Election tightens in Newspoll – Labor lead narrows to 51-49%


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

The Coalition has made up ground in Newspoll, now trailing Labor by just 49-51%, compared with 48-52% a fortnight ago.

The tightening of the May 18 race, coming after Scott Morrison was seen to out-campaign Bill Shorten early on, will boost Coalition morale as pre-polling begins on Monday.

But both sides have lost support on their primary votes in the Newspoll, published in the Australian, while Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party is polling 5%, becoming the leading minor party behind the Greens.

Labor is down 2 points to 37%; the Coalition has fallen a point to 38%. The Greens remain on 9% and One Nation is static on 4%.

Shorten’s personal ratings are encouraging for him – he has had a 2 point rise to 39% in his satisfaction rating and reduced the gap on the better prime minister measure.

While Morrison still has a substantial lead as better PM, Shorten has increased his rating by 2 points to 37% and Morrison has fallen a point to 45%.

Morrison’s approval stayed on 45% while his disapproval was 46%, up 2 points, in the poll of 2136 voters taken Friday to Sunday.

Morrison and Shorten have arrived in Perth for Monday evening’s debate, their first face-to-face encounter of the campaign, which has under three weeks to run.

In a day of mega spending, Shorten on Sunday promised A$4 billion over three years to provide 887,000 families with relief on their child care costs; $2.4 billion over the forward estimates for a pensioner and seniors dental plan, and $537 million over the forward estimates to lift the pay of child care workers.




Read more:
Shorten promises $4 billion for child care, benefitting 887,000 families


Under Labor’s dental plan, age pensioners and those holding a Commonwealth seniors’ health card would be entitled to up to $1000 worth of free essential dental care every two years. Some three million people would be eligible under the plan, which would expand Medicare.

Shorten told a rally of volunteers in Melbourne: “Under a Labor government, after May 18 if you’re a pensioner or a seniors health care card holder your dental work will be backed by Medicare for the rest of your life. This is the fair go in action”.

Shorten said an ALP government over the next eight years would boost the average wage of child care workers by about $11,300. This would be on top of any rise in the award rate.

It would be “a 20% pay rise for the early educators because we value early education,” he said.

“This is an investment in quality early education, for good jobs and a strong economy of the future.

“And this is an investment in pay equity for a female-dominated industry. A fair reward for a workforce that has about 96% women, has been undervalued and underpaid for too long.”

Labor says the pay rise would not increase child care fees because the government would fully fund it.

In an initiative on cyber security the government is announcing it would to invest $156 million “to protect older Australians, small businesses and national security assets from the risk of cyber-attacks”.

A range of measures to combat cyber crime would include developing “a comprehensive online cyber security training program providing practical cyber advice for small businesses, older Australians and Australian families”.

The government says cybercrime costs the economy more than $1 billion a year.

In the vulnerable state of Victoria, the government is sandbagging the Liberal heartland seats of Higgins and Kooyong with a promise of $260 million to eliminate a level crossing on busy Glenferrie road in the suburb of Kooyong.

The project would take the train line under the road. The crossing is technically in Higgins but right on the border of Treasurer Josh Frydenberg’s seat of Kooyong. Frydenberg is being targeted by GetUp and various candidates especially on climate change.

In another Victorian seat, Flinders, Health Minister Greg Hunt has been dealt a blow by the decision of Liberal defector Julia Banks to preference Labor ahead of him.

Coalition campaign spokesman Simon Birmingham on Sunday accused her of walking away from her principles. “You’ve really got to wonder about the various positions of Julia Banks, who was until not that long ago urging people to vote Liberal and now is suggesting she will preference Labor. […] I think it shows gross inconsistency on her part”.




Read more:
View from The Hill: Palmer flypaper sticky for both sides


Clive Palmer on Monday is due to formally announce his preference deal with the Liberal party.

The debate about the debates has continued with Morrison wanting the third debate to be hosted by the ABC next week, on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday nights.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.

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View from The Hill: Can $55 million get Clive Palmer back into parliamentary game?



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UAP’s Clive Palmer: “We think we’ll win six Senate seats”.
AAP/Michael Chambers

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Can Clive Palmer buy his way back into federal parliament? The former MP, who for a while wielded enormous Senate power, expects to spend about $55 million on an advertising splurge in his bid to do so – and a good deal more if that’s what is needed.

In fact, he says he has budgeted for $80 million for his United Australia Party’s campaign, although he doesn’t think so much will be spent.

The UAP has already expended some $31.7 million in the seven months to mid-April, according to Nielsen figures reported in The Australian. Palmer’s billboards are prominent in the southern states as well as in the north.

One of the major parties has found people in its tracking research recalling the Palmer ads, even singing along with the jingle.

The UAP – successor to the Palmer United Party – is starting to show up in opinion polling.

Palmer, who is running for a Senate seat in Queensland, tells The Conversation the UAP will stand candidates in all 151 lower house seats, and will be sending “every Australian [voter] how to vote cards directly”.

ABC election analyst Antony Green believes the only prospect for the UAP is a Queensland Senate seat. But Palmer “will be competing with One Nation, the Greens, the third Labor candidate, the third LNP candidate, Katter’s Australian Party. I can’t see how he outpolls the Greens or One Nation”.

Green doesn’t give Palmer much of a chance but prudently notes, “he’s proved us wrong before”.

Unsurprisingly, Palmer says: “We think we’ll win six Senate seats”.

In Senate polling done in February-March for the Australia Institute, a progressive think tank, the UAP was on 2% nationally, and 3% in Queensland. (One Nation was on 8% nationally and 11% in Queensland in this poll. In the latest mid-April Newspoll, One Nation was 4% nationally.)

In the Australia Institute polling last November, UAP polled 1% nationally and in Queensland. New polling about to be released by the Australia Institute will show the UAP vote continuing to strengthen from its position early this year.

The quota in a half-Senate election is 14.3%, but if Palmer got a vote of about 6-7% he would have a chance of a Senate seat. Even a modest Queensland UAP vote could be relevant in the lower house via preferences, although whether the voters would follow a ticket is another matter. UAP will announce its position on preferences later the week.

The Courier Mail’s national affairs editor Dennis Atkins says: “LNP people tell me they’re picking [the UAP] up at above 10% in some seats – they say it’s the usual coastal/regional suspects of Flynn, Capricornia, Dawson, Herbert and Leichhardt.

“Labor people say they haven’t seen the party at 10% but that he’s knocking on the door of that number. Both sides agree there could be a hidden Palmer vote which people won’t admit to considering.

“I think he’ll make an impact in quite a few seats and if everything went right for his party he could end up fighting [One Nation’s] Malcolm Roberts for the last Senate seat, presuming the Greens fall short.”

In the run up to the election, Palmer has promised to pay outstanding entitlements to people thrown out of work with the collapse of his Queensland nickel refinery in 2016.

In all the circumstances, the workers might have been sceptical when it was reported the payments would only come through after the election. Palmer says that some $7-8 million will be paid in the next week into a solicitor’s trust fund, which would hold the money until the claims were finalised.

Palmer is both undeterred and unchastened by his experience between 2013 and 2016. Of his three senators elected in 2013, two – Jacqui Lambie in Tasmania and Glenn Lazarus from Queensland – split away from PUP during the term. The third, Dio Wang, from Western Australia, was defeated at the election. Palmer himself did not recontest the Queensland seat of Fairfax that he won in 2013.

Palmer says the PUP was “naïve” in 2013 – it had only been formed shortly before the election. Lambie and Lazarus had no previous experience and “cracked under pressure,” he says. “The candidates this time are much more hardened”.

He stands by the PUP policy record in the Senate, which included torpedoing some of the harsher parts of the Abbott government’s badly-received 2014 budget and certain measures that would have wound back some of Labor’s climate policy architecture.

*UPDATE: NEWSPOLL FINDS STRONG UAP VOTE IN KEY MARGINALS *

Newspoll – published in Tuesday’s Australian – shows a strong UAP vote of 14% in the Queensland marginal seat of Herbert, held by Labor, where the UAP is running former State of Origin rugby league player Greg Dowling.

The UAP is polling a substantial 8% in the WA seat of Pearce, held by Attorney-General Christian Porter.

In two other lineball marginals polled by Newspoll, the UAP was on 5% in the Victorian Liberal seat of Deakin, and on 7% in the NSW Labor seat of Lindsay.

“Averaged across the four seats, Mr Palmer commands about 8 per cent of the primary vote, eclipsing One Nation,” the Australian reported.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.

Rudd says Murdoch media is a “political party”


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Former prime minister Kevin Rudd has used an address to the Labor national conference to deliver a fresh swingeing attack on the Murdoch media, declaring “it is not a news organisation, it is a political party”.

Rudd said for Labor and for Bill Shorten, “dealing with the Murdoch mafia is kind of like dealing with a daily evisceration”

“It ain’t fair, it never will be and as soon as we acknowledge that fact, the better we will be in our response.”

Rudd and his wife, Therese Rein, were receiving ALP life memberships at the conference. Life memberships were also bestowed on two other former Labor prime ministers, Paul Keating and Julia Gillard, who were not present.

Attacks on the Murdoch media come frequently from Rudd, with a notable one in the 2013 election campaign.

Rudd told the conference the Coalition had “a very robust” partner in the “Murdoch party”, which had an ideology.

“Our movement has the audacity of hope to stand up and say ‘we don’t accept your ideology and your commercial interests. We actually will fight against it’. That’s why they hate us so much.”

“That’s why they hooked into Bill, that’s why they hooked into Julia, that’s why they hooked into me, that’s why they hooked into Paul, that’s why they hooked into Bob – because we represent a threat to their core commercial and ideological interests.”

He contrasted the treatment of Labor meted out by the “Murdoch party” with that accorded to “Saint John” Howard.

Rudd said he had a simple message for Rupert Murdoch: “you don’t own Australia. Murdoch doesn’t have Australia as his own personal belonging. This country belongs to the working men and women who build Australia.”

Shorten, introducing Rudd, paid tribute to his performance in the 2013 election, saying while that election was lost, “your campaigning skills … ensured that we entered opposition as a strong, viable electoral fighting force”.

Party sources said the opposition leader regarded it as important to pay tribute to the former prime ministers at this conference as a gesture of unity. Earlier conferences bestowed life membership on Bob Hawke and Gough Whitlam.

Shorten said in his tributes that Keating was a “hero of the true believers” and Gillard was a “continuing inspiration for women and girls”.

He said there had been a lot of pain but it was “time for healing to make peace with our past in the same way we are united about our future”.

“At our best, we are a movement focused on the future – but as Australia’s oldest continuous political party we have always revered our traditions and we take inspiration from our struggles in the past.

“And we are better, we are stronger, we are more confident and more complete when we extend to our former leaders and legends the respect they deserve, the gratitude they have earned.

“Labor can do more, indeed Australia can do more, to recognise the contribution of our past leaders – and to call upon their wisdom, their talents and their capacities in the continued service of our country.”

In his address, Rudd attacked Home Affairs minister Peter Dutton as a reminder of “that whole generation of Queensland coppers in the days of Bjelke-Petersen” and denounced the government’s recognition of West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital as “a lunatic decision”.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.

Abbott scores big win on party reform as Coalition continues to trail in Newspoll


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Tony Abbott’s ‘Warringah motion’ for party reform was passed by 748 votes to 476.
Daniel Munoz/AAP

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

The Abbott forces are seeking to drive home their sweeping Sunday victory in winning rank-and-file endorsement for reforming the New South Wales Liberal Party by putting a three-month deadline on the changes being ratified.

A special convention of party members voted overwhelmingly for motions from the former prime minister’s Warringah federal electorate conference (FEC) backing plebiscites for preselecting all candidates and direct election by the party members of those who run the party organisation.

This comes as the latest Newspoll, published in The Australian, shows the Coalition continuing to trail Labor 47-53% in two-party terms. This is the 16th consecutive Newspoll in which the government has been behind.

The Coalition’s primary vote rose one point to 36%, while Labor also rose one point, to 37%. One Nation slipped from 11% to 9%; the Greens fell from 10% to 9% since the last poll a fortnight ago.

Malcolm Turnbull’s net satisfaction improved four points to minus 20; Bill Shorten’s net satisfaction was static on minus 20. Turnbull widened his lead as better prime minister from eight points to 11 points.

At the convention of NSW Liberal Party members, the plebiscite motion was passed by 748 votes to 476, and the accompanying motion by a two-to-one margin.

The endorsement of the “Warringah” model is a huge challenge to the factional grip of the state division held by the moderates and soft right.

The changes would likely see the division move to the right, in line with the political colour of its rank-and-file, and make it harder for moderates to win preselections.

But the reforms have to be approved by the state council before they take effect. Given the majorities on the key votes were so decisive, and backing crossed factional lines, it would be hard for the current powerbrokers to resist the general thrust. But there could be a struggle ahead over timing and detail.

Walter Villatora, president of the Warringah FEC, said after the two-day meeting: “These reforms now need to be ratified, which I expect will happen within three months.”

“Somewhere up above in Liberal Party heaven Robert Menzies is looking down and smiling. The party membership have clearly spoken. The era of brutal factionalism is over,” he said. “The NSW Liberal Party is now the most democratic division in Australia.”

But a statement by state president Kent Johns suggested there would not be any rush. “The convention result reflected the members’ desire to reform some of our organisation’s internal processes, and serves as a clear demonstration of participation by our membership,” he said.

“Members showed their support for introducing a plebiscite model to ensure that the NSW Liberal Party continues to preselect the best candidates …

“Discussions at the convention will inform the development of the party’s modernisation plan, which will be prepared by me and the state director, Chris Stone. Constitutional amendments will be prepared over the coming months by our constitutional committee, and proceed to the party’s governing body – state council.”

Turnbull positioned himself carefully in his address to the convention on Saturday so as not to be caught in the firing line if the Abbott push won.

He stressed his support for plebiscites, saying every member should have a say in selecting candidates. It was widely believed, however, that he would have preferred a more circumscribed model.

But the convention voted down or didn’t reach motions attempting to impose some restrictions. These included having a longer eligibility period and an “activity test” before members could vote, and the grandfathering of electorates with sitting members.

In the Warringah model the only condition on party members voting in the plebiscites would be that they must have been a member for two years.

The present preselection system has candidates chosen by panels comprising local delegates and non-local members.

Neither Turnbull nor premier Gladys Berejiklian were at the convention when the vote was taken.

Later a spokeswoman for Turnbull said that as the prime minister had said at the convention: “He has long supported that all Liberal Party members have a direct say in preselections. The PM wants to ensure that every member of the party knows that their voice is heard and respected.

“The PM made it clear yesterday that plebiscites for preselections are a good idea, but hardly a new one. Every other Liberal party division has adopted them,” she said.

Abbott emailed members in his electorate: “This is a great advance for our party – and it would not have happened without the hard work of the Warringah conference led by our president, Walter Villatora.

“There’s more to do, of course. Democratisation now has to run the gauntlet of state council; but this is potentially a wonderful new start for our party. A revitalised, less factionalised party will be really important to winning the next election.

The Conversation“This is a big ‘thank you’ to all Warringah Liberals. Let’s now do our best to build on this success.”

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

Bernardi says his new party will offer a ‘principled’ alternative for disillusioned conservative voters


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Cory Bernardi, who formally defected from the Liberal Party on Tuesday, says he aims to provide the many disillusioned conservative voters with “a principled, credible and stable alternative in which they can vest their vote”.

As some ministers lashed out bitterly at him, accusing him of betraying those who had voted for him, Bernardi said the July election had seen one million votes leave the Liberal Party for alternatives.

“My ambition was always to bring those people back into the tent. I regret over the last seven months or so we see more of them leaving the tent. That says to me there is a serious problem,” he told a news conference.

Earlier, in a speech lasting less than five minutes, he told the Senate: “The body politic is failing the people of Australia”.

“When as a younger man I joined the ship of state, I was in awe of its traditions and the great captains that it guided us on our way. But now, as the seas through which we sail become ever more challenging, the respect for the values and principles that have served us well seem to have been set aside for expedient, self-serving, short-term ends. That approach has not served our nation well.

“The level of public disenchantment with the major parties, the lack of confidence in our political process and the concern about the direction of our nation is very, very strong. This is a direct product of us, the political class, being out of touch with the hopes and aspirations of the Australian people.”

Before his announcement, Bernardi rang Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, but he did not attend the Coalition parties meeting to inform it of his decision. He justified this later by saying he had already resigned from the party and so was not eligible to attend.

Turnbull told Coalition MPs the honourable course would be for Bernardi, having been elected as a Liberal, to resign from the Senate – a line reflected in sometimes bitter comments from other Liberals, including South Australian Liberal cabinet minister Christopher Pyne, who tweeted that Bernardi should quit and recontest as an independent.

Tony Abbott, in a post on Facebook which appeared to indirectly criticise Turnbull, said he was “disappointed that more effort has not been made to keep our party united”.

“No government entirely satisfies all of its supporters. This is not an argument to leave; it’s a reason to stay in and fight more effectively for the things we believe in,” Abbott said.

Although critics such as Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said the defection “dilutes our efforts to defeat the Labor Party”, Bernardi claimed it could “strengthen the ideological grounding of a centre-right government and that is my wish”.

His Australian Conservatives party will run Senate candidates, he said.

Asked whether as a crossbencher he would still vote for Coalition policies, Bernardi said: “My heart, my ethos is steeped in the Liberal Party. … If they put forward good policy, I will support them. If they err, I will tell them and try to amend it.”

On whether billionaire Gina Rinehart, an admirer and friend of Bernardi, would be a big funder of the Australian Conservatives, he said: “I have no idea. That conversation has not taken place.”

Bernardi rejected allegations that he had betrayed the South Australians who had supported him as a Liberal at the election.

“Every single Liberal Party voter and those party members knew exactly what they were supporting. My principles have not changed. My advocacy has not changed. I am seeking to do it in the most effective way.”

He said that going into the last election he had not intended to break away. He had said the election result was not good but “none of the people who said the base doesn’t matter, the conservatives have got nowhere to go, have been held to account for that result”.

He couldn’t say there was one straw that broke the camel’s back for him but “an amalgam of circumstances”.

He did highlight one policy matter for particular criticism. Late last year cabinet had authorised the investigation of what was in effect an emissions trading scheme, he said. “We fought that battle in 2009. It came at a huge personal cost. … I thought, why do I need to continually fight within my own party? I can’t struggle within the tent all by myself.”

The government’s leader in the Senate, George Brandis, said Bernardi had done the “wrong thing”.

“Seven months ago senator Bernardi was happy to stand before the people of South Australia to say he sought their endorsement to serve for a six-year term as a Liberal senator.

“In the seven months since the federal election, nothing has changed. There is no policy for which the Liberal Party and the government stands today, which is not the same as the platform on which senator Bernardi sought election.”

Brandis said the government would deal with Bernardi “as we deal with all members of the crossbench, in a professionally courteous and respectful way”.

“But we do not condone what he has done. Might I say, that if one seeks to restore confidence in the political class, it is a poor way to begin by breaking the promise one makes to one’s electors to serve for the political party on whose platform and whose ticket one stood.

“What senator Bernardi has done today is not a conservative thing to do, because breaking faith with the electorate, breaking faith with the people who voted for you, breaking faith with the people who have supported you through thick and thin for years and, indeed, decades is not a conservative thing to do.”

Former minister and a strong conservative Eric Abetz took a softer line than many of his colleagues: “There is no doubt that he is sincerely motivated. For the Senate, one it assumes it won’t make much difference in relation to the votes.”

Labor’s Senate leader Penny Wong said: “We know senator Bernardi’s view is far from an isolated one in this government. Because we know that amongst those opposite he is one of many, one of many, who believe that this government stands for nothing.”

The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

Australian Politics: 22 July 2013


The ALP has backed Kevin Rudd’s proposals for reform of the party. The link below is to an article reporting on the ALP’s decision to reform the party.

For more visit:
http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/labor-caucus-backs-rudds-party-rule-changes/story-fn59niix-1226683134791




Australian Politics: 20 July 2013



The Palmer United Party is just one of many political parties contesting the upcoming federal election. Clive Palmer, founder of the party, intends to be Prime Minister after the election – but what is he like? The link below is to an article reporting on the man behind the party.”>

For more visit:
http://www.smh.com.au/national/the-palmersaurus-party-20130715-2pyvl.html

Ever wondered what life is like for a former Prime Minister? The link below is to an article reporting on life after politics for former Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

For more visit:
http://www.smh.com.au/national/life-after-politics-for-julia-gillard-the-whirl-is-her-oyster-20130719-2q9ra.html

Australian Politics: 19 July 2013


Compassion seems to have been lost in the asylum seeker debate in Australia, with the Kevin Rudd led Labor government taking a massive shift to a hardline position in refugee policy. The links below are to articles reporting on the new stance.

For more visit:
http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/breaking-news/rudd-surprises-with-hardline-boat-plan/story-fni0xqi4-1226682198196
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jul/19/christine-milne-day-of-shame



Leadership tensions developing in the Liberal Party perhaps?

Australia: ALP Spill Fallout


The link below is to an article reporting on the fallout from the ALP leadership spill. You will need to pass by many of the ill-informed comments at the end of the article, as those making them seem to be largely ignorant as to the facts in this country.

For more visit:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/mar/22/three-minister-quit-gillard-cabinet