The deal to crank up Adelaide’s desalination plant to make more water available to farmers in the drought-stricken Murray-Darling Basin makes no sense.
It involves the federal government paying the South Australian government up to A$100 million to produce more water for Adelaide using the little-used desalination plant.
The plant was commissioned in 2007 at the height of the millennium drought. It can produce up to 100 gigalitres of water a year – enough to fill 40,000 olympic sized swimming pools. But has been used sparingly, operating at its minimum mode of
8 gigalitres a year, because of the expense of turning seawater into freshwater.
Adelaide has continued to mostly draw water from local reservoirs and the River Murray, which on average has supplied about half the city’s water (sometimes much more).
But with federal funding, the desal plant will be turned on full bore. This will free up 100 gigalitres of water from the Murray River allocated to Adelaide for use by farmers upstream in the Murray Darling’s southern basin.
The federal government expects the water to be used to grow an extra 120,000 tonnes of fodder for livestock. The water will be sold to farmers at a discount rate of A$100 a megalitre. That’s 10 cents per 1,000 litres.
By comparison, the residential price for that water in Adelaide would be A$2.39 to A$3.70 per 1,000 litres.
The production cost of desalinated water is about 95 cents per 1,000 litres when there’s rainwater already stored, according to a cost-benefit study published by the SA Department of Environment and Water in 2016. That means the total cost for the 100 gigalitres will be about A$95 million.
So the federal government is effectively paying A$95 million to sell water for A$10 million: a loss to taxpayers of A$85 million.
The discounted water provided to individual farmers will be capped at no more than 25 megalitres. The farmers must agree to not sell the water to others and to use it to grow fodder for livestock.
There are many different forms of fodder but livestock producers most favour lucerne hay because it is highly nutritious. But it is also more expensive than cereal, pasture or straw hay.
The amount of hay that can be grown with a megalitre of irrigation water depends on many things, but 120,000 tonnes with 100 gigalitres is possible in the right conditions.
In the Murray-Darling southern basin lucerne hay currently sells for A$450 to A$600 a tonne. That would make the market value of 120,000 tonnes of lucerne A$54 million to A$72 million.
It means, on a best-case scenario, the federal government will be spending A$85 million to subsidise the production of hay worth A$72 million to its producers.
In practice farms and farmers are incredible diverse, so not all irrigators will necessarily grow lucerne. Alternative fodders such as pasture or cereal hay generally have much lower market values. Which meaning the value of the fodder produced may be much less than the best-case scenario.
It’s worrying that this policy shows such little regard for farming realities. It appears to have been crafted on the premise that every farmer has the same land, the same equipment and the same needs.
Dictating the water must be used for a single purpose runs counter to the needs of the agriculture sector. If farmers could put it to a more effective use, why not allow it?
In addition, it’s not clear how all the monitoring will be done to maintain compliance over such a restrictive regime.
What measures will prevent farmers buying the discounted water and then simply selling an equivalent amount of any carry-over allocation at the going rate of up to $1,000 a megalitre?
How will the government distinguish between the fodder grown with the 25 megalitres provided at low cost and any other fodder harvested on the same farm? How much will it cost to monitor and enforce such arrangements?
The difficulty of answering these types of questions is precisely the reason why countries in the former eastern bloc failed to adequately provide for their populations. Telling people what crop to grow, when to grow, how to water the crop and how it should be consumed has not worked in the past. Farm businesses that respond to prices and use inputs, including water, in a way that suits their long- term commercial needs are generally better off.
It seems a long way from the type of national drought policy Australia needs. It’s hard to see how a policy of this kind does anything other than waste a large amount of public money and disrupt important market mechanisms in agriculture in the process.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten have been criss-crossing the country for weeks to spruik their parties’ candidates in Saturday’s all-important byelections – a key test for both the Liberals and Labor ahead of the next federal election.
Here’s what you need to know about the five electorates up for grabs and, with a federal election likely in the first half of 2019, what’s at stake for Turnbull and Shorten.
Chris Salisbury, Research Associate, University of Queensland
Longman’s very marginal status, held by Labor’s Susan Lamb by a slim 0.8% prior to her High Court-enforced resignation, makes this race the most tightly contested on Saturday.
Seasoned observers expect this to go the way of most byelection contests – largely distanced from broader federal concerns. Local issues are at play, dominated by arguments over funding for the Caboolture hospital in the electorate north of Brisbane, as well as for local education and employment support services.
Yet, the race is also being touted by some as a judgement on the major parties’ signature economic policies, and significantly on the performances of both party leaders. Labor has campaigned hard on the merits of the Coalition’s proposed company tax cuts. The Liberals, meanwhile, have fanned fears among retirees about Labor’s proposed investment savings changes.
Longman is a typical marginal seat in the outer suburban fringe, home to what a dozen years ago would have been called “Howard’s battlers”. The electorate provides a platform for the major parties to road-test policy differentiation and campaign messages on “average voters” ahead of the next federal election.
It’s also fertile ground for the growing distrust of mainstream politics. One Nation’s Pauline Hanson has been prominent in the electorate, attempting to capitalise on negative voter sentiment toward the major parties. Her party even enlisted former Labor leader Mark Latham’s support, voicing robocalls to local residents attacking Shorten.
Lamb is attempting to be re-elected to the seat she won unexpectedly from the LNP’s Wyatt Roy in 2016. She benefits from recognition as the incumbent and has the strong backing of her party leader. Shorten made a beeline for Longman ahead of the announcement of the byelection date to spruik his candidate.
LNP’s Trevor Ruthenburg also enjoys recognition of sorts as a previous state MP for nearby Kallangur. However, he might have spurned some conservative Longman voters with fresh revelations of an incorrectly claimed military service medal in his Queensland parliament biography.
Among the minor party candidates, One Nation’s Matthew Stephen will also need to overcome questions regarding his business dealings to build on his party’s 9.4% primary vote in the 2016 election.
Labor’s concerted campaigning has Lamb a slight favourite to be returned. However, a Coalition win might convince Turnbull to call an early election. This then raises the question: could a poor result for Labor put enough pressure on Shorten to prompt the party to change leaders to better combat the PM’s standing?
Michael Lester, PhD candidate, University of Tasmania
For an election that won’t change the status quo in parliament, the Braddon byelection is getting a great deal of attention.
Braddon is a notoriously fickle electorate, having changed hands four times since 1996, and the margins are always tight. This election is no different. All the polls indicate it is a close race.
In 2016, Labor’s Justine Keay won the seat with a 2.2% lead over then-sitting Liberal member Brett Whiteley. She was later forced to resign after her UK citizenship was revealed. Both candidates are standing again, but neither is considered to have strong personal followings.
Polls in the first week of July showed the gap between the parties has narrowed. This means the result will likely come down to the preferences of independents and minor parties, particularly the Greens’ Jarrod Edwards, the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party candidate Brett Neal and independent Craig Garland. All three are likely to favour Labor.
The differences between the campaign styles and tactics of the two major parties are striking.
The Liberals have used incumbency at both the state and federal level to frame their campaign around their economic records and budget infrastructure spending, holding photo opportunities around a series of project announcements.
Labor, meanwhile, is using the campaign to road-test a swag of policies and messages. Key among them are wage stagnation, the loss of penalty rates, the “scourge of labour hire companies”, the bad behaviour of banks and the Liberals’ support for corporate tax cuts.
Shorten took most by surprise by also promising an AU$25 million grant to support a Tasmanian AFL team at a time when the Aussie game is in crisis in one of its foundation states. However, Labor seems to be getting better traction with promises to restore funding for essential services like health care and education.
The real impact of the Braddon byelection is likely to be on the political future of the two party leaders, the timing of the next federal election and the choice of the policies they choose to run on.
Rob Manwaring, Senior Lecturer, Politics and Public Policy, Flinders University
The campaign in Mayo is symptomatic of a wider problem that has beset Liberals in South Australia – a failure to lock in so-called blue-ribbon safe seats.
Mayo is now a straight two-way fight between the incumbent Centre Alliance’s Rebekah Sharkie and Liberal Georgina Downer. Downer’s success or failure could well be a strong signifier of the strength of Malcolm Turnbull’s government.
Polling has Sharkie on track to hold onto the seat, despite her citizenship problems triggering the byelection. A late-June Reachtel poll had Sharkie leading Downer by 62% to 38% in two-candidate voting.
Sharkie’s surge in the polls is striking, given that a large part of her win over then-Liberal Jamie Briggs in 2013 seemed to rest on the personal unpopularity of Briggs.
Yet, as has been proven in state-level races in South Australia before, voters in notionally safe “non-Labor” seats are often reluctant to give up strong local independents. Despite its disappointing showing in the recent state election, the Xenophon team retains deep residual support in South Australia.
The Mayo campaign is an intriguing confluence of local and national issues. Sharkie is pushing hard on a range of local issues, and her support to have the Great Australian Bight listed for World Heritage status to safeguard it from oil drilling also targets a perceived weakness of Downer’s – environment issues.
Downer, seeking to secure her family dynasty, is playing to different strengths – especially her close network with the Liberal hierarchy. (She is the daughter of former foreign minister Alexander.) Since announcing her candidacy, Downer has had notable visits from Turnbull and others. She boasts influence unavailable to her rivals, evidenced by her securing of federal funding for a new aquatic centre in Mount Barker.
Strikingly, immigration has become a new issue in the campaign. Downer’s comments about immigration may stoke local fears that the Inverbrackie site will be re-opened for mainland asylum seeker detentions.
Ian Cook, Senior Lecturer of Australian Politics, Murdoch University
Labor will win both races being contested in Western Australia in Saturday’s byelections. That’s not a brave prediction. The Liberals aren’t running candidates.
Some analysts believe it was the wrong decision by the Liberals, given that a minimal campaigning effort wouldn’t have cost that much and it’s unclear how voters will react when the Liberals do put up candidates in the federal election.
But the decision actually makes a lot of sense. Labor has held both seats – Perth and Fremantle – for much of their existence. (The electorates were created in 1901.) Labor even held on in Fremantle in the 1975 election, which was the last time it lost Perth.
On top of this, the WA Liberals had been swept from government last year as a result of a 20% swing against them across the state. And there were no signs of the federal Liberals doing much to change anything.
So, while Perth’s 3.3% margin looks close, the Liberals chose not to run a candidate there. Likewise in Fremantle, which is even less competitive, with a margin of 7.5%. The decision not only saves the Liberals money, it won’t expose their weak support in WA.
The Liberals’ decision not to run in Perth and Fremantle has brought the Greens more into the spotlight. With no other seats to talk about and no major party competition to drown them out, the Greens should be able to do something meaningful in these byelections.
Perth and Fremantle are exactly the type of inner metropolitan seat the Greens should be favoured to win, but their candidates have never gained more than 18% of first-preference voting in previous contests in the electorates. And nothing looks likely to change this time around.
If Greens candidates can’t put themselves in a position to win Perth and Fremantle in these byelections and demonstrate they are to be a meaningful political force, then they likely never will.
Rob Manwaring, Senior Lecturer, Politics and Public Policy, Flinders University; Chris Salisbury, Research Associate, The University of Queensland; Ian Cook, Senior Lecturer of Australian Politics, and Michael Lester, PhD candidate, University of Tasmania
Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten have entered the final week of the high-stakes Longman and Braddon byelections both publicly cautious about their prospects.
Latest polls show close numbers in the two seats, held by the ALP by narrow margins. These are the crucial contests in the five Super Saturday playoffs. Labor has a clear run in the two Western Australian seats; Mayo (South Australia) is between crossbencher Rebekha Sharkie and the Liberals’ candidate Georgina Downer.
In Longman (Queensland), a ReachTEL poll commissioned by the Courier Mail has the Liberal National Party leading Labor 51-49%. In Braddon (Tasmania), where Labor has become increasingly confident, a poll commissioned by the forestry industry and also done by ReachTEL shows Labor on 52% of the two-party vote, although its primary vote is only 34.3%.
But polling in single seats has to be treated with particular caution.
The outcomes in Longman and Braddon are vital for Shorten, who would face very serious leadership instability if he lost both seats, and a rough patch if the ALP were defeated in one. Labor frontbencher Anthony Albanese has been positioning ahead of Super Saturday.
Shorten, speaking on Sunday in Longman at Susan Lamb’s formal campaign launch, said: “We are the underdogs”.
“The bookmakers have the other mob as the favourites. Now of course the LNP and the One Nation political party have teamed up again and are swapping preferences just to try to knock us off”.
In a strong attack on Pauline Hanson, Shorten said she didn’t like being called out for “pretending to be a friend of the battlers when all she wants to do is to get back on the plane to Canberra and vote with the big end of town”.
The size of the One Nation vote, where it comes from, and how its preferences split in practice will be critical in the Longman result.
One Nation has been targeting Shorten fiercely in its advertising. For example, he is depicted with a sheep and the message, “This year Bill Shorten and Susan Lamb voted with The Greens 100% of the time”.
Asked on Sunday whether he was encouraged by the polling in Longman, Turnbull said that on all the evidence the byelections appeared to be “very close” but “Labor should be streets ahead”.
“By-elections historically always swing away from the government. Particularly if it’s an opposition seat. The last time a government won a seat in a by-election from the opposition was about 100 years ago and there’s a reason for that.”
He said people in Longman and Braddon, as well as in Mayo, had “the opportunity to say what they think about Bill Shorten’s plan for higher taxes and more expensive electricity and his plan for weaker borders”.
Turnbull was in the Queensland seat of Herbert ahead of a visit to Tennant Creek in the Northern Territory.
On Saturday, campaigning in Longman with LNP candidate Trevor Ruthenberg , Turnbull said “Trev’s got the odds against him but he’s a great candidate. He’s a straight shooter. He’s as honest as he is big!”. He could “absolutely” win, although it was “tough”.
Both sides are throwing around the dollars in multiple promises in Longman and Braddon. Labor’s promises could only be made good if the ALP won the general election next year.
Five federal byelections will be held on July 28 – four in Labor-held seats and one held by the Centre Alliance. In the Western Australian seats of Perth and Fremantle, the Liberals are not contesting, and Labor is expected to easily retain. In the South Australian seat of Mayo, the Centre Alliance’s Rebekha Sharkie has a large poll lead over the Liberals’ Georgina Downer.
The contested seats are thus the Tasmanian seat of Braddon (Labor by 2.2%) and the Queensland seat of Longman (Labor by 0.8%). Polls close at 6pm Melbourne time in Braddon and Longman, 6:30pm in Mayo and 8pm in Perth and Fremantle.
In Braddon, the Labor candidate, Susan Keay, held the seat until she was forced out through the citizenship saga. The Liberal candidate, Brett Whiteley, was the member until the 2016 election, so there will be little advantage for Keay from being well-known. A similar situation applies in Longman.
As noted in the article below, seat polls are unreliable, and there could be large errors in either direction.
At the 2016 election, One Nation recommended preferences to Labor in Longman, and Labor won 56.5% of their preferences. At the byelection, One Nation is recommending preferences to the LNP — this could be crucial.
On July 17, The Courier Mail revealed that Longman LNP candidate Trevor Ruthenberg had a lesser military medal than he had claimed on his parliamentary website while a state MP. On July 19, the same paper revealed Ruthenberg had also claimed the higher medal on his personal website. Ruthenberg has apologised and said it was an honest mistake.
A Longman ReachTEL poll for The Courier Mail, conducted July 18 from an unknown sample, gave the LNP a 51-49 lead over Labor, unchanged since late June. Primary votes were 37.9% LNP (Ruthenberg) (up 2.4%), 35.8% Labor (Susan Lamb) (down 3.2%), 13.9% One Nation (down 0.8%), 4.2% Greens (up 0.9%), 4.3% for all Others and 3.9% undecided.
Labor’s weaker primary vote is being compensated by a stronger flow of respondent allocated preferences. 41% thought Ruthenberg’s medal error an honest mistake, 33% a deliberate error and 27% a careless mistake.
In Braddon, a ReachTEL poll for the Australian Forestry Products Association, conducted July 19 from an unknown sample, gave Labor a 52-48 lead over the Liberals, a 2.5-point gain for Labor since analyst Kevin Bonham’s estimate of a July 6 ReachTEL poll for the left-wing Australia Institute, and a six-point gain for Labor since a Sky News ReachTEL poll in late May.
Primary votes were 40.7% Liberal (Whiteley), 34.3% Labor (Keay), 8.9% for independent Craig Garland, 6.7% for the Greens and 4.6% undecided. 22% of undecided voters were leaning to Labor and just 11% to the Liberals. 67% of all non-major party preferences were going to Labor.
Garland supports a moratorium on salmon fishing expansion, and is recommending preferences to Labor ahead of the Liberals.
In the Australia Institute ReachTEL, 37% thought the company tax rate for businesses with over $50 million in turnover should be reduced, 37% kept the same and 20% increased. The question is better than previous Australian Institute questions on this topic, which gave examples of large businesses – banks, mining companies and supermarkets.
A total of 68% supported penalty rates for workers in the hospitality and retail industries, and just 23% were opposed.
I believe Labor’s biggest problem in Braddon is the March 2018 Tasmanian election, in which the Liberals won easily.
Update Monday morning: Galaxy has conducted polls of Braddon, Longman and Mayo for the News Ltd tabloids. In Longman, the LNP led by 51-49 from primary votes of Labor 37%, LNP 34% and One Nation 18%. In Braddon, there was a 50-50 tie. In Mayo, Sharkie led Downer by an emphatic 59-41. If Anthony Albanese were Labor leader, Labor would lead by 53-47 in both Longman and Braddon.
Last week’s Newspoll, conducted July 12-15 from a sample of 1,640, gave Labor a 51-49 lead, unchanged on three weeks ago. Primary votes were 38% Coalition (down one), 36% Labor (down one), 10% Greens (up one) and 7% One Nation (up one).
This was Malcolm Turnbull’s 36th successive Newspoll loss, six more than Tony Abbott, and three more than the previous record for a government. The total vote for left- vs right-of-centre parties was unchanged at 46-45 to the left.
41% were satisfied with Turnbull’s performance (down one), and 49% were dissatisfied (up one), for a net approval of -8, the first decline in Turnbull’s net approval since early April. Bill Shorten’s net approval was up one point to -24. Turnbull led Shorten by 48-29 as better PM (46-31 previously); this was Turnbull’s biggest lead since May 2016.
By 72-23, voters approved of the reduction in the number of immigrants to below 165,000 in the last year, down from an annual cap of 190,000.
By 40-34, voters thought Turnbull and the Coalition better at maintaining energy supply and keeping power prices lower than Shorten and Labor, a reversal of a 39-37 Labor lead in late May. 64% thought the government’s priority should be to keep energy prices down, 24% meet targets to cut greenhouse gas emissions and 9% prevent blackouts.
By 58-32, Australians were dissatisfied with Donald Trump’s performance as US president, with One Nation voters giving Trump his best ratings (63-29 satisfied). This poll was taken before the controversial Helsinki summit.
The better PM statistic virtually always favours the incumbent PM given voting intentions, and it means very little at elections. The final pre-election 2016 Newspoll gave Turnbull a 48-31 better PM lead, yet the Coalition barely clung to a majority. The PM’s net approval correlates much better with voting intentions.
Last week’s Essential poll, conducted July 12-15 from a sample of 1,014, gave Labor a 51-49 lead, a one-point gain for the Coalition since three weeks ago. Primary votes were 40% Coalition (steady), 36% Labor (down one), 10% Greens (down one) and 6% One Nation (steady). Essential is still using 2016 preference flows, and this poll would probably be 50-50 by Newspoll’s new method.
There appears to have been a shift towards support for coal power. By 40-38, voters agreed that the government should fund up to $5 billion to build new coal-fired plants or extend the life of existing ones. By 47-24, they agreed that coal-fired power is cheaper than power generated by renewables.
38% (up one since April) thought the government should prioritise renewable energy, 16% (up three) thought they should prioritise coal and 34% (down one) thought both should be treated equally.
By 73-20, voters supported banning plastic bags in supermarkets. By 57-36, voters thought it would change their behaviour as a consumer. 46% both agreed and disagreed that the plastic bag ban was simply an attempt by supermarkets to reduce costs.
On July 6, the UK cabinet agreed on a soft Brexit. On July 8-9, hard Brexit cabinet ministers David Davis and Boris Johnson resigned in protest. Despite the anger of hard Brexiteers, I believe PM Theresa May is likely to survive, as explained on my personal website.
Hard Brexiteers do not have the numbers to oust her within the parliamentary Conservatives, and there is little common ground between the Conservative right and Labour, so parliamentary cooperation between them will only happen occasionally.
In polls conducted since the resignations of Davis and Johnson, some of the Conservative vote has gone to the UK Independence Party (UKIP), giving Labour a 4-5 point lead in the last three polls. The Conservatives had adopted UKIP’s rhetoric on Brexit, but now that they have settled on a soft Brexit, natural UKIP support is returning.
At the Mexican election held on July 1, the left-wing presidential candidate, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, won a landslide with 53.2% of the vote. Left-wing parties won a majority in both chambers of the Mexican legislature. Details are on my personal website.
More than two decades ago Alexander Downer stood aside as opposition leader for John Howard, paving the way for the 1996 Coalition election win. This week Howard was in Mayo, his former foreign minister’s one-time South Australian seat, campaigning for Downer’s daughter Georgina.
When the Super Saturday byelections were called, the Liberals thought they had a good chance to pick up Mayo, lost in 2016 to Rebekha Sharkie, from the Nick Xenophon Team (now Centre Alliance).
Sharkie resigned in the citizenship crisis. The Liberals initially believed Downer was an ideal candidate, despite her living in Melbourne. But soon polling suggested another story – Sharkie was leading Downer 62-38% in polls last month.
Some Liberals talk about a two-stage assault on the seat, arguing that if Downer doesn’t win this time, she’ll be well set up for next year’s election.
Well, not if you look at the history. If Sharkie can hold off the Liberals on July 28, she should be in a strong position for the general election.
It’s very hard for a crossbencher to get into the House of Representatives. But when they do, these small players can be difficult to blast out.
Andrew Wilkie won the Tasmanian seat of Denison from Labor in 2010, and retained it in 2013 and 2016. Cathy McGowan wrested Indi (Victoria) from Liberal frontbencher Sophie Mirabella in 2013, to be easily re-elected in 2016.
The late Peter Andren held Calare (NSW) from 1996 until he stepped down before the 2007 election. He had taken the seat from Labor; subsequently it has been in Nationals’ hands.
Tony Windsor grabbed New England from the Nationals in 2001 and won three subsequent elections, retiring before the 2013 election. He almost certainly would have lost if he had contested then, but that was because of special circumstances – although from a conservative electorate, he’d sided with the Gillard government in the hung parliament. Windsor failed in a bid to oust Barnaby Joyce from the seat in 2016.
It was a similar story with Rob Oakeshott, who won the Nationals seat of Lyne (NSW) at a 2008 byelection, retained it in 2010, then backed the Labor government. He didn’t contest in 2013 (he too appeared headed for defeat), but he drastically reduced the Nationals’ margin in Cowper in 2016.
Bob Katter was elected as a National in 1993 but quit the party in 2001, comfortably winning several elections as an independent. In 2011 he launched the Katter’s Australian Party; his victory was tight in 2013 but easier in 2016.
The Greens Adam Bandt has a stranglehold on the seat of Melbourne.
Crossbenchers who are successful in House of Representative seats seem to forge a special bond with their communities. In this time of massive disillusionment with politics and distrust of politicians, they are often seen by their constituents as a different sort of beast, as “our” person, less tainted than those from the big parties.
This came through in University of Canberra’s Institute for Governance and Policy Analysis (IGPA) research before the 2016 election in Indi, where voters were full of praise for McGowan, although with the caveat that her independent status meant she lacked power.
It’s only when a parliament is “hung” or nearly so, that lower house crossbenchers gain serious clout.
IGPA has conducted four focus groups in Mayo this week. The 39 participants, covering all age groups, were “soft” voters, currently unaligned or rethinking their position from the last election.
Sharp messages emerge in the report by IGPA director Mark Evans and Max Halupka.
Sharkie is seen as having performed well, as visible and approachable, engaging and caring. She’s viewed as part of Mayo (“she bleeds Mayo”; “she works, acts and lives in Mayo and has Mayo in her heart”). The dual citizenship issue isn’t held against her.
Downer, despite her family background, is regarded as an outsider; “entitled”, “privileged”, “snobby”, “stuck up” are adjectives used about her. Not one participant argued in support of her. In contrast, her father was seen as “Mayo through and through”.
Evans and Halupka conclude: “Sharkie and Downer are perceived to represent two very different Mayos. Downer represents old ‘blue ribbon’ Mayo (as did the disgraced [former Liberal member] Jamie Briggs), home to the Adelaide elite and Sharkie represents new Mayo which is reflected with changing community demographics which include households from a much broader range of income groups including young families who are looking for active community minded representation.”
These Mayo voters disdain the behaviour of federal politicians and “adversarial politics”; they are appalled by the Leyonhjelm affair; they want cross-party co-operation on key matters, especially energy, growth and the environment, which are issues they’re concerned about.
They trust Sharkie; they don’t trust ministers or Bill Shorten. They want conviction politicians and politics. “Turnbull is viewed to be performing better but is still perceived to be lacking conviction; Shorten is purely viewed as a ‘negative politician’ or ‘spoiler’,” Evans and Halupka say.
While there is no statistical significance in these focus group numbers, the trend is notable. “All of the Labor voters last time are moving to either [Sharkie] or the Greens candidate [Major Sumner]. And half the Liberal voters are moving to her.
“On the basis of this tiny sample Labor is collapsing and Shorten is performing very badly across all cohorts particularly amongst former Labor voters.
“Sharkie’s supporters believe that her independence from party is an absolute virtue.” (“I like her because she’s not associated with the big parties and she’s local and cares,” said one participant.)
It should be added that Labor, with no chance in this seat, is mainly interested in boosting Sharkie’s vote via preferences. It is giving Mayo perfunctory attention – its overwhelming focus is on defending its very marginal seats of Longman (Queensland) and Braddon (Tasmania).
In campaigning, Sharkie is getting support from other crossbenchers, with McGowan, Wilkie, and even Katter pitching in. She’s raised $65,000 in micro donations, and recruited more than 800 volunteers.
Given that communities bond with their crossbencher MPs, it becomes a challenge for the major parties to decide the best way to campaign against them.
In particular, will the heavily negative campaign the Liberals are now running against Sharkie eat into her support in these late days, or will people just see this as picking on someone they like?
The conventional wisdom is that negative campaigning works. But trying to knock out an opponent who’s seen as something of a local champion can be a tough ask, as the Liberals are finding.
The Centre Alliance’s Rebekha Sharkie, who quit parliament in the citizenship crisis, has an early lead in her fight to win back her South Australian seat of Mayo, according to a ReachTEL poll.
Sharkie is ahead of her opponent, the high-profile Liberal Georgina Downer, 58% to 42% on a two-party basis.
The poll was commissioned by the Australia Institute, a progressive think tank.
The Liberals have been hopeful of capturing Mayo, thus increasing their parliamentary majority. They held the seat until Sharkie, as part of the Nick Xenophon Team (since renamed the Centre Alliance) won it in 2016 from Jamie Briggs, who earlier had to resign from the ministry over a personal indiscretion.
Georgina Downer is the daughter of Alexander Downer, a former occupant of the seat who was foreign minister in the Howard government.
The vote is on July 28, when five byelections will be held in a Super Saturday across the country. The Liberals believe the long campaign will favour them in Mayo because Sharkie has much less in terms of resources. She is, however, well known in the electorate.
The poll has her on a 40.1% primary vote, with Downer on 34.4%. Labor is polling 7.7%; the Greens 10.7%. The vote for “other/independent” is 3.5%, with 3.6% undecided. The sample was 1031 with polling on the night of June 5.
The poll also asked whether company tax for large companies like banks, mining companies and supermarkets should be increased, kept the same or decreased. The results were: increased, 25.4%; kept the same, 44.9%; decreased, 24.8%.
People were overwhelmingly opposed to the banks receiving a company tax cut (69.1% against).
Asked how they would prefer to spend the $80 billion proposed to be spent on company tax cuts, 51.4% chose “infrastructure and government services like health and education”, 6.5% said personal income tax cuts, 29.1% said decreasing the deficit and repaying debt, and 8.7% said proceeding with the company tax cuts.
Asked how the Senate should vote on the third stage of the budget’s income tax policy, which “removes the 37-cent income tax bracket altogether, meaning someone earning $41.000 would pay the same marginal tax rate as someone earning $200,000”, about two thirds (65.3%) said the Senate should oppose it, while 25.2% said it should vote in support.
New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia are currently affected by a massive complex low pressure system, dropping temperatures and bringing rain, hail, wind and snow.
While complex low pressure systems like this come along every year or so, some Australians may be feeling whiplash after a particularly warm autumn.
Typically, as Victoria and Tasmania head into winter we see cold fronts that move from west to east, generating rain and thunderstorms. This weather system started off like that, but developed into a complex low that will stay with us for the rest of the week.
It’s the kind of weather system you see on average once every year or two. What is a little unusual is to see such a deep pool of cold Antarctic air so early in May. Canberra, for example, is forecast to have a maximum of 9℃ on Friday – which would be its coldest day in the first half of May since 1970.
In weather-speak, “complex” describes a weather system with an intricate structure. Starting as a cold front across Victoria and Tasmania, this complex low now has multiple low-pressure centres at the surface, and is interacting with a broad low-pressure system in the upper levels of the atmosphere. These upper and low-level weather systems reinforce each other.
The other factor contributing to the complexity is the warmer waters of the Tasman Sea. The East Australian Current brings warmer waters down the east coast, raising ocean surface temperatures in the Tasman Sea relative to the neighbouring Bass Strait and Southern Ocean. When these low pressure systems develop over the western Tasman Sea, that warm water provides a lot more energy through evaporation.
When all the elements align, with a cold front and its associated cold air mass moving over warm water, beneath an upper-level low in the same place providing reinforcement, a deep and complex low-pressure system can develop.
The Bureau of Meteorology usually has several days’ indication that a system like this may form, but development of multiple low-pressure centres at the surface makes it tricky to predict exactly where local impacts will strike.
These small-scale low-pressure centres influence exactly where the heaviest rain or strongest winds will be, as do features of the landscape like mountain ranges.
While we can make broad predictions of what may be on the way, it’s not until we get closer to the event that we can really start to be more specific about rainfall totals, wind speeds, and so on.
The Bureau gets minute-to-minute readings from our Automatic Weather Stations, but we have the ability increase the frequency of some of our measurements (for example, at the moment we have increased the frequency of weather balloon releases at Hobart airport), to get additional information about the atmosphere.
This system will move fairly slowly over the next couple of days, and different elements will impact different parts of Australia.
We’ve got cold air, wind and showers over Victoria and southern New South Wales at the moment, but there are parts of the east coast that are still quite warm today. Tasmania is starting to see windy conditions in Hobart and rain developing, and potentially heavy rain through the east of the state over the next couple of days.
Once the cold air moves further north into NSW we’ll expect snow at lower levels as far north as the Central Tablelands, and then as we move into the weekend the low pressure system will move out into the Tasman Sea.
We’ll then start to see swell increase, as the ocean responds to the weather system. Heavy swell and hazardous surf conditions could push well north along the NSW coast and potentially into southern Queensland by early next week.
Currently, severe weather warnings for wind have been issued across parts of South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales and Tasmania. Heavy rain warnings and flood watches are in place in Victoria, and flood watches and warnings are current in Tasmania as well.
Other specific warnings provide important information for those on the land – the Bureau has alerted sheep graziers, for example, to the impacts of cold, wet and windy conditions on exposed livestock.
While these warnings are all fairly standard for this kind of weather system, always follow the advice of emergency services. We’re the weather experts, but they’re certainly the experts on preparing for hazardous weather!
We’d also advise everyone to keep up with the forecasts and warnings on the Bureau of Meteorology over the next few days.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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%).
Incumbent 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.