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U.S. Presidential Election and Australia: Partners in Pragmatic Democratic Renewal?

As F.B.I. initiated reviews of Hillary Clinton’s emails narrow her odds as the presidential favourite, Denis Bright invites discussion of her administration’s likely political style. Can a New Camelot be rebuilt from such uncertain polling trend-lines?

New Consensus-Building from the Political Centre

LNP governments in Australia have usually been in policy sync with the policy spin of U.S. administrations in both domestic and strategic foreign policies.

As the U.S. Presidential election approaches, neither Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump offers real comfort to the Australian LNP. Most LNP leaders would probably discretely prefer the success of President Hillary Clinton as a stabilizing influence in global politics.

The currents of pragmatic political change are also evident in the five major predominantly English-speaking democracies (Anglo-democracies) in Canada, Britain, New Zealand as well as in Australia during the post-Abbott era.

The Anglo-democracies were all loyal participants in the United Kingdom-USA Agreement (UKUSA) of the Cold War era in the sharing of strategic intelligence against the advance of Soviet Communism and in the War on Terrorism after 9/11.

Hillary Clinton’s likely opportunistic style in stalking the political centre is a pragmatic exercise in the making.

Hillary Clinton’s likely presidential style will be influenced by the Congressional numbers arising from the House and Senate elections on 8 November. It has no firm ideological foundations at this stage and will interact with the numbers delivered to Congress by voters.

A convincing win for Hillary Clinton with significantly increased support from both the House of Representatives and a majority in the Senate is probably the best mandate for change in the U.S. and the other Anglo-democracies.

The new President can still continue Barack Obama’s struggles with a hostile Congress. The Democratic Party lost control of the House of Representatives in 2010 and faced a similar situation in the Senate after 2014.

Expect more political uncertainty, lame duck politics and foreign policy jingoism if President Clinton has to work with a hostile Congress with the remnants of the Republicans.

The New York Times Online gives the Democratic Party a 60 per cent change of winning control of the Senate. There is only a slim chance of control of both Houses by the Democratic Party (New York Times Online 26 October 2016 and 28 October 2016).

In the absence of compulsory voting, changes are evident in the probability of voting in some swing states according to the latest trend-lines from Langer Research Associates (US ABC News Online 29 October 2016).

In the existing House of Representatives, the Republicans command a 246 to 188 margin of seats after appointment of the House Speaker. The Democratic Party needs a net gain of 30 seats to control the House of Representatives.

U.S. ABC News Online 29 October 2016

U.S. ABC News Online 29 October 2016

Senior members of the Australian LNP government are rightly perplexed by the Congressional possibilities which will fine tune the presidential style of Hillary Clinton.

Journalist John Kehoe from the Australian Financial Review Online (AFR) offers a synopsis of the policy tensions in Australia’s LNP Government in less certain times:

Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop has met top advisers to Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump in Washington, to press the presidential candidates not to turn their backs on US engagement on trade in Asia and maritime security in the South China Sea.

Despite the Democratic and Republican nominees both opposing the 12-country Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, Ms Bishop told the campaigns if the US did not sign on then Australia would focus on alternative regional trade accords (AFR Online 17 September 2016).

John Howard dared to articulate nostalgia for the old certainties of U.S. domestic and foreign policies. He favoured an establishment candidate like Marco Rubio to offered more certainty to the Australian LNP (The Guardian Online 28 February 2016).

John Howard’s longings overlook the impact of the GFC on U.S. and global politics.

The market approach to economic development did seem to be working in both U.S. and Australia during days of the resources boom under G.W. Bush and John Howard prior to the GFC. Speculative global capital flows which peaked in 2007 suddenly faltered:

McKinsey Global Institute 2013

McKinsey Global Institute 2013

In the George W. Bush Administrations (2000-08), earlier commitments to the rhetoric of fiscal austerity were squandered in tax concessions to middle class voters. In the last year of his second term, emergency quantitative easing became necessary and the U.S. was forced to bail out major financial and corporate giants.

The Australian economy performed better during the resources boom under Prime Minister Howard with modest levels of defence spending, cut-backs in support for disadvantaged voters and growing economic ties with China.

In a still sluggish global economy, levels of economic growth in both the U.S. and Australia are struggling to keep the lid on existing levels of permanent unemployment and the casualization of jobs.

Constant harping from conservative leaders and others in both countries about the palliative effects of high rates of economic growth must confront new statistics on poverty levels in both countries and an ever increasing income divide.

U.S. Real Median Household Income Levels 1967 to 2015

U.S. Real Median Household Income Levels 1967 to 2015

Household income supplements under the Obama Administration have helped to contain poverty levels from the peak of the post-GFC era:


Trend lines in longer-term Australian household poverty levels are less easily available. The situation here can be gleaned from the most recent Australian Council of Social Service Report on Poverty in Australia released in October 2016:

  • 2,990,300 million people (13.3% of the population), were living below the poverty line, after taking account of their housing costs.
  • Child poverty in Australia increased by 2 percentage points over the decade 2003-04 to 2013-14.
  • 36.1% of people receiving social security payments were living below the poverty line, including 55% of those receiving Newstart Allowance, 51.5% receiving Parenting Payment, 36.2% of those receiving Disability Support Pension, 24.3% receiving Carer Payment, and 13.9% of those on the Age Pension.
  • 57.3% of people below the poverty line relied upon social security as their main incomeand 32.1% relied upon wages as their main income.
  • The vast majority of people below the poverty line were in rental housing in 2014 (59.7%), with most in private rental housing (44.2%). Only 15.5% of people living below the poverty line were home-owners.

In the third national debate on 19 October 2016, Hillary Clinton foreshadowed a commitment to President Obama’s poverty-reduction initiatives. This could still be opposed by a hostile Congress. (Vox Online 19 October 2016).

Implications of the U.S. Presidential Election for the Anglo-democracies

During the Cold War and the current War on Terrorism, symbiotic ties were developed between the U.S. and the Anglo-democracies. Policy confusion over strategic and economic policies due to changes in local electoral cycles was subjected to discrete consultation outside the gaze of media scrutiny.

Prime Minister Bob Hawke established the Australia U.S. Ministerial Consultations (AUSMIN) in 1984 to ease concerns from the Left and Centre-left of Labor caucus to Australia’s open-ended strategic commitments.

Alliance Creep beyond the scope of the 1951 ANZUS Treaty is evident with AUSMIN venturing into joint statements on completely non-strategic issues as shown by the communiqué from the last formal AUSMIN meeting in Boston on 13 October 2015 between Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop, Minister for Defence Marise Payne, Secretary of State John Kerry, and Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter:

Noting that 2015 marks the tenth anniversary of the Australia-U.S. Free Trade Agreement, both countries welcomed the dynamism and diversity in the economic relationship, including significant business engagement and substantial two-way investment, which serve to boost productivity, innovation and economic growth.

The United States and Australia reiterated their intent to work together to deepen regional economic integration, and welcomed conclusion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP). They agreed to continue working toward bringing TPP into force in order to reduce business costs, and to promote growth, job creation and higher living standards across the region (AUSMIN Online 2016).

It is highly significant that Hillary Clinton opposes the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) in its existing form. The TPP Plan enjoys support from top Republicans in Congress but is opposed by Donald Trump as a campaign asset in swing states like Ohio with its remnants of traditional manufacturing plants (Washington Post Online 23 October 2016).

U.S. ABC News Online 1 November 2016

U.S. ABC News Online 1 November 2016

Amidst this confusion, Australian LNP leaders look nostalgically to the return of conservative values as applied by Stephen Harper in Canada, David Cameron in Britain and George W. Bush in the U.S.

Political leaders in the Anglo-democracies are more focused on domestic issues to cope with sluggishness in the global economy. Mainstream questioning of consequences of the TPP and similar arrangements between the U.S. and European countries, including Britain after Brexit is widespread with a revival of populist responses on both the left and right of the political spectrum.

In the more personality based U.S. presidential race, the impact of the revival of Hillary Clinton’s email security problems has tightened the results in recent tracking polls. Latest polling for the presidential race has moved Florida into the doubtful category.

Picking the trifecta outcomes of the presidency, the House and the Senate is still a guessing game with profound significance to Australia and the other Anglo-democracies who all have high stakes in cheering on an enduring U.S. Strategic Global Alliance in both economic policy and geopolitics.

denis Denis Bright (pictured) is a registered teacher and a member of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA). Denis has recent postgraduate qualifications in journalism, public policy and international relations. He is interested in developing pragmatic public policies based on commitment to a social market that is highly compatible with trends in contemporary globalization.


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  1. Jacky

    Why does Australia always seek to follow the US superpower whose social fabric and politics are so bankrupt.
    In a week’s time the election results should be known and we will have to wait and see how Australia will be affected.

  2. Ian Ellis

    The LNP has followed the ‘Menzies doctrine’ of ensuring that Australia has a ‘big and powerful’ friend, and our population has swallowed this rather cowardly attitude. The fine article above, concentrated chiefly upon ‘money'(because there is little else important to discuss?), is based on the assumption that our relations with the Land of Perpetual War are carved in stone. (NZ shrugged these simplistic bullies off decades ago!)

    J W Howard openly took ‘lessons’ on how to be an approved conservative from G W Bush (of all people!) – and our current inaction on gender equality is an example of the mess this caused. Howard meekly allowed himself to tell a deliberate lie (‘Weapons of Mass Destruction’) in order to have our troops join the disgusting and illegal butchery in Iraq, earning international disapproval, all to please ‘Murka’. (Viet Nam was many times worse, of course!) We now buy ‘cookies’, celebrate “Halloween” (whatever that is!), listen almost exclusively to unadventurous musical bilge from the Murkan Music Industry, hardly realising what we have given up in order to please Murka. Woolworths and Coles now have a much larger political input than do Australian businesses.

    Gough Whitlam summonsed the courage to stand up to Murka (re Pine Gap), and, about a week later, he was the ‘former PM’. (I believe that the CIA officially apologised for their input many years later)

    I noted that our media were in shock when the new government of the Phillipines publicly stated their desire to shake off Murka. (I confess that I applauded it!)

    If [i] Trump is elected President, and [ii] if Shorten eventually becomes our PM, it is even possible that Murka will not offer much resistence should Shorten act out his verbal disapproval of Trumpism.

  3. Ian Ellis

    Apologies. I meant to write ‘marriage equality’.

  4. michael lacey

    So the United States only choice is Goldman sachs corruption queen or fascist in Trump!

  5. Theresa

    Still hoping for a trifecta win for Hillary!

  6. Ricardo29

    I admit i struggled with this article, couldnt see where it was going. Does Bright support the TPP? and what does this actually mean:He (Bright) is interested in developing pragmatically public policies based on commitment to a social market that is highly compatible with trends in contemporary globalisation.

  7. Leila Smith

    Very well presented article,Denis, with lots of thought for discussion.
    We live in changing times, and who knows what the outcome of the US election will be in a weeks time.
    Australia needs to be respectful of all our neighbours and show an independent face. We also need to maintain our alignments whilst not loosing our morality.
    Great work Denis, well researched and presented.

  8. Patricia

    Denis, a good article on the US presidential campaign and the implications for Australia.

  9. Jexpat

    It is highly significant that Hillary Clinton opposes the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) in its existing form.

    What’s highly significant is that Clinton asserts that she’s opposed, but her record shows otherwise, as does her choice of a Vice President, Time Kaine, an ardent TPP supporter, who’s also supported obnoxious anti-union laws and further financial deregulation -and even more significantly, her choice of Ken Salazar to “lead the transition team,” which is rsponsible for vetting and choosing members of a Clinton administration.

    Former Colorado Senator Salazar (a far rirght Democrat) is also a diehard TPP supporter, former Secretary of the Interior -who promoted oil drilling and fracking pretty much everywhere (with forseeeable to the Gulf of Mexico) is now a big dollar fossil fuel lobbyist.

    Bottom line is that a Clinton administration (with a Republican Congress) is as close to a parallel with Malcolm Turnbull and his ragtag crew as Australians are likely ever to see.

  10. Matters Not

    What Jexpat says.

    HRC is for the TTP and we will sign up as well.

  11. Jexpat

    Matters Not:

    That remains to be seen.

    What I’m saying is that it’s advisable to take Clinton’s statements with a big grain of salt, since they’re contradicted by previous actions on the record, contradicted by the choice of individuals surrounding her and contradicted by recourse to TPP supporting entities who’ve given six figures repeatedly for gladhanding and keynote speeches, as well as heaps of dark money to her campaign.

    Whether Australia signs up- if it’s passed in the US (a prerequisite) will be firstly up to Labor, if not, the Hansonites and Xenophon’s crew will have to get on board.

    Given Labor’s track record on FTA’s -complete with Penny Wong’s neoliberal bulldogging, I’d sooner try my hand at the pokies than make a bet on that outcome, if push comes to shove,

  12. Rubio@Coast

    A good expose of the scary links between the USA and Australia which make us the 51st state between the ties that bind insiders on the political right in both countries. No wonder that our Julie Bishop does not talk about intelligence matters as both the governments work to bring Indonesia back towards support of the US Alliance against China through the TPP and ongoing military manoeuvres in the South China Sea.

  13. Abdul

    Not the 51st state

    Thanks to Hillary for opposing the TPP which excludes our most profitable trading partner- China

  14. Paul

    It’s going be close – This time next week it’s going be Clinton or Trump?!?

    I like the style of NZ. A little more independent – step back Australia!

    Thanks for the timely article Denis!

  15. Denis Bright in Brisbane

    By 13.30 EST today in Brisbane, the television monitors in King George Square showed that our Favourite Hillary Clinton had not won the first leg of the Presidential Trifecta.

    I had my doubts about the House results but I was hoping for the Presidency and the Senate.

    This is surely the biggest surprise since the election of Ronald Reagan and his administration’s control of both houses of Congress in 1980.

    My father Colin Bright (deceased 1989) loved following horse racing perhaps as a diversion from his more predictable job as a locomotive painter at North Ipswich and Redbank Railway Worlshops in Queensland.

    I enjoyed making my comments on the Presidential Trifecta.

    So let’s see how the Anglo-democracies respond to President Trump after 70 years of predictability in US Global Alliance Systems.

  16. Kyaw Wai Yan Min

    Interesting article and excellent views Denis I hope President Trump’s foreign policy is gonna be better than Democrats like Obama and Hillary.

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