Coalition still well ahead in NSW poll, Newspoll premiers’ ratings, and WA upper house electoral reforms


AAP/Bianca de Marchi

Adrian Beaumont, The University of MelbourneA New South Wales state Resolve poll for The Sydney Morning Herald gave the Coalition 41% of the primary vote (down two since July), Labor 30% (up two), the Greens 11% (down one), the Shooters 2% (up one) and independents 10% (steady).

Resolve does not provide two party estimates, but analyst Kevin Bonham estimated 53-47 to the Coalition, a two-point gain for Labor since July. I previously covered issues with the independent vote in Resolve and the lack of two party estimates.




Read more:
Coalition gains in federal Resolve poll, but Labor increases lead in Victoria


Incumbent Liberal Gladys Berejiklian led Labor’s Chris Minns by 48-21 as preferred premier (55-16 in July). This poll would have been conducted concurrently with the August and September federal polls from a sample of about 1,100. The federal Resolve polls in those months have had a strong lean to the Coalition compared with other polls (see below).

By 65-17, voters supported “the plan to ease restrictions in mid-October with 70% vaccination rates”. The SMH article implies the Coalition’s position was stronger in September than August, as vaccination uptake makes reopening soon realistic.

The same situation applies to the federal government. Once lockdowns are over, the economy is likely to rebound quickly, and this will assist the Coalition in an election in the first half of next year.

Newspoll: Andrews has best approval out of Vic, Qld and NSW premiers

The Poll Bludger reported that Newspoll asked for premiers’ ratings in last weekend’s poll from a larger than usual national sample of 2,144.

The states considered were NSW, Victoria and Queensland. Victorian Labor premier Daniel Andrews had a 64-35 satisfied rating (net +29). Queensland Labor premier Annastacia Palaszczuk had a 57-38 satisfied rating (net +19). Berejiklian had a 56-40 satisfied rating (net +16).

On handling COVID, Palaszczuk scored far better than her overall rating at 67-31 good, while Andrews and Berejiklian scored nearly the same (63-35 good for Andrews, 56-41 good for Berejiklian).

Nationally, Scott Morrison had a -4 net approval in Newspoll; he was at +15 in Queensland, -3 in NSW and -16 in Victoria.

Nationally, Morrison had a 49-48 poor rating for his handling of COVID, unchanged from six weeks ago. By 53-42, voters expressed more concern with relaxing restrictions too fast than too slowly (62-34 in January).

WA upper house electoral reform: group ticket voting and malapportionment to be scrapped

The massive WA Labor landslide at the March state election gave them large majorities in both chambers of the WA parliament – the first ever Labor majority in the upper house.




Read more:
Coalition and Morrison gain in Newspoll, and the new Resolve poll


Labor set up a committee to look at reforming the upper house’s electoral system. There are two current major problems: malapportionment and group ticket voting (GTV). The Mining & Pastoral region and Agricultural region elect one-third of the upper house on just 10% of the state’s population. GTV allowed Daylight Saving to win a seat in March on just 98 primary votes.

Labor will adopt the committee’s proposals to change to a statewide election of 37 members, up from the current 36. GTV will be replaced by optional above-the-line voting, in which a single “1” above the line will stay within the party it is cast for. Voters can number “2”, “3”, etc, above the line to continue directing preferences after their original party is excluded.

This system is the same as is currently used in elections for the NSW and SA upper houses. However, these states elect half their upper house at each election (21 seats up each election in NSW and 11 in SA). The WA proposal is for all 37 seats to be elected at once, so the quota will be just 2.63%.

With optional preferential voting, parties will be able to win seats from much lower vote shares than 2.63%. It’s likely to lead to cluttered ballot papers at the next election.

ABC election analyst Antony Green has much more on the WA reforms. I hope the Victorian government scraps GTV before the 2022 state election – Victoria is now the last Australian jurisdiction with GTV.

Other state developments: NT, Victoria and Tasmania

The Labor Northern Territory government gained Daly at a September 11 byelection by a 56.0-44.0 margin over the CLP, a 7.2% swing to Labor. Bonham said this is the first time a government gained from an opposition at a byelection anywhere in Australia since Benalla (Victoria state) in 2000.

Matthew Guy ousted Michael O’Brien as Victorian Liberal leader at a leadership spill on September 7. Guy led the Liberals to a landslide defeat at the November 2018 state election.

A Tasmanian EMRS poll, conducted August 7-9 from a sample of 1,000, gave the Liberals 49% (steady since the May election), Labor 28% (steady) and the Greens 13% (up one). Incumbent Peter Gutwein led Labor’s Rebecca White as preferred premier by 59-29 (61-26 in EMRS’ last state poll in February).

Coalition leads on estimated preference flows in federal Resolve poll

A federal Resolve poll for Nine newapapers, conducted September 15-19 from a sample of 1,606, gave the Coalition 39% of the primary vote (down one since August), Labor 31% (down one), the Greens 10% (down two), One Nation 4% (up two), Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party 3% and independents 9% (down one).

No two-party estimate was given, but Bonham estimated 51-49 to the Coalition, a one-point gain for the Coalition.

There’s divergence in voting intentions between Resolve and Newspoll, which was 53-47 to Labor. But there’s been movement in all recent polls to the Coalition, which was up one in Newspoll and up two in Morgan to a 52.5-47.5 Labor lead.

49% gave Morrison a good rating for his performance in recent weeks, and 45% a poor rating, for a net +4 rating, up five since August. Albanese’s net approval was up three to -16. Morrison led as preferred PM by 45-26 (46-23 in August).

The Liberals and Morrison led Labor and Albanese by 42-24 on economic management (44-19 in August). On COVID, the Liberals led by 37-24 (37-22 last time).

Canadian election called two years early gives nearly status quo result

I live blogged the results of the Canadian election that PM Justin Trudeau called two years early for The Poll Bludger. At the 2019 election, Trudeau’s centre-left Liberals won 157 of the 338 seats and the Conservatives 121, despite a 1.2% lead for the Conservatives in vote shares. In 2021, the results are nearly the same.

The German election will be held Sunday, with polls closing at 2am Monday AEST. Parties need to either win at least 5% nationally or three of the 299 single-member seats to qualify for a proportional seat allocation. The Guardian’s poll aggregate
suggests the overall left parties have a narrow lead over the overall right. I will be live blogging for The Poll Bludger.The Conversation

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

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

Coalition gains a point in Newspoll, but Morrison slides back into net negative ratings


AAP/Joel Carrett

Adrian Beaumont, The University of MelbourneThis week’s Newspoll, conducted September 15-18 from a sample a little over 1,500, gave Labor a 53-47 lead, a one-point gain for the Coalition since the last Newspoll, three weeks ago. Primary votes were 38% Labor (down two), 37% Coalition (up one), 10% Greens (steady) and 3% One Nation (steady).

50% (up three) were dissatisfied with Scott Morrison’s performance, and 46% (down three) were satisfied, for a net approval of -4. Morrison dropped into net negative ratings six weeks ago, but recovered to +2 in the last Newspoll. This is his worst net approval in Newspoll since the start of the pandemic.




Read more:
First negative Newspoll rating for Morrison since start of pandemic; 47% of unvaccinated would take Pfizer but not AstraZeneca


Labor leader Anthony Albanese’s ratings also slumped, with his net approval falling four points to -11, his worst since becoming opposition leader. Morrison led Albanese by 47-35 as better PM (50-34 previously). Newspoll figures are from The Poll Bludger.

The vote for all Others in this poll was 12% (up one). It’s plausible Clive Palmer and Craig Kelly’s campaign promoting United Australia Party has lured some anti-lockdown voters. At the 2019 election, UAP preferences split 65-35 to the Coalition.

If the proportion of the Others vote supporting UAP is higher than usual, this would explain why the Coalition’s two party figure in Newspoll was a point higher than would be expected from primary votes according to analyst Kevin Bonham.

There’s good news for the Coalition in other polling on voting intentions and COVID handling. The Morgan poll last week had the Coalition up two for a 52.5-47.5 Labor lead. The Essential poll had the federal government’s COVID rating up to 43-35 good from 39-36 in late August.

The Guardian’s datablog has 37.2% of the population (not 16+) fully vaccinated, up from 27.2% three weeks ago. We rank 33 of 38 OECD countries in share of population fully vaccinated (35th three weeks ago). The Age shows 46.7% of 16+ are fully vaccinated and 71.7% have received at least one dose.

Employment and GDP reports from the ABS suggest that the economy was in good shape before the Sydney and Melbourne lockdowns began. Once these cities reopen, the economy is likely to recover rapidly, boosting the Coalition’s chances.

It is too soon to know whether there has been any impact from the decision to enter into the so-called AUKUS pact with the US and UK. A snap Morgan poll found voters approved by 57-43, but Morgan’s SMS polls have not been reliable, and this poll was taken before more negative publicity about the deal.

Two Essential polls

In the mid-September Essential poll, the federal government’s rating on response to COVID rose to 43-35 good from 39-36 in late August and 41-35 in mid-August. The Victorian government’s “good” rating was up six to 50%, after falling 12 in late August, and the NSW government was up six to 46% after dropping two.

41% thought states with low or no COVID should be able to keep their borders closed for as long as they think it necessary, 37% until 80% of the 16+ population is fully vaccinated, and 23% until 80% of the total population is fully vaccinated.

39% thought restrictions for fully vaccinated people should be relaxed immediately, 44% thought they should be relaxed when everyone has the opportunity to be vaccinated and 17% thought vaccinated people should not be treated differently to unvaccinated.

In the late August Essential poll, 50% approved of Morrison’s performance (steady since early August) and 41% disapproved (up one), for a net approval of +9. Albanese’s net approval increased five points to +1. Morrison led as better PM by 47-26 (45-26 previously).

56% of NSW respondents thought the lockdown restrictions in their area were about right, 28% too strong and 16% too weak. In Victoria, these figures were 57% about right, 35% too strong and 8% too weak.

61% said fewer than 100 COVID deaths a year in Australia was acceptable to “live with”, 25% between 100 and 1,000 deaths a year and 19% between 1,000 and 3,000. Before COVID in 2019, there were over 169,000 deaths from all causes in Australia.

Coalition gains two points in mid-September Morgan poll

A Morgan poll, conducted September 4-5 and 11-12 from a sample of over 2,700, gave Labor a 52.5-47.5 lead, a 2% gain for the Coalition since late August. Primary votes were 38.5% Coalition (up 1%), 35% Labor (down 3.5%), 13% Greens (up 1.5%) and 3% One Nation (steady). The late August Morgan poll had Labor’s lead up 0.5% from mid-August.

A separate SMS Morgan poll, conducted last Thursday from a sample of over 1,700, had voters approving 57-43 of the government entering the AUKUS pact.

Late August YouGov COVID poll

A YouGov poll for the News Corp papers, conducted August 20-25 from a sample of over 3,000, was reported by The Poll Bludger. By 41-37, respondents thought lockdowns should be ended when “everyone has the opportunity to be fully vaccinated”. WA respondents were most pro-lockdown, while NSW and Victorian respondents were least so.

66% supported proof of vaccination being required to participate in a range of public activities, 63% supported only opening state borders for the vaccinated, and 68% the same for international borders. Just 23% were opposed to employers being able to demand their staff be vaccinated, with 69% support for this in public facing jobs and 45% support in all industries.

Given a choice between “lockdowns should be ended immediately”, “lockdowns must be part of Australia’s future until COVID is eliminated” and “vaccination is the pathway to ending lockdowns”, 64% selected the third option, 22% the second and 14% the first.

Participation down in August jobs report

The ABS reported last Thursday that the unemployment rate in August dropped 0.1% from July to 4.5%. However, this was because the participation rate fell 0.8% to 65.2%. The employment population ratio – the percentage of eligible Australians employed – fell 0.7% to 62.2%.

The ABS reported on September 1 that GDP in the June quarter increased 0.7% from the March quarter, and a massive 9.6% since June 2020 as the economy rapidly rebounded from the 7.0% COVID-caused crash in the June 2020 quarter.

With Sydney and Melbourne in lockdown for most of the September quarter period, it is very likely GDP will contract. But once restrictions are eased, economic activity is likely to rebound quickly, and this will assist the Coalition.

Canadian and German elections

The Canadian election is Tuesday AEST, with most polls closing at 11:30am AEST. Canadian PM Justin Trudeau called this election two years early, hoping to win a majority for his centre-left Liberals. But the Liberals’ position deteriorated quickly.

However, the rise for the right populist People’s Party has hurt the Conservatives. According to the CBC Poll Tracker, the Liberals are likely to again win the most seats, but be short of a majority under Canada’s first past the post system.

The German election is next Sunday September 26, with polls closing at 2am Monday AEST. In the Politico poll aggregate, the centre-left SPD leads the conservative CDU/CSU, which has been in government since 2005 under retiring chancellor Angela Merkel. Overall left parties hold a narrow lead over overall right parties.

I will be live blogging both these elections for The Poll Bludger. I live blogged last week’s California recall election, in which the Democratic governor easily defeated Recall.The Conversation

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

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

Coalition gains in federal Resolve poll, but Labor increases lead in Victoria


AAP/Mick Tsikas

Adrian Beaumont, The University of MelbourneA Resolve poll for Nine newspapers, conducted August 17-21 from a sample of 1,607, gave the Coalition 40% of the primary vote (up two since August), Labor 32% (down three), the Greens 12% (steady), One Nation 2% (down two) and independents 10% (up three).

Resolve is not publishing a two party estimate, but analyst Kevin Bonham
estimated a 50-50 tie, a two-point gain for the Coalition since July. Given the continuing COVID lockdowns in NSW and Victoria, this poll is bad for Labor.

The last Newspoll in early August was 53-47 to Labor, and the last Morgan, in early to mid-August, was 54-46. Either there has been a shift back to the Coalition in the last week or so, or this poll is an outlier. There should be a Newspoll on Sunday night.

A plausible reason for a Coalition rebound is that the vaccination rollout pace has increased, particularly in NSW. In the UK, once there was some good news on vaccinations early this year, the Conservatives went from a near-tie to a high single digit lead that they have not yielded. The Coalition is also pushing for an end to the lockdowns once vaccination rates are above 70%.

Criticisms of Resolve poll

The Resolve poll can be criticised for only giving primary votes and not a two party estimate. While two party figures can be calculated from the primary votes by analysts, the media will focus on the primary votes. Australia uses preferential voting, not first past the post. Resolve should conform to our electoral system.

Another criticism is the very high vote for independents (10% in this poll). At the 2019 federal election, independents won 3.4% of the vote. With Resolve offering independent as an option in all seats, voters who are unsure who they will vote for are likely to park their votes with independents.




Read more:
Craig Kelly’s move to Palmer’s United Australia Party shows the need for urgent electoral law reform


Other results from this poll

46% thought Scott Morrison’s performance in recent weeks was good and 46% poor. After rounding, his net rating was -1, unchanged since July. Anthony Albanese’s net rating dropped three points to -19. Morrison led Albanese by 46-23 as preferred PM (45-24 in July).

The Liberals and Morrison led Labor and Albanese by 44-19 on economic management (41-25 in July). On COVID, the Liberals led by 37-22 (37-25 previously). This is the biggest Liberal lead on the economy since May.

By 62-24, voters wanted political leaders to stick to a national cabinet deal to ease COVID restrictions once vaccinations reach 70% and 80% targets of all Australians aged over 16. By 54-27, voters did not think we would be able to completely suppress the virus again. 12% (down nine since July and down 17 since May) said they were unlikely to get vaccinated.

Essential and Morgan polls

In last week’s Essential poll, 8% (down three since early August) said they’d never get vaccinated, and a further 24% (down one) said they’d get vaccinated, but not straight away. By 75-10, voters supported mandatory vaccination for workers in occupations with high COVID transmission risks, such as hospitals and education.

The federal government had a 41-35 good rating for its response to COVID, up from 38-35 good in early August, but down from 58-18 in late May, before any lockdowns.

The NSW government’s response was rated good by 42%, down five from early August and 27 since early June. Despite the current lockdown, the Victorian government’s good rating rose two points to 56%. Queensland and WA have been rewarded for keeping COVID out, with Queensland’s good rating up six to 66% and WA’s up five to 87%.

A Morgan poll, conducted August 7-8 and 14-15 from a sample of over 2,700, gave Labor a 54-46 lead, a 0.5% gain for Labor since late July. Primary votes were 37.5% Coalition (up 0.5%), 37.5% Labor (up 0.5%), 12.5% Greens (steady) and 3.5% One Nation (up 0.5%).

Victorian Labor increases lead in Resolve poll

In a Victorian state Resolve poll for The Age, Labor had 40% of the primary vote (up three since June), the Coalition 35% (down one), the Greens 10% (up one) and independents 9% (down three). Bonham estimated a 56-44 Labor lead after preferences, a two-point gain for Labor.

This poll would have been conducted with the federal July and August Resolve polls from a sample of 1,106. Incumbent Daniel Andrews led Opposition Leader Michael O’Brien by 50-24 as preferred premier (49-23 in June).

Labor’s increased lead in Victoria comes despite strict lockdowns that have still failed to contain the current Delta outbreak of COVID. It appears voters will support lockdowns until we reach the 70% fully vaccinated target.

However, the 62-24 national support for easing restrictions once vaccination targets are met indicates the federal government is on a winner with this strategy.




Read more:
View from The Hill: Achieving vaccine targets could be followed by a (pre-election) health ‘pinch point’


Biden’s ratings slump after Afghanistan withdrawal

I wrote for The Poll Bludger on Monday that US President Joe Biden’s ratings have slumped after the Afghanistan withdrawal. In the FiveThirtyEight aggregate, his ratings are now 47.6% approve, 46.9% disapprove (net just +0.7%). Biden had a +10 net rating in late July and +6 before Afghanistan.

Also covered: Canadian PM Justin Trudeau calls an election for September 20, two years early. And the Social Democrats surge in Germany, ahead of the September 26 election.The Conversation

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

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

Grattan on Friday: As COVID’s third wave worsens, Scott Morrison pivots to the future


Michelle Grattan, University of CanberraJosh Frydenberg is Scott Morrison’s house guest at The Lodge – sharing, in Canberra’s lockdown, microwaved meals and watching “Yes, Prime Minister”.

As he recounted domestic life with Scott, the treasurer was inevitably asked whether he’d measured up the curtains.

Among the ministers, Frydenberg and Health Minister Greg Hunt have carried the frontline burdens during the pandemic. For Frydenberg – the biggest-spending federal treasurer in the nation’s history – the experience can be viewed as a test for future leadership.

Although there’ve been mistakes – JobKeeper had design flaws which led to serious waste – he has come through creditably in extraordinary circumstances.

Frydenberg, who is also deputy Liberal leader, has never hidden his ambition and is hungry for the top job. But he is also loyal. Morrison knows that, unlike prime ministerial predecessors Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull, he doesn’t have to look over his shoulder, even in the bad times. Morrison marked three years as PM this week, and there has been no white-anting.

There’s more than one path to the prime ministership for Frydenberg. If Morrison loses the election, Frydenberg would be favourite to become leader of the opposition. But that’s the start of a very rocky road; hard work and high hopes can be dashed, as Bill Shorten found.

An alternative path is to be well placed vis-a-vis your internal competitors and inherit the post when it becomes available, one way or another.

If the Coalition is re-elected next year, would Morrison serve a full term, or is it possible he might leave triumphant after a couple of years, not risking the gamble on a third election “miracle”? Frydenberg knows Morrison’s moving on in a smooth transition would be his best prospect.

The prime minister this week was in full campaign mode for the March or May election and we had a glimpse of the formidable fighter we saw in 2019.

In a week when the NSW government lost control of COVID, the state’s daily new cases rising above 1,000 and hospitals under severe strain, and with Victoria on the brink, Morrison made a dramatic pivot to focus on opening the country.




Read more:
View from The Hill: Achieving vaccine targets could be followed by a (pre-election) health ‘pinch point’


Embattled NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian was firmly in step, making it clear she’s determined to move when the 70% vaccine target is reached (meanwhile announcing some minor easings).

It seemed incongruous that as the third wave deepened and with only a third of eligible people fully vaccinated, Morrison simply left the bad news behind and headed for the ground on which he wants to stand. In his Thursday news conference, for example, he began by hailing “another day of hope”, based on the latest vaccination numbers.

Morrison, backed by research, judges most voters have had enough of lockdowns and blocked internal travel.

A poll published by Nine this week showed 54% believed Australia could not completely suppress COVID, and more than six in ten favoured opening up once the target vaccination thresholds were reached. In the second year of the pandemic, public opinion appears to have swung from preoccupation with the health response to a strong desire to return to more freedom.

While Morrison pivots when in political trouble, Anthony Albanese this week looked to be lumbering. With the PM accusing the opposition leader of undermining the national cabinet’s exit plan, Albanese knew he had to get himself out of that corner. He stressed support for the plan, but his demeanour was that of a man on the back foot.

The defiant premiers of Queensland and Western Australia are in an easier short-term position. WA’s Mark McGowan, in particular, with his stratospheric popularity, can tell Morrison to go jump, as in effect he did this week. After the PM invoked “The Croods” film to say we must emerge from the cave, McGowan played heavily to West Australians’ parochialism and angst towards the east.

“This morning the prime minister made a comment implying Western Australians were like cave people from a recent kids’ movie. It was an odd thing to say,” McGowan wrote on Facebook. “I think everyone would rather just see the Commonwealth look beyond New South Wales and actually appreciate what life is like here in WA.

“We currently have no restrictions within our State, a great quality of life, and a remarkably strong economy, which is funding the relief efforts in other parts of the country.

“West Aussies just want decisions that consider the circumstances of all States and Territories, not just Sydney.”

Regardless of the national plan to which they agreed, McGowan and Annastacia Pałaszczuk have the constitutional and political authority to handle their states’ transitions as they see fit. But they can’t get away from the fact they’ll have to make the journey, relaxing border restrictions, at some stage.




Read more:
Coalition gains in federal Resolve poll, but Labor increases lead in Victoria


As New Zealand is now finding, a zero-COVID position, however assiduously pursued, seems an impossible dream over the longer term.

Without the sharp motivators of big outbreaks, WA and Queensland have vaccination rates lower than the national average, and health systems that haven’t been stress-tested under maximum COVID pressure. WA, self-sheltered for so long, would be especially vulnerable if there were a big outbreak.

At the national level, one political unknown is what the public reaction will be in the difficult transition period ahead. Will sentiment change again when there are more hospitalisations and deaths as we reopen, albeit with some continuing safeguards?

With the length of the current extensive lockdowns unknown, it is not clear whether by election time we’ll have had, or have escaped, another recession. We know this September quarter will be negative but the December quarter could go either way.

Two consecutive quarters of negative economic growth (the economy shrinking) is taken in technical terms to be a recession. AMP economist Shane Oliver says there is a 45% chance of negative growth in the June-quarter figures, which will be released next Wednesday. If that happened a recession would be certain.

At the election the economy and fiscal policy will be central issues. If we are as “open” as the prime minister foreshadows, the government will need to have plans for when and how it would start fiscal repair.

For Morrison and Frydenberg, this will be another pivot point. Many will be watching carefully how much agility the treasurer can show.




Read more:
Politics with Michelle Grattan: Doherty’s Sharon Lewin on pivoting from chasing COVID zero


The Conversation


Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

View from The Hill: Barnaby Joyce repudiates Christensen’s COVID misinformation


Michelle Grattan, University of CanberraNationals leader Barnaby Joyce has dissociated himself from the views of his maverick backbencher George Christensen, who on Tuesday flatly rejected measures to contain COVID and played down the seriousness of the disease.

“I don’t agree with him,” Joyce said. “Just because someone has a view, it doesn’t mean it’s my view.” Joyce is personally close to Christensen.

Joyce drew on the experience of his father, who he said had been very involved in the eradication of brucellosis and bovine tuberculosis in northern NSW.

This had been done by large scale vaccination, quarantine, prosecution of people who did not comply with measures, and explanation, Joyce told The Conversation.

“I’m not going to step away from growing up having to deal with those things at an agricultural level. This is how you deal with diseases,” he said.

In a speech delivered just before question time, Christensen asked rhetorically, “How many more freedoms will we lose due to fear of a virus, which is a survivability rate of 997 out of a 1000?”

He said masks didn’t work and lockdowns didn’t work.

“Domestic vaccine passports are a form of discrimination,” he said.

“Nobody should be restricted from everyday life because of their medical choices, especially when vaccinated people can still catch and spread COVID-19.”

“Our posturing politicians, many over there [on the Labor benches], the sensationalist media elite and the dictatorial medical bureaucrats need to recognise these facts and stop spreading fear.

“COVID-19 is going to be with us forever, just like the flu and just like the flu, we will have to live with it, not in constant fear of it. Some people will catch it. Some people will tragically die from it.

“That’s inevitable and we have to accept it. What we should never accept is a systematic removal of our freedoms based on a zero risk health advice from a bunch of unelected medical bureaucrats. Open society back up. Restore our freedoms. End this madness.”

During question time Anthony Albanese, in a neat tactical strike, moved a motion calling on all MPs to “refrain from making ill-informed comments at a time when the pandemic represents a serious threat to the health of Australians”.

The motion also condemned “the comments of the member for Dawson prior to Question Time designed to use our national parliament to spread misinformation and undermine the actions of Australians to defeat COVID”.

Albanese suggested Christensen was able to wag “the National party dog” because Joyce was “quite happy” to let him.

Morrison was in an awkward corner. The government’s usual instinct would be to move to shut Albanese down. But that would have it effectively backing Christensen.

By the same token Morrison did not want to risk giving Christensen the big whack he deserved.

Christensen is a man who enjoys making threats, even if he doesn’t carry them out, and he is not running at the election so has nothing to lose. If he “walked” to the crossbench the government would lose its one seat majority. It has already lost its majority on the floor of the House – when Craig Kelly, another recalcitrant on matters-COVID, defected from the Liberals to the crossbench. .

So the government let the Albanese motion proceed and in his reply to the opposition leader, the PM waved just the smallest of reproving feathers in Christensen’s direction.

After going through what had been done in the pandemic, Morrison said the government “will not support those statements, Mr Speaker, where there is misinformation that is out and about in the community, whether it’s posted, Mr Speaker, on Facebook, or it’s posted in social media, or it’s written in articles or made [in] statements. Whether in this chamber, Mr Speaker, or anywhere else.”

But he wasn’t going to “engage in a partisan debate on this. I am not, Mr Speaker, because what I know is Australians aren’t interested in the politics of COVID.”

Queensland Liberal Warren Entsch wasn’t reluctant to go in hard against Christensen. He told the ABC: “That is the sort of nonsense that I see in protests outside my office from time to time for those with conspiracy theories”. In the parliament “it was resoundingly rejected right across the whole political spectrum – when the motion was put up it was supported, there was not a single dissenter”.

Federal Communications Minister Paul Fletcher repeatedly refused to be drawn when pressed on the ABC on Christensen’s views. But NSW Environment Minister Matt Kean didn’t hold back, saying on the ABC that Christensen “is as qualified to talk about health policy as he is to perform brain surgery”.

Joyce wasn’t in the parliament – he went home at the end of last week and now, with COVID in his electorate of New England, he is confined there.The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

First negative Newspoll rating for Morrison since start of pandemic; 47% of unvaccinated would take Pfizer but not AstraZeneca


AAP/Lukas Coch

Adrian Beaumont, The University of MelbourneThis week’s Newspoll, conducted August 4-7 from a sample of 1,527, gave Labor a 53-47 lead, unchanged from three weeks ago. Primary votes were 39% Coalition (steady), 39% Labor (steady), 11% Greens (up one) and 3% One Nation (steady). Figures are from The Poll Bludger.

49% were dissatisfied with Scott Morrison’s performance (up four), and 47% were satisfied (down four), for a net approval of -2, down eight points. This is Morrison’s first negative rating since the start of the COVID pandemic in April 2020. Analyst Kevin Bonham said Morrison had the fourth longest streak of positive Newspoll ratings for a PM.

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese’s net approval was steady at -8. Morrison’s better PM lead narrowed from 51-33 to 49-36.

Newspoll’s COVID questions continued to show declines for Morrison. On overall handling of COVID, he has a 49-48 poor rating (52-45 good three weeks ago and 70-27 good in April). The vaccine rollout had a 59-38 disapproval rating (57-40 three weeks ago, 53-43 approval in April).

With Sydney in an extended lockdown that is likely to last until vaccination rates are high, and current and recent lockdowns in Melbourne and south-east Queensland, people have become frustrated with the slow vaccination rollout.

But the next election is not required until May 2022. Vaccination levels will very likely be high enough by then to reopen. While the economy will be damaged by the lockdowns, past experience in Australia and overseas shows that the economy will recover quickly once the lockdowns end.




Read more:
Labor gains clear Newspoll lead during Sydney lockdown, but will the economy save the Coalition?


The Guardian’s datablog shows 17.8% of Australia’s population is fully vaccinated, while 17.5% has received just one dose (this means 35% have had either one or two doses). Among OECD countries, we currently rank 35 of 38 in our fully vaccinated share. We were last a month ago, but have overtaken South Korea, New Zealand and Costa Rica.

47% of unvaccinated in Essential would take Pfizer but not AstraZeneca

In last week’s Essential poll, 47% of those who have not yet been vaccinated said they would be willing to get the Pfizer vaccine, but not AstraZeneca.

About one in a million people who receive AstraZeneca die from a blood clot issue. Alarmism from the media and health authorities has tainted an effective COVID vaccine. Australians’ reluctance to get AstraZeneca has impaired the vaccination rollout.

ATAGI’s June recommendation that only those aged over 60 be vaccinated with AstraZeneca, and Queensland Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young’s attacks on AstraZeneca have been particularly unfortunate. It took until late July for ATAGI to change its advice on AstraZeneca, and then only for those in Sydney.

By contrast, the UK has vaccinated most of its adult population using AstraZeneca, and AstraZeneca creator, Sarah Gilbert, received a standing ovation at Wimbledon.

Other Essential questions and Morgan poll

In other Essential questions, 50% approved of Morrison’s performance (down one since July), and 40% disapproved (steady), for a net approval of +10. But Albanese’s net approval slumped ten points to -4. Morrison led Albanese by 45-26 as better PM (46-28 in July).

While Morrison’s ratings were stable, the federal government’s response to COVID was rated as good by just a 38-35 margin (46-31 good in mid-July, and 58-18 in late May, before the current lockdowns began).

The NSW government’s response to COVID was rated good by 47% (down seven), the Victorian government’s by 54% (up five), and South Australia’s by 73% (up five). This poll was taken before the new Victorian lockdown.

50% of NSW respondents thought NSW did not lock down hard enough, with 39% believing it to be about the right level and 11% too harsh. For Victoria, responses were 71% about right, 23% too harsh and 6% not hard enough.

By 66-11, voters supported the return of JobKeeper to assist people and businesses affected by lockdowns. By 67-18, voters opposed the recent anti-lockdown protests in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.

A Morgan federal poll, conducted July 24-25 and July 31-August 1 from a sample of over 2,700, gave Labor a 53.5-46.5 lead, a 1% gain for Labor since mid-July. Primary votes were 37% Coalition (down two), 37% Labor (steady), 12.5% Greens (up one) and 3% One Nation (steady).

Federal redistribution finalised

Draft federal electoral boundaries for Victoria and WA were released in March, with Victoria gaining a seat, while WA lost one. Final boundaries were gazetted by August 2, and will be used at the next election.




Read more:
Morrison’s ratings take a hit in Newspoll as Coalition notionally loses a seat in redistribution


The WA seat axed was Liberal-held Stirling, while the new Victorian seat of Hawke will be safe for Labor. No other seat changed its notional holder. Ignoring Craig Kelly’s defection, the Coalition notionally starts the next election with 76 of the 151 seats and Labor 69.

ABC election analyst Antony Green has published a post-redistribution pendulum. Labor lost the two party vote by 51.5-48.5 in 2019. For the Coalition to lose its majority, a net loss of one seat is required, a 0.4% swing to Labor under the uniform swing assumption.

For Labor to win more seats than the Coalition, they would need four more net seats for a 73-72 seat lead. That’s a 3.1% swing (51.6% two party to Labor). A Labor majority needs a net seven gains (3.3% swing or 51.8% two party).

Swings are never uniform, but the pendulum suggests that Labor will need a bit more than 50% two party to oust the Coalition. I wrote about Labor’s problems after the last election.




Read more:
Difficult for Labor to win in 2022 using new pendulum, plus Senate and House preference flows


UK COVID data two weeks after “Freedom Day”

July 19 was “Freedom Day” in England, when virtually all remaining COVID restrictions were relaxed. I had an article for The Poll Bludger on August 2, two weeks after Freedom Day. Almost 89% of UK adults have received at least one vaccine dose and over 74% are fully vaccinated. About 95% of English aged over 55 are fully vaccinated.

New UK COVID daily cases were over 54,000 on July 17, two days before Freedom Day, and were predicted to surge to over 100,000. But instead they declined to under 22,000 last Monday, though they have risen back to 27,400 Sunday. Average daily deaths are 86, way short of the horrific January peak of over 1,200.

German polling ahead of the September 26 federal election, and Biden’s ratings and US COVID data were also covered in the article.The Conversation

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

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

View from The Hill: Morrison shakes money tree again in bid to avoid second recession


BlueSnap/Shutterstock

Michelle Grattan, University of CanberraAs NSW on Wednesday extended its lockdown for another month and the federal government shelled out more money, it was as if we were back in 2020 and Victoria’s long incarceration.

Thankfully, one big difference is that the Sydney outbreak, where the latest figure is 177 new locally acquired cases, hasn’t had (at least so far) a high death rate.

Some deaths are occurring, including a woman in her 30s, but the nursing homes now seem substantially protected, although there remains concern immunisation of aged care workers has a long way to go.

In its latest funding, the federal government has resisted calls for the reinstatement of JobKeeper, but there is help for both individuals and businesses.

Scott Morrison announced the maximum COVID disaster payment for workers who lose hours would rise from $600 to a maximum of $750 (the original JobKeeper level). There will also be $200 for people on welfare payments who lose more than eight hours work.

The Prime Minister argued JobKeeper did not have the flexibility now required.

JobKeeper was “not the right solution for the problems we have now,” he told his news conference (held at The Lodge, where he’s isolating, with reporters clutching umbrellas).



“What we are doing now is faster [paying the money direct to workers rather than through the employers], it’s more effective, it’s more targeted, it’s getting help where it is needed
far more quickly.

“We’re not dealing with a pandemic outbreak across
the whole country.

“What we need now is the focused effort on where the need is right now. And so it can be turned on and off to the extent that we have outbreaks.

“JobKeeper was a great scheme. But you don’t play last year’s grand final this year. You deal with this year’s challenges.”

The cost of boosting the disaster payment and the welfare top up will depend on how long the NSW lockdown lasts – and what other (if any) future lockdowns occur there or elsewhere.



Under an expanded package for businesses hit by the NSW restrictions, more businesses will be covered, with the maximum turnover threshold increased from $50 million to $250 million.

Those eligible – including not-for-profits – will be able to receive $1,500 to $100,000 a week (compared to $1500 to $10,000 previously).

The government says up to an extra 1,900 businesses employing about 300,000 people could benefit from the widening of eligibility.

The total cost of the NSW package – funded on a 50-50 split with the state – is $600 million a week, up from $500 million in the previous package.

Morrison said Commonwealth support to NSW amounted to $750 million a week.

There is also a new joint federal-state package (funded on a 50-50 basis) to give Victorian small and medium businesses extra support to recover from the recent lockdown. This will total an extra $400 million.



On the vaccine front the NSW government, having failed to get more Pfizer from other states, has decided to divert some Pfizer doses from regional areas to inoculate Year 12 students in the COVID hot spots.

These students will be able to return to face to face learning on August 16.

We’ve yet to see how the reallocation decision will go down in the regions.

Morrison was upbeat in predicting Australia’s economy would bounce back strongly from the lockdown, as it did after the earlier dive. It’s crystal ball territory. The September quarter is set to be negative. The December quarter result is unforeseeable.




Read more:
Now that Australia’s inflation rate is 3.8%, is it time to worry?


Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said what happens in the December quarter, “will largely depend on how successful NSW is in getting on top of this virus.”

The government is trying to judge what it will take to keep the economy out of a second recession, which would likely kill many businesses that just managed to hold on through the earlier one.

A second recession would inflict a major hit on the government politically, just before an election that must be held by May.




Read more:
View from The Hill: Labor wouldn’t disturb tax cuts, negative gearing in ‘small target’ strategy


A poll done by Utting Research in NSW on Monday underlines the message of other polls: COVID currently is taking serious skin off the PM. Only 37% were satisfied with the job he is doing handling the COVID crisis; 51% were dissatisfied.

Morrison said on Wednesday: “I would expect by Christmas we will be seeing a very different Australia to what we’re seeing now”.

He knows if we don’t, he could be in dire straits.The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

Barnaby Joyce scores dismal ratings in Resolve poll, while Berejiklian government easily in front despite NSW lockdown


Mick Tsikas/AAP

Adrian Beaumont, The University of MelbourneIn the latest Resolve poll for Nine newspapers, the Coalition had 38% of the primary vote (down two since June), Labor 35% (down one), the Greens 12% (up two) and One Nation 4% (up one).

This is based on a sample of 1,607, conducted from July 13 to July 17.

Two party estimates are not provided by Resolve, but The Poll Bludger estimates 51.5-48.5 to Labor from these primary votes, which is a one-point gain for Labor.

Negative ratings for Joyce, Morrison and Albanese

Of those surveyed, 45% said they had a negative view of Nationals leader and Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce. Just 16% had a positive view, for a net likeability of -29. Former Nationals leader Michael McCormack had a 17% negative, 11% positive rating for a net -6 in June.

This poll suggests the ousting of McCormack in favour of Joyce could hurt the Coalition, as I wrote about last month.




Read more:
Labor regains Newspoll lead as COVID crisis escalates; is Barnaby Joyce an electoral asset?


Also in the Resolve poll, 46% (up six) gave Prime Minister Scott Morrison a poor rating for his performance in recent weeks and 45% (down three) a good rating. Morrison’s net -1 rating is his first negative rating from any pollster since the COVID pandemic began, though Resolve’s ratings are harsher than other pollsters.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese’s net rating fell three points to -16. Morrison continued to lead Albanese by 45-24 as preferred prime minister (46-23 in June).

On COVID, voters thought lockdowns and border restrictions should be gradually eased over the coming months as more people are vaccinated by a margin of 54-19%. By 54-19%, they thought fully vaccinated people should be given more freedom, though they believed (45-34%) this should not occur until everyone has had an opportunity to be vaccinated.

On economic management, the Liberals and Morrison led Labor and Albanese by 41-25% in July (43-20% in June). On COVID management, the Liberals led by 37-25% (40-20% previously).

Essential voting intentions, and anti-vaxxer sentiment

The Essential poll no longer publishes voting intentions with each poll. Instead they release them every few months for all polls they conducted during that period. Essential’s voting intentions numbers include undecided voters.

Last week’s Essential report gave Labor a 47-45% lead with 8% undecided. If undecided voters are removed (as other pollsters do), Labor led by 51-49.




Read more:
Labor gains clear Newspoll lead during Sydney lockdown, but will the economy save the Coalition?


This is a slightly different result from early July when Labor led by 48-44 (52-48 without undecided). They have led by two or four points since April. The Poll Bludger said applying last election preferences instead of respondent preferences to the current poll gives Labor above a 52-48 lead,

With the Sydney and Melbourne lockdowns, anti-vaxxer sentiment has dropped. In Essential, 11% (down five from early July) said they’d never get vaccinated, and 27% (down six) said they’d get vaccinated but not straight away. In Resolve, 21% (down eight since May) said they were unlikely to get vaccinated.

The federal government had a 46-31 good rating for response to COVID in Essential, slightly better than 44-30 in early July, but a long way below the 58-18 rating in late May, before the Victorian and NSW outbreaks. 54% (down three) gave the NSW government a good rating.

Morgan poll and BludgerTrack poll aggregate

A Morgan poll, conducted over July 10-11 and 17-18 from a sample of over 2,700, gave Labor a 52.5-47.5 lead, a 2% gain for Labor since mid-June. Primary votes were 39% Coalition (down 2.5%), 37% Labor (up 2.5%), 11.5% Greens (down 0.5%) and 3% One Nation (down 0.5%).

With polls from Newspoll, Resolve, Essential and Morgan, the Poll Bludger’s BludgerTrack aggregate of recent polls has Labor ahead by 52.0-48.0, from primary votes of Coalition 39.8%, Labor 37.3%, Greens 10.7% and One Nation 2.9%. Labor has been gaining during this year.

NSW Coalition retains large lead in Resolve state poll

In a Resolve NSW poll for The Sydney Morning Herald, Berejiklian’s Coalition had 43% of the primary vote (down just one point since May), Labor 28% (steady), the Greens 12% (steady) and the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers 1% (down three).

This poll was conducted at the same time as the federal June and July Resolve polls from a sample of 1,100. While the July poll was conducted during Sydney’s lockdown, the June poll
occurred after Jodi McKay was ousted in favour of Chris Minns as Labor leader, owing to a disappointing result in the May 22 Upper Hunter byelection.




Read more:
Coalition has large lead in NSW as Nats easily hold Upper Hunter at byelection


The Sydney Morning Herald’s poll article says the Coalition’s position was worse in July than in June. With NSW’s optional preferential voting, the Coalition would lead by around 55-45 from these primary votes. Incumbent Gladys Berejiklian led Minns as preferred premier by 55-16 (compared to 57-17 vs McKay in May).

In questions on the outbreak (only asked of the July sample), 56% thought Sydney was too slow to go into lockdown and 52% said the government should have been more proactive in urging people to get vaccinated. Almost half (46% agreed) the state has handled the outbreak well.

In Essential, 44% of NSW respondents (down seven since early July) thought NSW had moved at about the right speed to enforce lockdown restrictions. But 44% (up five) thought NSW was too slow, and 12% (up two) too quick.

Other states were unsympathetic to NSW, bringing the national figure to 56% for too slow, 34% for about right and 10% for too quick.

Labor easily holds Stretton at byelection

A state byelection for the Queensland Labor-held seat of Stretton occurred on Saturday. It was caused by the death of the previous member, Duncan Pegg.

With 73% of enrolled voters counted, the ABC’s results currently give Labor a 63.8-36.2 win over the LNP, a mere 1.0% swing to the LNP from the 2020 election. Primary votes are 56.6% Labor (no change), 32.7% LNP (up 2.5%) and 6.5% Greens (down 2.2%). The anti-vaxxer Informed Medical Options Party won just 2.5%.

Parties defending seats at byelections normally suffer from the loss of the previous MP’s personal vote. State Labor has held government since 2015, so this is a good result for them. 62% of Queensland respondents in Essential gave their government a good rating on dealing with COVID.The Conversation

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

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

Morrison government orders Pfizer ‘boosters’, while hoping new ATAGI advice will warm people to AstraZeneca


Michelle Grattan, University of CanberraWhile still struggling with a current shortage of Pfizer, the Morrison government announced it has secured 85 million doses of that vaccine for future “booster” shots.

This will be made up of 60 million doses in 2022, and 25 million doses in 2023. Delivery will start in the first quarter of next year.

Scott Morrison said on Sunday this was “prudent future proofing”, although there is still not definitive advice on when boosters will be needed.

Meanwhile the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) has liberalised its advice on AstraZeneca.

It said in a statement on Saturday all people aged 18 and over in greater Sydney, including those under 60, “should strongly consider getting vaccinated with any available vaccine including COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca”.

This was on the basis of the increasing risk of COVID and “ongoing constraints” of Pfizer, the advice said.

Last week Scott Morrison said the government was constantly appealing to ATAGI to review its advice on AZ according to the balance of risk. Many people have shied away from AZ, supplies of which are plentiful, after ATAGI’s caution about it for younger people because of rare blood clots.

Asked about some general practioners being reluctant to give AZ to people under 40, Morrison said he certainly hoped GPs “would be very mindful of the ATAGI advice”.

ATAGI is presently considering whether children between 12 and 15 years old should be vaccinated against COVID, with the government expecting advice in mid-August.

As the crisis continues in Sydney, on Sunday NSW reported 141 new locally acquired cases and two deaths, including a woman in her 30s. This followed Saturday’s report of 163 new cases in the previous 24 hours.

Victoria on Sunday reported 11 new local cases, and is on track to end its lockdown soon, as is South Australia.

Morrison again stressed the lockdown was the primary weapon in fighting the Sydney outbreak.

“There’s not an easy way to bring these cases down. And it’s the lockdown that does that work. The vaccines can provide some assistance, but they are not going to end this lockdown. What’s going to end this lockdown is it being effective.”

But NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian, who tried unsuccessfully to get the vaccination program refocused on south west Sydney, the centre of the outbreak, has a different emphasis. “Please know that what will get us through this outbreak is a combination of our restrictions, but also of more people being vaccinated”.

Morrison has refused to alter the focus, saying this would “interrupt the rhythm of the national vaccine program”.

The federal government has found 50,000 extra Pfizer doses for NSW. Asked where these came from, Morrison said: “There are small variations in supply and delivery, which from time to time may ensure that there’s tens of thousands of doses that might be free at any given time.”

Morrison condemned Saturday’s Sydney anti-lockdown demonstration attended by thousands of people, which saw violence, dozens of people charged, and more being pursued where they can be identified.

He said it was not just selfish. “It was also self-defeating. It achieves no purpose. It will not end the lockdown sooner, it will only risk the lockdowns running further,” he said.

Asked about Queensland Nationals MP George Christensen, who attended a rally in Mackay, Morrison said: “As for other parts of the country that aren’t in lockdown, well, there is such a thing as free speech, and I’m not about to be imposing those sorts of restrictions on people’s free speech”.

Christensen said on Facebook, “Civil disobedience eventually becomes the only response to laws that restrict freedom. This is what we’ve seen in Melbourne today.”

Pressed on this, Morrison said: “The comments I made before related to an event that took place in Queensland where there are no lockdowns”.

The Prime Minister told the Liberal National Party state council in a virtual address on Sunday: “After a difficult start, the vaccine program is now making up lost ground, and quickly”.The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

Is the COVID vaccine rollout the greatest public policy failure in recent Australian history?


Carolyn Holbrook, Deakin University; James Walter, Monash University, and Paul Strangio, Monash UniversityIs the Morrison government’s COVID vaccination rollout program one of Australia’s biggest ever public policy failures?

As COVID-19 infection numbers in locked-down Sydney show little sign of abating and Victoria extends its fifth lockdown, the prospect of life resuming some level of normality appears distant.

In recent weeks, we have learned more about the flaws in the federal Coalition government’s vaccination program. There’s the failure to procure sufficient vaccine and an accompanying over-reliance on the AstraZeneca vaccine.
The complications with rolling out the latter have exposed the shortage of supply of the Pfizer vaccine.

While other international leaders personally lobbied Pfizer executives for supplies, Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Health Minister Greg Hunt were inexplicably passive.

Then there is the sluggish pace of the “it’s not a race” vaccine rollout, particularly among vulnerable people, such as aged and disability care residents, and frontline health workers. Only 13% of Australia’s eligible population (those aged 16 and above) are fully vaccinated, while 35.3% are partially vaccinated. That’s a long way short of the goal of a fully inoculated adult population by October 2021, as initially promised.

Exacerbating these problems has been the lack of an effective public education campaign about the vaccine. This has left a vacuum, which anti-vaxxers and the vaccine-hesitant have filled.




Read more:
View from The Hill: Morrison and Coalition sink in Newspoll on the back of rollout shambles


Fallout from a shambolic vaccine rollout

Public confidence in the government’s handling of the vaccine rollout has sharply diminished. The latest Newspoll shows disapproval of the rollout jumping 11 points to 57%.

The policy missteps, which have Australia languishing at the bottom of the OECD for the proportion of its population that is fully vaccinated, have elicited a rising chorus of condemnation.

Some of the criticism comes from usually supportive sources, such as right-wing commentators Janet Albrechtsen and Miranda Divine.

Former Coalition prime minister Malcolm Turnbull claimed recently he couldn’t recall “a more black and white failure of public administration” than the vaccine program. Historian Frank Bongiorno declared the rollout “the worst national public policy failure in modern Australian history”.

Public confidence in the Coalition government and the prime minister has dropped due to the vaccine rollout.
Lukas Coch/AAP

How do we measure public policy failure?

There’s no doubt the Commonwealth government, measured by its inability to reach professed objectives, which are then repeatedly revised, has performed poorly.

Disingenuous attempts by the prime minister and senior ministers to dissimulate, or deflect responsibility to others, have been well canvassed.

But are we ready to conclude that what we are seeing is a near-unprecedented instance of policy failure, especially when there are other pressing public policy issues on which the government has also been found wanting, most noticeably climate change?

There are three principal factors for measuring public policy success or failure.

The first is an assessment of how successfully the policy action ameliorates the problem it seeks to solve. This appraisal must take into account the consequences of that action. Consequences are often unintended and unanticipated. They might not become apparent for some time and can be difficult to quantify and link unequivocally to the policy in question. For example, the Coalition’s inclination to cease support for manufacturing in Australia has led, as is now evident, to our incapacity to meet the demand even for COVID vaccine production.

Second, an assessment of policy success or failure must consider the significance of the policy. That is, the failure of a minor government program has less negative impact than the failure of an economic, social, environmental or public health policy that affects the entire community.

Third, we must take account of the reputational enhancement or damage ensuing from a particular course of action. This may have decisive effects on a government’s electoral prospects.

Applying these measures, we can say that, to date, the Morrison government’s approach to the COVID vaccination rollout fares badly on all three criteria.

On all three measures of policy effectiveness, the vaccine rollout fails.
Mick Tsikas/AAP

The vaccine rollout has failed the tests of public policy success

The problem is not that the proposal – a level of vaccination that will enable the community to “live with” endemic COVID – is misconceived. It is that incompetent planning, logistics and implementation have so far prevented it from sufficiently ameliorating the threat we face.

We can see, from international comparisons, the dimensions of risk while COVID remains insufficiently checked and potentially able to generate more dangerous mutations.

Second, the significance of success or failure in this domain – brought home by recurrent lockdowns – is manifest. There are negative flow-on effects for the entire community, not only in containing the virus, but also with clear impact on the economy, mental health, domestic violence and trust in government.

We are also confronted with counter examples: Seattle, for instance, in dire circumstances not so long ago, is now more or less back to normal because of the swift uptake of vaccination.

Third, the reputational damage to the federal government is evident in a string of public opinion polls that have found a substantial decline in confidence in the Coalition and the prime minister.

… but there is one that is worse

Some other examples help us flesh out the picture. One is a public policy from recent decades that did not achieve its intended purpose: the Rudd government’s Resource Super Profits Tax and its successor negotiated by the Gillard government, the Minerals Resource Rent Tax.

These policies failed on at least two levels. First, they did not reap anything like the revenue that was forecast. Second, the taxes were electorally damaging for the Labor governments, engendering a fierce backlash from the mining industry.

A more significant public policy failure, with consequences that took much longer to become apparent, was the Howard government’s Aged Care Act of 1997. This legislation established the framework for the funding and regulation of the aged care system. Partially privatising the aged care sector, that policy regime is widely recognised as being responsible for the underfunding of the system and associated chronic shortcomings, which the recent royal commission thoroughly documented.

Perhaps the biggest public policy failure of recent times relates to climate action where, as with COVID vaccination, Australia ranks last among developed economies.

This has been a product of the failure of the parties, but in particular of internecine battles within the Coalition and a brutal politics that, as Martin Parkinson argues, brought about “a fracture of the political centre”, rendering it incapable of the negotiation and consensus necessary for resolution.

While the vaccine rollout has been a failure, inaction on climate change represents the biggest policy failure in recent times.
AAP/Department of Defence handout

Indeed, the intractability of climate change as a policy problem suggests that it, rather than the handling of vaccine rollout, is the biggest failure of modern times.

Despite the chaos that has been well documented, the required levels of vaccination can still be achieved, even if belatedly. The situation is potentially capable of resolution, and possibly in time for Seattle-like “normality” to be re-established. Adequate climate action, on the other hand, still appears to be incapable of resolution under this government.




Read more:
Spot the difference: as world leaders rose to the occasion at the Biden climate summit, Morrison faltered


But will the Morrison government’s mishandling of the vaccine rollout be politically fatal? Certainly, falling confidence in the rollout is translating into a decline in support for the Coalition. Yet we should be wary of jumping to conclusions.

The prime minister has until next May to hold an election. The government has ample time to play catch-up with the rollout. If further outbreaks are contained and the elusive herd immunity is achieved by then, lockdowns will have become a thing of the past. The relief at being able to move on may obliterate current disquiet.

Further, in normal circumstances, policy virtue is not necessarily synonymous with political success. The last federal election was an indicator of this. The Coalition triumphed despite a threadbare policy program. In other words, policy prowess is only ever one measure of a government’s success.The Conversation

Carolyn Holbrook, ARC DECRA Fellow at Deakin University, Deakin University; James Walter, Professor of Political Science, Monash University, and Paul Strangio, Professor of Politics, Monash University

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