Could Tony Abbott lose to an independent? If the zeitgeist is any guide, he’s on thin ice


Mark Kenny, Australian National University

Strangely enough, there’s a link between “Kevin07” as an electoral phenomenon and the recent successes of independents such as Kerryn Phelps (Wentworth), Cathy McGowan (Indi), and Rebekha Sharkie (Mayo). All three now hold once safe Coalition seats.

And the link is one that may prove influential in 2019, particularly for Zali Steggall, who is challenging Tony Abbott in Warringah.

As in the case of Kevin07, the formerly Coalition-friendly independents, which is also how Steggall positions herself, found a way of giving life-long centre-right voters permission to break ranks without feeling like they were being disloyal.

The aim is to present as essentially similar to the incumbent conservative, but better. Modernised. Updated.

The implicit message to voters was that it was their party that had left them, not the other way around.

Such a sentiment may be ripe for expression in Warringah which, while economically conservative, has emerged as demonstrably more progressive than its long-time MP, Abbott. The blue-ribbon jewel was among the most pro-equality electorates in the country in the 2017 postal survey.

Beaten only by Wentworth, the two inner-Sydney electorates were the leading Liberal-held “yes” seats in NSW.

And it is to these voters that new and fresh quasi-independent candidates like Steggall seek to speak – voters whose Liberal loyalties have been tested by Abbott’s blunt antipathy for social reform and particularly his denial of tough Australian action against global warming.




Read more:
Liberals trounced in huge Wentworth swing, bringing a hung parliament


Labor’s unusual ‘07 campaign

The trick is to be close, but not the same, and it has a record of working in conservative-minded electorates.

Underpinning Kevin Rudd’s defeat of John Howard in 2007 was a carefully calibrated reassurance that Howard’s Australia – in which political correctness had been demonised and social reform moved at a glacial pace – would continue even with a change to a Labor government.

Labor’s plan was to strip the election of the usual contrast between parties, reducing the choice before voters to John Howard or a kind of John Howard 2.0.

In a number of ways, Rudd presented as a prime ministerial simulacrum, updated but only where required to: prioritise “working families”, take faster action on climate change, and offer an exciting public investment bridge to the digital future (the NBN).

So successful was this unusual proposition, it tended to minimise other policy differences between the parties and neutralise the usual fear of change itself among cautious voters.

From a marketing perspective, it was daring given Rudd was in fact the leader of the opposing Labor Party.




Read more:
Democracy is dead, long live political marketing


Crucially, it sought simultaneously to share in the government’s credit for economic stewardship – moderate inflation, strong employment, and a healthy budget surplus again – while outflanking Howard on his right.

Of course there was more to the 2007 changeover than mere campaigning, not least being Howard’s odious industrial relations laws (WorkChoices), an inconvenient mid-campaign cash rate hike (to 6.75%), and simple fatigue after a dozen years of Coalition rule.

Even so, there’s no denying that with his lay-preacher persona, non-union background, and claim to be fiscally conservative, Rudd deftly positioned himself as the safe choice for those voters considering change but still concerned with budget discipline and creeping permissiveness.

Similar to Labor’s 2007 strategy, Phelps, McGowan and Sharkie have offered the tribally conservative voter a reduced-risk alternative to the status quo. Or, as some have coined it, “continuity through change”.




Read more:
Politics Podcast: Cathy McGowan and Rebekha Sharkie on the role of community candidates


But there are also key differences. While Rudd promised measured economic modernisation in a socially-conservative manifesto – opposing same-sex marriage, for example – the new breed of once-were-Liberals flip that around.

They tend to emphasise the low tax, pro-business instincts of conservatives, but are more left-leaning on social policy and the environment. This turns out to reflect much of the electorate also – including many Liberal voters.

Can Steggall do the same in Warringah?

It’s a formula with a particular piquancy now given 2019 marks ten years since Tony Abbott rolled Malcolm Turnbull for the Liberal leadership over emissions trading.

An acrimonious decade on, and with no government climate or energy policy to speak of, voters’ patience has been strained to breaking point. The endless point-scoring and division has nudged moderately inclined Liberals within the grasp of new independents.

Fittingly, these events are coming to a head most threateningly for the government in Abbott’s own stronghold of Warringah.

Abbott’s vulnerability turns on three things: the standing of the Morrison government come polling day (which may or may not have improved), the campaign prowess of the Steggall operation (unknown), and the extent of declining loyalty by once solid supporters in his electorate. All are in flux.

Steggall’s threshold objective must be to drive Abbott’s primary vote south of 45%. That will not be easy. In 2016, his primary vote tanked by some 9% but he still managed to hold the seat without need for second preferences at 51.65%.

Still, if the zeitgeist is any guide, Steggall’s presentation as “the Liberal for the future against the Liberal for the past” will be appealing to those voters peeved at Abbott’s undermining of Turnbull and specifically the right-wing insurgency against the government’s National Energy Guarantee.

It could also resonate strongly with Liberal backers who were appalled at Abbott’s starring, if roundly ineffective, campaign against marriage equality.

Despite its unwavering support for Abbott through nine elections, Warringah voted “yes” to legalising same-sex marriage at the rate of 75% compared to the national rate of 62%. It even exceeded support in the most progressive jurisdiction – the ACT.

Steggall’s backers believe Abbott’s famous resistance to a reform his constituents found uncontroversial will prove it is his failure to move with the times that will force them to move their votes.The Conversation

Mark Kenny, Senior Fellow, Australian Studies Institute, Australian National University

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

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Poll wrap: Coalition gains in first Newspoll of 2019, but big swings to Labor in Victorian seats; NSW is tied



File 20190130 108364 ouhu05.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Scott Morrison’s ratings have been better than we would expect given voting intentions, as voters gave him a personal “honeymoon”.
AAP/Darren England

Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

This week’s Newspoll, conducted January 24-27 from a sample of 1,630, gave Labor a 53-47 lead, a two-point gain for the Coalition since the last Newspoll in early December. Primary votes were 38% Labor (down three), 37% Coalition (up two), 9% Greens (steady) and 6% One Nation (down one). This is the equal closest Newspoll result since Scott Morrison replaced Malcolm Turnbull as PM.

Despite the Coalition’s improvement on voting intentions, Morrison’s ratings went backwards. 40% were satisfied with him (down two), and 47% were dissatisfied (up two), for a net rating of -7, Morrison’s second worst. Bill Shorten’s net approval was up two points to -13. While still poor, this is Shorten’s equal best Newspoll net approval since May 2016. Morrison led Shorten by 43-36 as better PM (44-36 in December).

Since replacing Turnbull in August 2018, Morrison’s ratings have been better than we would expect given voting intentions, as voters gave him a personal “honeymoon”. In this Newspoll, Morrison’s net approval of -7 is very close to the Coalition’s voting intentions deficit of six points. In the future, Morrison’s ratings are likely to be more correlated with voting intentions.

The last Newspoll was taken after the final parliamentary week of 2018, when there was much media focus on politics. The lack of media attention on politics since mid-December may have assisted the Coalition. Analyst Kevin Bonham says Newspolls taken in December and January tend to be better for governments.

As the graph above shows, the incumbent government’s polling has tanked in February, when the media refocuses on politics. With the election due in May, the Coalition will need to avoid this February slump.

Housing prices have continued to fall. The NAB business survey had business conditions falling from +13 in November to +2 in December. The Westpac consumer survey had sentiment slumping from 104.4 in December to 99.6 in January.

Somewhat countering these gloomy economic reports, the ABS reported on January 24 that almost 22,000 jobs were added in December, and the unemployment rate fell 0.1% to 5.0%. The Australian stock market has gained in January, reversing much of December’s falls.

To make up for the likely loss of voters with a high level of educational attainment (see the seat polls below), the Coalition needs a strong economy to attract working class voters. A weaker economy is likely to help Labor.

Seat polls of Higgins, Flinders and Herbert

The Poll Bludger has details of recent ReachTEL polls of the Victorian federal seats of Higgins and Flinders, and a Newspoll of the Queensland seat of Herbert. All three polls were conducted January 24 from samples of 500-700. The Higgins poll was conducted for supporters of Peter Costello and the Flinders poll for the CFMMEU.

In Flinders, held by Greg Hunt, Labor led by 51-49, an eight-point swing to Labor since the 2016 election. In Higgins, held by the retiring Kelly O’Dwyer, Labor led by 52-48, a 13-point swing to Labor. In Herbert, which Labor barely won in 2016, they led by 51-49, a one-point swing to Labor.

In 2016, the Greens finished second in Higgins, ahead of Labor. In the Higgins poll, after excluding 8.4% undecided, the Liberals have 40.3% of the primary vote, Labor 27.1% and the Greens 19.3%. Full primary votes in Flinders were not reported.

In Herbert, primary votes were 32% Labor (30.5% in 2016), 32% LNP (35.5%), 9% One Nation (13.5%), 8% Katter’s Australian Party (6.9%), 8% for Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party and 7% Greens (6.3%). Palmer’s advertising campaign appears to have had an impact in Herbert. However, respondents expressed a negative, rather than a positive, view of Palmer by 65-24.

Seat polls are notoriously unreliable, but the big swings in Flinders and Higgins could reflect voters with high levels of educational attainment turning against the federal Coalition. I wrote on my personal website in August that these voters likely far preferred Turnbull to Morrison.

NSW Newspoll: 50-50 tie

The New South Wales election will be held on March 23. A Newspoll, conducted January 25-29 from a sample of 1,010, had a 50-50 tie, unchanged from the last NSW Newspoll in March 2018. Primary votes were 39% Coalition (up one), 36% Labor (up two), 10% Greens (down one) and 6% One Nation (down two).

This poll suggests movement back to the Coalition after a YouGov Galaxy poll and a ReachTEL poll in late November gave Labor leads of 52-48 and 51-49 respectively. YouGov Galaxy is the pollster that conducts Newspoll.




Read more:
Historical fall of Liberal seats in Victoria; micros likely to win ten seats in upper house; Labor leads in NSW


41% were satisfied with Premier Gladys Berejiklian (down four since March 2018) and 43% were dissatisfied (up eight), for a net approval of -2, down 12 points. Michael Daley’s debut ratings as opposition leader were 41% dissatisfied, 33% satisfied. Berejiklian led Daley by 44-31 as better Premier.

Tuesday’s Brexit votes make a “no deal” Brexit more likely

On Tuesday, the UK House of Commons voted on several amendments that could have either delayed the Brexit date beyond March 29, or led to a second referendum on Brexit. All these amendments were defeated by at least 20 votes. The Commons rejected a “no deal” Brexit by eight votes, but this is only a motion that has no legislative force.

To appease her Conservative party’s right wing, PM Theresa May supported an amendment that requires alternative arrangements for the contentious Northern Ireland “backstop”. The Commons agreed to this amendment by a 16-vote margin, but it is very unlikely to be acceptable to the European Union.

Tuesday’s votes make it more likely that the UK will leave the European Union on March 29, with or without a deal. You can read about why I think a “no deal” Brexit is a plausible outcome on my personal website.The Conversation

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

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

NSW Governor David Hurley will be Australia’s new Governor-General


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Scott Morrison has announced that New South Wales Governor David Hurley will become Australia’s next Governor-General, succeeding Sir Peter Cosgrove.

The Prime Minister timed his news conference in Canberra with the governor-general designate to coincide with Bill Shorten’s opening address at the ALP national conference in Adelaide.

Like Cosgrove, Hurley is a former military man. He has been NSW Governor since 2014 and served as chief of the Australian Defence Force from 2011-2014.

He will be regarded as a safe and uncontroversial choice, although some critics will say the government should have looked beyond former military ranks.

Labor frontbencher Jim Chalmers said the opposition welcomed Hurley’s appointment but was disappointed that Shorten had not been consulted. The opposition leader was only informed on Sunday morning, ahead of the 10am announcement.

“Ideally, so close to an election the opposition would have been properly consulted on an appointment which is so important to Australia and goes for such a long time” Chalmers said.

Morrison said Hurley would be sworn in on June 28, to allow him to fulfil his present duties. Cosgrove’s term, which ends in March, will be briefly extended.

Morrison in a statement said Hurley had been “a very popular governor of NSW. From his weekly boxing workouts with Indigenous children as part of the Tribal Warriors Program, to his frequent regional trips, Governor Hurley is known as being generous and approachable to young and old alike.”

Appearing at their joint news conference in the prime ministerial courtyard, Morrison said of General Hurley “I had only one choice, my first choice, and he is standing next to me,”

Asked why the announcement was made on Sunday, Morrison said “it needed to be done to provide certainty about the role going into next year”

“Next year is an election year and it is very important that … this appointment is seen well outside the context of any electoral issues.”

The start of Shorten’s national conference speech was disrupted when demonstrators, protesting about the Adani mine and refugee policy, mounted the stage. An anti-Adani protestor stood beside Shorten with a flag that said “Stop Adani”, and other protestors unfurled a banner “ALP – Stop playing politics with peoples lives. #ClosetheCamps”.

An obviously frustrated Shorten said people had the right to protest but “you have got to ask yourself when you see these protests, who is the winner? It is the Coalition”.

Security guards escorted and dragged the protesters off the stage.

In his speech, Shorten said a Labor government would be the first government in Australian history with 50% of women in its parliamentary ranks. Standing in front of the conference’s theme of “A Fair Go for Australia” Shorten said “inequality is eating away at our prosperity”.

He announced that an ALP government would make superannuation part of the national employment standards, saying it was a workplace right and that bosses who stole superannuation from their employees should suffer the same penalties as others who violated workplace rights.

He stressed that Labor’s plans were fully costed and a Labor government could “guarantee stronger budget surpluses”.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.

Historical fall of Liberal seats in Victoria; micros likely to win ten seats in upper house; Labor leads in NSW


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Victorian Liberal leadership hopeful John Pesutto has lost his blue-ribbon seat of Hawthorn.
AAP/David Crosling

Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

While it is possible that two seats could change, Labor appears to have won 56 of the 88 seats in the Victorian lower house, up nine seats since the 2014 election, the Coalition won 26 seats (down 12), the Greens three seats (up one) and independents three seats (up two).

These results reflect changes since the 2014 election, and do not account for Labor’s loss of Northcote to the Greens at a byelection, which Labor regained at the general. Party defections are also ignored.

Labor’s unexpectedly crushing victory was capped by triumphs in Hawthorn (50.4-49.6) and Nepean (50.9-49.1). Labor had not won Hawthorn since 1952, and Nepean (formerly known as Dromana) since 1982. It also came close to winning Caulfield (a 50.3-49.7 loss), which has never been Labor-held since its creation in 1927.

The 8-10 point swings to Labor in Hawthorn, Nepean and other affluent Liberal heartland seats such as Brighton and Malvern appear to demonstrate well-educated voters’ anger with the Liberals’ law and order campaign, and the federal Liberals’ ousting of Malcolm Turnbull.




Read more:
Labor has landslide win in Victoria


Labor was assisted in Victoria by a strong state economy, and an unpopular federal Coalition government. The national economy is currently good, and this could assist the federal government if they could stop fighting among themselves.

While Labor had massive wins in Melbourne and its outskirts, and increased its margins in regional cities, it did not perform well by comparison in country areas. Labor only gained one country seat, Ripon, and that was by just 31 votes on a swing under 1%; there could be a recount in Ripon.

The Greens held Melbourne and Prahran, and gained Brunswick from Labor. In Prahran, Green Sam Hibbins was third on primaries, trailing Labor by 0.8%. On preferences of left-wing micros, he overtook Labor by 0.7%, and easily defeated the Liberals on Labor preferences. This is the second consecutive election in which Hibbins has come from third on primary votes to win Prahran.

Russell Northe, who defected from the Nationals in the last parliament, retained Morwell as an independent. Ali Cupper, who had contested Mildura in 2010 as a Labor candidate, gained it as an independent from the Nationals. Independent Suzanna Sheed retained Shepparton, a seat she gained from the Nationals in 2014.

Near-final statewide primary votes were 42.8% Labor (up 4.7% since the 2014 election), 35.2% Coalition (down 6.7%) and 10.7% Greens (down 0.8%). It is unlikely we will have an official Labor vs Coalition statewide two party count until next week, but The Poll Bludger estimates Labor won this count by 57.4-42.6, a 5.5% swing to Labor.

Final pre-election polls greatly overstated the Coalition and understated Labor, as shown by the table below. The only poll that came close to the result was a ReachTEL poll for a left-wing organisation, taken 11 days before the election, that gave Labor a 56-44 lead.

Victorian election’s poor polls.

Bold numbers in the table indicate a poll estimate that was within 1% of the results. All polls had the Greens right, but missed on Labor and the Coalition.

Micro parties still likely to win ten upper house seats

The ABC calculator currently gives Labor 18 of the 40 upper house seats, the Coalition 11, the Greens just one, and ten for all others. Others include four Derryn Hinch Justice, two Transport Matters, one Animal Justice, one Liberal Democrat, one Aussie Battler and one Sustainable Australia.




Read more:
Coalition pares back losses in late counting, as predicted chaos eventuates in upper house


The upper house has eight regions that each elect five members. The three country regions are very close to completion of their counts, while the city regions lag. In Northern Victoria, Labor will win two seats, the Coalition one, Hinch Justice one and Liberal Democrats one. In Western Victoria, Labor will win two, the Coalition one, Animal Justice one and Hinch Justice one.

In Eastern Victoria, the calculator has Labor and the Coalition each winning two seats with one for Aussie Battler. However, Kevin Bonham says that Aussie Battler is ahead of Hinch Justice at a critical point by just 0.11%, and this lead will be overturned with below-the-line votes. The Shooters will win the final Eastern Victoria seat.

In Eastern Metro, with the count at 87.2%, there will be two Labor, two Liberals and Transport Matters wins the final seat from just 0.6% (0.04 quotas). In Southern Metro, two Labor and two Liberals win. The Greens, with 0.79 of a quota, are easily beaten to the last seat by Sustainable Australia, with just 1.3% or 0.08 quotas.

While the figure used by the ABC is the rechecked percentage counted, the electoral commission has been providing actual primary counts in Word files, which are ahead of the rechecked count in Metro regions.

In South-Eastern Metro, Labor will win three seats and the Liberals one. Bonham says Transport Matters could be excluded at a critical point, and fail to take the final seat, in which case it goes to the Liberal Democrats, who had an even lower vote than Transport Matters in that region (1.2% vs 0.8%).

In Western Metro, Labor will win three seats and the Liberals one. The last seat is likely to go to Hinch Justice, which won 6.9% in that region. However, the Shooters, with just 1.9%, could win the final seat.

In Northern Metro, two Labor and one Green are certain winners. In Bonham’s more up-to-date figures, the Liberals win one seat, and the final seat is probably a contest between Hinch Justice and Fiona Patten.

Labor and the Coalition are likely to win the 18 and 11 seats respectively that the calculator currently gives them. The ten micros could be a little different from the ABC’s current projection.

The group voting tickets are excessively complex, and it would be far easier to call these seats with a more sensible system.

NSW Galaxy: 52-48 to Labor, ReachTEL: 51-49

The New South Wales election will be held on March 23, 2019. A YouGov Galaxy poll for The Daily Telegraph, conducted November 29-30 from a sample of 903, gave Labor a 52-48 lead; this is the first NSW Galaxy poll since the 2015 election. A ReachTEL poll for The Sydney Morning Herald, conducted November 29 from a sample of 1,560, gave Labor a 51-49 lead, a one-point gain for Labor since a September ReachTEL poll.

Primary votes in the Galaxy poll were 39% Labor, 37% Coalition, 9% Greens and 8% One Nation. In ReachTEL, primary votes, after excluding 3.1% undecided, were 37.7% Coalition, 35.2% Labor, 9.9% Greens and 7.7% One Nation. Labor’s primary vote is four points lower in ReachTEL than Galaxy.

After replacing Luke Foley as Labor leader, Michael Daley appears to be benefiting from a honeymoon. He trails incumbent Gladys Berejiklian 33-31 in Galaxy, and leads her 54.2-45.8 in ReachTEL as better Premier. ReachTEL’s forced choice better PM/Premier questions usually benefit opposition leaders.

State parties tend to do better when the opposite party is in power federally, and the current federal government is unpopular. It appears that the federal election will be held in May 2019, and this is bad news for the NSW Coalition, which has to face voters first. In ReachTEL, voters said by 50-36 that federal politics would play a role in their state election decision.

By 58-36, voters in ReachTEL opposed the NSW government’s stadium policy, which includes knocking down and rebuilding stadiums.

Newspoll: 55-45 to federal Labor, but Morrison’s ratings recover

Last week’s federal Newspoll, conducted November 22-25 – the same weekend as the Victorian election – from a sample of 1,720, gave Labor a 55-45 lead, unchanged since three weeks ago. Primary votes were 40% Labor (steady), 34% Coalition (down one), 9% Greens (steady) and 8% One Nation (up two).

43% were satisfied with Scott Morrison’s performance (up four), and 42% were dissatisfied (down five), for a net approval of +1, up nine points. Bill Shorten’s net approval was up two points to -13. Morrison led Shorten by 46-34 as better PM (42-36 three weeks ago).

By 40-34, voters opposed moving the Australian embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. After being told that Indonesia and Malaysia had raised concerns about the embassy move, voters thought by 46-34 that Morrison should announce the move will not take place, rather than ignore those countries’ concerns.

Newspoll was three points better for Labor than two polls last fortnight, which both had Labor leading by just 52-48. The PM’s ratings are usually a good guide to voting intentions, so the hope for the Coalition is that Morrison’s lift could soon lift the Coalition. This poll was taken before last week’s parliamentary session.

UK Brexit deal vote on December 11

The UK House of Commons will decide whether to reject or approve PM Theresa May’s Brexit deal with the European Union on December 11.

Indications are that the deal will be rejected by a large margin, with about 100 Conservative MPs set to vote against the deal. You can read my article on the probable consequences of a “no-deal” Brexit on my personal website.The Conversation

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

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

Sydney storms could be making the Queensland fires worse


Claire Yeo, Australian Bureau of Meteorology

A strong low-pressure system has meant severe thunderstorm and hail warnings are in effect for much of the New South Wales South Coast. At the same time, very dry conditions, strong winds and high temperatures are fuelling dozens of bushfires across Queensland.

The two events are actually influencing each other. As the low-pressure system moves over the Greater Sydney area, a connected wind change is pushing warm air (and stronger winds) to Queensland, worsening the fire conditions.




Read more:
Drought, wind and heat: when fire seasons start earlier and last longer


These lows over NSW are the kind we might see a couple of times a year – they’re not just regular weather systems, but neither are they massively out of the ordinary.

However, when combined with the current record-breaking heat in Queensland, the extra wind is creating exceptionally dangerous fire conditions. Queensland’s emergency services minister, Craig Crawford, has warned Queenslanders:

We are expecting a firestorm. We are expecting it to be so severe that it won’t even be safe on the beach […] The only thing to do is to go now.

Conditions in Queensland

At least 80 bushfires were burning in Queensland on Wednesday, with more than a dozen fire warnings issued to communities near the Deepwater blaze. Queensland Police Deputy Commissioner Bob Gee said that “people will burn to death” unless they evacuate the area.

These fires have come during a record-breaking heatwave. On Tuesday Cooktown recorded 43.9℃, beating the previous November high set 70 years ago by more than two degrees. Cairns has broken its November heatwave record by five whole degrees.

Grasslands and forests are very dry after very little rain over the past two years. Adding to these conditions are strong winds, which make the fires hotter, faster and harder to predict. This is where the storm conditions in NSW come in: they are affecting air movements across both states.

NSW low is driving winds over Queensland

A large low-pressure system, currently over the Hunter Valley area, is causing the NSW storms. As it moves, it’s pushing a mass of warm air ahead of it, bringing both higher temperatures and stronger winds across the Queensland border.

Once the low-pressure system moves across the Hunter area to the Tasman Sea east of Sydney, it will drag what we call a “wind change” across Queensland. This will increase wind speeds through Queensland and temperatures, making the fire situation even worse.

This is why emergency services are keeping watch for “fire tornado” conditions. When very hot air from large fires rises rapidly into a turbulent atmosphere, it can create fire storms – thunderstorms containing lightning or burning embers. Strong wind changes can also mean fire tornadoes form, sucking up burning material. Both of these events spread fires quickly and unpredictably.




Read more:
Turn and burn: the strange world of fire tornadoes


What does this mean for the drought

Unfortunately, it’s not likely the heavy rains over NSW will have a long-term effect on the drought gripping much of the state. While very heavy rains have fallen over 24 hours, the drought conditions have persisted for years.




Read more:
Trust Me, I’m An Expert: Australia’s extreme weather


The wet weather may bring some temporary relief, but NSW will need much more rain over a longer period to truly alleviate the drought.

In the meantime, the Bureau of Meteorology will be monitoring the Queensland situation closely. You can check weather warnings for your area on the bureau’s website.The Conversation

Claire Yeo, Supervising Meteorologist, Australian Bureau of Meteorology

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

Explainer: how a dust storm, and hazardous air quality, can harm your health


Mark Patrick Taylor, Macquarie University and Cynthia Isley, Macquarie University

A major dust storm swept through Sydney and regional New South Wales this week. Red skies over Broken Hill on Wednesday night and Sydney on Thursday resembled those seen during intense bushfire activity and the massive 2009 dust storm.

The NSW government updated its air quality index to “hazardous”. People were advised to stay indoors unless it is essential to go outside, minimise strenuous physical activity and seek emergency medical assistance if they experience breathing difficulties, chest pains, or if other serious health concerns arise.

The hazardous air quality warning arose because fine dust levels were high relative to Australian air quality standards. Air quality levels of PM10 – particles at or less than 10 microns (µg) – were more than twice the Australian standard, of 50 µg/m³ measured over a 24-hour period, on Friday morning. They remained high throughout the day.

Perhaps of greater concern are the smaller PM2.5 dust particles, which were above the Australian standard of 25 µg/m³ at St Marys in Sydney’s west on Friday morning. Fine PM2.5 dust particles can penetrate deep into the lungs and cause respiratory difficulties. Short-term exposures aggravate asthma, increasing the number of emergency department visits, as well as causing wheezing and breathing difficulties.

Even for those not affected by asthma, exposure can cause coughing, a sore throat and a runny nose. Elevated dust exposure can also aggravate heart conditions. For example, increased short-term exposure to both PM10 and PM2.5 has been linked to increased death and hospitalisation rates due to heart disease, arrhythmias (palpitations) and stroke.

The city of Newcastle is experiencing much worse conditions. On Friday morning PM10 levels were four times the Australian standard of 50 µg/m³ due to additional smoke particles from local bushfires. Throughout the day PM2.5 levels in Newcastle have remained just below the maximum acceptable upper value of 25 µg/m³.

Fine dust particles are usually too small to see individually but high concentrations make them visible as a brown haze. Even as the dust begins to clear, the unseen fine particles outside or even inside your house can still present a health risk.




Read more:
We can’t afford to ignore indoor air quality – our lives depend on it


It’s advisable to use any prescribed relieving medications and seek medical advice if symptoms do not improve. For those who own an air conditioner, it may be appropriate to use it as long as the fresh air intake is closed and the filter is clean, preventing particles from being drawn into the home.

It is also important to keep an eye on air quality, which can be done in real-time via the NSW government’s air quality monitoring network.

The previous major dust storm in 2009 was made of predominantly natural elements – aluminium, silicon and iron. These originate from desert soils and did not contain significant concentrations of toxic elements. The current dust storm is likely similar in composition.

While there is some evidence the source and composition of dust has health implications, the most critical factor is the size of the particles. Evidence shows there is no safe level of fine PM2.5 dust.

Dust storms like this and the one in 2009 are unlikely to present a long-term health risk. However, they are concerning in the short term, especially for the elderly, people with pre-existing respiratory conditions and children, who breathe more air per kilogram of body mass than adults.

A health impact assessment of the 2009 dust storm showed marked increases in emergency admissions for asthma and respiratory conditions but no significant increase in cardiovascular (heart and vessel) hospital admissions. The age groups most affected were those known to be most vulnerable – people older than 65 and those aged five and younger.




Read more:
Toxic chemicals and pollutants affect kids’ brain development


A similar situation is being experienced in California, where wildfires are causing high concentrations of dust and smoke in the air and significant concerns about human health.

Australia generally enjoys good air quality, which is not the case for many lower- to middle-income countries. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), more than 600,000 children died in 2016 due to air pollution.

Air quality is a global public health issue. Around 91% of the world’s population live in areas where the WHO’s fine particle (PM2.5) guidelines are not met.


For those concerned about dust, Macquarie University’s DustSafe program will provide information on the dust in your home free of charge.The Conversation

Mark Patrick Taylor, Professor of Environmental Science, Macquarie University and Cynthia Isley, Researcher, Macquarie University

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

Luke Foley’s resignation is a disaster for Labor but may not bolster Berejiklian much either



File 20181109 116841 4xo4rr.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Luke Foley holds his resignation press conference, in a disaster for Labor as it prepares for an election in just over four months.

Michael Hogan, University of Sydney

The resignation of Luke Foley as Labor opposition leader in New South Wales is a disaster for the party as it faces a March 23 general election – but it isn’t necessarily great news for the ailing Berejiklian government either.

To form a judgement about the impact of Foley’s resignation on Labor’s electoral chances, just take a look at the state of play about a month ago.

First, we need to look at how the government and opposition were travelling before Corrections Minister David Elliott accused Foley of sexual misconduct under parliamentary privilege on October 18, effectively setting off Labor’s leadership crisis.

Virtually all media attention was on the performance of the Berejiklian government and on the premier herself. Foley was little known and little regarded. However, he was steering the ship with some skill, albeit with occasional problems.

It says a great deal about the low political esteem in which the government was held that, even without a popular opposition leader, the Coalition was seen to be in electoral difficulty. Not that a wager on a Labor victory would have been a safe bet back then, either. Still, the Coalition was likely to lose seats and quite likely to lose majority status in parliament at the upcoming elections.

Nothing has changed on that side of politics. Berejiklian still faces discontent about her hasty policy decisions and frequent backtracking; uncompleted grand projects like the new tram network and WestConnex remain problems rather than achievements.




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Privatising WestConnex is the biggest waste of public funds for corporate gain in Australian history


Add to that the difficulties over electoral support for the Coalition – especially for the National Party in regional New South Wales, and there is a flow-on from the disastrous performance of both Coalition parties at the federal level.

The unhappy picture only gets worse with the prospect of factional warfare in the Liberal Party as conservatives, led by Tony Abbott, attempt to take control of pre-selections and the state party machinery in the next few months.

Maybe the present crisis in the Labor Party will also have a negative effect on the Coalition, since David Elliott’s intervention smacks of the worst kind of “bear pit” politics that brings party politics into disrepute.

A mea culpa from Foley might have helped

Still, the Foley resignation is a disaster for the prospects of the Labor Party. Perhaps a quick transfer of power to a new leader, and apologies all round, might have left the party with a chance of winning the election. But Foley’s stated determination to fight the accusation with defamation proceedings makes the situation worse.

Foley can hope to remedy his plight only if he can prove that the allegations against him are false. As the likely new leader of the party, deputy leader Michael Daley, has pointed out, it is not politically (or ethically) acceptable for a political leader to blame his alleged victim.

Daley is also the shadow planning minister, and served as a former roads and police minister before Labor lost government. After Foley stood down, Daley quickly emerged as the most likely successor.

He was Foley’s main rival in the wake of the resignation of former Labor leader John Robertson in 2014.

Foley’s likely successor urges Foley to leave parliament

Daley, quite sensibly, has said that Foley should consider his position, and resign from parliament, and presumably drop his plan to sue for defamation. Foley has since said he will not re-contest his seat in the March 2019 election.

Presuming that Daley is the new leader, he will have little time to assert his authority and impress the electorate. He has ministerial experience, but that was in the disastrous last Labor administration, which was thrown out of office for the corruption that resulted in two of his ministerial colleagues going to prison.

His reputation in the party is of experience and competence, but he can expect to be reminded of his friends and colleagues, Eddie Obeid and Ian Macdonald. That is a lot of baggage to carry.The Conversation

Michael Hogan, Associate Professor and Honorary Associate, Department of Government and International Relations, University of Sydney

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

Yes, a tsunami could hit Sydney – causing flooding and dangerous currents



File 20181014 109207 1cee72t.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Manly’s The Corso pedestrian area could be flooded if a large tsunami arrived at Sydney Harbour.
from www.shutterstock.com

Kaya Wilson, University of Newcastle and Hannah Power, University of Newcastle

Sulawesi’s recent tsunami is a striking reminder of the devastating, deadly effects that the sudden arrival of a large volume of water can have.

Published today, our new research shows what might happen if a tsunami hit Sydney Harbour. A large tsunami could cause significant flooding in Manly. Even very small waves might result in dangerous currents in the entrance of the Harbour and in narrow channels such as at the Spit Bridge.

Beyond Sydney, large areas of the east coast of Australia would also be affected.




Read more:
Making waves: the tsunami risk in Australia


Our study considered a range of tsunamis, with heights ranging from just 5cm to nearly 1.5m when measured outside the Heads of Sydney Harbour. These wave heights sound small, but because the wavelengths of tsunami are so long (tens to hundreds of kilometres), these waves contain a very large mass of water and can be incredibly powerful and destructive. Wave heights also increase as the tsunami encounters shallower water.

A tsunami generated by an earthquake off Chile in 1960 created waves that reached Australia..
NSW Office of Environment and Heritage holdings

How a tsunami might happen

Most tsunamis are caused by earthquakes at sea, where a shift in the sea floor creates the sudden movement of a large volume of water.

Our study approach involved modelling the likely effects of different-sized tsunamis generated by earthquakes on the New Hebrides trench to the northeast (in line with the Vanuatu islands) and the Puysegur trench (south of New Zealand).

For each event we assigned Average Recurrence Intervals (ARI), which provide an average indication of how often tsunamis of different sizes are likely to occur.

The tsunamis we studied range from an ARI of 25 years to 4,700 years. The tsunami with an ARI of 4,700 had a wave height of 1.4m outside the Heads and is the largest tsunami we could reasonably expect in Sydney Harbour. An event with an ARI of 4,700 can also be considered as an event with a 1.5% chance of occurring over a 70-year lifetime.

What would the tsunami look like?

The tsunamis we’d expect to see in Sydney Harbour would be a sequence of waves with about 15-40 minutes on average between each peak. Some waves might break, and others might appear as a rapid rising and falling of the water level.

The highest water levels would depend on the tide and the size of the event – the largest events could raise the water level up to several metres higher than the predicted tide levels.

The visualisation below represents a tsunami in a fictional location, and shows the rise and fall of water levels (with time sped up).

Tsunami visualisation in a fictitious location (created by the IT Innovation team at the University of Newcastle).

What area is at highest risk?

A tsunami is not just one single wave, but generally a sequence of waves, lasting hours to days. Within the Harbour, larger waves are most likely to breach land, and high tide increases the risk.

The narrow part of Manly – where The Corso part-pedestrian mall is located – is one of the most exposed locations. The largest tsunamis we could expect may flood the entire stretch of The Corso between the open ocean and the Harbour.

The low-lying bays on the southern side of the Harbour could also be affected. A tsunami large enough to flood right across Manly is estimated to have a minimum ARI of 550 years, or at most a 12% chance of occurring over an average lifetime.

Maximum inundation estimated to occur for a tsunami sourced from a 9.0Mw earthquake at the Puysegur trench.
Kaya Wilson, Author provided

Examining these worst-case scenarios over time shows how this flooding across Manly may occur from both the ocean side and the harbour side, isolating North Head.

Maximum inundation estimated to occur for a tsunami sourced from a 9.0Mw earthquake at the Puysegur trench and an animation showing the arrival of this tsunami at high tide. Each frame of the animation represents a two minute time interval.



Read more:
An Indonesian city’s destruction reverberates across Sulawesi


How fast would a tsunami move?

Even though the smaller tsunamis may not flood the land, they could be very destructive within the Harbour itself. Our modelling shows the current speeds caused by smaller tsunamis have the potential to be both damaging and dangerous.

The map below shows the maximum tsunami current speeds that could occur within the Harbour for the largest event we could reasonably expect.

Maximum current speeds estimated to occur for a tsunami sourced from a 9.0 magnitude earthquake at the Puysegur trench.
Kaya Wilson, Author provided

Areas exposed to the open ocean and locations with a narrow, shallow channel – such as those near the Spit Bridge or Anzac Bridge – would experience the fastest current speeds. A closer look at the area around the Spit Bridge, shows how even smaller tsunamis could cause high current speeds.

The animation below shows a comparison between the current speeds experienced during a regular spring high tide and those that may occur if a tsunami generated by a 8.5 magnitude earthquake on the New Hebrides trench coincided with a spring high tide. A tsunami of this size (0.5m when outside the Harbour) has been estimated to occur once, on average, every 110 years (a 47% chance of occurring over a lifetime).

Current Speed animation and maximum current speeds expected to occur at the Spit Bridge for a tsunami sourced from a 8.5MW earthquake at the New Hebrides trench. Each frame of the animation represents a 2 minute time interval.

This video below shows similar current speeds (7m/s based on video analysis) when the Japanese tsunami of 2011 arrived in the marina in Santa Cruz, California, and caused US$28 million of damage.

A small, fast-moving wave can have a huge impact.

Historical records show us what happened when a tsunami generated by an earthquake off Chile reached Sydney Harbour in 1960. We didn’t have any instruments measuring current speeds then, but we have witness accounts and we know that many ships were ripped from their moorings.

Fort Denison tide gauge records of the 1960 Chilean tsunami in Sydney Harbour.
NSW Office of Environment and Heritage holdings

A whirlpool and significant erosion was also reported in the Spit Bridge area. Photographs from the time show just how much sand was washed away at Clontarf Beach.

Clontarf beach erosion: (Left) 2014 in usual sediment conditions and (right) 1960 post tsunami.
Northern Beaches Council holdings

How to stay safe

A large tsunami affecting Australia is unlikely but possible. Remember that tsunamis are a sequence of waves that may occur over hours to days, and the biggest wave in the sequence could occur at any time.

The Joint Australian Tsunami Warning Centre (JATWC), jointly operated by Geoscience Australian and the Bureau of Meteorology, provides a tsunami warning system for all of Australia.

Warnings when issued are broadcast on radio and television, through the Bureau of Meteorology Tsunami warning centre and on twitter (@BOM_au).

State Emergency Services are trained to respond to a tsunami emergency and there are online resources that can help communities with awareness and preparation.


The bathymetry compilations used by this research are publicly available and can be viewed as a publication with links for free download.The Conversation

Kaya Wilson, PhD Candidate, University of Newcastle and Hannah Power, Senior Lecturer in Coastal Science, University of Newcastle

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

Liberals trounced in huge Wentworth swing, bringing a hung parliament


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

The Morrison government has been thrown into a parliamentary minority after a crushing defeat in the traditional Liberal seat of Wentworth, which has been captured by high profile independent Kerryn Phelps.

The anti-government swing in Malcolm Turnbull’s former seat of about 20% is one of the biggest for a federal byelection in modern history.

As of late Saturday night, Phelps had achieved a 52-48% two-candidate lead over the Liberals Dave Sharma. Sharma had about 42% of the primary vote; Phelps has polled about 30%.

Labor, which ran dead in the campaign to give the maximum chance of Phelps defeating the Liberals, was on 11%, down nearly 7 percentage points.

Turnbull had a 17.7% margin at the 2016 election, with 62% of the primary vote.

The byelection fiasco will re-open fractures in the government and threatens a damaging burst of infighting between Liberal conservatives and moderates.

It is not clear how it will affect the instability wracking the Nationals, where there is a push on from Barnaby Joyce to try to regain the leadership.

The government is not in danger of falling on the floor of the House because it has enough crossbench support on the matter of confidence. But to pass legislation, it will need the support of one of the now six crossbenchers.

The thumping in Wentworth, although there were special circumstances and it is not a typical seat, will be devastating for government morale and is another major fillip for Labor.

The tearing down of Turnbull in a coup initiated by the conservatives and their candidate Petter Dutton was clearly the key factor in the huge backlash. But also climate change – where the conservatives have pushed for a weakening of policy – was a major issue in the campaign, and the treatment of refugees was also prominent.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s frantic efforts to shore up the vote, including by a major change of the government’s Middle East policy in the campaign’s final week, failed to have an impact.

Phelps told a jubilant election party: “We have made history tonight. This is a great moment for Australian democracy.”

She sent a message to “any young people, any women, any aspiring Independents out there – if you are thinking of running for parliament or running for public office: yes, it can be tough, yes, the road can be hard, but it is so worthwhile that we have the right people stepping up to represent Australia.”

She told the ABC: “People have been concerned about the direction of government for a very long time and we’ve seen a lack of decency, a lack of integrity and we have to look at what the House of Representatives is about. It is about representing the people and the people have spoken loud and clear.”

Morrison left the Invictus Games to appear at the Liberal gathering. “I know this is a tough day, but leadership requires you to turn up on the tough days and the good days, and that’s what you will always get from me as the leader of the Liberal party.”

Morrison admitted: “The Liberal party has paid a big price tonight for the events of several months ago”.

“What’s happened here in Wentworth is not unexpected. Liberals are angry,” he said.

“Tonight is a night when we listen, learn and accept the blows.

In remarks also aimed at rallying his humiliated party, Morrison declared “the bell hasn’t rung” on the bigger fight for the next election.

He defaulted to his stump speech, saying “we believe in a fair go for those who have a go. …we believe it is every Australian’s duty to make a contribution and not take a contribution….My message to Bill Shorten is you will never lead a country that you want to divide.”

Morrison has to quickly recalibrate his pre-election message about the threat of instability if the seat were lost. This was a point he stressed at the end of the campaign, warning: “If an independent is elected at the Wentworth by-election, that will throw us into a hung Parliament and a lot of uncertainty, at a time when the country doesn’t need it.”

Morrison stressed the generally-acknowledged point that Sharma was a quality candidate. “The result today is on us, the Liberals, not on Dave Sharma. When you attract the crystal quality of the man like Dave Sharma, you know your party is heading in the right direction.”

In a gracious speech paying tribute to Phelps and other candidates, Sharma admitted the campaign had been “a little bruising”, and said “I’m sorry I wasn’t able to earn the trust of the voters of Wentworth tonight”.

While some Liberals want Sharma to contest Wentworth at the election, it will be hard to dislodge Phelps, and there will also be pressure to keep him for a more winnable seat.

Former minister Craig Laundy, a strong Turnbull supporter, appearing on Sky, lashed out at right wing commentators, urging colleagues who listened to them to realise they “do not shift votes”.

NSW Liberal MP Trent Zimmerman, who was on the ABC panel, said the result was “not a distinctly Wentworth message” and the Liberals had to heed the lesson. Zimmerman said Liberal research showed that the two biggest things working against the Liberals were the removal of Turnbull as prime minister and concern about climate change.

“I think what we’re seeing tonight is a reflection of the anger in the broader community, but particularly in his own seat … on what happened on that mad week two months ago,” Zimmerman said.

NSW Labor MP Linda Burney said Morrison should consider calling an election.

Turnbull’s son Alex, who urged a vote against the Liberals, tweeted: “Incredible result and proud of the people of Wentworth. A hearty congratulations to @drkerrynphelps who fought a great campaign. A great day for Australian democracy”.

The vote has raised speculation that Tony Abbott could face a threat at the election from an independent in his seat Warringah.

There had been speculation the result could be close, but it was obvious from nearly the start of counting – ABC analyst Antony Green called the result at 7:18pm.

There were 16 candidates in the field.

*This story has been corrected to say one of the biggest swings rather than a record swing.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.