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

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

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/

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

Section 44 – Otherwise known as the Australian Senator career destroyer

Yesterday with the resignation of Larissa Waters due to an negligent oversight of having dual citizenship of Canada; Section 44 of the Constitution claimed it’s 4th victim since the 2016 election and 2nd victim in the last week with the resignation of Scott Ludlum due to his dual citizenship of New Zealand. The loss of two highly respected and competent Greens senators in a week has seen for an overhaul of the section in the constitution by many in the public. Before I return to the specific cases of the senators who have been caught out by Section 44 of the Constitution it is worth looking at what the relevant section says.

(1) essentially states that to stand for parliament a Senator has to ensure they don’t do any of the following:
(i) Have dual citizenship or no citizenship of Australia and that where dual citizenship is present they do not make sufficient efforts to renounce their citizenship to a foreign allegiance.

(ii) That the member of parliament has committed treason or if you are current serving time for a criminal offence or are in the middle of criminal proceedings that is longer than one year in length.

(iii) Is currently bankrupt or insolvent

(iv) Is currently working and making a profit from the crown (i.e working in the public service).

(v) That the Parliamentarian is making a monetary arrangement in a Public Service of the Commonwealth of Australia, so for example in (2) Dr Gillespie has faced questions about his eligibility due to the fact that he leased out one of his owned businesses to Australia Post which is a Government owned entity.

So the first element of section 44 of the constitution is what has caused the resignation of Scott Ludlum and Larissa Waters. The reasoning for this part of the constitution is that it is a conflict of interest whether real or perceived to be voting on laws that are passing into land while also having citizenship of another nation. A fictitious example of this would be say we wanted to impose a tariff on the importation of lamb to New Zealand then it could be a conflict of interest to someone who still holds dual citizenship of New Zealand to be debating such a law. I also think that due to the public scrutiny that an elected member of parliament holds any perceived issues of conflict are as bad as if an actual conflict did exist.

Bob Day’s case which interestingly did not receive the same outrage for his removal from the Senate came under two sections of the constitution. Before (3) became an extra constitutional issue Bob Day had already resigned from the senate because of having to claim bankruptcy. However it was later discovered that Bob Day had been leased a building for his electoral office that was already privately owned which is in clear breach of line (v) of section 44 of the Constitution.

Rod Culleton one of the 4 One Nation Senators elected also fell foul of section 44 of the Constitution and his case again did not receive the same outrage that was levelled to the Greens Senators. Again (4) shows that Rod Culleton lost his seat in the senate due to two elements of section 44, firstly he was facing charges of larceny which carried a penalty of over 1 year penalty. He also was declared to be bankrupt when he failed to pay back an outstanding loan.

Line (iv) of the section is something that has not recently been tested. However in 1993 (5) Phil Cleary was ruled ineligible to stand in the by election of Wills which was caused by the retirement of Bob Hawke. Phil won the by election as an independent however because he was public school teacher at the time he was technically a paid member of the crown and therefore was ineligible, this is despite him being on unpaid leave at the time. This could trip up a number of potential parliamentarians although this part of the constitution has been worked around by public servants being allowed to quit their jobs, stand for election and if unsuccessful then be able to automatically reenter their jobs upon the completion of the election.

There are a few added points for me to make on this constitution given the public reaction to the Greens resignations. A lot of people have called for section 44(i) to be scrapped in the wake of the resignations, the biggest issue with that is that because it is part of the Australian Constitution then to change the section we would need a referendum. This of course brings a hefty cost of running the referendum as well as any advertising delegated to prosecuting the cases of a yes or no vote for the question. I have also seen a lot of fingers pointed at relevant Labor or Liberal members who were born overseas by the same people who are upset at the resignations of Scott Ludlum and Larissa Waters, the most noted example being Tony Abbott. I think that is hypocritical and points out that one of the big differences between major parties and smaller parties is that the major parties do a much better job of vetting potential candidates for potential issues that could preclude eligibility of election in comparison to smaller parties. There has also been questions raised as to whether votes taken by members should be excluded and if salary paid to the senator should be repaid. (6) which is another excellent post by the Psephologist Yoda Antony Green points out that the high court has previously ruled that votes taken by ineligible members can not be retrospectively discounted and that the practice of the government is not to push for salary to be chased from ineligible members. The reason for this I suspect is self preservation in that if you chase one senator for returned salary you open the pandoras box of having that come back to bite you if one of your pack are found to be ineligible. I think my last point would be that the Greens are facing some real issues at the moment. Now a lot of the attention has been on the infighting between Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull, however if the Greens were a major party they’d be getting the coverage of a party in crisis. They have now lost two deputy leaders and senators in a week and have a member in Lee Rhiannon who has been excluded from attending contentious party room discussions. This same senator has responded by pulling on her state branch pushing back against that decision and by her calling the current leader a real disappointment. Now the two senators who will replace Ludlum and Waters will still be.Greens members due to the recount of the senate ballots flowing their votes onto the next eligible Greens ticket member but to lose roughly 15 years of parliamentary experience in a group of 10 senators/MPS is a real loss!

 

References

(1) http://www.aph.gov.au/About_Parliament/Parliamentary_Departments/Parliamentary_Library/Publications_Archive/archive/Section44

(2) http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-04-07/opposition-intensifies-campaign-against-david-gillespie/8423600

(3) http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-04-05/family-first-bob-day-election-ruled-invalid-by-high-court/8417204

(4)  http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/rod-culleton-ineligible-to-be-elected-to-senate-high-court-rules/news-story/7eae79c15f652c2d3673c20c11d08c00

(5) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phil_Cleary

(6) http://blogs.abc.net.au/antonygreen/2017/07/scott-ludlam-resigns-what-happens-to-his-senate-seat.html#more