Monday, May 14, 2018

Coalition could take Queensland seat from Labor at byelection, poll shows

New polling shows the Turnbull government could take the marginal Queensland seat of Longman from Labor at the looming byelection triggered by the dual citizenship fiasco, with the One Nation vote sitting on 15%.

A new ReachTel survey of 1,277 residents across the federal electorate of Longman taken on Thursday night has the LNP polling ahead of Labor on two party preferred terms 53% to 47%.

But the research, funded by The Australia Institute, also suggests the Turnbull government’s proposal to cut tax for Australia’s biggest businesses is unpopular, with only 17% endorsement.

A majority of respondents (53.7%) believe the third phase of the income tax cuts proposed by the Turnbull government, to flatten the tax rate on incomes between $41,000 and $200,000, is unfair.

Voters were asked whether they supported or opposed tax cuts delivering an average of $530 a year extra for low and middle income earners in the first four years, and tax cuts for high income earners in seven years time.

More Longman voters opposed the measure (47.3%) than supported it (38.3%).

The Labor incumbent in Longman Susan Lamb resigned on Wednesday following the high court’s ruling in the Katy Gallagher case.

The ruling triggered a super Saturday of byelections which is looming as a mini-election and has been called a referendum on the tax policies of the major parties.

It would be a significant upset if the LNP snatched back the seat because a government has not taken a seat from the opposition at a byelection for a century.

The resignations this week have triggered contests in Longman, the Tasmanian seat of Braddon, the South Australian seat of Mayo and the Western Australian seat of Fremantle. There will also be a byelection in the seat of Perth, because of the resignation of the Labor MP Tim Hammond for family reasons.

Given the contests will stretch party resources in the run up to a federal election, the Liberals are highly unlikely to run in Fremantle, which will be a Labor/Green contest, and may not run in the seat of Perth either. The Liberals are in the process of preselecting candidates for Longman, Braddon and Mayo.

The Labor incumbents will defend their seats, as will the Centre Alliance MP Rebekha Sharkie, who resigned on Friday. Sharkie is the most likely casualty from the upcoming super Saturday of byelections triggered by the latest wave of dual citizenship resignations, analysts have said.

Sharkie won the formerly safe Liberal seat in the Adelaide Hills on preferences in 2016, with the help of an unpopular opponent in former MP Jamie Briggs and the once-powerful campaign clout of then senator Nick Xenophon.

This time, she is likely to face a well-known name in Georgina Downer, daughter of former foreign minister Alexander Downer who held the seat from 1984 to 2008.

While Sharkie is regarded as a very attentive local member, Xenophon’s political cachet has dwindled since the colossal loss of SA Best at the March state election.

Sharkie’s party has been rebadged from the Nick Xenophon Team to the Centre Alliance, but Flinders University associate professor of politics, Haydon Manning, whose wife ran for SA Best in the state election, said volunteers and donors felt burnt by the recent loss.

“[Sharkie] doesn’t have the money, she doesn’t have the database,” Manning said. “But she has been the incumbent for two odd years, she has worked tirelessly, she has got good demeanor, and she is a person that this seat has not had, in that she is focused on the community.”

Internal Liberal party polling in Tasmania suggested the Coalition was in front in Braddon 53-47, but Tasmanian election analyst Kevin Bonham said it was based on an “utterly woeful” sample size and should be dismissed. Braddon has a history of swapping sides and has not been held for more than two consecutive terms since 1998. Labor’s Justine Keay won it in 2016 and has a 2.2% margin.

Bonham said he expected Labor would retain all four of its seats, failing a catastrophic campaign mistake on behalf of one of its candidates, or a superstar candidate from the Liberal Party.

“If they lose any of them it will be too embarrassing for words,” he said.

He said Longman, which Lamb won from the LNP’s Wyatt Roy in 2016 on an 0.8% margin, was the most at-risk Labor seat.

Bonham added that Lamb was the most likely to get a sympathy vote over her inability to revoke her UK citizenship.

One Nation has named controversial former state candidate Matthew Stephen as its pick for the electorate, and has said it will not preference Labor.

“In the state election, Labor put me last and that’s exactly where I’d like to see them on my ballot paper,” Stephen told the Australian.

ALP resources in Western Australia are expected to focus on Perth. Preselection is likely to go to WA Labor state secretary Patrick Gorman.


At last an eco craze that might actually do some good

If you haven't yet heard of plogging, it won't take you long to wrap your head around it.

The fitness craze involves picking up litter while jogging. Yes, that's the extent of it.

If that sounds like a sped-up Clean Up Australia Day, well it kind of is, except plogging is a worldwide phenomenon.

It began in Sweden, where the name originated. "Plogging" is a mix of the Swedish words for "to jog" and "to pick up" — "plocka upp".

A quick search online delivers posts from plogging groups from just about everywhere; in the UK, Italy, Finland, the US, Canada, Venezuela, Malaysia and India.  And of course, the Icelandic President was recently spotted plogging at his palace.

Now, the craze has reached Australian shores. Well, it's reached Byron Bay.

"We saw it on social media and we thought, 'We can do this!'" said Geoff Bensley a member of the Byron Bay Runners and founder of the fledging Plogging Australia group. "We thought Australia should be up there also and we've picked it up, and yeah, we've been loving it."

"Loving it" is not the first impression you get from the Byron Bay Runners as they head out on what is only their second plog. It's been raining relentlessly through the night and at 7:00am enthusiasm for the task ahead is muted at best.

However, the group soon gets into the swing of things as they pound the 7-kilometre track along the coastline to Lennox Head.


Lending to Australian housing investors plummeted in March, recording the largest percentage drop since September 2015.

This has got to bring prices down

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), the value of investor housing finance tumbled 9% in seasonally adjusted terms to $10.88 billion, the smallest monthly total since January 2016.

In percentage terms, it was the largest monthly decline since September 2015.

Over the year, investor lending slumped 16.1%, the largest decline since May 2016. At the start of 2017, year-on-year growth to investors was running at 26.8%.

“Despite the macro-prudential measures in 2017, investor loans held up reasonably well, particularly compared to the response to the previous round of measures in 2015,” said Matthew Hassam, Senior Economist at Westpac.

“The March drop puts the segment decline more on a par with the earlier episode.”

In December 2014, APRA, Australia’s banking regulator, introduced a 10% annual cap on housing investor credit growth. It followed that move up in March 2017 with a 30% limit on interest-only lending as a proportion of total new mortgage loans.

APRA subsequently removed the 10% annual cap on investor credit growth last month for some lenders, acknowledging that it had served its purpose to cool investor activity in the housing market.

Henry St John, Economist at JP Morgan, says this is reflected in the split between investor and owner-occupier lending in March.

“The share of new lending in dollar terms attributable to investors has slid to its lowest level since January 2012, at 34.1%,” he said.

While not to the same scale as the decline reported for investors, the ABS said the value of finance extended to owner-occupiers also fell, slipping 1.9% to $21.01 billion after seasonal adjustments.

From a year earlier, that saw growth in owner-occupier lending slow to 3.2%, down from 7.2% in the 12 months to February.

Combined, the total value of housing finance slumped 4.4% to $31.89 billion in seasonally adjusted terms, the largest percentage decline January 2016.

The sharp reversal left the total value of lending down 4.3% over the year, the steepest drop in nearly two years.


Number of Australians with tertiary education qualifications to plunge

Good.  It might rein in credentialism

The number of Australians with tertiary education qualifications will plummet in the next decade unless current funding arrangements are overhauled, new research has found.

A new report released by the Mitchell Institute in Victoria on Monday warns that by 2031 participation in Australia’s tertiary education sector could fall to as low as 6% of the population aged between 15 and 64, down from about 10.5% in 2016.

Driven by a combination of the government’s freeze on the demand-driven university enrolment system and a sustained period of cuts to vocational education and training (VET) funding, the report cautions Australia could be “about to enter a decade of declining participation in tertiary education”.

Written by respected tertiary education expert Peter Noonan, the report paints a stark portrait of falling enrolments, particularly driven by a marked decline in the vocational sector.

“Really if we look at the tertiary education sector as a whole – both VET and higher education together – and think ahead, then we face a significant risk of declining participation rates in post-school education on current settings, and that’s mainly because of the alarming decline in VET enrolments and participation,” he told the Guardian.

Noonan’s report warns that based on current trends VET sector enrolments would fall from 5.3% of 15 to 64-year-olds in 2016 to 1.3% by 2031. That equates to more than half-a-million fewer enrolments in the sector in a 15 year period.

“Assuming the ongoing decline in student enrolments is not reversed ... in effect, VET would become a residual sector,” the report states.

“While this scenario may seem implausible, governments will need to act quickly and decisively to arrest the continuing decline in public investment in VET and the ongoing decline in publicly funded student enrolments.”

Noonan has long been critical of current funding arrangements for the vocational sector, and has called for a complete overhaul of the way the system is run between the states and the commonwealth.

Data from the National Centre for Vocational Education Research has previously shown that VET operational funding from the states and territories has fallen steadily over the past four years, from $4.3 billion in 2012 to $2.9 billion in 2016.

He says current funding arrangements allow the states to match commonwealth funding allocations by taking money from their other parts of the VET system, and thinks the federal government needs to take a stronger hold of a sector he says has been allowed to fall into crisis.

“If you were a casual observer you’d think that the education system consisted of schools and universities because all the debate has been around Gonski and the various iterations of university reforms,” he said.

“At the same time the VET sector has been in free fall and no one has either noticed or cared.”

While the decline in VET enrolments means that even on current trends the number of students enrolled in tertiary courses will continue to fall, the report states that the freeze on demand-driven funding will impact on university enrolments.

The report’s modelling predicts the cap will see the proportion of 18 to 64-year-olds enrolled at university staying at below 5% by 2031, rather than lifting to above 6% based on previous trends.

“In a period when successful mass participation in tertiary education is essential to the country’s economic and social wellbeing ... this decline would, over time, also result in a decline in qualification attainment levels in the Australian workforce,” the report found.


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

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