Miscellany: by-elections and WA leadership poll (open thread)

Five candidates for the Aston by-election; defeated Liberals eye comeback bids; Mark McGowan’s personal ratings come off slightly.

With not much happening on the polling front his week, there is the following to relate:

• There is a modest field of five candidates for the April 1 by-election for Aston, which I’ve had less to say about than I would have liked due to the distraction of New South Wales. Following the ballot paper draw last Thursday, they are in order: Owen Miller (Fusion), Roshena Campbell (Liberal), Angelica Di Camillo (Greens), Mary Doyle (Labor) and Maya Tesa (Independent). Pauline Hanson interestingly offered last week that One Nation had decided to stay out of it as a “strategic decision not to take votes away from the Coalition”.

Paul Sakkal of The Age reports that not only have Monique Ryan’s recent difficulties encouraged Josh Frydenberg in his determination to recontest Kooyong at the election, but that Tim Wilson and Katie Allen have similar ideas about Goldstein and Higgins, which they respectively lost to teal independent Zoe Daniel and Labor’s Michelle Ananda-Rajah.

• A by-election will be held in the Northern Territory on Saturday for the seat of Arafura following the death of Labor member Lawrence Costa. The candidates in ballot paper order are Leslie Tungatalum (Country Liberals), Manuel Brown (Labor) and Alan Middleton (Federation Party).

The West Australian reports a rare item of state political polling crediting Mark McGowan with an approval rating of 63%, down seven since October, with disapproval up six to 24%. New Liberal leader Libby Mettam debuts with 24% approval and 18% disapproval. The poll was conducted “last week” by Painted Dog Research from a sample of 1052.

Author: William Bowe

William Bowe is a Perth-based election analyst and occasional teacher of political science. His blog, The Poll Bludger, has existed in one form or another since 2004, and is one of the most heavily trafficked websites on Australian politics.

2,954 comments on “Miscellany: by-elections and WA leadership poll (open thread)”

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  1. Lol. Mark Latham says Matt Kean is a cancer inside the NSW Liberal Party.

    Matt Kean is the only thing saving the NSW Liberal Party from the same sort of annihilation at the NSW election next week that the federal Liberals suffered last year.

  2. Vladimir Putin is a horrible individual. Visiting Mariupol after going to Crimea was nasty stuff. I wish President Zelenskyy had known and sent someone to arrest the bastard. Because Mariupol is still Ukrainian territory!

  3. For those who don’t have a subscription to the Fairfax media I reprint this interview in full because it’s the best one yet and should be the final word(s):

    Commodore (Ret) Peter Scott, CSC served in 10 submarines and became Director General Submarines in Navy Strategic Command, before retiring in 2017. His new book, Running Deep: An Australian Submarine Life will be published in coming weeks. I spoke to him on Friday morning.

    Fitz: Commodore, we will get to this week’s staggering news on submarines shortly. But first let’s establish your impeccable pedigree to make expert comment.

    Commodore Scott: I spent 34 years in Navy serving in 10 submarines, conducting numerous special operations, and commanded two of them: HMAS Collins and HMAS Dechaineux, before becoming Director General Submarines in Navy Strategic Command.

    Fitz: It’s a very impressive title. What does it mean?

    Commodore Scott: It means I was the senior submariner in Navy headquarters advising the Chief of Navy on strategic submarine policy and making resource decisions.

    Fitz: And you’re now retired, apart from being in the reserve, so can speak without fear or favour, while not speaking remotely on behalf of the Navy. So, we can get to the question. Commodore … $368 billion to be buying five American Virginia-class nuclear submarines in the short-term, before beginning to build eight AUKUS-class nuclear subs, with the first to be launched by 2042. Can it possibly be worth it?

    Commodore Scott: Yes. Every time Australia sends a submarine to sea it puts a deliberate question mark in the minds of the commanders of the region’s navies and in the minds of the political masters of our region. With a nuclear subs’ ability to operate over vast ranges and extended periods, they have the ability to throw a lethal punch when they need to – and this gives them credibility as a deterrent or as a combatant. It makes an immediate impact on the calculus of others. That’s where the real value of our submarines lies. It’s in the doubt that it creates in the minds of others.

    Fitz: And yet, while basically, for the first eight decades after Federation, Australia had a strategy of “forward defence” – building armed forces that could project power to faraway places like Gallipoli, the Western Front and Tobruk – the Hawke government of the 1980s restructured it all so that the primary focus of Australian defence was to defend our own shores. The expenditure on these nuclear subs seems like a return to forward defence, of having a foreign policy of racking up frequent fighter points alongside Great Britain and the USA, fighting in wars beside them so that if we get into trouble we can cash in our points and they’ll come and fight with us. Is that a fair enough summation?

    Commodore Scott: Firstly, our submarines have always operated at extended ranges from Australia, in strategically significant waters. So, there is no change there. And there are a couple of reasons why we’re working with the US and the Brits on this. They are strategic allies for us and they have similar national values. And they have the capabilities that we need. So there’s probably a pretty unique situation here, where we can combine not only the political intent, but also the industrial capability of three nations to really strengthen the undersea capabilities of all of us.

    Fitz: But $368 billion! Were you shocked by that price tag?

    Commodore Scott: I expected something of that order. We’re not buying a couple of new station wagons. We are taking Australia from a position where it is not a nuclear-power-capable nation to a position where it is a nuclear-power-capable nation. And the avenue for that vehicle, yes, is our submarine capability. It is a massive leap.

    Fitz: And yet, former diplomat David Livingstone wrote in the Herald this week that by the time our subs are ready to go they’ll already be obsolete, that Unmanned Underwater Vehicles will take over, and other very sophisticated weaponry will be able to blow crewed subs of the water.

    Commodore Scott: When I joined submarines 35 years ago, Peter, I was told that the oceans were going to become transparent and so submarines would be obsolete. The fundamental fact is that remaining undetected beneath the surface of the ocean continues to be far easier than remaining undetected on the surface of the ocean or above it. So yes, all of those areas are being advanced. Absolutely. China is working very hard on technologies like that. And I expect they will be deploying them into, you know, the South East Asian region. So, is it becoming harder? Yes. Does that mean that the relative value of the capabilities is diminished? I don’t think so. Not relative to anything else that you can do in the oceans.

    Fitz: But if, Commodore, we’re now pressing the button on $368 billion worth of expenditure on crewed submarines, including some being ready in 2042, surely, prima facie, that’s a bit odd when, as you acknowledge, un-crewed submarines are coming down the line fairly fast?

    Commodore Scott: It would be about the effective combined use of those capabilities. So, I know from being out at sea and deployed on operations, that being on location, to see and hear and understand what’s happening around you has its own tremendous inherent value that you cannot replace with uncrewed craft.

    Fitz: Meanwhile, Paul Keating has basically said this is the worst decision since forever, that it is a disgrace and that the Albanese government should get nicked. He is a former prime minister who always had a great strategic vision for Australia in Asia, and for Australia being independent. What do you make of his criticism?

    Commodore Scott: I disagree. I think it gives us the capability that we need for the defence of the nation into the future. I think the pathway that has been described of how we’re going to get there is clear. I think it’s achievable. And I think that the acquisition of a nuclear submarine capability for the Australian Navy matches our strategic demand.

    Fitz: In your new book, Running Deep: An Australian Submarine Life, you write about how excited you were to first hear that the Morrison government had torn up the agreement with the French, and were joining the US and the UK in a new alliance to “acquire at least eight nuclear-powered submarines through an enhanced trilateral security partnership, named AUKUS…”

    Fitz: Well, we’ve now had two governments who’ve taken that view, because the Morrison government first led us down this path, and that has been followed by the Albanese government. Just how dangerous are the waters that Australia is sailing in, to have two successive governments take such radical action?

    Commodore Scott: Well, over the last 20 years the navies of India, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Japan, Korea and, importantly, China, have all modernised and expanded their submarine fleets, and that is all since we stopped building Collins Class subs. So, every major regional Navy in the Indo-Pacific has modernised or expanded their submarine fleet in the last 20 years, while we have not. If there’s an undersea arms race in the Indo-Pacific, we are not leading it. And moving in this direction on the nuclear-powered submarines is what will bring us back on to something like a level pegging with some of those navies.

    Fitz: But what of regional danger? You will note that the Herald this week has run a series which has attracted a lot of comments, saying that war with China is possible within three years. What do you make of that?

    Commodore Scott: I think it’s probably a fair and reasonable assessment. As to where nuclear submarines come in, I do not pretend to know where the threats to our national security might come from in the next 10 or 20 or 30 years. But I do believe that a nation equipped with a nuclear-powered submarine capability in that time, will be better placed to face whatever threats do come down the line. So in the next five years, it might be China and Taiwan. Maybe we’ll get involved, maybe we won’t. But five years after that, what will the threat to our national security be? Where will it come from? I don’t know. But I do see investment in this capability as a sage investment in our future national security and, therefore, prosperity.

    Fitz: Let me give you a burst of what the satirist Mark Humphries put on ABC 7.30 on Thursday evening, pretending to be a Navy Commodore like you: “One thing you can be sure of, when Australia says we’re going to build some submarines, we mean it … except for the 12 submarines we proposed building in the 2009 Defence White Paper … and the Japanese submarines we planned to buy back in 2014 … and the French submarines we agreed to buy back in 2016. We are basically Julia Roberts in Runaway Bride if all the grooms were submarine contracts … but this time we definitely mean it.” Harsh but fair?

    Commodore Scott: That’s a really good question. The political rhetoric over the last 20 years on submarines has run pretty bloody hollow because there’s been no shortage of announcements and decisions, but they haven’t been followed by a single [extra] submarine for the Navy. Follow-through on this decision is absolutely critical. But as a decision on its own, and you know, particularly as a trilateral decision, it’s got a lot of strength and a lot of weight. It says: “We value our sovereignty, we value our independence, and this is how much we’re willing to invest to make sure that we can protect it.” Personally and professionally, that absence of action on all those decisions has just ground me down over the last 20 years. But what’s different now is the strategic environment. I think Australians can see not only the opportunities that China provides, but also the threat that it might pose.

    Fitz: In sum?

    Commodore Scott: Every time a submarine goes to sea, it causes a shift in the calculus of regional political and military leaders. Nuclear subs have the stealth, range, endurance and the potency to operate as a deterrent or as an exceedingly capable, offensive platform. And they can shape the geostrategic environment of our region.

    Fitz: But Commodore, did I mention? $368 billion?! Jesus wept!

    Commodore Scott: “Yep, it’s a lot of money.”

    Fitz: But in your view, worth it?

    Commodore Scott: Every cent!


  4. Good morning Dawn Patrollers

    Ross Gittins rips into the latest Productivity Commission report, saying, “Until the capitalist system goes back to keeping its promise that the workers will get their fair share of the benefits of capitalism – Australia’s households have no rational reason to give a stuff about what’s happening to productivity.” A very good read.
    The illusions of neoliberal capitalism are dismantling, and the true perpetrators of poverty are being unmasked, writes John Falzon. He says trickle-down theory is no mystery. It is an excellent example of the so-called common sense that is designed to throw us off the scent of what is really happening, trying to convince us that the obscene proliferation of mega-profits should not only be allowed but encouraged because it is the only means of salvation for those who are living in poverty.
    Sean Kelly’s piece today provides a good insight to the state of political debate and action in Australia now.
    The energy market operator’s urgent warning of a gas shortage has heated up a political brawl between the Greens and the federal government as time runs down for Energy Minister Chris Bowen to reform the safeguard mechanism to deliver on Australia’s legally binding climate target, reports Mike Foley.
    The AFR says that the national economic policy think tank has come up with a policy that centre-right parties supposedly committed to free market principles should embrace.
    If Minns seizes power, he will be a premier who lumbered over the line, rather than sprinted, says Alexandra Smith who points to the Coalition’s primary vote shooting up six percentage points to 38 per cent since the last Resolve survey in late February, Labor’s remaining exactly where it was – on 38 per cent. The Coalition is making gains; Labor is steady.
    The whole commercial banking structure is built on the foundation of “sticky” deposits – but these are now fast-moving and volatile, writes Karen Maley.
    Three times the number of high-income earners will be hit by the former Coalition government’s 2017 tax increase on superannuation, compared to Labor’s targeting of savers with retirement income balances above $3 million. John Kehoe reports that Jim Chalmers accused the Liberal Party of “hypocrisy” after releasing the new Treasury figures.
    Daniel Hurst looks at the modelling informing the above accusation.
    According to Simon Benson, Treasury is looking to dust off a mothballed proposal to claw back a rise in deductible work-related expenses which are forecast to cost the budget more than $10.4bn in forgone revenue annually by next year.
    The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) has gone against its own rules to green-light the billionaire Lowy family’s $550,000 in secretive “donations” to the Liberal Party via an obscure subsidiary, reveals Anthony Klan.
    Victorian opposition leader John Pesutto will move to expel controversial Liberal MP Moira Deeming from the parliamentary party room after she attended a rally that has been associated with neo-Nazis. Sumeyya Ilanbey reports that Deeming attended the Let Women Speak rally organised by British anti-trans rights campaigner Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull at Parliament House on Saturday.
    And Daniel Andrews has said the human rights of trans people are “not negotiable” and that “Nazis aren’t welcome” after a group performed the Nazi salute on the steps of the state’s parliament on Saturday.
    The cost of living crisis is driving rising levels of reported distress in NSW, as the nation’s peak suicide prevention group says an increase in deaths among middle-aged men should be a wake-up call for the next parliament. Mary Ward tells us that Suicide Prevention Australia is calling for NSW to follow South Australia’s lead and implement dedicated suicide prevention legislation, which would require lawmakers to consider the mental health impacts of housing and welfare policies.
    These educational academics tell us how school principals are reaching crisis point, pushed to the edge by mounting workloads, teacher shortages and abuse.
    Alan Kohler writes that thanks to AUKUS, Australia’s manufacturing will be built on a foundation of defence, specifically buying and making nuclear submarines. But, he says, there is likely to be an opportunity cost in that. Given the amount of money involved there won’t be much, if any, left for anything else, such as the global energy transition, health care and agriculture.
    The former head of the royal commission into the Lawyer X scandal has raised concerns with the government about its proposed informant laws ahead of the draft legislation being debated in parliament this week.
    Binoy Kampmark examines Australia’s nuclear waste problem.
    Uber has launched a months-long advertising campaign over the Albanese government’s proposed gig economy reforms in a push to get a seat at the table over changes that will affect its 150,000 workers. The ride share and on-demand delivery giant will target politicians in Canberra and other capital cities from Monday and over the next few months with billboards, posters and digital and print ads in an effort to push the argument its riders and drivers want flexibility.
    Fathers who share childcare face the same sexist assumptions about how good a worker you can be as women stared down for decades. For the health of men, women, kids and the economy, ideas of Australian workplace masculinity must at least try to keep up, writes Wendy Touhy.
    Donna Mulhearn, who was a human shield during the Iraq war and later returned as an aid worker and researcher, argues why we need to change the practice where one person can decide if Australia goes to war..
    Prime CBD office towers could potentially drop in value by between 10 per cent to 20 per cent as commercial property assets are eventually marked down to a market drastically reconfigured by higher interest rates, explains Nick Leneghan who says that thos could affect superannuation fund valuations and banking covenants.
    The Consumer Action Law Centre has warned that Australia is a soft target for scammers who are now using artificial intelligence to impersonate the voices of family members.
    Reuters reports that if UBS acquires Credit Suisse 10,000 jobs may go and just as I type this I see a live press conference from the Swiss government announcing that the takeover will indeed happen.
    It’s a three billion dollars deal.
    Rob Harris writes that Emmanuel Macron is so convinced that France cannot afford to continue losing its workforce to retirement at the age of 62 that he’s prepared to risk his authority to play a high-stakes game of political chicken. Since Macron’s government introduced plans to push the retirement age back from 62 to 64 – France has been convulsed by regular strikes and protests that have drawn millions into the streets, not only in the capital, but in towns and villages across the country.
    Geoffrey Robertson thinks that the arrest warrant may signal the beginning of the end for Putin. He says that although he will not stand in the dock at The Hague any time soon, he is now confirmed as an international pariah, with predecessors like Pinochet, Milosevic, Gaddafi and Al Bashir – all of whose indictments were a prelude to their fall from power.
    While Narendra Modi polls extremely well, many worldly Indians are aghast that he has made India less secular and tolerant, creating a Hindu nationalism that marginalises religious minorities.
    Donald Trump could be charged in New York as soon as this week for allegedly covering up hush money payments to a porn star during his 2016 presidential campaign, nearly seven years after the money changed hands. But any trial of the former US president would still be more than a year away, legal experts said, and could coincide with the final months of the 2024 presidential campaign as Trump seeks a return to the White House.
    The Manhattan district attorney widely expected to bring an indictment against Donald Trump this week has vowed that his staff will not be intimidated after the former US president called for his supporters to protest any action against him.

    Cartoon Corner

    David Rowe

    Peter Broelman

    Joe Benke

    Megan Herbert

    Mark David

    Mark Knight


    From the US

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