Newspoll 53-47 to Labor, but respondent preferences better for Coalition


Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

This week’s Newspoll, conducted Thursday to Sunday from a sample of 1680, gave Labor its fifth consecutive 53-47 lead. Primary votes were 37% Labor (up 1 since last fortnight’s Newspoll), 36% Coalition (up 1), 9% Greens (down 1) and 9% One Nation (down 2). This is the Coalition’s 16th consecutive Newspoll loss with Turnbull as PM.

34% were satisfied with Turnbull’s performance (up 2) and 54% were dissatisfied (down 2), for a net approval of -20, up four points. Shorten’s net approval was unchanged at -20.

The biggest political news last week was Peter Dutton’s appointment to head the new home affairs “super ministry”. Turnbull’s ratings and the Coalition’s primary vote may have improved as a result of the hard right’s approval of Dutton. Progressives detest Dutton, but people who do not follow politics are unlikely to have formed an opinion of Dutton yet. Turnbull has already lost politically engaged progressives.

Essential this week found strong approval of the new super ministry, but concern that Dutton was responsible for the various security services.

The Greens have lost one point, but can consider themselves fortunate not to have lost more after a shocking five days in which Scott Ludlam and Larissa Waters resigned from the Senate after finding they had unwittingly violated Section 44 of the Constitution.

Resources minister Matt Canavan today became the latest victim of the dual citizenship fiasco. He has resigned from Cabinet, but not yet from the Senate, after finding he has Italian citizenship. If the courts rule him out, Canavan will be replaced by Joanna Lindgren, the No. 6 on the Queensland LNP ticket.

While Labor has comfortably led in all Newspolls since the beginning of the year, Newspoll uses the previous election method to distribute preferences. Respondent allocated polling from ReachTEL shows a reduction in Labor’s lead. It is likely that most hard right voters who have deserted the Coalition will return after preferences.

At the 2016 election, One Nation preferences split nearly 50-50 between the major parties. As some of the hard right has defected to One Nation, its preferences will probably be more favourable to the Coalition at the next election, provided that Turnbull is still PM.

This week’s additional Newspoll questions concerned Tony Abbott. By 58-23, voters thought Turnbull had the best leadership credentials compared with Abbott. Coalition voters backed Turnbull by 69-23, with Abbott ahead 44-34 only with One Nation voters.

48% thought Abbott should remain a backbencher and shut up, 23% thought he should be given a senior Cabinet position, and 17% thought Abbott should remain a backbencher but not shut up.

ReachTEL: 51-49 to Labor

A Sky News ReachTEL poll, conducted 19 July from a sample presumably about 2300, gave Labor a narrow 51-49 lead, a one point gain for the Coalition since the previous Sky News ReachTEL, in late June.

The primary vote figures included 9% “undecided”, but ReachTEL asks these people which way they are leaning. However, the preferences of these leaners were not included. If these 9% undecided are excluded, primary votes are 37% Labor, 36% Coalition, 12% One Nation and 9% Greens. Applying 2016 preference flows would give a 53-47 Labor lead. The Coalition is benefiting from respondent allocated preferences, hence the narrower headline Labor lead.

Turnbull led Shorten by 54.5-45.5 as preferred PM, up from 54-46. Better PM polling without a forced choice favours incumbents, and a forced choice usually gives opposition leaders a better result.

In other findings, 75% favoured renewable energy over coal. 56% nominated power and gas prices as the biggest cost of living expenses, with other expenses at 16% or below. 47% supported a Constitutional change to create an indigenous advisory body, with 29% opposed.

Essential: 53-47 to Labor

This week’s Essential had the Coalition regaining the point they lost a fortnight ago, for a 53-47 Labor lead. Primary votes were 38% Coalition, 37% Labor, 10% Greens, 7% One Nation and 4% Nick Xenophon Team; the Coalition has gained two points since last fortnight. Essential used a two-week sample of 1800; additional questions are based on one week’s sample.

56% approved of the new national security ministry, and just 18% disapproved. 45% thought it would strengthen Australia’s national security, 28% thought it would make little difference and just 8% thought our national security would be weakened. 45% were concerned that Dutton would have responsibility for the various security services, and 35% were not concerned.

By 64-10, voters supported a clean energy target, requiring a set percentage of energy to be generated from clean sources. By 54-15, voters supported an emissions intensity scheme, where pollution over a certain level is taxed.

40% said they were connected to the National Broadband Network either at home or work. Of those who had an NBN connection, 48% thought it was better than their previous Internet service, and 22% thought it was worse.

Tasmanian ReachTEL: 43.0% Liberal, 32.9% Labor, 13.4% Greens

A Taxmanian ReachTEL poll, conducted 21 July from a sample of 2820, gave the Liberals 43.0% (down 8.2 points since the 2014 election), Labor 32.9% (up 5.6) and the Greens 13.4% (down 0.4). The next Tasmanian election is likely to be held in March 2018.

Tasmania uses the Hare Clark system with five 5-member electorates. In 2014 the Liberals won 15 of the 25 seats, to 7 for Labor and 3 for the Greens. The Liberals won 4 seats in Braddon, 2 in Denison and 3 in Bass, Franklin and Lyons. On current polling, the Liberals are likely to lose a seat in both Braddon and Franklin, and the final seat in Lyons will decide whether the Liberals cling to a majority.

After adjustment for bias towards the Greens and against Labor, Kevin Bonham interprets this poll as 43.0% Liberal, 36.7% Labor and 10.7% Greens. If the adjusted figures are replicated in Lyons, there would be a three-way race between the Liberals, Greens and Labor for the final seat.

The ConversationOverall, Bonham thinks the most likely outcome using this poll is 12 Liberals, 10 Labor, 3 Greens, but his Tasmanian poll aggregate has the Liberals ahead in Lyons, and thus more likely to win a majority.

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

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

Knives are sharpening on the new home affairs office



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Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announces the new Home Affairs office, a major political win for Peter Dutton.
AAP/Mick Tsiakis

Tony Walker, La Trobe University

If you wanted a case study of how media sausages are made – the purveying of news and opinion – you would need to look no further than argument about the establishment of a super department of Home Affairs, modelled on the UK Home Office.

Not much explains better political cross-currents in a beleaguered government than the leaking that has informed much of the commentary about this proposal.

A rule of thumb in Canberra holds that leakages damaging to the prime minister of the day increase in proportion to the trouble they are in. If that’s the case, Malcolm Turnbull is in a heap of trouble.

Commentators aligned with former prime minister Tony Abbott have been at the forefront of those lambasting the idea. In office, Abbott rejected setting up a Home Affairs department on bureaucratic advice.

Then there are the ministers who would yield terrain in Canberra’s endless turf wars. This principally applies to Attorney-General George Brandis, who would lose responsibility for one of the crown jewels of the intelligence establishment, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation. I have no idea whether Brandis has been briefing journalists. But I do know he has long opposed the establishment of a mega homeland security department.

Allied with Brandis has been Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, who has been against such a development from the start.

Again, I have no idea whether Bishop has been briefing against the proposal. But she has let it be known she was not present at a meeting of the National Security Committee of the cabinet where the matter was canvassed.

Bishop would have another reason for resistance to the idea as odds shorten on her as an alternative to Turnbull, given the difficulties the government finds itself in.

Turnbull’s decision to confer security tsar-like status on her potential rival, Peter Dutton, will not please Bishop. Bishop and Dutton represent polar opposites in more ways than one.

Then there is the bureaucracy. Elements of the bureaucracy will be unhappy about changes that would alter lines of command and areas of responsibility. Canberra bureaucrats will be finding ways to make their views known.

A significant part of the bureaucratic unease about the Turnbull proposal revolves around Michael Pezzullo, head of Dutton’s immigration department and in line to be crowned as the most powerful Canberra official in recent memory.

Pezzullo, who has worked for former Labor foreign minister Gareth Evans, and for Kim Beazley in opposition, is a ruthless political operative. Some might believe this would be a necessary attribute for such a job.

At this stage, the Department of Home Affairs is a work in progress, and its future is far from guaranteed. For a start, it will require legislation to make its way through a fractured Senate. However, fearful of being wedged on security issues, Labor may well go along with the bulk of the proposal.

After all, it follows fairly closely a similar package advanced by Beazley as opposition leader under the tutelage of Pezzullo, then his deputy chief-of-staff.

In the grinding of meat, and adding of seasoning and other bits and pieces to be placed in a sausage skin, the Turnbull initiative is far from a finished product. Nor is there an end in sight to negative commentary about his political judgement – exemplified, in the view of some, by his handling of the homeland security issue.

Much of this commentary has centred around Turnbull’s perceived machinations to save his own political skin. His alliance with the conservative Dutton is widely regarded as his attempt to take out insurance against moves within his own partyroom.

Whether that is the case or not, it is true that in recent months Turnbull and Dutton have moved close to each other for reasons that might be regarded as serving their respective political aspirations.

Dutton has emerged as the standard-bearer of the right in a prospective leadership tussle, having overtaken Treasurer Scott Morrison for this mantle.

So, the question becomes whether the decision to centralise intelligence and security operations in one department makes sense, or whether it will prove be an unwieldy response to burgeoning challenges, not least those relating to cyber-security?

This is what Turnbull said when announcing the decision both to establish a Home Affairs department, and also beef up oversight of Australia’s intelligence agencies:

The government will establish an Office of National Intelligence headed by the Director-General of National Intelligence, and transform the Australian Signals Directorate into a statutory agency within the Defence portfolio.

The government will also establish a Home Affairs portfolio of immigration, border protection and domestic security and law enforcement agencies.

The new Home Affairs portfolio will be similar to the Home Office in the United Kingdom: a central department providing strategic planning, coordination and other support to a federation of independent security and law enforcement agencies including the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, the Australian Federal Police, the Australian Border Force and the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission.

While Turnbull contends the Australian Home Affairs portfolio will have similar responsibilities to those of the UK Home Office, a better comparison may be the US Department of Homeland Security in the breadth of its responsibilities.

US Homeland Security, established in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks, has responsibility for a plethora of federal agencies, inviting criticism that it is unwieldy.

When established in 2003, it combined 22 agencies with oversight of everything, from airport security to disaster relief. It is not responsible, however, for the Central Intelligence Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the latter being the responsibility of the attorney-general.

In the case of the Turnbull proposal, the Australian Federal Police, equivalent to the FBI, would come under the new mega department.

Sceptics might read a contrarian view of the US Homeland Security department by Chris Edwards of the libertarian Cato Institute, who takes issue with an explosion in the DHS budget, and also risks of “mission creep”.

It would seem almost inevitable, given the Australian home affairs office will have such broad-ranging powers, that it would continue to expand. This is one of the immutable laws of bureaucracy.

Finally, the former head of ASIO, David Irvine, has defended of the Turnbull-Dutton proposal, insisting the changes will:

… seek to reorganise the intelligence and law enforcement communities to achieve even greater operational effectiveness.

The ConversationThat remains the hope. The question is whether a department of the dimensions envisaged in the Turnbull reforms will prove as unwieldy as its American counterpart. If it is, we might be in the process of taking one step forward and two steps back.

Tony Walker, Adjunct Professor, School of Communications, La Trobe University

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

Abbott scores big win on party reform as Coalition continues to trail in Newspoll


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Tony Abbott’s ‘Warringah motion’ for party reform was passed by 748 votes to 476.
Daniel Munoz/AAP

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

The Abbott forces are seeking to drive home their sweeping Sunday victory in winning rank-and-file endorsement for reforming the New South Wales Liberal Party by putting a three-month deadline on the changes being ratified.

A special convention of party members voted overwhelmingly for motions from the former prime minister’s Warringah federal electorate conference (FEC) backing plebiscites for preselecting all candidates and direct election by the party members of those who run the party organisation.

This comes as the latest Newspoll, published in The Australian, shows the Coalition continuing to trail Labor 47-53% in two-party terms. This is the 16th consecutive Newspoll in which the government has been behind.

The Coalition’s primary vote rose one point to 36%, while Labor also rose one point, to 37%. One Nation slipped from 11% to 9%; the Greens fell from 10% to 9% since the last poll a fortnight ago.

Malcolm Turnbull’s net satisfaction improved four points to minus 20; Bill Shorten’s net satisfaction was static on minus 20. Turnbull widened his lead as better prime minister from eight points to 11 points.

At the convention of NSW Liberal Party members, the plebiscite motion was passed by 748 votes to 476, and the accompanying motion by a two-to-one margin.

The endorsement of the “Warringah” model is a huge challenge to the factional grip of the state division held by the moderates and soft right.

The changes would likely see the division move to the right, in line with the political colour of its rank-and-file, and make it harder for moderates to win preselections.

But the reforms have to be approved by the state council before they take effect. Given the majorities on the key votes were so decisive, and backing crossed factional lines, it would be hard for the current powerbrokers to resist the general thrust. But there could be a struggle ahead over timing and detail.

Walter Villatora, president of the Warringah FEC, said after the two-day meeting: “These reforms now need to be ratified, which I expect will happen within three months.”

“Somewhere up above in Liberal Party heaven Robert Menzies is looking down and smiling. The party membership have clearly spoken. The era of brutal factionalism is over,” he said. “The NSW Liberal Party is now the most democratic division in Australia.”

But a statement by state president Kent Johns suggested there would not be any rush. “The convention result reflected the members’ desire to reform some of our organisation’s internal processes, and serves as a clear demonstration of participation by our membership,” he said.

“Members showed their support for introducing a plebiscite model to ensure that the NSW Liberal Party continues to preselect the best candidates …

“Discussions at the convention will inform the development of the party’s modernisation plan, which will be prepared by me and the state director, Chris Stone. Constitutional amendments will be prepared over the coming months by our constitutional committee, and proceed to the party’s governing body – state council.”

Turnbull positioned himself carefully in his address to the convention on Saturday so as not to be caught in the firing line if the Abbott push won.

He stressed his support for plebiscites, saying every member should have a say in selecting candidates. It was widely believed, however, that he would have preferred a more circumscribed model.

But the convention voted down or didn’t reach motions attempting to impose some restrictions. These included having a longer eligibility period and an “activity test” before members could vote, and the grandfathering of electorates with sitting members.

In the Warringah model the only condition on party members voting in the plebiscites would be that they must have been a member for two years.

The present preselection system has candidates chosen by panels comprising local delegates and non-local members.

Neither Turnbull nor premier Gladys Berejiklian were at the convention when the vote was taken.

Later a spokeswoman for Turnbull said that as the prime minister had said at the convention: “He has long supported that all Liberal Party members have a direct say in preselections. The PM wants to ensure that every member of the party knows that their voice is heard and respected.

“The PM made it clear yesterday that plebiscites for preselections are a good idea, but hardly a new one. Every other Liberal party division has adopted them,” she said.

Abbott emailed members in his electorate: “This is a great advance for our party – and it would not have happened without the hard work of the Warringah conference led by our president, Walter Villatora.

“There’s more to do, of course. Democratisation now has to run the gauntlet of state council; but this is potentially a wonderful new start for our party. A revitalised, less factionalised party will be really important to winning the next election.

The Conversation“This is a big ‘thank you’ to all Warringah Liberals. Let’s now do our best to build on this success.”

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

Shorten and Turnbull to talk on four-year terms



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The prime minister’s office denied suggestions that Malcolm Turnbull had given support to Bill Shorten’s proposal for four-year terms.
Paul Miller/AAP

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has called for a pre-election agreement between government and opposition that whichever side wins will hold a referendum for fixed four-year terms.

Soon after Shorten, interviewed on the ABC’s Insiders, put up his proposal on Sunday morning, Malcolm Turnbull rang him on various matters.

The prime minister’s office said that Turnbull had said he was interested in talking with Shorten about four-year terms, while noting there were a lot of complications.

But it denied suggestions Turnbull had given to bipartisan support to Shorten’s proposal. Labor insists it did not suggest that Turnbull had given bipartisan support.

To pass, a referendum would have to get majority support, plus a majority in four of six states.

History shows the difficulty of passing referendums; the prospects are considered hopeless without bipartisan support. Currently there is bipartisan backing for a referendum on Indigenous recognition but this has been delayed and derailed.

The present federal term is three years, with the prime minister having discretion on when to call the election. Shorten said the federal political system seemed “out of whack in that everything is so short term”, with the average term being two-and-a-half years rather than three.

“We need both Labor and Liberal to co-operate on four-year terms,” Shorten said. “Governments can be more daring and more determined if they’re not constantly thinking about the next election,” he said. “What this country needs is long-term policymaking.”

He would be prepared to come to an agreement with Turnbull that whoever won the election, the government and opposition would put an agreed change to the Constitution for four-year terms to the people.

On the tricky question of the Senate terms, which are six years at present, he said that could be worked out if there was agreement on four-year terms.

“It shouldn’t be a deal-killer in my opinion,” he said.

While four-year terms have substantial backing in the business community and elsewhere and operate at state level – Queensland last year passed a referendum for a four-year term – dealing with Senate terms is a central problem in winning support.

Eight-year Senate terms would not be publicly acceptable, and a move to four-year Senate terms, with all senators facing the people at each election, would be unlikely to be embraced by the Coalition.

The ConversationIn 2002, Turnbull backed longer terms while saying the real issue was getting bipartisan support. When opposition leader in 2008, he said the then NSW Labor premier, Nathan Rees, was “exhibit A in the case against fixed four-year terms”.

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

Grattan on Friday: Abbott shapes up in Liberals’ fight over their ‘internals’



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Tony Abbott is showing no sign of backing off his continual challenges to the government in his public commentary.
Brendan Esposito/AAP

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Cory Bernardi, the senator who defected from the Liberals to found the Australian Conservatives, sits like a crow on a fence as those in his former party fight bitterly over its directions and organisation.

Whatever the future holds for the Australian Conservatives – and it will inevitably be an uphill battle – Bernardi could not ask for more auspicious circumstances in which to recruit.

Bernardi’s party has nearly 13,000 members nationally – the youngest 15 and the oldest almost 102 – with around 4,000 in New South Wales. The NSW figure compares with a Liberal Party membership in that state said to be about 11,000, although some internal critics claim the number is much smaller.

The Australian Conservatives have three state MPs: two South Australian upper house members as a result of its absorption of Family First, and a former DLP member of the Victorian parliament.

Bernardi says about 40% of Australian Conservative members were formerly members or active supporters of the Coalition parties. Some former Liberals probably see the Australian Conservatives as “the party they joined originally”, he says.

Bernardi might have an eye on potential pickings following this weekend’s NSW Liberal convention.

The issue at the special meeting is the rules – for which read the distribution of power – in the party’s NSW division, which is controlled by a tight factional combination of moderates and soft right.

Tony Abbott and other disgruntled conservatives are trying to win support for reform in how candidates are preselected and party officials are chosen. A motion from Abbott’s Warringah federal electorate conference (FEC) proposes plebiscites for all candidates and direct election for the party positions. Although other states have plebiscites, in its sweep the Warringah blueprint is radical change on steroids.

Some predict a loss of members to the Australian Conservatives if there is not significant change. Bernardi already has a following within the NSW Liberals – he has been invited to appear at its Roseville branch next month.

While the possible implications for Bernardi’s party are an intriguing aspect of the weekend’s debate, the immediate focus will be on its consequences for the Abbott-Turnbull conflict, in which – despite disclaimers – it is being seen as another episode.

The party’s open wound has been on full display again this week. On Sunday new Liberal federal president Nick Greiner warned of the damage being done and called for the two men to resolve things “face to face”.

“If we are not able to present a compelling unified face to the Australian public we won’t win the election in two years time – I think it is as simple and as stark as that,” Greiner said.

He’s right, of course. But highlighting the problem is only useful if it helps get a solution – otherwise it just draws more attention to it, putting Turnbull in an awkward position.

On Thursday he was asked by 3AW’s Neil Mitchell: “what’s wrong with picking up the phone and saying, ‘Tony, green tea, my office, let’s talk about it’?” Turnbull replied: “I look forward to catching up with him again soon when parliament gets back if not before”, adding that he’d been going to say he’d known Abbott “for a million years – it may feel like a million years – it’s about 40 years”.

Indeed. Even right back in those early days, these two were on different pages, as recalled in a BuzzFeed article this month. Turnbull, writing for The Bulletin in 1978, disparaged student politician Abbott’s “rather boisterous and immature rhetoric” and argued that his “conservative moral views” were too much for the general student constituency.

Turnbull can’t fix his Abbott problem. Even if he brought him into cabinet, which he won’t, it would likely eventually end in tears.

Abbott, for his part, is showing no sign of backing off his continual challenge to the government in his public commentary. His latest criticism was of this week’s decision for a home affairs department; he said the advice to his government was that such a “massive bureaucratic change” wasn’t needed.

Abbott has invested a great deal in his push for party reform, and so has a lot of credibility at stake in the convention’s result. No-one is sure how it will unfold. Open to all party members, and subject to “stacks”, about 1,400 have signed up to attend. Its outcome won’t be the end of the matter – decisions rest with the state council.

Turnbull, squeezed between factional allies who want to limit reform and militant rank-and-filers, addresses the convention on Saturday morning. He has previously indicated he is in favour of plebiscites, but looks for measured changes rather than Warringah’s full monty.

Compromise positions are being pressed by backbencher Julian Leeser and assistant minister Alex Hawke.

Among the restrictions proposed for plebiscites are a longer qualification period (three or four years membership rather than two) and an “activity test” before party members could vote, as well as “grandfathering” electorates with sitting members to the current preselection system.

In an email this week to party members Walter Villatora, president of the Warringah FEC, and Jim Molan, the retired major-general who helped devise the Coalition’s border security policy, denounced the compromise positions as “window dressing”.

“The Hawke/Leeser reforms will cement in factional domination for another generation,” they said.

The Warringah supporters are arguing an all-or-nothing line. That leaves Abbott in a corner if there is a compromise, making it harder for him to claim any ownership of more limited change. Not that he worries too much about the odd contradiction, as we’ve often seen.

If he fails to get what he wants and seriously kicks up the dust, that is likely to encourage some disgruntled members to pay their A$25 to Bernardi – who incidentally is holding a meeting for his party’s NSW members next Friday.

The ConversationOn the other hand, if the Warringhites have a victory, Turnbull will suffer yet another bout of bad publicity, with more trouble to come from a much-emboldened Abbott.

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

Grattan on Friday: Hanson’s ‘outsider’ politics a challenge for Turnbull as he sits in ‘sensible centre’



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Malcolm Turnbull has reasserted this week that the Liberal Party needs to be in the ‘sensible centre’.
AAP/Lukas Coch

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Now that the Liberals and commentators have overdosed on a debate about where the party’s founder stood on the centre-right spectrum, could someone go to a shopping centre and ask a dozen people under 40 who Robert Menzies was?

How many would know? And if the mall happened to be in multicultural western Sydney, what chance “Ming” would have any recognition?

This week’s argument may have meaning for the Liberal tribe, and in the context of Malcolm Turnbull’s fightback against the conservatives who are making his life hell. But to many families in the suburbs and the regions, it would likely come across as just irrelevant “insider” stuff.

While a lot of people just shrug impatiently at insider politics, a substantial number have turned to “outsider” players. The challenge to the Coalition vote from the confronting “outsider” Pauline Hanson brand was clear in polls out this week.

Newspoll had Pauline Hanson’s One Nation on 11% for the second poll running. This was ahead of the Greens, who were at 10% in the latest poll, and 9% in the previous one.

ReachTEL polling commissioned by The Australia Institute, a progressive think-tank, and done on June 8 in the seats of six ministers and the prime minister, shows very diverse but some substantial results for One Nation. The figures are: Cook (Scott Morrison) 16.7%; Curtin (Julie Bishop) 4.3%; Dickson (Peter Dutton) 14.1%; Flinders (Greg Hunt) 8.9%; Kooyong (Josh Frydenberg) 3.6%; Sturt (Christopher Pyne) 3.8%; and Wentworth (Turnbull) 8.1%. If the “undecideds” were distributed, the figures would be higher.

According to polling analyst John Stirton: “In 27 separate polls this year (from Newspoll, ReachTEL, Essential and YouGov 50 Acres) One Nation has averaged 9% of the primary vote, although there is some polarisation with Newspoll and ReachTEL tending to be above average (10-11%) while Essential and YouGov have been below average (7-8%).”

Although it’s unclear how much of the One Nation vote would hold at an election, the Newspoll level should be of concern to the Coalition, especially as the minor party has had a lot of bad publicity recently from internal scandals.

It’s a national figure for a party whose support is lumpy. We know it is particularly strong in regional Queensland. How strong will be tested in the coming state election, when the Liberal National Party (LNP) will be looking to harvest One Nation preferences, formally or informally.

Unlike the situation with the Greens and Labor, where the ALP can rely on receiving the overwhelming bulk of Green preferences, the One Nation flow on to the LNP will be less disciplined. Some One Nation voters would be former Labor supporters.

The test major parties face from “outsider” players is explored in a new book by respected British political commentator Steve Richards, The Rise of the Outsiders: How Mainstream Politics Lost its Way. He looks at the phenomenon across national boundaries, including a modest reference to Hanson and the Australian experience.

In an era of globalisation and rapid change, the answer to the question “who rules?” can be unclear. Richards notes that insiders’ power is less than it looks. “Elections, opinion polls, the media, constitutional checks and balances and the near-impossibility of managing a party’s internal tensions mean that elected power is fragile and often fleeting,” he writes.

“Most leaders or governments in democracies rule precariously, partly because they pay so much attention to the voters.

“Yet voters regard the democratically elected as out of touch, part of a lofty, arrogant elite. The opposite is closer to the truth.

”… Elected leaders rule in an era of extreme mistrust. If they do not do x, y or z, the instinct of some voters is to assume that those they elected are liars … At the very least some voters feel ignored and overlooked … The instinct to mistrust elected leaders is fuelled by some media outlets …”

The outsiders offer simplicity and clarity, albeit their messages are simplistic. They are fancy-free and so can be self-contradictory in the positions they take – although things become more complicated if, as with Donald Trump, they win power and become the new insiders. (Hanson has a lot of Senate power, but it doesn’t seem to have affected the view of her as an outsider.)

Richards argues that one inadvertently positive contribution the outsiders have made “is to trigger constructive questions from mainstream parties about what form the centre ground takes, and tentative questions about the role of government in a globalised economy”.

In the Australian context, this week Turnbull has reasserted that the Liberal Party needs to be in the “sensible centre”. We have recently also had the Coalition embrace a more active role for government than the Liberals would have advocated three or four years ago – such as a stated willingness to invest in a coal-fired power station, and the use of export controls to ensure a bigger supply of gas for the local market.

It seems obvious that the best place for the Coalition to pitch its tent is the “sensible centre”. That, we know – or believe – is where elections are decided. Turnbull is competing for swinging votes that could go to either him or Bill Shorten.

Many of these voters are pragmatic, uninterested in ideological wars, or in what Menzies might say if he were alive now. They just want things done – about power prices, health, education, whatever.

But that 11% is a different kettle of fish, or maybe it contains several kettles. They are deeply cynical about today’s political process and major parties; the siren call of Hanson, and some in the media, picks up on that.

These people, like some in the Liberal base – and they are overlapping cohorts – will be more drawn to Tony Abbott’s manifesto than Turnbull’s sensible centre.

The Turnbull government has genuflected to them by playing gesture politics in immigration, revamping foreign worker arrangements, and proposing the English test for potential citizens be ridiculously tough. It will have a careful eye to the demands of the coal lobby as it tries to land its clean energy target.

But those attracted to “outsider” politics would prefer the Abbott-style bald negativity toward immigrants and renewables.

The ConversationThe Liberals enjoy pointing to the two core constituencies Labor has to juggle – lower- and middle-income workers, and affluent inner-city progressives. But the Coalition has its own dual constituencies – the mainstreamers, and the punishers on the right whose power is a protest vote.

https://www.podbean.com/media/player/b9kr9-6cf745?from=yiiadmin

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

Turnbull is right to link the Liberals with the centre – but is the centre where it used to be?


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Malcolm Turnbull’s speech reminded his Liberal colleagues that he has not stolen the party and his leadership is legitimately Liberal.
Reuters/Hannah Mckay

Carol Johnson, University of Adelaide

It is a sign of how serious the divisions have become in the Liberal Party that speaking the truth about Robert Menzies is now depicted as making a provocative attack on the Liberal right.

Yet that is the situation in which Malcolm Turnbull found himself after giving his Disraeli Prize speech in London. As Turnbull pointed out in that speech, Menzies intentionally avoided calling the new party “conservative” in case that gave rise to misconceptions. Rather, Turnbull cites Menzies’ statement that they:

… took the name “Liberal” because we were determined to be a progressive party, willing to make experiments, in no sense reactionary but believing in the individual, his right and his enterprise, and rejecting the socialist panacea.

As the leading academic expert on Robert Menzies, Judith Brett, has pointed out, Menzies recognised when the party was founded in 1944 that there was a strong public sentiment in favour of building a progressive, new post-war society that was far better than the old.

In other words, it was a party that pledged to reject socialism, but wouldn’t necessarily stand in the path of social progress.

In short, Turnbull is attempting to reclaim both Menzies and the Liberal Party he played a key role in founding, for a centrist rather than reactionary position. He is gently taking issue with Tony Abbott and those conservatives in the party who have focused on undermining, rather than working with him, regardless of the damage this might do to the party’s electoral prospects.

I say gently because, as even the arch-conservative Eric Abetz acknowledges, Turnbull also cites Tony Abbott’s earlier phrase that the “sensible centre” is the place to be. Nonetheless, Turnbull is reminding such conservatives that he has not stolen the party, and his leadership is legitimately Liberal.

There is a long tradition of attempting to appeal to the centre in Australian politics, not least in the hope that centrist politicians will be able to harvest votes from both major parties. Turnbull can legitimately argue that many of the “small-l” liberal positions he is associated with (despite his more recent concessions to the right) are in line with popular opinion. Same-sex marriage is an obvious case in point.

There was also a vibrant small-l liberal tradition on issues such as homosexuality in the party in the 1970s, prior to John Howard’s conservative ascendancy.

Nonetheless, there were some elephants in the room in London when Turnbull gave his speech.

It is open to debate what a modern “Menzian” position would be in regard to issues such as same-sex marriage or racial equality. After all, Menzies, like Labor prime ministers John Curtin and Ben Chifley before him, continued to support the White Australia Policy. Male homosexuality was illegal under state law for all of Menzies’ prime ministership.

Turnbull refers to Menzies’ “forgotten people”. However, the famous speech in which Menzies articulated that concept assumed (as Curtin and Chifley also did) that employees would continue to be predominantly male, and women would largely be in the home.

Turnbull clearly assumes that a modern “sensible centre” position would have kept pace with changing social attitudes. But at least on some issues, other Liberals will disagree.

The bigger elephant in the room is the issue of Menzies’ economic beliefs at the time the Liberal Party was founded, and what a modern day centrist position on economic policy would be. After all, contemporary Australian voters seem to be concerned about their economic futures, the power of big business, and cuts to social services.

Turnbull does briefly acknowledge in his speech that, by modern standards, Menzies:

… was hardly an economic liberal. He believed in a highly regulated economy with high tariffs, a fixed exchange rate, centralised wage fixing and generally much more Government involvement in the economy than we would be comfortable with.

Indeed, Menzies was more of a Keynesian economically, not a market liberal like Turnbull.

Furthermore, Menzies characterised the middle class as the “forgotten people” partly because he believed that unskilled workers were not forgotten but were already well-protected by unions and had “their wages and conditions safeguarded by popular law”. Meanwhile, the rich were “able to protect themselves”.

While strongly supporting individual endeavour, he argued that the new politics should not “return to the old and selfish notions of laissez-faire”. Rather, “our social and industrial laws will be increased. There will be more law, not less; more control, not less.”

Menzies was strongly anti-communist and anti-socialist, but he was not a neoliberal.

Voters could be forgiven for thinking that at least some of Menzies’ words sound more like those of the contemporary Labor Party than the modern-day Liberal Party. The Liberal Party itself acknowledges that a belief in “social equality” was one of the principles on which the party was founded.

However, despite some concessions in this year’s budget, Turnbull may have his work cut out trying to convince centrist voters that his economic liberalism can adequately address today’s scourge of rising inequality. Keynesian-influenced solutions are on the rise again in the wake of the global financial crisis.

The ConversationTurnbull argued in his speech that the terms “left” and “right” had begun to lose all meaning. However, there is another, more unpalatable truth that he may need to face. It may be more that “left” and “right” are moving conceptually, because the “centre” has shifted too.

Carol Johnson, Professor of Politics, University of Adelaide

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

Turnbull loses 15th successive Newspoll, 53-47. UK Labour doubles support in YouGov since April


Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

This week’s Newspoll, conducted 6-9 July from a sample of 1600, gave Labor its fourth consecutive 53-47 lead. Primary votes were 36% Labor (down 1 from three weeks ago), 35% Coalition (down 1), 11% One Nation (steady) and 10% Greens (up 1). Primary vote shifts suggests some movement to Labor after preferences, but not enough to change the headline figure.

32% were satisfied with Turnbull’s performance (steady) and 56% were dissatisfied (up 1), for a net approval of -24. Shorten’s net approval was -20, up three points.

Over the last three months, Turnbull has been more centrist, alienating the right wing of his party. Since Newspoll uses the previous election’s results for its preference flows, it may be overstating Labor’s lead. As I wrote here, respondent allocated polling from ReachTEL and YouGov implies that the hard right voters who have left the Coalition will return after preferences.

This is the 15th consecutive Newspoll loss for the Coalition under Turnbull, so he is halfway to Tony Abbott’s 30 successive losses when he was dumped. If the string of Newspoll losses continues, Turnbull is likely to be dumped before the end of the year.

If Turnbull is replaced by a more right-wing Liberal leader before the next election, hard right voters would return to the Coalition, but they would lose some centrist voters, and preferences would probably be more favourable to Labor.

Since the dispute between NSW Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon and the rest of her parliamentary party, the Greens have gained a point in both Newspoll and Essential. The Greens could be attracting some Labor voters who would prefer a genuine socialist.

In an additional Newspoll question, 46% favoured a plebiscite to resolve the same sex marriage issue, and 39% favoured a parliamentary vote. The results have been compared with a September 2016 poll (48-39 in favour of the parliamentary vote). However, this comparison is misleading since the previous poll asked about a plebiscite in February 2017, which some might object to even if they supported a plebiscite.

Kevin Bonham has written about the large differences between the pollsters on whether same sex marriage should be decided by a plebiscite or a parliamentary vote. He concludes that all polling on this issue has problems.

According to Kevin Bonham, this year there have been six 3-week breaks between Newspolls, and two 2-week breaks. In previous years that did not have an election, Newspoll was usually published once a fortnight. In general, there has been a pullback in media-commissioned polling this year, with just two Fairfax Ipsos polls and one Channel 7 ReachTEL, although two Sky News ReachTELs have been released.

Essential at 54-46 to Labor

In this week’s Essential, Labor led by 54-46, a one point gain for Labor since last week and a two point gain since last fortnight. Primary votes were 36% Labor, 36% Coalition, 11% Greens, 7% One Nation and 3% Nick Xenophon Team; the Coalition has lost three points since last fortnight. Essential used a two-week sample of 1830, with additional questions based on one week.

Turnbull’s net approval was -12, down three points since June. Shorten’s net approval was -8, up one point.

64% had at least some trust in security agencies to store personal data, while 32% had little or no trust. For the government, this was 52-43 in favour of little trust, and for telecommunications companies 67-29.

ReachTEL polls of ministers’ seats

The left-wing Australia Institute commissioned ReachTEL polls of seven Federal ministers’ seats on 8 June, with samples of 620-700 per seat. Results and swings from the last election can be seen on GhostWhoVotes’ Twitter feed.

Overall, these are good results for Labor with 2-7 point swings against the government in five of the seven seats. The exceptions are Christopher Pyne’s Sturt (no swing) and Peter Dutton’s Dickson (a four point swing to the Coalition). Individual seat polling has been far less accurate than national or state polling at recent elections.

In seats where One Nation had a high vote, respondent allocated preferences favoured the Coalition. In Scott Morrison’s Cook (One Nation at 18%), minor party preferences favoured Morrison 64-36. In Dickson, One Nation had 15.7% and minor party preferences favoured Labor by just 52-48 despite the Greens holding 10.5%.

In April, UK Labour had 23%, now they have 46% according to YouGov

In mid-April, just before PM Theresa May called the 8 June election, the Conservatives led Labour by 44-23 in YouGov. After the election was announced, the Conservative lead stretched to 48-24.

A YouGov poll taken last week gave Labour a 46-38 lead, representing a doubling of Labour’s vote share since April. Labour’s 46% share is its highest in YouGov’s history, which started its voting intention surveys in 2003.

The ConversationOther polls are not so strong for Labour as YouGov, but Labour has led in most polls conducted since the election. By being reduced to a minority government, the Conservatives have lost much authority, and their deal with the Democratic Unionist Party will not go down well with the UK outside Northern Ireland. Divisions within the Conservatives over austerity and Brexit are unlikely to help.

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

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

Turnbull’s dilemma: we don’t need a homeland security portfolio but Dutton wants a bone


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There is a political need for Malcolm Turnbull to enhance the position of Immigration Minister Peter Dutton.
Dan Himbrechts/AAP

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Between his meetings and public appearances while overseas, Malcolm Turnbull has been mulling over some domestic questions in the security area, notably whether to set up a so-called home office or homeland security super ministry.

It’s an exquisite conundrum.

There appears to be no serious, disinterested push for such a new arrangement, because there is not an existing problem. Federal agencies are working well together, and change can be a distraction from the more pressing tasks at hand.

But there is a political need for Turnbull to enhance the position of Immigration Minister Peter Dutton – a senior conservative whose continued support is vital for the embattled Turnbull.

Such a mega-portfolio, based around Dutton’s present immigration and border protection job, would see ASIO transferred from the attorney-general to come under the new umbrella portfolio, while the Australian Federal Police would be moved from the justice minister. Both of these agencies are independent entities and would remain so.

When this issue arose before, in 2014 – in those days it was Scott Morrison with the sharp elbows – the ministers who’d lose parts of their empires, Attorney-General George Brandis and Justice Minister Michael Keenan, as well as the agencies affected, didn’t want change. There’s no reason to think they have altered their opinions. Foreign Minister Julie Bishop was also opposed, and remains so.

Turnbull now has the report from the review of the Australian intelligence community by former officials Michael L’Estrange and Stephen Merchant. He has asked for a summary to be prepared by next week, so the public release of its findings may be close.

It is believed the L’Estrange/Merchant report does not make any recommendation for a super-portfolio.

While in London this week, Turnbull has the chance to hear about the operation of the British home office. The British model would be more relevant than the American version if Australia went down this route.

In a 2014 Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) paper, the cases for and against change were presented by David Connery, then a senior analyst at ASPI (now in the defence department), and ASPI director Peter Jennings.

Connery argued that having one minister responsible for the domestic security and law enforcement agencies would be superior in terms of accountability, coherence and co-ordination.

Jennings replied that “governments should apply a stringent test: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it … Australia’s counter-terrorism machinery is competent, well funded, clearly closely managed by government and able to take necessary steps when immediate problems are identified.”

Turnbull doesn’t buy the “ain’t broke” point. He said in his June national security parliamentary statement: “We will not take an ‘if it ain’t broke we won’t fix it’ mentality. This government does not simply set and forget. We are at the forefront of efforts to address future threats.”

While Turnbull would maintain this is about getting ahead of an ever-more difficult challenge, it also reflects the desire to be seen to be doing something.

The issue of a home office/homeland security portfolio has usually been talked about in the same breath as a ministerial reshuffle. Yet Turnbull, on all indications, is delaying the reshuffle until late in the year, complicating any change to the scope of Dutton’s portfolio. It would clearly be easier, for example, to take ASIO out of the attorney-general’s area when there was a change of attorney-general than while Brandis is there to kick up a row.

But Turnbull can’t wait for months to provide a response to the security report, given the emphasis the government has put on the threat. And, in his difficult political situation, he would presumably want to throw at least a small bone to Dutton sooner rather than later.

An option, if Turnbull wants to boost Dutton without a wholesale shake up of the architecture, would be to give him a co-ordinating role on counter-terrorism. This was suggested by Jennings in an article on ASPI’s website The Strategist in January. He also floated the idea of a counter-terrorism subcommittee of cabinet’s existing national security committee.

A matter that certainly shouldn’t wait is the appointment of a new secretary of the defence department to replace the well-respected Dennis Richardson, who retired in May. While there is an acting secretary, it is impossible to justify leaving this position open much longer. This is especially so in light of the current high level of international strategic uncertainty.

It is said the defence job is down to a two- or possibly three-horse race, between Dutton’s departmental secretary, Mike Pezzullo, Jennings, and perhaps Martin Bowles (who heads the health department).

Jennings is a former very senior defence department official; ASPI was involved in the drafting of the 2016 Defence White Paper.

The ConversationPezzullo is an aggressive bureaucratic player who was central to the Rudd government’s defence white paper. Moving to defence would not only fulfil his long-time ambition but enable him to leave behind some of the animosity that the immigration post has brought him.

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Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

Explainer: is a High Court challenge about to bring down the Turnbull government?



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Labor will argue David Gillespie ineligible to be an MP based on Section 44(v) of the Constitution.
AAP/Mick Tsikas

Lorraine Finlay, Murdoch University

Labor is set to launch a High Court challenge over the eligibility of Assistant Health Minister David Gillespie to sit in federal parliament. The case has been brought by Peter Alley, the ALP candidate who ran against Gillespie in Lyne at the 2016 federal election.

The action is based on Gillespie, a Nationals MP, owning a small shopping centre in Port Macquarie that contains an Australian Post outlet. As Australia Post is a government-owned corporation, Labor claims this results in Gillespie having an indirect pecuniary interest contrary to Section 44(v) of the Constitution.

If the High Court agrees, Gillespie would be ineligible to sit as an MP.

What does the Constitution say?

Section 44 of the Constitution sets out several grounds of disqualification from holding parliamentary office.

Under Section 44(v), someone “shall be incapable of being chosen or of sitting as a senator or a member of the House of Representatives” if they have:

… any direct or indirect pecuniary interest in any agreement with the Public Service of the Commonwealth otherwise than as a member and in common with the other members of an incorporated company consisting of more than 25 persons.

Before this year, the High Court had only considered this section on one occasion, in 1975.

In that case, Chief Justice Garfield Barwick took an extremely narrow interpretation of the provision, based on a finding that its historic purpose was to protect parliament’s freedom and independence from the influence of the Crown.

An “indirect pecuniary influence” would only be disqualifying where it involved a legal or equitable interest in a contract with ongoing obligations, and where the possibility of financial gain by the agreement’s existence or performance could conceivably allow the Crown to influence an MP in relation to parliamentary affairs.

Under this narrow interpretation – which had been subject to considerable criticism – Gillespie would not be considered ineligible based on his interest in the shopping centre.

The Bob Day case

The High Court revisited the meaning of “indirect pecuniary interest” in April this year. It unanimously held that former Family First Senator Bob Day had an “indirect pecuniary interest” at the time of the 2016 federal election, and was therefore ineligible to be a senator.

Day had already resigned from the Senate before this ruling. But the High Court’s decision was significant for two key reasons.

  • The first was its immediate importance in deciding how a replacement senator was to be selected.

  • The second, which will now be critical when considering Gillespie’s future, was its reconsideration of what constitutes an “indirect pecuniary interest” under Section 44(v).

The Day case concerned a lease agreement between the Commonwealth and Fullarton Investments Pty Ltd for premises Day used as his electorate office. There were a variety of ways in which Day was connected to both the company and property. However, a fact the court found to be particularly significant was that in February 2016, Fullarton Investments directed that rental payments be made into a Day-owned bank account.

The High Court declined to follow the 1975 precedent and adopted a broader interpretation of Section 44(v). Importantly, it found the section had a wider purpose than solely protecting parliament’s independence from executive influence. It was also intended as an anti-corruption provision, designed to protect against potential conflicts of interest by ensuring the public duties of MPs are kept separate from their personal interests.

Under this broader view, an individual would be disqualified where there was an expectation of financial gain if the agreement in question was performed. The court would look at the agreement’s practical effect when making this assessment.

High Court justice Patrick Keane observed:

It is enough that the person’s pockets were or might be affected.

However, it was noted there will be no relevant interest:

… if the agreement in question is one ordinarily made between government and a citizen.

The case against Gillespie

So, is Gillespie ineligible based upon this new, broader interpretation of Section 44(v)?

There is no question of a direct financial interest in this case. Rather, the information currently available suggest that a company owned by Gillespie and his wife leases space in a shopping centre it owns to an Australia Post licensee.

The possible financial interest in this case certainly seems to be more remote than in Day’s case. However, there is still sufficient uncertainty surrounding the outer limits of section 44(v) for this case to be of real concern to the Turnbull government.

What happens now?

If the High Court finds Gillespie is incapable of sitting as an MP under Section 44(v) there would necessarily be a by-election in Lyne.

Given the Turnbull government only has a one-seat majority, the immediate stakes are as high as they could possibly be.

There is also a broader issue worth considering. Gillespie is the third member of the 45th parliament – after Day and Rod Culleton – to have their constitutional eligibility challenged before the courts. In Day’s case, High Court Justice Stephen Gageler emphasised the importance of certainty in this area, so candidates and MPs know where they stand.

The ConversationGiven recent controversies, it would seem an opportune time to review Section 44 to make sure the disqualification provisions in our Constitution are clear, fair, and reflect voters’ real concerns.

Lorraine Finlay, Lecturer in Law, Murdoch University

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