Australian politics

How the Coalition can be returned to office – without their biggest liability

There will be many well-organized independents running in the election, some new and some already-serving, backed by Climate 200. There will be others with strong community support, such as Penny Ackery who is taking on Angus Taylor in Hume.

In view of the Coalition’s abysmal poll showings, its precarious parliamentary majority (holding only 76 seats in the 150-seat House of Representatives), and the long-term downward trend in the vote for main parties, a strong possibility is that neither Labor nor the Coalition will be able to form a majority government, but that either side will have to negotiate a deal with enough independents to form government, as was the case in the 2010 election, when Labor formed government with the support of key independents.

The independents with the best electoral prospects could generally be classified as centrist or conservative. They coalesce around certain basic issues – dealing with climate change, establishing a strong integrity commission, and treating refugees with decency – which could hardly be called “left” or “progressive”.

Writing in The Conversation Frank Bongiorno and David Lee ask What if the 2022 federal election gives us a hung parliament, but those with the balance of power want Morrison gone?. Ideologically many of these independents could support a principled Liberal government, but they would have trouble dealing with Morrison who has “emerged from almost four years in office with a reputation for big announcements, a failure to deliver, and a general slipperiness”. They would also find it hard to deal with senior people in the National Party.

Some may consider it fanciful to imagine that there could be a deal that involves the removing a party leader, but Bongiorno and Lee point to Australian precedents, both state and federal.

Australia is probably in a long-term transition away from the “Westminster” two-party system, on a track to a multi-party northern-European style democracy. There will come a day when journalists and other observers stop talking about “hung parliaments” – a term that implies something unstable and unusual – and refer, instead, to “minority” or “coalition” government without the capital “C”.

Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells’ parting words

The last thing Morrison needed on budget day was a swipe from a Liberal Party Senator asserting that he is not fit to be prime minister.

Her full statement is on the Crikey website (in time it should be available on the Senate Hansard.) Some may see it as a statement made in anger by a long-serving senator who has lost a preselection battle, and some may see it as a statement by a parliamentarian whose views are on the ultra-conservative fringe of the Liberal Party. But it’s a considered and detailed statement, with a number of strong accusations against Morrison and others. Because these accusations are made under parliamentary privilege it would be improper to quote them; they should be read in their full context.

Jacqui Lambie and Pauline Hanson seem to go along with Fierravanti-Wells’ assessment of Morrison’s character. A reader has brought to our attention an article in The Klaxon, recalling Morrison’s attack on Australia Post CEO Christine Holgate in 2020. Holgate described it as “one of the worst acts of bullying I’ve ever witnessed”. The main point in the article is the contrast between Morrison’s treatment of Holgate, who wasn’t even accused of doing anything illegal, and his treatment of two ASIC executives against whom there were serious allegations of mis-spending public money.

Five hundred years after Balboa and six weeks before an election Morrison discovers the Pacific

Strange, is it not, that even though they were told seven months ago that China was interested in establishing a military presence in the Solomon Islands, the government has chosen the pre-election period to make a fuss about it?

On the ABC’s Breakfast program Senator Rex Patrick places the Solomon Islands issue into the broader context of the Morrison government’s misplaced security priorities. “This is a foreign relations failure; this is a national security failure”. The Morrison government has been obsessed with acquiring submarines as part of big power alliances sometime after 2040 (a result of Morrison being cajoled by Boris Johnson to help Britain’s struggling defence industry). At the same time, however, it has neglected more immediate and proximate security interests of our region. We have ignored the region. In fact, in prosecuting Bernard Collaery, the Morrison government has been downright hostile to Timor – no wonder the Chinese have been welcomed to Timor to help in their development. Patrick goes on to point out that there is Chinese interest even closer to home, in Papua New Guinea.

In the short interview he doesn’t mention Australia’s cuts in foreign aid or Morrison’s dismissive contempt for Pacific countries’ threats from rising sea levels.

(The 9-minute session starts with a discussion of fuel prices – nothing new there. The discussion on defence starts 3 minutes in.)

Floods and climate change – where does journalism fit in?

We might remember the hoopla late last year when the Murdoch media announced its Pauline conversion on climate change. When it comes to the recent floods, caused by extreme rainfalls in Queensland and New South Wales, however, the Murdoch media has been reluctant to suggest that there is any link between climate change and these events. Indeed, it has tended to downplay the connection between floods and climate change.

That’s a finding made by Victoria Fielding, of the University of Adelaide, writing in The Conversation: Is News Corp following through on its climate change backflip? My analysis of its flood coverage suggests not. In her analysis of 171 news and opinion articles over a recent two-week period, she found that “the Murdoch outlets were the only news organisations where voices argued the floods were not exacerbated by climate change”.

Her article concludes with a discussion and classification of situations in which media go beyond reporting, clarifying and analysing, and into advocacy, differentiating advocacy that can advance the public interest and advocacy that reinforces the voice of the already powerful and privileged.

Morgan poll

On Tuesday (before the budget), Morgan produced a poll with the headline ALP lead cut as bullying allegations surround ALP senators.

It reports a closing of Labor’s two-party-preference lead by 2.5 percent, from 58.0:42.0 at its previous poll to 55.5:44.5.  That would still be a wipeout for the Coalition.

One should view TPP figures with a great deal of caution, and it would be rash to assume a causal relation between the bullying stories following Kitching’s death and a fall in poll numbers, but Morgan does suggest, from its analysis, that the fall in Labor’s support came entirely from women. Its charts of voting trends still show a large difference between men’s and women’s voting intention: women have turned off the Coalition (or, perhaps, off Morrison).

The more reliable primary vote figures in this poll are Labor 35.5 percent (33.3 percent in the 2019 election), Coalition 33.0 percent (41.4 percent in 2019), Greens 10.5 percent (10.4 percent in 2019).  Compared with other polls these show low support for both Labor and the Coalition, but that may be because they don’t re-allocate the “undecided” vote.