At a Glance

The citizenship crisis continues to swing like a wrecking ball through the Federal Parliament – with no doubt the most popular website in recent times.

Despite months of denials by Bill Shorten, it would now appear up to 5 Labor members could be referred to the High Court.  Already Labor Senator Katie Gallagher has resigned from the frontbench and has been referred to the High Court.

The consequences have been far-reaching not only for political careers, and for the standing of the Government but the integrity of the Parliament.  The Parliament itself is fast becoming a farce, and its legitimacy as a duly elected body is increasingly being questioned by many.

This crisis has come to politically define 2017 and will no doubt be the one issue that will be most remembered.

In the Senate alone:

  •  Greens Senators resigned for being dual citizens;
  • 1 National Party Senator was found ineligible by the High Court
  • 1 Liberal Senator had to resign who was President of the Senate;
  • Senator Jacqui Lambie had to resign;
  • 1 One Nation Senator was found ineligible by the High Court;
  • Nick Xenophon Team Senator Kakosche-Moore has announced her resignation;
  • Nick Xenophon resigned to run in the SA election due in early 2018;
  • Katy Gallagher has been referred to the High Court;

Don’t forget, in November 2016 former Family First Senator Bob Day had to resign from the Senate for having a pecuniary financial interest with the Commonwealth which was a breach of section 44 of the Constitution.

The carnage to date is the Senate has lost 9 Senators from the 76 elected in July 2016, and has prompted 2 by-elections in the House of Representatives for seats held by Government MPs, John Alexander and Barnaby Joyce.

The prospect of a super Saturday of by-elections for impacted members in the House of Representatives is now a very real possibility.

Understanding the Fallout

With Labor well and truly caught up in the crisis, it guarantees this issue will extend into 2018.  Going into the new year the Prime Minister would have been hoping for a political reset and Bill Shorten would have been hoping it was only a Government problem.  How this has changed all in the space of a week.

The citizenship crisis has also changed the dynamic of the Senate crossbench.  Who would have thought an already complicated situation could have got even more complicated?

Let me explain…

Nick Xenophon Team (NXT)

Nick Xenophon, leader of the Nick Xenophon Team (NXT) and responsible for the election of 3 NXT Senators is a true political force of nature.  He is to his party what Pauline Hanson is to One Nation – the total embodiment of their respective parties.

Those outside of Canberra may not be aware but Xenophon was a master negotiator and probably the most politically savvy of all the Senate crossbenchers who totally dominated the party that carried his name.

With Xenophon gone, how will the NXT Team in Canberra now approach its negotiations with the Government?  Quite often it has been the NXT Teams 3 Senators that were the key swing votes for the Government.  Without NXT support the first round of company tax cuts would not have passed and it was NXT that sunk the same sex marriage plebiscite that was replaced with the recent survey.

While Xenophon has committed to be the national leader, (based in Adelaide), the dynamic has well and truly changed.  The NXT Team just won’t be the same without the charismatic Nick Xenophon at the helm, leading negotiations, from his Senate office.

Added to this, there will be a new as yet unknown Senator to replace Kakoschke-Moore.

One Nation

During this parliamentary term, One Nation led by Pauline Hanson has consistently provided 4 solid votes in support of the Government.  The loss of Malcolm Roberts has been a significant blow for Pauline Hanson and One Nation.  After Hanson he had the highest media profile of ONP Senators and this served One Nation well.

Not only has One Nation lost a media-savvy performer, they also lost a Senator.  In an unprecedented move, on the very day Fraser Anning was sworn in to replace Malcom Roberts, he resigned from One Nation after a falling out with the party.

This saw One Nation go from 4 Senators to 3 and for the Government, this makes negotiating with the crossbench, that little bit more difficult.

In the Senate where every vote counts, a crucial block of 4 votes the Government could rely on is suddenly 3.  It also means aside from the crossbench parties with multiple Senators (being the Greens, One Nation and NXT), there are now 6 individual micro party/independent Senators for the Government to corral.

Jacqui Lambie

The loss of Jacqui Lambie has seen the Senate lose one of its more colourful, yet passionate and authentic members.  Jacqui Lambie was the battlers, battler.  While many disagreed with her- she had an undeniable commitment, driven by personal experience in helping the least fortunate from her home state, Tasmania.

Her expected replacement is the Mayor of Devonport, Steve Martin, but he himself may yet fall foul of the ‘office of profit under the crown provision’ of the Constitution.  Assuming he does get to take his seat, it is yet another addition to the Senate crossbench who will be an unknown quantity.

The Greens

Due to the loss of Senators from WA and Queensland the Greens now have 2 new Senators.  One can only assume Andrew Bartlett (a former Democrat Senator and party leader), as a Greens Senator from Queensland will hit the ground running.

Bartlett is a relatively known quantity within political circles.  The challenge for the Greens will be, who to endorse as their number 1 candidate at the next election.  Will they endorse the former Greens Senator Larissa Waters or Andrew Bartlett?

A preselection fight could well be looming for the Greens, a party who pride themselves on not being like the major parties and like to avoid such messy showdowns.


The citizenship crisis has consumed more than enough of the national debate.  However, it will continue into 2018.

Labor was hoping to avoid the crisis but is now knee deep in the political crisis that is the dual citizenship issue.

While Labor MPs had escaped the scrutiny of the High Court to date, there’s potentially a number to be referred to the High Court to have their eligibility to sit in the Parliament questioned.

The disruption this crisis has caused to the Senate and the Senate crossbench in particular is quite profound.  All 3 major crossbench parties have been impacted, although Nick Xenophon did resign of his own accord and Jacqui Lambie a micro-party Senator had to resign.

It means there are 5 new crossbench Senators, but within both NXT and One Nation, two key Senate balance of power parties, the dynamics of both parties have changed dramatically.  The NXT has lost its savvy political leader and One Nation has lost an actual Senator making him a free agent when it comes to voting.

For business, 2018 will present itself as a continuing unstable political and policy environment in which to run their enterprises.

2018 will see the start of campaigning for what will definitely be an election in 2019.  Malcolm Turnbull will want to put some wins on the board as campaigning begins.  This will continue to be overshadowed by the ongoing citizenship crisis and a more fractious Senate crossbench that this crisis has delivered.

For more information, regarding this or any other public affairs issue you may require assistance with please don’t hesitate to contact me or visit the Insight Strategy website at


At a Glance

These are indeed challenging days for the Prime Minister.

With the publication of the latest Newspoll showing the Government behind Labor for the 21st time in succession, political pundits will be musing about the implications of 30 Newspoll losses in a row.   Remember, this was a key trigger for Malcolm Turnbull to challenge Tony Abbott to become Prime Minister.

By all means, it is in no way a dead certainty for Bill Shorten to win the next election, as all the published opinion polls show Malcolm Turnbull consistently leading him as preferred Prime Minister.

There were media reports that Labors internal post-election review which is yet to be released, showed that the reason Labor did not win the 2016 election was due to Bill Shortens unpopularity.

In the absence of the release of this party report, we can only speculate the truth or otherwise of that claim.  However, there was a time when political observers considered Tony Abbott unelectable and the rest they say is history.

The Endless Energy Debate

The energy debate now enters its 10th year and has cost party leaders’ on both sides of the House, their job along the way.

With the release of the Governments latest policy it has tried to put the energy debate to bed once and for all.

It’s an issue that has vexed both sides of politics and neither side has been able to come up with a palatable policy totally acceptable to the electorate.

Turnbulls latest policy is based on guaranteeing energy supply so that when people go to turn on their lights, they do indeed come on.

At this point it is not a home run for the Prime Minister, in fact, it is far from it.  To get this policy over the line he needs the agreement of the state Premiers, none of which have been rushing to sign up.

The states have requested detail of the Government’s plan, which by all accounts has been scant to date.

In fairness to the states, its difficult for them to sign on the dotted line, when they don’t have the specifics of the plan.  For some of them, they see the plan as much as a means to placate Tony Abbott rather than a properly considered policy to keep a lid on energy prices.

The politics of energy pricing is not something that the ALP is immune from.  Federal Labor has a strong commitment to a clean energy target and the SA and Qld Labor Governments preside over some of the highest retail power bills in the country and for this reason Labor shares equal responsibility for the current state of the energy market.

If indeed there are blackouts over the summer…who do you think the voters will blame?

The Opposition has committed to go into the next federal election with a clean energy target, as opposed to the Government which has abandoned its commitment.

Malcolm Turnbull will argue that Labors commitment to a clean energy target is code for higher energy prices.  If this becomes a defining issue in the federal campaign, it could well help save the Turnbull Government.

Lies, Damned Lies and Opinion Polls

Whenever a politician says, ‘the only poll that counts is the one on election day’ you can be sure that is a fib.  All politicians watch opinion polls, discuss them with their colleagues and sometimes even make decisions to change leaders based upon them.

For the Government the polls are not proving to be their friend at the moment.  With the publication of 21 Newspolls in a row showing the Government losing to Labor, if the Government hit 30 Newspoll losses in row, by around March/April next year, the question is, will the Prime Minister find himself in trouble?

One thing is for sure, the media and commentators will go into hyperdrive discussing it and this will just be another distraction that the Prime Minister can well do without.

There is a curious contradiction in the polls, in that while the Government lags Labor, Malcolm Turnbull consistently leads Bill Shorten as preferred PM making him the Governments best chance of defeating Labor.

The reality is, both major parties are equally unpopular with the electorate as each other.  The latest Newspoll showed that 27% or just over 1 in 4 voters support anybody other than Labor or Liberal.

The minor parties are the direct beneficiary of this trend, as the electorate look for alternatives to represent their concerns.  To date, the Greens and One Nation are the biggest beneficiaries of this dissatisfaction with both major parties.

Bill Shorten…Liability or Asset?

Recent media reports of Federal Labors internal review of the 2016 election claimed that if it were not for Bill Shortens unpopularity, then Labor would have won the election.  This has been denied by the ALP.

But it does raise the question is Bill Shorten a liability or an asset to Labors election prospects?

If the polls are to be believed then Labor is on track to win the next election, even with a leader that is not exactly setting the world on fire in the popularity stakes.  Bill Shorten is never going to reach the popularity and public adulation that Kevin Rudd achieved prior to becoming Prime Minister.

There is no doubt that Bill Shorten has been a direct beneficiary of the Governments political mismanagement fully aided and abetted by Tony Abbotts sniping from the sidelines.  Bill Shorten is no Bob Hawke and is yet to prove he has the reformist zeal of Paul Keating, but he may yet be the nation’s next Prime Minister.

There is a saying politics and that is:  ‘Government lose elections, Oppositions don’t win them’.

If things continue as they are, then Bill Shorten may well prove this adage to be true.


Polls are to politicians, what reality TV is to the viewing public – they are universally watched!

Within major political parties, internal party polling is tightly held and only made available to a select number of senior party members and officials, beginning with the party leader.  Hence for party MPs, published opinion polls provide an insight into how their party is traveling short of the feedback they receive from their own electorate as a sitting member.

Politicians of all persuasions keep a close eye on the polls.  In many ways, it’s an employment barometer, particularly for marginal seat holders.

What is clear is that the Government continue to lag the ALP in the polls and Bill Shorten continues to lag Malcolm Turnbull as preferred Prime Minister.

Despite all the excitement and expectation, the nation felt when Malcolm Turnbull became Prime Minister, there is now a large collective sigh as the nation ponders what could have been.

It is against this backdrop that Bill Shorten, as unpopular as the polls say he is, may well be our next Prime Minister providing the politics of energy don’t ‘zap’ him on the way to the lodge.

For more information, regarding this or any other public affairs issue you may require assistance with please don’t hesitate to contact me or visit the Insight Strategy website at

IMAGE CREDIT: Gannawara TImes



What’s the deal with Dual Citizenship

With the Government having floundered through the same sex marriage debate –  the last thing Malcolm Turnbull needed was the legitimacy of his Deputy Prime Minister, Barnaby Joyce being questioned under section 44(i) of the Constitution.

The current political debate regarding the dual citizenship of a number of MPs has taken off like a bush fire on a hot dry summers day. Just as the Opposition questions the legitimacy of the Government, the Government is now questioning Bill Shortens citizenship. Continue reading “DUAL CITIZENSHIP DEJA VU”


At a Glance

As they say, ‘the trend is your friend’ and with the latest Newspoll showing Labor leading the Government by 53 to 47, on a two-party preferred basis, this poll is the 16th one in a row showing Labor in the lead.

In the last few weeks I’ve often been asked…. “why is Labor leading when their primary vote is still low and Bill Shorten continues to lag Malcolm Turnbull as preferred Prime Minister?”

The answer is, it all comes down to minor party preferences.  That is why we see Labor in front in the polls.

So, what is going on?

Political Disruption is the New Norm

There is no doubt that the Australian electorate is basically sick and tired of politics as usual and people are increasingly rejecting both major political parties.

The latest Newspoll has the Greens on 9%, One Nation on 9% and ‘others’ on 9%.  So more than 1 in 4 Australians are basically voting for anybody other than Labor or Liberal.

We see Labors primary vote at 37% and the Liberals at 36%.

Traditionally, Labor receives strong support via Greens preferences, however unusually, Labor is getting strong support from parties on the right such as One Nation, to put it in front of the Government.

What is happening on the right of Australian politics is a phenomenon that the left went through many years ago.  It resulted in a permanent cannibalisation of Labors left wing vote and the rise of the Greens.

The Greens now consistently poll around 10% of the Federal vote, votes that traditionally would have been received by Labor.

This institutionalised Green vote also sees on average 70% flow back to the ALP via preferences and in some cases, it can be around 80% depending upon the federal seat.

Currently on the right this same process of cannibalisation is taking place.

It is a process in transition and therefore many right-wing votes that would traditionally be the home of the Liberal party, are leaking to the ALP via preferences.

With One Nation currently capturing a large chunk of traditional liberal party voters and other parties like Cory Bernardi’s Australian Conservatives and David Leyonhjelms Liberal Democrat Party, eating away at the Liberal Party base, the Liberal Party vote has falling from 42% at the last federal election to its current 36%.

This has become as problem for the Government.

It is yet to become an institutionalised block of voters on the right of the political spectrum, therefore the Coalition are seeing multiple parties vying for their supporters with a sufficient number of these votes leaking to the ALP giving them a lead in the polls.

The Point in Question

The Queensland Federal seat of Herbert stands as a good example of this phenomenon.

At the 2016 election, Labor won the seat by 37 votes with only 30.5% of the primary vote versus the sitting Liberal member who polled 35.5% of the primary vote.

Labor won, because they did exceptionally well with Green preferences as would be expected, but also because of right wing preferences.

Labor received 65% of Green preferences to the Liberals 12%, and the remainder went to other minor parties.  When One Nation preferences were distributed (representing a total of 21% of votes cast), Labor secured 53% versus 47% for the Liberals.

All in all, this is problematic for the Government.  For while Labor on the left, will always receive a block of preferences from the Greens, on the right, that vote is fragmenting across multiple right-wing parties and not flowing back to the Government sufficiently in preferences.

What Does this mean for the Coalition?

 Currently One Nation is the main beneficiary of the drop-in support for the Government.

This does not mean that all of One Nations support has come from the Liberal Party, it is eating into Labors vote as well, but not to the same degree.

But unlike for the ALP where the Greens have become institutionalised on the left of the political spectrum, on the right of the political spectrum it is still in a state of flux.

There are many minor parties competing to become the institutionalised party on the right of the political spectrum.

For the Coalition, this means until a party emerges on the right to solidify and capture permanently that element of right wing voters who want another political home other than the Liberal Party – it will most likely continue to struggle in the polls.

This is the challenge for the Government.  If it can’t get those right-wing voters back to directly supporting the Coalition, how does it get them back via preferences, like Labor does via the Greens to bolster its overall vote?

Now, those voters supporting right wing minor parties, led currently by One Nation, are effectively spraying their preferences, which is why Labor is ahead in the polls, despite Malcolm Turnbulls’ consistent lead over Bill Shorten as preferred Prime Minister.


The Liberal party primary vote is depressed because a plethora of right wing minor parties are eating away at the Liberal party vote.

These right wing minor parties are all seeking to claim the mantle as being the true representative of conservative voters in Australia.  At a minimum, they are giving disgruntled traditional Coalition voters, a multitude of choices of where they can now park their vote.

In do so, with multiple choices, it also gives multiple opportunities for a sufficient number of these votes to leak to the ALP and put them in front.

Until a party on the right emerges like the Greens did on the left, to capture and institutionalise right wing voters which can then be directed back to the Liberal party via preferences, the Coalitions overall two-party preferred vote will continue to struggle.

For more information, in regard to this or any other public affairs issue you may require assistance with please don’t hesitate to contact me or visit the Insight Strategy website at

Image credit: Herald Sun






At a Glance

Post budget, the desired ‘bounce in the polls’ seems to have eluded the Turnbull Government.

In my 25 years-experience it’s rare to see a budget, even one that was generally well received, turn around a Governments electoral fortunes immediately. The political success or otherwise of the budget, will be clearer in 6 months and not just 4 weeks after it was handed down.

One would imagine a continuing concern for the Government would be that their primary vote continues to languish around 36%.  Malcolm Turnbull cannot be re-elected on a primary vote this low.

At the July 2016 Federal election, the Government scrapped over the line with a one seat majority with 42% of the vote. in the 17/18 budget, there was one proposal designed to capture votes – the $6 billion bank levy.

A Liberal Government is always seen as a natural ally of big business, but this one measure in itself led by the Prime Minister, a former banker, shows that for big business in particular, all bets are off when it comes to natural allies in Canberra.

Low Hanging Fruit

The announcement of the bank levy, while taking the banks by surprise has certainly been strongly welcomed by the community.

In his post speech, the Treasurer warned the banks not to pass the levy onto consumers in saying, “They really don’t like you”, in referring to ‘they’ , he was speaking on behalf of the community.

The imposition of the bank levy offers several lessons for business to heed more generally.

Firstly, if the Government can impose a $6 billion tax on the banks then it can similarly act at will in regard to any other industry that has lost both community and political support.

The banks were completely blind-sided, there was no consultation with them by the Government.  If there ever was a single demonstration of what political risk looks like, this was it.

Secondly, while banks have never been popular, after years of numerous inquiries, consumer complaints, warnings from politicians, regulators and consumer bodies, banks have learnt what ignoring those warnings now costs – $6 billion and a near permanent stain on their reputation.

With the Coalition, more than willing to throw what would have been considered a natural business ally under the bus, it would be foolish for other industries to sit back and say ‘this couldn’t happen to us’.

Any large industry, with a major consumer presence, has to be alert to the concerns of its customers, the community and politicians.  It about managing and constantly improving their social licence to operate.

It’s clear that politicians, regardless of their political persuasion are not going to go into bat for big business.  Quite simply, there are no votes in doing so.

Politically, the banks have managed to effectively unite both major parties against them – that in itself is quite a feat.

In this environment, big business is facing heightened political risk and needs to be actively managing their political risk profile in their engagement with Canberra.  Not to do so puts them at risk of being the next piece of low hanging fruit that the Government may choose to target in their desire for votes.

Start Planning for the Next Federal Election

If you cast your mind back to October last year Insight Strategy predicted that the next Federal election was most likely to be held in the latter half of 2018.

Essentially, there are three key reasons for this:

  • The Senate
  • The Victorian State election
  • The NSW State election

Last year’s double dissolution election meant that half the Senate was elected for three year terms, which expire on 30 June 2019.

As a consequence, the latest a simultaneous House and Senate election can be held is the 18th May 2019, in order to meet both constitutional and electoral law requirements.

The Victorian state election is fixed at the end of November 2018, as is the NSW state election at the end of March 2019.  This gives the Turnbull Government a limited window in which to hold a federal election.

The Prime Minister needs to be able to engage the electorate in which to articulate his policies and vision for the nation’s future and this requires time.

Remember as well, a minimum 33 days is required to pass from the calling of the election to holding the election.

Hypothetically, if the Prime Minister wanted to call the Federal election after the NSW election, it would mean calling the election around mid-April 2019.  This would also overlap with both Easter and Anzac Day limiting their campaign opportunities.

Most Governments want a minimum of 6 months without other events (such as state elections) interfering with their campaign strategy in which to ‘sell its message’ and persuade the electorate.

For these reasons, Insight Strategy is predicting the next federal poll will be in August/September 2018.

Business needs to be factoring this into their forward planning and also begin considering what a change in Government might mean for their business objectives given the current state of the polls.

2018 will be a busy election year all round.  State elections are due in Tasmania, South Australia and Queensland in early 2018, and the Victorian election in late November.

It’s going to be a challenging year for business, as they to prepare for 5 elections in one year. Businesses need to build this into their forward strategic planning and their approach to political risk management and Government engagement strategies.


Let the $6 billion bank levy serve as warning to all businesses of what the implications can be if they don’t listen to consumer, customer and political concerns.

It is unprecedented for one industry sector to be hit with a $6 billion levy and not be part of the dialogue.  A good conversation with Canberra, requires business to be an equally good listener. There is no point going to Canberra just to broadcast your message, if you also don’t plan on addressing concerns political stakeholders have raised.

In the current political environment being ‘big’ is almost synonymous with being ‘bad’.  The community will automatically look to any ‘big’ business with a degree of cynicism and suspicion.

Any business that falls into this category needs to make sure they are carefully managing their message with Canberra and consumers.

As the banks have discovered,  these are interesting political times .  The question is who could be next, as both parties seek votes in time for the 2018 election?

For more information, in regards to this or any other public affairs issue you may require assistance with please don’t hesitate to contact me or visit the Insight Strategy website at

Image credit: Financial Review


At a Glance

The Federal Parliament is now in recess until the May Budget, with the Government looking to ‘lock down’ it down. The budget remains a major issue for the Government facing the ongoing challenge of ‘debt and deficit’.

Scott Morrison is seeking the political kudos that comes from being perceived as ‘a superior economic manager’, but budget repair is proving ever more elusive. Continue reading “POLITICAL TARGETS”


At a Glance

It’s been a challenging start to the year for the Government.

In January, the then Minister for Health was caught up in a travel rorts scandal that led to her resignation.  Senator Bernardi jumped ship to the Senate crossbench and George Christensen MP is looking ever more likely to join the crossbenchers in the House of Representatives, having announced his resignation as a parliamentary whip.

Couple this with the latest Newspoll showing the Government trailing the Opposition by 45-55 on a two-party preferred basis.

If the first two months are any indication, the Prime Minister is in for a rough ride for the rest of 2017. Continue reading “HAPPY NEW YEAR MR. TURNBULL?”