Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Today by Paddy Manning

Four more years?
Australia will face increasingly tough choices if Trump holds on

Joe Biden (via Twitter) and Donald Trump (via Twitter)

As the count continues in the US presidential election, it seems clear that there will be no landslide victory for Biden – no “blue wave” – and the world will remain on edge. An election-day surge to Trump has meant that early leads to Biden in Florida, Texas, North Carolina and Ohio have steadily evaporated as the count has progressed, and the Democratic Party does not appear to have rebuilt its “blue wall” of electoral strongholds in the industrial Midwest by flipping Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin. Biden’s chances seem to rest on winning at least two of those three states, and yet at deadline Trump was ahead in all of them, with a third or more of the vote reported in each state. There is a long way to go, of course, and there is the strong possibility that the courts could decide key contests – conceivably, litigation could go all the way to the Supreme Court, which was stacked last week with conservative appointee Amy Coney Barrett in a Putin-grade hijack of the democratic process. Democratic House speaker Nancy Pelosi denounced Barrett as an “illegitimate Supreme Court justice”. Regardless of the result tonight, it is remarkable that Trump could still be returned after mishandling the COVID-19 pandemic so badly that more than 230,000 Americans lost their lives and the White House itself became a hot zone for the virus. Yet Trump is level-pegging on the national popular vote and on projections of the electoral college vote, with Biden’s pathways to victory narrowing. Four more years of Trump looms large. 

Perhaps it will be an election like Australia’s last year, in which hardly any seats changed hands – or too few to change the government. As George Megalogenis wrote for The Monthly in the immediate aftermath, it was “the status quo election no one saw coming”, and which left the nation “permanently divided”. Internationally, a Trump win will undermine the Paris Agreement and boost the climate deniers and recalcitrants in countries like Australia, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Brazil, which have played an increasingly destructive role. The US withdrawal from the Paris Agreement was set to take effect on November 4 (it could get interesting if the result remains unknown for longer), and there is no doubt that, if Trump wins, the world’s last window to avoid dangerous warming of more than 2 degrees will be slammed shut. It should not be a surprise: the US is the world’s largest historical emitter and has been blocking climate action for more than 20 years. 

As Europe moves to impose carbon border taxes – in a plan recently endorsed by the IMF – any further fracturing of international agreement on climate change will feed into the escalating trade war between the US and China, the fallout of which is hitting Australia hard. A raft of Australian resources, food and wine exporters fear they will be the next to suffer sanctions, after imports of timber and lobster were suspended this week. It is one thing for Australia to seek to enhance economic sovereignty in the wake of the pandemic, but the kind of tub-thumping, anti-communist Sinophobia that conservative politicians such as Eric Abetz have indulged in lately has been over the top as well as offensive. As former ambassador to the US Dennis Richardson told AM this morning (without naming Abetz), that kind of indulgent politics is helping no one. Australia cannot hope that the US election result will heal the trade wounds – Democrats and Republicans are agreed on taking a tougher line with China.  

As Labor leader Anthony Albanese said in the Northern Territory earlier this week: “Australia has never had, in my time in politics, or probably since 1972, we’ve never had a worse relationship with what is the major destination for our exports … and we have a trade minister who can’t pick up the phone to their counterpart. It’s simply not good enough. The government needs to work on fixing the relationship.”

“We submit the evidence presented to this inquiry demonstrates that the licensee is not a suitable person to continue to give effect to the licence, and that Crown Resorts is not a suitable person to be a close associate of the licensee.”

Counsel assisting the NSW Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority, Adam Bell, says that billionaire James Packer and his private company Consolidated Press Holdings are not fit to hold the licence to operate Crown’s casino at Barangaroo.

“If Mr Bandt does not withdraw these comments, he should resign from parliament today.”

Nationals leader Michael McCormack slams comments made by Greens leader Adam Bandt, who, in an address to a group of South Korean MPs, urged the country to stop buying Australian coal.

Trump 2020: How to steal an election
As voters in the US head to the polls, President Trump has warned that a close or uncertain result could spark chaos. Today, Rick Morton, on the fight against voter suppression, and why, no matter who wins, the US is facing a fractured future.

The number of academics across Australia who have signed an open letter to the Victorian government protesting against the destruction of Djab Wurrung country, including last week’s felling of the Directions Tree, as part of a highway duplication project.

“The NSW government will reopen the border to Victoria at 12.01am on Monday 23 November … two weeks from the Victorian government removing the ‘ring of steel’ border around Melbourne, allowing Victorian residents to travel freely around the state.”

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian, Health Minister Brad Hazzard and Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant make an announcement that will be especially welcomed by border communities.

The list

“Australia’s universities are entering one of the most difficult periods since their founding. The immediate causes are the end of the boom in international students, and federal government policy. The latest is the Job-ready Graduates Package legislation, which introduces a new fee system for degrees: raising fees for some courses and lowering them for others, ostensibly to encourage students into subjects that will fit them for the job market. But there is a consensus among analysts that the package is unlikely to achieve that aim and will likely have unintended consequences.”

Infinite Splendours is an invasive, challenging read. Laguna captures the most intimate hurts of her young protagonist so skilfully that, in many ways, it feels like an intrusion. At times it is too close for comfort, but what saves her writing from being too bleak to bear is Laguna’s deep empathy towards her characters.”

“ABC election analyst and Australia’s best-known psephologist Antony Green tells The Saturday Paper that Palmer’s party represents something Australian electoral authorities had never contemplated: an organisation prepared to spend huge amounts of money with no expectation of seeing its candidates elected. Instead, the party’s purpose is to act as a spoiler, prising votes away from the progressive side of politics and delivering them to the conservatives.”

Paddy Manning

Paddy Manning is contributing editor (politics) at The Monthly and has worked for the ABC, Fairfax, Crikey and The Australian. He is the author of Body Count: How Climate Change Is Killing Us, Inside the Greens and Born To Rule: The Unauthorised Biography of Malcolm Turnbull.


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