New Zealand’s Pacific reset: strategic anxieties about rising China



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As China is extending its influence in the South Pacific, New Zealand has responded with increased aid for the region.
from http://www.shutterstock.com, CC BY-SA

Reuben Steff, University of Waikato

China’s expanding influence is complicating strategic calculations throughout the Asia-Pacific region.

Small states, dependent on maintaining high levels of trade with China to secure their prosperity, are loathe to criticise or take actions that Beijing could find objectionable. This is creating a dilemma over how small states can protect their national interests at a time when China’s growing influence threatens the status quo.

New Zealand illustrates this dynamic. It watches China extend its influence into the microstates of the South Pacific, a region where New Zealand (and its ally Australia) have long enjoyed a position of prominent influence.




Read more:
Why China’s ‘debt-book diplomacy’ in the Pacific shouldn’t ring alarm bells just yet


New Zealand’s Pacific reset

The South Pacific is a geographic region encompassing 16 independent nations (and a number of associate nations and dependencies). The majority of these are microstates that face an array of economic, social and governance challenges and are vulnerable to natural disasters.

The two largest and most prosperous states by a fair margin are Australia and New Zealand. Historically, they have been the most dominant and influential players in the South Pacific.

Earlier this month, New Zealand’s minister of foreign affairs and trade, Winston Peters, announced his government would spend an additional NZ$714 million over four years on international aid, with the majority going to South Pacific nations. Peters explained that New Zealand’s interests in the region stem from its common Pacific identity, the desire to forge a path of shared prosperity and to uphold New Zealand’s national security that, he added, “is directly affected by the Pacific’s stability.”

Peter’s announcement of increased funding added substance to a speech he delivered to the Lowy Institute in Sydney in early March where he committed New Zealand to “shifting the dial” on its foreign policy approach towards the South Pacific. What went unstated – but was made unmistakably clear in Peter’s speech – was the increased role China is playing in the South Pacific and how this is “changing New Zealand’s relative influence”.

Rising China, growing anxieties

Long overdue, the New Zealand government’s renewed push is a soft-power response to a mounting dilemma that small states face in the Asia-Pacific region. In essence, as China’s power grows, it is leading Beijing to extend its influence into virtually every corner of the wider Asia-Pacific region. In the South Pacific, this influence is being secured through aid, loans (creating debt South Pacific states may be unable to pay off) and building projects.

For a region comprised of fragile economies, China’s aid and loans can help bolster economic prospects. Yet, at the same time, China’s engagement is not selfless. A number of strategic interests drive it. As China builds out its blue-water naval capabilities, there are concerns that it may seek a military foothold in the region.

In March, reporting in Australia cited unnamed sources claiming that China was seeking an access agreement to dock its naval ships in Vanuatu in lieu of establishing a permanent military presence. Both China and Vanuatu denied this claim. True or not, reporting such as this taps into a heightened level of strategic anxiety New Zealand and Australian officials are experiencing.




Read more:
Response to rumours of a Chinese military base in Vanuatu speaks volumes about Australian foreign policy


Given China’s ongoing militarisation of the South China Sea and Beijing’s rejection of the Hague Arbitral Tribunal’s ruling in July 2016 against China’s expansive nine-dash-line territorial claims, New Zealand officials could be forgiven for raising questions over China’s long-term intentions in the South Pacific.

Dilemma facing New Zealand

The New Zealand government does not seek to exclude China from the South Pacific. In fact, it has looked to collaborate with Beijing where it can. The Tripartite Cook Islands/China/New Zealand Water Project is an example of this, but the reset is clear evidence of Wellington’s desire to secure a role in the region as Beijing increases its influence. Yet, at this stage, New Zealand’s decision makers are acting as if there is very little they can do beyond responding with soft power in the form of increased aid and appeals to a common identity.

Ultimately, the constraints facing small states like New Zealand stem from their structural position relative to China, defined by an immense discrepancy in material resources. In short, China is an economic behemoth that, except for the United States, dwarfs every other country in the Asia-Pacific region.

While China is extremely important to the continued economic growth of small states in the Asia-Pacific, for Beijing these small states are relatively insignificant to its own economic fortunes. This gives China a potent lever to influence, compel and coerce states that draw its ire.

Larger economies such as the US and Japan have more room to manoeuvre vis-à-vis China’s increasing influence. Small states like New Zealand are walking a tight rope, lest they adopt positions Beijing finds regrettable and reduces or interferes with its trade.

For example, in 2010, Beijing froze political ties with Norway for awarding Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo the Nobel Peace Prize. Negotiations over a free trade deal restarted only in 2016. South Korean companies were punished when their government agreed to purchase US missile defence systems.

What now for New Zealand?

Recognising New Zealand’s structural position is not to suggest it is powerless in the face of China’s expanding influence in the South Pacific. However, it is all but certain that China’s regional influence will continue to grow at the expense of the influence New Zealand and Australia hold. Decisions will need to be made as to how New Zealand calibrates its foreign policy with this in mind.

One option would be to consider how great New Zealand’s dependence on China truly is. How resilient would New Zealand’s economy be if trade with China were to decrease? According to one report, New Zealand’s economy would be vulnerable but more resilient than others in the region.

The ConversationUltimately, balancing China in the South Pacific will require greater coordination with Australia – still the Pacific’s largest donor – and reaching out to other states. Japan, South Korea and the US share concerns about China chipping away at their relative influence. However, Beijing could interpret increased collaboration with larger powers as a sign of regional containment of its growing influence. New Zealand could find itself punished in such a scenario, but running that risk may eventually become unavoidable.

Reuben Steff, Lecturer in International Relations and Security Studies, University of Waikato

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

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Gallipoli commemorations of Turkish youth tell us much about politics in Turkey



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Turkish soldiers in a trench at Gallipoli. The way Turkish youth commemorate the battle tells us much about the country’s politics.
Ausstralian Dept of Veterans Affairs

Brad West, University of South Australia and Ayhan Aktar, Istanbul Bilgi University

With ongoing political instability and security concerns in Turkey, we are again likely to see a smaller turnout of Australians and New Zealanders for Anzac Day ceremonies at Gallipoli this year.

But thousands of Turkish youth will be on the battlefields at dawn. They will be re-enacting the march by the 57th Regiment to the highlands, where Ottoman troops halted the Anzac advance in 1915.




Read more:
How a more divided Turkey could change the way we think about Gallipoli


We undertook fieldwork last Anzac Day on this ritual as part of a proposed larger research project examining how the memory of Gallipoli has become central to tension between Turkish republicans and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). The republicans want to protect and restore the secular pro-Western origins of the republic, while the AKP wants to integrate Islam into the nation’s civil institutions and national imagination.

Nowhere is this memory politics more significant than in this re-enactment ritual, which under AKP rule has been renamed the Loyalty March for the 57th Regiment.

While Islamic influence on remembrance rites at Gallipoli has been growing for more than a decade, its political significance has increased dramatically since the July 2016 attempted coup. This has proved to be a transformative event for Turkish politics and society.

The 57th Regiment re-enactment

In the last two decades, Turkish interest in the history of the Gallipoli campaign has grown significantly. It was here that the 57th Regiment came to prominence in Turkish collective memory as the military unit led by Lieutenant Colonel Mustafa Kemal, later Atatürk.

As founding father of modern Turkey and hero of the war of independence, Mustafa Kemal pushed the 57th Regiment to the highlands, preventing defeat in the campaign.

The origins of the re-enactment are closely tied to this mythology – it was originally known as the 57th Regiment March in the Track of Atatürk. Local university students first organised the commemoration in 2006, partly in response to the increasing number of Australian and New Zealand youth on the battlefields for Anzac Day. For the 90th anniversary the year before, the Anzac Day pilgrimage reached its zenith, with about 17,000 participants.




Read more:
Turkish view remains neglected in our understanding of Gallipoli


The structure adopted for the first 57th Regiment re-enactment largely remains today. It involves an eight-kilometre hike from the regiment’s original base at Bigali village to the highlands of the battlefield. The ritual grew rapidly, with 6,000 participants three years after the first march.

Unsurprisingly, given the march’s popularity, the AKP assumed some control of the re-enactment through the Ministry of Youth and Sports. The government began funding the cost of travel and living expenses for young participants. It also oversees official registration and program co-ordination to cap attendance.

Such oversight allowed for representation of youth from around the country, including a greater percentage of participants from AKP stronghold areas who would otherwise struggle to fund the travel. It is this “pious generation” that the AKP and its leader, Recep Erdoğan, have emphasised as central to AKP’s vision of a new Turkey.

Turkish youth march in a Gallipoli re-enactment.
Ayhan Aktar

Cultural contradictions

Historical re-enactment is about comprehending and experiencing the past as it relates to the ordinary citizen. This commemorative form has proved particularly significant for AKP memory politics by allowing a focus on the martyrdom of 57th Regiment, which suffered heavy casualties.

By providing competition to the traditional heroic saviour narrative of Atatürk at Gallipoli, the AKP has been able to counter the secular pro-Western principles around which he founded the republic. Mandatory prayer sessions have been added at the beginning and end of the march. This has been justified as simulating the actions of the ordinary men who constituted the unit.

This more egalitarian historical focus, which cultural scholars refer to as memory “from below”, gives religion a place in commemorations of Gallipoli. This can also be seen in the increased recognition of individual martyrs through a focus on firsthand accounts of the religious zeal of Turkish soldiers against an infidel invader of their homeland.




Read more:
Turkey, the Armenian genocide and the politics of memory


Changes to the memorial landscape on the battlefields have aided this way of telling history while also promoting religious observance at the site. Fallen Turkish soldiers remained in mass graves after the war, a reflection of the stigma of Ottoman history in republican Turkey.

But, since 2005, Turkish authorities have built 11 cemeteries for the fallen soldiers. These have become popular sites for prayer by the 1 million-plus Turkish visitors to the battlefields per year, in large part funded as social tourism by municipalities. Another 15 cemeteries are proposed, with plans for accompanying outdoor mosques.

The AKP has a vested interest in advancing re-enactment as a commemorative form at Gallipoli, as it provides an opportunity for increased religious references and contexts. To ensure the re-enactment remains popular, though, the AKP has retained much of its original carnival-like character. Participants still take “selfies” and engage in jokes, laughter and joyful conversations while walking.

Political opposition

The recreational character of the re-enactment means participants have a range of motivations for their involvement.

Political chants and song, for example, are often recited by small groups. Some of the most common are the songs of the AKP’s political opponents, the Nationalistic Movement Party.

Other participants engage in religious chants such as Allahu akbar (Allah is the greatest) and Tek yol İslam, tek yol şehadet (Only path is Islam, only path is martyrdom).

Arguably the populist nature of the re-enactment legitimises other tourist and unofficial remembrance forms at Gallipoli that work to cap the state’s control over historical interpretation.

The 57th Regiment re-enactment is becoming a popular pilgrimage activity throughout the year. The Republican People’s Party (CHP), for example, had a re-enactment as part of its four-day Justice Congress at Gallipoli in August 2017. The congress was held to highlight violations of the justice system by Erdoğan following the attempted coup.

Like the main April 25 re-enactment, the success and political outcomes of such ritual displays are highly contingent. In the case of the CHP congress, its ability to challenge the AKP’s symbolic alignment with Gallipoli was hampered by photos appearing on social media of congress members drinking alcohol on the battlefields. The images caused a public scandal. A CHP spokesperson admitted:

Such impertinent behavior is completely against the glorious memory of our Gallipoli martyrs.

The ConversationWhether Australians and New Zealanders will return to Gallipoli en masse for future Anzac Days, and how they will be received if they do, is uncertain. But ritual performances on the battlefields on April 25 are almost certain to remain politically significant in Turkey.

Brad West, Senior Lecturer in Sociology, School of Creative Industries, University of South Australia and Ayhan Aktar, Chair Professor, Istanbul Bilgi University

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

New Zealand, US and UK outrank Australia in scores on budget transparency


Miranda Stewart, Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University and Teck Chi Wong, Australian National University

Australia ranks 12th in the Open Budget Index, and scores 74, much higher than the global average of 42 and the OECD average of 68. But Australia’s budget could still be more transparent if it included more on the budget’s impact on welfare and tax and by gender.

The Open Budget Index is published every two years and ranks countries using a transparency score, which is based on a survey for each country about publishing of budget documents, budget oversight and public participation.

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This year, there were 115 countries in the index and Australia was included for the first time. Australia ranks behind our neighbours New Zealand and also behind the United States, United Kingdom and France. The top three countries in the index are New Zealand (with a score of 89), South Africa (89) and Sweden (87).

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Each country’s survey for the index is prepared independently by an in-country civil society organisation or academic researcher. Applying standardised questions and based on evidence, researchers at the Tax and Transfer Policy Institute conducted the Australian survey. The assessments are also reviewed anonymously..




Read more:
The ‘citizen budgets’ of Africa make governments more transparent


How transparent is the Australian budget?

The survey assessed Australian federal budget process for the 2015-2016 year and the first half of the 2016-2017 year. Australia’s government performs well in publishing most budget documents at different points in the budget process.

The budget documents include: Budget Paper No. 1 (with a score of 87), the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO) report (with a score 93) and the The Auditor-General annual report (81). The government reformed these documents in the 1990s with the introduction of the Charter of Budget Honesty.

Where the Australian budget falls down is in engaging the public in the budget process. The index evaluates public participation with 18 indicators. Australia’s weakest score is in budget participation (41 out of 100). This indicates limited opportunities for the public to engage in the budget process.

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For example the Australia government doesn’t publish a pre-budget statement and publishes less information in the budget that has been approved by the parliament and the government summary of the budget (a simpler and less technical version of the government’s budget proposal and other budget documents). Australia also lags behind New Zealand in transparency of most reports.

Yet, given participation opportunities are much scarcer in most other countries in the world, Australia is in fact one of the top performers on this measure. Almost all countries have only scant opportunities for public participation (score 40 and below), except New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Australia and the Philippines.

Where Australia scores really well is in its budget oversight by the Australian National Audit Office (a score of 100). But Australia presents a mixed picture on the checks and balances in overseeing the budget. The parliament provides adequate oversight at the executive and audit stage (that gets a score of 67); but limited oversight at the formulation and approval stage for the budget (with a score of 48). Overall, Australia gets a score of 70 out of 100, lagging considerably behind Norway (91) and Germany (89).

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The main barrier to improving this is the lack of pre-budget debate by the parliament. Budget Paper No. 1 is given to members of parliament less than two months before the start of the budget year, and in-year budget implementation is not examined by a parliamentary committee.

Room for improvement

It’s crucial that budget processes are fair, open, democratic and accountable. Australia performs well generally on budget transparency – as we should expect as citizens in a robust parliamentary democracy. But there is some room for improvement.




Read more:
With its 2017 budget the government is still discouraging women


For example, Australia’s budget contains much less information than in the past about distributional effects of budget policy on taxes and welfare. The government is no longer providing “cameo” tables, which show the projected impact in the real disposal incomes of different hypothetical families, as it did in the previous budgets prior to 2014-15.

The Australian budget also does not contain any analysis of the budget by gender. This is in contrast to the 1980s, during that time Australia was the pioneer in introducing gender budget analysis.

The ConversationThese gaps show us why it’s important for us to keep an eye on transparency. We should not be complacent. We need more public reporting, analysis and opportunities for public participation in the budget process.

Miranda Stewart, Professor and Director, Tax and Transfer Policy Institute, Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University and Teck Chi Wong, Research Assistant at the Tax and Transfer Policy Institute, Australian National University

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

Labour wins NZ election after backing from NZ First. Bankers’ SA Galaxy: 31% Lib, 30% SA Best, 26% Labor


Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

The New Zealand election was held on 23 September, with final results released on 7 October. The conservative National won 56 of the 120 seats, Labour 46, the anti-immigrant populist NZ First 9, the Greens 8 and the right-wing ACT 1. As a result, the right held 57 seats and the left 54, with NZ First’s 9 seats required for a majority (61 seats) for either the left or right.

26 days after the election, and 12 days after final results were published, NZ First leader Winston Peters today announced that his party would form a coalition government with Labour. With NZ First backing, the left bloc has 63 seats, a clear majority in the NZ Parliament. This outcome ends National’s nine successive years in power, in which Labour had utterly dismal results in the three elections from 2008-14.

While the time taken after the election to form a government may seem long, it is not by international standards. Following the Dutch election in March 2017, a coalition government was not formed for 208 days. The German election was held on 24 September, with final results known on 25 September, but government negotiations only began yesterday.

Bankers’ SA Galaxy: 31% Liberal, 30% SA Best, 26% Labor

The Australian reported today that a SA Galaxy poll, conducted for the Australian Bankers Association 10-12 October from a sample of 806, gave the Liberals 31% of the primary vote, SA Best (Nick Xenophon’s SA party) 30% and Labor 26%. The next SA election will be held in mid-March 2018.

This poll is not a media-commissioned poll. The ABA is an anti-Labor lobby group that wants to stop the proposed SA state bank tax. Polls such as these are prone to selective release; it is unlikely the ABA would have released a poll with Labor doing well.

The last media-commissioned SA Galaxy poll, in late June, had the Liberals leading Labor 34-28 on primary votes with SA Best on 21%, and a 50-50 tie between the major parties after preferences. If this ABA Galaxy poll is accurate, it implies that SA Best has surged 9 points since Xenophon announced his candidacy for the Liberal-held seat of Hartley.

In the better Premier question, Xenophon had 41%, with both incumbent Premier Jay Weatherill and opposition leader Steven Marshall at 21%.

If these primary votes were replicated at an election, SA Best would win many seats on Labor preferences, and could be the largest party in SA’s lower house. Such an outcome would break the two party duopoly for the first time in an Australian Parliament since the early 20th century.

However, there are still five months to go before the election. Even if this poll is accurate, it could represent SA Best’s high point. Both major parties will attack Xenophon during the election campaign, in an attempt to undermine his popularity. Labor will use Xenophon’s controversial Senate decisions against him.

Although Labor is third in this poll, they are not out of the running. If Labor can take a few percent from SA Best, they would be more likely to benefit on preferences than the Liberals. If Labor retains office at the next election, it will be a fifth consecutive term for them.

The ConversationAfter 14 years in office, Queensland Labor was demolished at the 2012 Queensland election, and NSW Labor had a similar fate after 16 years at the 2011 NSW election. A SA Labor victory after 16 years would be a remarkable achievement.

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

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

Jacinda Ardern to become NZ prime minister following coalition announcement



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Jacinda Ardern is set to become New Zealand’s new prime minister.
CC BY-ND

Richard Shaw, Massey University

During the dim, distant past of New Zealand’s recent election campaign, soon-to-be-former prime minister Bill English grumbled that the “stardust” that was falling thick and fast on new Labour leader Jacinda Ardern would settle.

Well, it just has – in such quantities that some time next week Ardern will be sworn in as the 40th – and second youngest – prime minister of Aotearoa/New Zealand.

From stardust to PM

It is quite some denouement to an extraordinary period in New Zealand’s political history. A little under three months ago, Ardern was the deputy leader of a Labour Party that was polling in minor party territory. From deputy leader of a struggling opposition party to prime minister in under three months – that’s stardust on an industrial scale.

For Winston Peters, too, who is likely to become the next deputy prime minister (for the second time), it is a spectacular return to form. Three times Peters has been the veto player in the government formation process. On each occasion he has kept everyone guessing, including, it appears, members of his own caucus.


Read more: Long live the kingmaker: Winston Peters and the NZ election


So, here’s what we know. The new government will comprise a formal coalition between Labour and NZF (the first executive coalition we’ve had on this side of the ditch since 2005). As a minority administration, it will govern with support on confidence and supply from the Greens.

NZF will hold four cabinet positions and an additional slot outside of cabinet. This means that just over half of its caucus will be in the political executive. The Greens, too, will – for the first time in their history – have ministerial portfolios: three outside of Cabinet and one parliamentary under-secretary.

But there’s plenty we don’t yet know. We’re not sure who will occupy which portfolios (although we’re fairly sure Peters will be the deputy prime minister). Neither will we know the nature of the policy detail (if any) in the executive agreement and its associated confidence and supply document until next week.

Few rules to form a government

The last time NZF was in formal coalition – ironically, with the National Party in 1996 – there was an awful lot of devil in that detail. Since then, New Zealand governments have moved away from policy-prescriptive agreements to arrangements that emphasise procedural certainty and clarity. However, the attention that has clearly been paid to matters of policy in the negotiations over the last three weeks suggests we may see a swing back to a greater emphasis on policy substance.

Once the dust – wherever it happens to have come from – has settled on today’s momentous events, a number of features of this election will merit careful reflection.

In particular, questions will certainly be asked of the way in which New Zealand governments are formed. Almost alone amongst mature parliamentary democracies, there are few or no formal rules governing the process. Apart from the constitutional requirement that the government is formed by the party or parties able to demonstrate to the governor-general that they command the confidence of parliament, there is little formal guidance and few restrictions on the process.

That goes a long way to explaining why it has taken a few days short of four weeks to form this government and why, for the first time under the mixed member proportional (MMP) electoral system in New Zealand, the incoming government will not be led by the party that won the largest number of seats in the election. All of this is perfectly constitutional, but disconcerting for some New Zealanders nonetheless.

Expect big, boisterous opposition

What next? National will be furious. Expect some talk over the next couple of days of the “moral authority” the party had to govern, given that it won a clear plurality of parliamentary seats. While the constitution recognises no such thing, National certainly had political precedence on its side.

National will ride that wave of righteous anger – internally at least, if not outwardly for public consumption – for some time to come. Hell hath no fury and so forth. And if the Labour/NZF/Green governing bloc starts fraying at the edges, then National’s claim to “moral authority” will start to look a little less imaginary.

But this might not have been a bad election for National to lose. The party can now move on from the Key years, start generating fresh ideas and begin bringing through some of its younger talent as it remakes itself as a conservative force. Moreover, National will comprise a big, boisterous opposition. The parliamentary conventions and rules governing the allocation of questions in the house, speaking time and membership on select committee positions mean that it will be able to make life very challenging for the new administration.

Human face of capitalism

And what of the new government? For Labour, NZF and Greens – which between them represent 50.5% of those who cast party votes in the election (against National’s 44.4%) – this is the chance to effect change following nine years of orthodox neoliberal government from National.

Peters’ claim when announcing his decision that he wanted to be part of a government that would restore ‘capitalism with a human face’ falls far short of a clarion call for the destruction of neoliberalism. It does, however, signal a significant change in policy direction. For those New Zealanders on the wrong side of the ledger when it comes to our dire performance in health, housing, productivity, wage and salary growth, poverty and so on, that change can’t come soon enough.

The ConversationThis, then, will be a legacy government, one that represents a generational shift in thinking away from the priorities of the baby boomers towards the concerns of the millennials. The irony that such a thing has been brought about by a man on the other side of 70 won’t be lost on anyone. “Let’s do this” was Ardern’s campaign slogan. Now we get to see how New Zealand’s political odd couple go.

Richard Shaw, Professor of Politics, Massey University

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

New Zealand’s first-past-the-post ‘hangover’ could limit coalition options


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Bill English’s National Party got 46% of the vote, but needs a coalition partner to form the next government.
Reuters/Nigel Marple, CC BY-ND

Pii-Tuulia Nikula, Eastern Institute of Technology and Nicholas R. Smith

Last weekend’s New Zealand election didn’t deliver a clear majority for either of the two major parties (National and Labour). The final outcome will ultimately come down to the decision of minor populist party New Zealand First (NZF).

The only realistic choices for a coalition are a centre-right-leaning National-NZF coalition or a centre-left-leaning Labour-Green-NZF coalition.

Why is a National-Labour grand coalition seen as unthinkable? Despite 20 years of a mixed member proportional (MMP) electoral system, New Zealand’s politicians still struggle with compromise and co-operation.

A nascent multiparty democracy

Straight after the election, the Green Party ruled out a coalition with the centre-right National Party, purely on ideological grounds.

Contrast this with Germany, which held general elections a day after New Zealand. Angela Merkel’s centre-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) immediately entered coalition talks with the left-leaning Green Party and the right-liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP).

New Zealand’s reluctance to form pragmatic coalitions can be explained by its democratic history. Until 1996, New Zealand had a simple first-past-the-post system, with one vote for a candidate in a specific electorate. Democracies using this tend to have de facto two-party systems, often entrenching ideological partisanship on the left and right.


Read more: New Zealand elections: same, same, but very different


New Zealand’s 1996 election marked a new epoch of electoral democracy. Through a referendum in 1993, New Zealanders chose the MMP system. Two votes are cast: one for a party and one for an electorate candidate. Seats in parliament are assigned by total percentage of the party vote, not by how many electorates a party wins.

However, electorate wins are important for minor parties that finish under the 5% party vote threshold.

Unlike first-past-the-post, proportional representation systems like MMP usually produce multi-partyism. The presence of more parties in parliament necessitates coalition-building.

In the New Zealand context, no party has won an absolute majority in any of the seven elections since MMP was introduced.

New Zealand’s first-past-the-post hangover

However, New Zealand seems to have a first-past-the-post hangover. In a recent online poll, the prospect of a National-Labour grand coalition was considered “absurd” by 61% of respondents. The same poll observed a clear ideological division between National and the smaller Green Party.


CC BY-ND

Internationally, most countries with a longer history of proportional representation have tended to be less polarised than New Zealand when it comes to coalition-building.

Germany, which introduced a proportional electoral system in 1947, has had significant experience in multi-party co-operation. From 2005 to its recent election, a grand coalition between the two largest parties, the centre-right CDU and the centre-left Social Democratic Party (SDP), governed Germany.

While numerous hypothetical coalition marriages are perceived as absurd in New Zealand, few coalition arrangements are out of the question in Germany. One notable exception is the CDU working with anti-establishment right-wing party Alternative für Deutschland, which will enter the Bundestag for the first time this year.

The most likely outcome in Germany’s 2017 elections seems to be a “Jamaica coalition” option, involving Merkel’s CDU (which collected the most votes) with the Greens and the FDP.

Tackling New Zealand’s democratic division

In the New Zealand context, the Jamaica coalition would be akin to National forming a coalition with the Green and ACT parties. However, the Green Party unequivocally ruled out entering a governing coalition with National.

While remaining truthful to a party’s ideological convictions is commendable, it can also keep the party out of power and unable to achieve its policy goals.

Unlike the Green Party, the Māori Party (which lost its place in parliament in this election) previously opted for a more pragmatic approach. It partnered with National in three successive governments. This “deal with the devil” enabled the party to secure concessions such as the Whānau Ora health initiative.

Winston Peters (standing), the leader of New Zealand First, watches the election results.
AAP/Karen Sweeney, CC BY-ND

Ultimately, the MMP system is only as good as the underpinning democratic culture. New Zealand’s democratic culture seems to struggle with compromise and co-operation. Such limited coalition arrangements give too much power to a smaller party such as NZF, making it the unmandated “kingmaker” in coalition negotiations.

New Zealand in 2017 is a country with many divisions – generational, class, urban-rural, colonial, ethnic and educational – and seemingly few political options to bridge them.

One answer to New Zealand’s lacking political co-operation – beyond more superficial changes like lowering the 5% threshold – could lie in reducing its overwhelming reliance on elections as the main mechanism of political participation.

Elections are naturally divisive events. What is often drowned out in the cacophony of campaign slogans and character assassinations is genuine policy deliberation by the demos.

The ConversationFinding ways to bring deliberation to the fore – perhaps through introducing citizens’ juries – would be an incremental approach to moving politics towards co-operation and compromise, and away from zero-sum partisanship.

Pii-Tuulia Nikula, Lecturer in Politics, Eastern Institute of Technology and Nicholas R. Smith, Postdoctoral Fellow, National Centre for Research on Europe

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

New Zealand votes for conservatism and the status quo


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Bill English addresses supporters at the National Party election night event.
AAP, CC BY-ND

Grant Duncan, Massey University

After a dramatic election campaign that looked promising for the centre-left, New Zealand’s voters have opted instead for conservatism.

Special votes are yet to be counted, and coalition negotiations yet to commence. But New Zealanders have opened the way for the centre-right National Party’s fourth consecutive term in office. National’s provisional election night result of 46% is only slightly down from its 47% in 2014.

Incumbent English to start coalition talks

The incumbent prime minister, Bill English, was jubilant on election night. His speech was as close as he could get to a victory speech. English said:

We will begin discussions with New Zealand First in finding common ground and most importantly forming the kind of government that will allow New Zealand to get on with the success.

NZ First won 7.5% of the votes and now holds the balance of power.

Two of the minor parties that had formerly supported the National-led government on confidence and supply, the United Future and Maori parties, failed to gain any seats. And the ACT Party, which supports National, was returned with one electorate seat only.

The leader of the largest opposition party, Labour’s Jacinda Ardern, did not concede defeat on election night, but her chances of forming a government with the centrist NZ First Party and the Greens are much slimmer. The combined seats of those three parties give a majority of only one.

Once special votes are counted, the final official tallies may take a seat away from National and see the Greens gain one, but that will not substantially alter the outcome.

Ardern lifts Labour from doldrums

Nonetheless, Ardern can claim a victory of sorts, as she has steered her party out of the doldrums, from 25% in the 2014 election to 35.8% this time.

The “Jacinda effect” was the dominant theme of the election campaign, drawing considerable international attention.


Read more: New Zealand general election will always belong to Jacinda Ardern


She was chosen to lead the Labour Party just seven weeks before the election, when Labour was declining in opinion polls. She drew an enthusiastic following and dramatically boosted her party’s polling, but not enough to claim victory on the night.

National’s attacks on Labour’s fiscal and taxation plans seem to have worked, even though they resorted to misrepresentation. A clever reframing of Labour’s slogan “Let’s do this!” to “Let’s tax this!” seems to have done the trick, dissuading enough potential swing voters.

On the day before polling day, rolling averages of public opinion polls showed National was likely to lead the next government, at around 44.5%. Labour had forged ahead of National in some earlier opinion polls, but was down to 37.7%.

So, the election night result was better for National than polls had been predicting. Polling companies will be asking why their pre-electoral surveys tended to favour Labour, compared with election results.

New Zealanders play it safe

New Zealanders have gone for the safe and conservative option. English is a practising Catholic and father of six. His leadership style is uncharismatic, but steady. He lacks the personal popularity and charm of his predecessor, John Key, who handed over the reins of power to English in December 2016.

English will take this election result as a mandate for his party’s programme. It is not clear yet, however, what policy or office-holding concessions he will have to make to Winston Peters, the veteran leader of NZ First. If English has to sack some of his own party colleagues from the cabinet in order to accommodate NZ First, it is bound to cause internal resentment.

A key question for many western democracies has been “Why is the Left losing?”. Ardern was seen as the “brightest hope for the centre-Left”.

Labour’s rise has been partly at the expense of the Greens, who have fallen from 10.7% in 2014 to 5.9% this time – although special votes will probably give the Greens a boost. The combined Labour–Green vote of 41.7% is well short of National’s 46%.

Although the National Party, after nine years in office, was vulnerable to attacks over problems in housing, health, education and the environment, this has not sufficed to cause a significant swing for change.

Centre of NZ politics shifts left

Instead of precipitating party-political fragmentation, this election has shifted back toward two-party politics. Both the Greens and NZ First have declined in support. The total National-plus-Labour party vote of 81.8% is the highest it has been under the proportional representation system in place since 1996.

Since 2008, the National-led government avoided austerity policies, and gradually (almost imperceptibly) shuffled to the left, dealing reluctantly with issues that were normally on Labour’s territory. The centre of New Zealand politics has shifted leftwards, with a greater acceptance of the role of the state. The free-market fundamentalism of the radical neoliberal years of 1984–96 is now on the fringes.

The ConversationNonetheless, inequality and poverty are persistent problems, and New Zealanders are well aware of this. Labour has been unable to take advantage of these significant social issues and to convince enough voters to back their messages about hope and change.

Grant Duncan, Associate Professor for the School of People, Environment and Planning, Massey University

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

To the High Court we go: six MPs under clouds in decisions that could undermine the government



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Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce is one of five MPs caught out in the ban in dual citizens holding seats.
AAP/Lukas Coch

Graeme Orr, The University of Queensland

Two green bottles and up to four blue ones. Falling from the parliamentary wall, unless the High Court saves them from the rules about MP qualifications. The six are now-resigned Greens senators Scott Ludlam and Larissa Waters, fellow upper house members Matt Canavan (LNP) and Malcolm Roberts (One Nation), and two government members of the lower house, Barnaby Joyce and David Gillespie (both Nationals).

At least that’s the latest count, as of Monday’s referral of Joyce to the court. I hesitate to file this piece lest the number rise again today.

What happens now?

First, a word on process. Gillespie’s case is different from the others, in two ways. He is not a dual citizen but faces claims about his “pecuniary interest” in a shop sub-leased to Australia Post. This is the constitutional rule that knocked out Family First senator Bob Day in April.

Also, Gillespie is being sued by his former Labor Party rival, acting as a “common informer” – a fancy term for an officious bystander who sues to enforce the law.

This avenue to challenge an MP has not been used before. It’s not entirely clear the court has power to declare Gillespie “not duly elected”. (As opposed to exacting a penalty from an MP, in the princely sum of A$200, for any day they sat while under a disqualification.)

The other five – facing dual citizenship claims – are not being sued at all. Rather, parliament has referred their positions to the court. A few things flow from that, aside from the Commonwealth almost certainly having to cover their legal costs.

One is that there is no belligerent plaintiff to argue against, say, Joyce. There will just be the solicitor-general, putting legal arguments for the Commonwealth, plus lawyers for whichever of the other four MPs or their parties choose to be represented.

Yet Joyce, Canavan and Roberts share a desire to convince the High Court that they are legitimate, arguing on related grounds that it might be unfair to unseat them.

Another is that while the election is long over, the High Court says it can undo an election on a reference from parliament. This is due to a quirky, 30-year-old ruling. I say quirky because, for more than a century, there’s been an absolutely strict time limit for challenging elections.

With electoral fraud, unlawful campaigning, or electoral commission stuff-up, a court case must begin within 40 days of the election. Yet the High Court says it can undo election results, long afterwards, over qualifications issues.

What will the MPs argue?

We must await the arguments, but it seems that Joyce, Canavan and Roberts will argue that they either took reasonable steps to renounce (Roberts) or that it was unreasonable to expect them to have known of their dual citizenship (Joyce and Canavan). In a 1992 case, the High Court softened the law against dual citizenship to allow a defence of “reasonable steps” of renunciation.

Roberts was born in India (after partition) to a Welsh father. He took some steps – three emails in one day on the eve of nominating, apparently – to renounce his UK inheritance. Was that enough, given the UK has a set application form and fee for renunciation? Roberts, some time after the election, received notice that his UK citizenship was expunged.

Canavan, Australian-born, asserts that his mother took out Italian citizenship on his behalf, without his knowledge.

Similarly, Joyce, also Australian-born, says he was blindsided to learn he had New Zealand citizenship via his NZ-born father. They want the court to inject a subjective element – actual or constructive knowledge of dual nationality – to avoid a finding that taking no steps to renounce does not meet the idea of “reasonable steps”.

It’s possible Joyce will also argue the details of NZ law. For example, whether it automatically bestowed citizenship on him, or whether he was merely guaranteed it if he applied to activate it.

The Greens pair, by resigning, seemed to admit they were disqualified. But MPs cannot declare themselves improperly elected. Only the court can do that.

Ludlam (New Zealand) and Waters (Canada) were each born overseas, but to Australian parents. They left their birth countries at the tender ages of three years and 11 months respectively.

At least in Waters’ case, her family lore (not law) was that her nationalisation as an Australian toddler terminated any Canadian status. In some countries, you lose your birth citizenship when you take out another nationality. This was the law in Australia until recently.

The logic of the Greens’ political position is to have their two Senate seats filled ASAP. Yet, in substance, their pair are hardly more blameworthy than the other MPs, who seek to fight on. They have hemmed themselves in, however, by resigning.

If the court found their disqualifications were OK, the Greens could reappoint them or any other Greens member, under the old rule for filling a “casual vacancy”.

Finally, to legal consequences. If a senator is declared “unduly elected”, the Australian Electoral Commission conducts a recount. Invariably, the next candidate in the party’s original electoral ticket inherits the seat.

That windfall beneficiary can keep it, or the party could cajole them to resign in favour of … the unelected MP. Because all of these MPs, with sufficient paperwork and knowledge, can fix up their qualifications.

Roberts and Waters say they’ve done that. Joyce and doubtless Canavan have that in train.

In a lower house seat, however, a recount would be crazy. The seat would go to the rival major party, robbing the electorate. Instead, the court effectively triggers a byelection.

In a worst-case scenario for Joyce (or Gillespie), he would recontest that fresh election. A lot would be at stake in New England (or Port Macquarie). But it’s hard to see the electors there treating now-ex-Kiwi Joyce as a fifth columnist.

The law is an unnecessary mess

All this is a law professor’s picnic.

Section 44, as it applies to elections, detracts from, rather than adds to, democracy. Its technicalities are a thicket, catching many a candidate. It sits oddly in a Constitution that never guaranteed a right to vote, leaving that small matter to the national parliament.

It’s time for reform. We inherited the dual citizenship rule, an old rule about fealty to one Crown, from our English forebears.

The ConversationThe founders struck it in stone in the Constitution. Yet state parliaments are fine with dual citizens being elected. So too is New Zealand. And, funnily enough, so nowadays is the UK.

Graeme Orr, Professor of Law, The University of Queensland

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

No, it wasn’t a conspiracy that caused Barnaby’s problem – it was himself



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Barnaby Joyce has now renounced his New Zealand citizenship but his future is yet to be determined.
Mick Tsikas/AAP

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Let’s get one point straight. The crisis around Barnaby Joyce has been caused by one simple oversight by one person. Joyce was careless in not properly checking whether he complied with the citizenship requirement of the Australian Constitution.

He was not landed into this pickle by Bill Shorten, the New Zealand Labour Party, the media, or anyone or anything else. If he had acted years ago with abundant caution – or his party had – he wouldn’t have had a problem.

And the government’s over-the-top efforts on Tuesday to find a conspiracy begs the question: does it think an MP’s alleged breach of the Constitution, if suspected, should be just ignored?

At the extreme, wouldn’t there be a risk that, in such circumstances, an MP could be open to an attempt to compromise them?

A few weeks ago the Greens’ Scott Ludlam resigned when he found he was a citizen of New Zealand, which he left as a child. His dual citizenship came to his attention when a barrister started poking around. Ludlam accepted the situation with grace.

Of course much more is at stake politically with Joyce. It’s unsurprising and entirely appropriate that the government fights for him in the High Court – although it is another matter that he is not standing aside from the ministry.

But the government’s attempt to paint this as a “treacherous” Shorten executing a dark deed involving a foreign power is desperate distraction politics. After a bizarre attack by Foreign Minister Julie Bishop on the New Zealand Labour Party, it morphed into a diplomatic own goal.

Joyce’s dual citizenship came to light after two lines of inquiry in New Zealand: questions from Fairfax Media, and a blogger, to the Department of Internal Affairs, and questions on notice from Labour MP Chris Hipkins, following his conversation with Shadow Foreign Minister Penny Wong’s chief-of-staff Marcus Ganley, who’s a Kiwi.

Bishop’s accusations and language at Tuesday’s news conference were extraordinary for a foreign minister, although they were just at the extreme end of the script used throughout the day by Malcolm Turnbull and others in the government.

“The New Zealand Labour leader, Jacinda Ardern has revealed that Bill Shorten sought to use the New Zealand parliament to undermine the Australian government,” Bishop claimed.

“Bill Shorten has sought to use a foreign political party to raise serious allegations in a foreign parliament designed to undermine confidence in the Australian government.

“This is highly unethical, at least, but more importantly, puts at risk the relationship between the Australian government and the New Zealand government,” she said.

According to the NZ minister for internal affairs, Peter Dunne, it wasn’t the Labour questions that set the ball rolling to the outing of Joyce’s NZ citizenship.

Dunne tweeted:

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But when this was put to Bishop, she said dismissively: “I don’t accept that”. That is, she rejected the word of a minister in a fraternal government.

Further, “New Zealand is facing an election. Should there be a change of government, I would find it very hard to build trust with those involved in allegations designed to undermine the government of Australia,” Bishop said.

And again: “I would find it very difficult to build trust with members of a political party that had been used by the Australian Labor Party to seek to undermine the Australian government”.

Here’s Australia’s foreign minister, in a fit of collective government pique, saying before the NZ election she’d have problems with the possible winners.

This was egregious on several fronts. It is both harmful and offensive. The Australian and New Zealand governments, of whatever complexion, should and need to be close. Bishop’s sweeping claims go well beyond what seems to have happened. And her attack on NZ Labour buys right into the electoral contest – her accusation of foreign interference in our politics could be turned back and levelled at her.

Ardern met Australian High Commissioner Peter Woolcott – soon to take up the role of Turnbull’s chief-of-staff – to express her disappointment at Bishop’s remarks, but also to stress the importance she attached to the Australian relationship.

In very measured remarks, contrasting with Bishop’s tone, Ardern told a news conference she first knew of the situation when it broke in the media on Monday.

When she saw the reference to the NZ Labour Party she’d immediately inquired and learned Hipkins had asked two questions. Hipkins shouldn’t have done so, she said, a point she’d made “absolutely clear” to him, and he’d acknowledged.

Hipkins had told her that when an ALP acquaintance had called him asking about citizenship “he had no context for who the question might relate to”.

Ardern said she would be happy to talk directly with Bishop (not that she had her phone number).

“The relationship between the New Zealand Labour Party and the Australian government is too important for politics to get in the way,” Ardern said. “Australian domestic politics is for them, not for us. We should not be involved.”

Later, Wong said her staffer had “informal discussions with New Zealand friends” about the Section 44 debate.

“At no point did he make any request to raise the issue of dual citizenship in parliament … In fact, neither I, nor my staff member, had any knowledge the question had even been asked until after the story broke.”

It was a day in which the Turnbull government looked more than a little unhinged. It caused a lot of angst across the ditch, got into an absurd barney with New Zealand Labour, and even had the New Zealand conservative government correct it.

In its attempt to throw mud at Shorten, the Turnbull government managed to do itself more harm.

The ConversationAnd at the end of it all Joyce, who has now renounced his New Zealand citizenship, still must have his future determined. It was announced that his case will come up on August 24 for a directions hearing, together with the two senators and two former senators also caught on the sticky paper of Section 44 (i).

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

New Zealand claims Barnaby Joyce as one of its own, in new dramatic citizenship turmoil



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Barnaby Joyce has been revealed to have New Zealand citizenship.
Lukas Coch/AAP

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

We have it from the New Zealand Prime Minister Bill English that Barnaby Joyce is a citizen of his country. We have it from the Australian Constitution that you can’t be a federal MP if you are a dual national.

We have it from Malcolm Turnbull that “the deputy prime minister is qualified to sit in this house and the High Court will so hold”.

Work that one out.

Section 44 (i) bans from being a candidate anyone who “is under any acknowledgement of allegiance, obedience, or adherence to a foreign power, or is a subject or a citizen or entitled to the rights or privileges of a subject or citizen of a foreign power”.

Joyce had been dismissive of media questions on the possibility he might be a citizen of New Zealand, where his father was born.

Then, on Thursday, Chris Seed, the New Zealand high commissioner, rang Joyce’s office with the worst of news. After Seed briefed Joyce’s chief-of-staff, Joyce instantly rang back, and the two met around 5.30.

The New Zealand Labour opposition had lodged questions on notice, which had to be answered the following week. There was also Australian media questioning of the New Zealand Department of Internal Affairs.

While the parliamentary questions didn’t name Joyce, they obviously referred to him. Chris Hipkins, MP for Rimutaka, asked whether a child born in Australia to a New Zealand father would automatically have New Zealand citizenship.

Seed said the preliminary advice from the department was that Joyce was indeed a New Zealand citizen – a position English confirmed publicly on Monday.

The Turnbull government quickly sought advice from the federal solicitor-general, Stephen Donaghue; it came back on Sunday. It is understood that the advice focused on the reason for Section 44 (i) – to prevent allegiance to another country – and canvassed tests in relation to this.

These were:

  • Was the person born overseas?

  • Was he on a list of citizens of the other country?

  • Had he ever applied for citizenship of the country?

  • Had he ever sworn any sort of oath of acquiescence to the other country?

On these measures, according to the advice, the High Court would be expected to come down in Joyce’s favour.

The advice notwithstanding, constitutional expert Anne Twomey, from Sydney University Law School, is surprised Turnbull has been so unequivocal about the decision on Joyce.

“I’m not as confident as the prime minister seems to be,” she says. She believes that Joyce “potentially has a real problem”. But it is a matter of how the court interprets Section 44 (i), she says.

It may draw a distinction between citizenship by descent and other citizenship, Twomey says. “Or it could say the purpose of the provision is to prevent dual allegiance – and if you didn’t know [you were a foreign citizen] you were not breaching the purpose.”

The High Court mightn’t relish Turnbull – his barrister background notwithstanding – telling it what it will decide. But there’ll be a lot more at stake in its judgement on Joyce than the risk of Turnbull – and the solicitor-general, for that matter – being embarrassingly wrong.

If Joyce, the Nationals leader, were found in breach and so knocked out of parliament, that would create massive turmoil not just for the minor Coalition partner but for a government with a one-seat majority.

There’d be a byelection in his seat of New England, where in 2016 Joyce held off a challenge from the former independent member, Tony Windsor.

Joyce, who is busy divesting himself of his New Zealand citizenship, would no doubt run again and possibly face Windsor. While he had a comfortable win last time, byelections are dangerous, because they are custom-made for a protest vote.

The process would run into months. The Nationals would be effectively leaderless. The government would have lost its majority in the House of Representatives. It would be all right on supply and confidence, thanks to agreements with some crossbenchers, and would still get most legislation through. But where all the crossbenchers sided with Labor it would be in trouble.

It would be in nightmare territory, with Labor having endless opportunity for disruption.

Assuming Turnbull is right that Joyce will be found in the clear, the immediate situation is still very bad for the government. It’s another distraction, and a serious one, internally and externally.

On Thursday week there is a directions hearing for four others who are before the High Court in relation to Section 44 (i) – One Nation’s Malcolm Roberts and former minister Matt Canavan, from the Nationals, as well as the two Greens, Larissa Waters and Scott Ludlam, who have already resigned.

The Joyce referral will join them. But the decision could be anytime between October and December, a very long period for uncertainty to swirl around the future of a key member of the government’s leadership team.

Turnbull tried to drag Bill Shorten in the shambles by offering to wrap into the referral any Labor MPs whose citizenship qualifications are dubious. Shorten, unsurprisingly, rebuffed him. Labor appears confident a tough vetting process means its MPs are in the clear. Nevertheless the government is throwing around names.

Labor jumped on the double standard being applied to Canavan – who quit cabinet and isn’t voting in parliament – and Joyce, who is keeping his positions and voting.

The government claims it is also confident about Canavan, while admitting the circumstances are different – not in a good way – by virtue of the fact his mother applied for his Italian citizenship, allegedly without his knowledge, and he was listed as an Italian national at the time of his election.

The realpolitik, however, is that Canavan is a senator. In the Senate, which has been hit by multiple resignations and referrals, those already politically dead and gone and the walking wounded are being accommodated so the numbers aren’t out of kilter.

And Canavan’s exit from cabinet, while inconvenient, is not a disaster, although ironically it is Joyce who is doing his former ministerial jobs of resources and northern Australia.

In the finely balanced House of Representatives the situation is precarious, and the government is certainly not going to live more dangerously than it absolutely has to.

The ConversationAnyway, the Nationals would find it intolerable if they were without their leader in cabinet for months while his fate is being decided by the court. Especially when the future of energy policy is the biggest issue before the government between now and Christmas.

https://www.podbean.com/media/player/hu9ay-6f0803?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.