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Various subjects

Today we have faced a wide range of interesting policy-related issues, most of which can only be touched on here.

  • Turnbull’s blogging has clearly involved the encouragement by him of criticisms of budget expenditure reductions;
  • Palmer is rightly portrayed as a problem of the first order for the Coalition and 7.30’s attempt tonight have a serious interview with him got nowhere. Like the aberrant Geoff Shaw in Victoria, it is difficult to see how he can be persuaded to act responsibly. As with Shaw (whose offences might expel him from Parliament), the only hope with Palmer seems to be that he is convicted for some offence. If the Shaw problem were to lead to an early Victorian election, in present federal/state polling circumstances that will be difficult for the Coalition to win;
  • With support from his main ministers, Obama has made an astonishing decision to agree that the Taliban hand back an American soldier who appears to have been a deserter in return for setting free some Taliban jihadists held at Guantanamo. It appears that secret negotiations have been conducted for some time. Perhaps Obama sees this as part of the alleged success of his withdrawal from Afghanistan.
  • Meantime, France has arrested four suspected of being jihadists who have returned from Syria and it has announced new measures designed to stop its citizens becoming radicalised. No details are reported of these measures but the French action adds to extant questions about American  policies designed to combat Muslim extremism in the Middle East (the Benghazi event is still running), not to mention Australian policies  at home for dealing with extremists from here who have gone to fight there. Last night the 7.30 report ran a sob story about the parents of an Australian convert who (with others) was killed in Yemen by a missile fired from a US drone. The report ended with a brief reference to the appropriateness of providing intelligence to the US from Pine Gap;
  • Obama’s decision to use the EPA to reduce by 30 per cent by 2030 the use of coal in producing electricity has been described as “nuts” by Boehner, the Republican Speaker of the House, and has been aggressively opposed by coal users and producers. However, the Supreme Ct decided some time ago that EPA has the power to restrict CO2 emissions. It appears that states will be involved in determining targets.

As this has been happening, the Australian group of earth scientists, with about 2,000 members, decided it could not reach an agreement on a policy statement on climate changes.

Although the Queensland Budget is still estimated to be in deficit in 2014-15, the government’s early start on reducing spending appears to have succeeded in a major underlying improvement.  If its program of asset sales is also successful, the debt problem inherited from Labor will be greatly reduced. The next Queensland election will be early in 2015.