A reshuffle that’s come with plenty of pain and questionable gain



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Malcolm Turnbull pressed Attorney-General George Brandis to take the London high commissioner job.
AAP/Daniel Munoz

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

There is not a great deal to be said for Malcolm Turnbull’s reshuffle, and quite a lot to be said against it.

The immediate concentration has been on the angst it’s caused – and that is due to Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce, who has the right to nominate his party’s ministers.

Joyce’s decision to axe Victorian National Darren Chester from his cabinet line-up in favour of a first-term Queenslander, David Littleproud, trashes the notion of merit and calls into question the Nationals leader’s judgement, to say nothing of his loyalty to colleagues.

A competent minister who came through as a measured voice for the Nationals when Joyce was away on his byelection trail, Chester has been unceremoniously pushed out on the ground that his retention would make for one Victorian National too many in the cabinet.

To an extent, Chester invited his own execution. He successfully advocated fellow Victorian Bridget McKenzie for deputy leader, believing – as he put it after his demotion – that “our party needs to connect more with younger voters, with female voters, and Bridget speaks in a way on issues that perhaps not all National Party members speak about”.

Joyce would have preferred Queensland senator and fellow cabinet member Matt Canavan as deputy, although sources say he didn’t canvass in the contest. Joyce and Canavan are close – Canavan previously was his chief-of-staff. Canavan is also deeply conservative on social issues, and he and Chester were on opposite sides of the marriage debate.

Only Joyce can know whether these factors counted against Chester as well as his being from Victoria – he’s certainly not going to admit they did.

If Joyce wanted to deal with his Victorian excess in a much less disruptive way he could have swapped Chester with Michael McCormack. McCormack is a member of the outer ministry and from New South Wales, as was Fiona Nash, the previous Nationals deputy who was turfed from parliament by the High Court. That would have retained the old state balances.

But Joyce felt he had a Queensland problem – the Nationals from the north have been vociferous about wanting to boost their presence in the higher reaches of the government.

The intention was to demote Chester to an assistant ministry, opening a vacancy for him by sacking Queenslander Keith Pitt, with whom Joyce doesn’t get on.

But Chester declined the assistant minister offer. Meanwhile, Pitt – who believed he should be promoted – was furious. When an assistant ministry was offered back to him, he said no. The position went to Damian Drum – a Victorian.

Littleproud, who holds the outback Queensland seat of Maranoa, is spoken well of as a future talent. But he’s been in Canberra for the parliamentary equivalent of five minutes, and has had no frontbench role before now.

A cabinet minister has not just their own portfolio to think about, but they need to be strong contributors across government, which requires time to acquire skills and knowledge. Disgruntled Nationals say Pitt would have been a more obvious choice if it hadn’t been for the serious personality clash between Joyce and him.

So Joyce can boast that he has delivered a Queensland National into cabinet, but the cost has been creating resentment in his ranks and a bad vibe around the reshuffle generally. Turnbull appeared dismayed, distancing himself from the decision, describing Chester as an “outstanding” minister, and regretting his loss.

It is not just the axing of Chester that is a problem in this reshuffle.

Turnbull pressed Attorney-General George Brandis to take the London high commissioner job, despite Brandis recently warning Turnbull that his departure would diminish the Liberal voice from Brisbane. As it happens, Brandis’ Liberal replacement in cabinet, John McVeigh, represents Groom, based on Toowoomba.

Losing Brandis from cabinet will also weaken the voice of the moderates at the senior level of the government.

It will likely mean there will be less of a check on Peter Dutton and his new home affairs super-portfolio.

Incoming attorney-general Christian Porter has plenty of qualifications for the job – he was attorney-general in Western Australia. But he will probably be less inclined to be a tough watchdog on home affairs and its highly assertive minister than Brandis would have been.

The move is a prestigious one for Porter. But for a man who has been seen as a possible future leadership contender, it is one that takes him into something of a political cul-de-sac. It is not a portfolio that gives its occupant the exposure or sort of experience useful for climbing the greasy pole.

Brandis’ replacement as Senate leader, Mathias Cormann, is one of the most competent ministers, and a skilled negotiator with the crossbench. He will do a good job.

Michaelia Cash, who has been under criticism for the way she and her office handled what was a political pursuit of Bill Shorten’s union past, has been given expanded responsibilities.

Several changes are deck-shuffling, or unremarkable steps up.

The ConversationAnd notably, the reshuffle has not increased the number of women in cabinet. All that’s happened on this front is one woman Nationals deputy has slid into the place of another.

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

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Turnbull’s reshuffle undermined by Barnaby Joyce’s ousting of Darren Chester



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Malcolm Turnbull said he regretted having to drop Darren Chester from his frontbench line-up.
AAP/Daniel Munoz

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Prime Minister’s Malcolm Turnbull’s reshuffled cabinet has five new faces, but one of the Nationals’ best performers, Darren Chester, has been unceremoniously dumped by his party leader Barnaby Joyce.

Christian Porter replaces George Brandis – who quits parliament to become high commissioner to London – as attorney-general, in an extensive frontbench overhaul that Turnbull said focused on the dual themes of economic growth and jobs and national security. Porter is a former Western Australian attorney-general.

The new faces in cabinet are the Nationals’ freshly elected deputy Bridget McKenzie, Michael Keenan, Dan Tehan, John McVeigh, and David Littleproud.

McVeigh and Littleproud entered federal parliament only last year, and have leapt straight from the backbench, although McVeigh served as a minister in the Queensland parliament.

Joyce, who takes Chester’s infrastructure portfolio, told him he had to go from cabinet on geographic grounds. Both Chester and McKenzie – whom Chester strongly backed to become deputy over Joyce’s preferred candidate Matt Canavan – are from Victoria, a state in which the Nationals only have four federal MPs.

When quizzed at his news conference about Chester being dropped, Turnbull indicated it was Joyce’s call – the Nationals’ leader gets to choose the party’s ministers – saying pointedly: “Barnaby Joyce will no doubt be able to explain this directly”.

“Plainly the Nationals have a very large component of their partyroom that comes from Queensland and Barnaby was keen to see that reflected in their representatives in the cabinet,” Turnbull said.

Turnbull said Chester had been an “outstanding minister” and he regretted he was no longer on the frontbench.

Chester told a news conference he had been offered a position of assistant minister but he had declined it.

He made it clear he felt he had been treated badly. “I don’t think my loyalty to the leadership team has ever been questioned. I’ve gone above and beyond on many occasion to support the prime minister and the deputy prime minister, Barnaby Joyce,” he said.

Joyce has also sacked Keith Pitt, who is from Queensland, as an assistant minister.

The catapulting into cabinet of the inexperienced Littleproud, who is from the Queensland seat of Mananoa, to replace Chester, is likely to stir resentment among Nationals who have waited much longer for promotion.

McKenzie, who as deputy Nationals leader goes automatically into cabinet, will become minister for sport, rural health and regional communications.

Keenan, previously justice minister, moves to human services; Tehan goes from veterans’ affairs to social services, held before by Porter; McVeigh takes regional development; while Littleproud gets agriculture and water resources.

As earlier announced, Peter Dutton has a new mega portfolio of home affairs. Two junior ministers and an assistant minister will sit under him. Angus Taylor becomes minister for law enforcement and cyber security, and Alan Tudge will be minister for citizenship and multicultural affairs. Alex Hawke is assistant minister for home affairs.

Michaelia Cash, who has been employment and workplace relations minister, becomes minister for jobs and innovation, which includes the industry area.

Arthur Sinodinos, who has been industry minister, is being treated for cancer and asked not to be considered for the new ministry, while making it clear he hoped to return to a senior ministerial or other government role later.

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann adds permanently to his responsibilities the post of special minister of state, which he has recently overseen in a temporary capacity.

Cormann, seen as very competent in negotiating with the Senate crossbenchers, also steps up into the Brandis’ role of Senate leader.

In changes in the outer ministry, Craig Laundy has been promoted to minister for small and family business, workplace and deregulation. This will include direct responsibility for workplace relations, recently a controversial area for Cash who, however, retains overall responsibility as the senior portfolio minister.

Turnbull said Cash, Laundy and Zed Seselja, who becomes assistant minister for science, jobs and innovation, “will work together to make sure we harness the jobs of the future through new industries and small business”.

Paul Fletcher stays as minister for urban infrastructure, with some expanded responsibilities.

Michael McCormack, a National, moves from small business to veterans’ affairs and defence personnel.

Backbencher Melissa Price is elevated to become assistant minister for the environment.

The Nationals’ David Gillespie moves to a newly created role of assistant minister for children and families.

Victorian National Damien Drum will be assistant minister to the deputy prime minister.

David Coleman becomes assistant minister for finance, while Luke Hartsuyker moves to become assistant minister for trade, tourism and investment.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said: “All that we can deduce from this reshuffle is that the civil war which is a fact of life in the Liberal Party has now infected the National Party. How else can you explain a competent minister like Darren Chester being demoted?

“What we have here is we have a prime minister and a deputy prime minister who are engaging in such hubris and arrogance that they are now just punishing the people they don’t like in their own party.”

The Conversation

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Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

Brandis off to London, as Turnbull prepares his reshuffle



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George Brandis has served as attorney-general since 2013.
AAP/Mick Tsikas

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Attorney-General George Brandis will become Australia’s high commissioner to London in a ministerial reshuffle set to be announced on Tuesday.

Brandis’ appointment opens the way for Malcolm Turnbull to elevate deputy Senate leader Mathias Cormann to Senate leader, and gives the Turnbull government a cabinet vacancy.

But it leaves Turnbull with the problem of being seen to have adequate representation from Queensland in the cabinet. A Queenslander will have to be elevated, but the choice is limited and there is no standout candidate.

Queensland is a vital state for the Coalition at the next election.

While Brandis is a Liberal, the Nationals have been agitated for months about the need to boost Queensland’s representation in the ministry – and Brandis’ departure complicates the issue further.

Favourite to get Brandis’ portfolio of attorney-general is Social Services Minister Christian Porter, who was attorney-general in the Western Australian government before he moved to federal politics.

The Nationals, who appear confident of holding their five cabinet spots despite losing a parliamentary seat to the Liberals, now find themselves with an excess of Victorians in cabinet.

Their new deputy, Bridget McKenzie, is from Victoria, as is existing cabinet member Darren Chester. The party has only four federal MPs from that state.

It is speculated that Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce, who is agriculture minister, will move to Chester’s infrastructure portfolio in the changes.

The reshuffle also is likely to see the return of former health minister Sussan Ley, who resigned after allegations of the misuse of travel entitlements, which she denied. Turnbull wants to promote women and personally likes Ley.

The reshuffle comes as the government is behind Labor in the 25th consecutive Newspoll. The ALP leads 53-47% on a two-party basis, unchanged from the previous poll.

Turnbull said recently he regretted referring to Tony Abbott losing 30 consecutive Newspolls when he launched his 2015 challenge against the former prime minister.

The ConversationAbbott replied that he will respond to this Turnbull statement of regret, but he wanted to leave it until after Saturday’s Bennelong byelection.

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

Democrat Doug Jones wins Alabama Senate byelection in stunning upset; Bennelong is tied 50-50



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Democrat candidate Doug Jones has had an unlikely win in the hard-fought Alabama Senate ballot.
Reuters/ Marvin Gentry

Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

With all election-day votes counted, Democrat Doug Jones defeated Republican Roy Moore by a 49.9-48.4 margin to win the Alabama Senate byelection today. Once Jones is seated, Republicans will hold only a 51-49 Senate majority, down from their current 52-48.

Donald Trump crushed Hillary Clinton by a 62-34 margin in Alabama at the 2016 Presidential election, so in Australian terms, this result is a swing to the Democrats of 14.6%.

The massive swing was partly due to Moore’s faults. His extreme right-wing views probably made him a liability even in a state as conservative as Alabama. In November, I wrote that Moore’s alleged sexual encounter with a 14-year-old girl, when he was 32, could damage him. Similar allegations against Moore were made by other women.

While Moore was a bad candidate, Trump and national Republicans can also be blamed for this result. According to exit polls, Trump’s approval with the Alabama electorate was split 48% approve, 48% disapprove, a large drop from his 2016 margin.

According to FiveThirtyEight’s poll aggregate, Trump’s national ratings are 37% approve, 57% disapprove, for a net of -20. Trump’s ratings have recently slipped back to near-record lows, probably as a result of the unpopular Republican tax plan.

This tax plan is unlikely to be derailed by Jones’ win. Different versions have already passed the House and Senate, and Republicans still have some time before Jones is seated to pass the same version through both chambers of Congress. The current Senate version was passed 51-49. Even if Jones is seated, there would be a 50-50 tie, which would be broken by Vice-President Mike Pence.

The last Democrat to win an Alabama Senate contest was Richard Shelby in 1992, and he became a Republican in 1994. Southern Democrats used to easily win Alabama and other conservative southern states, but these Democrats were nicknamed “Dixiecrats”, and were definitely not left-wing. Doug Jones may be the first genuinely left-wing Senator from Alabama.

The Alabama result will be a massive morale boost for Democrats, as many will think that if Democrats can win Alabama, they can win anywhere. This should allow Democrats to recruit strong candidates for the 2018 midterm elections.

According to the FiveThirtyEight poll aggregate, Democrats lead in the race for Congress by 47.2-37.5. If Democrats win the national popular vote by this margin next November, they should easily gain control of the House.

The Alabama result will make it more difficult for Republicans to pass legislation and get conservative judges approved. It also puts the Senate in play in November 2018, as Jones will not be up for election until 2020. Democrats now need to gain two seats in 2018 to take control, rather than three.

One-third of the Senate is up for election every two years, and Democrats won the 33 Senate seats up next year by a 25-8 margin in 2012. Republicans will only be defending eight seats, while Democrats defend 25. In these circumstances, two Senate seats are far easier to gain than three.

Most Alabama polls gave Moore a three-to-seven-point lead over Jones, with one at a nine-point Moore lead. The Monmouth and Washington Post polls (respectively tied and Jones by three) were the most accurate. Ironically, the Fox News poll was the most pro-Jones, giving him a ten-point lead.

Bennelong Newspoll 50-50

The Bennelong byelection will be held on Saturday, December 16. A Bennelong Newspoll, conducted December 9-10 from a sample of 529, had a 50-50 tie, a ten-point swing to Labor from the 2016 election. Primary votes were 39% Liberal, 39% Labor, 9% Greens, 7% for Cory Bernardi’s Conservatives and 2% Christian Democrats.

Newspoll is assuming that Conservative and Christian Democrat preferences are as favourable to the Liberals as Greens preferences are for Labor.

At the start of the campaign, more than three weeks ago, Galaxy had a 50-50 tie, while ReachTEL gave the Liberals a 53-47 lead. This Newspoll is the first publicly released Bennelong poll since then, though The Australian reported last week that internal Liberal polling had them leading 54-46.

In past elections, individual seat polls have been inaccurate. There is some chance of a Labor win in Bennelong, but there is also some chance of a thumping Liberal win.

Newspoll asked about Labor candidate Kristina Keneally’s performance when she was NSW premier. 19% thought she was one of the worst premiers, 15% below average, 26% average, 23% better than average, and 10% one of the best. The Liberals have attacked Keneally on her record as premier, but this does not appear to have worked.

The national polls below indicate the media frenzy over Sam Dastyari has had little impact on voting intentions. Often issues that excite partisan voters have little resonance with the general public.

Essential 54-46 to federal Labor

The Coalition gained a point in this week’s Essential, but this was due to rounding. Labor led 54-46, from primary votes of 38% Labor, 35% Coalition, 10% Greens, 7% One Nation and 2% Nick Xenophon Team. Essential uses a two-week sample of about 1,800 for voting intentions. Additional questions use one week’s sample.

Despite Labor’s strong lead in voting intentions, Turnbull’s net approval improved from -12 in November to -3. Shorten’s net approval also improved from -13 to -9.

71% thought it is important that sexual harassment claims in the film and TV industry are exposed, while just 17% thought exposing these claims could unfairly harm reputations. 55% thought the current media attention on sexual harassment would bring about lasting change in the Australian workplace, while 30% thought it would soon be forgotten.

Considering energy policy, 37% said costs should be prioritised (up nine since June), 18% thought reliability should be prioritised (down three) and 15% carbon emissions (down four).

YouGov primary votes: 35% Labor, 34% Coalition, 11% Greens, 8% One Nation

This week’s YouGov, conducted December 7-10 from a sample of 1,032, had primary votes of 35% Labor (up 3 since last fortnight), 34% Coalition (up 2), 11% Greens (up 1) and 8% One Nation (down 3).

Although this poll would be about 54-46 to Labor by 2016 election preferences, YouGov’s respondent allocated preferences are tied 50-50, a three-point gain for the Coalition.

By 40-39, voters thought Turnbull should stand down as prime minister and let someone else take over, rather than remain prime minister. 28% said Turnbull’s decision to go ahead with the banking royal commission gave them a more positive view of him, 15% more negative and 52% said it made no difference.

The Conversation39% expected Labor to win the next federal election, 24% the Coalition, and 14% expected a hung parliament.

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

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

Nationals elect Bridget McKenzie as new deputy



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Bridget McKenzie beat several other candidates in the race for the Nationals’ deputy leadership.
AAP/Lukas Coch

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

The Nationals have elected Victorian senator Bridget McKenzie as deputy leader to replace Fiona Nash, who was disqualified from parliament by the High Court.

The win will propel McKenzie, 47, from the backbench into the cabinet when Malcolm Turnbull announces a ministerial reshuffle after the December 16 Bennelong byelection.

Promoted by cabinet minister Darren Chester, also from Victoria, McKenzie beat several other candidates, including Resources Minister Matt Canavan, a cabinet member.

This is the second consecutive time the party has chosen a female senator as deputy leader.

The Nationals have had five spots in cabinet and there has been some talk about whether the loss of Nash from the party’s parliamentary numbers will affect their entitlement, which is based on an arithmetic formula.

But Nationals sources say the arithmetic can be cut more than one way, depending on what date is used for comparison, and also that Malcolm Turnbull and Barnaby Joyce will not want to disturb the Coalition relationship.

Joyce’s strong win in the New England byelection on Saturday provided Turnbull with a fillip going into the final week of parliament. Joyce was sworn back into parliament on Wednesday and his vote ensured Labor failed to be able to refer a “job lot” of MPs, including four Liberals, to the High Court.

The euphoria surrounding the byelection win has soothed some Coalition tensions, including over the rebel Nationals forcing the government’s hand last week to set up a royal commission into the banks.

Much interest in the coming reshuffle will centre on George Brandis. After months of speculation that Brandis would leave parliament, the attorney-general, who has recently performed well after earlier political missteps, said this week he intended to stay.

It earlier had been an open secret that Turnbull saw the likely departure of Brandis as an opportunity to elevate Mathias Cormann, now deputy Senate leader and a conservative ally of Turnbull, to Brandis’ position of Senate leader.

The ConversationBrandis has recently been active in asserting the positions of the Liberal moderates; he has been a vocal backer of the same-sex marriage legislation, which is set to pass on Thursday.

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Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

High Court to rule on two Labor MPs, but partisan row protects others


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

A batch of MPs escaped being sent to the High Court on Wednesday thanks to a stalemate between the government and the opposition over who should be referred.

But the eligibility of two Labor MPs will be considered by the court – Victorian David Feeney and ACT senator Katy Gallagher.

The opposition failed in an attempt to get a “job lot” of MPs referred that included four Liberals, four from the ALP, and the Nick Xenophon Team’s Rebekha Sharkie.

The ALP motion was supported by all five crossbenchers, resulting in a tied vote of 73-73. The Speaker, Tony Smith, acting in line with parliamentary convention, used his casting vote to defeat the motion.

The government, insisting that none of its MPs should be referred, wanted the members considered individually.

But crossbenchers rejected that argument, seeing it as the government being partisan.

The government said it would continue to talk to the crossbenchers overnight but they are not likely to be swayed before parliament rises this week for the summer recess.

The Labor MPs in the opposition motion were Justine Keay, Josh Wilson, Susan Lamb and Feeney.

The case of Gallagher – who took action to renounce her British citizenship but did not get registration of her renunciation before she nominated for the 2016 election – should provide guidance in relation to the three other Labor MPs and Sharkie, who have similar circumstances.

Labor argues that those who had taken reasonable steps to renounce but did not receive their confirmations in time (or, in Lamb’s case, at all) are eligible.

Feeney is in a different category from the other Labor MPs – he has not been able to provide evidence that he renounced his British citizenship in 2007, as he says he did. He was referred after the job-lot motion’s defeat.

Both Gallagher and Feeney accepted they should be referred. Gallagher, while maintaining her eligibility, told the Senate she was standing aside from her frontbench positions and had asked to be referred to the court, saying her opponents would continue to use the issue.

Labor said the four Liberals – Jason Falinski, Julia Banks, Nola Marino and Alex Hawke – had not provided adequate documentation of their eligibility.

In the run up to the vote, Marino released advice from the Italian consulate saying she was not an Italian citizen.

Falinski produced advice saying that he was not a citizen of the UK, Poland, Russia or Kyrgyzstan. But the letter to Falinski was dated Wednesday and the law firm, Arnold Bloch Leibler, said that “as previously discussed, we cannot conclusively advise on foreign law and recommend that you seek independent advice from foreign law experts”.

The crossbenchers were lobbied hard over the motion, including on the floor of the chamber, by both the opposition and the government.

Labor made an unsuccessful attempt to get its motion dealt with before Barnaby Joyce, who has just faced a byelection after the High Court declared him ineligible to sit, returned to the lower house.

Labor had a temporary majority but did not have enough time. Joyce was sworn in at 1.15pm and his presence in the subsequent debate meant the numbers were tied.

Moving the motion, Manager of Opposition Business Tony Burke said: “The only appropriate way for us to deal with this is to make sure that, wherever there has been serious doubt across the chamber, the High Court becomes the decision-maker rather than the numbers on the floor of this house”.

Arguing for a case-by-case approach, Malcolm Turnbull said that Labor “with not a principle in sight, with not a skerrick of evidence … wants to send members of the House to the High Court … without making any case that they are, in fact, dual citizens”.

The Greens’ Adam Bandt said the approach must be “even-handed and non-partisan”. “We think there should be an agreed set of names that go forward from this house.”

Sharkie, appealing for unity, said: “We will hang individually if we don’t hang together”.

Crossbencher Bob Katter told the parliament that none of the MPs should be sent to the High Court.

Labor leader Bill Shorten revealed that he had known for just over a week that Feeney didn’t have the required documents.

“I informed him that he needed to tell the parliament what was happening, and I made it clear to him that there was a deadline of disclosure,” Shorten told reporters.

Feeney has said he is still trying to have the British authorities find documentation that he renounced UK citizenship.

If Feeney is disqualified, Labor would be at risk of losing his seat of Batman to the Greens. There is doubt over whether he would be the candidate in a byelection.

Shorten did not disguise how angry he is with Feeney. “I am deeply frustrated – that’s a polite way of putting it – that one of my 100 MPs can’t find some of the documents which, to be fair to him, [he] says exist and says he actioned,” Shorten said.

He admitted that if he had been aware of Feeney’s situation he would not have been so definite in his repeated confident statements about the eligibility of all his MPs.

The ConversationLabor was divided internally over whether it should pursue Josh Frydenberg, whose mother came to Australia stateless: the Burke motion did not include him. The ALP is also not at this point pursuing another of those it has named, Arthur Sinodinos, who is away on sick leave.

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Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

Near enough may not be good enough as parliament’s dual citizenship crisis deepens



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Labor senator Katy Gallagher has been referred to the High Court over her possible dual citizenship status.
AAP/Lukas Coch

Lorraine Finlay, Murdoch University

Over the past five months, a growing of numbers MPs elected at the 2016 federal election have either been disqualified or resigned from parliament because of dual citizenship issues.

This extraordinary chain of events started back in July with the resignation of Greens senator Scott Ludlam. It looks set to continue into 2018, after the publication of citizenship registries revealed several more MPs have serious dual citizenship questions to answer.


Further reading: New blow for Labor as David Feeney hits citizenship hurdle


Among those likely to be referred to the High Court are several senators and MPs whose citizenship declarations show they were technically still dual citizens when nominations closed before the 2016 federal election, but who claim they had personally taken all reasonable steps to renounce their dual citizenship before that date.

This group includes Labor’s Katy Gallagher (who has been referred to the High Court already), Justine Keay, Susan Lamb and Josh Wilson, and the Nick Xenophon Team’s Rebekha Sharkie.

All reasonable steps?

Several of these MPs have received legal advice suggesting they will not be disqualified under Section 44 of the Constitution because they had taken all reasonable steps to renounce their dual citizenship before nominating as an election candidate.

For example, all appear to have completed their renunciation paperwork and paid the required fee before nominating, but were waiting on the British Home Office to register the renunciation. They did not receive formal confirmation of their renunciation until after the election.

Under British law, citizenship does not cease until the secretary of state actually registers the declaration of renunciation.

In order for someone personally taking “all reasonable steps” to be eligible – in circumstances where that renunciation has not actually been accepted – the High Court would need to take a flexible view of Section 44’s wording.

The court has never been asked to directly consider this precise set of circumstances before, so nobody can be entirely sure what it would find. But given the strict reading of Section 44 adopted in recent cases, it would not be surprising if these five MPs were all found to be disqualified.

In the case of the “Citizenship Seven”, the court unanimously found that the dual citizenship provision is “cast in peremptory terms”. This means it sets out a definite obligation in clear and certain words.

While the court found there would be cases where someone who had taken “all reasonable steps” to renounce dual citizenship would not be disqualified, this was not a test of general application. Rather, it was a specific exception that applied where the law of a foreign country prevented someone from renouncing their foreign citizenship, or made it unreasonably difficult for them to do so.

This was based on the constitutional imperative that an Australian citizen should not:

… be irremediably prevented by foreign law from participation in representative government.


Further reading: The High Court sticks to the letter of the law on the ‘citizenship seven’


None of the five MPs mentioned above were “irremediably prevented” from renouncing. Instead, they had failed to do so in enough time to have the renunciation registered before the required date. So, it is difficult to see the court accepting that the British renunciation procedures were so unreasonable that they amounted to someone being “irremediably prevented”.

Taking this approach, the only fact that will matter is that these MPs were all still actually dual citizens at the time of nomination. On this basis, they would all be disqualified.

To escape disqualification, they will need the court to extend the “all reasonable steps” exception to every case of dual citizenship. It is open to the court to do this, but the recent decisions in relation to both the Citizenship Seven and Hollie Hughes suggest a stricter approach.


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


This means it is entirely possible that Gallagher, Keay, Lamb, Wilson and Sharkie will all be declared ineligible. At the very least, there is a real question to be answered about their eligibility.

That it has taken more than five months and a compulsory declaration procedure for this to come to light reflects extremely badly on these MPs.

Previous ineligibility

The citizenship registers have also revealed that there are several MPs who were eligible at the time of the 2016 federal election but who appear to have had dual citizenship issues for at least part of a previous parliamentary term. This includes Greens senator Nick McKim, Labor senators Alex Gallacher, Louise Pratt and Lisa Singh, and Liberal senator Dean Smith.

Since they relate only to previous parliamentary terms, none of these cases will be referred to the High Court. However, these MPs’ conduct should not escape criticism.

Again, that it has taken more than five months and a compulsory declaration procedure for these cases to come to light is highly disappointing.

The ConversationThe real issue here isn’t one of dual citizenship, but rather the honesty and integrity of our MPs. The dual citizenship issue is likely to be fixed in the future through greater candidate awareness and political parties undertaking stricter vetting processes. The loss of trust between the Australian people and their MPs is much harder to fix.

Lorraine Finlay, Lecturer in Law, Murdoch University

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

Newspoll and Ipsos give Labor a 53-47 lead as Barnaby Joyce wins convincingly in New England



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Barnaby Joyce’s big win in the New England byelection had little to do with recent political developments.
AAP/Tracey Nearmy

Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

This week’s Newspoll, conducted between November 30 and December 3 from a sample of 1,560, gave Labor a 53-47 lead, a two-point gain for the Coalition from three weeks ago. Primary votes were 37% Labor (down one), 36% Coalition (up two), 10% Greens (up one) and 8% One Nation (down two). This is Malcolm Turnbull’s 24th consecutive Newspoll loss, six short of Tony Abbott’s 30.

32% were satisfied with Turnbull’s performance (up three) and 57% were dissatisfied (down one), for a net approval of minus 25. Bill Shorten’s net approval was minus 21, down two points. Turnbull extended his better prime minister lead over Shorten from 36-34 to 39-33, but this is still Turnbull’s second-worst better prime minister lead.

The two-party shift in Newspoll is overstated because the left-wing parties (Labor and the Greens) are stable on 47%, and the right-wing parties (the Coalition and One Nation) are also stable on 44%.

It is clear from the Queensland election seat results that One Nation preferences assisted the LNP. I think pollsters should stop giving the Coalition just the 50% of One Nation preferences that it received at the 2016 election, and instead assume the Coalition will receive 60% of One Nation preferences. This is consistent with the recent Queensland and Western Australian state elections.

On four of six leader attributes, Turnbull’s ratings fell since May, though this included the negative attribute of arrogant. Shorten only had a clear lead on being in touch with the voters (51-42).

Three weeks ago, Newspoll asked a best Liberal leader question with options for Turnbull, Julie Bishop and Peter Dutton. Bishop led Turnbull 40-27, with 11% for Dutton. This week, Newspoll also included Abbott, and Bishop led Turnbull 30-25, with 16% for Abbott and 7% Dutton. Among Coalition voters, Turnbull led Bishop 39-28. Abbott had 32% and Dutton 12% among One Nation voters.

Ipsos 53-47 to Labor

The first Ipsos poll since September, conducted between November 29 and December 2 from a sample of 1,400, gave Labor an unchanged 53-47 lead.

Primary votes were 34% Coalition (down one), 33% Labor (down one), 13% Greens (down one), 7% One Nation (not asked before), 4% Nick Xenophon Team, and 10% for all “others”. As usual in Ipsos polls, the Greens are higher than in other polls.

On respondent-allocated preferences Labor had a narrower 52-48 lead. This is another indication that One Nation is assisting the Coalition more than at the 2016 election.

Ipsos gives milder leader ratings than Newspoll, particularly for Turnbull. Turnbull’s ratings were 49% disapprove (up two), 42% approve (steady). Shorten’s net approval was minus 14, up two points. Turnbull led Shorten by an unchanged 48-31 as better prime minister.

Ipsos’ best Liberal leader question included the same people as Newspoll, plus Scott Morrison. Bishop led Turnbull 32-29, with 14% for Abbott, 5% Dutton, and 4% Morrison. Among Coalition voters, Turnbull led Bishop 35-29, with 18% for Abbott.

Ipsos also asked about the best Labor leader with three options: Shorten, Tanya Plibersek and Anthony Albanese. Shorten led Plibersek 25-23, with 20% for Albanese. Among Labor voters, Shorten led Plibersek 38-24, with 17% for Albanese. Greens voters favoured Plibersek 35-21 over Shorten, with 15% for Albanese.

By 49-47, voters supported changing the Constitution to allow MPs to be dual citizens. By 71-19, they supported a royal commission into the banks. 71% thought the party leader should be allowed to lead for the full term of the government, while only 25% thought the governing party should change leaders mid-term.

ReachTEL 53-47 to Labor

A Sky News ReachTEL poll, presumably conducted on November 28 from a sample of more than 2,000, gave Labor a 53-47 lead by respondent-allocated preferences, unchanged since October. Primary votes were 36% Labor (up one), 33% Coalition (down one), 10% Greens (up one) and 9% One Nation (steady).

These vote shares may not include a small percentage of undecideds, who can be pushed into saying which way they lean. Using 2016 election preference flows, Kevin Bonham estimates this poll was 54.7-45.3 to Labor.

In ReachTEL’s forced choice better prime minister question, Turnbull had a 52-48 lead over Shorten (51-49 to Turnbull in October). Turnbull’s better prime minister leads in ReachTEL have usually been narrower than in Newspoll, which allows an undecided option.

By 69-12, voters favoured a royal commission into the banking sector. By 44-43, they favoured allowing dual citizens to serve in federal parliament. By 56-31, voters thought businesses should not be able to refuse services for same-sex couples.

Barnaby Joyce’s crushing victory at New England byelection

At the New England byelection held on December 2, Barnaby Joyce thrashed Labor by 73.9-26.1 after preferences. This was a 7.4-point swing to Joyce since the 2016 election.

Joyce won an overwhelming 64.9% of the primary vote (up 12.6), to 11.2% for Labor (up 4.2), 6.8% for independent Rob Taber (up 4.0), and 4.3% for the Greens (up 1.3). The 13 other candidates all won well under 4%, and forfeited their deposit. In 2016, Tony Windsor won 29.2%, but Labor and the Greens were only able to take 5.5 points of his vote.

While Joyce is detested by urban lefties, he is evidently very popular in New England.

The massive victory can be partly explained by the lack of competition. Unlike Windsor, none of Joyce’s opponents had the resources to run a strong campaign.

I believe that Joyce also benefited from the circumstances of the byelection. Many voters would have thought he was disqualified on a technicality, and so he received a sympathy vote. While lefties would like an early election, it is unlikely that most Australians want one. Re-electing Joyce made an early election less likely.

The above two factors also apply to the Bennelong byelection on December 16. Given the double-digit primary vote swing to Joyce, I am more sceptical of Labor’s chances in Bennelong.

Joyce’s big win had little to do with recent political developments. Booth results show he had large swings towards him on both election day and pre-poll booths, and also postal votes.

Queensland election late counting: Greens set to win Maiwar

Tuesday is the last day for postal votes to be returned for the Queensland election, and we will probably know the final seat count by the end of this week.

In Maiwar, with 86.5% of enrolled voters counted, the Greens have taken a 51-vote lead over Labor in the race for second. Preferences from a minor candidate will benefit the Greens, so their real lead is about 200 votes. If this holds Labor will be excluded, and the Greens will defeat Shadow Treasurer Scott Emerson on Labor preferences.

A Maiwar win would give the Greens their first elected Queensland MP; they briefly held a seat as a result of a defection from Labor.

The ConversationWhile still in doubt, Labor is looking more likely to win Townsville. The ABC gives it a 52-vote two-candidate lead over the LNP, and I believe the ABC’s estimate is understating Labor. Unfortunately, we currently have no official two candidate counts from the Electoral Commission of Queensland. If Labor wins Townsville, it will probably have 48 of the 93 seats: a three-seat majority.

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

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

Coalition behind in two new polls as triumphant Joyce heads back to Canberra


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

The Coalition trails 47-53% in the latest Newspoll and the Fairfax-Ipsos poll, but the government goes into the parliamentary week heartened by Barnaby Joyce’s landslide win in Saturday’s New England byelection.

Newspoll published in Monday’s Australian shows the government clawing back from the massive 45-55% two-party gap of three weeks ago, and Malcolm Turnbull improving his net satisfaction rating and widening his lead as better prime minister.

But while the government improved compared with the previous poll, this is the 24th consecutive Newspoll the Coalition has lost in two-party terms.

Interviewed on Sky on Sunday, Turnbull said “I don’t run the government based on the Newspoll”, although in 2015 he cited 30 bad Newspolls as one of the reasons Tony Abbott should be deposed.

The Coalition hopes the decisive New England outcome – where Barnaby Joyce has nearly 65% of the primary vote, representing a swing of about 12.5% – means the result could be officially declared in time to have him back in the House of Representatives by the end of the week or even mid-week.

Turnbull signalled the government will take an aggressive approach to Labor in the parliamentary week – expected to be the last of the year. It will move to have certain ALP MPs referred to the High Court over their citizenship, and pursue Bill Shorten over senator Sam Dastyari’s behaviour in relation to a Chinese donor.

In Newspoll, the government’s primary vote is up two points to 36%; Labor’s is down one point to 37%. One Nation has fallen two points to 8%; the Greens are up one point to 10%.

Turnbull’s net satisfaction has improved from minus 29 points to minus 25; Shorten’s net satisfaction has worsened from minus 19 to minus 21. Turnbull’s lead as better prime minister has widened to 39-33%, compared with only a two-point advantage in the last poll.

Turnbull said he had “every confidence that I will lead the Coalition to the next election in 2019 and we will win it”.

The Fairfax-Ipsos poll showed Turnbull well ahead of Shorten as preferred prime minister (48% to 31%).

In that poll, Julie Bishop is the preferred Liberal leader (32%), over Turnbull (29%). Tony Abbott trails on 14%, followed by Peter Dutton on 5% and Scott Morrison on 4%. Liberal voters, however, prefer Turnbull (35%) over Bishop (29%) and Abbott (18%).

But voters overwhelmingly oppose a government changing leaders between elections (71% to 25% who approve). The strength of the opposition indicates the high transactional costs the Liberals would incur if they switched from Turnbull before the election.

On preferred Labor leader, people were relatively evenly split between Shorten (25%), Tanya Plibersek (23%) and Anthony Albanese (20%). Shorten had a clear lead (38%) among Labor voters over Plibersek (24%) and Albanese (17%).

The parliamentary week will be dominated by same-sex marriage and MPs’ citizenship. The government will also introduce a suite of legislation targeting foreign interference and espionage.

In his wide-ranging interview, Turnbull talked up his plan to make personal income tax cuts a focus of his pitch for the election, saying “our intention is to introduce them before the next election”.

“That’s our intention but of course you’ve got to stick to your commitment, our commitment to keep getting the budget back into balance by 2021,” he said. It remains unclear whether the cuts would be simply announced pre-election or their delivery would start then.

Turnbull indicated that in the same-sex marriage debate he will support amendments that were moved unsuccessfully in the Senate by Attorney-General George Brandis, the most important of which would allow celebrants to refuse to perform a marriage.

Whatever the fate of the Brandis amendments, the extra safeguards and restrictions unsuccessfully pushed by hardline conservatives in the Senate last week are expected to be defeated in the lower house as well.

Ahead of the release of MPs’ citizenship declarations, both sides claim the other has MPs who should be referred to the High Court.

Turnbull said he was satisfied, on the basis of the reports from Coalition MPs, “that there are none of our members that are ineligible”.

He said there were plainly a number on the Labor side whose status should be determined by the court, and if Labor would not refer them, the government would do so. This was an “acid test” of Shorten’s integrity, Turnbull said.

But Manager of Opposition Business Tony Burke described the government’s proposed action as appalling. He said it was adopting “a protection racket for their own members” while planning to refer Labor MPs.

Noting that currently referrals could only be moved by a minister, Burke said that on Monday he would seek to rectify this, so referrals could be moved by either side.

Turnbull continued the government’s attack over Dastyari who, it was revealed last week, in 2016 told a Chinese donor who is of interest to Australian security agencies that his phone was likely tapped.

Turnbull said Dastyari “has betrayed Australia’s interests” and repeated that he “must go” from parliament.

He hinted the Dastyari affair was being investigated by the authorities but said: “This is a political matter and I do not give directions to our police or our security agencies on operational matters”.

But there were “a number of facts in the public domain and it’s a matter for the relevant agencies to look into”, Turnbull said.

If Shorten didn’t act on Dastyari it meant the opposition leader was putting his factional survival ahead of Australia’s national security, Turnbull said.

“It’s time for Bill Shorten to show that he’s really on Australia’s side and boot Dastyari out,” he said.

Shorten is standing by Dastyari although he has been demoted; anyway, while it could expel him from the party, Labor has no power to remove him from parliament.

The government’s legislation targeting foreign interference will strengthen and modernise offences including espionage, sabotage and treason, and introduce new offences targeting foreign interference and economic espionage.

Among the new offences, there will be ones that criminalise covert and deceptive activities of foreign actors that fall short of espionage but are intended to interfere with Australia’s democratic system and processes or support the intelligence activities of a foreign actor.

New provisions will criminalise support for foreign intelligence agencies, modelled on offences banning support for terrorist organisations.

There will be a reformed secrecy regime to criminalise disclosing information such as classified documents. This will replace old offences in the Crimes Act.

The ConversationA new transparency scheme will be established to inform the public and decisionmakers of instances of foreign influence on the governmental and political processes. Those who act on behalf of or in the interests of foreign principals will have to register that fact.

https://www.podbean.com/media/player/hdjfk-7dce11?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.

Barnaby Joyce storms home in New England byelection victory


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce has been returned to parliament with a big swing toward him in his New South Wales seat of New England.

With around half the vote counted, Joyce had won a swing on primary votes of about 11%, polling about 63% compared with 52% at the 2016 election.

A delighted Malcolm Turnbull, appearing at the Tamworth victory celebration with Joyce, told the crowd it appeared to be “the largest swing to the government in the history of byelections in Australia”.

Turnbull said it been a “stunning victory” and he would relish “getting the band back together”.

Surrounded by his parliamentary team, Joyce said it was a massive win for the Nationals.

He also paid tribute to the embattled Turnbull, saying running a country was a little bit harder than running sheep through a gate – and “you need someone with the skillset of this fellow here”.

The vote follows a week in which rebel Nationals forced the government to launch a royal commission into the banks. On Friday the NSW Nationals’ leader and deputy premier, John Barilaro, launched an extraordinary attack on Turnbull, saying he should quit by Christmas.

The byelection campaign was dirty at times, with persistent chatter about Joyce’s personal life. It was forced by the High Court ruling Joyce ineligible to sit in parliament because he was a dual New Zealand citizen via his father.

The result shows voters did not blame Joyce for his failure to do the proper checks, instead extending something of a sympathy vote to him.

Joyce had always been expected to be comfortably returned but the swing is a morale booster for the Nationals in particular and the government generally. Joyce’s return to parliament and the role of deputy prime minister will bring the government’s numbers in the lower house to 75.

But for Turnbull, the test will be in Bennelong at the December 16 byelection, where John Alexander, who resigned in the dual citizenship crisis, faces a tough battle to hold the seat against Labor’s Kristina Keneally.

The Nationals’ federal president Larry Anthony told the Saturday night celebration: “This is the reset, but not just for the National Party … but for the government”.

It remains to be seen whether the result will embolden the Nationals to further differentiate their brand over coming months.

This could in part depend on how Bennelong goes, as well as whether the opinion polls remain strongly against the government. If so, the Nationals’ vote at the next election may be best maximised by running their own race.

In an interview with Sky, Joyce acknowledged there were some issues in the Coalition that needed to be “ironed out” and “we are doing that”.

Joyce has picked up a sizeable portion of the 29% of the vote that went at the 2016 election to Tony Windsor, the former independent who held the seat previously. In the field of 17 candidates, Labor, on a vote of around 11%, has achieved only a minor swing of about 4%.

The ALP put little effort into the seat, with Bill Shorten never appearing in the campaign. Turnbull ridiculed the Labor performance, saying its vote was comfortably ahead of the informal vote.

Rebel Nationals backbencher George Christensen, whose possible defection had been a matter of speculation, confirmed to Joyce by text that he would be staying in the party.

In a social media post on Saturday, Christensen said that since the banking royal commission was announced on Thursday, he had reconsidered what could be achieved within the framework of government.

He had also had discussions with local mayors and community leaders, local LNP members and party elders, and Nationals colleagues.

“The consensus is that the Nationals need to be a stronger force within the government for both conservative values and country Australia and that people like me need to remain in the Nationals and government to ensure that happens,” he wrote.

“I am assured that, with Barnaby Joyce set to be returned to Canberra by the good people of New England today, we will have a more assertive and independently minded National Party with a reinvigorated leader at the helm.

The Conversation“That’s good news for the people of Australia and should point the government in a new direction. That’s why, despite serious earlier misgivings, I will remain completely with the Nationals and, ultimately, with the government.”

https://www.podbean.com/media/player/hdjfk-7dce11?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.