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!










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.









The Week that was in Politics – What were the Liberal Party thinking (Again!)

In last weeks blog I was rather scathing of the Labor and the Green Party, one week on and it’s the Liberal Party who have had a bad week. They say nothing good happens after drinking at midnight and Christopher Pyne may do well to heed that advice. Tony Abbott has been continuing to attack Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership openly and not so openly; and so Christopher Pyne’s late night admission that he wants to see marriage equality pass through the house sooner than later and that he never voted for Tony Abbott was just the opportunity Tony Abbott needed to come and attack the Liberal Party and it’s leadership under Turnbull again.

Earlier this year Scott Morrison would appear on Ray Hadley’s conservative radio program weekly to discuss politics however that appearance ended due to Scott Morrison appearing on a seperate ABC program to discuss the budget rather than to appear on his show. This opened up a slot for a Liberal MP to appear on the weekly spot and Tony Abbott happily accepted the opportunity to appear on the show. In a similar fashion to Kevin Rudd after the 2010 election Tony Abbott can now use that radio spot to advance his views on policy issues that are shaping the country and show how that differentiates from the leader, in this case Malcom Turnbull. The big difference between Tony Abbott and Kevin Rudd is that Kevin Rudd held public support in the period between his first leadership loss and regaining the leadership whereas Tony Abbott has not had that public support. So when Tony Abbott came out this week with a new manifesto a lot of the political issues he raised are popular with his political base however they don’t have broad public support besides a tougher stance on national security and that already is a policy shift that Malcolm Turnbull has been making this year. You don’t fix national security issues however by getting up on a national platform surrounded by flags lecturing people, it requires a delicate nuanced approach.

One big claim by right wing commentators and Corey Bernadi/ Tony Abbott is that by moving to the centre on issues the Liberal Party have lost votes to the One Nation and Conservatives Party. As (1) shows this is a valid claim however it’s use is exaggerated in it’s impact on the Liberal Party vote share. I think it’s clear that Liberal are leaking votes to right wing parties like the One Nation Party and other conservative parties however if the Liberal’s move to far to the right then they risk losing votes to the Labor Party or the Greens particularly in more metropolitan seats. At first glance Wentworth, Bennelong, Higgins, Brisbane, Sturt and Reid are all potential greens targets longer term that the Liberal Party risk losing if they were to move to far too the right. The One Nation threat shouldn’t be an issue in a preferential voting system because most of the lost votes should come back to the Liberal Party through preferences, however this didn’t happen in 2016, the preferences split closer to 50-50 between the Liberal Party and the Labor Party. This is the real problem for the Liberal Party, that unlike the Labor Party who receive about 80 percent of Greens preferences when disenfranchised voters are voting away from the Liberal Party they aren’t getting those votes back. This means you can’t just assume that taking on a more right wing approach will get you all of these votes back, because you are essentially chasing protest votes and they don’t split as logically to one particular party. I think it’s important to look at the polls going into Tony Abbott’s demise as PM; The Liberal Party were anywhere from 55-45 to 58-42 behind in two party preferred votes and were in real danger of losing all South Australian seats to match the wipeout that eventuated in NT and Tasmania. With this in mind it’s a bit disingenuous of right wing commentators to attack Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership in the face of 53-47 polls because he won the 2016 election despite that looking impossible before the 2015 leadership spill and a lot of Malcolm Turnbull’s issues have come from needing to placate the party to avoid losing his leadership again. I know speaking to voters they say well Turnbull show just muscle up and show some leadership but this would then lead to captains calls and this was something that the public despised Tony Abbott for. There’s also no point taking a position on an issue that can’t pass the party room because all that will do is leave you without the leadership and with the issue then reversed to an even less favourable position. I also think the public share some blame for the paralysis on big policy issues. I remember when Mike Baird introduced the greyhound ban there was not much of a whimper from those who supported the decision but the opposition groups were very loud and manifested a strong opposition to the policy. As a result of this and an Orange By Election loss Mike Baird reversed his policy decision and only then did animal rights groups speak up about what a horrible decision this was from Mike Baird. Well if you had spoken up with your views earlier Mike Baird might of had a stronger position to defend his decision.

How do I think the latest Abbott vs Turnbull dispute will end. Well I think Malcolm Turnbull will continue to spin the line that he is only focussed on policy outcomes and not the distractions of the personal politics, this is evidenced by (2) however the last 7 years suggests that the media will continue to chase the sound bite and there are going to be a lot of these sound bites still to come. I don’t think Tony Abbott will return to the leadership, I think he only gets 10-15 votes now in a leadership spill however I don’t think this concerns Abbott. He has such a personal vengeance against Malcolm Turnbull that he would rather lose the next election than let Turnbull implement his chosen policy platform. The problem this has then is who leads the Liberal Party should they lose the next election, Malcolm Turnbull has pledged to leave Parliament if the Liberal Party lose the next election and Scott Morrison has lost a lot of his shine from his not so effective stint now as Treasurer. That leaves Peter Dutton who is a popular base candidate but who is very divisive in the public and holds a marginal seat, there is a possibility he loses his Queensland seat at the next election. After that your next candidates are probably still a few years off with Christian Porter probably the most likely to be the next Liberal Prime Minister when Liberal re take office.

Elsewhere in Politics the Greens have had another difficult internal week and would indeed be in some crisis if they were a major party with the increased media criticism. Senator Lee Rhiannon has been suspended from attending contentious party room meetings for the foreseeable future although has not been expelled from the Greens as some sources were expecting. This has led to an Insiders appearance by Lee Rhiannon this morning to reiterate her criticism on Richard Di Natale as party leader and an insistence that the Greens are a party for the members and not for the MPs. This statement is essentially why the Greens have split at the moment. As I have alluded to in previous posts Di Natale seeks to make the Greens more electable and be able to win seats from both the Labor and Liberals in metropolitan seats. This is opposed to Lee Rhiannon and the more left wing of the New South Wales division particularly who want to see the party reach it’s members and let policy be influenced by their base. This split became public when Lee Rhiannon supported the Greens Base members for their opposition to the Liberal’s Gonski policy while Di Natale and Sarah Hanson Young were working on amendments to support the governments policy. The fact that 9 MPs were in favour of this approach and 1 Senator opposing the deal stops any progress on the matter suggests to me that the Greens have some issues to deal with going forward.





Education – I hope I spelt that right

This week in parliament the government were finally able to pass their school funding reform through the senate and then the lower house. For the government this helps alleviate an area of concern with the public being that Liberal governments look to cut funding in public services, particularly education and health. In order to pass the legislation through the senate the Government needed to do a deal with the senate cross bench/ the Greens and the backbench to ensure it’s passage. This essentially boiled down to the amount of money pledged to schools increasing by 5 billion dollars from the 18.9 billion dollars which helped get the independents on board particularly with the money being spent over 6 years rather than 10 years which meant the money would be spent sooner. To placate the backbench and the Catholic schools sector they were then promised to have their current arrangement of funding kept for an extra year. This was needed as the Catholic sector were unhappy with losing money from some of the richer schools which by nature of the needs based funding arrangement meant for schools to receive money some schools needed to lose money.

Sadly although not completely surprising under the current political environment the Labor and the Greens were both opposed to the measure, although in the case of the Greens this opposition came late. Now the argument the Labor party gave was that they were committed to the spending proposed under Gonski 1.0 and that the government were now walking away from a commitment to match the spending back in the 2013 election. Now that commitment from Tony Abbott was a mistake but the Labor party are also culpable because their plan of funding was over 10 years and what they don’t mention is that the Liberal Party only planned to match the first four years of spending. The other issue with the first Gonski deal was that in the dying days of the second Kevin Rudd government Bill Shorten the then Education minister made special arrangements with individual states to get the policy agreed too, this meant that only 4 states and the ACT agreed to the Gonski arrangements and the other states then had a seperate arrangement. This meant that Christopher Pyne the Education minister under Tony Abbot was able to claim that because the deal done by Bill Shorten was not nationally agreed by the states and territories the Liberal party could pull their support for the deal and implement their own policy that saved the government money to fix the budget issues that they claimed to have inherited. This allowed the Labor party to run the line then as they did with this version of the Gonski deal that the Liberal party were cutting money from Education. From (1) and (2) we see that these claims are slightly misleading, now the Labor can claim they are going to spend more money on Education however that does not mean the Liberal Party are cutting money from the budget, a cut suggests that the current amount of money given to schools will reduce in the next year not increase at a slower rate. The take away line from (2) was that the Labor party wanted to claim that the government had cut 22 million dollars from Education which would cause 22 thousand teachers would lose their jobs, this is not true, the correct phrase would be to say that because of the policy differences 22 thousand teachers could not be hired. The other flaw with the Labor policy is that they continue to offer budget figures for 10 years even though yearly budgets are meant to be forecast over 4 years only which means that funding amounts for 10 years are hard to project past the 4 years officially included in the budget. This is a growing trend by both sides of government on big ticket issues to plan spending over longer year amounts and then push a lot of the money into the latter years of the plan which allows them to save more money immediately and push out the higher spending to later on when the other side of politics might be in Parliament and have to wear the bill. A similar thing appears to have happened on spending on the National Disability Insurance Scheme where the big spending money in the budget was pushed out to the later years of the forecast amount when the Labor Party had a high suspicion they’d be in opposition. The Labor Party also made the strange move in Parliament of asking question after question of why the Liberal Party were cutting money from rich Catholic schools and not allowing parents to choose where they send their kids to school. This line of attack along with the Education Unions attack on this issue is strange because Labor parties tend to be pro public education and always looking to hammer home the attack that Right side of centre parties seek to be anti Public Education. Indeed over in the UK I was following a post 2017 budget attack by Jeremy Corbyn asking why more money was being pledged by Theresa May and the Conservatives on private tuition education instead of public school spending a complete opposite argument to what Labor appeared to be pushing in Australia, I might comment that at least in Australia public school spending is actually mainly done by state governments and then federal governments provide money to the Catholic and Independent schools as states aren’t generally responsible for these sectors. This fact is relevant because the government pledged to introduce an independent umpire to ensure states still provide adequate funding to public schools something that people were concerned might not happen under this Gonski arrangement. The Greens eventual opposition to this deal and I suspect at least part of the Labor’s disagreement with this issue was because of the Education Unions opposition to this deal. Again the Education Union don’t claim to be good friends of the Catholic and Independent schooling system but they seemed to not want to give the Coalition government a win on this issue because the appearance of the government being stuck on this issue allowed the Labor Party to run the line that the Government couldn’t achieve any big policy wins.


It’s that last line that sets up a lot of what I think will determine where this policy heads to now. It was clear watching the Parliament proceedings for the bill passing the lower house that the Labor Party will want to make this an election issue by claiming they plan to spend more money on schools. How effective an attack this will be now that the policy has passed the house will be intriguing to see, the Government remain stuck on 47 or 48 percent 2 party preferred which would see them comfortably lose the next election so if the Labor party attack does not work it might allow the Government to make inroads on those polling numbers (again it is my suspicion voters may have switched off this government despite not viewing Bill Shorten as someone they want to be PM). I am hoping that this issue along with some of the other big policy issues can become settled now because it is not a good thing that over the last 10 years Governments have passed policy through Parliament and then the opposition plays politics and runs a scare campaign on the issue and unwind that policy when they win office. I’ve thought for a while that Bill Shorten will win the next election but if he continues to play the negative politics game that Tony Abbott used from late 2009 to winning office in 2013 then he will find it hard to transition into becoming a Prime Minister that can govern for a longer period of time.





Climate Change Policy, A brief history and where we currently stand

Last week came the report of Dr Alan Finkel the Chief Scientist of Australia on how to transition from traditional sources of energy to a more modern renewable source of energy. This week as Parliament has returned the Liberal Party have once again shown signs of division on how to proceed on the issue of Climate Change and future energy security. The Liberal Party has had a number of positions on Climate Change over the last ten years and before discussing the current situation it would be worth re visiting how the Liberal Party has progressed on the issue over the last 10 years.

In 2007 with Kevin Rudd having secured an election winning lead in the polls for a sustained period John Howard released his plan to bring in an Emissions Trading Scheme (1). This policy was aimed at lowering the popularity of Kevin Rudd and Labour on the issue of Climate Change and was a practical measure investing money in incentivising Businesses to use lower emission methods for energy and water use as well as seek to invest in Nuclear Power. Given the announcement of the policy occurred so close to the election and given that Howard did not invest as much money as what the Labor Party proposed the idea was seen as not to go far enough. Indeed the Liberal Party went on to lose the 2007 election which led to his plan becoming redundant.

Post the election loss Brendan Nelson became the Liberal leader (quite the feat given video footage of him addressing a crowd saying he’d never vote Liberal in his life), under his leadership the Liberal approach to climate change appeared to be a wait for America or China to move on Climate Change to take a policy position. This approach was not popular with the Shadow Treasurer at the time Malcolm Turnbull and he would continually make visits to the oppositions office to call Brendan Nelson weak and useless. As a result it was with little surprise that in September of 2008 Malcolm Turnbull challenged for the leadership and won.

Malcolm Turnbull started his leadership well and was able to land some blows on Kevin Rudd for claims of going too far with spending in reaction to the financial crisis that had hit the global society. His leadership took a terminal turn however when a treasury advisor created a fake email that claimed electoral fraud on behalf of Wayne Swan and Kevin Rudd that became known as Utegate, the fallout of the matter was that the public believed that Malcolm Turnbull had a tendency to react ferociously to policies without considering the impact of an issue rationally. The final straw on Malcolm Turnbull’s first leadership however was the issue of climate change and in particular his support for the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. (2) The CPRS scheme essentially looked to place a cap on how much emissions could be released by businesses and then sets up a trading scheme for businesses to trade greenhouse emissions. How the trading scheme works is that if a business was at their cap for greenhouse polluting then they could pay money to buy more emissions from a company who were below their emissions cap. This effectively penalises companies who emit too many greenhouse gases and reward the companies that emit less greenhouse gases. When the government announced this scheme Malcolm Turnbull announced that he would support the scheme with some amendments which he was able to secure through the shadow minister Ian McFarlane for Agriculture sectors. However by this point the Conservative base of the leadership had grown tired of Turnbull’s leadership and spoke out against the issue. This led to a Coalition cabinet meeting that ended in Turnbull saying the issue had passed the party room despite their being clear opposition to the policy. This led to the famous quote by Peter Slipper saying that Malcolm Turnbull had acted like a Zimbabwe election being set up by Robert Mugabe. Shortly afterwards there was a three way contest between Tony Abbott, Joe Hockey and Malcolm Turnbull and given Joe Hockey’s non committal view on the issue he lost in the first round of the leadership ballot which led to a shock Tony Abbott win by one vote.

Having taken the leadership and with the recent vote down of the CPRS issue by the Liberal Party conservative members and the Greens for the measure not being strong enough Abbott launched a strong negative campaign on the issue of the CPRS. With Kevin Rudd also not able to secure a global consensus at the Copenhagen climate change summit the Labor party walked away from their policy position that Kevin Rudd had once described as the biggest challenge of our generation. This combined with internal criticism about Kevin Rudd’s leadership style and poor implementation of the Mining Resources Tax led to Julia Gillard challenging for the Prime Ministership and after a night that saw the numbers drift away from the incumbent PM, Kevin Rudd chose to stand down as leader rather than lose comprehensively in the leadership ballot.

During the 2010 election Julia Gillard promised no Carbon Tax under a government I lead while Tony Abbott proposed a Direct Action policy. The Direct Action policy (3) aimed to incentivise businesses who reduced emissions as well as set up a Green army to have young people take part in conservation activities to help improve the environment directly. There was a lot of criticism of this plan for not doing enough to fight climate change and also that the cost to actually reduce emissions to the climate agreement level would be greater than what the level the Liberal Party were claiming. This scrutiny on the policy became less after the 2010 election because as a result of the Greens forming an official coalition with the Labor Party to help give Julia Gillard minority government the Liberal Party and particularly Tony Abbott could run the line that Julia Gillard had lied during the election and that this new tax would make energy prices rise through the roof and hurt several job industries. As with most political attacks there was a large amount of spin however with the Financial Crisis already having hurt Australian’s middle class society, the public were ready to revolt over this promise and Gillard spent the 2010 – 2013 period fighting off poor polling as well as an internal campaign from Kevin Rudd to return to his place as PM. With this is in mind even though the Carbon Tax was passed there was a sense that this would only be temporary as the public and businesses knew that the Liberal Party would win the next election and their first policy move would be to unwind the Carbon Tax. Indeed the Labor Party returned to Kevin Rudd just before the 2013 election but the matter of the leadership spill left him a bruised political figure compared to his first election campaign in 2007 and the Labor Party were comprehensively defeated by Tony Abbott and the Liberal Party in the 2013 Election.

On the eve of the 2013 election Tony Abbott made a promise of no cuts to the ABC, Health and Education. In the 2014 Budget Joe Hockey and Tony Abbott made a number of unpopular decisions in order to bring about budget repair and this combined with Tony Abbott already being a divisive figure to the public led to a significant drop in the polls, indeed there were significant concerns amongst Coalition MPS about the Liberal Party being a 1 term government. Before losing his leadership to Malcolm Turnbull Tony Abbott was able to get his Direct Action policy through parliament with the support of Clive Palmer (4) and his Palmer United Party senators. This was despite Clive Palmer earlier coming out to a press conference with Al Gore to present the merits for an Emission Trading Scheme similar to what Kevin Rudd had proposed back at the end of 2009. That press conference with Al Gore was a confusing one for many analysts given Clive Palmer’s history as a mine and Al Gore’s history with the environment!

With Malcolm Turnbull winning the leadership and Prime Ministership back in 2015 many members of the public hoped to see movement on climate policy. However that reaction ignored the practicalities of leading a party, having taken the leadership from Tony Abbott who was criticised for making “Captain’s Calls” and himself being criticised for doing as much in his first leadership tilt, any dramatic movement on issues would have seen a revolt from a large number of Coalition MPs and would have seen him replaced by another leader. This reality was only exaggerated by the 2016 double dissolution election where the Liberal Party suffered a swing against them and were left with a one seat majority. Now the argument should be that the Liberal Party were headed to a large loss under Tony Abbott and that Malcolm Turnbull deserved clear air to improve the electability of the Liberal Party but sections of the Liberal Right have shown that this is not possible and indeed the defection of Corey Bernadi to become an independent senator showed the tough balancing act that Malcolm faces now.

So that’s the 10 year history of Climate Change debate in this country, I think it speaks volumes to the divisiveness of the issue that so many politicians have lost their jobs over the issue and so many policies have been attempted to be implemented and yet we are still in the same place essentially as back in 2007. For this both major parties deserve criticism but for mine the Greens also deserve some criticism that they majorly seem to avoid on this issue. If the Greens had of accepted Kevin Rudd’s position on climate change in 2009 then the CPRS would have passed through the Senate and Kevin Rudd would have most likely won the 2010 election. Having won two elections Kevin Rudd may have then been more likely to smoothly transition to Julia Gillard at some point and given she was a popular politician before the 2010 coup she may have been a much better Prime Minister with the clear air of a united cabinet. Sometimes in order to get to the ultimate destination you need to accept a midway point and it’s then easier to negotiate to your desired position from the middle ground.

The Dr. Finkel review analysed an Emissions Intensity Scheme which is something closer to the Labor Party policy in that it penalises companies that emit too much greenhouse gas and would see coal generators and big greenhouse gas emitting companies close earlier allowing for a higher renewable energy target. This is not feasible for the Coalition Party who are against there being penalties for businesses that continue to emit at higher rates and also there is a concern about the transition from coal to renewable energy too soon. This worry is because something like solar and wind energy provide less reliable voltage and frequency than traditional energy sources then if something extreme happens weather wise power supply may be cut which leads to situation like in South Australia last year where a large amount of people lost power for an extended period of time. The bigger vote impacts of this transition are that if there is a switch to renewable energy sources too quickly then coal workers are suddenly left out of work and in a job market that has been unpredictable since the financial crisis there are worries for whether older workers will ever re find work. Also the price of gas has increased dramatically recently and the transitioning stop gap from coal to renewable energy has been gas and as the price of gas has increased it has led to price rises in electricity for public members. This has led to the government being able to run the attack that Labor State Governments are not supplying enough energy and transitioning to renewable energy too fast has led to increased power prices. With this in mind the Finkel report suggested a Clean Energy Target. This is a market initiative that sets a target on how much energy use should come from clean energy that encourages businesses to invest in cleaner energy resources. What makes this more sellable to the Liberal Party is that it does not favour one method of technology over another which means that as long as coal is used in a cleaner way that can still be used in the near future while eventually more renewable power sources are implemented. The report also ensures that if a Coal Power Plant is to close then there needs to be at three years notice which avoids a sudden gap in energy supply from an unexpected closure such as the Hazlewood and Port Augusta Power Plant. The problem for Malcolm Turnbull is that business will pass on the costs of using lower greenhouse gases to customers which then makes it another price on carbon. Given the legacy of Tony Abbott and his opposition to pricing carbon it has come as little surprise that he and other coalition members of his political persuasion have come out against the CET and Tuesday saw a heated Cabinet debate that saw the policy broadly supported by the party room but with a not insignificant amount of members opposed to the issue. If at the stage the reader is getting a sense of dejavu then that’s not surprising as their are more than a few similarities between this debate and the one that ended Turnbull’s leadership in 2009. The added difficult is that with the polls showing Turnbull behind Bill Shorten in the 2PP vote there is not the political capital to spend on this issue. In order to get this CET through Parliament Malcolm Turnbull will need Labor support and while Bill Shorten has offered some bipartisan support there is a temptation for Labor to play politics on the issue as a divided Coalition will only help Labor electoral position.

Lastly is the issue of Nuclear Power which continues to be the elephant in the room when energy supply is discussed. As I mentioned earlier when John Howard announced he would consider an ETS in 2007 part of his policy included funding towards nuclear power. This has been considered both by states and federal parties over the years however has never been implemented as any move has faced strident opposition. There seems to be general Scientific consensus that Nuclear Power is an important part of energy supply due to being able to supply a large amount of energy that will be required if we completely move away from coal in the future. This is something that is questioned as to whether renewable energy can do, can it be used as the sole energy source for a country. The Scientific argument against nuclear energy is as to how clean uranium mining is and whether there is a significant difference in emission rates for Nuclear Power considering the levels of uranium mining that would be required to provide sufficient energy. The publics concern seems to stem from issues of safety with Nuclear Power. The major concern stems from how nuclear waste will be stored and the nuclear weapon testing by the Brits in the 1950’s has led to medical issues for affected communities that rightly is concerning when any new plans for nuclear waste storage is discussed. The other main safety concern is the impact of a Nuclear Power Plant reactor spill and despite the evidence that suggests that Nuclear Power is indeed safe and that when there has been issues it been man made error, it’s hard to eliminate the images associated with the Fukushima and Chernobyl disasters that are used as evidence of the dangers of Nuclear Energy.








UK Election Review

Wow! That was my first response to seeing the exit polls from the BBC that predicted a hung parliament. As the night went on as in 2015 it was clear that the exit poll which was widely criticised for overestimating the Conservative vote had this time correctly forecasted a lower Conservative seat amount than what was widely expected. At the time of writing the current seat totals are as followed:

The results below show that the Conservative party have lost 13 seats from the 2015 election which takes them below the threshold of 326 seats to have majority in the 650 seat Parliament. As of writing the Conservative party have formed a deal with the Democratic Union Party in Ireland to return to government in minority form, the DUP being a right of centre party which policy views that see them as a natural ally of the Conservatives, indeed they have worked on policy in some forms since the 2015 General Election. Despite the results not going as well in the United Kingdom as a whole the Conservative party did have a good night in Scotland where they picked up 12 seats that otherwise would have placed them in some danger of Labour forming a left of centre Government with numerous left of centre parties with the SNP being the head of such alliance. While the results in Scotland were seen as being a bad night for the SNP it was unrealistic to expect a repeat of winning 56 of the 59 seats and the Conservatives have been gradually improving their stocks under successive Parliaments having only had one seat in Scotland since 1997 where anti Thatcherism led to an electoral wipeout. The one issue that can be placed at the SNP as being key to their electoral loss is a backlash against a call for a second Scottish Independence vote in the wake of the Brexit leave vote. As the main opposition in the Scotland Parliament the Conservatives were always going to benefit from those who believed it was important for stability in Scotland’s place in the UK currently in the wake of uncertainty in the future of the European Union.

Despite still falling short of being able to form government Jeremy Corbyn was the highlight of the election taking Labour to a far better result than anyone predicted pre Election. Indeed it was interesting watching BBC interview after BBC interview of former shadow ministers and backbench MPs who had called for Jeremy Corbyn to resign now singing his praises of how great he was and how terrible Theresa May was. In picking up a 10 percent swing Labour took their primary vote greater than any Election since the two Tony Blair landslides in 1997 and 2001 and then greater than any vote share by the Labour Party since the Harold Wilson Labour win back in 1974. With this in mind one may have expected a shock Labour win however the Conservatives also picked up over 5 percent of the vote which returned the UK system to more of a two party system which has not been the case for the last 30 to 35 years with the Liberal Democratic Party and UKIP picking up a large share of the vote of disconcerted Conservative or Labour Party voters.

The biggest fall of the night belonged to UKIP who lost as much as 20 percent of their vote in some electorates and 10 percent across the UK. This may have led to only 1 seat being lost but in 2015 there was a lot of talk about this being the election that would set up a voter base for the 2020 election. This involved the party finishing ahead of the Conservative party in safe to moderately safe Labour seats and the hope was then to leapfrog the Labour Party in 2020 by having a non formal agreement where the Conservative member would help ensure some of their vote share would flow to the UKIP member and push them ahead of the Labour vote. However after the surprise vote last year left the UK leaving the EU their was a sense that the work of the UKIP party was finished and combined that with party infighting as to who should replace Nigel Farage as leader left the party without a platform to campaign on, as such their electoral capitulation was not unexpected. The surprise however was where their votes went to, it was expected that the Conservatives would pick up somewhere in the range of 80 to 90 percent of the vote loss, this did not bare out as the Labour Party picked up a third of the displaced UKIP vote. Their are a few reasons for this; Firstly UKIP picked up a lot of protest voters who were not happy with how Westminster operated and Jeremy Corbyn had a much more protest like campaign. Secondly as with the One Nation Party in Australia there is a tendency to label all their voters as homophobic racists who are clueless on policy and therefore have to be conservative in nature, indeed this is not wholly the case and a lot of these voters are lower class workers who would generally vote to the left of centre but have been put off by Left parties move to modern policies on Technology/ Environment and Economic policies that don’t deal with how to transition old economies into a modern one. An example of this is the Current Energy debate in Australia, Left of centre parties want to transition our energy use into modern renewable energy sources. Environmentally this makes a great deal of sense but economically this leaves a lot of people in poorer Economic areas jobless and unskilled to try and transition to a new industry to find jobs in a market where finding employment is difficult, this is what has led to a move away from Left of centre Governments who are embracing a new Economy and will continue to be a conundrum for Politicians in a divided landscape.

Full results (1)

party seats gain loss net votes share (%) change (%)
Conservative 318 20 33 -13 13,667,231 42.45 +5.52
Labour 262 37 5 32 12,874,284 39.99 +9.54
Scottish National Party 35 1 20 -19 977,568 3.04 -1.7
Liberal Democrat 12 8 5 3 2,371,762 7.37 -0.5
Democratic Unionist Party 10 2 0 2 292,316 0.91 +0.31
Sinn Féin 7 3 0 3 238,915 0.74 +0.17
Plaid Cymru 4 1 0 1 164,466 0.51 -0.08
Green 1 0 0 0 525,371 1.63 -2.14
Ind 1 0 4 -4 145,375 0.45 +0.13
Ulster Unionist Party 0 0 2 -2 83,280 0.26 -0.11
Social Democratic and Labour Party 0 0 3 -3 95,419 0.3 -0.03
UK Independence Party 0 0 0 0 593,852 1.84 -10.8
Other 0 0 0 0 166,385 0.52 -0.3

Scotland Results (2)

Party Seats (change) 2017 vote share Share change 2017 votes Vote change
SNP 35 (-21) 36.9% -13.1 977,569 -476,867
Conservatives 13 (+12) 28.6% +13.7 757,949 +323,852
Labour 7 (+6) 27.1% +2.8 717,007 +9,860
Lib Dems 4 (+3) 7.5% -0.8 179,061 -40,614

Above I have already touched on some reasons for the election result however after each UK election YouGov carry out a survey to determine what indicators have influenced the voting patterns of specific demographics.

Outside of the interest in how the Brexit vote would impact the voting patterns across the country the main factor people thought would influence the 2017 election was the age of voter. It has long been thought that in Western Society younger people tend to vote for left of centre parties while the older generation tend to vote for Right of centre governments. This thought was particularly the case going into this election as Jeremy Corbyn promised free tuition for University students as well as a winding back of austerity measures from Theresa May in areas such as Health spending and Public service jobs, these are usually issues that younger people are more supportive of. Older generations tend to have Conservative social views and also have a greater appreciation for fiscal economic policies that look to have a more balance budget so that Governments can then spend money on policies to improve the lives of their constituents. The above graphs (3,4) show that the 2015 election had a fairly balanced vote between the age groups outside of the retired age group that voted Conservatives at a considerably higher amount, however in 2017 there were 40 to 50 percent gaps between the Labour and Conservative vote at the young and older age range of voters. This suggests that the Conservatives may struggle in future elections if they can’t bring in more voters at a younger age demographic to replace voters who die before the next election. The other element that impacts on the age divide is voter turnout. In previous elections older citizens would vote in a higher amount than young people who are often active in election campaigns online but then don’t vote on Election Day, something that is an issue for parties in non compulsory voting elections. This election however there was evidence that young people who were sick of being marginalised in their eyes by governments and by Brexit were ready to vote in larger numbers and give a kick to the ruling government. This was borne out by an increase in registration numbers by younger voters. On Election Day there was still a divide in voting turnout for older votes with 84 percent of retirees voting versus 57 percent for younger voters however that is a large increase from the 40 percent that had come out to vote in 2015, a clear sign that Corbyn energised the youth vote.

As mentioned earlier one of Jeremy Corbyn’s key electoral issues was the removal of tuition fees for University students. Unsurprisingly this bore into the voting patterns for the Conservative versus Labour Party, although it is questionable as to whether the age of voters also shows up in this result due to the increase in education levels of younger people.


The Brexit result was always going to have an impact on the 2017 election and despite the Terrorist attacks that placed national security higher on the campaign agenda for the final weeks of the campaign the graph below (5) shows Brexit still impacted the vote. So the graph measures the two party swing from the Labour Party to the Conservatives versus the Labour Party vote in 2015 (percentage wise) multiplied by the Leave percentage vote. The graph clearly shows that where Labour voters remain had a swing towards to the Labour Party as evidence by the large amount of negative y axis results with lower level x axis values whereas where the electorate voted leave Labour voters tended to swing to the Conservative in higher amounts, as evidenced by the large x and y axis values. An indication that voting remain probably helped the Labour vote more than the Conservatives on the night is the greater amount of seats with Labour swings away from the Conservatives.

Brexit vote Impact.png

So all in all a very good night for the Labour Party and Theresa May has now been left in a very vulnerable position going forward. There are a few areas of interest to follow going forward that will determine where UK Politics heads in the foreseeable future. The other influence on the election that has not been discussed widely was National Security. Normally this is discussed as an area of strength for the Conservatives however the revelation of Theresa May overseeing cuts to policing numbers post 2010 election seemed to work against May. Indeed Amber Rudd who is now the incumbent Home Secretary faced a nervous wait as she nearly lost a safe Conservative seat, given that she was regularly seen campaigning with May on the issue of stability post the terrorist attacks it is reasonable to assume that national security played some part in her seat suffering a Labour swing. Leadership of the two major parties is also now part of the narrative going forward. After the 2016 Brexit vote that saw the UK seek to leave the EU David Cameron resigned the following day having come to the determination that he could not lead a country after they had voted against the position he had pushed so hard, a year later Theresa May having also called a vote that many did not see the need for also sees her position undermined having suffered large losses. I think Theresa May is safe for the foreseeable future as she will need to determine the Government doesn’t fallover due to a split post a leadership contest as they could then end up in Opposition because Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party could rightly claim that the new Conservative leader was not embraced at the election. Longer term though the fact that Theresa May ran a presidential campaign that was focussed largely on herself will see her wear a lot of the blame and that could prove terminal to her long term leadership. I also think it’s important to remember that she was not the expected winner of the leadership contest in 2016 and if Michael Gove and Boris Johnson had of combined their similar party base rather than split it by both initially running one of them could well be currently Prime Minister. The Labour Party by outperforming expectation of themselves have given Jeremy Corbyn security in his position that has not existed since he won the leadership and their are some that believe that he can win the next election with a united front and back bench, especially if the Conservatives do split over leadership in the next 12-18 months. My warning to that is have Labour reached their highpoint with this result under Corbyn. Electoral analysis is that the Conservatives had about as bad a campaign as one could imagine and Corbyn outperformed expectations and that if either of these things reverse back to the pre election position then the 20 percentage point lead the Conservatives have may return to something closer to norm. Were this occur then the leadership questions that were asked around Corbyn may return and that would obviously hurt Labours Electoral chances. The last point to consider is if Brexit negotiations become untenable under the new Parliament and May can’t keep her party united then the United Kingdom might go back to the polls sooner than expected!








Current Australia and US Political Rumblings

The big news from the last fortnight is Donald Trumps announcement to have the US withdraw from the Paris climate agreement. This was met with anger from both within the US as well as from the international community who see the move as a continued effort from Trump to undermine action on climate change. Indeed the Paris Climate agreements seeks countries to reduce emissions in order to keep the planet from warming to 2 degrees above pre industrialisation levels as well as funding less developed nations to fight the effects of climate change that they are already facing. It seems to be the financial contribution is the particular reason that Trump has sighted for withdrawing Americas support from the climate agreement as he believes countries are not using their financial assistance to help fight climate change. This is straight from an old playbook politicians use on withdrawing financial aid because they claim that the money is being misused by corrupt governments. However in too many cases this is just a fiscal decision because measures can usually be put in place to ensure money is going to targeted projects. Also on the wider issue of climate change and its effect on the planet there is still some question as to what humans should be doing to fight climate change as it is an expensive project to implement cleaner energy use, this is offset though by the fact that if the rest of the world decide to move to cleaner energy you then lose money from using energy sources that is no longer sustainable. A broader point to be made is around the fact that their is no forces to ensure that countries meet the targets set out in the climate agreement which leaves the agreement potentially being little more than tokenism as if countries don’t change their behaviour their are no tangible penalties.

Elsewhere Donald Trump continues to face potential issues relating to Russian interference in the election last year as well as continued calls from various quarters to impeach Trump due to his many policy and personal missteps since the last election. While there is the potential for the Russian spying issue to become a potential ground for impeachment, for many people just the fact that Trump won the election last year was such an atrocity that he immediately should have been impeached. This ignores the issue that for many people a vote for Trump was not a personal endorsement but more a vote for the ability to be heard again and anyone who had of campaigned on that platform would have been elected. This reasoning is not liked by those who are stridently left aligned who believe to have voted for Trump means you are a homophobic racist bigoted nazi who deserves to be physically assaulted and that even a vote for an independent candidate was a horrible political decision that deserves to have you personally insulted. Now I am by no means a Trump supporter and indeed I would have voted for Hillary Clinton if the election was held, but I could see why Hillary Clinton was a flawed candidate and I think it’s a real shame that both Joe Biden or John McCain weren’t five years younger as they would have been admirable candidates who did not carry the baggage that both Clinton and Trump had. I think it’s perfectly ok to oppose and even to dislike Donald Trump, but there are plenty of policy issues to do that for, I think it’s wrong for people to only attack him and supporters on personal grounds and similarly the personal attacks on Clinton and her supporters were also disgusting in the election campaign. All these attacks on either end of the spectrum do is make consensus politics that much harder, indeed that was referenced in a book by Dr Andrew Leigh the other day who laments that politics has now become far more partisan and personal.

From a podcast with Bill Simmons and James Corden, James Corden made a few very good points on the current state of US politics. One is that for all the problems that the Republicans have currently with the poor standing of Donald Trump, there is a real issue of who the top Democratic figure is currently, the worse thing that could happen going into the 2020 US Election would be a divided Democratic Party who can’t work out who they want to take on Donald Trump which would increase the likelihood of him being able to win another term. The other point James Corden made related to the current consumption of Political news by the members of the public. Because of the large amount of Late Night TV shows available there is a need for hosts to be over the top in their presentation of current news to stand out from their competition on air. This means that their political statements are more outlandish than normal and shouldn’t be taken as considered factual accounts of the current political landscape, however the current landscape seems to suggest that the likes of John Oliver are political experts who should be the basis for reasoned political debate and that just isn’t what these show hosts are aiming for.

In Australia the biggest news in the last fortnight is the announcement of Indigenous leaders wanting more than just Constitutional recognition and something more in the form of a treaty. These terms are often used interchangeably however there is a important difference. Constitutional recognition is a recognition in the laws of the land that Indigenous people lived in Australia post European Settlement whereas a treaty would recognise this as well as then offer some compensation for the fact that Indigenous people have not been recognised in the constitution until this point. This compensation could be both in the form of monetary and land compensation and the amount of compensation that should be given is probably the main sticking point for progress on having a treaty over many years.

The concept of Constitutional recognition seems to have broad political support now, however it would need a referendum to pass into law and the concern has been that due to referendums tending to not pass in Australia it would be a bad look on our society if it was not overwhelmingly passed. With that in mind the extra step of wanting some form of compensation while being reasonable by most pundits opinion may have extra trouble in being passed in a referendum. This means that this important issue is probably still in a discussion stage and it may be even longer for tangible progress to be made. There is also more stronger opposition from more conservative figures like Barnaby Joyce and the Monarchy association who have an issue with the crossover of the constitution being a royal agreement and this being a seperate entity to that.