Saturday 31st of July 2021

upper hunter burn...





















The art of politics as we know is spinning reality in such a way that perceptions become more influential than what is actually happening.

So the weekend byelection in the rural/coal seat of Upper Hunter in New South Wales, which Labor has not held for 90 years, spells big trouble for Anthony Albanese and federal Labor.

Not surprisingly this distortion is pushed for all its worth by Mr Albanese’s principal political opponent, Liberal Prime Minister Scott Morrison.


However, it is not only Mr Morrison who says the “Labor brand” is in trouble with its hitherto blue-collar voting heartland, but also long-time federal Labor member Joel Fitzgibbon.

Mr Fitzgibbon got the fright of his life in 2019 when a strong One Nation vote ate into his support, pushing the hitherto safe Labor seat to preferences.

Mr Fitzgibbon took himself to the backbench after the election so he could conduct what has turned out to be something of a jihad against his own party for giving too much emphasis to climate change and not enough to saving coal workers’ jobs.

But there is time for a reality check right there: Labor’s coal miner candidate lost to a candidate for the most actively green state government in the country – the exception being the Australian Capital Territory.

The Berejiklian government is not only committed to net zero carbon emissions by 2050, it has already committed to opening no new coal mines. And in the context of the byelection campaign, it spent $200 million not to build the proposed Shenhua coal mine in the electorate.


Mr Fitzgibbon says the voters did not believe assurances coming from state Labor or indeed Mr Albanese about coal jobs – maybe if he had used his best endeavours in recent months to back those assurances instead of undermining them the result on Saturday may not have been as dire.

Here federal Labor could emulate the Berejiklian government’s commitment to new jobs for miners, but they will have to be well-paid ones that would need a more aggressive manufacturing industry policy for the regions.

And while I am reality checking, Labor’s 21.3 per cent primary vote was not its worst performance in the Nationals’ state stronghold: Ten years ago it fell to 17.9 per cent.


It is true that if a government, state or federal is in some trouble, even their rusted-on voters can take the opportunity to send a message – Liberal voters did this in the Brisbane seat of Ryan in 2001, out of anger over the GST and petrol prices.

Labor scored an almost 10 per cent swing to take Ryan, only to see it return at the next general election to the Liberals.

The fact that Labor not only failed to generate a swing to it but saw a slight swing to the Nationals’ two-party-preferred last weekend is more on its state leader’s head, and there is no doubt Jodi McKay is on borrowed time.

But with the exception of Mr Albanese, no opposition leader around the country has their party either neck and neck or slightly ahead of the incumbent government.

Even Mr Fitzgibbon had to admit in some of his Monday media blitz interviews that the popularity of NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian was a major factor in her government’s candidate defying precedent and holding the seat.

No doubt the premier’s handling of the accusations against the disgraced former member Michael Johnsen, aided by her deputy Nationals leader John Barilaro, went a long way to their holding the seat.

Unlike Mr Morrison, who has stood by his members when they have faced bullying or sexual abuse allegations, the state Coalition leaders expelled Mr Johnsen from the government party room and then welcomed his resignation from Parliament even though it plunged their government into minority.

This integrity could not be missed and would help explain why the premier was more popular with voters, including Labor ones, according to a Sydney Morning Herald poll.

But it should also be noted there was a significant collapse in the Nationals’ primary vote and 30 per cent of voters for the numerous independents did not preference either of the major parties.

Optional preferential voting in NSW, introduced by Labor in 1980 to disadvantage the Liberals and Nationals, probably needs revisiting by both the major parties in the state.

A big lesson of this byelection is the loss of credibility of the major parties with the rise of independents, which is masked somewhat by federal compulsory preferential voting.

Polling analyst Peter Brent says byelection results have zero predictive power – the federal Liberals lost five before winning in 2019.

If it’s generally true, it is certainly specifically true in attempts to spin Upper Hunter as an omen for federal Labor at the looming election.


Paul Bongiorno AM is a veteran of the Canberra Press Gallery, with 40 years’ experience covering Australian politics.



Read more:

gas jobs fizzles...

The Morrison government has set its heart on a gas-fired economic recovery that is already failing, according to new research.

A new paper by progressive think tank The Australia Institute found that gas is a minuscule employer in the overall economy and has actually shed employees during the recovery from COVID-19.

The Australia Institute classifies the gas industry as involving the extraction and distribution of gas and its downstream use as a domestic and industrial fuel, in electricity generation, and as a feedstock for manufacturing materials like plastic and chemicals.


Employing 42,000 people all up, “the gas industry is tiny,” Australia Institute chief economist Richard Denniss told The New Daily.

“Employment in gas fell faster than any other industry during the crisis, but it is so small we didn’t notice the shrinkage and it didn’t have an impact on our recovery,” Dr Denniss said.

“Gas accounts for only 0.28 per cent of total employment and since May 2020 its workforce declined by 3800.”

Few jobs in gas

As the below chart shows, the post-COVID recovery has been driven by labour-intensive industries such as retail, professional services, health and social services.

Employment in health and social services alone has grown by more than 2.7 times that in the gas sector since last May, while the overall economy has added 913,000 new jobs.


Read more:




When New York City voters go to the polls on June 22 to select their party’s mayoral nominee, they will fill out a new kind of ballot that allows them to pick up to five candidates in order of preference in a system known as ranked-choice voting.

What is ranked-choice voting (RCV)?

Most U.S. elections are “winner-take-all”: the candidate with the most votes wins even if he or she falls short of 50%. Under RCV, voters can rank multiple contenders instead of choosing just one.


Dozens of cities, including San Francisco, Minneapolis and Salt Lake City, use RCV for local elections. Maine began using it statewide in 2018, and Alaska will implement it for all state and federal general elections starting next year, including the 2024 presidential race.

Countries such as Australia, New Zealand and Ireland use a form of RCV. Members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences have for more than a decade voted for the Best Picture Oscar using this preferential system.

How will the system work in New York?

RCV was approved in New York by voter referendum in 2019 and first used in special city council elections earlier this year.


Read more:


Read from top.



Note that Australia uses the "preference" Ranked-system for all political levels... The person in front may not win (unless has a majority of 50 per cent plus one) as the preferences of some of the others might be added to the second or even third candidate in line — by choice of other candidates to give their lower ranked votes to another candidate. It's tricky but usually works well, unless some third-rate candidates do the dirty on the voters by splitting voting patterns and giving a false representation in the polls...




less fitz please...

PM’s gas promises go up in smoke


The federal government talked up a big gas game, but it turned out to be nothing but empty words, writes Joel Fitzgibbon.


Read more of this at the Daily Telegraph (20/07/2021)...


Now, one has to be careful... The PM has also promoted Australia as the "Hydrogen Valley", equivalent to Silicon Valley, California (Cal: 5th economy in the world on its own)... But Fitzgibbon is also a COAL addict. His constituents eat coal dust for breakfast and breathe diesel fumes for sport. But on this one article he is favour of more fracking, more gas and more CO2... Read from top.



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