US Election, Turnbull Govt Down Again, Climate Change, Aboriginal Recognition

US Election Result

Too much has already been said and written about interpreting the victory by Donald Trump and why it was not predicted. But some aspects have been overlooked or given too little attention. This is partly because almost all of the media either predicted or wanted a Hillary victory and many of them do not want now to accept that government regulation of and interference in the lives of individuals and businesses has gone too far.   Associated with that has been the failure to accept the possibility that there could be a reversal of that intrusion, and that Trumps’ “swamp” in Washington might be heavily drained. What is involved here is not just a matter of actually stopping or reducing government intrusion: it requires reducing the expectation that governments will or should come to the rescue when there is a marked change in circumstances. The failure to deal with that expectation appears to have particularly affected voting in US manufacturing states where Trump succeeded.

Of course, it  remains to be seen whether Trump has the capacity to reduce the role of government and the bureaucracy that supported and promoted it. It is too early to make any assessment of the likely extent of its realisation against what will be fierce opposition. The first signs are that while Trump appeared to be operating on his own in the long campaign, it now appears that he may have had behind the scenes a competent group assisting and/or ready to be Cabinet members or heads of important government departments. He should be helped by both sides of Congress being in Republican hands even though a number of Republicans opposed his election and some have favoured government intrusion or not opposed it. Former Speaker Boehner was one of those and his resignation, before Trump established himself as a candidate, sent a signal that Republicans themselves needed to change their thinking. The new Speaker, Paul Ryan, is not a member of the Tea Party but seems a small government man.

Too little attention has also been given to the comparison between the voting outcomes of both Clinton and Trump and the outcomes of their predecessors, Obama and Romney in 2012. These show that, while Trump won about the same number of votes as Romney, Clinton got about 6.5 million fewer. That’s a big number. In short, Trump didn’t win, Clinton lost and that reinforces the assessment that many voters were concerned about the role being played by the existing government, both domestically and externally.

The view on the external side was the opposite: too little US government involvement under the Obama Presidency. Trump’s slogan of making America great again attracted the attention of voters even though it also created uncertainty as to exactly what it might involve. But the promise of additional defence expenditure suggests no isolationism. Further, the signal that the administration of immigration policy will be tightened supports those who seek a similar tightening in other countries and for the policies already adopted by the Coalition in Australia. While it is unclear exactly what policy Trump will adopt in regard to Muslim immigrants, the signal there is broadly consistent with our existing policy but may also help with the tightening that is needed so as to reduce the risk of terrorist activity here from both immigrants and those already here and/or in jail.

The US outcome is discussed further in this article from the US journal NATIONAL REVIEW on “The Great Progressive Repudiation”. Note in particular the author’s assessment that Obama’s role contributed to the withdrawal of 6.5 million voters viz, “The electorate might still like the man named Barack Obama, but they don’t like his agenda, they don’t like his allies, and many millions don’t like progressive bullies”. Note also his view that “the GOP enjoys a historic political and cultural opportunity” if  Trump has the capacity to follow through. (GOP is of course the Grand Old Party).

Arguably, the same can be said for the Australian Coalition. But it does not at present have the leadership to implement the possible adoption of Trump-like policies.

Turnbull Govt’s TPP Down Again

The latest Newspoll showed only a slight drop in the Turnbull government’s TPP (from 48 to 47), but its primary vote remained below 40 for the fourth successive poll (only 1 percentage point higher than Labor’s) and the poll represents a swing of 3.4% against it, equivalent to a loss of 17 seats in an election. Both leaders had an unchanged net satisfaction ratio, with Turnbull on minus 28 and Shorten on minus 15 (see Coalition TPP down to 47). While all of this occurred, of course, before the Trump victory, the implication from that should support a policy of smaller government. Yet none of that emerged from a press conference after the poll at which Turnbull declared “I am governing, I am leading, I am delivering”.

By contrast, Abbott drew attention to the fact that the polls had been against Trump, just as they had been against him when Turnbull challenged him. Speaking on ABC, he added “So we have a problem. More and more people are feeling less and less represented by mainstream political parties.” Mr Abbott went on to warn that without “strong, centre-right” leaders, voters would seek leadership from alternative politicians and parties. “If people are unhappy with the conventional standard bearers, they will find new standard bearers,” he said.“If you don’t have a strong centre-right party, a strong and sensible conservative party, people who are looking for what might broadly be described as conservative positions will find other people to represent them. This is something that mainstream politicians ignore at their peril.”

It’s a fair bet that, unless Turnbull very clearly enunciates a small government “philosophy”, the next Newspoll will see a further drop in the Coalition’s TPP. Adoption of such a philosophy will not get legislation through the Senate, but it could help restore the TPP and stave off a potential challenge from Abbott. One obvious improvement in policy would be to indicate that the passage of legislation restoring the ABCC’s regulatory powers is not sufficient. As Chris Corrigan (former reducer of union power on the wharves) said during last week, that is only the first step to the reforms needed in workplace relations.

Climate Change

During last week I was in Canberra and in addition to visiting my alma mater I attended presentations on global warming at Parliament House by Senator Malcolm Roberts, Professor Tim Ball (from Canada), and Tony Heller (from Colorado in the US). Similar presentations were made in Melbourne and Sydney.  But, despite showing extensive data and convincing analyses in support of the view that there is no threat of dangerous warming (and indicating that some published temperatures and sea levels considerably over state their  increase), they received little publicity. It is evident that, despite the increasing challenge by qualified scientists (and others) to the dangerous warming view, many politicians and business leaders have swallowed that view and have locked themselves into a mindset without making any proper inquiry. The penetration of this mindset will require direct attention to their false statements on the issue and the drawing of attention to what emerges in the new US.

My letter published in the Financial Review on 5 November under the heading Climate change not the world’s greatest concern supported such an approach and refers to “the United Nations latest annual poll surveying people’s greatest concerns across the world. This shows that, of the 16 concerns surveyed, action taken on climate change is the least. Yet existing spending on climate change objectives now runs at about $1.5 trillion a year worldwide and about $4 billion a year in Australia. Reductions of such spending by governments would increase funding available for other UN concerns, with education being the greatest”. It also draws attention to the detection of “serious deficiencies in analyses by existing agencies, such as CSIRO, Bureau of Meteorology, and the Chief Scientist. That supposed experts exaggerate their causes is well-documented but they must not be exempt from review.  The appointment of Garth Paltridge, a former CSIRO climate expert, to the 25-member Advisory Council of the British Global Warming Policy Foundation shows numerous experts who could undertake such a review” (see full text attached).

Turnbull, however, announced the ratification of the Paris accord immediately after Trump’s election (see Turnbull Press Conference on Paris Ratification).  While he said that Australia’s policy will be reviewed next year, that review is stated as being to ensure that we meet our pledge to reduce emissions by 26-28% (compared with 2005) by 2030 viz, “We will review our climate and energy policies next year to ensure that we meet, as we believe we will and are committed to do, to meet our 2030 targets under the agreement”. To provide the leadership that is needed to recover the Coalition’s polling he could have said that “our review will include an assessment of the situation that arises from any change in policy under the Trump Presidency”.

If it emerges under Trump that the US will drop its objective on emissions, or even simply allows them to increase further than they otherwise would do, that would surely make a huge difference to the global picture because the US accounts for the second largest proportion of global carbon emissions (about 14.5%)  while China accounts for about 24%. Even if China were to stick with the agreement Xi made with Obama in 2014, which  provided for China to reduce emissions “intensity” by 60% by 2030, that would still mean an increase in Chinese total emissions because the reduction is in per unit of GDP and as GDP increases so too do emissions. That Chinese pledge was retained under the Paris agreement while the US pledge there provided for a 28% reduction in total emissions by 2025. Trump may well argue that the “tougher” US pledge is contributing to the difficulty it is experiencing in competing with exports from China, which has the US as its major market.

Beyond this it is important to note that the Paris pledges are voluntary and the US does not presumably have to wait for four years  before effecting a formal withdrawal from the agreement (as is provided in that agreement): it can simply allow emissions to occur freely in its market economy.  It is also pertinent that, even if all pledges made under the agreement are met, Section 34 of that agreement contains an estimate that global emissions would still be 11-23% higher in 2030 than in 2010. Hence the Paris agreement is not an agreement that will reduce emissions by 2030.

In short, the Coalition government has scope to use its review of its climate and energy policy next year to legitimately reduce its emissions objective. Such a decision could be based on its assessment of submissions by qualified climate scientists whose considered views have not previously been considered and of the new situation created by the Trump Presidency. It could also justify a reduction in emissions on the basis that our present target is one of the largest in G20 countries.

Aboriginal Recognition 

Attached is an important analysis and warning  by Keith Windschuttle published in the November edition of Quadrant, of which Keith is the Editor-in-Chief. There is no scope here to describe and give adequate credit to this analysis, which will be addressed again by the author next month and which is also the subject of a book by him.  Suffice to say that it postulates that, if a referendum is held and it gives some form of special recognition to Aborigines in the Constitution, it is likely that this will allow  the creation of a separate Aboriginal state within Australia. Indeed the title of the article  is Break Up of Australia Part1.

At first glance, it seems strange to think that a referendum to recognise Aborigines in the Constitution, and it’s approval,  could result in a break-up. But Windschuttle’s conclusion is based on what has already been done to accord what many would regard as special treatment already. Even if the constitutional recognition is expressed in only the most general of terms, it becomes the final necessary step to sovereignity. It also reflects the support for recognition shown in polling and by both Abbott and Turnbull in the Coalition.

Windschuttle concludes his article as follows:

“Most Australians today regard constitutional recognition as a courteous symbolic gesture with no real consequences. At most, the more concerned among them see it in terms of the original inhabitants being recognised as valued citizens of our tolerant and generous nation. However, a constitutional amendment of this kind would provide a bargaining position for a local black state to exert far more influence over our national government than anyone now imagines. It would also provide a political platform from which to play to a world audience and to make allies who would not necessarily share mainstream Australian interests. When Michael Mansell visited Libya in the late 1980s to seek aid for his Aboriginal Provisional Government from the Muslim dictator Colonel Gaddafi, the Australian media treated him as a joke. But if Mansell had been an officer of a sovereign Aboriginal state, and if he had gone there at any time in the past decade and a half, it would not have been so amusing.

In its own interests, mainstream Australia has no reason to provide even the slightest leverage for such possibilities, or to leave future generations with their consequences. Aboriginal sovereignty poses long-term risks for Australian sovereignty which, however slender they might now seem, are not worth running. Voters in the proposed referendum need to recognise that the ultimate objective of constitutional recognition is the establishment of a politically separate race of people, and the potential break-up of Australia”.

The question of constitutional recognition is an issue which the Samuel Griffith Society intends to address at its next annual conference in Perth in August 2017 – if the referendum is not held and approved beforehand. The objects of the Society do not say anything directly about Aboriginal rights but past meetings have heard numerous presentations on various Aboriginal issues. My recollection is that majority opposition has been expressed to having a constitutional recognition referendum.

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