Australian politics

The Senate’s fine balance


The media cannot help directing its attention to the Labor Party and to what’s left of the Coalition, but it’s important to realize that we have a finely-balanced Senate, where three senators who hold a balance of power cannot be conveniently classified as “left” or “right”, or as unconditionally likely or unlikely to support the government’s legislation.

Since she was first elected to the Senate in 2014 we have become reasonably well-acquainted with Jacqui Lambie (she will be speaking next weekend at Sydney’s Festival of Dangerous Ideas), and newly-elected ACT Senator David Pocock has been gaining an amount of media cover, but we are still getting to know newly-elected Senator Tammy Tyrrell, who was for many years on Jacqui Lambie’s staff and who was elected on the Jacqui Lambie Network ticket.

Her maiden speech is not yet available on her parliamentary website, but the ABC’s James Glenday has provided a summary and selected extracts. There is also a 7-minute interview with Patricia Karvelas on the ABC’s Breakfast program: I don’t want to act like a politician.

It would be easy to see her concern for “normal” people as some alignment with the anti-elite, populist right, and the Coalition politicians who talk about the “forgotten people”, but that would be a misunderstanding, because she stresses her experience in helping those out of work, and her own experience of unemployment. In the interview her political philosophy comes across as redistributionist, but she wisely resists being drawn into hard positions on the rate of unemployment benefit (“Jobseeker”) or on the stage 3 tax cuts.

Voting intention polls: no joy for the Coalition

William Bowe’s Poll Bludger reports on the most recent Newspoll, showing Labor’s primary vote at 37 percent (33 percent at the election), the Coalition’s at 31 percent (36 percent), Greens at 13 percent (12 percent), and One Nation plus UAP at 9 percent (9 percent). As preferred prime minister Albanese leads Dutton 61 percent to 22 percent.

Writing in The Conversation, Adrian Beaumont reports that Morgan’s poll is much better for the Coalition. It shows Labor’s vote at 36 percent (within Newspoll’s margin of error) and the Coalition’s at 40 percent (9 percent higher than Newspoll and a gain since the election).

Newspoll gives an extraordinary two-party-preference of 57:43 in Labor’s favour, but when the combined Labor plus Coalition vote is only 68 percent, and some preferences flow to independents, the TPP starts to lose meaning.

Timing may have had some influence on the Newspoll result. It was conducted during the Jobs and Skills Summit, when the government was enjoying a great deal of positive media coverage, and when Peter Dutton was absent in a childish huff.

Essential poll: ICAC, healthcare, cellphones in schools and more

This fortnight’s Essential Poll has a suite of questions on political and administrative matters:

Albanese’s approval is at pre-canonisation levels, and respondents’ belief that since the election Australia has taken a turn in the right direction is confirmed, particularly among younger people, but Coalition voters disagree.

Australians don’t think much of Morrison’s behaviour in secretly appointing himself to multiple portfolios: only 25 percent believe he should not resign from parliament. There are predictable partisan differences. These findings do not confirm the idea that matters of procedural integrity are of little or no concern to the public.

Support for a federal ICAC is down from 82 percent in September 2018 to 76 percent in September 2022, while opposition has risen from 5 percent to 15 percent over the same period. Perhaps some people believe that now we have an incorruptible government holding the highest possible ethical standards, guided by men and women with deep policy wisdom and with an unshakeable commitment to the public purpose, we don’t need an ICAC. Older Australians however, who have seen many administrations come and go, are much more in support of a federal ICAC than younger people. While respondents are generally in favour of an ICAC having strong powers, only a third believe that it should “be able to start an investigation without first establishing that a crime has likely been committed”. This indicates a limited view of what constitutes “corruption”.

There is a question on trust in institutions. Scientific bodies, health authorities and universities score over 60 percent, the Commonwealth public service scores just over 50 percent, and parliaments, state and federal, score between 40 and 50 percent. In general older people have more trust in institutions than younger people. It’s hard to know what people mean when they say they trust or mistrust “parliament”: it would surely be more informative if Essential were to ask about trust in “executive government”.

There is a specific set of questions on limiting mobile phone use in schools. Just over half of respondents (52 percent), particularly older people, believe all students should be banned from using mobile phones in schools, while 69 percent believe there should be digital safety standards to educate students on how to use mobile phones safely.

For once Essential has turned the policy spotlight on state governments, asking respondents to nominate their most important issues. “Healthcare” and “Cost of living” rank in equal place at 76 percent, and both are of particular concern for older people. “Law and order”, whatever that may mean, is also a strong concern of older people. There is a breakdown of responses by the five largest states: healthcare is of very strong concern (83 percent) in South Australia. (It should be noted that of these five states South Australia would have the oldest population.)

Passing of a loved and respected monarch

The Australian Republican Movement has a short statement on the death of Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of the United Kingdom and Head of the Commonwealth.