Australian Notes

Australian notes

9 December 2017

9:00 AM

9 December 2017

9:00 AM

Compare and contrast

So it’s coming up to a year since one Donald Trump was inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States. Unlike every single member of Sydney University’s US Studies Centre, all thirty odd academics who work there and these days seem almost to make the ABC look a bit balanced, I wanted Trump to win and in a fit of madness predicted he would. Those in this country who clearly and undoubtedly wanted a Hillary Clinton win included Prime Minister Turnbull, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, ministers Brandis, Pyne and Black Hands generally, the vast preponderance of corporate chieftains, the top bureaucrats, the entirety of the ABC, virtually every single opinion piece writer for the Australian, and of course all thirty odd ‘experts’ at the aforementioned US Studies Centre.

Now if you’re a small government, pro-‘letting the numbers count’ democrat, and a proponent of lots and lots of free speech kinda guy (my apologies to former Australian of the Year David Morrison for using that word) the way I am, then it might be worth taking a moment as we approach that first anniversary to compare and contrast Mr Trump to other right of centre leaders around the democratic world. Let me start, though, with a trigger warning.  Much of what you are about to read – most of it in fact – is positive about Trump. This might cause any delicate little flowers who get their daily current affairs nourishment from the likes of the New York Times or Canada’s CBC public broadcaster or ‘our’ ABC and Fairfax Press and who happen to be reading this to suffer a fit of ‘yuck, unwanted competing view being espoused in my presence’. In other words, such delicate vessels might take offence or discover there are people with different ideas and viewpoints to their own (unlike when they go onto social media). The trauma might be such that only a week or two of listening to the anti-Trump academics at the US Studies Centre will help calm them down enough to be able to go back to their virtue-signalling existences. So don’t read on if you’re one of those for whom confirmation bias is a way of life, not a problem.

First thing I think I can say about Mr Trump without any contradiction is that we are all still here on the planet.  So the myriad prognosticators who predicted Trump would start World War III were, at least as of the time of writing this piece, wrong. In fact Trump’s foreign policy looks a lot better than that of his predecessor. In the Middle East he’s not cutting ridiculously lax deals with the Iranian mullahs, indeed he’s back to piling the pressure on them. And whether it be prompted by his rhetoric or something else, the Saudis are at last reining in the Wahhabi extremists.

The Trump administration has also made significant cuts to regulations; it’s opened up ever more cheap energy sources while pulling out of the worthless Paris Accord; it’s appointed actual interpretive conservatives to the top courts (judges who, unlike many of our own here in Australia, won’t just make things up at the point of application under the guise of interpreting a written constitution); it’s boosted the US military (by which I mean as an effective fighting machine rather than as some sort of exemplar of affirmative action and of a left-wing ‘social justice’ outreach program, as is the current Australian approach to the military).  Illegal immigration is down significantly.  The stock market tracks ever higher. Oh, and Trump continues to call out the mainstream media for its obvious and clear-cut left-wing bias (while here in Australia Mr Turnbull appoints Guthrie and Milne to run the ABC, a brace of ‘see no bias’ apologists). This Trump agenda infuriates the media to the extent that they can’t help being even more one-sided and so further undermine their own already feeble claims to balance and impartiality.

And now it looks almost certain that Mr Trump’s called-for tax cuts will get through Congress. Corporate and personal income taxes will go down bigtime. American businesses who’ve had a big incentive to keep profits offshore are likely to bring a lot of money back to the States. This is a major reform. It bodes well for the Yanks. Equally, it augurs pretty terribly for Australia – we already have one of the world’s highest minimum wages; already have, for bizarre PC and crazy reasons, pretty much the highest energy costs in the world; already have a byzantine and jettisoned by just about every other democratic country labour relations regime; and now with the US changes we will have pretty much the highest corporate taxes. ‘What’s not to like about starting a business Down Under?’, I hear you say.

Now of course the anti-Trumpers will respond in two ways. One is true but in my opinion not of much weight.  The other is parochial. Take the latter first. People say that Trump’s not popular in the US. His poll results aren’t great. But firstly that’s what happens in the first year or two when you actually try to do things. And secondly, it ignores the big picture which is that compared to other right of centre leaders in the democratic world Trump’s poll numbers look good. Today they look better than Angela Merkel’s, she who has mastered the Mark Textor school of ‘keep moving left because your base has no one else to vote for’ thinking that is true until it suddenly isn’t and then you can’t point to a single right-leaning thing you’ve done.

Ditto Turnbull, whom I suspect would crawl over broken glass and kill for Trump’s polling, to say nothing of the support he gets from his base. Ditto again Theresa May. If you know what she stands for please let me know, and her.

What’s the first rejoinder anti-Trumpers make, the true one? It’s that he’s a vulgarian philistine who can’t stop tweeting and picking fights and responding to slights, real and imagined. All true. But do you care more about actions and results or about words, perceptions and getting along with the media? We all know what matters to the US Studies Centre. Personally, though, I’m more of a results, actions and consequences guy. That explains why I’m quietly happy with Trump’s first year (and why I think Team Turnbull deserves and will be rewarded with electoral annihilation).

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