Guns, politics and policy: what can we learn from Al Jazeera’s undercover NRA sting?


Samara McPhedran, Griffith University

Al Jazeera’s undercover investigation into the US National Rifle Association (NRA) has gained international headlines, partly because of One Nation political wannabes drunkenly bragging about how important they could be if only they had the money.

None of this should come as a surprise. You would have to be living under a rock to not know that the NRA has money, lobbies with it, and uses a standard set of PR tactics. Likewise, nobody has ever accused One Nation of being sophisticated or lacking grandiose delusions.




Read more:
View from The Hill: James Ashby rocks a few boats, including his own


However, in a carefully timed release to the ABC, a report commissioned by Gun Control Australia and Getup! claims gun control in Australia is being eroded because of the gun lobby.

In reality, Australia’s gun laws remain virtually the same as when each state and territory introduced them more than 20 years ago. The last major change was in 2017, when all jurisdictions agreed to ban lever-action shotguns with a magazine capacity of more than five rounds of ammunition. Hardly “watering down”.

What is really going on?

Simple: when all we hear is guns, guns, guns, it means an election is on the horizon. It is not about guns, but politics.

Over the past few years, regular as clockwork, we have seen both major parties wheel out campaigns around gun laws, aided and abetted by the Greens. This occurred most recently in New South Wales, with the Liberal-Nationals running attack ads against the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party.

The campaigns involve one or more of: releasing data obtained under Freedom of Information about how many guns are legally owned; claiming gun laws are being (or have been, or will be) dangerously watered down if an opposing major party or rising minor party gains power; and making scary statements about a well-funded gun lobby (which is somehow all-powerful despite having changed little in over two decades).

The goal is to create fear, in the expectation this will translate to voting patterns. Politicians also like to have an “enemy” to rally against, to display their own virtues. At times, this tactic has worked. It is a fair bet that politicians’ reactions to One Nation’s buffoonery reflect the hope that it will work again.

Based on past voting patterns, it is likely both major parties anticipate One Nation robbing them of votes in the upcoming federal election and are looking for ways to blunt that. The mudslinging over preferences makes this clear.

If the recent New South Wales state election is anything to go by, though, voters seem to be ignoring gun campaigns and making their own decisions based on much bigger issues.

However, there is a genuine danger arising from the Al Jazeera report. Unfortunately, we can now expect that anybody who suggests that effective firearm policy takes time and careful thought – and that it might not be as simple as it looks – will be denounced as an NRA shill. This is a silencing tactic that does absolutely nothing to improve the impoverished and tribalised nature of public debate in this country.

As New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern recently observed, firearm policy and legislation is a complex area. In addition to the technical aspects, evidence about what does and does not work to reduce gun violence is nowhere near as clear-cut as it is sometimes made out to be. Well-intentioned measures can have unintended consequences, which we should learn from and attempt to avoid.

It is not far-right madness to say that if a policy gains appeal primarily because of the emotions surrounding it, rather than on its merits, then it might not be an effective policy. It is not dangerous extremism to suggest that sound legislation comes from careful reflection and robust debate. It is not irrational to raise concerns about the negative outcomes that can arise when reacting is turned into a virtue and thinking into a vice.




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Did Al Jazeera’s undercover investigation into One Nation overstep the mark?


In fact, a rational and careful approach, based on rigorous evaluation and calm, measured discussion, is the very foundation of evidence-based policy – a much-touted model of how to approach decision-making.

Political failure to adopt evidence-based policy – despite politicians paying it lip service – is the subject of much scholarly teeth-gnashing, and for good reason. Some of the most ill-fated, costly and objectionable policies we have seen in Australia in recent years – in areas including immigration, Indigenous affairs, and youth violence, to give just three examples – have come as a result of ignoring evidence-based policy. We are quick to call these out, and rightly so. Why behave differently about guns?

If we are serious about wanting thoughtful and well-considered decisions, we cannot pick and choose the issues to which we apply reflection and analysis. And if we do want to pick and choose, then we cannot complain when politicians do the same with the issues we really want them to do better on.The Conversation

Samara McPhedran, Director, Homicide Research Unit/Deputy Director, Violence Research and Prevention Program, Griffith University

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

View from The Hill: James Ashby rocks a few boats, including his own


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

It’s appalling, sinister and faintly ludicrous that Pauline Hanson’s right-hand man James Ashby and former Queensland MP Steve Dickson played footsie with the American gun lobby, talking up One Nation’s book, trailing their coats for gun (or any other) gold.

That they fell victim to an Al Jazeera “sting”, trusting a man in an Akubra whom they now call a “spy”, is stunning, but sort of fitting. It was Ashby who was involved in a different kind of sting that brought down former speaker Peter Slipper.

Indeed, Ashby’s political career is a dark, rolling soap opera. Currently he’s banned from entering parliament house over a physical altercation with a former One Nation senator.

These two political cowboys are crying foul after being duped and publicly trashed by an extraordinarily elaborate Al Jazeera plot.

They’ve called in the police and ASIO and denounced political interference from a “Middle Eastern country”. Al Jazeera is based in the Middle Eastern nation of Qatar. They say they didn’t set out to seek money, let alone to weaken gun laws. They just wanted to tap into America’s National Rifle Association about campaigning techniques.

As for those damning recorded references to A$10 million, A$20 million, they’d “got on the sauce” – it’s what happens when there are “three men talking together and having scotches for about three or four hours”.

They might as well not bother with the spin and excuses. Claims about “context” are lame; they damned themselves most times they opened their mouths, and that was often.

The whole sordid episode, in long version, is there in pictures and audio. Ashby and Dickson grabbed the entree to the US gun advocates, and if the millions of dollars they fantasised about had materialised from somewhere they’d have grabbed them too.

Subject, no doubt, to what Hanson said – a couple of months later she voted to ban foreign donations.




Read more:
Did Al Jazeera’s undercover investigation into One Nation overstep the mark?


Not that the dollars were a prospect. Just as, all those years ago in the 1970s, the money the Labor party sought from Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi Baath party was never seen. It’s like that when you deal with dubious characters – or ones who are much too clever for you.

Ashby knew he was playing a dangerous game; as we hear him saying in the Al Jazeera documentary, “If it gets out, it’ll fucking rock the boat”. And Hanson, though invited, sensed this was a trip not to be on.

Well, boats have been rocked. Hanson’s for one. Scott Morrison’s for another. To say nothing of Ashby’s.

The extraordinary expose is a blow for the One Nation leader, days after her star recruit Mark Latham was elected to the NSW upper house. Hanson – who did not appear in public on Tuesday, reportedly feeling very unwell – and Ashby are joined at the hip. He is the political figure to whom she is closest, and she’s stood by him in previous embarrassments. She should, of course, immediately send him packing.




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Coalition wins a third term in NSW with few seats changing hands


How much the affair will hit the One Nation vote is a matter of conjecture. Logically, you’d expect it to hit One Nation substantially, especially coming after the New Zealand massacre. There has been much praise for the strength and value of Australia’s gun laws.

But I’m not sure logic is the best prism to use here. Hanson has a certain Teflon quality in the eyes of her supporters, who routinely have overlooked the chaos (and worse) around her shambolic party.

Many of those in One Nation heartland are protesting against perceived grievances; they may see this as a sideshow. Anyway, some potential One Nation voters would be quite in sync with the gun lobby. On Saturday in NSW, the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers picked up two more seats.

The Ashby-Dickson debacle complicates Scott Morrison’s struggle in handling what were already awkward questions about his attitude to preferencing One Nation.

Since the Christchurch killings Morrison has been on the barbed wire fence when repeatedly pressed on whether the Coalition should or would put One Nation last on how-to-vote cards.

In the Coalition this is another North-South issue, like coal and climate change. Southern Liberals insist One Nation should be at the bottom of voting tickets. Cabinet Minister Kelly O’Dwyer (retiring from the Melbourne seat of Higgins) said on Tuesday, “I can’t see any reason why One Nation wouldn’t be preferenced last”.

In Queensland it’s another story. Nationals Ken O’Dowd on Monday said One Nation should be above Greens and ALP.

In general, the preference debate is encouraging the Coalition to demonise the Greens even more than usual, with some in the government painting them as being as bad as, or worse than, One Nation.

Morrison initially used his favourite look-over-there tactic, trying to fend off the questions by saying there would be no preference deal with One Nation. That didn’t wash. No one ever thought there would be a “deal” (quite apart from remembering the Liberals’ bad experience in the Western Australian election, when they did a deal).

The issue is where the Liberals and Nationals decide to put One Nation on their tickets, regardless of what One Nation does with its preferences.

As the preference debate has raged, some are urging Morrison to take John Howard’s “principled” position. Howard says One Nation should be placed last. Talk of Howard’s “principle” overlooks that he was dragged to this position. He was considering to accept a seat-by-seat approach, until it became untenable.

In the wake of the Al Jazeera revelations, Morrison on Tuesday hopped into One Nation while making a direct appeal to those inclined to vote for it.

It was “abhorrent” that its officials “basically sought to sell Australia’s gun laws to the highest bidders, to a foreign buyer,” Morrison said.

He went on: “I’m not interested in getting One Nation’s preferences, I am interested in getting their primary vote”. The answer to the grievances of these votes “is not One Nation, the answer is not to go to those extremes. The answer is the Liberal and National Parties”.

But that is not the answer to the preference question. And on that Morrison won’t be drawn. It’s a matter for closer to the election, he says, when all the candidates can be seen. (One convenient diversionary line is: what about if there are Fraser Anning candidates?)

The signs are that come the election, the Coalition preference picture will likely be a patchwork, with One Nation being treated benignly at least in parts of Queensland. Possibly Morrison couldn’t stop that if he wanted to; probably he doesn’t want to.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.

Did Al Jazeera’s undercover investigation into One Nation overstep the mark?


Andrew Dodd, University of Melbourne

The sheer audacity of Al Jazeera’s three-year ruse is astounding.

The news company’s investigation unit has carried out a sting that has captured both the National Rifle Association of the United States and Australia’s One Nation Party in all sorts of compromising positions.

The series, “How to sell a massacre”, has exposed the NRA’s manipulative media practices and revealed One Nation’s desire to cosy up to the US gun lobby to find ways of funding its domestic campaign to overturn our gun laws.

The documentary has exposed the thinking of some of the party’s most senior figures about taking control of the parliament and their obsession with Muslim immigration.

How to Sell a Massacre P1 | Al Jazeera Investigations.

Al Jazeera senior producer Peter Charley did this by placing actor-turned journalist Rodger Muller in the field to impersonate the head of a fake pro-gun lobby group called Gun Rights Australia. The pair then pandered to One Nation’s desire for financial support and international endorsement and exploited US gun lobbyists’ fears about Australia’s strict gun laws.

They got away with this for three years, gaining unprecedented access to the halls of the NRA and to the minds of two One Nation officials, Queensland state leader Steve Dickson and the party’s controversial chief of staff, James Ashby.




Read more:
How Australia’s NRA-inspired gun lobby is trying to chip away at gun control laws, state by state


A matter of ethics

There are at least two ethical questions about this documentary.

The first is whether the producers have overstepped the mark by not only reporting what they saw but creating the scenario in which the events occurred.

The second concerns the program’s extensive use of hidden cameras.

On the first matter, the issue is whether the program created the meeting between One Nation and the NRA and therefore acted irresponsibly by entrapping the subjects of the film.

In his account of what happened, Rodger Muller put it this way:

Then Charley asked me to contact Pauline Hanson’s One Nation – a far-right pro-gun Australian political party. Charley wanted me to find out if any connections existed between One Nation and the US gun lobby. And so began another chapter in my life as an avid “gunner”.

When I approached One Nation Chief of Staff James Ashby and mentioned my NRA connections, he told me he wanted to visit the US to meet them. I set up meetings in Washington and soon Ashby and One Nation’s Steve Dickson were on a flight to the US.

I was there, ready to meet them. And our hidden cameras were all primed and ready to go.

This suggests that Muller and Al Jazeera were catalysts and enabled the connection between One Nation and the NRA. But it also demonstrates that there was a desire on the part of One Nation to meet the US gun lobby, and – as later becomes clear – the party was motivated to do so to raise funds and make political connections.

So is this responsible journalism?

The Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance code of ethics – the protocols by which thoughtful journalists operate in Australia – is largely silent on this issue.

It doesn’t say anything explicitly about creating the news by making connections between players to observe what happens next. But it does stress the need to “report and interpret honestly”.

It calls on reporters to use “fair, responsible and honest means to obtain material” and to “respect personal privacy”. But the code also acknowledges journalists both scrutinise and exercise power. The preamble makes the point that journalism animates democracy.

Most importantly, in its guiding cause, the code states:

ethical journalism requires conscientious decision-making in context.

It allows for any of its other clauses to be overridden to achieve “substantial advancement of the public interest”.

So is it wrong to make and enable connections that might not otherwise happen in order to observe the outcomes? Is this fair and honest and responsible?

Like many things, the answer might be dependent on the motivation. From where I stand, it looks like Al Jazeera’s motivation was to get to the heart of something fundamentally important that would otherwise remain opaque.

Breaches of privacy and deceptive conduct

And while we’re pondering that one, there’s the perennial ethical question about hidden cameras.

This isn’t your garden variety case of a tabloid TV program exposing a dodgy car salesmen or a real estate scammer. In this film, the use of hidden cameras directly places several parts of the code of ethics against that all important public interest override.

The question is whether the public’s right to know is so important that it justifies the film’s deceptive conduct and breaches of privacy.

For me, the use of hidden cameras can clearly be defended when a publicly funded Australian political party, that knows what it’s doing is dodgy, is making connections to “change Australia” by gaining the balance of power in the parliament and “working hand in glove with the United States”.

It is highly likely the extent of One Nation’s behaviour could only be exposed through this sort of reportage. James Ashby is captured repeatedly reminding others they need to be secretive in their dealings with the NRA.

The public has a clear right to know what One Nation is up to. This is especially the case when part of its mission is to learn new techniques to manipulate the public debate to pursue an agenda of overturning the ban on guns following the 1996 Port Arthur Massacre.

The NRA are media experts

There’s something else about this program that justifies the use of hidden cameras. It exposes the utter cynicism of the media messaging and media training that underpins the NRA like nothing I have ever seen before.




Read more:
What the NRA can teach us about the art of public persuasion


In a closed meeting with NRA officials, One Nation is given a crash course on how to deal with bad press, particularly following mass shootings.

Lars Dalseide, an NRA media liaison officer, is captured saying pro-gun lobbyists should smear supporters of gun control by accusing them of exploiting the tragedy.

He even provides a useful retort to anyone who might suggest that gun ownership might be a factor in a mass shooting. He says:

How dare you stand on the graves of those children to put forth your political agenda.

“Just shame them to the whole idea,” he suggests, by arguing pro-gun campaigners should declare to opponents:

If your policy isn’t good enough to stand on its own, how dare you use their deaths to push that forward.

As he says this, Ashby is recorded replying: “That’s really good, very strong”.

Some of that phrasing seems familiar in the immediate aftermath of the Christchurch massacre, suggesting parts of the NRA’s playbook have already made their way down under.

This documentary underscores two things.

The brutal tactics of the gun lobby and the operations of One Nation need exposing. Journalism sometimes has to take on the unsavoury job of extracting the truth from those who do not want to share it.The Conversation

Andrew Dodd, Director of the Centre for Advancing Journalism, University of Melbourne

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

Poll wrap: Labor maintains its lead in Newspoll, while One Nation drops; NSW upper house finalised



File 20190415 147518 debsxo.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
With the election season now under way, Labor has retained its lead over the Coalition in the latest Newspoll, though Bill Shorten’s approval rating has not improved.
Lukas Coch/AAP

Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

With five weeks until the May 18 election, this week’s Newspoll, conducted April 11-14 from a sample of 1,700 people, gave Labor a 52-48 lead, unchanged since last week. Primary votes were 39% Coalition (up one), 39% Labor (up two), 9% Greens (steady) and 4% One Nation (down two) – One Nation’s lowest primary vote since November 2016.

While the two-party figure was unchanged, this poll is better for Labor than last week’s Newspoll, with Labor gaining two points in primary votes from One Nation’s drop. If we assess this poll as total right-wing vs total left-wing vote, the left (Labor and Greens) gained two points to stand at 48%, while the right (Coalition and One Nation) lost one point to fall to 43%. Analyst Kevin Bonham said this Newspoll was probably rounded towards the Coalition.

One Nation’s drop is likely the result of increased polarisation between the major parties. If One Nation had been affected by the NRA donations scandal, it would have shown up in last week’s polls.

Nominations for the federal election will be declared on April 24. It is unlikely that One Nation will contest the vast majority of lower house seats. Polling conducted after April 24 is likely to greatly reduce One Nation’s vote as they will no longer be an option for most Australians in the lower house. This reduction of One Nation’s vote may assist the Coalition on primary votes.

In the Newspoll, 45% of respondents were satisfied with Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s performance (steady), and 44% were dissatisfied (up one), for a net approval of +1. Labor leader Bill Shorten’s net approval was steady at -14. Morrison led Shorten by an unchanged 46-35 as better PM.

Since Malcolm Turnbull was ousted as prime minister in August 2018, the Coalition has recovered from a 56-44 deficit in Newspoll to 52-48 this week, due partly to the time that’s passed since the spill and partly to the relative popularity of Morrison.

Now that the election campaign is formally under way, some attention will shift to the opposition’s policies and proposals. The danger for Labor is the Coalition can scare voters about its economic policies, but the potential reward is that Labor can appeal to voters who are frustrated by the Coalition’s perceived inaction on climate change and low wage growth.




Read more:
Post-budget poll wrap: Coalition gets a bounce in Newspoll, but not in Ipsos or Essential


Large difference in voting intentions by age group

Every three months, Newspoll aggregates all the polls it conducted from that time period to get voting intention breakdowns by state, age, gender and region (the five capital cities vs the rest of Australia). For January to March, the overall result was 53-47 to Labor, a point better for Labor than the last two Newspolls.

This three-month Newspoll showed a large difference in voting intentions by age group. Among those aged 18-34, Labor had 46% of the primary vote, the Coalition 28%, the Greens 14% and One Nation 4%. Among those aged 35-49, it was Labor 39%, Coalition 35%, Greens 9% and One Nation 7%. And among those aged 50 or over, the Coalition had 44%, Labor 35%, One Nation 6% and Greens 5%.

It is still important to poll well with this oldest demographic. According to the 2016 census, those aged 18-34 represent 30.3% of the eligible voting age population and those aged 35-49 represent 26.0%. The share of the voting-age population aged 50 or over, however, is 43.7%.

Results by gender were similar. Men gave Labor 40% of the primary vote, the Coalition 37%, the Greens 7% and One Nation 6%. With women, Labor had 39%, the Coalition 37%, the Greens 10% and One Nation 6%. After preferences, Labor would be doing about one point better with women than men.

The best source for state voting intentions is The Poll Bludger’s BludgerTrack. Perhaps reflecting the Coalition’s victory in the recent NSW election, federal Labor’s lead over the Coalition in that state has been reduced to just 50.1-49.9 from about 54-46 in the last few weeks. This is about a 0.6% swing in Labor’s favour from 2016.

Labor has maintained a larger lead in most other states, however. In Victoria, Labor leads by 55.1-44.9, a 3.2% swing to Labor since 2016. In Queensland, Labor leads by 52.0-48.0, a 6.1% swing to Labor. In SA, Labor leads by 55.7-44.3, a 3.4% swing to Labor.

In WA, the Coalition still leads by 51.0-49.0, but this is a 3.6% swing in Labor’s favour from 2016.

Nationally, BludgerTrack gives Labor a 52.5-47.5 lead, a 2.8% swing to Labor.

One Nation wins two seats in the NSW upper house

In the March 23 NSW election, 21 members of the upper house were elected by statewide proportional representation, with a quota of 1/22 of the vote, or 4.55%.

The Coalition won 7.66 quotas, Labor 6.53, the Greens 2.14, One Nation 1.52, the Shooters, Fishers & Farmers 1.22, the Christian Democrats 0.50, the Liberal Democrats 0.48, Animal Justice 0.43 and Keep Sydney Open 0.40.

The Coalition was certain to win an eighth seat, and Labor and One Nation were best placed for two other seats. On preferences, Animal Justice overtook the Liberal Democrats, Christian Democrats and One Nation to win the second-to-last seat, with One Nation’s second candidate, Rod Roberts, defeating the Christian Democrats for the final seat.

It is the first time since 1981 that the Christian Democrats have failed to win a seat in the NSW upper house. David Leyonhjelm, who resigned from the Senate to run as the lead Liberal Democrat candidate in NSW, did not win.

The Coalition now holds 17 of the 42 total upper house seats (down three), Labor 14 (up two), the Greens four (down one), the Shooters two (steady), One Nation two (up two), Animal Justice two (up one) and the Christian Democrats one (down one). One Green member, Justin Field, resigned from the party, and is now an independent.

Overall, the right now holds 22 of the 42 seats. On legislation opposed by the left-wing parties, the Coalition will require support from One Nation, the Shooters and Christian Democrats.




Read more:
Coalition wins a third term in NSW with few seats changing hands


Brexit likely delayed until at least October 31

The European Union leaders have decided to delay Brexit until at least October 31. Without a majority for any plausible Brexit option, the House of Commons could only vote to delay Brexit to prevent a no-deal departure from the EU, but this delay will likely not appeal to the general public or “leave” voters.

Two new polls have the Conservatives slumping to just 28-29% of the UK vote, 4-7 points behind Labour.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.

Australia: 2019 NSW Election


NSW election likely to be close, and Mark Latham will win an upper house seat



File 20190318 28471 q9waqw.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
One Nation’s Mark Latham will likely win a Senate seat at the NSW election.
Joel Carrett/AAP

Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

The New South Wales election will be held on March 23. Last week, a Newspoll had a 50-50 tie, while a ReachTEL poll gave Labor a 51-49 lead. At the 2015 election, the Coalition won 54 of the 93 seats, Labor 34, the Greens three and independents two. The Coalition won the two party vote by a 54.3-45.7 margin.




Read more:
Poll wrap: Labor gains in Newspoll after weak economic report; Labor barely ahead in NSW


Since the 2015 election, the Coalition has lost Orange, to the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers, and Wagga Wagga, to an independent at byelections. The Coalition enters this election with 52 seats, and would need to lose six seats to lose its majority. Labor needs to gain 13 seats for an outright majority. If Labor gains ten seats and the Greens hold their three seats, a Labor/Greens government could be formed.

On the pendulum, the Coalition holds six seats by 3.2% or less. The current poll swing is about 4.8% to Labor, so Labor would be expected to win these six seats, depriving the Coalition of a majority unless they gain a seat held by a crossbencher.

Labor’s difficulty is that the Coalition has no seats held between a 3.2% and a 6.2% margin. On the pendulum, Labor would need a 6.7% swing to gain the ten seats needed for a Labor/Greens majority. This suggests Labor needs to win the two party vote by a 52.4-47.6 margin.

The pendulum is a useful tool, but swings are never completely uniform. Owing to random variation in the size of swings, analyst Kevin Bonham expects a seat outcome of about 44 Coalition, 41 Labor, three Greens and five Others on the current polls. One side or the other could get lucky and win more seats than expected.

The last NSW statewide polls are a week old now. A key question is whether the final two weeks make a difference. The unpopularity of the federal government could assist state Labor.

The Poll Bludger has details of Daily Telegraph YouGov Galaxy seat polls of Goulbourn and Penrith, presumably conducted last week from samples of 530-550. In Goulbourn, there was a 50-50 tie (56.6-43.4 to Liberal in 2015). Primary votes were 38% Liberal, 37% Labor, 8% Shooters, 6% One Nation and 4% Greens. Gladys Berejiklian led Michael Daley as better Premier by 43-30.

In Penrith, the Liberals led by 51-49 (56.2-43.8 to Liberal in 2015). Primary votes were 42% Liberal, 38% Labor, 9% One Nation and 6% Greens. Berejiklian led Daley by 51-30 as better Premier. Seat polls have been very unreliable at past elections.

One Nation’s Mark Latham will win an upper house seat

The NSW upper house has 42 members, with half up for election every four years. The 21 members are elected using statewide proportional representation. The quota for election is low: just 1/22 of the vote, or 4.55%.

NSW uses optional preferential voting for its upper house. A single “1” above the line will only apply to that party’s candidates. Voters may put “2”, “3”, etc above the line for preferences to other parties after their most preferred party is eliminated. To vote below the line, voters must number at least 15 boxes for a formal vote. There is no group ticket voting in NSW.

In the current upper house, the Coalition holds 20 of 42 seats, Labor 12, the Greens four, the Shooters and Christian Democrats two each, Animal Justice one and former Green Jeremy Buckingham has the last seat.

The seats to be elected in 2019 were last up at the massive Coalition landslide of 2011. Eleven Coalition, five Labor, two Greens and one each for the Christian Democrats, Shooters and Buckingham are up for re-election. As the Coalition will not do as well as in 2011, they are certain to lose seats, and Labor is certain to gain.

According to the ABC’s Antony Green, 83% of ballot papers in 2015 were single “1” votes above the line. Owing to the high rate of exhausted preferences, parties with primary votes about 2% win seats. In the four elections since the current system was introduced in 2003, the lowest primary vote to win was Animal Justice in 2015 with just 1.8%, and the highest primary vote to lose was Pauline Hanson in 2011 with 2.4%.

As a result of the low quota for election, One Nation’s lead candidate, former federal Labor leader Mark Lathem, is certain of election. The Shooters are also certain to win at least one seat; they are assisted by drawing the left-most column on the ballot paper. Various left and right-wing micro parties could be fighting it out for the last seats.

SA Galaxy: 52-48 to state Liberals

A year after the March 2018 South Australian election, we have our first SA state poll. In this YouGov Galaxy poll for The Sunday Mail, conducted March 12-14 from a sample of 844, the Liberals led by 52-48 (51.9-48.1 at the election).

On primary votes, both major parties are up at the expense of SA Best. Primary votes were 42% Liberals (38.0% at the election), 37% Labor (32.8%), 7% SA Best (14.1%) and 7% Greens (6.7%). Incumbent Steven Marshall had a 46-26 lead over Opposition Leader Peter Malinauskas as better Premier.

Additional national Essential questions

The full report from last week’s national Essential poll is now available. 51% (down two since December and down five since October) thought Australia is not doing enough to address climate change), 27% (up three and up four) thought we are doing enough and 11% (up two and up four) thought we are doing too much. The biggest decline in not doing enough since October was with Coalition voters (down 11 to 34%).

In a question on trust in institutions, there were 5-7 point improvements since September in trust in state parliament, federal parliament, trade unions and political parties. There were 3-4 point declines in trust in federal police, the High Court and the ABC. Police were on top with 66% trust, with the ABC trusted by 51%. Despite a seven-point improvement, political parties are still last on 22%.

Electoral system not at fault for Fraser Anning

In the wake of the far-right terrorist atrocity in Christchurch, there has been much condemnation of independent senator Fraser Anning’s anti-Muslim comments. Anning won just 19 personal votes below the line, so how was he fairly elected?

The whole One Nation ticket had over 250,000 votes or 1.19 quotas in Queensland at the 2016 federal election. Pauline Hanson was immediately elected, and her surplus was passed on to One Nation’s second candidate, Malcolm Roberts, who had just 77 below the line votes. Roberts was then elected on strong preference flows from other populist right parties. When Roberts was disqualified by the High Court in October 2017 over Section 44 issues, his seat went to Anning, One Nation’s third candidate.




Read more:
Final Senate results: 30 Coalition, 26 Labor, 9 Greens, 4 One Nation, 3 NXT, 4 Others


Last week’s Brexit votes

From March 12-14, there were several key Brexit votes in the UK House of Commons. I reviewed these votes for The Poll Bludger. PM Theresa May is threatening hard Leavers with a long Brexit delay if they don’t vote for her deal.

The last paragraph of the linked article about polling is out of date. A Survation poll for The Daily Mail taken March 15 – after the Commons votes – gave Labour a 39-35 lead over the Conservatives. This poll is currently out of alignment with other polls.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 election neck and neck as voters face a 1950s-style ‘I’ll see you and raise you’ campaign


David Clune, University of Sydney

On Saturday, March 23, the people of New South Wales will head to the ballot boxes for a state election. It is looking increasingly close, with polls showing government and opposition neck and neck on about 50% of the two-party preferred vote. This is a decline in the Coalition vote of 4% compared to the 2015 election.

The current campaign is reminiscent of a 1950s “I’ll see you and raise you” one. Government and opposition are engaged in an auction to outbid each other in the amounts committed to schools, hospitals, transport and other basic services. The campaign is one of the quietest in a long time, with little excitement about the respective leaders and no major clash of visions for the future.




Read more:
Mark Latham in the upper house? A Coalition minority government? The NSW election is nearly upon us and it’s going to be a wild ride


Mike Baird’s victory in 2015 laid the foundation for this. The then Coalition leader won a mandate to privatise the state’s electricity network, although sacrificing seats his successor would be glad to have in reserve. The mountains of money produced by this and other privatisations have allowed Premier Gladys Berejiklian to go to the election with a massive war chest.

In addition, the NSW economy is in good shape, performing well compared to most other states. The budget is in surplus and predicted to remain there. Net debt is negative. Unemployment is at a record low.

The Coalition government has a large array of infrastructure projects in progress, including the Westconnex and Northconnex motorways, Sydney Metro – the largest public transport project in Australia – and the CBD and South East light rail. The amount committed for infrastructure over the next four years is just under A$90 billion.

Berejiklian’s pitch is: don’t jeopardise all this by electing Labor. She is keen to remind the electorate of the factional bloodletting, policy paralysis and corruption that marked the final years of the last ALP government in NSW. The release during the campaign of Ian Macdonald, another ex-ALP minister, after his conviction was quashed, assisted the government by putting their misdeeds back on the front pages.

The Coalition also has some significant problems. Overdevelopment is devastating many Sydney suburbs. Residents angry at the disruption to their lives are likely to turn against the Liberals. The premier will not be presiding at many opening ceremonies for infrastructure projects before the election. More apparent are cost over-runs, delays and short-term inconvenience.

The general unpopularity of the federal Coalition government is a handicap for its NSW counterpart. In rural NSW, a belief that the Nationals have neglected voters’ interests could cost the government seats.




Read more:
Low-key NSW election likely to reveal a city-country divide


Opposition Leader Michael Daley struggled at first to gain momentum and attention. His campaign ignited three weeks out from polling day when he took on influential radio commentator Alan Jones over the Sydney stadiums issue. This has been a festering sore for the government since November 2017, when Berejiklian announced that both Allianz Stadium at Moore Park and ANZ Stadium at Homebush would be simultaneously demolished and rebuilt at an estimated cost of A$2.5 billion.

The public outcry at what was seen as wasteful expense was so great that she quickly backed off. The rebuilding of Allianz would proceed, but ANZ would now be renovated, saving A$1 billion.

Labor quickly seized on the issue, opposing the demolition of Allianz and coining the effective slogan of “schools and hospitals before Sydney stadiums”.

Jones is a member of the prestigious Sydney Cricket Ground Trust, which controls Allianz and has lobbied strongly for its rebuilding. Daley attacked Jones and promised to sack him and most members of the trust.

Daley instantly became the people’s politician, unafraid to stand up to a powerful broadcaster and an elite board. He put the stadium issue back at the centre of the campaign. It crystallised the perception that the government is more concerned about developers and big business than the community.

But does Daley have anything more positive to offer? There is some policy differentiation.

Labor has promised there will be no more privatisations and will re-regulate the electricity industry. Labor also has stronger policies on the environment and climate change than the Coalition. It will be more generous to the public sector. But the main thrust of Daley’s campaign is: we will give you more of the same but do it better.

The government has 52 of the 93 seats in the Legislative Assembly. The opposition holds 34. A uniform swing of nearly 9%, just under what it achieved at the last election, would be needed for Labor to gain a majority in its own right.

A feature of this poll is the difference between Sydney and the bush. In 2015, Labor picked up most of the low-hanging fruit in Sydney and only a handful of seats are in play this time. In rural and regional NSW, the Nationals face a strong challenge from independents and minor parties.

If the government loses six seats, it will be in a minority. After appointing a speaker, its numbers would drop to 45. The crossbench would be in a crucial position.

Currently, there are seven crossbench MPs in the lower house: three Greens, a Shooter and three independents (Alex Greenwich, Joe McGirr and Greg Piper). The Greens have already indicated they would support the Coalition. Greenwich is on the left and has close links with his predecessor, Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore. The other three are more conservatively inclined. The election of additional crossbenchers would add to the unpredictability.

Daley is hoping the electorate has forgotten about Obeid and that accumulated dissatisfaction with the government will translate into a victory for him. The result hinges on whether voters have lost faith in the Coalition to the extent that they are prepared to trust Labor again.The Conversation

David Clune, Honorary Associate, Government and International Relations, University of Sydney

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

View from The Hill: Labor’s 55-45% Newspoll lead adds to Liberals’ weekend of woe


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Labor has maintained a 55-45% two-party lead in the latest Newspoll,
in a weekend of woe for the Morrison government, which is trying to
play down the federal contribution to the Victorian Liberal wipeout.

The Coalition’s primary vote fell for the third consecutive
time, to 34%, in a poll that if replicated at an election would see a loss of 21 seats. Labor’s primary vote remained at 40%. One Nation rose 2
points to 8%; the Greens were steady on 9%.

Scott Morrison boosted his lead over Bill Shorten as better PM to 12
points, leading 46-34% compared with 42-36% a fortnight ago. Morrison
has a net positive satisfaction rating of plus one, improving from
minus 8 in the last poll.

The poll will reinforce Coalition gloom after Saturday’s Victorian
election which saw a swing to the Labor government estimated by ABC
election expert Antony Green at around 4% in two-party terms. While an
ALP win was expected, the stunning size of it came as a surprise.




Read more:
Labor has landslide win in Victoria


Even assuming the Victoria election was mainly won (or lost) on state
issues, there are clearly federal factors and lessons in this smashing
of the Liberals, which if translated federally would potentially put at risk half a dozen Victorian seats.

As Premier Daniel Andrews said, Victoria is a “progressive” state. It
stands to reason that Liberal infighting and the dumping of Malcolm
Turnbull, the trashing of the National Energy Guarantee and the
talking down of renewables, and the broad rightward lean of the
federal Coalition alienated many middle-of-the-road Liberal voters.

The anecdotal evidence backs the conclusion that Victorians were
sending strong messages to the Liberal party generally, including the
federal party.

But are the federal Liberals willing to hear those message? And anyway,
does Morrison have the capacity to respond to them effectively?

Morrison has so far demonstrated no personal vision for the country,
and his play-for-the-moment tactics are being increasingly seen as
unconvincing.




Read more:
Victorian Labor’s thumping win reveals how out of step with voters Liberals have become


Morrison took the unusual course of not saying anything about Victoria
on Saturday night or Sunday. He will meet the Victorian federal
Liberals on Monday to discuss the outcome.

Ahead of that meeting Treasurer Josh Frydenberg – who is from Victoria and is deputy Liberal leader – played down the federal implications. While conceding “the noise from Canberra certainly didn’t help”, he claimed in an ABC Sunday night interview that the lessons to be learned federally were about grassroots campaigning and the need to rebut “Labor lies”. He would not concede a recalibration of policy was needed.

Some in the right will try to write Victoria off as unrepresentative
of the nation, just as they did Wentworth. This flies in the face of
reality – there were big swings in the eastern suburbs and the sandbelt,
the sort of areas the Liberals would expect to be their middle class strongholds.

The government needs to pitch much more to the centre in policy terms
but it will be hard to do so.

Given its current positioning, how could it sound moderate on energy
and climate policy? It can’t go back to the NEG. It is stuck with its
obsessions about coal and its distrust of, or at least equivocation
about, renewables, as well as its business-bashing threat of
divestitures.

On issues such as coal and climate change, the party’s eyes have been
turned obsessively to Queensland, where there is a raft of marginal
seats, without sufficient regard to those in Victoria and NSW. Even in
relation to Queensland, there has been a failure to adequately
recognise that that state is not monolithic when it comes to issues
and priorities.

The right is unlikely to stop its determined effort to take over the
party, whatever the cost. Indeed some on the right will argue that the Morrison strategy should be to sharpen the policy differences further, rather than looking to the centre.

The right’s mood will be darkened by the Saturday dumping of rightwing senator Jim Molan to an unwinnable position on the NSW Liberal ticket. Molan has pulled out from Monday’s Q&A program; the ABC tweeted that he’d said he could “no longer defend the Liberals”.

As if the Victorian result was not sobering enough, the government
this week begins the final fortnight of parliament for the year in minority
government, with independent Kerryn Phelps sworn in on Monday as
Turnbull’s replacement in Wentworth.

The government wants the focus on national security legislation but
other issues will be political irritants for it.

Labor and crossbenchers are pushing the case for a federal
anti-corruption body – the sort of initiative that would appeal to
voters highly distrustful of politicians.

Crossbenchers Cathy McGowan and Rebekha Sharkie will introduce a
private member’s bill. 34 former judges have signed an open letter
advertisement calling for a national integrity commission.

They said: “Existing federal integrity agencies lack the necessary
jurisdiction, powers and know-how to investigate properly the
impartiality and bona fides of decisions made by, and
conduct of, the federal government and public sector.”

The government is resisting a new body but will need some convincing
alternative response.

The government will also be under pressure over Morrison’s pledge to
legislate to remove the opportunity for religious schools to
discriminate against gay students. Negotiations with the opposition
have been at an impasse, although the government says it still wants
legislation through this fortnight.

In the middle of the fortnight Morrison attends the G20, where he is
expected to have a meeting with Donald Trump. One would assume they
will canvass the Australian government’s consideration of moving our
embassy to Jerusalem, with Trump urging Morrison to go ahead with
the controversial move.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.

Poll wrap: Labor’s worst polls since Turnbull; chaos likely in Victorian upper house



File 20181120 161641 45d9o3.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
This week’s Fairfax-Ipsos poll gives Labor a 52-48 lead over the government, the best result for the Coalition since Scott Morrison became PM.
AAP/Dan Peled

Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

This week’s Fairfax Ipsos poll, conducted November 14-17 from a sample of 1,200, gave Labor just a 52-48 lead, a three-point gain for the Coalition since October. Primary votes were 37% Coalition (up two), 34% Labor (down one), 13% Greens (down two) and 5% One Nation (steady). As usual, the Greens are too high in Ipsos and Labor too low.

This poll is the Coalition’s best result from any pollster since Malcolm Turnbull was ousted. Last week, Newspoll gave Labor a 55-45 lead, and it is unlikely Labor lost three points in a week. Ipsos is the most volatile Australian pollster. However, Essential (see below) confirms Ipsos by also shifting to a 52-48 lead for Labor.

Respondent allocated preferences in Ipsos were 53-47 to Labor, one point better for Labor than the previous election method. Under Turnbull, Labor usually performed worse on respondent preferences, but the three Ipsos polls under Scott Morrison have Labor tied or ahead of the previous election method using respondent preferences. A stronger flow to Labor from the Greens and non-One Nation Others could be compensating for weaker flows from One Nation.

48% approved of Morrison (down two), and 36% disapproved (up three), for a net approval of +12. Last week’s Newspoll gave Morrison a -8 net approval; although Ipsos gives incumbent PMs much better ratings than Newspoll, the difference is very large this time. Bill Shorten’s net approval was up one point to -7. Morrison led Shorten by 47-35 as better PM (48-35 in October).

46% thought Muslim immigration should be reduced, 35% remain the same and 14% increased. In October, a question about all immigration found 45% wanted it reduced, 29% wanted it to stay the same, and 23% increased.

47% thought the government’s main priority on energy policy should be reducing household bills, 39% reducing carbon emissions and 13% reducing the risk of power blackouts. Labor will attempt to convince people that clean energy can be consistent with cheap energy.

I think the shift to the Coalition is more likely due to last week’s economic data than the Bourke Street attack. On November 14, the ABS reported September quarter wage growth data; according to The Guardian’s Greg Jericho, wages are growing more than inflation for the first time since 2013. On November 15, the ABS reported that 33,000 jobs were added in October, with the unemployment rate stable at 5.0%.

On November 14, Westpac reported that consumer sentiment increased 2.8% from October to 104.3 in November. If people feel good about their personal economic situation, it is more likely they will feel good about the government.

Essential: 52-48 to Labor

This week’s Essential poll, conducted November 15-18 from a sample of 1,027, gave Labor a 52-48 lead, a two-point gain for the Coalition since last fortnight. Primary votes were 37% Coalition (up one), 35% Labor (down four), 11% Greens (up one) and 7% One Nation (up one).

44% said their vote was very firm and unlikely to change, including 50% of Labor voters and 46% of Coalition voters.

By 35-28, voters thought the Liberal government and its ministers were poor, but they also thought the Labor opposition and its shadow ministers poor by 33-28. By 36-35, voters thought the Labor team would do a better job of governing than the Liberal team.

On a range of issues, more people thought the government was not doing enough than doing enough, particularly on the ageing population (67-17), transitioning to renewable energy (64-14) and affordable housing (64-16).

In additional questions from last week’s Newspoll, voters thought Shorten and Labor had the best approach to improve housing affordability by 45-35 over Morrison and the Coalition. By 47-33, voters were in favour of reducing negative gearing tax concessions (54-28 in April 2017).

Micro parties likely to win several seats in Victorian upper house

The Victorian election will be held on November 24. There have been no statewide media-commissioned polls since a late October Newspoll (54-46 to Labor). A ReachTEL poll for a left-wing organisation, conducted November 13 from a sample of 1,530, gave Labor a 56-44 lead, which would be a four-point gain for Labor since an early October ReachTEL poll for The Age.

I would like to see a media poll before concluding that the Victorian election will be a blowout win for Labor, but Labor is likely to win.

The Victorian upper house has eight five-member electorates. A quota is one-sixth of the vote, or 16.7%. During the last term, Labor never proposed any reforms to the upper house group voting system. As a result, there are many micro parties who are swapping preferences with each other so that one of them has a good chance of election.




Read more:
Victorian ReachTEL poll: 51-49 to Labor, and time running out for upper house reform


According to analyst Kevin Bonham’s simulations of upper house results, seven micro party representatives could be elected. While the particular micro party that wins could change, the overall numbers probably won’t unless the major parties and Greens do much better than expected, or there is a much higher rate of below-the-line voting.

The Greens in particular appear likely to lose seats that they would win with a sensible system. Labor may well have shot themselves in the foot by sticking with group ticket voting; with a sensible system, Labor and the Greens would probably win an overall upper house majority. Conservative micro party members are likely to stall progressive legislation.

It is easy to vote below-the-line in Victoria, as only five numbers are required for a formal vote, though voters can continue numbering beyond “5”. I recommend that voters number at least five boxes below-the-line, rather than voting above-the-line, where parties control their voters’ preferences. If enough people vote below-the-line, the micro parties’ preference harvesting could be thwarted.

UK’s Brexit debacle could lead to Labour landslide; Greens surge in Germany

Last week, UK PM Theresa May did a deal with the European Union regarding Brexit, but Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab and other ministers resigned in protest. It is likely that the UK House of Commons will reject the deal, owing to opposition from both the hard right and the left. A “no deal” Brexit is likely to greatly damage the UK economy, and could lead to a Labour landslide.

In March 2018, the German Social Democrats re-entered a grand coalition with the conservative Union parties – the same right/left coalition that governed Germany in three of the last four terms. Both the Union parties and Social Democrats have lost support, but it has gone much more to the Greens than the far-right AfD.

You can read more about Brexit and the German Greens’ surge 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.