Byelection guide: what’s at stake on Super Saturday


Rob Manwaring, Flinders University; Chris Salisbury, The University of Queensland; Ian Cook, and Michael Lester, University of Tasmania

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.


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Longman

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.




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Grattan on Friday: ‘Super Saturday’ is not so super in Labor’s eyes


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?


Braddon

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.

Both Turnbull and Shorten have made multiple visits to campaign for their candidates, with support also coming from of a host of their cabinet and shadow cabinet colleagues.

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.




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VIDEO: Michelle Grattan on the federal government’s tax package, the ABC and the ‘Super Saturday’ byelections


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.


Mayo

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.




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Grattan on Friday: Disillusioned voters find it easy to embrace a crossbencher like Rebekha Sharkie


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.


Perth and Fremantle

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.




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Some Liberals may have regretted the move after the party won the byelection for the state seat of Darling Range last month, but Labor got a lot wrong in that campaign.

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.

The ConversationIf 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

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

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Leaders seek underdog status in byelection battle to be top dog


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

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.




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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”.

Anti-Labor corflute in the federal electorate of Longman in Queensland.
Supplied

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.”




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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”.

The ConversationBoth 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.

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

As Super Saturday nears, Labor gains poll lead in Braddon, but trails in Longman, while UK Tories slump



File 20180722 142432 1g5vwny.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
The Longman byelection is so tightly contested it has drawn many senior politicians to campaign. Here Labor candidate Susan Lamb is flanked by Shadow Minister for Skills, TAFE and Apprenticeships Doug Cameron, and Deputy Leader of the Opposition Tanya Plibersek.
AAP/Glenn Hunt

Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

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.




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Poll wrap: Labor and LNP tied in Longman, Sharkie’s massive lead in Mayo, but can we trust seat polls?


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.




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ReachTEL polls: Labor trailing in Longman and Braddon, and how Senate changes helped the Coalition


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.

National Newspoll: 51-49 to Labor

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.

Essential: 51-49 to Labor

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.

UK Conservatives lose support to UKIP after soft Brexit

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.

In brief: Mexican election detailed results

The ConversationAt 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.

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

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

Grattan on Friday: Disillusioned voters find it easy to embrace a crossbencher like Rebekha Sharkie


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

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).




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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.




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VIDEO: Michelle Grattan on the Mayo byelection and crossbenchers in the parliament


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 ConversationThe 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.

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

Liberals’ Georgina Downer trailing in early Mayo poll


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

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.

The ConversationAsked 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.

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

Here’s how a complex low-pressure system sent temperatures plummeting



File 20180510 5968 1dba37n.png?ixlib=rb 1.1
The complex low weather system currently swirling over south-eastern Australia.
Bureau of Meteorology

Adam Morgan, Australian Bureau of Meteorology

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.

Complex lows

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.




Read more:
Cold weather is a bigger killer than extreme heat – here’s why


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.

Difficult to predict

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.

Weather warnings

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.

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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!




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The ConversationWe’d also advise everyone to keep up with the forecasts and warnings on the Bureau of Meteorology over the next few days.

Adam Morgan, Senior Meteorologist, Australian Bureau of Meteorology

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.




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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.




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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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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.

What we’re looking for in Australia’s Space Agency: views from NSW and SA



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We’re all waiting to hear what shape Australia’s Space Agency will take.
from www.shutterstock.com

Andrew Dempster, UNSW and Alice Gorman, Flinders University

It’s been a long time coming, but Australia is finally going to have a Space Agency. This will enable Australian space industries to benefit from agency-to-agency agreements and collaborations, and facilitate our participation in the growing global space market.

The Federal Government appointed an Expert Review Panel to map out how the Agency should operate. As we wait for its report – the final strategy was scheduled to be submitted in March 2018 – two space experts offer their perspectives on what we might expect.




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What will an Australian Space Agency need in terms of people, resources and infrastructure?

Andrew Dempster:

It seems clear there is a real appetite on both sides of politics for an agency for our times, that embraces the excitement being generated by “Space 2.0” – that is, commercial entities, low-cost access to space and avoiding some of the baggage of the older legacy agencies.

It’s likely the focus will be on growing the Australian space industry, with less emphasis on space exploration, human space flight and space science. However, for the agency to have any impact or credibility, the people, resources and infrastructure must be provided at an adequate level.

I have in the past pointed to the UK agency as a good model – it basically cost “nothing” initially and significant funding followed when it succeeded. Now, I don’t think we can afford to replicate this in Australia. The agency needs to be properly funded from the beginning. Penny-pinching will kill it.




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Alice Gorman:

We’ve been here before and seen how a lack of resourcing plays out. The 1980s Australian Space Board was managed by a small office within the Department of Industry, Technology and Commerce, but it fizzled out after ten years and we were back to square one. There’s a strong feeling in the Australian space community that a substantial investment in a stand-alone agency is the only way to avoid another death by bureaucracy.

In terms of personnel, we’ll need leadership with credibility and experience in the global space arena, people familiar with how existing space activities across government departments work, and probably there’ll be a role for some kind of advisory or expert panels.

The structure will also be important. NASA, for example, runs 11 research centres, and the European Space Agency has nine centres or facilities, including the Kourou launch site in French Guiana. They support human spaceflight programs as well as deep space exploration. Both organisations use private contractors, and large chunks of the private space sector rely on them as clients. This is not a model that Australia can sustain.

Personally, I think it’s critical that the new agency also takes Indigenous interests on board. Indigenous people can’t be left out of conversations about the future of Australian space technologies.




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How strongly should the Space Agency be linked with Defence programs?

Andrew Dempster:

Recently the Australian Strategic Policy Institute argued that we must develop a solid space industry for our own strategic and Defence needs. However, strong industries such as that in the US have a dominant civilian space sector.

So I would argue that to avoid this strategic weakness, it is more important to reinforce the independence of the civilian agency from Defence. It is the job of the agency to ensure this independence. Being overly close to Defence is likely to hamper the current civilian commercial drive so effectively being driven by the start-up community. Having a thriving civilian space sector can only benefit Defence anyway.

Alice Gorman:

I agree with Andrew that forging a new civil and commercial space identity is essential.

Because the Woomera rocket launch site, one of our most significant space assets, is located in South Australia, as well as the Defence Science and Technology Group – which grew out of the Cold War weapons program – South Australia has traditionally been the focus of Defence-related space activities.

A recent rocket launch from Woomera, South Australia.
Defence Image Gallery

At this stage we can be hopeful that a properly funded space agency will allow equal participation across all states.

Where should Australia’s Space Agency be located?

Alice Gorman:

There’s interest in where the agency will be located because there will be jobs associated with it. I’ve had so many enquiries from acquaintances – and strangers – asking about this.

People probably are thinking it will be something like NASA, with a whole industrial complex. We’re not anything like that scale. Having said that, a Canberra-based headquarters supported by state-based centres makes a lot of sense.

Andrew Dempster:

I’ve written a lot about Australia’s space agency, and recently I outlined an example of why a federal approach is essential: using space assets to monitor the Murray Darling Basin to avoid water theft.




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In terms of location, I agree there will need to be an administrative presence in Canberra, to interact with the Federal Government. Other satellite sites should reflect where the action is.

If there are to be satellite offices, they need to be close to where the industry is currently active, and where it is developing. This may require some sort of representation in each state.

Senator Kim Carr’s recent announcement of Labor’s policy of several hubs and centres lends itself very well to distributed activity around the country. Bipartisanship on that issue would be very helpful.

Which Australian states have relevant space capabilities right now?

Alice Gorman:

I live in South Australia, so am naturally well acquainted with this state’s space achievements! A number of exciting new start-ups such as Fleet, Neumann Space and Myriota are based in Adelaide.

The South Australian Space Industry Centre funds space accelerator and incubator programs. Every year, we host the International Space University Southern Hemisphere Space Studies Program.




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The three universities in South Australia have strengths in satellite telecommunications, space law and space heritage. At the international level, South Australia has been developing relationships with the French national space agency (CNES), as well as French aerospace industries.

Andrew Dempster

I am from NSW so I have a particular interest in the NSW Department of Industry submission to the expert review panel. It suggested “the future Australian Space Agency should be based in NSW” and goes on to list 17 reasons why NSW dominates in space, such as having the largest space workforce, revenue, research effort, number of start-ups, venture capital and law presence.

The only centre funded by the Australian Research Council on space is in NSW, and two of the four satellites built and launched last year involved my university.

However, I don’t believe there is any benefit to highlighting one state over another. I’m with Raytheon Australia, whose official position is that state rivalry for Defence work is getting “hysterical” and we should be avoiding that with space work.




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Really exciting things are happening in space all over Australia. Australia’s launch company Gilmour Space Technologies operates out of Queensland. A lot of space start-ups are being nurtured by Moonshot X in Victoria. Western Australia boasts the Desert Fireball Network and the only Australian picosat (small satellite) developer, Picosat Systems. The ACT hosts the large testing facility, the Advanced Instrumentation and Technology Centre.

Alice Gorman:

Back in 1958, the beginning of the Space Age, Australia was one of the founding members of the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space. We’ve been kind of missing in action ever since.

The ConversationThe new Space Agency will allow us to have a credible voice on issues that may impact Australia – such as revisions to the international space treaties. It’s going to be exciting times ahead!

Andrew Dempster, Director, Australian Centre for Space Engineering Research; Professor, School of Electrical Engineering and Telecommunications, UNSW and Alice Gorman, Senior Lecturer in archaeology and space studies, Flinders University

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

Grattan on Friday: Tim Storer, the $35 billion man


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Put yourself in the shoes of Tim Storer. The accidental senator from South Australia has one hell of a decision to make shortly after the May budget, when the government plans to bring back its legislation to give tax cuts to big business.

A week ago the Coalition’s fairly confident hopes rested on Storer voting in favour of its A$35.6 billion package. A deal with Victorian crossbencher Derryn Hinch, whose vote also had to be secured, was seen as doable. Then Storer baulked, and the legislation’s future has again become anybody’s guess.

Think of the situation from Storer’s perspective. He has literally just arrived in the Senate, elected to replace a Nick Xenophon Team (NXT) victim of the citizenship crisis but sitting as an independent because of a stoush with his former party.

It’s amazing he’s there at all, and he’s not likely to be there long – one can’t see him re-elected next year. Now he has life-or-death sway over a key measure the government took to the 2016 poll. He has to ask himself whether he should use the extraordinary power that bizarre circumstances have given him to frustrate legislation on which the Coalition can argue it has a mandate.

On the other hand, as he said in his Wednesday Senate statement outlining his doubts about the bill, he is concerned about whether the budget can afford the cuts. And then, he noted, there’s the question of whether the money could be better spent on other things – infrastructure and the like.

When he was sworn in last week, Storer was escorted by the government and opposition Senate leaders, Mathias Cormann and Penny Wong. He chose his escorts. It was to signal his independence, and perhaps to flag that he saw himself as an active player.

He brings to the huge decision before him training in economics, and experience of business, especially in Asia. That presumably helps with evaluating the argument the government makes about the competitive importance of these cuts.

He also comes from a state with a history of federal politicians who focus locally when there are Commonwealth dollars to be had. Nick Xenophon once held up the Rudd government’s $42 billion economic stimulus package while he extracted water concessions that would benefit South Australia.

While Storer has been willing to engage with the government, and will continue to do so, if he eventually voted no, he’d be in line with his former party. The two NXT senators are opposed, despite the government trying to lure them.

Labor, fighting the tax cuts, also observes Storer’s past ALP membership as a sign of his general political orientation and thus perhaps a clue to his final decision.

But the government hopes more talking, more incentives, and perhaps the content of the budget might be enough to persuade him.

Parliament is off until the May 8 budget, when attention will turn from company tax to the government’s income tax plans – which are crucial as it tries to improve the community mood for the election due before mid-next year.

Politically, the budget will be preceded by a media feeding frenzy around the next Newspoll that – barring a miracle for Malcolm Turnbull – will be the 30th in which the Coalition trails Labor.

This will be a diversion, as attention harks back to Turnbull’s invoking 30 Newspolls against Tony Abbott. But with no challenger in sight, it won’t be a decisive moment – just another bout of bad publicity to be endured.

Abbott no doubt will make the most of it. But the more time that passes, the less relevance the former prime minister seems to have, despite a speculative story this week that he might he positioning for a tilt at the opposition leadership if Turnbull loses the election.

Abbott’s decision to launch Pauline Hanson’s book of speeches this week was eccentric and ill-judged.

Can anyone forget his toxic view of her two decades ago, when he established a fund to facilitate legal actions against One Nation and she ultimately ended up in jail? Now he is saying that “if over the last two decades we had been more ready to heed the message of people like Pauline Hanson and less quick to shoot the messenger, I think we would be a better country today”. The bitter enemies have turned into kissing cousins.

Hanson might have mellowed slightly second time around, and she is certainly helping the government in the Senate. But her politics should still be condemned by Liberals, certainly not given the sort of qualified endorsement Abbott extended.

Abbott said the only way the Coalition could win the election was if it could harvest One Nation’s preferences, and “if I can make that more likely, that is a very positive contribution that I can make to the prospects of the Turnbull government”.

His remarks at the book launch suggested a mix of conviction and expediency – regardless, they further fuel cynicism about our politicians.

Speaking of cynicism, one couldn’t miss how quickly some observers segued from the cricket scandal to political behaviour. But as they (rightly) criticise the errant Australian players, politicians would prefer to overlook awkward parallels with conduct in politics – for instance the endemic tampering with the ball of truth.

On Tuesday a fired-up Turnbull told a news conference: “I think there has to be the strongest action taken against this practice of sledging. It has got right out of control, it should have no place … on a cricket field.”

The ConversationAbsolutely. And also it has got out of control on the political field. But when a journalist interjected with “doesn’t it happen in parliament?”, Turnbull chose to let that pass without response.

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

As the Libs claim South Australia, states are falling into line behind the National Energy Guarantee


Kate Griffiths, Grattan Institute

Former prime minister Paul Keating used to say that when you change the government, you change the country. On Saturday South Australians changed their government, and now the country’s energy policy could finally change – and for the better, if current policy uncertainty is put to bed.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull certainly seems to think it will. He is already claiming the SA election result as an endorsement of his National Energy Guarantee.




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Incoming Liberal Premier Steven Marshall has consistently supported a national approach to energy policy, and on his first day in office he pledged to end South Australia’s go-it-alone approach.

But while South Australia’s support is vital, the National Energy Guarantee – which aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and ensure reliability in Australia’s National Electricity Market – is not a done deal yet.

Designing the guarantee

The independent Energy Security Board recommended a National Energy Guarantee last October, and the Turnbull government quickly adopted it as policy.

In November, at a meeting of the COAG Energy Council, New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania voted for work on a detailed design of the guarantee. South Australia and the ACT voted against (Queensland was absent).

The weekend’s election result seems to have brought South Australia into the tent; it certainly draws a line under the tensions between the outgoing premier, Jay Weatherill, and Federal Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg, which bubbled over in a public stoush last year.

But the ACT government still has concerns about the guarantee, and all states will be holding out for more detail on the policy.

In February the ESB released a consultation paper on the design of the guarantee, which indicated that there is much work still to be done.

The design should not be rushed – getting the detail right is crucial if Australia is to tackle climate change and maintain a reliable electricity supply at lowest cost.

The guarantee is a means to an end, not the end itself. It is neither pro-coal nor pro-renewables. It is a mechanism to achieve national targets. The emissions target itself – a 26-28% cut in greenhouse gas emissions relative to 2005 levels by 2030 – remains a political choice of the federal government.

The design must be sufficiently robust to produce the desired outcomes, but should also be flexible enough to allow the emissions target and required level of reliability to change over time. People’s preferences change, new technologies are emerging, and current and future governments will almost certainly need to increase emissions targets under the Paris Agreement.

A design that is flexible in response to alternative political choices has a much better chance of getting unanimous support from the states and territories. A state or territory supporting the guarantee need not endorse the current target.

What next for renewables?

Weatherill famously declared South Australia’s election to be “a referendum on renewable energy”. His defeat almost certainly means that South Australia’s 50% renewable energy target, which Weatherill had pledged to extend to 75%, will be abolished.

But South Australia’s wind, solar and battery projects aren’t going anywhere. While there has been some concern about the future of individual projects, the change in policy won’t affect existing solar and wind farms. Marshall has promised to honour existing contracts. South Australia remains the location of choice for many projects under the federal Renewable Energy Target.

The National Energy Guarantee would not replace or preclude state targets for renewable energy. They achieve different things. A renewable energy target is aimed at guiding and shaping industry investment, rather than specifically reducing emissions (although states have used renewable energy targets in recent years to attempt to cut emissions in the absence of a credible federal scheme).




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Will the National Energy Guarantee hit pause on renewables?


South Australia is likely to continue to contribute strongly to a national emissions reduction target, with or without a local renewable energy target. High levels of intermittent renewable energy in the state will require backup generation and demand response to meet the reliability obligation.

Under the guarantee, states and territories can still choose to deliver greater emissions reductions than the federal target. They can do this through renewable energy targets or more direct emissions policies. But individual states that want to pursue these deeper cuts could end up doing the heavy lifting for the nation, unless states can collectively agree to beat the national target.

Unanimous support still needed

The COAG Energy Council will meet again on April 20 to discuss the future of the National Energy Guarantee. With South Australia’s support looking much more likely this time around, the policy can be expected to remain on the table. But all states and territories will no doubt reserve judgement until they have the final design, and that won’t be until the second half of 2018.

The ConversationAustralia is edging closer to finally having a national, integrated, energy and climate policy. We’ve been here before, and previously have let the perfect become the enemy of the good. Let’s not make that mistake again – let’s get a foundation in place to build on. So many politicians have fallen trying. But perhaps Weatherill will be the last.

Kate Griffiths, Senior Associate, Grattan Institute

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