Today’s Australian has published considerable material on the failure of Labor to clearly enunciate its policies. I have previously drawn particular attention to Labor’s failure to publish aggregates alternative to those in the Coalition’s budget and to costings for the economy of its global warming policy. This defect remains. But the recent emergence of many questions about Labor’s policies on specific policy issues has opened the way for much wider challenges to be made. The opening up of this area should also allow Morrison to reduce his announcements of funding small projects, which appear too much as vote buying, and focus more on attacking Shorten. It has also led The Australian to inter alia run the main letters column today with the heading Uncertainty Surrounds Labor’s Announced Policies. I was fortunate in having my epistle included as “lead letter”
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.
It is not clear whether or not Senator Anning’s attendance at a small St Kilda protest rally was intended to stir public discussion and comments from Morrison and Shorten. But this has happened and some points made in my Commentary on Monday have also been reflected in that discussion. Importantly, The Australian has published a number of letters (see OZ Letters on “Far-Right”), including my own as what is sometimes called the lead letter
Not surprisingly there has been no response to my suggestion in yesterday’s Commentary that Victorian Attorney General Pakula should resign because he falsely told Victorians that the Victorian police had not received information from Federal agencies indicating that Shire Ali was a jihadist. Now, we also know that, for six days, Victorian Premier Andrews “kept to himself the fact that Shire Ali … had actually been out on bail”
In my Commentary published on 18 November I suggested the handling of the Bourke St incident indicated serious deficiencies. This has been confirmed by developments since then. Most important has been the statement by Victorian Attorney General Pakula that Victorian police had not received information from federal sources which would warrant them acting to at least monitor the now dead Muslim terrorist, Shire Ali. But Victorian police chief Ashton subsequently announced that they had in fact received the necessary federal information. This prompted me to send a letter to the press arguing that Pakula should resign but, as he has stuck to his guns and has been supported by Victorian Premier Andrews, that won’t happen a couple of days before the election (see OZ on Bourke St Terrorist Revelations and Pakula Claims Not Informed of Terrorists Passport Withdrawal).
As expected, more information is emerging about the activity of radicalised Muslims and their relationship with the Hume Islamic Centre. The most worrying development reported today about the Bourke St terrorist, Shire Ali, is that he was on bail when the killing occurred and had a record of getting away with breaking previous bails. This information would have been available to the Victorian government and to senior police. In those circumstances Shire Ali should have been at least closely watched but there have been no reports that he was. More details will be available tomorrow but there is no doubt that this will become a major issue in the imminent Victorian election.
Last Sunday’s Commentary on the killing by a Somalian (Shire Ali) in Bourke St gave the gist of PM Morrison’s reaction that “I am the first to protect religious freedom in this country, but it also means I must be the first to call out religious extremism,” he said. “Religious extremism takes many forms around the world, and no religion is immune from it … But here in Australia, we would be kidding ourselves if we did not call out the fact that the greatest threat of religious extremism … is the radical and dangerous ideology of extremist Islam.”
Following my Commentary of 10 December my computer became unusable for over a week and I missed the opportunity of commenting on the final Newspoll for 2017 on 18 December. Despite inclinations in some media that the Coalition might improve, its TPP remained at 47/53 and, although the “Better PM” indicator lifted Turnbull’s to a poor 41 (from 39), Shorten’s also rose to 34 (from 33). Both leaders’ performances were left at a miserable 32 “Satisfied”. Various events/decisions by the Leaders seem to have cancelled each other out and the swing of 5% against the Liberals in the 16 December Bennelong election can be regarded as “normal” for a by-election . But the deficiencies in Coalition policy stances remained extant and the Coalition needed a much better than normal outcome.
Federal Parliament does not sit again until 16 Oct (and then only for one week) and I assume there will be a Newspoll tomorrow. With Turnbull’s inability to decide an energy policy and the National Party Conference rejecting a clean energy target and voting to eliminate subsidies for renewable, the Coalition’s TPP is unlikely to increase. Indeed, with the No votes increasing on same sex marriage (but still above 50%), and No voter former PM Howard highlighting Turnbull’s failure before the vote to (at least) publish proposed protection for those opposing official legislation endorsing SS on an on-going basis , these last two weeks are more likely to have produced a fall in the TPP. That would be “exciting”.
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”.