Bennelong By Election and other year end notes

The all important Bennelong by election was held on the weekend. In a result that I think both parties can claim to have had a win the Liberal Party were returned with a margin of 54.9 to 45.1 (1) which is a 2 party preferred swing of 4.9 percent to the Labor Party. Now the Liberal Party can claim victory because firstly they won the seat and most importantly polls throughout the campaign were anywhere between 50-50 to one rogue 54-46 poll that was released through internal Liberal polling. In that sense to limit the swing to under 5 percent when the average by election swing is about six percent away from government’s. By the same token the Labor Party can point to a 7.3% swing to Kristina Keneally on first preferences and the turning of a safe seat to a more marginal seat although I would question whether this swing would be repeated under a less publicised general election campaign where the focus is on 150 seats rather than just on one seat. I think the Labor point is reasonable however the polls suggested this seat would be line ball going into the final days of the campaign and so they would be disappointed they couldn’t have done slightly better on the night. I think the Sam Dastyari incident (2) took some shine off the Labor campaign because it meant the focus was more on the impact of foreign donations and the influence of China in Australian Politics than on Labor’s campaign which focussed on Health and Education even if some of the claims made by Kristina Keneally were found to be untruthful or misleading (3) (4).

There are other impacts on this by election win that I think will play out in the new year. I think this win ensuring that the Government have 75 votes out of 149 again plus the speaker means that the citizenship issue will be brought up again when Parliament returns. Now Labor proposed a tit for tat we’ll refer four of ours and an independent to the high court if you refer four of yours which the Liberal Party rebuffed and without John Alexander the vote went 74-74 with all 5 cross benchers voting with the Labor Party. With John Alexander back the Liberal Party will instead focus on referring the 3 Labor MP’s and Rebekah Sharkie as they would now theoretically win such motion 75-74 (It’s 3 Labor MP’s now as the member for Batman David Feeney was already referred to the High Court by Tony Burke as his case seems a lot more straight forward (5)). I think the majority returning gives the government a chance to become more disciplined in 2018 and possibly start building a case to win re-election in 2019, something that looks unlikely at this stage as the polls have stubbornly shown the Labor Party leading the Coalition 53-47. I would also be very surprised if Kristina Keneally doesn’t now end up in Federal Politics at some stage, for the most part her campaign was impressive and the Sam Dastyari Senate spot now being vacant would be an obvious landing spot for her.

The other big news to come from this week is the Cabinet Reshuffle by Malcolm Turnbull (6). The biggest change to come from the reshuffle was not surprising, it has been long thought George Brandis would take over from Alexander Downer as the High Commissioner to the UK. This meant the cabinet position of number 1 lawmaker Attorney General will go to Christian Porter, this is a logical step as Porter has already been Treasurer and Attorney General of Western Australia and for a future leader of the Party it made sense to move him to a more public role. This is particularly the case as Christian Porter is in a marginal seat and so he could lose his seat at the next election because the Liberal Party are particularly travelling badly in WA. Barnaby Joyce moves across to the Infrastructure Ministry which seems to be the cabinet position of choice for the Nationals leader. The role of Agriculture goes to unknown backbencher David Littleproud and the new National Deputy gets a raft of Regional ministries as well as sport. Peter Dutton who is the Conservative powerbroker in the Liberal Party and possible Opposition leader if the Liberal’s lose the next election becomes the Home Affairs Minister which is the big joining of some of our national security portfolio’s. Most of the other moves are shuffling the decks with some ministers moving around portfolio’s but as with all reshuffles there are losers. The big loser from the reshuffle is Darren Chester who goes from being a Minister who was doing a great job to the backbench. Now this move was not popular amongst the National’s and continues a bad end of the year for the National’s (7). While the official line of the decision to drop Darren Chester was because he is from Victoria and with Bridget Mackenzie joining cabinet from Victoria there needed to be a rebalance to ensure Queenslanders were represented more accurate to reflect the fact that there are more Nats MP’s and Senators from Queensland. This would be a bit more believable if Keith Pitt a Queensland MP wasn’t also demoted to the backbench and indeed there have already been some rumblings that he would join the cross bench (8). It would seem much more believable to believe the alternative line which is that their demotions are linked to Darren Chester and Keith Pitt backing Bridget Mackenzie for the role of Deputy Nationals leader over Barnaby Joyce’s choice which was Matt Canavan. The National’s really need to work on their discipline because they were the chief reason for the Royal Banking Commission backflip and they also had George Christiensen threaten to jump ship if Malcolm Turnbull wasn’t replaced as Prime Minister.

 

References

(1) http://www.abc.net.au/news/elections/bennelong-by-election-2017/results/

(2) http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-12-12/sam-dastyari-resigns-from-parliament/9247390

(3) http://www.news.com.au/national/breaking-news/hunt-questions-keneally-medicare-claims/news-story/4638d61ca01baf367fe82cbc5f5b5779

(4) http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-12-13/fact-check-kristina-keneally-education-spending/9228574

(5) http://www.abc.net.au/radio/programs/pm/david-feeney-referred-to-high-court-over-dual-citizenship/9233236

(6) http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-12-19/ministerial-reshuffle-announced-five-new-faces/9271198

(7) https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/commentisfree/2017/dec/19/barnaby-joyces-shoulder-charge-spoils-turnbulls-pre-christmas-parade

(8) https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2017/dec/20/keith-pitt-nationals-defection-rumour-fuels-queensland-lnp-split-debate

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Queensland Election Result Analysis and By Election Discussion

I have been holding off writing on the Queensland Election as it has only been the last few days that a Labor majority was confirmed. It always looked like the Labor Party would be the larger party however Premier Annastacia Palaszcuk muddied the waters by saying she would prefer to go into opposition than to make a deal with any minor parties. Now this has become a vogue statement for Parties to make as they try to paint themselves as a party that don’t do deals and rule for themselves while labelling their opponents as desperate to rule by any means possible. What this has allowed the Labor Party to do in both WA and now in the Queensland election is to point out the squeamishness of the Liberal Party on how to deal with the One Nation Party and whether there is an official preference deal. Now in both cases the Liberal Party did not make any official deal with One Nation however they did preference One Nation over the Labor Party in many seats which Labor called out as a deal even though their decision to accept Greens preferences is apparently all above board without any need to be criticised. Now Labor will argue that no deal is present but the numbers bear it out, 80 percent of Greens preferences go back to Labor, One Nation and a lot of other right of centre Independent parties are only going back 50-55 percent to the Liberal Party so the advantage of doing an official deal to shore up that preference split is a lot greater for the LNP than with the Labor Party who get the lion share of Greens votes back regardless.

The current state of play in the Queensland Election is as followed (1). So Labor have hit the 47 seat mark projection wise to the Liberal’s 38 seats, 1 for One Nation, 2 for Katter’s Australia and one Independent with four seats in doubt. Of the four seats in doubt the Liberal Party look set to win one of the seats and Townsville if they do better in postal votes, Katter’s Australia look set to win Hinchinbrook if the preferences flow to them being in second place at the final preference break and the Greens look like winning Maiwar assuming they increase their 4 vote lead over Labor in the remaining absentee votes for second place in which case the other party will preference them over the Liberal Party winning the seat. A good summary of the in doubt seats is found here (3). On the raw percentage numbers Labor would be happy to keep their net swing loss to 2 percent picking up seats in the metropolitan areas and limiting their vote loss in the rural regions. The Liberal Party had a rough night and while their seat loss was limited a swing of 7.6% against them is not a good result, they both lost votes to Labor in the metropolitan seats and then lost votes to One Nation in the rural seats. I think that really sums up my point above that the Liberal Party do have a difficult job right now, go too far to the right and they lose votes to Labor and the Greens but ignore their more conservative base and they can lose votes to One Nation where as I said they struggle to get preferences back afterwards. On to the One Nation Party many people say the result was disappointing and on a raw seats basis they would be right, I think most people thought they’d win 5-6 seats. However that ignores that they polled 13.7% of the vote statewide and that number jumped to (3) nearly 21 percent in seats they fought and 23 percent in rural areas. Now I’m not a fan of Pauline Hanson but you can’t ignore a party picking up over 1/5 of the state vote and it shows that this is not just about “deplorables” voting for a protest candidate because they are racist or insert insult here as some will commentate but there are economic issues that they have that they don’t feel the major parties are sorting out and so they turn to the minor parties. In previous elections that has been the Katter Party and Clive Palmer’s party. The other takeaway from the election is that the Greens continue to build a base in the Capital City and that would be a worry for the current Liberal Member for Brisbane looking at the next Federal Election.

Overall would I say I’m surprised by this result, no. I thought the Labor Party while being mediocre this term had not done anything warranting losing office after one term and their pivot to focus on the metropolitan area of Queensland where 2/3rd’s of the seats were was a smart political move as there were more seats to gain there than could be lost in other parts of Queensland. I think the problem for the Liberal leader Tim Nicholls was that as treasurer of the Campbell Newman Government that got so roundly whipped in 2015 he carried too much baggage to voters to throw out a government after 1 term and as a result it would not surprise me were he to be replaced as leader.

Onto the Federal scene the first of two by elections took place last night in New England where Barnaby Joyce was comfortably returned as member and will now resume his role as Deputy Prime Minister and Agriculture Minister. It was always assumed he would win his seat once Tony Windsor said he would not re-contest the 2016 match-up but (4) shows that Barnaby had a 12 percent swing to him which is unheard of for Governments in trouble and that worked out to a very impressive 7% 2PP swing to the Nationals. I think this result shows that the main risk to most country MP’s still come from Independents rather than the Labor Party as the Labor Party continue to pivot their policies in a more metropolitan setting and I would have been intrigued to see if there would have been a more split of the conservative vote had of One Nation or the Shooters and Fishers Party ran as they have caused issues for National MPs at recent election and indeed by elections with the famous Orange bloodbath where the Nationals suffered a 30 percent 2PP loss of vote to the Shooters Party member. I think the return of Barnaby Joyce will also add some discipline to a National Party that has gone somewhat rogue in the last few months with George Christiensen threatening to walk out of the party because of his perceived vision of poor leadership by Malcolm Turnbull (5) and the National’s push for a banking royal commission (6) that Malcolm Turnbull ultimately conceded was a political necessity this week to avoid the embarrassment of losing a vote on the floor of Parliament on the issue.

At this stage at least there is one other upcoming by election due to section 44 of the constitution (I believe that number may raise in coming months with a few Labor MPs and possibly Nick Xenophon Candidate Rebekah Sharkie as well as some Liberal MPs.). Now some Liberal Party MPs were quick to spin last night that Barnaby Joyce’s by election win last night would mean that John Alexander would also be ok in Bennelong. This is wishful thinking as it looks like in Kristina Keneally (7) Labor have a fierce contender who has name recognition as former Labor Premier of New South Wales and also John Alexander has had a difficult gaffe filled by election thus far. Polling (8) suggests that John Alexander has a slight lead over Kristina Keneally however from a 10 percent lead to start off with it is clear a swing is on in this seat and with the government anywhere from 53-47 to 55-45 behind in National Polls this is a dangerous election for the government to endure. Indeed in the last few weeks leadership chatter has begun regarding Malcolm Turnbull and while I think a leadership change now is pointless if John Alexander loses the By Election then it become a more serious conversation.

 

Bibliography

(1): http://www.abc.net.au/news/qld-election-2017/results/

(2): https://www.pollbludger.net/2017/12/02/queensland-election-live-week-two/

(3): https://twitter.com/AntonyGreenABC/status/934887456402325504

(4): http://www.abc.net.au/news/elections/new-england-by-election-2017/results/

(5): http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/george-christensen-apologises-for-lying-over-threats-to-quit-the-lnp/news-story/bad67acbdbb962e21b0d39ac00af46da

(6): http://www.skynews.com.au/news/politics/federal/2017/11/17/push-for-banking-royal-commission.html

(7): http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-11-14/kristina-keneally-to-run-in-bennelong-by-election/9147640

(8): https://theconversation.com/bennelong-polls-galaxy-50-50-reachtel-53-47-to-liberal-87725

 

 

Same Sex Marriage Survey Results Analysis

As the world reacts to the ongoing issues with North Korea, the US public either celebrate or heavily commiserate a year since Donald Trump took office and Zimbabwe deal with Schrodinger’s Coup (1) Australian’s eagerly awaited the results of the SSM survey. The final results were fairly comprehensive with a 62-38% vote in favour of changing the definition of Marriage with an impressive 80% participation rate (2). Now this does not mean that Same Sex Marriage is legal yet as the Parliament now needs to introduce and pass legislation to amend the marriage act however that seems a near formality as the numbers in favour across the Senate and the Lower House are clearly in favour of change. This post will analyse some of the more interesting results and then talk about the legislation that will be introduced into the senate and then will move through the lower house.

I think the first thing to note is the participation rate being close to 80 percent and that is has been rightly viewed as an impressive thing. It has also been compared favourably to other optional votes such as Brexit which had a turnout of 72 percent (3), the US Election with a turnout of 58% (4) and even the recent New Zealand election at 79% (5). The one thing to note about this turnout compared to an election or referendum is that the survey had a longer return time for people to take part whereas an election or referendum is a one off vote that is tougher to motivate people to vote for, i.e in the Brexit vote it was quite wet in a lot of areas on the voting day and that was thought to have depressed the vote. The other key voter participation rate takeaway is that while voters did tend to engage more as they were older, indeed close to 90 percent of those aged 70-74 took part in the survey the younger people still turned out in good numbers with 72-74 percent of young adults in the 18-35 range taking part in the survey (6). This hopefully puts to rest some of the crap that was spruiked by some media outlets going into the survey that oh this survey wouldn’t be representative because young people don’t know how to use a mailbox anymore. I would comment that lazy stereotyping of age groups has become popular in the recent political discourse with young people being called lazy and not willing to play a part in the political process as a reason for low voter turnout in some elections by young people while old people were labelled as racist bigots who don’t have a heart when analysing why older people were more inclined to vote for Brexit.

I think the other interesting part of the results came from the state by state and territory by territory breakdown and the electorate breakdown. All States and Territories achieved a majority yes vote which may have surprised some, ACT being the highest yes vote was not a surprise as they have long been labelled as the progressive territory. Northern Territory had the lowest participation (not surprising as they also tend to have the lowest participation rate in the Census too) but it was NSW with the lowest Yes vote. This came as a surprise too many with Sydney being the home of Mardi Gras but what it does ignore is that some of the most migrant dwelling electorates are located in Western Sydney. Of the 17 seats that voted no 11 of those seats were in NSW and those results would have skewed the total vote. The other interesting thing from those no vote seats are that the highest no voting seats are safe Labor seats, again this reflects the high level migrants in the seat where they are economically not as well off but socially come from countries where in some case gay marriage isn’t even a question, being gay in some countries is still a death sentence. That may seem horrible to many Australian’s but it is the reality for these people and so some of the labelling of just calling no voters white homophobic bigots ignores the cultural reasoning some people are voting no for. Looking at the seats with the highest yes vote they tended to fall closer to the capital cities however they crossed party lines with seats like Melbourne held by the Greens, Sydney held by the ALP and Wentworth held by the Liberal PM Malcolm Turnbull all amongst the top yes votes(7). It proves to me that trying to allocate one party as being the party that is more in favour of gay marriage is somewhat flawed as even Tony Abbott who was a prominent No campaigner ended up having his electorate vote strongly in favour of SSM. Some people might of been surprised at WA having such a strong yes vote (8) but the majority of people live in metropolitan areas and the migration that is strong in WA tends to be from the UK or more Caucasian strong areas and those cultural backgrounds tend to have a stronger view of SSM compared to some other cultures where SSM has yet to be embraced or passed into law.

On the policy front in terms of the legislation that will be introduced to enshrine SSM into law the path appears clearer now that Dean Smith’s Bill is the only bill on the table to be discussed. Senator James Paterson had flagged introducing a seperate bill to legislate SSM (9) however he revealed later this afternoon that he would not proceed with said legislation due to a lack of support from the wider senate. Paterson’s bill seemed to introduced extra protections to protect religious and non religious people from taking part in Same Sex Marriages and also protected organisations who wished to teach traditional views on marriage and also introduce opt out clauses for parents who didn’t want to have their children take part in Safe Schools Programs. Now my read of the situation is that Safe Schools programs were going to proceed regardless of the SSM survey outcome and that any concerns or opt outs for parents should be addressed in another outlet but on the other points I think it’s important that although the Yes vote clearly prevailed it’s important to at least consider the views of those who voted No in the final legislation to ensure that everyone can be satisfied with. I think the best way to do that is to consider Senator Dean Smith’s bill and then make amendments where possible that are not at risk of offending other discrimination laws while also ensuring freedom of religion is still maintained. On the Dean Smith bill it has it’s infancy in a Parliamentary Committee so I the bill appears to have good founding in it and Attorney General’s George Brandis late deal with the Conservatives (10) appears to be the reason that the Conservatives in the Senate have backed down somewhat from their opposition to the bill. The timeline for this bill now is that it is introduced today, because it is a private members bill there then needs to be a motion to alter the Senates timeline to prioritise the bill tomorrow. Tomorrow will be spent with the second reading of the bill and that will allow some debate on the merits of the bill. The senate then rises for a week before the following week the bill moves into committee stage. This is where the bill is closely inspected and possible amendments can then be moved, once this is done it would then be voted on by the Senate. Should that pass the House would then vote on the bill and assuming that is passed the Bill would then come into law. Some people are worried about the numbers but a number of members who would be inclined to vote no have already come out and said because their electorate voted Yes at worst they would abstain if not vote yes so I think there are enough of those cases to suppress the no vote enough that it should pass both houses. For full details of the bill introduced by Senator Dean Smith see (11).

References

(1) https://www.theguardian.com/world/live/2017/nov/15/zimbabwe-army-control-harare-coup-robert-mugabe-live

(2) http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs%40.nsf/mediareleasesbyCatalogue/A05160B9DDD9C4BFCA2581D9000131CC?OpenDocument

(3) http://www.bbc.com/news/politics/eu_referendum/results

(4) https://www.pbs.org/newshour/politics/voter-turnout-2016-elections

(5) http://www.elections.org.nz/news-media/preliminary-results-2017-general-election

(6): https://marriagesurvey.abs.gov.au/results/

(7): http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-11-15/same-sex-marriage-results-ssm/9145636

(8): https://marriagesurvey.abs.gov.au/results/wa.html

(9): http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-11-13/alternative-same-sex-marriage-bill-explainer/9143578

(10): http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/samesex-marriage-result-live-vote-details-news-opinion/news-story/453863f06bad272ad58b9c8c8d4a8f88

(11): http://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/search/display/display.w3p;query=Id%3A%22legislation%2Fbills%2Fs1099_first-senate%2F0000%22;rec=0

NDIS (The political topic that needs more attention)

With the recent report by the productivity commission scathing the process of the NDIS rollout so far (1) I thought it was worth sharing my thoughts on the NDIS. The NDIS is in place to provide those with disabilities, families and carers support to live a better life. This scheme for example may be used for someone who is globally delayed to access things like Speech Therapy, Occupational Therapy or Physiotherapy to ensure they are better placed to transition into schooling or for Adults to transition into some form of work where applicable. There is some controversy over the government saying that the scheme will help family or carers because at this stage there is no direct for families or carers outside of respite for the person with a disability. An example of something that would be useful for families would be providing psychologists for family members/ carers to help them deal with having a family or someone they are looking after full time. What the NDIS does not cover is medical costs (2) as the thought is that medicare is still available to cover a participants medical costs. For further information on the legislation the APH explanatory of the legislation is a good read (3).

So there are a lot of concerns from the NDIS so far and I personally have seen some of these as I am both waiting for approval to the NDIS and my child is also a participant of the scheme. I think the first big problem is the approval system and then the initial planning system to allocate the first plan for a participant. Late last year there was a report out that said participants were not being accepted onto the scheme as fast as scheduled. This led to a late last year rush where staff worked late nights and weekends to approve a number of participants onto the scheme. What this led to however is some people having phone call initial meetings rather than in person meetings. One of the many criticisms of the NDIS rollout is that some NDIA workers have not been adequately trained up on relevant disabilities that they are having planning meetings for and this is leading to plans that do not adequately cover all the support that a participant needs. Indeed for a while how well you were able to get adequate planning support depended on your ability to advocate or obtain an advocate for your meeting. (4) This article probably sums up the challenges best. From a personal experience with Autism and particularly as a high functioning Aspergers sufferer I think early intervention is something that my generation or older either missed in my case or in older peoples case was not diagnosed at all. This has the side effect of when we try and go for NDIS funding it’s hard to work out coverage because on “good” days we can fit into society well however when we struggle it has a real impact on our ability to maintain relationships and work, unfortunately it appears from what I’ve seen that in an effort to lower enrolment numbers people with Aspergers seems to struggle with eligibility for the scheme. Again see (5) for a good article on Autism and the NDIS.

The next issue to address is funding. Now as the Productivity Commission suggests the NDIS has so far been under budget but that ignores a few points. Firstly I think the lower than expected acceptance of participants has meant not as much money has been spent by participants and also people who are in the scheme have not spent as much money as the plan has allocated to them. I think that second point feeds into the problem that there are currently not enough providers and workers to meet the increased demand from the NDIS, indeed many sources have suggested the disability sector needs to double the amount of workers in the sector to cover the demand. Again my personal experience is that some employment places are struggling to keep staff on with the NDIS rolling out as the sudden increased workload leads to a less than satisfactory work life balance and they can make more money from setting up a private business. The other element to funding is the continued political battle between the Liberal Party and the Labor Party on how to fund the NDIS scheme as it is fully rolled out. The Liberal Party want to raise the medicare levy for all income earners by 0.5 percent, similar to what the Labor Party did when the NDIS was first rolled out (6). The Labor Party for their part are trying to run a dual argument, firstly that the NDIS is still fully funded (7) but they also proposed in their budget in reply speech that there is an increase in the Medicare Levy for those who earn more than $87 million a year, to me this looks like wanting to have a bob each way, they still want to have a lower debt but they want to continue their equality stance by only targeting those on higher wages.

The last issue with the NDIS is the follow up meetings as participants are looking to access their second year of funding. It again appears as if the general experience so far is that people are coming to their annual review of their first NDIS plan and are losing some of their initial funding. Again I think the issues for this is a workforce that is not adequately trained in all cases to deal with the complex issues that someone with a disability might face and that when a disability is lifelong it is not appropriate to suddenly lower disability funding. I also think as I said before that the lack of employees in the disability sector means that some participants have had waiting times to start accessing programs and this would naturally improve in the second year as services are now set in place and as the number of workers in the disability sector increase.

Lastly I try to stay Politically neutral on most of these articles but I really want to praise the work of the Dignity Party in the South Australian Senate. Kelly Vincent has been in the senate for 8 years nearly now and is standing for reelection in the 2018 election. She and her staff has weekly meetings with the NDIS to advocate for people who are struggling with the NDIS and she is providing a voice for people that are too often not heard in our community. See (8) for a link to their political party page.

 

References

(1): http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-10-19/ndis-will-be-delayed-productivity-commission-report-warns/9064090

(2): https://kids-first.com.au/your-child-and-the-ndis-what-is-and-isnt-covered/

(3): https://www.aph.gov.au/About_Parliament/Parliamentary_Departments/Parliamentary_Library/pubs/rp/rp1617/Quick_Guides/DisabilityInsuranceScheme

(4): http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-03-03/ndis-enrolments-surging-despite-difficulties-accessing-plans/8321232

(5): http://www.a4.org.au/node/1314

(6): http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/national/ndis-funding-medicare-levy-hike-bill-introduced-to-parliament/news-story/0dd5393f4bf673fc24db771d01e17fdf

(7): http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/health/ndis-underfunding-a-liberal-myth-says-chris-bowen/news-story/981dda127a0a76913d8d6b61e6d89b0b

(8): https://dignityparty.org.au

High Court Decision Analysis

With the high court making their rulings on the Citizenship 7 I have decided to share my brief thoughts on the outcomes of each senator. So the High Court made a split decision in that they didn’t rule all in or all out by ruling that 5 members namely Larissa Waters, Scott Ludlam, Macolm Roberts, Fiona Nash and Barnaby Joyce were ruled ineligible while Senators Matt Canavan and Nick Xenophon were ruled eligible. In making this decision as unanimous in each case it is clear that the High Court ruled in a fashion that was closer to the original Sykes vs Clearly Section 44 case than a more modern interpretation that I think the Government and the Solicitor General had hoped for.

Firstly looking at the ineligible senators:

We can group together Larissa Waters and Scott Ludlam who both resigned from Parliament when it was clear to them that they had fallen foul of Section 44 of the Constitution. The Greens have tried to argue they have been the good party in all of this in that they didn’t try to fight their ineligibility but that ignores that they didn’t have the setup in the first place to avoid members standing when they were Dual Citizens and also their attack on the government in particular ignores that Matt Canavan was found to be ok. In terms of their future Scott Ludlam has had some personal issues this term and so he won’t return to Federal Politics which means his seat will most likely go to Jordan Steele-Jones the next Greens senator on the WA Greens ticket (1). Larissa Waters does appear to want to return to Parliament but not straight away so the former Democrats leader Andrew Bartlett will likely take her seat as the next ticketed Greens Senator and then Larissa Waters would seek a Parliamentary return at the next Federal Election.

Malcolm Roberts is a unique case in that he probably was the most likely to be removed under section 44 of the constitution but he tried to argue that he wasn’t a dual citizenship because he believed he was a “True Blue” Aussie. Once the High Court in it’s initial deliberations declared him to be a British Citizen it was clear he was in trouble. (2) Malcolm Roberts is now seeking to run for the Queensland state seat of Ipswich which is home to Pauline Hanson’s fish and chips store, this is despite some rumours that the replacement Fraser Anning is not One Nations ideal choice as replacement and also Fraser facing some issues with Section 44 over possible bankruptcy (3). The state seat of Ipswich is held by Labor by 16 percent but given the popularity of One Nation currently in Queensland and given Malcolm Roberts now has some recognition he will be a face to watch at the next state election.

Fiona Nash who was the Deputy leader of the National Party also was struck out today and unlike Barnaby Joyce has a lot tougher road back to Parliament, the reason for her ineligibility is that she obtain British citizen by descent of her Scottish born Father. She has been a strong Minister for the Nationals and will be sorely missed. The Liberal candidate Hollie Hughes is the next member on the NSW Liberal/ Nationals senate ticket and if she were to resign as Fiona Nash is a National the senate spot would go to another Liberal representative not National, so Fiona Nash would then have to qualify as Liberal Senator and maybe then reclassify as a National once back in Parliament and that seems messy.

The last member to be struck out today and the granddaddy of them all is Barnaby Joyce the Deputy Prime Minister of Australia and Nationals leader. He shocked the Parliament when he revealed he was a New Zealand Citizen and his resignations means an untimely by-election for an unpopular government. Now I think Barnaby Joyce will comfortably win his seat and that is particularly the case with Tony Windsor choosing not to stand for election who was the former independent member for New England and kingmaker of the Julia Gillard Government from 2010-2013. What Joyce’s exit means is that the government enters a period of minority government although the state of the Parliament is currently 74 Liberals, 69 Labor, 5 Independents and then Tony Smith the Liberal Speaker who can break any tied votes. So the government won’t fall in the next few months before the December 2nd Election and then the post election before the Election results are officially declared but Labor could move a Inquiry into banks for example and 1 Liberal/National Crossing the floor could cause that to happen. For what it’s worth Cathy McGowan the Independent MP from Indi has also promised to support the government against any No Confidence Motion (5).

As I alluded to earlier two Senators survived their challenges to the Section 44 cases. Nick Xenophon it was determined had a form of citizenship that did not give him enough rights to classify as having allegiance to another nation. This is a bit of a moot point as he plans to resign from Parliament anyway and go and contest the SA lower house seat of Hartley. What it does mean is that rather than the vote going to a recount the Nick Xenophon Party can determine who replaces him and that is then okayed by SA Parliament. It appears that replacement is likely to be a staffer. Matt Canavan the Nationals Senator also is allowed to stay in Parliament and was immediately re sworn in as Resources Minister. It appears and this article explains it well (6) that even though he was an Italian Citizen by one list to be properly eligible for Italian Citizenship Matt Canavan would have had to have actively taken steps to obtain citizenship which according to his story was not the case.  This is one piece of good news for the Government as Matt Canavan is a promising young Senator who has a lot to give to Parliament still.

References

(1): http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-07-21/jordon-steele-john-ready-to-take-scott-ludlam-senate-spot/8729536

(2): https://sslcam.news.com.au/cam/authorise?channel=pc&url=http%3a%2f%2fwww.couriermail.com.au%2fnews%2fqueensland%2fqueensland-government%2fhigh-court-citizenship-ineligible-one-nation-senator-malcolm-roberts-to-run-for-queensland-state-seat-of-ipswich%2fnews-story%2f2789bbb510a6f8c705defc1d9e392512

(3): https://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/politics/federal/malcolm-roberts-to-run-for-queensland-seat-as-one-nation-tensions-boil-over-20171027-gz9ste.html

(4): http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/nationals-deputy-leader-fiona-nashs-australian-citizenship-called-into-question-20170817-gxysrc.html

(5): http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/independent-mp-cathy-mcgowan-says-she-wont-bring-down-prime-minister/news-story/19a784e0fdbe7cbac41aabe5f11f8543

(6): http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/high-court-citizenship-verdict-nationals-deputy-fiona-nash-falls-but-matt-canavan-clings-on-20171026-gz9aqh.html

Nick Xenophon – The story behind the man that has shaken up SA Politics and an update on COAG Terrorism meeting

Last week on Friday Nick Xenophon shook up the political spectrum by announcing he would quit Federal Parliament to return to SA Politics with a tilt for a lower house seat in Hartley. This will be a return to where it started for Nick Xenophon as he started in the SA senate for 10 years before coming to Canberra to sit in the Upper House for a further 10 years. The Nick Xenophon party was already polling in the 20 percent range in SA for both the lower house and upper house so it will be interesting to see what his presence in SA will do to possibly help him win more seats. He obviously now starts favourite in winning the seat of Hartley but it is a marginal seat which means both Labor and Liberal are getting good numbers already and so the goal of finishing second and then winning on preferences is more difficult. This is what happened when Nick Xenophon’s Party won the seat of Mayo in the last Federal Election; Labor are not strong in that seat making Rebekah Sharkie’s goal of finishing second easier and then she got preferences to finish ahead of Jamie Briggs the Liberal sitting member. I also think it is worth noting the  COAG (Council of Australian Government) meeting which suggested a change in approach to counter terrorism.

(1) Provides a detailed explanation of what was discussed at the special COAG meeting on terrorism but I will provide a quick summary here. In the wake of what has been another year that we have seen the all too real of effects of terrorism here and abroad the PM and state and territory leaders agreed on a number of measures to help ensure a more national approach on terror. The big change was to introduce a national facial recognition system to better recognise people who have or are suspected to have committed terrorist and criminal acts. This has caused some outrage in the community who talk about freedom of privacy and invasiveness of government agencies but as Daniel Andrews said on Insiders and other radio programs (2) national security trumps peoples belief that they have a right to civic liberties. Essentially it boils down to the leaders not wanting civic liberty to be the cause of a terrorist attack going through and as he has said Australia are not immune to the threat of terror. Another change was to nationally enforce a presumption of non innocence for people who are suspected of terrorism charges, something that states and territories had already began to try and implement. The other changes fall into trying to protect crowded locations from the London like terrorism act and also look to better stop terrorism at it’s infant step by avoiding people falling into the wrong networks.

So returning to Nick Xenophon now I will now spend a few paragraphs on Nick Xenophon’s first stint in the SA Senate and then Federal Senate. In 1997 Nick Xenophon (3) did not yet have the personal following that he now has so on the No Pokies ticket he was able to preference harvest with other minor parties in order to enter the SA Senate. Now over all of his career Nick Xenophon has at times been criticised for a lack of action on his pet reform of pokies but I think that ignores a few points. Firstly as an Independent and Andrew Wilkie faced this with the Gillard Government Federally there is only so much he can do on this issue without major party support and both major parties have some vested interests in the gambling industry that made that reform difficult. Secondly it ignores the work Nick Xenophon has done on other issues. In his stint in the SA Senate he helped pass the privatisation of ETSA, taxation reform, protectionism of Australian goods, environment issues, consumer rights and other legal matters such as Procurement reforms which is not surprising given his Lawyer background. Nick Xenophon faced re election in 2006 and managed to obtain 21 percent in the senate, which allowed him to not only re elect himself but also Ann Bressington. Now his running mates and the struggles Xenophon has had to keep them on party line has been an area of concern and is worth looking at here as both Bressington and then John Darley who was elected under the Xenophon brand post Nick Xenophon moving to the Federal Parliament have gone rogue. (4) Essentially in Ann Bressington’s case once Nick Xenophon moved to the Federal Parliament she attacked him for ignoring her once elected and not considering her part of the Parliament. Similarly with John Darley (5) it appears that some people don’t like Nick Xenophon having such power over the party and so it will be interesting as Nick Xenophon runs more candidates this time if they are ok with not always having a big say, to be the Federal experience since 2016 has suggested that those senators and federal members are okay with Nick’s leadership.

In 2007 Nick Xenophon announced his move to the Federal Senate, in the 2007 election he garnered 14 percent of the vote. This was enough to vote him into Parliament where he initially held the balance of power before the Greens took full balance of power. In his role in the senate under Kevin Rudd Nick Xenophon was able to guarantee extra funding to the Murray Darling in order to pass the supplement that was given to families post the Global Financial Crisis hitting.  From then on until his re election in 2013 he had a mainly limited role as I mentioned he lost his balance of power. His voting record mainly was to be more supportive of the Liberal Party Economically. Then in the 2013 Election which saw the election of Tony Abbott Nick Xenophon was able to see his senate vote increase to 25 percent which was just shy of two quotas, this was improved upon in 2016 where his party did slightly poorer with 22 percent but the double dissolution election meant that quotas were halved so that result saw three senators be elected. As a result of the 2013 and 2016 result there was a more defined cross bench and so Nick Xenophon has played a bigger role on the cross bench on almost all important legislation. What Nick Xenophon has also done is take more junior independents under his wing like John Madigan, Ricky Muir and Jacquie Lambie which has helped create a smaller independent block that can combine their various views together to be an easier negotiating block for the Government. There is some criticism that Nick Xenophon has supported government policy more than Labor but I think that’s a reflection of Nick moving policy more to the centre to allow some resolution to an issue rather than leave an issue to sit without passing. Nick Xenophon was steadfastly against reforms like the Higher Education Reform and Defence Spending Cuts that Tony Abbott originally introduced in the 2014 budget.

In 2017 it was revealed that Nick Xenophon may face issues with Section 44 of the Constitution as a possible UK Citizen that would leave him ineligible to sit in Parliament. Cynics might suggest that he has jumped before a possible adverse finding by the high court or that after 10 years he is eligible to a better pension. I think this is unfair, I think it’s a reflection of both general and internal polling that shows Nick Xenophon’s SA Best Party will be the party that holds the balance of power post the 2018 election and it makes sense for him to be personally involved in any such negotiations as an MP because I think he will win his seat. What will be interesting is how many seats he could win, Antony Green Election Yoda (6) has not ruled out a possible path where his party win the second most seats and then have the third major party support him to make him Premier. My warning to this possibility is whether the voters embrace Nick Xenophon surrogates in other seats and the suspension of one of his candidates already for a series of distasteful Facebook Posts would seem to confirm these worries (7).

References

(1): https://www.coag.gov.au/meeting-outcomes/special-meeting-council-australian-governments-counter-terrorism-communique

(2): http://www.abc.net.au/radio/programs/am/daniel-andrews-says-national-security-upgrade-is-essential/9017670

(3): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nick_Xenophon

(4): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ann_Bressington

(5): http://www.adelaidenow.com.au/news/south-australia/john-darley-resigns-from-nick-xenophon-team-but-will-stay-in-the-south-australian-parliament-as-an-independent-mp/news-story/76c46dc4c0ae3553f17278d04d0eb711

(6): http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-10-06/xenophon-return-to-state-politics-puts-a-whole-new/9022666

(7): http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-10-07/xenophon-candidate-rhys-adams-sacked-over-facebook-photos/9026442

Media Reform and Election updates for New Zealand and Germany

In the last week of Parliament the Government were finally able to to get through their long awaited media reform bill. This was done with the support of the Nick Xenophon Party and Pauline Hanson’s One Nation Party. This is a big reform as the old media laws are close to 30 years old and therefore don’t cover the huge player in Media now which is the Online realm and the media that comes through Facebook and Google as examples. However these reforms were largely overshadowed by the Energy debate that continues to show how progress won’t happen after 10 years if you just keep yelling at the other side and the SSM survey that continues to divide the country with both sides stooping to new lows that will leave us with a divided society once the vote comes in! A divided society (never heard of that in Politics in the last few years). Elsewhere in New Zealand and Germany you have voters shaping to vote in two elections that are fascinating for different reasons.

There are two main elements to the media reform legislation (1) as well as many other minor changes that I won’t elaborate on here but are explained well in the explanatory memorandum linked below. Firstly the removal of the 2 out of 3 rule, which essentially states that one media group can’t own a newspaper circulation, radio and television channel. This element of the change caused some fuss as people who attacked the change saw this as simply a way for Murdoch to buy Channel 10 who is a know Liberal Party sympathiser. This in their eyes would see a dilution of the media market but is seen to be less of an issue when people are going online more to access their media anyway. This concern is also somewhat offset by the recent announcement that channel 10 will be bought by CBS and so far the challenges to this decision have been unsuccessful (2).

The Second element to the media reform was the removal of the 75 percent reach rule. This essentially means that one network can’t broadcast in more than 75 percent of the country, this had the impact on television for example of meaning that Channel Nine would reach the metropolitan areas and Win would cover country areas and you could not see a merging of the two stations. Again in a world which is increasingly having people consume their news using the internet as well as their media it is an outdated rule.

As I said earlier there were amendments made by the Nick Xenophon Party and then Pauline Hanson that will attempt to be legislated through in this bill. (3) Xenophon’s amendment managed to obtain 60 million dollars in funding for improvements in journalism in Australia. The majority of this money will go to improving equipment and software that can help modernise the way newspapers are ran in the 21st century. There is also money to allow companies that are medium sized and predominantly rural to hire cadet Journalists to try and attract more people to the profession at a time when companies are having to let workers go. Criticism has come from sections that this grant does not apply to foreign media companies, which means that companies like The Guardian or Buzz Feed which are international companies but have Australian subsidiaries do not apply. This is contentious as these companies have also felt the pinch in the modern age of journalism. As is often the case with Pauline Hanson her amendments suggested were a lot more controversial (4). In return for One Nations support on the issue Pauline Hanson has wanted the Government to legislate changes to the ABC in a not so subtle continuation of One Nations vendetta against the ABC in response to the ABC’s not so subtle suggestion that One Nation are dodgy! Essentially Pauline Hanson wants to see more money go into rural broadcasting which seems reasonable and then for a greater emphasis to be placed on ABC being a fair and balanced broadcaster which is going to be hard to police I would have thought. Pauline Hanson has also wanted to see a copying of the BBC practice that passed through their Parliament in that people who earn over 200,000 dollars have to have their salaries publicly listed, the logic being that as the ABC is a public broadcaster it should be open on those who are on such large salaries that are being funded by the taxpayer. The opposition to this reform can be best summed up by Jacquie Lambie and I quote (5)

“You are a disgusting bunch of individuals at times,” she said.

“You have no moral values and to go after the public broadcaster is an absolute disgrace”

My quick thoughts on the New Zealand and Germany Elections are as followed:

It is clear that Angela Merkel’s Conservative party will be the largest party following the election based on the polls. This is somewhat surprising because rewind back to 2015-2016 and with an unpopular stance on Refugees it was thought her party might struggle against a neo nazi populist party. I think it is a sign that as much as the world is divided at the moment, a strong steady pair of hands and good strong leadership can still be rewarded and Angela Merkel would easily be the worlds greatest leader of this century thus far. Reading up on the German election I saw the following article which is a really great read (6).

On the New Zealand Election we have a bit of a reverse scenario to the German Election in that despite a country that is travelling very well economically the Election looks to be on a knife-edge. This is because despite the last polls (7) suggesting that Bill English’s party will be largest, their electoral system means that with the Greens and New Zealand expecting to poll well it will be tough for Bill English to win Government in majority and he will instead have to work with minor parties. It does appear though that the wave which made it look like Jacinda Ardern might ride from not even leader to PM in 6 weeks won’t quite occur. She has however tightened the race by using the populist playbook. Announcing Free University studies, better health care and a push for New Zealand to become a republic is a big vote winner for youth who might otherwise not bother to vote. However this approach does lead to an attack path of not being Economically fiscal enough to manage the Economy and these attacks do appear to have stemmed the tide away from Labour.

Lastly I couldn’t resist sharing a funny moment from Question time in the last sitting by the eminent Bob Katter (8):

 

 

Bibliography

(1) http://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/search/display/display.w3p;query=Id%3A%22legislation%2Fems%2Fr5907_ems_978e8b30-1d13-4ced-bfc2-428f25095021%22

(2) http://www.smh.com.au/business/media-and-marketing/disappointed-underbidders-lachlan-murdoch-and-bruce-gordon-should-not-be-able-to-stall-ten-deal-court-hears-20170907-gychte.html

(3) http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/2017/09/14/media-shake-broadcasting-laws-pass-in-parliament

(4) http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/abc-sbs-funding-could-unlock-media-reform-say-greens-20170815-gxwgrq.html

(5) http://thenewdaily.com.au/news/national/2017/09/14/jacqui-lambie-abc-one-nation-media/

(6) http://edition.cnn.com/interactive/2017/politics/state/angela-merkel-german-election/

(7) https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/sep/21/new-zealand-election-polls-give-bill-english-reasons-to-be-cheerful-despite-jacinda-effect

(8) https://www.facebook.com/workmanalice/videos/1662956613778192/