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Phil Coorey asked a good question at Morrison’s Press Conference Jan 5th 2020, taking the PM by surprise with his unexpected tack, when he asked the PM if, seeing that the PM belives that reducing Australia’s 1.3% world contribution of Greenhouse Gas emissions to zero would have no effect on Climate Change, then would Morrison pressure Trump to reduce the emissions of the USA. The answer from Morrison was of course no he wouldn’t.

If I was at the Press Conference I would have asked Morrison

  1. You have dismissed the advice of Greg Mullins, former NSW Fire Commissioner, as being irrelevant as he is ‘no longer in the job’ but you seek out the opinions of John Howard, a former Prime Minister, who is also ‘no longer in the job’. Isn’t that inconsistent ?
  2. You have stressed that management and delivery of services in the crisis is paramount and political aspects of the issue are meaningless and should not be discussed. If you then choose to seek the advice of unemployed former public servants wouldn’t the advice of Greg Mullins be more practical than the advice of John Howard ?
  3. Since you are in fact seeking the advice of John Howard in preference to that of Greg Mullins doesn’t this show that you are more interested in the political aspects of the crisis than in the practical aspects of the crisis ?

[By the way, notice that Morrison bit his lip when he admitted taking advice from John Howard on the fires. This was obviously a slip, an inadvertent admission from Morrison, and a fact which Morrison would prefer not to be known]

4. The Government agrees with Climate Change science and that the increased Bushfire Season length and intensity is a product of Climate Change. This being the case and considering the unprecedented nature of this year’s Bushfire Season shouldn’t the government call a moratorium on opening more domestic coal mines ? Bear in mind that Coal burned anywhere in the world affects Australia’s Bushfire Seasons.

5. Current Global Warming stands at approximately 0.9C and has produced these unprecedented fires and devastation. What can we expect from 1.5C (almost double) ? Bear in mind that effects of Global Warming increase geometrically, not linearly.

6. I understand the area burnt this season to currently stand at 6.3 million hectares. This is the close to the total area of Tasmania. Twice the size of Belgium. Larger than Croatia. 50% larger than Switzerland. What area would conceivably be burnt under 1.5C Global Warming ? Given this, could the Government consider foregoing the use of Kyoto Credits in order to do just a little more than the minimum in order to protect Australian lives, industry in property ?

7. In general, would the government consider doing more than the minimum necessary in order to protect Australian lives, industry in property ?

8. You have said that your climate policies will not be allowed to cripple traditional industries by which you mean coal. This years fires have savagely impacted upon industries such as wine (Adelaide Hills), agriculture (dairy and apples), tourism (compromised travel and inability to travel, 30% of NSW North Coast Koalas dead, destruction of resorts). Are wine, agriculture and tourism traditional industries ? Shouldn’t we protect all traditional industries or just coal ? If coal is destroying several other traditional industries shouldn’t we think twice about continuing with coal ?

9. In the planning for this year’s fires (around April 2019) you gave the Fire Services less than they asked for (no guarantee of permanent increased funding for aerial capacity just a one year top up) and now as the crisis has manifested you have given them much more than they have asked for (four planes instead of one). Isn’t this an example of policy-making veering between extremes which you always say should be avoided ? Why not just give the experts what they ask for ? Especially since the Fire Management asked for very little in Budgetary terms (just $11m per year ?)

10. Why was funding for aerial fire-fighting capacity allowed to degrade in the first place by freezing the budget for it in the several years up to 2018 ? Isn’t Fire-Fighting an essential service ?

11. You say that your government has both excellent economic management and excellent climate policies and these are in balance, delivering both outcomes. Is this excellent balance of economy and climate therefore evident in this  unprecedented Bushfire crisis and if your policies and government continue should we expect more of the same ?

 

On January 4th 2020 Scott Morrison announced that ADF Personnel would be deployed to assist emergency services with bushfire fighting activities. Shortly thereafter a  video was posted on the prime minister’s Twitter and Facebook pages summarizing the announcement. The video was backed by a jaunty* musical soundtrack and rythmic finger clicking.

David Marr had the insight to see that Morrison, whose professional career prior to politics was in Marketing, had released a jingle. A jaunty jingle. In the midst of Australia’s worst-ever bushfire emergency.

Immediate criticism followed. The tone of the jingle. The fact that it was a jingle. The use of Australian Defence Personnel in a Party-Political communication against long-standing conventions regarding prohibition against politicising the Australian defence force (The head of the Australian Defence Association, Neil James, said it was “plain wrong. It’s simple: you don’t use the defence force for party political advantage” ), posting the jingle on a web-page which solicits donations for the Liberal Party, and, most of all, using bushfire response announcements for party-political purposes.

Here’s Why Morrison’s Bushfire Jingle Is Party-Political

Morrison vehemently denies that his Bushfire announcement jingle was designed for party-political purposes, but his own explanation shows you that he is lying.

Morrison explained that the reason for his Bushfire Ad was that he couldn’t rely on the Media to properly transmit the contents of his Bushfire response to the Australian public.

Morrison said

As much as we’d all like to only rely on the reporting of the media to get those information out, I will also seek to carry that message directly to the Australian people to ensure they are aware of what we are doing.

So, Morrison would have you believe that the Australian Media cannot be trusted to reliably transmit the contents of the Federal Government’s Bushfire response to the general public. What nonsense. The man is patently lying.

What Morrison means is that the media will not transmit the message in exactly the way in which Morrision wants it transmitted – with a jingle and jaunty finger-clicking – in a way which uncritically makes Morrison look fantastic.

Not Concerned With Facts

If Morrison was merely concerned about the facts of his response being transmitted then he would have been satisfied with his media release which contained those facts and which he posted, like his Ad, on the Liberal Party and Government websites.

But, in fact, all the facts of his response had already been reported over and again in fine detail on TV and Radio on every and all channel and station. The facts were out there everywhere.

Morrison’s Ad is not designed to address a deficit of information, of transmission or of factual reporting. Its there to address image. Morrison’s personal image. That;s how we can tell the Ad is party-political. Its there to make Morrison look good.

And the second give-away that this Ad is party-political, also vehemently denied by Morrison who says this is unimportant , is the authorisation at the end of the Ad is from ‘S. Morrison, Liberal Party, Canberra’.

Morrison has faced constant criticism since the beginning of summer for his dismissive attitide towards, ham-fisted handling of, dishonest statements about, miserly outlook towards, and indifference to the Bushfire Emergency.

The Ad is designed to repair those perceptions. So the Ad says that the Government Bushfire Response is fantastic and the person responsible for this fantastic bushfire response is S. Morrison, Canberra.

Its nothing about the supposed inadequecy of the Media to report the facts of  Government Bushfire Response.

It is 100% about the inadequecy of Scott Morrison as Prime Minister.

Hence Morrison’s Jaunty Party-Politcal Bushfire Jingle.

Acknowledgement

*Thanks to Stephanie Covery for so aptly providing the appelation jaunty for Morrison’s bushfire jingle

#LibNatClimateApology

What I really think is that all Federal Liberal and National Ministers since 1995 should publicly apologise to the people of Australia for seeking to delay, undermine and prevent effective action on Climate Change.

Why 1995 ? The first UNFCCC Conference of the Parties (i.e COP 1 ) took place from 28 March to 7 April 1995 in BerlinGermany. That was the meeting that led to the Kyoto Protocols of 1997. As we know,the LNP attempted to prevent effective action on Climate Change throughout the COP 1 – Kyoto process and has continued to work against effective Climate action ever since.

As I wrote in Relaxed, Comfortable and Neutralised

 the Howard government attempted to sabotage the Framework Convention On Climate Change (which became the Kyoto Protocol), reasoning it would damage our economy too much to try and meet any respectable challenging lower target for Carbon emissions.

It did this by introducing the idea of different targets for each country in the Geneva Conference of the Parties(1996) with Australia to be granted special privileges to raise Greenhouse emissions. The special provisions demanded by Australia were so high and so unreasonable it almost caused the 1997 Kyoto Conference to collapse, delegates working to 3 a.m. on the day of the final session to accommodate the intransigent Australian delegation. This achieved, Senator Robert Hill then demanded at 4 a.m further huge increases in allowable emissions to accommodate changes in land use.

Australia’s Performance At Kyoto

The basic outcome at Kyoto was that Australia was allowed to increase emissions by 8 per cent on the 1990 base year level. European nations agreed to reduce by a total of 8 per cent, the United States by 7 per cent and Japan by 6 per cent. We got a sweetheart deal.

ABC environment reporter Alan Tate was in Kyoto during the 1997 discussions which led to the Kyoto Protocol. He filed  daily reports during the 12 days of the conference whoch are recorded on his web page Kyoto Diary

The reason Australia achieved that deal was that the world community was anxious to begin the process of Climate Mitigation with an agreement that encompassed all First World (roughly meaning G20) nations. The COP parties reasoned that it was better to accomodate a recalcitrant Australia than not have us in at all. Symbolically, the world would embark on Climate Change Mitigation “together”

To this end the Parties allowed Australia two enormous concessions. The first was to allow ‘Differentiated Targets’ in which different first-world regions to commit to different targets. As you can see. the COP Parties envisioned all parties commiting to a roughly  8% reduction in CO2 emissions. And this the world basically did, except notably Australia which was permitted an 8% increase. Norway and Iceland were also permitted increases of 5% and 10% respectively

If this was not enough, Australia was also demanding to allow changes in Land-Use to be counted towards mitigation totals. i.e. by agreeing to reduce the rate of Land Clearing so as to conserve Carbon ‘sinks’ and also to conserve the actual emissions expended by Land Clearing operations. As Alan Tate writes, the great majority of the Parties were opposed to this but Australia did have support from New Zealand and The United States.

Tate noted 

most environment groups and many scientists [opposed Land Use Changes to be counted toward mitigation targets] chiefly because the ability to measure how much the sinks actually absorb carbon dioxide is very dodgy. The Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change has said the area for error in sink measurement is plus or minus sixty per cent

Holding Kyoto Together

The Kyoto Parties had not achieved a full agreement by the end of Day 10, the scheduled last day of the conference. The negotiations had many difficult and complex areas to resolve. Australia exploited this fragility by insisting on demands which exempted it from meaningful Climate Action. John Howard was happy for Kyoto to collapse and had floated a ridiculous proposal of an 18% increase in emissions as Australia’s rightful target.

As Day 10 closed without agreement the redoubtable conference chairman Raul Estrada refused to dissolve the proceedings and allow the historic opportunity for the commencement of world-wide Climate Mitigation to fail. Some delegates left anyway to catch airline flights

So it was in this fraught and fragile environment in the early hours of the morning of DAY 11, at 3am and 4am the conference voted to accept Australia’s demands to be allowed a large increase in emissions and  that emissions from land clearance could be included in its greenhouse gas emission measurements and that carbon sinks be counted in mitigation targets. Australia now had an easy way of cutting its total emissions by reducing land clearing and meeting any target which came from a Kyoto agreement. In fact, it gave us precisely nothing to do.

Immoral, Wrong and A Disgrace

As Lenore Taylor of The Guardian writes–when it was done, the European environment spokesman raged that the deal was “wrong and immoral … and a disgrace” and the then executive director of the Australia Institute, Clive Hamilton, quickly calculated that Australia’s emissions were likely to come in under the new target without the need to do anything.

Australia’s Clause

Taylor goes on to say  that

so particular to our circumstances were the land-use changes it was called “the Australia Clause”. It allowed the inclusion of land-use changes in emission calculations in a way that meant restrictions that had already been imposed on large-scale land clearing – especially in Queensland – allowed Australia to rest assured it had achieved its new target before it even signed up to it.

Taylor, reporting on that meeting for the Australian Financial Review, recalls Australia’s Delegate Senator Robert Hill

demanding the Australia Clause changes when the translators had already left the building and the cleaners had started rearranging the room for the next scheduled conference.

Deceitful DNA

That was how the LibNats embarked on Australia’s International Climate Mitigation: by attempting to collapse the Kyoto Conference and demanding immoral and disgraceful deals that required zero effective action.

And that’s what’s in the LibNat DNA on Climate, And how they have conducted themselves on Climate to the present day. Which is why Australia, burning in unprecedented bushfires across four states in unprecedented temperatures requires of the LibNats a #LibNatClimateApology

#LibNatClimateApology

From Wikipedia:

The United Nations Climate Change Conferences are yearly conferences held in the framework of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). They serve as the formal meeting of the UNFCCC Parties (Conference of the Parties, COP) to assess progress in dealing with climate change, and beginning in the mid-1990s, to negotiate the Kyoto Protocol to establish legally binding obligations for developed countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

 

January 2nd 2020

Australia is in the middle of an unprecedented Bushfire Season. The Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, gives a press conference as the carnage piles up higher around him and is asked some basic questions about whether or not his Climate Change policies are adequate. Katharine Murphy, Political Editor of The Guardian, notices something different about Morrison during the interview – a never before seen uncertainty.

I find Morrison remarkable for being so well on top of his interviews. He is obviously very intelligent, mentally agile, very well briefed and normally several steps ahead of his questioners. He is so in control of interviews, even hostile ones, that he often sneers in scorn at the futility of the interviewer as he yet again easily counters and parries their questions. If ever in trouble Morrison just filibusters, endlessly streaming sentences together, drowning out his TV or radio opponent. Either way his self-assurance is unwavering.

But in this interview Murphy sees a different Morrison – hesitant, hemmed-in, uncertain.

On the same day Treasurer Josh Frydenburg also gives a press conference. He is also asked about the Morrison government’s climate change policies. He has just been given an update on the Victorian situation. Guardian reporter Amy Remeikis notes that Frydenburg looks visibly shaken. And he does. His speech is halting; He regularly stumbles. He lacks confidence. Here’s the vid.  Yes, Frydenburg is visibly shaken

Hesitant, hemmed-in, halting, uncertain: shaken.

Statesmen and Fathers

The hestitancy and shock of Frydenburg and Morrison is something beyond normal sadness at a disaster. Morrison a typical politician, flourishes at Plane Crashes, Terror Attacks and the like. (Frydenburg avoids this posturing). Its an ideal opportunity to play the Statesman, to exude steely resolution and fatherly compassion among endless photo opportunities, to grow in stature. But here and now, on the same day,  the two most senior Government figures neck-deep in an unprecedented natural disaster ripe for TV and clicking cameras, they shrink before our very eyes. Why ?

What’s Going On ? 

I wanted to see this new Morrison for myself. So I watched the full vid. My impressions were similar to Murphy’s. To me Morrison looked somewhat ashen-faced, nervous; his speech racing in shallow breaths. Yeah, Morrison tried to gee himself up with a rousing mention of meeting and beating Kyoto 2020 commitments (typically disingenuous of Morrison – AFAIK the figures are not yet finalised). But Morrison lacked the usual complete belief in his own words.  Yes, he gives it a good shake even cracking the trademark smile at his own brilliance at one point. But for once his assurance is not total. Amazingly, as Murphy notes, Morrison even concedes the necessity to adapt to Climate Change. And, again as Murphy notes, the stress of acknowledging reality turns his normally precise locutions to sludge

I watched a few vids of Morrison touring the fire groundsgetting basically chased out of town at Cobargo (though other localities were generally happier for him to visit – though the perception he was using ther fires as a personal photo opportunity still clung).

Morrison’s posture in Cobargo was hunched, tentative – Morrison looked like he was frightened of getting punched in the face or spat on. This is a million miles from the aggressive, snarling ScoMo, so familiar to us this past decade. Morrison is normally unflinching, countering aggression with super-aggresion. He is physically large and intimidating and uses his size and vigour to advantage, staring down challengers. He’s not scared of anyone.

But not now; not this week. He’s shaken; and so is Frydenburg.

What’s going on ?

Playing With Matches

Reflecting on the demenour of Morrison and Frydenburg, they seem to me to be exhibiting the horror and guilt of children who start a paddock fire while playing with matches. Cattle burnt alive; fences and sheds incinerated; the fire brigade called out; men putting themselves in danger because of their own stupidity. Mum told us…but we didn’t think…We didn’t know…

This week Morrison and Frydenburg learnt that Climate Change is real. 

They were shocked. Now they realise. What have we been doing ?

To be fair: none of us could have imagined fires on this scale.

But Morrison and Frydenburg weren’t even listening to the warnings.

This summer we learnt what 0.9C of Global Warming can do. Morrison knows that 1.5C (almost double) is the supposed ‘safe upper limit’.

Safe ?

I suspect Frydenburg was thinking ‘Maybe we should stop playing with Matches’. 

And I suspect, for the first time, Morrison was too.

Other Posts About Morrison

What did the lazy arrogant elitist say to the deceitful Xenophobe ?

Scott Morrison Apalls His Own Colleagues…Again

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The thing is, Democracy will end.

At some point the current dominant expression of Democracy – Universal Franchise with mass political parties and redistributive taxation – will fail to deliver solutions to urgent problems: Climate; Migration;War; National Sovereignty – and it will be discarded for something else.

And so begins David Runciman’s thesis How Democracy Ends  which I picked up from Episiode #71 of his Podcast Talking Politics broadcast December 2017.

Like I said before, you must subscribe to Talking Politics. Its contemporary Political analysis in the best traditions of British academia – very high quality but accessible to the layman and easy on the ear.

Trump Is…

En Passant, Runciman offers the observation that Trump is neither Hitler, nor Mussolini, but Berlusconi. To which I must differ. Trump is Nero. Trump, like Nero, would burn down Washington merely to build himself a larger Villa topped by a 35 metre tall Bronze Statue of himself, and would indeed overturn by decree any decision that he had come 2nd in any competition whatsoever and declare himself the winner as apparently Nero once did in an Olympic Rowing event in the Ancient Games – my source is Horrible Histories Series 4 Episode 8.

How Democracy Ends

What follows is my notes and interspersed commentary from Runciman’s talk. Apologies in advance to David for any errors of misinterpretation of his presentation.

Democracy has failed before – and though it has recovered,  its collapsings have led to some terrible expressions of murderous, even genocidal, authoritarianism.  When speaking of a crisis of Democracy, people commonly refer to how German Weimar Republic was thrown aside by the Nazis in the 1930’s, but there have been other awful usurpations inclusing a spate in the 1970’s when Spain, Portugal, Greece and Chile plus many nations in Africa and Asia reverted to Military or Authoritarian rule.

But Democracy can fail in other ways other than to be usurped by Fascists – Democracy could simply stagnate where the dominant forms of Democratic expression – voting, Parliament, competing Parties – endure, but they become ineffective at solving problems or providing representation.

Democracy can reach a stagnated state where dominant paradigms control the mind of the polity – e.g. Market Forces are the only legitimate way to adjudicate the best course of action – or where the forms of Democracy have been hollowed out or stripped of vitality – e.g by propaganda or partisan or Fake News dominating the media with a subsequent polarisation and hardening of positions, which can also be caused by individuals only consuming “news” or viewpoints which confirm their own biases. This last of course is the current problem beseiging our media through personalised and targeted news feeds such as through Facebook, Cambridge Analytica or by intentional consumer choice.

Runciman hypothesises that Democracies such as those of the Anglosphere or Japan could stagnate for a century or more in this hollowed-out or ineffective state while urgent problems remain unaddressed and the polity remains hypnotised and anaesthetised by a religious belief in Democratic forms and by propaganda, even of the type intentionally chosen by the power of Confirmation Bias

Runciman also observes that Democracy could be hollowed-out by being taken over by an Authoritarian or Demagogue. Military Dictatorships frequently hijack the power of Government while leaving the institutions of Democracy in place as a facade. These kinds of populist or authoritarian figures lead coups or popular seizures of power stating that it is necessary for them to take over to cleanse and renew the institutions of government and protect and restore true democracy on behalf of the people.

In this vein, Trump’s promise to ‘Drain The Swamp’ carries the rallying call of the Demagogue as he usurps the Democratic institutions of America, hollowing them out, rendering them as ineffective as possible, and seeking to run the nation as a Mafia Boss with the assistance of Concilliars appointed from his personal circle. For this allusion – Trump as Mafia Boss with Concilliars – I thank Sarah Churchwell from Talking Politics #123 – ‘America First’

Why We Will Not Repeat The 1930’s

Runciman spent the majority of his talk explaining why he believes that the Anglosphere and similar Democracies will not be superceded by Authoritarianism, Military Dictatorship or Religious or Racist Populism.

His basic point, which I found interesting though not totally persuasive, is that the societies of the modern Anglosphere and Europe are highly dissimilar in Demographic, Socio-Economic, and Crime and Violence-related metrics.

Simply put – we are different societies and are therefore far less suscptible to Fascism.

How Modern Western Democracies Differ From 1930’s Democracies

Runciman measures modern Democracies against the European Democracies of the 1930’s which succumbed to, or nearly (including the USA) succumbed to Fascism -again Sarah Churchwell is brilliant on this point – and finds that modern Democracies are much richer, much older and much less violent than our counterparts of the 1930’s. He marshalls convincing statistics and research to show how poverty and youth are linked to Fascism and also notes that 1930’s USA and Germany carried levels of Political Violence which are simply not seen in today’s democracies.

Runciman extrapolates from those statistics and demographic factors to conclude that current democracies are unlikely to fall prey to Fascism in the way that 1930’s Europe did.

Runciman brings a convincing case study in Greece, which has not fallen into Fascism in recent times despite huge falls in GDP, an economic depression deeper and longer than the Great Depression, and critically high levels of unemployment and the presence of a large, well-funded and alert Armed Forces (on alert against Turkey) and despite a recent history of Military Dictatorship in the 1960’s.

Runciman ascribes the survival of democracy in Greece, or more exactly the failure of Fascism to ignite in Greece, to the fact that Greece is demographically old. The foot-soldiers of Fascism are always young men. And Greece is full of older men. The Weimar Republic had a high population of young men who were also traumatised by the recent experience of World War 1. These became the muscle of the Nazi movement.

How Will Our Democracies End ?

Based on the above analysis and noting our Wealth, Age and low levels of political violence, Runciman argues that our Democracies, even though they may fail, are unlikely to fall prey to Fascism and is more likely to exhaust into ineffectiveness, unable to solve pressing problems such as Climate Change,  simply rotating our governments and ruling parties in a futile grasping for a government that will finally have the answers.

Interestingly, Runciman feels that we are unlikely to lapse into War either, as the costs of a putative World War 3 are too great to contemplate, with Nuclear Holocaust being a likely outcome.

For What Its Worth

I think that Demagoguery is very likely in the USA and the other democracies of the Anglosphere. Personalities like Trump and Boris Johnson are pushing the USA and the UK in this direction and conservative political parties in the UK, USA and Australia are inciting public contempt for the courts, parliament, science and fact-based debate. Futhermore, conservative parties continue to accommodate the viewpoints of racist and anti-immigrant groups as they seek to extend their voter base.

In addition, Social Media and targeted news feeds are polarising debate even while debasing it with Fake News. Political paries are supporting this trend.

In the meantime Climate Change and the associated Migration Crisis is applying pressure to Western Societies which is both unrelenting and increasing.

The demand for solutions will accompany economic disruption, water shortages and an intolerable climate.

Its an open field for the Demagogues.

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Talking Politics

I have just discovered the excellent Podcast Talking Politics which discusses UK, US and European and International Politics.

You must subscribe to Talking Politics. It is put together by David Runciman of Cambridge University and provides commentary and analysis in the best British academic tradition – informed, fair, objective, funny. It is absolutely brilliant.

I listened to Episode 193 entitled Cameron’s Referendum which explains why ever did David Cameron offer the 2016 Brexit Referendum in the first place.

Here are my notes from the Podcast, supplemented by notes from panellist Helen Thompson’s paper Inevitability and contingency: the political economy of Brexit, The British Journal Of Politics and International Relations, June 2017

My apologies to David Runciman and Helen Thompson for any errors of interperetation of their work in what follows.

Why Did Did Cameron Offer The 2016 Brexit Referendum ?

It was a calculated gamble. Cameron wished to satisfy popular demand for an In/Out Referendum so he held it despite the enormous consequences of losing. Cameron thought he would win the Referendum, the European issue would be settled and he could move on securely to other things. But the Remain campaign was mishandled and he lost.

Background: The British Political Class Always Wished To Avoid An In/Out Referendum

From 2001 to 2004, the European proponents of ‘ever-closer union’ developed a wide-ranging proposal for greater integration of EU Member States into the EU with many more powers located within the EU, the corollary of which was significant devolution of powers of menber states to the EU.

This so-called EU Constitutional Treaty was signed in October in 2004 by 25 EU Member states and then offered to the voting public of member states for popular assent.

The EU Consitutional Treaty was frightening for many ordinary citizens of Europe even in Europhile nations. The Constitutional Treaty was defeated in France in May 2005. being rejected by French voters in a Referendum. Many in the UK were deeply worried by the spectre of a Federated European super-state obliterating UK national sovereignty.

1. In the light of  fears precipitated by the (defeated) EU Consitutional Treaty, Blair during 2005, promised that any future devolution of power to EU would be submitted to a Referendum
2. This was consistent with Margaret Thatcher’s position on devolution of power to EU.
3. The entire UK political class knew that any Referendum on devolution of power to the EU would most likely be defeated.
4. So historically, when the UK political class sought more integration with Europe this was done by means of Parliamentary ratification, thus avoiding Referenda.
5. The political class knew that a lost Referendum on EU membership would precipitate a Constitutional Crisis in the UK,
6. Therefore the political class wished to avoid any Referendum on EU membership.
7. This being the case it is puzzling that David Cameron allowed a Referendum on EU membership.
8. Additionally, a lost Referendum on EU Membership would severely damage the Conservative Party and terminate Cameron’s career as PM.
9. So why did DC allow a Referendum on EU Membership ? Surely the stakes were too high and the consequences of loss catastrophic.

Cameron Wished To Reform The Conditions Of UK Membership Of The EU.

10. David Cameron (DC) wanted UK to remain in the EU.
11. But he wanted to reform the conditions of UK membership in the EU.
12. In particular he wanted to regain some powers that the UK devolved to the EU in the Lisbon Treaty of December 2007.
13. DC believed that the EU would eventually propose another Treaty on EU Membership.
14. He thought he could use those future Treaty negotiations to regain those powers lost in the Lisbon Treaty.
15. DC thought that the Eurozone crisis of late 2009 and onwards would precipitate that new Treaty proposal.

The Referendum Lock 

16. In December 2007 Gordon Brown ratified the Lisbon Treaty without any Referendum or Plebiscite
17. The Lisbon Treaty was a significant treaty deeply affecting UK/EU power balance.
18. It was basically a rebadged and slightly diluted re-presentation of the Constitutional Treaty rejected by  voters in France and other EU member states in 2005.
19. That Gordon Brown would ratify such a notable re-weighting of UK/EU relationship without a Referendum or  Plebiscite created fury amongst a significant percentage of the UK population given the national consensus which had emerged in 2005 that no more transfer of power to Brussels should occur without a Referendum
18. In Jan 2008, DC, then Opposition Leader, pledges a Referendum on the Lisbon Treaty
19. In Nov 2009 DC promises a Referendum lock on future EU Treaties.
20. But he fails to deliver on a Referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, saying that he could not legally do it.
20. In March 2011 DC passes the Referendum lock.

The Eurozone Crisis

21. The Eurozone Crisis does indeed precipitate a proposal for a EU Treaty.
22. So Cameron was right !
23. Angela Merkel insists on modified Financial Rules within the EU since Germany is shouldering the lion’s share of the financial burden in bailing out Greece.
24. In Brussels, December 2011, under German leadership and in the context of the Eurozone crisis, strong outlines of the European Fiscal Compact are presented in terms of a Treaty proposal
25. Cameron vetoes the Treaty proposal.
26. The EU then redraws the Europen Fiscal Compact as a Eurozone-only agreement

26a. The UK is not in the Eurozne even though it is a member of the EU.
27. Cameron believes that EU institutions cannot be used within a Eurozone-only inter-governmental agreement
28. But it turns out that they can.
29. So the European Fiscal Compact can proceed without a Treaty.
30. So Cameron’s strategy for clawing back powers lost in Lisbon by blocking EU Treaty proposals was proven ineffective.

Dilution Of Uk Financial Power Within The EU and Exposure Of British Weakness Within The EU

31. The UK also lost crucial power in Financial Services at this time
32. In July 2011 The European Central Bank (ECB) introduces the “Counterpaty Location Policy”
33. This regulation would force large Clearing Houses for Euro-denominated product to be based in the Eurozone.
34. This would cause UK based Euro-clearing houses to relocate to Europe and weaken the UK as a Finanical hub.
35. Lisbon Treaty rules removed the effective UK veto on Financial Services proposals within the EU.
36. DC was unable to prevent the ECB Location Policy despite vetoing the EU Treaty proposal in Brussels.
37. Defeat on the Location Policy and on the Financial Compact showed that DC and the UK lacked political power within the EU and could not effect change within the EU as a single actor within it.
38. DC did not overtly fight the EU over the Location Policy.
39. The UK did instigate a legal challenge to the Location Policy, but that action was taken rather quietly with no attempt to whip up criticism or resentment against the EU.
40. It is suggested by Helen Thompson that the reason that DC was quiet in his opposition to the Location Policy was to keep good relations with his government coalition partner, the Liberal Democrats, who are pro-Remain in their EU outlook.
41. Other Financial Reform proposals which weakened London’s position vis-a-cis the EU were strongly contested however.
42. But this pressure did not yield concessions from the EU.

43. The ECB Location Policy was quashed by the European Court in Dec. 2015 but the judgement did not prevent the possibility of the Location Policy returning by other means.
44. In summary, it was clear from December 2011 that the UK lacked leverage against the EU.

Persisting With A Provenly Ineffective Strategy

45. In Jan. 2012 DC starts to seriously consider an In/Out Referendum.
46. Trusted advisors such as George Osborne advise him against it.
47. In Jan. 2013 DC gives his Bloomberg speech saying that an In/Out Referendum will inevitably be presented to the UK populace.
48. In his Bloomberg speech DC says that he will re-negotiate the UK/EU relationship and then present the renegotiated terms to the UK people in a referendum.
49 The Eurozone crisis is still on-going at this time.
50. Consequently DC still believes, despite failing at this very strategy in 2011, that because of the Eurozone crisis, the EU will put forward  another Treaty which he will use veto power against in order to claw back powers previously lost to the EU in Lisbon.
51. During 2014 DC extracts certain exemptions from the EU such as a guarantee that the UK will not be required to bail out Eurozone economies and also gains an opt-out clause on ‘ever-closer union’

The EU Comes To Prefer An EU Without The UK

52. As the Eurozone crisis played out in the period up up 2015 it became clearer to the EU that the UK was dispensible to the EU.
53. Being outside the Eurozone, the UK could not assist the EU in managing the Eurozone crisis.
54. And since the EU knew that the UK had a “Referndum lock” established in law, then the EU had a disincentive to offer new EU treaties to advance the project of ‘ever-closer union’.
55. Taken together this meant that the prospect of a Brexit was acceptable overall to the EU, despite some admitted adverse consequences to the EU.
56. This meant that the EU, and in particular Germany, was able to deal with the UK from a position of strength.
57. For example in autumn (Sep-Nov) 2014, DC backed down on asking for concessions from EU immigration law.
58. In early 2014 DC did warn Merkel that he might be forced to hold an In/Out Referendum unless the EU declined to appoint Jean-Claude Juncker as head of the EU.
59. Merkel simply told DC not to threaten her and DC backed down.
60. So it must have been apparent to DC that the threat of an In/Out Refendum had no weight in EU negotiations and would not force even the simplest concession, let alone major concessions.

Popular Demand For an In/Out Referendum Grows

61. During 2014 and 2015 popular demand for the UK to leave the EU grows
62. During the 2015 General Election campaign DC reiterates his commitment to hold an in/out referendum on UK membership of the EU by the end of 2017, but only after “negotiating a new settlement for Britain in the EU”.
63. In early 2016 DC reports the result of those negotiations.
64. While some of the concessions extracted by DC and the UK were meaningful, the concessions did not dampen sentiment for a Leave position
65. In March 2016, DC delivers his promise for an In/Out referendum.
66. In doing so, DC has delivered exactly on his promise made in his Bloomberg speech of 2013.

Was It A Considered Gamble ?

67. But why hold such as dangerous Referendum where the stakes are so high and it will have no impact on the EU demenour towards the UK ?
68. Helen Thompson conjectures that DC reckoned that he would win such a Referendum should it ever be put.
69. Therefore DC could satisfy popular demand for a Referendum, including demand within his own party, then win the Referendum and move on with the issue settled.

70. But could DC have nevertheless had a referendum on EU negotiating points as an intermediate step before offering  an In/Out Referendum ?
71. DC indeed could have attempted this strategy but it would likely have been seen as resiling from his commitment to an In/Out Referendum – it would most likely have been seen as a weak and pusillanimous strategy.

72. So perhaps a better thing would have been to avoid offering the Referendum at all.
73. But popular demand for a referendum was high.
74. DC most likely sensed he needed to offer the referendum
75. And he was probably thought he would win it.

So finally, why did DC offer an In/Out Referendum ?

76. So, finally, why did DC offer an In/Out Referendum ?
77. To satisfy popular demand for the Referendum.
78. He thought he would win it.
79. But the campaign was mishandled and he lost.

 

 

This is Part 3 of my “Uninformed Speculation” series on the 2019 Federal Election. The other two parts being Why Rob Oakshott Will Be Speaker In The 46th Parliament Of Australia” and Why Tanya Plibersek Will Be Dumped For Nikki Savvas As Deputy Labor Leader”.

As I write on Federal Election Eve, all the polls consistently say that Labor will win with 51.5% of the 2PP vote. My prediction is that the ALP will gain a little less than that vote share but still win enough seats to form a minority government holding 74 of the 151 seats and govern with the support of two Greens plus Rob Oakeshott and Andrew Wilkie.

Here’s how the election issues have panned out:

Bill Shorten’s Personality  

Will not influence votes. Morrison relentlessly harped on about the horror of Shorten’s  unlikeability but in the end Shorten has come out well.

Noting his significant lead in the “Preferred Prime Minister” ratings, Morrison tried to make the election into a beauty content between Shorten and himself. To this end, Morrison insisted on having three one-on-one debates with Morrison, aiming to force Shorten into the spotlight and exposing Shorten’s supposed personality deficiencies as starkly as possible to the voting public. Morrison also hoped to KO Shorten in these debates using his own superior communication skills, mental agility and innate aggression.

To the surprise of most, Shorten carried himself well through the debates with the live audiences rating Shorten the winner of the first debate and scoring the other two as draws. Shorten proved effective at being able to engage audiences on his agenda and, in contrast to his reputation for being a wooden communicator, was often able to connect at a personal and empathetic level with the listeners. Conversely, Morrison, while definitely a far more assured communicator and having excellent recall of debating points and figures that he wished to quote, often came across as scripted and abstract, more of a political machine rather than a real human being. Oftentimes Morrison seems to operate in an endless jabber-mode kind of a non-stop hyper-charged babble much like Kevin Rudd with a short-circuit and the volume amped to 11. 

Here, for fun, is Annabel Crabb’s original description of The Ruddbot:

 Ruddbot, our “first android prime minister” with a Muppet-inspired smile…

There are essential triggers hard-wired into the Ruddbot cortex. Ask the android machine about the number of union officials on its front bench and it will also promptly divert into a charming reverie about a rock star, an academic and a Mandarin-speaking diplomat. Include a reference to Mark Latham in a question, and it will reply “I am not aware of those reports.” Ask it any difficult question and it has been programmed to reply by asking itself several of its own. It will then answer them all with mechanical precision.

In the end, the final Leader’s Debate was quite boring as it was apparent before it started that Shorten was Morrison’s equal in the debates and that no conclusive victory would be gained by either man. Morrison appears to lack his usual energy, seemingly resigned to being unable to KO Shorten. For his part Shorten seemed to have the glow of a man who, to his own amazement, survived a test he felt sure would overcome him.

In the debates, Morrison was hamstrung by being unable to unleash the full force of his aggression as the Christchurch Shooting tragedy which occurred just prior to the start of the election campaign made snarling aggression, a common feature of Morrison’s communication, distasteful in the public mind, forcing Morrison to curtail this instinct of his and robbing him of a natural advantage.

Towards the end of the campaign, Newscorp made an ill-considered attack on Bill Shorsten vis-a-vis his mother. Public revulsion at this tactic provoked sympathy for Shorten and a considerable improvement in his personal approval ratings, much to the chagrin of Newscorp and whichever executive gave approval to this distasteful over-reach.

Galilee Basin Coal Mines (Adani)

Important in Queensland. Labor’s luke-warm toleration of Adani imperils jobs in central Queensland and means that the Coalition will retain all their Queensland rural marginals and gain the seat of Herbert. But the city/country divide means that Brisbane Metro seats will lack the same affect and align with the general national swing of 1.5% toward the ALP.

Big Tax Scare Campaign

Has not cut through. The polls show only a minimal narrowing of the polls toward the incumbent LNP Coalition government since the campaign began. Indeed, the lack of movement in the polls indicates that no issue has particularly cut through from either side. Voters made up their minds before the campaign began and have not changed their views since.

Fundamentally, the disunity of the government over the last five years convinced the electorate that a change is required.

Caveat: Even now, 24 hrs before voting there are a great many undecideds out there. On Saturday Morning the phrase “Big Scary Tax” in the newspapers or at the polling booth could easily push that needful 1.5% Morrison’s way.

Franking Credits

Will not affect votes. This issue created a lot of heated talk but in the end this issue does not affect many people. Only self-supported retirees who do not receive a pension are affected by this measure and only a small sub-set of those.

The Franking Credits issue in the end merely energised rusted-on Liberal voters who would never swing to Labor anyway.

Other pensioners did fall for Morrison’s scare campaign initially but if this has changed voting intention then it is not reflected in the polls.

Negative Gearing

Will not affect votes. Like all the tax issues, endlessly hammered by Morrison, but did not cut through if the polls are correct.

Shorten’s appeal to fairness appears to have neutralised Morrison’s “price crash, rent spike” rhetoric. Shorten has been arguing the case for Negative Gearing for at least three years now. I think the issue is now familiar to the voters and has lost its heat.

For those interested, here is the research showing that the concept that Keating’s abolition of  Negative Gearing in 1985 caused a rental spike is a myth.

Climate Change

Will not change seats. I thought Morrison did very well at arguing his case that the Liberals have done enough on Climate Change. But Shorten did produce a great cut-through line on this in the second Leader’s debate. Whilst Morrison was eulogising the LNP achievement of meeting Kyoto and Paris Agreement Carbon targets, Shorten intejected to note that Australian Carbon emissions are higher than they ever were  and said  “Typical Surgeon’s response – the operation was a complete success but the patient died”

The Climate Change issue has shifted voters in some safe Liberal voting seats but not many in marginal seats. Some,  but not many.

I think Shorten made the tactically correct call not to give a total cost to his Carbon Abatement policy. I think Shorten has correctly judged that general community sentiment is present for Climate Abatement and so there is not pressing insistence that this policy be comprehensively costed. Giving a definitive cost to Carbon Abatement would merely have handed Morrison with another Big Scary Number in addition to the Big Scary Tax Number that he has been endlessly shouting at the electorate.

Liberal Party Too Right Wing

Meaningful in Victoria. The wrecking tactics of the right-wing of the Federal LNP has outraged moderate Liberal voters in Victoria who are simultaneously repelled by a takeover of the State Liberals by religious conservatives. Outrage at the sacking of Malcolm Turnbull caused  a huge backlash among moderate Libs in last year’s Victorian State Election and resulted in a landslide loss including shocking losses of blue-ribbon seats.

Three or four seats will ultimately go to the ALP over this issue in tomorrow’s Federal vote.

Jobs And The Economy

Important. This is why the LNP are still in the contest. Morrison has been able to say that the Budget is back in surplus (in fact it isn’t until next year on projections, but this year it is very close). The talismanic surplus speaks meaningfully to the electorate on the subject of economic management which is considered a traditional LNP strength.

In addition, while there is very little wages growth, most people have jobs and the unemployment rate is fairly low. While the economy is lacking vigour, most people are working. In conditions where the economy is acceptably good, governments mostly retain power. (Howard’s loss in 2007 a notable exception).

LNP Disunity

This is the election-deciding issue. Fundamentally, the disunity of the government over the last five years has persuaded the electorate that a change is required. Government  infighting has caused the Libs to depose two Prime Ministers and prevented them from finalising basic policy on Power and Energy. This is a basic failing of governance and this will cause them to lose tomorrow’s election.

Well, let’s see what happens…

Following on from my uninformed speculation about the Federal Election result I would like to add some uninformed speculation about the new Labor Leader and Deputy Leader.

Anthony Albanese would appear to be favoured to win but I wonder if this might create a factional conundrum for the Labor Caucus. I am under the impression that Labor is required to balance factional, gender and State interests in the appointment of its senior officers. Albanese is from the Left faction, but so is current Deputy Leader Tanya Plibersek. Would the Labor Right faction be prepared to tolerate the Left owning both leadership positions ? If not, would they require Tanya Plibersek to stand aside as Deputy Leader and cede that position to the Right ?

Plibersek would definitely resist any non-volitional incineration and refuse to step aside. In that case, with the Left owning Leader and Deputy Leader, the Right may have to be mollified by being given a large number of senior Shadow positions.

Could Plibersek end up getting dumped ? 

If so, who from the Right faction would replace her ? Kristina Kenneally is from the Right and also female. She was prominent in the campaign being employed as Shorten’s attack dog. But perhaps Kenneally would prefer not to displace her sister-comrade acrimoniously. But then again, why not ? If the ALP are going to make difficult leadership decisions they might as well do so as soon as possible. Plibersek is strongly associated with Shorten and may now be irredeemably tarred with the losing policy positions of this  election campaign and indeed the past two campaigns.

So there you go: Albanese for leader and Kenneally as Deputy.

Other Candidates

Jim Chalmers (Shadow Finance) is from the Right (factional balance) and would make a good option as Deputy if Labor decide to go for generational change and leadership renewal and completely move away from the familiar faces that have now lost two elections.. Thanks to Nikki Savvas who pointed out this generational change aspect on Insiders this morning. Savvas also says that Chalmers is a sharp communicator with a quick mind. Morrison is very quick-witted indeed and the ALP could use someone prominent with those skills.

Just quickly, Savvas is one of my favourite Insiders guests. Knowledgeable and concise. I wish bloody Malcolm Farr and Barrie Cassidy would stop interrupting her and let her talk. Her contributions are always excellent.

Plibersek would be disastrous as Leader in my view. Sorry, but left-wing feminists have zero appeal as leaders except to other left-wing feminists. Sometimes carries that scornful superiority which bedevils certain left-wing intellectuals. Can tend to scoff and derisively snort. Its electoral poison. Plibersek would reduce the ALP to 1 seat, her own, which she would hold with a 99% 2PP.

Chris Bowen, current Shadow Treasurer and from the Right faction, would be potentially worse as Leader than Plibersek. Morrison would eat him alive. Bowen would be a gibbering wreck in a fortnight. He’s the ALP version of Alexander Downer except wonked out on Theoretical Economics. I actually think Bowen is a very competent Economic mind, clearly superior to Frydenberg, but not the one for National Leader. Sometimes tends to gabble and protest when put under stress by questioning. But then again so do I. I think that’s normal. I’m not judging him. Well yes I am, but not in a bad way.

Chris Bowen (again) could be promoted to Deputy under Albanese to keep the Right happy. But then again it was Bowen’s Big Tax Plans he developed as Shadow Treasurer that have just been flushed by the great Australian voting public. Bowen might remind the public of BAD THINGS. Certainly Bowen will be a daily target for Morrison from now on as author of the so-called Retiree Tax, Housing Tax, Income Tax, Superannuation Tax and in general the loser who wanted to steal $400 Billion in Tax from honest hard-working Aussie battlers earning over $180K per year. And, like Savvas said, Bowen gifted the Libs a gilt-edged attack line on his own policies: If you don’t like Labor’s policies, don’t vote for them. Frydenberg sepulchrally intoned that line every day of the campaign. I think Bowen has to go. Not in a bad way.

Albanese: calm under pressure, relaxed, experienced, is authentic and liked. Good mind. Runs a reasonable attack line. Sense of humour. Should connect well with ordinary Australians. Closest thing to an ALP ScoMo. Should win the ballot in a canter.

Nikki Savvas: Lets herself get interrupted too often. Wouldn’t make her Deputy Leader of the ALP.

Miscellaneous – Who else of the female gender did Shorten have in his group of bodyguards during the campaign ? Maybe one of them would be the go for Deputy. Or all of them simultaneously. Maybe they could operate an an amalgamated cross-factional hive-mind. ? I’ve got one and I’ve never been happier.

The result will be: ALP 74 LNP 71 GRN 2 OTH 4 CLIVE PALMER 0

which means a ALP Minority Government supported by two Greens, Andrew Wilkie and Rob Oakeshott. Oakeshott will become Speaker. You heard it here first.

How We Will Get There

The 2016 result was LNP 76 ALP 69 GRN 1 OTH 4

Since then, the post-election redistribution made two Victorian seats notionally ALP (Corangamite and Dunkley), additional seats were created in the ACT and VIC which are both notionally ALP, a SA seat held by Labor was abolished and Wentworth was lost by the Liberals to the Independent.

So the starting position for the 2019 poll (tomorrow) is: LNP 73 ALP 72 GRN 1 OTH 5

Projected Outcome

The Swing will be 1.5%. ALP will get 51.1% of the vote, 2PP

QLD – Rural Qld needs jobs so the proposed Adani coal mine is popular. This means that the LNP will retain all their rural marginals and gain the ultra-marginal seat Herbert based around Townsville.  Brisbane Metro will align with the national swing and the ALP will gain Forde (Brisbane Metro, 0.6% swing required)

VIC – The anger over the Turnbull sacking has abated. But resentment among moderate Libs at the undue influence and instability engendered by the right-wing Dutton/Abbott group, along with the same resentment felt at the current takeover of the local Liberal State party by right-wing Libs will cause moderate Libs to swing to the ALP.

In addition to the seats that have become notionally Labor by redistribution, the ALP will additionally gain Chisholm (2.9%) where the incumbent candidate has also made remarks seen as anti-LGBT, which will pad the gain from the raw swing; GRN will gain Macnamara (1.2%) , formerly known as Melbourne Ports from the ALP.

Casey (4.5%) will be retained by Tony Smith who did a good job as Speaker in the last Parliament and is a respected traditionally moderate Vic Liberal. Deakin (6.4%) is a little out of range. Higgins and Kooyong will be retained despite significant swings. Flinders (7%) will be held by Health Minister Greg Hunt despite Julie Banks, the ex-Liberal MP, running in Flinders and directing preferences to Labor. LaTrobe (3.2%) too close to call.

WA – ALP are coming off a low base and the State Libs are a bit on the nose, so ALP will gain Swan (2.6%) and Hasluck (3.6%). Christian Porter’s seat of Pearce (3.6%) is said to be close but Porter’s profile as Attorney-General will help him to retain.

NSW – Latest indications are that NSW will swing to the Libs. But ALP will gain Gilmore (0.7%) where the Libs have been beset by infighting. Rob Oakeshott seems to be popular and will gain Cowper (4.6%) from NAT; LNP will gain Lindsay (1.1%) and regain Wentworth(1.0%) from IND.

TAS – The 2016 Mediscare campaign artificially inflated the ALP vote in Tasmania last time and the State Libs are popular. LNP will gain Braddon (1.7%)

SA –  I don’t expect SA to swing much. Libs will retain Boothby (2.7%) and polling indicates that the Centre Alliance will retain Mayo (2.9%) quite easily.

NT – No change. LNP said to be gaining a swing but the margins in both of the seats will be too large for the Libs to gain.

ACT – No change, except ALP wins the newly created 3rd seat.

So that’s how you get to ALP 74 LNP 71 GRN 2 OTH 4 CLIVE PALMER 0 and Rob Oakeshott as Speaker.

Biggish Calls

Largish swings in Victorian seats Higgins, Kooyong and Deakin will not deliver ALP gains. Same for Warringah (NSW – Tony Abbott); Dickson (Peter Dutton) will be retained by the Libs. Farrer (NSW) will swing hard but Libs will retain. Indi (VIC) will be retained by the Independent.

Pivotal Seats

There are many – but LaTrobe in Victoria (Lib 3.2%), Pearce (WA Lib 3.6% – Christian Porter, the Attorney-General), Warringah (Lib 11.1% see above) and Petrie (QLD Lib 1.6%) – could give the ALP majority government (though Warringah would be IND not ALP).

What Chance This ?

ALP win 75 seats on the night then two weeks later win Warringah by 10 votes after a full recount. Tony Abbott delivers govt. to Labor !

Just Quietly

Scott Morrison has studiously avoided assisting Tony Abbott in Warringah, hoping to rid himself of Abbott’s destructive destabilizing presence in the LNP Party Room. This is the second time Morrison has run dead on Abbott hoping for others to do his dirty work which is now an obvious ScoMo Modus Operandi.

The first time Morrison ran dead on Abbott was when Morrison failed to whip his numbers in support of Abbott in the leadership spill against Malcolm Turnbull. Abbott will not have forgotten this and, given Morrison’s current latest passive-aggressive effort to dud Abbott, if Abbott survives into the next Parliament (or even if he doesn’t) it will be Abbott’s sole raison d’etre to destroy Morrison. Ray Hadley’s too.

 

 

 

More on Liberal Party preferencing strategy towards One Nation here.

And of course, here 

Since 1998, with some exceptions, the LNP have claimed that their preferencing strategy towards One Nation is predicated on ethical principles. This post will demonstrate that the LNP has never based their preferencing strategy toward One Nation on ethical principles but has always based it on tactical and strategic considerations designed to maximize their chances of gaining or retaining power.

2019 Federal Election Campaign

In the 2019 Federal Election, the Liberal Party are preferencing One Nation behind the ALP but are not imposing that directive on their Coalition partners, The National Party.  Whilst the Liberal Party have dropped One Nation below the ALP in the preferencing order as a consequence of One Nation’s contemptuous approach to Australia’s Gun Control laws, the fact that the Liberal Party leadership are not insisting that the National Party also de-preference One Nation shows that there is no ethical imperative to the Liberal Party preferencing decision. This continues a long history of the LNP taking an unprincipled stand on One Nation preferencing in order to retain power.

Reluctant Revulsion

As Kathryn Murphy of The Guardian has exposed, the decision to direct Liberal voters to preference One Nation behind Labor was made reluctantly by Prime Minister Scott Morrison and the Liberal leadership. They were driven to it by the public revulsion directed toward One Nation in relation to the views of Pauline Hanson, One Nation’s leader, that the horrific Australian gun tragedy, The Port Arthur Massacre, in which 35 people were killed,  was the result of a government conspiracy [1]

As always the LNP is claiming that their approach to One Nation preferencing is based on ethical principles, but in reality, as always, the LNP approach to One Nation preferencing is based entirely on strategic motives.

The misleading claims to ethicality lie in Scott Morrison’s assertion that there will be no preference deals with One Nation.  This is a deliberately disingenuous remark designed to conceal from metropolitan voters the fact that the Liberal Party whenever possible preferences One Nation above Labor in the hope of attracting reciprocal preferences from One Nation.

Morrison was speaking in the aftermath of remarks made by Independent (former One Nation) Senator Fraser Anning, a far right sympathizer, who stated that massacre of Muslims in New Zealand by an Australian racist gun man was proof that Muslim immigration to Australia should be halted.

Morrison’s disingenuous no deals locution [3], correctly described as weasel words by the Queensland Federal Senator Murray Watt, concealed the fact that the LNP preferenced One Nation in 50 of 58 seats in the November 2017 Queensland State Election and had assisted One Nation to acquire the eat of Mirani.

Disingenuous
/ˌdɪsɪnˈdʒɛnjʊəs/
adjective
  1. not candid or sincere, typically by pretending that one knows less about something than one really does.
    synonyms: dishonestdeceitfulunderhandunderhandedduplicitousdouble-dealingtwo-faced, dissembling, insincerefalselyinguntruthfulmendacious;

Placating One Nation: An LNP Quandry

Hanson’s comments on Port Arthur were made public in the week following the Christchurch Massacre in which a racist Australian gunman, adorned with Neo-Nazi symbols, gunned down Muslims in two New Zealand Mosques, killing 50 and wounding 50 others. The public was further disgusted by revelations that One Nation party officials had met with the American National Rifle Association with the intention of seeking donations to support One Nation watering down Australia’s gun control laws.

Consequently, the LNP found itself in a similar quandry to that in 1997 when One Nation was held in opprobrium by a large section of the voting public, at that time as a result of its xenophobic anti-Asian immigration views. Then, as now, the LNP wanted to attract One Nation preferences but could not broker a preference deal with One Nation without alienating a large segment of the electorate. Then, as now, the LNP was trapped between wanting to mollify One Nation supporters and alienating the political centre by association with One Nation and certain of their viewpoints which are shocking to political moderates.

Backlash and Rightward Shift

In the Queensland State Election of 1998, the first election after One Nation’s formation the Liberals preferenced One Nation above the ALP and were punished by metropolitan Brisbane voters for association with One Nation’s xenophobic viewpoints, losing 5 seats while also assisting One Nation to win seats in outer-metropolitan areas with Liberal preferences. For the Liberals it was an absolute disaster.

After this very negative electoral experience, Howard put One Nation last on tactical considerations, to avoid being punished by moderate voters for holding xenophobic views on immigration and culture. But following the Tampa Incident Howard pushed Australian immigration policy to the right. The public proved receptive to this view which was inflamed by Howard and Peter Reith concocting the infamous Children Overboard scare on the Australian public. As Muslim asylum-seekers continued to flow in from Afghanistan following the Taliban wars there, Australian public opinion, encouraged by Howard, then in turn by Abbott and Morrison, continued to harden such that  majority views on immigration became compatible with the rejectionist stance of One Nation and also embedded in LNP policy.

Hanson herself noted this phenonemon by stating

“It has been widely recognised by all, including the media, that John Howard sailed home on One Nation’s policies,”

As the Australian Financial Review puts it

The suggestion Hanson has changed in some fundamental way is actually an indication of how much the rest of politics has changed

Mainstream Xenophobia

This rightward drift of mainstream views on immigration  occurred during a period when One Nation was largely neutralized within Australian politics. John Howard and Tony Abbott had succeeded in dampening One Nation as a political force by secretly funding legal action against One Nation in relation to breaches of the Electoral Act with the result that Pauline Hanson went to jail for three months during 2003. This, along with the organisational chaos of One Nation, culminating in the expulsion of Hanson from her own party, caused One Nation to lose voter legitimacy and One Nation temporarily ceased to be an important political force. In fact Hanson herself did not hold parliamentary office between 1998 and 2015. [2] But the xenophobic sentiments of One Nation had become entrenched in the mainstream and were now amply reflected in LNP government policy.

The overall effect was that One Nation was no longer held in general opprobium. Its xenophobic views, now directed primarily at Muslims instead of Chinese, were embraced by the majority of Australians. Instead of being a lightning rod for the anti-Immigration vote, One Nation became the home of a generalised right-wing protest vote for those on the right feeling alienated and disenfranchised with the major parties. But in general, One Nation no longer excited disgust from the political centre because on One Nation’s core issue – immigration – the centre had shifted rightward and was largely satisfied with LNP rejectionism of Muslims.

Disgusting The Centre Again

Furthermore, the major parties had come to a consensus that directly criticizing One Nation and especially Pauline Hanson was counter-productive and merely acted to increase its support. So after 2016, with the election of Pauline Hanson to the Federal Senate, One Nation was treated by the main parties and the public as a fixture of Australian politics – perhaps not liked or truly respected by many – but representative of an alienated minority of Australians and part of business-as-usual within the Australian polity.

This acceptance of One Nation changed with Pauline Hanson’s embrace of conspiratorial views of the Port Arthur Massacre and their exposure in the week following the Christchurch Massacre. The timing of this exposure indicates opportunism by Hanson’s political opponents but nevertheless One Nation was again equated with far-right viewpoints which disgusted the political centre. Consequently, the LNP again faced the dilemma of associating with far-right opinion and risking backlash from metropolitan and moderate voters.

Tactical, Not Ethical

But Morrison and the Liberal Party also had to accommodate the fact the One Nation vote is significant in some key Queensland rural seats. One Nation traditionally retaliate if put last in preferences by treating opposing parties in the same way. For example, One Nation ran this style of campaign in the Western Australian State election of 2001 putting all sitting members last. Fearing losing the flow of One Nation preferences in these key rural Queensland seats, Morrison has allowed the National Party to preference One Nation and so avoid One Nation retaliation and thus receive One Nation preferences.

The overall strategy of Scott Morrison and the LNP in relation to One Nation preferences therefore is to maximise seat retention. Putting One Nation last in Liberal seats avoids voter backlash in metropolitan seats. Accepting One Nation preferences in National seats allows the Nationals to receive One Nation preferences and hopefully retain rural seats.

So, in the LNP tradition, the One Nation preferencing strategy is all about strategy and tactics: retaining seats whilst attempting to mollify One Nation voters as far as possible while trying to distance themselves from certain far right views of Pauline Hanson.

Milestones In LNP / One Nation Preference Deals

March 1997 – One Nation Formed.

One Nation immediately attracts 9% of the national vote, most of which came from the Liberal/National coalition. George Megalogenis states that the LNP vote fell from 49% in March 1997 when One Nation was formed, to 40% one month later ‘and all of it went over to the One Nation column’.

Howard could not afford to antagonize One Nation as their support base was comprised mainly of disaffected Coalition voters. Howard needed to ensure that One Nation voters would preference him, so he played softly-softly with them.

Howard is not fundamentally opposed to the One Nation agenda and tells his party room that he would prefer to work with them rather than the Australian Democrats. Peter Costello and Amanda Vanstone disagree. Both of these made public comments that the Liberal Party should put One Nation last in the preference order on ethical grounds i.e. that One Nation were racist. Both received long and emphatic phone calls from John Howard they should retract their opinions, Vanstone commenting that Howard was so loud she was forced to hold the receiver away from her ear (‘The Howard Years’, Episode 1, ABC Television, broadcast 17 Nov. 2008)

Howard decides to preference One Nation above Labor. This, Howard hoped, would send a message to One Nation voters that he was not displeased with the One Nation message, particularly in the climate of general social condemnation of One Nation, and maximize the One Nation preference flow to the Coalition.

June 1998 – Queensland State Election

One Nation won an astonishing 22.7% of the primary vote and, aided by Coalition preferences won 11 seats, while the Coalition itself lost 5 seats in Brisbane as inner-city voters expressed their disgust at The Liberal’s preferencing of One Nation above Labor.

If these results were to be repeated at the upcoming Federal Election, Howard and the Coalition would be soundly defeated.

Immediately after Queensland election Howard flies to Queensland to meet with One Nation supporters and try to convince them that the Coalition understood their issues and would help them. In the meantime he commissions Tony Abbott to find a way to destroy One Nation. Abbott creates a slush fund to fund legal action against Hanson and One Nation. Abbott and Howard lie about their knowledge of and existence of the Fund. Abbott and Howard eventually get Hanson thrown in jail.

The strategy of the National and Liberal parties to preference One Nation paid off outside Brisbane, where it won five seats from Labor. In Brisbane the strategy badly back-fired: urban voters ‘punished’ the Liberals for directing preferences to One Nation (Reynolds 2001, 156).

So the overall effect of Coalition preferences was to assist One Nation to win seats, to win some seats for the LNP in rural and outer-metro areas, but to experience significant punishment in urban seats as relatively educated and progressive voters express disgust against associating with One Nation

1998 – Federal Election

Howard decides to put One Nation last to protect urban seats  (of which there are many) from backlash against inner-city voters, foregoes assistance in rural seats (of which there are few) and avoid loss of outer-metro seats to One Nation.

2001 – WA State Election

LNP are-run their 1998 Federal Election strategy and put One Nation last. One Nation responds by putting “all sitting Members last”, whether LNP or ALP. LNP lose power to ALP.

While some consider that the “One Nation last” strategy was germane to the LNP losing power as One Nation retaliated by putting sitting LNP members last, professional psephologists rate the effect of One Nation preferencing as relatively minor in this particular election.

As Antony Green. Australia’s premier psephologist, demonstrates in this paper for the Western Australian Parliamentary Library, Green preferences to the ALP were clearly decisive in delivering seats to the ALP  whereas the effect of One Nation preferences was much more limited. It was, actually the effect of the LNP losing Primary votes to One Nation which was the much bigger concern.

The 2001 WA election was conducted in the climate of a large general swing against the LNP which would have led them to lose power regardless of One Nation preferencing. In fact One Nation preferences split evenly between LNP and ALP, but flowed a little less strongly to the LNP than would otherwise have occurred in the absence of the “sitting members last” directive.

Nevertheless, even though the actual One Nation preferencing effect was minor, WA Liberals decided that the party had suffered materially by putting One Nation last and hence resolved to avoid repudiation of One Nation on the future.

2002-2015 One Nation Temporarily Ceases To Exist as a significant political force

2017 – WA State Election

Barnett, Turnbull and Howard fine-tune the preference strategy, swapping One Nation preferences in Lower House for Lib preferences in the Upper House. The deal is limited to selected seats. The Libs are trying to sandbag Lower House seats and so retain government whilst conceding Balance of Power in the Upper House. They are also avoiding assisting One Nation to win seats in the Lower House.

Like Howard did, Barnett and other Liberals are trying to mollify One Nation voters by saying they are good people, sophisticated and nuanced, and that their concerns are seriously addressed by the Libs.

Also, noting a reactionary shift in the political landscape toward populism, nationalism and anti-Immigration, the Libs judge that urban voters are less likely to punish them by association with One Nation

The Libs, including Malcolm Turnbull, are also trying to distance themselves from One Nation even while cuddling up to them, hence Barnett feigning ignorance of their policies. This is to mollify urban voters and  intended to reduce backlash.

2019 – NSW State Election

The rightward shift of the political centre and the long-standing ‘don’t criticize Pauline’ strategies of the major parties have normalized One Nation and the LNP is able to quietly accept One Nation preferences without raising serious objection in the community. The party attracting most attention vis-a-vis Preference Deals is the Shooters, Farmers and Fisher’s Party (SFF) who support watering down Australia’s gun control laws. NSW Liberal Premier and former Prime Minister John Howard criticizes the ALP for running selective preference deals with the SFF.

2019 Federal Election Campaign

One Nation’s conspiratorial views on Part Arthur in the wake of the Christchurch Massacre disgust large segments of the electorate who once again perceive One Nation as possessing certain unacceptable far right views. The Liberal Party are forced under community pressure to put One Nation behind the ALP, but Prime Minister Scott Morrison does not compel the National Party to do the same. This bifurcated position within the Coalition crystallises the tactical nature of the LNP approach to One Nation preferences, showing that the LNP is uninterested in an ethical approach to dealing with One Nation.

I go into more detail about the early LNP / One Nation history here, drawing heavily on research by Margo Kingston.

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[1] Hanson alludes to a statement made by former NSW Premier Barry Unsworth as providing insight into government intentions to stage a gun massacre in Tasmania.

[2] Hanson did go very close twice to regaining parliamentary office in this period. In 1998 Hanson was unlucky to suffer a drastic redistribution in her seat of Oxley which cut the seat in half. Hanson stood for the seat of Blair and was the leading candidate on Primary Votes, gaining 36%, but was prevented from winning the seat by being put last on preferences by the major parties. Also, in 2015 Hanson went within 114 votes of winning Lockyer in a Queensland State Election

[3] Thanks to Kathryn Murphy for this lovely word “locution” which so aptly encapsulates the artfully deceptive phraseology of Scott Morrison in this matter