Turnbull & G20, Iran Threat, Andrews Poll Down; Obama’s Dr on Hilary

Turnbull – Mis-Managing Parliament but Will G20 Help

While Turnbull himself could not be blamed for the absence of three ministers and other Coalition MPs at the end of Thursday’s Reps session, he must have failed to emphasise to the whips and others  the importance of attending the first session after an election result which he had publicised as providing a majority. The absence of 10 Coalition MPs allowed Labor (which had obviously planned to take advantage of any absences) to indicate that this is another example of Turnbull of mis-management. And this theme has been taken up in the media too, including one suggestion that Turnbull lacks a “wingman” to support him in Parliament. Perhaps the failure to sack the Chief Whip, Pyne, illustrates the problem.

As one prominent journalist comments “you have to hand it to Malcolm Turnbull and his emergency reserves of optimism. Following the omnishambles of missing ministers and lost votes that capped his first week in the 45th parliament like a glistening pellet of bat guano on the gateau, the PM kicked off his interview with Neil Mitchell on Melbourne radio 3AW yesterday thus: ‘Good morning, Neil, great to be with you.’ It was an early high, after which the only direction was down. And as climbers of Everest will tell you, descent is the most dangerous bit. Instead of scree [rocky slopes] and crevasses, the PM encountered ‘losing control’, ‘rabble’, ‘farce’, ‘how the hell’, ‘supposedly in control of the house’, ‘lack of organisation’, and ‘lack of commitments’. By the time he came to chat with a pack of journalists, he dispensed with ‘great to be with you’ and stuck to a plain ‘hello’ (see James Jeffrey on Turnbull).

Will Turnbull  have an opportunity to recover some of this initial ground lost from the imminent G20 meeting in China? In an article in The Australian (see below)  he mistakenly argues that the “agenda of co-ordinated ­reform is more important than ever”. The reality is that members of G20 mostly focus on the domestic policies they have (separately) decided to pursue rather than the policies supposedly agreed at the meetings and included in the communiqués. An analysis by the prominent Cato think-tank in Washington DC (see this article on G20) points out that  “Domestic policies and institutional settings contribute to ­advancing the G20’s agenda, but these settings do not appear to ­depend on the G20 summit process in a measurable way.” When  in Treasury, for a period I advised the Australian Treasurer attending similar annual meetings held by the IMF and those meetings had similar insignificant influences on either domestic policies or on any “coordinated reform” that might occur incommuniqués. It would be surprising if the reference in Turnbull’s article to multi-national tax avoidance attracted much attention at the G20 meeting. One issue not mentioned in that article –debt problems – should be included in the communiqué but may not be favoured by the Chinese host.

Another example of the problems faced by Turnbull is the digging up by journalists of stories which seem to illustrate his indecisions but also denials by him which appear to be incorrect. A frequent contributor to The Australian, Professor Peter Van Olsen, has published a book entitled “The Turnbull Gamble” which caused Turnbull to accuse him in question time of making up stories about discussions in cabinet but for which Van Olsen claims to have multiple sources (see Van Olsen on Turnbull). There are other examples mentioned in the attached article which detract from Turnbull’s authority as PM.

Iran Nuclear Deal

I have previously expressed concern at the US/Iran nuclear deal which is claimed to be a major foreign policy achievement by Obama. An article in yesterday’s Australian adds to that concern in revealing that Iran appears to have been allowed (secretly) to keep enough uranium to convert for use in weapons (see Exemptions in Iran nuke deal).

This reinforces the presentation at an AIJAC lunch which I attended. The presenter, Simon Henderson, from the Washington Institute has published on Nuclear Iran: A Glossary of Terms but spoke mainly about Saudi Arabia on which he clearly  has considerable knowledge and is writing about the likely successor to the 80 year old King Fahd. He argued that SA is relatively stable and unlikely to experience a coup but is concerned about the threat from Shia Iran. We were told that senior Canberra officials (to whom he and Colin Rubenstein had spoken) wrongly assumed there are “moderates” amongst those running Iran (perhaps that explains why Julie Bishop visited the country). I asked whether the nuclear arrangements with Iran had led to other Middle Eastern countries taking steps to acquire nuclear weaponry. He said there have been no overt indications but that SA appears to have some agreement with Pakistan that provides access to the Pakistan cache. Interestingly, he also referred to the establishment of “talks” between SA and Israel, apparently reflecting the Saudi’s concern with Iran and the need for “friends”.

Hillary’s Health

Here is a report that Obama’s “long-time” doctor has said that Hillary Clinton should undergo a “thorough neurological examination” to see if she has lasting damage from a Dec. 2012 concussion she suffered after a fall. He also raised numerous questions during an interview over Donald Trump’s health. While the latter continues to be about 7 points behind in polling, most commentators say it is not over.

Andrews Polling

Yesterday’s Age published the first polling I have seen on Andrews and his government. While his government is ahead on a TPP basis (51/49), the Opposition leader, Matthew Guy, is ahead on preferred Premier (see Andrews Polling Collapses). Given the recent poor performance by Andrews, it is surprising that the Opposition is not polling better. There seems to be a reluctance to make more use of the close relationship of Labor with unions, which includes Jane Garrett who is quite close to Andrews in polling on who would be the best leader of the Labor Party. Garrett is reported as having a close relationship with the CFMEU ie one is tempted to say that the main existing issue with the Victorian government is which union should be given preference.

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