In my Commentary for 17 January I noted that “there is no sign yet of a more comprehensive presentation of Coalition policies even though Turnbull has gone”. Recent developments have now raised the question of what Morrison is actually seeking to achieve as leader of the Coalition. For example, his three day visit to Vanuatu and Fiji, accompanied by his wife, and the announcement of financial provisions for extensive infrastructure and other aid have made it appear an important initiative for Australia
Trump’s sudden announcement that the US intends to “immediately withdraw” troops from Syria (and much reduced troops for Afghanistan) has caused much confusion as to US defence policy and, following the resignation of Mattis as Defence Secretary, Trump has found it difficult to get a replacement. While consistent with his election manifesto, Trump appears to have recognised that he was being too hasty and it appears he has accepted the view of National Security adviser, John Bolton, that the withdrawal be extended over a longer period and that it should first involve the elimination of IS (which Trump initially claimed had been achieved). Even so, policy uncertainty remains.
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.