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.












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.