being aired, that he should not have called a double dissolution, saying this had not been a political tactic but had been driven by the “need to restore the rule of law to the construction industry”.

Even if Turnbull wins majority government he may not have the numbers to get the industrial relations bills, which were the trigger for the double dissolution, through a joint sitting.

The backlash in conservative ranks erupted immediately.

Senator Cory Bernardi said in a tweet to Liberal pollster Mark Textor:

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Broadcaster Alan Jones clashed with one of Turnbull’s numbers men, senator James McGrath, on the Network Seven panel. “There were a lot of bed-wetters in the Liberal Party and you seemed to be the captain of the bed-wetters,” Jones said. McGrath hit back, saying Jones was “not a friend” of the Coalition.

Tony Abbott’s former chief-of-staff Peta Credlin and Attorney-General George Brandis had a spat on the Sky panel over the government’s superannuation changes. Credlin said the changes would not go through the Coalition partyroom in their present form; Brandis retorted she was not in the partyroom.

Tasmanian senator Eric Abetz said there had been strident criticism in emails to his office of the superannuation changes. “I for one will be advocating we reconsider aspects of it.”

Victorian Liberal president Michael Kroger said the party’s base was “furious” with the superannuation policy. “I certainly hope the partyroom would look at this issue.”

Conservative commentator Andrew Bolt called for Turnbull to quit. “You have been a disaster. You betrayed Tony Abbott and then led the party to humiliation, stripped of both values and honour. Resign.”

Morrison, asked if Abbott could have won the election, replied “highly unlikely”.

Roy and Peter Hendy, member for Eden-Monaro, were both heavily involved in the Turnbull coup.

Deputy Liberal leader Julie Bishop said “undoubtedly” the Medicare scare campaign had been an important factor in the result. She said a number of people on election day had raised Medicare with her at polling booths.

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann said Labor’s Medicare’s scare was more effective than the government had thought during the campaign. “No doubt the absolute lie Labor was running on Medicare was effective.”

Turnbull lashed out over the Medicare scare, saying “the Labor Party ran some of the most systematic, well-funded lies ever peddled in Australia”.

He said that “no doubt” the police would investigate last minute text messages to voters that said they came from Medicare.

Abetz said the “three amigos” in Bass, Braddon and Lyons had been swamped by the Medicare campaign.

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce held New England from independent challenger Tony Windsor. Independent Cathy McGowan retained Indi. The Nationals have taken Murray from the Liberals, and headed off a challenge in Cowper from independent Rob Oakeshott.

The poll has seen the first Indigenous woman elected to the House of Representatives – Linda Burney in the NSW seat of Barton.

The pre-poll count continued to 2AM. There will be no more counting until Tuesday.

The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

Malcolm Turnbull sounded tone deaf to election message


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Malcolm Turnbull’s speech to deflated supporters in the early hours of Sunday morning was extraordinarily lacking in self-awareness.

Turnbull had just brought his party a devastatingly bad election result. That’s true even if he manages to reach majority government, which remains far from clear despite his assertions. In the early hours of Sunday things got closer as more votes were counted. With 77.6% of the vote counted, the ABC tally had the Coalition and Labor on 67 seats each, five crossbenchers, and 11 seats in doubt.

Yet Turnbull showed not a scintilla of humility. He made no gesture of contrition, no promise that he had heard the message the people had delivered.

Instead he denounced Labor’s scare campaign – as if the Liberals themselves have not at times been masters of that dark art. And he made an unconvincing attempt to justify a double dissolution that has ended up producing a Senate as potentially difficult as the last one, with the added negative of including Pauline Hanson, so giving her a national platform.

There is now a bizarre parallel between Labor and the Liberals in turning triumph into disaster. Kevin Rudd won convincingly in 2007. He was then removed by his party and successor Julia Gillard came out of the subsequent election with a hung parliament. Tony Abbott had a strong win in 2013, was replaced – and now the Coalition will have a tiny majority or there will be another hung parliament, with the outcome depending on the crossbenchers.

Turnbull and his supporters can argue that if Abbott had still been leader the loss would have been greater, and that’s probably correct. But it is unlikely to be an argument that will do Turnbull much good in the days ahead when there won’t be a lot of Liberal love around.

Turnbull complains about Labor’s lies about Medicare’s future, but they were made more credible to the public because of the Coalition’s previous lies and actions. Did it think people would not remember Abbott’s 2013 promise of no cuts to health? Or the attempt in the 2014 budget to bring in a co-payment, unsuccessful though it was? Or the various subsequent moves for cuts and user pays measures?

Labor’s campaign might have been exaggerated and dishonest, but the Coalition itself had effectively given the ALP the building blocks for it.

Turnbull’s argument that he called a double dissolution not to change the nature of the Senate but because the lawlessness in the construction industry had to be confronted is facile. He did not even make the industrial relations legislation a central talking point in the campaign.

And in his speech he overlooked the point that even if he reaches majority government it is doubtful he would have the overall parliamentary numbers to get the bills through a joint sitting (although at this stage it is impossible to be definite about what the new senators might do).

In the wash-up, everything from the Coalition’s strategy for the past eight weeks – running almost entirely on a “plan” based on company tax cuts – to the mechanics of getting the case across, will be under internal criticism. It will be remembered that Turnbull’s pitch for leadership included his ability as an economic salesman. That, as it turned out, he over-hyped.

The Liberal conservatives will try to unravel policy. They started on election night with their bugbear – the superannuation changes. Assuming the Coalition survives in government, how will the ructions in the Liberals now play out for the same-sex marriage plebiscite?

Turnbull was looking for a mandate to allow him to be his own man. Instead of getting that, his government has been left struggling to survive.

If it does, the conservative forces will now take one of two views of him: as someone who must be forced to follow their will on core policies, or as someone who at a future date should be replaced. Or maybe they will adopt both views.

Turnbull’s enemies within his party have played this election craftily. Abbott was mostly quiet during the campaign, although in the final week he made clear that he thought the issues of budget repair, national security and border protection had been underdone. His former chief-of-staff Peta Credlin used her role as TV commentator to run an at times sharp critique of the Turnbull campaign. Now the conservatives will be full-throated.

Turnbull talks about the need for stability and unity. The Australian public is faced with instability. Whatever the result ends up being, there is no clear mandate and an extremely difficult Senate.

Turnbull, if he is still prime minister, would be confronted by the prospect of internal disunity plus a chaotic upper house that could likely make it nearly impossible to do much that is meaningful.

As happened when he was opposition leader, Turnbull is again in a situation where he didn’t read the danger signals. He thought he was more persuasive than Bill Shorten; he and his strategists (apparently) believed that whatever the national polls said, the marginal seats would stick. They said the election would be close but appeared confident it was in the bag.

Turnbull will pay a high price for his misjudgements, though it is unclear exactly how high.

The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

After messy night, Coalition more likely to form government – but Pauline Hanson is in the Senate


Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

After counting into the early hours of Sunday morning, the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) currently has Labor leading in 72 of the 150 lower house seats, with the Coalition ahead in 66.

There are seven not-yet-determined seats, where the AEC selected the wrong candidates to count on a two-party-preferred basis and now has to realign the count. The Coalition will win five of those seven seats, and Labor one, bringing the totals to 73 for Labor and 71 for the Coalition.

However, late counting, particularly of postal votes, favours the Coalition. The AEC lists five seats as close, and in three of those Labor is narrowly ahead. If the Coalition wins these three on late counting, the Coalition would lead the seat count 74-70. Other seats where Labor currently leads could also be won by the Coalition on late counting.

Current sitting crossbenchers Bob Katter, Andrew Wilkie, Cathy McGowan and Adam Bandt easily retained office, and will be joined by the Nick Xenophon Team’s (NXT) Rebekha Sharkie, who crushed Liberal Jamie Briggs in Mayo.

The NXT could win a second seat in Grey, one of the seven seats where the AEC needs to realign the count.

However, Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott both lost their bids to return. The Greens are unlikely to win a second seat.

Labor gained all three Tasmanian seats that were previously held by the Coalition, and also gained Solomon in the Northern Territory. Labor gained seven seats in New South Wales, at least two in Queensland and at least one in Western Australia.

However, the Liberals have a good chance of gaining Chisholm from Labor in Victoria, perhaps owing to the state government’s dispute with the Country Fire Authority.

The current primary votes are 41.8% for the Coalition (down 3.7% on 2013 election figures), 35.3% for Labor (up 1.9%), and 10% for the Greens (up 1.3%). “Others” have a collective 12.9% (up 6%). In South Australia, the NXT won 21% of the vote. The Coalition and Greens are likely to gain a little at the expense of Labor in late counting.

Kevin Bonham says the current two-party swing against the Coalition in the 138 classic Coalition vs Labor seats is 3.3%, which will probably moderate to 3% when counting is finalised. The Coalition is thus likely to win the two-party count by about 50.5%-49.5%, but will lose many more seats than it should have based on sophomore effects. Perhaps Labor’s marginal seats campaign was strong enough to overcome sophomore effects.

Sitting members usually have small personal votes that are not associated with their parties. When one party wins a seat from another party’s sitting member, they should get an additional boost at the next election, but this didn’t appear to happen last night.

The final pre-election polls were very close to the overall primary and two-party figures, but single seat polls were poor. Yet again, national polls were much better than seat polls.

Though it is unlikely Labor will form the next government, this is a much better result for Labor and Bill Shorten than was expected, particularly when Malcolm Turnbull was riding high in the polls after deposing Tony Abbott.

For Turnbull and the Coalition, this was a bad result. However, it is clear that Turnbull’s popularity dropped between February and April as he abandoned his more “liberal” approaches to climate change, same-sex marriage and other issues. Had Turnbull been more progressive on some issues, it is likely he would have been comfortably re-elected.

Reformed system produces even messier Senate

Even if the Coalition scrapes out a lower house majority, it will have fewer senators than it currently has.

One of the newly elected senators will be Pauline Hanson. Here is the Senate table, based on results at the ABC. There are 76 total senators.

Senate make-up at the time of writing.

The three definite “Others” are Pauline Hanson in Queensland, Derryn Hinch in Victoria and Jacqui Lambie in Tasmania. Most of the undecided seats will be contested by micro parties, with One Nation in the race for other seats.

The Coalition had 33 seats in the old Senate, so this will be reduced. This will make it difficult to pass the industrial relations bills that were the reason a double-dissolution election was called, even with a joint sitting.

Normally only six senators for each state would be up for election, but as this election was a double dissolution all 12 were up. The quota for election was reduced from 14.3% to 7.7%, and this has benefited smaller parties.

Under the old Senate system, it would have been possible to calculate Senate seats using the group voting tickets. As preferences are now up to voters, it is unlikely we will know the outcome of some of the undecided Senate seats until the AEC has data entered all votes and pressed the “button” on its computer system, probably by late July or early August.

The Conversation

Adrian Beaumont, PhD Student, School of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Melbourne

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

Infographic: what we know so far about the results of Election 2016


Emil Jeyaratnam, The Conversation; Fron Jackson-Webb, The Conversation; Michael Courts, The Conversation, and Wes Mountain, The Conversation

Australians have voted, but with the result currently unclear, how are the numbers falling across the country? This post will be updated when we know more.

As at 11:45AM Sunday, July 3:



CC BY-SA


CC BY-ND

https://c311ba9548948e593297-96809452408ef41d0e4fdd00d5a5d157.ssl.cf2.rackcdn.com/2016-07-02-senate-composition/v2/senate-slider.html


Key seats

https://c311ba9548948e593297-96809452408ef41d0e4fdd00d5a5d157.ssl.cf2.rackcdn.com/2016-07-02-election-key-seats/v2/election2016-key-seats-v2.html

The Conversation

Emil Jeyaratnam, Multimedia Editor, The Conversation; Fron Jackson-Webb, Health + Medicine Editor, The Conversation; Michael Courts, Editor, The Conversation, and Wes Mountain, Deputy Multimedia Editor, The Conversation

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

Australia: Election


The Australian national/federal election has been run and currently there is no clear result. Some have lost seats and others have been elected for the first time (or in some cases, won their seats back). It would seem that the Coalition government may be returned with a drastically reduced majority of less than a handful of seats at best, with the ALP still an outside chance of being able to seize government. It is more likely that there will be some form of hung parliament, with no side being able to form a majority.

Labor refugee activists to mount strong push against Labor embracing 'turnbacks'


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Frontbencher Joel Fitzgibbon has fired a salvo in one of the most electorally important battles for Bill Shorten at the coming ALP national conference – whether a Labor government should turn back boats.

Fitzgibbon, a former defence minister, predicted that turnbacks would be part of Labor’s policy for the election. “Let’s have the debate at national conference. I believe that will be the outcome,” he said.

Fitzgibbon’s view represents that of the NSW right, of which he is a member, but the issue is difficult for Shorten and the conference.

It is one about which many ALP members feel passionately; the national conference make-up between right and left is closer and more uncertain than usual; and Labor at the last election was highly critical of the Coalition’s policy.

Shorten is already in a tricky position. When immigration spokesman Richard Marles last year signalled Labor might embrace turnbacks, Shorten slapped him down, saying “the case has not been made out for change”.

But there is a growing feeling in the parliamentary party that Labor needs to alter its policy.

If the conference said an ALP government should not turn back boats, it would be handing the Liberals a big weapon for the election. Together with the tough offshore processing regime, turnbacks have been regarded as important in stopping the people smuggling trade.

The parliamentary party is, in theory, bound by what conference decides, although in practice the MPs have exercised considerable flexibility.

The draft platform for the July conference is silent on turnbacks.

The Labor for Refugees group is gearing up for a strong fight at the conference.

Its national co-convenor Robin Rothfield told The Conversation on Sunday that an amendment on turnbacks was being prepared based on ACTU policy.

Rothfield said the proposed amendment would go to a meeting of the national left in Sydney at the coming weekend.

It reads: “Labor rejects other policies of ‘deterrence’ implemented alongside offshore detention, especially intercepting and turning back boats at sea, or transferring refugees to other vessels for immediate return to their countries of origin without a proper assessment of their claims for protection.

“Such policies needlessly put both asylum seekers and seafarers in danger. Provisions in the Migration and Maritime Powers Legislation Amendment Act 2014 which facilitate boat turnbacks and give the Immigration Minister the power to secretly suspend the application of Australian Maritime Law and International Maritime Conventions to any vessel must be repealed.”

Fitzgibbon told Sky a range of tools was needed to ensure the flow of boats did not resume and “one of those tools currently is boat turnbacks”.

“Personally I can’t see that there’s an overwhelming argument that turnbacks isn’t an important part of the tool kit.” Fitzgibbon said there was a universal commitment within shadow cabinet to ensuring the asylum seeker flows did not begin again.

The ALP’s incoming national president, Mark Butler, from the left, said that Labor was “committed to making sure the boat passageway between Java and Australia remains closed”.

Pressed on whether he thought that turnbacks should be part of Labor’s policy, Butler told reporters that one of the concerns Australians had with this policy area was “the government’s obsession with secrecy, particularly their obsession with secrecy they have around the turnbacks operations they have in place.

“Particularly around questions involving safety at sea, for everyone involved including Navy personnel, but also the impact on relations with our important neighbour, Indonesia.”

The government is already preparing its counter if Labor does say it will turn back boats. Immigration Minister Peter Dutton was out on Sunday declaring that Labor in government would not follow through with action.

Postscript: Mirabella on the march

Former Liberal frontbencher Sophie Mirabella on Sunday won preselection for her old seat of Indi, making the Victorian electorate one of the most interesting contests to come. In 2013, Mirabella lost what had been a safe Liberal seat to independent Cathy McGowan, who ran a campaign based on localism.

Mirabella, who would have been a cabinet minister in the Abbott government, had ignored the signs over years of an eroding vote. Bidding for preselection, she admitted she had spent too much time away from her home patch. “Clearly, I got the balance wrong,” she wrote to preselectors. But some Liberals believe she could be a drag on the party’s vote because of her previous record.

The Nationals have indicated they will also run a candidate. Their strategy has been to position themselves, if McGowan held the seat, to mount a strong bid for it on her likely retirement after another term.

Listen to the Politics with Michelle Grattan podcast, with Labor environment spokesman Mark Butler, here or on iTunes.

http://www.podbean.com/media/player/nv27e-56fabbThe Conversation

Michelle Grattan is Professorial Fellow at University of Canberra.

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

Australian Politics: 1 February 2015 – Lessons Learnt?