Since the election on July 2, Turnbull has continued his record of mistaken decisions as to both substance and process, plus a failure to indicate what substantive policies will be pursued other than the legislation already foreshadowed to restore the Australian Building and Construction Commission and to make unions more accountable under the registered organisation arrangements. But unless the (recounted) loss of Herbet by 37 votes is successfully challenged and another election held there (which seems too risky a venture), he has a majority of only one in the Reps and a deficit of 16 in the Senate.This means that if the two houses sit together he would need 9 votes from cross benchers (who include no less than 4 from One Nation and 3 from Xenophon) to obtain a majority to pass that legislation, which is a possibility but clearly uncertain. It is of some importance to climate change and extremist terrorist policy that One Nation ended up with 4 Senate seats, including one held by a sceptic (Malcolm Roberts) on global warming who is well versed in the data.
The arithmetic indicates the ongoing difficulty of governing over the next three years under a government that has no mandate and is led by a PM who has shown no abilityto lead a party which has a strong group of small government supporters and no capacity to tackle the major policy issues. The possibility of Coalition members crossing the floor is enhanced and under Turnbull the Liberal Party membership may well decline. An indication of such a possibility is provided by the response to Senator Cory Bernardi’s invitation to join a conservative group, which has already attracted 50,000 members and has raised enough money to appoint a spokesperson (Liberal Party membership is said to be about 80,000).
Northern Territory Royal Commission
Turnbull decided to establish a Royal Commission on juvenile detention policy in the NT almost immediately after watching an ABC TV program which purported to show unjustified use of violence by staff to control aggressive Aboriginal juveniles. The program included the portrayal of a youth strapped to a chair and wearing a hood to prevent him spitting (see picture below). It appears Turnbull made this decision without any investigation of the accuracy of the ABC program and without checking on the causes and difficulty of controlling such delinquents. It is by no means clear that violent action is not justified in certain circumstances, such as preventing self harm.
With Attorney General Brandis’s agreement, Turnbull also appointed a Royal Commissioner without checking on a possible conflict of interest (which was pretty clear to almost anyone checking the Commissioner’s record). Fortunately the Commissioner himself decided to resign one day later. But Turnbull then agreed, with Brandis, to appoint two Royal Commissioners of whom one is Aboriginal. This decision appears to have been made in response to complaints (including by Shorten) that without an Aboriginal a decision by a Royal Commissioner would not be accepted by the Aboriginal community. However it was apparent that the appointment has been made despite a prior public statement by the Aboriginal that the NT Government should be sacked. Although he subsequently retracted the statement, it must affect the credibility of the RC report.
Below is an article on this incident by Andrew Bolt, who argues that either Brandis or the Aboriginal must go. My view is that Turnbull has not only botched this decision and should be the one to retract.He saw it as an opportunity to become involved in an issue for which he would be praised. He could have simply asked his relevant Minister (Scullion) to investigate.
Rudd & UN Sec General
Turnbull’s decision not to support the appointment of Rudd as UN Secretary General was warranted even though he might have been a better candidate than the others who are seeking the appointment. The UN should not be regarded as an important body (rather the contrary) and Australia is better placed to be able to readily attack or praise its decisions with a foreigner appointee. That is not to rule out the support of an appointment of a former Opposition leader to an international body: if Rudd had been a more “sober” candidate he could have been “acceptable”.
However, Turnbull’s handling of the Rudd issue appears to have been faulty in having given the impression some time ago that he (Rudd) at least had a chance of being given Australian support.
Bank Interest Rates
Another example of poor performance by Turnbull is his too-quick decision to call on the banks to explain why they have not passed on the full amount of the Reserve Bank’s 25 basis points cut in official rates. Turnbull also ran a different line to that by Treasurer Scott Morrison, who had commented initially that “it’s for the banks to explain, not the government”. There has not necessarily been full pass-ons for some time and the banks quickly responded by pointing out that other costs have not come down. Once the banks had made that point Turnbull changed his position and “ordered” the banks’ executives to appear once a year before the Reps committee on Finance. (See this article from AFR).
Again, Turnbull’s handling of this issue appears to reflect an attempt to present himself as on top of policy matters when in fact he went off half cocked.
US Defence Policy
As Obama suddenly decided that the US would start air strikes against IS in Libya, the Syrian government under Asaad has continued to conduct its air strikes against “rebels” in Aleppo with support from Russia. According to one report 300,000 are now trapped in the Aleppo“city” (or what little of it is left) and Asaad will in effect take over Syria and Russia will have established a secure foothold in the Middle East. The West will have vacated, thanks mainly to Obama’s decision not to involve the US after initially threatening to do so. (See this article on Russia in Mid East). The US should at least conduct air strikes against Assad’s air force.
Meantime, the US has condemned the latest North Korean launch of ballistic missiles, as has Japan. One such missile landed 250km off the Japanese coast (for the first time inside Japan’s EEZ) and N Korea claims it has miniaturized a nuclear warhead for the missile. The US installation of an anti-missile system in S Korea is not scheduled for completion until the end of next year.
This is an excellent OpEd article in the AFR by the executive director of the HR Nicholls Society on the Federal Court handling of CFMEU disruption of the site of the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games stadium.