Obama’s Farewell Address 11 Jan 2017

The strategic and political role played by the US, and the dominant role played by its President in determining its foreign policy in particular, makes it important to assess Obama’s contribution after 8 years as leader as well as the possible implications for future policy. I spent some time yesterday reading the 6 page text of his farewell address (see attached) to 18,000 supporters in Chicago who (on the TV presentations) cheered at almost everything he said and who asked him to stay another four years. Today’s Australian gives an excellent assessment in brief compass in its editorial below. I would be much more critical, though.

Hopes for 2017

A New Year should bring hopes of decisions by governing and other influential bodies which will improve lives and avoid conflict. Perhaps the most hope comes from the election of Donald Trump as US President and the end of the regime run by an Obama who failed so badly to support political systems based on what have become known as western values. His attempt to “capture” opponents of those values simply by recognising their views revealed the paucity of his understanding of history and the need for western leaders to explain the virtues of those values as well as at times being prepared to fight in their defence and, in the case of the President, even outside the USA as a leader supporting values whose overturn would be threatening. Obama seems now to be spending the latter days of his presidency by exacerbating his errors rather than ameliorating them. His claim that he could have won a third presidency if the US Constitution had allowed it is but one example. Another is the US treatment of Israel in the Security Council, involving the abandonment of the long standing veto by the US. Worse than this is the report that Obama is considering declaring that the “women of the century” should include Jane Fonda, the American actress who not only supported North Vietnam in the Vietnam war with the US but falsely accused US airman of telling lies about being tortured when captured. John Kerry, appointed Secretary of State by Obama, was also an opponent of that war that was supported by the Soviet Union and China and in which Australia was an active participant.

Reactions to Melbourne Islamist Threat

Victorian Police Commissioner Ashton stated that the charging of five men with the threat of implementing terrorist acts in the centre of Melbourne was based on evidence that they intended to undertake an explosive event and use other weapons indiscriminately. It appears the police had been aware for some time that they had been planning terrorist action and had concluded that, when some of them were recently seen visiting possible targets (including St Paul’s Cathedral), it was time to arrest them. Ashton claimed publicly that they were “self-radicalised, we believe, but inspired by ISIS and ISIS propaganda." He also said four of the five were Australian-born with a Lebanese background and"there is another suspect in this matter who will be charged that was an Egyptian-born Australian citizen. All the others were Australian-born".

Identifying Political Centre, Usage of Renewables

We are in a period when there is an increased need to check reports and interpretations of political policies and announcements appearing in the media and even those made by supposedly independent government agencies. This applies particularly to policies on climate change, where there exists a divergence of opinion about dangerous warming unless governments reduce/eliminate emissions of CO2.

Bolt on Turnbull Dec 12 2016

In what is his last article for 2016 (see below), Andrew Bolt has made yet another important contribution to the culture wars in outlining why Turnbull “cannot lead the Liberals to victory”. This article is obviously based in part on being briefed by a minister on the Cabinet discussions on the terms of reference for the climate change policy review. The briefing revealed that in Cabinet Turnbull had supported the review covering a scheme which would operate to reduce emissions by some form of trading scheme, and which would involve the government setting a price on carbon, but which would not be specified in the terms of reference.

Turnbull’s Problems Coming to a Head

In my last Commentary on 8 December I asked “How Long Can Turnbull Stay as PM?” That question has become even more pertinent after Friday’s disastrous meeting with the Premiers and the apparent confirmation in the media that Turnbull was behind the move to have an emissions intensity scheme examined in the 2017 review of climate change policy announced on 5 December. Today’s media is replete with reports of the meeting and the events surrounding the 5 December announcement but an exposition by Laurie Oakes in Herald Sun and Daily Telegraph captures the “thrills”(see attached “Oakes on Turnbull”). Bear in mind though that Oakes has probably embellished the story.

Turnbull’s Status Since the July Election

The last Newspoll on 20 November showed the Turnbull Government with a TPP of 47/53, the exact opposite to what it was on 23 Nov in 2015 and down from the 50/50 TPP as recently as 12 September. Judging by what happened last year, there will be another poll in early December ie very soon. This should provide an indication of the extent to which, as Turnbull claimed in addressing the Party Room on 29 Nov (see Turnbull on Performance), “we are delivering … on the National Economic Plan” (sic). It will be recalled that, after an extended eight-week official campaign period and with the first election under a new voting system for the Senate that replaced group voting tickets with optional preferential voting, the Coalition lost 14 seats in the 2 July election. It is left with only a one seat majority and a Senate with 11 cross-benchers of diverse views (and 35 Labor/Greens and 30 Coalition).