Tuesday, July 05, 2016
Even if he keeps his job, Malcolm Turnbull's problems have just begun
Although coming from an academic, the analysis below is broadly reasonable, with lots of detail factored in. I analyse the problem more broadly, however. I think Turnbull's problem was that he was neither fish nor fowl. In a rather amazing feat, both sides of politics saw him as too wishy-washy. Conservatives thought he was not conservative enough and the Left were disappointed that he did nothing to serve their wishes, despite initial expectations that he would.
If he had run strongly on conservative policies, he would have locked up the conservative vote and might also have been able to do a few things in a more Leftist direction that could have kept alive the initial Leftist hope in him. They would have seen him as offering conservative solidity but with a hope of him delivering some things in a Leftist direction. A free vote on homosexual marriage might have been such a policy. Among the all-important centrists, that could have been attractive
From the broadest perspective of all, however, both Turnbull and Shorten offered only the same old tired elitist consensus about most things that have recently come under challenge in the U.S., Britain and Europe. Trump in America, Brexit in Britain, the rise of Marine Le Pen in France and the crumbling of Frau Dr. Merkel in Germany all say the same thing: People are sick of the same old politically correct consensus and want no more of it. That analysis is strongly reinforced by the real winners in the new Australian parliament: The independents. Their increased numbers are Australia's Trump revolt or Brexit revolt. They too represent a rejection of business as usual
Whatever the final seat count, the 2016 election has gone badly wrong for Malcolm Turnbull. This was meant to be the election that would award him a resounding mandate and provide sufficient numbers in the combined House of Representatives and Senate to pass key legislation easily.
But, at best, Turnbull will be forming a government with only a narrow majority. In a much-less-desirable outcome, he’ll be negotiating with minor parties and independents to form a minority government in a hung parliament. In the worst scenario of all for the Coalition (though it seems less likely at this stage), Labor could form a minority government.
Alternatively, Australia may need to go to another election to resolve matters.
As when he was previously leader of the Liberal Party, Turnbull’s political judgement is being seriously questioned.
The Liberal Party could reasonably have expected the outcome to be better than this. Turnbull remained disciplined and on-message during an (excessively) long campaign, with no more false starts such as the debacles over floating ill-considered GST or state taxation ideas.
The impact of Brexit on economic markets should have reinforced Turnbull’s narrative of needing a stable, responsible and business-friendly government in uncertain times.
That simple message of stability should have cut through more easily than Labor leader Bill Shorten’s more complex argument that Brexit showed the dangers that can arise when conservative leaders give in to the right of their parties, as well as the need for government policies that protect workers’ wages and benefits.
So how did things go so wrong? And what are the implications for Turnbull’s leadership?
Election outcomes are decided by multiple factors, including those particular to local electorates. But there were significant problems with Turnbull’s campaign.
It is not just that Turnbull was not as comfortable as Shorten when campaigning among ordinary voters. Labor repeatedly raised questions about how comfortable Turnbull was with some of the policy positions he was putting forward. It suggested he had betrayed some of his previous positions on issues from same-sex marriage to climate change in order to placate conservatives in his party.
Turnbull strongly denied that his own positions had shifted. Despite this, he went to the election with, for example, Tony Abbott’s policy of holding a plebiscite on same-sex marriage – an idea he had originally opposed.
Such issues reinforced the perception that Turnbull had shifted position, and so could also not be trusted when he denied government plans to privatise Medicare or initiate cuts to penalty rates.
Electors’ memories of past assurances from Julia Gillard and Abbott that were contradicted in office further reinforced this lack of trust. This was despite criticisms that Shorten was over-reaching by arguing the government was intending to fully privatise Medicare rather than merely substantially cutting benefits and increasing user-pays contributions.
Nonetheless, despite the Abbott policy legacies, Turnbull’s own campaign was still somewhat different from a John Howard or a Abbott one. He did not mobilise culture war issues to the extent that his predecessors would have. Abbott’s criticism that “national security has played almost no part in this campaign” is partly a reflection of this.
While Abbott would probably have used the Orlando shooting to highlight the Islamic State “death cult” and repeat his arguments about Islam’s need for a reformation, Turnbull had an Iftar dinner with Muslim leaders in which he made far more measured comments, assuring Muslims they were valued members of a multi-faith and multicultural society.
“Small-l” liberals, which Turnbull professes to be, and many security experts will applaud him for this. But social conservatives will use it against him.
While Howard and Abbott had campaigned with a combination of neoliberal (free-market) economic policy and social conservatism, Turnbull’s campaign focused more on economic policy.
Labor was depicted as big-spending, anti-business and disastrous for economic growth. By contrast, Turnbull promised a bright Australian future if the Liberals were elected, in which an agile and innovative government would encourage industry to generate jobs and growth. The centrepiece of the plan was a tax cut for business, with much made of the opportunities opened up by (Abbott-era) free-trade agreements.
Turnbull’s talk of agility, innovation and flexibility in exciting times is designed to encourage an entrepreneurial culture. It sounds more like motivational speaker Tony Robbins than Tony Abbott, and suggests that Turnbull sees exhorting Australian private enterprise to do its best as a major part of the prime minister’s role.
This is in turn because he sees the key role of government as being to reduce taxation and other barriers to private enterprise, and to facilitate market-based solutions, rather than for government to intervene more decisively.
However, the Liberal Party’s preference for neoliberal, market-based solutions (this predates Turnbull’s leadership though he is a particularly enthusiastic supporter) caused some stumbles. It made the government hesitant to provide extra financial support for areas of Australian industry to avoid job losses. Eventually, the threats to seats in South Australia (particularly Christopher Pyne’s) led to promises of submarines and ships being built in South Australia.
Initially the government merely utilised anti-dumping measures (designed to make market competition fairer) to protect steelmaker Arrium. Eventually the government also agreed to fund new equipment.
South Australian senator Nick Xenophon was among those who argued that such reluctant and piecemeal support was not enough, and that the government needed a stronger plan to encourage and support Australian manufacturing industry and jobs.
More fundamentally, the election result suggests many voters were not convinced by Turnbull’s arguments that the government had a solid plan for jobs and growth. This includes his claims that the benefits of tax cuts to big business would eventually flow through to them.
Turnbull had not adequately countered Labor’s arguments for a more socially equitable economic growth, or populist arguments from a range of minor parties and groups, including Xenophon’s.
Lessons from the campaign for Turnbull’s leadership
Even if Turnbull does retain the prime ministership, he will do so in extremely difficult circumstances. His leadership is clearly under major threat. He promised stability in uncertain economic times but may not even be able to offer stability in parliament.
He is the leader of a post-Howard Liberal Party in which conservatives had become dominant and found it hard to deal with a small-l liberal leader with more socially progressive views. Issues such as how the same-sex marriage plebiscite is handled will now be even more incendiary within the party. Key Turnbull supporters such as Peter Hendy and Wyatt Roy have lost their seats.
Turnbull’s neoliberal support for market forces and public sector cuts has been broadly supported in the Liberal Party since the 1980s, but is apparently no longer so popular with voters. This is an issue that goes beyond Turnbull’s leadership, which the Liberals need to acknowledge.
Turnbull faces an increasing protest vote for independents and minor parties. This includes those, such as the Nick Xenophon Team, that have questioned the free-trade agreements that Turnbull sees as central to Australia’s economic development.
The Senate seems likely to be even less manageable than it was before the double dissolution. Jacqui Lambie has been returned and Pauline Hanson’s political career has been resurrected. The Senate is also likely to feature colourful senators like Derryn Hinch. Both Lambie and Hanson project themselves as looking after battlers who are economically disadvantaged in today’s Australia, while playing on fear of the “other”.
Yet economic stability will be hard to offer in an international economy still not fully recovered from the global financial crisis and now further battered by Brexit and the issues it poses for Europe.
Also, a Turnbull government would face major problems as Australia attempts to transition into a technologically advanced manufacturing country. As Turnbull has acknowledged, this includes increasing competition from Asian economies and the unemployment that could result from technological disruption. Yet it is not clear what Turnbull’s solutions would be if market forces fail to deliver.
Above all, if returned, Turnbull would need to convince ordinary voters they will have a good life in the exciting future he sees for Australia. His own future depends on it.
Below is an email from a regular Cairns correspondent
A little story from the North. My sister works in Cairns Hospital these days. She went to vote at the area set up for employees. When she got there the woman (actually a womyn) on the desk ticking off names had a batch of ALP vote-cards in front of her.
My sister asked for a Liberal card. She received a look of savage hatred, and was curtly told there weren't any. She scoured the room and found one in an empty booth, used it, and took it back the womyn at the desk advising her (nicely) that she could keep it and pass it on to others who didn't want to vote Labor.
The thunderous look continued while the womyn took the card and pushed it under her book of names. My sister had a friend up who also wanted to vote Lib, so she said to her loudly that the nice womyn at the desk has a vote card, but she would have to ask for it, possibly twice.
I assume that the womyn in question was working for the AEC. This would constitute, at the local level, an act of voter supression would it not?
There are a lot of second and third worldy nurses in Cairns these days (God help us all!) and I wonder how many just took an ALP card thinking it was an instruction. My sister wants to make a complaint/report to the AEC. It would seem Labor has sought to subvert democracy at a number of levels in this election.
Queensland Labor behind fake Medicare texts urging voters to steer clear of Coalition
POLICE have confirmed they are investigating the source of thousands of text messages sent to voters on election day.
The messages, first reported by news.com.au, were sent from an account claiming to be Medicare. “Mr Turnbull’s plans to privatise Medicare will take us down the road of no return,” the texts read. “Time is running out to save Medicare.”
But Medicare had nothing to do with it. The government department responsible for Medicare, the Department of Human Services, as well as the Health Minister’s office, confirmed the messages were fraudulent and had not been sent by them.
Mr Turnbull used part of his speech to label the text scam an “extraordinary act of dishonesty”.
“Today, as voters went to the polls, as you would have seen in the press, there were text messages being sent to thousands of people across Australia saying that Medicare was about to be privatised by the Liberal Party,” he said.
“The SMS message came from Medicare. It said it came from Medicare. An extraordinary act of dishonesty. No doubt the police will investigate.’
Australian Federal Police told news.com.au the matter had been referred to them on Saturday for investigation.
Labor’s Queensland branch told Fairfax it sent the text messages but did not intent to make the texts appear to have come from Medicare.
In a statement sent to news.com.au, Minister for Health Sussan Ley called the messages “desperate and deceitful” and called on Opposition Leader Bill Shorten to urgently rule out Labor or affiliated unions as being responsible.
“Australians can spot a fake when they see one and Labor’s Medi-scare campaign is the biggest fake of all,” she said.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was irate about the text scam on Saturday night. Picture: Jason Edwards
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was irate about the text scam on Saturday night. Picture: Jason EdwardsSource:News Corp Australia
On Saturday, a spokesman for the Labor campaign told news.com.au the party was not responsible for the bulk messages and denied knowledge of the last minute text campaign.
Federal Election 2016: Pauline Hanson’s political resurrection
Serial candidate Pauline Hanson has experienced a career resurrection, winning a Queensland Senate spot for herself and leaving open the possibility her One Nation party might grab two more Upper House spots in two states.
One Nation has also secured huge first preference results in several LNP-held Queensland regional seats.
On first preference Upper House votes already counted in Queensland, Ms Hanson’s One Nation has secured 1.2 provisional quotas, ensuring Ms Hanson has grabbed a Senate spot herself and leaving open the possibility her number two, Malcolm Roberts will also be elected. That equates to 10 per cent of the vote counted so far.
In NSW, Ms Hanson’s One Nation has secured almost half of a provisional quota, or about four per cent of the first preference vote.
The firebrand Queenslander, a former federal Independent MP, told the Nine Network she expected One Nation to have at least two Senators.
In the House of Representatives in Queensland, there are a slew of regional conservative-held seats where One Nation has recorded significant, double-digit support on first preferences. In Flynn, where LNP MP Ken O’Dowd may narrowly hold onto the Gladstone electorate, One Nation candidate Phil Baker scored 17.63 per cent of the vote. The Townsville-based seat of Herbert, where the LNP’s Ewen Jones is fighting to keep his job, Geoff Virgo for One Nation secured 13.29 per cent of the vote. In Wide Bay, Elise Anne Cottam took just shy of 15 per cent of the primary vote.
Extraordinarily, in Hinkler — based on Bundaberg and Hervey Bay in southeast Queensland — the One Nation candidate Damian Huxham won nearly one in five of the first preference votes lodged. The outback seat of Maranoa saw similar support for One Nation, with Lynette Keehn recording 18.4 per cent of the primary vote (Palmer United Party got 14 per cent at that seat in 2013). However, the vote was strongest for One Nation in the seat of Wright — which takes in the Lockyer Valley and Mount Tamborine — where One Nation candidate Rod Smith grabbed 21 per cent of the primary vote.
One Nation has taken nearly nine per cent of the primary vote in Longman, north of Brisbane, where LNP Assistant Innovation Minister Wyatt Roy looks like he has lost his seat.
Even on the Gold Coast, in LNP MP Stuart Robert’s seat of Fadden, One Nation grabbed 12 per cent of the primary vote. The Sunshine Coast seat of Fairfax saw a nine per cent show of support for Ms Hanson’s party.
In Blair, held by Labor’s Shayne Neumann, One Nation candidate Troy Aggett polled nearly 16 per cent. In Oxley — the Ipswich seat Ms Hanson represented between 1996 and 1998 — the One Nation candidate got just over eight per cent of the vote. Former Labor state secretary Milton Dick won Oxley.
One Nation polled modestly in Leichhardt, based on Cairns, where the One Nation candidate scored less than seven per cent and popular local LNP MP Warren Entsch was comfortably returned.
Bees not so "threatened" after all
To listen to the Warmists you would think that there is only one species of bee and would think that it is at risk of being burnt to death by global warming. There are in fact around 20,000 species of bee and all have their ecological niche. Populations of European honeybees have had some difficulties in recent years but other species are thriving. Below is a report on an Australian bee species
Flinders Biological Sciences PhD student Rebecca Dew and Associate Professor Michael Schwarz, together with Professor Sandra Rehan of the University of New Hampshire in the US, have found a rapid increase in the population size of the small carpenter bee (Ceratina australensis) from 18,000 years ago, when the climate began warming up after the last Ice Age.
Their findings, published in the latest Journal of Hymenoptera Research, show future global warming could be a good sign for at least some bees, which are major pollinators and are critical for many plants, ecosystems and agricultural crops.
“Our findings also match those from two previous studies on bees from North America and Fiji,” Ms Dew says.
“It is really interesting that you see very similar patterns in bees around the world. Different climate, different environment, but the bees have responded in the same way at around the same time.”
The small carpenter bee is found in sub-tropical, coastal and desert areas of Australia. The researchers spent almost two years conducting field analysis near Warwick in south-east Queensland, Cowra in central New South Wales, Mildura in north-west Victoria and West Beach in Adelaide.
Global warming has other potential effects on environment and ecosystems.
In another recent collaborative study between the Flinders School of Biological Sciences team, previous Flinders research students Dr Scott Groom and Ms Carmen da Silva, Dr Daniel Silva from Brazil and Associate Professor Mark Stevens, from the South Australian Museum, showed that a bee species accidentally introduced to Fiji has become widespread and will flourish with continued global warming, perhaps even spreading to Australia and New Zealand.
“This bee, Braunsapis puangensis, is resistant to honeybee diseases and could well become an important ‘fall-back’ crop pollinator if honeybee populations continue to decline, which has become a major worry in many parts of the world, including Australia,” Associated Professor Schwarz says.
The findings, however, may not all be positive for bees globally, with other studies showing that some rare and ancient tropical bees require a cool climate to survive and, as a result, are already restricted to the highest mountain peaks of Fiji. For these species, climate warming could spell their eventual extinction.
“We now know that climate change impacts bees in major ways, but the challenge will be to predict how those impacts play out. They are likely to be both positive and negative, and we need to know how this mix will unfold,” Ms Dew says.
Ms Dew, who was previously awarded the prestigious J.H. Comstock award from the Entomological Society of America, is now investigating the populations of another species of native bee (Exoneurella tridentata) in arid areas of Australia.
Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.). For a daily critique of Leftist activities, see DISSECTING LEFTISM. To keep up with attacks on free speech see Tongue Tied. Also, don't forget your daily roundup of pro-environment but anti-Greenie news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH . Email me here