As PM Scott Morrison reels from the latest crisis, and polls show that he’s in trouble, two big events signal the election race is up and running.
In brief, we had the ALP National Conference, which ScoMo attempted to disrupt by announcing the next Governor General. Then the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook 2018‑19 showed the economy producing unexpected riches. However, the media were diverted by NP member and Assistant Finance Minister Andrew Broad’s ‘Sugar Daddy’ scandal, which, according to the Betoota Advocate, his leader Michael McCormack explained was a private family matter and hence none of our business. Meanwhile two opinion polls came out, which were not to ScoMo’s liking.
We’ll take them one at a time.
The NSW state election is scheduled for Saturday, 23 March. I doubt Morrison will be game enough to front up in parliament, so I’m expecting an election two or three weeks before the NSW election – on 2nd or 9th of March.
ALP National Conference
In 12 chapters it covers everything, from what to do about dementia (p95) to a reconsideration of the socialist objective, which we had a look at just two years ago.
The first chapter is Labor’s Enduring Values in 43 points.
Overall the task is to repair the vandalism wrought over the last five years and to set Australia up for a dynamic, vigorous, decent and compassionate future. Here I’ll highlight Chapter 4: Tackling climate change, securing our energy future & addressing our environmental challenges – p61 on the counter.
Labor will transform Australia’s economy to reach net zero greenhouse gas pollution by 2050.
In doing so it aims to turn Australia into “a renewable and clean energy superpower, reaping the greatest possible benefits from new and advanced technologies and industries.”
At #8 it says:
- The cheapest, most effective way to address climate change is to put a legal cap on pollution, underpinned by market mechanisms that let business in different sectors work out the best way to operate within that cap.
We also need strong sector specific policies to support the transition, like strong support for renewable energy development and generation, laws to curb land clearing emissions and frameworks to transition our transport systems.
Clearly the assumption is that coal will effectively be gone by 2050, both energy generation and mining for export. At #32 and 33 the platfrom addresses the need for a Just Transition for the coal mining regions:
- 32. Growing diverse regional economies in areas such as the Latrobe Valley, the Iron Triangle, Collie District, Bowen Basin, Surat Basin, Lithgow, the Illawarra and the Hunter Valley is necessary to a just transition. These communities and their traditional industries have underpinned our national prosperity and have been the source of jobs for generations of Australians.
33. Labor will work with communities, unions and industry, and local and State governments, to deliver a Just Transition, to:
- • Develop a comprehensive regional development approach which supports the transition of workers to new jobs, existing industries to a low pollution future, and the growth of sustainable new industries, technologies and practices;
- • Assist regional transition, including to support worker redeployment, boost regional infrastructure investment, and lift regional competitiveness and job growth in all its forms — from production and maintenance, through to research, design and development; and
- • Support the growth of sustainable new industries, technologies and practices which secures justice and new sources of prosperity and jobs for workers and communities. Labor will draw on international experience and world – leading policies, as well as the recent experience of the Latrobe Valley, to further enhance clean technology, investment and employment opportunities for Australians.
Along with a revision of environment laws and setting up a national EPA it seems unlikely that the Galilee Basin will be developed as a coal mining region, only to be shut down again.
Moreover the CSIRO has now found serious flaws in Adani’s key water management plan to protect an ancient springs complex near its proposed Carmichael coal mine.
Earlier this year Samantha Hepburn, Director of the Centre for Energy and Natural Resources Law, Deakin Law School, Deakin University pointed out:
as a project of “national environmental significance” (given its potential impact on water resources, threatened species, ecological communities, migratory species, world heritage areas and national heritage places), the mine also comes under the federal Environmental Protection Biodiversity Conservation Act.
Federal legislation obliges Adani to create an environmental management plan outlining exactly how it plans to promote environmental protection, and to manage and rehabilitate all areas affected by the mine.
Please note that the CSIRO work was undertaken because the Federal Department of Environment and Energy asked the CSIRO and Geoscience Australia for an independent scientific review of Adani’s GDEMP.
I think it’s game over for Adani if Labor is elected, without compensation.
Also Richard di Natale should stop wearing a ‘Stop Adani’ T-shirt:
I’m assuming the ALP conference approved Labor’s draft platform. It all seemed to be sorted beforehand. I’m also assuming the policy documents for the election will be even more voluminous.
ScoMo announces the next GG
Scott Morrison attempted to distract from the ALP conference by announcing David Hurley, the NSW governor and former defence force chief to replace Peter Cosgrove. I understand that Hurley is a really ace guy, a perfect fit for the job, so it would be mean to point out that we have yet another white, male, military person.
ScoMo says he just thought of Hurley and said, he’s it, which seems to typify how he makes decisions. It is the process here that was defective, but appointing an Aboriginal woman would have made a real statement. An opportunity missed.
Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook 2018‑19
The Conversation has done remarkably well on explaining and critiquing MYEFO:
- Monday’s MYEFO will look good, but it will set the budget up for awful trouble down the track by Warren Hogan, Industry Professor, University of Technology Sydney
- More mirage than good management, MYEFO fails to hit its own targets by Danielle Wood, Program Director, Budget Policy and Institutional Reform, Grattan Institute and Kate Griffiths, Senior Associate, Grattan Institute
Increased revenues have appeared in the last six months:
What can appear in six months can equally disappear in the next. We gather that the increase is mainly from China buying more iron ore and increased coal and gas export income. However, there is a good chance that the trade war between China and the US will hot up. China has been pumping its economy with infrastructure, much of which is not needed (eg. empty cities), more so now to counter the threat from Trump’s trade war. Sooner or later all that will slow down or even stop. See China is about to stress test the world.
Our best defence is to run a surplus of at least one per cent of GDP, as Labor’s Chris Bowen has been emphasising. ScoMo’s MYEFO sees us as getting there around 2025-26:
Wage trends have been really crap, as this graph shows:
See also Michael Pacoe at The New Daily.
Magically MYEFO forecasts wages to turn upwards. That had better happen if budget forecasts are to have credibility, because wages supply a critical and, if we believe it, increasing share of tax revenue:
Seems there is a tidy surplus sum of $9 billion with all the ducks lined up. In six months this may change, so I’m thinking ScoMo, Josh Frydenberg, Matthias Cormann et al will seize the opportunity to do what Peter Costello repeatedly did –
piss it up against the wall use it for tax breaks and/or middle class welfare.
Warren Hogan thinks that is a really bad idea. Danielle Wood and Kate Griffiths give MYEFO a ‘fail’ on its own targets.
This graph shows payments against receipts since 1970:
Receipts are expected to exceed payments for the first time in a decade. Other than that, if you look back, Whitlam expanded the public sector considerably, and we are all Whitlam’s children. The current mob has an obsession about keeping receipts below 26% of GDP. Labor sets no arbitrary limits when they address Responsible Fiscal Responsibility in the platform (see p14). However, one would think they envisage a modest enlargement of the public sector.
While all this has been going on the ScoMo/Frydenberg budget vandalism continues. See MYEFO rips A$130 million per year from research funding despite budget surplus.
This would be literally unbelievable, were it not true. Next year there will be 500 fewer PhD scholarships. We are winding down our research and development effort when others are cranking it up. Now it stands at 1.88% of GDP, some 0.5% of which is government. This UNESCO graph is clearly out of date:
This Wikipedia list shows us at 2.12% in 2014, so we’ve been regressing fast.
- Labor would launch a “once in a generation”$1 million inquiry into the science and research sector, Mr Shorten says, to be led by former Chief Scientist Professor Ian Chubb.
Its most expensive promise is the already announced pledge to lift Australia’s research spend from 1.8 per cent of GDP to 3 per cent by 2030.
Budget tables show $1.1 billion has been cut from research funding since 2013, Labor’s science spokesman, Kim Carr, says. The CSIRO has lost almost 1000 full-time positions in that time.
The ‘Sugar Daddy’ scandal
This was dealt with quite well in The New Daily:
- Unwelcome Broadside destroys the government’s day, by Paul Bongiorno
- PM was kept in dark over MP’s ‘sugar daddy’ scandal, by Samantha Maiden
- Andrew Broad linked by social media post to ‘sugar daddy’ dating sites nearly a year ago, by Anna Henderson and Brett Worthington
There’s more at the ABC:
- Government expects voters will ‘overlook’ the Coalition’s treatment of women in favour of economic issues
The story I heard was that Broad, going abroad, booked a date with a young woman going under the moniker “sweet Sophia Rose” through the ‘Sugar Baby’ dating site. She expected money, which was denied. When he started to get fresh, she excused herself to go to the toilet and shot through. She then told all to New Idea.
Whether that is correct or not does not much matter. What happened was that another hypocrite espousing family values made an ass of himself, and destroyed his political career.
And blew ScoMo’s good MYEFO news out of the water.
Opinion polls show a government on the nose
Essential asked people to review the last 12 months. Politics clearly sucked 15-65, as did the Australian Government 16-57. ‘You and your family overall’ were OK at 48-18, but the planet was in trouble 19-38. The Australian cricket team got a narrow pass at 30-28.
Fairfax-Ipsos asked people about negative gearing, which was pretty evenly divided at 43-44 for and against. However, when broken up according to voting preference the division runs pretty much with the politics, so I don’t see it as a big vote changer. Capital gains was similar.
However, the dead tree version of Ipsos breaks up the voting patterns demographically. Of most interest was the age grouping.
Age 18-24 voted Labor 41, LNP 26, Green 25, and Other 8.
Age 25-39 was 38, 27, 20, 15 for the same parties.
Age 40-54 was 30, 37, 13, 20. Her we see the LNP overtake Labor, but not Labor and the Greens combined, and remembering that One nation voters can preference Labor as high as 50%.
Age 55+ comes in at 39, 44, 4, 12, showing some resurgence by Labor, but the Greens fall away.
Overall the weighting is 37, 36, 13, 15. ScoMo’s real support base is the over 55s.
Beaumont says that Fairfax-Ipsos always mark the Greens too high. It has them at 13 compared to Essential’s 11.
Essential differentiates One Nation giving a ON-Other split of 7-9, against Fairfax-Ipsos’s Other of 15.
Other seems to peak with middle-age and then taper rapidly.
There is no joy in any of the above for ScoMo and the LNP.
Shorten is pollie of the year
Crikey has awarded Bill Shorten the 2018 Pollie of the Year (pay-walled):
Immediately underneath the photo are the words:
- “Give me lucky generals, not good ones” – variously, Napoleon, Eisenhower, Mazarin.
Above it was the announcement:
- In a year in which the political class has failed to address the disaffection and contempt so many voters have for our political system, Bill Shorten has been far and away the most effective politician.
Bernard Keane comments:
- As the government lurched through another self-inflicted disaster this week, another rotten opinion poll, another bout of self-indulgence and navel-gazing, Bill Shorten was presenting a strong, coherent and unified party at Labor’s delayed national conference. The contrast was deeper than just appearances, however potent they were.
Keane says Shorten has been known to buckle a bit under pressure, but comprehensively this year his opponents, including The Greens, have consistently and reliably stuffed up. However, it is not that simple. Shorten has earned his award:
- Whether that luck holds until polling day next year remains to be seen. Lots of people are writing the Liberals off, and it’s hard to avoid joining them, but momentum could shift in the new year. But, crucially, Shorten’s luck has been earned. On the economy, and taxation, there’s been no small target strategy. Quite the opposite — in effect Shorten has invited the Coalition and News Corp to have their best shot at Labor’s policies on negative gearing and capital gains tax and ending the dividend tax credit rort by selfish wealth retirees. And Shorten has used the shift in electoral sentiment against neoliberalism and the rising concern about inequality and corporate power to craft a coherent economic narrative, which stands in particular contrast to the lack of any narrative at all from the Coalition.
That about sums up where we are at year’s end, unless the Coalition can invent any more horrors for us.
Update: Following zoot below Katharine Murphy has a couple of interesting articles:
Even better, I think, is Karen Middleton at The Saturday Paper with Scott Morrison’s Christmas wish.
The title is misleading. It’s mainly about how toxic the ‘Liberal’ brand has become in NSW and the state Liberals are trying brutally and directly to distance themselves from the Feds. That’s what was behind the eruption over the NEG at COAG. Middleton has been assured that there is plenty more of the same in the pipeline.
I was going to comment that it would help the NSW Libs if ScoMo went first. Middleton reports that it is an overt strategy to make life so unpleasant for the Federal Libs that they go to the polls early. Then if the Feds are punished, voters are more likely to consider the NSW Liberal government on its own merits.
Middleton has also pointed out, and I wish I had done so, that by contrast the ALP conference ended with a very public reconciliation of the warring parties by granting Paul Keating, Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd life membership. The latter was there, and said:
- “You know, we had our occasional disagreements,” Rudd told the conference, a little facetiously. “Just here and there, at the margins, but you know something, we all have written our bit and I just have a simple suggestion: Let’s let history be the judge of these things.”
- Labor bestowed life membership on Rudd and his wife, a visibly emotional Thérèse Rein.
“Reconciliation matters,” Rein said. “And being part of this great movement, the Labor Party, has been an enormous part of my life and it’s good to feel like I’m home.”
That matters in terms of Rudd’s future behaviour.
Then there was the reconciliation between Rudd and Swan, about whom Rudd had been scathing, derogatory and deeply personal:
The shadow finance minister, Jim Chalmers, acknowledged it had not been easy for any involved, including newly elevated party president and former federal treasurer Wayne Swan.
Rudd’s bitterness towards Swan for backing Gillard’s challenge – and Swan’s towards Rudd for subsequently undermining her prime ministership – is well documented.
“I was really proud of Swanny,” Chalmers told Sky News later. “… I thought that was a real symbol that we understand that we’ve had our barneys in the past but they belong in the past and that we can’t mess around here. We are asking for something pretty simple but pretty serious. We’re asking the Australian people for the opportunity to govern in their interests.”
Then Middleton gave an account of what was decided at the ALP conference, one of the few journalists who appears to have noticed.