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.
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).
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).