Fischer calls for quick resolution of Nationals crisis, while Joyce is determined to fight to the death


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Former Nationals deputy prime minister Tim Fischer has added his voice to those pressing for a rapid resolution of the Nationals crisis, as Malcolm Turnbull admits he doesn’t know whether Barnaby Joyce retains his partyroom’s support.

“It has to be resolved quickly,” Fischer told The Conversation. Earlier on Monday another former deputy prime minister, John Anderson, speaking to The Australian, advised Nationals MPs to act swiftly to exercise their responsibility and urged Joyce to think through his situation very carefully.

But the Nationals remained apparently paralysed, with Joyce on leave, dug in and defiant, feedback coming from the party’s grassroots that he should step down as leader, and his support eroding in the officialdom of the party.

Sources in the Joyce camp say there is no way he will step down before Monday’s party meeting.

They say if Michael McCormack – considered favourite to succeed Joyce if he quits or is ousted – wants the job, he will have to challenge in the partyroom and the parliamentary party will have to own the decision it makes.

In face of Monday’s Newspoll, in which 65% said he should stand down, the Joyce sources argue the election is still more than a year away, giving time for the fallout from the current furore to pass.

Nationals federal president Larry Anthony held a phone hook up of party officials late on Monday to take soundings.

McCormack, who is veterans’ affairs minister, on Monday trailed his coat in an awkward Sky interview in which he repeatedly dodged giving backing to Joyce.

Asked multiple times whether Joyce had his support, McCormack avoided answering. “I’m sure that members of the National Party are listening to our constituent,” he said.

“Barnaby Joyce is the leader, there is no spill, there is no vacancy at the moment and certainly Barnaby Joyce will continue to be the leader as long as he gets the support of the National partyroom,” he said. “There is no challenge at the moment.” And there was plenty more of the same.

Finally, a cornered McCormack said: “Of course I support Barnaby Joyce. He is our leader”.

On 3AW, Turnbull was asked whether Joyce was safe as leader. “Are you asking me whether he commands the support of the majority of members of the National Party? … I don’t know. He says he does and others have said he does, but these are all matters in the gift of the National partyroom,” Turnbull said, adding, “a partyroom, I might add, which I have never sought to influence in any way”.

Meanwhile Turnbull is coming under media pressure over precisely what he knew and when about Joyce’s affair with his former staffer, Vikki Campion, his now-pregnant partner.

The timing question has become particularly pertinent since Turnbull’s very personal denunciation of Joyce’s behaviour on Thursday, because the rumours of the affair including the pregnancy had already been rife when Turnbull appeared with Joyce to celebrate the New England byelection win in Tamworth on December 2.

Pressed on when he initially knew about the affair Turnbull repeated that Joyce had “at no time said to me that he was in a sexual relationship with this woman … He never made that admission … to me.”

Turnbull said he couldn’t recall when he first heard a rumour about it.

Asked whether he did not consider asking him, Turnbull was evasive: “I’m not going to go into the private discussions I have had with him, other than to say that at no stage did he say to me that he was having a sexual relationship with this lady”.

Pushed on whether he had been misled, Turnbull said: “I’m not going to go into those discussions”.

Bill Shorten moved to keep all attention on the Coalition by cutting off the government’s attempt to put him in the spotlight because he had not clarified Labor’s position on Turnbull’s ban on ministers having sexual relationships with their staff.

“If we get elected, we’re not going to overturn it,” he said.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop made it clear she was less-than-impressed with the ban, having condemned any such idea when asked a week before Turnbull announced it. She said the change brought the code in line with many workplaces across Australia. Pressed on her attitude, she said: “I will abide by the ministerial code of conduct”.

Newspoll has found that 64% of voters back the ban.

The ConversationVictorian Liberal backbencher Sarah Henderson told Sky the standard should apply in every MP’s office.

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

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Voters tell Barnaby Joyce to quit as leader: Newspoll


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Barnaby Joyce is coming under fresh pressure to stand down with 65% of voters saying he should quit as Nationals leader, in a Newspoll that shows the scandal hitting the government and Malcolm Turnbull.

The two-party vote has the Coalition trailing Labor 47-53%, compared with 48-52% a fortnight ago, halting the improvement the government had at the start of the year. This is the 27th consecutive Newspoll in which the Coalition has been behind Labor.

The poll comes as softer weekend messaging from Turnbull added to the confusion around the crisis, and how it will play out remains uncertain.

Turnbull and the Liberals want to see Joyce step down or be rolled by his party. But Turnbull is treading more carefully now that it is clear the Nationals could take umbrage and dig in behind Joyce if they think the Liberals are trying to dictate to them.

There is an increasing feeling in Nationals circles that Joyce’s position is untenable. The party’s MPs will get electoral feedback this week when parliament is not sitting and they are in their electorates. Joyce is desperately trying to hang onto his job despite the huge political fallout from his affair with his former staffer, now his pregnant partner. He is on a week’s leave.

In the Newspoll published in Monday’s Australian, Turnbull’s better prime minister rating fell five points to 40% and Bill Shorten’s rose two points to 33%, narrowing Turnbull’s lead to seven points. The Coalition’s primary vote declined two points to 36%; Labor remained steady at 37%.

The Australian reports that in the breakdown of voters wanting Joyce gone, 29% say he should step down as Nationals leader but stay in parliament as a backbencher; 15% believe he should step down and not contest the election; and 21% say he should leave politics at once. Only 23% said he should remain in parliament as Nationals leader.

Regional voters were more inclined to say he should go from parliament at once (25%) than city voters (20%). Men were more inclined than women to say he should leave politics immediately (23-20%).

After Turnbull denounced Joyce on Thursday and said the deputy prime minister “has to consider his own position”, followed on Friday by a counterattack from Joyce, the two men met for more than a hour in Turnbull’s Sydney office on Saturday.

On Sunday Turnbull described the talks as “frank and warm, friendly, good, constructive”, and said “of course” he could continue to work with Joyce.

He had not apologised to Joyce – “there was nothing to apologise for”, he said.

Turnbull said it was important “to meet, to work through the various challenges and issues that we face. Now the important thing is Barnaby and I are working closely together as we always have, he’s obviously taking leave coming this week and we look forward to him returning from that at the end of the week.”

He stressed “there are no issues between the Liberal and National Parties at all”.

Speaking on Nine’s 60 Minutes program, Turnbull said of his Thursday remarks: “I think Australians wanted to hear their prime minister’s heartfelt views about these events – they wanted to know what I felt about them. They wanted to hear it from my lips but also from my heart.”

He said he felt the values he expressed and the action he took “would have the overwhelming endorsement of Australians. I felt it was absolutely the right thing to do.”

Turnbull said he had discussed with wife Lucy his ban, announced on Thursday, on ministers having sexual relationships with staff and she absolutely agreed with it.

Treasurer Scott Morrison, asked whether it could be “business as usual” if Joyce stayed Nationals leader, said: “It has to be. We’re a professional government.”

Morrison dismissed suggestions that the sex ban would be hard to enforce.

“You set out a standard that says, don’t sleep with your staff”, he told the ABC. “The point of a code is preventative. If you have a code you’re telling people, ‘you do this, understand by doing it, that you’ll be gonski’.”

“Now I’m happy to have a prime minister who’s been prepared to call out a political culture in this country that has been going on for decades, if not generations.”

His message to people who argued “private is private” was “I’m sorry, if you sleep with your staff, it’s not private any more, it’s public, because you’re a minister in a position of responsibility and power over those who work for you”.

The ConversationQueensland Nationals MP George Christensen posted on Facebook: “The bonk ban is bonkers! And it shows that the whole attack on Barnaby Joyce is driven by one thing: sex. As interesting as that topic is, it’s his private life.”

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

Why social media is in the doghouse for both the pollies and the public


Denis Muller, University of Melbourne

The Labor Party’s recent decision to ban its candidates from using their own social media accounts as publicity platforms at the next federal election may be a sign that society’s infatuation with social media as a source of news and information is cooling.

Good evidence for this emerged recently with the publication of the 2018 findings from the Edelman Trust Barometer. The annual study has surveyed more than 33,000 people across the globe about how much trust they have in institutions, including government, media, businesses and NGOs.

This year, there was a sharp increase in trust in journalism as a source of news and information, and a decline in trust in social media and search engines for this purpose. Globally, trust in journalism rose five points to 59%, while trust in social media and search engines fell two points to 51% – a gap of eight points.

In Australia, the level of trust in both was below the global average. But the 17 point gap between them was greater – 52% for journalism and 35% for social media and search engines.




Read more:
Social media is changing the face of politics – and it’s not good news


Consequences of poor social media savvy

Labor’s decision may also reflect a healthy distrust of its candidates’ judgement about how to use social media for political purposes.

Liberal Senator Jim Molan’s recent sharing of an anti-Islamic post by the British right-wing extremist group Britain First on his Facebook account showed how poor some individual judgements can be.

If ever there was a two-edged sword in politics, social media is it. It gives politicians a weapon with which to cut their way past traditional journalistic gatekeepers and reach the public directly, but it also exposes them to public scrutiny with a relentless intensity that previous generations of politicians never had to endure.

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This intensity comes from two sources: the 24/7 news cycle with the associated nonstop interaction between traditional journalism and social media, and the opportunity that digital technology gives everyone to jump instantaneously into public debate.

So Molan’s stupidity, for example, now attracts criticism from the other side of the world. Brendan Cox, the widower of a British politician, Jo Cox, who was murdered by a man yelling “Britain first”, has weighed in.

The interaction between traditional journalism and social media also means journalists can latch onto stories much more quickly because there are countless pairs of eyes and ears out there tipping them off.




Read more:
Social media can bring down politicians, but can it also make politics better?


The result of this scrutiny is that public figures can never be sure they are off-camera, as it were. This means there has been a significant reduction in their power to control the flow of information about themselves. They are liable to be “on the record” anywhere there is a mic or a smartphone – and may not even know it.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton is caught on a boom mic quipping about the plight of Pacific Island nations facing rising seas from climate change.

Politics then and now

On Sunday night, the ABC aired part one of the two-part documentary Bob Hawke: The Larrikin and the Leader. In it, Graham Richardson says of Hawke:

He did some appalling things when drunk … He was lucky that he went through an era where he couldn’t be pinged. We didn’t have the internet. We didn’t have mobile phones. Let’s face it, a Bob Hawke today behaving in the same manner would never become prime minister. He’d have been buried long before he got near the parliament.

Would we now think differently of a politician like Bob Hawke if some of his well-documented excesses had been captured and circulated on social media in this way?

Perhaps not. Hawke was of his time, an embodiment of the national mood and of what Australians imagine to be the national larrikin character. He might have thrived.

Hawke is still celebrated for his ability to scull a beer.

With Hawke, what you saw was what you got. So he had a built-in immunity to social media’s particular strength: its capacity to show people up as ridiculous, dishonest or hypocritical.

And his political opponent Malcolm Fraser was, in his later years, adept at using Twitter to criticise the government of one of his Liberal successors as Prime Minister, Tony Abbott.

Yet by exerting the iron discipline for which he was famous, saying exactly what he wanted to say and not a word more, Fraser avoided the pitfalls that the likes of Senator Molan stumble into.

Indeed, US President Donald Trump’s reputation for Twitter gaffes hasn’t hurt his popularity among his base, and is even lauded by some as a mark of authenticity.

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So it is likely that the politicians of the past would not have fared very differently from those of the present. The competent would have adapted and used social media to their advantage; the incompetent would have been shown up for what they are.




Read more:
Why social media may not be so good for democracy


Social platforms under fire

Social media has the potential to strengthen democratic life. It makes all public figures – including journalists – more accountable. But as we have seen, especially in the 2016 US presidential elections, it can also be used to weaken democratic life by amplifying the spread of false information.

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As a result, democracies everywhere are wrestling with the overarching problem of how to make the giant social media platforms, especially Facebook, accountable for how they use their publishing power.

The ConversationOut of all this, one trend seems clear: where news and information is concerned, society is no longer dazzled by the novelty of social media and is wakening to its weaknesses.

Denis Muller, Senior Research Fellow in the Centre for Advancing Journalism, University of Melbourne

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

Labor moves in on the Barnaby Joyce affair


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

The Labor Party, which started with a hands-off approach to the Barnaby Joyce affair, has now segued into making it a political issue, while trying to still argue that its “personal” aspect should be private.

The opposition is eyeing possible openings to exploit in the liaison between Joyce and his former staffer Vikki Campion – who is expecting his child – by pursuing questions about processes and taxpayers’ money, as well as harbouring the hope of dragging Malcolm Turnbull into the matter.

Deputy Labor leader Tanya Plibersek walked the fine line on Sunday.

“I don’t think [Joyce] needs to account for his personal behaviour, his relationships, to the public,” she told the ABC.

“The only area in which there is a genuine public interest is in the area of the expenditure of taxpayers’ funds, and there have been questions over the last couple of days about jobs that have been created for Vikki Campion, the expenditure of taxpayer funds on travel.

“I think those are areas where the prime minister and the deputy prime minister ought to be fully transparent,” she said.

Turnbull last week tried to keep away from the Joyce matter by saying it was private.

“These private matters are always very distressing for those involved, I don’t want to add to the public discussion about it. I’m very conscious of the distress this causes to others, in particular Natalie Joyce and her and Barnaby’s daughters. So it’s a private matter, a tough matter. I don’t have any more to say about it,” he said on Friday.

Pressed later, he said he was “not aware of any inappropriate expenditure of public funds”. But the issue of “public funds” is becoming murkier.

When the Joyce-Campion affair was creating problems in Joyce’s office, she was moved to the office of Resources Minister Matt Canavan. Later a place was found for her with Nationals then whip Damian Drum.

Questions are now being asked about the pay and arrangements in relation to these positions. On Friday, Turnbull was being quizzed about whether he’d counselled Joyce to remove Campion.

One can only imagine the Turnbull anger about the situation. He comes at it from a personal position of being very family-oriented and his sympathy is clearly with Natalie Joyce and the daughters. Also, with the government starting the year looking better, the last thing Turnbull wants is to have this becoming another distraction, let alone have any suggestion of a role in it.

Joyce by Saturday had publicly taken sole ownership, with a statement “that he had not discussed Ms Campion’s employment with the prime minister or his office.

“He confirmed that the Nationals were responsible for decisions relating to staffing in the offices of Nationals’ members. The Prime Minister’s Office has an administrative role in informing the Department of Finance.” Labor no doubt will be probing this “administrative role”.

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann, appearing on Sky on Sunday, was clearly uncomfortable. He maintained that “all of my advice is that everything was absolutely above board”, while also saying: “I am not aware of the specific staffing circumstances of every single one of my colleagues”.

The next few days will reveal whether there is anything to see, in terms of untoward arrangements or costs. Nationals sources point to the obvious implications for Joyce if there were any such revelation.

The big question – assuming there is no public money time bomb – is what this will do to Joyce’s leadership. There are mixed opinions.

He can point to the fact that in terms of retail politics, he has been highly popular, and led the party to a very good result at the election, in contrast to Turnbull’s below-par performance.

His position is protected (even more than Turnbull’s, in the Liberal Party, is protected) by the absence of an alternative leader. But the Nationals are at present an unhappy bunch.

There’s criticism of Joyce’s recent performance, including his handling of the Nationals’ part of the pre-Christmas reshuffle, which saw Victorian MP Darren Chester dumped from cabinet and assistant minister Keith Pitt ending up on the backbench.

There’s ruminating about how his new circumstances will play out in the wider Nationals’ constituency, which tends to be conservative and family-oriented. Will people have long memories or will they just move on when the fuss dies down?

Perhaps most relevant is whether Joyce will lose his political energy as he deals with new personal circumstances and some loss of respect.

With a bitter separation behind him, it won’t be easy.

Tony Windsor, Joyce’s old enemy in the seat of New England, is turning the knife, predicting in a tweet: “The Eagles are circling, don’t be surprised if Joyce resigns “for personal reasons” before the main story claims him … he will know it’s getting close to a one-way street to a job with Gina”.

The ConversationWith unfortunate if exquisite timing, Turnbull held a family fun day for Coalition MPs at the Lodge on Sunday. Unsurprisingly, there was no sign of his deputy prime minister.

https://www.podbean.com/media/player/6jqa7-8776fa?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.

Closing the Gap results still lag, as Shorten pledges compensation fund for Stolen Generations


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

The tenth Closing the Gap report, to be tabled in parliament by Malcolm Turnbull on Monday, shows only three of the seven targets are on track to be met.

The targets for early childhood education and Year 12 attainment are on track, and the target to halve child mortality is back on track. But the remaining targets are not on track – for school attendance, mortality, employment, and reading and numeracy.

The government will hail this year’s outcome as the most promising result since 2011. Last year, only one target was being met – on improved Year 12 attainment.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten will mark a decade on from then prime minister Kevin Rudd’s national apology by announcing Labor would set up a compensation scheme for survivors of the Stolen Generations in Commonwealth jurisdictions.

The scheme would give ex-gratia payments of A$75,000 to living survivors. There would also be a funeral assistance fund with one-off payments of $7,000 to Stolen Generations members to assist with their funerals.

The compensation scheme would be accessible to about 150 surviving members of the Stolen Generations in the Northern Territory and any members in the ACT and Jervis Bay.

Labor would also establish a $10 million national healing fund “to support healing for the Stolen Generations and their families – in recognition of the inter-generational effects of forced removals”.

Shorten will say that recently the number of children removed from their families has rapidly increased.

“In 2017, more than 17,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children were living in out-of-home care, compared with about 9,000 a decade ago,” he says in a statement with the shadow assistant minister for Indigenous affairs, Patrick Dodson. In response, Labor would convene a national summit on First Nations Children in its first 100 days in office.

Shorten’s announcements would cost $17.1 million over the forward estimates.

With four of the existing Closing the Gap targets expiring this year – child mortality, school attendance, reading and numeracy, and employment – the Council of Australian Governments is working with Indigenous people to refresh the agenda.

The government will point to progress on a range of health indicators:

  • Child mortality dropped by one-third between 1998 and 2015.

  • Overall mortality fell 15% from 1998 to 2015.

  • Fewer Indigenous people are dying from chronic conditions. Deaths from circulatory diseases declined by 45% between 1998 and 2016; respiratory disease deaths fell by 24% between 1998 and 2015; kidney disease death rates decreased by 47% from 2006 to 2015.

  • The proportion of Indigenous adults who smoke fell from 55% in 1994 to 45% in 2014-15.

  • Efforts are on track to eliminate trachoma as a public health problem by 2020. The prevalence of active trachoma in Indigenous children aged between five and nine in at-risk communities declined from 14% in 2009 to 4.7% in 2016.

  • The gap in blindness and vision impairment halved between 2008 and 2016. Indigenous people have three times the rate of blindness and vision impairment compared to the non-Indigenous population. In 2008 the figure was six times.

  • Drinking during pregnancy halved between 2008 and 2014-15, and there was an 8% drop in binge drinking among Indigenous people from 2008 and 2015.

Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion said the results demonstrated “the power of a collaborative approach between governments and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Even where we may not be on track, we have achieved solid progress in other target areas compared with a decade ago.”

The ConversationThe government will highlight the success of the Indigenous Procurement Policy. Its target was achieved three years ahead of schedule and it has now passed $1 billion in contracts to Indigenous businesses. Scullion flagged Turnbull would be announcing “new measures to turbo-charge the Indigenous business sector”.

https://www.podbean.com/media/player/6jqa7-8776fa?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.

Government unmoved by Labor MP Susan Lamb’s emotional story


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Embattled Labor MP Susan Lamb has hit back at government pressure for her to quit parliament over her dual citizenship, in an emotional speech laying the blame for her failure to produce a vital document on an estrangement from her mother.

But the government was unmoved by Lamb’s tearful explanation, saying it changed nothing – although there was no sign of imminent action to refer her to the High Court.

Lamb, who holds the marginal Queensland seat of Longman, took steps to renounce her British citizenship but the UK authorities required her parents’ marriage certificate, which she did not produce.

The government has threatened to refer her to the court, despite Labor’s opposition.

Some in the government had hoped that if Lamb could be forced to quit quickly without a court case, a byelection could be held in Longman on the same day as the Batman byelection, thus putting maximum heat on Bill Shorten.

But with Wednesday’s announcement of March 17 as the date for the Batman contest and Lamb refusing to resign, that is not going to happen.

Lamb told parliament she had been advised she did not have a legal right to access the marriage document.

Recounting how her mother had abandoned her as a young child, she said: “One day when I was around six years old my mum dropped me off at school, and she never came back to pick me up.

“I don’t remember every detail of what happened afterwards. I remember lots of tears. I remember lots of confusion. I remember my dad trying to explain. I remember sometime later, dad taking me to the train station, late one evening, to collect my mother.

“I thought she was going to come home. The train came, the train went, no sign of her, so we went home. Then one day, I remember going outside the front of the mill gates. We lived on the mill grounds in Mackay in north Queensland …

“A car turned up … my mother got out, words were exchanged and then my mother drove away. My dad was now a single parent – an amazing man whose example I try to live up to every day of my life.”

Her father died nearly 20 years ago.

Lamb said many years ago she and her mother attempted to build a relationship, but that failed.

“The fact is, my mum is not around to grant me access to her marriage certificate.”

Lamb said she was not telling the story to gain sympathy, but to explain that she did not have the legal entitlement to obtain the document. “So I would simply ask those opposite, take a moment and think about the circumstances.”

But government sources said that in her situation she could have applied to the registrar of births, deaths and marriages, or have got a lawyer to be an intermediary.

The sources said Lamb’s circumstances were similar to those of former senator Fiona Nash, also British through her father, who sought referral to the High Court and was declared ineligible to sit. Nash’s parents, now both dead, had divorced, and she had had little contact with her father.

Previously The Australian quoted Lamb’s mother saying she would have “definitely helped her if she had been contacted”.

The ConversationThe ABC’s Jane Norman tweeted “Re. Susan Lamb: QLD’s Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages says requests are considered on a case-by-case basis where parental consent isn’t obtainable”.

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

Turnbull and the Coalition begin the year on a positive polling note – but it’s still all about the economy



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Malcolm Turnbull makes a point in Question Time.
AAP/Mick Tsikas

Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

The first Newspoll of 2018, conducted February 1-4 from a sample of 1,616, gave Labor a 52-48 lead, a one-point gain for the Coalition since the final Newspoll of 2017 in mid-December. Primary votes were 38% Coalition (up two), 37% Labor (steady), 10% Greens (steady) and 5% One Nation (down two).

While this Newspoll is Malcolm Turnbull’s 26th consecutive loss (four short of Tony Abbott’s streak), it is the Coalition’s best position since April 2017. This is the Coalition’s highest primary vote, and One Nation’s lowest Newspoll vote, since December 2016, before Newspoll started asking for One Nation as part of the party read-out.

As the Coalition’s primary vote gains have come at the expense of another right-wing party, the overall left/right balance is unchanged at 47-43. The two-party vote changes are exaggerated by Newspoll’s assumption, based on the 2016 election, that the Coalition will win only half of One Nation’s preferences.




Read more:
With Feeney gone, Greens sniff a chance in Batman, and has Xenophon’s bubble burst in South Australia?


At the recent Queensland election, about 65% of One Nation preferences flowed to the LNP. It is likely that previous Newspolls, which had high One Nation votes, overstated Labor’s lead after preferences.

Turnbull’s approval rating bumped up to 37% (up five), and 50% were dissatisfied (down seven), for a net approval of -13, up 12 points. Bill Shorten’s net approval also improved six points to -18, and both leaders are at their highest net approval since August. Turnbull led Shorten by 45-31 as better prime minister (41-34 in December); this is Turnbull’s biggest margin since September.

Voters were given four options for best Liberal leader: Turnbull, Julie Bishop, Abbott and Peter Dutton. Turnbull had 30% support (up five since early December), Bishop 26% (down four), Abbott 13% (down three) and Dutton 7% (steady). Among Coalition voters, Turnbull had 48%, Bishop 19%, Abbott 16% and Dutton 6%. Abbott and Dutton performed best with One Nation voters.

Voters were given three choices for best Labor leader: Shorten, Tanya Plibersek and Anthony Albanese. Plibersek had 25% support, Albanese 24% and Shorten 22%. Among Labor voters, Shorten had 37%, Plibersek 27% and Albanese 23%. Plibersek was the clear favourite among Greens voters (43%).

Both leaders appear to have benefited from the lack of any major controversies over the summer holidays. Turnbull has done better, perhaps due to the absence of hard-right Coalition backbenchers from the media environment.

Shorten’s ratings as preferred Labor leader are so low because conservatives detest him for strongly opposing much that the Coalition is proposing or has done, while many on the left do not regard him as a genuine leftie. Turnbull is helped as best Liberal leader by Abbott and Dutton being more right-wing.




Read more:
Grattan on Friday: For Bill Shorten, it will be a matter of eyes left and centre


The most important factor regarding the next federal election, due by early 2019, is likely to be the performance of the economy. Greg Jericho wrote in The Guardian recently that the strong employment growth in 2017 was consistent with the government being re-elected.

The government is inhibited by the continued low wages growth. If wages growth lifts this year, the Coalition would be far more likely to be re-elected. The strong US economy has benefited Donald Trump.

65% supported leaving Australia Day as it is, while just 29% supported referendums on Indigenous recognition and the republic proposed by Albanese.

The ConversationEssential will now appear fortnightly rather than weekly, so there was no Essential poll this week. You can read about last week’s Essential here.

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

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

Encouragement for Turnbull in Newspoll as parliamentary year starts


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

The first Newspoll for 2018 brings encouraging figures for the Coalition, although it continues to trail Labor – for the 26th consecutive time.

Malcolm Turnbull has extended his lead over Bill Shorten as better prime minister, and the Coalition primary vote has risen two points to 38%, compared with late December.

The Coalition now trails 48-52% on the two-party vote – the best result for it since April last year – compared with 47-53% before Christmas.

The poll comes as parliament resumes on Monday, with the dual citizenship issue still front and centre, together with the debate over the cost of living and the government’s attempt to get the rest of its company tax package legislated.

The poll is in line with the general feeling in political circles that Turnbull has picked up his game and Shorten is under pressure, especially as a result of the citizenship issue, with a byelection fight with the Greens in the Labor seat of Batman and the threat of more byelections in ALP seats.

But the Coalition is still on track to losing 30 consecutive polls – the number Turnbull highlighted when challenging for the prime ministership in 2015.

Turnbull leads Shorten as preferred prime minister by 45% (up four points) to 31% (down three points). This is the biggest lead Turnbull has had since August.

Labor’s primary vote remains on 37%, and the Greens are unchanged on 10% but there has been a further fall in the One Nation vote, which is now on 5%, compared with 10% in mid-November. The Coalition is benefiting from the One Nation decline in support.

In the citizenship battle, the government is continuing to push for Susan Lamb, Labor member in the marginal Queensland seat of Longman, to resign – as David Feeney did in Batman last week – because she is a dual British citizen. The government has threatened to refer her, as well as two other Labor MPs, to the High Court.

Following his criticism last week of rising health insurance premiums, Shorten on Sunday announced a Labor government would freeze premium increases to 2% in each of its first two years in office. The opposition says this would leave a family who paid the national average premium A$340 better off in total over the two years. The average premium for a family, including obstetrics, is $4,731 a year.

Shorten said Labor would also have a Productivity Commission inquiry “to look at serious reform of the private health insurance sector”.

Labor wanted to ensure that small, not-for-profit private health insurers remained competitive and able to grow “in what is becoming an increasingly uncompetitive market,” he said.

As MPs return they will be met by a big demonstration outside parliament on Monday against the controversial proposed Adani mine. An assistant minister, Karen Andrews, who is from Queensland, told Sky on Sunday there would now not be federal funding for the rail line for the mine.

She said funding from the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility would need support from the Queensland Labor government. But Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced during the state election campaign her government would veto any such funding.

“So the advice that I’ve been given from the resources minister [Matt Canavan] is that the financing will not proceed,” Andrews said.

Labor is under pressure over Adani in the Batman byelection and on Friday Shorten moved closer to opposing the project.

Labor’s infrastructure spokesman Anthony Albanese told Sky on Sunday he had never seen the economics of the project stacking up.

Albanese and Shorten differed in their assessments of Batman, where Labor faces a huge threat from the Greens, with Albanese raising expectations and Shorten lowering them. Albanese said Labor “should win the seat”, pointing out that Feeney had had a bad campaign in 2016 (he had neglected to declare a house worth more than $2 million). Shorten, speaking on the ABC, said it would be “difficult” to win the seat.

Meanwhile, Turnbull said heads should roll in the farcical affair of the trove of confidential documents that turned up in two filing cabinets sold by a Canberra second-hand shop. The cabinets have been traced to the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.

Turnbull told the ABC: “The idea that public servants, entrusted with highly confidential documents, would put them in a safe, lock the safe, lose the keys, and then sell the safe without checking what was in it ––it beggars belief.

The Conversation“If you put it in a episode of Utopia … I imagine an editor or producer would have said, ‘no, that stretches credulity. Take it out,’” Turnbull said.

https://www.podbean.com/media/player/99z29-862eb3?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.

With Feeney gone, Greens sniff a chance in Batman, and has Xenophon’s bubble burst in South Australia?



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Ged Kearney has been announced as Labor’s star candidate for the inner-Melbourne seat of Batman.
AAP/David Crosling

Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

On February 1, Labor’s David Feeney resigned as the member for Batman, as he could not find proof that he had renounced his British citizenship. This will trigger a byelection in Batman, which Labor could lose to the Greens. In November 2017, Labor lost the Victorian state seat of Northcote to the Greens at a byelection.




Read more:
Contradictory polls in Queensland, while the Greens storm Northcote in Victoria


Victoria has 37 federal seats, and 88 lower house state seats, so federal seats have more than twice as many enrolled voters as state seats. Batman encompasses Northcote, but also includes northern suburbs away from the inner city, where Labor does relatively well and the Greens poorly.

The Poll Bludger’s booth map below shows the clear divide between north Batman (all red booths representing Labor two-party wins against the Greens in 2016) and south Batman (all but one booth Green). The state seat of Northcote is south Batman. Larger numbers on the map are booths where more people voted.

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During the 2016 election campaign, Feeney embarrassed Labor when it was revealed he had not declared a A$2.3 million house. Feeney narrowly held Batman by 51-49 against the Greens at the election, a 9.6-point swing to the Greens. Labor will hope the large swing reflected anti-Feeney sentiment, and that a fresh Labor candidate – former ACTU president Ged Kearney – can hold Batman.

At the 2016 election, the Liberals directed preferences to Feeney, enabling him to win after trailing the Greens on primary votes. The Liberals are very unlikely to field a candidate at the byelection, and this will help the Greens.

Kearney is already well-known and will have a personal vote. She is from Labor’s left faction, and will be a better fit with the electorate than the right-aligned Feeney. Alex Bhathal will be the Greens’ candidate; she also stood at the 2016 election.

Other Section 44 cases

In late 2017, Tasmanian senator Jacqui Lambie resigned owing to a dual citizenship. However, Lambie’s number-two candidate, Steve Martin, could also be disqualified, as he was the Devonport mayor at the 2016 election. The High Court has not yet ruled on whether a local government position violates Section 44(iv) of the Constitution, pertaining to public service employees.

If Martin is disqualified, her number three, Rob Waterman, also has problems. If none of Lambie’s ticket are eligible, One Nation’s Kate McCullogh would win the final Tasmanian Senate seat.

SA-BEST’s number four, Tim Storer, attempted to replace Nick Xenophon in the Senate, against his party’s wishes, when Xenophon resigned to contest the South Australian election. As a result, Storer was kicked out of the party.

However, SA-BEST senator Skye Kakoschke-Moore resigned in November as she had a dual citizenship. SA-BEST is arguing that Storer should not be allowed to replace Kakoschke-Moore as he is no longer in SA-BEST; it wants Kakoschke-Moore to replace herself.

Labor’s ACT senator, Katy Gallagher, renounced her British citizenship before nominations closed for the 2016 election, but she did not receive confirmation of renunciation until after nominations closed. If the High Court rules against Gallagher, at least three Labor lower house members, whose circumstances are similar to Gallagher, will probably have to resign.

Another issue is assignment to short and long Senate terms. At the beginning of this parliamentary term, following the double-dissolution election, senators were assigned to either short terms (expiring June 2019) or long terms (expiring June 2022). If a long-term senator is replaced by someone on the ticket who should only get a short term, it creates a fairness problem.

In late December, Liberal Jim Molan was declared elected to the Senate by the High Court to replace National Fiona Nash, who had a long term. Molan accepted a short term, and the number four on the joint New South Wales Coalition ticket, Liberal Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, will be promoted from a short term to a long term.

Molan won his seat from number seven on the Coalition ticket, after Nash’s original replacement, the moderate Liberal Hollie Hughes, was disqualified for taking up public service work following her failure in the 2016 election.

Bob Day’s replacement in Senate, Lucy Gichuhi, becomes a Liberal

In early 2017, before the citizenship crisis started, Family First senator Bob Day was declared ineligible to be elected by the High Court, and replaced by Family First’s South Australian number two, Lucy Gichuhi.

When Family First became part of Cory Bernardi’s Australian Conservatives, Gichuhi did not join the new party, instead sitting as an independent. Yesterday, Gichuhi joined the Liberals.

This outcome gives the Coalition 30 of 76 Senate seats, making up for the loss of Bernardi. It is unlikely to have an impact on Senate votes, as Gichuhi voted with the Liberals a large proportion of the time.

While Gichuhi has a short Senate term, Bernardi has a long term, so he cannot be replaced until July 2022 barring a double dissolution.

ReachTEL South Australian poll: just 17.6% for Xenophon’s SA-BEST

The South Australian election will be held in six weeks, on March 17. A ReachTEL poll for the Climate Council, conducted on January 29 from a sample of 1,054, gave the Liberals 33.4% of the primary vote, Labor 26.1%, Nick Xenophon’s SA-BEST 17.6%, the Greens 5.5%, Others 9.1% and 8.3% were undecided.

If undecided were excluded, primary votes would be 36.4% Liberal, 28.5% Labor, 19.2% SA-BEST, 6.0% Greens and 9.9% others.

There has been no statewide South Australian ReachTEL poll since the 2014 state election. An October to December Newspoll gave SA-BEST 32%, ahead of both major parties. Galaxy polling conducted about three weeks ago gave SA-BEST primary vote leads in three seats it is contesting.




Read more:
Nick Xenophon could be South Australia’s next premier, while Turnbull loses his 25th successive Newspoll


If this ReachTEL poll is correct, there has been a dramatic fall in SA-BEST support in the fortnight from when the Galaxy polls were conducted to the ReachTEL. The major South Australian parties started to vigorously campaign against SA-BEST after the Galaxy polls had been conducted.

The ConversationI would like to see some more polls before concluding that Xenophon’s bubble has burst, but this ReachTEL is not at all good for him.

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

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

Shorten goes colder on Adani coal mine as the battle for Batman begins


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Bill Shorten said he had become increasingly sceptical of Adani in recent months.
AAP/David Crosling

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has taken a further step toward opposing the proposed Queensland Adani coal mine as he starts campaigning for the Batman byelection, where Labor is fighting off a strong challenge from the Greens.

Shorten was appearing with Labor’s candidate Ged Kearney, who on Friday resigned as ACTU president to contest the byelection.

Shorten seized on a Guardian Australia report that said Adani put in “an altered laboratory report” when appealing a fine for contamination of wetlands near the Great Barrier Reef.

Shorten said he had become increasingly sceptical of Adani in recent months.

If Adani was “relying on false information, that mine does not deserve to go ahead”.

He called on the government to investigate the claim, and said that if it didn’t, Labor in government would do so.

Kearney said she did not see the mine going ahead. “I know Adani are not good employers,” she said.

Adani will be a big issue in the byelection, with the Greens running hard on it and a grassroots campaign underway. Directly behind Shorten at his news conference demonstrators held up “Stop Adani” signs. A big protest is planned in Canberra when parliament resumes next week.

Earlier this week, Shorten hardened his position on the mine, telling the National Press Club: “We’re certainly looking at the Adani matter very closely. If it doesn’t stack up commercially or if it doesn’t stack up environmentally it will absolutely not receive our support.”

Last year, Shorten was looking on the positive side of the project. In May he said: “There’s no point having a giant coal mine if you wreck the reef but, on the other hand, if the deal does stack up, if the science safeguards are there, if the experts are satisfied, then all well and good and there’ll be jobs created.”

But he did not support the government giving a loan subsidy for the railway that would support the mine.

Greens leader Richard Di Natale tweeted on Friday:

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Meanwhile, the Greens moved to up the ante for Labor on the issue of power, releasing a policy calling for the return of the national electricity grid into public ownership, beginning with the acquisition of the interconnectors between regions.

It said the cost of acquiring the five privately owned interconnectors would be A$2.8 billion. “A return to complete public ownership can ensure investment decisions are made in the public interest, not in the interests of profit,” the policy says.

The ConversationKearney said renationalisation was worthy of consideration but Shorten was dismissive, saying it was not going to happen.

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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