This week’s Newspoll, conducted Thursday to Sunday from a sample of 1655, is completely unchanged on voting intentions since last fortnight’s post-budget Newspoll. Labor leads 53-47, from primary votes of 36% Coalition, 36% Labor, 10% Greens and 9% One Nation.
35% were satisfied with Turnbull’s performance (up 2) and 54% were dissatisfied (up 1), for a net approval of -19. Turnbull’s ratings have risen from a net -29 in early April. According to Kevin Bonham, this is Turnbull’s best net approval since last September, breaking a run of 12 Newspolls with his net approval at or below -20. Shorten’s net approval was -20, up two points.
In my opinion, Turnbull’s gains on approval are because he is moving towards the centre on some policies, such as school funding and the bank levy. However, the electorate trusts Labor more on schools and health. Producing a “Labor-lite” budget has not helped the Coalition, as it surrenders on principles of fiscal rectitude, which are seen as strengths for the Coalition.
56% supported Labor’s position of only raising the Medicare levy for those earning at least $87,000 per year, while 33% supported the Coalition’s position of raising the Medicare levy for taxpayers who already pay the levy. 19% were very worried about a cost blowout for the National Disability Insurance Scheme, 46% were somewhat worried, and 24% not worried.
This Newspoll asked about leader traits, with May 2016 used for comparison. Both leaders fell on every trait, except the negative trait of “arrogant”. Turnbull led by seven points on “decisive and strong” and six points on “likeable”. Shorten led by nine points on “cares for people”, and trailed by 14 on the negative trait of “arrogant”.
Since last fortnight, the Coalition has gained a point in Essential. Primary votes are 38% Coalition (up 1), 36% Labor (down 2), 11% Greens (up 1), 5% One Nation (down 1) and 3% Nick Xenophon Team (steady). One Nation has dropped in Essential in the last two months, while holding up in Newspoll. Voting intentions were based on a two-week sample of 1780, with additional questions using just this week’s sample.
By 67-12, voters agreed that asylum seekers should be deported to their country of origin if their claims are unsuccessful. By 53-25, voters thought the government was not too tough on asylum seekers. By 40-32, they thought that asylum seekers who cannot be safely relocated to another country when Manus Island closes should not be brought to Australia.
Most major government decisions were well supported, with the exceptions of privatising Qantas, the Commonwealth Bank and Telstra.
48% thought the bank levy should apply to foreign banks and the big Australian banks, 16% thought it should also apply to small banks, 12% to the big Australian banks only and just 10% thought it should not apply to any bank.
38% thought Catholic schools would not be worse off under the new funding model, and 20% thought they would be worse off. By 52-23, voters would prefer an income tax cut to stronger workplace laws.
The French lower house is elected for a five-year term (the same as the President) using 577 single-member electorates. Unless one candidate wins an absolute majority in the first round on 11 June, the top two candidates in each seat proceed to the 18 June second round.
Candidates other than the top two can also advance to the second round if they win at least 12.5% of registered voters. That means those who did not vote or spoiled their ballots are counted in the determination. For example, if 50% abstain or spoil their ballots, a 25% threshold of valid votes must be met for candidates other than the top two to proceed to the second round.
The second round uses First Past the Post. As a result, third and sometimes second candidates will often withdraw prior to the second round, to give their broad faction a greater chance of winning, and/or to stop an extremist party like Marine Le Pen’s National Front.
The key question about the lower house elections is whether President Emmanuel Macron’s new party, La République en Marche! (Forward the Republic!) can win a majority. Polling has the REM on about 31%, followed by the conservative Les Républicains on 20%, the far right National Front on 19%, the hard left Unsubmissive France on 14%, and the Greens and Socialists have 10% combined.
If the election results are similar to these polls, the REM will be first or second in the vast majority of seats on 11 June. Whether their main opponent comes from the hard left, centre right or far right, the REM is likely to do well from the votes of excluded candidates, and easily win a majority of the French lower house on 18 June.
With nine days left until the UK election, polls have diverged. The most Labour-friendly polls (Survation, ORG, YouGov and SurveyMonkey) give the Conservatives 6-8 point leads over Labour. However, the ComRes and ICM polls have the Conservatives 12-14 points ahead. The 10-point Conservative lead in Opinium may be a result of Opinium polling in the two days immediately following the Manchester attack.
Turnout assumptions are the largest cause of the poll divergence. According to UK election analyst Matt Singh, the better polls for Labour use self-reported likelihood to vote among respondents, while ComRes and ICM use historical election turnout patterns to model this election’s turnout. Older people have historically been far more likely to vote than young people.
Turnout assumptions are making a large difference at this election as there is a massive divide between the generations. According to the latest YouGov poll, those aged 18-24 favour Labour by 69-12, while those aged over 65 favour the Conservatives by 66-16.
For Labour to pull off what would be one of the biggest upsets in election history, they need a massive turnout from young people. A five point Conservative lead would probably lead to a hung Parliament, so the more Labour-friendly polls are close to that.
Update Wednesday morning: A new ICM poll has the Conservatives leading by 12 points. However, as noted by UK Polling Report, the lead is only three points before adjustments for historical turnout likelihood among the various demographics.
On Friday I wrote that, the day before a by-election, Republican candidate Greg Gianforte assaulted The Guardian’s reporter Ben Jacobs. Gianforte nevertheless won the by-election 50-44, and has been applauded by some on the US right; this attitude is shown by the Tweet and cartoon below.
The donkey represents the Democrats in the US; an elephant represents Republicans.
The weird and wonderful concept of the Anglosphere is gaining a surprising salience in public debates as Britain faces up to its post-Europe future.
Angst seems to be mounting as many British voters who voted to leave the European Union begin to realise that in Brexit they might have bitten off far more than they can chew. So they are turning to the “Commonwealth”, to ask if something like the old imperial order may be resurrected. This is being referred to as the “Anglosphere”.
This kind of thinking has its devotees in Australia too, including former prime ministers Tony Abbott and John Howard. For Abbott, the bonds uniting the Anglosphere states:
… arise from patterns of thinking originally shaped by Shakespeare and the King James Bible, constantly reinforced by reading each other’s books, watching the same movies and consuming the same international magazines.
And for Howard, Anglosphere membership implies that Australia has overriding cultural, economic and strategic interests in common with the US, Canada and New Zealand. These are interests that, as Stefano Gulmanelli points out, “provide the compass in defining Australia’s national interest and its projection into the world”.
As noted in a recent piece in The Conversation, advocates of the idea of the Anglosphere are inclined to see it as a springboard for a post-Europe, “truly global Britain”.
But those advocates are rather a rum lot. They include the extreme right-winger Nigel Farage, as well as ministers Boris Johnson, Liam Fox and David Davis in Theresa May’s government. Their dreaming is an attempt to re-imagine a Britain that can turn its back on Europe and benefit from new trade agreements and security alliances with its former colonies, the US, Canada, New Zealand and Australia.
Before Australians even start to think about joining in the Anglosphere frolic, a great deal more needs to be understood about this worrisome concept. Its roots are in proposals for an imperial federation of the white settler colonial societies within the British Empire towards the end of the 19th century.
Alfred Deakin was an Australian champion of this wild idea on the eve of federation, and it reached into the thinking of our longest-serving prime minister, Robert Menzies. The idea remains a nostalgic dream among the dwindling ranks of British Empire loyalists and staunch monarchists in contemporary Australia. It was probably a factor influencing Abbott’s risible adornment of Prince Philip with an Australian knighthood.
It is important to remember that the British Empire was a very ramshackle affair for almost all of its cumbersome history. To paint it in glorious hues, to thrill to the chords of Elgar’s blood and state music, or to be enthralled by Kipling’s tales of derring-do British colonial officials in far-away climes, is to be deceived by a version of history as much riddled with falsehoods and jingoism as it is a true account of what really happened in the British Empire.
While it might have instigated some modernising benefits, the empire also brought a great deal of arrogant British brutality and ignominious conquest to many noble civilisations.
Recall, for example, the Amritsar massacre in India in 1919. British troops under the command of Colonel Reginald Dyer fired into a crowd of pilgrims, killing 1,000 and wounding many more. This hideous moment is one of many stains on Britain’s imperial history in India. The Raj was an era of racialist superiority, economic exploitation, cultural crassness and bureaucratic stupidity as much as it was an era of enlightenment.
The British Empire started to come crashing down at the end of the first world war. The second world war delivered its coup de grace as independence movements swept many former colonies to post-colonial freedom.
It is well to remember that the roots of latter-day Anglosphere imagining lie all gnarled and twisted amid the British Empire’s ruins. Srdjan Vucetic has written what is arguably the finest scholarly critique so far of the Anglosphere concept. In his exceptional book he explains:
… the Anglosphere cannot be understood without reference to the legacies and shifts in Self-Other relations inside and outside the territorial boundaries of its five core states.“
It is, he points out, a “racialised” identity.
Australia ingratiating itself into a post-Brexit, British-instigated Anglosphere would be a futile exercise in counterproductive nostalgia. Almost invariably, nostalgia entails delusional imaginings of a golden age that never existed.
Australia’s present and future security and prosperity are irrevocably involved with the country finding its way into Asia. The US and the UK are now wallowing in politically fouled nests entirely of their own making. Australia should stay well away from any entanglement whatsoever with such a ridiculous political confection as the Anglosphere represents.
The pattern has become all too familiar. Young people gathered for a musical event find themselves subjected to what British Prime Minister Theresa May has described as an “appalling terrorist attack”.
While there is no confirmation as yet this was a terrorist-inspired incident, police suspect the Manchester attack, which has so far killed 22 people and injured 59 others, was caused either by a bomb contained in an abandoned backpack, or was the work of a suicide bomber.
At this stage no group has claimed responsibility. But it is not being overlooked that last week Islamic State released a 44-minute video in which fighters of different nationalities urged their supporters back home to carry out acts of violence.
Among those featured was a British man.
What makes Islamic State more dangerous – even desperate – in the current climate is that it finds itself under enormous pressure in its strongholds in Iraq and in Syria. Its grip on the northern Iraqi city of Mosul is slipping, and it is under threat in its Syrian redoubt of Raqqa.
It is important not to jump to conclusions about the identity of those responsible. However, whatever judgements might be made about the carnage at a Manchester music hall, this latest bombing underscores the vulnerability of European cities to such acts of violence.
Underscoring the deep-seated shock this will be causing in Britain is that this is the worst terrorism-related episode since the 2005 public transport bombings in London in which 52 people died.
Since 2015, more than half-a-dozen terrorist attacks have been carried out in various European locations, including France, Germany, Belgium and Britain, and in the case of several of these countries there have been multiple incidents.
What the governments of Europe have on their hands are threats to personal security that can strike at any time and in any place, as various terrorist incidents in the past year or so have demonstrated.
This poses an enormous challenge to security agencies, including the police, and, in the case of Britain, MI5, the spy agency responsible for internal security.
Such random acts of terrorism are enormously difficult, if not impossible, to counter unless open societies are subjected to security measures that most citizens would find difficult to accept.
If it proves to be the case the Manchester bombing was carried out by a sole suicide bomber, or a bomb-laden backpack placed strategically, this would underscore difficulties in policing a musical event in which large numbers of people gather in a specific location.
While France has been the main victim of a wave of terrorism in the past several years, Britain is running second.
In the most recent incident prior to the Manchester bombing, the driver of a vehicle mowed down pedestrians on Westminster Bridge and then shot a policeman outside the Houses of Parliament.
The concert hall attack in Manchester recalls a similar episode in Paris at a the Bataclan concert hall in November 2015 when shootings caused multiple deaths.
Islamic State claimed responsibility on that occasion.
What is adding to political complexities of the Manchester bombing is that it comes in the middle of a British election campaign in which immigration and Britain’s withdrawal from Europe are central questions.
How this will play out in the next days and weeks is difficult to assess, but as a rule of thumb such incidents would be more likely to benefit the parties of the right than the left.
On the other hand, governments in power and therefore responsible for security inevitably face awkward questions about levels of preparedness for such terrorist incidents, if indeed that is what we are talking about in the case of the Manchester bombing.
Terrorist violence is now baked into the European landscape. It is hard to see an end to this.
* Note: This story has been updated to reflect the latest information on fatalities.
Just when the Western world had absorbed the shock of a truck attack in Berlin in December that claimed 12 lives, it is reminded again of the dangers of “lone-wolf” attacks inspired by Islamic State (IS) that are almost impossible to guard against.
When a sole attacker drove randomly across London’s Westminster Bridge towards the Houses of Parliament – one of the most trafficked thoroughfares in the Western world – killing and maiming innocent bystanders, it served as a reminder, if that were required, that open, global cities are vulnerable to such attacks.
These are moments that serve as a reality check for those in authority who are striving to maintain a balance between oppressive policing and surveillance and a free society. This is enormously challenging in an environment in which strains of fanaticism have been let loose.
Regrettably, the London terrorist attack leading to five deaths, including the perpetrator and a policeman, will find its way into a racially tinged political discourse – and not in a way that will be particularly edifying.
But there is also no point in pretending that mayhem in the Middle East can be separated from what takes place on the streets of London or Brussels or Berlin or Nice, or in other places that become victims of continuing upheaval in a crescent that stretches from the Mediterranean to South Asia.
Now that the weapon of choice for lone-wolf terrorists seems to have become a vehicle to mow down people innocently going about their business, a policing task becomes even more difficult.
Peter Bergen, a terrorism expert, noted in a post for CNN that as long ago as 2010, al Qaeda’s Yemen branch had encouraged its recruits in the West to use vehicles as weapons.
A headline on its webzine, Inspire, had described vehicles as “the ultimate mowing nachine” – not to “mow grass, but mow down the enemies of Allah”. He wrote:
These attacks are hard to defend against in free societies where crowds will gather, as was the case for Bastille Day in Nice, or the Christmas market in Berlin … and now throngs of tourists and visitors that typically crowd the sidewalks around the Houses of Parliament.
The utter cynicism and brutality of these random low-tech attacks pose enormous challenges for security.
This latest episode will not be the last such vehicle attack with the possibility that something much worse might eventuate, including the detonation of a truck packed with explosives and shards of shrapnel. Open Western cities will always be vulnerable to these sorts of attacks.
The threat of IS-inspired terrorism is now embedded in Western societies. It is no good pretending it is not.
Since 2014, when IS proclaimed its caliphate, there have been more than 70 terrorist attacks “conducted or inspired” by its followers in 20 countries (not including Syria and Iraq), according to a running total kept by CNN.
If Syria and Iraq were added, such terrorist attacks would number in the hundreds.
In 2014, CNN lists seven terrorist incidents, including the stabbing of two Australian police officers in New South Wales. Six died and 12 were injured in 2014, in Belgium, Australia, Canada, the US and France.
That was the beginning.
By 2016, the numbers of casualties from IS-inspired terrorism had risen sharply across the Middle East and in Europe. This included the Brussels bombings at a metro station and an airport, in which 32 people died and 340 were injured.
It is not least of macabre coincidences that the London terrorist attack occurred on the first anniversary to the day of the Brussels bombings.
So far this year, there have been five major incidents. Most, if not all, are linked to IS.
London was the first such episode in continental Europe. The others occurred in Turkey, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.
Out of all this, it is a depressing conclusion, but as IS in its strongholds in Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria is further degraded, chances are it will step up its terrorist activities elsewhere.
In other words, risks to countries involved in the war against IS will rise as its fortunes in its so-called caliphate slide. IS is on the ropes in its Middle Eastern strongholds. This makes it more dangerous to Western interests.
In London, and among Britain’s allies, political leaders have hastened to express solidarity, but all would be aware that such ritualistic professions of support and concern will not provide a foolproof shield against the next Islamist-inspired terrorist attack.
The question is not if, but when and where.
The link below is to an article reporting on persecution news from the United Kingdom.
This is part of a series examining Australian national identity, especially around the ongoing debate about Australia Day.
It is worth noting that Australia Day commemorates the dumping of a cargo of the outcasts of Britain on the shores of the Australian continent. It was not an act of escaping religious oppression, as in the case of America, or the founding of a new political order, as in France.
British Australia was the creation of an imperial decision. This meant that strong links to Britain, and the British monarchy, continued well into the 20th century. There were occasional republicans who advocated a so-called independent Australia, particularly in the 19th century, but, if anything, enthusiasm for the British Empire increased in the first half of the 20th century.
Australians were Australians, but they were also British. There was the proud boast that Australians were more “British” than the inhabitants of London. This, of course, was probably true given that London attracted people from all over the empire and was cosmopolitan in a way that Australia was not.
The early settlers were British in a very Australian way. Australianness was embedded in their Britishness; the two were not in conflict. In celebrating Australia Day they were celebrating themselves and their peculiar Australian way. Such celebrations could not be construed as indicating a desire to be rid of the monarchy or the empire.
The “cultural cringe” may be important for Barry Humphries and other literary figures who attended Melbourne private schools but, as Len Hume has argued, ordinary Australians of the first half of the 20th century had a lively popular culture, including great comic figures such as Roy Rene and Lennie Lower.
Moreover, Australians felt a great deal of solidarity with their British cousins. Consider the following quote:
Australians know that our future is linked with Britain, not only by ties of race and kinship, but because of hard, practical reasons.
No, the speaker was not Robert Menzies but Ben Chifley in 1948.
Witness the massively popular reception of the new monarch, Queen Elizabeth, when she visited Australia in 1954.
In 1950, Britain was still taking 38.7% of Australia’s exports, which dropped to 26% by 1960. Even in the 1950s, a strong connection between Australia and Britain made a lot of sense.
By that time, though, it had become clear that the British Empire was no longer a going concern, and that Britain’s time as a significant world power had come to an end. The old relationship between Australia and Britain was changing, and Australia was turning its political allegiances more to the US and its trade to Asia.
There was no reason before the second world war to presume that, 25 years later, there would no longer be a British Empire and that Britain would be seeking to “join Europe”.
I think that it can be argued that it came as a shock and that the history of Britain over the past 50 years can be understood, at least in part, as an attempt to deal with its loss of “greatness”. Last year’s Brexit vote indicates that the British have not yet come to terms with their new place in the world.
The shock of the post-war decline of the British Empire was also great for Australia. Cut adrift from empire, it had to refashion and remake itself. It most certainly continued to have a political, social and cultural heritage derived from Britain, but it was moving away and increasingly forming its own, separate identity.
Trade ties were diminished and large numbers of immigrants from many parts of the world arrived, reshaping the country. The bonds of solidarity with Britain so obvious to Chifley in 1948 would only puzzle a young Australian in 2017.
Again, like Britain, much of the history of Australia over the past 50 years has been an attempt to come to terms with the end of empire. Many solutions have been proposed, and tried, ranging from the new nationalism of the Whitlam years, to multiculturalism, to the idea that Australia is part of Asia. Or even a mixture of all three. And then, of course, there is the continuing issue of the place of Indigenous Australians.
Australia has still not worked out its place in a post-imperial world. It knows that it cannot be another US; Australia doesn’t possess the resources to support 300 million people. It knows that the ties with Britain will only get weaker over time. There appears still to be much anxiety about where we belong, when what is needed is a clear, sober and realistic approach to the past and the present.
Australia Day celebrates the origins of British Australia and, in a sense, can be understood as an imperial creation. In more recent times, it has become a celebration of Australian popular culture, marked by barbecues and the donning of clothing marked by the Australian flag. Is this a sign that the day has lost its relevance?
Perhaps one of the most attractive elements of Australian history since 1788 is the fact that so many of its people, at least in the early days, were the cast-offs of British society who had to make their way in an alien world that they were forced to call home.
Perhaps because of this, Australia developed a vigorous popular culture from the bush ballads to The Bulletin and beyond. There is a lot to be said for celebrating Australian ordinariness, which surely goes beyond its imperial roots.
Catch up on other pieces in the series here.