Although the ABC and SBS continue to convey concerns about Trump, the realisation that he seems to be on the right track is spreading, including by Turnbull. Of particular importance are the signs that he may have done a deal with China involving the putting of pressure on NK to change its missile threat policy. The article in today’s Australian by its first rate China correspondent, Rowan Callick, suggests that Trump may have persuaded XI to threaten Kim with a reduction in oil supply and in imports from NK (where about 80% of NK exports go). Callick also quotes a Chinese academic as saying publicly that “the fundamental interests of China and North Korea are now conflicting”. Such a statement would not be made in China unless the hint of a basic change had got around (see attached Chinese Policy on NK).
As mentioned in yesterday’s Commentary, the publication in The Australian of reports on the treatment of wives by Muslim men prompted me to circulate a Gatehouse report on various incidents involving Muslims in March in the UK. I also sent a letter to The Australian suggesting “the wives issue” raised a question about allowing the continued operation of Hitzb ut-Tahrir in Australia. That letter is below with two others on the issue, albeit one of which suggests that it would be discriminatory to point the finger at any particular group, including Muslims, which uses violence against women.
Most commentators, including Turnbull, welcomed or approved Trump’s decision to bomb a Syrian airport from where chemical bombs are alleged to have been dumped onthe rebel held Syrian town of Khan Sheikhun. Although some claim there is no proof that Syrian President Assad made the decision to bomb, the only alternative deliverer must have been his Russian ally. Hence, one way or another the Assad government of Syria implemented or approved the bombing of the Syrian town.
The lead up to the Budget (on Tues 9 May) is normally pretty quiet except for advance leaks by the government on what we might expect – or not. So far the main possibility being foreshadowed is action to reduce housing “affordability”, which sounds like a worrying move by a government which should be reducing expenditure. But as it happens, some other issues have emerged since Parliament had the break after two weeks in Canberra.
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.
Today’s Australian publishes an unchanged electoral position of the two major parties (TPPs of 50% each) but another reduction in Turnbull’s net satisfaction ratio. He is still well ahead of Shorten in the unchanged Better PM category (55/21). But the uncertainty about Coalition policy in various areas has been allowed by Turnbull to reach the point where an “early” election seems increasingly likely, with policies being unduly determined by electoral “demands” and Turnbull himself having a bigger say as to what is in the policies.
Today’s Newspoll shows the two major parties are now on the same TPP (down from a steady 53/47 for the Coalition). Although Turnbull remains clearly preferred as PM, his indecisiveness over whether to raise the GST/cut income tax and his failure to produce any new substantive economic policy has contributed to the downturn. Turnbull’s general approach of not ruling any policy in or out –and then not deciding on anything – has not helped and his net satisfaction rating is down to 10 compared with 38 in mid-November. As Rowan Dean put it in Saturday’s AFR, “Turnbull: The Force Awakens has lost business to Deadbill”.
Today’s news suggests that the US has made an important change in the handling of the Syrian/Iraq war. The US Defense Secretary, Ash Carter, is reported as stating that the US will “deploy a specialized expeditionary targeting force to Iraq to launch unilateral raids” and "put even more pressure" on ISIS. U.S. special operation forces will conduct operations in Iraq "at the invitation of the Iraqi government" and be in position "to conduct unilateral operations into Syria," Carter said. "We're at war. We're using the might of the finest fighting force the world has ever known," Carter told the House Armed Services Committee. "Tens of thousands of U.S. personnel are operating in the broader Middle East region, and more are on the way. " (see the attached “US Policy Change on Syria/Iraq?”).