It is difficult to imagine a more critical juncture in Australian history:
- We confront a world downturn, accompanied by a new kind of cold war between the United States and China,
- Our international protector, the US is going through a crisis of confidence, if not a populist revolution, that is engulfing the rule of law while within the Democratic Party, younger progressives and socialists are displacing moderates.
- Australia’s helicopter money, response to COVID-19 has further damaged an economy weakened by decades of punitive energy and environmental regulatory measures undermining its comparative advantage in manufacturing, agriculture and mining. At the same time, these productive sectors have been carrying an increasing burden of social services. All this is compounded by the military folly of selecting politically correct soldiers and hardware.
President Trump right now is trailing by 13 points in the polls. The constellation of forces creating this are the virulently hostile Democrat establishment, pushed further by the rising influence of its younger green left, supported by anti-capitalist organisations like Sunrise and Antifa. They also include the Never Trumpers who preferred the corrupt Clintons and now acquiesce in a Democrat candidate under radical green left control.
Trump himself is vilified for his rudeness, for making a crude ‘pussy’ statement 15 years ago, supporting gun rights and building a wall to monitor entry into the US. His detractors absurdly blame him for the police murder of a black criminal in Democrat-controlled Minnesota and excuse the taking over part of Seattle by a gun-toting warlord, someone who denounced a rival as a “poster boy for the faggot community”. They offer Trump no credit in officiating over a period of US prosperity and confronting enemies that were previously unsuccessfully appeased. A sad commentary on this failing of the democratic process is that the obviously deteriorating mental faculties of Joe Biden appears to offer Trump his best re-election chance. A popular choice as Biden’s running mate is Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot, who as a black lesbian ticks the appropriate politically correct boxes and whose two-word message for the president “begins with F and it ends with U”.
For the past 80 years, the US has provided Australia benign and unselfish protection, allowing us to get by spending less than two per cent of GDP on defence. We may hope that this, with our natural wealth, will continue. But this is far from predictable under a Democrat administration willing to cede power to urban mobs, keen to defang its own military and with enfeebling economic and resource policies. The US has, after all, proven an unreliable protector of its allies in Vietnam and the Middle East. Its unreliability is magnified under Democratic party administrations and a Biden presidency would continue the Obama administration’s work of enfeebling the US military.
Australia is situated in a region with neighbours that, for the main part, have been peaceable and economically weak. That has meant that for the past 75 years US support was unnecessary. However, can we predict that this will be so 10 or 20 years from now? World history is one of weak or technologically inferior tribes or nations succumbing to others (think the Americas and Australia itself) or failing, like ancient Rome, because of internally generated weaknesses. Australia, with more natural wealth per capita than any other sizeable nation, is vulnerable to predators, especially since domestic policies have markedly reduced potential income.
For the most part, Trump is vilified by politicians in the ALP, Greens and some within the Coalition (High Commissioner to London and former Liberal leader Alexander Downer was crucial in the Clinton ‘Get Trump’ program and even Josh Frydenberg referred to Donald Trump as a “dropkick” ahead of the 2016 election). Can anyone regard a Democrat president as providing greater support than Trump, who even turned a blind eye to Australia’s subsidisation of aluminium exports that is in clear conflict with Word Trade Organisation obligations?
Victoria has signed up to China’s mysterious “Belt and Road” cooperative international program, but Dan Andrews has said little about Trump. Others have rejoiced in Trump’s apparent unpopularity and current poor re-election prospects. Many in the Coalition are also promoting confrontation with China. But we depend upon the Chinese market not least because of the destructive regulatory costs we have imposed on our industries and our deficient national savings. China buys a third of our exports and 15 per cent of Australian university students – worth far more than that in revenues – are from China. Education Minister Dan Tehan says foreign students sustain 250,000 jobs and nearly $40b in export income.
Having been labelled as America’s attack dog against China, the Prime Minister is now adopting a hurt and conciliatory tone. Being a rampant critic of tyrannous actions within a US alliance cherishing liberty is one thing but it is something different in an alliance with a leftist, disintegrating US that might refuse us the security it previously offered. We live in an imperfect world. We cannot afford to gratuitously make enemies as a small nation that stints on defence spending and places a strong military well behind one that is carbon-free, nuclear-void and gender responsive.
While we often criticised the good guys of yesteryear led by the USA and including ourselves, we were indisputably the best side. It is not clear that a future USA kneeling to people hostile to liberty and private property, whether elected democratically or not, is preferable to a China no more supportive of liberty but at least protective of private property.
Alan Moran is with Regulation Economics. His latest book is Climate Change: Treaties and Policies in the Trump Era.
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