10
Apr
2018

Turnbull & Policy Issues Here & O’Seas

Turnbull Survives Newspoll 30

Today’s Australian runs a Letters section titled “Newspoll is not all bad news for the Prime Minister”. Indeed! Even though it includes eight leadership quality measures showing a quite sharp deterioration in Turnbull’s assessment (see yesterday’s Commentary on web), no Liberal Party MP comes forward to challenge Turnbull (partly because he or she realises the enormous task required to undo his decisions). This suggests we face with another year or so of Turnbullism.

Energy Policy

One of Turnbull’s decisions is to establish a policy named as National Energy Guarantee (NEG). Even though this has been the subject of discussion for many months, details of how it would work have not been published by the “experts” (ESB) who have been tasked with working them out (in fact, Turnbull has made the astonishing statement that they will not simply work them out but they rather than Cabinet will actually determine what they will be). But the stated objectives are that they will result in lower prices and ensure reliability (no blackouts) and that this will all be done while meeting the government’s renewable energy and 2030 emissions targets under the Paris Agreement to which Turnbull signed Australia. Moreover, it will be done while ensuring that the use of coal-fired generators (which have to be reduced if the targets are to be met) continue to supply 60 per cent of power.

Sound like a bit of a mix up?

In fact, Judith Sloan (see Sloan on NEG) draws attention to the questioning and contradictions arising from statements being made by Treasurer Morrison, Minister Freudenberg, existing Large Retailers, and the chief regulator of supply (AEMO) in the waiting room ie while waiting for the experts to decide (when I suspect there will be more questioning). These arise from attempts to (as she says) “hitch the wagon to the Prime Minister”. He of course is the PM who has emphasised the importance of science and innovation, the results of which are being felt by Australian citizens.

US Policy in Syria

In a previous Commentary I argued that it was important for the US to maintain, even increase, its currently small role in Syria as Assad (with Russian help) resumes some governance in Syria. Although Trump then indicated the US would pull out of Syria, following the use of chemical weapons by Assad & the Russians, and Israel’s decision to bomb an airbase in Syria,  he appears to have changed his mind (see OZ on Syrian Chemicalsand Israel Attacks Syrian Air Base). According to the attached editorial in The Australian, Trump responded to these developments by stating that  “if President Obama had crossed his stated Red Line in The Sand, the Syrian disaster would have ended long ago! Animal Assad would have been history!”. The editorial adds  “He will be similarly remiss, however, if he persists in pulling out US troops from Syria and leaving it to Russia and Iran as they underpin Assad and entrench themselves in the Middle East at Washington’s expense. It would be hard to imagine a set of circumstances more demanding of strong and resolute leadership from the US and the White House”.

Bolton’s Views on US Foreign Policy

As previously mentioned, the new National Security Adviser, John Bolton, may have persuaded Trump to change his mind on the Syrian involvement. It turns out that his first official involvement at the White House was attending an emergency session of the White House National Security Council on Syria. The Syrian issue is also the first one mentioned in a Breitbart note titled “Seven Crises John Bolton Faces on Day One as National Security Adviser”. This note provides a useful summary of Bolton’s views on US national security policy and, hence, on the US’s involvement in world affairs and its potential implications for Australia. The items covered in the note include (after Syria), Tensions with Russia, North Korea, Iran Nuclear Deal, Chinese Economic and Military Policy, Israel and Terrorism.

My reading of them is that they are generally on the right track and the note is well worth reading in full. As far as I am aware, there has been no attempt yet by Australia to arrange a meeting with Bolton.

Hungary and Immigration Policy

Hungarian PM Victor Orban has won his party’s third term with an increased vote. He has been described as “far right” mainly because of his alleged restrictive policies on immigrants and refugees. The attached report (Orban Increases Hungary Votes) suggests that Orban will likely seize on the results as vindication of his clashes with EU institutions over his hardline anti-immigration policies and rejection of the EU’s refugee resettlement program, as well as his moves to clamp down on civil society groups”. With a third victory he may soon cease to be described as “far right” and his success may encourage more attention to the cultural aspects of immigration.

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