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.
The Chilcot report in the UK on the 2003 invasion of Iraq, which took no less than 7 years to compile, has concluded that there was “no imminent threat” from Saddam Hussein at the time the US, the UK, and Australia invaded Iraq even though intelligence reports had concluded that he had acquired weapons of mass destruction (WMDs). As no WMDs were found by the invaders, it is now generally accepted that those intelligence reports were wrong, although some of those involved still argue that Saddam moved WMDs to Syria. Writing in The Times, Jewish journalist Melanie Phillips quotes several sources to that effect. She also argues that Saddam was “the god father of international terrorism”.
Due to the time needed to complete the sale of the house Felicity and I owned at Malua Bay, I have not been able to send a Commentary since 29 May. With the house sale completed today, it is opportune to comment briefly on an attempt by Turnbull to portray a close relationship with Australia’s Muslim community while at the same time acknowledging that “in this age of terrorism –overwhelmingly inspired by radical Islamist ideology –our security agencies must have the trust of Isalmic communities in order to succeed”. Attached are reports from today’s Australian, which gave front page treatment to Turnbull’s dinner invitation “dozens” of Muslims.
Malcolm Turnbull has been prepared to risk forcing a double dissolution to obtain a vote by both houses sitting together on legislation to pass the Registered Organisations bill and to re-establish the Australian Building and Construction Commission. That body was abolished under the Gillard government in May 2012 and replaced by Fair Work Building & Construction with much reduced regulatory powers. Turnbull also secured the winding up of the Roads Safety Remuneration Tribunal established under Gillard at the behest of the Transport Workers union and effectively designed to favour unions able to collude with transport companies.
Some are asking why Brussels has experienced an act of terrorism which has killed over 30 and wounded over 250. The answer is simple. Belgium has a large Muslim population centred in Brussels and which includes a significant number of extremists committed to jihadist acts against both Westerners and Muslims who have not accepted jihadism. Belgium is also exposed to the an immigration policy within Europe which is almost a free go and, more recently, allows large numbers of refugees from Syria and Iraq who have included jihadists.
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 Australian reports below an address by Kevin Andrews to a leading US think-tank, the Heritage Foundation, in Washington DC. (I attended Heritage in the 1980s and contributed an article to its journal). Andrews claims there is scope for greater use of special forces in Iraq/Syria and that Turnbull’s support for the advise-and-assist mission to train the Iraqis is not the right strategy. He refers to the advice to Congress by the US Defense Secretary, Ashley Carter, that there would be an increase in the use of US special forces (it appears that subsequently an additional 200 were sent).
When an Australian PM makes an obviously pre-prepared address during a visit overseas his main object is not so much to inform his overseas audience as to let his supporters and opponents at home know his thinking about those government policies that are in dispute domestically. The address Turnbull made in Washington to the think-tank Centre for Strategic and International Studies was relevant particularly to his government’s policies on Islamic terrorism and our military involvement in Iraq/Syria –and to his own capacity to deliver them.
Today’s Australian provided my best laughs for the New Year – but also again highlighted the failure of experts and Ministers to understand how to present the threat from Islam.
Since sending my Commentary last Tuesday, I have experienced a swelling in my left knee which put me out of action temporarily. The good news (sic) on Islamism and deterrent policies is that there has been no repetition of the Paris type attacks. However, Christmas has been officially banned in Burundi and effectively banned in many other areas with only limited defence emerging from religious and political leaders. There is much to be done to preserve western beliefs.