Monday, 7th April 2014

THE BODY POLITIC

The WA senate vote post-mortem has featured the usual excuses, explanations and over-interpretations, but while the final result won’t be known for days some signals are clear.

The Coalition suffered a 5% swing against it, which is close to the average by-election result for a government. As it struggles to hold onto 3 spots, the government must know that the result was not a good one. It can now look forward to long negotiations with Clive Palmer's party (which has almost certainly picked up another seat) as well as a menagerie of other independent senators.

The Greens are delighted that Scott Ludlam will be returned for another senate term. He is a good communicator and a likely future leader, and the vote he achieved is a much-needed boost for the Greens following a run of poor performances.

The worst result of the election belonged without doubt to the Labor party. It won just 22% of the primary vote, a swing of around 5% against it. Oppositions usually benefit from anti-government sentiment in by-elections. It may just escape with a second spot, but hardly deserves to. Putting Joe Bullock atop its ticket was an absurd choice, and represented the worst aspects of the party organisation.

If Bill Shorten doesn’t usher in serious reform measures immediately –  if, in other words, the ALP continues to pay lip service to the need for change but then does almost nothing – this may be seen as the final straw.

Nick Feik
Politicoz Editor

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Clive Palmer’s PUP controls Senate future

"The Abbott government will have to rely on the Palmer United Party to pass its legislative agenda following the weekend re-run of the Western ­Australia Senate election which resulted in the PUP gaining a third Senate slot and the Liberals at risk of losing a Senate seat. The entrenching of the influence of Clive Palmer’s political party came in an election which saw big swings of around 5 percentage points against both major parties."

Tony Abbott's negotiating skills will be put to the test under new Senate

"After years in opposition alleging Labor did “grubby” political deals to win support in the parliament, Tony Abbott is going to have to find new negotiating skills to get his own legislative agenda through an unwieldy and unpredictable senate after July."

Also: Tony Abbott's double blow (Mark Kenny, The Age)

Bill Shorten says Labor should abolish union membership rule

"Bill Shorten is calling for Labor to abolish the rule that forces party members to belong to a union and extend the 50-50 federal leader election model to the states as he warns the party must reform or become irrelevant… “For too long we have allowed the characterisation that Labor only has an ‘image problem’, a ‘message problem’, a ‘selling problem’ to explain our electoral fortunes… It’s more serious than this. We need to change ourselves.”"

Also: Shorten must break the union stranglehold (Paula Matthewson, The Drum)

Australia-Japan FTA talks: Beef remains an issue

"Prime Minister Tony Abbott says there are still matters that need to be resolved before a free trade agreement (FTA) can be signed off on with Japan. Mr Abbott is in Tokyo as part of a week-long tour of northern Asia, where he is pushing for greater economic ties with the region."

Also: Abbott caught in tough Asian trade winds (Phillip Wen, SMH)

A hollow debate

"There are some important issues arising from the government’s move to repeal 18C in the Racial Discrimination Act. Unfortunately they are obscured by posturing anti-racism on the left and posturing libertarianism on the right when in reality it is about neither."

Also: Plan to collect dead students' debt (The Age) "The federal government should collect unpaid debts from students after they die, a report by an influential panel has found."

And finally: First Dog on the Moon's Guardian debut

Trade deal signed as Japan relents on beef

"Australia has broken through the formidable tariff barriers protecting ­Japanese agriculture to secure a deal hailed by both governments as the most significant advancement in their economic relationship since the 1957 post-war trade pact. Following six months of intense negotiation with the Abbott government, Japan relented and granted Australian producers unprecedented access to its beef and dairy markets by agreeing to slash tariffs."

Tony Abbott agrees to provocative defence technology partnership with Japan

"Australia and Japan have agreed to establish a regionally provocative defence technology and equipment partnership, which will facilitate the development of cutting edge military science, and even the exchange of new generation weapons between the two countries. As Prime Minister Tony Abbott flies from Tokyo to Seoul on Tuesday and then on to China, a series of formal and informal talks in Tokyo have yielded several material developments both countries are lauding."

First Solar reconsiders Australian investments amid 'uncertainty' over Renewable Energy Target

"The company building the southern hemisphere's largest solar plant says it is reconsidering future investments in Australia because of uncertainty about the Government's Renewable Energy Target… First Solar's vice-president of business development, Jack Curtis, says a lot has changed in the eight months since the former federal government announced the project."

Voters give Green light to resurgent party

"The party has also lost its mantle as the "new kid on the block", jostling for media space with the outspoken Clive Palmer in a much more crowded Senate. But while Palmer might grab the headlines, it is the Greens who are making history. The re-election of Senator Scott Ludlam at Saturday's election will deliver the party 10 federal senators from July (along with Adam Bandt in the lower house) smashing the minor party record it previously shared with the Democrats."

Bill Shorten takes leave following mother's death

"Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has described his mother's death on Sunday as a shock to him and his family. Mr Shorten issued a short statement on Monday to say he would be taking some leave, and thanked his colleagues for their support. "Yesterday, my mother Ann passed away," he said. "I was very close to my mum - and her passing has come as a shock to me and my family.""

Also: Support for Coalition hits six-month high as Bill Shorten sinks further: Newspoll (The Australian)