The prime ministership is not terminal – but it needs the right person for the times



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As the opinion polls continue to show the government flagging, Malcolm Turnbull has slid into the ‘beleaguered’ column.
AAP/Mick Tsikas

Paul Strangio, Monash University; James Walter, Monash University, and Paul ‘t Hart, Utrecht University

Malcolm Turnbull was interviewed late last month on the ABC’s flagship news current affairs program, 7.30. It wasn’t pretty viewing. Turnbull responded to host Leigh Sales’ interrogation through gritted teeth. He tetchily accused her of being “negative”: of only wanting “to talk about politics”. The performance was the antithesis of the Turnbull of old — he of the leather jacket, who revelled in appearing on the national broadcaster, exuding charm and confidently expansive. In his place was a brittle and defensive prime minister.

We cannot know for sure what lies ahead for Turnbull — his boosters still wait expectantly for the green shoots of political recovery. Yet the monotonously negative opinion polls invite the suspicion that the public has given up on the Turnbull government. The Coalition’s divisions over key issues (now the clean energy target) and serial misadventures (such as the dual citizenship imbroglio) do little to instil confidence in Turnbull’s future. Like Tony Abbott, Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd before him, he has become another in a line of beleaguered prime ministers.

As we have shown in our two-volume history of the office, being prime minister has never been easy. For many of its occupants, the office’s frustrations have been at least equal to its opportunities. Even those who have prospered in the role — since the second world war, think Robert Menzies, Bob Hawke and John Howard — endured fluctuations in personal popularity, electoral performance and ability to get things done.

Yet the disturbing trend of the past decade is hard to ignore. After Howard, the credit lines necessary to exercise effective leadership — keeping the nation’s ear even when delivering unpopular messages, articulating a coherent policy program, having reforms passed and securely embedded, and leading from the front (staring down one’s own colleagues and constituencies when necessary) — have eluded successive incumbents. They have struggled to resolve major policy problems and have suffered serious erosion of their personal popularity and political authority rapidly after achieving office.

John Howard is one of the few prime ministers who eventually flourished in the office – but only after early troubles.
AAP/Julian Smith

Individual fallibility has played a part in this troubling story. If one mapped Australia’s 29 prime ministers along a spectrum of temperamental aptitude for the office, then Rudd and Abbott belong well towards the unsuitable end. Both lacked that essential quality German sociologist Max Weber called “the firm taming of soul”. All four of our most recent prime ministers have also made grave errors of judgment, but so have many of their predecessors.

Nor can lack of institutional resources provide a plausible answer for the contemporary malaise. To the contrary, since the second world war there has been a steady accretion of resources, both bureaucratic and personal staffing, at the heart of government. Prime ministers of the 21st century command a formidable institutional machine. They are supported by a responsive and professional Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, and a large and powerful Prime Minister’s Office staffed by political loyalists.

Recent history suggests that, poorly directed, this “prime-ministerial machine” can go seriously awry, thereby exacerbating difficulties. But this factor is again insufficient to account for why national leadership has become so confounding.

A better explanation lies in the destabilising contextual changes of our times. First, post-2007 leaders are, like Whitlam and Fraser in the 1970s and ’80s, struggling with policy regime exhaustion: in their case, the expiring of the neoliberal experiment.

This condition is common to most advanced economies. The global financial crisis starting in 2008 was heralded at the time as a turning point. Much was said then and since about the necessity of a new social contract; regulation that would manage market failure; measures that would address inequality in resource distribution; and the need to stem the pervasive and increasing conviction among many that the economy was not working for them.

Yet, a decade on, we are still grasping uncertainly for those new ideas and a refreshed policy regime.

If temperamental aptitude for the prime ministership were on a spectrum, Tony Abbott, like Kevin Rudd, would be at the unsuitable end.
AAP/Lukas Coch

A second factor is a transforming party landscape. The central role that the established parties have played in our national political life can hardly be overstated: ours has been a “party democracy”.

Anchored in distinct social bases that have now broken up, the major parties have been the primary instruments through which voters organise their thinking about politics and express their choices. They’ve been the system’s ballast.

There have been significant periods in the past when one or other of the major parties was effectively moribund. But what we confront now is more fundamental, as major party membership dwindles and the public’s affiliation to them dissolves. The result is greater voter volatility.

For leaders, party change is having a paradoxical effect. As the parties have become less representative of society and as their philosophical moorings have weakened, they have leaned more heavily on leaders as the point of brand differentiation and to be spokesperson for all that they stand for. While potentially strengthening the authority and autonomy of leaders, this has equally meant they become chief target of blame and retribution if party fortunes suffer.

Moreover, the decline of the traditional parties seems to be manifesting in a pattern of intensifying fragmentation and factionalisation. Splinter parties on the left and right have emerged, with a growing divergence in the attitudes of the residual party membership and majority public opinion. In these circumstances, “broad church” arguments, such as those championed by Howard, have become difficult to sustain.

The plight of Turnbull since 2015 has illustrated this dilemma. To hew closely to party views — and especially to the vocal advocacy of ideological purists — risks extinguishing his public popularity. But to do what the public wanted has been to court internal revolt and possible loss of leadership.

In happier times: Malcolm Turnbull, in leather jacket, on the ABC’s Q&A in June 2013.
YouTube

Third, the ability of contemporary prime ministers to persuade has been eroded by disruptions to the mass media “broadcast” model of public communication that served their predecessors so well. That model conferred on prime ministers the ability to build relations with media proprietors and the press gallery, to use radio and television to speak directly to a broad audience, to lay out arguments, and to calculate the timing of releases.

It depended on opinion-leading broadsheets with a trickle-down influence on tabloids and radio and television news, and predictable news cycles. Leaders knew this game and structured their communication to achieve a match between their own skills and the options then available.

In the 21st century, however, the business models that sustained such practices were susceptible to changing perceptions of what would trigger audience “choice” – “infotainment” and celebrity undermining serious journalism. Above all, the new technology of dissemination, the internet, undermined the monopolies on which the model had depended.

The anarchic, real-time, “post-fact” logic of social media eroded the press gallery’s quasi-monopoly on meaning-making about politics for the public. New social media platforms became significant in opinion formation. In effect, a new form of “narrowcasting” eviscerated the “mass” media. The result is that media traffic has never been so intense, but public discourse has become fractured and fractious.

Kevin Rudd became Australia’s first 24/7 prime minister, ultimately to his detriment.
AAP/Lukas Coch

Has the prime minister’s role become impossible? With neither the parties nor the media serving as an effective means for explaining and justifying policy responses and promoting opinion aggregation, there is no question that the incumbency advantage in national debate enjoyed by prime ministers from the middle of last century has dissipated. Governing has become far more complicated, not just in Australia but globally.

The incumbents of the past decade have tried to cope with these challenges in different ways. For instance, in the area of public communication, Rudd became Australia’s first 24/7 leader, only for the media “logic” of his government to overwhelm its political and policy logic. The confections of Rudd’s obsessive media performing undermined his sense of authenticity.

Adjusting to the new realities of leading will demand further improvisation and adaption. At the same time, what we have learned from studying the history of the prime ministership gives grounds for optimism that there are ways out of the current fix.

Julia Gillard, like Tony Abbott, experimented with taming the media cycle by stepping back from it, but with little success.
AAP/ Alan Porritt

First, policy cycles come and go. If the limitations of the market-liberalising ideas of the 1980s and ’90s have become apparent to many people, provoking disillusion, we have been there before. The innovative Deakinite “Australian settlement” was in large part a reaction to the Australian experience of the 1890s depression: it took the first Commonwealth decade and more to achieve.

The calamitous Great Depression period occasioned frustration for prime ministers James Scullin, Joseph Lyons and Menzies (mark 1) before the catalyst of war and post-war reconstruction fostered the Keynesian breakthrough, led by John Curtin, Ben Chifley and Menzies (mark 2). This met the problems of that time but, inevitably, circumstances changed again and the assumptions of the 1940s no longer served in the 1970s and ’80s.

Treasury began to question those assumptions and to revisit classical economics as early as 1971. But it was not until 1983 that Hawke, Paul Keating and later Howard drove the reforms that have since been evocatively dubbed by George Megalogenis as “the Australian moment”. But those changes have produced their own problems. The lags and transitions as policy regimes wane and reinventions occur are never short term — they may take ten or 15 years — but history suggests that they are usually achieved.

Bob Hawke improbably matched overweening egotism with an inherent gift for orchestrating distributed leadership.
National Archives of Australia

Second, let us talk of leadership. At times of crisis or deep disillusion, there are often calls for strong leadership. Our study has shown, however, that the complex challenges of social change have been best addressed by prime ministers who have fostered talented ensembles, capable of applying diverse skills to the task of government. The standout instances have been Alfred Deakin (with a rare capacity for attracting disciples and crafting alliances), Curtin and Chifley (united in co-operative endeavour by robust common sense allied with personal humility), and Hawke (who improbably matched overweening egotism with an inherent gift for orchestrating distributed leadership).

In each case, they operated at the turning point of a political cycle. Deakin inaugurated “the Australian settlement”. Curtin and Chifley initiated what Stuart Macintyre has described as “Australia’s boldest experiment”. Hawke (with Keating) started the reform cycle that assured prosperity and resilience as globalisation unsettled Australian expectations.

The ConversationIt perhaps seems a vain hope to trust in the wisdom or capacity of the right individuals to emerge again, but in the past difficult circumstances have conspired to produce them.

Paul Strangio, Associate Professor of Politics, Monash University; James Walter, Professor of Political Science, Monash University, and Paul ‘t Hart, Professor of Public Administration, Utrecht School of Governance, Utrecht University

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

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Grattan on Friday: King Coal is wearing big boots in the Turnbull government



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Labor mentioned Scott Morrison’s ‘pet rock’ during Question Time on Tuesday.
Lukas Coch/AAP

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

It took quite a while, but the Turnbull government this week finally “landed” its package for the biggest shake-up of media rules in decades.

The Senate deal was done thanks to a sprinkling of sugar for crossbenchers. Handouts for Nick Xenophon to help regional and small publishers, so he could say he was promoting “diversity”. Promises to Pauline Hanson to put some burdens on the ABC, so One Nation could brag it was chasing “the elephant in the room”.

The concessions don’t mean as much as the crossbenchers will claim, while the rule changes potentially mean a great deal. It might have seemed a tortuous process, but from the government’s point of view it has been a significant win at little cost.

If only the nation’s long-term energy policy could be “landed” as readily.

With the media changes, the industry stakeholders were united, in contrast to the vastly more complicated area of energy, as it transitions from fossil fuels to renewables, via a mixed system.

In another major difference with media policy, the most difficult negotiations on energy, at least imminently, are not with crossbenchers but within the government’s own ranks.

Just as it did in the dying days of his leadership in 2009, the coal cloud hangs darkly over Malcolm Turnbull. And once again, the Nationals are big players in the debate – and so is Tony Abbott.

But Turnbull’s own positions then and now are poles apart. In 2009, he famously championed the move to renewables, via a carbon price, which triggered his downfall. This time, bowing to the power of coal, he has increasingly become its vociferous public advocate.

When the government released the Finkel report on energy security in June, Turnbull made it clear he saw its centrepiece, a clean energy target (CET), as a torch to light the path to the future.

Chief Scientist Alan Finkel’s CET, with its particular focus on reducing emissions, was never going to be implemented in a pure form. Coal was always set for a larger role than Finkel would want, as Turnbull quickly made clear.

The CET debate should be seen as choosing a place on a spectrum rather than accepting or rejecting a single point. But at the start, even Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce was (sort of) on board for a CET, provided it allowed coal in.

Progressively, however, the Finkel blueprint has been pushed further and further on to the defensive.

The sharpest setback for it came last week, with the release of the report from the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) warning of electricity shortages in coming years. The government had commissioned the report when it became panicky about so-called “dispatchable” power – power available whenever needed to meet demand – as the consequences of the closure of Hazelwood in Victoria sank in.

Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg said the AEMO report “reset the debate”. Joyce invoked John Maynard Keynes’ observation about changing his mind when he got new information – the report contained “new information”, Joyce said.

In fact the “resetting” had been creeping up well before the AEMO report. Abbott, especially, had been hard at work prosecuting the case against renewables.

Abbott – who was deposed two years ago this week – currently has two campaigns running: against the CET, and in opposition to same-sex marriage. He is highly energised and said to be enjoying himself.

On Thursday he was unequivocal. “We need to get right away from talking about renewable energy targets and clean energy targets and start talking about a 100% reliable energy target, ‘cause nothing else will do,” he said on 2GB.

“I welcome these signs that we are moving away from a clean energy target to a reliable energy target,” he said. Renewables always had to have a back-up “and if there’s got to be back-up you’ve got to ask the question, what useful purpose do they serve?

“Now there may well be some circumstances in which renewables in conjunction with back-up measures are economic, and if they’re economic and dependable, fair enough, but at the moment, they’re neither.”

The Nationals’ Matt Canavan, former resources minister who is on the backbench awaiting the citizenship case, has been a very loud voice for coal. The Nationals had the megaphone out at their weekend federal conference, calling for subsidies for renewables to be phased out.

As coal has muscled its way to the centre of the stage, we’ve seen the showdown between the government and AGL over the future of its Liddell coal-fired power station. This battle has a way to go.

At a trivial but symbolic level, there’s been the suggestion that whatever policy the government finally produces will avoid the sensitive “clean energy target” label. Maybe the focus groups are already at work on that one.

Despite the apparent mess, the government believes it can turn the energy debate to its political advantage. This is certainly the view among Nationals.

The strategy involves being seen to do a lot of things – Turnbull rehearses the check list of interventions on gas, power bills and the like – and demonising Labor’s attachment to renewables, with derision against “Blackout Bill”, “Brownout Butler” and “No Coal Joel [Fitzgibbon]”.

The government accuses Labor of selling out working-class people in favour of leftist, inner-city followers concerned about climate change. Turnbull is now emphasising the cost and reliability of power, with emissions reduction referred to sotto voce.

The Nationals are convinced their priority for coal will work well for them in the regions. They say it fits with the two issues that come at the top in their polling – jobs and cost of living.

When Abbott was fighting the Labor government, the carbon tax’s impact on the cost of living was an obvious plus for him. The question is whether power prices and cost of living can play for the Coalition when it is in office. The government and some observers suggest it will.

It does seem counterintuitive. Unless the voters are very gullible, you’d think they’d judge on results not rhetoric – that is, what their power bills are looking like when they get to the ballot box.

On the other hand, the government argues that if it can assert Labor’s policies would bring even higher bills, it can gain a tactical advantage.

Regardless of what the public are thinking, it’s clear that business – the constituency critical for future investment – remains deeply unimpressed with the politicking.

The ConversationUnless and until the government gets to grips with the substance of what needs to be done, the lack of a coherent energy policy will remain an indictment of the politicians and a burden on Australian families and enterprises.

https://www.podbean.com/media/player/fr3g9-72ed6d?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.

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


Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Essential 54-46 to Labor

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

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

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

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

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

Queensland Newspoll: 53-47 to Labor

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

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

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

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

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

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

The true cost of keeping the Liddell power plant open


Frank Jotzo, Australian National University and Zeba Anjum, Australian National University

For a long time, Australian governments have believed that the private sector should run the electricity sector. And successive governments have used market instruments to incentivise reducing emissions, by supporting renewables, discouraging coal use, or both.

Now things seem inside out: uncertainty about energy policy mechanisms is pervasive, and the federal government is attempting to broker a deal for the ageing Liddell coal plant to stay open past its planned decommissioning date. It’s possible the plan will require government payments – amounting to a carbon subsidy.


Read more: AGL rejects Turnbull call to keep operating Liddell coal-fired power station


Fear of supply shortages and an appetite for coal have combined with an inability to resolve the political side of energy and climate policy.

Power companies see coal as a technology of the past, but the government seems unready to accept that wind and solar technologies (already the cheapest option for new capacity in Australia) are the future of Australia’s power.


Read more: The day Australia was put on blackout alert


The latest suggestion amounts to deferring serious investment in renewables for a while, fixing up some of the old coal plants up so they can run a few more years, and buying time in the hope of keeping power prices down. Chief Scientist Alan Finkel has backed the idea, at least in principle.

The cost of delaying the inevitable

Commissioned in 1972, the Liddell power plant is the oldest of Australia’s large coal-fired stations (after the closure of the Hazelwood station). The New South Wales government sold it to AGL in 2014, at an effective price of zero dollars.

AGL announced some time ago that it will close the plant in 2022 and has considerable financial incentive to do so. This week AGL reiterated this. The latest suggestion is that Delta Electricity might buy and continue to operate Liddell.

What might be the benefits and costs of keeping Liddell running for, say, another decade? We do not know the plant-level technical and economic parameters, but let’s look at the principles and rough magnitudes.

Keeping the plant running longer will require refurbishments, defer the investment costs in renewables, and result in additional emissions, both in carbon dioxide and local air pollutants.

Refurbishment is costly. Finkel put refurbishment costs at A$500-600 million for a 10-year extension. Such refurbishment might achieve an increase in efficiency – as GE, a maker of power station equipment, recently argued – but perhaps not by much for a very old plant like Liddell.


Read more: Coal and the Coalition: the policy knot that still won’t untie


And refurbishment might not work so well, as the experience with the Muja plant in Western Australia shows: A$300 million was spent on refurbishment that ultimately failed. Spending big money on outdated equipment is not a particularly attractive option for energy companies, as AGL’s CEO recently pointed out.

Liddell’s power output during 2015-16 was around 8 terawatt hours – about 10% of present NSW power supply (it was more in 2016-17, and less in previous years). It might well be lower as the plant ages.

Ironically, the reduction in the Renewable Energy Target, from 41 to 33 terawatt hours per year, almost exactly matches Liddell’s present power output. With the original RET target, new renewables would have covered Liddell’s output by 2020.

Liddell emitted around 7.5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year in 2015-2016. With the assumed reduction in output and some improvement in CO₂ emissions intensity, the carbon dioxide output might be in the order of 5-6 million tonnes per year, or 50-60 million tonnes over ten years.

If the government were to pay for the refurbishment, as has been suggested, this would equate to subsidising CO₂ emissions at a rate of perhaps $10 per tonne, compared to the alternative of replacing Liddell with renewable power.


Read more: FactCheck Q&A: is coal still cheaper than renewables as an energy source?


At the same time, the government is paying for projects to reduce emissions, at average prices of around $12 per tonne of carbon dioxide, under the Emissions Reduction Fund. The contradiction is self-evident. Furthermore, keeping more coal plants operational deters commercial investment in any kind of new plants.

Of course this needs to be seen in the context of supply security, any subsidies that might be paid in future to renewable energy generators, and the possibility that a Clean Energy Target will determine overall emissions from electricity production irrespective of whether Liddell operates or not. It’s complicated. But the fundamental point is clear: paying for an old coal plant to operate for longer means spending money to lock things in, and delay the needed transition to clean power.

A possible compromise might be to mothball the Liddell plant, to use if supply shortages loom, for example, on hot summer days. But such a “reserve” model could mean very high costs per unit of electricity produced.

It is not clear that it would be cheaper than a combination of energy storage and flexible demand-side responses. And it may be unreliable, especially as the plant ages further. During the NSW heatwave last summer Liddell was not able to run full tilt because of technical problems.

A market model to pay for reserve capacity would surely do better than government direction.

Australia’s energy companies have been calling for a mechanism to support new clean investment, such as the Clean Energy Target. And many would no doubt be content to simply see a broad-based, long-term carbon price, which remains the best economic option. If the policy framework was stable, private companies would go ahead with required investment in new capacity.


Read more: Finkel’s Clean Energy Target plan ‘better than nothing’: economists poll


The ConversationMeanwhile, federal and state governments are intervening ad-hoc in the market – making a deal to keep an old plant open here, building and owning new equipment there. It is the worst of all worlds: a market-based system but with extensive and unpredictable intervention by governments that tend to undermine investor confidence.

Frank Jotzo, Director, Centre for Climate Economics and Policy, Australian National University and Zeba Anjum, PhD student, Australian National University

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

Tony Abbott: consider burqa ban in places ‘dedicated to Australian values’



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Tony Abbott said he was a reluctant banner but says the burqa is an affront to the Australian way of life.
Mick Tsikas/AAP

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

The issue of the burqa has erupted in the Coalition, with Tony Abbott suggesting a ban should be considered in places “dedicated to Australian values”, and the Nationals set to debate a prohibition on “full-facial coverings”.

Abbott said he was “a reluctant banner”, but “on the other hand, this thing frankly is an affront to our way of life”, a “confronting” and “imprisoning” garment.

“I think it is worth considering whether there are some places that are dedicated to Australian values such as our courts, our parliaments, our schools – maybe we do need to think about whether this garment is appropriate to be worn in places that are dedicated to upholding Australian values,” he told 2GB.

Abbott was commenting on a motion for a ban that Nationals MP George Christensen will move when the party’s federal conference meets this weekend.

The Christensen motion, supported by his Dawson federal divisional council, calls on the government “to implement a ban on full-facial coverings in all government buildings and public spaces, excluding places of worship, where it assists with security and public safety”.

Christensen said the qualification about security was to make exceptions for face coverings that for example were part of an entertainment.

The motion puts Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce on the spot.

“One of the great things about our party is that any person and any branch can bring forward any motion,” Joyce said.

“That doesn’t necessarily mean it becomes policy. That’s a matter for the federal conference, and I’ll be watching and listening to the debate like any other delegate.” Pressed on his own opinion he told reporters: “You can turn up the conference and find out exactly what I believe”.

In the Senate on Wednesday Pauline Hanson launched a vitriolic attack on Attorney-General George Brandis over his criticism of her stunt last month when she wore a burqa into the chamber. In his emotional speech that drew a standing ovation from Labor and the Greens, Brandis said it was appalling for her to mock the religious garments of Muslims and told her “we will not be banning the burqa”.

Brandis’ speech has since had a mixed reception in Coalition circles. On the day, there was limited and hesitant applause from his own ranks.

In her attack on Brandis, Hanson invoked the Anzacs when she accused him of defending “the most recognised symbol of radical Islam”.

“Whether or not you agree with my decision to wear a burqa in parliament is not the real issue,” she said. “The real issue is that Australians want a debate on full-face coverings and they want a debate on the issues that the burqa raises.

“It is, after all, a sign of radical Islam, which threatens the true Australian way of life. What would our Anzacs say? They fought for our freedom and way of life. There is room for only one flag, one language, one loyalty and one law.

“Recently, the lives of precious Australians have been lost in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria to stop radical Islam. But, senator Brandis, you forgot those lives when you defended the most recognised symbol of radical Islam, the burqa,” she said.

“You have a right to a view on my decision to wear the burqa into the Senate, but it is arrogant, incorrect and ill-informed when you presume to speak for most Australians,” Hanson said.

She said that all Brandis’ colleagues had “remained seated and stunned while you strutted the Senate stage with your quivering lip”.

Christensen said he thought Brandis had “over-egged” his reaction to Hanson. He said there had been criticism of Brandis’s speech among Coalition MPs, and the standing ovation had been “from people with values that are antipathetic to ours”.

He said the burqa was not a religious requirement but a “a cultural practice that is based in the oppression of women”.

Christensen said his motion talked “not about the burqa and the niqab specifically but full-facial coverings, so this would even apply to violent people that we have seen in the past violent protesters on the far left and the far right … who put the balaclavas over their nose and mouths to disguise themselves”.

The ConversationA ReachTEL poll taken after Hanson’s stunt found majority support for banning the burqa.

https://www.podbean.com/media/player/qi46m-71c69c?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.

Coal and the Coalition: the policy knot that still won’t untie


Marc Hudson, University of Manchester

As the Turnbull government ties itself in yet more knots over the future of coal-fired power, it’s worth reflecting that climate and energy policy have been a bloody business for almost a decade now.

There was a brief period of consensus ushered in by John Howard’s belated realisation in 2006 that a price had to be put on carbon dioxide emissions. But by December 2009 the Nationals, and enough Liberals, had decided that this was a mistake, and have opposed explicit carbon pricing ever since.


Read more: Ten years of backflips over emissions trading leave climate policy in the lurch.


The resulting policy uncertainty has caused an investment drought which has contributed to higher energy prices. Now, with prices a hot potato, there are thought bubbles about extending the life of coal-fired power stations and a new effort to set up a Conservatives for Conservation group.

But the Liberal Party’s tussles over climate and energy policy (as distinct from denying the science itself) go back even further – some 30 years.

Early days and ‘early’ action

It’s hard to believe it now, but the Liberal Party took a stronger emissions target than Labor to the 1990 Federal election. Yet green-minded voters were not persuaded, and Labor squeaked home with their support. After that episode the Liberals largely gave on courting green voters, and under new leader John Hewson the party tacked right. Ironically, considering Hewson’s climate advocacy today, back then his Fightback! policy was as silent on climate change as it was on the price of birthday cakes.

In his excellent 2007 book High and Dry, former Liberal speech writer Guy Pearse recounts how in the mid-1990s he contacted the Australian Conservation Foundation, offering to to canvass Coalition MPs to “find the most promising areas of common ground” on which to work when the party returned to government. The ACF was “enthusiastic, if a little bemused at the novelty of a Liberal wanting to work with them”. Most Liberal MPs – including future environment minister Robert Hill and future prime minister Tony Abbott – were “strongly supportive” of the idea. But others (Pearse names Eric Abetz and Peter McGauran) were “paranoid that some kind of trap was being laid”. Nothing came of it.

Elected in 1996, Howard continued the staunch hostility to the United Nations climate negotiations that his Labor predecessor Paul Keating had begun. Not all businessmen were happy. Leading up to the crucial Kyoto summit in 1997, the Sydney Morning Herald reported how a “delegation of scientists and financiers” led by Howard’s local party branch manager Robert Vincin and Liberal Party grandee Sir John Carrick lobbied the prime minister to take a more progressive approach. Howard did not bend.

Howard stayed unmoved until 2006 when, facing a perfect storm of rising public climate awareness and spiralling poll numbers, he finally relented. Earlier that year a group of businesses convened by the Australian Conservation Foundation produced a report titled The Early Case for Business Action. “Early” is debatable, given that climate change had already been a political issue since 1988, but more saliently the report tentatively suggested introducing a carbon price. And Howard finally relented.

The carbon wars

The ensuing ten years after Kevin Rudd’s defeat of Howard don’t need much recapping here (go here for all the details). But one interesting phenomenon that has emerged from the policy wreckage is the emergence of some very unusual coalitions to beg for certainty.

In 2015, in the leadup to the crucial Paris climate talks, an “unprecedented alliance” of business, union, environmental, investor and welfare groups called the Australian Climate Roundtable sprang briefly into life to make the case for action.

Then, after the seminal South Australia blackout last September, a surprisingly diverse group of industry and consumer bodies – the Australian Energy Council, Australian Industry Group, Business Council of Australia, Clean Energy Council, Energy Users Association, Energy Consumers Australia, Energy Networks Association and Energy Efficiency Council – called on federal and state energy ministers to “work together to craft a cooperative and strategic response to the transformation underway in Australia’s energy system”.


Read more: Who tilts at windmills? Explaining hostility to renewables.


It’s in this light that the new Conseratives for Conservation lobbying effort should be seen. Its spearhead Kristina Photios surely knows she has no chance of converting the committed denialists, but she can chip away at the waverers currently giving them comfort and power.

Questions on notice

Of course, there are always cultural (or even psychological) issues, but you’d think that conservation would be a no-brainer for conservatives (the clue should be in the name).

There are a few questions, of course (with my answers in brackets).

  • Where were all the people who are now calling for policy certainty back in 2011 when Tony Abbott was declaring his oath to kill off the carbon tax? (They were AWOL.)

  • Will any business show any interest in building a new coal-fired power station? (No.)

  • Is renewable energy technology now advanced enough for them to make serious money? (We shall see.)

  • Can we make up for lost time in our emissions reductions? (No, and we have already ensured more climate misery than there would have been with genuinely early climate action.)

  • Will the Liberals further water down the Clean Energy Target proposal? (Probably.)

  • What will Tony Abbott say to UK climate sceptic think tank the Global Warming Policy Foundation when he gives a speech on October 6? (Who knows –
    grab your popcorn!).

  • What will happen to the Liberals in the medium term? (Who knows, but Michelle Grattan of this parish has some intriguing ideas.)

  • Are there reasons to be cheerful? (Renewable energy journalist Ketan Joshi thinks so.)

Perhaps the last word on this issue should go to John Hewson, who noted last year:

The ConversationThe “right” love to speak of the debt and deficit problem as a form of “intergenerational theft”, yet they fail to see the climate challenge in the same terms, even though the consequences of failing to address it substantively, and as a matter of urgency, would dwarf that of the debt problem. The “right” is simply “wrong”. It’s political opportunism of the worst sort, and their children and grandchildren will pay the price.

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

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

Newspoll 53-47 to Labor, but Turnbull’s better PM lead blows out


Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

This week’s Newspoll, conducted 31 August to 3 September from a sample of 1610, gave Labor a 53-47 lead, a one point gain for the Coalition since last fortnight. Primary votes were 38% Labor (steady), 37% Coalition (up 2), 9% Greens (steady) and 8% One Nation (down 1). This is the Coalition’s 19th successive Newspoll loss under Turnbull.

There was little change in the leaders’ ratings. 34% approved of Turnbull’s performance (down 1) and 54% disapproved (down 1), for a net approval of -20. Shorten’s net approval was also steady at -20.

On the better PM measure, there was a solid shift in Turnbull’s favour, from a 43-33 lead last fortnight to 46-29 this week. While the Coalition has trailed consistently on voting intentions in Newspoll, Turnbull has led Shorten comfortably as better PM in all these polls.

The better PM measure virtually always skews towards incumbents relative to voting intentions, but Turnbull’s leads have been stronger than expected given voting intentions, and indicate that the public prefer Turnbull to run the country, even as voting intentions favour Labor. An argument can be made that Shorten is holding back Labor, but also that the Coalition is a drag on Turnbull.

According to Kevin Bonham, there have been seven previous cases of a greater better PM lead for the incumbent when the government was behind 53-47 or worse; all occurred with John Howard as PM and Kim Beazley as Opposition Leader from 2005-06.

In the last fortnight, there has been much debate about cultural issues, such as changing the date of Australia Day and amending statues from our colonial past. Turnbull has argued against such changes, and this appears to have boosted his better PM rating.

In this week’s Essential, voters opposed changing Australia Day by 54-26. In Newspoll, voters opposed making changes to the statues by a 58-32 margin, though in Essential opposition was milder at 42-29, perhaps because voters were asked about changing “inscriptions” on public statues, not the statues themselves.

In Newspoll, 45% thought Labor’s 50% renewable energy target would increase electricity prices, 22% decrease and 24% thought there would be no effect, so this is 46-45 for no effect or a decrease. 49% are not willing to pay anything for renewable energy (up 4 since February), 25% will pay $100 a year (down 1) and 13% $300 or more (down 4).

Essential 53-47 to Labor

This week’s Essential, conducted over the last two weeks from a sample of 1780, gave Labor an unchanged 53-47 lead. Primary votes were 37% Labor, 36% Coalition, 10% Greens, 8% One Nation and 2% Nick Xenophon Team. Last week, the Coalition was ahead 37-36 on primary votes, so rounding explains the lack of a headline move to Labor. Additional questions are based on one week’s sample.

Among those who say they will definitely vote in the same sex marriage plebiscite (62% of the sample), 69% will vote Yes and 28% will vote No (67-30 last fortnight). The overall sample supported Yes 59-31 (57-32 last fortnight).

49% blamed private power companies most for rising energy prices, 22% blamed the Turnbull government, 9% environmentalists and 5% renewable energy companies.

In last week’s Essential, voters were asked to rank the last four governments – the Rudd and Gillard Labor governments, and the Abbott and Turnbull Coalition governments. On first preferences, Rudd had 32%, Turnbull 26%, Gillard 22% and Abbott 20%. Labor and Greens voters preferred Rudd to Gillard, while Coalition voters preferred Turnbull to Abbott. Other voters, which included many One Nation supporters, had Abbott at 34% and Rudd at 30%. The Abbott government was the most disliked, with 37% ranking it last.

By 51-40, voters thought the tax system was not fair (55-36 in April 2016). Majorities were bothered a lot by some corporations and wealthy people not paying their fair share of tax.

By 41-40, voters thought dual citizens should be allowed to be MPs. By 41-40, they thought ministers who may hold dual citizenship should stand down while their cases are being decided by the High Court. By 59-25, voters supported a review into all MPs to ascertain who may be a dual citizen. In an additional Newspoll question last fortnight, voters thought politicians entitled to a dual citizenship should be disqualified by 44-43.

By 39-38, voters approved of Pauline Hanson’s burka stunt in Parliament. Kevin Bonham has said that Essential’s online panel appears to have attitudes that are closer to One Nation than a truly representative sample would produce. In effect, Essential may be biased towards non-politically correct responses. This bias may also apply to YouGov.

YouGov 50-50

This week’s Australian YouGov poll, conducted 31 August to 4 September from a sample of 1030, had a 50-50 tie, a one point gain for Labor since last fortnight. Primary votes were 34% Coalition (steady), 32% Labor (down 1), 12% Greens (up 2) 9% One Nation (down 1), 4% Nick Xenophon Team (down 1) and 3% Christian parties (down 1).

The major party primary votes are much lower than in other polls. Votes for Christian parties would probably be Coalition votes in other polls, and this explains why YouGov is skewed towards the Coalition.

Pauline Hanson had a 50-42 unfavourable rating (52-39 in late July). Nick Xenophon had a 52-28 favourable rating (50-25 in July). 66% were worried about North Korea, and views were split 43-43 on military action. Voters would oppose a ban on the hijab 61-29, but support a burka ban 67-24 and niqab ban 64-26.

By 62-24, voters thought Tony Abbott should be reprimanded after he admitted he had missed a vote in 2009 when he got drunk the night before.

State representation changes in the lower house

The ConversationI wrote on 30 June, following the release of 2016 Census data, that Victoria and the ACT will each gain a House seat, while SA will lose a seat, so there will be one additional House seat after the next election. On 31 August, the Electoral Commission confirmed this outcome, and will begin redistributions in the affected states. Labor will benefit from the new ACT seat.

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

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

Grattan on Friday: If defeat comes, what then for the Liberals’ succession?


File 20170831 22597 t7w0r2
The conservatives’ strategy is to reap what victories they can while Malcolm Turnbull leads.
Dean Lewins/AAP

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

If the Turnbull government’s present agonies become death throes and the election is lost, coping with opposition will test to its very core a Liberal Party that in power has been fractured and self-indulgent.

For a start, would the conservatives, who at the moment have an ideological mortgage over the party despite moderates holding some key cabinet posts, be able to foreclose and, if so, with what consequences?

It’s almost two years since a widely hailed moderate prime minister overthrew a conservative one. Yet in many areas Malcolm Turnbull has not been able to assert his authority over the party. Instead, he has been forced to, or chosen to, accommodate the right’s demands and embrace senior conservatives as his closest ministerial confidants.

The conservatives’ very effective strategy – from their own point of view if not electorally – is to reap what victories they can while Turnbull leads. But their real moment could be in prospect if he loses (assuming he takes the party into the election).

It would depend on who emerged as leader – which in turn would be affected by the size of the defeat and the composition of the post-election party. But conservatives, already shaping the internal debates, would seem well placed in the field of successors.

Peter Dutton, their hardman, has gone from the minister Turnbull didn’t want on cabinet’s national security committee to the prime minister’s adviser and protector, recently rewarded with the creation of the proposed home affairs portfolio.

Dutton can afford to be a mainstay of Turnbull’s praetorian guard. His best chance of leadership lies in Turnbull losing and his pitching as the tough Tony Abbott-style headkicker the Liberals might think they need in opposition.

Meanwhile, the immigration minister burnishes his right-wing credentials by relentlessly milking the border protection issue, assiduously feeding friendly Murdoch tabloids, and maintaining a warm dialogue with 2GB shockjocks.

If not Dutton – who could conceivably lose his marginal Queensland seat – the Liberals would be looking at Scott Morrison, Abbott, Christian Porter (also vulnerable in his Western Australian seat), Josh Frydenberg and Julie Bishop.

Morrison is an ideological chameleon, so it would be hard to predict where the Liberals would head off to under him. While his stocks have receded, in opposition he might be viewed as a compromise.

Abbott would surely be seen as yesterday’s dog.

Porter, a former WA treasurer and attorney-general, arrived with much promise but so far has lacked the popular touch.

Frydenberg probably wouldn’t be regarded as ready.

Bishop doesn’t appear up to – or up for – years of opposition slog, and would likely quit parliament.

Of this list, only Bishop is (sort of) a moderate; Frydenberg is (sort of) centrist.

The lack of moderates in the succession list is notable, given Christopher Pyne’s ill-judged boast to that faction that it was in the “winners’ circle”. It’s not, if we are talking about future leaders. Nor is it articulating, in the sense of a broad manifesto, what the party stands for, according to moderate lights.

This failure to proselytise – something they did diligently at times in the past – is one source of the moderates’ current weakness.

For the most part, Turnbull has failed to chart a philosophical path ahead for the Liberals. Buffeted by political circumstances, bad opinion polls and determined internal critics, he has lacked the opportunity or will to do so. Or perhaps, as a primarily transactional politician, he doesn’t have the intellectual bent for that sort of task.

Turnbull’s much-talked-about July speech in London, in which he said the Liberal Party belonged in the “sensible centre” – a phrase he’d taken from Abbott, though each would identify the centre’s content differently – generated intra-party controversy without inspiring the followers.

In contrast, Abbott has the time, inclination and intellectual heft to set out directions, with numerous articles, speeches and radio interviews.

While Abbott has only a small band of loyalists in personal terms – because he’s seen as electorally unpopular and as someone undermining the government’s chance of surviving – he espouses positions supported by many other conservatives within the party and their commentariat sympathisers.

The response to Pauline Hanson’s burqa stunt in the Senate highlighted the divisions among Liberals over some basic values. Attorney-General George Brandis tore strips off Hanson in a spontaneous and emotional speech, drawing a standing ovation from Labor and Greens. Education Minister Simon Birmingham – one consistently gutsy moderate voice – tweeted support. But positive reaction from the government benches in the Senate was more muted.

Brandis has subsequently come under attack from some conservatives for his speech. Peta Credlin, Abbott’s former chief-of-staff and a significant extra-parliamentary player in the “Liberal wars”, who advocates banning the burqa, wrote: “Rather than condemn Hanson to win the applause of Labor and the Greens, George Brandis should have shown leadership on an issue where women are denied their rightful place in our community.”

A Sky ReachTEL poll taken after Hanson’s action found 56% support for a burqa ban.

Brandis lost out in Dutton’s win on the planned home affairs department, but managed to retain responsibility for approving warrants for ASIO activities.

In the battle for the party’s soul Brandis may think he has little to lose by taking a stand. He’s under pressure to quit the parliament at the end of the year to open the way for Turnbull to reshuffle; it’s not clear whether Brandis would or could seek to stay a while beyond that.

Given the conservatives’ present power in the Liberal firmament, it is worth revisiting Brandis’ 2009 Alfred Deakin lecture, in which he argued that the party’s much-heralded “two traditions” – conservative and liberal – theory “was a specific contribution of John Howard’s”, rather than a historical feature.

“This awkward blending of two different systems of values was very much a reflection of John Howard’s own personal values, shared by no other significant Liberal leader. Alfred Deakin, Robert Menzies, Harold Holt, John Gorton, Malcolm Fraser were all happy to describe themselves simply as liberals. Howard was the first who did not see himself, and was uncomfortable to be seen, purely in the liberal tradition,” Brandis said.

In that lecture Brandis also pointed to the contest, when a party goes into opposition, between those who want to be brutally honest about past failings and those seeking to defend the legacy.

Unless a lot changes fairly quickly – and admittedly the election isn’t due until 2019 – extolling a rather scattered Turnbull legacy might be a challenge.

In government, the Liberals’ own goals have given Labor many breaks. In opposition, the challenges in getting their act together would be considerable.

The broad right is already splintered, with Cory Bernardi’s Australian Conservatives, Pauline Hanson’s One Nation and, toward the centre, the Nick Xenophon Team all competing with the Liberals and Nationals.

If worse came to worst, the right could fragment further in opposition. There was muffled talk previously of those from the Queensland Liberal National Party wanting to sit as a separate group, although this isn’t considered practical.

If their vote held up better than that of the Liberals, the Nationals would likely be angry with their partners after a rout. They are already blaming Liberal ineptitude for the Coalition’s woes – although the crisis over Nationals MPs’ citizenship saw the exasperation suddenly flow the other way. A blame game would make harder the adjustment to the loss of power.

While unrelenting negativity can be an effective path for an opposition, as Abbott showed spectacularly, there is no guarantee it is enough. Bill Shorten has picked up a good deal from the Abbott playbook, but Labor under him also has a quite strong, and in parts daring, policy agenda.

The Liberals could not simply rely on a Shorten government being a shambles. They would need to develop over time a positive program – and one that connected with ordinary people, rather than being in an indulgent la-la land of the hard right.

Much would depend on leadership in a party that turns on the axis of the person at the top. That takes us back to the apparent problems of succession.

The ConversationOf course, there might be nothing for the Liberals to worry about. Turnbull – with his device of covering uncertainty with the definitive declaration – assures us the government “will win the next election”. Many of his colleagues just wish they believed him.

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

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


Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Essential 53-47 to Labor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

YouGov 51-49 to Coalition

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

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

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

Upcoming High Court decisions

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

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

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

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

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

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

Coalition position worsens in Newspoll to trail 46-54%


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

https://www.podbean.com/media/player/8ppnw-6fcd65?from=site&skin=1&share=1&fonts=Helvetica&auto=0&download=0

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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