Australia’s obsession with opinion polls is eroding political leadership



File 20181002 85635 dnxsyc.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Malcolm Turnbull’s days were numbered as the Newspoll losses continued to mount.
Lukas Coch/AAP

Ian Cook

In its early days, political opinion polling’s leading advocate, George Gallup, sold it as an essential tool for democracy. He believed polling made for better representation because it allowed politicians to take the people’s “pulse”.

But opinion polling didn’t so much enhance democracy as remake it.

Thanks to Gallup, polls have become so ubiquitous in modern-day politics that we’re now convinced they can accurately predict elections. (Even though Donald Trump’s surprising victory in the 2016 US presidential election suggests otherwise.) Gallup ran his first poll in the US in 1935 and in Australia in 1941.

Since then, opinion polling has changed every liberal democracy by turning politics into a contest between two sales teams trying to synthesise a product they believe voters want and diluting what was once the key role of politicians: to provide leadership.

Polls driving the news cycle

In Australia, this can be seen in the revolving door of prime ministers over the past decade. Polling isn’t the sole reason for this political instability, but it’s played an important part.

Obsessive poll-watching has become standard practice for politicians, as well as the journalists who cover them. This is partly because polls have become news stories in themselves, and not just at election times. A new poll is “news” because it provides the latest measure of the mood of the electorate, which is what everyone wants to know.




Read more:
Election explainer: what are the opinion polls and how accurate are they?


The weekly countdown of Malcolm Turnbull’s losses in the Newspoll is a case in point. Because Turnbull arbitrarily set a threshold of 30 Newspoll losses as his justification to challenge the leadership of Tony Abbott, the media fixated on the same arbitrary threshold during his time in office.

When Turnbull lost his 30th straight Newspoll, the media made it feel like a death knell.

Before Abbott, Julia Gillard was dumped for Kevin Rudd because internal Labor polling predicted he could swing crucial votes Labor’s way and save the party from a disastrous defeat in the 2013 election.

In her parting shot to her party, Gillard made clear what she felt had contributed to its decline in leadership:

…real thought has to be given to how to make any leadership contest one in which candidates have to articulate why they want to lead Labor and the nation. … The identification of the top new ideas – not just who is top of the opinion polls.

As soon as Scott Morrison was picked to replace Turnbull, all eyes turned again to the polls to see how the electorate would respond.

In the latest Newspoll, the Coalition had closed the gap with Labor somewhat, but still trailed overall 46-54%. The Fairfax-Ipsos poll showed similar numbers.

The slightly good news for Morrison: he led Bill Shorten as better prime minister 45-32%. But as many commentators have pointed out, this isn’t much of an improvement on where Turnbull was a few weeks ago.

So, not much has changed for the Liberals and it appears not much will – they’re stuck with Morrison now. Some are probably asking themselves now if the spill was worth it, particularly with so many marginal seats in play in the next election and the Coalition sitting on a one-seat majority.

The impact on decision-making

A less visible effect of polling has been the impact it’s had on conversations inside the major parties.

In some regards, policymaking is no longer based solely on a leader’s principles and what the party stands for. It’s about which policies are most likely to keep the party ahead in the opinion polls.

It’s becoming increasingly unlikely for the inner core of senior politicians who run the parties to push through a necessary, but unpopular, policy with the goal of changing the minds of voters who don’t agree with it.




Read more:
How political opinion polls affect voter behaviour


Take Australia’s contentious asylum seeker policy, for instance. Following record numbers of boat arrivals in 2012, many polls were taken to gauge the public’s opinion on the Gillard Labor government’s handling of the issue.

The results showed a high degree of confusion. As many as one in five respondents reported uncertainty in a number of surveys. When that happens, a minor change in a poll’s wording can shift the results in major ways.

But those who wanted to turn back the boats were far more entrenched. In a 2012 survey by the Scanlon Foundation, 26% of respondents favoured “turning the boats back” as a solution to the crisis. Other polls showed that voters overwhelmingly blamed the government for the impasse.

There was an opportunity for our leaders to step in with a solution that would bring together the 74% of people who didn’t support a “turn back the boats” policy.

But faced with negative headlines and an unhappy electorate – only 6% of respondents in the Scanlon survey thought the government was doing a good job on asylum seeker policy – it was far more expedient for the government to take a hard line than to craft and sell a more nuanced approach that would address people’s concerns and provide a more humane outcome for asylum seekers.

Potential problems with polling

Another troubling aspect of polls is that the numbers are less real than they are made to look. Hard as they try, pollsters are increasingly having a harder time finding a representative sample of people to survey.

According to Cliff Zukin, the former president of the American Association for Public Opinion Research, election polling is nearing a crisis:

Two trends are driving the increasing unreliability of election and other polling in the United States: the growth of cellphones and the decline in people willing to answer surveys.

The Pew Research Centre, for example, reported that 36% of those called in the US would agree to be polled in 1997 and only 9% agreed in 2016.

Many pollsters believe that IVR (interactive voice response), or robopolling, is the future. This automated software allows pollsters to make a higher volume of calls to compensate for the higher numbers of
hang-ups. Robopolling is also much cheaper.




Read more:
US election: how did the polls get it so wrong?


In Australia, Newspoll stopped surveying people by landline phones in 2015 and shifted to a mixed methodology of robopolling and online surveys. The new Newspoll was found to be less prone to random fluctuations, but appeared to lean a little to Labor, relative to other polls.

Ipsos still relies on live phone polling, both land lines and mobiles. While Ipsos’ polling results are generally well-regarded, some analysts have found them to underestimate Labor and overestimate the Greens.

Despite all these questions about the accuracy of polls in the mobile phone era, however, they did appear to provide an accurate prediction of the 2016 general election in Australia.

While this is perhaps reassuring, it will only continue to fuel their appeal. As journalist Gay Alcorn put it, Australia’s obsession with polling is not only dispiriting, but corrupting for our politics:

What’s sad is that we know it, but find it impossible to rise above it.The Conversation

Ian Cook, Senior Lecturer of Australian Politics

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

Advertisements

Just a regular Joe (or Bill or ScoMo): how our leaders work hard at being ‘ordinary’



File 20180919 158243 az6c52.png?ixlib=rb 1.1

Wes Mountain/The Conversation, CC BY-ND

Frank Bongiorno, Australian National University

Is it sufficiently dignified to call a prime minister, as distinct from an immigration minister or treasurer, ScoMo? Is this part of Scott Morrison’s “ordinary bloke” persona? It does sound a bit like Joe Shmoe, which Wikipedia tells me means “no one in particular” and “is one of the most commonly used fictional names in American English”. But it also sounds a bit Hollywood, evoking JLo.

So it may well be the kind of game that virtually every politician with serious leadership aspirations has to play. They need to convince us that they are not so far above us that they are out of touch. (“How much is a litre of milk, Prime Minister?”) Yet when they do present themselves as just like us, we can’t really take them seriously. We do, in the end, expect our leaders to be different.

Each leader plays the game differently. William Shorten is, of course, Bill – who tweeted about doing the shopping with his young daughter on Father’s Day.

Minus the shopping trolley, Robert Menzies and Robert Hawke were both Bob, and William Hughes and William McMahon were Billy. Curtin was Jack to his mates but John to the public. Chifley was Ben to all, and the unassuming Lyons was happy enough with Joe. It was hard to do much with Gough or Paul, and Malcolm Fraser only became Mal when he was being ridiculed. Everyone knew he was no Mal, and nor was Turnbull. “Johnny Howard” was almost never complimentary, especially when preceded by “Little”, and Kevin might have been from Queensland and here to help, but he never became Kev – not even when worrying over the shaking of sauce bottles – any more than Julia became Jules.

Politicians have long fretted over these matters. When Stanley Melbourne Bruce became prime minister in 1923, he issued a note to the press:

Mr Bruce would be very glad if the newspapers would not refer to him by his Christian name, as Mr Stanley Bruce, but always as Mr S.M. Bruce.

Today’s journalists, cartoonists and comedians – to say nothing of one’s political opponents – would be in raptures if a newly minted prime minister issued such a notice. And it was clearly unthinkable that the golf-playing, spats-wearing Bruce would be just plain Stan.

Here is a reminder that there is more than one way of performing the role of Australian prime minister. The late political psychologist Graham Little used to give a set-piece lecture on political leadership at Melbourne University, whose major details I can still recall 30 years later – so it must have been good.

Little thought there were broadly three types. Margaret Thatcher was a “strong leader” – the children’s TV program that demonstrated the style was Romper Room. Boys wore boys’ clothes and looked like boys. Girls wore girls’ clothes and looked like girls. Miss Helena dressed conservatively and had a mirror through which she could keep an eye on us at home. Moral codes were strictly defined, with the help of Mr Do Bee (“Do be an asker. Don’t be a help yourself”). Good conduct included being able to walk around with a basket balanced on your head.

“Inspiring leadership” was exemplified by Gough Whitlam – and Play School. Each, in turn, went out of their way to demonstrate good, inclusive citizenship, and creative, inclusive play, yet without pretending to become an ordinary citizen, or an ordinary child.

Like Miss Helena, Play School leaders were grownups. But unlike her – and like Whitlam – they spoke to their audience of children as intelligent equals, dressed a bit like kids (possibly in overalls, not skirts, for women) and played along with them rather than laying down the law. Big Ted was a more gentle soul than Mr Do Bee – who presumably had a sting. Gender differences are more frankly acknowledged, but explored rather than taken for granted.




Read more:
What kind of prime minister will Scott Morrison be?


And then there were “group leaders”, like Bob Hawke – and Humphrey B. Bear. Humphrey, seemingly male yet somewhat ambiguously defined, runs around without trousers (any resemblance here to an Australian prime minister, living or dead, being purely coincidental). He is also a child, not an adult, and to this extent he shares a common identity with his audience. But they are not entirely deceived: Humphrey’s not really the same as the kids watching at home. In short, he’s rather like Hawke, who at his best convinced us that he was one of us even while being unmistakably “special”.

Not all have even attempted this balancing act. Neither Bruce nor Menzies ever pretended to be everyman, although Menzies occasionally pointed to his humble origins as the son of a country storekeeper. Keating barely made the effort; his adoption of Collingwood Football Club when he became prime minister was widely ridiculed for its cynicism, coming as it did from a man whose interests ran more to classical music and French clocks.

Malcolm Turnbull’s leather jacket, never entirely convincing, did not survive his elevation to prime minister. His persona in the job more resembled a Renaissance Florentine merchant-statesman – albeit without the art or culture, which may well have been Turnbull’s major concession to the common folk.

Like Keating, the very Sydney-ish Morrison is looking south for an AFL club, and he has cultivated what journalist Phillip Coorey calls a “daggy ordinariness”. But his everyman act is already running up against his evangelical Christianity. The classic Australian plain man is not an evangelical.

Russel Ward sketched the “the typical Australian” most influentially in The Australian Legend 60 years ago. He is, Ward writes, “sceptical about the value of religion and of intellectual and cultural pursuits generally”. The latter certainly fits Morrison, but not the former.




Read more:
Poll wrap: Worst reaction to midterm PM change in Newspoll history; contrary polls in Dutton’s Dickson


That said, he leads Shorten as preferred prime minister in Newspoll. It is worth pausing to ask why Shorten, former Australian Workers’ Union leader, has never been able to break through as a personally popular figure. He has clearly modelled aspects of his career on Hawke, but no one would ever accuse him of possessing Hawke’s charisma. He will never approach his stratospheric approval ratings. Perhaps there are too many stories around of his cosy relations with filthy rich businessmen.

He became a national figure on the back of his media profile during the Beaconsfield mine disaster and rescue in Tasmania in 2006, and he campaigned most effectively in the 2016 election. Yet he often seems wooden in front of a camera, as distinct from when talking with ordinary voters. On the couple of occasions I’ve witnessed him deliver prepared speeches, he was engaging if not magnetic, and improved as he warmed to the message he was delivering.

Hawke moved in similar business circles to Shorten, and had his deficiencies as both a public speaker and parliamentary performer. But he was brilliant if unpredictable in a TV interview, before he cut the drinking and learned better to control his temper. His media image in the 1970s, while ACTU president, overwhelmed any popular suspicion that he was in the pockets of the top end of town, although there was a growing chorus of complaints about rich mates during his prime ministership.

Shorten, much more than Hawke, has been damaged by the perception of backroom dealing; with bosses, while a union leader, and over the internecine warfare within the Labor Party. Voters might have a sneaking respect for his doggedness – think John Howard – but they don’t love him and probably never will. Nonetheless, they may well elect him.The Conversation

Frank Bongiorno, Professor of History, ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences, Australian National University

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

Media power: why the full story of Murdoch, Stokes and the Liberal leadership spill needs to be told



File 20180920 107692 j03jv5.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Media mogul Rupert Murdoch is notorious for meddling in politics.
AAP/Dan Himbrechts

Denis Muller, University of Melbourne

The first German chancellor, Otto von Bismarck, said there were two sights the public should not see: the making of laws and the making of sausages. To this list of enduringly nauseating spectacles we should add one more: the political machinations of media moguls.

ABC political editor Andrew Probyn has skilfully violated this standard of public taste by laying out what look like very plausible entrails of the evident involvement of Rupert Murdoch and Kerry Stokes in the recent Liberal Party leadership spill.




Read more:
How the right-wing media have given a megaphone to reactionary forces in the Liberal Party


It is impossible to independently verify Probyn’s account because he has been careful to mask his sources. But it is plausible partly because some elements are corroborated by separate reports in the Australian Financial Review and Sydney Morning Herald, partly because Probyn worked for both Murdoch and Stokes for lengthy periods and may be assumed to have good contacts in those places, and partly because there is circumstantial evidence to support some of what he says.

The Australian reports that Stokes has denied having communicated with Murdoch over Turnbull’s leadership. Interestingly, however, the newspaper does not quote its own proprietor on the matter, which is the obvious way to corroborate Stokes’s claim.

Murdoch, of course, is notorious for meddling in politics. In Australia, it can be traced back to his endorsement of Gough Whitlam at the 1972 election, his campaign against Whitlam in 1975, which was so virulent even his own journalists held a strike in protest, his support for John Howard in 1996, his somewhat ambivalent support for Kevin Rudd in 2007 and his full-frontal support for Tony Abbott in 2013.

Front page of the The Sun newspaper, April 11 1992.
Wikicommons

These campaigns were all in support of the winning side, and much the same has been true of his equivalent campaigns in the UK and the US. After John Major led the British Conservative Party to victory in 1992, Murdoch’s London Sun newspaper proclaimed in a front-page banner headline: “It’s the Sun wot won it”.

All this has created a perception of Murdoch as political kingmaker, a perception that frightens the life out of politicians and thus confers great power on Murdoch.

But as two Australian scholars, Rodney Tiffen and David McKnight, have persuasively argued in their separate studies of Murdoch, while his media outlets routinely shred and humiliate their political targets, the evidence is that Murdoch observes which way the wind is blowing and then finds a rationale for endorsing the likely winner.

The Economist’s Bagehot column was on to this 15 years ago, as Tiffen records. Referring to the London Sun’s boasting of its political power, the column observed:

[T]hat probably says more about Mr Murdoch’s readiness to jump ship at the right time than about the Sun’s ability to influence the votes of its readers.

Even so, perceptions can swiftly harden into political reality.

According to Probyn, when Murdoch was seen to turn against Turnbull over the past couple of months, the alarm went off in the prime minister’s office.

This is where Stokes, chairman of Seven West Media, is said to have entered the picture.

He is a friend of Turnbull’s and they are said to have discussed the apparent campaign by the Murdoch media to oust the prime minister.

Stokes and Murdoch have a chequered history, to put it mildly. They have fought long, bitter and costly legal battles, but as Margaret Simons says in her biography of Stokes:

In the cosy club of media, neither love nor hate lasts forever. The only constants are power, money and self-interest.

So, according to accounts by Probyn and the Financial Review, Stokes rang Murdoch to ask what was going on and Murdoch is said to have told him: “Malcolm has got to go.”

But on the question of who should replace him, the moguls were all over the shop.

Murdoch’s Daily Telegraph was touting Peter Dutton. Three days later, when Turnbull spilled the leadership positions, Dutton nominated, lost, but lit the fuse for the ultimate detonation of the Turnbull prime ministership.

Stokes was opposed to Dutton for complex reasons, but didn’t seem to know who to go for instead. On the day before the leadership spill, his newspaper, The West Australian, was promoting Scott Morrison. The next day it was promoting Julie Bishop, a West Australian.

This shambolic confusion among the moguls is comforting in a perverse kind of way, because in the end neither of them was able to dictate the outcome.

Murdoch achieved one objective – the ousting of Turnbull – but Dutton, his preferred pick to replace him, is now clinging to political life by a single vote in the House of Representatives thanks to the hovering spectre of the Constitution’s section 44 (v), not to mention trouble with au pairs.

Stokes? Well, he is new to this kingmaking caper. He clearly did not want his friend Turnbull out, but when that became inevitable, he didn’t know where to turn. As my old editor at The Age, Creighton Burns, was fond of saying, he was caught between a shit and a shiver.

The net effect of their efforts has been to bring the Liberal-National government to the brink of disintegration within months of a general election.

This time, Murdoch may have indeed created a winner – Labor leader Bill Shorten – not by the traditional means of showering support on him, but by destroying his opponents, even though they happen to be Murdoch’s own ideological allies.

It is the latest chapter in a long and discreditable history of media proprietors using their power to advance their political ends, usually for commercial rather than ideological purposes.

Sir Frank and Kerry Packer did it; so did successive generations of Fairfaxes. In 1961 the Fairfaxes went so far as to virtually run Arthur Calwell’s campaign out of the company’s executive offices on the 14th floor of its newspaper mausoleum in Sydney’s Broadway. The Sydney Morning Herald’s journalists renamed it the Labor ward in honour of the exercise.

In Britain, the mould for the politically meddling modern newspaper proprietor was set by Alfred Harmsworth (Lord Northcliffe) in the early 20th century.

He and the other mighty British press baron of the time, Max Aitken (Lord Beaverbrook), were the inspiration, if that is the word, for Rudyard Kipling’s celebrated condemnation:

[The press exercises] power without responsibility: the prerogative of the harlot throughout the ages.

So Probyn has done Australian democracy a service by exposing the entrails of what looks like another abuse of media power, even if it makes for a nauseating public spectacle.

It also raises serious questions about media accountability.

Australia has never had a publicly trusted or effective system of media accountability. All attempts to create one have been howled down, the loudest and crudest voices belonging to Murdoch’s lieutenants.




Read more:
Australian media are playing a dangerous game using racism as currency


There is already a crisis in people’s faith in democratic institutions. A new report by the Australian Museum of Democracy and the University of Canberra shows only 41% of Australians are satisfied with the way democracy is working. That is a dramatic plunge from the 86% recorded in 2007.

In this climate of disenchantment, it is not surprising there are now calls for a public inquiry into the way Murdoch and Stokes have evidently played a manipulative role in changing the prime minister.The Conversation

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

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

Minister for Women Kelly O’Dwyer says Liberals were ‘subject to threats’ in leadership battle


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

The Liberal party row over bullying has deepened, with the Minister for Women, Kelly O’Dwyer, declaring that MPs endured threats and intimidation during the leadership crisis.

At the same time a Liberal backbencher, Lucy Gichuhi, has flagged she is willing to out people when parliament resumes next week. She said she could not do it outside parliament but was “absolutely” willing to do so under parliamentary privilege.

O’Dwyer told the ABC the bullying was a longer term problem, and also pointed to “elements in the party organisation”.

The issue of bullying, in particular against female Liberals, flared when Victorian marginal seat holder Julia Banks cited it in her decision not to recontest the election. Another Liberal woman, senator Linda Reynolds, also highlighted standover tactics.

O’Dwyer said she’d had “conversations with many members of parliament, both male and female, and it is clear to me that people were subjected to threats and intimidation. And bullying.

“But that isn’t just over the course of the last week. There are some people who have raised concerns about elements within the party organisation,” she said.

Asked whether she had ever been bullied or threatened by her colleagues O’Dwyer said, “There have been people in the organisation that have tried”.

She rejected those who, in response to the Banks statement, had said Banks and other complainants needed to toughen up.

“Frankly, I’m a bit disgusted by that. Julia Banks is no petal. She’s no snowflake. And no princess”, O’Dwyer said, pointing to Banks’ “stellar legal career” and her being the only member of the government to win a seat off Labor in the 2016 election.

“There’s no question that politics can be robust,” O’Dwyer said. “Just as there’s no question that other careers can be robust. If you play Australian Rules football, it’s a robust sport, but we do not say it is at all acceptable for someone to punch you in the head behind play”.

O’Dwyer said Scott Morrison in the party room on Tuesday would make it clear he “has no truck with bullying.”

“He will set the standard and bullying is certainly not something that he will accept.”

She said there always needed to be an independent process if people wanted to make a formal complaint, but a lot did not want to do that.

Gichuhi said she would tell of her experience not only with the spill but more generally, “because this is a culture, this is a systematic kind of issue. I will say from when I joined the Liberal Party, from when I joined politics – and how, what, where I think would be construed or would fit the definition of bullying.”

She told the ABC she saw the intimidation used against others. “I had senators and ministers in tears. You know, that’s how hard it was. One of my colleagues was in tears the whole day.”

Gichuhi, who joined the Liberal party from the crossbench, was pushed in the recent preselections into an unwinnable position on the South Australian Senate ticket.The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

Political leadership cannot be disentangled from collective psychology


Andrew Frain, Australian National University

Much has been made recently of the revenge motives of Tony Abbott, and the seemingly self-defeating choices of the Liberal Party room in changing our prime minister from Malcolm Turnbull to Scott Morrison.

While these may be partially true, such narratives are a distraction from what’s really at the heart of events like Turnbull’s fall from office: intergroup dynamics.

Research into collective psychology helps us understand the forceful resistance to Turnbull as leader, and why the Liberal Party reaction in some ways has been perfectly rational.




Read more:
How the hard right terminated Turnbull, only to see Scott Morrison become PM


The importance of collective psychology

Journalist Annabel Crabb’s recent analysis points out that Turnbull’s lack of acceptance by the conservative wing of the Liberal Party of Australia was his undoing.

Her interpretation was that the conservatives succumbed to irrational fear; that a better approach may have seen Abbott and his colleagues appreciate the concessions that Turnbull made (such as shifting policy on the National Energy Guarantee), look past superficial differences, and bury the hatchet.




Read more:
Malcolm Turnbull shelves emissions reduction target as leadership speculation mounts


Such analyses are fed by the common belief that individual realities and individual motivations primarily drive actions. The truth is the opposite: collective psychology is central to who we are, and powerfully influences motivation.

It starts with basic cognitive psychology – humans need to translate the things we encounter into concepts. We do this through a process called cognitive categorisation.

Put simply, we class things together, and contrast those things with other things. Whatever it is – whether chairs, tables, pens, or cars – the way we understand the world is by constructing cognitive categories.

The field of collective psychology takes this further, and shows how cognitive categories are also the way we understand people – including ourselves.

If we want to understand who we are, then we categorise ourselves. Sometimes that’s as unique individuals (“I” contrasted with “others”), while at other times it’s as members of social groups (“us” contrasted with “them”).

Leadership and social identities

Obvious examples of inclusive cognitive categories include sporting teams, nationalities, fandoms, and occupations. Cognitive categories of this type are termed social identities.

There is growing evidence that social identities are key to organisational commitment, influence, charisma, and trust. And that understanding social identities is a core characteristic of leadership.

Social psychologists have long argued that human motivation needs to be understood in light of social identities.

Yes, sometimes we are motivated by self-interest, seeking to do better for ourselves as individuals. Other times, however, we are motivated by collective interest: first and foremost, we care about our group.

Social identities in politics

The subgroups of an organisation, not the organisational itself, are often what is most important to people. Abbott, Dutton, and their allies are members of the conservative wing of the Liberal Party. This wing has a passionate membership, and has values and beliefs that it holds dear.

Who is Turnbull to this audience? Turnbull is the person who plucked the mantle of prime minister from its champion of the conservative movement. Turnbull reduced the government majority to a sliver. Turnbull enthusiastically oversaw the legislation of gay marriage and has well-known sympathy for climate change concerns.

Yes, when the 2018 spill happened the Liberal Party was in power, and might have won the next election. However, under continued Turnbull leadership, what prospects were there for growing conservative influence?

If the Liberal Party was to win the next election under Turnbull, this might serve to legitimise the moderate take on the party. Better perhaps to take the reins, loose the next election, but have the platform to reinvigorate the conservative movement across Australia.

Overall, there are legitimate explanations to see Turnbull as an outsider who would not advance the values of those he sought to lead. But we can only appreciate these as legitimate if we recognise the reality of social identities.

It’s social identities – here, a strong sense of “we conservatives” – that make it logical to face immediate personal hardship for the sake of a longer term collective goal.




Read more:
Grattan on Friday: The high costs of our destructive coup culture


Ignore collective psychology at your peril

In time, a dominant description of events will emerge. Many now talk of recent events as if a soap opera.

We hear of the retribution motives of Abbott, the cunning of Turnbull, and the jostling and scheming of the party room. And that maybe Morrison knew what he was doing all along.

These are stories of individuals pursuing individual ends, responding to base individual urges – an idea summarised well by Barnaby Joyce:

Do you think that human nature has changed that much? It’s called ambition. It’s called ego. It’s how it works.

Possibly, but these perspectives are also convenient. They are convenient because they allow unsympathetic voices to deny, as much to themselves as anyone else, that the conservative movement is a sincere, coordinated, and powerful force in Australian politics.

Why can we indulge in this denial? In part, it’s because collective psychology isn’t sufficiently respected. It’s taken as optional; we can accept or ignore its presence to our heart’s content.

That denial blinkers us severely. Without it, we can’t properly understand, and anticipate, the commitment to a cause that humans are capable of.

The conservative wing may burn the Liberal Party to the ground if it’s no longer a vehicle for success. How the social identities of the Liberal Party are managed will determine whether that occurs or not.


Brigadier Nicholas Jans (Ret’d) OAM, PhD contributed to writing this article.The Conversation

Andrew Frain, Teaching Fellow, Strategic Defence Studies Centre, Australian National University, Australian National University

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

Party leaders need to address federal parliament’s intolerable workplace culture: Phelps


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

High-profile activist Kerryn Phelps, who is considering whether to join the battle in the Wentworth byelection, has condemned federal parliament’s toxic political culture and called on all major party leaders to address it.

As the fallout from Liberal MP Julia Banks’ condemnation of bullying continues, Phelps told The Conversation: “Some of the behaviour in the Australian parliament of late would not be tolerated in any other workplace”, saying it seemed to have gotten worse. This made for an unhealthy workplace which was ill-suited to getting the best performances from MPs.

Phelps, a City of Sydney councillor who was very active in the same-sex marriage debate, practices as a GP in the Wentworth electorate, and could be expected to attract a substantial vote if she ran as an independent.

The seat, formerly held by Malcolm Turnbull, who had a strong personal vote, is on a 17.7% margin but the Liberals are worried about a big protest vote.

The fallout from the leadership coup is already being felt there with Turnbull’s son Alex encouraging people to donate to the campaign of Labor candidate Tim Murray.

The younger Turnbull tweeted: “Best bang for the buck you’ll get in political donations in your life. Tight race, tight margin for government, big incremental effect whatever happens. If you want a federal election now this is the means by which to achieve it.”

While the focus in the bullying debate last week was on women, Phelps said some men suffered equally and “don’t perhaps get recognised in terms of the emotional cost [to them].”

She said the “toxic nature of parliament as a workplace” needed to be addressed, and she rejected the message sent by some Liberal players that people should toughen up or, in the words of backbencher Craig Kelly, “roll with the punches”.

If any business leader said “just toughen up”, they wouldn’t be there for long, Phelps said.

She said that a quantitative improvement in the political culture had to be generated by the leaders of the large parties. “You have to have the leaders of the major parties draw a line in the sand,” and say that bad behaviour would not advance people’s careers. At present, the opposite seemed to be the case, she said.

Earlier on Sunday, Labor frontbencher Clare O’Neil said “there’s a level of aggression, of conflict, of egocentrism that dominate parliament house and I think that that is quite hard to handle”, in particular for women.

O’Neil, spokeswoman on financial services, told the ABC her experience as an MP was “that there’s increasingly a culture in Canberra and in parliament house that feels really toxic”.

Attention is coming on the Minister for Women Kelly O’Dwyer, who issued a general statement last week condemning bullying, to take a stronger stand. O’Dwyer is expected to say more this week.

Some current and even former Liberal MPs women are reluctant to speak out for fear of blowback.

Labor has had its own controversy centred on one of its female MPs: Emma Husar has said she will not run again, after allegations of her bullying staff and other misbehaviour. A Labor inquiry upheld some allegations but not others.

Labor’s spokesperson on women, Tanya Plibersek, said that while the way parliament worked was adversarial, debates should be conducted with decency and respect.

“A positive culture is critical, and each one of us has the duty to help foster that both within parties and across the parliament.

“I believe the closer the parliament reflects our community – a more equal representation of women and men, and a greater diversity of backgrounds – the better that culture will be.

“I actually think something that really helps is more people working on issues in a bipartisan way, for example on committees,” Plibersek said.

Meanwhile, Christine Forster, Tony Abbott’s sister, has dropped out of the race for Liberal pre-selection for the Wentworth byelection.

She said in a statement the commentary about her candidacy “has focused on the suggestion that it was a proxy for division within the Liberal party. That is not the case, but to avoid any such perception, I will be standing aside and giving my full support to the successful candidate.”

Forster had not been regarded a frontrunner in the contest, which is considered to be between a former ambassador to Israel, Dave Sharma, and Andrew Bragg, who was briefly acting Liberal federal director.The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

If the Liberals have any hope of rebuilding, they might take lessons from Robert Menzies


James Walter, Monash University

After the hatred, theatre and gore of a party insurgency, the third act in the Coalition’s mind-numbing term in government is about to begin. The self-nominated defenders of the Liberal faith have destroyed their target — the infidel Malcolm Turnbull — but at ruinous cost to themselves. Can the Liberal Party recover?

Malcolm Turnbull’s fate was always predictable. The party’s fatal flaw was manifest in his ascension. Tony Abbott equated the narrow preoccupations of some in the party’s thinning ranks with broader opinion. Following their preferences, he lost the public.

Turnbull, speaking for a more open constituency, garnered popularity and electoral credibility: this was the capital he used to bring down Abbott. But he had made a pact with party conservatives to win their grudging support. Whenever he attempted to do what he had promised the people, they closed down his options. He appeared incrementally to sacrifice all he had promised. Inevitably, adverse polls reflected the government’s failure to do what Turnbull had offered. Coalition support stayed stubbornly low (though with recent signs of improvement); still, Turnbull remained preferred prime minister.




Read more:
How the hard right terminated Turnbull, only to see Scott Morrison become PM


Then, with his electoral appeal diminished again after the adverse results of the Longman byelection, they turned on him. Now, all bets were off. He determined the circumstances and timing of the final meeting that would determine his end, exposing the right’s machinations. His run was over, but his tactics demolished the insurgents’ plans, and Turnbull’s choice – Morrison – took the prize.

Despite having seen off Peter Dutton with his urgers and acolytes, ameliorating the wounds inflicted on the reasonable centre, the Liberal Party remains hopelessly divided. The right, with its obsessions at odds with majority party and public opinion, has been punished, but not enough. It will not go away. The bloody implosion of last week is as catastrophic for the Liberals as was the collapse of its conservative predecessor, the United Australia Party, in 1941.

Consider what it took to recuperate after that. Robert Menzies rightly concluded that the party had to be rebuilt from the ground up. Conflicted groups had to be unified. That involved not only organisational transformation, but the wholesale “revival of liberalism”, as he termed it. Then, the new message had to be painstakingly disseminated, through press, radio and public performance. He had to create a new constituency, and one responsive to the progressive tenor of the time. The result was the born-again Liberal Party. It took him eight years, and defeat in two elections.

Consider then what has changed in near 70 years since Menzies’ 1949 victory. The age of the mass party is over. The mass media, too, has been revolutionised. Menzies instilled the idea of a leader and a message; there was a clear purpose, but the leader-centric pragmatism he pioneered, and the means of speaking to the people and the broad church this could mobilise, saw its last invocation in John Howard. Mass support has evaporated. The possibility of tightly controlling the message through consolidated media and predictable cycles that even Howard could utilise has gone.

Liberal momentum cannot be sustained by a tiny branch membership. Howard never forgot the base — he travelled and talked to it constantly, not only listening, but persuading. But that was never enough: he had also to persuade the “mainstream”, identifying all those whose votes he might win who would never join the party. And Howard, like Menzies, was a master of mass communication. Yet, he was at sea when it came to the challenges of technological diversity, social media and the perversity of aggregating opinion not through party channels, or shock-jock mates on radio, but via internet-mediated algorithms.

Healing divisions within a tottering edifice won’t be enough. The party is not fit for purpose. There is no agenda for the country. It is unable to manage internal opinion, mobilise the public and maintain discipline, let alone sustain government.




Read more:
Turnbull’s problem was that he was a politician for another era


But if there is to be any hope, it now needs a leader with four capacities:

First, Menzies’ willingness to rebuild from the ground up: will the tribal factions tolerate that?

Second, the wit to revive a form of liberalism for these times, attuned not to “the base” alone, but to a public with wider interests, which must now be reached through multiple, web-mediated channels.

Third, recognition of the complexities of providing what the public has clearly shown it wants. An energy policy, for instance, that acknowledges the imperatives of price reduction and climate change, and can harmonise both.

And fourth, an acknowledgement that such policies demand the orchestration of many hands, much advice and diverse talents: they will founder if Morrison defaults to “strong leadership”, or the inner circles of true believers.

Finally, resolving the big issues – economic reform, immigration, social cohesion – has always entailed a degree of bipartisanship, of consensus across the aisle. The partisan intensification of recent years we now see is intra-party, not just inter-party.

<!– Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. –>
The Conversation

If allowed to fester, it will confound all attempts to address the challenges we face.

James Walter, Professor of Political Science, Monash University

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

View from The Hill: A shocker performance, even by coup standards



File 20180824 149490 1blk4xp.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Scott Morrison is sworn in as the 30th prime minister of Australia by Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove.
AAP/Lukas Coch

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

When they turn nasty, politicians can be an extraordinarily ugly lot. This week, the Liberals looked hideous – feral, self-indulgent, thuggish and contemptuous of an electorate that would like to be able to have MPs respect its choice of the country’s prime minister.

No wonder ordinary people caught by the cameras in the vox pops were disgusted. This was a shocker performance, even by coup standards.

As Malcolm Turnbull said, an “insurgency” by the conservatives brought him down. But, in a sort of perverse justice, the insurgents were punished. Their reprehensible behaviour blasted out the leader they hated but failed to deliver them the prize they desired – installing their own man in the Lodge.




Read more:
How the hard right terminated Turnbull, only to see Scott Morrison become PM


Turnbull, by delaying the ballot, and getting the Solicitor-General to give an opinion on a question mark over Dutton’s eligibility to sit in parliament, helped to thwart them.

Dutton thought his prospects better than they were; Turnbull judged his own prospects to be worse than the reality.

The spill motion was carried 45-40, a tiny margin. In other words, 40 people wanted to keep Turnbull. Yet three cabinet ministers – Mathias Cormann, Mitch Fifield and Michaelia Cash – had previously insisted to Turnbull that he had lost the party room’s support and then resigned, ensuring his political death.

No wonder that after the spill numbers were given to the party room, Turnbull said “what a farce”.

In choosing Scott Morrison, the Liberals went for the safest option among the three candidates on offer. Dutton was seen as too risky and hardline; Julie Bishop started too far behind.

But while Morrison was the best of the trio, his elevation just further emphasised the bizarre nature of it all.

There is no compelling evidence to suggest Morrison will be much more competitive than his predecessor at the election. With some voters – Liberals on the progressive side – he might be less attractive.

And what about the gnashing of teeth over Queensland? After Longman, the Dutton people insisted he was needed to hold up the vote, because Turnbull was so unpopular.

In the new order, Queensland remains unrepresented in the leader/deputy team. And if Morrison has an advantage over Turnbull there, it would be a matter of degree, hardly worth ripping apart the party.

One vulnerable Queensland seat is Dickson, held by Dutton on a 2% margin. His actions may – and should – cost him votes, although they won’t cost him a position on the frontbench. Morrison has flagged Dutton will be in his cabinet.

Josh Frydenberg is a good choice as deputy leader, a unifying rather than a divisive figure, who’s done some heroic work on the National Energy Guarantee, the fate of which is up in the air.

Frydenberg becomes the new treasurer. He’s diligent and competent, but it will be a steep learning curve, facing a savvy and experienced opponent in Chris Bowen.

As he crafts his ministry, Morrison has to balance the factions and wrangle with the Nationals, out to get the most they can after the turbulence. Nationals leader Michael McCormack has every incentive to fight hard – he’s seen by his critics as not standing up strongly enough to the Liberals.

On the policy front, Morrison has an immense vacuum on energy, a major issue for the public, at the cutting edge of the ideological divide, and the catalyst for this week’s calamity.

Is he going to keep or reshape the NEG? He wouldn’t be drawn at his news conference. He said he’d talk to his cabinet.

Will he be able to get any sort of sensible energy policy through the party room? And will he want to?

Will he pursue an energy policy that is relatively bipartisan, as business desperately wants, to get investment certainty, or will he decide to go down the route of maximising the differences with Labor, in the hope of an electoral advantage and under pressure from the ideologues?

The energy wars will continue, one way or another.

A changing of the guard, especially in circumstances like these, is always disruptive – the ripples are felt through the administrative structure of government. New ministers have to learn new jobs. Initiatives in the pipeline must be paused and reviewed. All that alone is advantageous to an opposition that is already well organised.

Not surprisingly, Morrison flagged he doesn’t want an early election. But given Turnbull says he will leave Parliament “before too long”, he seems likely to face a byelection in Wentworth. It’s on a whopping 17.7% margin, but Turnbull had a strong personal vote, and a big swing would be a setback for the new leader.

Tony Abbott’s sister Christine Forster is being encouraged to seek Liberal preselection. Just another twist in this saga replete with dark irony.




Read more:
Memo Scott Morrison: don’t chase the ‘base’


How the disappointed conservatives behave will determine what internal trouble Morrison faces. One thing seems clear: they won’t be satisfied unless the change of personnel produces changes in policy, notable on climate and immigration.

Abbott seems unlikely to go silent. He harbours a deep resentment towards Morrison, accusing him of disloyalty in the 2015 coup.

It will be fascinating to watch Morrison construct his post-Treasury, pre-election persona. There are multiple Morrisons. The aggressive, shouty, attack dog tearing at Labor. The lower-key, more compromising negotiator. The knock-about bloke, always talking about “the (Sutherland) Shire” and the Sharks.

<!– Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. –>
The Conversation

Then there is the Morrison who is ambitious to leave his mark as a reformer – who’d hoped to reshape the GST until Turnbull pulled the pin on him. Now he has his chance to set his own direction. But he will be buffeted by cross winds and has little time to plot his course.

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

The economics of Australia’s too-common leadership spills


Brendan Markey-Towler, The University of Queensland

At the end of another week of chaos in Canberra, we’re all asking why this keeps happening. Why are our leaders playing politics instead of governing?

A somewhat esoteric sub-field of economics known as Public Choice Theory suggests it really does come down to two things. First, the technological advances that have given politicians feedback in real time. Second, Australia’s comparatively small parliament.

Politicians aren’t mad or bad, they have an incentive to do what is necessary to hold their seat in parliament. They have no incentive to govern except insofar as it helps them keep their seat.




Read more:
Moment after moment of madness: Liberals manage the ugliest, messiest leadership challenge in history


The trouble is, the vast volumes of data we generate create a never-ending tsunami of information. It’s not just traditional opinion polls such as Newspoll, but also Twitter and Facebook “trending” feeds and hashtags, Google search data, YouTube, endless online polls and petitions.

All of this changes the incentives politicians face almost in real time. Of course they’d be changing leader more often! And with a comparatively small parliament, it is comparatively easy to do just that.

The irony then is that for all we say we wish the politicians would respect our say and get on with governing, our revolving door prime ministers are the result of the politicians being too responsive to what we think, and our having too few of them.

The perverted incentives of spills

Public Choice Theory starts from the presumption politicians aren’t principled heroes or evil dictators in waiting. They’re just regular people like you and me. They face incentives to which they try to respond as rationally as they can.

Now it doesn’t really matter whether a politician has conviction, hunger for power or they’re simply a hack. They can’t do anything unless they win elections. Hence, as Anthony Downs realised in his seminal work on Public Choice Theory, they have an imperative incentive to do and say what they can to win elections.

What some might call slavish adherence to public opinion is actually, from the perspective of Public Choice Theory, perfectly reasonable behaviour. Politicians can’t do anything unless they can get the votes of the public first, so they need to know what to say and to do to get them.




Read more:
‘Balmain basket weavers’ strike again, tearing the Liberal Party apart


Our present trouble with “revolving door” prime ministers makes a lot of sense from this perspective.

In the internet age, politicians’ knowledge of what to do and what to say to get the votes and win the elections is changing almost in real time.

Release a National Energy Guarantee policy? You’ll find out within weeks what the public thinks about it. Make a statement about immigration? You’ll find out within hours how it’s playing with the kids on social media. You’ll find out day to day how your leader is performing relative to the other guy just by monitoring the news sites.

Now of course that’s not limited to Australia, and countries with similar systems haven’t had the same revolving door leadership as us.

What sets Australia apart is that our parliament is very small compared with other countries (because of an obscure part of the constitution known as the “nexus” provision). We have only 150 members of the lower house compared with, for instance, Canada (which has 338) and the UK (which has 650).

It’s therefore much easier in Australia to respond to changing incentives by building a faction in favour of changing the leader simply because there are fewer people to persuade.

Put that all together, and of course you’d have a revolving door prime minister! What else would you expect?

Can a stable majority exist?

So what’s to be done?

One possibility is to do as the ALP has done, and require a supermajority of the party room to spill the leadership. This (in theory) makes it much more difficult to change the leadership.

Another, probably unpleasant possibility, is to significantly increase the size of parliament. A larger parliament makes it much more difficult to build factions in favour of changing the leadership.

Another, more direct response is to simply break the cycle and for us to take responsibility for the state of our own democracy. That is, if we actually do care about stable government.




Read more:
Reporters or players? What is the media’s role in leadership struggles?


The politicians will always respond to their incentives. They’re people. It’s never going to change. So we need to stop changing the incentives they face in real time as much as we can.

You yourself can do something about that. Stop responding to pollsters. Stop “liking” and retweeting the political topics. Stop endlessly following the political clickbait. Ironically, stop paying attention to politics and get on with your life except where your civic duty absolutely demands it.

Public Choice Theory suggests our increasingly regular leadership spills are because politicians are, ironically, too responsive to what we think and there are too few of them. If we want stable government, we can tinker with party constitutions to disincentivise leadership spills: we can increase the size of parliament to make it harder to build factions for changing the leader.

<!– Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. –>
The Conversation

But the most direct way to achieve it is to stop telling them what we think incessantly, and deliver judgement only where it matters most – the ballot box.

Brendan Markey-Towler, Researcher, The University of Queensland

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

Moment after moment of madness: Liberals manage the ugliest, messiest leadership challenge in history



File 20180823 149484 1hmdghs.png?ixlib=rb 1.1

Wes Mountain/The Conversation, CC BY-ND

Frank Bongiorno, Australian National University

Tolstoy’s famous remark in Anna Karenina may well apply to political parties: “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

It certainly applies to spills. Each unhappy event is unique in its particular combination of ambition, rancour and absurdity. But the present debacle contains so many wheels within wheels that it is virtually impossible to imagine anyone being able to keep all of them in view at once.

Yesterday’s shutting down of the House of Representatives was one result. It is arguably the worst debauching of Australian parliamentary democracy since John Kerr refused to see the Speaker to receive the House’s no confidence motion in the Fraser Government on November 11, 1975.

The Liberal Party gained office, but would pay the price for its misdeeds. The Coalition’s decision to exploit its numbers yesterday to shut down the House because it had become an inconvenience is also likely to live on in infamy as the tawdry, desperate act of a failed government.




Read more:
‘Balmain basket weavers’ strike again, tearing the Liberal Party apart


The problem of the numbers in the House is an example one of the moving parts that have made this leadership contest the messiest in Australian history.

The Liberal Party has run the spill as if it were a political billionaire; in other words, as if it had a 30-seat majority in the House of Representatives. It doesn’t. It is already within a whisker of becoming a minority government, a prospect that is likely if Peter Dutton becomes prime minister and there is resulting movement from the government to the crossbenches. More than one National Party MP has already indicated they will, or might, go down this path.

The government prevented the referral of the matter of Dutton’s eligibility to sit in parliament under Section 44 of the Constitution by a single vote.

It won the subsequent division to adjourn the House by two votes. But as the government unravels, it is doubtful whether it can count on much of the crossbench in any vote on confidence and supply. And it will only take a couple of Coalition votes to peel away to bring down the government entirely. That, at least, would end our nightmare.

We have probably been closer, over the last 24 hours, to a government falling on the floor of the parliament than at any time since 1941, when two Independents combined with the Labor Party to put the Fadden government out of its – and Australia’s – misery.

Another of the moving parts of this leadership crisis was the subject of that first vote: the matter of whether Dutton should be disqualified on the grounds that his family trust has an interest in two childcare centres who benefit from millions of dollars in government subsidies. Like all of the Section 44 matters that have arisen over the last couple of years, it is impossible to predict which way it would go if the High Court deliberated on it.

But the fact the Liberal Party is seriously contemplating the elevation to prime minister of a parliamentarian over whom such a cloud exists is nothing short of a folly.

That the parliamentarian concerned is Peter Dutton is another of those wheels within wheels. Dutton is not an ordinary centre-right politician; not in the Australian political context, at any rate. The polls tell us that as preferred prime minister, he barely registers. He is in serious danger of defeat in his own marginal Queensland electorate.

Dutton was among the tiny number of MPs who thought it would be a beaut idea to boycott Kevin Rudd’s Apology to the Stolen Generations. He opposed same-sex marriage. And, in a country that, so far, has largely resisted the populist revolt that has afflicted so many other Western countries – a country where recognition of the benefits of immigration and the value of multiculturalism has been robust – he has recognised the political capital to be gained from tapping into the darker recesses of the Australian imaginary.

There is not a shred of evidence on the public record that a Dutton prime ministership would make the slightest difference to the slide in public opinion being suffered by the Coalition in Queensland, as reflected in the LNP’s ghastly result in the Longman byelection.

Rather, this is one for what the Americans call the “base” – the bloc of right-wing opinion you’ll find well-represented in many Liberal Party branches – the kind of opinion that passes resolutions calling for the privatisation of the ABC.

It is one for the op-ed columnists and the radio shock-jocks who, if they can’t have their hero Tony Abbott back, are hardly less pleased by the prospect of elevating the latest version of the conservative tough guy. It is one for those who hate Malcolm Turnbull with an intensity that far exceeds their attitude to any other political leader of the modern era – on any side of politics – except perhaps Julia Gillard. It is one for those who believe that Australia can have its Brexit and Trump moments, and that Dutton is the man to deliver. It is one for the political fantasists, who believe that Australian voters would be attracted to hard-right policies if only they really understood their own interests.




Read more:
Your time starts now: how leadership instability and revenge became woven into our political fabric


They might be right. But it is difficult not to harbour the same suspicion that has always clung to the removal of Kevin Rudd in 2010 – that Malcolm Turnbull, far from being unable to win the next election, had been showing every sign of being competitive, if the party had only been able to get its loathing of him under control.

The 45-55 result in the recent Fairfax Ipsos poll was bad for the coalition, but its Newspoll results had been competitive – usually 49-51. And Turnbull was streets ahead of anyone else in the parliament as preferred prime minister.

How long ago that all seems. Whatever happens next – whether we have a Prime Minister Turnbull, Dutton, Morrison or Bishop – we can be certain it will not be sweetness and light among those who find themselves at the “out-group” when the dust begins to settle.

<!– Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. –>
The Conversation

The government’s problem is not so much that it has produced yet another of Australia’s famous leadership crises. It is that it has looked like a government in an advanced state of political decay, and one that has largely forfeited its right to be taken seriously. It is hard to escape the conclusion that it is time the voters were given a say.

Frank Bongiorno, Professor of History, ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences, Australian National University

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