While Morrison says he will not attempt an early election, the New Year is seeing the re- emergence of debate on issues such as border controls. It is pointed out that, while “Labor softened its asylum-seeker policy at its national conference last month by formally endorsing doctor-ordered medical evacuations off Manus Island and Nauru, it remains committed to boat turnbacks when safe to do so, offshore processing and regional resettlement.” But Morrison claims “they will abolish temporary protections visas and last year voted to end offshore processing as we know it in the parliament. And they had no clue what they had done’’
Today’s media contains reports which are of serious concern in regard to the capacity of governments and political leaders to operate or propound policies which are in the interests of communities considered as an entity rather than of particular groups. These are briefly described below and, except for two, the attachments.
In yesterday’s Commentary I suggested that the immediate media responses to the Summit missed two important points – Kim is no long in a closed shell and Trump has not been given adequate praise for bringing him out. The media has improved today but remains too equivocal about the prospects because very little agreed substance has emerged so far. We are left, therefore, with judgements about whether Kim and Trump will do what they say they will –and to what extent. The most readable assessment has been made by Cameron Stewart, who is posted in the US by The Australian and is well-equipped to assess Trump and other US leaders: nobody is equipped to assess Kim, of course. I am using Stewart’s article to draw attention to the main points of concern below (see Stewart on Summit).
The media response to the Summit between Trump and Kim Jong Un has been to welcome it but express reservations because there is little of substance to date. According to The Australian, “the intentions are clear but the details are missing”; Greg Sheridan asked whether the summiteers “laboured mightily to bring forth a mouse”; and The Age asked whether it is “a game changer”. But while these are legitimate questions, as are some of the other comments (see North Korea Must not be Allowed to Deceive Again and Trump, Kim Exchange Praise at Singapore Summit), they miss the two most important points.
What with the likely winners of both the women’s and men’s Australian tennis being Swiss and the address by Trump at Davos, the Swiss are in the News. Once again Trump found a phrase which helped rebut the criticism of his “America First” statement by adding “but not America alone” and, with China in mind, emphasising the need for “fair” trade as well as “free” . Separately, it is reported that Trump approved increased duties affecting about $US10bn of imports but it is not clear whether this was “justified” on a fair trade assertion. An article in The Economist, republished in yesterday’s The Australian, says that the actions were “broadly in line with the steer from the US International Trade Commission” and were weaker than sought.
In my Commentary of 1 January I drew attention to the absence of any substantive references in our media to the successful defeat of the ISIS caliphate by Iraqi and Syrian forces, with support provided by US and Australian forces. I drew particular attention to Trump’s delegation of decision-making to Secretary Tillerson and commanders in the field and to his indication that the defeat of ISIS was a priority. This contrasted with the dire situation a year ago described in a special press briefing given on 22 December by the US envoy for the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS (this was not reported in our media). His description of “a dire situation” may have reflected Obama’s policy of first requiring his clearance to take military action and his refusal to have US troops on the ground in Iraq (except for Special Forces).
I headed my Commentary on Sunday “Are Our Politicians in the Real World? and suggested that some of the behaviour and events in Canberra and one or two other states in the last couple of weeks indicated that our political body is, like Alice in Wonderland, acting outside the real world. I added that “It would be surprising if tomorrow’s Newspoll does not show a further decline in the Coalition’s rating, which would again emphasise the need to replace Turnbull if the Coalition wants an election chance”.
I suggested in yesterday’s Commentary that Turnbull’s activism over the past couple of weeks was a desperate attempt to help him survive as leader. But while the latest Newspoll has put Turnbull 11 points ahead in the Better PM category (only 8 points ahead last time), there was no change in Newspoll’s TPP (still at 47/53 as it was a fortnight ago). Also, even though the Coalition’s primary vote did improve slightly (from 35 to 36), this is 6 points lower than it was when elected a year ago and still leaves unchanged the problem with the basic policy being pursued by Turnbull. Relevant here too is that Labor’s primary vote also increased to 37 (from 36) (see Newspoll 24 July).
As I experienced a bout of flu, I have had a “enforced” quiet period for a week (my last Commentary was on Monday 17 July). During that past week, however, it was impossible not to notice Turnbull being unusually active on a number of political fronts attempting to improve the Coalition’s -- and his own-- polling. My conclusion is that any improvement is unlikely: rather the opposite.
In Friday’s Commentary I highlighted the editorial in The Australian saying “that Islamist terror cannot be bought off; it wants nothing less than a totalitarian caliphate for the planet. Jihad denialism, which wilfully obscures the wellsprings of Islamist violence, has limited appeal in Australia although its supporters include progressive elites with their media megaphones”. I also drew attention to the failure of Turnbull to make any reference to the likely source of the terrorist bombing in Manchester being Islamic and that he seemed “largely to be missing” from various references by other ministers to sources and the need for policy changes.