Support for Australian Government Rises Ahead of Election

January 30, 2019 Updated: January 31, 2019

Support for Australia’s conservative government edged higher over the last two weeks, a widely watched poll showed on Jan. 29, boosting Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s reelection prospects less than four months out from the next election.

The Newspoll published in The Australian newspaper showed the Liberal-National coalition government trails the main opposition Labor party by a margin of 53 percent to 47 percent on a two-party preferred basis under Australia’s preferential voting system, where votes from minor parties are redistributed.

A woman arrives to vote past electoral placards featuring photos of Bill Shorten, Leader of the Australian Labor Party and Malcolm Turnbull, Leader of the Liberal Party of Australia outside of a pre-poll voting centre for the 2016 federal election on June 16, 2016 in Melbourne, Australia. (Scott Barbour/Getty Images)

While still on course for an election defeat, the Newspoll is the best result for Morrison’s government since the ousting of former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in August 2018.

The removal of Turnbull, which ushered in Morrison as the sixth different prime minister in the last decade, saw voters abandon the government amid widespread anger at the ousting of the popular liberal lawmaker.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull during House of Representatives question time at Parliament House on September 15, 2015 in Canberra, Australia. (Stefan Postles/Getty Images)

Morrison’s government was quickly plunged into minority form after voters selected an independent to replace Turnbull, who quit politics shortly after his removal.

Morrison must return to the polls by May 2019, an election that is poised to be fought over inequality.

Morrison’s government, which late last year delivered its strongest fiscal outlook in 10 years, is expected to promise tax cuts and sweeteners in the final budget in April.

Labor has pledged to cut capital gains tax discounts and scrap a favorable tax scheme for owners of multiple properties, known as negative gearing, amid soaring house prices.

By Colin Packham

Aussie Billionaire Clive Palmer Plans to Ban Political Text Messages If Elected

Receiving unsolicited text messages from political parties could become a thing of the past in Australian federal politics if billionaire Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party is elected at the May general election.

“When elected [the] United Australia Party will ban unsolicited political text messages, which Labor and Liberal have allowed,” Queensland’s richest man said in a bulk text message dated Jan. 17. The text messages are understood to have been sent to an unknown number of cell phones from as early as Jan. 11.

The unconventional approach from Palmer, who according to the Financial Review Rich List has an estimated wealth totalling $2.84 billion ($2.03 billion), prompted a surge in interest, with 265,000 people accessing the party’s website and staying for more than one minute, Palmer told the ABC.

While many who commented seemed confused and upset about how UAP obtained their personal cell phone numbers, there were several who expressed support for the UAP’s alternative to the two-party monopoly held by the ruling centre-right Liberal Party and their left-leaning opposition, the Australian Labor Party.

Many people also responded to the campaign on the UAP Facebook page.

“Cannot wait for real change and common sense policies that serve the majority,” supporter Keegan Prior said on Facebook.

Another supporter, Troy Turner, said” “It’s your time to shine Clive. You have my support 100 percent.”

Others simply wanted to know how they could find out more about the UAP’s policies. “How can we contact you? I would like to know what your policies are regarding taxes, fuel prices, electricity prices and sustainable energy, failing education,” one comment read.

Palmer defended his decision to send the bulk text message that did not have an option to unsubscribe, saying it is currently legal under the Privacy Act for political parties to access voter details.

“We’ll be running text messages as we get closer to the election because it’s a way of stimulating debate in our democracy,” Palmer told the ABC.

Clive Palmer: Humble Meme Merchant, a retro-style platform game the UAP released via Google Play and the Apple App Store on Jan. 16, includes screenshots of newspaper stands with “fake news” headlines from “Pozz Feed,” suggesting Palmer may have ironically resorted to text messages to get his message out in order to counter the politically-biased media landscape in Australia.

[caption id="attachment_2784116" align="alignnone" width="600"] A screenshot of Clive Palmer: Humble Meme Merchant, a mobile platform game starring United Australia Party founder and billionaire Clive Palmer (left). (Screenshot/United Australia Party)[/caption]

The message also included a hyperlink that navigates users to a third-party website that said, “Authorised by S. Sokolova, United Australia Party, Brisbane.”

According to the government-funded Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), the website is registered to one of Palmer’s staff, James McDonald.

UAP Senator for New South Wales Brian Burston was unaware of the bulk text messages until he was asked by the media for his comment.

Burston said that while he did not consider such text messages “offensive,” he acknowledged that “some people may be offended.” He agreed with Clive’s view that going forward, such unsolicited political text messages should be banned and that he would do so if reelected, along with the UAP to the federal government, at the next election.

Burston added that another option he would consider was “rather than ban them, just allow people to unsubscribe,” according to the ABC.

“It’s something that you can just delete or ignore. Same as Facebook, if you get abusive or un-useful messages on Facebook you can just ignore them or delete them,” Burston told the ABC.

There has been no official date announced for the election but it is widely speculated that it could take place in May, after Prime Minister Scott Morrison hands down the 2019 federal Budget in April.

Richard Szabo contributed to this article

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