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

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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/

Suspension of Standing orders and Quorums: A look into Political Skullduggery

In Parliament today the Labor Party moved for another suspension of standing orders, the 8th straight Question time interrupted by a call to Suspend Standing Orders. Along with an increased amount of calls for Quorums in the House of Representatives these Parliamentary tactics have again come into question as to how valid these tactics are. First of all it is worth giving a definition of both tactics.

A quorum (1) dictates that at any time in Parliament one fifth of the members must be present within the chamber, in the current Parliament of 150 members this means that 30 members should be present at any moment. Similarly in the senate (2) there are rules for a Quorum that require a quarter of senators present which in the current senate is 19 of the 76 members. The suspension of standing orders (3) is when the House or Senate has a member who seeks to alter the current order of business in order to debate an issue that is of national significance, be that a policy or political point. These are often moved by Opposition Parties to interrupt the government order of business of a sitting day to make a political or policy point that they feel is important. A more cynical person however would suggest that appearance of chaos in Parliament tends to hurt the Governing Party more and so suspending the order of the House leads to an appearance of chaos that reflects badly on the Government.

A lot of the public probably would not have heard about quorums as Question Time which is the main Parliamentary Debate followed by the public will be attended by most members of Parliament. However as members of Parliament MPs have a lot of work they are required to do outside of the House during sitting days and so it is usual procedure for MPs to let it slide if Quorum is not present. However an Opposition that wants to cause Skullduggery can move for a Quorum to be counted which then forces 30 Government MPs to get back to Parliament within 4 minutes. If Quorum is then not reached the Speaker can suspend the sitting of Parliament from anywhere up until the next sitting day which is an embarrassing look to any government. The Labor Party have carried out this technique at an increasing rate over the last few Parliament sitting fortnights especially on the Welfare Debate yesterday and it has the effect of ensuring the Government have to ensure MPs are able to quickly return to Parliament for counting. Now Labor Party followers would rightfully point to examples like the following (4) where the Liberal Party during the hung Parliament called two successive Quorums to catch out the Labor Party as revenge for Anthony Albanese using another political technique, namely moving a member be no longer heard. Now as I will say in the next section that’s a reasonable argument but it also is the sort of stunt that makes the general public continue to lose respect in Parliament and that is something that all politicians should be trying to respect.

The Labor Party on Wednesday moved their seventh straight suspension of standing orders during Question Time and then today moved their eighth straight suspension of standing order breaking Tony Abbott’s record of six straight suspensions of standing orders in the Hung Parliament period between 2010-2013 (5). All of Labor’s motions to suspend standing orders in the last fortnight have related to Barnaby Joyce and his citizenship status. Now this is an important issue but Question Time is an important opportunity for the opposition to hold the government to account and every suspension of standing orders cuts into Question Time and is less opportunity for the Government to be questioned on different policy issues. This is Particularly the case when the Labor Party focus on just one topic for now 2 weeks of question time straight exclusively and off and on in previous sitting weeks before that. At a time when we have North Korea possibly about to start World War 3, Power Prices being at punishing rates for families to contend with and an ongoing argument on the merits of economic policy direction, be it a more Social or Capitalist approach and marriage equality. It just beggars belief to me the Labor Party think that Citizenship is the only issue worth pursuing in Question Time.

Now again similar to the last paragraph the Labor Party will point to the Liberal Party moving such motions in the hung parliament of the 2010-2013 government and they are right to do so, but just because it gave the Liberal Party Electoral Success in the 2013 Election it then meant there was no Political free will given by the Labor Party when they hit opposition. With this cycle in mind there is a real concern that a Liberal Opposition Party in 2019 may try the same Parliamentary tactic. No one has yet to convince me while this following exchange makes good Parliamentary debate:

Tony Bourke: “I move that so much of standing orders be suspended such that the Manager of Opposition move the following motion forthwith. That the House censures the Prime Minister for continuing to accept the vote of Barnaby Joyce and keeping him in Parliament”. End Motion, start to debate motion and Suddenly:

Chris Pyne Leader of the House: “I move the member be no further heard”

Tony Smith Speaker: “All those in favour say I” I “Opposed say No” No; “the I’s have it” No “Is division required, ring the bells for four minutes”

Cue 10 minutes to divide and count the votes

Back to Tony Smith: “Is the motion seconded”

Joel Fitzgibbon: “I second the motion”,Shouting Barnaby Joyce should not be in….

Chris Pyne Leader of the House: “I move the member be no further heard”

Tony Smith Speaker: “All those in favour say I” I “Opposed say No” No; “the I’s have it” No “Is division required, ring the bells for one minute”

A few minutes later Chris Pyne moves the motion be put and the Speaker then repeats the procedure to eventually have the motion defeated. This is the procedure that has taken place at 2:50PM Eastern Time just as the main ABC channel is about to end their Parliamentary Feed and go to regular programming. Again Politically a valuable tactic but I will leave it to the reader to decide whether it’s a great showing of our democracy.

Lastly I just want to say that I hope that wiser heads can prevail with North Korea because I think we are nearly at the point where the best course of action to prevent extra casualties will be to take military action to avoid more civilian casualties from a North Korean Military test that if went wrong could cause a large amount of casualties.

 

References

(1) https://www.legislation.gov.au/Details/C2004A03790

(2) http://www.aph.gov.au/About_Parliament/Senate/Powers_practice_n_procedures/aso/so051

(3) https://questions.peo.gov.au/questions/under-what-circumstances-would-standing-orders-be-suspended-and-for-what-purpose/22

(4) http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/coalition-catches-labor-short-in-parliament/news-story/0b3cbd139d36edb0a7a7bc728fbd9197

(5) https://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/politics/federal/parliamentary-chaos-labors-enthusiastic-embrace-of-tony-abbotts-destruction-political-playbook-20170906-gybuq5.html

Election Update- A Snapshot of the Electoral state of play and a brief interlude on the Economy

If I was to have written about the last two weeks in Politics it would read as a repeat on any of my previous blogs on the SSM Postal Survey, the Constitution Issue, North Korea or the murky area of Asylum Seekers. I think however there is enough commentary on these issues already so I will instead focus on where we stand Electorally in the States and Federally as we are due for 6 elections in the next 18 months. As much as I’d like to talk in the coming paragraphs about the Economy will play a large role in the upcoming elections in these states that sadly is not where the focus is for a lot of media coverage in this Political climate. Now I think that is a pity, however a lot of the Economic conversations we have been having on both sides of the fence have been slogans and simplistic arguments that don’t account for the nuance that the Economy is.

An example of this was when we had the GST debate a few years ago. Those of the left side of Politics argued that GST is a regressive policy that impacts those who are less well off as by covering things like basic groceries it will be those with the tightest budget that end up being impacted most. This was considered by John Howard when he introduced the GST in 2000 (1) and he introduced income tax cuts and an increase in Family Benefits to offset the pain parents might feel at the shopping centres, this was similarly the likely approach that Malcolm Turnbull would have taken with any planned GST increase however the notion of the Liberal Party not being a taxing Government and the Labor Party ready to whack the Turnbull Government meant that this plan was quickly shelved. Now some pundits would say well why don’t we come up with more Economic Plans like this and my argument would be okay what do you say to the nervous backbencher who has to sell this plan to a seat they won by under 1 percent when they are being whacked by the other side of Politics.

Similarly the Liberal Party tend to attack those on Welfare as needing to get to work sooner as they can then start paying the Government more tax and it lowers the amount of welfare that Governments need to outlay on Welfare. This ignores a couple of points. Firstly that once on Welfare it becomes a lot more difficult on Welfare to then make the steps to get off Welfare, I.E how do you afford to service your car to get to that interview that is not reachable by public transport. Then you have a modified job market where work for dole might keep you in some form of work in the interim but try selling that as experience to a lot of potential employers and they will say it is negligible experience. Also and the biggest issue, people are finding work but in an environment where employers are cutting back budgets your four days of work might now be only 3, the full day of work might now be go home at lunch time instead and so you then have the equally worrying problem of underemployment. Indeed the Australian Bureau of Statistics as part of their Labour Force Survey (2) collect statistics on the underemployment numbers in Australia and there has been a definitive uptick in underemployment even as employment numbers have gradually improved post financial crisis. My comment on this would be that after the GFC in 2008 many employers moved to let go employees or if not that then lessened hours for their employees. This created a situation where the employers had a large amount of power over their workers and rightfully so at the time but I feel since that time that power balance has not returned to a more equilibrium state and the larger underemployment and the wages growth flatlining are at least in part a consequence of this. The Labor Party have taken these concerns on to run an effective attack on the Government pursuing policies that further inequality, an attack that many Socialist Parties across the world have been having success with. Now that’s all well and good but are we chasing some bad eggs and punishing the people who are making a dollar but doing it cleanly at the same time. Indeed I think (3) sums up the basic flaw that if you take away the aspirations of people to try and be more profitable and successful you limit productivity, people willing to try something new and that leads to reduced money for the Government to then put back into people’s services. It’s why the Scandinavian Countries have some of the more like Economic circumstances in that they embrace a full capitalist market of being as profitable in business as possible without government intervention however that extra money is then invested back into government services for those less off. That might sound nice in theory but again when I browse posts from people discussing these countries I still see many complaints about high taxes that people don’t want to embrace.

So with that interlude out of the way I will now briefly outline some predictions on the state of play of upcoming Election races in Chronological order of when an election will likely be held.

Queensland

Queensland are due for an election by May next year however most pundits believe that Annastacia Palaszczuk will go to an early election late this year. This is due to what Labor believed at the time was a good move by reintroducing compulsory preferential voting (4) does not come into force until early next year. The wrinkle for the Labor Party was that One Nation did not appear to be the big force that they were then so the Labor Party were hoping that Greens voters just voting 1 would no longer exhaust and they’d pick up an extra vote. This is a more flawed proposition if it also means that One Nation votes are no longer exhausting and propping up Liberal votes. The current poll (5) has Labor up 51-49 which would probably see them stay in power however it assumes that One Nation Preferences split 50-50 and that’s a dangerous assumption in Queensland as Liberal party members have been less shy than their federal counterparts to embrace One Nation in order to hopefully pick up their preferences, I can see why in North Queensland particularly where Pauline Hanson is polling up to 30 percent in some seats. I also have to note that Labor Party last time reversed a 78 out of 89 seats won performance of the LNP to win 44 seats. My prediction at the moment is that the LNP are probably still not recognisable enough to win the election but that it will be close.

South Australia

I wrote extensively about the state of play in South Australia a few blog posts ago so there is not much to add. Probably the most important change is the arrest of the Mount Gambier Liberal MP for multiple theft and fraud charges. This is a big deal as in an election where the Liberal Party need to win seats to take office this seat now is very much in play for an independent or Nick Xenophon party member to take and given the seat was held by an independent from 2002 to 2014 the LNP would be rightly worried about that seat. I also give some kudos to the Labor Party for timing some of their big policies to be enacted in this 12 month stretch before the election. Now it’s a blatant vote grab in many people’s eyes but a new Royal Adelaide Hospital, new Power Generators, a battery to help store renewable energy and a new High School to be built on the grounds of the old RAH will appeal to many as they head to the polls in March next year.

Tasmania

Tasmania and ACT are weird regions election wise as they use the Hare Clarke voting system rather than the one used by the rest of the country. I think the easiest way to describe the electoral system is that they elect members to their lower house like the rest of the country elect senators. So for instance you might have five members to elect in an area so you need 20 percent vote to elect a member. So if we just limited ourselves in this example to three parties and say it’s the Liberals and Labor get 40 percent each and the Greens say got 20 percent then an allocation in this fictitious case would be 2 Labor, 2 Liberals and 1 Green member for the particular elector, repeat that for four regions say and you have 8 ALP, 8 LNP and 4 Greens. Seeing that split you immediately see the issue for the LNP to win Government under this system. Because 9 times out of 10 the Labor Party will go to the 4 Greens in that case and say hey want to be in government and rule with us and the answer sure, sign us up! So for the Liberals to win in this scenario they really need to run up the score to get a 3 or even 4th seat at an expense of a Labor or Green or both member. Tasmania voted like this example in the 2010 election except with five members elected in five districts. In the 2014 election (6) Will Hodgman was able to win 15 of the 25 seats. Worryingly for Hodgman the second Labor leadership change to Rebecca White appears to have lifted the support to the party to a level where the Liberal Party may drop their 3rd seat in enough areas to put them at risk of going into a hung parliament which would then most likely see the Greens back a minority Labor Government (7). The one good thing for the Liberals in the poll is that they are still favoured to run the economy which suggests the large debt that the Labor and Green Party gave the state has not been forgotten however the Liberal Party are coming off a Federal Election where they were wiped out in the Lower House of any Liberal members and that would be of concern to the Liberal Party.

Australian Federal Election

In a lot of my recent posts I have focussed a large amount of my time on the failings on both sides Policy wise however in terms of Electoral Prospects I think one graphic shows just how bad a shape the Liberal Party are in.

bt2019-2017-08-28.png

(8) shows that the Liberal Party are on track to be in the same position as the Labor Party were after the 2013 election. The wipeout of the LNP in Tasmania, NT and ACT and a near wipeout possibly for SA is a huge concern for the LNP, that takes away a lot of resources to improve your stocks in those states and that’s even more the case if all of these areas remain or become Labor States. Some might also wonder why I have listed this election to occur in 2018 when three years would take us to a 2019 poll however the senate half term expires July 2019 and so to avoid a seperate Senate half Election the Government would need to go to the polls before then. The Government would then want to avoid a poll that clashes with either Victoria or New South Wales and so that’s why a mid 2018 date is most likely.

Victoria

Victoria in 2014 started the trend of States swinging Parties after only 1 term when the Liberal Party under Denis Napthine lost office to Dan Andrews. This was following a period of government that had seen the turmoil of trying to govern with a 1 seat majority that vanished with Geoff Shaw becoming embroiled in a scandal and then refusing to continue supporting the speaker. This effectively could have caused a constitutional crisis as not being able to elect a speaker of the house is one of the tests of a governments hold on power. However after the election Dennis Napthine was replaced by Matthew Guy and with Labor seeming to be waging war with many union organisations that should arguably be favourable to the Labor movement and with money being paid not to go ahead with building West Link the Labor Party had floundered. Matthew Guy had also opened up a good line on a Liberal Government being strong on Law and Order which was another perceived weakness of the Labor Party with some gang activity and unfortunate terror incidents. In the face of 2PP votes of 54 and 53 percent it was looking like we might see another one term government however Matthew Guy has recently had a massive brain fart. (9) uncovers a meeting held between Matthew Guy and alleged mafia boss Tony Madafferi having a Lobster dinner together to discuss the Madafferi family continuing to help fund the Liberal Parties tilt to win office. This has been a huge to Matthew Guy and puts a huge credibility hole in his efforts to be tough on crime. (10) shows that the Labor Party are in a much better shape in marginal seats since the Red Lobster scandal and it shows that the Liberal Party now have a lot more to do before the election in November next year.

New South Wales

Rewind to the 2015 New South Wales and despite Tony Abbott being a drain on the Liberal vote nationally people still were confident in the power of Mike Baird and his popularity would easily see him re elected to Parliament from the near Queensland sized Election landslide that Barry O’Farrell won in 2011. While pundits were right about Mike Baird winning the 2015 Election, fast forward two years and Mike Baird is completely out of Parliament having resigned for family reasons but certainly having the gloss shined off him. I think a lot of what happened to Mike Baird shows a lot of the issues of modern day Politics and how difficult it is to govern in this environment. His big issues that he had to deal with were Fracking, Greyhounds and Midnight lockout laws. Fracking is a contentious issue that I’m not expert enough to discuss here, however I can comment that both the Liberal Party and Labor Party under Luke Foley were broadly supportive of Fracking and the Labor Party had previously seen it’s merits as an economic measure to bring jobs to rural areas where employment has flatlined however Labor then reversed their policy position as Opposition to the policy would go down well in the Country. The Greyhound issue is another topic that the Labor Party flipped their position on but my criticism isn’t mainly levelled at them here. After a powerful 4 Corners Episode (11) on the harms of the Greyhound Racing Mike Baird reacting by banning Greyhound Racing. Now while the outrage from the Shooters and Fishers Party and people involved in the Greyhound industry were expected and strong there was not much praise from green groups for closing the industry. This culminated in the Nationals losing the State seat of Orange to the aforementioned Shooters and Fishers Party and then led to Mike Baird reversing the ban. This of course cued outrage from Greens groups on why he reversed his decision to which I argue well where was this passion when the original decision was made! Mike Baird was in a lose lose position. The last policy decision was the Lockout Laws and again for a city that had previously been known for Kings Cross and Gang Warfare I would have thought laws that lessened violence on Sydney Streets on Saturday Nights would be respected, again it wasn’t and again Mike Baird got a hit in the polls for actually trying to take a Political Decision. It’s hard to make policy decisions from Opposition and I would comment that if you want Politicians to make tough decisions then we need to let them have clean air to make these decisions without whacking them with a stick at the next election and changing to a party that promises us nice things!!!! With that backdrop Gladys Berejiklian is now the Premier of New South Wales and (12) shows that the Liberals are probably still in an election winning position albeit a much smaller one than they probably had hoped.

References

(1) http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-05-20/john-howard-introduces-the-gst-2000/5464730

(2) http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/6202.0main+features5Nov%202016

(3) https://www.boundless.com/business/textbooks/boundless-business-textbook/economics-and-business-2/businesses-under-communist-systems-31/the-disadvantages-of-communism-167-559/

(4) https://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/national/queensland/government-wrong-foots-lnp-on-electoral-reform-20160421-goc3bs.html

(5) https://theconversation.com/queensland-galaxy-51-49-to-labor-but-palaszczuks-ratings-slump-82138

(6) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tasmanian_state_election,_2014

(7) http://www.themercury.com.au/news/politics/new-polling-reveals-labor-leader-rebecca-white-preferred-tasmanian-premier-over-will-hodgman/news-story/adadd43f1c58f9f22094b97397bda4e6

(8) https://blogs.crikey.com.au/pollbludger/2017/08/26/bludgertrack-54-0-46-0-labor/

(9) http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-08-12/matthew-guy-survives-his-worst-week-as-opposition-leader/8799494

(10) https://blogs.crikey.com.au/pollbludger/2017/08/13/reachtel-victorian-state-marginals-polling/

(11) http://www.abc.net.au/4corners/stories/2015/02/16/4178920.html

(12) https://blogs.crikey.com.au/pollbludger/2017/04/07/newspoll-51-49-coalition-new-south-wales-2/

North Korea – How close are we to a Nuclear War?

As most Australian’s continued to grapple with the issue of Same Sex Marriage and whether to partake or not in the Postal Plebiscite that will now take place in North Korea things have deteriorated as both Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump have ratcheted up the rhetoric on potential military action. This increased tension has come about after another sanction being passed by the UN after North Korea carried out their latest Nuclear test (1). People have talked about these sanctions being the toughest sanctions to be implemented ever on a country and that Russia and China have supported this resolution however that should be taken with the grain of salt that the last resolution passed by the UN was also the toughest resolution and it has clearly had limited impact on North Korea’s Nuclear Program. This is because while Russia and China broadly support the resolutions in practice they have still maintained a large portion of their economic ties. As a result of the sanctions North Korea threatened to make an attack on America, specifically on Guam which is an important military base for the US. This threat has caused Donald Trump to make several threats in return threatening to bring fire and fury to North Korea if any action was taken on Guam and then when the international community wanted Trump to backdown his comments he doubled down and said that the US were locked and loaded and ready to bring fury like never seen before on North Korea in response to any attacks on Guam. This increased rhetoric along with North Koreas nuclear programming progressing at a faster rate than many predicted has left the world feeling more nervous than in a while at the prospect of Nuclear War. As a result of various UN arrangements and also the ANZUS alliance Australia have stepped in behind America in opposing North Korea’s latest actions and any action by North Korea against the US would lead to a conflict with Australia.

As with a lot of issues it’s important to get some historical perspective before discussing the current situation. (2) gives a pretty good summary of the history between North Korea and South Korea that I will summarise myself here. So at the end of WW2 as with a lot of conquered land there were disputes between Russia and the Western Alliance of the US, UK and France over how to divide the land that both Allies had claimed and so as with Germany there was a split in half with the US claiming the South of Korea and Russia the North of Korea. In the following years as the Communist regimes of Russia and China started to lay claim on being a World Force this led to a natural conflict with the Western Societies like America and Britain who wanted to maintain their world dominance. This culminated in the North Koreans and South Koreans both wanted to have their own nation and that split led to North Korea invading South Korea which started the Korean War. Now as the war went on China decided to enter the War to protect their interests in North Korea and as result of advanced War technology that the Brits had given them to help fight Japan in WW2 and sheer numbers their entrance into the conflict led to the Korean War ending in an armistice with no clear winner from the war.

From that point to the early nineties there was 40 years in which the Kim dynasty was pledged to be passed down to it’s second iteration Kim Jong-il and for most part their relative peace with both nations joining the UN in 1991. In 1993 and 1994 North Korea fire it’s first ballistic missile and the UN accused North Korea of breaking the Nuclear Non-Proliferation agreement. This agreement (3) essentially seeks to stop the spread of Nations acquiring or creating Nuclear Weapons and seeking to reduce the amount of Nuclear Weapons available. This push by North Korea is ended temporarily in 1994 by agreeing to stop further action on it’s nuclear programme in exchange for economic assistance in the form of oil. The mid to late nineties saw the new regime under Kim Jong-il flex it’s muscles and end the armistice agreement by sending troops into the demilitarised zone that was meant to act as a border between the North and South, it also showed some capability in advancement of it’s weaponry by firing a multistage rocket over to the Japanese sea. In 2002 and 2003 more evidence is shown that the North Koreans are starting their Nuclear Weapon program again and indeed the North Koreans pull out of both Nuclear Non Proliferation agreement and the armistice they signed with South Korea in relation to having no Nuclear Weapons within Korea. This leads to China, the Koreans, US, Russia and Japan starting talks that seek to come up with a solution to the nuclear issue, talks that until this day are continuing off and  on with some subset of these nations. The rest of the 2000’s continued this pattern of some progress on the issue being wiped out by North Korea then restarting some form of their nuclear program again. This then leads to this decade where in 2011 Kim Jong-Un took over from his father the rule of North Korea. Because of some tensions within his family and the military this succession has seen a ramping up of Nuclear Proliferation because his link to power is not as secure as his dad or grandfather. Indeed his brother was poisoned and his uncle assassinated in signs of this unrest. The first half of this decade has seen various threats made by the new leader at the US while also seeing more shows of increasing power by carrying out various weapons testing. This culminated in 2015 with the nuclear plant in Yongbyon reopening and that has led to a rapid improvement in the ability to create a larger scale nuclear weapon device. It is in the last few years that the rapid advancement has added concrete evidence to the years of rhetoric that has led to more concern with the current outbreak.

So a lot of intrigue with North Korea is based on their ability to use an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile. Their ability to now fit miniaturised nuclear warheads into longer range weapons is a significant development from previous action (4). Having anywhere up to 60 missiles that can reach America or areas like Guam and even Australia means that when North Korea make threats now they actually have to be taken more seriously than previously. Also of issue is that if North Korea were to carry out an attack on Guam, America could and would strike back with an arsenal that is far greater than North Korea, however that would lead to North Korea then launching retaliatory action on South Korea. (5) Shows that while South Korea and USA can limit the damage that a retaliatory strike could do, any attack would still look at up to tens of thousands of deaths and potentially millions of injuries. I think that’s why Donald Trump is not the ideal leader for this situation. Again I think a lot of the rhetoric and military plans that Donald Trump and his team have suggested are not bad ideas, the problem is that he is going public with these issues and exaggerating what America plans to do in response to North Korea with language that inflames a North Korea leader that is not know for rational decision making. America probably would win any conflict that were to start between North Korea and itself and other allies however the cost in life and loss of territory to attacks would be significant and as a result some form of negotiation should still be the first choice of action.

The one caveat to my last comment is what do China do in any conflict. Yesterday a China  friendly newspaper came out and said that China would stay neutral in any dispute that was started by North Korea however they would intervene and assist North Korea if America initiated an attack on North Korea. This would suggest that other than agreeing to economic sanctions any thoughts of China helping the West in a military dispute is questionable. I think there are a few good reasons for that, firstly if North Korea were to be heavily attacked by America there would be a large amount of displaced citizens that would seek refuge in China. Now China are a rising economic power however it is still a great divide between the do’s and the do nots and they can’t afford to have to take in displaced citizens. Secondly in North Korea China have a good buffer in terms of a country that has similar worldwide views Economically and socially to itself in comparison to the more Western based countries in South Korea and Japan. Lastly China and North Korea have strong economic ties, China use a lot of North Koreans for cheap Labour as well as trade exports and imports with each other, I also think China have some empathy for the plight of an impoverished nation and see itself as someone who wants to help the people as elaborated in (6). All this being said I think China do realise that to rise up as an international force they can’t completely flout international resolutions and so that’s why you seem them tow the line on UN resolutions to some degree.

There are a few more things I’ve been seeing in the media and the public that are worth commenting on. Firstly I have seen a lot of comments saying why is the public getting a say on the Same Sex Marriage Postal Plebiscite and not on whether we go to war, which of course has come back up as we talk about potential action against North Korea. I repeat what I said in response to one such raising of the issue: No offence but to compare voting on SSM with oh wait Hitlers invading Poland, just give us three months to work out the publics mind on this one… in three months Hitler had conquered Poland and with Russia had made advances on several Balkan countries. Similarly if North Korea have taken action against Guam, the escalation may then involve Nuclear Weapons and so having a three month conversation on the merits of dealing with a Nuclear War is hardly appropriate. Now the debate on whether Parliament is informed is a more interesting one but I think the sudden nature of War may mean it’s more appropriate just to have sign off from the major party leaders. There’s also been the attacks on Donald Trump for somehow being at fault for the latest flare up between the North and South. I again think this is more of a cheap shot at Donald and while as I said above I don’t think he’s helping the situation I also think that it is North Koreas actions that are making this situation where it is now.

In terms of what I think will happen now I do again feel sorry for the North Korean People. While North Korea continue to build on their arsenal of weapons Nuclear or otherwise the people are forced to live in poverty and despite all this have been essentially brainwashed by leadership into believing that the only way they will become a worldwide force again is to build up military force to then be able to gain more territory to be able to gain economic credibility. I think I agree with Kim Beazley’s general takeaway that while we may not be about to go to War, we are in a very vulnerable situation and one where a small miscalculation from either side might lead to one side overreacting and carrying one action that would then lead to chain of events with an ending that could wipe out a good percentage of the earth via some nuclear bombs.

 

References

(1): https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2017/08/07/what-the-new-u-n-sanctions-on-north-korea-mean/?utm_term=.a2c3bcf0962a

(2): http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-pacific-15278612

(3): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treaty_on_the_Non-Proliferation_of_Nuclear_Weapons

(4): http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/08/11/542837087/as-rhetoric-escalates-what-do-we-know-about-north-korea-s-nuclear-arsenal

(5): https://worldview.stratfor.com/article/how-north-korea-would-retaliate

(6): https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/china-north-korea-relationship

 

Marriage Equality – The Political Take on a social issue

Marriage Equality has been a policy topic that has been in the news for a while now and I’ve been reluctant to cover it due to the divisiveness of the issue with proponents on both sides of the debate taking stances that cross the line of civil debate. However with the move of several Liberal backbenchers moving to support a private members bill and before that a suspension of standing orders to bring on discussion on the issue I think it’s worth discussing the political manoeuvrings behind this issue.

In 2004 John Howard changed the marriage act to ensure that the definition of marriage was between 1 man and 1 woman. This was moved through Parliament in order to ensure that if a debate was to be had in the future on whether Gay marriage should be allowed then it would have to involve a law change. Now in a way that fact has been used by many to advocate Parliament being the vehicle to bring in marriage equality. Indeed that is the view of John Howard (1) who believes it should be the Parliament and not the public who changes a law like this. Now I will elaborate below the political issues with that but (2) shows that since the 2004 marriage definition change there have been 22 bills introduced into Parliament debating changes to the marriage act and none of them have even passed through the lower house let alone reach the upper house. This then acts as a big reasoning for a Plebiscite, if the Parliament can’t reach an agreement on the issue but the public want action on the issue then a Plebiscite can be used to vote on the issue and assuming it passes it would be a brave Parliament that rejects the voice of the public especially with the cost involved in running a Plebiscite.

I think the first point to make is where the major parties stand on the issue. The Greens and the Democrats Party when they were in Parliament are known supporters of Gay marriage and indeed a lot of earlier post 2004 moves for marriage equality have come from these members. The Labor Party are an interesting case for marriage equality because they have flown the Political stances on the issue. Before 2010 the Labor Parties stance on marriage equality was to oppose any bill that came into Parliament which ensured that any bill by the cross bench had no chance of passing. As of 2010 Julia Gillard announced that she would allow a conscious vote in Parliament on the matter despite personally being against the issue. Now she has changed her mind on the issue of Gay marriage since then but the number one argument I hear on Gay marriage is that only Christians and people of religion disagree with marriage equality and that clearly isn’t the case. (3) I think Julia Gillard and other people’s argument on marriage is that the act of two people getting married has a symbolic meaning to it that doesn’t blend with modern society as much, indeed there are a lot of Atheists who are moving away from being married and are instead opting for civil services outside of the church setting. It is with these positions and in attacking the Coalition’s policy on a forced vote that I found their conference position (4) reached in their 2015 Labor conference perplexing. Until the end of the current term of Parliament the Labor Party advocate a conscious vote on the issue but from next term onwards any MP or Senator must vote in favour of Marriage Equality, a rather hypocritical position if they continue to attack the Liberal Party on not having a free vote. Indeed this change in policy has already seen a Western Australian Labor Senator resign due to the policy position change (5).

The Liberal Party until 2015 had a straight binding vote on Marriage Equality that said they had to vote down any attempts to introduce legislation on Marriage Equality. Now in the Liberal Party there are supposed leniencies to voting against party policy so there has been the odd senator who has crossed the floor on marriage equality but not enough to influence any results. Now I’ll come back to the specifics on crossing the floor for Liberal Parties members on any upcoming policy but 2015 saw an important policy shift on marriage equality. In 2015 to placate more moderate Liberal MPS Tony Abbott suggested a Plebiscite(6). The idea behind a plebiscite was for the Liberal Party to hold their policy line on marriage equality until the 2016 election and then push for a public vote on Marriage Equality post election. If as many polls suggested the plebiscite passed then MPS would vote in the lower house and senate to pass a marriage equality act into law and as I commented above a free vote for both parties would ensure that marriage equality passed into law as I don’t believe enough members would want to vote against public opinion. When Malcolm Turnbull took the role of PM from Tony Abbott in 2015 this remained the policy much to the disappointment of some in the community who had hoped Malcolm Turnbull’s personal view of support would see a change in policy. This simple narrative that gets parroted a lot by supporters of marriage equality ignores two basic realities that I will touch on now and elaborate further later on. If Malcolm Turnbull changed policy then conservative would pull support from Turnbull and seek Peter Dutton out as leader in a leadership spill. Alternatively if as is widely reported Turnbull made a pledge to keep a plebiscite as party policy in part of the deal with the National Party to maintain their support post leadership change then them pulling their support would also see the Liberal Party lose the balance of power on the floor of the house which would lead them open to a vote of No Confidence.

So with the policy positions now established I will return to the issues of the last week. Gay Liberal MPs and Senators as well as Warren Entsch have looked to resolve the issue of marriage equality before the next election (7). In their views the Plebiscite is a failed policy that will not pass the Parliament and so isn’t a viable solution to resolve the matter, with that in mind a free vote where members can vote on their conscious is the only way to get marriage equality through. In their minds and it’s a sound argument marriage equality is clearly going to eventually pass into law and while it’s not the most important issue to most people it’s an issue that generates a lot of public debate and so it distracts from other issues being discussed. A clear example of this came this week when Tim Wilson was questioned on the marriage equality debate and when he tried to sidestep to another issue the interview was promptly ended. As a result of this renewed push Conservative MPs have tried to seek another vote in Parliament on the issue of a Plebiscite and in the case of that failing again they would then seek to have a postal vote on the issue (8). There are many issues with a postal vote and indeed the strongest argument against postal plebiscites came from Malcolm Turnbull when he was leading the case for the country to become a Republic. A postal plebiscite can be held with Parliamentary approval because it can use money set aside for Government assigned surveying, however it is not binding so MPS can vote against the result and it is not compulsory which I believe would mean it would be voted down as the largest demographic in favour of marriage equality tend to be the most disengaged in voting in elections. It would also be up for legal challenges about appropriate use of Government money akin to what occurred when a parent challenged the Government funding of chaplains in public schools. So that leaves the prospects of either staying put or having a vote on marriage equality in the Parliament however that has it’s own wrinkles. Firstly the Leader of the House is in control of what legislation goes before the house and so they can effectively push any marriage equality to the bottom of Government Business where it would then expire at the end of the current term of Parliament. The way around that is to suspend standing orders which then allows government business to be suspended in order to debate a motion that is not currently next on the notice paper. For instance parliament is flowing with it’s usual robustness and then at 2:45 AEST Bill Shorten gets up and goes I seek to suspend the standing orders to censure the PM for being a Toffee Nosed Tory (not far off an actual suspension order :P). The problem with this passing the Parliament is an unknown constitutional section. (9) suggests that a lost vote on the floor of Parliament could be considered as a vote in loss of confidence in the Parliament. This would then lead to the government potentially resigning and if Labor then couldn’t elect a speaker an election to resolve the impasse. Now the wording suggests that it has to be considered an important issue and the Government could spin that it isn’t, indeed both the Labor Party in minority and the Liberal Party already in this term have lost votes on the floor of the house and that hasn’t led to a change of Government, it does however mark a significant dent on the standing of the Liberal Parties grasp of Parliament and that could lead to recriminations against those who crossed the floor. Now that last part might cause confusion because didn’t you say that the Liberal Party allowed members to cross the floor. Well the truth appears to be mixed, certainly (10) suggests that because this issue is so divisive crossing the floor on this issue seems to be no go with threats of challenges to the preselections of said members at the next election. The other issue is would a vote on marriage equality then pass the lower house and senate? The analysis on the impact of a passing of the policy on Turnbull’s leadership has already been largely commented on and there appears to be an assumption the policy would pass both houses with a passing of the suspension orders. However even if no Labor MP in the lower house voted against marriage equality the Senate appears to be a different can of worms. Indeed (11) shows that both in the Lower and Upper House there are members of the Labor Party opposed to marriage equality and when combined with Jacquie Lambie, Pauline Hanson and One Nation and Bob Katter in the lower house it cannot be assumed that marriage equality would just seemingly pass if the rest of the Liberal Party vote against marriage equality.

 

I have gotten to the end of this post and my final thought is that marriage equality is still a way off because as I have mentioned above there are still a lot of hurdles to climb. To those who want to use this as a stick to smack the Liberal Party sure go ahead however as I’ve elaborated above it ignores a lot of grey areas on this political issue and also ignores that other parties are also divided on this issue. In my mind that’s normal with social issues, I think we need to be more ok with disagreeing on some issues and not be so quick to bash those who don’t agree with them on everything.

 

References

(1): http://www.news.com.au/lifestyle/gay-marriage/former-prime-minister-john-howard-says-politicians-in-fear-of-marriage-equality/news-story/d000c28a0d79c6e443353ef1ee73283b

(2): http://www.aph.gov.au/About_Parliament/Parliamentary_Departments/Parliamentary_Library/pubs/rp/rp1617/Quick_Guides/SSMarriageBills

(3): http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/love-isnt-all-about-marriage-says-pm-julia-gillard-as-she-defends-her-same-sex-marriage-stan/news-story/2c2909cad241e29da5c17d1707bc832a

(4): https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2015/jul/26/alp-conference-backs-binding-vote-on-same-sex-marriage-after-two-terms

(5): http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-03-01/labor-senator-joe-bullock-quits/7212324

(6): http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/tony-abbott-flags-plebiscite-on-samesex-marriage-in-bid-to-defuse-anger-20150811-giwyg1.html

(7) http://www.skynews.com.au/news/top-stories/2017/07/31/liberal-mp-to-bring-on-same-sex-marriage-vote.html

(8) http://www.skynews.com.au/news/top-stories/2017/08/02/conservative-liberals-push-for-plebiscite.html

(9): https://www.buzzfeed.com/markdistefano/rules-glorious-rules?utm_term=.ey66M0MDW#.gfMNpxp45

(10): http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/all-im-asking-for-is-to-have-a-bloody-vote-liberal-mp-warren-entsch-20170802-gxnomk.html

(11): http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/the-labor-mps-who-could-blow-up-rebel-liberals-samesex-marriage-plans-20170802-gxnkp7.html

Donald Trump: 6 months on

When I was researching articles for this blog on the 6 months of Donald Trumps presidency I came across an interesting article on what 6 months of a Hilary Clinton presidency would have looked like(1). The key things from the article is the Supreme Court would have had Hilary’s choice Merrick Garland as the vacant supreme courts nominee rather than the Republican’s choice Neil Gorsouch. This is a big deal because a lot of the big human rights such as abortion rights can be determined by the Supreme Court. Having a more Conservative or Liberal Supreme Court therefore is a considerable voting issue for the public and is seen as one reason people voted for Donald Trump as traditional Republican’s despite not personally liking Donald himself. Another takeaway is that America is divided, as much as the Democrats have been very active about protesting Hilary Clinton losing to an insert personal insult here President; if the roles were reversed Republican’s would have been complaining about a Hilary win. I think much like Donald Trump Hilary Clinton would have also been unpopular and unlike Donald Trump she would have been going into a midterm election next year with an already lame duck status, so passing any form of policy would have been difficult for her too. The advantage of a Hilary Clinton presidency would obviously be an improved international standing with a greater respect for the US still from other world leaders and the US would not have exited the Paris Climate agreement, an important respect given the world needs a strong US in the current uncertainty. Obamacare would also have been left alone which would ensure that the issue would remain a poisoned chalice. I think overall my takeaway point from this article is that while Donald Trump is not helping a divided American public and I would argue is probably aggravating divides, Hilary Clinton is not the saviour of division either and so you would still have an America in deep flux.

With that in mind I will now focus on Trump and the first thing to look at is the polls because despite the attacks on polling accuracy there is still always a narrative to tell from polls flawed or otherwise. (2) So Trump is currently sitting at 37 percent approval and fifty eight percent disapproval, this number is historically low for a president and is close to his all time low of 35 percent approval just after his first Obamacare initiative was blocked. One interesting comparison though is to look at why Trump is considered unpopular and this is something that the Gallup poll looked at. For Obama and Bush the disapproval ratings related to policy or job performance whereas for Trump his disapproval is based on people disliking Trump personally. Given the nature of Donald Trumps campaign and presidency thus far this should hardly be surprising but it does offer some positives for him as well as some potential lessons for the Democrats. Donald Trumps policies seem to be being embraced and so while he maybe personally unpopular a Democrat who just stood opposing Trumps policy platform might still find themselves in trouble in 2020 because policy is not what is polarising Americans. Also of interest in the poll is that the reasons people are supporting Trumps presidency is broadly the same as Obama, again suggesting that those supporting Trumps performance as President are ignoring the criticisms being labelled at him, similar to what Obama faced in 2009.

I think the main policies to focus on for Trump so far are Health Care, Economy, Climate Change and International Relations. If we first look at Health Care, this is the one policy issue that has most dogged Trump locally with several attempts of the Trump administration to repeal Obamacare now being blocked. (3) suggests that Obamacare is not going to be repealed in the near future as more moderate Republican are not convinced that Trump and the Republicans  have an appropriate replacement to Obamacare. I suspect that the articles suggestion that Trump will continue his steps to make the current system less functioning and put more pressure on the Republican’s and Democrats to find an appropriate replacement to something that has failed. This is not to say that the current system is flawed or not, I can see the arguments of the people who have serious health issues that would not be covered under a repealed Obamacare, but if the system loses funding or is not appropriately advertised then it may become failed.

Economy is the big issue that Donald Trump campaigned for. The narrative is that while Obama focussed on finding people new jobs in modern job areas this left people behind. Certainly for people in places like Detroit manufacturing jobs have shut down and while there are jobs in modern technology sectors, these require higher education and different skill sets. Trying to tell someone who has worked in one industry for thirty years and has had generations of family do the same thing that they need to go to university for the first time ever and just deal with finding new work has alienated them from society. This is the biggest driver of Trump voters last November. Economy has been the biggest policy success for the administration however as with everything Trump related the story is mixed. (4) shows that the Economical indicators under Donald Trump have improved since the election although this is probably more indicative of a global economical situation improvement. Still an improvement in the financial markets, better jobs numbers and improved GDP are impressive feats. Also as with any Conservative government there is always a focus on smaller governments and Trumps move to remove two economic regulations for every regulation added has seen that implemented. As (5) has shown however a lot of this economic improvement maybe because some of Trumps big tax breaks for big business has not passed yet and so it has allowed a mainly business as usual approach with improved confidence that tends to occur with a Conservative president taking hold. This also opens up the whole trickle down economics argument with the adversity of this approach being that if business don’t pass on their extra money to hiring more employees money has then been shifted from public services without the improved economic growth from added employment and productivity. I think this is more of an issue on how the economy is being implemented than the principles behind the economic principle.

Climate change and international relations are somewhat linked but I think there is a specific focus on Climate Change from both Trump supporters and detractors that makes it a seperate issue worth discussing. The decision of Trump to pull America from the Paris agreement is a surprising move in that it puts America out of step with the 19 other G20 countries but is unsurprising in that it matches his campaign rhetoric. For Donald Trump and a lot of rural Americans a pledge to reducing emissions to zero percent and contributing money to helping nations that are going to be directly impacted by climate change goes against the protectionist nature that they want to run. The issue with climate change feeds back into an economic one that I addressed in the last paragraph. If old manufacturing workplaces have to close that costs jobs and if money is being placed to other nations it is money that can’t be directed to their own nation, now America are in a strong place economically compared to nations like Fiji or Samoa but trying to say that to people struggling economically is like saying to a homeless person in Australia that chin up it could be worse, you could be homeless in an African nation. For all of those who would say that being opposed to climate change is Conservative Michael Gove’s contribution in (6) shows that by the nature of conservatism people should be open to whatever market mechanism produces the most efficient and effective results and so as renewable energy becomes cheaper and mechanisms such as battery storage make renewable energy more reliable it is not a Conservative policy to stick with the old mechanism for the pure reasoning of protectionism. I think this is another element where Donald Trump shows he is not a true Conservative by economic reasonings.

The recent G20 summit was a key insight into the fall of America as a superpower under Trump on the international arena. (7) has Chris Uhlman’s takedown on Trump and I think it sums up the way a lot of people feel about Trump when you remove the extreme voices on both side of the political spectrum. His criticism on Trump not using the G20 as a venue to publicly call out Russia and China or there nothing to see here approach on North Korea was in large contrast to his grandstanding in America where he made many calls for Russia and China to be firmer on North Korea because they have closer ties that could be used to pull in their naughty neighbour. This was disappointing because Trumps forceful stance on calling out the atrocities of Bashar Al Assad using chemical weapons on the public in Syria won praise. Indeed the attack of important military bases in Syria is an action that Hilary Clinton herself commented that she would have done. It’s in this light that Trump’s withdrawal of support for Syria in the last few weeks is also surprising and is a sign of continued alliance with Russia. This last comment leads onto the issue of Russia interference in the Election which continues to be the big issue that could be a smoking gun to push for possible impeachment although this is unlikely with the composite of the Senate and Congress being Republican controlled. I think the issue of whether there was hacking or not has been well discussed and it appears clear that some interference occurred in the election. However the question now is was Donald Trump directly involved in the efforts by Russians to interfere in the election and the revelations of Donald Trump Jr meeting with Russian officials adds to the possibility of a direct link which would then be a trigger for criminal offence and impeachment. The other issue with protectionism is that it leads to less economic and formal ties with International countries and the isolation at the G20 is a consequence of this, other countries do not appreciate being penalised when dealing with a nation in the name of protecting your own countries skin. It is that isolation that leaves a vacuum for another nation to become a global powerhouse and both China and Russia have the potential to fill this vacuum. This might be cheered on by some but it ignores the fact that China and Russia are both flawed democracies with legal and social policies that would be abhorrent to most Western civilisations.

So what happens next? The first big test of any presidents term is how they perform in the midterm elections. (8) breaks down the midterm election quite well. It is historic that the ruling party tends to perform poorly in midterm election and the Trump element added in adds to that likelihood of a Midterm whack. The problem for the Democrats as pointed out is turnout, people are less motivated to vote in midterm elections and that tends to go against the Democrats whose target demographics tend not to turn up to votes. The other issue for the Democrats and one I’ve pointed out in previous blog posts is that they seem more focussed at the moment with saying that Trump is useless, he shouldn’t have won and that’s it, at some stage they will need to actually offer tangible ideas on what they plan to do. After that it will be important for Trump to be able to implement some of his policy to avoid the label of being all talk and no action, specifically a policy win on healthcare would help his polling numbers. The other issue is the Russian interference, the issue has already seen the firing of FBI director James Comey. If this issue continues to fester on it will make it increasingly difficult for Trump to sell his message and the longer it goes the more likely something impactful will be turned up that could be grounds for impeachment. Lastly the focus after the midterms in 2018 will start to turn to the 2020 reelection of Donald Trump, at this stage with no evidence of a Democratic Party having learnt enough of their lessons of their loss last year I would be not surprised if Trump were to be reelected in 2020, indeed one thing I’d be intrigued by is if the Republican Party put up a nominee against Trump in 2020. This would lose the incumbency advantage of not facing a gruelling dogfight in the nominee process but could be a necessary evil if the Republicans don’t want 4 more years of Trump come 2020.

 

References

(1) https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/if-clinton-had-won/

(2) http://www.gallup.com/poll/214091/trump-disapproval-rooted-character-concerns.aspx

(3) http://thehill.com/policy/healthcare/343222-what-trump-can-do-to-cripple-obamacare

(4) http://fortune.com/2017/07/20/donald-trump-twitter-news-drain-swamp-6-months/

(5) https://www.bostonglobe.com/business/2017/07/20/six-months-trump-economy-looks-awfully-familiar/TXnEuVvlHa2vS9v7p7n3tO/story.html

(6) http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/michael-gove-donald-trump-climate-change-us-walk-out-heat-on-paris-agreement-fossil-fuels-a7852626.html

(7) https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jul/09/biggest-threat-to-the-west-australian-journalist-demolishes-trump-after-g20

(8) https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/what-do-we-know-about-the-2018-midterms-right-now/