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Paying Tribute: Malcolm Turnbull in the US

Vassals rarely question. If they do, criticism is limited and usually restrained behind closed doors. The Australian Prime Minister’s visit to Washington during February was marked by the usual and expected kowtows, blessings and awkward acceptances.

The visit was also marked by what an Australian media outlet claimed was “Australia’s most significant delegation ever to visit the United States to build trade connections with US governors.” Keeping Malcolm Turnbull company were four state premiers wishing to wade into the spectacle.

Trade Minister Steve Ciobo was glowing at the efforts of Australia’s ambassador to the US, Joe Hockey. The latter, he claimed, had been prancing before the National Governors’ Association in an effort to focus interest on Washington’s antipodean satrap. “All governors of all the states come together in the United States to talk about their pathway forward, to build linkages … we’ll put a strong focus on our trade and investment relationship.”

The visit left nobody in any doubt about what would happen should the US find itself in yet another conflict. Australia, with unquestioning, conditioned automatism, would rush to the side of its imperial sponsor.

At the press conference of February 24 for the two leaders, President Donald Trump did a bit of buttering up. “The United States and Australia are currently honouring the 100 years of mateship. The term that you use very beautifully, Prime Minister.”

Mateship, in the Australian sense, is a rubbery term, one of such elasticity it loses form when confronted. Do mates turn over the furniture of another’s house, cajole and hector? Is acceptable servitude a function of mateship? The failure of “mateship” to make its incorrigibly vague way into the preamble of Australia’s dry Constitutional document was a moment to celebrate.

Trump, however, was on form. As he does so often, he personalised the political. At the press gathering were Australians Greg Norman and billionaire Anthony Pratt, both of whom were asked to stand up by the president. The latter was singled out for his $2 billion investment in box making factories in the US. “But he only did that if Trump won the election, I think, is that the correct statement Anthony?” Pratt expressed due agreement, having previously proclaimed an inevitable renaissance in the US economy: “100 percent correct!”

Trump had other offerings. The Imperial Chief was proving generous. “This afternoon, I’m pleased to announce that the United States will name the Littoral Combat Ship 30 the USS Canberra in honour of an Australian cruiser lost fighting alongside the US Navy during World War II.”

Such offerings do come at a price. Turnbull was thanked by the same figure who has, at various stages, threatened North Korea with annihilation. The deployment of Australian forces as pro-US dots of global engagement, including Afghanistan and forces marshalled against ISIS, was duly mentioned. Trump was also grateful for the prime minister’s “strong voice for peace and stability across the entire Indo-Pacific region,” a less than subtle hint that the vassal was doing its appropriate policing for Mother Empire.

Trump was also mindful of Canberra’s role in his coarse policy towards North Korea. “Australia is one of our closest partners in our campaign of maximum pressure to denuclearise the Korean Peninsula.” No sign there of sober counsel, a point then shown by Trump’s call that the US and Australia “must continue to stand together to prevent that brutal dictatorship from threatening the world with nuclear devastation.”

When it came to Turnbull’s turn to make a few remarks, the satrap’s obedience was clear. Closeness was stressed, the sort expected in disorienting infatuation. Indeed, matters in terms of the security alliance kept pushing both Washington and Canberra closer, a sort of cementing embrace. “The cooperation is more intense than it has ever been. Whether we are standing up for freedom’s cause in the Middle East, in our region around the world combating terrorism.”

The trip also marked the tired, forced iteration of that tried, and failed experiment: tax cuts for the mighty non-personality known as the corporation. In Turnbull’s words at the press gathering, “We have secured some tax reforms in terms of reducing company tax but not as much as we need to do.” The Australian government had been “inspired … by your success in securing the passage of the tax reforms through the Congress.”

Having learned nothing from such voodoo economics as “trickle down”, figures such as Turnbull and Trump have decided that corporations are heart and soul of a nation, while the rest can stand aside. The economic show room is only big for so many, and citizens do not count.

Despite an initially awkward start to the relationship, it is clear that Turnbull has found the customary niche all Australian prime ministers eventually do with the United States, firmly wedged in the machinery and bosom of empire, with its follies, miscalculations and limitations.


11 comments

  1. Freethinker

    There is no doubt that the international corporations are now the real government of the world and politicians like Trump, Turnbull, Macri, Piñera and other millionaires are their representatives.
    They are smart, first indoctrinated the graduates form the “elite”universities with economic theories to serve them, then introduced neoliberalism and globalisation.
    it is going to be very hard to reverse this damage.

  2. guest

    No doubt Turnbull would have gained some comfort by getting far away from Oz as possible and sitting alongside another believer in the “trickle-down effect” of tax reductions for businesses even if they pay no tax. Trump is also a Climate Change denier, as Trumbull is too, in practice, no matter what he has said in the past. As well, he had a chance to meet up again with jolly Joe Hockey. oh joy!

    So we come to an editorial in The Australian, not about the USA visit so much, but about related matters. The heading is: “Shorten can’t be miners’ and greenies’ best friend’.

    It begins: “Rarely, if ever, has a major political party had a leader whose main priorities were not strengthening the conditions for industry, jobs and exports to flourish.” He means Bill Shorten.

    Well, we can tell that editor that there is a leader of a major political party who does just that: Malcolm Turnbull, with his fraudulent business tax reduction debunked by many economic experts and by Emma Alberici, whom Turnbull has tried to censor simply because she was writing for the ABC.

    The attack on Shorten is because Shorten has pledged to “revoke Adani’s licence”, an act which is claimed to be “at odds with Labor’s traditional working base”.

    But let us remind the editor that Labor supports the workers, but does not necessarily support Adani’s coal-mining or the coal-mining which might follow, such as Rinehart’s.

    The editorial says: “In a region beset with high unemployment, the Adani project and others that would follow are a desperately needed beacon of hope”.

    Really? Digging up 64m tonnes of coal (and more) per year and shipping it overseas to be burnt is the only thing the Coalition can think of to alleviate unemployment? No ideas about other industries, such as renewables?

    Meanwhile, the editorial criticises Shorten for examining the Great Barrier Reef and the threats to its existence through Climate Change and effects on water quality and pollution run-off in the GBR. And so criticises Shorten as not having “clear, principled policies”!

    For goodness sake! Does the editor really think that the Coalition’s dumbed down claims of Climate Change ‘not being settled’ is believable, despite the clear tangible evidence that the science of the IPCC is correct and, if anything, conservative in its statements – as against the utter rubbish published by the Murdoch media.

    So w have in recent days Janet Albrechtsen spruiking the considered research of Jordan Peterson which is supposed to be sending the Left into a frenzy with his ‘Darwinian’ claims of men needing to be men, and here the editor neglecting the considerable scientific’y backed claims of the IPCC and coming out with his own fake truth about how well Turnbull is dealing with job creation.

    It is quite clear that the Coalition does not know what to do about anything. Nor does it believe that it should know. Its central belief is in small government – and that means leaving it all up to the free market. And that means letting big business, even foreign big business of dubious credibility, smash up our environment and cook the planet in order to provide a handful of jobs – because the Coalition does not have the imagination to provide jobs in any other way. Basically, it is all about the money, first of all. And about making an ideological point of difference with Labor, the Greens, the scientists of the IPCC and anyone else such as the tourism industry in Queensland, who know that burning coal (and fossil fuels) invites disaster.

  3. Glenn K

    Here in France Turnbull’s visit made the evening news, but not for the reasons the LNP or indeed any Aussie’s would be happy about…….Turnbull was presented as a lapdog licking at the heels of Trump. Weak and sucking up to Trump. No doubt the implied message being the stark contrast of Turnbull’s weakness to Macron’s strong handling of Trump when they met.
    Calling it like it is…..

  4. nexusxyz

    Freethinker – they must be upset that the peons are questioning their assumed superiority.

  5. John O'Callaghan

    The CSIRO asked Turnbull if he could manage to get a sample of Trumps DNA so they could store it,and Turnbull replied yea no worries, just take a scraping off my tongue when i get home!

  6. Andreas Bimba

    The United States has very serious political and economic problems, as does Australia and much of the rest of the developed world. The corporate oligarchy rules and that rule has been incompetent.

    Neoliberalism and fiscal austerity has led to high ongoing levels of unemployment and underemployment (~19% in Australia – Roy Morgan Research) and decades of economic stagnation except for the top 1%. The financialisation of our economies bleeds the productive sector dry. Our economies are being ‘dumbed down’ due to de-industrialisation that arose from excessively free trade and a preference for speculation over sustainable economic development.

    Perversely communist run capitalist China has the best economic managers – apart from also allowing too much speculation in property and shares. They invest heavily in infrastructure including public transport, they invest heavily in research and development, they have a fiscal stimulus of about 15% of GDP compared to Australia’s inadequate 2.4%, they are world leaders in introducing renewable energy and nuclear energy which is essential for tackling global warming in China’s situation, they are world leaders in the roll out of New Energy Vehicles, they are world leaders in developing new industries across the board due to a partnership between the government sector and business and are now transitioning from an excessively export oriented economy into a mature economy based on rising material living standards for their own citizens. To a large extent China is implementing a ‘Green New Deal’ in parallel to its rapid development which will reduce the wastage of capital and human effort into doomed fossil fuel infrastructure.

    China also has serious shortcomings such as being an autocratic state, having serious human rights abuses, pollution, corruption, environmental destruction, poverty and a mediocre social welfare system.

    Neverthless it is sensible for Australia to remain geopolitically alligned with the US even though their leadership as well as our own are generally incompetent as the values of our people’s are very similar and the US can potentially repair its democracy.

    This does not mean servility or joining every one of their ill considered wars.

    China although it has generally competent leadership has shown that it can be a tyrannical state and the brutal Tibetan occupation and the Tiananmen Square massacre are examples. Mao’s rule was generally catastrophic and political power remains extremely centralised.

    There is much work to be done to repair all of our nations.

  7. guest

    Andreas Bimba

    “serious economic and political problems”

    John Hewson made such a claim on QandA recently, but without details. Any clues about where we can see details of such claims from Hewson himself or anyone else of similar status and credibility?

  8. Glenn Barry

    I’ve heard the lofty tales of Turnbull as a great orator, but something has transpired, perhaps he fell, because now whenever he accompanies The Donald, he is nothing but a fellator.

  9. Kaye Lee

    How wonderful that Malcolm and Donald have such a close relationship.

    Ooooppsss…..

    Donald just slapped a 25% tariff on imported steel and a 10% tariff on aluminium

    Stellar job with that trip guys. High five.

  10. metadatalata

    Now that Fizza’s best mate has just slapped a 25% tariff on imported steel and EU have already undertaken to retaliate with trade tariffs on USA goods, I wonder if Fizza will hang Australian steel manufacturers out to dry or also retaliate? But I think we already know the answer..

    This just adds to the LNP’s list of selling out Australia with their TPP and the removal of vehicle manufacturing protections. Totally out of their intelligence depth in trade deals.

  11. Andreas Bimba

    Guest, here are some credible references if you have a spare hour or two:

    An article on our economic mess.

    http://www.news.com.au/finance/economy/australian-economy/australias-economy-is-built-on-shaky-foundations-and-its-about-to-collapse/news-story/d924ef058941e0df3b8e4896e38db882

    Professor in Economics – Steve Keen presents the data on our private debt and property speculation bubble crisis.

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=w8fCmUbjDtg

    The reality of national government finances.

    https://www.greeneuropeanjournal.eu/tax-havens-must-be-closed-but-not-for-the-reasons-you-think/

    We could have full employment with the appropriate fiscal policy.

    http://bilbo.economicoutlook.net/blog/?p=14153

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