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.
Although there has been a “final statement” by leaders attending the meeting of the G20 in Argentina, the text does not seem available on the web and nor does the communique. However, some media are reporting on what was agreed. The outcome on trade was expected to reveal something on the what has been described as a dispute between the US and China (but which has implications for all trading nations). It appears that the US did succeed at G20 in obtaining agreement that the present arrangements need to be changed.
My last Commentary (4 November) was headed “How Much Longer Can Morrison Last” and suggested that he must quickly address major policy issues and stop announcing handouts mainly designed to demonstrate that he is an “active” PM. But his decision to establish a electoral promotion bus to travel around parts of Queensland has so far not produced major policy statements. Of some interest is that senior Queensland Liberal Steve Ciobo (who voted for Dutton in the leadership spill) “refused to say yesterday whether the leadership switch to Mr Morrison would help improve the government’s stocks in the state”: ‘I don’t think it serves anyone’s purpose and I also don’t think, frankly, that Queenslanders or indeed Australians more generally, care about what’s happened,’ Mr Ciobo told Sky News (see Morrison Qld Bus Tour).
Today’s media contains reports which are of serious concern in regard to the capacity of governments and political leaders to operate or propound policies which are in the interests of communities considered as an entity rather than of particular groups. These are briefly described below and, except for two, the attachments.
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 refusal of the ANU to accept a course on Western Civilisation has “inspired” support from other academics. By contrast with the Vice Chancellor at the ANU, the VC at Sydney, Michael Spence revealed on June 5 he was considering entering into a memorandum of understanding with the Ramsay Centre to collaborate on a funded course and scholarship program. Dr Spence described the course as “really interesting” and “very, very far from the kind of thing you might imagine”. “It is all primary texts: there is certainly nothing like Harold Bloom in the curriculum,” he said, referring to the prolific but polarising US literary critic.(According to Wikepedia, Bloom has inter alia surveyed the major literary works of Europe and the Americas since the 14th century, focusing on 26 works he considered representative of the Western canon, which is] the body of books, music, and art that is widely accepted –but subject to dispute- as the most important and influential in shaping Western culture).
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.
As we get closer to the resumption of Parliament on Tuesday 7 Feb, many have increasingly wondered what issues the Turnbull government will prioritise in the New Year and how it will react to the new Trump government in the US. In today’s Herald Sun (see below), Terry McCrann suggests that Turnbull has offered few indications of the policies he intends to pursue actively and gives the impression that he is ill prepared to handle the new policies which Trump has indicated he intends to pursue in the US. This confirms, McCrann says, what he said back last April when he wrote that “Turnbull was a complete dud”. Perhaps Turnbull will make his position clearer in his promised major address on February 1.