Monday, August 05, 2019

‘Loyal’ voters who deserted Labor in no hurry to return

There are two great untold stories of the election; the first is what happened to Labor voters. This doesn’t make a pleasant read for the true believers. And they shouldn’t think it can’t get worse.

The second story is what happened to the polling. The most comprehensive and intelligent analysis so far, conducted by a private­ research firm, provided to senior Liberals and shown to The Weekend Australian, reveals a large-scale structural shift in the strength of Labor support and, to a lesser degree, Coalition support.

For whatever reason, whether it was Bill Shorten or Labor’s tax agenda, there was a historically significant soft vote for Labor before­ and on the day of the ­election. This made the outcome on election day very difficult for a broader national poll to predict, if at all.

In the 1990s it was the case that the Coalition could count on 30 per cent of people supporting it no matter what. The core numbers for Labor were about the same, with 40 per cent of voters floating. John Howard would often cite this formula.

That has dramatically changed, and it has done so only over the past 10 years. That number has shrunk to 25 per cent for the Coalitio­n and about the same proportion for Labor, with the core vote for the Greens and other minor parties, such as it is, accountin­g for about 10 per cent.

Going into this year’s election campaign, the so-called “soft vote” for both the major parties was about 45 per cent of their supporters. The research shows that, as the campaign went on, the softness in the Coalition vote began to reduce and ended up between 30 to 35 per cent by polling day.

Labor’s remained at a high 45 per cent. This was the percentage of Labor voters who said they were leaning to Labor but had not yet committed.

For Labor, the alarm bells should still be ringing. Labor voters­, more than any other party, are normally very brand loyal. They stick. This time, however, a lot of Labor voters were conflicted. And in the end many of them just didn’t want to vote for change — at least not the radical changes Shorte­n was promising.

For pollsters, the explanation as to the difficulty of getting a handle­ on what happened on election day begins to become clearer.

Going into the final week, several­ pollsters who spoke to The Weekend Australian off the record confirmed a consensus view that up to 20 per cent of all voters who had not cast their ballot had yet to decide which way they would vote.

A similar trend had emerged in the 2016 election when, by polling day, 10 per cent of voters did not make up their mind until they had pencil in hand. The number was similar or slightly higher this time around.

A decade ago, this number was about 5 per cent. For whatever reason­, at this year’s election there were double the number of people who decided only on the day — May 18 — than what has historic­ally been the case.

Rather than Newspoll over­estim­ating the Labor vote — which at 33.34 per cent ended up being the worst result since 1934 — the research pointed to another explanation.

The undecided and “soft” vote factors were more profound in this election. The “hard” undecided vote emerged in private polling in the final days of the campaign and was quantified at about 5 per cent.

The problem was in determining the Labor primary vote rather than the Coalition’s. Pushed to answer which way they would vote, the research shows many Labor voters said they were only leaning towards Labor.

What was extraordinary was the number who on the day of the election couldn’t bring themselves to back Labor, and abandoned the party and largely went with a minor party whose preferences came over to the Coalition.

The short answer to the election­ result is that Labor and Shorten made it very difficult for their soft supporter base to stick with them.

According to the research briefing: “Rather than Newspoll results suggesting Newspoll ‘got it wrong’, a more informed inter­pretation is that the hard un­decided voters (those still undecided on May 17) did not support­ Labor on election day.

“And soft Labor voters got cold feet on Labor’s tax changes, anti-coal jobs stance and climate overreach, and were unimpressed with Bill Shorten’s ‘Latham moment’ of celebrating rather than campaigning on May 17 before 75 per cent of voters had cast their ballot.”

It wasn’t the polling that changed. It was the unusual ­behaviour of voters that has shifted over time. Even polling on Friday night would not have picked up what was going to happen.

More people than usual didn’t make up their mind until they walked into the ballot box — and most moved violently away from Labor.

Labor certainly didn’t pick it up. If it had, it wouldn’t have allowed Shorten to put his feet up and start drinking beer while more than 1.5 million voters still tossed up who they would support.


Seeking to protect borders is not hateful

Tim Costello has seen more human hardship than most of us could ­ imagine and he has done a great deal to relieve suffering in godforsaken places the world over. But — yes, there is always a but — his words about Australia’s refugee­ policy, published last week, demand a response­.

Costello compared Australia’s generous refugee intake unfavourably with Sweden’s, which spiked at close to 200,000 at the height of the European refugee crisis in 2015, when Middle Eastern refugees claimed asylum there. Sweden has since suffered from social problems, tightened its asylum­ laws and cut the intake dramatically.

Costello contrasted the height of Sweden’s influx to the 12,000 Syrian refugees welcomed­ by Australia about the same time. But this 12,000 were additional to the annual humanit­arian intake of about 18,000 people. Australia ­remains one of the longstanding and leading resettlement states for UN programs.

We should always be open to a discussion about the size of the ­intake but our record compared with other countries is something that should engender pride rather than shame. It is the restoration of strong border control that has enabled an expansion in the number of refugees accepted; previously boat arrivals effectively jumped the queue, which is why they were prepared to pay anything up to $US10,000 to people-smugglers.

There is no doubt that if you trawl the internet or seek out hard hearts you will find examples of fear and hatred in this nation. But clearly this is not a representative or accurate way to describe mainstream attitudes. Australian voters have supported strong border protection­ because they know the value of integrity in the immig­ration system; they have seen the tragedy and trauma of rampant people-smuggling and understand that sovereignty ­depends on ­secure borders and order, rather than creating chaos by outsourcing immigration to criminal smugglers. This is not hateful, pre­judiced­ or fearful — it is just sensible and fair.

Costello and others who put a humanitarian gloss on criminal people-smuggling cannot wish away the exploitation and tragic deaths, nor can they pretend away the injustice for legitimate refugee­s who have kept their identification papers (rather than destroy them) and waited for ­official ­resettlement, having either chosen not to engage smugglers or not having the cash to do so.

The real quandary in this global dilemma comes from figures ­quoted elsewhere in Costello’s piece. He said there are 65 million displaced people around the world. These numbers fluctuate and some displacements can be short-lived but there is no doubt that the number of legitimate refugee­s worldwide numbers in the tens of millions.

This exposes the silliness of the old argument about push factors — there are always push factors. What the numbers should do is provide a reality check for both bleeding-heart liberals and flint-hearted conservatives.

The numbers tell us that we cannot fix this problem simply by taking refugees — there are simply too many for the world’s resettlement nations to cope. But they also tell us that isolationism is no solution: while ever such misery occurs throughout the world, desperate people will find a way to cross border­s. In the era of globalisation, all nations own this challenge. The internal dysfunction and unspeakable horrors of Syria or Yemen soon become a problem for ­Europe; the traumas in Sudan or Sri Lanka, Myanmar or Venezuela, can quickly turn into dilemmas for Western nations such as ours.

Inevitably, even though it might be a long way off, the only sustainable solutions will be to ­ensure Syrians are safe in Syria, Sudanese can prosper in Sudan and people in Afghanistan and Pakistan can aspire to a bright ­future at home. Migration and tolera­nce, surely, will continue an ­upwards trajectory but they will require order.

Resettling refugees undoubtedly saves lives and creates hope, individual by individual. But we need to be more honest, robust and interventionist about the abominations that generate refugee­s in the first place.


'I want pressure off electricity prices': Scott Morrison pushes for an end to state bans on fracking

Prime Minister Scott Morrison says Australians can 'watch this space' when it comes to ending states' bans on gas explorations.

Mr Morrison said he was frustrated with the refusal by states to end their bans as his government works to keep its promise to reduce the nation's power bills. 'I want to see those bans go, I want to see that gas come out from under people's feet because when it does that means it takes the pressure off electricity prices,' he told the Nine Network on Thursday.

Victoria has permanently banned fracking, while Tasmania has a moratorium and NSW has certain restrictions on the practice.

A moratorium on gas fracking in parts of Western Australia is expected to be officially lifted in August, while South Australia last year passed laws to enshrine a 10-year ban on fracking in the southeast of the state.

The Northern Territory in 2018 lifted a temporary fracking ban while Queensland allows the practice.

The prime minister gave a cryptic answer when questioned over whether there were any signs of states ending their bans 'soon'.

'Watch this space,' he said.


Santos sees $3b Narrabri coal seam gas approval by year end

Santos chief executive Kevin Gallagher has declared that headwinds facing the company's $3 billion Narrabri coal seam gas project in NSW are "turning to tailwinds" as the project gains traction among domestic customers and moves through the planning approvals process.

Mr Gallagher said he is hopeful to secure NSW government approval for the  project by the end of the year, and again committed to sell all the gas produced to domestic customers, signalling that a gas reservation requirement as being contemplated by the federal government is no obstacle to going ahead.

'There's a lot of optimism, and a lot of enthusiasm for the project in the region, particularly given we've now got a lot of customers coming forward,' says Santos CEO Kevin Gallagher.  Attila Csaszar

He said meetings he took part in Narrabri on Tuesday with stakeholders in the project were supportive.

"There's a lot of optimism, and a lot of enthusiasm for the project in the region, particularly given we've now got a lot of customers coming forward," he said, referring to recent preliminary sales accords for Narrabri gas with Brickworks, Weston Energy and Perdaman Group.

He said he believed the success in signing up domestic customers meant the project was getting traction with NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian.

"The headwinds are slowly shifting and I would describe them as not quite tailwinds yet but on the way to becoming tailwinds," Mr Gallagher told the Credit Suisse Australian Energy Conference in Sydney.

The comments come as the federal government considers potential measures to reserve part of the gas in new development projects for the local market to ease the current squeeze on prices.

Farming and environmental groups are fiercely opposed to the Narrabri coal seam gas project, citing potential damage to groundwater and land resources. Dean Sewell

The Narrabri project, which is fiercely opposed by environmentalists because of risks to water and land resources, could supply up to half of the gas needs of NSW, which currently imports 96 per cent of its requirements and where manufacturers are struggling with price hikes.

"We're expecting soon the project to get put into the hands of the Independent Planning Commission; we are still hopeful that by the end of this year we can get that EIS [environmental impacts statement] approved and we can move forward with the project," Mr Gallagher said.

A Santos spokeswoman said the company has already said it is prepared to accept a condition for approval of the project that 100 per cent of the gas is sold into the domestic market.
Santos boss Kevin Gallagher: "There is no history that tells us that government intervention works."

Lock the Gate Alliance accused Santos of "playing politics" with Narrabri gas, instead of sticking to science and proper process.  Alliance spokeswoman Georgina Woods accused Santos of "inappropriate political interference" in the approvals process.

“It’s a bit rich for Santos to throw the blame around now and try to use politics to bypass environmental laws, especially when there is a gas import terminal which is well ahead of Santos’s project and properly going through the assessment process," she said, describing Santos as the "key architect" of the gas price crisis in the eastern states.

Mr Gallagher said Narrabri would beat LNG imports "hands down" on pricing. "Narrabri will be the lowest cost of supply gas going into the New South Wales market by a country mile," he said.


Half stake in Cubbie Station now back in Australian hands

The Chinese kept it afloat when drought almost wiped it out

A Macquarie-run agricultural fund will take a 49 per cent stake in Queensland's famed Cubbie Station with its majority owner Chinese conglomerate Shandong Ruyi fulfilling a requirement to reduce its stake to 51 per cent.

Shandong Ruyi paid $232 million for Australia's largest cotton irrigator, the then debt-laden Cubbie Station in 2012. Until the deal with Macquarie, the Chinese textile giant had held 80 per cent with businessman Roger Fletcher controlling 20 per cent. Mr Fletcher will exit his stake under the transaction announced on Friday.

The investment by Shandong Ruyi was approved by then treasurer Wayne Swan on the condition its ownership would be reduced from 80 per cent to 51 per cent. The Chinese operator has been given extensions on that requirement, most recently last month by Treasurer Josh Frydenberg.

As part of the joint ownership agreement, the agricultural fund, managed by Macquarie Infrastructure and Real Assets, and Ruyi have committed to voluntarily contribute water to the Culgoa River and the Lower Balonne when it is most needed.

The commitment comprises a voluntary contribution of up to 10 gigalitres to the Lower Balonne over a five-day period following extended dry periods.

“Cubbie is one of Australia’s premiere agricultural assets and aligns with our investment thesis for long-term sustainable farming operations," MIRA Head of Agriculture, Liz O’Leary said.

“MIRA has been an active investor in and manager of Australian farmland for more than 10 years and we understand the responsibilities that we have to local communities and investors."

Ms O'Leary said said the voluntary water contribution was a "meaningful commitment that will increase the volume of water in the Culgoa River and Lower Balonne intersecting streams, at the most critical times".

"It is also an example of the private and public sectors engaging with one another to develop new ways of helping to meet environmental objectives, while enabling productive use of the land at times of high flows.”

Since the 2012 acquisition, Shandong Ruyi has invested $26 million in improving the efficiency of Cubbie’s operations and spent more than $25 million acquiring and upgrading the Dirranbandi cotton ginnery.

"Our joint venture provides certainty of ownership to Cubbie," said Ruyi Australia Group chief executive officer, Tony McKenna.

"Under the structure, the current management and operational team of Cubbie will remain unchanged and will be able to continue their good work.”

The sprawling Queensland farm extends across several properties near Dirranbandi and St George in south west Queensland.

Cubbie’s 93,700 hectares includes 22,100 hectares of irrigated cropping fields. Cubbie Station itself is an 80,600-hectare property with 19,100 hectares of irrigated cropping fields,

The broader farm includes The Anchorage, a 12,700-hectare property and Aspen, a 406-hectare property.


 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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