Among the many important issues which are at present subject to debate in society and the media, there is an inclination to let pass the determination by the Fair Work Commission of the minimum wage. It has received limited attention partly because the body allocated the job of regulating workplace relations has long determined the minimum and even though its analyses have been poor. The FWC has made decisions which have put Australia’s minimum rate at or very close to the highest in the world (over $36,000 pa). But this has not benefited the less skilled because employers cannot afford to pay such a rate for them. Instead of being employed they go on to welfare or crime.
Despite reports of thousands of arrests and over 20 deaths, the anti-government protests in Iran appear to be continuing, albeit on a much smaller scale. A member of the US think-tank, Brookings Institution, Suzanne Maloney, is a senior fellow on Middle East policy and describes them as reflecting “Anger over these [financial] losses came on top of years of pent-up frustration over a sluggish economy. When the government announced recent price increases and released an austere budget bill, it ignited at-times violent protests that spread rapidly to dozens of cities nationwide. Demonstrators quickly turned their fury on corrupt officials and the Islamic republic as a whole”… "What's different is that it seems to have tapped into a deep sense of alienation and frustration, that people aren't just demonstrating for better working conditions or pay, but insisting on wholesale rejection of the system itself " (see article from the Washington Post dated 7 January, “Iran Expert says…”).
Once again, Turnbull has shown that he should not be leader of the Liberal Party. His handling of the Coalition’s policy on same sex marriage failed to recognise that the plebiscite produced substantial opposition (38.4%) to legislation allowing marriage between people of the same sex and that a proportion of those who voted Yes would also have wanted any such legislation to include provisions protecting freedom to express opposition to such marriages for religious reasons alone. Other opponents not necessarily based on religion simply wanted “marriage” to remain as a relationship between a man and a woman and that, whether between relationships of the same gender or even between a man and a woman but not formally married, should be expressed as “partnerships” or in similar vein.
By suddenly announcing that the resumption of Parliament will be delayed until 4 December, Turnbull has postponed by a week the possibility of a defeat on the floor of the Lower House. At the same time, it was indicated that the finishing date for Parliament could now be Friday 15 December, or even later. The stated reason(s) for seeking the extra time are that it may be needed to debate the legislation on same sex marriage and resolve outstanding citizenship issues. Turnbull told The Australian that “ he was ‘very confident’ parliament would pass same-sex marriage legislation before Christmas”. “Parliament absolutely can and I’m very confident it will, and my priority and the government’s priority is to recognise the will of the people is that we should get this done, and that’s what we’re going to be doing everything we can to achieve it before Christmas,” the Prime Minister said. “I think the Opposition have got a similar commitment, so between us I’m very confident we can make it work. “There’ll obviously be a lot of debate, a lot of amendments discussed. That’s what parliament’s for, but ultimately we know we have got a very clear direction from our masters, the Australian people.”
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.
Most commentators, including Turnbull, welcomed or approved Trump’s decision to bomb a Syrian airport from where chemical bombs are alleged to have been dumped onthe rebel held Syrian town of Khan Sheikhun. Although some claim there is no proof that Syrian President Assad made the decision to bomb, the only alternative deliverer must have been his Russian ally. Hence, one way or another the Assad government of Syria implemented or approved the bombing of the Syrian town.
I have previously mentioned the report that, following his agreement with Chinese President XI on controlling emissions, Obama had claimed that the US has ratified the Paris Agreement. The latest weekly letter from the US sceptic group (Science & Environmental Project) reports that a White House adviser has claimed that it need not go to the US Senate for ratification by two-thirds of the Senate. He asserts that “With respect to the legal form of the agreement, the United States has a long and well-established process for approving executive agreements, that is, a legal form which is distinct from treaties, which are approved through the advice and consent process in the Senate.” My inquiry of SEPP as to the possibility of this being taken to court produced the response that, while this is likely to happen, the stacking of courts by Obama is likely to mean it would take several years before any review by the US Supreme Court. SEPP notes that Obama boasts that the Paris Agreement is the most ambitious climate agreement in history.
Although we had a long election campaign during which Parliament was not sitting, it now has another “break” until 10 October during which Turnbull and two other ministers (including Immigration Minister Dutton) will travel to the US. In this coming week Turnbull is scheduled to attend what his press release describes as “the biggest summit on the international calendar” - the UN General Assembly Leaders’ Week, which will include “summits on refugees and migration” hosted by Ban Ki-moon and a smaller one arranged by Obama. But, while discussions at UN General Assemblies rarely produce meaningful policies for use back home, the risk is that Turnbull may relax our refugees policy and, as Abbott did, agree to take more refugees. Given the tightening of border controls by European countries, and increasing concern about terrorists being amongst asylum seekers, Australia’s existing policy would seem justifiable.
Today’s news suggests that the US has made an important change in the handling of the Syrian/Iraq war. The US Defense Secretary, Ash Carter, is reported as stating that the US will “deploy a specialized expeditionary targeting force to Iraq to launch unilateral raids” and "put even more pressure" on ISIS. U.S. special operation forces will conduct operations in Iraq "at the invitation of the Iraqi government" and be in position "to conduct unilateral operations into Syria," Carter said. "We're at war. We're using the might of the finest fighting force the world has ever known," Carter told the House Armed Services Committee. "Tens of thousands of U.S. personnel are operating in the broader Middle East region, and more are on the way. " (see the attached “US Policy Change on Syria/Iraq?”).
There has been universal agreement that the large numbers now fleeing from Syria, Iraq, Libya and other Middle East/African countries should either be accepted as refugees or provided with assistance in some form. Unfortunately, there is no public recognition that the primary cause of the refugee surge is the ongoing murder and destruction occurring under the terrorist activity of IS, al-Qaeda and other extremist Islamic groups. This includes the Assad regime, which is being helped by the Russians and the Iranians.