As might be expected with a meeting which lacked definitive agreements, the media (and other commentarists) containmuch speculation today about what has happened and what might now happen. The general reaction seems to be that, while NK has agreed in principle to denuke, that is no different to what his father and grandfather did and it is unlikely that much will be achieved on that side. On the Trump side there are expressions of concern that too much has been conceded unnecessarily.
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.
It is difficult to understate the importance of Israel’s “discovery” that, after in 2005 Iran signed a deal with the US (under Obama) and major European countries, it did not in fact comply with the agreed restrictions on its nuclear activity in return for the lifting of sanctions which included considerable US dollar “reserves”. The press conference by Israel PM Netanyahu and initial reactions from Trump are reported in Trump on Iran. This report appeared in my inbox at about 10 am this morning but was not mentioned on “our” ABC’s lunch time news. Another one for CEO Michelle Guthrie to explain.
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.
Today’s Australian says that the Renewable Energy Target (RET) of 23.5% by 2020 will not be changed as part of what is described as Turnbull’s overhaul of energy policy (see Renewable Energy Target). That target was reduced by Abbott when he was PM and the recent National Party Conference voted to “repudiate the central finding of the Finkel review for a clean energy target and eliminate subsidies for renewable to maximise the difference with Labor over surging power bills”, and hence to reject the Finkel proposed clean energy target of 42% of renewable energy by 2030. However, it appears that the halt to increasing the RET mainly reflects the mounting cost of the subsidies, which ran to a remarkable $2 billion just last year and which may already have reached the point where a continuation of the scheme would exceed the RET target without any new investment. There is a reference in today’s report to the likelihood of allowing more subsidies to those whose projects have not been completed. In other words the taxpayer is handing out money to a badly constructed scheme, not to mention the bad decision to have one at all before properly reviewing the basic need for it.
Since my last Commentary I have attended the Samuel Griffith Conference held in Perth from 25-27 August, where a record attendance of about 250 heardpapers on policies pursued by Federal and State governments and the respective responsibilities assumed by them (and the interpretations of the legal system) on various issues. I also took the opportunity to have a subsequent too-brief holiday with my wife, Felicity, at the highly commended Monkey Mia Dolphin Resort at Shark Bay on the west coast of WA (it operates in a protected area).
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”.
Trump’s agreement to meet with Turnbull this coming week (an appointment which appears to have taken longer than expected) provides an opportunity to confirm the importance of the US alliance in the context of celebrating the vital role played by the US in the defeat of the Japanese in the Coral Sea battle 75 years ago in 1942 (see press release on meeting). It also means Turnbull will obtain more photo-ops. He will doubtless also attempt to convey to the Australian electorate that his meeting with Trump reflects another acknowledgment by him of the view of right-wingers.
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.