The US Secretary of State , Tillerson, has made a major speech in which he effectively says the US will increase its political and military roles in the Middle East.The attached report by the Washington Post (not generally supportive of Trump) says: “Tillerson listed vanquishing al-Qaeda, ousting Iran and securing a peace settlement that excludes President Bashar al-Assad as among the goals of a continued presence in Syria of about 2,000 American troops currently deployed in a Kurdish-controlled corner of northeastern Syria. His comments represented the most comprehensive and ambitious articulation of Washington’s often-contradictory policy in Syria since President Trump took office a year ago, and they underline the extent to which the war against the Islamic State has inevitably also entangled the United States in the region’s other conflicts.
It appears that the protests in Iran have virtually ceased following deaths and many arrests by the Revolutionary Guard. However, according to a Reuters report Supreme Leader Khamenei still felt it necessary to make a public statement that “citizens had a right to air legitimate concerns, a rare concession by a leader who usually voices clear support for security crackdowns.These concerns must be addressed. We must listen, we must hear. We must provide answers within our means", Mr Khamenei was quoted as saying, hinting that not only the government of Rouhani, but his own clerical leadership must also respond”. "I'm not saying that they must follow up. I am also responsible. All ofus must follow up" (see attached Khamenie Statement 10 Jan).
Another development in the debate on climate policy is the publication of an article in the AFR by journalist Aaron Patrick reporting that the executive director of the IPA, John Roskam, told him that “The majority of federal Liberal MPs are not convinced the science behind climate change is settled and support reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases for political reasons”. He said “he hadn't conducted a formal count but found most Liberal politicians shared his doubts about what many experts say is the greatest global threat to mankind” (see AFR Aaron Patrick on Sceptics on Climate Change).
I referred yesterday to the publication in the AFR of my letter headlined “Emission Target should be Reviewed”. This raised the possibility that Australia might follow the three largest emitters (China, India and the US) by dropping our target of a 26-28% reduction in emissions by 2030. Today I also had the following letter (abbreviated by Ed) published in The Australian
I concluded my Commentary last Sunday with the view that the Blueprint published by Chief Scientist Finkel has so many deficiencies that it is “not acceptable as a basis for Australia’s climate policy”. On Monday, The Australian’s political correspondent Crowe wrote a rather accommodative report on what he described as Finkel’s “first response to critics of the blueprint” but he offered little criticism or questioning of the Blueprint . His report was accompanied on digital by a five page conversation with Finkel which posed only limited questions. Nor (surprisingly) did he refer to any of the criticisms of Blueprint in News Ltd articles published on Saturday by Terry McCrann and Judith Sloan and yesterday on The Australian’s opinion page by expert climate analyst William Kininmonth (see Kininmonth on Finkel).
It is always difficult to interpret meetings between two leaders of countries and many words have been written about Malcolm Turnbull’s meeting with President Trump. In this instance the interpretation is made more difficult than usual because most of the meeting was in public and the two leaders were not inclined to be critical of each other. Perhaps the most important outcome (sic) is that it confirmed the importance for Australia of the US alliance. That Turnbull showed he could handle Trump should ceteris paribus also help his polling.
The Newspoll published yesterday showed a return of the Coalition to the rating of 47/53 after the upward blip to 48/52 in mid March. Turnbull’s net satisfaction rate continued to slide, now to the worst since becoming PM, while Shorten’s rose to be a fraction above Turnbull’s (the graph below tells a story in itself). The only poll now favouring Turnbull is the Better PM one but even there his rating fell while Shorten’s improved to 32/41. As The Australian’s Political Editor has pointed out, “The message is that voters are in no mood to reward Turnbull for making progress on his old agenda. Why should they, if they think he is heading in the wrong direction? For any other prime minister, the solution would be a bold new direction on a social or economic issue, but this is fraught with danger for Turnbull … The alarms are sounding for the entire Coalition, not just the Prime Minister. Turnbull cannot win from making incremental progress alone. He will have to do something far more dramatic”.
Today’s Australian has devoted its entire Letters section to energy policy and the use of renewable as a part of climate change policy. My letter is published below and other letters are attached and are in a similar critical vein. They include one from Professor O’Brien (Adjunct to WA University), a physicist who has long been a critic of the so-called “consensus” on climate change - one of those many academics who do not subscribe to the “group” view which has prevailed for the last 30 or so years and whose views have been swallowed hook line and sinker by many political and business leaders.
My previous Commentary on 18 Jan drew attention to the quite wide differences in the increase in global land temperature since 1979 between official government agencies and the satellite operated by the University of Alabama. I indicated that there should be no significant difference between the official agencies and the satellite increases and suggested that the higher increase published by the official agencies reflected significant errors by them. The comparative figures indicated that these errors could amount to 0.4C of the total increase of about 0.8C accepted by the IPCC et al since 1900. I noted also that the “natural” increase during the Pacific Decadal Oscillation from the late 1970s to around 2000 was about 0.4C and that, taking account also of errors, this means there could well have been little or no increase in global land temperature since 1900 due to human activity.
During the first of the two weeks break from Parliament (Yes, it must have had the fewest meeting days for some years!), Turnbull spent some time in Queensland, possibly reflecting the number of marginal seats there and with One Nation seen as posing an increasing threat (although it’s polling percentage for Australia dropped slightly in the latest Newspoll). Of course, PMs are on the job all the time and when there is some spare time they can buy votes.