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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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/

South Australian Politics – Are we about to go to an election?

My home state managed to break into the political news this week as a blocked budget measure by the Liberal’s and the Senate cross bench has left the budget potentially in danger of not passing. This would have significant impact as any public service worker is then in danger of not being paid. As a result of this breakdown in Parliament Jay Weatherill the premier has a few options (1). Option 1 is for the Labor party to do what they did in 2014 and scrap the bank levy; this would cost the budget 370 million dollars that would then have to be replaced in some form by another measure. The second option is to try and reintroduce the bill in the upper house and hope that they can convince the cross bench of the merits of passing the budget as a whole and not putting at risk the whole budget to oppose one measure. The last option is to declare the bill is a special measure and call something akin to a double dissolution election on the matter. This would then allow the Labor Party to try and get the measure through a special sitting post an election, this is a risky move given that the Weatherill Government has been on the nose increasingly in the last 12 months and there is no guarantee they would win the election leaving the comparisons to Theresa May or Malcolm Turnbull calling an early election. This option allows me to discuss below the recent poll that has come out.

(2) Suggests a very tight election race with a 50-50 2PP vote and when you consider that the Liberal Party lost the 2014 election with a 53 percent 2 Party Preferred vote one might assume that the Liberal Party are in some trouble. The elephant in the room however continues to be the Nick Xenophon SA Best Party. They are polling at 21 percent and so they will be in a position to determine the party that wins the election. The other interesting change from the last election is a large seat redistribution that has changed the landscape of the state. (3) Now has the Liberal Party with an election winning 27 seats as opposed to 20 notional seats for the Labor Party. Four Labor seats are notionally Liberal namely being Newland, Mawson, Colton and Elder. Now these seats are held by long term Labor MPs so incumbency will help those members out except in Colton where the member has announced they are retiring which probably makes that an easier seat for the Liberal Party to win. The Labor party have 7 seats under 5 percent including some in the North East of Adelaide and given the prosperity of these areas relative to most of metropolitan Adelaide is a concern for the Liberal Parties prospects of winning an election if they can’t grab a seat or two there. The Xenophon Party rather than the Labor Party might also make life difficult because as was seen in the federal election his vote travelled better in the country and the hills than the metropolitan area. Where his vote was in the mid teens for metropolitan areas, that vote increased to 30 percent in the country and hills areas and saw his party take the Federal seat of Mayo. This hurts the Liberal Party as most of their seats are concentrated in the country and hills areas. Indeed for all of the complaints I have heard about the Labor party winning the election unfairly and that the party who gets the highest 2PP should win the election they miss this basic point! South Australia has around 1.7 million people (4) of which 1.3 million people live in Adelaide and in metropolitan Adelaide the Labor Party won the 2PP vote 51.3 percent to 48.7 percent. That is the figure that the Liberal Party will have to improve on in the next election and with the Xenophon party polling at 20 percent if those numbers flow back more to the Labor Party then they may still hold on in a similar setup to the current Parliament.

The other important issue from this week is the official announcement of the Tesla company ran by Elon Musk to build a lithium ion battery to connect with a wind farm currently being constructed (5).  The battery is being made to try and ease the issues of blackouts and power shedding that have been prevalent in SA over the last 12 months. In the event of a significant outage the hope is that the battery would allow for backup power to avoid long lasting blackouts. The added bonus for the SA government is the announcement of Musk that if the battery is not built within 100 days then the cost would be free to the government. If this 3 months build target is met then the government might be able to avoid a repeat of the power losses that impacted the state over the last summer which would be a large political boost to the re election chances of the Weatherill Government.

 

 

References

(1) http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-07-04/sa-bank-levy-budget-bill-explainer/8676140

(2) http://www.galaxyresearch.com.au/polling/

(3) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/South_Australian_state_election,_2018

(4) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/South_Australian_state_election,_2014

(5) http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-07-07/what-is-tesla-big-sa-battery-and-how-will-it-work/8688992