Income tax relief on Turnbull’s agenda


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Malcolm Turnbull has raised the prospect of personal income tax relief to help middle-income earners, saying he is “actively working” on it.

As the government is still trying without success to get the remaining part of its company tax plan through parliament, which would deliver lower tax to big companies, Turnbull has moved to hold out the prospect of relief for individuals.

Speaking to the Business Council of Australia on Monday night, he noted the government had already lifted the second-highest income tax bracket threshold from A$80,000 to A$87,000, keeping some half-a-million people from moving into a higher bracket. It had also spared people facing a permanent top marginal rate of 49.5% by not making the temporary deficit levy permanent.

“You know our plans on corporate tax,” he said. “In the personal income tax space, I am actively working with the treasurer and all my cabinet colleagues to ease the burden on middle-income Australians, while also meeting our commitment to return the budget to surplus.”

He said his commitment to all Australians was: “Whether you are starting out in your first job, a worker providing for their family, or a business hiring staff, our goal is always to leave more money in your pocket, not in ours.

“Higher taxes penalise people who are trying to get ahead. But when you reward hard work and enterprise, you encourage hard work and enterprise.

“It’s pretty simple – more investment, more jobs. That’s the key.”

He recalled that his earliest foray into the personal income tax debate in 2005 as a fairly new MP was not uniformly welcomed. He did not spell out that then-treasurer Peter Costello was furious.

But the concerns that underpinned a report he released then still existed: “The tax system remains complex and compliance is a burden, our marginal tax rates are high, bracket creep is a constant challenge that needs to be addressed”.

Turnbull said that “just because we’re in challenging fiscal times doesn’t mean we should raise the white flag on making the tax system work better”.

A Treasury analysis showed Australia risked being left behind by the rest of the world in the competitiveness of its business tax, he said, citing in particular the US and the UK.

The Conversation“If we don’t reduce our corporate rate to 25% as planned – in our Enterprise Tax Plan – over the coming decade, the only advanced nations that will exceed Australia’s tax rate are Japan and Malta.”

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Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

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When you’re on the defensive, stepping backwards can send a bad signal


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Malcolm Turnbull’s tactic of cancelling the House of Representatives’ sitting next week – because his numbers are depleted and the government is nervous – is a short-sighted decision that smacks of lack of nerve.

Undoubtedly it would have been a rough week in the lower house. But refusing to face it looks panicky, just when Turnbull is trying to convince people that he and the government are in control.

The government is desperate to keep the lower house agenda narrow and as tightly managed as its unfortunate circumstances permit. It declares the rest of the parliamentary year will be confined to legislating for same-sex marriage and considering which citizenship cases should be referred to the High Court.

Monday’s cancellation wasn’t Turnbull’s only ploy to avoid being embarrassed in the lower house’s final sitting days of 2017. When he recently met Bill Shorten to discuss citizenship disclosure, he tried to win agreement to confine the coming period to non-controversial legislation. Labor naturally wouldn’t play ball.

The cancellation has nothing logically to do with the timetable for the same-sex marriage bill. Consideration of that legislation was always to continue in the Senate next week, moving to the House of Representatives for debate the week after. Meanwhile, the lower house next week would have dealt with other legislation.

Nor is Leader of the House Christopher Pyne convincing when he claims this is just a routine change, and that there was no need for the lower house to meet next week because there was nothing urgent for it to do.

In truth, the government fears what trouble Labor games and rebels in its own ranks might cause, and is desperate to limit the time available to them. The latter, spearheaded by Nationals Barry O’Sullivan in the Senate and George Christensen in the lower house, are planning to try to force the issue of a commission of inquiry into the banks and other financial institutions.

O’Sullivan is preparing a bill for the banking commission and claims up to four lower house members could cross the floor. The O’Sullivan commission would report to the parliament; it would be distinct from a royal commission, which only the government can set up.

This bill was never going to get to the lower house next week; it’s not even clear whether it will be debated there when the lower house does sit the week starting December 4. But Christensen says he will vote for a commission or the like “in whatever guise it comes up and I definitely expect it’s going to come up”. Something will certainly “come up” if Labor can make it do so.

One big question is why the government has let this bank issue fester. It has been very critical of the banks, slapped a hefty tax on them, and moved to impose a tough regimen on their executives. But it has fought trenchantly against the royal commission that Labor advocates.

Given the strength of anti-bank feeling in the community, and within some of its own ranks – based on the banks’ bad behaviour – the government should have long ago cut its losses and set up a broad-ranging inquiry.

An important aspect of the rebel Nationals’ push is that they are referencing the precedent of the Liberals rebels’ success on same-sex marriage.

O’Sullivan told the ABC the government’s facilitating Liberal backbencher Dean Smith’s private member’s bill (now a crossbench bill) provided “a new pathway for backbenchers to be able to pursue matters of importance to them, and I’m just simply following along in his footsteps”.

The Nationals remain deeply out of sorts about the marriage debate sucking oxygen, as they see it, from other issues for months.

Beyond that, the rebels have taken from the marriage story the lesson that what’s good for the goose should be good for the gander. If a group of Liberal rebels – the “famous five” who put same sex-marriage back on the government agenda – can break ranks and end up getting what they want, why not a group of Nationals, with their issues?

And the win – and praise – scored by the Liberal rebels has meant the Nationals leadership and whips have reduced authority to keep their own rebels in line.

On Monday night Labor was seeking crossbench support for a proposed joint letter to put pressure on Turnbull to reverse his decision to cancel next week’s lower house sittings, but there’s no chance of his doing that.

Turnbull had raised the possibility of deferring the start of the House sitting at his meeting with Shorten. Shorten gave it short shrift at the time, and said so publicly, but Turnbull has rashly chosen to have the last word.

The ConversationTurnbull told a business audience on Monday night: “In times of uncertainty, the nation needs calm and measured leadership, a steady hand at the helm”. His earlier action suggested a touch of the tremble.

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Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

Bennelong polls: Galaxy 50-50, ReachTEL 53-47 to Liberal



File 20171118 11457 izuqxk.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Liberal candidate John Alexander has a fight on his hands to win the Sydney seat of Bennelong.
AAP/Gemma Najem

Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

The Bennelong byelection will be held in four weeks, on December 16. With Barnaby Joyce almost certain to retain New England, Bennelong will decide whether the Coalition regains its parliamentary majority. Labor’s candidate is former NSW premier Kristina Keneally, while John Alexander will recontest for the Liberals after the possibility that he held British citizenship was renounced yesterday.

A Galaxy poll, conducted on November 15 from a sample of 579, had a 50-50 tie, a ten-point swing to Labor from the 2016 result. The only primary votes released so far are 42% for Alexander and 39% for Keneally. 42% thought Keneally had done a bad job as premier, while 37% thought she had done a good job. As Keneally led a government that was smashed in 2011, this negative assessment is to be expected.

A ReachTEL poll, conducted 16 November from a sample of 864, gave Alexander a 53-47 lead, a seven-point swing to Labor since 2016. Primary votes were 41.6% Alexander, 34.5% Keneally, 5.9% Greens, 5.4% One Nation and 8.3% undecided. Undecided voters in ReachTEL polls can be pushed into saying which way they lean, but this information is usually omitted by media sources.

Alexander had a 51% favourable, 15% unfavourable rating, and Keneally a 42% favourable, 28% unfavourable rating. In the last ReachTEL national poll, in late October, Malcolm Turnbull had a 51-49 better prime minister lead over Bill Shorten. In Bennelong, Turnbull had a much larger 60-40 lead.

These polls vindicate Labor’s selection of Keneally. Although Keneally has a somewhat controversial past, she has a high profile. A lower-profile candidate would have had difficulty overcoming Alexander’s advantage as the sitting member. With Turnbull’s big lead over Shorten, Keneally is performing well to be six points behind in ReachTEL.

In past elections, individual seat polls have performed much worse in predicting results than using statewide or national polls. The ReachTEL One Nation vote of 5.4% in Bennelong appears too high, as One Nation won just 1.4% for Bennelong in the NSW Senate in 2016, compared with 4.1% for the whole state.

The national swing to Labor is currently about 4.5 percentage points since the last election. An average of ReachTEL and Galaxy would have Alexander ahead by 51.5-48.5, an eight-point swing to Labor, so the swing is larger in Bennelong than nationally. Swings against governments are usually larger at by-elections than general elections.

Given the inaccuracy of single seat polls, Labor could be ahead, or Alexander could have a larger lead than in ReachTEL.

Liberal senator-designate Hollie Hughes disqualified by High Court

Nationals Senator Fiona Nash was disqualified on October 27, as she was a British citizen. Liberal Hollie Hughes, next on the joint Coalition ticket in NSW, took up public service work following her failure at the 2016 election, and was disqualified on 15 November under Section 44(iv) of the Constitution. With Hughes disqualified, Liberal Jim Molan is next on the Coalition ticket. The High Court could also declare this seat a casual vacancy, to be filled by the party that previously held the seat.

The ConversationHughes had missed out in 2016, and the High Court could have shown leniency as she did not knowingly hold a public service job while contesting an election. This decision is a clear warning that the High Court will not tolerate any breach of Section 44.

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

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

High Court strikes again – knocking out Hollie Hughes as replacement senator


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

The High Court has ruled out Liberal Hollie Hughes as a replacement for former Nationals senator Fiona Nash on the ground that she had an office of profit under the Crown during the election period.

Once again, the court has taken a very literalist approach to the Constitution. Hughes was appointed to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal this year but quit immediately after the court declared Nash ineligible to sit in parliament because she had been a dual British citizen when she nominated.

Hughes’ problem was that the election period is considered to extend until the seat is filled. The court did not accept the argument of Commonwealth Solicitor-General Stephen Donaghue that “the process of choice ends with the poll”.

Hughes was the next candidate on the Coalition joint ticket for New South Wales for the 2016 election and was set to get the position on the recount. The seat is now expected to go to Jim Molan, the following candidate on the ticket.

There would be some irony in his election because he had been pushed to an unwinnable position on the ticket, but still managed to get more than 10,000 votes personally.

Molan, a former senior military officer, was key in the shaping of the Coalition’s border protection policy.

He has been one of those at the forefront of the move within the NSW Liberal division to get a more democratic structure. He has put himself forward as a candidate for state president when the party’s state council meets in December to consider reforms that were passed by a rank-and-file convention earlier this year.

Molan said late on Wednesday that it was too early to say much about the Senate seat beyond “I believe I am eligible and I would take the job if it were offered”. He had no citizenship problems nor did he have any office of profit under the Crown, he said.

The ConversationThe High Court will publish its reasons later.

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Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

Shorten goes for broke in byelection with mega stakes for Turnbull


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Kristina Keneally’s entry into the Bennelong byelection has put more sizzle into a contest already up there as potentially one of the most significant byelections in recent years.

A decade ago Maxine McKew took the Sydney seat from John Howard, in the general election won by Labor.

If Keneally could wrest the electorate once again for Labor, the opposition would inflict a massive blow on the Coalition. Possibly one that would spell the end of Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership. A defeat would, in short, be catastrophic for the government.

On the other hand, if the swing against the Liberals was limited, that would help a besieged government and put some heart into its backbench.

Byelections can be seminal political moments. The Liberals’ loss of the Queensland seat of Ryan in 2001, with a 9.7% swing – the precise margin Bennelong is on – galvanised an embattled Howard. Retaining the Victorian seat of Aston a few months later (with a swing of only 3.7%) was seen as something of a turning point for the government.

In 2015, then prime minister Tony Abbott faced the Canning byelection in Western Australia, with the shadow of Malcolm Turnbull’s ambition hanging over him and warnings of dire consequences if the seat fell. When party polling suggested it would be saved, Turnbull pre-empted a positive result by launching his challenge before polling day.

John Alexander, 66, who fell foul of the dual citizenship crisis so creating this byelection, won Bennelong from McKew in 2010. The one-time tennis star hasn’t reached the frontbench and is rarely in the national news – though he did arc up on housing affordability.

But he is locally active and popular; in the difficult 2016 election he achieved a swing toward him. There had been speculation this might be his last term in parliament – he’d sold his home in the electorate – but now he’s committed to contesting the next election if he wins the byelection. He has said his move was downsizing and that he’s looking for an apartment in the seat.

Appearing with Bill Shorten on Tuesday, Keneally was careful to declare Alexander “a lovely guy”, though sloppy with his paperwork. He has to tie up his renunciation of British citizenship before nominating – presumably the UK bureaucrats are not dawdling.

In tapping Keneally to run, Shorten has both gone for the big hit and taken a gamble. The former NSW premier is well-known, media-savvy and campaign-hardened. She’s most recently worked for Sky; she’s in practice at talking a lot and thinking on the run. In political terms, she’s the quintessential star candidate.

But her background is from the bad times of NSW Labor politics, the days of Eddie Obeid and Ian Macdonald, both in jail, and Joe Tripodi. The Labor premier she displaced, Nathan Rees, said his successor would be a “puppet” of Obeid and Tripodi, to which she retorted “I am nobody’s puppet … I am nobody’s girl”.

The Coalition has an arsenal to use against her, and has immediately started to fire its bullets.

“Don’t let Kristina Keneally do to Bennelong what she did to New South Wales,” Turnbull said from the Philippines. “She is Bill Shorten’s handpicked candidate, so obviously Eddie Obeid and Bill Shorten have formed the same view about Kristina Keneally.” Ministers Greg Hunt and Scott Morrison had similar lines.

At this early stage no-one can be confident in predicting how this battle might go. There are more questions than answers.

To what extent can the Coalition exploit Keneally’s past if voters just want to lodge a protest against the Turnbull government? How far back will memories stretch, especially when there was no suggestion Keneally was corrupt?

Will state issues play into the campaign, and will the contest become more “local” as time goes on? How important will be the ethnic vote, in particular the big local Chinese community? Will voters sympathise with Alexander over his citizenship oversight, or will they mark him down for an unnecessary byelection?

The ABC’s election analyst Antony Green believes that despite the size of the margin “it’s a competitive contest given the polls and given the profile of Labor’s candidate”. As for Keneally’s past, “it’s the baggage of the current federal government that is the issue rather than the baggage of the state Labor government she led six years ago”.

Labor will run a well-resourced campaign. Shorten doesn’t have as much at stake as Turnbull, but once committed to a nationally known candidate and a high-profile campaign he would be burned by a poor Labor showing.

The December 16 Bennelong result will come after the December 2 New England byelection, which will return Barnaby Joyce, and the Queensland state election, where the outcome is uncertain. It will also follow the internal Coalition arm-wrestle over the detail of implementing same-sex marriage.

The ConversationEach will play into the government’s fortunes, but the Bennelong outcome might be the most important in how Turnbull goes into the new year.

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Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

Newspoll 55-45 to Labor as Turnbull’s better PM lead falls to 2. Qld and Alabama polling


Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

This week’s Newspoll, conducted 9-12 November from a sample of 1630, gave Labor a 55-45 lead, a one point gain for Labor since last fortnight, and their largest Newspoll lead since February. Primary votes were 38% Labor (up 1), 34% Coalition (down 1), 10% One Nation (up 1) and 9% Greens (down 1). This is Turnbull’s 23rd consecutive Newspoll loss as PM, 7 short of Abbott.

29% were satisfied with Turnbull’s performance (down 2), and 58% were dissatisfied (down 1), for a net approval of -29. Shorten’s net approval was up five points to -19. The biggest story in the personal ratings was Turnbull’s lead as better PM over Shorten narrowing from 41-33 to 36-34, by far Turnbull’s lowest Newspoll lead over Shorten since he ousted Abbott to become PM.

This result will increase leadership speculation, and hard right commentators will say the Coalition should return to a proper conservative leader. However, while this is Turnbull’s worst better PM rating, Shorten often led Abbott while Abbott was PM. The better PM measure favours incumbents more than would be expected given voting intentions.

Newspoll asked a best Liberal leader question with three options: Turnbull, Julie Bishop and Peter Dutton. Bishop led Turnbull 40-27, with 11% for Dutton. Among Coalition voters, Turnbull was ahead 42-39 with 7% for Dutton. Dutton won 24% with One Nation voters.

If we count Labor/Greens as left, and Coalition/One Nation as right, there has been little change between the total left and right votes in the last six Newspolls. The total left vote has been 47% in all six, and the total right 44-45%. One Nation’s preference flow to the Coalition is likely to be stronger than the 50% at the 2016 election, which Newspoll uses, so Labor’s two party lead is probably overstated.

The fall in Turnbull’s better PM lead is likely due to the citizenship debacle, with voters thinking he has lost control of the situation. By 45-42, voters favoured changing the Constitution to allow dual citizens to run for Parliament.

The Bennelong by-election will be held on 16 December. Former NSW Premier Kristina Kenneally today announced she would contest the by-election for Labor. Kenneally has a high public profile. While Labor was smashed at the 2011 NSW election, the damage was done long before Kenneally became Premier, and she has not been blamed for that loss. Kenneally appears to be a very good choice for Labor.

With Essential and YouGov below confirming the trend in Newspoll, Kevin Bonham’s poll aggregate is now at 54.2% two party to Labor, a 1.0 point gain for Labor since last week, and Labor’s best for this term.

Lambie’s probable disqualification will un-un-elect McKim

Two weeks ago, I wrote that Tasmanian Liberal Senator Stephen Parry’s disqualification would see One Nation’s Kate McCulloch defeat Green Nick McKim for the 12th and final seat, reversing the 2016 election result.

Jacqui Lambie has revealed she has a Scottish father, and has resigned from the Senate. If both Parry and Lambie are disqualified, the Senate recount reverts to electing McKim instead of McCulloch. So it now appears that the High Court will not have to rule on whether an elected Senator who has done nothing wrong himself can be unelected.

SSM plebiscite polling

The result of the same sex marriage plebiscite will be declared at 10am Melbourne time tomorrow. In Newspoll, 79% said they had voted, up 3 since last fortnight. Of these 79%, Yes led 63-37 (62-35 from the 76% who had voted last fortnight).

In Essential, 45% thought the postal survey a bad process that should not be used in the future, 27% a good process that should be used in the future, and 19% a good process that should not be used.

If Yes wins, 58% in YouGov thought the government should pass a law legalising same sex marriage straight away, 18% ignore the result, and 14% wait before passing a law. By 46-42, voters thought MPs who personally oppose same sex marriage should vote for the bill.

Essential 54-46 to Labor

This week’s Essential, conducted over the last two weeks from a sample of 1820, gave Labor a 54-46 lead, a one point gain for Labor since last week. Primary votes were 38% Labor, 36% Coalition, 9% Greens, 8% One Nation and 3% Nick Xenophon Team. Additional questions use one week’s sample.

Turnbull’s net approval was down 11 points to -12 since October, and Shorten’s net approval was down six points to -13. Unlike Newspoll, Turnbull maintained a 40-28 lead as better PM (42-28 in October).

By 44-40, voters thought Turnbull’s proposal to resolve the dual citizenship crisis did not go far enough. By 49-30, they thought disqualified MPs should repay public funding of their election campaigns. By 44-31, voters disapproved of privatising the NBN when completed.

YouGov primary votes: 34% Labor, 31% Coalition, 11% Greens, 11% One Nation

This week’s YouGov poll, conducted 9-12 November from a sample of 1034, gave Labor a 52-48 lead by respondent preferences, a 3 point gain for Labor since last fortnight. Primary votes were 34% Labor (up 1), 31% Coalition (down 5), 11% Greens (up 1) and 11% One Nation (up 2). By previous election preferences, this poll would be about 55-45 to Labor.

Hanson had a 48-45 unfavourable rating (50-42 in early September). Greens leader Richard di Natale had a 33-29 unfavourable rating (39-26). Nick Xenophon had a 53-28 favourable rating (52-28). Abbott had a 56-36 unfavourable rating (57-34).

By 61-16, voters thought a full audit into all parliamentarians regarding dual citizenship a good idea. By 63-26, they thought it unacceptable to legally avoid paying tax. By 55-27, voters said they would not take part in a tax avoidance scheme, which is probably not an honest assessment.

Qld ReachTEL poll of One Nation voters, and more Galaxy seat polls

A ReachTEL poll of over 3400 voters was conducted for the Sunday Mail. From the Poll Bludger’s write-up and comments, it appears this poll was of just One Nation voters, not all voters. Sky News reported this poll as 52-48 to the LNP, but they appear to have extrapolated One Nation preferences in this poll (74.5% to LNP), and applied those preferences to other polls.

If 3 in 4 One Nation preferences are going to the LNP, Labor has shot itself in the foot by changing the electoral system from optional preferential to compulsory preferential voting last year. Labor can hope that this poll had self-selection issues, with hard right One Nation supporters more likely to participate than those who are simply disillusioned with both major parties.

In deputy Premier Jackie Trad’s South Brisbane, the Greens had a 51-49 lead over Trad according to a Galaxy poll taken last week. However, this poll assumes that LNP voters will assign their own preferences, rather than follow their party’s How-to-Vote card. In practice, over half of major party voters follow the card. With the LNP putting the Greens behind Labor on all its cards, Trad should retain South Brisbane easily.

In Burdekin, the LNP had a 51-49 lead over Labor, a 2 point swing to the LNP since the 2015 election.

Following Moore’s alleged sex encounter with 14-y/o, Alabama Senate race tightens

The Alabama Senate by-election will be held on 12 December. Last Thursday, the Washington Post reported that extreme right Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore had had a sexual encounter with a 14 year-old girl when he was 32.

The three polls taken since this revelation are between a 4-point lead for Democrat Doug Jones, and a 10-point lead for Moore, averaging at Moore by 2 points. There have been 12-point shifts in Jones’ favour from the previous editions of both JMC and Emerson, and a 5-point shift in Opinion Savvy.

The ConversationWhat happens next depends on whether voters quickly get over the scandal, or whether it festers, and continues to damage Moore. If the former happens, Moore should win comfortably, but the latter outcome would give Jones a real chance. An example of a scandal that festered in Australia was Bronwyn Bishop’s Choppergate affair.

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

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

Labor increases Newspoll lead to 55-45% as Shorten moves within striking distance as better PM


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Newspoll has delivered a sweeping new setback to Malcolm Turnbull, with a big cut in his “better prime minister” rating and Labor increasing its two-party lead to a massive 55-45%.

The blow comes as the government and opposition prepare for a byelection in the Sydney seat of Bennelong, expected to be on December 16, following Saturday’s resignation of Liberal backbencher John Alexander, who said he was a likely British citizen.

The Coalition will be particularly panicked by the fall in Turnbull’s rating as better prime minister, from 41% to 36%. Bill Shorten’s rating rose one point to 34%. Turnbull’s two-point lead over Shorten is the narrowest margin there has been between them.

The government has always looked to this measure to argue Turnbull’s strength against Shorten, even in the face of the bad two-party results.

In the 23rd consecutive Newspoll in which the Coalition has trailed, the ALP increased its two-party vote from 54-46% a fortnight ago, and its primary vote from 37% to 38%. The Coalition’s primary vote went down one point to 34%. The escalating citizenship crisis has dominated the two weeks.

Turnbull’s net satisfaction worsened slightly from minus 28 to minus 29, while Shorten’s improved from minus 24 to minus 19. Pauline Hanson’s One Nation rose one point to 10%; the Greens fell one point to 9%.

Bennelong, once held by John Howard, is on a margin of a little under 10%, making it safe in normal times but potentially vulnerable in the present chaotic climate.

Alexander said that although he had not received formal confirmation from the British that he was a UK citizen via his father, “the probability of evidence is that I most likely am”. He will recontest the seat.

With Barnaby Joyce and Alexander both out of parliament the government will be operating from a minority position when the House of Representatives returns on November 27. It has 74 of the 148 occupied seats, 73 on the floor when the Speaker, who only has a casting vote, is excluded.

Though the government is not at risk of a no-confidence motion, thanks to having sufficient crossbench support, Labor will make the lower house as difficult as possible.

Turnbull said the byelection date was “a matter for the Speaker” but the government wanted it “as soon as possible”. Labor started campaigning in the seat on Sunday.

Both sides became more shrill at the weekend in their claims about the alleged dual citizens among the ranks of their opponents.

The government is threatening to refer at least two ALP MPs, Justine Keay and Susan Lamb, to the High Court, and perhaps more. It could not do this on its own, with its present numbers.

In response, the opposition has issued a “hit list” of Liberals, including Julia Banks, Nola Marino, Alex Hawke, Tony Pasin and Ann Sudmalis.

A Labor source said that if Malcolm Turnbull “wants to fire this missile, we’ve got the ammo to go nuclear”. Turnbull was “locking and loading the gun at his own MPs”.

Several Labor MPs moved to renounce their dual citizenship before their nominations but did not get their confirmations until afterwards. The ALP claims they should not be referred to the court, because they took reasonable steps but given the High Court’s black-letter approach in its recent decisions, it is not clear how it would treat such cases.

Turnbull, who is trying to manage the unfolding crisis from a distance during his Asia trip, said: “Bill Shorten has got to stop running a protection racket for his own dual citizens”.

Turnbull said Labor had welcomed the court’s literalism. But “the worm has turned and now we see one Labor MP after another who could not pass that literal test.

“Now, if Labor says they’ve got counter-arguments, terrific. Let them make them in the court.

“There is no question that Labor has a number of members who not only were, but knew they were … foreign citizens at the time they nominated for parliament. That makes them ineligible.”

The manager of opposition business in the House of Representatives, Tony Burke, said the difference between the Labor and Liberal MPs was that “Those who are in the spotlight for the Labor party took reasonable steps before the nomination date. Those who are in the focus from the Liberal party took no steps at all before the nomination date.”

Burke on Sunday was campaigning in Bennelong, where Labor is homing in on the seat’s ethnic component.

Following the Queensland Liberal National Party preferencing One Nation in many seats for the November 25 state election, Burke said a petition was being launched “to demand that Malcolm Turnbull end the preference deals with One Nation”.

Labor will also make the government’s proposed toughening of the citizenship law an issue in Bennelong.

“A prime minister with any authority would be able to stop a preference deal with One Nation. John Howard would have been able to stop a preference deal with One Nation,” Burke said.

The Conversation“But Malcolm Turnbull, a prime minister with no authority and a government with no majority, has failed to stand up for the people who live here. Make no mistake, when you attack multicultural Australia, which is exactly what One Nation is all about, you attack the community that lives here in Bennelong.”

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Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

Coalition loses majority after Alexander resigns. Qld polling and preferences


Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

Liberal John Alexander today resigned as the Member for Bennelong, owing to concerns he had British citizenship by descent through his father. As Barnaby Joyce has also been ousted pending a 2 December by-election in New England, the Coalition now has 74 of the 148 occupied lower house seats, not quite a majority. Since the Speaker cannot vote except to break a tie, they have 73 of 147 votes on the floor. If all five cross-benchers vote with Labor, Labor would win divisions.

The Senate alone sits next week, with the full Parliament to hold a two-week sitting from 27 November. Joyce is likely to be absent for both these weeks. Even if he wins convincingly, the electoral commission will take some time to formally declare the New England result.

If the Coalition does not want to attempt minority government for these two weeks, Turnbull could ask the Governor-General to prorogue (suspend) Parliament until after the New England and Bennelong by-elections are held.

At the 2016 election, Alexander won Bennelong by 59.7-40.3 vs Labor, a 2 point swing to the Liberals. Alexander said he will re-contest Bennelong at the by-election, and this makes Labor’s task more difficult. In most by-elections, the incumbent party loses the personal vote of the sitting member, but not in either New England or Bennelong.

Labor’s Maxine McKew famously ousted incumbent PM John Howard from Bennelong at the 2007 election, but Alexander regained it for the Liberals in 2010, and has held it since.

17 candidates have nominated for the New England by-election, likely increasing the informal vote. Many of these candidates will forfeit the $1000 deposit for failing to win at least 4% of the vote. The most original candidate name was “MEOW-MEOW, Meow-Ludo Disco Gamma” from the Science Party. Joyce is the overwhelming favourite, with Independent Rob Taber and Labor’s David Ewings likely to contest second.

3 of 4 Senate vacancies filled, but questions over Hughes

Following recounts of Senate votes for four ousted Senators, yesterday the High Court declared Greens Andrew Bartlett elected to replace Larissa Waters, Greens Jordan Steele-John elected to replace Scott Ludlam and One Nation’s Fraser Anning elected to replace Malcolm Roberts. These Senators will be sworn in when the Senate resumes Monday.

Nationals Fiona Nash’s replacement has been complicated as Liberal Hollie Hughes, the next on the joint Coalition ticket in NSW, took up public service work following her failure at the 2016 election, and may be disqualified under Section 44(iv) of the Constitution. The full High Court will consider Hughes’ case next week. If Hughes is disqualified, Liberal Jim Molan is next on the Coalition ticket.

Qld Galaxy seat polling and preference recommendations

The Queensland election will be held in two weeks, on 25 November. Galaxy conducted seven electorate polls, presumably on 9 November from samples of about 550 per seat. The seats polled were Logan, Mundingburra, Hervey Bay, Rockhampton, Cairns, Bonney and Glass House.

In only one seat, Logan, was One Nation second on primary votes with 32%, but they were losing to Labor 52-48 after respondent-allocated preferences. In the other seats, One Nation’s vote was at most 25%.

Mundingburra was the only seat shown as changing hands on this polling, with the LNP leading 52-48, a 4 point swing to them. However, Glass House and Bonney were both tied 50-50, representing swings to Labor. Labor-turned-Independent candidates in Cairns and Rockhampton were not a threat.

Labor and the Greens will put One Nation last on their how-to-vote cards in all seats. One Nation will put sitting members second last ahead of the Greens, with a handful of exceptions, primarily for the two Katter party MPs. According to the ABC’s Chris O’Brien, the LNP will recommend its voters preference One Nation ahead of Labor in at least 50 of the 93 seats.

The ConversationI think the LNP’s preference decision is likely to be a negative in south-east Queensland, where well-educated conservative voters may be unhappy with their party preferencing a perceived racist party.

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 and Shorten haggle over detail of citizenship disclosure system


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten are inching toward an agreement on the form of a citizenship declaration that each MP would have to make within weeks.

The two met in Melbourne on Wednesday, with Turnbull hoping they would finalise the declaration. But Shorten, who was accompanied by Labor Senate leader Penny Wong, had two objections to the proposal outlined by Turnbull earlier this week.

Shorten told a news conference later that Labor believed the declaration should outline what steps a person whose parents or grandparents had been born overseas had taken to investigate whether they were a dual citizen. Also, Labor wanted a shorter timeframe for MPs submitting the declaration.

Under Turnbull’s plan, an MP would state the details of where they were born and where their parents were born, and their belief that they were not a dual citizen. The declarations would have to be submitted 21 days after the Senate and the House of Representatives respectively passed a motion approving the new decoration system.

The government plans to move motions for the declaration in the Senate next week and when the House of Representatives meets on November 27.

It emerged on Wednesday that the government was proposing to bring the parliament back in late December to consider the declarations, which would open the way for any MPs who were thought to be dual citizens to be referred to the High Court. But Shorten seized on the point that a special sitting of parliament would be very costly for the taxpayer.

Shorten said the statements should be in by December 1, five days after the lower house resumes, and a week before parliament rises for Christmas.

“This would allow the disclosures to be checked out and then if there are any problems requiring referral to the High Court, that could be done in the last week of parliament,” Shorten said.

On Labor’s proposed tougher test, Shorten said: “Mr Turnbull’s resolution only goes to what the actual individual MP might believe, but I think that we require, and the High Court set, a higher test of us. Labor is not going to support watering down the High Court decisions to help a few MPs scrape back into parliament.”

Late on Wednesday the government and opposition were exchanging proposals for changes to the wording of the motion.

Both Turnbull and Shorten described the talks as “constructive”.

“We are certainly agreed on the need for disclosure of the kind that I’ve set out in the resolution,” Turnbull told a separate news conference.

“We’ve also agreed that the matter must be dealt with before the end of the year.

“By that, I mean that the disclosures should be made before the end of the year and the House and the Senate should have the opportunity, having considered those disclosures, whether any members or senators should be referred to the High Court … of course it may be that nobody needs to be referred to the High Court.”

Meanwhile, Liberal backbencher John Alexander, the member for Bennelong, is waiting for British Home Office advice on whether he is a dual British citizen. The issue revolves around whether Alexander’s father, who was born in Britain, renounced his citizenship – as Alexander believed.

If Alexander turns out to be ineligible to sit in parliament the government would face a byelection in a seat it would be vulnerable to losing.

The government is homing in on Labor MP Justine Keay, from Tasmania, who moved to renounce her UK citizenship before she nominated but did not receive confirmation until after the election. Labor insists that Keay met the requirement to make every reasonable effort to renounce a foreign citizenship.

Issues are being raised about several other MPs. The crisis has already claimed half-a-dozen victims.

Postscript

Four Liberal senators including a minister have nominated for Senate president – but the Nationals New South Wales senator John “Wacka” Williams has said he will not contest. Special Minister of State Scott Ryan has nominated to be the government’s candidate, as have David Fawcett, Dean Smith and Ian Macdonald. If Ryan were successful that would open up a vacancy in the outer ministry.

The government’s candidate will be chosen before the Senate meets on Monday.

Tasmanian Greens senator Peter Whish-Wilson will contest the position against the government candidate but has no hope of success.

The ConversationThe Nationals have never held the position. Williams’ bid was seen as part of the tensions between the Coalition partners in the wake of the citizenship crisis which has claimed two Nationals ministers, forcing Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce to a byelection and ending – at least for the foreseeable future – the political career of Fiona Nash.

https://www.podbean.com/media/player/k3zus-7afe23?from=site&skin=1&share=1&fonts=Helvetica&auto=0&download=0

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

Grattan on Friday: Turnbull government reels from new twist in the Parry affair



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Malcolm Turnbull’s current mood about how all this is playing out can be easily imagined.
Dan Peled/AAP

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

The sudden exit from parliament of Senate president Stephen Parry has turned into a toxic blame game, in a further sign of a government crumbling into chaos.

Malcolm Turnbull and deputy Senate leader Mathias Cormann lashed out at Parry for not publicly revealing earlier his probable British dual citizenship, confirmed this week. Then – oops. It turns out Parry had shared his circumstances with some senior colleagues.

Unsettled by the odium now flowing in his direction, Parry has revealed that when the Nationals’ Fiona Nash in August announced she’d been informed she was a British citizen by descent, he realised he likely was as well.

He spoke to “various ministers”. Though he wasn’t ordered to shut up about his situation, the tone of the conversations suggested he say nothing until the High Court ruled in the “citizenship seven” cases, with the government believing that its two ministers, Barnaby Joyce and Nash, would be found eligible to sit in parliament.

Communications Minister Mitch Fifield has confirmed he was one of the ministers Parry consulted.

“Former senator Parry mentioned to me a few weeks ago that he was endeavouring to check his family’s records,” Fifield said in a statement late Thursday. “The onus is on all senators and members to satisfy themselves of their circumstances and I encouraged senator Parry to do so. He called me on Monday to say that he had sought advice from the British Home Office and had advised the attorney-general of this.”

It is believed Fifield did not discuss the timing of the court decision with Parry.

Turnbull was not among those Parry spoke to during those weeks. His current mood about how all this is playing out can be easily imagined.

Turnbull said at a Wednesday news conference in Jerusalem that he was disappointed that Parry “didn’t make public this issue … quite some time ago”.

“I learnt about it probably about the same time you did,” he told journalists.

He wasn’t the only one badly caught out. Brandis had declared he had “absolutely no reason to believe” there were any more Coalition MPs who were dual citizens. That was on Sunday television – just a day before Parry landed a grenade in his lap on Monday.

Brandis that day informed the Prime Minister’s Office, but the information was not passed on immediately to Turnbull. Why? It is said because of the lack of clarity at that stage about the facts.

What an incredible train of events. Instead of telling the Senate’s presiding officer that he should be transparent, for the sake of the integrity of both the government and the parliament, senior government members allegedly encouraged him to wait and see.

This can only reinforce the public’s deep distrust of politicians.

Richard Goyder, outgoing managing director of Wesfarmers, spoke for many when told the National Press Club (before the Parry blowback) that the affair was “almost the straw which broke the camel’s back” on trust.

“To have someone in a position of real authority in the country sit on information, and even sit on it from the prime minister, and then hope bad news went away … and not deal with it – I do think that has an impact,” he said.

And now what started out as Parry’s failure to disclose in timely fashion has morphed into something with hints of a cover up by ministers. The opposition has been given another break.

It hardly seemed possible this week could be as bad as last, which saw the Michaelia Cash-AWU debacle and the High Court blow that felled two ministers, triggering a byelection in Joyce’s New England seat. But it has been.

The Parry affair has turbo-charged the pressure for an audit of all MPs’ parliamentary eligibility, with some Liberal MPs jumping on the bandwagon, using it as leverage in the internal Liberal wars.

Kevin Andrews, a political enemy of Turnbull, said on Sky that “Australians are looking for strong and decisive leadership” – adding that if he were prime minister, he’d be asking the Australian Electoral Commission to do an audit.

Eric Abetz also backed an audit, declaring in an interview with the ABC “chances are” more dual citizens are in parliament. For good measure, Abetz, though defending Parry, said he’d have advised him to “have thrown his lot in with the other seven”.

The government has dug in against an audit, arguing it would be complex and that it’s up to individuals to check out their citizenship, or for others to bring forward allegations.

Turnbull was typically hyperbolic. “What is an audit?” he asked. “Does that mean that somebody is going to undertake extensive genealogical research on every member of parliament and senator? Undertake extensive research into foreign laws?”

Well, actually, the auditor would ask the questions that careful candidates now ask themselves and any experts to whom they may need to turn.

Obviously there’s a real fear in the government that an audit could find more MPs in breach and lead to further byelections, at worst threatening the government and at best causing a shambles. With its back against the wall, it’s been a mercy for the Coalition that Labor – probably also nervous despite having good checking processes – has been (so far) on a unity ticket in opposing an audit.

Adding to the government’s pain this week has been Liberal-National scuffling over who’ll get Parry’s lucrative post, and ugly Liberal in-fighting as conservative enemies of cabinet minister Christopher Pyne, a moderate who is a ferocious factional player, tossed out dirt about him.

The scrapping over the Senate presidency is likely to be resolved in favour of the Liberals, but it highlights the present unhelpful tensions between the Coalition partners. Equally unhelpful is the assault against Pyne, which has a further negative spin off for the South Australian Liberals, already struggling ahead of next year’s state election.

The ConversationThe Turnbull government has become like a plane with its engines stalled, hurtling groundwards, with hopes of repowering frustrated at every turn.

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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