Are Australians ready to embrace libertarianism?


Chris Berg, RMIT University

This article is the third in a five-part series on the battle for conservative hearts and minds in Australian politics. Read part one here and part two here.


How much influence does libertarianism have on Australian politics? The first thing to know is that the Australian political system has very few libertarians in it.

The only federal member of parliament to self-describe as a libertarian is Senator David Leyonhjelm of the Liberal Democratic Party. Other candidates – like my former colleagues at the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA), Senator James Paterson and Tim Wilson – describe themselves as classical liberals.

Ideological classifications can get very tedious very quickly, but generally libertarianism is a variety of classical liberalism. Both philosophies believe that public policy should be designed to maximise free markets and civil liberties. That is, governments should get out of both the wallet and the bedroom. Libertarianism is generally seen as inhabiting the more radical end of the classical liberal spectrum.

A 2007 study published by the Centre for Independent Studies (CIS) estimated that 3–6% of the Australian electorate were classical liberals. So it is unsurprising they have little electoral influence on Australian politics.

The reason libertarians and classical liberals exercise some degree of influence is that they make up a disproportionate share of Australia’s policy wonks, think tank staff (especially at the IPA and CIS), and political commentators.

An extremely big tent

Australia’s right-of-centre political community is not so large as to have exclusively libertarian or conservative think tanks, as exist in the United States. Everyone works together. This co-mingling hasn’t generally been an issue because Australian political debate has tended to pivot around economic issues (taxation, regulation, privatisation) or basic shared liberty issues (like freedom of speech) rather than the thorny moral debates that might divide the two camps.

Occasionally there have been polarising issues. Same-sex marriage is one. Conservatives were generally opposed, while libertarians tended to be in favour. But there was also broad agreement that any change to marriage laws should also protect religious freedom.

Immigration – particularly asylum seeker policy – is another. Libertarians are inclined towards freer immigration, whereas conservatives want more control over the borders. Here the tiny number of libertarians have been completely ineffective against the policy stalemate.

For the most part, there is much agreement between conservatives and libertarians about the current state of Australian politics. Both think the Turnbull government is a disappointment, for much the same reasons. It failed on the campaign to repeal section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, which has become an iconic restriction on free speech. It has also repeatedly raised taxes, and been unable to drive any serious economic reform.




Read more:
Can the Liberal Party hold its ‘broad church’ of liberals and conservatives together?


This may sound excessively Pollyanna-ish, as if everything is just swell between Australian conservatives and libertarians. Much has been said (almost all by commentators on the left) about a political split between libertarians and classical liberals on the one side and conservatives on the other. But I don’t really see it.

In the US, the fusion movement of the 1950s and 1960s was a deliberate project to build an alliance between these two distinct systems of political thought. The presidency of George W. Bush pushed that alliance to breaking point, and it seems the Trump administration has broken it.

By contrast, Australian politics has never been large enough to maintain such divergent streams. Every Liberal prime minister has for the most part maintained a sort of centre-right middle ground that kept everyone equally disappointed and dissatisfied. People are leaving the Liberal Party under the Turnbull government, not because it is too conservative or libertarian, but because it is too, well, nothing.

Liberal achievements and libertarian growth

The last quarter of the 20th century saw Australian public policy take major strides in a classical liberal direction. The economic reform movement that substantially liberalised the economy was matched with social reforms such as the decriminalisation of homosexuality and the repeal of obscenity laws.

I’ve argued in the past that Australian economic thought has had a distinct – even occasionally dominant – classical liberal tradition. There is no question that this tradition has driven policy debate and reform at a few key historical moments.

Though classical liberal efforts were often focused on economics rather than social policy, it’s worth pointing out that the IPA was one of the key voices against state overreaches such as the Hawke government’s ill-fated Australia Card, and more recently, mandatory internet data retention.




Read more:
Tony Abbott and the revenge of the ‘delcons’


In recent years, there has been some notable growth of libertarianism as a self-aware and distinct group. A large part of that has been the Friedman Conference – named after Milton Friedman, David Friedman and Patri Friedman, who represent nearly the entire spectrum of classical liberal/libertarian thought in one family – which attracts hundreds of libertarians and fellow travellers to Sydney every year.

The Friedman Conference is in its sixth year, thanks to the organisational efforts of Tim Andrews (of the Australian Taxpayers’ Alliance) and John Humphreys (of the Australian Libertarian Society). The political success of the Liberal Democrats with David Leyonhjelm in the Senate is another factor in libertarianism’s modest gains.

My hope is that this sort of organisational effort fosters the idea in Australia of libertarianism as a distinct political philosophy, not just a quirky sub-category of the Australian right.

The ConversationThere is a need for this. The challenges we face now are not the same as they were in the over-mythologised 1980s. The combination of growth of the regulatory state, radical technological change, and the crisis of democratic trust require new ideas and new policy solutions. Libertarianism offers a framework to understand how these economic and social questions interact.

Chris Berg, Postdoctoral fellow, RMIT University

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

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Tony Abbott and the revenge of the ‘delcons’


Dominic Kelly, La Trobe University

This article is the second in a five-part series on the battle for conservative hearts and minds in Australian politics. Read part one here.


When Liberal Party MPs dumped Tony Abbott for Malcolm Turnbull in September 2015, they could hardly have pleaded ignorance of the turmoil they were creating for themselves. The fact they were in government could largely be credited to the Labor Party having torn itself apart in the Kevin Rudd-Julia Gillard leadership wars.

Almost three years later, veteran political journalist Paul Kelly believes Australian conservatism is in crisis:

Conservatism is consumed by confusion over its principles and purpose. It is fragmenting in party terms – witness the Coalition bleeding votes to Hanson’s One Nation and Cory Bernardi’s Australian Conservatives. With John Howard long gone, it is devoid of any authority figure in office able to hold the movement together and retain it within the party. Abbott remains its figurehead with the faithful but his internal standing has nosedived.

Much as Rudd did for Gillard’s entire prime ministership, Abbott continues to stalk Turnbull, using his media allies to insert himself in national debates whenever possible. This delights his supporters, but infuriates those Liberal colleagues more interested in governing than fighting internal battles.

But can Abbott and the hardline conservative base succeed in reclaiming control of the Liberal Party?


https://public.flourish.studio/story/5533/embed


The ‘delcon’ insurgency

In April 2016, conservative Daily Telegraph columnist Miranda Devine came up with the memorable term “delcon” to describe those “delusional conservatives” who remained firmly in the Abbott camp following the Turnbull coup. “The Delcon movement is tiny but viciously punitive to those it regards as heretics,” she wrote.

Devine had in mind prominent right-wing figures such as James Allan, a law professor at the University of Queensland, and John Stone, the former Treasury Secretary and National Party senator. Following the coup, both were quick to announce they would never vote for the Liberal Party “while led by Malcolm Turnbull and his fellow conspirators.”

But Devine’s delcon jibe did nothing to make them reconsider their positions. If anything, it hardened their resolve. Allan wore the term with pride, and re-affirmed his position that:

with Malcolm in charge it’s actually in Australia’s long-term interest to see the Coalition lose this next election, for the long-term good of party and country.

Stone preferred the term “dis-con” – claiming to be a disaffected, not delusional, conservative – and argued that voting against the Liberals was an act of principle intended to teach the party a lesson about loyalty.

Meanwhile, Stone and Allan have used every opportunity to urge the Liberal Party to restore Abbott to the leadership. They were especially emboldened by Turnbull’s disastrous election performance in 2016, which increased the power and influence of the Liberal Party’s right wing, even as it remained in the minority.




Read more:
Can the Liberal Party hold its ‘broad church’ of liberals and conservatives together?


Though other leadership options have been canvassed, Stone’s overwhelming preference is a restoration of Abbott:

Readers will know I have continued to believe the Coalition’s best chance at the next election will be by restoring Abbott as its Leader. A different choice, hailing from the party’s right (Peter Dutton?), would be enough to see many Dis-Cons stream back into the Liberal’s corner; but if the choice were Abbott, that stream would become a flood. Like him or loathe him, Abbott towers head and shoulders over anyone else in the Liberal party room, whether seen from a domestic policy viewpoint or as international statesman.

Minor party alternatives

However, while Turnbull remained in the job, disaffected conservatives were forced to consider placing their votes with other parties of the right. In the 2016 election, Stone recommended merely placing candidates from “acceptably ‘conservative’ parties” (such as Family First, the Australian Liberty Alliance, Fred Nile’s Christian Democrats and the Shooters and Fishers Party) above those Liberals who voted for Turnbull in the leadership spill.

But by April 2017, increasingly exasperated with the Liberal Party’s unwillingness to remove Turnbull, Stone was ready to abandon the party altogether:

If … nothing has been done by mid-year, we still loosely unattached Dis-Cons will need finally to make the break – to sever our former Liberal loyalties and definitively look elsewhere to lodge our votes. Pauline Hanson’s One Nation Party, of course, beckons, as do the Liberal Democrats. Perhaps most attractive may be Cory Bernardi’s Conservative Party; but one way or the other, decision time approaches.

However, the recent electoral results of these alternatives have been decidedly underwhelming. One Nation seemingly came from nowhere to win four Senate seats in 2016, but performed significantly below expectations in subsequent state elections in Western Australia and Queensland.

The performance of Bernardi’s Australian Conservatives in the South Australian election in March this year was even more disappointing. Launched in April 2017 as the party for conservatives fed up with the direction of the Liberal Party under Turnbull, the party received a miserable 3% of votes in Bernardi’s home state, and has since suffered the defection of one MP to the Liberals.

Abbott’s relentless campaign

And so, an Abbott-led Liberal Party remains the goal for disaffected conservatives, and Abbott has proven more than willing to present himself as their flag-bearer. One report suggested he is preparing the ground for a return to the leadership in opposition, though Abbott publicly refuted the story.

But the former prime minister continues his relentless campaign to undermine Turnbull’s leadership. He launched Pauline Hanson’s book at Parliament House, urging the Coalition to work with the “constructive” One Nation, and mischievously suggesting that “you are always better the second time around”.




Read more:
The pro-coal ‘Monash Forum’ may do little but blacken the name of a revered Australian


Abbott is also a central figure in the Monash Forum, a loose collection of conservative Liberals and Nationals urging the government to invest in coal-fired power stations. Tellingly, the story of the group’s emergence was first broken by Peta Credlin, Abbott’s former chief of staff.

As they did in 2009, conservative MPs are exploiting internal divisions over climate and energy policy to undermine Turnbull’s leadership. The Monash Forum was slammed as “socialist” by Paul Kelly, and derided by Miranda Devine as merely “the usual suspects among the tiny delcon contingent of Liberal MPs”.

The ConversationBut though their numbers may be small, the delcons’ political impact is immense. They are determined to bring down the prime minister at any cost, including doing long-term damage to the Liberal Party.

Dominic Kelly, Honorary Research Fellow, La Trobe University

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

Labor benefits from completed draft boundaries, plus South Australian and Tasmanian final results



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As a result of the electoral boundary changes, Labor notionally gained two seats in Victoria and one in the ACT, and the Coalition lost two seats in Victoria.
AAP/Tony McDonough

Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

On April 6, the Electoral Commission announced draft boundaries for Victoria and the ACT, with both jurisdictions gaining a House seat. Victoria went from 37 to 38 seats, and the ACT from two to three.

As a result of these changes, Labor notionally gained two seats in Victoria and one in the ACT, and the Coalition lost two seats in Victoria.




Read more:
Poll wrap: Labor maintains its lead as voters reject company tax cuts; wins on redrawn boundaries


On Friday, draft boundaries were announced for South Australia, with that state dropping from 11 seats to ten. According to The Poll Bludger, the safe Labor-held seat of Port Adelaide is to be abolished, but the new seat of Spence (formerly Wakefield), Adelaide and Hindmarsh become much safer for Labor.

Margins in Liberal-held seats were not greatly affected by the redistribution. Boothby has been reduced from a 3.5% to a 2.8% Liberal margin, and the SA-BEST-held seat of Mayo goes from a 5.4% to a 3.3% Liberal vs Labor margin. After SA-BEST performed poorly in the South Australian election, Mayo is an opportunity for either major party.

After the next election, there will be 151 seats in the House of Representatives, up from the current 150. The Coalition will notionally hold 74 seats (down two), Labor 71 (up two), and the five current cross-benchers notionally hold their seats. The new Victorian seat of Cox (formerly Corangamite) is too close to call on the new boundaries between the Liberals and Labor.

On the new boundaries, Labor requires just a five-seat gain to win a majority, while the Coalition needs to gain two seats to retain its majority.

The draft boundaries will go through a further consultation process before they are finalised. Final boundaries will be gazetted (become official) by July 20. If an election is called before all boundaries are gazetted, emergency redistributions are used. These emergency redistributions have never been used.

An election of the House and half the Senate could be called in early July, before the new boundaries are gazetted. However, according to the ABC’s Antony Green, the Coalition would lose from the emergency redistributions.

South Australian election final result: 25 Liberals, 19 Labor, 3 Independents

At the South Australian election held on March 17, the Liberals won 25 of the 47 lower house seats (up three since the 2014 election), Labor 19 (down four) and independents three (up one).

The Liberals won the two party vote by a 51.9-48.1 margin, but this represented a 1.1% swing to Labor from 2014, when Labor clung to power despite losing the popular vote 53.0-47.0.

Primary votes were 38.0% Liberal (down 6.8%), 32.8% Labor (down 3.0%), 14.2% SA-BEST, 6.7% Greens (down 2.1%) and 3.0% Conservatives (down 3.2% from Family First’s 2014 vote).

In South Australia, there is a fairness clause that requires boundaries to be drawn so a party with over 50% of the two party vote should win the election. The boundaries used at this election notionally gave the Liberals 26 seats, Labor 20 and one independent (Geoff Brock in Frome).




Read more:
Xenophon’s SA-BEST slumps in a South Australian Newspoll, while Turnbull’s better PM lead narrows


On the new boundaries, both major parties lost a seat to independents who had defected during the last parliamentary term. The Liberals gained King from Labor, but Labor gained Mawson from the Liberals. In Mawson, sitting Labor member Leon Bignell had a 4.5% swing in his favour, just overcoming a hostile redistribution.




Read more:
Liberals win South Australian election as Xenophon crushed, while Labor stuns the Greens in Batman


Conservative commentators such as Graham Richardson have blamed Labor’s loss partly on its renewable energy policies. Between 2011 and 2014, Labor governments that had been in power for 14 to 16 years were smashed in New South Wales, Queensland and Tasmania. In South Australia, Labor had a two party swing in its favour. Renewable energy probably helped Labor, rather than damaged it.

The upper house results have not yet been finalised. In the race for the final seat, Labor has 3.46 quotas and the Conservatives 0.42. With preferences to come from Animal Justice, Dignity, SA-BEST and the Liberal Democrats, it is likely that Labor’s fourth candidate will defeat the Conservatives.

Final Tasmanian result: 13 Liberals, ten Labor, two Greens

At the Tasmanian election held on March 3, the Liberals won 13 of the 25 lower house seats (down two since the 2014 election), Labor won ten (up three) and the Greens two (down one). This is the first time a single party has had a one-seat majority at a Tasmanian election since 1978.




Read more:
Liberals romp to emphatic victory in Tasmanian election


There were two seats contested between different parties that were undecided on election night. In Franklin, the Greens won the final seat by 226 votes or 0.02 quotas against the Liberals. Labor gained a seat from the Liberals.

Final primary votes gave the Liberals 2.90 quotas, Labor 2.06, the Greens 0.86 and the Shooters 0.17. As expected, the Liberals greatly benefited from Shooters’ preferences, but were damaged by within-ticket leakage. With only Labor votes left (they had 2.20 quotas at this point), the final Liberal led the final Green by just 81 votes. Labor’s votes then flowed strongly to the Greens.

In Bass, the Liberals had 3.53 quotas, Labor 1.58 and the Greens 0.56. At the three-way crunch point, the Liberals were just behind the Greens and Labor and were excluded. On Liberal preferences, Labor comfortably defeated the Greens by 801 votes or 0.07 quotas, thus gaining a seat from the Greens.

Final statewide vote shares were 50.3% Liberal (down 1.0% since 2014), 32.6% Labor (up 5.3%), 10.3% Greens (down 3.5%) and 3.2% Jacqui Lambie Network. This was the Greens’ lowest Tasmanian vote since 1998, when they received 10.2% – their vote has more than halved since they won 21.6% in 2010.

I believe the Greens’ poor result was mostly because Labor has a young left-wing leader in Rebecca White, and Labor’s anti-pokies policy attracted Greens’ voters.

The upper house was not up for election. The 15 members of the Tasmanian upper house are elected for rotating six-year terms in single-member electorates. Every May, two or three electorates are up. Labor has four upper house seats, and there are four left-wing independents, so the left currently controls the upper house.




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Dems easily win Virginia and New Jersey governors. Left gains control of Tas upper house


New South Wales March ReachTEL: 52-48 to Coalition

A New South Wales ReachTEL poll for The Sydney Morning Herald, conducted March 15 from a sample of 1,521, gave the Coalition a 52-48 lead, unchanged since October 2017. Excluding 6.2% undecided, primary votes were 44.7% Coalition (up 3.8%), 34.6% Labor (up 0.9%), 10.0% Greens (up 0.1%) and 5.4% One Nation (down 3.5%).

The ConversationIncumbent Gladys Berejiklian led Opposition Leader Luke Foley 52.3-47.7 as better Premier in ReachTEL’s forced choice question. By 59-26, voters opposed the government spending $2.5 billion on constructing new stadiums.

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

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

Response to rumours of a Chinese military base in Vanuatu speak volumes about Australian foreign policy



File 20180411 584 1yw9nyo.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Reports that China plans to build a military base in Vanuatu seem to have little substance at this stage.
EPA/Jerome Favre

Michael O’Keefe, La Trobe University

Rumour has it that Vanuatu has agreed to a Chinese request to establish a military base. The substance of this rumour is highly speculative at the least and disingenuous at most. Regardless of the truth, the fact that it raises alarm about the threat of Chinese military expansionism speaks volumes about Australian foreign policy, particularly toward the Pacific.

On Monday, Fairfax Media reported that “China had approached Vanuatu” about setting up a “permanent military presence” – in other words, a base.

The article went on to speculate about the dramatic strategic importance of the “globally significant move that could see the rising superpower sail warships on Australia’s doorstep”. Furthermore, this Chinese base “would … upend the long standing strategic balance in the region” and would likely be followed by bases elsewhere.




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When it comes to China’s influence on Australia, beware of sweeping statements and conflated ideas


Multiple international media outlets have syndicated the story. Much of the coverage alluded to military threats and a shift in the strategic balance. The language is reminiscent of Cold War bipolarity: “their” gain is “our” loss.

On face value, this sounds like a serious geostrategic issue for Australia. But on close examination, the threat is more apparent than real. An indication of which is that nowhere are Chinese or Vanuatuan interests in provoking this form of strategic competition explained.

From the beginning, every assertion was countered by one of the primary players. Multiple representatives of the Vanuatu government have been at pains to deny the story. For instance, Vanuatu Foreign Minister Ralph Regenvanu was quoted as saying:

No-one in the Vanuatu Government has ever talked about a Chinese military base in Vanuatu of any sort.

As the story spiralled out of control, he then told SBS News it was “fake news” concocted by a Fairfax Media journalist.

Multiple Chinese government sources have denied the story and also described it as “fake news”. China also has assured the Australian government that the story has no validity.

In the original article, it was noted that talks between China and Vanuatu were only “preliminary discussions” and that “no formal proposals had been put to Vanuatu’s government.” So given these caveats, and the comprehensive denials, this raises some serious questions about why this rumour was newsworthy in the first place.

So where did it come from? Presumably Fairfax Media would only have acted if the information was from a highly placed Australian government source that could be verified. Presumably this unnamed source has leaked sensitive intelligence, but it is curious that no Australian Federal Police investigation has been announced.

This has been the past practice from the Turnbull government in relation to national security leaks, and there is no sign the government is at all concerned about this leak.

In contrast, it has used this rumour for megaphone diplomacy against both Vanuatu and China. For example, after accepting the Chinese government’s denial, the prime minister said:

We would view with great concern the establishment of any foreign military bases in those Pacific island countries and neighbours of ours.

And it was the latter rather than the former statement that was covered by many media outlets.

This is very telling. Canberra is clearly sending signals to Beijing and Port Vila that it maintains significant strategic interests in the region (and is a message not lost on other Pacific capitals).

This concern is not new as Australia practised strategic denial in the South Pacific against the Soviet Union during the Cold War. More recently, speculation about Fiji’s relations with China and Russia was raised. But megaphone diplomacy with Fiji has proven unsuccessful in the past.

This approach simply rehashes colonial tropes about Pacific Island Nations being economically unsustainable, corrupt, and easily influenced by great powers. This is reinforced by China’s alleged influence borne from budget support, and capital and aid flows into the Pacific.

What these colonial stereotypes fail to acknowledge is that the foreign policies of Pacific Island countries have matured. Vanuatu is a committed member of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), eschewing formal military alliances and entanglements with great powers. The lesson of Fiji’s strong stance against Australian sanctions is that it too has created an independent foreign policy. Neither country will be easily influenced by foreign powers, including Australia.




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Why do we keep turning a blind eye to Chinese political interference?


Returning to the “truth”. It is true that China’s influence in the region has grown dramatically in recent years, especially during the sanctions years from 2006 to 2014, when Canberra attempted to isolate Fiji.

It is also true that military diplomacy is a key element of China’s foreign policy approach (to the Pacific as in Africa). A final truth is that Vanuatu has a high level of debt dependence on China and is a major beneficiary of Chinese aid. However, this does not mean that Vanuatu is being influenced into accepting a Chinese military base.

At some stage, Vanuatu might very well sign an agreement that allows transit and refuelling of Chinese vessels, as is commonplace in international relations. As Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop told Radio National: “these sorts of visits are normal for many neighbours around the world.”

The ConversationIf so, then all we have learned from this episode is that old colonial habits die hard, and the chances of dispassionately dealing with the geo-strategic rise of China are narrowing.

Michael O’Keefe, Senior Lecturer of International Relations, La Trobe University

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

New electoral law could still hobble charities



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Charities are unclear about how they can engage in democracy because the terms in the proposed bill are unclear.
Shutterstock

Krystian Seibert, Swinburne University of Technology

The Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters has released its report into the Electoral Legislation Amendment (Electoral Funding and Disclosure Reform) Bill 2017.

The bill seeks to ban foreign donations to political parties and their “associated entities”. But it also seeks to capture organisations, including charities, that undertake public advocacy on policy issues.

While much of the media attention has focused on the foreign donation ban, the bill also introduces a new compliance framework for such actors. This applies irrespective of whether they receive foreign donations or not.

The inquiry received over 200 submissions from a diverse range of charities, not-for-profit organisations, think tanks and legal experts. Most expressed major concerns about the complex and burdensome nature of the proposed compliance framework, and the “chilling effect” it could have on advocacy by charities in particular.

The committee made 15 recommendations in its report, released on Monday. It provided in-principle support for the bill’s passage, subject to the recommendations being adopted.




Read more:
Ban on foreign political donations is both too broad and too narrow, and won’t fix our system


The recommendations are a step in the right direction, responding to many of the concerns raised in the inquiry. But they are light on detail, and much will depend on how the government responds to them.

Contrary to what the chair of the committee, Senator Linda Reynolds, has stated, a number of the recommended changes are complex. This is particularly the case with redefining “political expenditure”, a key term that underpins almost the entire bill.

What is ‘political expenditure’?

If a charity or other organisation incurs “political expenditure” above $13,500, then it becomes subject to the bill’s compliance framework. Additional requirements are imposed for those incurring more than $100,000, but the committee recommended this level be reviewed.

The definition of this term is unclear. It’s also potentially very broad. It includes any expenditure on the public expression of views on an issue that is “likely to be before electors in an election”, regardless of whether an election has been called. This could include activities such as publishing reports advocating for changes to government policies, media engagement, advertising and potentially even paying staff to do this work.

A big problem is that the bill provides no guidance on the specific types of activities that are captured, nor how a charity is meant to look into the future and predict whether an issue is “likely to be before electors in an election”.

This makes it almost impossible for a charity to know with any certainty whether it’s complying with the definition.

The Australian Electoral Commission provided a supplementary submission to the inquiry, setting out the seven steps it uses to interpret the definition.

But it’s complicated and unworkable, and involves looking at different party platforms to assess how topical an issue may be. A leading constitutional law expert, Professor Anne Twomey, has extensively critiqued it.

It’s therefore not surprising that the committee recommended the definition be amended to make it more precise. The aim would be to ensure it applies only to:

expenditure undertaken to influence voters to take specific action as voters, so as not to capture non-political issue advocacy.

However, this will be no simple task, as the line between the two is not clear.

For example, if a charity produces a document outlining the positions of different political parties on the issue of homelessness, how would that be defined? Arguably, it is just providing information to voters, rather than influencing them to “take specific action as voters”.

What should be done?

Although the committee made a laudable attempt to address the various flaws in the bill, there is no quick fix.

Given the key term underpinning the bill is flawed and cannot be easily redrafted, the best outcome would be for it to be withdrawn.

This would allow for more public consultation and the preparation of a comprehensive regulatory impact statement. This would quantify compliance costs and consider alternative policy options.

If the government won’t withdraw the bill, it at least needs to act on each of the committee’s recommendations. In doing so, it should undertake public consultation on the detail of any amendments and seek a genuine outcome that ensures advocacy by charities and other organisations isn’t stifled.




Read more:
Federal government’s foreign donations bill is flawed and needs to be redrafted


More broadly, it’s arguable that the entire premise for increased regulation of non-political party actors such as charities and other organisations is flawed.

Few would argue against the need for some basic disclosure requirements regarding their direct electioneering activities, to provide transparency about the origin of the funds used for these activities. But these requirements already exist.

It’s not clear why a new compliance framework is needed to further burden these organisations, made up of people coming together to participate in our democratic processes. This is something explored in a US context in the book Unfree Speech. It argues against increased regulation because it restricts the free exchange of views, which is meant to be a cornerstone of democracy.

The argument for increased regulation of charities, including banning them from receiving donations from international philanthropy for use towards “political expenditure”, is particularly weak. By their very nature, charities exist for the public benefit. They are not permitted to have politically partisan purposes under the Charities Act 2013.

There is no evidence that international philanthropy is using Australian charities to subvert our democracy. On the contrary, the support it provides helps charities advocate on important issues such as the role of Australian aid.

The ConversationRegulation can have benefits, but it can also have costs. If this bill becomes law, the cost could be a less vibrant democracy, with fewer voices willing to debate the policies that will shape our nation’s future.

Krystian Seibert, Industry Fellow, Centre for Social Impact, Swinburne University of Technology

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

Shorten’s plan to triple anti-dumping penalties misunderstands the law


Weihuan Zhou, UNSW

Bill Shorten’s proposal to triple anti-dumping penalties demonstrates a misunderstanding of dumping and its impact on the economy. It also misunderstands when anti-dumping measures may be lawfully applied and to what extent.

Shorten’s proposal is purportedly to prevent Australia from becoming a “dumping ground for cheap foreign goods sent here by trade cheats”. The Opposition Leader says Labor is a strong believer in trade, but it should be conducted on a “level playing field”. He also wants to give the Anti-Dumping Commission 30 new staff and new responsibilities.




Read more:
Australia may be engaging in ‘free trade’ but it’s becoming more protectionist too


There are no existing penalties in the World Trade Organisation (WTO) anti-dumping regime, or in Australia’s anti-dumping regime – that would be in breach of WTO rules. Australia’s current regime involves the use of anti-dumping measures to counteract injury caused by dumped imports to domestic industries. These typically take the form of import tariffs.

Anti-dumping measures like duties are not “penalties” as such, but simply taxes in the form of a customs duty to remove the injury caused by dumping.

In recent years, the use of anti-dumping measures has been on the rise predominantly to protect the steel industry in Australia.

Current dumping rules

“Dumping” is when an exporter exports goods to another country at an export price less than what it sells the same like goods in its own country. Under WTO rules, this is neither illegal nor unlawful.

It is a perfectly legitimate commercial practice. In fact, in 2016 the Productivity Commission found there was no compelling economic rationale for a country like Australia to act against dumping.

Rather than prohibiting the practice of dumping, WTO anti-dumping rules only provide a remedy where the dumping causes material injury to a domestic industry in the country of import, for example reduced revenues and profits. The remedy is the imposition of dumping duties, or customs duties.

This should be equal to or less than the margin of dumping – the extent to which an exporter’s export price is lower than its home market price.

It’s not clear how the “triple penalties” proposed by Shorten could be imposed in line with the WTO rules.




Read more:
It’s time to drop Australia’s protectionist anti-dumping rules


Increasing penalties could hurt the economy

Mr Shorten’s anti-dumping penalties would have several effects – including to increase prices of imported goods and inputs for Australian produced goods. This price rise would be passed on to Australian companies and consumers. For example, this would increase the cost of steel for construction industries.

Shorten’s policy would benefit a small group of import-competing industries, such as those producing steel and A4 copy paper, including companies that are wholly owned by foreign companies. But such policy completely ignores the interest of Australian manufacturers using imported materials, their employees or consumers.

Increased dumping penalties could also stifle competition, increasing prices. This could also increase unemployment, as the imposition of the penalties would make the cost of business uneconomical.




Read more:
Consumers lose out to Australia’s protectionist anti-dumping laws


Shorten’s policy on dumping seems misguided and ill-informed and can only operate to Australia’s detriment. These observations are consistent with the findings of the Productivity Commission that Australia’s anti-dumping system has become increasingly more protectionist and damaging.

In the interests of fair trade, similar penalties would need to apply to Australian companies engaged in dumping, and to both export and domestic sales to ensure a “level playing field”.

More fundamentally, as the Productivity Commission has observed, “fairness” does not provide a justification for anti-dumping measures which fail to consider the impact of such measures on the community as a whole.

What’s more, Shorten’s “triple penalty” could drag Australia into the ongoing trade conflict and harm Australian consumers and industries using imports from China. If the “triple penalty” provokes China’s retaliation, that will hurt Australian goods and services exporters.

The ConversationThis article was co-authored by Andrew Percival, Principal at Percival Legal.

Weihuan Zhou, Senior Lecturer and member of China International Business and Economic Law (CIBEL) Initiative, Faculty of Law, UNSW Sydney, UNSW

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

When it comes to China’s influence on Australia, beware of sweeping statements and conflated ideas


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Australia’s approach to the debate over Chinese influence should be to carefully disaggregate the various problems under discussion in this debate and risk-manage them individually.
Shutterstock

Andrew Chubb, Princeton University

In December, the Turnbull Government tabled sweeping new national security legislation in response to what the PM called “disturbing reports of Chinese influence” in Australian politics.

An ongoing parliamentary review of the proposed laws has attracted hundreds of public submissions, with intelligence agencies and civil society organisations predictably lining up on opposite sides of the argument.

More surprising, perhaps, is the controversy the laws have sparked within Australia’s community of China experts.




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Rival petitions

On March 19, a group of 30 China scholars submitted a petition calling for the espionage and foreign interference legislation to be withdrawn, pending more extensive consultation and rigorous, measured public debate.

The open letter argued the bill directly threatened academic freedom, and that the “alarmist tone” of recent public discourse over China was impinging Australia’s ability to calmly and rationally deal with the issues.

In particular, it warned that “a racialised narrative of a vast official Chinese conspiracy” was taking shape:

We should be vigilant that public discourse in Australia does not create undue pressure on one particular section of our society to demonstrate its loyalty to Australia at the expense of its freedom to criticise Australian policies and actions.

A week on, a different group of China and Asia experts submitted another letter — ostensibly in response to the first — defending public policy debates over the issue in light of “well-documented reports about the Chinese Communist Party’s interference” in Australia. It read:

We firmly believe the current debate is not characterised by racism and that it is crucial for Australia to continue this debate. Indeed, Chinese Australians are among the main initiators and drivers of this debate.

The rival letters attracted international media coverage, with a reports touting a split among Australian China scholars over the issue.

But how much did the two letters really differ?

Furious agreement

In fact, the two letters share a great deal in common. Both call for informed debate over the issues; both denounce racism; both affirm scrutiny of the CCP’s activities in Australia and the application of legal penalties where evidence of wrongdoing is clear.

Most signatories would agree that discussion of the set of issues raised is necessary, and that it is not motivated by racism. They would also agree that new laws may be necessary but must be carefully drafted, and there have been problematic elements in the public debate as it has unfolded so far.

Both lists of signatories contain trenchant critics of Beijing, as well as relatively China-friendly voices.

Yet, I’m aware of only one person who signed both.

Why have Australia’s China scholars cleaved into two camps on a matter of great public interest that requires their collective expertise — camps that seem to cut across personal networks and ideological preferences?

To some extent, as ANU National Security College head Rory Medcalf has observed, this reflects healthy scholarly disagreements among colleagues.

But the rival letters are also indicative of a less-than-healthy polarisation in the discourse at a time when identifying consensus views might be more valuable. After all, the letters were substantively in agreement on many of the key issues.

It may help, then, to clarify what we do disagree about.

As a signatory to the first letter, but not the second, I can identify four main points of contention. Yet, as shown below, even within these four areas there appears to be more agreement than the rival letters might suggest.

Four points of contention

The scope of CCP activities in Australia

While the first letter cautions against conflating distinct China-related issues in Australia into “a vast official Chinese conspiracy”, the second offers a list of ten bullet-point examples of the “CCP activities” Australia should be vigilant against.

The list ranges from espionage and intimidation of dissidents, to university student groups and pro-China political rallies.

The view that vigilance is warranted over the party’s activities in Australia should be uncontroversial. It is an unreformed and increasingly dictatorial Leninist regime with a ministerial-level department tasked with instrumentalising non-party actors to advance the party’s interests and counter its perceived enemies.

The scope of this “United Front Work” system is vast and expanding, and it is rooted in a thoroughly cynical vision of the world. It is an institution and a vision that Australians — especially political elites — ought to be properly educated about.

But it should also be equally uncontroversial to affirm that a person or group’s inclusion as a target within the scope of united front work does not constitute grounds for suspecting them of disloyalty or subversiveness if they espouse a CCP-friendly view on an issue.

Causes of racist and alarmist sentiments

The first letter criticises the Australian media for fanning “suspicion and stigmatisation of Chinese-Australians”.

The second letter acknowledges the public discourse has prompted “alarmist and racist sentiments”, but argues this is an inevitable side effect of having a debate in the first place.

Perhaps we could at least agree that the prevalence of racism and alarmism on the fringes of a debate depends significantly on the language used by those in the mainstream debate.

If so, this would narrow the disagreement down to whether or not the costs of using inaccurate and inflammatory language such as “Chinese”, “invasion”, “infiltration”, and “penetration” are acceptable.

The meaning of sovereignty

The first letter argues there’s no evidence that the PRC’s activities are aimed at challenging Australia’s sovereignty. The second letter, by contrast, advocates action to counter “threats to sovereignty”.

Each appears to have a different notion of sovereignty in mind.

If the word means, narrowly, paramount legal authority within territorial limits, then a PRC challenge to Australia’s sovereignty implies that it seeks to lay claim to parts of the Australian landmass, or reduce its polity to a tributary “vassal”. But as the first letter pointed out, there is to date no credible evidence of this.

On the other hand, there have been clear instances of PRC violations of Australian sovereignty in recent years. In 2015, for example, Chinese undercover police pursued a fugitive on Australian territory. Importantly, in that case, Beijing admitted its wrongdoing.

Interference with the political freedoms of residents of Australia, such as intimidation of dissidents’ families in China, also arguably violate Australia’s sovereignty in a broad sense.

Neither letter defines sovereignty, but both invoke the word’s emotive power. Those of us speaking of a CCP threat to Australian sovereignty (or absence thereof) might be able to agree on more if we specify in what sense this is (not) the case.

Threats to democratic politics in Australia

Whereas the second letter emphasises the threats that CCP activities pose to democracy and free speech, the earlier letter suggests the sweeping proposed national security laws and alarmist public discourse were creating an even more immediate threat to democratic political rights.

It is hardly in doubt that the CCP’s activities undermine the political values of democracy, liberalism and openness. It is openly hostile to them.

But there are well-documented cases of self-censorship resulting from the alarmist tone in Australia’s public discourse on the issue, with reports of some Chinese-Australian politicians growing afraid of associating with CCP-linked community figures.




Read more:
Australians working in China should expect fallout over questions of political interference


The second letter affirms that all residents of Australia “should be able to express their point of view free of fear or censorship, whether from forces foreign or domestic”.

This suggests, once again, that there is significant overlap among China scholars even within this ostensible area of disagreement. Specifically, both seem to recognise that threats to democratic rights exist inside Australia as well as outside.

A risk-management approach

Where to from here? In an upcoming report, I argue that if Australia wants to maintain a broad engagement with a powerful, increasingly dictatorial Leninist party-state ruling a billion-plus people while maintaining a liberal democracy, it will require careful understanding and management of the risks involved.

It will not be possible to simply disallow all CCP “operations of influence” without impinging on the very democratic rights the CCP threatens.

Conflating distinct issues (for example, espionage, lobbying, Chinese-language media, student activism) under single sweeping labels (such as “influence” or “operations”) that imply they’re all part of one Beijing-orchestrated campaign of subversion is also not helpful in developing methodical, systematic responses.

Policymakers in Beijing may dream of coordinating a vast conspiracy involving ethnic Chinese all over the world advancing the CCP’s interests, but that does not make it a reality.

Australia’s approach, I argue, should be to carefully disaggregate the various problems under discussion in this debate and risk-manage them individually, rather than grasping for some kind of resolution that will free Australia of “CCP influence”.


The ConversationThis article has been amended. The line that originally read: Yet, I’m not aware of a single person who signed both has been changed to Yet, I’m aware of only one person who signed both.

Andrew Chubb, Postdoctoral Fellow, Princeton-Harvard China and the World Program, Princeton University

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

Can the Liberal Party hold its ‘broad church’ of liberals and conservatives together?



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John Howard, pictured here with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, is fond of describing the Liberal Party as a “broad church”. But that breadth has led to increasing fracture within the party in recent years.
AAP/Dean Lewins

Gregory Melleuish, University of Wollongong

This article is the first in a five-part series on the battle for conservative hearts and minds in Australian politics.


In July 2017 Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull upset conservatives within his own ranks by emphasising the liberal, as opposed to conservative, traditions of the party he leads.

One of the great truisms of contemporary Australian politics is that liberals and conservatives on the non-Labor side are locked in a dance in which each partner tries to dominate the other, even as they cling to each other in an endless embrace.

Many assume it has always been thus. In reality, the contemporary emphasis on the ideals of liberalism and conservatism is a relatively recent phenomenon, which political figures of the past would find somewhat puzzling.

Deakinite liberalism

In the 19th-century Australian colonies, liberalism reigned supreme. Most political figures identified as liberals and conservatives were uncommon. Even those who held conservative views, such as New South Wales politician James Martin, were happy to pose as liberals. Liberalism was not particularly ideological and often meant little more than good government.

As Australian politics divided along Labor versus non-Labor lines in the early 20th century, the non-Labor side took the name Liberal Party. Its members embraced a range of political positions, from Deakinite progressives (after Alfred Deakin) to adherents of laissez-faire economics.

As Judith Brett has argued, the key difference between Labor and non-Labor did not necessarily lie in policy as much as in the way the Labor Party pledge enforced caucus control of individual conscience. This was anathema to liberals.

Liberals in the Deakinite tradition were not opposed to state action and supported increased social co-operation, as long as that co-operation was voluntary and enhanced the individual as an ethical being. Such views can be found in the writings of the philosopher and social commentator Frederic Eggleston.

Menzies’ pragmatism

So, when Robert Menzies relaunched the Liberal Party in 1944, his motivation was not an ideological zeal to impose what today is understood as liberalism on the country. This can be seen quite clearly in his 1942 radio talks, collected as the Forgotten People.

In these talks, Menzies generally discusses freedom rather than liberty. His main focus is the individual and the family as the foundation of society, and the need for individuals to be self-reliant and to strive to improve both themselves and their families.

Robert Menzies was Australia’s longest-serving prime minister.
Wikimedia Commons

The Forgotten People expressed a set of moral ideals rather than a political ideology. The focus was a particular form of moral personality, not an abstract model of society. In his emphasis on the family, Menzies was not appealing to a “conservative” ideology; the importance of the family was taken for granted by all sides of politics at that time.

Menzies’ liberalism was concrete and practical in nature. It was inspired by the same philosophy, idealism, that had influenced Deakin and Eggleston. Menzies understood, for example, that in an increasingly technological society, moral ideals were needed to prevent such technology from being used for evil purposes. That is why he was a strong supporter of universities and liberal education.

As prime minister from 1949 to 1966, Menzies dominated the philosophical direction of the Liberal Party. Menzies understood liberalism in practical – and 19th-century – terms as being equivalent to good government. He did not intend to reshape society in line with a liberal ideology.

Ideological fracturing

One of the most interesting developments of the 50 years since Menzies’ retirement is that the non-Labor side of politics has become more ideological. Deep fractures have emerged between those who identify as liberals and those who consider themselves to be conservatives. This has happened at a time when, in many ways, liberalism has triumphed as an ideology in Australian life.

For example, the ideal of the family, which was so strong in the Forgotten People, has taken something of a battering at the hands of almost all political parties.

The individual is now the central political ideal, and there has been an increasing focus on rights, something Menzies would have viewed as alien to the Westminster system that Australia inherited from the United Kingdom.

The 1980s were a crucial period of transformation. Malcolm Fraser, prime minister from 1975 to 1983, can be understood as the last of the old Menzies-style liberals, but many Liberals largely disowned him for not being more economically liberal during his term of office.

Fraser was followed not only by the economic reforms of the Hawke-Keating Labor governments, but the full emergence of a far more ideologically committed liberalism in the Liberal Party. The party’s more economically liberal “dries” fought and defeated the Deakinite “wets”. This culminated in the Fightback! program of John Hewson and the defeat of the Liberal Party at the 1993 election.

Howard’s ‘broad church’

The genius of John Howard was to recognise that there was only so much liberalism the Australian people would tolerate, and to reinvent the Liberal Party as a custodian of both economic liberalism and social conservatism. Howard was fond of describing the Liberal Party as a “broad church”, which was “at its best when it balances and blends those two traditions.”

However, he also made the Liberal Party more ideological, as conservatism emerged as an ideology alongside liberalism. Howard completed the process through which conservatism and liberalism emerged as distinct – and competing – ideological positions in Australian political life.

Both Deakin and Menzies would find this ideological division puzzling. For them, liberalism was less an ideology than a moral outlook on the world that encouraged individuals to act in a responsible and ethical fashion.

The ConversationHoward’s broad church worked well, as long as he was at the helm. Once he was gone, the Liberal Party seemed to erupt in conflict between liberals and conservatives. More than a decade later, the conflict shows few signs of reaching a peaceful resolution.

Gregory Melleuish, Professor, School of Humanities and Social Inquiry, University of Wollongong

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

Poll wrap: Newspoll not all bad news for Turnbull as Coalition’s position improves



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A big difference between the losing streaks of Malcolm Turnbull and former PM Tony Abbott is that Abbott often trailed Shorten as better PM, while Turnbull has always led Shorten.
AAP/Brendan Esposito

Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

This week’s Newspoll, conducted April 5-8 from a sample of 1,600, gave Labor a 52-48 lead, a one-point gain for the Coalition since last fortnight. Primary votes were 38% Coalition (up one), 37% Labor (down two), 10% Greens (up one) and 7% One Nation (steady).

This was Malcolm Turnbull’s 30th successive Newspoll loss, matching Tony Abbott’s streak before Turnbull ousted him as Liberal leader and PM in September 2015. Famously, Turnbull justified moving against Abbott partly because of the Newspoll losses.

Turnbull’s ratings were 32% satisfied (down one) and 57% dissatisfied (steady), for a net approval of -25. Bill Shorten’s net approval fell five points to -25. Turnbull led Shorten by 38-36 as better PM (39-36 previously).




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Government loses 30th consecutive Newspoll, despite slight improvement


A big difference between the losing streaks of Turnbull and Abbott is that Abbott often trailed Shorten as better PM, while Turnbull has always led Shorten.

On best Liberal leader, 28% preferred Turnbull (down two since early February), 27% Julie Bishop (up one), 13% Abbott (steady) and 9% Peter Dutton (up two). Coalition voters gave Turnbull 46%, Bishop 22%, Abbott 15% and Dutton 7%. Abbott and Dutton performed best with One Nation voters.

By 55-27, voters thought the 30 Newspoll losses demonstrated a failure of Turnbull’s leadership.

On best Labor leader, 24% preferred Shorten (up two since early February), 23% Tanya Plibersek (down two) and 23% Anthony Albanese (down one). Labor voters gave Shorten 36%, Plibersek 27% and Albanese 22%. Plibersek now leads Shorten by 33-26 with Greens voters (43-18 previously).

There was little change in Turnbull’s ratings on nine leaders’ attributes since early December. Shorten’s ratings increased six points on “arrogant” and four points on “has a vision for Australia”.

By 50-41, voters supported Australia becoming a republic (51-38 in August 2017). If Prince Charles becomes King, support rises to 55-35 (55-34 previously).

Other than the 30 Newspoll losses, this was not a good poll for Labor. Labor’s primary vote was down two points, and the total Labor/Greens vote fell back one point to 47%, after breaking out of a long run of 47% support last fortnight.

The Coalition has tended to do better under Turnbull when Parliament is not sitting. The fading of the Barnaby Joyce scandal and the big company tax cuts as issues may explain the Coalition’s gains.

Former Nielsen pollster John Stirton wrote in the Fairfax papers that the new Newspoll, which is conducted by Galaxy Research and uses online and robopolling methods, is far less volatile than the old Newspoll, a landline-based live phone poll. The new Newspoll started in mid-2015, and the Coalition’s chances of getting a tie by luck have been greatly reduced.

However, it is not just Newspoll that has the Coalition continuously behind. Until a 50-50 tie in Ipsos’ respondent-allocated preferencing method (see below), the Coalition had trailed in every poll conducted since September 2016, apart from a short-lived YouGov series that published polls in the second half of 2017.

Although both left-wing and far-right partisans would like to see Turnbull dumped, Turnbull has led Abbott by an overwhelming margin in every poll in which voters are asked to compare the two. In a June 2017 ReachTEL poll, voters favoured Turnbull over Abbott as Liberal leader by a 68-32 margin.

Ipsos: 52-48 to Labor

A Fairfax Ipsos poll, conducted April 3-5 from a sample of 1,166, gave Labor a 52-48 lead, a one-point gain for the Coalition since early December 2017. Primary votes were 36% Coalition (up two), 34% Labor (up one), 12% Greens (down one) and 8% One Nation.

Ipsos is the only live phone pollster left in Australia; all other polls use robopolling or online methods. Ipsos gives the Greens higher support than other polls, at the expense of Labor.

Turnbull’s ratings were 47% approve (up five), and 43% disapprove (steady). Ipsos gives Turnbull better ratings than other pollsters, particularly Newspoll. Shorten’s net approval was -15, down one point. Turnbull led Shorten by 52-31 as better PM (48-31 previously). By 62-28, voters thought Turnbull should remain Liberal leader.

By 49-40, voters supported cutting the company tax rate from 30% to 25% over the next ten years. Two weeks ago, ReachTEL had voters opposed to tax cuts for big companies by 56-29.




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Poll wrap: Labor maintains its lead as voters reject company tax cuts; wins on redrawn boundaries


In March 2017, tax cuts were passed for companies with turnover of up to $50 million a year. The government is now trying to pass cuts for companies with more than $50 million in turnover. Since these are big companies, I think ReachTEL’s question is better than Ipsos’.

Essential: 53-47 to Labor

This week’s Essential poll, conducted April 5-8 from a sample of 1,033, gave Labor a 53-47 lead, a one-point gain for Labor since last fortnight. Primary votes were 38% Coalition (steady), 37% Labor (up one), 10% Greens (up one) and 7% One Nation (down one).

Primary votes in Essential are the same as in Newspoll, but Newspoll’s two party result is better for the Coalition. Newspoll is now assuming that One Nation preferences flow to the Coalition at about a 65% rate, consistent with the November 2017 Queensland election. Essential continues to assume the Coalition will win just half of One Nation’s preferences.

Turnbul’s net approval in Essential was -3, down one point since March. Shorten’s net approval was -8, also down one point. Turnbull led Shorten by 41-26 as better PM, unchanged since March.

Shorten’s ratings on being a capable leader and good in a crisis increased five points since June 2017, and he had four-point increases on “visionary” and “more honest than most politicians”. Turnbull’s ratings dropped four points on “arrogant” and “aggressive”.

There were two double digit differences between the two leaders: Turnbull led by 15 points on “intelligent” and by 13 points on “out of touch”.

On best Liberal leader, Turnbull had 24% (up three since December), Bishop 17% (down two), Abbott 11% (up one) and Dutton just 3% (down one). Among Coalition voters, Turnbull had 45%, Abbott 17%, Bishop 13% and Dutton 4%.

37% thought the government should prioritise renewable energy over coal, 13% thought they should prioritise coal over renewable energy, and 35% thought the government should treat both industries equally.

Far-right Hungarian government re-elected in landslide

The Hungarian election was held on Sunday. There were a total of 199 seats, with 106 elected using first past the post, and the remaining 93 by proportional representation.

Hungarian PM Viktor Orbán’s far-right Fidesz won 48.5% of the vote, and 134 of the 199 seats. Another far-right party, Jobbik, was second with 19.5% and 25 seats, while the social-democratic MSZP won just 12.3% and 20 seats – their worst result since 1990.

The ConversationFidesz’s vote was up 3.2% since the 2014 election, and they won 91 of the 106 first past the post seats.

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

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

View from the hill: An ugly set of numbers triggers havoc in the Turnbull government


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Barnaby Joyce, a National, hasn’t a vote for the Liberal leadership. But he’s a man of opinions and now he’s on the backbench there are no restraints on his expressing them.

On Monday night, amid the feeding frenzy over Newspoll, Joyce declared that if, as Christmas approached, polling indicated Turnbull was heading to electoral defeat, he should call it quits. There was an obligation “not to drive your party or the government off a cliff,” he told Sky.

A new unhelpful spot fire erupted into flame.

With the fateful 30th Newspoll finally out there, the government on Monday descended into an orgy of destructive self-indulgence. It was a collective performance made up of individual bitterness, tactical misjudgement, and plain ill-discipline. Just the sort of thing to further disgust a public already turned off by the shambles of Canberra.

For Abbott, Monday was the occasion for the primal scream. It might be two-and-a-half years since Turnbull seized his job, but the former prime minister’s pain hasn’t abated a jot, nor his sense of what he sees as the injustice delivered to him.

As he pedalled through the Latrobe Valley, Abbott told 2GB it was for Turnbull to explain why the 30 lost Newspolls measure that he invoked in his 2015 challenge “applied to me but shouldn’t apply now.”

And then there were the other points Turnbull had raised back then – about the need to restore cabinet government, and the lack of an economic narrative.

“Well, I ran a perfectly orthodox cabinet government”, Abbott insisted; as
for having no clear economic narrative, “I completely reject that. There was a very, very clear economic narrative under my government.” For good measure, he threw in a defence of the 2014 budget – which in fact began his political demise.

On the policy front, he topped his call for the government to build a coal-fired power station by suggesting it should nationalise the Liddell power plant, owned by AGL, which is resisting selling to another company despite sustained bullying from the government.

Given everyone knew Abbott would be grabbing the spotlight after Monday’s Newspoll, the government had to make a tactical judgement about how best to counter.

It could keep a low profile, with minimal prime ministerial and ministerial appearances. While that would give maximum room to Abbott, it would also avoid further fanning the poll story. Or Turnbull and his ministers could confront the bad poll day full on. That was the course chosen – and it was hard to see the sense of it.

Ministers were out everywhere, backing Turnbull. That just gave the impression that his leadership was in need of protection, despite there being no challenge.

In a round of media appearances, Turnbull said (for the umpteenth time) that he regretted citing Newspoll, declared he had the backing of his colleagues, and submitted himself to some humiliation.

On 2GB, Ben Fordham announced he had invited listeners to say what he should ask Turnbull. “I hate to tell you PM: the overriding response was, ‘when will you resign?’” Fordham told his guest, with the cameras looking on.

“Oh really,” Turnbull said. “Well, well the answer is I’m not, I am not. I am going to go to the next election and win it”.

Then there was Wayne on the talkback line. “I’m a rusted on Liberal and you’ve taken the party – you nearly lost the unlosable election. I find you politically inept, and basically you’ve taken the party in my view too far to the left and I think you should do the honourable thing and resign, put it to a party vote because quite frankly if we go to an election with you we are doomed as a party”.

“Well thanks Wayne for the advice,” said the PM. “I don’t propose to take it, however.” Turnbull then went on to invite Wayne to tell him how he had taken the party to the left, and argue the toss with him.

Now one can say it’s admirable that a leader gets out and deals with criticisms. But Monday didn’t seem the day for maximum exposure.

Or for canvassing long-term leadership ambitions, as did Peter Dutton. “I think people are best to be honest about their ambitions”, the Home Affairs minister told 3AW. His comments were in the context of reaffirming his loyalty to Turnbull and were not new, but such candour just set off another spot fire of questioning, that soon reached Josh Frydenberg and Scott Morrison, both of whom acknowledged the batons in their knapsacks.

The ConversationThe 30th Newspoll was destined to be difficult. Abbott was determined to make it so. Joyce is a loose cannon. But the strategy adopted by Turnbull – for he and his ministers to try to control the story by swarming all over it – simply made him a bigger target. It displayed a lack of political nous but also suggested he is feeling more than a little rattled by the situation in which he finds himself.

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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