HomeBuilder only makes sense as a nod to Morrison’s home-owning voter base


Lisa Adkins, University of Sydney; Gareth Bryant, University of Sydney, and Martijn Konings, University of Sydney

HomeBuilder grants of A$25,000 are being offered to build or renovate a home as part of the Australian government’s emergency economic response to the coronavirus pandemic. Critics note that the program, framed as stimulus for residential construction, benefits already well-off households. It ignores the realities of the housing market, especially the affordability crisis, with housing stress affecting precarious renters, the homeless and those struggling with bloated mortgage payments.

Homebuilder appears to be a bewildering policy. It’s likely to support construction work that would have occurred anyway while failing to meet real housing needs.

However, to criticise HomeBuilder simply as bad policy made on the run is to miss a broader picture. HomeBuilder begins to make a lot more sense when understood as a response to the role of housing assets in shaping both economic inequality and electoral politics.




Read more:
Scott Morrison’s HomeBuilder scheme is classic retail politics but lousy economics


The rise of the ‘asset economy’

We describe this dynamic as the “asset economy”: our socio-economic positions are defined less and less by employment income and more and more by our holdings of wealth-generating assets, especially housing.

The government has touted HomeBuilder as boosting construction jobs through a “tradie-led” recovery. House-price inflation has made the economy particularly dependent on construction jobs. Construction is the third-biggest employer in Australia and the only industry outside the services sector to have had significant job growth in recent years.

However, the government could have boosted construction jobs at least as much, if not more, by investing in social housing or energy-efficient housing. Why then did it choose to make the already well-off even better off by paying owners to add value to their homes?




Read more:
Why the focus of stimulus plans has to be construction that puts social housing first


A long history of looking after home owners

It’s no coincidence that, beyond the initial emergency responses to support household and business incomes, the first substantive stimulus the Coalition government announced went to residential property owners.

The rise of the asset economy has occurred in parallel with a shift in voting patterns. The 2019 Australian Election Study observed a move “away from occupation-based voting and towards asset-based voting”. Voters who own housing – owner-occupiers and investors – strongly favour the Liberal and National parties.

Our research on the asset economy reveals the long-term drivers of Australia’s asset-based politics. HomeBuilder is the latest in a long line of Australian government policies over the past four decades to encourage, prop up and reward residential property ownership. These policies have included selling off public housing, tax incentives (especially negative gearing and capital gains tax exemption for the family home) and promoting home ownership as an alternative to welfare programs such as public pensions.




Read more:
Fall in ageing Australians’ home-ownership rates looms as seismic shock for housing policy


These policies have not simply encouraged home ownership – they have transformed it. Nowadays the home is a financial asset, an investment financed by growing debt that is supposed to generate capital gains.

Property price increases, driven by the liberalisation of credit and low interest rates, came to be seen as a key route to economic security for households in an economy with stagnant wages and precarious employment. Credit-driven home ownership expanded and property prices grew. Many property-owning households saw major gains in their wealth portfolios.




Read more:
HomeBuilder might be the most-complex least-equitable construction jobs program ever devised


Housing is now a driver of inequality

Credit-driven home purchases pushed prices to heights where it became increasingly difficult for people to enter the market. In Australia as well as in other Anglo-capitalist countries ― including the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada ― rates of home ownership show the same pattern from 1980 to 2020: increases followed by decreases.

In large cities such as Sydney and Melbourne price inflation over time has made it virtually impossible to buy a house on the basis of an average wage alone. As a result, private rental markets have expanded, rents have soared and new modes of occupancy have emerged, including multigenerational and shared living. These renters are not simply locked out of home ownership but also out of the wealth it generates.

Graph showing changes in rates of home ownership and rental by households from 1994-95 to 2017-18

Source: AIHW. Data: ABS 2019, CC BY

These trends have opened up a rift between those with and without housing assets. This entails not just major differences in levels and patterns of wealth accumulation, but also in life chances. The asset economy has fundamentally reworked the social structure, or what sociologists study as patterns of “class” or “stratification”.

This means even when people have similar jobs or earn the same wages, deep inequalities can exist between those who own assets and those who do not.

These trends are particularly notable among younger generations, giving rise to stark new forms of inequality. Those who are set to inherit housing assets or whose access to parental wealth offers a route into home ownership have a distinct advantage. They can benefit from property-based asset inflation and capital gains.




Read more:
The housing boom propelled inequality, but a coronavirus housing bust will skyrocket it


Shoring up the base in a crisis

HomeBuilder is a product of the electoral politics that emerged out of this asset economy. Asset owners vote with their feet and resist any changes that would jeopardise the long-lived advantages that asset ownership gives them. The result of the 2019 federal election, when Labor’s policy was to reduce the benefits available from negative gearing and the capital gains tax discount, showed this.

The government knows as long as it keeps in place the advantages that flow to home owners, residential property investors and the “bank of mum and dad”, they form a powerful core of the Coalition’s electoral base. It’s offering a stimulus measure directed specifically at this constituency, adding yet more value to their assets at a time of economic uncertainty. HomeBuilder is an asset owner’s policy aimed at appeasing and shoring up the Liberal-National party’s electoral base.

As home ownership rates decline and asset-based inequalities increase, just how long such tactics can produce electoral success remains a critical question.The Conversation

Lisa Adkins, Professor of Sociology and Head of School of Social and Political Sciences, University of Sydney; Gareth Bryant, Senior Lecturer in Political Economy, University of Sydney, and Martijn Konings, Professor of Political Economy and Social Theory, University of Sydney

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

Coalition’s lead increases in Newspoll; Biden maintains clear lead over Trump




Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

This week’s Newspoll, conducted July 15-18 from a sample of 1,850, gave the Coalition a 53-47 lead, a two-point gain for the Coalition since the previous Newspoll, three weeks ago. This is the Coalition’s largest lead since the first Newspoll of the current parliamentary term in July 2019.

Primary votes were 44% Coalition (up two), 34% Labor (down one), 10% Greens (down one) and 4% One Nation (up one). Figures from The Poll Bludger.

Scott Morrison’s ratings were steady at 68% satisfied, 27% dissatisfied (net +41). He maintains the highest net approval for a prime minister since Kevin Rudd in October 2009. Anthony Albanese’s net approval dropped one point to +1. Morrison led Albanese as better PM by 59-26 (58-26 three weeks ago).

In the past weeks, there has been a major surge in Victorian coronavirus cases, reaching a peak so far of 428 new cases on Friday. Newspoll last polled the premiers’ ratings three weeks ago, when Victoria’s new coronavirus crisis was beginning. That poll had Victorian Labor Premier Daniel Andrews dropping 18 points on net approval to +40.




Read more:
Labor set to win Eden-Monaro; Andrews’s ratings fall in Victoria


In an Essential poll last week, state breakdowns had the Victorian government’s response to coronavirus slumping to a net +23 from +52 in late June. As the coronavirus situation in Victoria has worsened, voters appear to be blaming the state government far more than the federal government.

I have previously written that, with Morrison’s net approval at about +40 since late April, the Coalition should have been far further ahead than the 51-49 leads they previously held. The “national cabinet”, which involved Labor premiers, held the Coalition back.

But with Andrews being blamed for Victoria’s coronavirus crisis, the Coalition has increased its lead. As long as the virus does not become more widespread across Australia, the federal Coalition is likely to perform well in the polls.

Eden-Monaro byelection final result

Labor’s Kristy McBain won the July 4 Eden-Monaro byelection by a 50.4-49.6 margin over the Liberals’ Fiona Kotvojs; this was a swing of 0.4% to the Liberals since the 2019 election. Primary votes were 38.3% Liberal (up 1.3%), 35.9% Labor (down 3.3%), 6.4% Nationals (down 0.6%), 5.7% Greens (down 3.1%), 5.3% Shooters, Fishers and Farmers, and 2.3% Help End Marijuana Prohibition.

Biden maintains clear lead over Trump

This section is an updated version of an article I had published at The Poll Bludger on Thursday.

In the FiveThirtyEight poll aggregate, Donald Trump’s ratings with all polls are 40.5% approve, 55.5% disapprove (net -15.0%). With polls of registered or likely voters, Trump’s ratings are 41.1% approve, 55.4% disapprove (net -14.3%). Since my article three weeks ago, Trump has lost about one point on net approval. While Trump’s approval has continued to drop, his disapproval has fallen a point from a peak ten days ago.

The latest FiveThirtyEight national poll aggregate gives Joe Biden a 50.4% to 41.6% lead over Trump. Most polls at this stage give voting intentions based on registered voters, but Republican-supporting demographics have historically been more likely to vote, hence FiveThirtyEight adjusts registered voter polls a little in Trump’s favour. Three weeks ago, Biden’s lead was 9.6%.

Where there have been few recent polls of a state, FiveThirtyEight adjusts that state’s polls for the national trend. In the key states that are likely to decide the Electoral College, Biden remains well ahead. He leads by 9.0% in Michigan, 7.7% in Pennsylvania, 7.5% in Wisconsin and 6.8% in Florida.

If Biden wins all the states carried by Hillary Clinton in 2016 (232 Electoral Votes), he needs another 38 EVs to reach the 270 needed to win. If Biden wins Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin (46 total EVs), he wins the election with at least 278 EVs.

The issue for Biden is that the tipping-point state in the Electoral College is still about 1.5% better for Trump than the national polls. In 2016, the tipping-point state was 2.9% better for Trump than the national popular vote. If Trump were able to hold Biden’s national vote margin to under five points, and make bigger gains in the Midwestern swing states, he could still win the Electoral College.

Trump’s general behaviour offends well-educated voters, and they were always likely to vote for an alternative. To compensate, Trump needed the support of voters without high educational attainment. Had the coronavirus faded well before the November 3 election, and an economic rebound was on track, such an outcome would have been plausible.

However, the last few weeks have seen records set in numbers of daily cases, then exceeded a short time later. On four days since July 10, over 70,000 new US coronavirus cases were recorded.

Despite the surge in cases, daily coronavirus deaths had generally been decreasing until about two weeks ago. But it takes time for patients to go from showing symptoms to death, and it also takes time for states to process the paperwork. US daily coronavirus deaths are rising again, with just over 1,000 recorded last Wednesday. It is likely they will increase further.

With coronavirus such a huge crisis, the candidate seen as best able to handle it is likely to win, and at the moment, that’s Biden. In a terrible Quinnipiac poll for Trump, in which he trailed Biden by 15 and had a -24 net approval, Biden led on the coronavirus by 59-35, and Trump’s net approval of handling of coronavirus was -27. By 67-30, voters said they did not trust information about the coronavirus provided by Trump, while by 65-26 they trusted information provided by Dr Anthony Fauci. Picking a fight with Fauci appears to be dumb.

As I wrote recently, the June US jobs report was good, but there’s still a long way to go to reach employment levels that would normally be considered poor. The coronavirus surge is likely to derail any economic recovery.

In the battle for the Senate, the RealClearPolitics Senate map currently shows 47 seats where Republicans are ahead, 46 with Democrats leading and 7 toss-ups.

Polish and Croatian elections

Owing to lack of elections, last Wednesday’s article about the recent Polish and Croatian elections is the first I’ve published on my personal website since February. In the Polish presidential election, the candidate aligned with the economically left but socially conservative Law and Justice party won narrowly. In Croatia, the conservatives won easily in a disappointing result for the left.The Conversation

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

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

View from The Hill: Morrison government accepts Victorian closure but won’t budge on High Court border challenges


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Scott Morrison has repeatedly and vociferously championed keeping state borders open.

But on Monday, Morrison was forced to change course, agreeing, in a hook up with premiers Daniel Andrews and Gladys Berejiklian that the Victorian-NSW border should be closed.

In a somewhat Jesuitical distinction, Morrison said they had agreed “now is the time for Victoria to isolate itself from the rest of the country. What’s different here [is] this isn’t other states closing their borders to Victoria”.

Deputy Chief Medical Officer Michael Kidd said later “the Commonwealth accepts the need for this action in response to containing spread of the virus”.

But, Kidd said, the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee – the federal-state health advisory body so often invoked by Morrison – “was not involved in that decision”.

“The AHPCC does not provide advice on border closures,” Kidd added.

Borders have always been a strictly state matter.




Read more:
Here’s how the Victoria-NSW border closure will work – and how residents might be affected


Even during the high stage of the pandemic, NSW and Victoria kept their border open, unlike Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania.

Monday’s decision to close the border from Tuesday night underlines that we are staring at a dangerous new phase in the evolution of the COVID crisis.

The latest Victorian tally of 127 new cases was a record for the state. Kidd said: “The situation in Melbourne has come as a jolt, not just for the people of Melbourne but people right across Australia who may have thought that this was all behind us. It is not.

“The outbreak in Victoria is a national issue. We are all at risk from a resurgence of COVID-19.”

If the Victorian situation can’t be brought under control quickly – and conditions in Melbourne are complicated, even chaotic – the country could face a new bleak outlook on the health front, with a substantial risk of the virus ticking up elsewhere, regardless of other states keeping out Victorians, and an even deeper than anticipated recession.

Borders have been a source of division among governments from early on.

In particular Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk – now reopening her state’s borders from this Friday though excluding Victorians – found herself under attack from the federal government and also from NSW.




Read more:
Victoria is undeniably in a second wave of COVID-19. It’s time to plan for another statewide lockdown


As well, both Queensland and WA face challenges from Clive Palmer in the High Court over the constitutionality of their border closures. There’s also another case being brought by Queensland tourism operators.

The High Court has sent the three cases to the federal court to look at certain aspects. The WA matter will be before that court on July 13 and 14.

The constitution provides for free trade and intercourse between the states. The key issue is “proportionality” – whether keeping a border closed is reasonable on health grounds at a particular point of time.

The Morrison government, consistent with the Prime Minister’s argument from the get go, is intervening in the cases to argue the borders should have been opened.

WA premier Mark McGowan on Monday was quick to use the Victorian development to call on Morrison to pull out, saying that in light of the Victoria-NSW closure “I’ve asked the Prime Minister to formally withdraw [federal government] support from Clive Palmer’s High Court challenge.

“It does not make sense for the federal government to be supporting a border closure between NSW and Victoria but on the other hand challenging Western Australia’s border in the High Court.

“Quite frankly, the legal challenge, and especially the Commonwealth involvement in it, has now become completely ridiculous.”

But the federal government is refusing to take a step back.




Read more:
Nine Melbourne tower blocks put into ‘hard lockdown’ – what does it mean, and will it work?


Attorney-General Christian Porter noted the challenges were not being brought by the Commonwealth, and said it was the right of any citizen to take legal action if they believed “their basic rights of freedom of interstate movement are being disproportionately taken from them”.

“The Commonwealth has intervened to put evidence and views on the situation … the Court would normally expect the Commonwealth to be involved, given the importance of the issues raised.”

Porter said the Commonwealth’s intervention was to provide its view on whether, constitutionally, border closures were permitted in certain circumstances and not others.

“Clearly the courts will be required to consider whether, in determining these specific cases, border restrictions were proportionate to the health crisis at specific points in time as Australia dealt with the immediate and longer-term impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The Court would expect to hear from the Commonwealth on those types of significant constitutional questions.”

Whatever the legal logic, to be endorsing the Victorian closure but arguing against other states’ abundant caution may be a complicated proposition to defend in the court of public opinion.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.

Labor likely to win Eden-Monaro; Andrews’s ratings fall in Victoria



Labor’s Kristy McBain Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese.
AAP/Lukas Coch

Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

At Saturday’s Eden-Monaro byelection, Labor’s Kristy McBain currently leads the Liberals’ Fiona Kotvojs by a 50.7-49.3 projected margin in The Poll Bludger’s Eden-Monaro election page. This page has all the numbers, including booth by booth results. The projected margin is an estimate of the margin once all votes are counted, not the current margin. McBain is given a 74% win probability.

Primary vote projections are currently 38.5% Liberal, 35.3% Labor, 6% National, 6% Greens and 14.2% for all Others. Had preference flows at the byelection been similar to the 2019 federal election, the Liberals would have won. But Labor currently has 50% of all preferences, a 10% swing on preference flows to Labor.

While the Greens lost vote share, much of it went to Help End Marijuana Prohibition (HEMP), which won 2.5%. Labor also benefited from the “donkey vote” coming from the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers. The Shooters were first on the ballot paper, with Labor ahead of the Liberals.

If Labor holds on in Eden-Monaro, it will be a huge relief for Anthony Albanese. Analyst Peter Brent wrote in Inside Story that, while no government has gained an opposition-held seat at a byelection in almost a century, the lack of a personal vote for the sitting MP in opposition-held seats means they are far more likely to swing to the government at a byelection than in a government-held seat.

In 2013, the Abbott government achieved a 1.2% two party swing in former PM Kevin Rudd’s seat of Griffith at a byelection. Had that swing occurred Saturday, the Liberals would have gained Eden-Monaro.




Read more:
Grattan on Friday: Saturday is crucial for Albanese but July 23 is more important for Morrison


Premiers still have high ratings, but Andrews falls in Victoria

In late April, Newspoll polled the ratings of the six premiers, and this exercise was repeated last week. Samples were 500-550 for the mainland states, and 311 in Tasmania.

Tasmanian Liberal Premier Peter Gutwein had the best ratings in the June premiers’ Newspoll, at 90% satisfied, 8% dissatisfied (net +82). His satisfaction rating overtook WA Labor Premier Mark McGowan in April (89%) as the best ever for a premier or PM in Australian polling history.

Gutwein’s net approval was up nine points from April, while McGowan slid four points to a still very high 88% satisfied, 9% dissatisfied (net +79).

The biggest change in net approval was Victorian Labor Premier Daniel Andrews. His net approval fell 18 points to +40, with 67% satisfied and 27% dissatisfied. Andrews’s fall appears to be related to the recent spike in Victorian coronavirus cases, not the Adem Somyurek branch stacking affair. His net ratings on handling coronavirus fell sharply from +74 to +47.

NSW Liberal Premier Gladys Berejiklian had a +42 net approval, down from +46, with 68% satisfied and 26% dissatisfied. SA Liberal Premier Steven Marshall had a +52 net approval, up from +47, with 72% satisfied and 20% dissatisfied.

Queensland Labor Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk continued to trail with a +24 net approval, though that was up eight points. 59% were satisfied and 35% dissatisfied. The Queensland election will be held in late October.

Scott Morrison had a +41 net approval in last Monday’s federal Newspoll. Palaszczuk trails Morrison, Andrews and Berejiklian are about level, Marshall is above him, and McGowan and Gutwein are far ahead.

A good US jobs report, but there’s a long way to go

The June US jobs report was released Thursday. 4.8 million jobs were created and the unemployment rate dropped 2.2% to 11.1%. While the unemployment rate is far better than the 14.7% in April, it is far worse than during a normal economy.

The employment population ratio – the percentage of eligible Americans that are employed – rose 1.8% in June to 54.6%. But at the lowest point of the recovery from the global financial crisis, the employment ratio was 58.2%.

The surveys used for the jobs report were conducted in mid-June, before the recent spike in US coronavirus cases, which peaked at over 57,000 on Thursday. This new spike may derail an economic recovery.The Conversation

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

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

Eden-Monaro focus groups: Voters want government to cushion pandemic recovery path


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Eden-Monaro voters are calling for a compassionate and empathetic recovery process as Australia emerges from the pandemic.

In focus group research conducted this week, ahead of Saturday’s byelection, the vast majority of participants favoured increasing the JobSeeker payment above the pre-COVID level, extending the JobKeeper wage subsidy scheme, and providing targeted help for areas hit hard by the summer fires and the impact of the coronavirus.

More surprising, almost all participants were willing to pay more tax to assist the economic and social recovery effort. Many were concerned about leaving debt for future generations.

This was the second round of online research by the University of Canberra’s Mark Evans and Max Halupka. Two groups, with 10 and nine participants respectively, were held on Monday and Tuesday. All but three participants had taken part in the research’s first round. Drawn widely from the diverse electorate, participants included aligned and swinging voters.

Focus group research taps into voters’ attitudes rather than being predictive of the outcome.

Both Scott Morrison and Anthony Albanese have been very active in the seat as voting day nears, although over the campaign as a whole Albanese has been on the ground much more than the PM. But the Liberals have invested heavily in an effort to wrest the seat – which is on a margin of under 1% – from Labor and increase the government’s parliamentary majority.

There was only marginal change in participants’ views on the key issues.

Top issues are: action on climate change, the federal government’s response to the bushfire crisis, job creation, better access to public health care, and addressing the high cost of living.

Climate change action continued to receive the greatest support when people were asked to nominate the one most important issue to them. Most participants saw a link between the bushfire crisis and the need for climate action.

People continued to be aggrieved at the Morrison government’s handling of the fire crisis, which they thought suffered from poor federal leadership, inadequate preparation and insufficient collaboration between federal and state government.

In the second round discussion, there was greater concern over economic recovery issues. “The economy looks weak so we will need good economic management and that tends to come from the Coalition,” a retired Coalition voter noted.

But there was some cynicism over the extra support the government has promised.

People saw Morrison’s announcement in Bega of a $86 million package for the forestry industry, wine producers and apple growers hit by the bushfires as “guilt money”. “It’s an obvious bribe – which might well work,” said a middle-aged hard Coalition supporter, while a female Greens voter described it as “a shameful example of logrolling”.

Most participants thought there would still be a bushfire backlash against the Coalition, despite Morrison’s announcement.

The government is hoping Morrison’s performance on the pandemic negates criticism of his handling of the fires.

Since their first discussion, people have cooled in their views of leaders’ management of the virus crisis. Morrison is now seen as the best performer, followed by NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian, a reversal from the first round.

Berejiklian’s poorer performance is attributed to general annoyance with the states and the perception they are acting “selfishly”. The vast majority of participants think Morrison “is handling the coronavirus outbreak competently and efficiently.” But people are worried by a second wave and cautious about re-opening too quickly.

Albanese is a distant third (the question about him was whether he was doing a good job holding the PM to account); his performance was rated more poorly in the second discussion compared with the first. He wasn’t impacting on the core political agenda: “he hasn’t got a plan,” said one participant.

The vast majority of participants, however, did not believe any party was offering a clear COVID-19 recovery plan and were surprised there hadn’t been a national conversation on the issue.

COVID-19 has constrained the usual forms of campaigning, and has led to a very high demand for postal votes. Participants perceived the Coalition had run a very traditional campaign using “old media”, while they thought Labor had run a “new media” campaign with more emphasis on social media platforms.

Both the major candidates are seen positively. Fiona Kotvojs (Liberal) was considered an “excellent” candidate even by Labor supporters. But several people suggested the intervention of senior Coalition figures in the campaign (Morrison and Payne) may have “reduced her community standing”. Labor’s Kristy McBain was considered a “really hard working” and a “very well liked” candidate by Coalition supporters.

But McBain was regarded as having run the better campaign.

When people were asked who they would vote for, the responses suggested a Labor victory and strong support for McBain. However there had been some attitudinal changes over the campaign.

There appeared to be a marginal increase in support for Cathy Griff (Greens) as the campaign neared its end and two independent candidates emerged from the woodwork – Narelle Storey (Christian Democratic Party) and Matthew Stadtmiller (Shooters, Fishers and Farmers) – during the discussion. That suggested the possibility certain soft Coalition voters might be exercising a protest vote against the government.

Some soft Coalition and Green voters might have moved to Labor and some soft Coalition voters to the Greens, but hard Coalition, Green and Labor voters looked to be remaining loyal.

Kotvojs’s well-resourced campaign appeared to be losing some momentum. But the participants continued to think the election – a straight Labor-Liberal battle despite a field of 14 candidates – would be very close.

This is a byelection where even seasoned watchers are wary of chancing their arm in advance of Saturday night.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.

Morrison approval ratings reach highest level for PM in 10 years; Trump falls further behind Biden



Joel Carratt/AAP

Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s approval ratings continue to soar thanks to his handling of the coronavirus crisis, reaching the highest level for any prime minister since the early years of the Rudd government in this week’s Newspoll.

Morrison’s approval rating was at 68%, up two points from the last Newspoll, while 27% of respondents were dissatisfied. His net approval rating was +41.

This is Morrison’s highest net approval, topping the +40 he achieved in a late April Newspoll. It is also the best net approval for any PM since Kevin Rudd had +43 in October 2009.

This week’s Newspoll, conducted June 24-27 from a sample of 1,520 people, gave the Coalition a 51-49% lead, unchanged on three weeks ago.

Primary votes were 42% Coalition (steady), 35% Labor (up one), 11% Greens (down one) and 3% One Nation (down one).




Read more:
Why good leaders need to hold the hose: how history might read Morrison’s coronavirus leadership


Opposition leader Anthony Albanese had a net approval of +2, down one point. Morrison led Albanese as better PM by 58-26%.

Given Morrison’s stratospheric ratings, it is surprising the Coalition is not further ahead on voting intentions. This could be due to the fact the national cabinet has been in charge of coronavirus policy-making, and these decisions are seen as more bipartisan and do not boost the Coalition.

Labor leading in Eden-Monaro byelection polls

The Eden-Monaro byelection will be held on Saturday following the April resignation of Labor MP Mike Kelly. Labor won the seat by just a 50.9-49.1% margin at the 2019 election.

The Poll Bludger reported on two Eden-Monaro polls last week by the robo-pollster uComms, one for The Australia Institute and the other for the Australian Forest Products Association.




Read more:
Eden-Monaro byelection will be ‘very close’, according to participants in focus group research


The Australian Institute poll gave Labor a 53-47% lead by 2019 election preference flows, and a 54-46% lead by respondent allocated preferences. The AFPA poll gave Labor a 52-48% lead.

These two polls are much better for Labor than an internal party poll, reported on June 13, which showed the Liberals clearly positioned on primary votes to gain the seat.

Labor’s Kristy McBain has a slight edge over the Liberals’ Fiona Kotvojs in recent polling.
Mick Tsikas/AAP

Biden further extends lead over Trump

US President Donald Trump’s approval ratings are at their worst since the US government shutdown in January 2019.

In the latest FiveThirtyEight poll aggregate, Trump’s ratings with all polls are 40.6% approve, 56.1% disapprove (net -15.5%). With polls of registered or likely voters, his ratings are 40.9% approve, 55.5% disapprove (net -14.6%).

With the presidential election now just over four months away, FiveThirtyEight has started tracking the presidential general election polls.

As there are far more national polls than state polls, the website adjusts state polls for the national trend. So, as former Vice President Joe Biden widens his national lead, FiveThirtyEight will adjust states in Biden’s favour where there hasn’t been recent polling.




Read more:
Trump is struggling against two invisible enemies: the coronavirus and Joe Biden


The latest national poll aggregate gives Biden a 50.7% to 41.4% lead over Trump. US polls usually include an undecided option, so the remaining voters are mostly undecided, not third party. Three weeks ago, Biden’s lead was 6.6 percentage points.

In 2016, four states – Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Florida – voted for Trump over Hillary Clinton by 1.2% or less. In the latest FiveThirtyEight aggregate, Biden leads in Florida by 7.2%, Pennsylvania by 8.0%, Wisconsin by 8.1% and Michigan by 10.6%.

Biden also leads in several states Trump won comfortably in 2016, such as Arizona (a 4.7% lead over Trump), Georgia (1.4% lead), North Carolina (2.9% lead) and Ohio (2.6% lead). Trump maintains an extremely narrow lead in Iowa (0.1%) and Texas (0.3%).

Trump is looking shaky in states he carried comfortably in the 2016 election.
Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA

If the election were being held next week, there is little doubt Biden would win both the national popular vote and the Electoral College easily.

Can Trump recover before November 3? If Biden’s national lead is reduced to fewer than five points, the Electoral College could save Trump, as the Democrat’s lead is narrower in the pivotal battleground states.

Trump’s approval ratings have taken a hit due to his responses to the pandemic and the protests after the police killing of George Floyd.

Earlier this month, US coronavirus cases and deaths had fallen from their peaks in April, but there has been a surge in the last week. Over 45,000 new cases were recorded Friday, the highest single-day total since the pandemic began.

Political analyst Nate Silver says this increase is not caused by greater testing (as Trump claims), noting the positive test rate rose to 7.7% on June 24, from 4.9% a week earlier.

A genuine economic recovery is unlikely while coronavirus cases are still surging. Trump’s best chance of re-election is for the pandemic to have faded by November and the US to have made a strong economic recovery.

The US jobs report for May was much better than in April, but April was so terrible that a recovery still has a long way to go.

Can the Democrats retake Congress?

As well as the presidency, all 435 House of Representatives seats and one-third of the 100 senators are up for election in November.

Democrats gained control of the House in November 2018 and are very likely to retain control. They have a 7.9% lead in the FiveThirtyEight generic ballot tracker.

The Republicans currently have a 53-47 seat majority in the Senate, making it difficult for the Democrats to take control. The RealClearPolitics Senate map gives Democrats some chance of winning the Senate, projecting 48 Republican seats, 48 Democrats and four toss-ups.

In deeply conservative Alabama, Democrat Doug Jones unexpectedly won a December 2017 special election, but is unlikely to repeat his success.

House seats are allocated to each state on a population basis, but in the Senate, each state is guaranteed two seats regardless of population. As low-population states in the Midwest and West tend to be conservative, this makes it harder for Democrats to win the Senate.The Conversation

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

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

Eden-Monaro byelection will be ‘very close’, according to participants in focus group research


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

The July 4 byelection in the highly marginal NSW Labor seat of Eden-Monaro is shaping up to be “very close”, according to participants in focus group research conducted by the University of Canberra.

Climate change, job creation, the federal government’s response to the bushfires, and health care were most frequently nominated when people were asked to choose, from a list of 13, the issue that would be extremely or very important in informing how they would vote.

Climate change was nominated by six of the 16, with job creation chosen by three, followed by the government’s response on bushfires and health care (each nominated by two people). The government’s response to COVID-19, support for tourism and action on the high cost of living received one nomination each.




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Most participants believed the summer fires would have a negative impact for the Coalition, and that this might make a difference in a close election.

On Tuesday Scott Morrison campaigned in Bega, with a $86 million package for the forestry industry, wine producers and apple growers hit by the bushfires and the effects of COVID-19. While the money is not confined to Eden-Monaro, its target is winning votes there. Anthony Albanese visited the pre-poll booth in Queanbeyan.

The three online focus groups, totalling 16 participants, were conducted by Mark Evans and Max Halupka of the university’s Institute for Governance and Policy Analysis. People were drawn from various parts of what is a very diverse electorate. Two groups were done last week and the other on Monday. Participants included Coalition, Labor and Green supporters, with a mix of firmly aligned and swinging voters.

Participants were asked their voting intentions and their responses suggested a Labor victory. Swinging voters seemed to have moved to Labor but hard Coalition and Labor voters are remaining loyal.

But it should be stressed focus groups are not predictive of the result, but rather tap into attitudes at a point in the campaign.

Asked about management of the COVID-19 crisis, NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian was seen as the best performer, followed by Morrison and the Chief Medical Officer, Brendan Murphy, who were equally regarded.

Albanese – who has campaigned extensively in Eden-Monaro – was seen as having a low profile throughout the pandemic crisis. In the words of one Labor swinging voter this was attributable to “his lack of a platform”. As another participant observed, “Crises are a great advantage for government”. Participants were luke warm about how good a job Albanese was doing in holding Morrison to account over the management of the COVID-19 crisis.

When asked who they listened to most when looking for guidance on COVID-19, people pointed to Norman Swan and the ABC.

Participants’ trust in Morrison has marginally increased as a result of his handling of COVID-19, but from a low level following the bushfire crisis. One man, a strong Coalition supporter, said the PM “needed to learn and has learned”.

A female Coalition swinging voter attributed Morrison’s improvement to “the national cabinet. He was given some good lessons in leadership and the group kept his tendencies under control.”

Discussing issues, people thought the federal government’s handling of the bushfire crisis suffered from poor federal leadership, inadequate preparation, and insufficient collaboration between federal and state governments.

Critics of the Morrison government’s handling of the fires included most of the hard Coalition voters – although it was not enough to change their vote.

There was also a perception the federal government had lost interest in the bushfire recovery process. “It makes sense to tackle the problem in front of you and that’s the virus,” said a Coalition supporter.

In the discussion, most participants saw a link between the bushfire crisis and the need for action on climate, and said their views on the importance of the climate issue had sharpened significantly over the past six months. There were some exceptions: “Older people don’t go with the mantra of climate change, though they know something is going on,” said a middle aged male Coalition voter.

Coalition voters were more focused on local issues – economic issues, better infrastructure and improved access to health care, education and transport. “The Coalition has the track record to get the economy back on track,” said one man.

People generally thought Australia was more resilient than most other countries to bounce back from the COVID-19 crisis. But they were worried about Australia’s economic vulnerability, particularly its dependence on China.

Participants wanted politicians to be more collaborative and less adversarial in a post-COVID-19 world and for experts to have a greater say in decision making. An older female Labor supporter said, “We need politicians to behave better and take community issues more seriously”, while a male Coalition voter opined, “we need more adult politics as the national cabinet has shown us”.




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There was some concern the old politics would resume. “[The national cabinet] started well but it already seems to be falling apart,” said a hard-Labor voter.

In a field of 14 candidates, this is a Labor-Liberal battle, and both major parties are running female candidates with good local credentials. The Liberals’ Fiona Kotvojs, who pushed the former MP Mike Kelly close at the 2019 election, has a background in teaching, science, farming and small business; Labor’s Kristy McBain has most recently been mayor of Bega.

The focus group participants thought the two women were strong on credentials but low on having high constituency-wide profiles, suggesting voters would be likely to vote on party lines rather than for personalities.

But some participants noted the Liberals were spending a lot on Kotvojs’ campaign and predicted this was likely to increase in the time remaining.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.

Morrison commits another $1.5 billion for infrastructure


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Scott Morrison will announce a further $1.5 billion for an immediate start on small infrastructure projects in the government’s latest initiative to spur economic activity.

Of this, $1 billion will be provided to priority “shovel-ready” projects, with $500 million targeted specifically to road safety works.

The projects are nominated by the states and territories.

Addressing a Committee for Economic Development of Australia function on Monday Morrison will say this means the government will have brought forward or provided extra funding worth $9.3 billion in infrastructure investment in the past eight months.

“As we come out of the COVID crisis, infrastructure can give us the edge that many countries don’t have,” he will say.

Announcing a priority list of 15 major projects being fast tracked for approval under a federal-state bilateral model, he will say these projects and the 66,000 direct and indirect jobs they will support “will be brought to market earlier by targeting a 50% reduction in Commonwealth assessment and approval times for major projects, from an average of 3.5 years to 21 months”.

Anthony Albanese, also speaking to CEDA, will stress the need for “productivity renewal”.

“Our post-coronavirus actions must confront the weaknesses in our pre-coronavirus world,” he will say. “And here, productivity stands out”.

A Labor government would have a productivity renewal project to “lift business investment, lift investment in people and lift investment in critical infrastructure.

“Our goal will be to drive growth through productivity and to drive fairness through growth.”

Meanwhile a poll by the Australian National University has found the most popular COVID-specific measure to help fix Australia’s economic problems would be to spend more on trying to find a vaccine and treatment.

The poll, done in May of more than 3200 people, asked about four Covid-related policies: increasing spending on the search for a vaccine and treatment, opening up pubs, clubs and cafes, extending JobKeeper and JobSeeker payments beyond the current six months, and opening Australia’s borders to tourists and international students. (On Friday the national cabinet agreed to work “to return international students on a small, phased scale through a series of controlled pilots”.)

Asked how much they thought the various measures would help fix Australia’s economic problems, greater spending to pursue a vaccine received 75.6% support, followed by easing restrictions on pubs and the like (71.7%).

Some 57.6% said extending JobKeeper and JobSeeker would help, and nearly half believed unlocking the border would assist.

More money to find a vaccine had strongest support among older people, while extending the payments had the greatest backing among young people. Coalition voters were least likely to back extending JobKeeper and JobSeeker.

Asked about several economic policies that would help to fix Australia’s problems, 82.1% agreed more spending on domestic programs like healthcare, education and housing would do so, 76.7% nominated infrastructure, 59.1% said cutting taxes, and 55.9% backed putting more money into the hands of poor people.

The study concluded that “the strongest predictor of support for these policies … was anxiety and worry regarding COVID-19. Those who were anxious and worried were far less likely to support liberalisation measures (on borders and hospitality) but far more likely to support spending measures (on vaccines and the labour market).

This highlighted a tension.
“To maintain support for some of the physical distancing measures required to maintain low rates of infection, there needs to be some concern regarding COVID-19 and fear of infection if the virus once again gets out of hand.

“However, in order to implement some policies that will help support economic growth into the future, this concern and perceived risk may need to be reduced”.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.

Matt Canavan says Australia doesn’t subsidise the fossil fuel industry, an expert says it does


Jeremy Moss, UNSW

Queensland Nationals Senator Matt Canavan on Monday night denied suggestions the government subsidises Australia’s fossil fuel industry. The comments prompted a swift response from some social media users, who cited evidence to the contrary.

Canavan was responding to a viewer question on ABC’s Q&A program. The questioner cited an International Monetary Fund (IMF) working paper from May last year that said Australia spends US$29 billion (A$47 billion) a year to prop up fossil fuel extraction and energy production.

The questioner also referred to media reports last year that Australia subsidised renewable energy to the tune of A$2.8 billion. He questioned the equity of the subsidy system.

Canavan disputed the figures and said there was “no subsidisation of Australia’s fossil fuel industries”. You can listen here:

Senator Matt Canavan on ABC Q&A.
ABC Q&A1.59 MB (download)

So let’s take a look at what the Australian government contributes to the fossil fuel industry, and whether this makes financial sense.

Do fossil fuels need government support more than renewable sources of energy?
Justin McKinney/Shutterstock

What does Australia contribute to the fossil fuel industry?

Canavan said the figures cited by the questioner didn’t accord with the view of the Productivity Commission.

The commission’s latest Trade and Assistance Review doesn’t specifically mention federal subsidies. But it describes “combined assistance” for petroleum, coal and chemicals in mining of about A$385 million for 2018-19.

Subsidies to fossil fuel companies and other products can be difficult to categorise. Often there is disagreement as to what counts and what doesn’t.

For example, the IMF paper includes subsidising the costs of fuels used to extract resources, accelerated depreciation for assets and funding for fossil fuel export projects.




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Estimates by other organisations of the annual federal subsidies for the fossil fuel industry range from A$5 billion to A$12 billion a year.

So despite the disparities, it’s clear the fossil fuel industry receives substantial federal government subsidies. Earlier this month a leaked draft report by a taskforce advising the government’s own COVID-19 commission recommends support to a gas industry expansion.

Importantly, these subsidies benefit the fossil fuel industry relative to its competitors in the renewable sector.

Do these payments make sense?

The subsidies are also aimed at a sinking industry.

As Tim Buckley, of the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, notes, COVID-19 and the falling cost of renewables are delivering a hit to the export fossil fuel industry in Australia from which it may never recover.

Fossil fuel companies such as Santos are also under extreme pressure from some super funds to adopt strict emissions targets.

Moreover, these subsidies produce very few direct jobs in fossil fuel extraction.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, coal, oil and gas extraction create just 64,300 direct jobs. Only around 10% of coal industry employees are women.

If we divide the IMF subsidy figure by the number of direct jobs, the governments of Australia spend A$730,000 each year for every direct job in the coal, oil and gas industry. That equates to A$1,832 for every Australian.

Where are the profits?

Setting aside the madness of this support for fossil fuels given the climate crisis, the subsidies make no financial sense.

With so much government support, you’d think the industry would be full of profitable companies filling the government’s coffers with taxes. But this is not the case.

Australian Taxation Office data for 2016-17 show eight of the ten largest fossil fuel producers in Australia paid no tax. That’s despite nine of these companies having revenue of about A$45 billion for that period.

Not all of these benefits go to these big producers, but many of them do.

If Prime Minister Scott Morrison really wants to lessen the impact of the coronavirus on Australians and save jobs, then this gross level of subsidies must be phased out.

Given the scale of the climate crisis, the Morrison government’s fossil fuel subsidies don’t make sense.
AAP

Money needed elsewhere

Subsidies paid each year to the fossil fuel industry could be used far better elsewhere.

It could help retrain or provide generous redundancy packages for the relatively small number of workers in fossil fuel industries and their communities.




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The subsidies are unconscionable when you consider the resources so desperately needed now for health and the broader economy. The coronavirus must force us as a country to re-evaluate how we distribute taxpayer funds.

As International Energy Agency head Fatih Birol notes, we now have an “historic opportunity” to use stimulus to transition to clean energy.

Directing funds to companies that have had 30 years to prepare for their demise is simply throwing away public money. It could be put to so much better use.The Conversation

Jeremy Moss, Professor of Political Philosophy, UNSW

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

Polls latest: Labor trails federally and in Queensland; Biden increases lead over Trump



AAP/Mick Tsikas

Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

This week’s Newspoll, conducted June 3-6 from a sample of 1,510, gave the Coalition a 51-49 lead, unchanged from three weeks ago. Primary votes were 42% Coalition (down one), 34% Labor (down one), 12% Greens (up two) and 4% One Nation (up one).

Scott Morrison maintained his high coronavirus crisis ratings. 66% were satisfied with his performance (steady) and 29% dissatisfied (down one), for a net approval of +37. Anthony Albanese’s net approval dropped four points to +3; his ratings peaked at +11 in late April. Morrison led as better PM by 56-26 (56-29 three weeks ago).

This Newspoll maintains the situation where Morrison is very popular, but the Coalition is not benefiting from his popularity to the extent that would normally be expected. Six weeks ago, when Morrison’s net approval was +40, analyst Kevin Bonham said the Coalition’s expected two party vote was between 54% and 60%.

Respondents were asked whether various organisations had a positive, negative or neutral impact on the coronavirus pandemic around the world. The World Health Organisation was at 34% positive, 32% negative and the United Nations was at 23% positive, 21% negative. Coalition voters were most likely to give the WHO and UN poor marks.

Xi Jinping and the Chinese government was at just 6% positive, 72% negative. Donald Trump and the US government was at 9% positive, 79% negative.

Seventy-nine percent thought the Morrison government was doing the right thing by pushing for an independent inquiry into the origins and handling of coronavirus against Chinese objections. By 59-29, voters thought Australia should prioritise the US relationship over China. There was more support for China from Labor and Greens voters.

Queensland YouGov poll: 52-48 to LNP

The Queensland election will be held on October 31. A YouGov poll for The Sunday Mail, conducted last week from a sample of over 1,000, gave the LNP a 52-48 lead, a two-point gain for the LNP since the January YouGov. Primary votes were 38% LNP (up three), 32% Labor (down two), 12% One Nation (down three) and 12% Greens (up two). Figures from The Poll Bludger.

Despite Labor’s weak voting intentions, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk’s ratings surged. Her approval was up 20 points to 49% and her disapproval down 11 to 33%, for a net approval of +16, up 31 points. On net approval, Palaszczuk’s ratings are the same as in a late April premiers’ Newspoll. However, that Newspoll gave Palaszczuk a net approval far lower than for any of the other five premiers.




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Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington’s ratings were 26% approve (up three) and 29% disapprove (down four), for a net approval of -3, up seven points. Palaszczuk led as better premier by 44-23 (34-22 in January).

Biden increases lead over Trump

This section is an updated version of an article I wrote for The Poll Bludger, published on Friday. The Poll Bludger article includes a section on the UK polls following the Dominic Cummings breach of quarantine scandal.

In the FiveThirtyEight poll aggregate, Donald Trump’s ratings with all polls are 41.7% approve, 53.9% disapprove (net -12.2%). With polls of registered or likely voters, Trump’s ratings are 42.3% approve, 54.1% disapprove (net -11.8%).

Since my article three weeks ago, Trump has lost about four points on net approval. His disapproval rating is at its highest since the early stages of the Ukraine scandal last November.

In the RealClearPolitics average of national polls, Joe Biden’s lead over Trump has widened to 7.2%, up from 4.5% three weeks ago. That is Biden’s biggest lead since December 2019. Biden has 49.6% now, close to a majority. If he holds that level of support, it will be very difficult for Trump to win.




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Trump has over 90% of the vote among Republicans, but just 3% among Democrats. CNN analyst Harry Enten says Trump’s strategy of appealing only to his base is poor, as he has already maximised support from that section. Enten implies Trump would do better if he appealed more to moderate voters.

In the key states that will decide the Electoral College and hence the presidency, it is less clear. National and state polls by Change Research gave Biden a seven-point lead nationally, but just a three-point lead in Florida, a two-point lead in Michigan and a one-point lead in North Carolina. In Wisconsin, Trump and Biden were tied, while Trump led by one in Arizona and four in Pennsylvania.

This relatively rosy state polling picture for Trump is contradicted by three Fox News polls. In these polls, Biden leads by nine points in Wisconsin, four points in Arizona and two points in Ohio. Trump won Ohio by eight points in 2016, and it was not thought to be in play.

Ironically, Change Research is a Democrat-associated pollster, while Fox News is very pro-Trump. Fieldwork for all these state polls was collected since May 29, when the George Floyd protests began.

Other state polls have also been worse for Trump than the Change Research polls. A Texas poll from Quinnipiac University had Trump leading by just one point. Trump won Texas by nine points in 2016. In Michigan, an EPIC-MRA poll has Biden leading by 12. In North Carolina, a PPP poll has Biden ahead by four.

Concerning the protests over the murder of George Floyd, in an Ipsos poll for Reuters conducted June 1-2, 64% said they sympathised with the protesters, while 27% did not. In another Ipsos poll, this time for the US ABC News, 66% disapproved of Trump’s reaction to the protests and just 32% approved.

US May jobs report much better than expected

The May US jobs report was released last Friday. 2.5 million jobs were added, and the unemployment rate fell 1.4% to 13.3%. Economists on average expected 8.3 million job losses and an unemployment rate of 19.5%. An unemployment rate of 13.3% is terrible by historical standards, but it is clear evidence the US economy is already recovering from the coronavirus hit.

The employment population ratio – the percentage of eligible Americans currently employed – rose 1.5% to 52.8%, but it is still far below the 58.2% lowest point during the global financial crisis.

US daily coronavirus cases and deaths are down from their peak, and stockmarkets anticipate a strong economic recovery. But it is likely that a greater amount of economic activity will allow the virus to resurge. A strong recovery from coronavirus would assist Trump, but unemployment is a lagging indicator that is likely to recover more slowly than the overall economy.

New Zealand Labour surges into high 50s in polls

I wrote for The Poll Bludger on May 22 that two New Zealand polls had the governing Labour party taking a massive lead over the opposition National, ahead of the September 19 election. New Zealand now has zero active (currently infected) coronavirus cases, and has had no new cases since May 22. It appears they have eliminated the virus.The Conversation

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

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